The Volunteers 1913-1916.
Ruth Illingworth 26-11-2014. Meath Archaeological and Historical Society. St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Navan.
continued from Part 1.
In May 1915 the Skyrne Corps used to drill every second Tuesday. Arrangements were made for target practice and Peter McGrath was the instructor. In the meantime they were still losing members to His Majesty’s Forces. Fordstown National Volunteers congratulated their Captain James Fox on his manly and patriotic action in answering the call of the Empire by joining the colours and the ranks of the gallant Irish Guards, thereby going to prove that Nationalist Ireland was wholeheartedly with the Allies in the present titanic struggle.
By that time, May 1915, in between the Phoenix Park review on the 4th April 1915 and that meeting in May 1915, Gallipoli had begun. At Gallipoli hundreds of members of the National Volunteers, predominantly from Dublin, Munster and other areas too, were slaughtered. Many of them were killed before they even managed to land on the beaches. There was also slaughtering in Belgium and France, like Hill 60 at Ypres. That was one of the factors in the beginning of the decline of the National Volunteers. Many of their best young men were killed and disillusionment began to grow about the ever growing casualty list. There was a sardonic comment from “Tara” in the “Meath Chronicle”. He said that the shirkers praised Mr. Fox for doing what they cannot be persuaded to do,that is, answer the call of the Empire. He noted that Mr. Fox was promising to bring 10 of his Corps with him, but he does not appear to have done so. Truly Nationalist Ireland was wholeheartedly with the Allies, especially around Fordstown. Something that made the National Volunteers feel slightly ridiculous in Meath was the following resolution from Slane Volunteers blaming their non attendance at the Phoenix Park review on the County Board for expecting them to march into Navan in time to catch a train. They expressed indignation at the County Board for not using sufficient effort for procuring a special train from Oldcastle and by doing so preventing several Corps in taking part in the national review. “Tara” didn’t think much of this. Why did not the resolutionists, just to prove the sincerity of their political convictions, march into Drogheda and join the Louth contingent. Some of the active participants in the parade from the South West actually walked all the previous night in order to be in a certain station to catch a train. Evidently a six mile march would be too much for the Slane patriots. It’s so much easier to pass a strong resolution. You wonder how the guys at Gallipoli thought about the guys complaining that they had to march to catch a train.
In June 1915, there was a meeting of Navan Urban District Council and Councillor Johnson said that it was a mystery to a great many that the Government had not availed themselves of the service of the Volunteers by appointing them to do the work of the Police. There was also a debate about recruitment, which by now was waning in Meath. Sir Nugent Everard a member of the Volunteers stated that he had got himself in serious trouble by suggesting that the Volunteers might join in a body as a unit of the Irish Brigade. He was told that, that was much too much to say, and that these men could not go and join the Volunteers with the idea of fighting outside the country. He urged National Volunteers of military age that they should join the army. That was one of the reasons why there were two Irish Divisions, because the Authorities felt that the National Volunteers did not want to join. In the meantime things were still very engaged. A resolution was passed by one of the local branches of the United Irish League calling that the local company of the National Volunteers turn out immediately after mass to train in discipline for the cause of Ireland. It might suggest that not many were turning out. However the Skyrne Volunteers in August 1915 were making preparations for a field day at Tara on the 8th August 1915. 40 men were present which shows an increase from last year. There was still activity in some areas. The 3rd Battalion of the Meath Volunteers were to meet at Dunshaughlin on the 21st June 1915. It sounds good except that again “Tara” noted that there were now three battalions of the Irish National Volunteers in Meath whereas before John Redmond became dictator for Volunteer policy there were six battalions. There appears to be no Volunteers of any kind in the Meath towns. The 3 batallions suggested are from rural districts. Notwithstanding Mr. Redmond’s promise that every volunteer would be armed with a rifle in a short time, practically nothing has been done in that way. Loyal Volunteers, as Augustine Berill, Secretary for Ireland, calls them, were nothing less than animated revolutionists, whose be all and end all seems to be to pass resolutions of confidence in their beloved leader. He also noted that the secretary of the corps was an ex policeman. This was a man called Mulligan of the Drumconrath Corps. Mulligan wrote a spirited