The new Ard Coisde (Central Council) threw itself wholeheartedly into the work of training the Fianna in a systematic and serious manner. The organization was divided into three groups—first, second and third-class Fiannaidhthe. Tests were drawn up which all members had to pass. The tests covered a very wide field of activity and the work of 1912 was mainly taken up in preparation to pass examinations in these tests. Distinguishing cords were issued to the members to mark their proficiency in Fianna training: green for Third Class, green and orange Second Class, and green, white and orange First Class.
THE THIRD CLASS TEST.
Before a member of the Fianna was awarded his third class cord, he must have passed the preliminary test and have attended two-thirds of the classes and meetings of his Sluagh. He had also to pass in the following subjects:
Squad Drill—Understand the commands when given in the Irish language.
First Aid—Know how to perform artificial respiration in cases of drowning and shock. Make four bandages and sling with the triangular bandage.
Signalling—Send and receive a message in semaphore, ten letters per minute.
Irish Language—Standard of O’Growney, first half of Book I.
History—General knowledge of Irish History from 1782 to 1803.
Know the conventional signs and be able to read a scout’s map.
Topography—Know the roads, woods, streams, etc., within a radius of two miles from Sluagh headquarters, or perform some equivalent selected by local committee.
Point out the north by means of the sun and stars without the aid of a compass.
Know how to pitch a small tent and light a camp (wood) fire.
Tie the following knots—Reef, bowline, sheepshank, fisherman’s bend, two half hitches, and clove hitch.
THE SECOND CLASS TEST.
Before being awarded the second class cord the following subjects had to be passed in addition to those laid down for the third class test.
Elementary company drill.
First Aid—Application of triangular bandage to any part of the body; (2) various methods of arresting hemorrhage; (3) first aid treatment of fractures and dislocations; (4) first aid treatment in poisons; (5) first aid treatment of apparently drowned or otherwise suffocated, including Schaefer’s method; (6) methods of carrying injured.
Signalling—Send and receive a message in either semaphore or Morse at the rate of fifteen letters per minute.
Irish Language—Standard of O’Growney, Book I. History, general knowledge of Irish History from 1782 to 1870.
Map Making—Be able to make a scout’s map. Understand the uses of the plane table and be able to judge distances within 30 per cent. error.
Topography—Know the country within a radius of five miles in same detail as for third class test.
Know the sixteen points of the compass and point out a compass direction by means of the sun and watch.
Know how to pitch a bell tent and cook satisfactorily in the open two out of the following dishes as may be directed: Porridge, Irish stew, rabbit, bacon, rice pudding, or bread.
Track half a mile in twenty minutes and be able to swim thirty yards.
THE FIRST CLASS TEST.
This is the highest order of the Fianna and requires a very high all-round proficiency to attain it. The subjects were, in addition to those for second class test:
Company and ambulance drill.
Advanced first aid.
Signalling—Send and receive a message in Morse and semaphore, twenty letters per minute.
Irish Language—Standard of O’Growney, Book III, History, general knowledge of Irish History from the coming of St. Patrick; also the Cuchulain and Ossianic Cycles.
Field Sketching—Sketch a piece of country showing the contour lines, etc., within 15 per cent. error.
Topography—Know the country within a ten-mile radius in same detail as for third class test; also a general knowledge of the geography of Ireland.
Know four constellations.
Swim 100 yards and know how to save life in case of drowning.
Know how to pitch and strike two kinds of tents; be able to make camp kitchen and latrine.
The Fianna made considerable progress in many ways during 1912. There was more intercourse between officers of the movement from different parts of the country, which led to the formation of many friendships between boys who were to become veritable brothers in the same cause, actuated by the same motives and inspired by the same ideals. A splendid spirit of camaraderie pervaded the movement, which was rapidly becoming a boys community, the embryo of the Republic. It was remarkable what a few years had done in forming the character of the members. No longer were they mere boys. They felt men, if not in years, then in strength of purpose. They knew that no matter how the older generation went, the future of Ireland was in their hands, and they believed that a day would yet come when their faith would be justified and their efforts crowned with success. And another thing was noticeable about the Fianna. They felt like their prototype, the Fianna of old never boasted of their prowess or their achievements. No boy talked of what he did:
‘He spake not a boasting word,
Nor vaunted he at all,
Though marvellous were his deeds.’
