'Off to America'

De Valera’s American Mission begins

From Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 913, Rev. T.J Shanley

De Valera starting from Ireland - June 1919:

De Valera travelled from Dublin to Liverpool as a regular passenger, and MacMahon, then Under Secretary for Ireland, was on the same ship going across to Holyhead. They went as far as Crewe where they had to change trains for London and Liverpool, De Valera being given to understand that MacMahon was going to London.

After arriving at Liverpool De Valera went to Dick Lanagan's (Lanagan was a Custom House man in Liverpool and an I.R.B.), and met "Barney" Downs who was bos'un of the "Lapland". She was carrying Canadian troops back from London to the United States. De Valera was dressed as a sailor in overalls and an old cap. He went down to the landing stage and boarded the tender with several other sailors. As they came alongside the "Lapland" there was some confusion aboard; "Barney" spotted several detectives (Moore and McCoy) and said: "There is something wrong, Chief - there are swarms of detectives aboard but we've got to face it".

They boarded the "Lapland", and met the first officer, Henshaw, who said: "Downs, get your man back aft as quickly as possible". Downs said: "What's the trouble, Mr. Henshaw?"; and Henshaw replied: "They are looking for a soldier who killed a woman in Liverpool last night and are searching the ship for him", De Valera and "Barney" went aft and De Valera was put in an unused tank in the aft of the ship, with his overcoat and two sandwiches, one in each pocket.

The search of the ship continued for some time, and finally the "Lapland" was made ready for the voyage. Downs went down to see how the Chief was getting along and asked how everything was. "All right", said the Chief, "only for the rats. They've even eaten the sandwiches out of my pockets". Downs got a flashlight, gave it to the Chief and told him to flash it when the rats came around and it would frighten them off. Downs had an old fellow helping him on the voyage called "Frisco" Kennedy, as well as Dick O'Neill. "Frisco" was a lamp trimmer on the "Lapland" and they told him that the Chief was skipping to America as he had killed a couple of policemen in Ireland.

He got very fond of the Chief and the Chief spent most of his time in the lamp room with "Frisco" during the day, nobody else being allowed in. During the voyage the Chief got very sick and they were afraid he would die. They decided that they had to get some brandy for him. (This was during Prohibition days.) "Frisco" suggested to Downs that he get it from a consignment going to Cuba. The keys were secured and Downs got out a case H of the brandy.

The Chief wouldn't take any of it, however, and soon recovered. The Chief continued to spend most of his time in the lamp room with "Frisco" Kennedy; one day a young cadet came into the room and bolted the door. Kennedy struck the cadet and knocked him out cold. He reported to the chief officer who reported it to the captain, and the captain said: "He must have done something to that old man or he wouldn't have hit him". He sent for Kennedy who told him that the cadet had bolted the door. "Go back to your lamp room", said the captain, "and keep the cadets out.

They have no business in there". One night Kennedy, Downs and the Chief were sitting in the lamp room and the third officer came up and called Downs and Kennedy both out. They went out quickly and slammed the door after them, leaving the Chief inside. When they came back, the door was wide open and the lock was gutted and gone. The Chief was missing. Presently Downs heard someone whisper: "Barney." "Is that you, Chief?", said Barney. x (Note: McGarity is supposed to have some of the case which was opened.) "Yes, I'm up in the poop", answered the Chief, and he came down saying: "I never like to be in a place I can't get Out of, so I gutted the lock".

There was a poor Welshman, a sailor, on the "Lapland" who nearly lost his life. It was his first voyage and every night he washed his clothes near where the Chief was. Kennedy said to Downs: "That fellow is no good - he is a spy". So they decided that one night when he was washing (on) the aft part of the deck, that Kennedy would push the Welsh sailor overboard. However, Downs found out that the Welshman was afraid his clothes would be stolen which accounted for his washing and drying them every night while he kept an eye on them. And so his life was saved!

Asquith’s message to America on Ireland

From Evening Herald 2nd June 1919


If Government have not a policy, it is the bankruptcy of British Statesmanship.

The "Evening Herald." New York special correspondent forwards us by dispatch to-day a pronouncement made by Mr. H. Asquith, former Prime Minister of England, and Leader of the British Liberal Party. The pronouncement is made in the course of a special article contributed to the "New York American," and is; " The Irish have been too long denied the right to control their development.’

Mr. Asquith, in the statement, which is dated from London, says:—

A Home Rule Act, admittedly in need of amendment before it is put into effective operation, is on the Statute Book. A little less than three years ago, after the abortive rising in Dublin, the Government of that day attempted to achieve, and very nearly succeeded in achieving a settlement by consent . A year later, the presont Government, with the hearty good will of all parties have, summoned a representative National Convention, which sat in Dublin for the best part of twelve months.

