Tuesday 10 October 2017
Liam Mellows Socialist Republican visionary by Sean Doyle
We have assembled here today to commemorate the life of Liam Mellows. Through the generations revolutionaries have come to the fore to take up the mantle to guide, inspire and lead us in our quest for liberation.
Liam Mellows contribution and sacrifices places him amongst our Socialist Republican visionaries. He was born in Manchester to William Joseph Mellows on the 25th of May 1895 who was a British army non commissioned officer, and Sarah Jordan of Inch, County Wexford where he grew up. His family moved to Fairview in Dublin in February 1895 when his father was transferred. However Liam remained in Wexford with his grandfather due to ill health. He was educated in Cork and Portobello garrison school in Dublin but ultimately refused a military career much to his father’s dismay choosing to work as a clerk in several Dublin firms.
Nationalist-inclined Mellows approached Thomas Clarke who recruited him to Fianna Eireann, an organisation of young Republicans. Mellows was introduced to James Connolly at Countess Markeviczs residence recuperating after his hunger strike. Connolly was deeply impressed and told his daughter Nora “I have found a real man”. He was possibly about 19 years old and Connolly was 47 but they were equally committed on views to achieve an Irish Republic. Mellows was active in the I.R.B. and a founder member of the Irish Volunteers being brought into its organising committee to strengthen the Fianna representation. He was arrested and jailed on several occasions under The Defence Of The Realm Act.
We do not seek to make this country, a materially great country at the expense of its honour in any way whatsoever. We would rather, have this country poor and indignant; we would rather have the people of Ireland eking out a poor existence on the soil; so long as they possessed their souls, their minds, and their honour. This fight has been for something more than the fleshpots of Empire – Liam Mellows (1895-1922).
On Friday morning, April 28th 1916, the wounded James Connolly reviewed as Commandant General of the Irish Republican forces the situation on the fifth day of the insurrection. In the course of the despatch he said that Captain Mellows “fresh after his escape from an English prison, is in the field with his men”. The young Liam Mellows commanded the Republican forces in Galway, the only county outside of Dublin to respond to the Rising. Mellows’ presence had much to do with that. He was a member of the I.R.B., organiser in Galway for the Irish Volunteers, and very determined.
Galway city was loyal, the County Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary reported to Dublin Castle; it was not in sympathy with Sinn Fein or the Volunteers and “recruited very largely, for the (British) army.” Matters were different in Athenry, an old Land League stronghold. “There is always trouble there” County Inspector E.M. Clayton told the Royal Commission on the Rebellion. “They became so expert with and accustomed to firearms that the teaching “to rise with arms” did not shock them. They glided quietly into the new condition of affairs.
The energetic Mellows was arrested in March, 1916 and deported to England on April 2nd. This blow to the Rising in the West was remedied during Holy Week when his brother Barney and James Connolly’s daughter Nora crossed to Staffordshire. Barney changed places with Liam who then proceeded to Dublin – via Glasgow and Belfast – disguised as a priest. He stayed at St. Enda’s school in Rathfarnham where he received his orders from Pearse and Connolly, and travelled to the West on Good Friday. The confusion over the conflicting mobilisation instructions affected Galway like every other area and wasn’t straightened out till Monday evening when Pearse sent a message saying, ”Dublin has acted 12 noon today.”
Mellows’s men were depending on the arms. They hadn’t enough weapons and ammunition to seize an R.I.C. barracks. Nevertheless they cut rail and telegraph lines, blocked roads, attacked Clarinbridge and Athenry police barracks and occupied the village of Oranmore until troops arrived from Galway; Mellows with a small party covered the withdrawal. Athenry was reinforced by 200 extra constabulary; the Volunteers routed a patrol that tried to push out from the town. A thousand Marines landed in Galway city and naval sloops conducted firing exercises from the bay to intimidate the people.
On Wednesday the Volunteers took over Moyode Castle near Ballinasloe. It was a poor defensive position and on Friday they pulled out amid reports that Crown forces were preparing an attack. The Volunteers marched to the Clare border with the intention of linking up with whatever other Republican forces might be still in the field. But on Saturday morning a priest arrived at the new encampment with the news that Dublin was in flames. He advised the Volunteers to disband. Mellows argued against this: he wanted them to fight on as a guerrilla force: but was outvoted and the Volunteers went home.
Subsequently they were rounded up and transported to England and some who did not join the Rising shared their fate. “We had hardly any guns or ammunition”, Mellows said of the short campaign “I had to send many of them home. I never knew the blackness of despair until then”.
