Off to Mayo

Again in the general election of 1918, when trouble threatened for the supporters of Sinn Fein in East Mayo, North Clare supplied about a quarter of the two hundred Volunteers sent up from Co. Clare to maintain the peace. I accompanied a detatchment to the town of Charlestown, where the local Volunteers had arranged meals and accommodation for us. They met us off the train and brought us to the various locations that had been prepared for us. Our group was brought to a hall which had a long counter where we were served by Cuman na mBan members.

After supper we went outside to locate our 'digs'. We were warned to be careful as feelings were running high in the town. John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party was from the locality and, as many people were dependent on the Dillons who were local merchants, trouble was expected between the two factions. One local Sinn Féin man was killed on the night that the Clare Volunteers arrived.

We were a while in locating the house that we were staying in, not being familiar with the area, and on arrival the householder apologised to us saying that there was a flu epidemic in the town and that all of the house were 'down with it' and that we would have to make alternative arrangements. We returned to the town.

We went into McGreavers to have a drink and to enquire about lodgings. Sean McNamara, who had been with us, went on ahead on his own to confer with some of the other Claremen. On the street he was followed by three men, but when they approached him, he produced a blade and they ran off. Back in McGreavers we were told that there was no available lodgings because of the flu. There was a man asleep at the bar who woke up during this conversation. He introduced himself, I think his name was Smith, and that he came from Sligo. He offered to help us get a place to stay. We followed him to Bellahey where he approached a two storey house and conferred with the owner who agreed to put us up for the night. There were eight of us in the group.

There was a fine hall in the town and the Clare Volunteers decided to organise a dance for Sunday night. The polling had been on the Saturday. Everyone was invited, but would have to bring their own food and musical instruments. The Volunteers went out all the roads from the town to announce the dance and on Sunday evening a large crown gathered. The Town Clerk was approached to open the hall but apparently the local parish priest was very anti-Sinn Féin and said that there would be no permission given. A revolver was produced and the Clerk soon changed his mind. The hall was opened, the generator was started up, the lights went on and the dance began. Some of the Kilfenora men such as Jimmy Mulqueny and John Joe Lynch were fine musicans and there was very lively dancing although there was some confusion between the Clare and Mayo sets, but everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.

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