Plugging the enemy … guerrilla war in Ireland

When I was a small boy living in a small town in Co. Tipperary, an old man lived across the road from us whose name was Jack Meagher. I must have been quite young when he died, because my memories of him are vague. I think he was from up the mountains … an old-style countryman, garrulous and jovial, who would walk in the back door of our house without knocking and declare ‘God bless all here!’, then stay chatting for hours. Jack was a character.

Years later my sister told me something about him that I hadn’t known – he had been in the Old IRA* of 1919–21, and had, it seems been the local brigade’s executioner. When prisoners needed to be killed, in reprisal for the execution of IRA prisoners by the British, Jack was the man that did the deed. He didn’t fit the stereotype of the old soldier who ‘doesn’t like to talk about the war’; apparently he had no qualms about regaling my uncomfortable parents, around the kitchen table, with gory details of how he had ‘plugged’ some unfortunate captive.

Reminders of the violent past were hard to miss in my town. Walking to primary school, I used to pass first a memorial – a stone Celtic cross – to the local men who had died fighting for Britain in the two world wars, and then a smaller memorial marking the spot where a local man, having been dragged from his bed, had been shot dead by the Black and Tans. Finally there was a large monument bearing the names of all the local IRA men who had died in 1919–21 and the subsequent Civil War, which occurred when the IRA split into pro- and anti-Treaty factions.

My best friend was proud of the fact that his uncle had been killed in the guerrilla campaign that we called, somewhat grandly, ‘The War of Independence’ … there was a song about him, and we used to listen to it on a record. As an altar boy, I noticed that the plasterwork of our large, high-vaulted church appeared to be pock-marked by bullet-holes, which presumably dated from some incident in those days.

It was a short war prosecuted by young men who made it up as they went along, and it demonstrated how efficacious irregular tactics could be against a vastly superior military force that was seen by many of the ordinary people as an occupying army.

I recently bought a book called On Another Man’s Wound by Ernie O’Malley, one of the young IRA leaders of the time, which I first read a long time ago. O’Malley took the Republican side in the Civil War, during which he survived being hit by 23 bullets while trying to escape from a house in Dublin. He was a very good writer, and gives an excellent insight into the time and place. I must post some extracts from the book here.

*The distinction between the 1919–21 IRA and the so-called IRA of the modern ‘Troubles’ is important. The Old IRA (formerly the Irish Volunteers) was officially adopted as the army of the self-declared republic by the majority of elected representatives of the Irish people. Although its legitimacy can be, and has been, questioned, it effectively founded the first free Irish state, in which we are happy to live. I think it’s fair to say that its members, by and large, were brave, resilient and honourable people who simply decided that the time for drastic change had come.



Filed under History, Ireland

74 responses to “Plugging the enemy … guerrilla war in Ireland

  1. Ike Jakson

    Haven’t the current generations forgotten about that by now? It’s good to remember the past as we have said before, but we must now all look at the future to make that a better place for all.

  2. Hello Ike. Yes, those bad old days are very much in the past, and we do look to the future. Joining the EU in 1973 was very important.

    The past can be interesting, though.

  3. Cymbeline

    Nothing wrong with remembering brave young men who fought against oppression. Name me one country that doesn’t remember their heroes in this way.

  4. Yes, I’d agree with that, Cymbeline. Those people were certainly remembered … when I was at primary school there were pictures of executed 1916 leaders on the wall (O’Malley’s take on 1916 is interesting).

    However, the young Irishmen who fought in the British Army in the First World War ought to have been acknowledged and remembered too; this didn’t happen until quite recently.

  5. Cymbeline

    No superior military force can ever inflict what people do not want on the people. Think Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam.

    And speaking of guerrilla warfare, those Boers gave the British a good run for their money too.

  6. I think that’s very true, Cymbeline.

    I mentioned Major John McBride before … Yeats’s love rival and ‘drunken, vainglorious lout’. It was considered that the British executed him in 1916 over his part in the Boer War rather than the Rising.

