THE SINN FEIN INQUIRY.
THE REVOLT IN GALWAY
PRIESTS AND THE MOVEMENT
UNREST IN CLARE
The Royal Commission appointed
to inquire into the rebellion in Ireland resumed its sitting at
11 o’clock on Saturday morning in the Shelbourne Hotel.
Lord Hardinge, Chairman of the Commission, presided and the other
members are Mr. Justice Shearman and Mr. Makenzie Chalmers. The
demand for accommodation on the part of the public again exceeded
the limited space available for the purpose.
County Inspector Ruttledge said the first branch of the Irish
Volunteers was formed in Galway town on December 12th 1913, at
a meeting addressed by Sir Rodger [Roger] Casement, P H Pearse,
Professor John MacNeill, and a man named George Nicholls. Sir
Rodger Casement said their object was to win Home Rule and to
protect themselves against the threats of the Ulster Volunteers.
At the end of July 1914, there were forty two branches, with a
membership of 8,704: and in August 1914 there were 54 branches,
with a membership of 5,191. Drilling practically ceased for two
reasons - first, many of the drill instructors joined the army;
and secondly, because the rank and file of the Sinn Feiners were
afraid that Mr. Redmond’s declaration was the stepping-stone
to their being asked to join the army.
Continuing, witness stated that the number of branches now became
less. The only activity displayed was by branches identified with
the Sinn Fein movements. In March 1915 Wm. Mellows, Irish Volunteer
Organiser, Dublin, took up his headquarters in Athenry, and he
became an active organiser in a locality which had always been
affected on account of agrarian agitation. He gathered together
all the young men advocating disloyal feelings. Three branches
of the Sinn Fein Volunteers, with a membership of 244, were formed
at that time – that was in May 1915. In the same month a
meeting for the purpose of organising Sinn Fein volunteers, was
held at Tuam. The meeting was in public, and was addressed by
Wm Mellowes [Mellows] and John McDermott. The latter was most
seditious and he was prosecuted and sentenced to four months imprisonment
with hard labour. In November 1915, a large Sinn Fein meeting
was held in Athenry, and was attended by all the extremists in
the West Riding of Galway, and seditious speeches were delivered.
Owing to the influence of the organiser, the members of the three
branches of Mr. Redmond’s Volunteers turned over and joined
the Sinn Fein section of the Volunteers. These three branches
had been in localities always disturbed and honeycombed with secret
society influences. At the time of the rebellion there were nine
Sinn Fein branches in the riding with a membership of 806. In
addition there were 265 other Sinn Feiners who were members of
Mr. Redmond’s Volunteers. There was a total of 1,070 active
Sinn Feiners in the riding.
STORY OF THE REBELLION
The rebellion, witness continued,
commenced in Galway at 7.20 a.m. on Tuesday 25th April, by an
attack on Clarenbridge Barrack, nine and a half miles from Galway.
This attack continued until 10.20 a.m. The barrack was fired upon,
and the windows were smashed. The rebels numbered about one hundred
at first but their numbers increased as time went on. Stone barricades
were built across the road at each end of the village. The barrack
was held and defended by five police, who were twice called upon
to surrender by a spokesman of the rebels, who threatened to blow
up the barracks.
Mr Justice Shearman asked what was his name.
Witness said he would like to give it in private. The rebels,
he continued then withdrew from Clarenbridge, and reinforced others
who were attacking Oranmore Barrack. The attack on Oranmore commenced
between 12 and one p.m. There the railway had been cut and a large
hole was made in Oranmore Bridge. This barrack was also fired
upon and the windows smashed. It was defended and held by four
police until relieved at 7.30 by a party of police and military
from Galway. The rebels took to flight and … towards Athenry
in motor cars. In the meantime 10 leading Sinn Feiners had been
placed under xxxx arrest in Galway City and they were handed over
to naval authorities and placed on board ship. Thirty special
constables were sworn in, and three neighbouring police stations
were closed … the police were concentrated in Galway. A
wireless message was sent to the Admiral in Queenstown asking
for 200 …. On Wednesday 26th April a … party went
out to ascertain the state of affairs. The party was ambushed
by a considerable … of rebels at … and a Constable
was shot dead and one slightly wounded. The rebels were …
to flight. Later on in the same day it was reported …[illegible
section]. … was shelled by a sloop of war and the rebels
dislodged. On Thursday 27th a ship of war landed 100 troops in
Galway, and on Friday 28th the military sent out a reconnaissance
party and went to Athenry, where they learned that the rebels
were four miles from Athenry. On that occasion the rebels went
to a district in the East Riding of Galway and were much scattered
over the country. They were advised on the occasion he referred
to by the priest to go home.
