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Frank Edwards part 2



Frank Edwards - His political activities - Archdeacon Byrne - Bishop Kinane

Edwards had joined the IRA in about 1924 but in the latter part of the decade, he had become inactive. He joined Saor Éire, the political wing of the IRA, at its foundation in 1931. The local IRA was involved in various activities such as when three men visited all the local cinemas, in August 1932, and requested the managers not to show films 'of a decidedly British type.' The manager of one city cinema admitted to a Waterford News reporter that 'as far back as two years ago he himself had noticed that the news films supplied by Pathe ... and Fox Movietone were being utilised for propaganda purposes. The men who visited him were very courteous, he said, and ... he promised ... that whenever possible, he would censor the film in future where it appeared to him to carry the taint of propaganda.'[1] Edwards was involved in the 'Bass' protest. This meant the entering of public houses and the smashing of all the stock of Bass Ale on the premises as a protest against British goods being sold.[2] He later regretted having partaken in this activity.

  In the late twenties and early thirties, Waterford was a hotbed of republican and working class agitation in which Edwards played a leading role. The Unemployed Association in the city was so strong that it succeeded in having two of its members, David Nash and Thomas Purdue, elected to the city council on the platform 'Bread, Blood and Work.' For the next few years the local scene was enlivened by numerous and often boisterous marches and meetings in City Hall and in the People's Park. An example of the type of rhetoric that was used can be gained from a speech made by councillor Purdue when he said, 'If we [the unemployed] are not going to get what we want, we will leave this city like the Temple of Jerusalem—we won't leave a stone upon a stone.’[3]

  The first recorded speech by Edwards was in 1932 and the context is indicative of the type of political action in which he was engaged at the time. On Sunday 4 September 1932, a public meeting of Cumann na nGaedheal, to which admission was by ticket only, was scheduled for the Large Room at City Hall. Mayor Matthew Cassin presided, the Marquis and Marchioness of Waterford were guests and Mr. Paddy McGilligan, ex-Minister for Industry and Commerce was the principal speaker. At the same time, a counter demonstration was staged on the Mall outside. The 'Soldier's Song' was sung with much enthusiasm by the gathering on the roadway, and as its strains came through one of the open windows of the Large Room, someone on the Cumann na nGaedheal platform left his place and closed the window. A number of the Mall protesters then tried to gain admittance to the Large Room. They got a little more than halfway up the stairs when they were charged by the Cumann na nGaedheal supporters and a general melee ensued. Two of the protesters were injured in the clash, Robert Walsh, Carrigeen Lane, a member of the St. Declan’s Pipe Band receiving a kick in the stomach (for which he was detained in the Infirmary) and Joseph Tobin a kick in the shins. At the close of the meeting a vote of thanks to the ex Minister was proposed by Mr. John Hearne, builder.[4] His name will come up again.

  On the following night, another demonstration, timed for eight o'clock, was held on the Mall, presided over by Edwards. However, the owner of the lorry that was to be used as a platform was visited at his home shortly before the meeting and threatened with dire consequences if he permitted his vehicle to be used for the purpose for which it was hired. The owner declined to proceed to the meeting venue and a second lorry had to be procured from Mr. T. Power, garage proprietor, the Quay. When this lorry arrived at the scene the meeting had already begun, with Edwards addressing the large attendance from a jarvey car. The Waterford News reported

Mr. Edwards, who spoke first in Irish, and continued in English, said the meeting that evening had been arranged in order to appeal for their support for Fianna Eireann—the only national boy organisation in Ireland that was doing its best to educate the future manhood of the country to become loyal citizens of the Irish Republic, which they would attain, and which they were bound to strive to attain (cheers). They were all agreed that it was absolutely essential now for the workers of Ireland to unite to fight the forces of reaction and British Imperialism which were so strong in the country. They could see how those reactionary forces were united against the workers. The people who were associated with the gang of traitors in the Town Hall the previous day were the bosses, the men who exploited the workers, the men who had accumulated wealth from the sweat and the blood of the workers (loud cheers). Then they had the solicitors—it was not necessary for him to make any comment about them—and the rent collectors and the landlords—the Marquis and Marchioness of Waterford. These were the reactionary forces in the country who were backing up the Cumann na nGaedheal party—the organisation that was masking under a Gaelic title, but that was really the force of British Imperialism that was driving the Gael out of the country (loud cheers) ... I forgot to mention ... the Ballybricken bullies who were associated with Mr. McGilligan and his gang in the Town Hall yesterday. The IRA has been accused by Mr. Blythe of being a thug organisation. You people of Waterford can judge for yourselves on which side are the thugs; and let me tell you that the cause of Irish independence has not been killed, and it will not be killed, by these thugs (loud cheers) ... Mr. Edwards concluded, amid loud cheering, as he had begun—in Irish.[5]

  Edwards' speech is interesting for the various groups that he attacked—bosses, solicitors, rent collectors, landlords and the Ballybricken Redmondites. It is quite certain that he was a marked man after that speech—if he had not already been noted as an agitator and as one who was stirring up revolutionary ideas among the masses. Two of the people who were attacked by Edwards were the newly elected Mayor Cassin and John Hearne. The latter was the leader of the master builders federation in the city and was a prominent member of many of the city's Catholic organisations. He was, also, a personal friend of Archdeacon Byrne.

