Sunday, 26 October 2014

About the Church of Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel

The church of Our Lady of the Scapular and St Stephen, Manhattan

The Church of Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel was a former Roman Catholic parish church that was demolished. The church was located at 341 East 28th Street between First and Second Avenues in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The parish was established in 1889. The building is believed to have been erected that year, designed in the Country Gothic style. It was previously staffed by the Carmelite Fathers and was the original location of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which had been established in 1941 and was moved to Middletown, New York.

The parish was merged with that of the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr in the 1980s, with the newly combined parish named Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen. The sanctuary at 341 West 28th Street was torn down. In January 2007, it was announced by the Archdiocese of New York that the Church of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, located at 307 East 33rd Street, was to be merged into Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen Church.

An article online posted in April 2011 by Bill Bence provides further information about the history of the church and of the Carmelite order of priests known as the White Friars:
Our Lady holding the infant Jesus
and in her right hand, the scapular

'   The April 15, 1946 New York Times noted the 57th anniversary of the Carmelite priests in New York. Known as the White Friars, the order was best known for ministering to patients at Bellevue Hospital, which lay in their East Side parish. The order had ten priests in Manhattan then, who lived in a priory at East 28th Street. While their actual anniversary was this week, it would be celebrated with a fundraiser featuring Irish folklore and music at the Manhattan Center on May 3. Mayor O'Dwyer was the honorary chairman.

The Irish order of the Carmelites came to the city in 1889. According to a story that appeared in The Times in 2007, the New York archdiocese had invited the Carmelites to the city at least in part to help quiet an uproar among Irish working class immigrants after a popular priest, Dr. Edward McGlynn, was excommunicated. He had been admonished for openly supporting Henry George, the Socialist candidate for mayor, and then excommunicated for failing to obey Vatican orders. He would later be reinstated to the priesthood.

McGlynn was well-known in the city in the decades after the Civil War for his charitable work, his large and prosperous congregation and, at a time of religious hostilities, for his cordial relationships with the city's Protestant clergy. His church, St. Stephen's, a Romanesque Revival edifice on 29th Street near Lexington, had been designed by James Renwick Jr., architect of St. Patrick's Cathedral and was in the mid-19th century, before the cathedral was opened, the most prominent Catholic church in Manhattan with a mostly Irish congregation that included both affluent and working class members.

The Carmelites held their first mass in a tobacco factory near 28th Street and First Avenue but soon were given a church in the Country Gothic style, Our Lady of the Scapular, at 338 East 28th Street between First and Second Avenue, not far from St. Stephen's. The Carmelite parish ran from 24th to 32nd Streets and from Second Avenue to the East River, while St. Stephen's retained the more prosperous neighbourhood to the west. Second Avenue long was the dividing line between the working and middle class on the East Side of Manhattan. According to The Times, in 1946 Our Lady of the Scapular was one of the smallest and poorest parishes in the city but it also encompassed Bellevue Hospital, which became the order's primary mission. Our Lady of the Scapular was also the only Carmelite church in Manhattan.
The men who built New York: a famous shot of Irish
construction workers taken in Manhattan in the 1930s.
The Times story in 2007 noted the active role the Carmelites in New York took in sheltering Irish revolutionaries, including Eamon de Valera, early in the 20th century. They also stored a cache of submachine guns in the priory. The weapons, wrapped in burlap bags, were seized by federal authorities after being smuggled to a steamship in Hoboken in 1921 for shipment to Ireland.

Our Lady of the Scapular was torn down in the 1980s when the parish was merged with St. Stephen's. The Carmelites were put in charge of the merged parish. In 2007, Cardinal Egan evicted them from their church and priory, which meant the loss of their chaplaincy at Bellevue. It was not an entirely amicable parting  At the same time, the Archdiocese also closed the nearby Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary church on East 33rd Street, merging it with St. Stephen's, maintaining a chapel at the 33rd Street site. Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary had been established in 1915 to minister to the largely Italian neighbourhood above 32nd Street on the East Side.

