The Brown-Robed Army
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An army is a complex organization. For the soldier on the line, there are unseen personnel supporting him in communications, supply, rations, and intelligence. During the years of fighting in Ireland--the War of Independence (1919-22) and the Civil War (1922-23)-these unseen personnel included the Carmelites of New York on the side of Ireland and the Republicans respectively. They are the subject of this article.
A CARMELITE PARISH IN 1889 Edward McGlynn was the pastor (1886-1888) of New York's eastside parish of St. Stephen. He was distressed by the poverty of his parishioners, mostly Irish immigrants, and sought in the theories of Henry George a solution for them. This incurred the disfavor of his archbishop, Michael Corrigan, who brought about the excommunication of McGlynn.' Corrigan sought to heal the resulting unsettled attitude of the Irish at St. Stephen's by slicing off a portion of their parish and giving it to the Carmelites of the Irish Province in 1889.7 He trusted that their being sympathetic with the Irish would heal wounds in the new parish of Our Lady of the Scapular.
Notices in the newspapers about the The Irish Carmelites had a provincial chapter in Ireland that summer of 1916. Denis O'Connor was a delegate to the chapter and used the occasion to visit family and relatives. When he returned to New York that September he was transferred from Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. to the Carmelites' Manhattan church. He gave an interview to the Irish World describing the British occupation and their martial law. O'Connor was changed by this experience. He made his Our Lady of the Scapular Church a center of Irish activity.' I suspect that his spurt of activity and his total support of everything Irish was due to his becoming a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).5 The Carmelite, Peter Elias Magennis, was elected an assistant general of the order in 1908 and served in that capacity until 1919. At Our Lady Photo: Our Lady of the Scapular Church on East Twenty-eighth Street in Manhattan. This photograph was taken during the 1920s. Courtesy of Alfred Isacsson, O. Carm.
Carmelites and their parish appeared when there was a special event like a bazaar or an annual parish reunion. This all changed with the Irish Rising of 1916. Carmelites who had been in Dublin for the Rising and had been transferred to New York spoke to Irish groups of their experiences. Berthold Keating ministered to the wounded of the Rising and, upon his arrival in New York, told the Irish World newspaper of his aiding the wounded Volunteers in Jacobs Biscuit Factory. Albert Metcalf was called to Jacobs factory on the second day of the Rising and there he ministered to the wounded.3 of the Scapular, he spent a good portion of 1914, Father Alfred Isaesson is 1915 and 1916, as he did from early 1917 until August of 1919. He was cut from the same cloth as O' Connor and worked with him in the promotion of Irish activities in the parish.6 The Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) was organized in 1916, a month before the Rising, by the Irish Race Convention in New York City. Its purpose was to encourage and assist any movement working for Irish freedom. While the Carmelites did not establish a branch of the FOIF until June 16, 1917, about a year after its foundation, they then entered wholeheartedly retired Carmelite priest whose latest book is Always Faithful: The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement. He is also the author of The Travels, Arrest and Trial of John H. Surat, as well as other books on the Carmelites and Irish History. A frequent contributor to New York Irish History, be lives in Middletown, N.Y. ?2010. Published with permission of Alfred Isacsson.
Vol.23, 2009 PAGE 16 NEW YORK 1RISH HISTORY Photo: Berthold Keating, the Carmelite priest who served as chaplain to men of the 1916 Rising.
Courtesy of Alfred lsacsson, O. Carm.
SECRET AGENTS AND PROTESTS The Carmelite Branch being anti-English in tone and characteristically Republican, brought what were called "secret service agents" to meetings. They were probably members of the U.S. Department of Justice hoping to hear evidence that conflicted with President Woodrow Wilson's policy of total support of England. Liam Mellows was a speaker one evening, and he asked two Irish-looking agents, "What will you say when your grandchildren ask you what you did in the Great War to free small peoples? Will you tell them that you were engaged in New York City holding down the unarmed Irish with revolvers trying to silence their claim to be free?"& (The meetings of the Carmelite Branch had speaker at each of their meetings, a lecture on some aspect of Irish culture, and then a social time.)' The Irish Progressive League which attended Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Scapular and met afterwards in the Carmelite Hall organized a meeting for May 4, 1918 in Madison Square Garden, then at Twenty-sixth Street and Madison Avenue, to protest British conscription in Ireland. Peter Elias Magennis was one of the main speakers. He called British conscription in Ireland an attempt to exterminate the Irish. Mrs. William Jay, on behalf of the organization called the Ultimate Committee for the Severance of all Vol.23, 2009 into promoting the group. At this inaugural meeting, Daniel Cohalan spoke to the eighthundred persons present about the necessity of American support for Irish freedom.7 Social and Professional Relations with Enemy Sympathizers, had tried to prevent the meeting and having failed in this, Mrs. Jay protested the anti-English tenor of Magennis remarks at the meeting to John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. Magennis had cited the presence of Irish at Bunker Hill and other significant battles of American history. He called British conscription in Ireland a British attempt to eradicate the Irish. Cardinal Farley waffled in making a reply to Mrs. Jay and when he finally did so, he said that he would not permit Magennis to lead or be involved in political gatherings. Magennis tried to explain his presence at the rally, and Irish groups protested the actions of Farley to the Apostolic Delegate. 1? Cardinal Farley's injunction did not inhibit the actions of Magennis. He continued his many activities in support of Irish freedom.
