Seumas Robinson, a Belfast link to Solohead Beg

The Irish Times has an interesting article about the IRA O/C at the Solohead Beg ambush, Seumas Robinson, who was regarded as a Belfast man, even though he spent a lot of his life in Scotland. He recounts that James Connolly called him ‘towney’ which Robinson says was Connolly recognising both of their connections to Belfast (Robinson was from Benares Street in Clonard).

Robinson’s own, lengthy, account of his activities in the IRB, during the Easter Rising, a detailed account of Solohead Beg and much more can be read here: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1721.pdf#page=140

The later controversies involving Robinson, Dan Breen and others, mainly over the 1919 Solohead Beg raid, can be read about here: http://www.theirishstory.com/2014/12/08/a-bitter-brotherhood-the-war-of-words-of-seumas-robinson/#.XEGnMbrp2Ec

More Belfast IRA maps…

Following on from the previous map I posted of IRA suspects in the 1930s, I’ve a few more that I intend posting over the next few weeks.

Just for starters, here are two maps with the names and address of those from Belfast interned in Frongoch after the 1916 Easter Rising and those interned on the Argenta prison ship in the early 1920s. The former list is from various sources while the latter is taken from Denise Kleinricherts book on the Argenta.

A quick note: As the Irish Volunteers used the Willowbank Huts in 1916 for drilling and as a headquarters, anyone without a suitable address is placed there. As the IRA in Belfast used St Mary’s Hall as its public office in 1921-22, I have placed anyone listed for Belfast by Kleinrichert but who doesn’t have a more detailed address.

The map is below (with some comments underneath)…

Firstly – the slightly more scattered distribution of those interned in Frongoch is interesting as it seems to reflect a slightly broader geographic spread across Belfast than that for the Argenta. This may reflect the presence of cultural nationalists and a higher preponderance of more middle class and educated volunteers in 1916 (certainly that’s my initial thinking). As the addresses for Argenta internees clearly reflect the revised post-1922 landscape of Belfast, the more compact distributions may simply mirror the impact of sectarian violence and the flight of republicans into the safety of areas with higher proportions of Catholic residents. I’ll look at this a bit more with future maps.

In the next week or two I’m going to add a page on Mapping the Belfast IRA. This will include an overall map and individual maps for:

  • full list of volunteers who mobilised in 1916
  • Frongoch internees (1916)
  • 1st Belfast Brigade, 3rd Northern Division (listing all recorded Brigade members for 1921-22)
  • Argenta internees (1922-24)
  • Boundary Commission internees (1925-26)
  • 1930s suspect list
  • 1938 internment and Al Rawdah internees list (1938-40)
  • 1956-61 prisoners in Crumlin Road

If I get time I may also add a list of sentenced prisoners in Crumlin Road (1938-45).

You can read more on the background to all of these in the  new Belfast Battalion book.

A Couple of Essay by Niall Meehan

Here’s a post from Niall Meehan with links to a couple of essays, The Embers of Revisions (by Niall) and The Wind That Shakes The Barley (by Brian Murphy):

For those interested in politics and history in Ireland from a left-wing perspective, please find attached a recently published pamphlet on Irish history and politics with two essays (see here).

The first is a critique of Irish revisionist historiography that begins by reviewing the turn to the right of Irish politician/thinker Conor Cruise O’Brien in the early 1970s. He had been an anti-Vietnam War and anti-racist academic and political activist in the US in the mid to late 1960s (based in NYU).

The turn began in concert with an emerging negative reaction to the increasingly violent civil rights revolt in northern Ireland.

This first essay critiques the tendency, inherited from O’Brien, to portray Irish republicanism as an irrational ‘Catholic-nationalist’ formation.

It then looks at countervailing aspects of southern Irish society (the Republic of Ireland) that were not quite as ‘Catholic’ as is often complacently portrayed, and the application of O’Brien’s ‘revisionist’ methodology to the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence.

O’Brien used insights gleaned from those impressions to justify censorship of Irish broadcasting, over which he had ministerial responsibility from 1973-77. The essay details the effect of censorship on the careers of two individuals who, starting from a left or republican position, eventually became champions of O’Brien’s methods and ideas.

