Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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1916 - 1918

The Struggle For Freedom In West Waterford

5. 1916 - 1918

New Spirit
Shortly after the 1916 Rising a new found spirit was abroad throughout the County. Badges and pictures of the leaders were very much in evidence. Rebel songs became popular, and concerts were held to aid the prisoners of the Rising. Groups of Volunteers sprung up throughout the county, and shortly these little groups grew to Company strength. They were distributed in every area from the River Mahon at Kilmacthomas to Tallow on the Cork border, and from the sea coast to the River Suir [at Clonmel]. Each Company had an average strength of 30 to 40 men. The Companies were then organised into Battalions, and these Battalions later formed the Decies or West Waterford Brigade. Going hand in hand with all this was the Civil Organisation of Sinn Fein.

1917 Meeting
In 1917 a meeting was held in Dungarvan, and was addressed by Count Plunkett, Piarais Beasley, Harry Boland and local Sinn Fein Leaders. Volunteer Companies from West Waterford paraded at this meeting. George Plunkett {who was released prisoner} remained in the area afterwards and helped in training, organising, and visited many Companies on inspection.

Arms Subscription
Arms and ammunition were still very scarce in every area, and was a major concern. The [usual] method adopted was that weekly subscriptions were collected, as in pre-Rising days, and each man had to purchase his own rifle, but even then Head Quarters could not supply [any]. At the end of 1917 three men [in Dungarvan] were jailed for taking a rifle off a British soldier home on furlough. Others in Kilmacthomas and Cappoquin got Jail for interrupting British Army recruiting meetings.

This brings us up to 1918, and the Volunteers were coming more into the open. Intensive day and night training and manoeuvres were carried out in all Companies. The British Government tried to enforce conscription in this country and this drove great numbers of young men into the Volunteers, but [most] of those left again when the danger of conscription had passed, and they were no good to anyone.

This demanded more and more organising and each Company had special services, such as Engineering, Transport Communications, Intelligence, Medical [& Signal] Sections etc. During the 1918 period highly confidential operations which had a bearing on the arming of the Volunteers was carried out off the Waterford Coast, [by them, Officers of West Waterford].

Courthouse Riot
Officers of the Brigade were arrested for illegal drilling activities and when some of them were being tried [in Dungarvan] a near successful attempt was made to rescue them. Stones were thrown, the Courthouse was broken up, the Riot Act was read, and a baton charge by the police, [who were preparing to fire], would have had very serious consequences but for the intervention of a local clergyman. During all this "buail amac" many private issues were settled. For instance a Mr. O'Connor took the opportunity to have a crack at an ex-policeman, who some years before had interfered with O'Connor in his duty as butter weight-master.

Classes in Engineering, Signalling, First-Aid, etc., were continued. The Intelligence Section tapped telephone wires for information purposes. Mails were taken from trains for the same purpose, to such an extent that an aeroplane was used to deliver the mails [ to military and R.I.C.].

Author: Domnall O'Faoláin

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