Peter Elias Magennis had been elected president of the FOIF, but Daniel Cohalan and his allies forced him from this position when Magennis was elected prior general of the Carmelites at their 1919 general chapter. In his stead, Michael Gallagher, Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit, was made president with the backing of Daniel Cohalan. This new administration ceased to be supportive of Eamon De Valera, which had been a hallmark of the FOIF Cohalan also desired that the money raised by the FOIF in the United States be kept here and not sent to Ireland. On October 20, 1920 De Valera announced the formation of a new organization, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) which, of course, was supportive of himself. Ever loyal to De Valera, the Carmelite Branch of the FOIF joined the organization as the Carmelite Council."1 Our Lady of the Scapular had many Irishoriented affairs such as dramatic plays, musicals, lectures, and dances. Admission was probably charged for these and, additionally, appeals for causes in Ireland were made. Beginning about 1920 we have records of the contributions and their disbursements. Money was regularly given to a series of funds with various innocent and charitable sounding titleswhich are generally agreed to be for the purchase of arms and other anti-governmental activities. Money was also given to Harry Boland, a purchaser and trans- NEW YORK 1R15H HISTORY PAGE 17 porter of armaments to Ireland. The amount of money raised and sent to Ireland was in excess of $150,000. It was sent to various funds, but all was sent for the same cause. 12 CASH SUPPORT AND ARMS The American counsel in Dublin on June 9, 1921 wrote his superiors in Washington that without American money the IRA would have to quit in three months. He listed all the funds including "the Prisoners Dependants Fund" and the "Refugee Fund" and stated they were simply a conduit for Sinn Fein. The counsel then listed all the people that were interested or active in funneling money to Ireland. A good number of these people were associated with the New York Carmelites. 13 (Besides the records of the United States Department of State, there are records of this money moving in the papers of Eamon De Valera and in the archives of the Carmelites of the New York Province.) Arms could not be obtained without funds. '4 Sean Reid, O. Carm., pastor of Our Lady of the Scapular 1943-64, came from a staunch Republican household in Kilkenny and studied in Rome (1927-33) during the time of the generalship of Peter Elias Magennis. Only when he came to New York did he learn of Carmelite involvement in the arms business and the use of the priory and church basements as an arsenal. 15 Arms and ammunition were gathered in the United States for shipment in small quantities to Ireland. The storing of these was a problem but as Edmund O'Brien wrote: A LISAFO Reutes later [in mid-summer of 1920] a safer and more commodious store for such goods [arms and ammunition] was found in the Carmelite Priory which was, if I remember correctly, on Twenty-ninth Street, on the East Side. The Carmelite priests were favorably disposed towards the Irish cause and gave their help in every way. In this case, it provided us with a place within their grounds to use as a dump for arms and ammunition, which relieved us of a lot of anxiety regarding the safety of such stuff." The Carmelite arsenal was soon to beput to use. There was the purchase of five-hundred Thompson sub-machine guns. Some were stored in the Carmelite church and priory where they were sewn into burlap sacks for shipment. Harry Photo (top): Peter Elias Magennis on the steps of Our Lady of the Scapular Church. Courtesy of Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm. (right): Christopher Slattery was one of the Carmelite priests who Boland and Jim McGee chartered a ship, the East Side, for the guns to go to Ireland. The guns served as a courier in were brought to the East Sides dock in Hoboken, the "Brown-Robed New Jersey. Because there was a longshoremen's protest action against British ships docked in Hoboken, Jim McGee and his longshoreman failed to move the Thompsons below deck and their presence was reported to the police. Attempts by those behind the operation to repossess the Thompsons failed, and they remained in custody of the federal government. The arrests of people thought to be involved were made, but on the completion of the legal process no one was prosecuted. Fortunately, the Carmelite connection never was made public. 17 Army." Courtesy of Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm.