    O’Malley writes: ‘Next day four were executed and the following day one, Major John McBride. I had felt resentment at the death of the others; now a strange rage replaced it. I had known McBride. He had been to our house a week before the Rising and had laughed when I told him I would soon join the British Army. He had patted my shoulder and said “No you won’t.” I wandered around all day wondering what I could do to help, cursing under my breath, meeting few I could feel any sympathy with, for my friends were all hostile to the spirit of the Rising.’

    If the British had not executed the 1916 leaders (Shaw wrote ‘the British commanders killed their leading prisoners of war in cold blood morning after morning with an effect of long-drawn-out ferocity’), what followed might not have happened. It changed public opinion.

    • Cymbeline

      V interesting.

      • Thank you, Cymbeline. O’Malley – a teenager at the time – is a kind of microcosm of the shift in thinking.

        At the start of the Rising a friend offered him a gun and asked him to help defend Trinity College against possible attack by the rebels, and he seriously considered doing this. He had intended to join the British army, as mentioned above.

        A week later he and a friend went out to take pot-shots at British soldiers, and were fired upon.

        Three years later he was one of the IRA’s main organizers and fighters, travelling all over the country.

  7. Have you read Sebastian Barry’s books Brendan? I think I might have asked you that before. But he shows very well the dilemma of those returning from the trenches and finding themselves ‘on the wrong side’.
    In my family we can see signatures of my grandmother, my grandather and others of the family on the Ulster Covenant.

  8. No, I haven’t Isobel. I know he has written about 1916 and all that.

    Yes, the Ulster Covenant was the other side of the coin in a divided country. It was actually a threat to use violence against the British government if it tried to bring in a devolved government in Ireland, i.e. ‘Home Rule’ … but for Sinn Féin Home Rule was already too little … it wanted an independent republic. Interesting times.

    A case could be made that ‘Loyalists’ were always loyal to their own interests rather than to Britain. I think they would have supported Germany in the First World War under certain circumstances.

    • ‘A case could be made that ‘Loyalists’ were always loyal to their own interests rather than to Britain. I think they would have supported Germany in the First World War under certain circumstances.’

      Interesting but a bridge too far, in my opinion. What ‘certain circumstances’ could ever have produced a situation whereby the Loyalists would have supported the Kaiser against the British Crown.

  9. Are you equating Loyalism with the Ulster Covenant?
    I don’t.
    But then not long before this another member of my family was hanged for being a United Irishman.
    I’d say it was the same old divide and rule methods we see being used all over the place today and that were used v effectively and, ultimately, catastrophically in Ireland.

  10. Yes, Isobel. What would have happened had the 1798 rebellion been successful? It could conceivably have been had things been only slightly different … the capture of Lord Edward FitzGerald on the eve of the rebellion left it leaderless and stillborn in Dublin, for example.

    The United Irishmen were truly that, in the sense of wishing to unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. The sectarian polarization that followed in the nineteenth century was a great shame.

    • Ike Jakson

      Hi Brendan

      I didn’t know some of the stuff in the previous six comments but it sounds familiar.

      Did you know we had a rebellion here in 14 to 16 by the bunch that wanted to fight on the side of Germany? We were part of the British Crown then and shot the
      Rebellion to pieces.

      In 39 to 43 we had another one and locked the leaders up in a concentration camp, including a certain John Vorster who became Prime Minister after Verwoerd died and still later President before he was forced to resign in a now infamous corruption scandal.

      These oaks hated the English with a passion all their lives.

      • Hello Ike. Yes, I was aware that many of the Afrikaners would have been very hostile to the British. There, as in Ireland in 1916, come would have seen Britain’s difficulty as their opportunity.

      • Hi, Ike.

        Yes I did know about the South African rebellion.

        Jan Smuts was a great man, in my opinion, not only during the Great War but afterwards in specific relation to German reparations and to Ireland. Would that he had been more successful in both cases!

