The Volunteers 1913-1916.

 

Ruth Illingworth. 26-11-2014. Meath Archaeological and Historical Society. St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Navan.

 

The 25th November 1913 was the founding date of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda in Dublin. From the Irish Volunteers the modern Irish Permanent Defence Forces originates. The Irish Volunteers was set up by Professor Eoin MacNeill. The aims of the Irish Volunteers -Oglaigh na h-Eireann were:

 

Enroll under the green flag;

Safeguard your rights and liberties;

Help your country secure a place among the nations;

Give her a national army to keep her there;

Join the Irish Volunteers;

Ireland shall no longer remain disordered and impotent.

 

One of the leading figures in the Irish Volunteer movement in Meath in 1914 was Colonel Potter who would make a similar statement that - Ireland must never again be an unarmed nation.

 

Up to the beginning of August 1914 when World War 1 begins and Britian declares war on Germany, Ireland is a full integral part of the United Kingdom. In the House of Commons on 5th August 1914 John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, makes this reference to the Irish Volunteers;

 

When I say to the Government that they may tomorrow withdraw every one of their troops from Ireland, I say that the coasts of Ireland will be defended to foreign invasion by our armed sons and for this purpose armed nationalist catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed protestant Ulstermen in the North.

 

He received a standing ovation for that statement.

 

At that time in August 1914 the Volunteer movement was at its peak. It had a membership across Ireland of just under 200,000 men. Thousands of other men were enrolled into organisations such as the Irish Citizens Army and the Workers Militias set up by James Connolly and Captain Jack White. The Irish Citizens Army was a mostly Dublin based organisation. In the North was the Ulster Volunteer Force. With a membership of over 150,000, Ireland was an armed nation.

 

In Meath, in August 1914 the Irish Volunteer Force had 6,500 men, organised into 61 different Corps. There was a Meath County Board. There were lectures in Navan on 9th August 1914 as the war began. The 61 Corps were organised into battalions. Four of these battalions belonged to what was called the 10th Brigade of the Irish Volunteer Force. It was based in Navan and the remaining two battalions came under the authority of the 11th Brigade and its headquarters was in Drogheda.

 

The Inspector General for Meath was Lord Fingal. He is an interesting figure to have in the high ranks of the Navan Volunteers. He was a rare bird. He was a Catholic Unionist. He had been for many years one of the leading figures in the Southern Unionist Alliance. To see him in the ranks of the Irish Volunteers in August 1914 was rather curious. But so was Lord Gormanston also a Unionist and Sir John Dillon of Lismullin, although he was soon to withdraw. The reason they were in it and the reason why a number of clergy and others were in it, was that John Redmond had taken control of the Volunteer Force. Twenty five of his nominees sat on the Central Committee. There were very close links between his Parliamentary organisation –the United Irish League- and the Volunteers. At least 20% of Volunteers would have some involvement as branch members of the United Irish League. Redmond probably felt he needed to take over the organisation because he needed to control it. He was at this time in August 1914 not just the leader of Ireland’s largest political party he was within a short time of being the first Minister of Ireland. The Home Rule Bill had passed through all stages of Parliament. It had yet to be signed into law but nobody doubted that it would be. John Redmond probably felt that this was going to be Ireland’s National Army. He would have some control over it.

 

That was the situation in August 1914. On the 15th August 1914 the first county review of the Volunteers in Meath took place in Navan. 2,500 men in 25 Corps paraded in it with a 300 strong Navan Company in the front. Lord Fingal and Lord Dunsany inspected the men. At that time there were drilling centres all over County Meath-Navan, Trim, Dunshaughlin, Kells, Nobber, Duleek. There were also companies in smaller places such as Ashbourne, Ratoath, Kilcock, Clonard, Culmullen Skyrne, Longwood, Rathmolyon, Oristown, Crossakiel, Athboy, Oldcastle.