Chairman: You mentioned that seditious speeches were made on different
occasions and in various places?
Were these speeches reported to the Government? Yes, they were
reported to the Inspector-General.
Was any action taken as a result?
Was any action taken in the case of the man or men who acted as
spokesman to the rebels? None.
Is the spokesman a free man now?
You have stated that the rebels were advised by the priest to
go home? Yes
Were the priests acting in co-operation with the rebels? Yes,
some of them - some of the younger ones were.
Did they participate actively – were there cases in which
they participated actively: Yes, as I say some of the younger.
And no notice taken of them? None.
Mr. Justice Shearman – No arrest made
Witness – No.
Mr. Mellowes and the Priest
In the case you have mentioned
the priest was acting as a peacemaker?
Yes, he said they were acting foolishly, that there was a large
force of military in the country and that their camps could be
reached from ships of war. The speaker, Mellowes, the organiser,
asked them to stick to him, but the priest asked would they take
his advice, or Mellowes, and they said they would take the priest’s.
Chairman - Do you know, who that priest was? I do not know his
Is he one of the younger or older priests? I do not know.
Questioned as to the number of people who were engaged in active
rebellion in his district, witness said he counted about 400.
Chairman - Have you direct proof of the influence of secret societies
in Galway? There has been a secret society in Galway since 1882,
and it has been in touch with the Clan-na-Gael and the young men
connected with the Gaelic Athletic Association, and has led to
all the agrarian crime in Galway, and has been at the back of
the movement in Dublin.
Further interrogated by the Chairman with regard to the Gaelic
Athletic Association, witness said he thought they used their
sports for political meetings too.
Do you think that the fear of conscription had much effect in
increasing the ranks of Sinn Feiners? I think not the rank and
file. Witness added that some of those were …kers and would
not fight for England.
Do you think that the prevention of emigration had also some effect?
Have you any indication of German money coming to Galway? Not
directly, but we noticed that people who were not well off had
a good deal of money.
You don’t know where it came from? No.
Asked by Sir R Chalmers, what happened to the Organiser Nicholls,
he said the man was now under arrest. He would not consider the
original meeting to establish the Volunteers a seditious meeting.
The people who took part in the Sinn Fein Marches were mostly
farmers’ sons and labourers.
What is the attitude in Galway? The people of Galway are very
In answer to a further question, the witness attributed the feeling
of unrest in Galway to the distribution of seditious literature.
POSITION IN EAST GALWAY
County Inspector Clayton stated
that he was in charge of the R.I.C. in East Galway for the past
four and a half years. He told of the formation of the Volunteer
movement in the county, and said that at the time of the outbreak
of the rebellion there were eleven branches in the East Riding
with a membership of 371. In addition to that there were about
300 Sinn Feiners throughout the East Riding who did [not?] belong
the any branch. The black spots in Galway for a number of years
were Athenry and Loughrea districts. There were secret societies
in these districts at all times for years past. The above districts
were the centre of much of the land agitation and many cold-blooded
murders were committed there. The extreme societies became last
year linked up with the Volunteer movement: and a famous criminal
named Kenny also joined the movement. This man took a leading
part in the rebellion, and was now on the run. Mellowes came to
Athenry in April 1915, and started to organise the Volunteers.
He understood he was paid £8 a week.
Proceeding , the Inspector stated that the first … the police
in Galway had of the outbreak was when a messenger came with the
word that a constable had been shot and seriously wounded. Nothing
occurred that day until about 5.30 pm when a message was received
that the Sinn Feiners were … in Athenry. At first it was
believed that they were going to attack the police barracks and
reinforcements were asked for. The attack did not however, come
off. That evening the rebels were very busy at their Athenry headquarters,
the Town Hall, making bombs. On the following morning they marched
to a place called Ballygarron about two and half miles from Athenry.
There they were joined by all the Sinn Feiners of the West Riding
of Galway and remained there that night. During the night they
busied themselves by … [illegible section].
Mr. Justice Shearman –
Do you know that priest’s name? I don’t but he was
anxious to get them to disperse. It was a contest between the
priest and Mellowes to get them to disband. Asked what had happened
to Mellowes, witness said he was “on the run”.
