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December

1st December

United States Army Enters Germany

The first American troops entered Germany through Luxemburg and their first action was to take control of the Rhine bridges. An urgent task was to decommission weaponry, much of which was in too unstable condition to send to the United States. Within a short period, engineers had recovered and decommissioned 135,000 artillery shells, twenty-two million rounds of small arms and rifle ammunition, 36,000 naval shells and 2,000 tons of gunpowder.

Influenza Strikes in Crumlin Road Prison

Neilus Connolly from Skibereen in County Cork recalled when influenza struck in Crumlin Road Prison. ‘On 1st December the dreaded ‘flu struck the prison and within a week most of the Volunteers were victims. Some were critical, and the prison chaplain asked that the cell doors be left open so that the prisoners could help each other. Most of the warders were also on the sick list and there was a general relaxation. The doctor in attendance did all he could to change the diet. Luckily we had no casualties and most of us were on our feet by Christmas.’

Prisoners write From Crumlin Prison on Influenza

By this time over one hundred prisoners were struck down with ‘flu. As a result, a portion of the prison was turned into a hospital. The governor reported that ‘there are a number of very sick men among the prisoners.’ Dan Domigan from Keady in County Armagh wrote,’ The ‘flu epidemic is chronic. There are about one hundred and seventy prisoners in all and there are ninety of them down with the disease. All the commandants are down except Blythe and all the captains are down, without exception. The hospital is full, and they have made one of the wards into a hospital. It is almost full.’

From Crumlin Prison Michael Costello wrote,’ It is a dangerous form of sickness, nose bleeding, terrible sweats, weakness, pain in the chest, horrible coughs getting better and then getting worse. My God you would pity the men in the cells, beads of sweat standing up upon their faces. I found Murphy lying on the floor one morning at 7.00 a.m. And I found Pyral bleeding. The latter is the worst case of the lot outside now.’

Doctor in Wicklow applies for Leave

A doctor in the county applied for a month’s leave writing,’ The strain and overwork experienced her at present and for some time past have been most severe, and I trust it will be able to provide for the leave.’

2nd December

Derry Hit by Second Wave of Influenza

A report in the Derry Journal noted that ‘the city has been touched by the second wave of influenza.’ It also reported that ‘villages had shops, restaurants and hotels closed and in factories there was high absenteeism.’

Galway Newspaper Calls on people To Be Positive

The Connacht Tribune gave a warning to its readers declaring that ‘certain states of mind encourage disease and people should keep away from panic and maintain a cheery and optimistic outlook.’

3rd December

British Army Establish Base in Germany

This was set up in Cologne. The British army was based here until 1926.

4th December

President Wilson Sails for Europe

The United States President sailed for Europe, travelling on the ‘George Washington.’

Only One School Open in the Sligo Area, Brothers Struck Down in County Monaghan

A report in Freeman’s Journal spoke of an inspector’s visit to a school in the Sligo district. The inspector told the headmaster,’ Your school is the only one in the province of Connacht I have had to visit as all others are closed.’

In the village of Ballytrain south of Ballybay two farming brothers were struck down with influenza. None of the neighbours would enter their house. The brothers were taken to hospital where they later died.

At Oldcastle in county Meath the authorities had difficulty in transporting an ill boy to hospital. The relieving officer said,’ I tried every motor owner but could bet nobody to go. Eventually I got a horse and carriage from Virginia.’

Speech in Support of Sinn Fein

In Wexford Father Mark Byrne spoke in support of Sinn Fein, declaring that the Irish Parliamentary Party was ‘arrogant ‘and that younger priests supported Sinn Fein. He went on to say,’ It seems to be characteristic of Irish political leaders that once they hold the reins of power for any considerable time they refuse to lose their grip and refuse to change their course, resent and ignore criticism until eventually it has to be wrenched from their hands by an indignant people. Sinn Fein is manly and straightforward but the Irish Parliamentary Party is servile and slavish. Voters are urged to use their brains which God gave them. Sinn Fein wants no unthinking mob to rush blindly into the polls. ‘

Local Man Loses Life in the Great War

George McGarrigle served as a private in the Royal Medical Corps.

5th December

Letter to Terence McSwiney in Prison

His sister wrote to him about the election result. ‘It isn’t the men but the policy that’s winning.’