With two companions Mellows went on the run in County Clare. No one was in arms there, they quickly discovered; but they were given food and shelter and managed to avoid arrest. Mellows’s name cropped up during the enquiry into the Rebellion. County Inspector P.C. Power of Kilkenny said his area was quiet until Mac Diarmada and Mellows - he called them “John Mc Dermott and William Mellows” held meetings there sometime before the Rising. “What has happened to Mellows?” Justice Shearman asked. “Mellows is on the run, too with a good many more”, replied County Inspector Clayton. “ He is somewhere in Ireland” said Major Ivor Price, Director Of Military Intelligence for Irish Command, who before the war headed the Crimes Special Branch of the R.I.C. “ I hope we shall see him some day” . At Christmas, 1916, Mellows escaped to America aboard a British munitions ship sailing from Liverpool.
Liam Mellows was one of the young organisers who built Na Fianna Eireann, the movement founded in 1909 by Constance Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson “to train the boys of Ireland to fight Ireland’s battle when they are men”, as a 1914 manifesto declared. He rode around the country on a bicycle, organising the Fianna and - after November, 1913 - training the Volunteers. Without the Fianna there would have been no Volunteers, Pearse said; and without the Volunteers there would have been no 1916. Fianna boys dragged a trek cart from Dublin to Howth on Sunday morning, July 26th, 1914, to meet the Asgard.
The return journey was harder for the cart was loaded with rifles and ammunition boxes. At Clontarf a line of soldiers with fixed bayonets barred their path. The boys ran down a side road with their trek cart which later they took to Madame’s house, not the safest place in the circumstances. Next day Liam Mellows shifted the cargo to safety with the aid of Nora Connolly and some Fianna girls, who sat on the weapons as they were removed by cab, and a couple of Volunteers. In New York, Mellows went to work in the office of the Gaelic American and as an organiser for the Friends Of Irish Freedom. The Friends Of Irish Freedom was a Clan front Organisation founded in the Spring of 1916 at the Irish Race Convention. Four months after Mellows arrived in America, the United States declared war on the Central Powers. The Gaelic American was banned from the mails, a severe blow to a publication depending on subscriptions for sales. As a political exile from Ireland Mellows was under constant surveillance. When he spoke at meetings of The Irish Progressive League - the only Irish American group to stand out boldly for Ireland during this period – Secret Service men would sit in the audience. He once opened a meeting at the Irish Carmelite hall on East 29th Street, New York, with these words:
What will you say when your grandchildren ask you what you did in this great war to free small peoples? Will you tell them you were engaged in New York City holding down the unarmed Irish, and with revolvers trying to silence their claim to be free?
Mellows’s constant aim was to return to Ireland. When Dr. Patrick Mc Cartan arrived in the Summer of 1917 for the I.R.B. as “envoy of the Irish Republic” he nearly succeeded. Mc Cartan carried a message for President Wilson signed by 26 prominent officers of the Irish Volunteers, including Eamon De Valera and Eoin Mc Neill. The message began.
We the undersigned who have been held in English prisons and who have been dragged from dungeon to dungeon in heavy chains, cut off since Easter Week, 1916, from all intercourse with the outside world, have just had an opportunity of seeing the printed text of the message of United States Of America to the Provisional Government Of Russia: we see that the President accepts the aims of both countries “the carrying of the present struggle for freedom of all people to a successful conclusion.
When Wilson refused to see him, Mc Cartan decided to go to Russia. But it was wartime and he could not travel openly. Joseph Mc Garrity got seaman’s papers for Mc Cartan and Mellows, who hoped to reach Ireland from neutral Holland. Mc Cartan shipped out first. He was seized at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mellows was arrested in New York and lodged in the Tombs prison. Both were interrogated at great length by the Secret Service. An alleged Mellows “confession” was leaked to the press. The following account is from the Philadelphia Evening Ledger of October 27th, 1917:
According to government officials who grilled Mellows several hours following his arrest, he admitted that he frequently met Colohan, Jeremiah O’ Leary and Devoy and that he talked of matters prejudicial to the best interests of this country and her allies. These meetings, according to Mellows, were held at the Murray Hill Hotel and the Maennercher Hall on the East Side of New York.
“General” Mellows was charged with conspiring to bring about a rebellion in Ireland and pleaded guilty to the charge when arraigned before Commissioner Hitchbrook. He was held in 7,500 dollars bail and so far had been unable to procure a bondsman. When Mellows was taken to the headquarters of the Secret Service in the custom house he was put through a thorough questioning by William J. Flynn, chief of the Secret Service. His every move in this country was enquired into, and naturally Mr Flynn wanted to know who his associates were and the matters discussed when they met in conclave. According to a transcript of this testimony which came to light, Mellows attended several meetings at the Murray Hill Hotel last winter when Justice Colohan, Devoy and O’Leary were present.
