“An engineer by the name of Elwell, employed in the construction of a wireless station which was being built in Ballybunion in the year 1913, was instrumental in forming a Company of the Baden Powell Boy Scouts in Ballybunion in the same year. A special meeting was called for the purpose in the village. Every loyalist in the area attended and supported Mr. Elwell in his endeavour to form the Company. That morning, with two other boys, I had served Mass for a Priest named Father Power. After Mass we were in a hurry to get away and the priest asked us, “What is the hurry?” We told him we were going to the meeting to join the Boy Scouts. He replied, “If Parnell were alive it is not the Baden Powell Scouts you would be joining”. We told him that we could fly our own flag. He said, “That flag is the Union Jack and it is not our flag”.
The meeting was addressed by Mr. Elwell and other speakers supporting the formation of the Scouts. Near the close of the meeting a man by the name of Ned Leahy, who was employed in Listowel but resided in Ballybunion, addressed Mr. Elwell and the meeting generally. He said that we had in Ireland an organisation known as the Fianna which all Irish boys should join. He appealed to the boys present to join the Fianna and advised them that as the Baden Powell Boy Scouts were an offshoot of the British Army they were to be trained to become British soldiers later. After Leahy’s speech a Solicitor from Listowel suggested that it should be left to the boys themselves to decide what organisation they would join. The result was that out of 28 boys present, twelve joined the Baden Powell Scouts and eighteen joined the Fianna. Ned Leahy, and a man from Tralee, who had been sent specially by Austin Stack to the meeting, took the names of the eighteen boys who wished to join the Fianna.
Within the next week we received a dozen complete uniforms from Tralee and a fortnight later a bell-tent. The Baden Powell Scouts also received uniforms and a bell-tent at the same time, Leahy had appointed me O/C of the Fianna on the day of the meeting. We met every evening after school and paraded and drilled as did the Baden Powell Scouts who had the use of the lawn attached to the Castle Hotel for their bell-tent. We had to erect our tent in different fields around the village. On the anniversary of the deaths of the Manchester Martyrs in November, 1914, we had a parade in the village. Our strength had increased to 22. During the parade a scuffle took place between ourselves and the Baden Powell Scouts who had just been dismissed after a parade. We got the best of the scrap and warned the Powell Scouts not to appear in uniform again. From then they ceased to exist as a scout unit. From this to Easter Week of 1916 we paraded and drilled regularly each week.” – Liam McCabe, Company Captain, Fianna Eireann, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry.
*Photograph of Ballybunion courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.
Text courtesy of the Bureau of Military History.