He was 'trained' from early childhood into sporting and republican activities and, during his short life (he was only 62 years of age when he died) , he became the President of the GAA (from 1901 to 1921) and is the only person to have even been appointed 'Honorary Life President' of that organisation.
In 1898, at 36 years of age, he was elected as Alderman to Kilkenny Corporation and availed of the position to great effect in his endeavours to publicise the then fourteen-year's young 'Gaelic Athletic Association', but was less successful in persuading the Central Council of the GAA that it should begin preparations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1798 Rising - indeed, the GAA leadership refused to even appoint representatives to the 1798 Centenary Committee, but James Nowlan and a few other GAA members insisted on playing their part in the celebrations.
At the GAA Congress held in September 1901, he was elected President and attempted to steer the organisation towards a more republican path ; for instance, when the 'Irish Volunteers' was formed, Nowlan stated that it was a most suitable group for GAA members to join, even though other GAA leaders were not as enthusiastic about the group.
He was arrested by the British in May 1916 following the Easter Rising, and imprisoned in Frongoch, in Wales ; in August that year he was released, and resumed his GAA and Sinn Féin activities. He was to the forefront in campaigning for a general amnesty for all political prisoners and also raised funds for the 'Irish National and Volunteer Dependent Fund'.
During the 'Tan War' (1919-1921) he publicly voiced support for the IRA's armed struggle and was unmercilessly harassed by the British for doing so - the GAA itself as an institution and anyone associated with it were abused, verbally and physically, by the British establishment and its armed units in Ireland.
He died on the 30th June, 1924, at only 62 years of age and, three years after his death, the Kilkenny GAA Stadium became known as 'Nowlan Park'.
In our opinion, there is a lot more that today's GAA leadership could do to honour that man properly ; that leadership has to all intent and purpose aligned itself firmly with the establishment of the day and is wasting the potential it has to help achieve a British withdrawal from this country or even, indeed, to draw attention to that subject and the many issues that surround it.
We would suggest that people of the calibre of James Nowlan would have little to do with them today except, perhaps, to try and avail of the organisation as a 'platform' from which to highlight issues of injustice.
'SINN FÉIN NORTHERN ELECTION FUND.'
From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, July, 1954.
The 'Armagh Raid' emphasises the need in the military sphere to do something to get rid of the British forces of occupation.
In the political sphere, one of the most important tasks that must be done is to stop the sending of persons - alleged to be representing the Irish people - to take part in the parliament at Westminster, thereby giving support to the claim of the English Government to rule Ireland.
There are 12 areas in the Six-County region sending three representatives and Sinn Féin are determined to fight all twelve areas. Their policy is not to take part in Westminster, but to demand the re-assembling of the Republican Parliament for All Ireland. This is a task in the political field every bit as important as military attacks on the enemy.
For this task money is urgently needed - a minimum fund of £3000 will be required. Sinn Féin Cumainn and members and sympathisers of the Republican Movement generally are strongly urged to subscribe to the fund and to take up collections among their friends and at football matches etc. The election may be sprung at any time now. It is vital that we should have the funds in hand and the machinery ready. Preparations must be made now.
Contributions and offers of help should be addressed to - An Runaidhe, Sinn Féin, 2 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin.
(END of 'Sinn Féin Northern Election Fund' ; NEXT -'Get England Out!', from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (25TH MAY) 101 YEARS AGO : DUBLIN'S CUSTOM HOUSE ATTACKED BY THE IRA.
In May 1921, the IRA decided to burn down the centre of British Administration in Ireland - the Custom House in Dublin. The Dublin Brigade of the IRA (consisting of approximately 120 Volunteers) moved in on the building during working hours. Positions were taken up around the Custom House by armed IRA Volunteers, while other members entered the building, carrying cans of petrol.
