Seeking Scottish support


Stephen Coyle

DURING the Irish War of Independence, Scotland was host to many prominent representatives of Dáil Éireann, who would conduct speaking tours to garner support for the Irish Republic and expose the misdeeds that the British Government was attempting to hide from the rest of the world. One of the most eminent champions of Irish freedom to visit Scotland was Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, Australia. The archbishop conducted a three-week tour of Scotland in early 1921, at the invitation of Sean O’Sheehan, Sinn Féin Organiser for Scotland.

Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), a native of Charleville in County Cork, was one of the few prelates to publicly endorse the actions as well as the cause of his fellow countrymen who had taken up arms against British rule. He had first gained the reputation of being a turbulent priest in Australia where he successfully mobilised opposition against the proposed introduction of conscription, which was defeated in two stormy referendums. Billy Hughes, the Australian prime minister branded Mannix a public enemy and persuaded Lloyd George to ban him from his native Ireland as well as deny him entry to Irish immigrant strongholds such as Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. Accordingly, two British warships intercepted his ship in August 1920 and deposited him in Penzance rather than allow him to land in Ireland where it was feared that his eloquence would raise the populace to new levels of defiance.

Scotland calling
The Aberdeen Press and Journal (October 4, 1920), commented that ‘for the purpose of sounding a rousing note amongst Sinn Féin’s many thousand members in the vicinity of Glasgow, a determined effort is afoot to bring to the district the famous Archbishop Mannix, whose movements in this country have been the subject of government action. The archbishop is forbidden to enter Glasgow itself, but the surrounding districts are betraying the utmost energy in sending him invitations—through Sinn Féin headquarters—to visit them. The competition is said to be so keen that the claims are to be adjudicated upon in the allocation of the archbishop’s services. Edinburgh and Dundee are also clamouring have a visit from the archbishop amongst the nationalistic Irish men and women in Scotland.’

The Glasgow Observer (February 26, 1921) announced that ‘details of the Scottish leg of his visit was near to completion. His Grace was expected in Edinburgh on February 20. The question of the meeting place remained to be settled. The Edinburgh Corporation Committee refused the lease of the Usher Hall, and the King’s Theatre was subsequently taken but the let was cancelled. The following day, his Grace was expected in Greenock, where the Town Hall has been booked for a public meeting. On the 24th Dalmuir would be visited and a meeting would be held in St Stephen’s Church Hall. On Sunday the 27th, his Grace intended to visit Whifflet, Coatbridge, in the Catholic Hall and a later on in the adjoining football ground. Dundee was next for a visit, the meeting there taking place in the early days of March. Cowdenbeath in Fife on March 5, was to conclude the Scottish tour of the archbishop.’

The Glasgow Observer noted that the visit of the archbishop was rousing widespread interest. “He may not come to Glasgow, but all the King’s horses cannot prevent Glasgow from going to the archbishop when he comes north,” it noted. For the Whifflet visit, Glasgow Sinn Féin has arranged a service of charabancs leaving George Square. It was reported that 250 priests attended a luncheon organised by the priests of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, in Nazareth House, Cardonald. One of the largest gathering of priests in remembered history of the archdiocese, gathered in the great hall, which was decorated with the Irish colours.

In the courtyard of the capital
On February 20, Archbishop Mannix addressed a large gathering in the courtyard of St Ann’s School, Edinburgh. The audience—who numbered 3000—included contingents from the surrounding districts. Irish flags and emblems were much in evidence and the archbishop had many listeners at the windows of the houses in the vicinity. Bishop Graham, who presided, said they were all aware why the meeting was being held in the open instead of in one of the public halls or other buildings. If the intention was to prevent them from securing a place in which the claims of Ireland could be stated, it had not succeeded. Dr Mannix was a champion of the people; he was only putting into practice the principle of government for the people by the people. The soul and spirit of the Irish people could never be crushed. They welcomed Dr Mannix on his first visit to Scotland and sympathised with him in the insults and injustice to which he had been exposed.

Dr Mannix was greeted with great enthusiasm on rising to speak. He stated that ‘what was going on in Ireland was a disgrace to civilisation.’ He accused the British Government of ‘cant and hypocrisy.’ “They were asking the public to adopt towns in France, and at the same time they were burning down Cork, Mallow and the rest,” he said “Ireland’s case was incontestable; on the one side there was nothing but brutal might. There was only one way to lasting peace. Peace could only come about by the elected representatives of the Irish people. Let the government honour their promises, grant Ireland self-determination, and there could be peace and friendship, and instead of turmoil there would be harmony and prosperity for both peoples—each of them going forward on the path to progress and working out its own destiny.”

Due to threats made on the life of Dr Mannix by certain hostile elements, members of the Scottish Brigade of the IRA provided up to 40 Volunteers from different companies to form an armed guard to protect him. Patrick Thompson who was Officer in Command of ‘A’ Company, 3rd Battalion (Edinburgh, Leith and Portobello) supplied the guard of honour for the Edinburgh meeting.

His Grace in Greenock
Canon Houlihan presided over a great gathering in the Town Hall, Greenock, on February 21. The party on the platform included Bishop Cotter of Portsmouth, several members of the Corporation, and many priests from towns in the West of Scotland.