6th December

Internee in Wales Reflects on Influenza

Tadhg Barry described conditions in the prison.’ Sickness and death have scattered our little group. Richard Coleman is getting worse and it is causing anger and quiet fear among his companions. Another internee wrote,’ I wish I could vent my feelings as to happenings here, suffice to say that Dick Coleman has been anointed today and we are waiting our chance in the same atmosphere and conditions. Coleman’s people have been sent for. God grant that he may get over it for the poor fellow has gone through so much and is such a gentle going character that it is awful to anticipate his dying like his old commander. Two of those down are candidates. What are spared of us are worked off our legs. Thank God, I am safe so far.’

Derry Journal Article on Influenza

The local paper expressed a view which displayed great concern about contagion. ‘Crowded places are the most prolific of all sources of infection.’

7th December

Post First World War, British Intelligence in Germany

A party of British intelligence officers began a six-week intelligence gathering visit to Germany. The authorities had felt that it was necessary to gather information on targets which had allegedly been attacked and destroyed by RAF crews. The report of their findings was startling. They found that in many instances bombing had been inaccurate and that targets had been chosen with false information. Air crews had problems because of number of factors including poor weather conditions, sighting accuracy and in some instances, crew had received inadequate training.

It appeared that material damage to German infrastructure had in many instances been slight compared with the effect the bombing campaign had on German morale. Earlier in the year Hugh Trenchard spoke about the British bombing campaign. ’ The morale effect of the bombing is great, very great but it gets less as the little material effect is seen.

8th December

A Prisoner’s View from Crumlin

Timothy Brestone reflected on the political situation.’ I think we are near the end of our holiday, and I dare say the beginning of our war.’

The Social Impact of Influenza

In Claremorris County Mayo, a blind fiddler found himself in financial difficulties. Before the influenza epidemic he earned a living by playing at social events. With so many events now cancelled, he faced financial difficulties and applied to the Board of Guardians for support.

Fear in The Community People Refuse to Assist with Funerals

In a small village in Connemara neighbours refused to assist with the interment of a victim of influenza. The services had to be fulfilled by members of the local Royal Irish Constabulary. In Milford in County Donegal, the brother of a ‘flu victim refused to assist in the dressing and coffining of his relative. He said, ‘I have a family and I am afraid to take the disease home.’ The task fell to one of the locals who was assisted by the local doctor. In Galway a member of the city council was expressing fear of the possible spread of influenza when he said, ‘I can hardly believe that children are allowed into the cinema.’

Electioneering in County Down

It was reported that campaigning for the election had to be curtailed ‘due to the prevailing illness, as the outbreak is diminishing attendances everywhere.’

9th December

Soldiers in Revolt on the Continent

Soldiers belonging to the Royal Artillery revolted in Le Havre, burning down accommodation buildings. They were protesting over cruel and humiliating punishments, poor working conditions and for soldiers being flogged for relatively minor offences. At this time most soldiers expected to return home and they were also annoyed that news from Britain was being censored. The unrest later spread to soldiers based in Calais.

10th December

Australian Prime Minister Reports on War Reparations

Just weeks before the beginning of the Peace Conference in Paris, the Australian Prime Minister reported back on his suggestions for war reparations by Germany. He said that Germany should pay twenty-four billion pounds and that they could and should pay one and a quarter billion pounds annually. This meant that in his estimation Germany should be paying for the war into the early 1940s. At about this time the United States declared that Germany should pay four and a half billion pounds while the French declared that Germany should pay forty-four billion pounds. The French declared that whatever the final figure was arrived at that they expected to receive 70% of any final settlement.

12th December

Churchill’s Speech on Ireland and Home Rule

In Dundee Winston Churchill spoke about the situation in Ireland.’ Before the war we had reached a definite agreement with the leaders of the Nationalist Party that Ulster was not to be coerced. It never was the policy of the late Liberal government to take coercive steps in Ireland. Why do not the Irish leaders come forward now and take up the burden of responsibility of government within the British Empire? Why do they not by a spontaneous feeling of comradeship with Ulster.

The government is most anxious that the Irish question be pressed forward vigorously to a solution. Great Britain goes to the peace conference ready to bestow self-government upon Ireland. It is only the quarrels and the disputes of the Irishmen themselves that prevent a solution to this great question.’

13th December

United States President Arrives in France

The ‘George Washington ‘sailed into the French port of Brest. There he was met by the French Foreign minister who told him,’ We are so thankful you have come to give us the right kind of peace.’ President Wilson was fascinated by cinema and while crossing the Atlantic he spent much time watching films. His general attitude to Europe was that the old imperial powers were responsible for starting the war and he believed that he offered a new way for Europe.