      • What would have been the outcome of Smuts’ greater success in Ireland, John?

      • We will never know, Brendano, but the IRA never gave it a chance.

        Smuts was heavily involved in the writing of The King’s speech in Belfast in 1922 when he called on

        “all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will.”

        Never going to happen probably, given that the IRA never observed the resultant truce and continued the struggle.

        Not saying they were wrong, given their perspective and the blood which had been spilled on all sides.

        Still think that the world might have been a better place if the Cogadh Cathartha na hÉireann had not been fought. Ireland as an independent Dominion within the Empire would have worked for me.

        Just call me an old dreamer.

      • I think you’re a little confused, John. The King’s speech was in June 1921, and the IRA (although it would have paid no attention to the king, whom it did not recognize) did observe the Truce, which was negotiated by Lloyd George and De Valera and came into effect in July 1921. That was the end of the Anglo-Irish War.

        The Treaty, in December 1921, brought in partition. The Civil War was between pro- and anti-Treaty forces in the new Free State … those who rejected it did so mainly on the issue of the oath of allegiance to the British monarch. Neither the British nor the Irish side in the Treaty negotiations expected partition to be more than a temporary arrangement.

        The NI Unionists were so opposed to your ideal of ‘Ireland as an independent Dominion within the Empire’ that they would have rebelled against the British Crown to forestall it, as I mentioned earlier. The Free State was techically an independent Dominion within the Empire/Commonwealth until a Republic was declared in 1949.

  11. John, it’s a pleasure to see you on my blog.

    The Orange Order’s pledge was to be loyal to the Crown for as long as it upheld the Protestant ascendancy … i.e. loyalty was expicitly conditional.

    The comment on supporting Germany was based on something I once read … I don’t have a link, and it may not have been accurate. But Unionists were against Home Rule at all costs.

    R.F. Foster states in Modern Ireland 1600-1972: ‘The Ulster Volunteer Force [in 1913/14] had planned with military precision a coup d’état and declaration of practical independence; plans were finalized down to patterns of civilian evacuation and te design of a currency. By spring 1914 they could mobilize 23,000 men against the 1,000 soldiers in the province, and the increasingly demoralized police.’

    Planning a coup d’état is a strange way of showing ‘loyalty’. See also the Larne gun-running and the Curragh mutiny.

    • A pleasure to be here, Brendano.

      And aye but, no but, aye but. When the Great War broke out and changed everything, are you suggesting that there were Loyalists who argued in public, or even in private, that they should support Germany in the coming conflict? Not a view that I have ever come across before in any of the books that I have read on the subject.

      Could be wrong, of course.

      • As I said, John, that is based on something I once read … that some would have preferred throwing their lot in with Germany to an all-Ireland parliament. As I said, this may not have been accurate … will have a look about for info.

      • Nothing convincing so far. The UVF did import 20,000 German guns illegally in April 1914, though.

        It is also interesting, I think, that the British conservatives – Bonar Law & Co. – supported the threatened Loyalist rebellion against the British state.

  12. Sipu

    Shortly before I left school, my father decided to leave Rhodesia and return to the UK. Thus it was that I avoided conscription into the army. However, a about 18 months later, I decided that I wanted to go and do my bit for the country I loved and in which I had grown up, and so I returned to perform my National Service. I had and still have absolutely no moral issue with the cause for which we were fighting though I may have frequently wondered about its chances of success.

    I had no doubt that our enemy the nationalist guerrillas/freedom fighters/terrorists needed to be killed or captured. However, I believed that there were certain rules to which one should adhere. Summary torture and/or execution was not something I approved of. In fact on an occasion when I witnessed excessive brutality to a prisoner I reported it to my CO and complained that this was the sort of behaviour up with which I would not put! For my troubles and to my surprise and chagrin, I was transferred from an all white regiment to a predominantly black regiment, in a largely non combat role. Ironic really, since until that time all my requests to join a unit that was seeing more action were turned down on the basis that I could not be spared.

