The Bodenstown procession of 1914 was a sign of the times. It was not a mere procession like that of previous years. It was a military demonstration. Ireland’s New National Army was represented by the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, the Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Eireann. It was a great day entirely; a presage of the Revolution. Three generations of militant Nationalism were represented there; the old Fenians, the newer Volunteers, and the younger Fianna, with Tom. Clarke, the embodiment of both the old and new spirit of Ireland, the inspiration of all.

Tom. Clarke’s great part in the salvation of Ireland has yet to be recognized. In comparison with most of those whose lives were given for their country during Easter, 1916, he receives little mention, yet it would be safe to say were it not for Tom. Clarke, there would probably have been no Easter Week. Great sacrifices were made by all who took part in national work during recent years, but none like that of Tom. Clarke. His life was a living sacrifice. There were more intellectual men than he in the last effort to free Ireland, but none had greater faith. His enthusiasm and optimistic outlook were wonderful. Everything centered around him and it is greatly due to him that the fight was kept on through years when all effort seemed vain and hope a delusion. His hatred and scorn of England was only exceeded by his love for Ireland and his death was a fitting end to such a career as his. Viewed in the perspective of time, Tom. Clarke’s name will shine luminous on the role of Irish patriots.

The next great event in which the Fianna played a conspicuous part was the now famous gun-running at Howth. This took place on Sunday, July 26, 1914. It had been planned with the greatest secrecy several months before, and the organizing and general preparations for the coup were going on for some weeks before it occurred. Several officers of the Fianna knew what was coming off some time before as they had an important part to play. It was their duty to bring a number of big heavy oak batons out to Howth for the use of the Volunteers in case of trouble with the police before the arms were received. This was done surreptitiously, the batons being carried in the trek-cart of the boys, covered closely over with tarpaulin sheet, so that none of the Volunteers knew what was there, except a small number of picked men who had various special jobs in connection with the work on hand assigned to them.

The Volunteers and Fianna were mobilized at Fairview at 9 a.m., ostensibly for an ordinary route-march. They set out at 9:45 for Raheny, no more interest being taken in their movements than usual. Their march was exceedingly rapid, the pace being forced and as the distance from the city increased, the rate was accelerated to the surprise and disgust of the men. The Fianna were much better marchers than the Volunteers, many of them having several years’ experience, and did not suffer near as much from fatigue notwithstanding that they had to drag their trek-cart as well. At Raheny a halt was called, but after a few minutes rest the march was resumed, this time, the direction taken being the village of Howth.

In the meantime a small crowd of picked men―of whom the present writer was one―had been out at Howth from an early hour. Each one was armed with a revolver or automatic pistol, and they loitered around sight-seeing till 11 o’clock. They then boarded a motor fishing trawler, which had been hired as if for a sail, and set out to tow in the yacht with the arms, which had been lying off Ireland’s Eye with a supposedly pleasure party aboard, but the engine broke down before the trawler got out of Howth harbor and the crowd had to put back. This did not upset arrangements, however, as the yacht had instructions to be in at 12 o’clock, whether helped by the trawler or not. So right enough, soon after this it emerged from behind Ireland’s Eye and tacked inshore. Nearly to the minute it drew alongside the pier and was immediately surrounded by the small crowd of anxiously waiting men, who nervously fingered the weapons in their pockets, cast impatient glances across the harbor to the road for the appearance of the Volunteers and kept a lookout for police and coast guards as well. Two messengers, Archie Heron and Barney Mellows, members of the Fianna, were despatched to hurry up the Volunteers and at length the head of the column was seen coming through the town. At the foot of the pier the command to double was given. This was done with a bad grace, as they were all tired from the forced pace that had been maintained all along, but when the word ‘guns’ went around, all fatigue was forgotten and the double became a charge.

The scene that followed is indescribable. At the sight of the rifles as they were unloaded a cheer went up that shook the heavens. All discipline was forgotten for the moment and the utmost confusion reigned. At length through the efforts of the officers order was restored and the work of unloading proceeded rapidly. A small body of selected men, armed with the batons brought out by the Fianna had formed a cordon across the entrance to the pier as soon as all the Volunteers had passed along, to prevent any attempt by the police or other authorities to interfere.

A small force of the local police tried to force their way on to the pier, but the baton brigade was too formidable to tackle and they had to remain contented where they were. The ammunition was hoisted from the hold last and loaded on automobiles which were there for the purpose, and dispatched to various places previously fixed on. While this was being done a boat with a few coastguards in it rowed toward the yacht, but sheered off when threatened with revolvers by those unloading the vessel. The Harbormaster landed at a slip halfway along the pier and demanded to know what was going on. He was told to go away but, saying he was going to do his duty, he tried to burst through the Volunteers. Someone hit him around the belt-line with the butt-end of a rifle and his interest in proceedings became wonderfully less and he was held a prisoner till the work was finished. All the rifles could not be carried by the men and some were put in the Fianna trek-cart along with a small amount of ammunition and the remainder piled in a horse cart.

