Evidence on Conditions in Ireland: Comprising the Complete Testimony, Affidavits and Exhibits Presented Before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland

September 24—Newspaper offices and houses at Galway City bombed and wrecked by police. September 24—Ballinamore, County Leitrim, shot up by police. September 25—Several houses at Athlone, County Westmeath, wrecked. September 25—Houses wrecked at Killorglin, County Kerry, by police. September 27—Trim, County Meath, sacked by police.
The Witness: The separate fires which took place in Cork before the big fire to which I referred, I have a list of them here, which may be of interest,—premises wholly or partially burned in previous incendiary fires, in which the damage estimated was well over one million pounds, and that is in addition to the big fire in Cork. These fires occurred on separate nights, as I have explained to you. Q. Mr. Doyle: Are they all in the City of Cork? A. Yes. Messrs. Dwyer & Co., Ltd., Washington Street, which is one of the largest wholesale warehouses in Cork, a very determined effort was made to burn that, but the effort was unsuccessful, owing to the sprinkler arrangement which the firm had installed. The sprink- ler arrangement saved the premises. Not only were petrol tins found on the premises, but bales of woolen and cotton goods were found stretched along the corridors and on the stairs, saturated with petrol. Messrs. Forrest, Patrick Street, was burned out. Messrs. Cahill & Co., Blackthorn House, and American Shoe Company,— these three houses were in a row at the corner or intersection of Patrick Stfeet by one of the side streets. Just as in regard to the City Hall and the Sinn Fein Clubs, in the case of the Blackthorn House three or four previous raids had been made, and the place smashed’ and looted before this final and successful effort to burn it out. Q. Chairman Wood: This is not the large conflagration you are speaking of? A. No, prior conflagrations which occurred night after night before the large fire. Q. By whom was this list compiled, to your knowledge? I am referring to this list you have put in of the 90 Irish towns ravaged in 12 months. A. That is issued as the Irish Bulletin. It is an official publication of the government in Ireland, the Republican Government. The facts, of course, have all appeared in the daily press all over the country. Q. They have all appeared in the public press? A. Yes. They are taken from the public press. Q. Commissioner Thomas: Has there ever been a denial by Sir Hamar Greenwood as to the accuracy of any such lists? A. Yes, in the same way in which the burning of Cork was denied, not that it was denied the burning took place, but the effort being made to deny that it was done by the Crown forces, while the circumstances make it clear that it would be absolutely impossible for it to have been done by any others. (Continues reading) : O’Gorman’s, MacCurtain Street; Dalton’s Restaurant; The Royal Liver Assce. Society; two houses on North Main Street; former Sinn Fein headquarters, 56 Grand Parade; Pipers Club, Hardwicks St.; the Sinn Fein Rooms, N. E. Ward; Sinn Fein Rooms, Shandon Street; one house on St. Augustine Street; Recreation Hall, Doug- las; St. Michael’s Hall, Blackrock. Both of these last places are in the suburbs of Cork. The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. That was a most determined effort, the attempt on Labor headquarters. The fire was started at first early in the night, shortly after curfew. Q. What time is the curfew? A. At 10 o’clock, the law being from 10 o’clock until 3, and of course in the period from 10 until 8 or 9 in the morning no citizen may be out of doors without run- ning a risk. During that time the city is patrolled by military lor- ries and by military and police patrols on foot. In that particular case, the fire having been started quite early in the night, the fire brigade was notified and repaired to the scene and extinguished the fire. On their way back there was considerable firing; a number of shots were fired at them, with the result that when an hour or so later they were notified the fire had been started again, they were unable to proceed to the scene until after seven in the morning, and when they got there the fire had made such headway that they were unable to extinguish it, and the premises were destroyed. Then the Thomas Ashe .Sinrr Fein Club, Father Matthew Quay; the City Hall, —the City Hall having been attacked on three previous occasions.