It was not for themselves they worked, it was for Ireland. Their sole ambition was their country’s freedom; for themselves they had none.
The movement began to make itself felt in Nationalist circles and attracted attention from several quarters. The police—who in Ireland are spies and hired assassins of the British Government—began to keep their eye on prominent members. One of the ‘G’ men was constantly posted outside the Headquarters of the Dublin Fianna in Camden Street. One Sunday evening a small group of lads were leaving the hall after returning from a route-march. They loitered round the door ere parting their different ways. The ‘Peeler,’ seeing it this an opportunity of asserting his authority, majestically ordered them to ‘move on!’ The whistling of ‘The Peeler and the Goat’ was the only notice he received, whereupon his ire was roused and he roared at the boys to ‘move on ou’ a’ that an’ not be obstructin’ the way.’ Immediately one of the lads with that ready wit so characteristic of the Dubliner, replied ‘that if he took his small fifties of feet in off the footpath there’d be no obstruction.’ The Peeler beat a hasty retreat, his discomfiture being increased by the paean of victory raised by the irrepressibles, the chorus of which ran ‘Meg-a-geg-geg, let go of my leg!’
But others beside the police took an interest in the movement. The following beautiful poem appeared in Irish Freedom. It was written by a talented young lady—Miss Elizabeth MacCarthy (Eilís Ní Ċarṫaiġ) of Dungarvan.
Na Fianna Éireann.
Dauntless offspring of heroes,
Sons of the true and brave,
Hail to the cause you champion
And the flag you have come to save!
Children with life’s young glory
Crowning your radiant brow,
Lift up your hearts in gladness
To the task that awaits you now.
Smiling and sweet is the valley
In the glow of life’s fair spring-time,
And lonely the rugged pathway
That your conquering feet must climb.
Yet from Eire’s breast you will gather
The strength of her guarded pride,
Since the days when the first Fianna
Camped on her mountain side.
Down from those distant ages
To you has the bright call come;
From the flash of their swords unsheathing
And the beat of the battle-drum.
From the echo of warrior footsteps
Whose path you must follow far,
Till you reach their splendor of daring
In the matchless work of war.
Fianna! Name of all others
To rouse your passionate fire,
To kindle your proud ambition
And strengthen your soul’s desire.
Fling on the breeze your banner,
Let its folds float far and high,
While you march on your way to glory
Neath the blue of an Irish sky.
And though shadows gather round you,
And the road seems long and drear;
Though alone you must sometime struggle
When no friendly hand is near.
When weary of a patient striving
For a triumph so far away,
Remember—the darkest hour of night
Is nearest the dawn of day.
Yours not the hours of leisure
To squander in idle dreams;
Yours not the flowers of pleasure
To cull by life’s sunlit streams.
But yours the unflinching purpose
Of the patriots fearless
With the tireless will and the ready skill
That will lead to victory’s goal.
Many a long night’s waiting
May be yours through the Winter’s cold:
Many a fevered marching
In the glare of the Summer’s gold.
Many a lonely furrow
To plough with a generous hand,
And many a seed to scatter
That will spring at your bright command.
But for you will the heart Eirinn
Her secrets sublime unfold,
While her wandering winds will waft you
A song from the days of old.
For you will her blue seas sparkle
And laugh in the beaming sun;
And her breezes lull you to slumber
When the hurrying day is done.
Oh! the grass will surely be greener,
And the heather will brighter bloom;
Where your feet have trod from the summer’s dawn
Till twilight’s gathering gloom.
While the birds in their joy will sing you
A paean for every hour,
And the angels from Heaven will bring you
A dream of your future power.
Then fear not, oh happy children,
To answer the glorious call,
Of her to whose royal service
You must offer your lives—your all.
Think not that your fight will be fruitless,
Or your sacrifice unatoned
When Eire will rise mid the nations—
A Queen—by your hands enthroned.
And on through all future ages,
Round many a fireside glow,
Shall the tale of Na Fianna Eireann
Who fought ‘gainst her treacherous foe.
Be told to the listening children
In a land by your love made free;
When the seeds you have sown shall bloom fully grown
In the sunshine of liberty.
APRIL 28, 1917.
