Mullingar in 1919

Mullingar In 1919  January – March

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1916  Centenary  Memorial  Green Bridge Mullingar

REBEL TOWN: MULLINGAR IN 1919
By historian Ruth ILLingworth
Part 1 (5 min read)

* * * * * * * * JANUARY * * * * * * *
New Year’s Day was celebrated in Mullingar with a fireworks display in the military barracks. The Royal Scots Regiment
were stationed there and they were marking Hogmaney. It was the first
peacetime New Year in Europe since 1914.

* * * * *  The Revolution Begins * * * * * *
On January 21st,the First Dail met for the first time in the Mansion House in Dublin. The Westmeath TD,Laurence Ginnell was not
among those in attendance as,like many other TD’s,he was in jail. Not until April would he be free to take his seat in the new Assembly.

A week before the Mansion House meeting,the Westmeath Sinn Fein organization held a rally on the historic Hill of Uisneach near Mullingar. The meeting was attended by Alice Ginnell-the wife of Larry,who had made history at the 1918 General Election by being the first female election agent in Irish or British history. Others at the rally included Countess Plunkett and Mrs Margaret Pearse (mother of Patrick and Willie). The main speaker was future Irish President ,Sean T O Kelly.

Sinn Fein supporters began taking action to prevent the Westmeath Hunt from pursuing their sport. Hunts were stopped near Mullingar at Dalystown and Bunbrosna. The Hunt was targeted because many of the members were Unionists or Home Rule supporters.The idea
was to stop the Hunt until political prisoners like Ginnell were released.The protesters numbered about eighty in the Mullingar area
and were led by Alice Ginnell’s father,James King.

In Mullingar many young men and women were now organizing themselves for the independence struggle in the ranks of Cumann na mBan and the Volunteers. The local revolutionaries included Mick McCoy,David Burke,John Tone,Paddy Dooner,Tommy Leonard,Chris Fitzsimons Ned Whelehan,Patrick Byrne, Annie McDonnell, Lizzie Fitzsimons and Mary Leonard..

They had a few revolvers and rifles and about 1400 rounds of ammunition. . Up in Dublin,a coachbuilder from Mullingar called Patrick O Hara was tried for being in possession of documents describing how to make grenades. He was convicted and
sentenced to three years imprisonment.

* * * * * * * * TRADE UNIONISM * * * * *
Mullingar in 1919 was a largely working class
town. The Mullingar Trade and Labour Union,which was chaired by John Hynes,was eager to see local men and women join unions to fight for their rights. The Trade and Labour Union met in the Trades Hall in Mount Street.

The unions in the town included branches of the INTO and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners.Bodyworkers Wheelwrights and Machinists (all the one organisation!). The Carpenters Union were unhappy about plans for a new technical school in the town-seeing it as a threat by Capitalists to their jobs.The INTO Mullingar branch condemned “The early age at which children were being taken out of school and put to hard labour.”

There were 300-400 unemployed men in Mullingar at the start of the year-about 10 percent of the male population.Many of these were returning veterans of the Great War. The Saint Vincent De Paul in the town were extremely busy trying to care for the many
living in destitution.

* * * * * * * *    POLITICS       * * * * * *
Mullingar Town Commission held its AGM in January and P.W Shaw was elected Chairman once more. The County Council Chairman was Athlone merchant J.J Coen. There was also Mullingar Rural District Council. The RDC chairman was William Gilliard.

The Commission and the RDC looked after issues such as housing provision,lighting and sanitation.. Although Sinn Fein had done extremely well locally in the General Election,Home Rule supporters such as John P Hayden of the WESTMEATH EXAMINER and prominent local merchant,P.J Weymes,as well as Bishop Laurence Gaughran, remained influential in the town.

There was a small Unionist community in Mullingar as well. A Unionist Anti-Partition League had been set up and local members included Captain C.G Tottenham of Tudenham and Gustavus Hyde of Lynnbury.
The institutions of the British state were still functioning at this stage and Percy O Reilly of Coolamber was the new High Sheriff of the county.