That covers the situation up to the Saturday night on which the commercial heart of Cork was burned out. While these isolated fires, a list of which I have just read, were taking place in Cork, certain of the public bodies in Cork, notably the Cork Chamber of Commerce, wired to the British officials calling their attention to this state of incendiarism which was rampant in Cork. Q. Chairman Wood: The British officials in London or Dublin Castle? A. No, London, asking for protection. The same body afterwards, as we shall see in the big fire, appealed for protection; but the only result was in the fires being intensified and in the city being burned down. The same body again wired to the British officials asking for an impartial inquiry, which was refused. Q. Mr. Doyle: Was that first request answered from London? A. Not so far as I know or have seen. The following is a copy of the telegram sent to the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the 29th of November : "Chief Secretary for Ireland, Chief Secretary's Office, London, S. W. : Council of Chamber desire to draw attention of Chief Secre- tary to number of incendiary fires occurring in Cork, more especially within the last few days, resulting in enormous destruction of prop- erty, and request immediate steps for protection of citizens' property. (Signed) "Danckeet, Honorable Secretary, "Cork Chamber' of Commerce and Shipping." Q. Commissioner Thomas: Is the Chamber of Commerce in Cork a predominantly Republican body, or predominantly Union- ist? A. It is pretty hard to say at the moment. It is essentially a body which we do not measure by political afSliations. It is purely a commercial body. It would be very largely Republican, of course. All the large business men in Cork, the large drapery establish- ments, for instance, and a number of Unionists, all belong to the Chamber of Commerce. It is essentially a body which does not deal with politics in any shape or form. Q. Senator Walsh: Has there been a change in political senti- ment among that class of men within the last two years? A. O, yes, certainly. While of course I presume most of the Unionists are still Unionists, there has been a considerable landslide in the direc- tion of Republicanism among those who were not Republicans, say, a year or two since. Q. Senator Norris: That is a world-wide proceeding now, it seems. A. Yes. That now, of course, is so.
Q. Mr. Doyle: Have you tried to compare the campaign of the British authorities in Ireland with the campaign of the German military authorities in Belgium? For instance, first, the destruction of towns; second, the service of notice such as was served at Lou- vain; third, the killing of priests and the taking of bishops as host- ages; then the destruction of large cities, and so on? Have you made that comparison, and have you prepared any data showing how they did apparently follow the same line? A. No, sir, I have not done anything of that kind. Of course, it seems to me, and I think it is perfectly clear, that very few people now believe that all the crimes and atrocities alleged, and news of which was dissemi- nated during that period, did take place. That I think is pretty universally doubted now. Q. Chairman Wood: You have no personal method or special opportunity of making this comparison, have you? A. No, sir.
Q. Let us get on to the burning of Cork, because I do not think the other matter affects us very materially. A. Very well, sir. On this particular night the fires in Cork started about a quarter to ten. Curfew began at ten. Q. What was the date of the month? A. The fires took place on the 10th. Q. On Saturday, the lOtK of December? A. Yes. Q. Were you in Cork that night yourself? A. No. I was in Cork that evening, but I left town that night. I was about two miles outside of the town at the time of the fires. On this particular night, while curfew usually began at ten o’clock, the rumor had spread through the town early that there had been an attack of some kind in the northeast ward of the city, in Dillon’s Cross direction. While nothing was known definitely of the matter, shortly before that or about nine o’clock military cars drove through the town very wildly and recklessly and a number of shots were fired, with the result that, while nobody was certain what had taken place, everybody imme- diately went home. The streets were cleared quite early; they were cleared practically at nine o’clock, or very, very shortly after nine o’clock. The streets were deserted in a very short time so that to all intents and purposes on that particular night curfew started an hour earlier than usual. At about a quarter to ten, shortly before ten, the first outbreak of fire was noticed in Patrick Street. That was the premises of Alexander Grant & Company. They have a very large warehouse, a general merchandise store. That fire raged for some hours. Ultimately the particular block in which that stood, that is the premises itself, was burned out; but the fire did not spread to the adjoining buildings on either side. That particular block was simply burned out clear. Q. Senator Walsh: Did the fire department attempt to extin- guish the flames? A. Yes, sir, the fire department were there, but they were not able to prevent that destruction. Later on, about eleven, between eleven and half past eleven, the outbreaks took place all along Patrick Street. It first broke out in the premises of Forrest. Forrest had already been partially de- stroyed. The outbreak took place there first, but after a very short time different local outbreaks were noticed all along the street, and as a result when the fire brigade turned out they were practically powerless. Q. Major Newman: Is Patrick Street the principal street of Cork? A. Yes, the main business thoroughfare, the heart of the city. The result was that when some hours had passed, the fire had such a grip on all that side of the