When all was finished the march back commenced. All were in jubilant spirits and singing and cheering was the order of the day. By this time word had reached the city of what was going on and a force of police was sent to Raheny to intercept the Volunteers. Nothing happened here as the police were totally outnumbered, and they just marched quietly beside the Volunteers. At the end of the Howth Road the way was blocked by a couple of companies of military, with more police and Royal Irish Constabulary. Perceiving this the Volunteers turned into a road to the right and then to the left into the Malahide Road. The military saw the move in time and managed to reach the end of this road in time to block it also. The Volunteers were halted and a slight scuffle ensued between the head of the column and the police and some shots were fired. Then quietness reigned while an altercation ensued between Bulmer Hobson and Commissioner Harrel. The former was waived aside and the police ordered forward. A great scrap followed. The D.M.P. were armed with batons only, but the R.I.C. had rifles with fixed bayonets. The police got by far the worst of it and withdrew. The Fianna were to the fore in this melee, one of them, Garry Holohan, laying one of the police low with a tremendous crack on the head with a butt of his rifle. Another onset occurred in which the Volunteers lost ground for a while and the horse and cart filled with rifles was left standing between the military and the Volunteers. The former were running forward to catch it when Cathal Brugha, of the Volunteers, rushed back and kicked the horse unmercifully, so that it galloped madly forward into safety, but some of the rifles were jolted on to the road and fell into the hands of the soldiers. A desperate fight now ensued around the Fianna trek-cart containing the ammunition. As orders had been given that this was not to be served out, the butts of the rifles had to be opposed to the bayonets of the police and military. The Volunteers became for the moment disorganized and the boys were left by themselves except for a few men to defend the ammunition, but they fought with wonderful courage and eventually succeeded in getting the trek-cart safely away. One of the Fianna mounted a wall, opened fire on the attackers with an automatic pistol and wounded one of them. Eamonn Ceannt, of the Volunteers, also fired and hit one of the military in the ankle. The Volunteers now rushed up to support and the military and police retired. A cordon of Volunteers was then drawn across the road and under cover of this the men with their rifles got quietly away. Several boys got hurt in the encounter but they had the satisfaction of capturing five rifles off the soldiery and retaining possession of them. The Fianna received great praise everywhere for their conduct, one paper even saying they were pluckier than the men. They were commanded this day by Padraig O’Riain and Eamonn Martin.

Later on that evening occurred the massacre at Bachelor’s Walk. The military passing through the city on their way back to barracks, actuated evidently by a spirit of revenge for the defeat they suffered from the Volunteers, charged with fixed bayonets peaceful citizens at the North Strand and further on, at Bachelor’s Walk, fired on a crowd mostly of women and children, killing seven and wounding a great many, some of whom died afterwards.

Nine days later England declared war on Germany in the interests of civilization and humanity, and for the suppression of militarism, but Ireland did not believe England’s claims, for had they not in their own capital city an example of British militarism that found no parallel with the alleged atrocities of the Germans? Bachelor’s Walk sounded the death-knell of the British Empire, for it kept Dublin nationally right; Dublin kept Ireland straight, and Ireland is the rock on which England will yet perish.

A week after the Howth sensation a second consignment of arms was landed at Kilcool, in the County Wicklow. It was one of the best planned affairs ever brought off by the Volunteers. Only fifty-one picked men were engaged on this job and eleven of these were members of the Fianna. The work was divided into four departments, each in charge of selected men, who chose the ones acting under them, viz., the transferring of the rifles and ammunition from a yacht to the shore, the landing and scouting arrangements, the transportation facilities, and the distribution. Everything went off without a hitch and an exceedingly hard night’s work saw 600 more rifles and 20,000 rounds of ammunition into the country. Two police were kept prisoners while the work was going on, but were released when it was finished. One of the motor-trucks broke down near the town of Bray early in the morning through being overloaded. A messenger was immediately dispatched for aid to Rathfarnham where a fleet of automobiles was in readiness for the distribution. These were hurried to the scene and inside half-an-hour nothing remained of the breakdown but the disabled motor on the road.

On July 12 a great Feis was held at Castlebar. Competitions of boy’s organizations was a great feature of the day and in these a body of Dublin Fianna under Lieutenant Eamonn Martin carried all before them.

JUNE 16, 1917.