 

The first way in which the war impacted on the Irish Volunteers in Meath and elsewhere was the recall of reservists. Very many of the Volunteer Companies across Meath and across Ireland and the Ulster Volunteers had drill instructors who were ex British Army. The British Army had for a very long time made a career option for Irishmen and there were thousands of ex service men across the country. Many of them did act as drill instructors. With the outbreak of the war the reservists began to be recalled.

 

This is just one example that is reported in the local press in the Athboy area. The Drill Instructor Patrick Holland was among the reservists called up and he proved a most efficient Drill Instructor and he devoted his energies to the local Rathmore Corps of Volunteers which will suffer keenly by his departure. He was described as a young man, a very fit and of fine physique. He was also a staunch member of the Athboy Ancient Order of Hibernians.

 

The AOH is a very significant force in Ireland at the time. It’s the Catholic equivalent of the Orange Order. It seeks to get jobs for Catholics and to look after catholic interests. It also plays a major role advising members for insurance purposes. The beginning of the welfare state was happening at this time. The AOH is a Friendly Society but it is also very much a political movement. It is very close to Redmond. The AOH and the Meath Volunteers are very closely associated.

 

You have a lot of the drill instructors heading back to their units. As well as this loss of members, not just the drill instructors,a lot of the rank and file members as well. The Volunteers also begin to lose members within a week or two of the start of the war. The Irish born Field Marshall, Lord Kitchner starts his campaign:  “Your Country Needs You”. Hundreds of thousands of men join what becomes known as Kitchner’s New Army. For Catholics in Southern Ireland that will mean service in mostly the 10th and the 16th Irish Divisions. The Ulster Volunteer Force as a body was the 36th Ulster Division. Between August 1914 and November 1915 twenty four members of the Kilmessan Volunteers alone enlisted. Six members went from Ardbraccan in one month in 1915 and there were numerous other examples. Even after that initial wave of enthusiasm for enlistment thousands joined every week in August and September and continued to join right up to 1916, even in some cases later than that. As late as November 1915, seven members of the Dunboyne Corps joined the Royal Dublin Fusileers 7th Battalion. At least eight members of the National Volunteers would lose their lives in World War 1 in mid September 1914, just an example of what is actually happening. At this stage the Volunteers were still united. This gives a glimpse of how things were in Meath. It was just in the weekend that John Redmond made his famous speech to a Volunteer Company in Wicklow .

 

 

On 18th September 1914 in Parliament, negotiations were going on to try and resolve the issue of the totally conflicting demands of Irish Volunteers for Home Rule for all Ireland and the other Ulster Unionist determination to keep as much of Ulster out of Home Rule. There was a conference in Buckingham Palace - no agreement has been reached. Police Inspectors in Armagh were warning that the Country was on the verge of civil war. The one good thing about the First World War was that it saved Ireland from a sectarian Civil War between Unionist and Nationalist in the summer of 1914.

 

There were celebrations on the passage of the Home Rule Bill with bonfires in towns across Meath and other parts of Ireland. Volunteer Corps took part in the in the celebrations in Navan, Trim, Kells, Oldcastle and other places. In Kells  the Corps were put through rifle exercises by Mr. Tormey, on Wednesday evening which was the evening the Home Rule Bill became law. It is expected to have target practice in the Park on Sunday afternoon when a full muster is requested. Drilling during week evenings to be held in a shed procured from Mrs. Richardson of Farrell St. Many of their halls were obtained from local supporters, sometimes from clergy and the AOH. On the 20th September 1914 more than 100 Volunteers from 6 Corps marched in Clonmellon. That was the day that John Redmond made the speech already mentioned. A week earlier in Navan on the 13th September 1914 an inspection review of 600 Volunteers took place in the Barrack Square. Col. Potter was accompanied on the reviewing stand by James Quigley. Quigley is a significant figure. He is the Meath County Surveyor. He is also a very prominent member of the Volunteers. He is joined on the reviewing stand by Lord Gormanston. Col. Potter complimented the men for their efficiency. The parade was followed by a march past in the Market Square. The same week, the committee of the Navan Corps passed a resolution commending John Redmond on the achievement of Home Rule; A Nation Once Again. Meanwhile the Kilmessan Corps had colours presented to them in the presence of what is described in the papers as a large and influential gathering. The Volunteers of a number of 100 men were drawn up in quarter column and created a very favourable impression by their soldierly appearance and bearing. The colours were presented to Mr. P.J. Cody JP by Mrs. Foran.