street that nothing could have saved it. Q. Senator Walsh: Was the fire department still operating? A. Yes, they were. The result, of course, of the fire was only seen on the following day. It was then that it was discovered that twice the greater portion, nearly all of the destruction, was on one side of the street. A frontage of about a quarter of a mile was entirely burned out, and beside that, the blocks running off of Patrick Street were also laid waste. In fact, when you came to view the situation for the first time after the fire, on the following day, Patrick Street was really unrecognizable; you could not tell where the street was, where the splendid buildings had been. There was simply a wilder- ness of ruin and debris. The houses burned out were in some cases shops, small ordinary shops; but in very many cases they were large warehouses, the larg- est houses in Cork, four or five of them. These were notably the Munster Arcade, which was one of the largest warehouses in Cork, and employing two or three hundred. Q. Mr. Doyle: When you say warehouse, you mean, as we call them here, department stores? A. Yes. Also Cash & Company, which was similarly a large store,—grocery stores. There were at least four such large stores, including the Grant’s, where roughly 200 or 250 employees, and in one or two cases about 300 employees were engaged. In only one case in all that destruction along all that frontage was there a front wall of a shop left standing. That was in the case of Sumner, a chemist, in Patrick Street, where the front wall stood, but all along the rest of the frontage everything had been levelled, and there was not even a front wall standing. This was all on one side of Patrick Street. That was also the case with certain blocks running off from Patrick Street. Back from Cash’s there was one block running from Cash’s to the Postoffice, and across the road from Winthrop Street on the other side. There were two blocks running from Patrick Street to Old Georges Street burned out.
Apart from that, which was the main fire, away across the river, about a distance of a quarter of a mile, and at the other side of the river, the City Hall, which was the site, of course, of the local city government, the municipal buildings, the free library, and so on, were burned out. An effort was made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say that that was a part of the same fire, and that those premises had simply taken fire from the large fire in Patrick Street. It is quite clear how obviously ridiculous that is, and how typical of the truth of the government’s statements with regard to Ireland, when the fact is remembered that the City Hall, the municipal build- ings and the free library were fully a distance of a quarter of a mile and were at the other side of the river. Not only would the fire have had to pass through all the intervening buildings and streets in that quarter of a mile, but it would also have blown across the River Lee. Q. Chairman Wood: Was there a wind blowing at the time of the fire? A. There was, sir, but not very much, fortunately. That night it was very calm. Q. That accounts, perhaps, for the other side of Patrick Street not being burned? A. It certainly does, and it also accounts for the two ends of the city which were burned. Had the night been wild, the street would have been completely wiped out between the two corners which remain. Q. Major Newman: Do you know whether the City Hall and the municipal buildings on the other side of the river burned simul- taneously with the fire in Patrick Street? A. No, sir, they were rather later. The City Hall fire was first noticed about three o’clock in the morning, and it burned steadily from then until six. The clock on the City Hall tolled until a quarter to six. About five minutes before a quarter to six the clock fell, and shortly after- wards the fire had reached the stage where it smoldered. By that time the place had nearly been burned out. The clock stood until practically the whole building had been burned out.
Q. During all this time, of course, the people did not come out? A. O, no. Q. The streets were clear? A. Yes. Q. Were there any military forces out, so far as you know? A. There were. The ordinary military forces were out, and they, with the police, were on the streets. Q. Commissioner Thomas: It is usual when there are military in a town for the military to turn to and help the fire brigade. Was that done in Cork? A. Not so far as helping in the ordinary sense is concerned. It was to this extent, that, I think, during the night, and I know during the following day, they formed a cordon around the buildings.
Q. Was there any interference with the fire brigade there in Pat- rick Street, at the Patrick Street fire or at the City Hall fire? A. Yes, the fire brigade allege that they were fired upon that night. I thought that I had with me a deposition bearing on that, but un- fortunately I find I have not. They also told me that the hose was cut in one case, while dealing with the first outbreak in Grant’s. While I know that they have told me that, unfortunately I find I have not got those depositions with me, as I thought I had. Q. Is there any evidence that the high military command in Cork exercised any of the usual precautions which might be exercised in such an emergency, in, order to assist in the fighting of the fire? A. I do not know of anything. I have not heard or seen any- thing. I do not think so.
The actual losses represented by the fires on that night have been estimated at somewhere in the region of two and a half or three millions. As I explained a while ago, the damages caused by the previous isolated fires would be over a million. Q. Mr. Doyle: You refer to pounds, not dollars? A. To pounds. Q. In other words, say, £3,000,000? A. The total loss was four millions, including this fire and the isolated fires—roughly $20,000,000.