The civil servants working in the offices were told to get out, which all did, except for one woman who, having being told to leave immediately (incidentally, she was given that instruction by one of the IRA men who had been active on 'Bloody Sunday', as the British called it, when Michael Collins hit out at British Intelligence operatives) replied - "You can't do that.." The IRA man showed the woman his revolver and the can of petrol he was carrying, and she is alleged to have said - "Can I get my hat and coat?" to which he replied "Lady, you'll be lucky if you get your life." She left the building immediately.
The IRA men were scattering the contents of filing-cabinets and other paper work etc onto the floor and pouring petrol on it, and on the furniture. As the flames caught hold, the alarm had already been sounded in near-by Dublin Castle - "Armed men at the Custom House!" A force of British troops and Auxiliaries hurriedly left Dublin Castle and joined their colleagues, who were coming under fire, around the Custom House.
The British administration issued the following statement the day after the attack - 'Three tenders carrying Auxiliary cadets, accompanied by an armoured car, approached the Dublin Customs House, which was occupied by a large body of Sinn Féiners. The cadets dismounted from their tenders under heavy fire and surrounded the Customs House, which was seen to be on fire. Fire from the Auxiliaries and the machine-guns on the armoured car was poured into the windows of the Customs House, from which the rebels replied vigorously, and a series of desperate conflicts took place between Crown Forces and seven or eight parties of rebels, who rushed from different doors of the building and made dashes for liberty, firing as they ran. The first party to emerge from the building consisted of three men, one of whom was killed and two wounded.
By this time smoke and flame were pouring from the building, and the official staff, including many women, who had been held prisoners by the rebels, came flocking out with their hands above their heads and waving white handkerchiefs. While these defenceless people were leaving the building the rebels continued to fire from the windows. The staff were taken to a place of safety by some of the Auxiliaries. As the staff were leaving the building the rebels made their last sortie, and of this party, consisting of seven men, only one escaped, the rest being killed or wounded.
The British sent two companies of Auxiliaries and several hundred British Army troops to the area and stormed the blazing building, where many of the rebels surrendered. Some of them were found to be saturated with petrol which they had been pouring over the flames, and several of them were probably burnt to death before the Crown forces entered...at the conclusion of the fighting dead and wounded rebels lay about on all sides...four Auxiliaries were wounded, 7 civilians were killed, 11 wounded, and over 100 captured.'
It later emerged that five IRA men were killed, as were three civilians. The British forces suffered four wounded, but greatest loss was in the capture of about 80 IRA Volunteers at the scene. The following men were involved in/affected by that operation - John Byrne, James Connolly, Patrick Thomas O'Reilly, Stephen John O'Reilly, Patrick Mahon Lawless, Edward Dorins and Daniel Joseph Head.
That republican operation took place 101 years ago on this date - 25th May (also, see *'Short Stories' piece*, below, for other IRA operations that were carried out on that same date, in an attempt to 'thin out' the British forces).
Ulster loyalism displayed its most belligerent face this year as violence at Belfast's Holy Cross School made international headlines.
But away from the spotlight, working-class Protestant communities are themselves divided, dispirited and slipping into crisis.
By Niall Stanage.
From 'Magill' magazine, Annual 2002.
On the small Glenbryn estate, now infamous as the epicentre of the Holy Cross protest, the residents are angry.
They believe their actions have been misunderstood, that the background to the dispute has gone unreported, and that they have been unfairly maligned by media and politicians alike.
Some of their wilder rhetoric - drawing comparisons between Gerry Adams and Osame bin Laden, or referring to the school pupils' parents as 'the real child abusers' - borders on the surreal. But other complaints cannot be so easily dismissed."Places like this have been deprived for years, left to rot.." says Andy Cooper, a spokesperson for the residents, "..the media goes to the nationalist side and says 'poor people, poor people'. There are 'poor people' in this area too, but they have been silent in their grief for thirty years."
'The Troubles' have extracted a grim toll from protestant and catholic communities alike in North Belfast. More than 500 people have been killed, and many of those murders have shown the conflict at its most savage and sectarian. The social and economic problems that make the region such a fertile breeding ground for paramilitaries have not been tackled.