letter in reply saying that in relation to June 26 “Tara” refers to the Drumconrath Corps of the Irish National Volunteers with a sneer at ex policemen, magistrates of the nationality of Mr. Redmond’s followers, being all, I presume, of Irish origin, as I understand the word, I fail to see his point. This paragon of nationality whose hiding place is his nom de guerre would dictate to the Meath Volunteers. All men of Irish nationality are eligible to be members. He also conveniently ignores the fact that ex policemen and ex soldiers are and have been instructors to the volunteers since their inception. Even the Irish Volunteers – MacNeills people – relied quite an extent on ex British soldiers for their drill instructors. On the 27th June 1915 the rifle competition in Dunshaughlin took place and Mr. Farrell of Drumree won the gold medal. Just 5 Corps took part in the competition. The largest number came from Skyrne with 46 men but fared badly on marksmanship as it was only their 3rd occasion to practice. Again it shows problems in the ranks. Another sign of problems ahead in that there seemed to be more concern in Skyrne about setting up a fife and drum band, but rifles might have been better. In a rifle competition in Skyrne Andrew Halligan, T O’Carroll, and Mr Corcoran were presented with medals and a fair amount of members were present at a meeting of the Kilbeg Corps. Nevertheless there was an attempt made to re-establish a National Volunteer Corps in Navan. Navan had over 300 members in the Summer of 1914. At a meeting on the 16th July 1915 only a dozen men turned up in response to a public appeal. According to a newspaper account the proceedings lacked enthusiasm. It was only with the greatest canvassing that even this small number could be put together. Originally the Corps was 300 strong. Some of those who attended the meeting appeared out of curiosity and could not be counted upon. A suggestion was made by one of those present that there should be coalition of Volunteer Corps composed of followers of Redmond and Sinn Fein was approved. It was decided to affiliate to the County Board and if possible be represented at the Tara review, which will be more in the nature of a public demonstration than a review of drilled men. They simply did not have enough men trained in drilling.
There was another attack from “Tara”. This is what he said. There were Corps in the Volunteers in Rathmore and Higginstown. That was months ago. There are none there now. They are supposed to have disappeared in the tide in the words of Moses. They did not vanish quicker but these valiant disciples of our good John when he mentioned their two fold duty, they disappeared rather than listen to voice of their beloved and infallible leader. “Tara” claimed that Redmond could not tolerate having any organisation not under his control and that he set about smashing the Volunteer organisation. To a certain extent he succeeded and places where there were active Corps before he spoke, there are Corps no longer. It is not surprising to hear that a move has been made to collar the money he has collected by the defunct Corps and utilise it for party political purposes. It is even whispered that the funds gathered to purchase rifles in certain places was now being handed over to certain budding politicians. Navan National Volunteers are practising for the rifle competition it is reported to be held at Tara on Sunday week. There was however but a sparse attendance on Tuesday evening’s practice. There was a muster of the Skyrne Corps in advance of Tara on the 3rd August 1915 but in the meantime of more lasting significance was the report:
A committee has been formed to establish a Corps of the Irish Volunteers. Those desirous of joining make application to Hugh Smith, Secretary.
There also appeared in the “Meath Chronicle:
Manifesto issued by the Irish Volunteers titled “The Present Crisis in Ireland” which included this statement:
Now more than in 1913 it is manifest that Ireland requires some protection against the menace of armed force. On behalf of the Irish Volunteers we reaffirm the original pledge to secure and obtain the rights of liberties to all the people of Ireland. This pledge implies the attainment of national government free from external political interference. It implies resistance from partition or dismemberment of Ireland from the benefits of national autonomy. It implies resistance to any scheme of taxation which may be imposed without consent of the people of Ireland and which may defeat all their hopes of national prosperity and complete the economic ruinous consequences of the Union.
There was another factor, as well as the increasing war casualties, the fact that the war was going on and on and Home Rule seem as distant as before. War taxation created austerity while some sections of Meath society like the larger farmers we doing well off the war. For many people the war was bringing increasing hardship, shortages of basic foodstuffs, shortages of fuel and ever increasing taxation. “No taxation without representation was a point that the Volunteers were beginning to make.
