Tuam, Easter Week 1916

Eimear Cremen

It is easy to forget that all around the country in small towns and villages Volunteers had drilled and practised for a Rebellion for more than two years.  The Volunteers in Tuam were no different, despite a depleted group following the ‘split’, and not having a great deal of local support the Tuam Volunteers still came out for manoeuvrings during Easter Week 1916.  MacNeill’s countermanding order added confusion to the situation, communication difficulties and surveillance by the R.I.C. forced the Tuam Volunteers to disband at daybreak Wednesday 26th April 1916.  The following is an account of their activities and Liam Langley’s involvement during that week.

The situation in Galway was no different to that in the rest of the country in the week prior
to Easter Sunday.  Rumours were rife that something was happening although no firm word was coming through as to what exactly the plans were.  Dispatches crisscrossed the country with messages and instructions.  One courier to arrive in Athenry was Margaret Brown (later Mrs Sean McEntee), who came on Holy Thursday with a dispatch from Sean MacDiarmada (WS322).  Witness statements suggest that the plan was to take control of the local RIC barracks and to use the captured weapons in any ensuing military action.

According to John Hosty’s statement there was confusion over the order, a meeting was held of commandants and captains of the Irish Volunteers (all were also IRB members) to decide what to do.  Liam Langley (Centre, IRB Circle, North Galway, O/C Tuam Company, Galway Brigade IV, VP Na Fianna Éireann) was in attendance.  John Hosty was dispatched to Dublin on the mail train at midnight to see Eoin MacNeill (Irish Volunteers) and confirm whether the order was genuine or not.  However George Nichols (Solicitor and IRB Centre, Galway) secretly requested Hosty to go straight to Pearse and advise him what was happening in Galway and get clear instruction as to how to proceed (IRB) (Hosty, WS373).  However, by Saturday night most battalions in Galway were aware that they were being called out for major muster on Easter Sunday.

Eoin MacNeill’s subsequent countermanding on Holy Saturday night put a stop to activities.  His mess.age was published in the national papers on Easter Sunday morning; it read, ‘all parades of Volunteers arranged for the weekend were cancelled.’  On Saturday night dispatches were also sent around the country by McNeill with the order.  McNeill’s order led to confusion and uncertainty in Galway, Tuam and around the country in general (Dunleavy, WS1489).

EASTER SUNDAY/MONDAY

Despite the unexpected developments there was general mobilization of the North Galway Circle I.R.B. on Easter Sunday night.  They met under Liam Langley at Connolly’s Forge, Galway Road, Tuam to discuss the turn in events and make plans (Dunleavy WS1489).  However, due to the conflicting orders the men were uncertain of what action to take and thus disbanded.  On Easter Monday Langley received an order from Pearse which read: ‘We are out from 12 o’clock today.  Issue your orders immediately PHP.’  Langley set out for Galway from Tuam where he met initially with Larry Lardner (IRB and Irish Volunteers), whilst there a further dispatch arrived delivered by Elizabeth O’Farrell.  She arrived on the 1 0’clock train from Dublin, the dispatch was from Pearse which confirmed the order.  Consequently orders were dispatch to all companies to mobilize immediately (O’Regan History).  At 4pm on Easter Monday Liam Langley and George Nichols went to Micheál Ó Droighneáin of Spiddal, who was anxiously awaiting orders (O’D WS374).  He was uncertain of the order that came to him and did not mobilize.  He sought further instructions which in turn led to his early arrest.  The RIC quickly started to roundup suspects immediately, thus Nichols, and many other activists were arrested by Easter Tuesday.

Following his various meetings in Galway, Liam Langley brought back news of the rising to Tuam (Costello WS1330).  Again, there was a general mobilization of the North Galway Circle (IRB) on Monday evening, April 24th, in Connolly’s Forge, with Liam Langley in charge.  He set about carrying out the orders from Dublin.  The plan was to mobilize with the other companies under his charge at the Fair Green on Tuesday night.  From there they were to march on Tuam to take the RIC barracks and then to Athenry to join Mellows men.  A train, driven by local volunteer Sam Browne, was to be waiting outside Tuam to bring the volunteers to Athenry.  Browne was the loco-engineer attached to the Great Southern & Western Railway Co. (Nohilly).

