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The foundation and development of Na Fianna Éireann, 1909–16

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Marnie Hay*
Affiliation:
Department of History, Trinity College Dublin

Extract

This article examines the establishment and development of Na Fianna Éireann, or the Irish National Boy Scouts, in the period 1909–16. It also assesses the contributions of the organisation’s two founders, Countess Constance Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson, in the early years of its existence. Bureau of Military History witness statements, a key source for the history of the Fianna, indicate that a degree of controversy surrounds the relative importance of the pair in the foundation and control of the Fianna movement.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2008

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References

1 This data is derived from the reports provided by the Fianna that were regularly published in the newspapers Irish Freedom (1910-14) and Irish Volunteer (1914-16). These reports may not have mentioned all of the branches in existence. For instance, the only Connacht-based Fianna troop noted in these reports was in Tuam.

2 Gaughan, J. A. included a section on the Fianna in his general account of the boy-scouts’ movement in Ireland, but did not include full citations of sources (Scouting in Ireland (Dublin, 2006)).Google Scholar

3 Fitzpatrick, David, ‘Militarism in Ireland, 1900–1922’ in Bartlett, Thomas and Jeffery, Keith (eds), A military history of Ireland (Cambridge, 1996), pp 382-3.Google Scholar

4 Wilkinson, Paul, ‘English youth movements, 1908–30’ in Journal of Contemporary History, iv (1969), p. 5.Google Scholar

5 Collis, Henry, Hurll, Fred and Hazlewood, Rex, B.-P.’s Scouts: an official history of the Boy Scouts Association (London, 1961), pp 48, 55.Google Scholar

6 See Rosenthal, Michael, ‘Knights and retainers: the earliest version of Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout scheme’ in Jn. Contemp. Hist., xv (1980), pp 603-17CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Warren, Allen, ‘Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Scout movement and citizen training in Great Britain, 1900–1920’ in E.H.R., ci (1986), pp 376-98CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Springhall, John, ‘Baden-Powell and the Scout movement before 1920: citizen training or soldiers of the future?’ in E.H.R., cii (1987), pp 934-42CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Anne Summers, ‘Scouts, Guides and VADs: a note in reply to Allen Warren’ in ibid., pp 943–7; Allen Warren, ‘Baden-Powell: a final comment’ in ibid., pp 948–50.

7 Baden-Powell, R. S. S., Scouting for boys: handbook for instruction in good citizenship (London, 1908), p. 266.Google Scholar

8 For a discussion of the spiritual aspects of the Boy Scouts’ movement, see Warren, ‘Baden-Powell, Scout movement and citizen training’, pp 388–91.

9 Hobson, Bulmer, Ireland yesterday and tomorrow (Tralee, 1968), p. 15.Google Scholar

10 Marreco, Anne, The rebel countess (London, 1967), p. 112Google Scholar; Voris, Jacqueline Van, Constance de Markievicz in the cause of Ireland (Amherst, Mass., 1967), p. 67.Google Scholar

11 Marreco, Rebel countess, pp 113–14.

12 United Irishman, 24 Jan. 1903.

13 Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 114.

14 Seán McGarry statement (N.A.I., Bureau of Military History (henceforth B.M.H.), WS 368).

15 Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 115.

16 Hobson, Bulmer, ‘The I.R.B. and the Fianna’ in Martin, F. X. (ed.), The Irish Volunteers 1913–1915: recollections and documents (Dublin, 1963), pp 1819Google Scholar; O’Faolain, Seán, Constance Markievicz (2nd ed., London, 1987), p. 85Google Scholar; Van Voris, Constance de Markievicz, pp 69–70.

17 Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 117.

18 Hobson, Ireland, p. 15.

19 Helena Molony Statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 391).

20 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, pp 18–19.

21 Michael Lonergan statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 140); Seamus Mac Caisin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 8).

22 Eamon Martin Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

23 Lonergan Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 140).

24 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 20.

25 Patrick Ward Statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 1,140).

26 Cathleen McCarthy (née Ryan) statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 937); Mac Caisin Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 8).