* * * * * * * * THEATRE * * * * * * * *
Mullingar in 1919 had a rich tradition of drama and music. The Holy Family Confraternity Band was going strong and there was also an Asylum Band.. A number of local organisations ran amateur drama clubs and there was a Gaelic League Branch as well. (Patrick
Pearse had addressed its inaugural meeting back in 1901.) .

To start the year the Drama class of the Trade and Labour Union put on a
production of ” THE IRISH WOMAN” in the County Hall. The cast included Patrick Dooner,Jack Killian,Joseph O Reilly,Ciss Mahon and Thomas Hoye. Music was provided by Thomas Russell and the scenery was
by Frank Russell.

* * * * * * * FEBRUARY. * * * *
****  THE ASYLUM STRIKE *****
The Asylum was one of the biggest employers in Mullingar in 1919-virtually a town within a town,with a farm and its own electricity generator. Catering for patients from
Westmeath,Longford and Meath,there were 1005 inmates at the start of the year. In February industrial unrest broke out as the attendants (150 in number) went on strike seeking a £1 a week pay rise and a 56 hour week.

They staged a march in “processional order” from the Asylum to the Trades Hall in Mount Street, playing “music of a melodious air.” At the Hall they were addressed by John Hynes and by T.J Redmond-the Secretary of the Mullingar Trade Council .

A Mr Lalor from the Irish Asylum Workers Union also spoke. The Farm Labourers at
the Asylum Farm also went on strike in support of the attendents. Bishop Gaughran and Father Hugh Carpenter offered to mediate between
strikers and employers.

Elsewhere, workers were winning ground. A demand from the shop assistants for a weekly half holiday was conceded by the shopkeepers-with Tuesday fixed as the half day.

* *  * * *  A TECH FOR THE TOWN   * * *
Vocational or technical education had begun in Mullingar around 1900,with classes being held in the Governor’s House in the Old
Jail. By 1915,the school could boast of having secured a typewriter.!

The County Council at its February meeting in 1919,discussed building a new technical school. The main problem was the potential cost of the project. One councillor agreed that it was important to have the school, “because in my young days we were not educated. You must educate the young men and the young ladies,and they want technical schools.But is it all to come out of the rates.Why not let the government pay.?”

* * * * *  REBEL ACTIVITY. *  * * * * *
Following the setting up of the new Dail and the Declaration of Independence ,local republican supporters continued to
organise for conflict. Thirty soldiers and 75 police under the command of D.I Taylor carried out a raid on the Mount St premises of Mr Francis Judge,who was a shoe and boot maker.

A crowd gathered on the street and booed the police and soldiers,but there was no violence. The raid on Mr Judge caused surprise as two of his sons had served in the British Army in the War. Little was found apart from a
military tunic,a belt and a water bottle. But Mr Judge was a member of the Volunteers in the town.

* * * * * * * * MARCH * * * * * * *
LABOUR ON THE RISE
In March the County Hall was filled to capacity for a meeting at which a branch of the Irish Transport Workers Union was formed. Local Trade Unionist and town Commissioner,John McKeon told the audience that;
” The Labour Union was in its infancy but had attained a position of power now in the town and district.” The workers in Mullingar wanted better wages and housing- “to get out of the hovels they were living in and secure a little bit of the comfort of the world which so far had been monopolised by the capitalists.”
Carpenters in the town went on strike seeking higher wages and a 48 hour week.

THE TOWN SERGEANT’S UNIFORM
When Mullingar Town Commission was founded in 1856, an official was appointed by the Commissioners to keep a watch on the
behaviour of the townspeople and deal with the filthy state of the streets and the abundance of sex workers. Originally known as the
“Inspector of Nuisances and Lodging Houses” -this wonderful title was later changed to Town Sergeant.

At the March meeting,the commissioners heard a call to increase the Sergeant’s wages. The cost of his uniform was estimated to be £17. It was suggested that the uniform could be abolished. The Sergeant-Mr E Macken,was summoned to ask whether he was prepared to do without the uniform. He was happy to do so but stated that,while “the coat I have is good enough,I want a trousers badly.” It was agreed
that some of the money which would have been spent on the uniform would be used instead to give Mr Macken a 30s per week pay rise.
.
BRINGING LIGHT TO MULLINGAR
The Town Commission agreed to give permission to the Midland Lighting Company to install a Lighting Plant in Mullingar. It
would be ” a great improvement to the town” one commissioner declared.