The other significant story at the beginning of July 1915 was the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa. It was a brilliantly stage managed event. It appears that O’Donovan Rossa, the old Fenian veteran had mellowed in his last years and considered that Redmond was doing a good job. But that was not allowed to be said. The Irish Volunteers claimed him as one of their own. His funeral in Dublin was a marvellous piece of propaganda involving the Meath Chronicle reporter. Very large numbers of Irish Volunteers from Dublin and other areas paraded, many with rifles. It was reported that large contingents of people from Meath attended at the funeral. The speech by Patrick Pearse, the son of a Meath woman, was reported. At the time it did not have the significance that it would later assume. A week later the National Volunteers of Meath held a review at the Hill of Tara, linking the ancient High Kingship of Tara with Ireland’s independence movement. Three Meath battalions took part supplemented by Volunteers of Dublin, Cork and Drogheda. The Dublin Volunteers marched in column from Kilmessan en route to the rendezvous accompanied by a piper of Tara and band. The rifle shooting competition was confined to the County Meath Corps who also marched to the Hill with a trophy of a magnificent flag worked in Irish poplin, preceded by the County Meath band. The predominant colour was St. Patrick’s blue. The design included an Irish flag, the green flag that included the harp, the harp in yellow with a representation of the Tara broach. The trophy flag was carried by the second Meath Battalion led by the Dumconrath Corps. The parade was drawn up in line under the command of Major Haines of the 4th Battalion of the City of Dublin regiment. Meath was represented by Corps from Dunshaughlin, Dunboyne, Kilmessan, Ratoath, Drumconrath, Robinstown and Kilcock. The Drogheda Corps were also in the parade led by Captain Fenagh. The Ratoath pipe band played national airs. The colours were blessed by the Rev Christopher Carroll, Parish Priest of Skyrne and Rev. Nicholas Cooney, a curate from Navan, who shortly after would enlist as a chaplin and serve in the war. The parade was addressed by Colonel Maurice Moore. He told his audience that he volunteered 1 ½ years ago for the defence of Ireland and its national rights and to guard the parliament which he hoped would soon assemble in College Green. There was also Rev Father O’Farrell who spoke of how the clouds of night might pass away and give way to the glorious day of Home Rule, Home Rule for all of Ireland. Patrick White the Member of Parliament for South Meath, who was very much involved in the campaign to break up the ranches, the land of the people, declared that the message through the rally to John Redmond, was that the National Volunteers were at his command in the further working out of Irish freedom.
8th August 1915, over on the beaches of Gallipoli large numbers of Irish Volunteers were dying at Suvla Bay. The Irish casualties in Gallipoli were absolutely appalling. Among those who were killed that day was Sregeant Thomas Kennedy, serving with the Leinster Regiment who was Drill Instructor to the Oristown Corps, a post for which his military training well fitted him and by which he earned the confidence and esteem of the members of the Corp. There was also unease in the Government in London, a coalition including Carson who fought tooth and nail against any form of Home Rule. So disillusionment and disenchantment was growing. The Irish Citizens Army carried out exercises which involved attempts to attack Dublin Castle. The Government in Dublin Castle did begin to take action now. A number of leading members of the Irish Volunteers including Ernest Blyth, Liam Mellows, Hubert Pim and Desmond Fitzgearld were arrested and some of them were ordered to leave Ireland. On the 11th September 1915 a letter appeared in the “Meath Chronicle” from Bulmer Hobson, who was one of the founding members of the Volunteers, who was also one of the members responsible for rejuvenating the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and turning it from being little more than a sort of Dads Army of elderly Fenians, into the kind of force that, under the leader of people like Michael Collins, would make a major military impact in the coming War of Independence.
The top seller on this occasion was seeking subscriptions for the Prisoners Defence Fund. The fund of the Volunteers, being for military purposes, cannot be used for paying the necessary expenses incurred in defending these prisoners. The Irish Volunteer’s Executive therefore appealed to the friends of the movement to supply funds required. In the meantime there was still widespread support for the National Volunteers. The Ancient Order of Hibernians were very proud to talk about their support for the Volunteers. A large number of Hibernians were Volunteers. They made their halls available for meetings. The Hibernian Bands played a part in leading Volunteer parades. They supported the Volunteers as being representative of the will of the Irish people and hoped that there would be a continuation of the mutually supportive relations between the Hibernians and the Volunteers. Although critics pointed out that the Ancient Order of Hibernians was a deeply sectarian body. An article by “Tara” said that Protestants are ratepayers and they are as entitled to go for a job as a Catholic as they have the talent. It suggested that the Hibernians were simply interested in getting their own members into jobs.
