Historical Happenings for March 2017

THE LITTLEJOHN AFFAIR

By Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

On March 12, 1974, two brothers broke out of Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. A jailbreak would have been little more than local news, but this one had international impact. It was a time when the Republican command in Northern Ireland was losing support due to slanted coverage distributed by the British-controlled press to world-wide media. Even people in the Republic were insulated from the truth and had lost much of their enthusiasm for the cause.  Reports of IRA bombings, violence, and fund-raising bank robberies were everyday news.  It mattered not that the IRA denied all knowledge of some of these incidents; their denial was rarely published.

Then, in August 1972, Kenneth Littlejohn and his younger brother, Keith, were jailed in Dublin for the largest bank robbery in Irish history netting £67,000. When faced with imprisonment, they claimed to be members of British Intelligence sent to Ireland to commit acts in the name of the IRA that would inspire repressive legislation and alienate public support. The British denied the allegations as preposterous, claiming that they never heard of either brother. Then, on March 12 1973, after an unsuccessful attempt by the British government to secure their release, the Littlejohn brothers escaped from Mountjoy by cutting through the bars with tools that no one knew how they had received. Keith was immediately recaptured but Kenneth remained at large. Since the escape was unsuccessful, Kenneth had to secure his brothers release by other means.

Kenneth was not only being sought by the Irish police since two days after his escape, his home in England was mysteriously burglarized. He decided that the only way to protect himself was to make his story public. Sadly, few would hear the story because of the slanted coverage emanating from that part of the world. For example, the day after the breakout, Protestant Senator William Fox was seized by armed men at a house he was visiting and shot to death at Clones. A Loyalist gang called the Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility, but the police publicly blamed the IRA. The IRA claimed that it had no part in the killing, but their disclaimer was ignored. Then, on 21 March, two British soldiers were killed and two wounded in separate incidents in Armagh by Ulster Constabulary. The soldiers were part of the Counterinsurgency unit of the Special Air Service on plainclothes duty against the IRA. The police saw the men in civilian clothes in a Republican area and assumed that they were IRA men. The incidents underscored the “shoot first” attitude of the police, but they were reported as merely a tragic accident.

Kenneth Littlejohn threatened to reveal the truth unless the Dublin government released his brother, but believing the British denial, they refused, so Kenneth called a press conference! When the story broke publicly, it was a sensation and despite attempts to hush it up, there were many red faces. Authorities were embarrassed as British Agent, Kenneth Littlejohn, revealed accounts of criminal activities performed for British Military Intelligence in the Republic of Ireland in an attempt to discredit the IRA. He and his brother had pulled Ireland’s biggest bank robbery in the name of the IRA to force the Dublin government into more repressive measures and the Dublin government played right into their hands. Littlejohn also revealed he had been assigned to assassinate IRA leader Sean MacStiofain, but failed and that he had permission to shoot British soldiers if they interfered with his mission. He revealed lengthy conversations with British officials as far back as 1972. Finally faced with undeniable evidence, British authorities shamefully admitted that Littlejohn was their agent. British MP Marcus Lipton called for an in-depth investigation of the affair but British Prime Minister Harold Wilson rejected the proposal.  Local news accounts credit former British Security Advisor, Lord Wigg, as the key figure in the decision not to investigate.

Then, to compound matters, Kenneth Lennon was slain in England. Lennon had revealed to Britain’s National Council for Civil Liberties a similar tale of intrigue and deception by Scotland Yard in its fight against the IRA. He charged that the British Special Branch threatened him with prosecution on an earlier incident unless he went undercover and persuaded the IRA to commit crimes for the cause and then to reveal those crimes to Scotland Yard. His death, coming on the heels of the Littlejohn affair, further embarrassed the authorities who, nevertheless, released the story that it was an IRA execution, and called for tougher measures against Republicans.

Northern Ireland has come a long way since those terrible times and news is less controlled thanks to the internet, but the mentality that pursued that conspiracy just 45 years ago still exists among many Loyalists and revisionists who alter the facts for public consumption. That is why we must continue to pray that they do not prevail in the current situation involving power-sharing and Brexit!  Don’t let history repeat itself !