Nationalist representatives may be more eloquent than unionists in expressing the need for massive regeneration, but Protestant areas are suffering too. In the greater Shankill district, unemployment is close to 70% and, in small enclaves further north, like Tiger's Bay, the figure is higher still...
ON THIS DATE (25TH MAY) 137 YEARS AGO : FROM THE IRB AND THE GPO TO LEINSTER HOUSE.
Not long after he was born, the family moved to Dublin and young Gerard went to school at CBS in Clontarf and the O'Brien Institute in Fairview. He worked as an apprentice fitter on the 'Midland and Great Western Railway' (1900 to 1907), while taking evening classes at Kevin Street technical school. When he qualified he was employed as an engine fitter by Dublin corporation.
A history buff, he began socialising in Irish republican circles and joined the 'Celtic Literary Society' in 1902, and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1904. He was 31 years of age when the 1916 Easter Rising took place and he played an active part in the fight, with his comrades in the Second Battalion, in Jacob's Factory in Bishop Street in Dublin, fighting alongside Thomas MacDonagh (who was executed by the British on the 3rd May 1916).
the 'Treaty of Surrender' and continued fighting for the 32-County Republic ; he was captured by the Staters in July 1922 and was imprisoned for two years.
However, five years after rejecting that Treaty, both himself and his friend Éamon de Valera (among others) abandoned their republican principles and left the Republican Movement (his brother, Harry, stayed true) to establish the Fianna Fáil political party and, in 1933, that party took control of the Free State and Gerard Boland was appointed as the 'Chief Whip' of that State cabinet (from 1932 to 1933).
He continued 'to do the State some service' as State Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1933 to 1936), State Minister for Lands (1936 to 1939), State Minister for 'Justice' (1939 to 1948 and 1951 to 1954, during which time periods he was instrumental in imposing internment and military courts on and against republicans), and held a seat in the Free State Senate from 1961 to 1969 - he had failed to keep his Leinster House seat in the election held on the 4th October 1961, and was placed in the State Senate for safe keeping/future use by the State 'Establishment'.
Mr Boland died in Dublin at the age of 87 on the 5th January 1973.
IN THIS MONTH (MAY) 67 YEARS AGO : SINN FÉIN TD'S ELECTED IN THE SIX OCCUPIED COUNTIES.
In the UK general election held on Thursday, 26th May 1955, Sinn Féin candidates were elected as TD's for the Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituencies in the Occupied Six Counties, with a total of 152,310 votes. The following is the Election Manifesto that the then Sinn Féin organisation put to the people :
'SINN FÉIN ELECTION MANIFESTO WESTMINSTER ELECTIONS, 1955 :
In the election of 1918 the Irish people, by an overwhelming majority, repudiated the claims of England and her parliament to rule them and they established the Irish Republic which was proclaimed in arms in 1916. The Republican Government and State then established were later overthrown by England and the nation was partitioned into two statelets. The cardinal objective of the Irish people is the restoration of the Republic thus unlawfully subverted.
The resurgent confidence of Irish men and women in their own strength and ability to achieve the full freedom of their country and the right of its citizens to live in peace, prosperity and happiness has enabled Sinn Féin to contest all 12 seats in this election and give an opportunity to our people in the Six Counties to vote for Ireland, separate and free. Sinn Féin candidates are pledged to sit only in a republican parliament for all Ireland.
Apart altogether from the futility of the procedure, sending representatives to an alien legislature is in effect attempting to give it semblance of authority to legislate for and govern the people of North-East Ulster. Sinn Féin candidates seek the votes of the electorate and the support of the Irish people as the representatives of the Republican Movement now on the onward march towards achievement of the National ideal - the enthronement of the Sovereign Irish Republic.
The winning of seats in these elections will not be regarded by Sinn Féin as an end in itself, nor will the results, whatever they be, effect in any way the determination of republicans to forge ahead towards their objective. Neither will the number of votes recorded for the republican candidates be looked upon as something in the nature of a plebiscite affecting in any way the right of Ireland to full and complete freedom. That right is inalienable and non-judicable and must never be put in issue through referendum of a section of population nor of the people of the country at large.