The First Armistice

This ended this day and was prolonged until 17th January 1919.

Derry Pork Curers Go on Strike

These workers in the pork factories in the city went on strike and this directly affected over seventy workers. The strike was to last for over a month and was not settled until 14th January 1919.

14th December

The American President arrives In Paris

President Wilson made a triumphant procession down the Champs Elysees.

The Kaiser’s Brother-in-law Renounces His Role in Finland

Frederick Karl who had been appointed King of Finland in October 1918 renounces the title.

Voting in the Irish General Election

In the campaigning in County Kildare, Daniel Buckley referred to the Union Jack. I will not rest until every vestige of that rag is cleared out of the country.’

The Irish Parliamentary party which had been formed in 1874 by Donegal-born Isaac Butt was would be virtually annihilated. In County Tyrone a woman who was one hundred years old was carried to the polling booth.

Election Results, Counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone

In these counties:
225,082 voted Unionist, 56.2%,
76,100 voted Sinn Fein,19%
44,338 voted Nationalist, 11.1%
30,304 Labour Unionist,7.6%
8,738 Independent Unionist, 2.2%
2.602 Independent Nationalist, 0.6%
659 Independent Labour, 0.2%
436 Independent, 0.1%

Results in North West
Donegal East
Population, 39643, electorate 39643, Sinn Fein, 46, Unionist 4797, Nationalist, 7596
Donegal North
Population, 41065, electorate 41065, Sinn Fein, 7003, Nationalist, 30171.
Donegal South
Population 41490, electorate 16894, Sinn Fein, 5787, Nationalist, 4752.

Donegal West
Population 46639, electorate 19276, Sinn Fein, 6712, Nationalist, 4116.
Londonderry City
Population 40780, electorate 16736, Sinn Fein,7335, Unionist 7020, Nationalist 120.
Londonderry County North
Population 52957, electorate, 21306, Sinn Fein, 3951, Unionist 10530.
Londonderry County South
Population 46888, electorate, 21199, Sinn Fein, 3425.
Tyrone North East
Population, 47358, electorate 23023, Sinn Fein,56, Unionist, 6681, Nationalist …………. Check
Tyrone North West
Population, 47240, electorate 22182, Sinn Fein 10.442, Unionist 7606.
Tyrone South
Population, 48067, electorate 22465, Sinn Fein, 5347, Unionist, 10,616, Independent Nationalist, 2602.

Concern at Fatalities in Castlebar

The Mayo News reported that in Castlebar ‘there are many families, particularly among the poorer classes, who have suffered considerably as a result of the epidemic, and in a few instances, they have been deprived of their breadwinners and destitution confronts them.’

Electioneering in County Mayo

It was feared here that because of the outbreak of influenza that there would be a low turnout in the forthcoming election.

Advertisement Promoting Cycling

There was an advertisement in the Irish News placed there by Dunlop Rubber Company. It declared,’ Very few of the people who have had influenza are regular cyclists. Those who bicycle regularly have been less liable to attack.’

Fear in Rural Ireland Over Influenza

It was reported that in the neighbourhood of Ballymote in County Roscommon that people living in the countryside near the town were ‘nervous about going near the town.’

19th December

‘flu Victims in Fermanagh and Tyrone Hospital and Medical Staff Overwhelmed

It was reported in the Fermanagh Times that the medical officer in the above institution in Omagh declared that ‘flu victims being admitted to the institution were exceedingly bad, requiring the care of two attendants each.’

It was reported in the same newspaper that the Guardians with responsibility for Newtownbutler and Clones were informed that ‘Dr. Fitzgerald had to get help of Dr. Timoney for the past three weeks, being overpowered with work.’

It was reported Fermanagh Times there were references made to conditions in Newtownbutler and Clones. The Board of Guardians confirmed that’ Dr. Fitzgerald has had to get assistance from Dr. Timoney for the last three weeks, being overpowered with work. At about the same time in Wicklow the Kileen medical officer send an urgent message to his superiors to say, ‘I am overwhelmed with work and I am asking for assistance.’