Two of the five Carmelites who lived at the 28th Street priory were reassigned in 2007 to St. John the Martyr parish on East 72nd Street. That congregation had moved into a former Presbyterian church in 1904 and served a predominantly Bohemian congregation until the post-war period. In 1946, this neighbourhood still was mostly tenement buildings and part of the ethnic melange of Yorkville.   '

In his comprehensive history of the Carmelite community in Manhattan The Carmelites, The Province of St Elias By: Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm. provides even more insight into the role of the Carmelites of Our Lady of the Scapular in sheltering Irish revolutionaries:

'   We have already seen that John Cardinal Farley allowed the New York Carmelites to make a city wide collection in 1914 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of their coming to New York. He did this because, as he stated, the Carmelites’ parish at Our Lady of the Scapular had the trappings of an Irish national parish.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was an Irish attempt to overthrow British rule. Shortly afterwards, Denis O’Connor was in Ireland for his holidays and the Irish Provincial Chapter. What he saw of British revenge for the Rising, the scarcity of food and the punishment of the people changed him. Though there is no proof of this, I feel that all this caused him to become, while in Ireland, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood whose counterpart was the Clan na Gael in the United States. This was a secret and clandestine organization whose members were totally devoted to attaining the freedom of Ireland. Certainly, from 1916 onwards, O’Connor’s actions were indicative of such membership.

When Ireland was under the British Crown, the Carmelites were anti-royalists; at the time of the treaty, they were anti treaty; in the Commonwealth era, they were for independence; once the republic was established, they were for the union of all Ireland, north and south. By attributing these positions to the Carmelites, it means that these were the stance of those in charge. The superiors had the opportunity to be free to speak to various groups and to present their position. Since many times, it was the only one presented, it was taken as the Carmelite position.

The last stand at the Post Office in Dublin during the 1916 Rising
During the 1916 Easter Rising, Robert Albert Metcalf was the unofficial chaplain for the rebels holed up in Jacobs Biscuit factory and Louis McCabe assisted him in this ministry. Denis O’Connor, McCabe, Metcalf and Peter Elias Magennis, all spoke to Irish groups in New York City of what they had seen or learned from their time in Ireland.

When Donal O’Callaghan was a graduate student, he planned to do his thesis on the Carmelite involvement in the Irish Freedom Movement. He prepared a series of questions, which in the 1940's, he asked of the older Irish born Carmelites. As a result, he was able to say that Peter Elias Magennis was a member of the Clan na Gael and that the Carmelite, Hugh Devlin, carried messages to the United States for the Clan. Magennis and Christopher Slattery also were couriers for the Republicans. During World War I, the 28th Street priory’s phones were tapped by the federal government and Magennis was under government surveillance. 

During the period of Denis O’Connor’s pastorate, 1916-1924, the Irish activity at the Carmelite parish was at its height. O’Connor and Peter Elias Magennis were very close friends. They had originally met at the Carmelites’ Dublin school, Terenure College, and had served together in Australia. O’Connor encouraged Irish activities in the parish by making his school auditorium available to any and all Irish groups requesting its use. In the school children’s curriculum were Irish music and dance as well as Irish history and culture. The same classes were available after school hours for adults. 

In his years at the 28th Street parish, Gerard O’Farrell regretted that his work in the parish and Bellevue Hospital prevented him from doing more for the Irish cause. His interest was Irish literature, music and art. He gave a number of lectures in these areas and authored a small book on Patrick Pearse, the first president of the Irish Republic.
De Valera - fellow student of Rev.
Lawrence Flanagan

Lawrence D. Flanagan was stationed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown and its mission parishes until he came to the Manhattan parish in 1924. He was a tall man of serious mien whose role among the Irish was that of a trusted advisor. Besides his birth in Westmeath, Ireland, his connection to the Irish Freedom Movement was rooted in his long and close friendship with Eamon De Valera, his fellow student at Dublin’s Blackrock College.