    The point I want to make is that having taken part in an armed struggle that was not universally popular, I do sympathise to some extent with the motives of the ‘Old’ IRA (as opposed to the post 1922 IRA) However, I am repelled by the activities of Jack Meagher as described by you and I find it odd that you of all people should have written about him in a style that seems to imply a certain sneaking admiration for him and strange that your parents would have had anything to with such a man. As you point out few soldiers talk about their wars let alone their own heroics and those who do seldom have much in them that is worthy of respect. From what I have inferred, Jack Meagher was a nasty piece of work.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your intention. If that is the case, and I hope it is, I apologise.

  13. Thanks for that, Sipu … your military experiences are interesting, and you make fair points.

    On Jack Meagher … I think his apparent relish in bragging about his deeds was a poor relection on him, and would have been untypical. My parents would have tolerated him out of politeness and been quietly appalled. My father was very pro-British although he had been born in the middle of the said war, both chronologically (June 1920) and geographically. This incident took place on the farm where his mother grew up:

    Guerrilla armies attract people of every calibre and character (as do regular armies). Jack Meagher’s character may well have left something to be desired, but then again he may have been a brave fighter in his day.

    In the book I refer to, Ernie O’Malley gives a lengthy account of the capture and eventual execution of three British officers by the unit he commanded. He liked at least one of the men personally, and they behaved very well and bravely, but he felt that the killings were justified and necessary … his army, representing the Irish republic and mandated by the people’s representatives, was at war with a ruthless enemy which, as far as they were concerned, had been an occupying force for centuries and had oppressed and brutalized the people. The British side knew the consequences of executing their prisoners, and chose to do it. As O’Malley describes it, it is still a human tragedy.

    In July 1921 the British forces in Co. Cork alone, for example, consisted of 8,800 frontline infantry troops, 1,150 Black & Tans, 540 Auxiliaries, and 2,080 machine gun corps, artillery and other units: a total of 12,500 men. Martial law was in force, and the security forces burnt down half of Cork City at one point … they then went around with half-burnt corks hanging from their rifles, to taunt the people.

    The IRA in the county never had more than 310 poorly armed men, yet they managed to inflict major casualties on their enemy. Many of them were very brave and resourceful men; many were tortured and killed. They had grown tired of waiting for Home Rule, which had been on the statute books since Gladstone’s time but had never been implemented. That generation of young men (and some young women) took matters into their own hands, for better or for worse, and the state in which I now live was the result.

  14. Sipu

    Thanks Brendano. I do not doubt that certain members of the British forces acted appallingly during that and many other conflicts. It is a fact of war that essentially good people can often do terrible things. It is easy to condemn, especially if one was not there oneself. A good friend, at the time, of mine did something during our war that really shocked me and which, though I have not seen him since I am sure he would be very ashamed of now. (In fact, I am sure the only reason he told me about it, in confidence, was that he was full of remorse.) He was a thoroughly decent chap. However, were he to brag about it now, I would be pretty disgusted.

    I think that is the reason that so many soldiers do not talk about their experiences. For every act of bravery, there are probably several moments of fear, if not cowardice and other acts or thoughts about which they are ashamed. My own father was in SOE behind enemy lines in Albania. He never spoke of his time there. I am sure that it was because something must have happened that he was not proud of. But by the same token, he had every right to be proud of the fact that he volunteered to join SOE in the first place. Here is a picture of him, taken in Albania. I have posted before, but I think it is pretty cool.

    I understand your parents’ position. Good manners can lead to awkward situations.

  15. Yes, I remember the image from MyT … very cool. 🙂 And very brave, of course.

    Most of the regular British army in Ireland were regarded as pretty OK, I think (with the exception of the Essex Regiment in Cork, if I’m not mistaken). It was the Black & Tans and Auxiliaries (theoretically auxiliary policemen) that had the reputation for being murderous and generally drunk … some senior British officers were appalled at their behaviour.

