School Resource Packs: Cork 1912-1918

Resource Pack 2: 1913 Irish Volunteers

3 Cork City & County Archives: Through War and Rebellion: Cork 1912-1918

Year: 1913 U156/1 14 December 1913 [1914] Formation of Irish Volunteers in Cork

Background: Riobaird Langford was born in 1896 in Cork. His father was Charles Lankford, who worked as a printer in the Cork Examiner newspaper. He was a member of Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League). Riobaird served an apprenticeship in the Cork Examiner and his printing business (Lee Press) started in 1913 with the purchase of St. Josephs Press, off South Terrace, Cork,. His first wife died in childbirth. He had 20 children with his second wife, Catherine O'Callaghan, of Blarney Street. Riobárd’s grandfather was possibly a Protestant minister. His brother Seamus and his sister-in-law Siobhán Langford were prominent in the IRA in Cork city and Mallow. During 1916 he was involved guarding the Volunteer Headquarters in Sheares Street and protecting the leaders Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney. In this document Riobaird Langford is writing about the founding of the Cork branch of the Irish Volunteers on 14 December 1913. They were set up to support the passage of Home Rule for Ireland against Ulster Unionist resistance. However, the original committee of the Irish Volunteers had been dominated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) who secretly wanted to use the organisation to start a rebellion against British rule. When the British Army, stationed at the Curragh Camp in county Kildare ‘mutinied’ in March 1914 and the Ulster Unionists landed 25,000 rifles and a million bullets at Larne on 24 April 1914 the leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, under John Redmond, demanded (and got) control of the Irish Volunteers so that all nationalists working for Home Rule would be under his control. If Irish Volunteers started fighting Ulster Volunteers this might delay Home Rule which was due to become law in the Autumn. Despite this, on 26 July 1914 the Irish Volunteers landed 900 rifles and 29,000 bullets at Howth, County Dublin and it really looked as if a civil war would start in Ireland. Just at this moment war in Europe broke out and the history of Ireland and Britain took a different path. When the Great War (First World War) broke out, on 4 August 1914, Redmond committed the Irish Volunteers to fight for Britain in a speech at Woodenbridge Co. Wexford on 20 September 1914. The Home Rule bill had become law two days earlier, but was suspended for the length of the war. Nobody expected the war to last until 1918 and most of the soldiers expected to be ‘home by Christmas’, 1914. Redmond’s ‘off the cuff’ speech led to a split in the movement when Eoin MacNeill rejected Redmond’s call to war on 24 September, but the vast majority (175,000) supported Redmond who set up the National Volunteers. This left a rump of 13,500 in the Irish Volunteers. It was this group that was involved in the Easter Rising of 1916.

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