Q. Mr. Lord Mayor, I was going to suggest that before you go on, if you could, to describe a little more in detail for the benefit of the Commission about your City Hall, as to what kind of a building it was, and whether or not it was surrounded by a park? A. The City Hall proper was a large meeting or concert hall, the largest hall in Cork. It provided seating accommodations for about 2,000 people, between the body of the hall and the gallery. We had in it an organ which had a reputation of its own in Cork. The organ was first procured at the time of the Cork International Ex- position in 1902, and subsequent to the exposition was installed in the City Hall. All around the large vestibule through which one passed into the City Hall proper were the municipal buildings; all the offices of the municipal officials were there, the town clerk, the city solicitors, the city engineers, the public health department, and so on. All these departments had their offices in the front of the building. In the front of the building also was the council chamber, in which the Cork Corporation held its meeting, as well as a number of committee rooms and rooms for the members of the Corporation, and of course the Lord Mayor’s room. Q. Senator Walsh: How old was this building? A. It was about 50 years old. Q. Stone or brick?' A. It was of stone. Q. Chairman Wood: And a slate roof, was it? A. Yes, slate roof. Then at the front of it, or just at the side, was the Carnegie Free Library. It was certainly a very fine, ornamental building, and naturally a very useful building to the city. Q. Senator Walsh: Were the books all burned? A. Yes, sir, they were reduced to ashes. Q. Chairman Wood: How large a library was it? How many books? A. There were something about 15,000 books. Q. Mr. Doyle: Was it a collection of ancient books in the li- brary, or a recent library? A. A recent library, but the library has been there for quite a number of years, twenty or twenty-five years,—the gift of Mr. Carnegie. The books, of course, were mixed in the ordinary way in which the books in a public library would be. Q. Did you have any ancient manuscripts? A. No, there was nothing of historical value in that particular way.
Q. Before you go on from there, I want to get this clearly and definitely settled. I do not think it has been brought out yet. To whom, definitely and specifically, do you charge the burning of Cork upon? A. I was just getting to that. I charge definitely the British Crown forces in Cork. One of the unfortunate things about the burning of the City Hall itself was that all of the city records were burned. That will create a great deal of difficulty in the functioning of the different depart- ments of the Corporation for some time to come. The records of the rates and the water records and all the city records were of course destroyed.
One of the clearest and best ways in which to give you an idea, to those who cannot visualize the city, and have not known the city, would be, I think, to read a list of the premises burned and a list of the claims which have been lodged officially with the Crown. Q. Chairman Wood: I was going to ask about the ownership of these various premises or blocks, and the religion of the owners of these premises. Have you any record of that? Aside from the fact that about 95 per cent of the population of Cork is probably associated with Sinn Fein in some way politically, and a large ma- jority Roman Catholics, I was wondering whether these larger es- tablishments were owned by British capital,—for instance, like the Mall, which I understand was a British capital enterprise. A. Yes. While I have not any tabulated information with regard to them, I know that in many cases the larger premises, these larger ware- houses or stores, were not owned, so far as I know, to any great ex- tent, by British capital, by English capital as such. They were owned to a large extent by Unionists, and of course by Protestants to a certain extent. The list that has been lodged in Cork with the town clerk amounts roughly to $15,000,000. It runs as follows. These amounts, of course, would be the amounts for which insur- ance had been taken under the ordinary fire policies by the people concerned, and they will not represent the figures, or anything like the figures which would enable reconstruction to be made today. For instance, the first item lodged is the Corporation, for the City Hall, Carnegie Library and contents, £280,000. Certainly without any particular technical knowledge of the matter, I feel quite certain that £280,000 would not build the City Hall alone today, or near it. I will give the amounts as they were lodged with the town clerk: Corporation: City Hall and Carnegie Library and contents.. £280,000 The Munster Arcade,—that is the large department store to which I have referred, Messrs. Robertson, Ledlie, & Fer- guson, 27 to 30 Patrick St., 99-102 Old Georges St., and 3 Robert St....................................................... 405,000 The building referred to is one large store, simply taking in the different streets, Patrick and Old Georges Streets. Cork Furniture Stores, 22 Merchant St., a large . furniture store........................................................... 