Though the Catholic Bishops of Ireland collectively supported the British appointed Provisional Government of 1922, and acquiesced in its murder of its Republican prisoners, that irregular junta, stuffed full of pietistic Catholics, chose not to follow the normal European practice of giving
workers a day’s break from work so that they were free to attend, or ignore, religious ceremonies, and enjoy Holy Days.
When Republicans, mainly as faithful to their religion as they were to their Republican oaths, were repeatedly elected to office from 1932, it never occurred to them to change the older practice. Perhaps it was just to cock a snoot at the Bishops.
To their credit they instituted annual paid holidays of one week to workers, before such boons were enjoyed in the neighboring island
(nor in their own island North of Dundalk).
in their own.
When I worked in Dublin (1959-1964) I, and my Catholicc workmates were informally allowed 40 minutes on a Holy Day to attend Mass, by bosses who also took time off.
I don’t know if all workers in the 26 Counties enjoyed such freedom.
Anyhow, I never developed a chip on my shoulder about such matters.
Otherwise, like Terry Malloy in “On The Waterfront” I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER.
For a column in Ireland’ s most trusted paper of record.
But there was a silver lining to this for me, for I enjoyed Holy Days when I was released from my Christian Brothers’ School in Sutton when my father worked as an Inspector with the Land Commission
His area of inspection covered countiies Wicklow, Wexford and part of County Carlowand he would take me, alone or with siblings on his tours.
In the late 1940s he had a 1934 Model Y “Baby” Ford, which seated 4 and had a top speed of about 50 miles an hour, rarely achieved.
He might first call in to his Office in Merrion Square. There I met senior colleagues of his, Charles Kettle and John Kilkenny.
Charles was the younger brother of Tom Kettle MP who had been one of the leaders of the Irish Party at Westminster and had raised money for the party in New York, where he shared a platform with unrepentant Fenian Dynamitards.
Tom Kettle joined the Irish Volunteers on their foundation in November 1913.
But within nine months he emerged as a a Pied Piper who split the movement, leading tens of thousands of them to death and injury in Britain’s long-planned war on Germany.
He was himself killed in September 1916 leading a platoon of the
Royal Dublin Fusiliers in France.
John Kilkenny had served with the British Army in that Great War and he recalled Chinese men who had been “shanghied” by the British to act as coolie labour behind the trenches in Europe.
It was a war in a war that offered neither them nor their country any advantage.
John Kilkenny recalled how some of them not only gave up the will to live but deliberately sat down,saying “I THINK I DO A DIE” and expired.
Isn’t it a comfort for us to know that today no politicians in Ireland are as silly as Tom Kettle?
And certainly less likely to take up arms and put themselves in harm’s way?
I really enjoyed being off to the Wicklow Mountains where away from its towns, the farmers and the Parochial Priests observed Greenwich Mean Time during the Summer and a couple of miles away in the small towns the people observed British Summer Time.
(Less than 40 years previously Dublin kept time by the Sun, 25 minutes after London).
I remember both Dublin and the country happy, neighbourly people, whatever side they had taken in politics and wars, and whatever altars or meeting houses they attended on Sundays.
My father’s old jalopy gave up the ghost in 1949 and in those days hire cars had not arrived on the scene.
So he hired a car with its driver, and his employer, the State, paid for them. The car was a gleaming new Dodge V8, a Detroit monster and when I or my siblings stepped out of it the local people must
have reckoned us, in Brendan Behan’s phrase , “Lords’ Bastards.”
But far more interesting was the Driver, Maurice Collins, who had played a prominent part in the events which created the State. He had been in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was in on the planning of the 1916 Rising.
During the “Tan War” he ran a tobacconists’ shop in Parnell Square which was an IRA Intelligence Post Office. It had a specially constructed counter top with a hidden drawer where messages were sent from Michael Collins and Collected for the Squad who defended the elected Irish Government from the British assassins attempting its destruction.
At 9.AM one Sunday morning in 1920 the Dublin Brigade IRA together with the Squad, in co-ordinated raids shot fourteen of the British agents dead.
It had been intended to shoot thirty. Those agents who escaped took to sleeping in Dublin Castle rather than take the risks that the citizenry took sleeping in their own homes when they went about doing the King’s dirty work under cover of Curfew
I can clea ly remember 29 June 1950, St Peter and Paul’s Day when I heard Maurice Collins and my father discussing that day’s news, the beginning of a war in a place called Korea.
Maurice Collins was a quiet man, and like many with his background a religious one. He would not eat meat on a Wednesday, because, during a crisis (jail hunger strike?) he vowed that if he was spared he would thus thank his Maker.
On Easter Sunday 1966 the Sunday Times Magazine featured Maurice Collins on its cover, pointing to a spot in Kilmainham Gaol where the Leaders of the Rising had been shot by their British Captors fifty years previously.
Maurice Collins told his story to the Military History Bureau and it can be accessed on its site via the Internet.
In 1917 W.J. Brennan-Whitmore published “With The Irish In Frongoch” the Internment Camp in North Wales later recognised as the University of Revolution.
When Dail Eireann in January 1922 met to consider the Articles of Agreement signed in London on 6 December 1921, thirty of its members were graduates of that August Academy.
Fifteen of them voted, reluctantly, to acquiesce in it. Fifteen voted not to.
I met a Frongoch man, and although he was never a member of Dail Eireann, he emerges from Brennan -Whitmore’s book as the most resourceful and entertaining of the prisoners.
His name was Mick Lynch and he was from Cork. He had a small farm near Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow,and was also employed as a “Ganger” or Foreman with the Land Commission.
Like Maurice Collins he was an old IRB man. He trained horses and during the Tan War went to the races where he was “Hail Fellow Well Met” with British Officers, gathering useful intelligence in the process.
He could turn his hand to anything and used ride to hounds.
He had once ridden a motor-bikewith de Valera in the sidecar, running a gauntlet of either Orangeman or Redmondites during an election in the North. The Redmondites and Joe Devlin’s Ancient Order of Hibernians as likely to break Republican heads as were Orangemen, an historical
phenomenon forgotten in the “Decade of Remembrance.”
Mick Lynch stayed out of the “Civil War”, and he met Michael Collins in a Cork Hotel, telling the later that both sides in the Split were mad.
He actually physically wrestled with Collins, who was shot dead in a skirmish at Beal na Blath the following day.
Anyhow some of the best experiences of my childhood arose from the anomaly of living in a European Christian Country where citizens had to undertake servile work on Holy Days.
Post- Christian Ireland has just made 1st February a Bank Holiday supposedly to honour St Brigid.
This has no more to do with Christianity than Riverdance had to spirituality.
St Brigid appears to have as about as much connection with Irish History as King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and Sweeny Todd has to English History.
Or as Asterix the Gaul has to French.
The new Bank Holiday is an example of a lobotomised society which is having difficulty believing in a Deity, or recognised how such a belief is , has the advantage of being a heart in a heartless world, gives credence to every mad fad that is fashionable.