The essay surveys revisionist attempts to generate liberal sympathy for anti-(Irish) republican views by, for example, insinuating anti-semitism on the part of republican leaders (such as Michael Collins). The essay points out a reliance by the same authors, for instance former left (now right) leaning political scientist Paul (‘Lord’) Bew, on pro-British anti-semites during the 1919-23 period.

It then explains the consequential celebration of a history of the War of Independence in Cork by the late Professor Peter Hart, as a logical outcome of the history originally foretold by Conor Cruise O’Brien.

The second essay critiques attempts by historians such as Roy Foster to undermine Ken Loach’s 2006 film The Wind that Shakes the Barley. It demonstrates that Loach’s film contained a more accurate history of the period than Foster’s essay based historical scenario.

(This is a second edition, produced for a Conor Cruise O’Brien symposium in Trinity College. First edition cover and back page – the only difference – at http://www.academia.edu/34075119/.)

Also attached, a subsequently published one page article on the O’Brien symposium.

You can also read about press coverage of O’Brien’s sacking of the (London) Observer’s Mary Holland in 1979, while he was Ed in Chief, at http://www.academia.edu/35030894/.

 

1: “The Most Dangerous Man in Ireland”

Lost In Belfast

290 Antrim Road, family home of Bulmer Hobson.

At 290 Antrim Road, a plaque marks the family home of Bulmer Hobson, once described by British intelligence as “the most dangerous man in Ireland.” It is a somewhat curious thing, a plaque erected as part of the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising, dedicated to a figure who was opposed to that rebellion happening, believing the movement ill-prepared and insurrection ill-advised.

Hobson’s place in Irish revolutionary history is thus a peculiar one. Instrumental in the foundation of Na Fianna Éireann, the republican boyscout movement which raised a direct challenge to the mainstream Baden Powell scouts, he was also central to the reorganisation of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the early twentieth century. By then, the IRB movement was in decline and needed saving. By 1910, it was estimated to have as few as a thousand members in its ranks. Dan Breen…

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List of Belfast IRA O/Cs

Periodically, I’ve posted updates on the list of O/Cs of the Belfast Battalion covering the period from 1922 and up to 1969.

Here is the most recent update with some additional information (thanks to Billy McKee and Francie McGuigan) and some other revisions.

As ever any corrections or suggestions can be added in the comments section.

1922-23 Hugh Corvin

Former Quartermaster of the I.R.A.’s 3rd Northern Division, he had replaced Pat Thornbury as O/C Belfast which had by then been re-organised as a Brigade in October 1922. Corvin had supported the Executive against G.H.Q. over the Treaty in 1922. Subsequently interned in April 1923, he was elected leader of the I.R.A. prisoners and was involved in various prison protests. Corvin was involved in the Irish Volunteers prior to 1916.

1923-24 Jim O’Donnell

O’Donnell replaced Corvin as O/C while Corvin was interned. When Corvin was released from internment at the end of 1924 O’Donnell appears to have stepped back and Corvin took over again as O/C.

1924-26 Hugh Corvin

When Corvin returned as O/C of the Belfast Brigade it was during the re-organisation that followed after Joe McKelvey’s re-burial in Milltown on 30th October 1924.

1925-1926 Jim Johnston

When the Belfast I.R.A. shot Patrick Woods in November 1925 the R.U.C. arrested one individual for questioning but detained a further fifty men, more than twenty of whom were interned until January 1926 including most of the Battalion staff. This included Hugh Corvin. Barely a week after the arrests the outcome of the Boundary Commission was leaked into the press. Judging by correspondence recovered in his house in February 1926, Johnston seems to have acted as O/C while Corvin was interned. He was to remain active with the Belfast Battalion into the 1930s.

1926 Hugh Corvin

Either before Johnston’s arrest in February 1926 or just after his own release in January, Hugh Corvin returned as O/C Belfast. He only stayed in the position until April 1926 when he resigned citing business reasons (he had set up an accountancy firm). He had been arrested in November 1925 and held until the end of January 1926 along with twenty others following the shooting of an informer.