Through the medium of the election machinery, Sinn Féin aims at providing an opportunity for the electorate, in all constituencies, and for the people of the country, to renew their allegiance to Ireland, and by their support of the republican candidates demonstrate to England and to the world the right of an ancient and historic nation to its complete and absolute freedom and independence.
Sinn Féin has been charged with disruptionist tactics. The aim of Sinn Féin today as always is to secure unity of thought, purpose and deed in the achievement of separate nationhood. Bigotry, persecution and sectarianism have no place in the Sinn Féin programme. Republican policy has ever been to secure civil and religious freedom for the Irish nation and the individual citizens.
Ireland and all its resources belongs to the Irish people. Sinn Féin will, with the consent of the Irish people, organise and develop the resources of the nation for the benefit of its citizens irrespective of class or creed. The continued occupation of Ireland by England makes such development impossible, since England has succeeded in making effective in Ireland the imperial dictum of 'Divide and Conquer' thereby impoverishing not only the Irish people but the material resources of the country as well.
Sinn Féin appeals to all Irishmen to forget all past dissension's and to demonstrate by their support of the Sinn Féin candidates their opposition to English occupation and their determination to achieve national independence.
Published by Sinn Féin Northern Election Committee, Divis Street, Belfast and printed by the Cromac Printery, Belfast.'
The big news of that (1955) election was Sinn Féin's two seats and its 23.6% of the vote, won on a clearly stated political platform policy of abstentionism from any British-linked parliament.
Sinn Féin's two successful candidates in Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Philip Clarke and Thomas Mitchell, had been imprisoned for their part in the raid on Omagh but, as they were serving prison sentences at the time, they were deemed ineligible to serve in the House of Commons and their seats were awarded to the defeated unionist candidates!
'JOIN SINN FÉIN.'
Membership of Sinn Féin is open to all Irish men and women of good character, but members of political parties, of course, are not eligible.
At least seven persons are necessary to form a new cumann, and an Ard Comhairle will send a representative to preside at the inaugural meeting.
We advise groups who are anxious to form new cumainn to write to 'The Secretaries, 3 Lower Abbey Streey, Dublin', for full information.
(END of 'Join Sinn Féin' ; NEXT - 'Gaelic Revival' and 'Poppy Day - £13,000', from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (25TH MAY) 102 YEARS AGO : RIC BARRACKS ATTACKED BUT NOT TAKEN.
Martin Nyland, Nicholas Kyne, Michael Walsh, Sean Broderick and Jim Furey were in command of the IRA raiding party and one of the first actions they carried out was to block the roads between Loughgeorge and Galway and between Loughgeorge and Oranmore, in order to at least slow down if not prevent enemy reinforcements getting to the scene.
Trees were felled and makeshift walls erected and, as evening began, the attack was launched.
The building was sturdy, constructed with sandstone walls and surrounded by barbed wire. The objective was to drive the RIC from the building and then destroy it, making it (and other military posts like it) uninhabitable, thus lessening British 'eyes and ears' in any particular area. A bomb was placed against the gable wall of the barracks which blew a large hole in it, and gunfire was directed into the building from the opening.
As it turned out, the only casualty in the whole engagement was one RIC member inside the building, who got struck by flying glass ; a building next to the barracks, 'Duggans Workshop', was damaged in the explosion, and a horse and a foal who were stabled in the Duggans yard were found dead afterwards, after the Duggans returned to their building - they had hurriedly vacated the area when the fight began.
The IRA were unable to flush the RIC members out of the barracks, but they did set part of it on fire and structurally damage it, before withdrawing safely from the scene at dawn, as British reinforcements from Eglington Street were attempting to come to the rescue of their colleagues.
The operation might not have been completely successful, but it did confirm to the British forces and their lackeys in Ireland that they were not safe in this country, not even when locked inside a military barracks.
ON THIS DATE (25TH MAY) IN...
