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Anti-Conscription Activities

The threat of conscription in Ireland arose during the winter of 1917 and spring of 1918. This further strengthened the Volunteer Movement in North Clare. By February 1918, fresh companies had been raised in Ballyvaughan, Ennistymon, Kilshanny, Kilfenora and Tooraheera and the companies which had lapsed in Ballinalackin, Doolin and Liscannor were revived. Protest meetings against conscription were held outside every chapel gate on Sunday after Mass, and collections were made to which practically every householder in North Clare contributed. Within the ranks of the Volunteers, the men became more enthusiastic, and the determination to resist conscription by every conceivable means increased in intensity. Every Volunteer got orders from G.H.Q. to provide himself with a pike for use against troops or police who might attempt to enforce them into the British army. The pikes were made by the local blacksmiths out of new rasps which cost 2/6d. each and they were fitted to handles, about six feet long.

Simultaneously with the anti-conscription activities, the Volunteers and Sinn Fein clubs in our battalion area became involved in the seizure of farms used for grazing by owners who were never friendly towards any popular movements. The lands were ploughed and put under oats by people who had taken lots, mostly small farmers whose holdings were unsuited to tillage. Most of the ploughing was done by Irish Volunteers and, while this was going on, military and police came on the scene and took the names of those whom they found at work. It was made clear to the authorities that there was no question of confiscation of the seized lands and that the people who had taken lots for tillage would pay reasonable compensation to the owners. I cannot remember any Volunteers having been arrested in connection with the seizure of these farms, but in any event this would not be easily accomplished, as every man whose name was taken went on the run. On the other hand, four or five non-supporters of Sinn Fein were taken into custody and fined before the courts. Orders came from Headquarters in Dublin that Volunteers should not become involved in land trouble in future and these orders were observed throughout the area.

I think it was in connection with the anti-conscription campaign that we manufactured a couple dozen of home-made bombs. These were made from canisters filled with scrap and charged with powder and fuse or gelignite with detonator and fuse. Like the pikes, I cannot recall whether these bombs were ever used in our battalion area.

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