 

“By presenting these colours on behalf of the ladies of Kilmessan, I hope you will guard and cherish them and look at them as a sacred emblem. If war should call you to protect our beloved country, think of your colours and all will be well. God will defend the right as these colours represent the right.”

 

In Athboy six Corps from the surrounding district took part in the review, all the companies vying with each other in efficiency in military bearing. All the men were provided with haversacks which added considerably to the general appearance. All were provided with dummy rifles and it was noted that the officers and drill instructors were conspicuous by their more elaborate equipment, full dress uniform haversacks, bandoliers and rifles.

 

Many of the Corps were particularly fortunate in possession of efficient Drill Instructors with a thorough knowledge of their work. The Athboy Corp was slightly ahead of some of the others. They had an Ambulance Corps and the Corps provided what was a very realistic demonstration and exercise retrieving casualties. In the Summer of 1914 the Central Committee of the Volunteers were actually planning to have Ambulance Corps in as many districts as possible. There should be at least one Ambulance Corps per Battalion. So Athboy was ahead on that. There are also notices about drilling sessions in Carnaross and Crossakiel. There is a very vibrant movement. The County Board was elected on the 9th August 1914 by delegates from 52 of the County’s 61 Corps. Members included P Boyd, PJ Cody, B Carry, PJ Yore, JP Kelly, JJ McCarthy, TR McGowan, FN O’Reilly, P Sheridan, PJ McQuillan and J Quigley. Lord Fingal and Lord Gormanston were also members.

 

Many of these men were Justices of the Peace, were elected representatives and serving on the Urban and Rural District Councils, the Poor Law Guardians and the County Council. They were mostly middle class. The rank and file members were drawn from all walks of society with predominance of shop assistants, farm labourers and small farmers. Lord Fingal, Lord Gormanston, Lord Dunsany and Sir John Dillon were the gentry class who were involved with the Volunteers but they seemed to have withdrawn by the end of October 1914. The reason why they left was in part because they began to sense that the Irish Volunteers now constituted a political organisation. The Volunteers were under the control of John Redmond. Clearly the Volunteers were part of the Home Rule movement which for people like Fingal and Gormanston, who were Unionists, was obviously not a comfortable place for them to be anymore. Lord Fingal also seems to have felt that he had nothing very much to do. He was there for decorative purposes to review parades but nothing much else. Sir John Dillon made it clear in his resignation letter that he was going because the organisation had become a Home Rule body that was at odds with his own political affiliations. Their departure made the National Irish Volunteers in Meath much more overwhelmingly Catholic. There were some Protestant members but the Volunteers certainly, after the departure of Fingal and his colleagues, were probably to be seen now as a Nationalist organisation.

 

The Meath County Board issued a statement in September 1914 leaving it up to Volunteers to decide whether they wished to enlist in the British Army. One member stated afterwards “We had no wild revolutionary ideas. We’re not out either to upset the British Empire or to run with the police. As far as I understand the mind of the Volunteer it is one of loyalty to our leaders and a willingness to follow their directions.”

 

Redmond’s speech on the 20th September 1914 was:

“Remember this country at this moment is in a state of war and your duty is twofold. The duty of the manhood of Ireland is twofold. Its duty is at all cost to defend the shores of Ireland against foreign invasion. It is the duty more than that to take good care of that Irish manhood, to prove itself in the field of war as it has always proved itself in the past. The interest of Ireland, the whole of Ireland is at stake in this war. This war is undertaken in defence of the highest principles of religion and morality”.