The Carmelite priory was open to Irish Republicans. One example of this hospitality was Liam Mellows. He had participated in the Easter Rising and had escaped to the United States in 1916. He stayed for periods of time at the Carmelite Priory and taught Irish music and dance in the parish school. When he contracted the flu, he recuperated at Saint Albert’s in Middletown where he also spent some vacation time. He had returned to Ireland in 1920 and was captured among the anti treatyites at the Four Courts in 1922.

Imprisoned at Kilmainham, he was executed on December 8, 1922 by the Cosgrave government in retaliation for the killing of a Free State officer. Peter Elias Magennis tried to see him before his death, but was denied. Afterwards, he spoke out strongly against this injustice meted out to his friend. 
Liam Mellows, an Irish republican leader who
took shelter with the Carmelites at Manhattan

Sean T. O’Kelly, later the president of Ireland, told of how he had come to America in September, 1924, to represent the Republican Party and how he was warmly received at the Carmelite Priory. Harry Boland stayed there a number of times and recovered for two weeks at the priory when he contracted the flu. When Eamon De Valera escaped from prison in England in 1919, he came secretly to the United States and stayed at the priory. It was from the priory that he came for his first appearance in the United States on June 23, 1919 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

The Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF), an organization aimed at the support of the Irish cause, began in June, 1916. From the very beginning, Carmelites spoke to the different Branches established throughout the city. Surprisingly, it was not until June, 1917 that a Branch was begun at the Carmelite parish. The Carmelite Branch grew to be the largest and the most active of any of the New York Branches because it concentrated on Irish cultural and intellectual aspects as well as entertainment.
When a split developed between Eamon De Valera and both Judge Daniel F. Cohalan and John Devoy, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) was begun and wholeheartedly supported by the Carmelite parish. Their Republicanism and support of De Valera prompted them to do this. Denis O’Connor   became an officer of the AARIR in New York State.
The Irish Progressive League was formed as a result of New York City’s harassment of the street preachers whose main message was to stay out of World War I and not support England in this venture. Some enemies described it in these words, “This league was a radical organization with some distinctly dubious members.” When the Cohalan faction gained control of the FOIF, the Irish Progressive League was expelled from “associate society membership.” Liam Mellows was an active member but John Devoy would not support the group. Patrick McCartan, who was present at many of the groups’ gatherings, openly stated that the Carmelites were behind the League’s activities. He told how Magennis was usually the chairman of the police supervised meetings of the League. At a January, 1919 meeting, Norman Thomas, the perennial socialist candidate for president, was the main speaker.

Harry Boland was the senior IRA emissary sent to the United States in June 1919.He was an elected member of Dail Eireann, a clever politician and close friend of IRA Director of Intelligence Michael Collins.
There is a reference in Boland’s correspondence dated 20th July 1920 when he was arms hunting in the US to having secured “quotations from G” which is thought to refer to George Gordon Rorke, Auto-Ordnance salesman who was later indicted one year later. Boland stayed at the Carmelite Priory on a number of occasions.

The Irish Progressive League sponsored a rally at Madison Square Garden to protest the British conscription of the Irish because they would then be forced to fight for England, their oppressor who deprived them of their human rights. Before the rally took place on May 4, 1918, Mrs. William Jay and others tried to stop the gathering. She was unsuccessful. Peter Elias Magennis presided and among others spoke harshly and critically of England and her efforts to drag the United States into the war. The next day protests were made to John Cardinal Farley for Magennis’ role. After a drawn out exchange of letters, the result was that Magennis was prohibited from presiding at such events in the future. The Irish rushed to his defence and to the condemnation of Farley.

On the 18th of that same month, Magennis was elected the national president of the Friends of Irish Freedom at the Second Irish Race Convention. During his term of office, he used the network of clergy he had created through his parish missions to found new Branches and attached them to parishes and increased the group’s membership. At the Third Irish Race Convention in February, 1919, Magennis was re-elected president but had to resign when he was elected the Carmelites’ prior  general later that year.