Their deliberations resulted, I will not say in complete agreement, but in a far greater approximation to it than anyone could have anticipated, or even though possible. It was, moreover, a striking and significant accompaniment for the sittings of the Convention that, as I remember pointing out at the time, there was a distinct setback manifested by-election and in other ways, in the authority and influence of the extreme Sinn Fein party in Ireland.

The Conscription Proposal

The necessity for immediate action when the Convention reported was acknowledged by no one in stronger terms, or with more solemn pledges, than by leading members of the Government. But with a short-sightedness for which I have never been able to discover any explanation or excuse, they chose that particular moment to insist upon the inclusion of Ireland for the first time in the compulsory provision oi the Military Service Act.

It was an abortive proposal, foredoomed to failure from the first and bound to prove, as it did prove, sterile of any military result. But its political consequences were immediate, overwhelming, and disastrous. The power and prestige of the Constitutional party were fatally undermined. The waning authority of Sinn Fein was not only restored, but multiplied a hundred fold, and the recent election has given it for the moment, though, as I believe, only for the moment, a majority of the Irish representation at Westminster. And there are now as ever, and as we were summoned, the other day, more than 40,000 troops kept in Ireland to preserve the peace and to overawe constitutional agitation.

First Shots of War of Independence in the Capital

From the Irish Independent, 6th June 1919

Shooting Sensation in Dublin






Four members of the D.M.P. and two civilians sustained bullet wounds as the result of an affray in Dublin last night.

The occurrence was the sequel to the suppression by the authorities of a concert organised for the Mansion House to commemorate the birth of James Connolly, who was executed for the part he took in the Rebellion of 1916.

Earlier in the day notice was given by the authorities that the function would not be allowed, and on the police intervening to disperse those who were in the vicinity, at the time it was announced to start, shots were discharged with the result that a sergeant and three constables of the DM.P. and two civilians were wounded. At a late hour last night one arrest had been made.



Sensational, and, unhappily, bloody scenes followed the suppression of the concert. Early in the day notification had been conveyed to the promoters of the function, as well as to the authorities at the Mansion House, that the concert could not be held, and it was generally accepted that it would not be held. The proceedings in and around the Mansion House were, in fact, of an unusually tame character for an occasion of the kind.


The approaches to the building from both ends of Dawson street were occupied by strong parties of police from an early hour in the evening, those being under teo command of Superintendent Willoughby and several Inspectors. Shortly after 6 o'clock Mr. Wm. O'Brien, Mr. T. Johnston, and a couple of others walked up Dawson street, and entered the Mansion House without molestation.

They were followed in by Inspector McGarry, who addressing Mr. O’Brien, demanded if he knew that the concert had been prohibited. Mr. O'Brien replied that he had been told so by a man in plain clothes, who said he was a police inspector, but he had no knowledge that he was. The inspector left after warning Mr. O'Brien that he would have to take the consequences in the event of an infringement of the order made.


Meanwhile, a number of young men and women had entered the Mansion House grounds by the Wicklow St. entrance, to find, however, that the doors leading to the Round Room were locked. It was now about 7.30, and suddenly a body of police moved forward, took a position in front of the gate. locked it, and barred further ingress. Some young men who appeared at this point protested against the attitude of the police, but were shoved back with scant ceremony.

A curious situation was then created, some of the crowd inside climbing on the walls and addressing the people outside who collected in small groups, but moved away quietly when told to do so. The artistes —who included the famous violinist Casey— now began to arrive, but were ordered away, and similar treatment was meted out to Madame Gonne McBride, Mrs. Darrel Figgis and three or four other ladies. Matters became somewhat tame after this, and the people who wore in the grounds being released by the police joined the small number in Dawson street, and all moved in the direction of Stephen’s Green.


It was about this time that the sensations of the night began. At Stephen's Green corner a small crowd had collected, evidently from curiosity, as they were to make no effort to go down Dawson St. A couple of dozen policemen were placed at the corner, and as soon as the crowd from the Mansion House moved into the Green these police proceeded to carry out a "move on" order constable was seen in altercation with a civilian who was evidently remonstrating on the treatment he was receiving, and a second and third policeman went to the spot. It was impossible to tell whether an arrest was being effected, as nothing could be seen for the moment, but a confused mass of civilians and police. Suddenly a shot rang out, followed by a second and a third.