He was to remain a prominent public figure, through involvement in the G.A.A. and as secretary of the Gaelic League in Belfast. He publicly participated in fund-raising for Fianna Fáil in Belfast in the early 1930s and when he stood as an ‘independent republican’ in West Belfast in February 1943 he was largely portrayed by the I.R.A. as a proxy for Fianna Fáil. His later political activity and the coincidence of the Fianna Fáil split suggest it may have been a motive in his resignation.

1926-7 Dan Turley

In Belfast I.R.B. Circle with 1916 leader Sean McDermott as early as 1907, Turley mobilised at Easter in 1916, was director of elections for Sinn Féin in Belfast at the 1918 elections and was Head of Intelligence in 3rd Northern Division. He was interned on the prison ship Argenta. He took over from Corvin but, apparently clashing with the organiser sent from Dublin (Davy Fitzgerald) and personalities at G.H.Q., he was portrayed as being difficult to get on with and unpopular. He remained active as Belfast Adjutant and in other staff posts, although he was a recurring target in clashes between the Belfast I.R.A. and G.H.Q.. The RUC used this tension to conspire against him and he parted with the I.R.A. in 1933 and then was shot dead in disputed circumstances in 1936.

1927-33 Davy Matthews

From Albert Street. A former O/C of C Company, 1st Battalion in the 1920-23 campaigns, including the Raglan Street ambush, and a former internee on the Argenta. Took over from Dan Turley who remained as part of his staff. Instigated re-organisation of the Belfast I.R.A. in 1929, including training camps, Irish language classes and recruitment to Fianna Éireann. Bob Bradshaw quotes a description of him as having a ‘heart of gold and head of ivory’. Also active in Sinn Féin at a time when there were internal divisions within the I.R.A. over whether to co-operate with Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil or a left-wing political project (or if they were to co-operate with anyone at all). In November 1933, Matthews was arrested in possession of I.R.A. documents and received a short sentence. So many other senior Belfast staff were arrested, including Jimmy Steele, Charlie Leddy, George Nash, Tom O’Malley and Jack Gaffney that a temporary staff was formed, including Jack McNally, Jim Johnston and Sean Carmichael.

1933-34 Jack McNally

From the Bone. Another 1920-23 campaign veteran. Appears to have taken over as O/C while Davy Matthews served a short sentence in 1933-34 (this is implied but not explicitly stated in his memoir Morally Good, Politically Bad). While he was in prison Matthews decided to sign an undertaking that he would cease his I.R.A. membership if he was released just before Christmas. So too did another veteran, George Nash. Whether Matthews intended to honour the commitment or not, he was court-martialled in January 1934 and dismissed from the I.R.A.. McNally only stayed as O/C for a number of months but remained active on the I.R.A.’s G.H.Q. staff until his arrest at Crown Entry in 1936. He was interned in December 1938 and was to later be active in the Anti-Partition League and became an abstentionist Senator in the Northern Ireland Senate at Stormont.

1934-36 Tony Lavery

From Balkan Street, a Fianna Éireann veteran of the 1920s, Lavery took over role as O/C Belfast (at the time designated Ulster Area No 1). Despite an order from Army Council not to, he instructed those charged by the northern government over the Campbell College raid to be defended in court. After they were acquitted, the Army Council charged Lavery with disobeying a direct order and he was to be court-martialled in Crown Entry on 25th April 1936 (although it was expected, unlike Matthews, he would merely get a slap on the wrists). Crown Entry was raided just as the court martial was to take place and all those present were arrested including the I.R.A.’s Adjutant-General, Jim Killeen, G.H.Q. staff and senior members of the northern and Belfast leadership of the I.R.A. including Lavery’s Adjutant, Jimmy Steele, and other staff members like Liam Mulholland and Mick Traynor.

