are coming for me
News of Eamon de Valera's sensational arrest on the
streets of Ennis went around the world. Joe O Muircheartaigh
recalls the remarkable day of August 15th, 1923, with the
help of eye witness Charles Nono and newspapers archives.
Ennis is a big town now, one of the fastest growing in Europe
demographicly experts tell us. I wasnt always like
this of course. It was once a small country town, but still
a town that echoed around the world.
There was the famous 1828 day that Ennis elected Daniel
OConnell. He wasnt known as the Liberator
then but religious liberation was at hand thanks to OConnell
and the people of Ennis. A day that echoed around the world.
There was another big day in 1891 when Charles Stewart Parnell
came to town. He was another Liberator but a
liberator who was being hounded by his own. In Ennis he
found solace and one of the greatest gatherings in history.
A day that echoed around the world.
Big days and great days, but still there was no day in Clares
long and storied history of political agitation was as memorable
as eighty years ago last Friday. It was the day Eamon de
Valera was arrested in Ennis, a day that echoed around the
Charles Nono was eleven years old at the time. He lived
in the shadow of the OConnell Monument and lived through
the Black and Tan war in town. He remembers when the Tans
Up the road from his home on 41 OConnell Street he
remembers the day the tans stormed the Old Ground and ransacked
They threw furniture out the windows. They wrecked
the place as a reprisal against the Sinn Féiners.
The Old Ground owner, James ORegan was known as Sinn
Then there was the day down the road at OConnell Square
when the Tans turned their attention to TV Honans
- now the Brewery. TV was another Sinn Féiner targeted
by the Tans.
He was a great personal friend of de Valera but the
British could never pin anything on him.
One day a squad arrived and set explosive charges in his
premises and set them off.
There was great excitement and tension in the town on those
days - but nothing compared to the excitement and tension
on that August 15th afternoon in 1923. De Valera was coming
to town in direct defiance of a government order which banned
him from public meetings.
He arrived in town by motor car. remembers Charles
Nono. The car was guarded by Sinn Féiners.
There were bands about the place and people were piping
I can remember standing near the corner of the Old
Ground, near Lillys Land, seeing Dev in the car and
the crowds following. I can see them now coming around the
corner into the main OConnell street and I raced down
the street after them, recalls Charles
The stage was set at the OConnell Monument for the
famous Ennis occasion. Dev brought town and country to a
From the early hours things were astir and it was
evident that the meeting would be of immense proportions.
Large contingents from districts with bands and flags arrived
by motor car and foot prior to and during the progress of
the meeting, reported the Clare Champion.
At 2pm the dimensions of the crowd had swelled to
an enormous extent and punctually on the stroke of 2pm,
de Valera arrived. He was dressed in a black overcoat and
plain dark suit. He wore a black hat, a white flanned collar
and a brown tie.
Amidst unprecedented scenes of enthusiasm he descended
from the car and ascended to the platform. Hats, caps and
handkerchiefs were waved and salvoes of cheers rent the
air. Some people even cried at the sight of the tall pale
faced figure, standing erectly at the edge of the platform,
The Champion correspondent added.
Shake hands, my darling that I suffered so much for,
said one woman on the platform.
Home was the Hero to his Clare constituency, even if the
hero who did so much to rally everyone to the cause with
his famous East Clare election victory in 1917 was now an
enemy in the eyes of the state.
But among his own Dev was deified - the savour of Republican
Ireland. Clare wasnt going to let Dev down was the
theme for the day. Speaker after speaker hammered home this
In every crisis in Irish history the voice of Clare
rang true and it will do so on this occasion, said
Sean McNamara. Its not necessary for me to bring
you back to the Parnell Split when Ennis stood true to Parnell.
The people of Ennis, assisted by the people of Clare
always stood in the gap and they stand there today. Today
history is repeating itself and our enemies, helped by men
of Irish blood are out for the blood of Eamon de Valera.
But by heaven. Clare again stands in the gap and today Clare
says that, never will our enemies hound to death another
Irish patriot, added Mr McNamara to prolonged cheers.