 

He went on then to ask the men to prepare to put their services wherever the firing line extends, overseas in France and Flanders where the British Expeditionary Force was already engaged in action, where large numbers of Irishmen had already paid the ultimate price. Maurice Dease of Westmeath and from a Catholic Unionist background who posthumously was awarded the Victoria Cross was the first VC winner of the war.

 

That was on the 20th September 1914 and it brought quick reaction from Eoin MacNeill and his colleagues on the National Committee and a letter appeared, signed by MacNeill and others including Patrick Pearse, Sean McDermott. Roger Casement didn’t sign but certainly agreed with the sentiments expressed in it.

 

This is what MacNeills statement says and brings about the split.

“Mr. Redmond addressing a body of Irish Volunteers last Sunday has now announced to the Irish Volunteers a policy and programme fundamentally at variance with the more published and accepted aims and pledges. He has declared it to be the duty of the Irish Volunteers to take foreign service under a government which is not Irish. He has made this announcement without consulting the Provisional Committee, the Volunteers themselves or the people of Ireland to whom service alone they are devoted.”

 

What happens in the aftermath of Redmond’ speech and MacNeill’s reply is the classic Irish thing, a split. The minority of the Provisional Committee, because Redmond now has a majority with his 25 nominees, the minority led by Mac Neill take over the headquarters of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin. They set about creating a new organisation retaining the title the Irish Volunteers. They retain the newspaper, they decide that they will continue and that they will hold on to what they see as the constitution which provides for the Irish Volunteers. The constitution aim is the defence of Ireland, to secure the rights of the Irish people and to protect Home Rule.

 

Redmond’s supporters start a new organisation, the Irish National Volunteers or the National Volunteers. There is no doubt that Redmond carries the majority with him. The figures across the nation speak for themselves. By November 1914 it was estimated that the National Volunteers had about 170,000 men and the Irish Volunteers had 13,500. The only area the Irish Volunteers seem to have held on to anything like a significant number of members would be Dublin where 30% to 40% stayed loyal to MacNeill. Eamon deValera for example found himself with not even enough men to form a drill square any more. He had 8 men formed into a square and 7 of them went.

 

The only other area where the Irish Volunteers retained significant support was in Belfast but not in West Belfast. The leader of the Home Rule movement in Ulster, Joe Devlin, managed to retain a personal loyal following. Devlin had just seen off thousands of National Volunteers on their way to fight in the trenches. In Meath it seems that the majority stayed with Redmond. You do see some signs of men who agree with Redmond but are not quite keen on the idea of actually going fighting. On the 22nd September 1914 there was a meeting of the Corps in Skyrne presided over by Thomas Halligan, Chairman of Meath County Council. Those members of the Corps who refused to sign the enrolment form committing themselves to the Irish Volunteers were to be expelled. The Skyrne Volunteers set their sights on raising money. They were to seek subscriptions from farmers, landowners and other property owners in the district. They also received a letter from Sir John Dillon, Lismullin, one of their members, resigning from the Volunteers because he had concluded that recent developments had made the Irish Volunteers a political and Home Rule body. Drilling and rifle practice was to be held on 27th September 1914 and members were advised that full attention must be given to practice.

 

On the 26th September 1914 the Meath Chronicle, while it was broadly supportive of the Home Rule party, was considerably more nationalist than Redmond and inclined towards the MacNeill position. They quote an article by MacNeill;

“The Irish people must make up their minds to have their national army armed and consolidated under leaders of firm and unyielding purpose, ready to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.”