It is recorded that, on the 26th April, 1745, Kildare-based 'Lord' John Allen (the '3rd Viscount Allen', former MP for the Carysfort area and Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, a post he held for three years) '..received a wound in an encounter with one of the Guards at Dublin, whom he shot...'
That wound killed him on the 25th May, 1745.
At the start of the 1798 Rising, 'United Irishmen' leader Michael Heydon organised a force of over 1,000 fighters into four different groups, and put a plan in action to take back control of the town of Carlow, by simultaneously challenging the British presence in that town from four points, at the same time. On the 25th May, 1798, that plan was acted on, even though the intended link-up with the rebel force from Wexford didn't happen.
However, informers had been at work, and the British were well aware of the intended rebel action, and they had prepared themselves ; Michael Heydon and his fighters had an easy passage into the town and were about to begin victory celebrations when they were caught in volleys of gunfire, directed at them with accuracy from the buildings and houses that surrounded them.
The rebels sought-out whatever shelter they could find only to be attacked then by British forces who were on the ground - they tried to get off the streets and into the buildings around them but were attacked as they did so and then those buildings were set on fire by the British.
One survivor recounted the following - "I know a man as gentle as any who woke to realize his house was on fire [and] threw on some clothes and ran to the street carrying his young daughter. He was instantly shot dead and his child...the burned and charred corpses of upwards of five hundred gallant Irishmen lay strewn around in the smouldering ruins in the highways and byways of the town ere the sun set on this fatal day..."
Any of the fighters who managed to escape from the immediate area were shot by Crown Force loyalists and were also pursued and killed by soldiers and yeomanry. The streets, roads and fields were strewn with the bodies of the fallen.
A local man who became known as 'Paddy the Pointer' helped to identify escaped rebels to the British military by riding around the town and pointing them out ; captured rebels were hung and their bodies thrown in the 'Croppy Hole', a mass grave across the river in Graiguecullen.
The body count that day was about 1,000 people - approximately 600 rebels and about 400 innocent civilians were slaughtered.
(The following day [26th May], a similar slaughter took place at Dunlavin Green in County Wicklow - more here.)
She was the secretary of the 'Bristol and West of England Suffrage Society' and, in 1891, she co-founded the 'Women's Employment Defence League', edited 'The Englishwoman's Review' (from 1889-1902) and, in 1896, co-edited 'The Conditions of Working Women and the Factory Acts'.
She died at Greycoat Gardens, Westminster, on the 11th January, 1903, and is buried at Brompton Cemetery ('the West of London and Westminster Cemetery'). Helen was a thorn in the side of 'Officaldom' - a "troublesome woman" - and we need more like her.
On the 25th May, 1895, Oscar Wilde (pictured - Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for "...committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons.." and was taken away to serve his sentence.
He spent the first several months at London's Pentonville Prison, where he was put to work picking 'oakum', a substance used to seal gaps in shipbuilding, where he spent hours untwisting and teasing apart recycled ropes to obtain the fibers used in making the product. He was later transferred to London's Reading Gaol, where he remained until his release on the 19th May 1897.
After his release, Oscar was given a temporary roof over his head by a socially-conscienced and open-minded man of the cloth, Stewart Headlam, as interesting a character as Oscar Wilde was ; he was married to a lesbian (Beatrice Pennington) and also maintained 'close relations' with known homosexuals William Johnson and C.J. Vaughan, among others.
However, his health had deteriorated in prison due to his living conditions (he was not used to roughing it, in that particular manner) and came to rely on alcohol to get him through the day.
He died in Paris, on the 30th of November, 1900, at 46 years of age, from cerebral meningitis following an ear infection.
"I can never travel without my diary, one should always have something sensational to read on the train."
Gun attacks were carried out in Dublin on Dundrum RIC Barracks and on Cabinteely RIC Barracks (which was attacked twice that day), and Enniskerry RIC Barracks in Wicklow was also attacked.
A British military patrol on the Bray road at Stillorgan came under attack, a naval base and wireless station in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, were attacked and a British Army lorry, on the Alma Road, in Monkstown, Dublin, was hit be gunfire.