20th December

Outbreak of influenza In Crumlin Road Gaol

Winifred Carney, President of Cummann na mBan, offered the services of the Belfast Branch ‘at a moment’s notice to attend the Irish political prisoners now suffering from influenza in Belfast Prison. I am sure that the sick men are suffering neglect, lying in cells and receiving no attendance but the visits daily of a medical man and the attention of fellow prisoners who themselves have recovered sufficiently to enable them to minister to the wants of their hapless comrades. Nursing is of vital importance to prevent pneumonia setting in which results so frequently in death. I am appalled at how the men are suffering from the mysterious malady which threatens this fatal complaint. Yet they are without that attendance which would be humanely accorded the least one of us no matter what the circumstances. In response the governor replied,’ There is really no need for outside aid.’

However, the assistant prison chaplain James Clenaghan wrote to the prison authorities to impress on them the gravity of the situation and the poor conditions of the prison. ‘I have already felt it my duty to administer the Last Sacraments to several of the men.’

From Crumlin Road one internee wrote about the change in attitude of the authorities. ‘Some men do not get medicine on some days unless our own fellows find that he has not got it. The lads were very much neglected in the early stages of the flu. There is a day and night nurse here for the last few days, they are trying to kill us with kindness now. John Fleming wrote,’ As to the papers saying everything was being done for the sick you can give that the lie for there is no such thing as that. It all depends upon a few prisoners who are not sick to see to us, it is the old game that someone must die or some harm done before a change comes.’

An Internee in Crumlin Road with Influenza

Art O’Donnell fell ill here and recalled how the first doctor to see him would stand at the door and command you to put out your tongue. This doctor was replaced by a Roman Catholic doctor and O’Donnel l said that he received a thorough investigation and he ‘was dispatched to the prison hospital having been diagnosed with having pneumonia.

James Halpin who also had flu in Crumlin Road, said that there was a change of attitude among the staff upon seeing the sick men, their fears were of the potential political repercussions. ‘The staff got very civil to us then because they thought we were going to die.’

21st December

An Irish Newspaper Aware of a World Crisis and Influenza in County Mayo

The Connacht Tribune in reflecting on the outbreak in the Galway area made a reference to the influenza as being ‘a world-wide epidemic.’ The Mayo News declared that ‘influenza has left a burden of grief and disorder in its wake.’

23rd December

Serious Rioting in Crumlin Road Prison

Prisoners barricaded the ends of three wards with bed planks and tables removed from cells and doors and gratings wrenched from walls. Prisoners took up defensive positions on the first and second floors for two reasons. Firstly, to prevent the reinstatement of normal prison discipline which had existed before the influenza outbreak, and secondly, to protect their comrade John Doran who had been brought by the prisoners from another wing.

About thirty and forty prisoners got onto the laundry roof and began to take off slates. They shouted at people below and waved a Sinn Fein flag. A huge Loyalist crowd gathered on Crumlin Road, many waving Union Jacks. John Hassett later wrote,’ The Orange crowd of Belfast are thoroughly sick of us. They even went as far as to beat one of our fellow s on the street yesterday after he was released.’

In the absence of Lord French, Edward Shortt the Chief Secretary granted John Doran political status and gave prisoners pre-influenza status. The cost of the damage to the prison amounted to three thousand pounds.

24th December

Russian Army Advances on Estonia’s Capital

The Russian army continued its advance into Estonia and was fast approaching the capital Tallin. The Estonian Bosheviks declared the Estonian Workers’ Commune in Narva.

Lisnaskea Guardians Concern over Spreading Influenza

Reported in the Fermanagh Times, the guardians decided to restrain recovering influenza victims from visiting the town.

26th December

The Last United States Ships Sail from Queenstown

In the early hours of a foggy Boxing Day, to the sound of other ships blowing horns, eleven American ships left Queenstown Harbour for the last time. They were returning to the United States by way of the Azores. The ships were the Allen, Beale, Davis, Duncan, Genesee, Kimberley, Rowan, Sampson, Stockton and Wilkes. As the ships sailed with all flags flying, they were overflown by a number of United States Flying boats.

During the First World War about two hundred United States personnel had lost their lives in the Cork area, either through accident, illness including influenza or by enemy action.

27th December

Rising in Poland

Following a patriotic speech by Ignacy Paderewski the future Polish Prime Minister, the revolution began in Poland.

28th December

County Galway Hit Again by Influenza

The county was hit by the second wave of influenza with cases reported in Spiddal, Clifden and Leanne. In Oughterard, the relieving officer of the Poor Law Union reported that ‘some people who have died from ‘flu will not be buried by the locals.’