Vol.23, 2009 PAGE 18 NEW YORK 1RISH HISTORY Photo: The original Carmelite Priory on East Twentyninth Street that served as a safe house during the War of Independence and the Civil War in Ireland. Courtesy of Alfred Isacson, O. Carm.
Illustration: A page from the account book, kept in records of the Carmelites, showing contributions to the "Refugee Fund" set up to provide funding during the War of Independence.
Courtesy of Alfred Isacsson, O. Carm. _. Rebart Smet-Zerease tenet Coupell tunat Cruneli Turbane, Covertl, Vol.23, 2009 In May, 1922, just before the start of the Civil War, Liam Pedlar wrote from New York to Harry Boland in Ireland concerning what Pedlar called the ".45 proposition." Pedlar cited the original order as being for 700,000 rounds of .45-caliberammunition and a down payment of $15,000 had been made- -and a balance of $13,000 remained.
Pedlar wanted Boland to authorize Father Denis O'Connor to give him this balance to complete the deal. O'Connor was estimated to have $18,000 to $20,000 on hand for this purpose. 1- The deal for the ammunition seems never to have been completed. Jim McGee and his family lived above the shop of a gunsmith in St. Gabriel's parish just north of the territory of the Carmelite parish.
It was here that McGee purchased guns for shipment to Ireland. McGee would collect the weapons, and his work as a longshoreman and his acquaintance with ships' crews enabled him to ship them to Ireland. When the Midtown Tunnel there. Others like Harry Boland, Sean Nunan, Liam Pedlar, and Liam Mellows were some who used the priory as a safe house. 41 In the conflicts of the War of Independence and the Civil War, there was working behind the scenes : brown-robed army.
Page s V. O1 GeES vale SoNS 3.7., Ag. 31,1921 acknowledge t ? Follaving aubeeriptions Mist ad hare benn 4l1estad : a she gurgisen tasended ty 1 lenarai Notes between Manhattan and Queens was being constructed, St. Gabriel's Church and its neighboring streets were leveled for the tunnel. It was then that Jim McGee moved his family to Queens-but did not cease his work for Ireland. 19 Every cause has its fifth column. Carmelites stationed at Our Lady of the Scapular came from Ireland and were periodically allowed vacations there. Peter Elias Magennis and Christopher Slattery carried messages from Ireland formen in the movement in New York. Hugh Devlin arrived in 1921 with a message for Liam Mellows which he delivered to him personally.20 A military organization has safe houses for the movement of its men. The Carmelite Priory on East Twenty-ninth Street was a safe house, a place where messages were received and exchanged. When Eamon De Valera escaped from Lincoln Prison and came to New York, he came in secret to the priory and spent his first night in America 1. Alfred Isacsson, The Determined Doctor: the Story of Edward McGlynn (Tarrytown, 1998 2nd ed) 21. 2. Frank Dixon, Archbishop Corrigan and the Irish Carmelites (Maspeth , ), 38-9. 3. Irish World, June 20, 1916; Gaelic American, Dec. 30, 1916. 4. See Alfred Isacsson, "Denis O'Connor" in New York Irish History 20 (2006), 23-6. 5. Irish World, Sept. 23, 30, 1916. 6. Peter O'Dwyer, The Irish Carmelites (Dublin, 1988) 350-1, 355-6. 7. William J. Carr, The Irish Carmelites of New York City and the Fight for Irish Independence, (1916-1919) (Middletown, N.Y,1973) 12-4; Alfred Isacsson, Always Faithful: The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement (Middletown, 2004) 37. 6 Pharmad Hanky Euplayese Vanhasten Connell 45,000.00 v 2,000.00 - 1, 610. 90 15 01,100,00 / / L 1,000.00 )3 1,000.00 (4,000.00 4 1,000.00 ? 1,000.00?8 700.00 V0 646.00 /46 Casingten AT AILA at. Nalaely'a Cauneli Caras1416 Counsil Meeting Tax 009 A.A.R.., Issentrio Tiranan 'a Counsit sites Kes'e Kassalation Metriny Cosnald - Joan | Deunell Rebart Imet Counall The wer1 ourAR THEA500 u tithe, 3 90 0 H they 2887. 00 ) /0: Betweener, abate Pescident Season Casant ?stiseas of The Irsah Republis Myrina Pranete MaPartland. Couned? atahey 017 0 4T Connell Manhattanville Countli 808.00 P87 565.15 O 500.00 800.00 500.00 /C 300,00 g 443.00 442,00 408.00 NEW YORK 1R15H HISTORY PAGE 19 600 MACHINE GUNS SUPPOSED FOR IRISH TAKEN ON SHIP HERE Latest Type of Quick-Firers Found in Coal Bunkers of Outgoing Vessel.