27 Martin Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

28 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 23.

29 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591); Ward Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 1,140); Hobson, Ireland, p. 16; Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 117; Van Voris, Constance de Markievicz, p. 78.

30 Mac Caisin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 8); Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 117; Van Voris, Constance de Markievicz, p. 70.

31 Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 118.

32 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, pp 18–19.

33 Ibid., p. 21.

34 Irish Freedom, Aug. 1912.

35 The executive included a president, two vice-presidents, an honorary secretary, an honorary assistant secretary and an honorary treasurer.

36 The constitution of Na Fianna Éireann as amended by the ard-fheis, 1912 (Dublin, 1912), p. 2; Fianna handbook (Dublin, 1914), p. 15. In this article, all Irish-language spellings, including hyphenation, follow the contemporary Fianna usage of the early twentieth century.

37 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 21; Hobson, Ireland, p. 17.

38 Irish Freedom, Aug. 1913.

39 Ibid., Jan. 1914; Irish Volunteer, 5 June 1915.

40 Garry Holohan statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 328).

41 Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

42 Irish Freedom, Sept. 1911.

43 Sinn Féin, 21 Aug. 1909.

44 Hobson was one of the editors of Irish Freedom until June 1914, and served as the business manager and unofficial editor of Irish Volunteer from December 1914 onwards.

45 Irish Freedom, Dec. 1910.

46 Bean na h-Éireann, Jan. 1911; Irish Freedom, Sept. 1911.

47 Pádraig Ó Riain’s (Hon. Gen. Sec.) report, 1912. Acopy of this report can be found in a folder of Sinn Féin pamphlets in the N.L.I. (IR 94109 S13).

48 Ibid.

49 Irish Freedom, Dec. 1911 (edition edited by Dr Patrick McCartan); Irish Freedom, Sept. 1912; Ó Riain’s report, 1912 (N.L.I., IR 94109 S13).

50 Irish Freedom, Jan. 1913.

51 Ó Riain’s report, 1912.

52 Ibid.

53 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591); Van Voris, Constance de Markievicz, pp 72–3; Bean na h-Éireann, Jan. 1911; Irish Freedom, Sept. 1911.

54 Fianna handbook, p. 23.

55 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591); Ward statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 1,140); Holohan statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 328).

56 Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

57 Irish Freedom, Sept. 1912. Hobson stated that this amendment was passed in 1913, but contemporary newspaper reports indicate that the change took place in 1912 (Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 20).

58 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 21.

59 Irish Freedom, Aug. 1912.

60 Molony statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 391).

61 Irish Citizen, 10 Aug. 1912.

62 Irish Freedom, Sept. 1912. The sluaighte against the inclusion of girls: An Cead Sluagh (1st Dublin Co.), Sluagh Emmet (3rd Dublin Co.), Sluagh Wolfe Tone (5th Dublin Co.), Sluagh Patrick Sarsfield (6th Dublin Co.), Sluagh Fiach Mac Aodha (Baile Breach), Sluagh Finegal (Lusk), Sluagh Lord Edward (Limerick), An Cead Sluagh Corcaighe (Cork city), Sluagh Leo Cathasaigh (Athlone), Sluagh Wolfe Tone (1st Kerry Co., Listowel), Sluagh Vinegar Hill (Enniscorthy) and Sluagh John Mitchel (Deny). The sluaighte in favour of the inclusion of girls: Sluagh Willie Nelson (Belfast), Sluagh Henry Munroe (Belfast), Sluagh Betsy Gray (Belfast), Sluagh H.J. McCracken and Sluagh Seáin Uí Néill (locations not known).