  16. Cymbeline

    Sipu. I remember that photograph of your father. I was struck by his debonair handsomeness. Mesmerising eyes. I have just read about the book, and the SOE in Albania. I think I know which one is your father. What a hero. You must be very proud of him. I certainly am.

    I have been invited to a cocktail party on the H.M.S. Manchester tomorrow evening. Will be interesting to meet our uniformed chaps of the high seas.

  17. I may be going off on a tangent here, but this post has made me think, so thanks for that. anyway, to the point. After Partition, Unionist minded folk tended to call themselves British first and Irish next. Pre-partition, as my grandmother’s (she who signed the Ulster Covenant) autograph book testifies, they saw themselves very much as Irish first. There was a very real fear of what fate might befall protestants in the Republic. I think it is probably easier to understand the respective positions of religious groups in Ireland by looking to Europe of the C16 and C17 centuries and seeing the turmoil and conflict of those days. It’s not about fairness and democracy. It’s about survival.

    • Sipu

      “It’s not about fairness and democracy. It’s about survival.” I think that is very true. It helps explain the position taken by the National Party Government in South Africa in 1948. Having lost the Boer War and having had their way of life changed beyond all measure and many of their lands and possessions taken from them, it was perhaps inevitable that the Afrikaners felt that their whole identity as a people was being destroyed. Their surprise victory in those elections spurred them to take steps that would entrench their, until then, relatively small power base. Their behaviour was that of a cornered leopard. Survival of ‘die volk’ was paramount.

      • Yes, that kind of behaviour is very understandable. We see the same kind of patterns everywhere.

        I hope Isobel doesn’t think I’m overly critical of her ancestors. I don’t mean to be. I try to be balanced and objective.

  18. That should be a bit of fun, Cymbeline. Incidentally, my ‘Duet’ poem will appear in the next issue of the recently launched arts magazine that I mentioned.

    Thanks for that, Isobel. I’m glad you have found it thought-provoking. Yes, history is complicated, as you have pointed out before. For example, the equivalent of the people who are now Unionists were largely anti-Unionist at the time of the Act of Union in 1801, and the equivalent of today’s Nationalists were largely Unionist! This was because the Protestants, by and large, wished to keep ‘their’ parliament in Dublin, and the Catholics thought they would be ruled more evenhandedly from London.

    The fears of Protestants were understandable. Where I live was part of the Plantation of Ulster, and there are many Protestants in my area. The fact remains that the Unionist leadership deserted them in 1920 or so by plumping for a six-county rather than a nine-county (all-Ulster) statelet. They did this in the interests of survival as they saw it, I suppose, but as far as I know they never showed any interest in the plight of their cross-border brethren.

  19. Ike Jakson


    I have decided on a different approach to summarize my reactions to this Post.

    I hope that the discussions will continue after this comment from me and want to thank you for a task well done. You have set a high new standard for discussions of this nature and I have learned a lot from all the contributions by everyone.

    There are no buts in the aforementioned; it is however, necessary to refer one last time to all references to the Boer War and state my opinion, or rather leave a question of a sort on that.

    Anastasia of MyT and BlogSpot fame posted an article that fits in well with this Post and those of you who may want to can refer to my comment in that to save space here:

    I refer to this because of Sipu’s remark that we must get past the holocaust and move on. The Boer war and the rebellion that followed in 1914, the reasons and feelings which lead to the continued rebellion in World War 11, in turn lead to the subsequent events in Rhodesia and the final capitulation of South Africa to the financial threats, demands, the blackmail and the “hush money” of England and America. I was on the Long Walk to Freedom with Mandela and shared his side of the road with him until I became disenchanted with them as recently as 1998 and walked into the political wilderness for the second time in my life, the first time having been when I walked out of Afrikaner Politics in 1965 during the Verwoerdian era. I was only 25 that first time.

    The study of history remains infinite. You may say forgive the past and I will agree. That’s what I said all my adult life until 1998 and I paid dearly for my beliefs in that. But forget the past? No! We must always remember it.

