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Swings and Roundabouts

Among the extensive and enthusiastic commemorations around 1916 some themes are receiving less attention than they might be said to merit. One such element is the German connection. Everyone knows the Germans were supposed to supply large quantities of arms and that the plan failed, which led directly to Eoin MacNeill’s controversial countermanding order. The proclamation itself refers to “our gallant allies in Europe”, which prompts the question as to just how extensive popular support was in Ireland for the German war effort. Whatever its extent may have been, such support did exist, as the following story, reported in the Freeman’s Journal of March 1st, 1916 shows.

The report covered a case before the courts involving Rosa McCabe, a Dublin parlourmaid, who alleged unfair dismissal against her employer, Mrs Edith Hill, wife of a General Hill of Clonskea House, Co Dublin. The plaintiff summonsed her former employer, claiming she was dismissed because she held pro-German views (which she somewhat implausibly denied), and through the court was seeking one month’s pay, £2. 10s, in lieu of notice.

The case revealed that political talk took place amongst the servants below stairs. It seems there was no Mr Carson to keep order and that McCabe’s views had upset another servant.

Edith Victoria Perkins, a nurserymaid, gave evidence stating that she objected to the plaintiff’s pro-German views and that she had complained of them to Mrs Hill. On one occasion she said that Rosa McCabe had told her she was on her way to inspect the Sinn Féin boy scouts and when she heard of a French military reverse she clapped her hands and said “more power to them”. When the Arethusa went down Mc Cabe had said the British would soon be swept off the seas. Perkins also claimed that when she spoke to her McCabe shouted at her about Larkin.

One or other empire was going to win the war. The vanquished empire would be declawed and its terrritories radically reduced. It is hardly surprising that advanced nationalalists would have wished for a German-dominated postwar treaty. The opposite, of course, is what happened. Rosa, who was possibly named after O'Donovan Rossa , lost out on that one but then things didn't exactly go Victoria's way over the following five years either.

7.3.2016