* * * * * * * * * THE COURTS * * * * * *
While Dail Eireann planned to set up its own Courts Service,the British Courts were still operating in Mullingar in the spring of 1919. The Spring Assizes were held in March. The Grand Jury was summoned to hear Bills against various defendents and rule whether there was a case to be answered before a judge and jury. The Grand Jury members included Lt Col.Charles Howard-Bury of Belvedere and VC winner,Captain George Arthur Boyd-Rochfort from Middleton Park.
The judge informed them that the county was “in a mainly peaceful state” with the only serious case before them being one of betting
fraud.

EX-SERVICEMEN ORGANISE.

On March 27th,hundreds of ex-soldiers and sailors attended a meeting in the County Hall to form a branch of the Discharged and Disabled Soldiers Federation for Westmeath. The meeting passed resolutions calling for a suitable industrial training institute to be set up in Mullingar or Athlone for ex-servicemen and
for the Government to take over some of the large grazing lands in Westmeath and distribute them among ex soldiers and sailors. ” Far better to have discharged soldiers living on the land than bullocks”.
The Committee members of the new organisation included J Manny from
Mullingar and J Glennon from The Downs.

ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORT
——————————————
The St Mary’s Hall Drama Club put on a production of “The West’s Awake”,with reviewers particularly praising cast member
Miss C Weymes,who was described as “the most finished and promising of
local lady amateurs.”. The Trade and Labour Society performed a play
called “Shadows of a Far City”. Cast members included Katie Kelly and
Richard Muldarry.

In the Westmeath Junior Gaelic Football Championship
Semi-Final,Mullingar Irish National Foresters beat Kinnegad by 1-2 to
0-0 at the Downs.

Mullingar in 1919  Part Two April – June

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* * * * * * MULLINGAR IN 1919 * * * * *
PART TWO.
By historian Ruth ILLingworth

* * * * * * * * APRIL 2019 * * * * * * * *

MR GINNELL GOES TO DUBLIN

On April 10th, Larry Ginnell was finally able to attend the Dail following his release from prison. He was present at the second session of the First Dail and found it a deeply moving experience. He appears in a photograph taken of Deputies that day.
Later in April,Ginnell gave a speech in Delvin in which he called for a boycott of the RIC. This led to his re-arrest on charges of making subversive utterances.

* * ” GO TO FRANCE FOR A HOUSE ” * *
——————————————-
A heated meeting of Mullingar Rural District Council discussed the case of a Mullingar soldier who arrived home to find that his house had been taken from him. James Barry had served in the War and was stationed in Germany. He came home for his father’s funeral and discovered that the Barrack Street RDC cottage in which his father and grandfather had lived had been given away by the council.

His mother was also dead and Mr Barry had intended to return to Mullingar after his impending military discharge so that he could look after his 11 year old sister. She had gone to the Council and had been told “to go to France for a house. ” A letter was read out at the meeting from the CO of Mullingar Barracks,Colonel Eastwood,and from Mullingar curate (and former military chaplain),Father Bernard Farrell,urging the Council to give Barry back the cottage. Father Farrell wrote “I presume the Rural would not disturb the orphan”,

Cllr T Nugent delivered a diatribe in which he declared that ” the people he (Barry) fought for ought to provide for him.” Another Councillor remonstrated with Nugent,asking him ” would you like to be put out of your grandfather’s house?” In the end the Council agreed to give Barry back the house. The episode reflected the antagonism felt towards those who had served in the British Army by some in Mullingar political life.

* * * * A PLANE IN MULLINGAR * * * *
There was great excitement in Mullingar on April 22nd when a military plane made an emergency landing on the Asylum farm. The craft was “an object of much interest to the patients who saw a plane at close quarters for the first time.”