AMMUNITION ALSO SEIZED Customs Men Find $150,000 Cache Following Reports of: Plan to Smuggle Guns.
MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN Change in Crews Information of Plot - Fourth Search Revealed War Supplies. had been stolen. hau 6 alcidivo Six hundred machine suns, belleved by Federal au-borities to have been desfor Ireland, were discovered by tody val bod & 208 A MILN customs agents yesterday on board -the taw." ? Police Take Up Search. steamship East Side | Hoboken and later were seized on search warrant by the Hoboken police. According to When Sergeants Joseph Cornelll and John Beatty , Plei 2 armed with tho. 50 warrant, they were Informed by Captain George Bartlett of the Hast Side that the munitions already had been removed from, the vessel by Customs agents. The Sergeanta told Captain Bartlett that they did not believe him, whereupon the Captain put his statement in writing.
The policemen then made a tour ? the pier, where they found the munitions fast, but this later was denied.
The seize1 machine guns. known: the Thompsen sub-machine guns, and made by the Colt's Patent Fire Arma Manufacturing Company, were the latest development of automatio quick-firing small arms. Guns of this typo, capabie of firing 800 shots a minute, recentthe New Yak Police Department.
The machine guns, together with many varieties of magazines, a small quantity el ammunition and : unopened bozes thought to contain amall arms, were valued at $130,000. They were found In thirteen large sacke concealed in the one report the ship was bound for Belly were anquired by the riot squad de Inspector Curran and his men. of the sacks had been ripped open, closing boxes and machine runs.
I bunkers of the 1 st 514e. No 14 Sue tern, Fetch me chest n the Constipf TO Made ea C. Chief of order, and toi y the matter DeCurran assured Sir, 15 by the Cus: tome nuthoritice. waste ani, ema the total Racerpars tion celestion Lou With Ass graph curve gorge Counsel Fallen informed and pact hhat chore had been - violation. 4 neutralion it Was agreed between coma and a either were attached Compan erated by the monolitan a Custody of the munitions by. the Ho-Federal 8068 a deal to does, disputed & yielded under protest, and the matter will he threshed out this mornini: in hearing before Recorder Adolph C. Carsten of Hoboken. New York port officials declined to discus the affair beyond saying that the munitions had not been assed by Federal authorities, but were detained pending giving the na the sacks The ! last 1 la. va.." United States Shipping En according to reporti" o an IF Invostigation." According to the Hoboken police, machine guns were taken from the East sESapcorktsinecoAtntaationeinggas.fo4l0if5etipmaecakreda semi omel Side by customs agents on the charge that their shipment a illegal no permit obtained from the Stato Department te that shi or the disputed munitiona violation of tho neutrallty It of Justice officials admitted that they hnd been Investigatreports of arma shipoienta to Ire-Schlet Hayes of the Hoboken police said that the customs men had obtained their first informiation the presence of the weapons from members or tha crow. Four seurchen were made; three of which were unsuccessful, and it was only on the final search of lie vessel's bunkers that the suspected war material Hen on reoP,o foundemo, officiale told. smuggled on b the East Side and discovered.
Shipments Reported. mario/ct/it/cantelopitremiternethererer of hEaRT Anve Lipped Reports have come to this country re. officialing to one report made 10 from Brian Murphy, OSB. thing de tipo man tit by Hundrout cently that arms' and ammunition of American make have been captured from Binn Vein forves, and these have been the subject of question in the House of Commons. Unnamed rumore have flicted along the New York ifarbor front of secret munition shipavents to Ireland, Althougi Badiral agents have been closely on the watch, yesterday's seizure was the first of any weapons for a suspected Irish destina tmonac. hTinhe gsueaizsuwreas?sauidchtoqbueaonntietytinodf largest in filibustering history.
While Customs Inspeytur Curran and' Hon Mana holsten, at on ur ous menabes 19. Boland to McGarrity, Dublin, July 17, 23, 1923, about twenty, customi officer were POmE New Pl wALd GHield_up by, customs, tram pader mination, & Stella de git" cleared hast, night perming - heroes they constitute drone its it he Trambertted to the Biato! Poura that a shipment was intended moved.
