Kilkenny Volunteer Force
Large march organised through city streets
On the 25th of November 1913, Eoin MacNeill held a meeting in the rotunda. Thousands attended and the Irish National Volunteers (INV) were set up.
There may have been a number of Kilkenny citizens who joined the INV at this time. However the first meeting held in Kilkenny with the intention of forming the volunteers locally was held on the 5th of March 1914 in the city hall. The main speakers on the night were Roger Casement and Thomas McDonnagh then a school teacher in St. Kierans College. The meeting met with huge local support with large numbers handing in their names on the night. This group from the City would become known as a company 'Kilkenny INV'. It was governed from the start by a committee composed of members from local nationalist groups.
In early march training commenced with the instruction being given for the most part by members with previous service in the British army. The first principle instructor was Mr Thomas Connelly from Michael Street Kilkenny.
In early June 1914 John Redmond became concerned about the strength of the INV and he published demands that there should be 25 home rule nominees added to the provincial committee at national level. It can be deduced from a number of sources in Kilkenny city that local AOH members attempted to take over the committee around the time of Redmond’s demands, also IPP & AOH members refused to take orders on parade leading to a difficult stand off. Things were eventually patched up by mediation in the city.
At the start of August old Italian rifles were issued to the company for which there was no ammunition these rifles were quickly given the nickname 'gas pipes'.
On the 28th of June Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austro-Hungarian empire, in Sarajevo, Bosnia occurred, this would eventually lead to Britain declaring war on Germany on 04th August. The UVF would immediately offer its resources to the war effort. This policy would have a massive effect on the INV. John Redmond advocated the joining of the British army in order to best win continued support for the recently passed Bill.
This resulted in a crisis within the volunteer movement in Kilkenny. In early September the matter was brought to a head when the entire membership of the Kilkenny NIV Company’s paraded in the market yard area of the City. Over 650 Officers NCOs and men were accounted for (Photo Above).
The main focus of the Irish Volunteers in Kilkenny from September was to commence the recruiting and to continue to improve their tactical awareness. This involved field training, route marches, drill with wooden rifles and there was also a lot of emphasis placed on Irish lessons in both cultural and historical in nature. A rifle range was set up at lower Dunmore on land put at their disposal by Mr Richard Maher, this was situated close to an area known as the long wood. This was an excellent location being hidden from view by the wood as well as being in a natural valley and the field its self was shaped like a bowl. The main rifle used was a Birmingham Small Arms .22 rifle . Some limited skill at arms training took place in Volunteer hall with a pellet gun for which all the firers paid for the ammunition they used.
Towards the end of 1914 approximately Twelve .303 rifles and Twelve assorted revolvers and pistols were procured by the committee from Dublin these weapons were issued to members of A Company . All of these weapons had to be paid for and this took a big effort from all members to rise.
Early in 1915 Captain Ginger o Connell from GHQ arrived in Kilkenny to help the companies to develop aspects of marksmanship tactics and planning he also assisted in the recruiting of additional personnel into the volunteers. Another important development in the training of company leaders was the holding of an IV training camp in June 1915 at Galbally Co Limerick. It was attended by James Lawor, Martin Kealy, Laurence Deloughry and Eamon Comerford . This camp was conducted by Ginger O Connell and over 80 Irish Volunteers attended, the camp lasted one week. Martin Kealy who was a member of Kilkenny piper’s band led the formation on its route march’s throughout the duration of the training. This camp helped the key leaders from Kilkenny to understand the developing tactics techniques and procedures which form the doctrine of guerrilla warfare lightly to be used in future operations.
On 23rd of November 1915 an oration in memory of Allen Larkin and O brien was given by Sean McDermot in the Gaelic league rooms in what is now Rothe house. Volunteer members paraded with a Tri Colour and weapons for this parade. This display of weapons may have been an indication of what was about to come.
So with the training received since its inception in 1914 the Irish volunteer movement in Kilkenny were certainly in a position to deploy on active service with some limited small arms capability. But they were still seriously under resourced in relation to being able to sustain a prolonged period of active service.
The year 1916 would bring its own threats, possibilities and setbacks.