63 McCoole, Sinéad, No ordinary women: Irish feminist activists in the revolutionary years, 1900–1923 (Dublin, 2003), p. 26.Google Scholar

64 Irish Freedom, Dec. 1911.

65 Fitzpatrick, ‘Militarism in Ireland’, p. 383. Voeltz, R. A. has argued that the social conditions generated by the First World War contributed to the rapid expansion of the Girl Guides’ movement in Britain from 1916 onwards (‘The antidote to “Khaki Fever”? The expansion of the British Girl Guides during the First World War’ in Jn. Contemp. Hist., xxvii (1992), pp 627-38).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

66 Irish Freedom, Sept. 1912.

67 Nora Connolly O’Brien statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 286); Ina Connolly Heron statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 919); McCoole, No ordinary women, p. 26.

68 Póilin, Aodán Mac, ‘Irish language writing in Belfast after 1900’ in Allen, Nicholas and Kelly, Aaron (eds), The cities of Belfast (Dublin, 2003), p. 136.Google Scholar

69 O’Brien, Nora Connolly, James Connolly, portrait of a rebel father (Dublin, 1975), p. 177.Google Scholar

70 Molony statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 391).

71 Irish Freedom, Aug. 1913.

72 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591).

73 Van Voris, Constance de Markievicz, pp 89–90.

74 Seamus Pounch statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 267). These boys included Pounch, Patsy O’Connor, Harry Walpole, Jack Shallow, Eddie Murray and Andy Dunne.

75 Hobson, Ireland, p. 18; idem, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, pp 21–2.

76 Lonergan statement 1 Aug. 1948 (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 140).

77 Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

78 Ibid.

79 Ward statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 1,140).

80 Irish Freedom, Feb. 1914.

81 Irish Volunteer, 5 June 1915.

82 Hobson, Ireland, p. 18; idem, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 22.

83 Connolly O’Brien statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 286).

84 Denis McCullough statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 915); Ward, Margaret, Unmanageable revolutionaries (London, 1995), p. 104.Google Scholar

85 Pounch statement (N. A.I., B.M.H., WS 267); Daniel Branniff statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 222).

86 Ward, Unmanageable revolutionaries, p. 93.

87 Greaves, C. D., Liam Mellows and the Irish revolution (London, 1971), pp 48, 53.Google Scholar

88 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591).

89 B.M.H. Chronology, part 1, 1913-21 (U.C.D.A., McCullough papers, P120/24/13); Irish Volunteer, 7 Feb. 1914.Google Scholar

90 Holland, Robert, A short history of Fianna Éireann, 14 Aug. 1949, p. 19 (N.L.I., MS 35,455/3/12A).Google Scholar

91 Irish Volunteer, 14 Feb. 1914.

92 After the July 1914 reorganisation of the Dublin Battalion, a company consisted of three officers (one captain and two lieutenants), four leaders, eight corporals and sixty-four scouts. A company was divided into four sections: a section consisted of one leader, two corporals and sixteen scouts. Two sections formed a half-company under a lieutenant. A military council supervised training and issued orders (Irish Volunteer, 25 July 1914).

93 Ibid., 22 Aug. 1914.

94 Ibid., 30 May 1914.

95 Irish Freedom, June 1914.

96 Irish Volunteer, 21 Nov. 1914, 9 Jan. 1915. For a discussion of these three Fianna publications, see Hay, Marnie, ‘This treasured island: Irish nationalist propaganda aimed at children and youth, 1910–16’ in Keenan, Celia and Thompson, Mary Shine (eds), Treasure islands in children’s literature (Dublin, 2006), pp 3342.Google Scholar

97 Irish Volunteer, 17 Oct. 1914.

98 Holohan statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 328).

99 Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591); Holohan statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 328).

100 Robert Holland statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 280).

101 Hobson, ‘I.R.B. and Fianna’, p. 22.

102 Holohan statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 328).

103 Connolly Heron statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 919).

104 Ward, Unmanageable revolutionaries, pp 105–6.

105 Irish Volunteer, 13 Feb. 1915.

106 Ibid., 14 Nov. 1914.

107 Ibid.

108 Ibid., 28 Nov. 1914.

109 Ibid., 13 Feb. 1915.

110 Ibid., 12 June 1915.

111 Ibid., 13 Nov. 1915.

112 Ibid., 17 Apr. 1915.

113 Joseph Reynolds Statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 191); Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591); Irish Volunteer, 29 May 1915.Google Scholar

114 Martin Statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591).

115 McCullough Statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 111); Denis McCullough to Pádraig Ó Maidín, n.d. (U.C.D.A., McCullough papers, P 120/23/20).