When Archbishop Mannix appeared on the platform the whole audience rose, cheering and waving handkerchiefs and flags, the demonstration lasting for several minutes. The archbishop explained at the outset that he had no design upon the British Empire, nor any hatred against Britain. He was proud to be an Irishman, and was ready to do his part, though it might be a small one, to vindicate for Ireland the right to self-determination. He was a man of peace, by temperament as well as by profession, and wanted no disorder or physical violence.

“The question people ought to ask themselves was ‘Who had the right to rule Ireland?’ Was it those whose rule was based on the free will of the Irish people, or those whose attempted rule was based upon bayonets and tanks?” he asked. “Why did the cabinet not want the people of Great Britain to know what was being done in Ireland? Because they knew that the British people—a freedom-loving people—would be ashamed that those horrible things were being done in their name, under the shadow of their flag, and at their expense. If the government wanted peace with Ireland, they must treat with those who were the chosen representatives of Ireland.

Dr Mannix in Dalmuir
In Dalmuir, Dr Mannix addressed a large crowd in the open air and subsequently spoke in St Stephen’s Church Hall. It was claimed that the listeners totalled 10,000. These included parties from Paisley and Lanarkshire, Denny and Kilsyth, who travelled by charabanc to the meeting. There was a profuse display of Irish Republican colours, the hall being gaily decorated, with a large ‘Cead Mille Failthe’ in the background, and the stewards wearing Republican badges. The enthusiasm displayed both inside and outside the hall was a splendid tribute to the personality of his Grace. The hall itself was overcrowded hours before his arrival, and a great overflow meeting was held in the grounds.

The archbishop devoted a considerable amount of time to a criticism of the action of the Government forces in Ireland. He quoted De Valera’s statements that ‘the British soldiers are torturing prisoners, assaulting men and boys in their homes, on the streets and in prison; murdering women, children and clergymen; outraging Irish women and children; flogging and maltreating civilians; issuing and enforcing degrading orders; forcing civilians to work at military labour; burning and looting everywhere.’

Wonderful Whifflet meeting
The Whifflet gathering numbering approximately 60,000 from all parts of the Clyde Valley, was addressed by Archbishop Mannix. The vast numbers were a surprise to many, not least the archbishop, as it was the largest open air gathering he had addressed outside of Australia. The continuous stream of vehicles pouring along the roads into Coatbridge caused much comment. The order of the day—first an open-air meeting in St Mary’s fields. There, a large platform had been erected from which Dr Mannix addressed the huge gathering. The local IRA company marshalled the people and formed a bodyguard for his Grace.

Dr Mannix said they had met ‘to vindicate the right of free speech and to show their sympathy for Ireland.’ “There is disorder and violence in Ireland,” he said. “And what is the cause of the disorder and bloodshed? The cause is the attempt on the part of England to rule the Irish people against their will. If they could only put the government in the hands of those who have the right to govern Ireland there would be no disorder.” And, he said, ‘Ireland belongs to the Irish people. No people have the right to govern Ireland but the Irish people. For 700 years England has tried to rule Ireland, but has only held the ground by force, and that now after 700 years the public were told that Ireland was in a state of anarchy and that Ireland no more recognised English rule than in the days of Cromwell. The military say they have murder by the throat. They say that Irish people opposed to British rule are a gang of murderers which, if dissolved, would immediately allow peace to reign. In Ireland they are not face to face with a ‘gang,’ but with the whole exasperated nation. If they were to put down murders, begin with the Black and Tans. For what are they doing in Ireland at the present moment? If the people of England and Scotland only knew, it wouldn’t be tolerated 24 hours!’

When the homecoming charabancs were passing through the East End of Glasgow, bottles and other missiles were hurled at passing vehicles, one victim requiring removal to the infirmary in consequence.

Address in Ayrshire
Archbishop Mannix spoke to another huge audience in the Agricultural Hall, Kilmarnock, on Wednesday. Thousands from all parts of Ayrshire attended the meeting, and there were scenes of the greatest enthusiasm. The archbishop dealt with the Irish situation and advocated self-determination as the only solution to the problem.

Discourse in Dumbarton
Archbishop Mannix addressed a mass meeting of the people of Dunbartonshire, in the grounds of St Patrick’s Church, Dumbarton. A huge sheltered platform had been erected and both the grounds and the platform were lit by numerous electric globes. The decorations all embodied the Irish colours. Rev Dean Kelly, Dumbarton presided and formally welcomed the archbishop. He said the archbishop had arrived ‘at the home of St Patrick,’ and they bade him 100,000 welcomes. “The people of the Rock were a God-fearing people and therefore lovers of the truth,” he said. There was deafening applause and waving of flags when Dr Mannix appeared, and this was renewed on his rising to address the gathering.

After expressing his pleasure at meeting with such a reception on the evening of his birthday, Dr Mannix went on to say: “You are here tonight my friends, not only to meet me, but out of sympathy for Ireland and justice. I need not remind you that we are still under the shadow of the Cork tragedy. Six young men have been shot for their love of Ireland and shot in spite of the fact that they were prisoners of war and deserved to be treated as such. What will be the effect of this tragedy on Ireland?