    To forget the past would be like having your right arm amputated at the shoulder to spite your left arm where you have a slight discomfort in the elbow once in a while.

    But when we disagree let us do so with respect for others and their principles as guided by Brendan in this Post; he has my utmost respect for that. And I found this piece in Irish history highly educational as well as interesting.

  20. Thanks for that, Ike … interesting. I agree that we ought to remember the past, while not letting it wreck the present. We should also of course try to see the other person’s side, and respect the other person’s past. Efforts to this end have been made in Ireland in recent years, with the president laying wreaths on First World War graves, for example.

    Also, Queen Elizabeth will be coming to see us soon, I believe … the first visit by a British monarch since the foundation of our state.

    • Brendan

      I am really enjoying the short bursts of dialogue between you and some other. Thanks also for the “information bits” such as the one about the Queen and your straight and honest “Both” in reply to the question of why she had not visited before.

      I will now continue and submit comments on some others as and where I think that I can make a useful contribution.

  21. Cymbeline

    I was surprised to read that the first visit by a British monarch is yet to come.

    Is it because British monarchs were not invited, or because they didn’t want to come?

  22. Probably both. The President of Ireland has made it clear on various recent state visits that the Queen would be welcome, and various other ‘royals’ have been here.

  23. Cymbeline

    You must feel very honoured about the visits from various other ‘royals’.

  24. Terribly, Cymbeline. I grew a forelock in anticipation of tugging it. 🙂

  25. ‘I hope Isobel doesn’t think I’m overly critical of her ancestors. I don’t mean to be. I try to be balanced and objective.’ Which ones? Anyway how could you be when I am sure they were beyond reproach. except perhaps for my grandfather. But he was a Bad Man. Actually the other one wasn’t exactly good.
    I find it interesting, but I am also aware that our memories are selective with history and trying to understand people’s actions from the C21 is hard. I have a mixed ancestry. But it seems that a lot of the movement of my various ancestors was down to religious persecution. If religious tolerance had prevailed across Europe in the past I a) wouldn’t be the mix I am and, though I suppose without that I wouldn’t be, full stop, b) I don’t know what my country would be. Lots of what ifs.
    Oh and my lot hadn’t reached England by the time of the Plantations.

    • IsobelandCat

      Yes, we should all try harder to promote religious tolerance.

      May I ask you something because we don’t know much of each other? You have mentioned your granddad and some of your ancestors but I can’t make out where you are or where you are from. I don’t mean to ask for street name and number [chuckle] or which town, just north or south hemisphere and the east or west of Greenwich sort of. And is it English, Irish or Aus, that kind of thing. If you wish to respond; no offense if you choose not to.

      Keep well.

  26. Hi Isobel. Yes, it’s amazing now to think how divisive religion was across Europe in the past. This little corner was certainly washed by the wavelets of the various religious conflicts.

    Your ancestry sounds interesting. Have you researched it in detail … I mean do you know your family tree?

    • Brendan

      I have remarked about religious intolerance before and agree with you that it has caused so much division. However it has also many times succeeded to unite. We must not forget that.

      I, like you, abhor extremism in any religion, but also the current wave of “anti-all religion” as represented by our old mutual friend Mister Jackal and Doctor Hideous. That is just another form of extremism and as bad as the religious one or even worse.

      Religion may be called the opium of the masses [though on what grounds except that it was said by Marx I wouldn’t know, but millions find solace and peace in it] and people should be allowed to worship in peace. I may surprise you by quoting my experience with Metin Yilmaz. That kind and decent guy made me hope that Christianity and Islam may one day get together and fight the real enemy.

      ‘Nuff said.

      • I’ve always liked Metin, Ike.

        I’m not anti-relgion at all … I’ve often taken issue with the anti-religion people on MyT.

        Last Sunday morning I stood with a small choir in a windswept country graveyard and sang ‘Soul of My Saviour’ and ‘Hail Queen of Heaven’.