* * * * * * * TRADE UNIONISM * * * * *
At their monthly meeting,the Mullingar branch of the Transport Workers Union passed a resolution declaring support for the workers on strike in Limerick,who had set up a Soviet in the city. On a more conciliatory note,the Mullingar Amalgamated Society of Tailors and Tailoresses passed a Motion “thanking our employers for the generous manner in which they met our recent demands.” The Motion was proposed by Mr McMahon and seconded by Mr P Duignan.

* * * * * * MULLINGAR LADIES * * * * *
* * * * AND THE CALL OF SPRING * * *

The Arcade shop at the Market Square noted that “the call of spring was in the air”,and informed the “ladies” of Mullingar that they had “huge stocks of hats and coats and frocks from Paris” ready for the new season. Meanwhile,at Newbrook Racecourse,the ladies had the opportunity to show off their new hats and frocks at the Spring Race Meeting. This was a highly successful event,with ” huge crowds travelling from all parts of the MGWR System ”

* * * * * * * * MAY 2019 * * * * * * *
” NO WORSE SPOT THAN MULLINGAR”

At a meeting of Mullingar Rural District Council, Cllr C Lennon delivered a bizarre attack on Mullingar in a row over coal imports. The RDC,along with the Town Commission had fixed the price of coal imports for institutions such as the asylum and workhouse at 68s per ton. Mr Lennon claimed that there was a conspiracy to keep out Irish coal. “There was a bribe in the town to keep it out. Coal was banned by the swanks of the town because it was Irish. Outside Sodom and Gomorrah there is no worse spot than Mullingar”,he declaimed.

THE PROTESTING PIPER

Mount Street- described by the “Westmeath Examiner” as “usually one of the most sedate and early-to-bed streets of the town”, was the scene of a bizarre protest on May 21st. A prize winning piper called O Brien had arrived in town and booked into a lodging house on Mount Stret. However,when the landlady discovered that her guest was a travelling piper,she threw him out.

O Brien staged a dramatic protest. For three hours he marched up and down the street playing his war-pipes. Eventually a bed was provided for him in a car in P.J Weymes’s factory in Mount St Gardens beside the County Buildings and what was described as “one of the most peculiar incidents in the history of the town, ” came to an end.

* * * * * * * * JUNE 2019 * * * *
TWO HEROES VISIT MULLINGAR

On June 15th,Captain John Browne and Lt Arthur Alcock became the first people to fly the Atlantic . They landed in Connemara a day after taking off from Newfoundland. Following their Irish landing,they headed across Ireland by train on their way to Dublin. At Mullingar station,hundreds turned out to cheer them and the band of the East Yorkshire Regiment played various tunes.

The two airmen were interviewed by the local press as they stood at the window of their train. A Mr Govers from Bishopsgate Street presented them with a lovely model airplane,which they were pictured holding when they were interviewed by the world media in Dublin. As their train left Mullingar,they were cheered by the crowd,foghorns sounded and the military band played.

* * * * * MUSIC IN MULLINGAR * * * * *
The town hosted a major musical event in June when the annual Midland Feis took place in St Mary’s College on June 29th. Traditional musicians,singers and dancers from all over the Midlands came to Mullingar for the event and local school children were among those taking part in the competitions.

Mullingar In 1919 Part 3 July – September

IMG_20190116_223756———– MULLINGAR IN 1919 ————-
PART Three (5 Minute read )
* * * * * * * * JULY * * * * * * * * *
BRAWLING IN DOMINICK STREET
On the night of Saturday,July 12th,there was a serious brawl in Dominick Street between soldiers and some local men. There seems to have been a political element to the fight -although drink played a part as well . The fight started when some soldiers from the East Yorkshire regiment began kicking doors . Some of the houses targeted belonged to Sinn Fein supporters.Dominick Street was something of a Republican hotbed at that time.

A number of local men began shouting at the soldiers. Punches and stones were thrown .The police arrived and a constable was assaulted by a civilian.Some of the local men lined up in an almost military formation before throwing stones at the police. An armoured car then arrived from the barracks to support the soldiers. There was a baton charge by the police and the crowd dispersed.