 

The paper also reported Redmond’s speech at Woodenbridge. Then the split followed and on the 13th October 1914 and the Meath Chronicle reported a special meeting of the Committee of the Kells Volunteer Corps. The following resolution was proposed by the Rev. C W McCann, seconded by Mr. Collins of the Urban District Council and carried unanimously;

“That we the members of the Committee of the Kells Irish National Volunteers Corp repudiate the action of the central Executive Committee in Dublin. We desire to put on record our unswerving allegiance to Mr. John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party.”

While it may have been completely unanimous at the meeting and they did certainly represent the majority of the Volunteers, a letter did appear in the paper the following week suggesting that the Committee didn’t speak for every Volunteer. The letter which was from Mr. O’Cleary as follows;

“With reference to the resolution recently passed, I wish to state that I have read the “Irish Volunteer” during the past few weeks and have seen in its columns nothing wrong or objectionable nor anything injurious to the Volunteer movement. The aims and teachings of the Volunteers are of the organisation specifically used for Irish purposes without being under the control of the British War Office. Their followers from Kells should tell us why Mr. Redmond and his Party are being used by the British Government as recruiting agents in Ireland, for why they call Mr. Redmond the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, why he comes acting under the folds of the Union Jack to encourage Irishmen to go fighting on the battle fields of Europe.”

The author of that letter, Mr. O’ Cleary, along with John Finnegan, John English and Leo Ellison will soon be putting a notice in the paper seeking to reorganise the Volunteers of Kells, pledging their allegiance to Eoin MacNeill’s Volunteers.

 

There is a letter from the firebrand nationalist Brian O’Higgins who claimed that few were joining the army in Dublin. What was not true was that the MacNeill Volunteers were strong there and that their action should be followed by the Volunteers of Meath and of all Ireland. At this stage of that minority viewpoint, the county of Meath elected representatives and the majority of Meath people had pledged their allegiance to Redmond. Some of the Rural and Urban District Councils even went so far in suggesting that Councils should withdraw advertising from the “Irish Volunteer” newspaper and place it with the “National Volunteer” newspaper instead. One Councillor at one meeting suggested that we spend too much money on advertising anyway so we should stop advertising.  The Ancient Order of Hibernians also supported the National Volunteers. The AOH derided MacNeill and his supporters a body of malcontents, non entities and nobodies. This is typical. The Meath County Board of what is now the National Volunteers on the 4th October 1914 passed a resolution declaring adhesion to Mr. Redmond. A second resolution requested the various Corps throughout the county to affiliate with the majority of the provisional committee under Mr. Redmond’s presidency.

 

The Navan Corps were invited to vote Redmond or MacNeill or stay neutral. The majority supported Redmond. Kilbeg Volunteers likewise expressed confidence in Mr Redmond and the newly appointed executive of the National Volunteers. Likewise a meeting of the Killallon Corps, a meeting presided over by the Rev. Flynn, unanimously passed a resolution proposed by District Councillor Glennon; that we learn with regret the unfortunate differences which have arisen between the governing body of the Irish National Volunteers and we wish to record our complete confidence in the leadership of Mr. John Redmond under whose able guidance the cause of Ireland’s liberty has been assured. In the meantime the National Volunteers carried on with their activities. On the 4th October 1914 up to 180 men from Delvin, Clonmellon, Killalon and Kilskyre took part in a parade in Clonmellon led by the Killalon Pipe and Drum Band. The report of the parade and manoeuvres noted that there had been a marked improvement in military knowledge. Mr. O’Reilly of the County Board addressing them not to get involved in political wrangles and declared that no matter what their individual opinions they would not refuse to give three cheers for their native country. A meeting of the Corp in Skryne reported that members were becoming very efficient under the able command of instructor Joseph Kieran. Drilling was held on Sunday at 4-30 pm and field operation exercises would take place in Kentstown on the 25th October 1914. Up to 100 men attended a meeting at Carnaross and Crossakiel. The Nobber Corps held a meeting to select men for rifle and stretcher practice.