A (catholic) ex-British Army soldier, Thomas Reilly (39), was shot dead by a (protestant/loyalist) gunman near his home in Butler Street (house number 113), in Belfast.
Mr Reilly had joined the British Army's 'Royal Irish Fusiliers' Battalion on the 6th September 1901 ('Service Number 20789') and was stationed in South Africa. He was discharged on the 26th July, 1916, and joined the 'Royal Field Artillery' on the 24th November 1917 ('Service Number 249836') but was quickly discharged as being physically unfit.
He was with his son, John, at about 10.15pm on Wednesday night, the 25th May 1921, on Brookfield Street in Belfast, walking home from a card game, when he was shot dead by a loyalist gunman.
A Cavan man, Patrick Briody (60) was shot dead by the IRA on the 25th May, 1921.
Mr Briody, from the Ballinagh area of Cavan, was a cobbler in the Glan Mullaghoran area who was on very friendly terms with the RIC and the Black and Tans, and they with him. He was told by the IRA that his comradeship with enemy forces had been noted and that he should cease such activities, but he refused to do so.
An IRA surveillance operation discovered that The RIC and the Tans were calling to him very often under the pretext of taking their shoes in for repairs, and it was eventually discovered that he was giving them any information he had on republican activity in the area. As a result of what he was doing, he was arrested by the IRA, tried by court martial and shot as a spy. A 'Spies And Informers Beware - IRA' notice was left on his body.
...1921 : On the 25th May, 1921, the RIC surprised a group of IRA Volunteers at Bunree, in County Mayo, and fatally wounded Volunteer James Howley. He died from his wounds three days later -
In the early hours of the morning, the house was surrounded by the RIC. They hammered the front door and ordered us to come out with our hands up. We burst out the back door, firing.
When we were nearly on the Ballina Road, Howley was shot. I took his gun and Healy and I continued to fire until we got around the corner at Bunree Bridge.." (More here.)
In Seaforde Street, in East Belfast, three young children were wounded in gun and bomb attacks.
Also, on that same date, a teenager, Esther McDougall (19), who lived in Number 11 Stanhope Street, Belfast, was shot dead - the young girl was due to give evidence against a loyalist bomber, and another teenager, John Moore, was shot outside his front door in Hooker Street in Belfast.
Kevin was 'arrested' by British 'security forces' in December 1976 and charged with a number of offences including conspiracy to steal weapons from those same security forces and, in December 1977, he was 'tried', convicted and sentenced to ten years, in the Maze Prison in County Down, for conspiracy to obtain arms, taking part in a punishment shooting and conspiring to take arms from the 'security forces'.
This brave man went on hunger strike in the Maze on the 23rd May 1981 and died 71 days later, on the 1st August. You can read more about Kevin here.
The suitcase contained 30lbs of explosives and a British Army soldier, Michael Willetts (28), was badly injured when it detonated, and he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He died there on the operating table two hours later.
On the 25th May, 1978, the IRA lifted two young men off the street and brought them in for questioning.
Brian McKinney and John McClory had raided an IRA arms dump and taken a revolver, which they later used to rob a bar, without having to actually fire the weapon.
They were both executed, and were buried in Colgagh Bog in County Monaghan, but their remains were only recovered on the 29th June 1999.
They knew themselves to expect a punishment from the IRA if they were caught but, in our opinion, what happened to the two of them far outweighed the crime.
On the 25th May, 1991, Eddie Fullerton, a Provisional Sinn Féin (PSF) councillor in Buncrana, Co Donegal, was shot dead by the loyalist so-called 'Ulster Freedom Fighters' (UFF), a cover name used by the 'Ulster Defence Association' (UDA).
This killing took place despite a loyalist ceasefire announced by the 'Combined Loyalist Military Command' (CLMC) that began at midnight on the 29th April 1991. The UDA stated that the ceasefire did not apply to the Free State.
Thanks for the visit, and for reading.
Sharon and the team.