Archdeacon William Byrne was parish priest of Ballybricken and, therefore, the manager of Mount Sion schools where Edwards was a teacher. He was, in effect, Edwards' employer.[6] Intellectually, Byrne was a heavyweight. During the first World War, before his presidency of St. John's College, he was editor of The Catholic Record of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore and under his editorship the circulation of the Record reached the figure of six thousand copies a month.[7] While he was president of St. John's College his sermons at the Cathedral drew large congregations from every parish in the city. He was particularly keen on education and educational facilities throughout the whole diocese and he was not regarded in Waterford as a parish priest in the strict parochial sense, rather was he looked on as one whose assistance could be relied on in any movement for the spiritual or temporal advancement of the citizens. He was regularly called upon to arbitrate in industrial disputes and, although he was thought of in some quarters as a friend of the employers, his arbitrations in such disputes were generally well received. He was ever on the alert for any infiltration of Waterford workers by socialists and communists and he regarded the latter as followers of Satan.[8] He congratulated the unemployed and the Worker's Council, in a public statement, for their stance against communism, saying

The Waterford Worker's Council rightly and indignantly repudiated the pretensions of a certain trio to represent Irish workers at anti-God celebrations in Moscow. More recently, still, those who represent the vast majority of the unemployed in our city effectively nullified an attempt to introduce organised Communism amongst us.[9]

  Byrne, in his crusade against communist infiltration, found a ready ally in the new bishop, Canon Kinane, who was elevated to the diocese of Waterford and Lismore in May 1933.

Dr. Jeremiah Kinane DD, DCL, was created Bishop of Waterford & Lismore on 29 June 1933. On his arrival in Waterford, he gave a free dinner at the courthouse to five hundred poor men of the city. At his official reception in the council chamber at City Hall and in response to addresses of welcome from the Corporation, the Harbour Commissioners, the Waterford Workers Council, the De La Salle Brothers, the Waterford Branch of INTO etc., the bishop said (rather ominously for future relations with Edwards and his friends

No address has given me more pleasure and satisfaction than the address from the Workers Council. Clearly communistic propaganda has taken no effect in Waterford[11]

  Bishop Kinane in his first address in the Cathedral since his consecration as bishop articulated the communist threat as being one of the major difficulties, as he perceived it, of his coming tenure as bishop.

From the political stand point the world is in a state of flux and no man can foretell what forms of government will ultimately emerge and survive. No condition of things could be more inimical to the Church's interest or more favourable to the machinations of her enemies. These enemies in their various forms are active the world over. Ireland has not been free from their influence. Communist and secret society agents especially have made us the object of their activities, but so far they have met with very little success ... From my personal experience and from what I have heard the progress made by these enemies of the Church in this great diocese has been less than in most others.[12]


  Warnings about the dangers of communism and irreligion were not confined to priests. At the blessing of the colours of the Mount Sion and De La Salle scouts by Archdeacon Byrne, Mayor Cassin spoke of 'the great danger to their faith, their manhood, their womanhood and their nationality ... Irreligion and materialism were sweeping all over the world.'[13]

[1] Peter O'Connor (1966), A Soldier of Liberty, (Dublin, MSF), p. 2.
[2] Ibid, August 5, 1932
[3] Waterford News, October 21, 1932
Ibid, September 9, 1932
[5] Ibid, 9 September 19
Byrne was born in Knocklofty, Co. Tipperary, a few miles west of Clonmel. He was a student at Clonmel High School and later entered St. John's College to begin his ecclesiastical studies. He was ordained at Maynooth and following three years as Professor at All Hallows College, Clonliffe he returned to St John's where he became President. In 1930 he was made parish priest of Ballybricken parish, the largest in the diocese. He was later created archdeacon and finally a Domestic Prelate. He was Vicar Capitular of the diocese in the interim between the death of bishop Hackett and the elevation of Dr. Kinane as bishop.
[7] Patrick Power (1937) A Compendious History of the United Dioceses of Waterford & Lismore (Cork, Cork University Press), p. 4.
[8] Ibid, P. 295. Canon Power wrote of him that 'During 1934-35 he engaged in public controversy with communist and other subversive agents and defended Catholic Truth with great ability, Christian dignity and no little succes
[9] Waterford News, 18 November 1932. This was in reference to the sending of an Irish delegation to Moscow for the fifteenth anniversary of the Russian revolution. The Unemployed Association had declared that 'they saw no reason why they should follow in the path of Trotsky, Lenin or Stalin.'
[10] Dr Kinane was a native of Gortnahulla, Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary where he was born on 15 November 1884. He was ordained at Rome on 24 April 1910. From 1911  to 1933 he was Professor of Canon Law at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. He was bishop of Waterford & Lismore from 1933 to 1942 and archbishop of Decros and coadjutor of Cashel & Emly from 1942 to 1946 when he succeeded to the archbishopric. He died on 18 February 1959.
[11] Waterford News, 30 June 1933.
[12] Ibid, 14 July 1933
Ibid, 9 June 1933.


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