Tragedy on Aran Islands and Clontarf

A family tragedy was reported in the Connacht Tribune.A man had just buried three sons who had died of influenza. Also reported that a man in Clontarf had just returned from burying his two sons and on arrival home discovered that his wife had died.

Mayo news Reports on Conditions in Asylum

The newspaper carried a story about conditions in the asylum. ‘Over one hundred patients and three quarters of the entire staff are stricken down with so-called influenza in less than four weeks. The epidemic has extended in an alarming manner. The whole working of the asylum has been completely disorganised as a result.’

Reports in The Lancet and the British Medical Journal

It was reported in the medical journal that ‘the experience of the present epidemic throws light upon the nature of many obscure cases of typhoid which occurred during the past summer and there is a likeness of influenza to typhoid fever.’

In the British Medical Journal, it was reported that at a meeting of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland a Dr. Boxwell stated,’ From the beginning I regard the more severe types of cases a profound septic intoxication.’

Doctors in County Down and County Cork under Pressure

A doctor who served the Strangford and Killough districts said,’ I have entailed an unprecedented number of calls night and day for six weeks with the result that I am unite exhausted.’ In Cork a doctor in the city declared,’ I request annual holiday leave as the recent influenza has been a great strain and I would be glad to get away for a rest.’

31st December

Royal Navy Arrive in the Baltic

A Royal Navy squadron arrived off the capital Tallin and landed weapons including over six thousand rifles. Two Russian destroyers were captured by the British.

Inishowen Hit Badly by Influenza

A report from the Register-General’s Office stated that one of the worst places hit was Inishowen were one in four deaths in 1918 were flu related.

End of the Year, St. Vincent de Paul’s Finances

By assisting the victims of influenza across the country, it was recorded that the organisation’s spending had increased by £3360, an increase of about 10% on the previous year.

Academics View of Influenza Outbreak

Dr. Rowlette of The Royal Academy of Medicine said,’ The most remarkable thing is the large number of young adults attacked with the epidemic compared with other epidemics.’

Commander-in-Chief in India Reflects on The Empire

Sir Charles Munro, Commander-In –Chief in India reflected on the end of the Great War. ‘Now that it is all over, and the Empire stands at a pinnacle, built by her tenacity and courage, never did our reputation stand so high.’

Soloheadbeg Attack Planned

Members of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade under the command of Seamus Robinson met on their own initiative on an isolated farm to discuss tactics. Sean Treacy believed that the only way to establish an Irish Republic was by confronting the British army and the R.I.C. Breen and Hogan had been experimenting with explosives at this isolated farmhouse. Later Dan Breen said,’ The people have voted for a republic, now they seemed to abandon us who tried to bring the republic nearer, for we had taken them at their word. Our former friends shunned us. They preferred the drawing room as a battleground.’

Dan Breen’s brother was an employee in the quarry at Soloheadbeg and he provided information that a consignment of gelignite was to moved early in the New Year from the military barracks in Tipperary to the quarry. Seamus Robinson and Sean Treacy planned the operation and agreed that they would not wait for a response from the Irish Volunteer leadership as they might not approve and there would also be a delay in having a response.

On 19th January 1919 the first meeting of Dail Eireann met in the Mansion House in Dublin. The Declaration of Independence asserted that the Dail was the parliament of a sovereign state called ‘the Irish Republic.’ The first temporary president was Cathal Brugha. Meanwhile on the same day in County Tipperary two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were killed in the Soloheadbeg Ambush. This marked the beginning of conflict in Ireland which would claim many lives.

Conflict Set to Escalate Across Ireland In the New Year

In the 19th century the city and county of Cork had been a Fenian stronghold, but they played only a small part in events in 1916. Following this the Cork Volunteers became among the best organised in Ireland and consistently urged armed action against the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British Army. Following outbreaks of violence in early 1918, including the attacking and wounding of two members of the R.I.C. on 7th July, the authorities in an attempt to control matters initially declared West Cork to be a ‘Special Military Area.’ One effect of an increased military presence was that there were restrictions on business across the county. Traders in the town of Bantry wrote a letter of protest to Dublin Castle adding that the very poor were suffering most as there were restrictions on the sale of their pigs. However, the military commander in Cork also contacted the authorities in Dublin declaring that ‘touching their pockets is the most effective form of punishment for many lawless acts committed in West Cork.’

On New Year’s Eve 1918 Bantry traders received a reply from the office of the Chief Secretary in Dublin, rejecting their request for the easing of restrictions in the Special Military Area. Ireland was on the brink of conflict.