“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 http://www.militaryarchives.ie/en/home/
Photo Credit: Charley McGuffin