Kettle and Sinn Feiners fight at recruitment meeting in Cork

Kettle and Sinn Feiners fight at recruitment meeting in Cork
Irish Guards on a recruitment march in Cork earlier in 1915. Recruitment marches took place regularly all over Ireland in 1915.Photo: Manchester Guardian History of the War, 1915. Full collection available via National Library of Ireland

Cork, 7 December 1915 – A recruitment meeting in Cork ended in scenes of turmoil and violence after loyalists and Sinn Feiners clashed on Patrick Street.

The chief speaker at the recruitment meeting on Patrick Street was Lieutenant Tom Kettle. A huge crowd of loyalists turned up to hear him talk, while there were 200 protesters encroaching upon the meeting.

In an abrasive speech, Mr. Kettle said that it was degrading for him to have to ask the young men of Cork to enlist. He recalled that when the victims of the Lusitania were being buried ‘the friends of Germany in Cork called for cheers for Germany’.

Tom Kettle, the chief speaker at the recruitment meeting in Patrick street, Cork. (Image: UCD)

‘Not pro-German but anti-English’

A voice from the crowd shouted: ‘We are not pro-Germans, but anti-English.’ Other voices shouted back: ‘Cowards.’ ‘Slackers.’ ‘Agents of Germany’, amid scenes of great confusion.

Lieutenant Kettle said that his interrupters were simply seeking excuses for not fighting and that they were being paid from New York to obstruct recruiting. He then said that he would like to hear from any man why he was not joining. A Sinn Feiner accepted the invitation and came onto the platform to cries of ‘Coward,’ ‘Slacker’, ‘Pro-German’.

In the course of his speech the Sinn Feiner said that he had worked with Germans in America and had found them ‘tip-top’, and said he was not pro-German, but anti-English. On leaving the platform he was assaulted and punched to the ground by a soldier in the crowd. He was then taken up by his supporters and carried shoulder-high from the meeting.

Later, as Lieutenant Kettle was proceeding to his hotel he encountered a band of 100 Sinn Feiners and walked into the middle of them shouting in stentorian tones: ‘Cheers for the Cork revolutionary slackers and cowards’. The Sinn Feiners surged around Kettle and booed and hissed, but did not strike him.

[Editor’s note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

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