The election of Magennis as general furnished him the opportunity to serve the Irish Freedom Movement in another role. Sean T. O’Kelly had resigned his post in Paris as the representative of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic and came to Rome for a vacation. While there he was pressed into service because it was rumored that the Vatican was about to condemn the warfare tactics of the Republicans during the Irish Civil War. Peter Elias Magennis and John Hagen, rector of the Irish College, prepared O’Kelly for his presentation to Pope Benedict XV. These efforts were successful as the condemnation was never issued.

It is no wonder that Eamon De Valera referred to the Carmelites’ Manhattan parish of Our Lady of the Scapular as that “Cradle in America of Irish Independence.”

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A short biography of Eamon de Valera

Eamon de Valera

A short biography of Eamon de Valera (excerpts from Wikipedia)

Eamon De Valera was born in New York City in 1882 to an Irish mother; his parents, Catherine Coll (subsequently Mrs Wheelwright), an immigrant from Bruree, County Limerick, and Juan Vivion de Valera were reportedly married on 18 September 1881 at St. Patrick's Church in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, archivists have not located any such marriage certificate or any birth, baptismal or death certificate information for anyone called Juan Vivion de Valera (nor for 'de Valeros', an alternative spelling).

On de Valera's original birth certificate (right), his name is given as George de Valero and his father is listed as Vivion de Valero. The first name was changed in 1910 to Edward and the surname corrected to de Valera.

There were occasions when de Valera seriously contemplated the religious life like his half-brother, Fr Thomas Wheelwright, but ultimately he did not pursue this vocation. As late as 1906, when he was 24 years old, he approached the President of Clonliffe Seminary in Dublin for advice on his vocation. De Valera was throughout his life portrayed as a deeply religious man, who in death asked to be buried in a religious habit. His biographer, Tim Pat Coogan, speculated that questions surrounding de Valera's legitimacy may have been a deciding factor in his not  entering religious life, since being illegitimate would have been a bar to receiving orders only as a secular or diocesan cleric, not as a  member of a   religious order.

De Valera’s mother, Catherine,
nee Coll c.1885
Juan Vivion died in 1885 leaving Catherine Coll and her child in poor circumstances. Éamon was taken to Ireland by his Uncle Ned at the age of two. Even when his mother married a new husband in the mid-1880s, he was not brought back to live with her, but was reared instead by his grandmother Elizabeth Coll, her son Patrick and her daughter Hannie, in County Limerick. He was educated locally at Bruree National School, County   Limerick and C.B.S. Charleville County Cork. Aged sixteen, he won a scholarship. He was refused entry to two colleges in Limerick but was accepted at Blackrock College, Dublin at the instigation of his local curate. He played rugby there, and later during his tenure at Rockwell College, he joined the school's rugby team where he played fullback on the first team, which reached the final of the Munster Senior Cup. De Valera went on to play for the Munster rugby team around 1905 in the fullback position and   remained a lifelong devotee of rugby, attending numerous international matches up to and towards the end of his life despite near blindness. He told the British Ambassador in 1967, "For my part I have always preferred rugby."

Always a diligent student, at the end of his first year in Blackrock College he was Student of the Year. He also won further scholarships and exhibitions and in 1903 was appointed teacher of mathematics at Rockwell College, County Tipperary. It was here that de Valera was first given the nickname "Dev" by a teaching colleague, Tom O'Donnell. In 1904, he graduated in mathematics from the Royal University of Ireland. He then studied for a year at
De Valera, shortest standing, and Brother Prendeville,
head teacher, Rathuire (Charleville) School
Trinity College Dublin but, owing to the necessity of earning a living, did not proceed further and returned to teaching, this time at Belvedere College. In 1906, he secured a post as
teacher of mathematics at Carysfort Teachers' Training College for women in Blackrock, County Dublin. His applications for professorships in colleges of the National University of Ireland were unsuccessful, but he obtained a part-time appointment at Maynooth and also taught mathematics at various Dublin schools, including Castleknock College (1910–1911; under the name Edward de Valera) and Belvedere   College.