Historical Happenings for February 2017

 THE BOB AND MOLLIE MONTEITH STORY (Part II)

For Part I of this story, go to AOH.COM and link to Historical Happenings

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

On the run in the hills of Kerry since the ill-fated AUD debacle, Volunteer Captain Robert ‘Bob’ Monteith reflected on the failure of the arms shipment. He blamed Devoy for the coolness of the German Staff to Casement since Devoy told the German ambassador in New York that Clan na Gael was to be the only contact. The militants in Dublin also kept Casement uninformed since they felt that he was opposed to an insurrection without significant German assistance and the German Admiralty’s plans differed from theirs. The Admiralty planned that AUD would arrive on one of four nights from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, allowing for storm, flood or  English patrols. They requested a pilot boat to be in position each of those nights and that two green lights be shone periodically to guide AUD into Fenit. The plan was sent to Dublin, but the militants insisted that the ship should come on schedule on Sunday night. Casement felt that was foolish and when AUD arrived off the Kerry coast on the night of Holy Thursday, 1916, there were no lights and no pilot boat!  Kerry Volunteer leader Austin Stack had also been ordered that there was to be no shooting before Easter Sunday night.

Stack knew nothing of the ship’s winches and unloading gear nor how to operate them. This was the information Casement wanted to bring in advance. Every stevedore needs such data before he starts to work cargo; men unused to ships cannot be turned into dock workers at a moment’s notice. Stack would need 300 men for the job: a 150-man working party and a 150-man armed covering party since the police would arrive in short order. On AUD were 4,000 cases of rifles, 2,000 cases of ammunition and other material. Stack would need every Volunteer in Kerry and a supervisory staff capable of directing them. Casement’s request to come ahead was denied. The Military Council knew that the landing of arms would have touched off the Rising and they insisted that the Proclamation of the Republic must be read first in Dublin to make the landing of arms a legitimate act of a nation at war rather than a rebel act.  Monteith felt that the Military Council’s ignorance of the logistics of dock work led to their decision that the Proclamation be read first. Although it wouldn’t have frightened the British as much as 20,000 rifles in Irish hands, it made ‘great theater’ and most of the rebel leaders were poets and playwrights!

After eight months in the hills, Monteith was given a false name and fireman’s papers to work on the ship, ADRIATIC, bound for New York.  However, he was so weak that he was unable to endure the work of stoking boilers and carrying coal; he suffered a burst blood vessel in his stomach and severely blistered hands; carrying false papers, he was unable to seek a doctor and so suffered until they docked in New York in mid-December, 1916. The freezing cold after the heat of the boiler room brought on chills and fever. He jumped ship as it docked at 14th Street, walked across town to catch the Third Avenue elevated train to the 116th Street address he learned from Clan members. He barely made it to the third floor.  The children opened the door and Mollie ran to catch him as he fell forward. The wandering patriot was home!  She put him to bed and contacted John Devoy who sent a Clan na Gael doctor to attend the returned patriot. That night, Devoy came to see him and they talked for hours to reconcile their differences.

When Bob was well enough to travel, Mollie rented a house on 120th Street off Lexington Ave with no stairs to climb.  When the word got out that Monteith was in New York, a mass of newsmen wanted the story of the survivors of the submarine landing. One man called it Three men in a boat, the smallest invasion in history. Monteith gave no interviews as it might endanger men in Ireland. They rented a three-storey house with tenants at 157 East 119th Street to provide an income but the block was condemned by the city for garages and they relocated again, this time to 117th Street.

Meanwhile Republican Sinn Fein won a majority of seats in the December 1918 election and established their own dissident parliament called Dáil Eireann and set up a Bond Drive to support the new government. Eamon deValera, as President of the Dail, asked Bob to campaign for the Drive in America.  Bob agreed and took off on a nation-wide fund drive. When Bob was out west raising funds, the children suffered several  bouts with whooping cough and had their tonsils removed.  The doctor told Mollie that if young Patricia were to survive, she needed fresh air. Mollie relocated once more, this time to Schooleys Mountain, New Jersey where she rented a 5-room house on a 3-acre farm. Bob returned on weekends whenever he could but by 1922, his health was failing and he spent a month recuperating in the mountains with the family. Anxious to get some work, Bob moved to Detroit – a boom town at the time.  He found a nearly finished bungalow and sent for the family. They joined the Gaelic League and were popular among the many Irish in Detroit.  Bob worked at the Ford Motor Company. The financial crisis of 1929 hit and the WPA assigned him to a road gang.  Mollie worked at a cleaning plant and then as a teacher.  When the economy recovered, Bob was rehired by Ford and joined the Gaelic League’s Irish Rifle Association as an instructor. With retirement on their mind, Mollie found a small 2-1/2 room house in Goodells, Michigan and sold the house in Detroit. Bob retired in 1943 and in May 1947, they returned to Ireland settling in a house in, Donneycarney, Dublin.