 

There was a meeting of Navan Urban District Council where Councillor Kelly claimed that the MacNeillites were all Sinn Feiners. Some were but many were not. But the term Sinn Feiners was used generally about all of the dissidents opposed to Redmond. Councillor Kelly described the Sinn Feiners as a curse and called on the Council to end advertising with the “Irish Volunteer” on the ground that it was the duty of the people to go against any paper that was opposed to the national movement. One Councillor opposed the motion arguing that MacNeill was not responsible for the poems and articles that appeared in “The Volunteer”. This Councillor went on to say that England’s rise has always been Ireland’s downfall. Asked by another Councillor if he is an Irishman or was he pro German, the Councillor, Francis Ledwidge, retorted; I am an Irishmen and I am an anti German. A few weeks later, Francis Ledwidge like many other National Volunteers enlisted. Ledwidge had been a significant figure in the Volunteers and was acting secretary of the Slane Volunteers. Along with his brother he had founded the Volunteer Corps in Slane. He was one of 30,000 National Volunteers across Ireland, some 20% of the membership, who enlisted in the War. The Drill Instructor of the Slane Corp, also was a reservist, rejoined the army at the same time as Ledwidge went. Ledwidge was sympathetic to MacNeill’s case but he felt that the war was a just one. He didn’t want to stay at home safely hiding behind other men’s rifles.

 

Although MacNeill would have been unaware, the split was helpful to those who already in September 1914 had decided that the war gave an opportunity for a rising. The fewer men they had the easier it would be to control them. But MacNeill’s Volunteers were beginning to regroup. A report appeared in the Meath Chronicle that a meeting of those who sympathised with the original committee of the MacNeill Volunteers and his men will shortly be held in Navan. A great deal of satisfaction prevails at the inactivity of the new committee. But still they were in a minority. As yet the country was backing Redmond. The war was still expected to last only a short time. Home Rule was on the statute book and was expected to come into force within a few months. What was noted was that the Irish Volunteers claimed that they were in a position to provide rifles almost immediately. The vast majority of the National Volunteers was still drilling with Dudley rifles, ordinary rifles. The executive may have been newly reconstituted but the Irish Volunteers made it clear that they were in the serious business of fighting. As they put it, mere parade ground work will be discontinued. Every Volunteer must learn to handle and care for his rifle. Throughout November and December 1914 notices continued to appear of National Volunteer activity across Meath. Drilling, parading usually took place on Sunday afternoons or on half holidays. The Meath County Board urged employers to continue giving half holidays on Wednesdays or Thursdays so that members could actually drill. Subscriptions and collections were going on. Kilbeg Corps treasurer now had a respectable sum in the bank. At a meeting on the 29th November 1914 the outfits consisting of capes and haversacks were distributed to 40 members recommended by the drill instructor. A supply of service rifles was expected shortly. The drilling used fields, Temperance Halls, the Irish National Forester’s Halls or the Ancient Order of Hibernians Halls. In all, the Volunteer organisation was non sectarian with pledges of equal rights. Its founding members included Protestants for example Roger Casement. The overwhelming majority were catholic. What is striking is the number of meetings announced taking place after mass, on the assumption that Catholics would be at mass. There were close links with the Ancient Order of Hibernians which unquestionably was a sectarian organisation. Another thing that comes across is that the majority of the National Volunteers were teetotallers. There were temperance drama classes.

 

There is some evidence towards the end of 1914 of dissent from support for Redmond. There was a meeting in Kells on the 13th December 1914 to reorganise the Corps. The Navan Irish Volunteers announced a suspension of drills for the winter and stated that the rifles they possessed or claimed to possess and supplied to them were all carefully stored away lest there might be a seizure. It was also noted that one of the most prominent members of the Volunteers, the County Surveyor, James Quigley, had resigned from the National Volunteers. But what he appears to have done, but not openly at first, was to affiliate himself with the Irish Volunteers.