As a young Gaeilgeoir (Irish speaker), de Valera became an activist for the language. In 1908 he joined the Árdchraobh of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League), where he met Sinéad Flanagan, a teacher by profession and four years his senior. They were married on 8 January 1910 at St Paul's Church, Arran Quay, Dublin.
Patrick Pearse

Early political activity

While he was already involved in the Gaelic Revival, de Valera's involvement in the political revolution began on 25 November 1913 when he joined the Irish Volunteers formed to oppose the Ulster Volunteers and ensure the enactment of the Irish Parliamentary Party's Third Home Rule Act won by its leader John Redmond.

After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, de Valera rose through the ranks and it was not long before he was elected captain of the Donnybrook company. Preparations were pushed ahead for an armed revolt, and he was made commandant of the Third Battalion and adjutant of the Dublin Brigade. He took part in the Howth gun-running. He was sworn by Thomas MacDonagh into the oath-bound Irish Republican Brotherhood, which secretly controlled the central executive of the Volunteers. He opposed secret societies but this was the only way he could be guaranteed full information on plans for the Rising.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Biography of Eamon de Valera - from 1916 rising to President of Ireland

The following excerpt is taken from a biography of Eamon De Valera on Wikipedia:

De Valera under prisoners’ escort 1916
Easter Rising

On 24 April 1916 the Easter Rising began. De Valera's forces occupied Boland's Mill, Grand Canal Street in Dublin, his chief task being to cover the southeastern approaches to the city. After a week of fighting the order came from Patrick Pearse to surrender. De Valera was court-martialed, convicted, and sentenced to death, but the sentence was immediately commuted to penal servitude for life. It has been argued that he was saved by four facts. First, he was one of the last to surrender and he was held in a different prison from other leaders, thus his execution was delayed by practicalities. Second, the US Consulate in Dublin made representations before his trial (i.e., was he actually a United States citizen and if so, how would the United States react to the execution of one of its citizens?) while the full legal situation was clarified.

The fact that the UK was trying to bring the USA into the war in Europe at the time made the situation even more delicate, though this did not prevent the execution of Tom Clarke who had been a US citizen since 1905. Third, when Lt-Gen Sir John Maxwell reviewed his case he said, "Who is he? I haven't heard of him before. I wonder would he be likely to make trouble in the future?"

On being told that de Valera was unimportant he commuted the court-martial's death sentence to life imprisonment. De Valera had no Fenian family or personal background and his MI5 file in 1916 was very slim, only detailing his open membership in the Irish Volunteers. Fourth, by the time de Valera was court-martialed on 8 May, political pressure was being brought to bear on Maxwell to halt the executions; Maxwell had already told the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith that only two more were to be  executed, Seán Mac Diarmada and James Connolly, although they were court-martialed the day after de Valera. His late trial, representations made by the American Consulate, his lack of Fenian background and political pressure all combined to save his life, though had he been tried a week earlier he would probably have been shot.

After imprisonment in Dartmoor, Maidstone and Lewes prisons, de Valera and his comrades were released under an amnesty in June 1917. On 10 July 1917 he was elected member of the House of Commons for East Clare (the constituency which he represented until 1959) in a by-election caused by the death of the previous incumbent Willie Redmond, brother of the Irish Party Leader John Redmond who had died fighting in World War I. In the 1918 general election he was elected both for that seat and Mayo East.

In 1917 he was elected president of Sinn Féin, the party which had been blamed incorrectly for provoking the Easter Rising. This party became the political vehicle through which the survivors of the Easter Rising channeled their republican ethos and objectives. The previous president of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, had championed an Anglo-Irish dual-monarchy based on the Austro-Hungarian model, with independent legislatures for both Ireland and Britain. This solution would, mutatis mutandis, emulate the situation following the Constitution of 1782 under Henry Grattan, until Ireland was legislatively subsumed into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.