Mollie attended the opening of Roger Casement Stadium in Belfast in June 1953 as Bob was too ill to attend.  He published a book, Casement’s Last Adventure in 1953 and they both agreed to return to Detroit in December 1953 to be with their children. As Bob and Millie grew older, they became progressively ill. One night in February 1956, as Bob tended to Mollie, he tripped on a rug beside their bed. Mollie jumped out of bed but couldn’t lift him. He asked to be left there and Mollie covered him with blanket and pillowed his head. The following day daughter Patricia helped lift him into bed. He refused to let them call a doctor saying he’d be fine after a rest. On February 18 he turned his head and asked, Where are you, Mollie?  She replied, I’m right here, by your side.  He muttered, You would be, and turned his head back toward the wall and fell into eternal sleep. General MacArthur said that Old soldiers never die, they just fade away and Captain Monteith did just that after a life spent in service to the Ireland he was converted to love. He was buried in Holy Sepulchre cemetery in Southfield Michigan after a massive procession of Gaelic League and other Irish societies.

Later in Nov 15, 1956, the Long Island Advance newspaper carried the notice that Mrs. Mollie Florence Burke Monteith, the widow of Captain Robert Monteith, flew here recently from Detroit and is spending several weeks visiting her daughter, Mrs. Florence Lynch of Blue Point Avenue in Blue Point, New York. She returned to Detroit and joined Captain Bob on May 7, 1966, three weeks before her 95th birthday.

No mention was made of Captain Bob and Mollie during the official ceremonies commemorating the recent Easter Rising, except by the Gaelic League and AOH in Detroit, Michigan, but they belong right up there in Republican memory with Tom and Kathleen Daly Clarke for few couples gave more to Ireland than they!

Historical Happenings for December 2016

NEWGRANGE

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

 

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     On a hill in County Meath stands a monument to the early settlers of Ireland, and their civilization. It is a remarkable structure built more than 5000 years ago. At first it appears to be just a huge mound on a hilltop in the Boyne Valley, but closer investigation reveals a man-made structure surrounded by enormous standing boulders. A magnificently carved kerbstone lies before the entrance to a 65-foot passage which runs to the center of the mound and three chambers of interlacing stones. The passage is the most interesting part for it is positioned and inclined at precisely the proper angle to align astronomically with the rays of the rising sun at one specific time of the year – the winter solstice. At dawn on December 21, the shortest day of the year and the point at which the power of the sun begins its annual return, the rising sun’s rays shine through a portal above the entrance, travel along the inclined passage and illuminate the central chambers. This only happens on December 21. The mound was called Bru na Boinne by the ancient Irish; today it is called Newgrange.

     According to carbon dating, the structure was built between 3700 and 3200 BC making it the oldest, still-standing, man-made building on the planet. Ancient Irish manuscripts say it was built by the Tuatha De Danann, early settlers of Ireland who were so advanced that Celtic settlers who followed them considered them possessed of magical powers and guided by the heavens. Today, we know that their “guidance” came in their advanced knowledge of astronomy — a knowledge unsurpassed in the known world at that time. To the Celts, Bru na Boinne was a domain of the gods, a palace of the otherworld, and a place of festivals.

     Reinforcing this belief was the fact that approximately 1 kilometer on either side are two slightly smaller mounds, Knowth and Dowth, which are also astronomically aligned with celestial events. Knowth, the oldest mound of the three was built some 500 years before Newgrange and is aligned with the setting sun on the solstice.

     With the coming of Christianity, many pagan forts and monuments fell into disrepair, were eventually overgrown, or eroded by time and weather. In 1142, the land on which Bru na Boinne stood became part of the Cistercian Abbey at Mellifont. Fields were called granges and Bru na Boinne simply became the new grange. During the Williamite confiscation of church property, the land was given to a Charles Campbell who used the mound as a source of stones for fences. In 1699, as workers were carting stones from the base of the mound, they discovered the magnificent entrance stone with its carved spiral designs. Further digging revealed the opening to a long narrow passage which led to the center of the mound and its three chambers. Authorities were notified and Welsh Naturalist Edward Lhuyd came to investigate. It is he who is credited with the discovery of Newgrange despite the fact that the Irish had been telling of Bru na Boinne for centuries. The locals were ignored and Mr. Lhuyd and several of his colleagues concluded that the great monument was the work of visiting Danes since nothing requiring such skill and intelligence could ever be attributed to the Irish.

