RATHVILLY Irish Volunteer COMPANY

ROINN COSANTA BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21 STATEMENT BY WITNESS DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1616.

Witness John McGill, Palatine, Co. Carlow. Vice Commandant, 3rd Battalion, Carlow Brigade. Rathvilly Company, Irish Volunteers, Co. Carlow. (Verbatim)

                                                                                                  

I joined the Rathvilly Company of the Irish Volunteers at its formation in l914. It was a fairly strong company and we were drilled by an ex British soldier named John Foley. We had no arms whatever, but we drilled with wooden guns which I made in my workshop. About two months after the outbreak of the 1st World War,   Mr. John Redmond delivered a speech at Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow, in which he appealed to the Volunteers and the young men of Ireland to join the British Army and fight for the freedom of small nations. Shortly after this, Mr. Redmond made a similar appeal at a meeting in the Mansion House, Dublin. Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of England, also addressed this meeting and appealed for recruits for the British army. As a result of Redmond's appeals to the Volunteers to join the British army the Volunteer movement throughout the country was split. As Redmond had tremendous influence in the country at that time the majority of the Volunteers in each company sided with him. Our company simply broke up, but a few members of it did join the British army. National feeling in the country was at a very low ebb until the Rising of Easter Week, 1916. The heroism and self-sacrifice of the men who fought in it re-enkindled' the spirit of freedom in the people, especially in the young men and women, and the whole countryside was stirred into action. Early in 1917, companies of Volunteers were formed in every parish. A company was formed in Rathvilly and I joined it. There were about 50 men in the company, and John Donnelly was Company Captain. As I said at this time we had no arms. Our training was mainly drilling, field exercises and lectures on military subjects. Soon there was a company in almost every parish, and the following companies were formed into the 3rd Battalion, Carlow Brigade Rathvilly, Clonmore, Killinure, Tullow, Ballon, Ardattin, Myshall, Kildavin and Clonegal. Michael Keating was appointed Battalion 0/C. Early in 1918, the British Government introduced an act in the House of Commons to conscript Irishmen into the British army.

 

 The Volunteers decided to resist conscription by every means in their power, and large numbers of young men came into the Volunteers. When the British Government decided not to enforce conscription, most of those who had joined during the crisis fell away. During the 1918 general election, the Volunteers actively supported the Sinn Fêin candidates. We organised public meetings, canvassed the voters, distributed literature, etc. The Sinn Fêin candidate for our area was Seamus Lennon, and a man named Donovan from Dublin was the nominee of the Irish Party. The Volunteers had made arrangements to act as personation agents at the polling booths and to help to bring the voters to the poll. At the last minute the Irish Party candidate withdrew from the election and Seamus Lennon, the Sinn Fêin candidate, was returned unopposed. Sometime in 1919, John Nolan and I thought that we could form a company, or at least a section, in Ballyhacket, so we went to Tullow to see Michael Keating, the Battalion O/C to have a chat with him about it and to set him to give us permission to go ahead with it. The c/c was very reluctant to give, his consent, but after a good deal of arguing he agreed' to let us go ahead. We contacted the boys whom we thought would be interested, and were surprised at the number who turned' up on the first night. I am sure there were about twenty present. We told them what was expected of every Volunteer, and warned them to keep what they saw and heard to themselves, and impressed on them the necessity of coming in time for the parades. John Nolan put them through some foot drill and fixed the next parade night. Everything went well and t turned out to be a first-class section.

 

It was attached to the Rathvilly Company. Officers of other companies at this time, as far as I can remember, were: Willie O'Dea, 0/C Tullow Company Dan Byrne was also an officer in this company. John Donnelly was 0/C Rathvilly. John Nolan, Ballyhacket, and James Nolan, Rathmore, were officers also. Tom Donohue was 0/C Clonmore, John Brophy, 0/C Ardattin. Andy O'Neill and Joe O'Neill were' officers in Myshall Company. Laurence Donohue was 0/C Killinure. J. Shortall was also an officer'. James Maher and Michael Fitzpatrick were officers of Ballon Company. Owing to arrests, promotions, etc., there were numerous changes in the officer' personnel of the Battalion Staff and the various companies in the battalion.