116 Fianna, Aug. 1915. In addition to the president, Markievicz, the following were elected to the ard-choisde: Bulmer Hobson, Pádraig Ó Riain, Eamon Martin, J. A. Dalton, Con Colbert, Seán Heuston, Leo Henderson, Pádraig O’Daly, Garry Holohan, Barney Mellows, Percy Reynolds and Niall MacNeill.

117 Molony statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 391); Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 142.

118 Quoted in Marreco, Rebel countess, p. 142.

119 Members of the Fianna joined Markievicz in supporting the workers during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913. One member, Patsy O’Connor, was administering first aid to an injured worker during a police baton charge when he, too, was attacked; he sustained a head injury that eventually resulted in his death (Irish Volunteer, 26 June 1915).

120 The other appointments to headquarters’ staff were: adjutant - Percy Reynolds; director of training - Seán Heuston; director of organisation and recruiting - Eamon Martin; director of equipment - Leo Henderson; director of finance - Barney Mellows (Irish Volunteer, 24 July 1915).

121 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591).

122 Ibid.

123 Hobson, Ireland, pp 74–5.

124 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591).

125 The following Fianna members were killed in action during Easter Week: Brendan Donelan, 24 Apr. 1916; Sean Healy, 24 Apr. 1916; James Fox, 25 Apr. 1916; James Kelly, 25 Apr. 1916; Gerald Keogh, 27 Apr. 1916; Sean Howard, 27 Apr. 1916; Frederick Ryan, 27 Apr. 1916. Donelan is listed as being from Galway, while the others were based in Dublin (‘Fianna roll of honour’ in Holland, A short history, p. 25 (N.L.I., MS 35.455/3/12A)).

126 Reynolds statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 191).

127 Col. Niall MacNeill statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 69).

128 Fhloinn, Pádraig Mac, ‘The history and tradition of Fianna Éireann’ in Fianna Éireann handbook (Dublin, 1988), p. 14.Google Scholar

129 Ibid., pp 13, 18.

130 In 1926 the (unnamed) editor of Fianna expressed concern that there were 36,000 members of the Baden-Powell Boy Scouts in Ireland. Four years earlier, the Fianna membership stood at 26,000 (Fianna, June 1926, June 1922).

131 Mac Fhloinn, ‘History and tradition’, p. 18.

132 See Dublin Brigade Éireann, Fianna, Easter Week 1916–1922: commemoration Aeridheacht souvenir programme, 23 April 1922 (Dublin, 1922)Google Scholar; O’Shannon, Cathal (ed.), Souvenir of the golden jubilee of Fianna Éireann, Aug. 16, 1909-Aug. 16, 1959 (Dublin, 1959).Google Scholar

133 Martin statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 591); Holohan statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 328).

134 Fianna Éireann handbook, pp 9, 134.

135 Ibid., p. 5.

136 Molony statement (N.A.I., B.M.H., WS 391).

137 Martin statement (ibid., B.M.H., WS 591).

138 For instance, Tom Clarke’s biographer, L. N. Le Roux, claims that the Fianna was instigated by the I.R.B. Supreme Council (Tom Clarke and the Irish freedom movement (Dublin, 1936), p. 102).

139 Previous versions of this article were delivered to the U.C.D. Open Postgraduate History Seminar in January 2004, the T.C.D. Contemporary Irish History Seminar in April 2004, the Women’s History Association of Ireland annual conference in Dublin in November 2004, and the Canadian Association for Irish Studies annual conference in Maynooth in June 2005.I would like to thank audience members for their questions and observations. I am also grateful to Professor Michael Laffan and Dr Charles Ivar McGrath for their comments on earlier drafts of this article, and to the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences for its financial support of my research.

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