“Exactly the same effect as in 1916, when General Maxwell thought to terrorise the Irish people by cold-blooded shootings. Not only did he fail, but he unconsciously knitted the Irish race together in a bond that will never break. Someone has tried to imitate General Maxwell in Cork. He will also fail. Every man of those six is a martyr for Ireland, and for every one of them there are 10, 20, aye 100, ready to meet the same fate. Remember these men in your prayers, and may Ireland never turn her back on those brave sons who have been killed by the British Government.”

Dr Mannix quoted the Daily Herald as stating that the British Government had set the example of shooting prisoners of war: “British soldiers have sunk to a bloodstained level, and may Ireland never sink so low. By refusing to do so she will establish a moral superiority that will move the world.”

Mention of the havoc wrought by the Black and Tans was received with booing and hissing. His Grace reminded the audience that the people of England were responsible for the payment of these ruffians in their campaign of arson and estimated their upkeep at £12,000,000 a year.

“Surely the time has come when this must end. If Ireland got her freedom as she wanted it, she would not be a menace to England; she would have enough to do to recover from her sufferings,” he said.

The archbishop spoke for over an hour and received an enthusiastic applause at the end.

Fervent support in Fife
Archbishop Mannix addressed an enormous gathering at Cowdenbeath. Charabancs and tramcars deposited large numbers of Erin’s sons from even outside Fife, and, it is claimed, there would be something in the vicinity of 4000 people present at the address. The weather was anything but favourable for an open-air meeting, The Kelty contingent were preceded by Kelty Brass Band, and along with the local Pipe Band they discoursed selections until the appearance of the platform party. The magnificent reception given to Dr Mannix was indeed a tribute to his wonderful personality. Irish Republican colours were everywhere in evidence, and the strain of waiting was somewhat lessened by members of the audience who gave contributions of Irish songs.

His Lordship Bishop Graham presided. He stated that ‘they were there to uphold a great principle, the principle of freedom for small nationalities.’ He could not believe the Scottish people, if they knew what was happening in Ireland, would tolerate the brutal treatment that was being accorded that country. The British Government was attempting to enforce British rule on Irish people, and to govern people against the consent of the governed. His Lordship spoke of the justice which at the Peace Conference had been accorded other small nationalities, but Justice, he said, was a virtue of universal application.

Archbishop Mannix, who was received with rousing cheers, said that ‘it was indeed a heartening thing to get such a warm reception on such a cold day. The Irish question was a very old question. The Irish people claimed that the Irish had a right to rule Ireland, and they were determined that from this day forward no other nation should do so.’ The function terminated with the singing of the Soldier’s Song.

Dinner and procession in Dundee
Archbishop Mannix subsequently arrived in Dundee for the last leg of his tour and was received at the Tay Bridge Station with great enthusiasm. A torchlight procession was formed and with bands and banners the archbishop was escorted through the city to the residence of Father Toner where he stayed during his visit. Vast crowds lined the route of the procession, and everything passed off in the most orderly manner. A number of functions were arranged, including a dinner in honour of his Grace by the Dunkeld clergy.

His last speaking engagement was to a great open-air meeting in the grounds of the Marist Brothers at Forebank. Monsignor Turner, who took the chair, introduced the speaker of the evening, and said ‘the meeting had gathered to protest against the oppression of Ireland and the treatment meted out to this devoted son of Ireland by the British Government.’ The ovation accorded to his Grace, the archbishop, prevented him for several minutes from making a start. In opening his speech he said ‘he was very glad to have the opportunity of coming to Bonnie Dundee and of thanking the people of the city for the magnificent reception they had given him on his arrival on Monday night.’

“Dundee,” he said, “was a great city, one of whose Parliamentary representatives [Winston Churchill] had the dishonour of being a member of the present Black and Tan Coalition Government. It was up to the people of Dundee to show that his day in this city was done. They must have a different style of representative, one in closer touch with the workers. He must belong to a party which was not the enemy of Ireland, but which would be just to her.”

The archbishop went on to say that although turned away from Ireland he was almost glad of it, as he had addressed more Irishmen in this country than he would have addressed in Ireland. The government has therefore made a mistake. He was the victor and they the defeated party. He did not want forgiveness. He stood for justice and for the weak and oppressed.

Archbishop’s Mannix’s visit to Scotland can be deemed a tremendous success. Apart from the Catholic press, his tour was widely reported in the mainstream media, including The Scotsman, The Glasgow Herald and The Daily Record. The tens of thousands of exiled Irish who turned out in support of Dr Mannix proved there was massive support for Sinn Féin and the Irish Republic in Scotland. The united stand of the Irish people with the support of the Church during this period is unparalleled in the history of Irish Republicanism. The President of the Irish Republic, Éamon de Valera acknowledged this solidarity in 1922 when he stated: “Of all the children of Irish race in foreign lands, none have been more faithful than you in Scotland.”

Stephen Coyle’s forthcoming book will be titled Scotland and the Irish Revolution 1913-23