EASTER TUESDAY

Hence, the volunteers met in Connolly’s Forge on Easter Tuesday led by Liam Langley to carry out the plan.  He advised his men to go to confession before the meeting.  This they did.  Fr John Heneghen at Tuam Cathedral was there to hear their confessions.  The plan was for the Tuam Battalion to assemble at the Fair Green, Tuam by midnight that night.  There was an expectation that up to thirty men from the surrounding companies, (Dunmore, Sylane, Kilbannon, Barnaderg and Mountbellew) under Liam Langley’s command, would assemble (Dunleavy, 1489; Nohilly WS1437; Ryan, 1320).  R.I.C District Inspector Comerford had heard about the rebellion by Monday.  He gathered a force of over 100 ‘well-armed’ men from outlying areas, such as Castlehackett, Cummer and Headford, to protect Tuam (Henry, Pathway to Rebellion Galway, 1916).  Meanwhile, about ten of the Tuam men arrived at the meeting in the Forge as planned at 9.30pm; according to witness statements those present included: Liam Langley O/C, Patrick Dunleavy, Joseph Cummins, Thomas Nohilly, John P. Connolly, Patrick ‘Pa’ Connolly, William Cannon, Sam Browne, (John Waldron?). Tuam in general and the Forge in particular were under surveillance by the R.I.C. who continually passed by in cars.  Nonetheless, the Tuam men mobilized at the appointed meeting place of the Fair Green to await the arrival of the rest of the Volunteers.  As they waited for a contingent from Mountbellew (under John Haverty) to join them, Liam Langley sent a dispatch of two men, Patrick Dunleavy and Joseph Cummins, to locate the Mountbellew Company on the Ballymote Road.  When the company had not arrived by the appointed time of 1am, Dunleavy and Cummins started to make their way back to Tuam.  However, they were arrested on route by the R.I.C (Nohilly, WS1437, BMH).

The Dunmore Company was also expected at the Fair Green on that Tuesday night.  Costello had sent a dispatch from Dunmore to contact Langley to confirm the meeting but the dispatch returned saying that Tuam was occupied by Northern R.I.C men and he could not get to Langley.  Included in the Dunmore battalion were Michael Ronayne, William McGill and Thomas Killgarriff.  Hence Costello dismissed his men on Tuesday night, he then travelled to Tuam on Wednesday, but could not get into the town as it was awash with the R.I.C.  He decided not to try to bring his men by train to Athenry (Costello WS2330, BMH).

The Tuam Volunteers dispersed at daybreak on Wednesday morning (Dunleavy WS1489, BMH), however Langley was not willing to give up the fight and continued as planned to make his way to Athenry by bicycle.

According to Witness Statements those that mobilized Easter week 1916 were members of the IRB North Galway Circle as well as being member of the Irish Volunteers. Liam Langley was Centre of North Galway IRB Circle.

EASTER WEDNESDAY to SATURDAY MORNING

By Wednesday, Mellows and volunteers from many units in South Galway, had taken up position in the Agricultural College and Model Farm (known locally as The Farmyard) just south of Athenry.  It was in Athenry that Liam Langley joined up with his O/C Mellows and the Volunteers who had come from many areas around Galway.  Wednesday brought the volunteers to command at Moyode Castle, where it was felt it would be easier to defend.  Liam Langley continued with the group to the Castle (family history, Langley written account).

The situation in Moyode was tense with rumours rife of R.I.C and battalions of British soldiers coming to attack the base.  By the Friday word came through that the British were organizing a full scale attack on Moyode Castle.  It was decided to retreat to Limepark, an old country house further south, late on Friday evening.  The battalions of Volunteers arrived at their destination at around 2am Saturday morning.  On their way to Lime Park two priests joined them in Craughwell; Fr Tom Fahy and Fr O’Farrell.  Recommendations from the priests were for the men to disband, they assessed that the men were so badly armed they stood little chance against any onslaught from either the R.I.C. or the British Army.  Mellows was not in favour of such a move; Fr Fahy suggested a meeting of the officers be held in order to seek their opinion on the matter.  A very lengthy meeting was held during which the officers agreed to disband.  Fr Fahy spoke to the volunteers and advised to them of the plan (Fahy, Rev. 383).

DISBAND

In the early hours of Saturday 29th April, five days after the rising in Galway had begun; the remaining 350 men in Limepark were advised to return to their homes protecting themselves as best they could as they went.

ARREST

At 4.30am on Monday 8th, the Langley home was surrounded by R.I.C men.  They arrested Liam and his mother, Margaret.  Guns, ammunition and  documents were confiscated in the raid.  Both were brought to Galway for questioning.  Margaret Langley was released and Liam taken into custody.  From Galway Jail. he was moved to Richmond Barracks Dublin on Friday 12 May 1916.   On June 1st he was marched down the quays to the docks with many other prisoners who were loaded on cattle boats and shipped to England in terrible conditions.  Upon arrival in England, the Volunteers were dispersed to various prisons. Liam Langley was sent to Wakefield, Frongoch, and finally Reading, where he spent most of his internment.  He was released on 24th December 1916.

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