President of Dáil Éireann

Sinn Féin won a huge majority in the 1918 general election, largely thanks to the British executions of the 1916 leaders, the threat of conscription with the Conscription Crisis of 1918 and the first past the post ballot. They won 73 out of 105 Irish seats, with about 47% of votes cast. 25 seats were uncontested. On 21 January 1919, 27 Sinn Féin MPs (the rest were imprisoned or impaired), calling themselves Teachtaí Dála (TDs), assembled in the Mansion House in Dublin and formed an Irish parliament, known as Dáil Éireann (translatable into English as the Assembly of Ireland). A ministry or Aireacht was formed, under the leadership of the Príomh Aire (also called President of Dáil Éireann) Cathal Brugha.

De Valera had been re-arrested in May 1918 and imprisoned and so could not attend the January session of the Dáil. He escaped from Lincoln Gaol, England in February 1919. As a result he replaced Brugha as Príomh Aire in the April session of Dáil Éireann.

In the hope of securing international recognition, Seán T. O'Kelly was sent as envoy to Paris to present the Irish case to the Peace Conference convened by the great powers at the end of World War I. When it became clear by May 1919 that this mission could not succeed, de  Valera decided to visit the United States. The mission had three objectives: to ask for official recognition of the Irish Republic, to float a loan to finance the work of the Government (and by extension, the Irish Republican Army), and to secure the support of the American people for the republic. His visit lasted from June 1919 to December 1920 and had mixed success. One negative outcome was the splitting of the Irish-American organisations into pro- and anti-de Valera factions. He met the young Harvard-educated leader from Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos, and forged a lasting and useful alliance with him.

De Valera managed to raise $5,500,000 from American supporters, an amount that far exceeded the hopes of the Dáil. Of this, $500,000 was devoted to the American presidential campaign in 1920 which helped him gain wider public support there. In 1921 it was said that $1,466,000 had already been spent, and it is unclear when the net balance arrived in Ireland. Recognition was not forthcoming in the international sphere. He also had difficulties with various Irish-American leaders, such as John Devoy and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan, who resented the dominant position he established, preferring to  retain their control over Irish  affairs in the United States.

Meanwhile in Ireland, conflict between the British authorities and the Dáil (which the British declared illegal in September 1919) escalated into the Irish War of Independence. De           Valera left day-to-day government, during his eighteen-month absence in America, to Michael Collins, his 29-year-old Minister for Finance. De Valera and Collins would later become opponents during the Irish Civil War.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

De Valera’s escape from Lincoln Prison

An online account of the escape from Lincoln Prison can be found under ‘Eamon de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Prison’ Lincolnshire Past & Present:

Michael Collins

'   On the 3rd of February 1919 Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), arguably the most famous and influential Irish statesman of modern times, along with two colleagues, Seàn McGarry and Seàn Milroy, made a dramatic escape from Lincoln Prison. Few locals know the dramatic story; it sounds like a Hollywood movie script, though at times it is more Keystone Cops than James Bond.

Despite being the only country with which the United Kingdom shares a land border, few British people have heard of Éamon de Valera, even though he dominated twentieth-century Irish politics. After the failed Easter Uprising he and Michael Collins led the IRA in the struggle for independence. De Valera founded Fianna Fàil, the political party which dominated   twentieth-century Irish politics, and he himself was head of the Irish government for over two decades (1932-48, 1951-4 and 1957-9) and was President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. During Easter Week 1916, Irish republicans organised an uprising in Dublin; it was soon crushed and the British authorities, shocked at what they saw as a treacherous stab in the back when so many young men were at that moment laying down their lives on the Western front, unwisely decided to execute the leaders. This rather brutal summary justice backfired making the rebels far more popular in Ireland, especially de Valera, who, thanks to having a US citizenship, escaped with just a short jail sentence. In an attempt to discredit the IRA, the British authorities fabricated evidence of a plot between the Irish and the Germans and, on the 17th of May 1918, arrested de Valera while he was on his way home. Michael Collins (the director of IRA intelligence) had warned him and other leading Irish nationalists the British authorities were intending to round them up, but Éamon de Valera, like most of the rest, ignored the advice not realising quite how sophisticated Collins’ intelligence network had become.