Ehe New fork Eimes Pubiahed: June 16, 1921 Copyright 9 Th Cunningham, 2001. 20. Donal 'Callaghan Research, Oral History, ANYP. 21. Nunan to 'Callaghan, Washington, Nov 17, 1943. searching the East SAfe, Froak Williams of Hoboken, accompanied by his-attor: WASHINGTON, June 15.- The Per ney, Thomas J. O'Nelll, with offices at 968 Broadway, New York, appled for a partment, of austiportonishakd an SECONd a dE SIR S He Storoner, To Sle search warrant from Recorder Carsten In his affidavit Mr. Williams dutlaged that on June 11 8 quantity ur munitions owned and atored by him in Hoboken-The Nets York Times Publahed: Juno 16, 1821 Copyright ? The New York Times Hoboken. resaon t weapons the Elat SMe. made mention ? the 8. For more information on the Irish patriot Liam Mellows, his activities, and his prosecutions see Alfred Isacsson, "Liam Mellows' New York Court Cases"in New York Irish History 19 (2005)14-7. 9. Sean Cronin, The Revolutionaries (Dublin, 1971) 172. 10. New York Times May 5, 6, 1918; Kelly to Bonzano, [N.Y.] June 29, 1918, cover letter to Farley [N.Y.], June 12, 1918, Vatican Archives, Apostolic Delegate, Washington, V 82/1. 11. Jim Maher Harry Boland (Dublin, 1998) 131; Isacsson, Always Faithful, 55. 12. Alfred Isacsson, "Traces of Clandestine Operations in the Records of the New York Carmelites,' The Irish. Sword 25 (Winter, 2007) 437-9. 13. Consul Report, Dublin, June 9, 1921, p 12, # 752, Roll 218, Record Group M 580, National Archives and Records Administration; Hughes to Dumont, Washington, July 11, 1921, #785 in ibid.; Consul Report, Dublin, Aug 9, 1921, #986, 1068, 1071 in ibid. 14. 150/1030 De Valera Papers, University College Dublin (UCD); Archives, Carmelites of the New York Province, Middletown, NY (ANYP). 15. 150/1030 De Valera Papers, UCD. 16. Reid to Brannigan,, Middletown, May 20, 1992, copy; Brannigan-Isacsson Correspondence, both in Archives New York Province. 17. 150/1309 De Valera Papers, UCD; Alfred Isacsson, "Indictments in the East Side Thompson E Seizure," The Irish Sword XXIII (Winter, 2003) begun last night on bom under which. tt were or how att. hoabvtaeibneedn sassanion Carsten's a in Recorder Mr. William to discuss matter give be his attorney. pr about Mr. Whliames attairaknow that he r himselt?t my he cha rohs arrant Issued boy Carsten corCdairnsetreann.. h:eapopaetahrsof F Adolnt le following cords: d pol machine Exha, Do Cate do cir 50-capacity maga,zi5n0ese, x5t1ra003-0c-acpapcaitcaitPyl 20 50-capacity drum 20 100-capacity drum magazines hundrede of parts or michtne on June 11, 1021, stolen and rom said Frank Wilfuma, City of Hoboken Frank W suspect that sald rood, are concen owned by the Cosmopolitan E New York Harbor, He hear oily Now Jenn r o on a o me is oil a and s ch for sal shall so find the : cure said stolen: ther bring then, whose custogether with ang before me en a motor truck guarded by Customa Under protest of Inspector, Curran, Customy agents, took Police Head-Curran claimed the Hoboken Sergeants ? tons and, followed custody infeldahns of rederal and n watched last rotine wat. Ponturiciard de MA ph comes heate are dese, BIOAC hought Forts 530 3 0 cap trio pose nance m a imal ThRee Inquiries Bezus. Investigations as to how the arms wore pidp author tear stew d remain in.
Illustration: On June 21, 1921, the New York Times provided an account of the weapons seizure in Hoboken. Courtesy of the New York Times. 446-7; -Tying up Some Loose Ends of the East the munitions in the Side Seizure in ibid., XXV (Summer, 2007) 320-6. REtros And SnESS Hall /ugan.or/rope-creta caused by the 18. Pedlar to Boland, , N.Y., May 24, 1922, copy their 'destination - Customa Surviea, the by officials Departmi Justice and the United SLtatset sSiSdheipprionfgef sBsoeadrdt.o Obfefiucneraswoafrethoef of the cut Inty, SuSpAthmachting EMit a federal a cola cRow Am E McGarrity Papers, National Library of Ireland, dimmed 10 the mast Sli-POd" hailed t deck, watch" and aeked. Dublin, 17424; conversation with Ann McGee Vol.23, 2009