By the end of September 1915 the Irish Volunteers were beginning to re-emerge. There was a well established Corp in Kells. They held an excursion to Drumbaragh on the 26th September 1915 attended by several members of the Dublin Companies including a brother of Liam Mellows, who was in prison at this time. After some field drill in conjunction with the Drumbaragh Corps the company practised rifle shooting. Both companies repaired to the Drumbaragh Volunteer Hall where some songs and recitations were rendered by the Dublin visitors. From the arrival of the Dublin visitors until their departure on Monday morning they were shadowed by the police. The same weekend in September the Kilmessan, Skyrne and Ratoath Corps of the National Volunteers had an excursion to Howth. About 200 Volunteers made the journey, rather more than were turning up for drill. Making the journey were fife and drum bands from Dunboyne and Ratoath adding much to its success. The officers in command of the Corps were P.J. Mulvany JP, Dunshaughlin, who organised the trip along with Captain McCarthy, Dunboyne, Lieutenant Bruton, Dunboyne, Captain Tom Corcoran, Tara, Lieutenant Andrew Halligan, Skyrne and Lieutenant William Duffy, Ratoath. These are their Volunteer titles, British military titles. Before this, in training and while at home, movements of the Volunteers were closely watched by the police. At this stage both organisations were being watched. There was evidence of the close links between the National Volunteers and the Irish Party because on the 22nd August 1915 there had been held in Navan, what was described as the greatest historic meeting of the nationalist Royal Meath, the United Irish League. It took place in the Catholic Hall. All the affiliated bodies including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the National Volunteers were there. The Irish Volunteers were not invited. They probably would not have come anyway. The National Volunteer Corps were represented By Ratoath, Dunshaughlin, Skyrne, Slane, Drumconrath, and Robinstown.. One of the resolutions passed stated that we pledge ourselves to support in every parish in County Meath the Irish National Volunteers. Mr. Halligan hoped that when the war was ended in a few months....this was the summer of 1915...on the day the Parliament House was opened, they would have there a strong body of National Volunteers determined to defend what has been won for our country.
Shortly afterwards under the “Searchlight” banner “Tara” returned to the attack.
For some time past the gradual disappearance of reports announcing the doings of the various Corps of the National Volunteers has been a matter of much comment. What has happened them. Has the influence disappeared like the effervescence of soda water, when the cork is extracted. On the 15th October 1915 in another article “Tara” said.
The National Volunteers are gone and branches of the United Irish League have superseded them. In a local paper last week there was not a single report of a National Volunteer Corps, whereas we are treated to columns of announcements of the United Irish League. Now, the National Volunteers as they were, have transferred themselves into quiet and respectable leaders ready to do and die, in the political sense, when their beloved leaders do so. “Tara” went on to make clear that he personally fought with the Irish Volunteers. The people will not be hoodwinked forever. He will see that the precious safeguard of their liberty lies in disciplined men, trained in the use of arms. He will set about forming Corps of genuine Irish Volunteers. In that is Irelands only hope. He went on to say how encouraging it was about the new Corps of Irish Volunteers formed in Kells. Disgusted by the way the politicians were using the National Volunteers for party purposes, the young men of the town got together and decided on the formation of a Corps of Irish Volunteers. Their efforts met with a success that ought to encourage young men of the other Meath towns to go and do likewise. It ought not to be difficult to form Corps in the various towns, strong Corps. The men are there, the spirit is there. All that is need is a little organisation. Others were following because by the 15th November 1915, there was a report about the setting up of a new Irish Volunteer Corp for Carnaross. During the past few months the young men of Carnaross and adjoining districts have been discussing the possibility of starting a Corp of the Irish Volunteers. The feeling has now become general amongst them that it behoves them to immediately join the National Army. Ireland has now reached a critical period in our history and at any moment the rights of our citizens may need the support of Volunteers.
On the 14th November 1915 a most successful recruiting meeting for the Irish Volunteers was held at Carnaross. Kells and Drumbaragh Corps headed by their pipers band marched. They were joined by the young men of the district. A meeting was then held close to the village and a Carnaross member addressed in a few words the aims and the necessity of the Volunteer movement. Those who were ready to fight and not merely parade were invited to join. The necessity for constant aptitude and drill was emphasised and above all the men were taught not to think about acquiring a uniform until every man was thoroughly trained. That is the motto of the Irish Volunteers. The rights of Ireland could be defended not by paper resolutions or by mob oratory but by cold steel. Over 50 men were then enrolled and it was decided to have drill next Sunday 21st November 1915 at 3-30. The Drumbaragh drill instructor will attend and rifle practice would be started shortly. In the meantime, what was left of the National Volunteers was drifting away either into non attendance or into a different army. Seven members of the Dunboyne National Volunteers enlisted in the army, joining the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The following month it was reported that six members of Ardbraccan National Volunteers had also enlisted in the Enniskillen Fusiliers. One of these men was Richard Rennicks who was one of the few Protestants in the Meath Volunteers at this stage. He would be killed in action in 1917, one of at least eight National Volunteers from Meath to lose their lives in the Great War. There were more reports over the next months and years of the deaths of Volunteers in action.
