“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, 1 pm, GMT, May 25, 1921, Custom House Quay and Dundrum, Dublin

About 100 Irish Republican Army [IRA] Volunteers who have been milling around outside the Custom House, on the Liffey in Dublin City Centre, rush the building and herd the staff into the main hall. A truck loaded with supplies pulls up, and members of the IRA Dublin Brigade scatter oil and cotton all over the building and set it on fire.

The Custom House on fire

Within about ten minutes, British police arrive in three trucks and exchange fire with the IRA Volunteers inside the building. After about a half hour, the IRA’s ammunition runs out. The rebels are shot by the British as they run away.

Staff inside who have been held hostage by the Volunteers walk out of the building, hands raised, waving white handkerchiefs.

Seven civilians are killed and 11 wounded. 100 people are arrested, mostly IRA members.

The Fire Brigade arrives late because they have been held at their station by other IRA bands. Local government records from throughout the country, dating back to 1600, had been transferred to the Custom House for safekeeping. They are all destroyed.

Tonight, the building, one of the most beautiful in Ireland, called by the IRA the “seat of an alien tyranny,” is still burning.

*****

Six miles south, in the Dublin suburb of Dundrum, Lolly Yeats, 53, co-owner of Cuala Press with her brother, poet William Butler Yeats, 55, is disgusted by this War of Independence raging all around.

Just yesterday she had written to her father in New York City about the horrible IRA ambush ten days ago outside of Galway, of British officers and their friends, which left three dead. The only survivor is Margaret Gregory, 37, widowed daughter-in-law of Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, co-founder with Willie of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.

Margaret and her British friends were leaving a tennis party when the IRA jumped out and began shooting at their car. Lolly can’t understand why on earth Margaret had been keeping company with British military officers?! Might as well wear a target on her back.

Re-enactment of the Ballyturn ambush

Lady Gregory was in England at the time of the ambush, but returned to the west of Ireland as soon as she heard. When the police questioned Margaret about the identity of the attackers, Augusta had cautioned them that Margaret doesn’t recognize any of the local country folk.

Lolly has heard about the IRA’s burning of the Custom House today. What a waste. The IRA calls it a victory but what about the loss of all those killed and arrested?!

She wrote to her father that what upsets her most is her women neighbors having their houses raided by the British, searching for their sons who have supposedly joined the IRA.

And the damned military curfew that the Brits have imposed has totally ended any social life. No more evenings in the theatre.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume 1 covering 1920 is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, May 4, 1921, Dundrum, Dublin

Lily Yeats, 54, co-owner of Cuala Press with her sister, is writing to their father, painter John Butler Yeats, 82, in New York City.

Lily Yeats at Bedford Square, by her father John Butler Yeats

The family has given up begging him to move back home; Lily is writing to vent her fears about the Irish War of Independence which seems to be raging all around her.

The war started with the Easter Rising over five years ago. Since last year the Black and Tans—unemployed war-weary soldiers from the Great War who have been recruited into the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupying force—have been violently marauding throughout the country.

The Black and Tans outside a Dublin hotel

Even in this posh Dublin suburb, three lorries of the thugs came racing down a nearby street the other night. The Yeats’ maid had to fall face down on the road to avoid being shot.

At the beginning of the year a British commission published a report strongly criticizing their behavior, and both the British Labour and Liberal parties have lambasted the Conservative government for its policy of violence to the Irish people.

Just this month, Pope Benedict XV, 66, issued a letter urging the

English as well as Irish to calmly consider…some means of mutual agreement.”

The Brits had thought he was going to condemn the rebellion. Now he’s saying that there are bad people on both sides.

A few months ago, Lily’s brother, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, now living safely in Berkshire, England, took part in an Oxford debate condemning the British policy. As he does, Willie spoke while dramatically striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium. It worked. He won the debate in favor of Irish self-government and against British reprisals.

Lily is writing to her Da,

if the present state of affairs goes on, England will have no friends left in Ireland…some say the Crown forces were very drunk—drunk or sober they are ruffians—what will dear England do with them when the time comes—it must come sometime that they have to be disbanded?”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Mid-January, 1921, Dundrum, Dublin; and Oxford, England

Lolly Yeats, 52, owner and business manager of Cuala Press, run out of her home in Dundrum, was intrigued by some things she observed on a recent visit to the Oxford home of her brother, Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, his wife, Georgie, 29, and their daughter, one-year-old Anne.

Lolly Yeats by her father, John Butler Yeats

She knows Willie is proud of his English home, so she didn’t say anything. But all of their plates are a dark color, with no pattern. And, odder still, because the couple doesn’t own or like silverplate, their cutlery is made out of horn?!

Lolly had written to her father, painter John Butler Yeats, 81, living in New York City, asking if he ever had to drink soup from a flat spoon?! Or use a fork with only a couple of prongs to eat a piece of meat?!

However, she did appreciate her sister-in-law’s attempts to brighten up their place with brightly colored cushions, and the nice touch of putting both note cards and stamps in each guest’s room.

The Yeatses seem to be doing well, having just returned from a successful lecture tour of the States last year. But Lolly feels that the check she will be sending Willie for his royalties from his Cuala Press publications—which should be almost £500—will be greatly appreciated.

*****

In the Yeatses home in Oxford, Georgie is looking forward to their upcoming trip around the south of England, including revisiting Stone Cottage in Sussex where they spent their honeymoon almost four years ago. But recently she has been feeling sick in the mornings, and thinks she had better tell Willie that she might be pregnant again. She knows he has been hoping for a boy.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, soon to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view for free on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Early this year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.