1936-37 Sean McArdle

McArdle took on role of O/C Belfast after the loss of Lavery and other Belfast staff members at Crown Entry. In October 1937, the R.U.C. raided what appears to have been a battalion staff meeting in Pearse Hall in King Street. McArdle was arrested and sentenced to six months in Crumlin Road for having I.R.A. documents in his possession.

1937-38 Chris McLoughlin (?)

While McArdle was in prison for three or four months, Chris McLoughlin may have acted in the role as O/C Belfast (he seems to have attended at least one I.R.A. convention in that capacity).

1938 Sean McArdle

On his release, McArdle returned as O/C Belfast until he was interned in December 1938. Where circumstances permitted, the I.R.A. Companies in Belfast sent delegates to a Battalion Convention at a rate of one delegate from the Company staff plus one if the unit had up to fifteen members, two if it had up to thirty, then an additional delegate for every further ten members (based on the Constitution of Óglaigh na h-Éireann published by the I.R.A. Army Council in March 1933). The O/C was selected or confirmed by the Convention. If arrested, O/C’s lost their rank and the Battalion staff selected an Acting O/C until a Convention formally ratified a new appointment. If the previously elected O/C was released prior to the Convention the Battalion staff could meet and vote to confirm their return to the post.

1938-39 Charlie McGlade

Arrested in Crown Entry, Charlie McGlade was not long out of Crumlin Road when he was sent as an organiser to England as part of the S-Plan campaign. He took over as O/C Belfast from Sean McArdle following McArdle’s internment in December 1938. Apparently influenced by Jim Killeen, McGlade was responsible for developing the Northern Command concept that was put in place in late 1939, with McGlade as Northern Command Adjutant and Sean McCaughey as O/C. He edited the Belfast edition of War News and remained as O/C Belfast until 1940.

1940 Jimmy Steele

A Fianna and IRA veteran of 1920-23, Steele had been imprisoned since the Crown Entry raid, only being released in May 1940. For some time there had been unease at reports that were coming in to the IRA prisoners in Crumlin Road about disciplinary procedures being applied by the Belfast IRA staff. On his release, Steele was appointed to the I.R.A.’s Northern Command staff as Director of Training. Later that year, with McGlade and Northern Command O/C Sean McCaughey busy in Dublin, Steele took over the role as O/C Belfast until his arrest in December 1940.

1941 Liam Rice

Bowyer Bell (in The Secret Army) implies Liam Rice was O/C Belfast in May 1941, when he then left for Dublin to assist in the investigation into Stephen Hayes. Rice had been arrested in Crown Entry and also spent time in prison in the south. He was wounded and arrested in Dublin and spent time on the blanket in Portlaoise during the 1940s. It seems likely that Rice took over from Steele as O/C directly after Steele’s arrest in December 1940.

1941 Pearse Kelly

When Rice left for Dublin, Bowyer Bell states that Pearse Kelly took over as O/C Belfast in May. Kelly too left for Dublin in July to take part in the investigations into Chief of Staff Stephen Hayes. Kelly was eventually to become Chief of Staff himself and ended up in the Curragh. Afterwards he went on to a senior role in RTE as Head of News.

1941-42 Hugh Matthews

During 1941 Hugh Matthews, brother of Davy Matthews and another 1920-23 veteran, took over as O/C in Belfast, and was O/C during the Army Conference in Belfast in February 1942 (according to Bowyer Bell in The Secret Army). Ray Quinn (in A Rebel Voice) says he took over from Jimmy Steele but dates it to a later Army Convention in Belfast in February 1943. It is not particularly clear from surviving accounts, but Matthews appears to have been O/C as further disputes arose about disciplinary practices of his Belfast staff members (but not direct criticism of Matthews himself).

1942 John Graham

Prior to 1942, Graham had been O/C of an independent unit, mostly made up of Protestant IRA men. Graham took on the role of Director of Intelligence for the Northern Command and (according to Joe Cahill), was also O/C Belfast. He presumably took on the role after Hugh Matthews some time after February 1942 although the timing is unclear. He was arrested along with David Fleming in the Belfast HQ on Crumlin Road on 3rd October 1942, where printing presses and radio broadcasting equipment were also recovered. Graham, a divinity student in the 1930s, on his release he was to become a noted professional golfer.