        What I dislike is when religions try to gain and dispense too much power.

      • Brendan

        I never for one moment thought that you would be anti-religion and your account of the Sunday singing better fit the picture of the man I thought you were.

        But yes, I do agree that political power in the hands of the clergy or politicos who profess to be spiritual leaders should be restricted. That is after all why the Americans coined their First Amendment.

        Unfortunately however, that would need an ideal World and that is not what we have. We have had arch politician Desmond Tutu masquerading as an Anglican Bishop with his white collar and the World is full of them. How do we get rid of them though? I don’t know.

  27. Also interesting how in some corners all the prickliness survived. my own theory remains divide and rule. But the bit that always makes me smile, is how the ‘guides’ were told not to let the potential investors from the livery companies see the Sperrins. i mean, how would you miss them!
    As to family history; various members have done bits of research. I am pure mongrel; or hybrid if you prefer. Fortunately my ancestors decided to cut and run rather than stay and be slaughtered.

  28. Yes, that’s fortunate for you, Isobel. I don’t know much about my ancestors; must look into it sometime.

    An ancestor of my wife’s – a publican on the south coast of England – was hanged during the Napoleonic wars for importing brandy from France. That’s a bit colourful at least.

  29. Cymbeline

    “Yes, it’s amazing now to think how divisive religion was across Europe in the past.”

    It has become a pretty fraught subject again – and it isn’t going away.

  30. I thought you might say that, Cymbeline. It remains to see just how fraught the issue of Islam in Western Europe may become.

    I think common sense by governments is very important … insisting on one law for all, for example. Moves to the contrary would benefit both Islamic extremists and right-wing extremists.

  31. Good morning Brendan, What was the first cause of Irish animiosity? Was it Oliver Cromwell? Or, an incident which took place in Dublin towards the end or shortly after WW1?

    The British/Irish relationship could not have been so many Irishmen willingly fought for the British Army in WW1.

    The incident I refer to has a name but I am no expert on Irish history. It involved the British Army shooting some ring leaders involved in independence campaigns, I think. The reaction to this was the first real conflict since Oliver Cromwell?

    Even so, for things to have escalated so quickly suggests that underneath there must have already been a strong elememnt desiring Irish independence from British rule.

    If this is the case why did so many Irish men join the British Army?

    • Nobby

      How are you? It’s nice to see you here too.

      With deep respect for you and no malice intended, doesn’t the reason why you ask the question in your very last line prove the healthy aspect of different reactions to events by “different members of the same group?”

      I find it healthy when people differ provided it is peaceful. This “unique sameness paranoia” that is sweeping the World is a lot of nonsense in my book. I would hate a World where all roses are red, all mountains and valleys green year round and all people bright yellow and all eating the same food with classic silverware. How boring?

      You must drop in more often.

  32. Cymbeline

    Hello Nobby. I like the pink outfit.

  33. Hello Nobby. Welcome to my blog.

    Isn’t it bizarre that no Irish history is apparently taught in British schools? There follows a brief history lesson.

    As I have mentioned in comments here before, Irish history is complicated. If the conquest had been complete before the Reformation, things would have been different. By the time Ireland was completely under British control, there was a religious divide. The majority Catholic population (and to a lesser extent the Presbyterians) were discriminated against throughout the eighteenth century … Catholics couldn’t vote, sit in parliament, practise professions, own a horse of more than a certain value, etc. And a sense of Irishness persisted, with the language and culture, although Ireland was ruled by Britain. Naturally there was resentment.

    There was a major rebellion in 1798 … about 30,000 people were killed in Ireland in that year alone. There were other smaller rebellions from time to time. Most of the ‘penal laws’ were scrapped, but there was still a sense of Irishness and of being ruled by a foreign country, although many Irishmen, as you say, joined the British army. ‘Home Rule’ (a devolved government) was promised to Ireland in the 1880s, but had still not come about by the First World War.