Meanwhile “Tara” returned to the attack again. What has become of the National Volunteers. The continued absence of any report of their doings in the local press gives credence to the rumour that every Corps is now a corpse. This is one of the results of political meddling. At one time we had volunteers in every parish but now we scan the papers in vain for even one line of Irish National Volunteer Corps. What happened them. It is easily explained. The various corps were captured by politicians who converted them into branches of the United Irish League. So, now we a kind of paper organisation to support John Redmond. There was a Corp in Fordstown but I see we are to have a political meeting there shortly so that the blessing of organisation may extend to the faithful followers of John. By the end of 1915 the Carnaross and Drumbaragh Corps of the Irish Volunteers were holding regular drill and rifle practice every Sunday at 2-30 after mass again.
The war was now entering another year. There were editorials in the Hibernian Journal expressing the hope that the war would soon be over and that Home Rule was coming. But the main concern in the last weeks of 1915 and one of the reasons why the Irish Volunteers were growing in numbers in Meath and the National Volunteers in decline was the real fear that conscription was at hand. Conscription was introduced in Great Britain, England, Scotland and Wales from the beginning of 1916, because there, as in Ireland, recruitment had dropped off very considerably. In November 1915 there was a recruitment meeting at a football grounds in London, the Oxman Grounds. Hundreds of supporters were addressed by a Colonel who told them that his own son had been killed in the war and got one recruit. It was not just in Ireland that recruitment was dropping off throughout 1915 as the casualty rates mounted. So there was a real anxiety. Oldcastle Rural District Council, for example, passed a resolution opposing conscription. However John Redmond had one more, possibly his last political victory, when he persuaded the authorities not to extend the Military Service Conscription Act to Ireland. Early in 1916 resolutions were passed by political and volunteer bodies in Meath congratulating the Irish Party for preventing conscription being extended to Ireland. The Hibernians hoped that the Allies would win the war in 1916, because on the cessation of the war, Home Rule comes into force. An Irish Parliament would come into being and Irish men would have control of their own destiny.
On the 13th January 1916 the Irish Volunteers had a dance in Loughan in aid of their company. Brian Daly gave the use of what was described as a spacious hall and his wife and daughter provided refreshments. The Navan Board of Guardians read a letter and adopted a resolution from the Irish Volunteers demanding an amnesty for Desmond Fitzgearld, Garrett Fitzgearld’s father, and other Irish Volunteers, imprisoned under the Defence of the Realm Act. Some of the Councillors considered that was all Sinn Fein but other such as Councillor Ahearne said that we must have respect for these men because they are men of principle, say what they think, or you will be the poorer the day we lose like them. So already you can see a changing in attitudes.
The Navan Volunteers, by February 1916, were holding drill practice every Wednesday night and a good number have been enrolled. It is expected that Navan will shortly take the lead among the Irish Volunteers in Meath. So as the National Volunteers in Navan vanished so the Irish Volunteers were growing in strength. There was a report of how things were changing, of scenes in Carrickmacross. Three members of the Irish Volunteer Corps returned to a triumphant reception after their release from Armagh jail, where they had been imprisoned for leading anti recruitment rallies. It was noted that several Irish Volunteers were present carrying rifles. The local parish priest praised the three volunteers for their patriotism and sacrifice for Ireland. The O’Rahilly gave an address which the Meath Chronicle reported in full.
Already there were signs of change. St. Patricks Day for the last couple of years had been traditionally the time when the Volunteers showed they were out on parade. On St. Patricks Day in 1916 the Carnaross Volunteers in conjunction with the Drumconrath Pipers Band held a church parade headed by the band members of the Corps including some Volunteers from Drumbaragh and Whitegate and fell in at 10-30 and marched to the church for 11-00 o’clock mass. They had an interesting sermon from Father O’Farrell who declared that that the more Irish the people were the more catholic they would be, the less danger there would be of losing their faith. Faith and religion were woven together in Ireland and they wondered why Ulster was not in favour of Home Rule. After mass the Volunteers paraded under the command of Matt Tevlin, dismissing at the hall. The pipe band played some very pleasing selection of national airs during the parade.