 The following day the British shipped de Valera and 72 of his comrades to Holyhead; some went to Usk Prison while others, including de Valera, spent a week in Gloucester before journeying to Lincoln Prison on Greetwell Road. It soon became apparent the authorities had fabricated the evidence for the plot and in December 1918 the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Féin, won almost every Irish seat outside the loyalist strongholds in Ulster. With the war over de Valera wanted to put the case for Irish independence to the post-war peace conference in Paris; he feared the British would release the Irish nationalists only after the signing of the treaty. If he could escape, it would humiliate his enemies and put Ireland on the international political agenda.

De Valera needed an escape plan and an opportunity soon arose. The prisoners noticed a door in the exercise yards that lead to the outside; if they could get a key they could escape. He served as the alter server in the prison’s chapel and this allowed him to make an impression of the Chaplain’s key into a hot bar of soap. Seàn Milroy drew a cartoon of a drunken man trying to get a large key into a tiny lock and sent it to an accomplice outside. The censor thought it a harmless joke and did not realise the key in the picture was the exact shape of a prison key, unfortunately, neither did the accomplice! A couple of coded messages later the IRA realised the significance of the message and they cut a key, baked it into a cake and delivered it to the prisoners. The prison authorities incredibly allowed the delivery of the cake, but the prisoners found the key did not fit the locks. Another cartoon was sent (this time the key was disguised in an ornate Celtic design), another cake baked, but again the key did not fit. Either the soap had shrunk when it cooled or the Chaplain’s key was not a master key. The final cake contained a blank key and a set of files; another Irish prisoner, Paddy de Loughrey, took apart a prison lock and made a master key.

Eamon de Valera addressing the crowds after

he became president

On the 21st of January three Irish prisoners escaped from Usk, de Valera was desperate to emulate them. Outside the prison, Michael Collins was planning to whisk the escapees away in taxis. One of his agents, Frank Kelly had scouted out the land round the prison and frequented the pubs of Lincoln picking up intelligence.

At about 7.40 pm on the 3rd of February, the three escapees left their cells using their key and made their way to the exercise yard without being noticed. Meanwhile outside Frank Kelly had become lost in the dark, but Michael Collins and an associate, Harry Boland, managed to locate the door and flashed a torch signal to those inside. Collins had a key made using the designs sent by Milroy, but the key broke in the lock. It seemed their luck had failed, but de Valera coolly inserted his key from the other side, pushed out the broken key and unlocked the door. Outside, courting convalescing soldiers from the nearby hospital and their lady friends frequented the local area; rather than proving a danger, it meant the Irishmen could mingle with equally furtive nighthawks without arousing suspicion. They strolled down Wragby Road to the Adam and Eve pub where a taxi driver, unaware of who his passengers were, awaited them. Collins and Boland caught a train to London from St Mark’s while the rest drove to Worksop where another innocent taxi driver drove them to Sheffield. Here an accomplice with a car drove them to safe houses in Manchester.

On the 8th of March the British had released the rest of the German Plot prisoners and de Valera was able to return to a hero’s welcome in   Dublin. By June Éamon de Valera was in America addressing the public and meeting politicians much to the embarrassment of the British. At 9.30 of the evening of the escape, the prison authorities discovered the empty cells, but as the escapers had relocked every door behind them they were baffled. Ports were alerted and as de Valera was an elected MP, the security at Westminster was warned to be on the lookout. The papers reported the prisoner’s mail was under strict censorship so were baffled how they communicated with outside accomplices. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported a mysterious car seen at Langworth railway crossing and a prison sock was found on Queensway, but with hindsight neither was connected with the escape.