——- ” HOIST THE BLACK FLAG” ——

July 19th was the day on which the United Kingdom celebrated the formal ending of the First World War . There were massive Victory Parades held in London,Dublin and other cities to mark what was called Peace Day. The Local Government Board sent a letter to Westmeath County Council stating that the day could be marked as a public holiday.

The councillors were not impressed. It was suggested that the letter from the Board should be burned. Cllr Lennon stated that the Council should ” Hoist the Black Flag ” over the County Buildings on Peace Day. Cllr Nugent declared that: ” We will wait until such time as we have a parliament of our own to rejoice. ”

The celebrations were largely ignored by Mullingar people. A Black flag was raised over the County Buildings,while Union Jack flags were flown at the Post Office and Military Barracks. Some local ex-servicemen took part in the parades in Dublin,Athlone and Longford.

— ” TYRANNICAL TREATMENT”—–

Laurence Ginnell was arrested following his speech in Delvin in April in which he called on people to boycott the RIC. He was imprisoned in Dublin at Arbour Hill . The imprisonment of their local TD outraged Westmeath County Councillors,who passed a resolution condemning “the Government for their tyrannical treatment of Mr.Ginnell ,M.P. While professing to uphold the rights and liberties of small nations,the power that holds Ireland in subjugation cannot allow their representatives to walk even under arrest,without having them manacled.

—— “HOUSES FOR MULLINGAR ” ——–

At the July meeting of Mullingar Rural District Council,councillors were told that there were a total of 191 cottages in Mullingar. The RDC and Mullingar Town Commission were planning to build up to 100 new houses in the town.

* * * * * * * * AUGUST * * * * * * * *

“A STAIN UPON THE NATIONAL CHARACTER”

As violence escalated across the country in the summer of 1919,Westmeath County Council condemned “in the strongest terms language can afford the murders and other outrages that have been occurring in various parts of the country.” The violence was described as being ” a stain upon the national character of our country”,and those carrying out the violence were denounced as “dangerous pests.”

—————— Religion ————–
On the Feast of the Assumption (August 15th), the cathedral was filled to capacity . “Eloquent sermons were preached at all the Lady Day Masses”. Later in the month the altar servers and choirboys went to Fore for their annual summer excursion.

————– Entertainment —————
In August the Royal Welsh Choir visited Mullingar as part of a nationwide tour. They gave a concert in the National Cinema in Dominick Street.

* * * * * * * September * * * * * * * * * *

—— BATHS FOR THE PEOPLE ———–

At a meeting of Mullingar Rural DIstrict Council,there was a proposal to provide public baths for the town. The Supply was considered a good location for the Baths,as the water quality was good there. The Baths were necessary because “the poor had no means of providing themselves or their children with baths in their houses.

One councillor declared that the Baths would be great for the young boys and the men of the town. Another councillor was greeted with laughter when he asked: “What about the young ladies of the town? Wouldn’t they want to have baths as well as the men and boys.?”

———- The LAMP-LIGHTER ———-

Mullingar Town Commission discussed the appointment of a new Lamp lighter for the town for the 1919-20 winter season. The town was still largely lit by gas at this stage. A number of candidates were proposed. In the end,Mr B Carroll was appointed at a salary of £1 per week.

—– FREEDOM FROM CAPITALISM ——-

The Labour Party held a meeting to discuss issues of equal pay and union organisation. One of the speakers-Miss Cahalan,expressed her disappointment at the fact that so few women were at the meeting. Equality for women and equal pay were important. It was also important that Irish people should be free from not just foreign rule,but from the rule of the capitalists as well.

——– THE WORKERS UNITED ——–

At a meeting of the Mullingar Trades Council,it was agreed that it was important that local workers should be enrolled in trade unions. A member of the ITWU spoke about recruiting the local Council road workers into the Union in order to protect their jobs and wages.
The Trades Council also discussed the necessity to have a branch of the Town Tenants League in Mullingar,to help fight excessive rent increases.
The Trades Council also heard from a member of the Mullingar Branch of the Amalgamated Union of Tailors and Tailoresses,protesting at the use of non-union labour by local draper,Mr E Murtagh.

