Monthly Archives: August 2020

Memories of Na Fianna Eireann in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford by Thomas Dwyer

Antwerp House, Mary Street, Enniscorthy

“The passing of forty years has dimmed the memory of the events of those history-making days of 1915 and reminiscences of the true facts are somewhat vague. However, I, Thomas Dwyer, resident in John Street, Enniscorthy, at the youthful age of thirteen years, joined the Fianna Éireann organisation in Enniscorthy in November, 1915.

In charge of the Enniscorthy Company at that time was Captain John Moran. The strength of the company at that time was, as far as I can recollect, about thirty-five to forty members. My most intimate friend in the Sluagh was Jim O’Brien, known affectionately as “Jim of the Tracks” because he lived on the railway. Jim was older than me and, consequently, he was my guiding light; and, throughout the eventful years that were to follow, he was my closest and dearest friend. Other members of the Sluagh at that time were Stephen Hayes, Court Street, Paddy Tobin, Boreen Hill, and John Cardiff, Duffry Street.

The Sluagh or Company met two nights weekly and Sundays after Mass, in a club known as “Antwerp”, situated in Mary Street, Enniscorthy, and run by the local unit of the Volunteers. After the formation of the first Dáil Éireann in 1919, this group became known as the Irish

Republican Army. Here, in that historic house, under the shadow of Enniscorthy Castle and overlooking the River Slaney, we were drilled and trained in the use of signals, and carried out manoeuvres in conjunction with the Enniscorthy Company of the Volunteers.

Other activities of the club included the teaching of the Irish language, Irish history, singing and dancing and the holding of concerts. This club was the breeding ground of rebellion, for here was instilled into our youthful minds the hatred of the Sassenach, and there grew in us a burning desire to see our country freed from the chains of bondage. We were told how other Irishmen down through the centuries had fought against overwhelming odds and died in a glorious attempt to rid Irish soil of a foreign foe. We learned of the rebellions of Owen Roe, or Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, of Rossa and the Fenians, and we longed for the day when we too might join in the fight against our common enemy.

Even as a boy, I knew that something was about to happen which I could not fully analyse but, with the dawning of the spring of 1916, the scent of another bid for freedom was borne along the breeze. We were detailed to watch R.I.C. manoeuvres and to give the alarm of their approach if they neared “Antwerp”. Gradually, as the month of April neared its close, the word, “rising”, was to be heard, spoken quietly amongst the boys in the Company, and we knew instinctively that the awaited day was near at hand.”

Thomas Dwyer, Quartermaster, Fianna Eireann

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement No. 1198

Photo Credit: Charley McGuffin

Recollections of the first Fianna Eireann Meeting by Eamon Martin

No. 34 Lower Camden Street, Dublin

“I had left school for about two years, in 1909, but I had continued to pay a weekly visit to the home of my former schoolmaster. It was he, Mr. William O’Neill of St. Andrew’s National School, Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) who informed me of a new organisation which was about to be launched. He told me he had been approached by a Countess Markievicz, who had asked him to recommend the organisation to his pupils and explaining that it was to be national in outlook and purpose. He told me that he had been very much impressed by the Countess, who was an Irish lady, and he thought I should go along and find out more about the organisation for myself.

Accordingly, I went to the meeting which was held in what I learned later was a small Theatrical Hall at No. 34 Lower Camden Street. I was accompanied by a comrade, Paddy Ward, who later became Treasurer of the organisation. At the time we were attending the Gaelic League together and were also members of the same Hurling Club.

As the meeting had been advertised in the columns of “An Claidheamh Soluis” there was a fairly large attendance, I would say about one hundred boys. I met there, whom I knew already, the Fitzgerald boys from Brunswick Street and the nephew of my schoolmaster, a lad named Paddy Walsh.

Of those present at the meeting, whom I met for the first time, I remember most distinctly, besides the Countess, Bulmer Hobson and Pádraic Ó Riain.

The Chair was taken by Bulmer Hobson who opened the meeting and explained the purpose of the organisation. It was to be national in character and having for its ultimate object the complete independence of Ireland. It would be organised on a semi-military basis, following the pattern of the Baden-Powell Scouts which had been founded the year before, and one of the immediate aims would be to counteract the influence of this pro-British body.

Madame Markievicz also spoke in a patriotic strain and she laid particular stress on the point that the organisation would be governed by the boys themselves who would elect the

Executive Council at a general meeting.

The first group, called An Cead Sluagh, was formed from this gathering and met at the Camden Street Hall.”

Peter Carleton, Na Fianna Eireann, Belfast

Peter Car

Peter Carleton was born in Toomebridge, Co. Antrim in 1904 but moved to Belfast a few years later. In 1919 at the age of fifteen, he joined the Carrick Hill Sluagh of Na Fianna Eireann.

Peter recalls that “there were sixty members in my company, all aged between twelve and sixteen. All of them were from poor families living on potatoes, tea and margarine. I was placed in charge of my section which was attached to A Company of the Second Battalion of the Belfast Brigade. Our main operations then were in the field of the economic war; the burning and destruction of buildings likely to be of use to the English enemy. Every picture house, courthouse, tax office and crown building was a target“.

*Image and text courtesy of Uinseann Mac Eoin’s ‘The Survivors’