1902, one of the highlights of the year for many Irish
people was the coronation of Edward Vll (left)
as King on 9th of August. This might surprise a lot of
people in modern Ireland, but the fact was that in 1902
the English monarchy was held in high esteem in many quarters
in Ireland. People looked forward to Edward Vll succeeding
his mother, Queen Victoria, who had ruled over an Empire
on which, it was said, the sun never set (Nationalists
explained this by claiming that God could not trust an
Englishman in the dark!).
Her death was widely mourned in 1901, but in the aftermath
of the 1916 Rising, her memory was revived - and reviled
- as the 'Famine Queen' who had allowed over one million
of her Irish subjects to starve to death. In 1948, approximately
a century after the Great Famine, her statue was removed
from the front of Leinster House, the seat of the Irish
Government. Later, in 1987, it was shipped to Australia
as a gift for that country's Bicentennial Celebrations.
second high point of 1902 was the signing of the Peace
of Vereeniging in South Africa which ended the Boer War.
Incidentally, it was an Irish Regiment, the Royal Dublin
Fusiliers, which had fired the first shots in this war,
three years previously, in 1899. In all, over twenty-eight
thousand Irishmen served in the British Army against the
Boers. This, of course, was perfectly acceptable to most
Irish people, as service in the British Army was considered
honourable. But, in the aftermath of the 1916 executions,
attitudes changed: the Boer War Memorial (right)
to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in Dublin's Stephen's Green
(which is in the shape of an arch) was insultingly nicknamed
'Traitors' Arch' by Dubliners.
Then, in 1922, after Independence, six Irish regiments
in the British Army were unceremoniously disbanded. Most
people can name at least one of them, the Connaught Rangers,
who are remembered for their mutiny in India in 1920.
The others are probably less well known: the Royal Irish
Regiment, the South Irish Horse, the Prince of Wales Leinster
Regiment, the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Dublin
Fusiliers. Their disbandment in 1922 was part of a popular
move to erase memories of Ireland's contribution to British
from joining the armed services, many Irishmen in 1902
sought employment in the Civil Service. In 1902, an Irishman
was working flat out on his damning report on the exploitation
of the natives in the Congo by European traders.
His name was Roger Casement (left),
and the publication of his report some time later made
him the most famous name in the British Civil Service.
He was honoured by the British Establishment and later
knighted. But, as everyone knows, his involvement in the
1916 Rising changed the British Establishment's attitude
towards him, and he was executed by hanging in 1916. However,
his remains were returned to Ireland in 1965, and he was
commemorated by having Baldonnel Aerodrome, the Headquarters
of the Irish Air Corps, re-named Casement Aerodrome.
was a rising tide of prosperity in Ireland in 1902 with
the effective ending of the Land War. During the preceding
thirty years, the Land League, under the leadership of
Michael Davitt (right), had
forced landlords to sell their estates to their tenants.
The Land League also forced the British Government to
pass a series of Land Acts which, among other things,
provided loans for the tenants who wished to purchase
Loans, of course, are repayable, and in 1902, many people
were so confident of their future that they had borrowed
money for terms ranging from sixty to eighty years. Most
people were quite happy to keep their repayments as a
matter of honour. Incidentally, these repayments were
known as 'annuities', and were worth about three million
pounds per year. They were collected by the Dublin administration
and forwarded to the British treasury in London. After
1922, the Free State Government followed suit.
in 1932, a 1916 veteran, Eamonn deValera (left),
took power and refused to hand over the annuities. This
set the stage for the 'Economic War', and the matter was
eventually resolved in 1938 when deValera handed over
ten million pounds in final settlement. This was a fraction
of the actual worth of the annuities, most of which were
repayable for another thirty years after 1938.
second result of the ending of the Land War was that evictions
became a thing of the past. Immediately, there was a dramatic
improvement in relations between the ordinary people and
the police, whose duties had required them to attend evictions.
As a result, many policemen who were members of the Royal
Irish Constabulary (or RIC) felt that it was safe enough
to carry out their duties without being armed. But 1916
changed this, and things took a turn for the worse in
1920 when the British Government reinforced the RIC with
unemployed ex-soldiers, officially styled 'Temporary Constables'.
But their makeshift uniform of military khaki and black
police clothing earned them their nickname 'Black and
Tans' (right). Their fearsome
reputation for brutality ruined the good name of the RIC,
which was unceremoniously ' disbanded after Independence
These are just some instances of the way public attitudes
which were common in Ireland in 1902 changed, and most
of these changes can be traced back to the dramatic events
of Easter, 1916.