     In 1750, General Charles Vallencey, a British Army Engineer and professional surveyor, discovered its astronomical alignment with the sun, moon, and planets and first advanced the theory that Newgrange was an astronomical observatory. He explained the standing stones in front of the entrance as sun stones positioned to cast shadows on the carved entrance stone to indicate the seasons. He ascribed considerable astronomical skill to its early Irish architects, but was ridiculed by his colleagues who had never even seen the mound. In spite of local tales which verified this phenomenon, references to the solstice lighting of Newgrange in the writings of George (AE) Russell, the writings of astronomer Norman Lockyer and anthropologist Evans Wentz, no archaeologist took the time to investigate it until 1969, when Michael O’Kelly entered the chamber before sunrise on the winter solstice and became the first modern archaeologist to witness that exciting event.

     In spite of the amount of verifiable information available on this historic site, some still stand with their backs to Newgrange, and stare at Stonehenge, marveling at the antiquity of a site constructed 1,000 years later. Or they wonder at the pyramids which were only started hundreds of years after Newgrange was completed. Finally, in 1989, the New York Times, which is ever slow to credit Irish accomplishments, noted that a British journal had announced that the astrological alignment of Newgrange appeared to be “by design rather than by accident.” Welcome aboard! It’s now December and on the 21st, the mound at Bru na Boinne will again receive its annual message from the heavens telling man that the days will now get longer and the long night of winter is coming to an end. Hopefully the long night of ignorance about Irish accomplishments is ending as well. So, this year as you are decorating the tree with lights for Christmas, consider that the Almighty is lighting up Newgrange for the same reason and wishing a Happy Christmas to all.

 

 

Historical Happenings for May 2016

The Sorrows of May

 by Mike McCormack, NYS AOH Historian
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British firing squads executed leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 in Kilmainham Gaol (on this spot above). Executions took place here on : – 3 May: Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas Clarke – 4 May: Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly and Michael O’Hanrahan – 5 May: John MacBride – 8 May: Éamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Seán Heuston and Con Colbert – 12 May: James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada

 

The month of May is a special month in the roster of Ireland’s heroes.  It was in that month, in 1916, that some of Ireland’s greatest patriots were murdered by a British firing squad.  They had come together in a dream; a dream eloquently articulated by Padraic Pearse; skillfully organized by Tom Clarke; expertly planned by Joseph Mary Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh: brilliantly guided by James Connolly; and courageously executed by Sean McDermott, Ed Daly, Micheal O’Hanrahan, Willie Pearse, John MacBride, Michael Mallin, Eamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert, Sean Heuston , Eamon deValera and the men under their commands.  The dream was for an independent Ireland and Pearse passionately wrote of that dream in his poem, The Fool:

The Lawyers have sat in Council, the men with the keen long faces,
and said This man is a fool, and others have said he blasphemeth;
and the wise have pitied the fool who strove to give a life to a dream
that was dreamed in the heart and that only the heart can hold.
O Wise Men, riddle me this: What if the dream come true,
What if the dream come true and millions unborn shall dwell
in the house that I shaped in my heart?

To bring that dream to reality, brave men joined the IRB, Irish Volunteers, Hibernian Rifles, and Fianna Éireann while equally brave ladies joined The Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan.  Following the formation of the Provisional Government, as outlined in the Proclamation, these organizations became the Army of the Irish Republic under the command of James Connolly.  The organization mustered into five commands: Ned Daly’s 1st battalion, Tomas MacDonagh’s 2nd battalion, Eamon deValera’s 3rd battalion and Eamonn Ceannt’s 4th battalion.  The 5th command was a joint force of Volunteers, Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan under James Connolly as part of the headquarters command which, in addition to Connolly, included four other members of the Military Council: President Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Seán MacDiarmada and Joseph Mary Plunkett.

Last minute misfortunes upset the timetable of the Rising and after 6 days of fighting it became evident that the British had successfully isolated communications from Dublin and nationwide support would not materialize. In order to stop the killing of civilians in the scattered British shelling, Pearse ordered the surrender. Though only 1600 were involved in the Rising, the British arrested a total of 3,430 men and 79 women and General Maxwell, in secret Court Martial sentenced 90 to be executed.  One attempt to arrest members of the nationalist Kent family in County Cork on 2 May led to a Constable being shot dead in a gun battle. Thomas Kent was arrested and became one of only two rebel leaders to be executed outside of Dublin. The other was Roger Casement.