——– HELPING EX-SERVICEMEN ——-

In 1917,a Red Cross hospital had been set up at Bloomfield House (now the hotel),to care for wounded soldiers. With the War now over,the hospital was closing and a meeting was held to discuss where to send the money still in the hospital accounts.

It was decided that the bulk of the money £1450,would be given to the Mullingar St Vincent de Paul-providing the money was used to look after ex-soldiers. A member of the SVP outlined the help being given by the organisation to former soldiers -“most of them living Patrick Street and Barrack Street.”

Mullingar  In 1919  October –  December

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MULLINGAR IN 1919: PART FOUR
By historian Ruth ILLingworth
– – – – – – 5 minute read – – – – –
– – – OCTOBER – – – –

* * A CEILIDH IN THE COUNTY Hall * *
The Mullingar branch of the Gaelic League-known as the O Growney Branch,held a Ceilidh in the County Hall. It was a very successful event-with 90 couples taking part in the dancing which went on until 5.00am. Music was provided by J.J Murphy’s String Band. A Catering committee provided refreshments. Committee members included Mrs Gilmartin,Miss McGuire,Miss Conlon,Miss Burke,Miss Flynn and the Misses Wallace. The event was attended by Rev M Weymes-President of St Finian’s College.

* * * * * * WORKHOUSES * * * * * *

A meeting of the Mullingar Rural District Council. was told of a proposal to close the workhouse in Delvin and amalgamate it with Mullingar. The Delvin workhouse had been opened in 1852.
The meeting was also told that Mullingar Poor Law Union had acquired an ambulance for the workhouse and infirmary.

* * A MILK DEPOT FOR Mullingar? * *
At a meeting of the Mullingar Trades Council,there was a proposal that Mullingar should have a milk depot. There was much poverty in the town and many families found it hard to get milk.
A branch of the Town Tenants League was formed in Mullingar.

— – – – – – NOVEMBER – – – – – – – – –

* MULLINGAR AND THE DAIL Loan * *

By the autumn of 1919,the Dail government was up and running. To fund the government,Minister for Finance,Michael Collins set up a system which became known as the Dail or Republican Loan. People could subscribe towards the Loan and those who did so received a receipt from the Minister. Across the country members of the republican movement took on the responsibility of collecting the money.

In Mullingar,local businessman and Sinn Fein member Pat Brett acted as Treasurer,ensuring that all donations went to the Department of Finance. The majority of Mullingar people seem to have been happy to contribute . Collectors in Mullingar included Mick McCoy and other members of the local IRA Battalion. A meeting was organised by Sinn Fein in the County Hall to explain the Fund. But the Crown authorities prohibited the meeting and the army and police occupied the Hall to stop it taking place.

The volunteers used a printing press to print up hundreds of posters publicising the Loan. Pat Byrne-one of the volunteers, was a compositor,so was able to do this job. Posters were put up everywhere-including on the gates of the RIC barracks and the home of the District Inspector!. They also put posters on a donkey which was sent wandering around the town.!

* * * * THE TOWN GAS Lights * * * * *
At a meeting of the Town Commissioners,the issue of gas lighting in the town was discussed. Although there were 116 lamps in the town,only about 61 of them were regularly lit. There were no lights in Springfield or Patrick Street. The light at the Chapel Gate in Bishopsgate Street was not on. Commissioners complained about the danger and inconvenience this lack of lighting was causing.

The Chairman commented that it was not right that “whole districts of the town were deprived of light.” One member stated that the Athlone UDC had almost no lights at all because of the cost of supplying the gas. Mullingar was considered to be the best lit town in the Midlands,while Athlone was “in darkness”.

The gasworks manager,Mr Halliwell,told the meeting that the cost of supplying the gas and maintaining the lamps had been £60 pounds over the previous two months. It was agreed that two lights each should be provided for Patrick St and Springfield and that there should also be a light at BelvedereTerrace.