On the 11th April 1916 there was a report in the Meath Chronicle of the deportations of Ernest Blythe and Liam Mellows to England and a parade of Irish Volunteers through Dublin protesting at their deportation. It was noted that many of them had rifles and that the numbers of recruits appeared to be growing by the day. We come to that fateful weekend of Easter Sunday 1916. MacNeill was trying to prevent the event going ahead. The countermanding orders were that Patrick Pearse and his colleagues deciding to go ahead, postponing the Rising for one day. None of that was known to the Volunteers in Meath or indeed the Volunteers in Dublin. On Easter Sunday Carnaross held their usual after mass drill, that was the last parade before the Rising. Of course the Rising came totally out of the blue. It took people in Meath totally by surprise as it did everybody else. As we know there was quite serious fighting in Ashbourne involving members of the Fingal Volunteers with people like Richard Mulcahy. Eight lives were lost. Two of the Volunteers were killed and six police and civilians. The deaths of those police and civilians shocked everyone in Meath, possibly even some members of the Irish Volunteers because they were all Irish. That included the Chief Inspector Alexander Grey who had in his reports over the previous eighteen months chronicled the decline and fall of the National Volunteers. He regarded them by the beginning of 1916, as most of his colleagues across Ireland to all intents and purposes as extinct. He noted the rise in numbers of the Irish Volunteers, the rise in what he would regard as subversive writings and speeches. But he was as much taken by surprise as anyone else. Four of the RIC men killed in Ashbourne would be buried following funeral mass in Navan. Another policeman was buried after service in St. Marys Church of Ireland, Navan. Another casualty who escaped serious injury was Lord Dunsany who was slightly wounded by a ricochet bullet in the centre of Dublin at the beginning of the Rising.
The first effects in Meath were arrests among the people pulled in by the Authorities during that week and the next. The County Surveyor, James Quigley was rightly considered by the Authorities as a major figure in the Irish Volunteers. Others were John Sweetman from Kells, Charles Fox, Oldcastle. Brian O’Higgins sister was arrested in Kingscourt. Richard Evitt was the veterinary surgeon attached to Oldcastle Rural District Council. The local United Irish League, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the National Volunteers condemned the attack. A typical remark was by Father Kelly in Ratoath declaring that a feeble attempt has been made to establish a toy republic. The Ancient Order of Hibernians issued a statement saying that Ireland’s salvation lies in constitutional action.
Easter Monday was the day of Fairyhouse races. Most of the people at the races did not know what was happening until they left and found that they could not get trains to the city centre. This report appeared in the Meath Chronicle after the Rising. The front page of the paper is dominated by the Rising and at this stage it is clear that there is chaos. This is the report on Fairyhouse Races. The famous old meeting came off with great success on Easter Monday. There were huge contingents from Dublin, Kildare and other counties while the Meath crowd was well up to the usual standard. The crush in the grandstand was always unprecedented. The day was exceptionally fine, the rain holding off from the proceedings until well over. No mention of the other events going on in Dublin that day. That brings us to Easter 1916. We know everything changed in the aftermath of Easter 1916. The decline of John Redmond and his party accelerated particularly when an attempt to get Home Rule in force for at least 26 counties failed due to the opposition of southern Unionists and others. The National Volunteers were already a spent force by the beginning of 1916. In the year that followed it would disappear almost completely. What was left Maurice Moore eventually brought back into line with the Irish Volunteers. That eighteen month period between the beginning of the war and Easter 1916 saw the situation where at the time the war began the Volunteer movement in Meath was very strong, had the support of large sections of the community and even included Unionists among its members. The split damaged it but not at first, perhaps not too much since the overwhelmingly majority stayed with Redmond. But for a variety of reasons including the loss of many of their best men to the British army and the reluctance of many other to drill and parade because they were genuinely afraid they would be conscripted if they were seen marching. Perhaps just increasing disillusionment as the war went on, casualties mounted and Home Rule appeared no nearer. Unionists took their seats on the British cabinet. All of these factors led the National Volunteers to go into a rapid decline while the Irish Volunteers were reconstituted under a much more focused and more radicalized and militant leadership. It must be remembered that MacNeill, Bulmer Hobson and The O’Rahilly were all opposed to the Rising but nevertheless the Irish Volunteers began to rise from the Spring, Summer and Autumn of 1916. When we talk about the Volunteer movement in Meath we are really talking about MacNeills Volunteers, not Redmonds Volunteers. Out of that growing number of Corps in places like Kells, Navan, Carnaross and others the beginnings of the new Irish Volunteers will become the Irish Republican Army of 1922. The National Volunteers loved their country as much as members of the Irish Volunteers did. Many of them served, some went off to fight and they saw themselves fighting for Ireland. Many of them, when they came back would contribute to the War of Independence, building institutions of the new Irish Free State such as the Army and the Gardai.