    Some nationalists and socialists staged a rising against British rule in Dublin in 1916. It was unsuccessful, and most of the people did not support it. However, the executions of the leaders over a period of a week or so were a sort of catalyst (as I have shown with reference to Ernie O’Malley … whose brother was in the British army). People got angry, and many decided that the time had come to end British rule in Ireland once and for all, and install a republic (see my ’21 January 1919′ post).

    The 1919-21 war led to a treaty establishing the Irish Free State … which actually wasn’t much different from the ‘Home Rule’ arrangement that could have been granted without all the deaths.

  34. Thanks Cymbeline. Your green one is very fetching. I’m willing to swop 🙂

  35. Animosity – my god!

  36. Thanks for this Brendan. So do you think that if it were not for the executions history might have a different story to tell?

    Perhaps this question is answered in the other post you refer to. My guess based on what you say here is that what happened in 1916 and a few years after would have brought matters to a head sooner or later.

    But it is still not clear to me why so many Irishmen decided to risk their lives fighting for a ‘foreign oppressor’?

    You have mentioned a religious divide, could an explanation be that it was mainly Protestants, rather than Catholics, that fought for the British?

  37. I think it was inevitable that some form of Irish independence would have come about anyway. If conscription had been introduced in Ireland during the First World War, that would have been an even greater catalyst. A plan was in place to assassinate the entire British cabinet in that event.

    Many Irish Catholics as well as Protestants served in the British army, for various reasons … adventure, economic necessity, family tradition. Britain would never have been seen across the board simply as a ‘foreign oppressor’ … things are never so clear-cut.

    You might be interested in this:

  38. Brendan

    Please allow me one final note on ancestors.

    Jakson in Dutch actually means and is derived from Son of Jakobus, the latter originating from the English or Jewish name Jacob as in the Bible. You will therefore, be right if you say Son of Jacob.

    Our lot came out here around 1757, I believe there were two of them.

    Now, though this branch of the family is not exactly soccer fans, I will hope for a Holland win on Sunday. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Spain. They have a fine team and make good paellas, have adorable music and our daughter who lives in “East England” fell in love with Spain and Turkey since she moved out there ten years ago this coming January. She hops over there all the time for two and three day visits.

    But I can’t help it, can I? So for me it will be “up the ‘ammers” to Holland on Sunday.

  39. Thanks for that, Ike. Yes, the ‘Jakson’ spelling looks unusual in this part of the world.

    You’re quite right to cheer for Holland, of course. I’ll be cheering for Spain. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments Brendan.

      The soccer is the easiest one and it is short; the best team will win at the end.

      As for names I wish I knew more about it though I read as much as I can on the subject but it is pretty convoluted stuff sometimes. I think however, generally speaking, that
      Dutch and some of the Scandinavians dropped the c for the k in many names at some stage or another.

      For instance the English or Jewish Jacobson becomes Jakobson or Jakobsen. I have a pen pal [on the Net] in America by the name of Erik Eriksen which in English would have been Eric Ericson though the pronunciations are roughly the same [or it is meant to be the same] but for the “regional” sound effects.

      Ike in Dutch has nothing to do with President Eisenhower [I don’t know the background of that] but here it is derived from a not uncommon first name of Frederik. Sometimes the first part is dropped to become Erik [taking us back to the English Eric] or the r is dropped and the remaining three letters are juggled to form Ike. Whether that is always the case I don’t know but it was the origin of mine.

      It is an interesting thing that I believe has something to do with what I call “eimmigration” for a description of the effects of emigration and immigration in many things through the centuries. We must do a Post on that someday; you take it up and I will provide supporting data from this side. That would make a fascinating subject. Throw religious practices into it and you will have quite a subject.

      Please bear in mind that in Africa we also have the entire gambit of colonial influences, and in that bundle the influence of Africa on top of it all. It is really fascinating stuff but you have the knowledge for such an exercise; it will also require an enormous amount of research but I would love to see the end result.

      Do go well.

  40. Thank you, Ike. Yes … interesting topics indeed.

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