Continuing, witness said that later on 270 of the rebels were
arrested. Most of them were now in England and 12 had been convicted
and sentenced by court martial. The police had since got hold
of seven rifles, eighty six shot guns. One or two of the rifles
obtained by the police were military service rifles : the others
were foreign but not of German make.
Asked as to the composition of the Sinn Fein movement in Galway,
the witness said one of the leaders was a blacksmith named Kenny;
another was a publican, and others were shopkeepers and farmers’
sons. A considerable number of younger priests were connected
with the movement.
Sir Mackenzie Chalmers – As a priest gets older do you mean
he mellows down or that a new generation has sprung up?
The witness smiled in reply.
County Inspector Gelston, Clare,
dealt with the growth of the Sinn Fein movement in that county,
and stated that at the time of … of the split in 1914 about
340 seceded from Mr. Redmond’s party and became the Sinn
Fein party. The split was caused he believed by Mr. Redmond’s
policy regarding the war and recruiting and Home Rule. Witness
then referred to the activities of leaders and organisers including
a man named Thomas O’Loughlen, and Messers Blythe and O’Hurley,
a Gaelic League Organiser. Blythe was served with a deportation
order, and subsequently got a term of imprisonment for disobedience
of that order. At the beginning of the present year they had ten
branches of Sinn Feiners in the county with a membership of over
Replying to the Chairman, witness said that in the whole county
there were 35 rifles and some miniature rifles held by the organisation.
Witness, continuing said that complaints were conveyed to him
that the movements of these bodies were dangerous. In one case
he would like to mention that a leader named Michael Brennan,
before a routine march, supplied his men with bad end ammunition.
On another occasion when addressing his own men, or branch, he
“I want to say a few words about the seizure of arms. My
advice to you is if such attempt is made as to seize your arms,
use them, and not the butts but the other ends and what is in
Chairman:- What is the date of that?
The 17th March last. His speech continued – “Some
of you may not like to commit murder - that is not murder, but
self-defence. If your arms are taken the next thing will be conscription.”
That man was prosecuted and sentenced. The Sinn Feiners did not
rise in the County Clare, but there was considerable activity
amongst the people and the organisers were moving about and they
were evidently anticipating something likely to happen.
Chairman:- What was the state of recruiting? Very good all around
and amongst the labouring classes. At first the number of Sinn
Feiners was very small but towards the end of last year they had
a record of over 400, but there were a great many sympathisers.
If there had been a rising there would be more than 400.
Mr. Justice Shearman – Were there no Sinn Feiners before
the war? There were small branches. One man, Thos O’Loghlen
used to get Sinn Fein newspapers and circulate them amongst the
Some questions were put by Mr. Justice Shearman as to the action
of clergymen and witness in reply said that one clergyman told
the people to arm, and if they could not get long distance rifles
to use shot guns, as shot guns were very useful in the hands of
Was this reported to headquarters? No: it only subsequently came
to light. That same clergyman told them if they could not get
shotguns to get revolvers and if they could not get revolvers
to get pikes, and if they could not get pikes that every man had
either a hatchet or a slasher in his own house.
When was that? That was in last January.
Witness said that some among the younger priests had Sinn Fein
tendencies but the older men as a rule had not and parish priests
had spoken against the movement in a number of cases.
Chairman:- Have they given assistance to you-the older priests
Except the statement denouncing the rising from the pulpit and
in one case the parish priest made the Sinn Feiners deliver over
their rifles to the police, and that was the only case in which
rifles were surrendered under the proclamation.
Sir Mackenzie Chalmers - You say two paid organisers were deported
from Clare? One
Was he told not to come back to Clare or was he deported from
Ireland? An order was served on him to leave Ireland, and he did
not do it and he got three months imprisonment.
To Sir M. Chalmers, the witness said there was no doubt money
was being distributed in Co. Clare from some source. As to the
seditious speeches to which he had referred most of them were
delivered behind closed doors, the police not being ... As to
the speech of Brennan, he reported him … to headquarters,
and was directed to prosecute under the Defence of the Realm Act.
He (witness) considered it was a very … thing to have armed
men marching among the country roads of the County of Clare.
Mr. J.C. Percy was next examined and gave particulars as regards
recruiting in the West of Ireland. [Illegible section]