The Sorrows of May began on May 3 with the murder of Pearse, Clarke and McDonagh.  On May 4, Daly, Willie Pearse, O’Hanrahan, and Plunkett were shot and May 5 saw the killing of Maj. John MacBride.  Since May 6 and 7 were a Saturday and Sunday, the Brits gave their executioners the weekend off. On Monday, May 8 the slaughter commenced again with the homicides of Mallin, Ceannt, Colbert, and Heuston. Then, on May 9, Thomas Kent was slain at Cork Detention Barracks. A manuscript recently found in the Capuchin Archives in Church Street, Dublin revealed that Fathers  Murphy, Augustine, Albert, and Sebastian OFM Cap were allowed only a short time to administer to the prisoners. Father Murphy described the process as callously informal. The governor said a name and gave a signal. The prisoner’s hands were then tied behind his back, and a bandage placed over his eyes.  Two soldiers, one on either side, guided the prisoner, and the priest went in front. When the prisoner reached the outer door another soldier pinned a piece of white paper over his heart.  The procession went along one yard, then through a gate leading to the stonebreaker’s yard.  Here the firing squad of 12 soldiers was waiting, rifles loaded. An officer stood to the left; on the right were the governor and the doctor.  The prisoner was led to the front wall and was turned to face the firing-squad. The two soldiers guiding him withdrew quickly to one side.  There was a silent signal from the officer; then a deafening volley.  The prisoner fell in a heap on the ground — dead.  After the executions the priests were driven back to the friary where they celebrated Mass for the repose of the souls of those executed. The public were horrified at the slaughter.

In the House of Commons, MP John Dillon, demanded an end to the killing.  He intervened with Lloyd George to halt the remaining executions authorized by General Maxwell during the courts-martial. Prime Minister Asquith sent a telegram to Maxwell to halt the executions until he arrived on May 12 to investigate for himself.  On the morning of May 12, Maxwell defied the order and had Sean MacDermott brought to the Stonebreaker’s Yard at Kilmainham and shot. Then, after demands from the anti-labor employers whom he had fought during the Great Dublin Lockout, the wounded James Connolly was brought from hospital. His shoulder wounded and ankle, shattered by a bullet, had gangrened from a lack of treatment, he was carried, in great pain, into the yard on a stretcher, placed on a chair against the back wall which tipped over twice.  He was then tied to a stretcher and leaned against the wall nearest the entry gate to receive His Majesty’s lead for sharing a dream.  When Asquith arrived, he commuted the remaining death sentences to terms of imprisonment since Irish-Americans were opposing his overtures for America’s assistance in WWI, but it was too late; the fuse had been lit.

Following the Rising, the manner in which the trials and executions were carried out in secret, changed public opinion to sympathy for the rebels. The self-sacrifice of the leaders for the dream of a free Ireland, the bravery of the rank-and-file and the nauseating manner in which Connolly had been killed at last moved even the most liberal among the public to intense anti-British sentiment. Meanwhile, the 3,000 ‘rebels’ who had been picked up in the military sweep ordered by Maxwell, had been deported to Britain and consolidated in Frongoch POW camp which served as virtual academy of sedition.  When the government realized they could not afford to house and feed all those interned, the declared a general amnesty secure in the belief that the Irish had once again been duly spanked into submission.  On their return home, the Irishmen immediately set about building an army of opposition; it was called the Irish Republican Army and it would eventually fight the Brits to the treaty table after a brutal War of Independence.  The leaders may have died, but the dream did not.  And true to Pearse’s words, millions have dwelt in the house that he shaped in his heart in spite of the fact that the landlord still holds a small piece of the property!

Michael Davitt

MICHAEL DAVITT

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

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Many brave Irishmen died in May, from the heroes of Easter Week to the patriots in Long Kesh who hunger struck for their rights. Yet, one who is rarely remembered is in their company today along with all of Ireland’s heroes in Tir na nOg. His name is Michael Davitt. He was born in Straide, Co.Mayo on March 25, 1846, the second of five children. His parents, Martin and Sabina Davitt (nee Kielty), were tenants. As was the case for many tenants at the time, they were evicted for non-payment of an excessive rent when Michael was only six years old.

As Martin emigrated to England seeking employment, Sabina refused shelter in the workhouse, which would break up her family. They were given accommodation by the parish priest, Fr. John McHugh. In 1845, Sabina and the children joined Martin who found work in a small mill town in Lancashire. Martin was also a teacher of Irish music and language, so it was only natural that young Michael grew up an Irish speaker.