Colohan, a New York politician, was the most important member of the Clan after Devoy. He was a bitter foe of President Wilson, and although a Democrat had publicly opposed the leader of his party in the 1916 elections. He believed the administration was seeking to destroy him because of it. Jeremiah O’Leary, American born like Colohan, published the satirical weekly “Bull” which Washington considered pro-German. Devoy said the Secret Service manufactured the Mellows “confession” to implicate himself and Colohan in a non-existent plot. He insisted that Mellows had not been abandoned by the Clan. He had been left in the Tombs for a reason. “They wanted him released on bail so as to use him as a bait to entrap others” he wrote in the Gaelic American” in the desperate hope that they could frame up a conspiracy case”.
Mellows may not have appreciated such reasoning. Most observers believed that the man who was making the decisions for the Clan was not the aged Devoy but Colohan. Others came to Mellows’s aid and he was freed from prison; the case was not disposed of until May, 1919, when Mellows and Mc Cartan were fined 250 dollars each for using false seaman’s papers.
The Tombs incident left a bad taste. The breach between Mellows and Devoy widened. Colohan and Devoy had tried to coerce Mellows into taking out “first citizenship” papers to “save myself”, he told Mrs Hearn of Westfield, Massachusetts in 1920. In the same letter he charged that when Ireland was “facing disaster and death” in 1918, Colohan and Devoy had done nothing. He had only contempt for “the structure that battens on the work and sacrifices of the people at home”, Mellows wrote. And he asked: “How dare the old man talk of the young men at home in view of the treatment meted out to the young men who came over since 1916, and were not a bit different from those left behind?”
The 1918 charge had to do with the second Irish Race Convention held in New York in May of that year. Colohan went to great lengths to assert the “Americanism” of the gathering and his speech was spattered with declarations of loyalty. Mc Garrity barred federal agents from the hall. Mellows delivered a powerful plea for Ireland in the course of which he denounced the “German plot” round up of Irish Republican leaders. He said:
There are times ahead for Ireland which are going to try the people of Ireland as they have never been tried before, and are we going to sit here and keep our mouths shut? We all feel these things too deeply now any longer to conceal the truth. A wrong is going to be perpetrated on Ireland the like of which even the British government never conceived before. They have stated that they discovered a German plot, in order that they might thus alienate the sympathy of the people of America from Ireland. They could then turn around and do as they liked in Ireland, while the world looked on and laughed. This wrong that is going to be done in Ireland is a terrible thing. Conscription at the hands of the British government is a crime, not alone against the Irish people, but against the whole civilised world. And I say that America, by its silence on the question of Ireland’s independence, has been and is still, until it speaks out acquiescing in England’s domination. If there is bloodshed in Ireland, if our men and boys and women and girls are slaughtered, the fight will not alone be that of the men, but the women will take part in it also. This time the fight will be for the preservation of the very life of the Irish nation. If there be bloodshed in Ireland, the blame will not rest alone on the British government; it will rest on America, unless America speaks out on behalf of Ireland.
The draft board of New York city sent Mellows a questionnaire which he returned unanswered on January 10th 1918 giving these reasons: “First, because I am an Irishman and have devoted all my humble efforts since I came to the use of reason to help free my country from the tyrannous domination of England”. He said he would have no connection under any circumstances with the armed forces of the American government which by its silence on Ireland acquiesced in England’s occupation. He added:
I am a citizen of the Irish Republic proclaimed at Easter 1916 which has the allegiance of the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland, but which this country has not yet recognised. I owe allegiance to one country only – Ireland – and the cause of Irish freedom, which is the cause of God.
Coholan and Devoy barred Mellows from addressing further public meetings. When Mellows threatened to resign from the Gaelic American the quarrel was patched up. But the differences continued. He told Nora Connolly in a letter dated September 14th 1919 that a campaign of the most vile and vicious slander started which has lasted to the present time. His efforts to halt the conscription of young Irishmen were opposed by Colohan. “I was ostracised everywhere everywhere from almost everything”, said Mellows.
Liam Mellows was elected for two constituencies in the December 1918 general election: North Meath and East Galway. When the First Dail met they entered his name on the roll in Irish Liam O’ Maoiliosa and wrote ar dibirt ag Gallaibh after it. Meanwhile the deputy for North Meath and East Galway was without a job in America. He left the Gaelic American at Christmas 1918 hoping to go to California but the court case prevented that. He went to work on the docks as a casual labourer before getting a teaching job at the school run by the Irish Carmelites in Manhattan.
