An Appreciation – Mr. Thaddeus Walsh
To the ‘Mayo News’
Patrick Tunney. Cushlough, August, 1931.
Whenever we reflect on days gone by we always find that some of our best friends and associates have, also, gone to other spheres – one by one they have passed away, therefore, whilst fate bades us to sojourn here and enable us to combat all forms of vice, strife, worry and depression which pave our paths, let us consider how briefly is our span of life, whereas, we, some day in the near future, will tread the lonely road of our predecessors have travelled.
The recent demise of the lamented Mr. Thaddeus Walsh, Westport, recalls to my mind the cherished memories of some fifteen golden years ago when together we were harboured in Imperial fortifications and armed sentries guarded our repose lest we should interfere with the peace and safety of the Realm; therefore, I, regard his death as a lost link with other days, not the shining link of the valorous soldiers who nobly died for Irish freedom, and whose named are emblazoned on Ireland’s roll of honour, no, the late Mr. Walsh was predestined to take his place as an humble follower rather than yearn for the responsibility of leadership, and was a stern believer in constitutionalism, as ever courteous, obliging and inoffensive man. But it is not for his disposition, or chairmanship of Westport District Council, or member of the Mayo County Council that I tender my sympathy, or record my appreciation of the late Mr. Walsh, but as patriot and Irishman.
When Republicanism was spreading its pure mantles o’er the villages and towns of Ireland during 1915, he joined Ireland’s ranks for Ireland’s sake; with zeal and energy, he stood in the gap of danger with devotion when England’s hirelings were conspiring to destroy Irish sovereignty; when recruiting and decoying Irishmen was rife in Ireland, he advocated fiscal freedom for the land of his birth although the advocacy of such policy was not too fashionable then, – besides the “Irish Party, the shoneen, the aristocratic and all the Imperial elements within Ireland were lustily cheering Brittania in hopes she would kill the Kaiser and all the anti-national forces of Ireland were flocking to the recruiting platforms, still through all the throes Mr. Walsh never deviated; then Easter Week dawned gloriously, the Maxwellian agents raided, arrested, imprisoned, deported and murdered many Irishmen. In Westport area a number of arrests were made, which included Thaddeus Walsh, P.J. Doris, “Mayo News”, Charles Hughes, Eamon Gannon, Edward Sammon, John MacDonagh, Michael Derrig, Tom O’Brien, Hubert Heraty, Charles Gavin, Tom Derrig, James Malone, Owen Hughes, Manus Keane, Joseph Ruddy, Joseph Gill, Joseph Ring, Joseph MacBride, as well as John Berry, Lanmore and Edward Haran, both of whom were, since, driven into exile. With brevity, I will summarise the ordeals which the late Mr. Walsh and his associates underwent during the ensuing months of 1916. Heavily handcuffed, the entire number of prisoners left Westport, and at midnight, by special train on the 10th May, all the Mayo prisoners were transferred from Castlebar to Dublin. On arrival in Dublin we were escorted directly to Trinity College; our stay there was brief, otherwise we may aspire to a librarianship. We were then removed to Richmond Barracks. In Richmond there was no accommodation whatever for prisoners save to sleep on the bare floor. On the 13th May, 380 Irishmen were paraded on the barrack Square ready for deportation. About 6 p.m., under an armed guard of 800 soldiers, the march for North Mall begun and long ere the sun sunk in the West, we were out on the waters of the Irish Sea, on board a huge cattle boat, named, I think, “The Slievebloom.”
Early on the following morning we arrived in Holyhead and were entrained in a non-stop train direct for Surrey County Jail, it was an eight-hour journey, and on arrival at the nearest railway station we had to march to Wandsworth Prison, and were allotted to our cells, – our meal then was one pint of cold or porridge. Solitary confinement for seven weeks was the order of the day in Wandsworth jail in conjunction with rigid military regulations, but all the rigous failed to subdue the late Mr. Walsh. Early in July we were transferred to an old disused Mill in Merrionethshire, known as the Frongoch Camp, of Wales. In August, we were again brought back to Wormwood Scrubbs Jail, London, where the Sankey Commission adjucicated over the Irish Republican trails or pre- again brought back to Wormwood Scrubbs Jail, London, where the Sankey Commission adjucicated over the Irish Republican trails or preliminary proceedings. Congestion prevental the authorities from detaining prisoners indefinitely in Wormwood Scrubbs, therefore, Frongoch Camp was once more our address. Interment allows association amongst the prisoners in the respective camps, therefore, it is never so melancholy as the prison solitary confinement, although the suspense of uncertainty is a wearisome ordeal, – the British authorities exercise all deprivations which legislation permits. When the rank and file of the prisoners lost their learned advisors who were sent to Reading jail from the camp, Mr. Walshe’s counsel was then encouraging and appreciative, thus it was with him in jail, camp or at home; his labours were unceasing after his release and he did a man’s part in overthrowing the forces of the Imperial Irish Party during the election campaign, December 1918. During the last 15 years many men’s minds have changed in Ireland. Some of the men we know in exile are now aiding the enemy which sent 1,900 men to British dungeons. 150 men to pine in penal servitude and 15 Republican martyrs to early graves, in 1916. Yet, whilst we have some of the 1916 heroes like Brian O’Higgins, Dáil Éireann; John O’Mahony, T.D.; Barney Mellows, T.D. ; Patrick J. Doris and others to guide our destinies, there is hope for the future.
Each week the editorials of the “Mayo News” ring like thunderbolts and instil animation to the very heart of the wayward reader. Our slogan should be: “Read the “Mayo News,” study it, practice its doctrines.” No other organ in Ireland has worked with more energy than the “The Mayo News.” Black-and Tanism failed to subdue its editor when its machinery was dismantled, the offices sacked, raided and P.J. sent into exile.
Now, 15 years is but a short term in the normal life of a being and shorter in the life of a nation, still how great is the change we have lived to witness. Some of the pretentious Sinn Feiners and Republicans of 1916 are to-day Crown Colony enthusiasts – pillars of Imperialism.
Others of whom we had the honour of being associated with then have since died in defence of Irish freedom, amongst whom were Paddy Moran, Roscommon, Terence McSwiney, Tom McCurtain, Lord Mayors, Cork; Dick McKee, Dublin; John O’Connor, John Kavanagh, Wexford; whilst others have died as the result of tyranny inflicted by our Saxon captors, Dick Fitzgerald, Kerry; Sean Corcoran, Liam Lynch, Patrick Hughes, Joseph Gill, Westport; Ml. Duffy, Lanmore; like hundreds of others of our Frongoch comrades, have passed away to their eternal reward with the ideals of their lives still a dream, and with his predecessors, to-day, rests Thaddeus or Thady Walsh, as he was familiarly known.
Space prevents me to go further into detail, though it would be my ambition to have the names of most of the Frongoch internees filed in letters of gold.
The spirit of 1916 still lives and will live till Ireland arises from selfdom and the aims of Pearse are fully realised. It is our duty to hand down the ideals which animated the men of 1916 to posterity, unsullied, then let us breathe a prayer for the heroes who gave their lives and for the repose of the soul of Thady Walsh – a true Irishman, who filled an humble place in the rear guard.