Chapter III (continued)
The Year 1912 saw the Fianna firmly established as a power for good in the land. Several incursions had taken place to the country and new branches were established in Wexford Town, Donegal, Cork and Newry, as well as several new Sluaghte in Dublin and Belfast. The training went ahead very well and the Summer was used to the greatest advantage for camping. The freedom and joyousness of the outdoor life appealed to the boys, who by now had reduced camping-out to a fine art. By experience, that greatest of all teachers, they had picked up many tips for making themselves comfortable. They had become adept at lighting a fire under the most adverse circumstances, and the methods―and ingredients―of cooking were much improved. Many a rabbit, hare or bird found its way into the pot. Need it be said by what means they were secured? A good scout is necessarily a good poacher.
To give an idea of the routine of camp life, the following would represent a daily camp programme: 6:30 a.m, turn out and bathe; 7 a.m., breakfast; 8 a.m., air bedding and clean up camping ground; 9 a.m., scouting exercises; 11 a.m., swimming; 12 noon, dinner; 2 p.m., lecture on woodcraft or other subject; 3 p.m., drill, skirmishing or scouting; 6 p.m. supper; 7:30 p.m., camp council. The remainder of the night up to ‘lights out’ at 9:30 was usually spent in an impromptu ceilidh.
Once again Fianna were encamped on the mountain side, and the places made historic by Fionn and his companions were fitting spots for the new soldiers of Erin to train themselves as champions of freedom. Howth and Glen-na-Smole were the rendezvous of the Dublin boys. The Clonmel Sluagh breathed freedom on Slievenamon, and on historic Cave Hill the tents of the Belfast lads were pitched.
The green kilted bare-kneed lads were now familiar figures at all Gaelic gatherings. They sold Irish Freedom at football and hurling matches. They were ubiquitous in giving out handbills, announcing Feisanna and Emmet, Manchester Martyrs and other great commemorations, and advertising these events by marching through the streets with their pipers’ band. They collected for the Gaelic League, the Wolfe Tone Memorial, and other national institutions for which money was needed.
The third annual convention or Ard Fheis was a splendid and most representative affair. It marked an epoch in the history of the movement, inasmuch that it showed that a great deal had already been accomplished in work that many wiseacres and sceptics had prophesied as being impracticable and unfeasible. It was held in the second week of July, 1912, in the Mansion House, Dublin, and was well attended by a throng of earnest and manly boys from the four provinces of Ireland.
Countess Markievicz presided and Dublin was strongly represented by twenty delegates. Among the delegates from Belfast, which showed up in great strength, were Joe. Robinson, one of the most enthusiastic members of the Fianna, and who is now in a British prison; Alf. Cotton, afterward a Volunteer organizer, who was deported from Kerry in 1915; and the Misses Nora and Ina Connolly, and several other girls representing a girls’ branch which had been established there a short time previous. Sean Houston was the principal Limerick representative. Cork City sent Sean O’Suillabhain, and Kerry Edmund Leahy of Listowel. ‘Paddy’ Ramsbottom, known as ‘An Fear Mor’ on account of his stature, voiced Athlone and Willie Langley was delegate from Tuam. Dozens of other places were well represented as well.
Some idea of the amount of business transacted will be gathered from the fact that there were forty notices of motion on the agenda. The proceedings lasted without an interval from 12 noon till nearly 6 p.m.
The Dublin Fianna gave a great display in August. It was held for the purpose of displaying to the public the practical work the boys were doing and also to raise funds for the movement. Exhibitions of company and ambulance drill, skirmishing, bayonet-fighting, signalling and first-aid were given. A splendid camp scene was presented showing how things were managed when out under canvas. This was followed by an aeridheacht, in which a first-rate programme was gone through, most of the songs, dances and recitals, etc., being contributed by the boys.
Perhaps, however, the greatest work done by the boys was their active participation in the vigorous anti-enlistment campaign. In the evidence before the ‘Royal Commission on thr Rebellion in Ireland’ the Fianna are mentioned: ‘The anti-recruiting campaign was continued during this year, the Irish Boy Scouts being used for the purpose a good deal. They were being organised and drilled evidently to enlist in the campaign of promoting seditious views.’
The Fianna are also mentioned in the report as ‘a thoroughly disloyal movement—which eventually became a training school for young rebels.’ No higher tribute can be paid to the movement than the opinion the British Government held of it.
MAY 5, 1917.