The Clan sponsored a meeting in New York on January 5th 1919 to congratulate the Irish people on the great election victory of Sinn Fein in December. Colohan using the Wilsonian catch cry stressed Ireland’s right to self determination. He said nothing about an Irish Republic. Mellows on the other hand declared that the Irish people have “exercised so far as lay in their power the right to self determination and they have determined that Ireland shall and must be free and independent”. Next night the Irish Progressive League meeting in the same location (the Central Opera House) expressed the determination of the Irish in America to uphold the new Irish Republic and to insist that it be permitted to work out its own destiny without British interference. Mellows was one of the speakers. Another speaker was Norman Thomas future leader of the American Socialist Party. Colohan was annoyed by the rejection of his leadership and the self determination formula and a split along ideological lines was evident.
Then on January 21st Dail Eireann held its founding meeting. The Republic proclaimed in 1916 was ratified and the radical Democratic programme – which was to influence Mellows a great deal – adopted. Cathal Brugha as Priomh Aire (Prime Minister) in a message to America urged the Irish there to work for international recognition of the Irish Republic. The third Irish Race Convention opened in Philadelphia on February 22nd and Colohan trotted out his self determination resolution once more despite the efforts of Mc Garrity, Mc Cartan and Mellows to substitute demands for recognition of the Irish Republic.
Mellows was not exactly a welcome guest. Indeed he only learned of the convention through the newspapers. Among the honoured guests was the conservative Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, and Colohan did not want any radical speeches while his eminence was listening. So he asked Mellows to speak on the first day when the Cardinal was absent; Mellows refused. Because Mc Cartan would not speak for the self-determination resolution he too was renounced as a dangerous character by Colohan.
‘As for me I’m beyond redemption’ Mellows told Nora Connolly in the letter already quoted. ‘Am looked on as wild, hot headed, undisciplined-liable to get movement into trouble - dubbed a socialist and anarchist.’
During the big flu epidemic of 1919 Mellows fell ill and almost died, he told Nora Connolly. What worried him most was that he had only three dollars - then worth 12 shillings - which was hardly enough to bury him. He told the writer John Brennan and one of the Gifford sisters of Dublin then living in New York, that the doctor who attended him said something about his illness being brought on by hunger and privation. He started to work too soon, collapsed at the famous meeting in New York when President Wilson on the eve of his departure for the Peace Conference at Versailles refused to meet a delegation of Irish-Americans unless Colohan withdrew, and suffered a relapse. Joe Mc Garrity took him to Philadelphia and afterwards to Atlantic City where the sea air did wonders for his health.
Harry Boland arrived in America in May 1919 as the representative of the I.R.B. and President De Valera followed a couple of weeks later. His law case settled Mellows planned to return to Ireland. But Boland got sick and he had to take his place of De Valera’s schedule. During the 18 months mission to America Mellows was De Valera’s advance courier to the many cities visited on the continental tour. Mellows sided with De Valera in the split with Devoy and Colohan and on March 9th 1920 wrote to Mrs Hearn:
How often I lay awake at night unable to sleep because of the indignation I feel burning into my very soul. And yet the thought comes how futile when the real enemy requires all our hatred. And I pity Colohan.
On September 1st 1920 as Terence Mc Swiney was fasting in Brixton Prison, Mellows wrote to Mrs Hearn’s son John:
Oh dear! How small we all appear in the face of this terrible tragedy. How little indeed are the ambitions that have brought the movement into such a pass here compared with the great principles for which Mc Swiney is giving up all.
Are we genetically impaired after generations of British oppression with native collaboration incapable of recognising the twin evils that has been catalogued throughout our history of sell outs, and betrayal for elite economic gain? Our struggle has always been national and social revolution which should be affirmed as often as necessary until there is no ambiguity and we consolidate our forces to achieve our goal.
Liam Mellows’s mentor James Connolly said:
We mean to be free and in every enemy of tyranny we recognise a brother wherever be his birthplace. In every enemy of freedom we also recognise our enemy though he were as Irish as our hills.
What is our problem with recognising that some Irish find that their class interests are more important than their national difference and thus become enemies of our freedom? I have no doubt if the British had not executed James Connolly in 1916 The Treaties Free Staters would have in 1922. Because his grasp and understanding of the struggle and our past history would leave no hiding place for their treachery and hypocrisy we had well documented.
