Tuam Volunteers under Pressure
The Volunteers in Tuam were under tremendous pressure as support for Remond’s volunteers gathered across the country. Resistance in Tuam however remained strong with meetings being organised to encourage members to resist joining Redmond group. Major John McBride was one speaker who came to address the Tuam volunteers in November 1914 in this regard. In collaboration with Bulmar Hobson Liam Langley organised this address (recorded memoirs Liam Langley). Michael J Ryan, (WS 1320, Captain Bernaderg Company, Tuam Battalion, Irish Volunteers 1916) recalls a meeting held in the town hall in relation to this matter, this is more than lightly the same meeting which was addressed by McBride:
‘ I remember the Home Rule Bill being shelved and John Redmond asking the Volunteers to fight for Ireland in France. I remember a meeting of the Tuam Company being held in the Town Hall, Tuam, sometime in 1915 (more than lightly late 1914). The company was paraded and addressed by, I think, Martin Joseph Walsh, who put the Redmondite point of view to them. Liam Langley, afterwards 0/C of a Fianna battalion in Dublin, and William Cannon addressed the company and put the anti-Redmondite point of view before them. I remember the division of the company very well, those in favour of Redmond going to one side of the hall and those against going to the other side. I can remember that very few of the company went to the Redmond side. The majority went to the anti-Redmond side after Langley’s and Cannon’s address. Of those who opted for the Redmond side, very few actually joined the British Army.
On another occasion two members of the Irish Parliamentary Party were sent to Tuam to try their luck with convincing the local volunteers to enlist, but they too were met with resistance (see article right). Liam Langley also recalls their visit in his recorded memoirs. Major McBride was again in town meeting with Langley the night the two MP’s were in town. Langley and McBride were in Guys hotel when they came across the two MPs, Hazleton was representative for North Galway, while Lundon was representative for Limerick. The account in the Irish Volunteer newspaper December 1914 suggests the two men returned to Dublin with no success in changing the minds of the Tuam Volunteers.
In December 1914 Mr.John Redmond, Irish Parliamentary Party leader, arrived in Tuam, he addressed a meeting in the town in which he said that the response of Irish nationalists had been gallant and that any suggestion of a refusal to enlist was ‘shameful and dishonest.’ Redmond’s address brought about the desired result in the town and recruitment to the National Volunteers started in earnest.
Michael J. Ryan (above) also recalls this meeting:
‘ I remember that John Redmond came to Tuam in 1915 (should be Dec 1914) and addressed a very big parade of Irish Volunteers who assembled there from all parts of County Galway. He spoke from one of the windows of Guy’s. Hotel. I remember distinctly that the Tuam Company of the Volunteers did not take part in the parade. I think that the meeting was a recruiting meeting for the British Army rather than a national political meeting.’
Liam Langley in his witness statement elaborates on the aftermath of ‘the split’ in the Volunteer movement in Tuam:
‘At that time things had begun to go badly with the Irish Ireland Movement in Tuam as elsewhere in the county. After a very successful three years during which were established troops of Fianna Éireann, Circles of I.R.B. and a Corps of Irish Volunteers, an opposition element began to show itself. Encouraged by a recruiting campaign launched by the Irish Parliamentary Party on behalf of the British Army, enemies emerged from everywhere. Pastors, parents, merchants and employers were approached and pressed to withdraw support from the national organisations. Cases were reported where they went even further, a Fianna uniform, the property of the organisation, having been burnt to ashes by the employer of the Fianna boy concerned. They partly succeeded in breaking up the local branch of the Gaelic League when the Secretary was wrongfully impeached with leading a protest demonstration during a visit of representatives of the British Lady Lieutenant Aberdeen on a lecture tour connected with the W.N.H.A. 2.
Further instances could be given of open hostility to everyone with Irish Ireland sympathies. What was once a stronghold of the Independence Movement was rapidly becoming a pro-British garrison town. Great Southern railway officials were warned and ordered to leave the Irish Volunteers or else – . Open parades of the bodies could not be held and we were compelled to use the machinery provided by the I.R.B. to run the organisations’ (Witness Statement WS0816 BMH)