All the while Dev was on the podium waiting his turn to
address the crowd. His time was coming but before he got
to his feet, there was time for one more speech. A Miss
Chambers from Cooraclare got the crowd going again.
We have seen English guns and English money used to
destroy the Republic proclaimed by Pearse and his immortal
comrades in 1916, and set up by the will of the people in
We have heard their catch cry: Destroy the Republic
to win the Republic. But we people of Clare are not
blind; we, people of Clare are not knaves.
You have stood like a rock in the tempest; the wild
wrath of the forces of disruption have left you unshaken,
and the spirit of our glorious nation safe in the protection.
We welcome you today; tomorrow we give you another
mandate in the name of the Irish nation. We always give
it to a statesman - just as our forefathers did to Daniel
OConnell and to Charles Stewart Parnell.
Eamon de Valera then rose, and taking off his overcoat
prepared to address the meeting. He was unable to speak
for some time, so great was the outburst of cheers and he
was visibly touched by the extraordinary demonstration of
enthusiasm, reported The Clare Champion.
It was 2.33pm, by which time young Charles Nono had found
the vantage point he was looking for. He was looking down
and across at de Valera, ready and waiting like thousands
of others to hang on Devs every word.
At that time there were some buildings on the other
side of the Square which later became Gerry McMahons
auctioneers. Running from OConnell Street and coming
out the back of those buildings at the top of Parnell Street,
there was a narrow lane. There was a hoarding around the
buildings being demolished, we climbed up and got a great
view across the Square. I can still see Dev. He spoke in
Irish first, then in English. It was very clear.
I come here as one of you, to tell you that I have
never stood for destruction. I have never stood for brothers
hand being raised against brothers. I have never stood
for playing the enemys game, and the enemys
game is to have one part of the nation fighting the other
I have always preached only one gospel and that is
the gospel I preach to you here today. That gospel is that
if this nation kept together and was united we would achieve
independence, Dev added.
As Dev talked away the multitudes cheered. Then the cheering
stopped as it became apparent that something was up. Down
to our right which would be the top end of OConnell
Street, there was some movement going on. The next thing
we saw two or three Free State soldiers coming through and
people were running away, recalls Charles Nono.
The soldiers are coming, went the shouted warning
to Dev as the soldiers moved in.
Armed with rifles and bayonets fixed, the soldiers
surrounded the platform. They were accompanied by an armoured
car on which a Lewis gun was mounted. reported the
Do you want me, said Dev to the officer in charge.
I do, replied the officer. I want to take
you prisoner, he added. Very well. I am ready
but have consideration for the people, said Dev. They
are coming for me, Dev then told the crowd. It
will be alright. I am going with them but I am glad it was
in Clare that I was taken, he added.
At that stage we decided to get the hell out of there.
We hared off down the same narrow lane, back on to OConnell
Street. The Callanans, who I was with, went up to the Town
Hall, where they lived and I went to my house which now
lies opposite the entrance to Dunnes Stores, recalls
He was safely home, but wasnt finished with this remarkable
de Valera day just yet. He wanted more an wasnt content
to stay indoors. Minutes later Charles saw de Valera marching
by his front door.
The rumble of the crowd moving down from the Square
could be heard louder and louder. We opened the door and
could see Dev with a white bandage across his forehead.
I can see it now. His hat was being carried by Countess
Markievicz and she was holding on to his arm and talking
to him. The crowd was following behind.
At the home Barracks gate, Dev was permitted to shake
hands with his supporters and bid them farewell. He last
words are said to be: Goodbye now boys, whatever about
me, maintain the Republic, reported The Champion.
The curtain was drawn on a remarkable day in Clare political
history. A day that will always have a special place and
a day that helped further cement the legend of de Valera
in the Banner County.
Two weeks later, the people of Clare showed what Dev meant
to them when they voted him to another historic election
victory. And, the following year, on August 15th, Dev was
back in OConnell Square to give another famous speech.
Im afraid, I would disappoint a number here
were I not to start by saying: Well as I was saying
to you when we were interrupted.
Surely one of Devs greatest lines.
Courtesy of the Clare Champion