It was not until three weeks later that a full account of the daring escape emerged when an Irish delegate at the peace conference boasted to the press what really had occurred that night. However, as the IRA did not wish to give away details of the IRA intelligence network, this initial account was full of red herrings. The Irish claimed to have sent cars full of known republicans careering round Lincolnshire to divert the police. They also claimed to have an agent obtain an allotment near the prison; he then attracted de Valera’s attention by singing an Irish rebel song. The prisoners subsequently threw an impression of a key over the wall and the agent later threw a cut key back. Within a few days, an enterprising journalist from the New York Times interviewed members of Lincoln’s allotment association: the allotments were too far from the prison to allow such communication and none of the members had any Irish connections. The police were equally baffled by talk of diversionary cars; the story was obviously false. It wasn’t until 1926, when de Valera renounced armed struggle as a method of gaining Irish freedom and split with the IRA, could he freely recount the true story of how he ended up catching a taxi to freedom from the Adam and Eve.  ' 

The following excerpt is from an article titled Manchester’s Radical History by Michael Herbert, author of The Wearing of the Green: A Political History of the Irish in Manchester (2000) describe how IRA members in Manchester helped to facilitate the escape of Eamon De Valera from Lincoln Gaol in February 1919. 

'   The leader of the IRA in Manchester between 1919 and 1921, Paddy O’Donoghue, was a native of Barraduff, Killarney who ran a grocers shop on Lloyd Street, Greenheys. Before the War of Independence he was best known as the organiser of the annual Irish concert at the Free Trade Hall but he was also intimately involved in the Republican movement in Manchester. O’Donoghue was a close friend of Michael Collins, who had been his best man when Paddy married Violet Gore. Collins apparently brought him into his intelligence and arms-smuggling network in England as early as 1917.

In February 1919 O’Donoghue played a key role in the escape of Eamon De Valera from Lincoln Jail. De Valera was very anxious to get out of jail and go to the United States to present the Irish case for self-determination. A devout Catholic, he served at Mass with the prison chaplain and managed to get an impression in the wax of a candle of the master key. The design was copied onto a Christmas card by Sean Milroy and sent to Sean McGarry’s wife in Ireland but she failed to realise the significance of the design. The three prisoners then wrote to Paddy O’Donoghue in Irish and he contacted Collins immediately. A key was then cut to the design and smuggled into the jail in a cake but it did not fit the lock. A further card with the key design was sent to O’Donoghue with the words “Eocair na Saoirse” (The Key To Freedom”). O’Donoghue had another key cut in Manchester and sent it in but once again it failed to work. Collins now came to England to personally take charge of the operation.

A further key was made inside the jail and on 3rd February, by prior arrangement, three prisoners made their way to the front door of the jail where Michael Collins and his close friend Harry Boland were waiting along with Frank Kelly. Disaster seemed to have struck when Collins’ key broke as he put it in the lock. Fortunately De Valera was able to push the broken key out with his own copy and open the door. The three prisoners made their way to where O’Donoghue was waiting with transport.

Collins and Boland went to London and then back to Dublin. The others journeyed back to Manchester by way of Sheffield. Milroy and McGarry were hidden by leading Manchester IRA commander Liam MacMahon in his own house, while De Valera stayed with a local priest, Father Charles O’Mahony. The police were looking for De Valera, of course, and MacMahon was warned by Thomas Walsh, a sympathetic detective in the Manchester force, that they were getting close. On 18th February, dressed as a priest and escorted by two young Irish women, De Valera travelled back to Dublin. At the beginning of June he went to the United States.  '

Harry Boland, Liam Mellows, Eamon De Valera, John Devoy (seated) , Patrick McCartan and Diarmuid Lynch. New York City June 1919