Readers’ letters reveal concerns of Irish people in March 1916
Readers’ letters that were published by the Irish Times 100 years ago – less than two months before the Easter Rising – reveal the concerns of Irish people at the time.
But far from a hunger for freedom from British rule, the readers were worried about the ‘motor lorries’ that were zooming down the streets with little regard for pedestrians.
Another reader was concerned about the logic of his daughters going out to work when he was employing servants to do household chores.
The first letter read:
“Sir – I think it is about time that the citizens should protest against the utter disregard of their rights shown by the owners of heavy motor lorries which rush through their streets from morning till night, splashing mud and shaking houses to their very foundations.
“I occupy a house on Lower Ormond Quay (where the traffic is unusually heavy), and the house shakes from top to bottom as these lorries pass. Already the walls of quite a number of houses (including my own) on this very portion of the quays have had to be re-built, owing to this traffic . . . – Yours, “Ratepayer”
While some of the points he raised about inconsiderate drivers still hold true today, on the whole this is something we have learned to live with. In fact, many people would feel quite helpless without a motor vehicle to take them from one place to another.
The second letter said:
“Sir – I have three grown-up daughters, three servants, and a house, the rent of which I am put to the pin of my collar to pay. My eldest daughter works at a munitions factory. She has to be there at 6 am, and the servants have to get up in time to call her and to get her tea. The work she does all day is of a simple, manual kind, the equivalent of cleaning stair-rods. The other two girls attend later at the same place to prepare and serve meals for those engaged in the factory.
“Now, if we were to discharge the three servants, and if the girls were to do at home what they do in the factory, there would be three persons permanently liberated for productive work, an all-round economy of labour, and our rent difficulty would be solved. Curiously, this simple settlement of a question at present presenting itself to many seems to have occurred to nobody. What is wrong about it? I enclose my card. If you publish it, I shall get it hot. – Yours, etc., “Tub Straight Road”
The Irish Times editor thought that he was on to something.
The reply said:
“We confess that we can find no flaw in this argument. Without seeking to disparage the magnificent work that educated women are doing in the war factories, in the hospitals, and in the sewing-rooms, we suspect that a good many of these ladies would be just as well, if not better, employed at home . . . Patriotism, like charity, begins at home.”
Of course, the reader who was considering replacing his servants with his daughters wasn’t representative of the typical Irish person of that – or any – time. However, it shows that the fight for independence wasn’t at the forefront of his mind.
It is well known that the majority of the Irish population were not in favour of the Easter Rising at the time. They were waiting until the end of the First World War as the British agreed to grant Ireland Home Rule when the war was over.
However, when the British executed the rebels following the Rising, the mood changed. The Irish public were outraged at the severity of the punishment and no longer trusted the British.
They were no longer willing to settle for Home Rule and instead were determined to gain full independence.
Find out more about the Easter Rising and the War of Independence.