1942-43 Rory Maguire

Maguire was O/C Belfast in the autumn of 1942, apparently following Graham’s capture in October.

1943 Jimmy Steele

Escaping from Crumlin Road prison on 15th January 1943, Steele re-joined the Northern Command staff as Adjutant and took over the role of O/C Belfast from Rory Maguire (Maguire’s brother, Ned, had escaped with Steele). He remained O/C Belfast when he took over as IRA Adjutant General after Liam Burke’s arrest.

1943-44 Seamus Burns

Following Jimmy Steele’s arrest in May, Seamus ‘Rocky’ Burns took over as O/C Belfast. Burns had been imprisoned as a 17 year old in 1938, interned in 1939. He took part in the mutiny in Derry jail and was moved to Crumlin Road prison, only to be returned to Derry from where he escaped with 20 others through a tunnel in March 1943. Recaptured in Donegal, he was interned in the Curragh. Harry White had Burns resign from the I.R.A., sign out of the Curragh, then re-join the I.R.A. and return north (when he took over as O/C Belfast). He was shot trying to escape from RUC officers in Chapel Lane in February 1944 and died the next day.
1944 Harry White?

In February 1944, Harry White apparently took over as O/C Belfast after Burns’ death. He was also on the run continuously. He seems to have taken on the role of O/C Belfast for much of the time and also delegated it to others. At this point the sequence of O/Cs gets a little messy.

1944-45 Harry O’Rawe?

By April 1944, Harry White went underground to Altaghoney in County Derry seemingly leaving O’Rawe as O/C Belfast. In his memoir, Harry, Harry White implies that he casually delegated the role to O’Rawe and they effectively alternated as O/C Belfast.

1945? Johnny Murphy

When Harry O’Rawe was arrested in March 1945, it seems likely Johnny Murphy took over as O/C Belfast. Murphy was one of a number of I.R.A. volunteers that were induced to sign out of internment by Harry White. White himself had resigned from the I.R.A. then signed out of internment in the Curragh and then was reinstated in the I.R.A.. He later got others to do the same to replenish the Belfast Battalion staff. An organiser sent by the I.R.A. in Dublin, Gerry McCarthy, visited Belfast in April 1945 and that may have prompted the reorganisation of the various roles.

1946-? Paddy Meehan

While the identities of the O/C Belfast after Rocky Burns’ death are repeatedly unclear, Paddy Meehan was O/C in 1946-7 as individuals who reported back to the I.R.A. in that time were referred to Meehan as O/C. One profile of Seamus Twomey (in The Irish Press on 15th July 1972) stated that he was O/C Belfast in 1945 but this seems unlikely cannot be corroborated from other sources. Since arrests tended to be the catalyst that lead to a changes in O/C, it is possible that in October 1946 Murphy replaced White as O/C Northern Command and Meehan took over at that date.

?-1949 Seamus McCallum

Richard English names McCallum as O/C when Des O’Hagan joined the IRA in 1949. Frank McKearney had taken over as O/C when Joe Cahill was released in November 1949, by which date McCallum may have moved to Liverpool (where he became O/C of the local I.R.A. unit). As noted above, it is not always clear who was in charge of what was left of the Belfast IRA between early 1944 and 1949, so the date that McCallum took on the role is unknown.

1949-50 Frank McKearney

By the late 1940s, Frank McKearney had taken over as O/C Belfast. He had received a six year term for possession of a revolver in 1939. He appears to have taken over as O/C during 1949, at least until the release of Jimmy Steele in 1950.

1950-56 Jimmy Steele

On release from Crumlin Road in 1950, Jimmy Steele again returned to active service with the IRA and once more took over as O/C Belfast while remaining prominent in other organisations such as the National Graves Association and also Sinn Féin. Stayed as O/C until 1956, when he stepped down (Steele was to remain an active republican until his death in 1970).