He was crucified in life, now he is idolised in death, and the men who push forward most arrogantly to burn incense at the altar of his fame are drawn from the very class who were he alive today would hasten to repudiate him as a dangerous malcontent. False as they are to every one of the great principles to which our hero consecrated his life, they cannot hope to deceive the popular instinct, and their presence at the ’98 commemorations will only bring into greater relief the depth to which they have sunk. Our Home Rule leaders will find that the glory of Wolfe Tone’s memory will serve, not to cover, but to accentuate the darkness of their shame. It will be thus seen that Tone built up his hopes upon a successful prosecution of a class war, although those who pretend to imitate him today raise up their hands in holy horror at the mere mention of the phrase.
A Poor Relief Bill in 1847 made provision for the employment of labour on public works but stipulated that none should be employed who retained more than a quarter of an acre of land; this induced tens of thousands to surrender their farms for the sake of a bite to eat, and saved the landlords all the trouble and expense of eviction. When this had been accomplished to a sufficient extent 734,000 persons were discharged, and as they had given up their farms to get employment on the works they were now as helpless as men on a raft in mid ocean.
We must write our history correctly identifying 1847 as genocide. People in this society will preach to preserve the free market. In recent time the government received a report recommending a cap on land prices agricultural rate plus 25% which they ignored.
God forbid that they would put people before their free market masters. The result; social crime of devastating proportion that has destroyed families’ peace and home serenity paramount to children’s development. The inflated cost of the most human requirement of every person a modest roof over our heads. That has been allowed to spiral out of control to feed the appetite of greed of bankers, speculators and developers by governments who ignored the report. They dare not to interfere with the free market that is the heart that drives capitalism and is what has destroyed our society for all our citizens. For example; in the greedy free market system a portion of land is offered for sale which attracts interest of speculators. Their bankers have long dispensed with the recommended regulation. The bidding is excessive. The banker who funds the speculator is paid a huge bonus. The speculator sells to a developer. The banker gets a bonus. The developer passes the excesses onto every house. Our children pay for it all. Their income is not sufficient so the lending institution changes their regulation and in some cases gives 100% mortgages. Some of our children still can’t afford to buy. They are presented with continue to rent or move to another county which some opted for which means getting up at 5.30am taking children out of cots and beds transporting them to minders, go to work and collect them in the evening, not arriving home till late to bed and repeat the same process day in day out. No life and no way to bring up children. All because of the unrestricted greed of a few with the support of governments.
From 2006 onwards they even issued cost of living indexes excluding houses. The single most draining part of our income because of the uncontrolled greed of the aforementioned and stamp duty that had the government awash with money to pay for junkets to far destinations all over the world. Extravagance beyond belief. When you realise every struggling mortgage holder is paying 100,000 plus which was the speculators’ reward for the misery inflicted with the aid of government. The most outrageous statement that beggars belief came from the banks. That they are going to stress test new mortgage applicants. After all the citizens are stretched to their limit bailing out the same banks, insurance companies, foreign banks, speculators, developers decreed by the government and the EU who through their greed added 100,000 plus to the cost of mortgages.
You Joe Citizen pay for your house plus the lavish lifestyles of the aforementioned and accepted a 50,000 debt around your children’s necks. Is it any wonder they want to stress test you? And the government for their part are introducing home tax starting at 100 euro and by 2014 rising to 1300 including water tax. The sale of the best of our semi state companies in an attempt to prop up this vicious self serving monetary monster that is sucking the life blood out of the citizens of Europe. And of course the Free State parliament exercising its loyalty by giving away our children’s inheritance - our natural resources. Vast quantities of gas and oil have been discovered under Irish waters in the Atlantic ocean over the last fifteen years.
The government figures puts the value of these resources at 420 billion but it is a very conservative estimate, the true figure with global prices of oil and gas rises. The wealth will be leaving Ireland thanks to a deal made between FF and multinational oil companies. Minister Ray Burke later jailed for corruption changed a law in 1987 reducing the states share in our offshore oil and gas from 50 % to 0 and abolished royalties in 1992. Minister Bertie Ahern reduced the tax rate for the profits made from the sale of these resources from 50 to 25%. The respected economists Colm Raffle said, the amount of tax will be very low and will not be paid for years into the operation. Because the deal allows the companies to write off 100% of costs even the cost of shutting down the operation before they declare the profits to be taxed.
In major oil and gas producing countries the state takes an average medium of 68% of the value of gas and oil. But not in Ireland the state is using tax payers money to force the people of Mayo to allow shell to bring the gas to shore and take it away free.
This is a declaration of war on the people of Ireland and must be confronted before our people are totally impoverished and are natural resources stripped bare.
In conclusion, I would like to send our support to the Shell to Sea campaign and wish them the best of luck in their endeavours.
Posted by nickglais at 12:56