Letter from Maj Willie Redmond MP published in February 1916

1916/2016: A miscellany

Maj Willie Redmond MP joined the Royal Irish Regiment at the age of 53

Maj Willie Redmond MP joined the Royal Irish Regiment at the age of 53


February 12th, 1916

Maj Willie Redmond MP was one of the oldest serving Irish men at the front. He joined the Royal Irish Regiment at the age of 53 despite being over age for serving on the front line.

In December 1916 he shipped to France with the rest of the 16th (Irish) Division and wrote a letter to his friend the Bishop of Killaloe Dr Michael Fogarty.

The letter was published in The Irish Times on February 12th, 1916. In it Redmond speaks of his first 12 days at the front.

“The shelling was terrific and the division suffered some losses. Our men are very attentive to their chaplains and flock into the church in the little French villages. I was at one place where, amidst ruins all round, a big crucifix stood alone untouched. The destruction, havoc and suffering I have encountered, even in a short time, is truly appalling. I am sure we have your prayers. With my best wishes for the New Year to you, Canon O’Dea, and to all who care to hear of me, I am, my dear Lord, yours very truly. William Redmond. ”

Redmond was the brother of Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond. William Redmond died at the Battle of Messines Ridge on June 7th, 1917.

Abbey Theatre

The future of the Abbey Theatre was in safe hands despite the war, according to its manager, St John Ervine. Reflecting on his first three months in the job, he said the actors had been under notice and there were rumours it would close but the situation was now looking healthy. He had read 100 plays but “in a majority of cases, their themes were puerile” and commissioned just three of them.

He opined: “Most of the Abbey plays were inclined to violence, to a large extent, that is they were uncontrolled. Your dramatist must be a man with a cool mind, judging things without prejudice. If you were angry with men, you could not possibly understand them.”

He also chided Irish people for being thin-skinned.

“The Irish people had completely lost their sense of reality. Belfast people can stand criticism better than Dublin people. This simply means that the Ulsterman was a stronger man, a better man, though, perhaps, not as charming.”


The Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group will mark the Rising centenary of the Easter Rising with an evening of presentations, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, next Wednesday at 7.30pm.

“A State of Chassis – Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances in Dublin in 1916” will be chaired by historian and broadcaster John Bowman.

A recent history graduate from UCD has taken issue with RTÉ’s documentary 1916 and its claim that 170,000 Irish Volunteers followed John Redmond’s call and enlisted in the British Army.

Shane Browne, who specialised in the National Volunteers, says that of the 170,000 who formed the National Volunteers after the split with the Irish Volunteers, only 23,000 – 15 per cent – served in the British army.