 

1915 begins. The war is continuing on. There is no sign of an end to it. Home Rule remains on the statute book but no nearer implementation. County Police Inspector reports are beginning to indicate that while the National Volunteers still have 100,0000 plus members, increasing numbers are not active. Many of them are not parading. They are afraid that the authorities will ask why they aren’t in His Majesty’s Forces. The numbers attending drills drift away. But Skyrne Corp begins 1915 with a meeting chaired by Meath County Council Chairman Thomas Halligan. Clergy were asked to provide schools for the use of drama productions. A concert was held by a group in Kentstown to raise funds for the Corps. Kilbeg had a meeting with about 30 attending and a motion was put forward to start a fife and drum band. Drill practice was to take place on Tuesday at 2 pm. All were expected to wear a uniform. Those who had uniforms and were not attending were requested to return the uniforms. Carnaross Corps were having regular rifle and bayonet drills and plans were being made by the National Executive of the National Volunteers to hold a rally in Dublin on Easter Sunday the 4th April 1915. They wanted to show that they were still a serious active body ready for Home Rule, ready to be the National Army of Ireland when Home Rule became law. That rally in Dublin, while nobody knew yet, would become the last great rally of the National Volunteers. On the 21st February 1915 a very large number attended a meeting of the Kilbeg National Volunteers in the drill hall. What was described as a most credible drill display was put on by the Corps to the credit of their instructor Christopher Casey. It was decided to send as large a contingent as possible to the grand parade in Dublin on Easter Sunday. Young men are requested to attend punctually on Sunday for drilling so as to be peak trim for Easter. Those who received uniforms and are not attending are ordered to return same during the week. So obviously there were a number who were not attending. The Skryne Corps had their AGM on the 23rd February 1915. Councillor Halligan was chosen as the delegate to the forthcoming National Volunteer Convention. They were to start drilling again after St. Patrick’s Day. There was also a plan by the Corps in Fordstown. However it was clear in the run up of the days before the rally that everything was not as it should be. Enthusiasm was beginning to wane. A meeting of the Skyrne Corps was held at which arrangements to travel to the Dublin review  were read out. But only 15 out of 31 present had shown any intention of travelling. Those who did show an interest would receive free tickets but even that does not seem to make more than half of those in attendance. A meeting was held of the Navan Corps and nobody showed any desire to attend the rally. No delegates from Navan made the parade in Dublin, noted in sorrow at a meeting of the Board of Guardians. Neither were there any representatives from Kells, Oldcastle or Athboy.

 

At this point we come to the writings which appear under the heading “Seachlights” in the Meath Chronicle from a person signing themselves “Tara”. But “Tara” was a supporter of MacNeill. His constant theme was the National Volunteers, the organisation run by Redmond. “What is the object of the foolish parade in the Phoenix Park on Sunday. Is it to show Sir Edward Carson the number of men that John Redmond has behind him or to show England and the eligible men who have yet to be convinced of their twofold duty as at present constituted.” The parade went ahead in the Phoenix Park on Easter Sunday. The few who did make it from Meath, assembled at Broadstone Railway Station and marched to the Park from there. There is a photograph of the blessing of the colours of the parade. A figure at the bottom is Colonel Maurice Moore formerly of the Connaught, a veteran of the South African War. He was father of the novelist George Moore, a founder member of the Gaelic League. Colonel Moore was one of the founder members of the Irish Volunteers. As Inspector General he inspected the men in the Phoenix Park. He complimented them privately. Moore had begun to despair of the National Volunteers. He said that they can’t be disciplined, they can’t be armed and they were no good at all. Moore’s journey would eventually take him back into the ranks under MacNeill. He would end up in the last years of his life as a Fianna Fail Senator. Very few actually came from Meath, still fewer from other midland counties.The biggest representation from the midlands came from County Westmeath where there was very strong support for Redmond. There were 301 Volunteers from Westmeath including men from Delvin, Clonmellon and Collinstown.

continued at  Part 2.