In my very young childhood days, the Irish Party in the British Parliament in London were the only political group,
and the Party was organised by an association called the United Irish League, who arranged elections when held. The sitting
member for the Swords district, Mr. J.J. Clancy, was always returned unopposed at a general election, so we never had the
excitement of a Parliamentary Election. We had, however, regular elections for County Council
, which provided plenty of excitement. Swords nearly always favoured a different candidate than Malahide, our nearest neighbouring
The Swords Fife and Drum band in one election backed the Malahide candidate, and the Swords Brass and Reed band favoured
the local candidate, so there was great excitement at the meetings, particularly with marching and counter marching of the
two bands. Malahide had a Fife and Drum band and Yellow Walls, a small village adjoining Malahide, also had a Fife and Drum
band, which usually was on a different side to the Malahide electors.
Metings were usually held in the main Street, beside the Old Castle and Tyrells public house,[Ryans] where there was
a vacant space. The platform was usually made with empty porter barrels and planks laid across them. We occasionally had torch-light
processions with the bands. The torches were made with sods of turf soaked in paraffin oil, stuck on . top of pitchforks.
when the free election beer was distributed there were often free fights.
The United Irish League held meetings from time to time to keep the organisation in the public eye. Their platform was
more elaborate but in the saire place beside the Old Castle, with the platform decorated with evergreens and a green flag
with the harp. A great saying at these meetings was"The day is not far distant when the Green Flag will fly over an Irish
Parliament in College Green, Dublin".
This wish never came to pass, the Green Flag was replaced by the Tricolour, and the old Parliament House was not acceptable
to the new Government when it carte.
About the turn of the century, a change in politics appeared like a tiny cloud on
the horizon. The Gaelic League started and spread all over the country. The Irish language, support for Home Industries, study
of Irish History, were the new Gospels; Sinn Fein was born.
The members of the Gaelic League were the first members of Sinn Fein. They were often distinguised by their dress in
homespun tweed hate, Irish made boots and even Irish made bicycles, the Pierce Wexford cycles and Lucania Dublin cycles. About
1906, the first public Sinn Fein meeting was held in the old meeting place beside the Castle.
I remember some of the notable figures appearing on the platform, Sean McDermott, Joseph McDonagh, Frank Lawless, Dominic
Healy, Arthur Griffith; pamphlets about Sinn Fein and the Resurrection of Hungary were distributed. The new policy was support
for Irish Manufacturers, speak Irish, don't send members of Parliament to London. The programme was so different to the United
Irish League policy.
The meeting was well received, and Sinn Fein became a force in the district with the subsequent success in the
course of history. About this time, a branch of the Gaelic League was formed. Frank Lawless (later out in 1910 Rising), and
his family, were the first organisers of the Swords branch - Connrad na Gaeilge Sord CoLa Cille.
There was an old disused forge in North Street, once the workshop of coach builders named Cannon. This was a long slated
roofed building with its gable end to the street. It had no windows but was fairly well ventilated. It was often used as a
meeting place for football clubs and other small meetings, and this was the only meeting place available for the Irish Classes.
It was known locally as the "Forge". The place was rennovated and artificial light, oil lamps, were procured and a travelling
Irish Teacher from Connaught taught the language.
There was plenty of space for Irish dancing, and Ceilidhes were held when the Branch got going. The refreshments were
usually barn Brack (made in Dames local bakery nearby), and plenty of tea. The old forge fireplace was useful for boiling
the kettles. It was in the outer part of the house, near the entrance. The room for classes and dancing was further back.
Great fun and airrasement was created in this old hall, and many learned Irish.
The Fingal Feis was established about this time. The towns of Lusk, St. Margarets, and Swords were the chief organisers
at first, and Skerries and Donabate came in later. Malahide and Rush did not do much in the League's work until later on.
The members of the Gaelic League were all Sinn Feiners. Many of the grown ups wore Irish homespun clothes, and they were easily
recognised as Sinn Feiners. A feature of the Gaelic League Movement was the holding of open air concerts -Aeriocht as they
were called; - when Irish dancing, singing and instrumental music were performed in a local field on a wooden
The admission was usually 1/- or 6d., and the collection went towards the running of the local branch of the Gaelic League.