The family barely made ends meet and in 1856, at the age of 10, young Michael had to take a job in a nearby cotton mill operating heavy machinery. Hours were long, working conditions were atrocious, and worker’s safety was the last consideration of the mill owner. Consequently, at the age of 12, Michael was caught in the machine on which he was working and his right arm was severed. Unable to work any longer, he was dismissed with no compensation. He subsequently attended a Wesleyan school for two years, after which he worked for a printing firm.

To say that the young man was bitter about the treatment his family had received, and that he subsequently endured, would be an understatement. In 1865, he joined the Fenian Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to removing the English collar from the neck of Ireland. Two years later he was its’ organizing secretary in Northern England and Scotland. He was arrested in London in 1870 while awaiting a delivery of arms and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. He spent the next seven years in prison isolation, compelled to work under inhuman conditions. Intercession on his behalf by Isaac Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell of the Irish Parliamentary Party convinced the British that Davitt was effectively broken, and he was released on parole on December 19, 1877.

But Michael was not broken. He had too many reminders of oppression to ever forget, from the frail old man that had once been his father, to the prematurely old woman that had been his mother, to his own empty sleeve. He knew that the cause of his people’s troubles was that they were prohibited from owning land. He knew the landlord class for the leeches that they were, and was determined to undermine and eliminate them. After his release from prison, he toured America with the active assistance of the great Irish patriot John Devoy, gaining the support of Irish Americans for a policy called “The New Departure” which was based in the slogan “The Land for the People.” He proposed non-violent action and parliamentary reform to bring about changes in the law. This approach did not have the official approval of the Fenian leadership and many were against his methods. Nevertheless, he subsequently became a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB.

In early 1879, Davitt returned to an Ireland which was again experiencing near starvation. After a series of wet years, the potato crop had failed for a third successive year and the traditional escape route of emigration was virtually closed due to a world wide economic depression stretching from America to Europe. There was no choice but to stay at home and fight to change the system. Plans were made for a gathering at Irishtown on April 20, to demonstrate for reduced rents. The gathering was huge and the first target was land owned by a Canon Ulick Burke. The result was an astounding success when the Canon was forced to reduce rents by 25%. Davitt took his idea to Irish Parliamentary leader Charles Stewart Parnell and on August 16, 1879, the Land League of Mayo was formally founded in Castlebar. On October 21, the National Land League was formed in Dublin with Parnell as President, and Davitt as Secretary. From that time on, the Land War was fought in earnest. British Prime Minister Gladstone at first replied with coercion, but with financial and moral support from the American Irish, the Land League fought back. At one demonstration in 1881, they even added a new word to the dictionary when they defeated a landlord’s agent by ostracizing him from all services – his name was Captain Boycott.

The crown passed the Land Act of 1881 to defuse the situation. It promised fair rent, fixed tenure, and free sale, but the Land League wanted more. The government reacted by arresting the leaders in an attempt to suppress the organization, but they could not stop the momentum. Miss Anna Parnell formed the Ladies Land League and took over the agitation where the men left off. The leaders were soon released.

After his release Davitt traveled widely, campaigning ceaselessly and his power was such that in 1885, the British government began the process of eliminating the evils of landlordism. In 1892 Davitt was elected MP for Mayo but was impatient with Parliament’s unwillingness to right obvious injustices swiftly. He left the House of Commons in 1896 with the prophetic prediction that “no just cause could succeed there unless backed by physical force.” He had verified his beliefs that while force might be necessary to bring opposing parties to the table; it was only at the table that permanent changes could be made. It is a tribute to men like John Devoy, Charles Stewart Parnell, and most especially Michael Davitt, that these peaceful methods are again being tried – for these are the ways of civilized men, and the only ways that have ever worked.

Michael Davitt remained a fighter for justice until his death in Dublin on May 31, 1906. By that time, the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland had become a reality, and Michael himself had become an international champion of liberty. To mark the centenary of his birth in 1946, a major demonstrating was held in Straide, with an attendance of more than 12,000, included Eamonn De Valera. The occasion was even covered live by the BBC. In 1996, ground was broken for a new museum in Straide dedicated to the life and accomplishments of one of Mayo’s most historic and best loved figures. It is near the monument that covers his grave. Michael Davitt was the first to successfully rescue his people from tyranny, and set Ireland on the road to becoming the proud and accomplished member of the international community that she is today. For this, every Irish man owes him a debt of thanks.