8,406 William Roche, IS Patrick St., and 21 Mayor St.................... 17,000 Messrs. Roche’s Stores (London House). Another large warehouse or department store.................................. 112,000 T. Lyons & Co., 52, 53, 54 Patrick St............................ 120,000 Charles C. Harvey, premises Munster Arcade and 27-28 Pat- rick St '............................................................. 31,158 Messrs. Cash & Co., 18-21 Patrick St., and 24-25 Maylor St.. 250,000 Cash’s is the second of the large warehouses. Saxone Shoe Co., 24 Patrick St.................................... 30,000 Wm. Egan & Sons, Ltd............................................. 100,000 Lee Boot Mfg. Co., 16 Patrick St. and 21 Maylor St................ 19,000 Wm. Cashman & Co., Ltd., 4 Cook St................................ 30,000 Annie Nolan, premises 18, 19, 20, and 21 Patrick St............... 50,000 James Donovan, for premises 52, 53 and 54 Patrick St. (Grant & Co.), and 51 Patrick St. (Samuel Haynes)...................... 37,000 A. M. Walker, premises 30 Patrick St. (Munster Arcade).. 20,000 James Ryan, 26 Maylor St. and 21, 22 Merchant St.................. 24,000 Ed. Woods, 3 Cook St ................................................ 6,000 Richard Sunner, 31 Patrick St..................................... 26,000 Messrs. Forrest and Sons, Patrick St., Cook St., and Elbow Lane .............................................................. 95,000 J. T. O’Regan, 25-26 Patrick St...................................... 40,000 J. Tyler and Sons, 20 Winthrop St............................ 12,750 R. and J. McKechnie, Ltd., 25 Patrick St.......................... 21,000 Marcus Forester Harvey, 25, 26 Patrick St., 1-9 Robert St., 103, 104 Georges St............................................. 10,000 Simon Spiro, 9 Bridge St. and 3 Patrick’s Quay.................... 3,675 W. Roche and Lee Boot Manufacturing Co., 16 Patrick St. and 21 Maylor St................................................ 17,000 Lessees in Leases of Lee Cinema, Winthrop St...................... 10,000 Mary Perry, 1 and 2 Winthrop St................................... 10,000 Rev. F. H. Sandys and others, 26 Patrick St..................... 9,000 T. F. Carroll, 13 Patrick St. and 103 Georges St................ 11,000 Q. Chairman Wood: Mr. Lord Mayor, I think we gather from that which you have read the type of the thing, and I do not believe it is worth while to wear your voice out in reading it further. If you will file it with us we will be very glad to have it for reference. The total, as I understand it, comes to approximately £4,000,000. A. In this particular case I judge it would run in the neighborhood of £3,000,000. There had already been a million pounds damage done in the previous fires. Q. Commissioner Thomas: I understand that this £4,000,000, including all the fires, does not represent the cost of duplicating the property at the present time by a great ways? A. That is so.
Q. Chairman Wood: In regard to the insurance, have you any information as to .the insurance companies with whom these insur- ance policies were placed, and whether there have been any objec- tions made to paying these losses as the result of an act of God ot the King's 'enemies, or those other little riders which sometimes ap- pear in insurance policies? A. No, sir, I do not know what action the insurance companies will take in these particular cases. I do know that the insurance companies have for some time inserted in all their policies a particular clause that the individual taking out the policy must not belong to or be identified with any Republi- can — I think it says any Republican or seditious movement in Ire- land. But what their attitude will be on these wholesale claims I do not know. Q. Senator Norris: How long has it been since that stipula- tion has been in the policies? A. Roughly, six months. Q. That was prior to this fire? A. O, yes. Q. But probably not pirior to the time the policies were issued that were in existence at the time the fire took place? A. I should say not. Q. Chairman Wood: That was a new clause? A. Yes. Q. Senator Norris: That clause would not have much appli- cation to this fire, would it? A. I take it, in a great many cases, if the insurance companies felt so inclined, they could object to paying claims to particular people simply because they happened to be Republicans. Q. I understand that; but at the time of the issuing of the policies that were probably in force when this fire took place, they had no such stipulation in the policy? A. O, they would have, because these policies, especially the policy which is most usually taken out there now, is called a special riot and civic com- motion policy. These are usually taken out for short periods, most frequently for 3 months, sometimes for 6 months, — rarely for 6 months, and most frequently for 3 months.

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In this version the Corrigenda have been actioned. In other respects it aims to be as close to the original as possible - barring masses of OCR errors still to be corrected.

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Edited by Roger W Haworth (email and website) to whom errors should be reported, please.
(2020-03-08 22:03:08)