1956 Paddy Doyle

Took over as O/C in Belfast in preparation for the coming campaign in December, dubbed Operation Harvest. Doyle was highly thought of at GHQ but, due to suspicions about an informer, did not disclose planned operations in Belfast to his own Belfast staff. Doyle spent his time in Crumlin Road completing his education, later qualifying as an accountant, and didn’t get involved in republican activities again on his release.

1956-57 Joe Cahill

Cahill, who had a death sentence commuted in 1942, had been released in 1949 from Crumlin Road. He took over from Paddy Doyle on his arrest in December 1956 until Cahill himself was interned in July 1957.

1957-60 Tom McGill

There is a gap in available information from mid-1957 until about 1960. Jimmy Steele may have taken over again from Cahill until his own internment that summer although Tom McGill, who was also later interned, was O/C Belfast during this period.

1961-63 Billy McKee

On his release from internment in 1961, Billy McKee took on the role of O/C Belfast re-building the battalion effectively from scratch. He had been imprisoned in the 1930s and 1940s and was to remain active in republican circles ever afterwards. During the Wolfe Tone commemorations of 1963 he got involved in a dispute with Billy McMillen, eventually resigned first as O/C Belfast and then from the I.R.A..

1963-69 Billy McMillen

Following the argument over the Wolfe Tone commemorations in June 1963, McMillen took over as O/C Belfast. Having earlier been associated with unofficial bombings in 1950, McMillen had left the IRA in the mid-1950s following an argument and linked up with Saor Uladh. After his release from internment in 1961, he first went to England then returned to Belfast and rejoined the I.R.A.. He remained O/C through the 1960s and was interned just before the pogrom in mid-August 1969.

1969 Jim Sullivan

When McMillen was interned from mid-August to late September, Sullivan acted as O/C Belfast in his place. He was imprisoned for a number of brief periods, such as 1966, when he was presumably replaced with an acting O/C such as Jim Sullivan, who was his Adjutant. Sullivan filled the role in August-September 1969 when McMillen was interned.
1969 Billy McMillen

As part of the fallout over the failure of the Belfast I.R.A. to adequately prepare to defend areas during the pogrom, on release from internment McMillen called a Battalion staff meeting to seek confirmation that he would continue as O/C. When he was forced to restructure his staff, he was also asked to withdraw supports for Cathal Goulding as Chief of Staff on 22nd September 1969.

Thanks to all those who have supplied further information, photographs etc.

You can read more about the Belfast I.R.A. in the new book.

A forgotten child death of the conflict, Joseph Walsh

In 1935, fourteen month old Joseph Walsh died as a result of injuries he received when his family were burnt out of their home in Academy Street. Oddly, histories of the period overlook his death.

During 1935 Belfast saw significant violence, which saw a number of people killed over the period from the 12th July until the end of September. Conventionally, ten fatalities are identified with the conflict that occurred that summer. However, a reading of the press coverage of the period clearly identifies at least two further deaths which should be included in accounts of that summer, that of Joseph Walsh and another, a fifteen year old named Bertie Magowan.

At the end of September, the last major outbreak of the 1935 violence happened over the weekend of the 20th/21st September. On the Friday, two teenage apprenticeships, Bertie Magowan and Bertie Montgomery, were trying to fit an illegally held Webley revolver into a holster while at work in Harland and Wolff. Revolvers had been repeatedly used in street violence throughout that summer. Montgomery discharged the revolver, shooting Magowan in the stomach. He died from the wounds the next day and Montgomery, from Earl Street, was charged with murder. That charge was dropped but Montgomery was still prosecuted for possessing the revolver with ‘the intent to endanger life’ (ie for use during street violence). For that he was fined £5 and bound over to keep the peace. The same day as he shot Magowan, George Clyde was shot dead in trouble in Greencastle and the next day (when Magowan died), in Earl Street a Catholic publican, John McTiernan, was also shot dead in the evening.

Robert (Bertie) Magowan’s death is not typically associated with the conflict in 1935 yet it clearly happened within the context of the violence of that summer.

