Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds May Hall was a cook in the house of a Mrs. Desmond in Cork. On February 15, 1921 she packed her case and caught a train. She was going home, back to Castletownbere for holidays.
Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds As she would on most trains, she found herself in the company of three commercial travellers off to sell their wares. She settled into the mix and gathering of people that find themselves together on any train going any place. The ship’s fireman going home with his worldly goods, his violin, and his portmanteau. A painter going to his work. A ticket checker. A signalman making sure everything was present and correct. But there were soldiers on the train, and at Upton station, the train was attacked. In the exchange of fire, the painter, the fireman, the commercial travellers, and the cook were shot dead. Like the rest, May Hall never made it further than Upton, never got back to spend her holidays at home.
Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds Business, holidays, life going about its daily business, ended in this way, with war and revolution’s interruption at its most extreme. James Morrison got caught in the middle of gunfire in Belfast in February 1922. He was doing his Tuesday rounds, collecting weekly instalments for the family portraits, the sentimental mementos that were part of a booming photographer’s trade. At 22, he’d made it through service in the Great War, got a job and a wife and a first child, only to walk unwittingly into another war at home. Right across the country, from the rising on, we can find all sorts of May Halls and James Morrisons. Unlucky ones, we might call them, people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds But was it really so? Was war not the thing in the wrong place, imposing itself on their time, imposing itself on worlds of work and rest and getting by? Knowing that this could happen must have intensified the fear that it would. And this fear perhaps inhibited and paralysed social life.
Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds Not wanting to be seen to be involved, not wanting to come to the attention of any side for any reason, explains why people quickened their pace at the sound of military lorries, why doors locked and curtains closed when there were shouts or screams or shots in the night.
Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds When a Dr. O’Driscoll refused to tend to a wounded man in March 1921, he admitted plainly that he was afraid to do so. David Daly refused to help his cousin Bridget to bring her brother’s body home. He would not go, she said. He said he was too much afraid. Because of what happened and what might happen, there were many who were too much afraid. And the threat of war and revolution reaches far beyond its own acts.
Skip to 3 minutes and 10 seconds Intimidation also affected many places in many ways. Opportunism left warnings like this one. “I gave you warning, John Kerr, to give up the farm of Drumsilla, or if you don’t, you’ll be looking for your coffin. You and your son Robert will get as many bullets as his body can hold.” Sectarianism threatened Catholic ex-servicemen suffering from shell shock in Craigavon Hospital, sent them threatening letters, just as it did to Protestants in the South. Politics, sectarianism, perhaps both mixed together, wrote to a Major Brown in Castlebar, who was threatened with the deportation and the seizure of all he owned.
Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds As we saw in week four, boycott had economic effects, but boycott had social consequences as well. Dail Eireann worked out this formula for social ostracisation of the police in 1919. “They must receive no social recognition from the people, that no intercourse, except such as is absolutely necessary on business, is permitted with them.
Skip to 4 minutes and 15 seconds But they should not be invited to nor received in private houses as friends or as guests, that they be debarred from participation in games, sports, dances, and all social functions conducted by the people, that intermarriage with them be discouraged, that, in a word, the police should be treated as persons who’ve been adjudged guilty of treason to their country, are regarded unworthy to enjoy any of the privileges or comforts which arise from cordial relations with the public.” Don’t even jibe with them was added and then crossed out.
Skip to 4 minutes and 49 seconds All sides tried to control or deny society’s comforts and consolations, affecting social life, but making it a kind of weapon in itself.
Skip to 5 minutes and 3 seconds Authorities responded with more formal restriction. Martial law, the Defence of the Realm Act, the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, all could be used to control life, to curtail movement, disrupt the simple pleasures that broke up the week. Markets, sporting events, commerce and pleasure were disrupted or cancelled, depending on the authority’s sense of threat.
Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds Curfew kept the people of Dublin in their homes from 7:30 PM
Skip to 5 minutes and 28 seconds until 5:30 AM during the rising.
Skip to 5 minutes and 31 seconds By 1920, ‘21, curfew operated from midnight until 5:00
Skip to 5 minutes and 37 seconds before more disturbance brought it back to 10:00 PM.
Skip to 5 minutes and 43 seconds Local variations adapted and applied the regulations to suit local needs. Martial law was not deemed necessary everywhere, but life closed down earlier, whether pubs, theatres, or dance halls. And it was hard to live for the moment if you had to be home by 10 o’clock.
Skip to 6 minutes and 1 second But curfew patrols nightly rounded up the defiant or the forgetful or those just enjoying themselves too much to go home. Of course suggests that we need to consider how the rules were bent and broken, that just because rules were there doesn’t mean they were always kept.
Skip to 6 minutes and 20 seconds Wars weren’t won or lost because O’Mara’s operatic company had to end its performances by half past 10, because dancing started with the song still out. But did the accumulation of inconveniences, the rules and regulations, the fear of being raided or rounded up, take their toll? What was it to live with the thought of catching the wrong train and never making it home?
Daily life interrupted
This video asks you to consider just some of the ways in which war and revolution interrupted people’s daily lives.
At its most extreme we see how violence randomly ended life, how lives were lost just going about their daily round. But can we see war’s interruptions in other ways: in intimidation, in boycotting, in restrictions on movement and sociability in all sorts of forms? Do we see it in an accumulation of war’s inconveniences that mount one on top of another to hinder all kinds of social life? Do we see it in the fear of the rules and regulations, in the fear of being ostracised, in the fear of what might happen at any moment in war’s midst?