Tears on the streets of Cork for Collins as Churchill praises his “courage”

What was in the news 100 years ago today? Richard Forrest of Cork City Library reports
Tears on the streets of Cork for Collins as Churchill praises his “courage”

THIS week, we are again slightly off our precise 100 years as there appears to have been no Echo published on August 19, 1922.

The closest date we have is Thursday, August 24 - two days after the cataclysmic shooting of Michael Collins, and the Echo’s columns were black bordered up to his funeral on August 28.

The Nation in Shock

The government has relayed a message stating Michael Collins “has been slain, to our unutterable loss’ - but he cannot die. He will live in the rule of the people, which he gave his best to assert, and which his colleagues undertake as a solemn charge to maintain. General Mulcahy, army Chief of Staff, in the course of a message to his men, says: “Stand calm by your posts, bravely and undaunted to your work. Let no cruel act of reprisal blemish your bright honour. 

"To each of you falls his unfinished work. The Army serves Ireland, strengthened by its sorrow.”

At Cork Corporation and Cork Harbour Board, touching speeches were delivered and arrangements made for representation at the funeral in Dublin.

Huge crowds assembled at the North Wall Quay at midnight to await the arrival of his remains on the SS Classic. Detachments of the Dublin Guards and newly formed Civic Guards lined the quayside while an 18-pounder gun carriage was awaited to convey the body to the mortuary of St Vincent’s Hospital.

Beside the carriage stood the General’s chestnut charger, saddled, and led by a soldier groom. At 2am, the Classic berthed silently and scenes typifying of the nation’s sorrow marked the progress of the coffin through long avenues of troops.

The plain oak coffin was draped in Free State colours and the procession swelled as it passed the streets, headed by ministers of the Provisional Government, Dáil deputies and HQ Staff of the National Army.

Many of the bare-headed men and women following were in tears. The silence of the night was broken only by the distant crack of sniper rifle. 

The cortége was flanked by the Dublin and Civic Guards and immediately behind came an armoured car bristling with guns at all angles.

Several of the ambushed party still accompanied the body. One, a boyish figure wearing a ragged civilian coat and tweed cap with a Lewis gun slung across his shoulders, said when the ambushers opened fire, the driver of the General’s car wanted to push on at full speed but the General ordered him to stop and the troops to take cover and took command of the whole situation. There were at least 250 against 12 of them. When hit, the General, though bleeding, continued firing.

John Collins, brother of the late General, was arrested by Irregulars yesterday evening while on his way from Clonakilty to proceed to Dublin. He was released this morning and continued his journey by steamer, accompanied by General Ennis and Sean Hales T.D.

Ad in the Echo on August 24, 1922
Ad in the Echo on August 24, 1922

Irregular Protest

The shooting has been found revolting, even by some whose sympathies hitherto were on the other side. Yesterday, several Irregulars in Cork laid down their arms as a protest against the terrible crime and have refused to take any further part in the resistance to the Provisional Government and the will of the people.

A Sorrow Laden Populace

There was considerable emotion amongst the congregations assembled in Cork’s churches. At 10am mass at Holy Trinity, the Rev Dr Thomas O.S.F.C. asked the congregation’s prayers for the eternal repose of the soul of General Collins and offered the mass for that intention. The 11am mass at St. Augustine’s was likewise offered in the presence of a huge congregation.

Commander-in-Chief’s Car

The General’s car, the Leyland light cylinder, in which he was travelling at the time of the fatal ambush, was towed to Cork yesterday. The whole structure is so riddled with bullets, it has been compared to a pepper cannister.

Mr Churchill’s Message

Mr Churchill sent has a telegram to Liam T. Cosgrave, Chairman of the Provisional Government, stating: “I hasten to express to you the sorrow I feel at the news of the cruel and wanton act which has deprived Ireland in her hour of trial of the leader she had chosen, and whom she trusted. 

"Mr Collins was a man of dauntless courage, inspired by intense devotion to his country’s cause, and hopes for its future never quenched. His energy and vision marked him as a leader of his fellow-countrymen. 

"He has fallen in trying to do his duty in accordance with the will of the Irish nation. The double loss within a few days of Mr Griffith and Mr Collins is a heavy blow to the Irish National Government... I venture to express sure confidence that Ireland will find men to fill the gap, and that the Irish people will not rest till they are masters in their own house.”

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