* * * * * THE FUEL Famine * * * * * * *

A “coal famine ” in Mullingar was reported in early November. The shortage of coal was due to the coal barges being unable to get to the town as a timber barge had overturned on the Royal Canal and blocked the waterway.

* * THE TOWN SERGEANT’S Salary * *
The Mullingar Trade Council put forward a resolution at one of their meetings calling on the Town Commission to increase the salary of the Town Sergeant from 30 shillings a week to 36 shillings. However,the commissioners were told that such an increase could not be afforded. The Sergeant,Mr Macken,was summoned and told the meeting that he was “perfectly happy with his present salary.”

A MULLINGAR CRIMEAN WAR VETERAN

A full military funeral was accorded to William O Rourke of Mullingar who died aged 85 in November. Mr O Rourke had served in the Crimean War (1854-56) . The coffin was drawn through the town from the cathedral to Ballyglass on a gun carriage escorted by members of the East Yorkshire Regiment,while the regimental band played “stirring tunes”.Large numbers of ex-servicemen and civilians turned out on the streets to pay their respects.

– – – – – – – DECEMBER – – – – – – – – – –
* * * * * * * * REBEL Activity * * * * *

Early in December members of the Mullingar IRA attended the funeral near Tyrellspass of local Volunteer,Paddy Seery,who had died of wounds following an attack on Clara RIC barracks. Later in the month the IRA battalion were ordered to set up checkpoints to prevent drivers from using British driving permits.

This was in accordance with a demand by the Irish Automobile Drivers Association and the Dail government,who wanted drivers to use Irish permits instead. Many drivers complied with the Association demand but a few did not. Colonel Batten was fired on by local IRA members when he refused to stop at a checkpoint at Lynn. He escaped unhurt.

The Mullngar IRA battalion were now about forty strong and had taken an Oath of Allegiance to the Dail Government and Republic. They were acquiring weapons and organising firearms training. They had also managed to break into the RIC ciphers and were receiving information from RIC sergeant Foskins,in the police barracks.

As well as the IRA,Mullingar also had a unit of the IRB. Members included David Burke,Ned Whelehan, Seamus Hynes,Terence Smyth,Patrick Byrne,Thomas Lennon and Joseph Judge. Mick McCoy was sworn in as a member in 1919 and would later recall how, ” I felt very proud to be accepted as a member.”

* * A GAELIC LEAGUE PLAY Banned * *
The Gaelic League was one of many Nationalist organisations banned by the British government in the autumn of 1919. The Mullingar branch of the League had planned to stage a play called “The Hook in the Harvest” in the County Hall. However,the performance was banned by the authorities and large numbers of police and soldiers surrounded the Hall to prevent the staging of the play,.

A procession of League members and supporters paraded down Mount St to protest against the ban. With armed soldiers barring the way,it seemed there might be serious violence. However,local priest Father Carpenter arrived and advised the protesters to go home. Father Carpenter-who was a staunch Nationalist,then advised the Gaelic League to change producers and have the play put on by a different organisation-thus getting around the ban on the League.

* * * * SCHOOL PRIZEWINNERS * * * *
St Mary’s CBS awarded a number of scholarships and prizes to outstanding pupils at the end of the year. Winners included Joe Jennings,John Kelleghan,Edward Gallagher,Leo Fagan and Thomas Sheerin.

* * * ORGANISING THE Women * * *
At a meeting of the Transport Workers Union Mullingar branch,it was decided to re-organise the women’s section. Women workers were to be encouraged to join the union in order “to strengthen the ranks in the fight against capitalism”,and bring about better working conditions for the women. Miss Hoyne was to take charge of the re-organisation in the New Year.

* * * * * * * Entertainment * * * * * *

The pupils of St Finian’s College put on a play in the Workhouse dining room as an entertainment for the inmates and staff. A “Cinderella Dance Class” took place in the County Hall and was attended by 65 couples. The Golf Club and the Westmeath Hunt staged Dinner Dances in the County Hall and the Gaelic League were also finally able to stage “The Hook in the Harvest”,to great acclaim.

RUTH ILLingworth ©

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