The story of the second death, of fourteen month old Joseph Walsh, was told by his mother, Rose Ann Walsh, in Belfast Recorders Court at the end of October:

THE WORST CASE
Further stories of mob violence in Belfast during the riots were related to the Deputy Recorder, Mr. ]. D. Begley, K.C., yesterday, when more claims for compensation were heard.

Mrs. Rose Ann Walsh claimed compensation for herself and her infant daughter as the result of a disturbance in Academy Street on I6th July. Mrs. Walsh resided at No. 19, Academy Street along with another lodger, Mrs. Margaret Partington, who also claimed compensation.

Mr. P. A. Marrinan (instructed by Mr. Brian Cosgrove) appeared for the applicant.

Mr. Marrinan said that of all the things that occurred in Belfast the facts connected with the present case were probably the worst. The climax of the attack in Academy Street led to a most terrible tragedy, one of Mrs. Walsh’s three children, who was aged two, dying as a result, he submitted, of the knocking about and trouble that the family sustained. It appeared that the funeral of one of the victims of the riots was in progress along York Street, and was entering the junction of Royal Avenue and Donegall Street when there was a panic among the crowd, following the firing of a shot. The crowd broke into Academy Street, which was off Donegall Street. They entered the house of Mrs. Walsh who had had a baby only two days before, and of Mrs. Partington, who had children, aged three and five years.

SET FIRE TO THE HOUSE

The crowd appeared to have armed themselves with fire-raising material, for they throw paraffin about and set fire to the house. The applicants, with their children, ran upstairs. Mrs. Walsh returned downstairs on realising the danger 6hc was in from fire, and the crowd set upon her and threw her into the street. She- was only 6aved by the arrival of police and soldiers. Mrs. Partington endeavoured to escape by the back of the house from an upstairs window by lowering her children out and jumping herself. Mrs. Walsh” had to so to the Union, and Mrs. Partington, who was the wife, of an English ex-Serviceman, after treatment went to Dublin, where she was attended at St. Stephen’s Hospital. Mrs. Walsh later got shelter in an old empty house, and there her child of two years died from the shock. The other child suffered from debility and inflammation from the suffering which the mother endured. Mrs. Walsh herself was still in a dangerous state of health. Mrs. Walsh being called stating her age was 22, Mr. J. Craig (for the Belfast Corporation) said counsel’s story was substantially correct, and the evidence could be confined to the question of damage. Mrs. Walsh, said she had three children at the time of the occurrence, Catherine being only two days old, Catherine was still in bad health, as the result of witness’s condition. Joseph, her second boy, died mainly from the knocking about that he received. Mrs. Partington said she was lodging with her husband in Academy Street. When the fire was started in the kitchen she ran upstairs. She lowered the children from a window three storeys high on to a scullery roof, and jumped out herself. They went to the Mater Hospital, and later to Dublin. She had not yet recovered her usual health.

After medical evidence-—including that of Colonel Mitchell, who said that while Mrs. Walsh bore no marks, she had evidently come through a very tragic time—judgment was reserved.

[Belfast Newsletter, 1st November 1935]

 

Academy Street

Irish Press, 17th July 1935

The Recorder subsequently award £60 to Rose Ann Walsh, £10 to Catherine Walsh and £40 to Margaret Partington. Walsh and her husband, Francis, had lived at 19 Academy Street for a number years in the house where Francis had grown up. His father had worked as a bill poster, and Francis followed him into the same trade. Rose Ann, whose maiden name was Boland, had grown up in Ballymacarrett, later moving to the Market district. After being burned out of Academy Street the empty house they moved into was a former hostel at 42 Frederick Street. It was there that Joseph died on the 5th September, six weeks after the attack on their house. His official cause of death was given as gastro-enteritis but the Recorder’s Court didn’t challenge the statement that his death was a direct result of injuries received during the attack on the house. The Walsh family subsequently moved to Ormond Place (off Raglan Street) in the Falls Road.

For some context on the deaths, below is the recent talk I gave in St Josephs, Sailortown, on the 1935 violence as part of the launch of the new Belfast Battalion book about the Belfast IRA from 1922 to 1969 (which you can order here).