A FOREST FOR THE FOUNDERS?

 

Among all the suggestions for marking the 75th anniversary of the setting up of this State, has anyone yet put forward the idea of a forest of remembrance; remembrance for those who built so well, remembrance for all who gave their lives in a civil war which should never have, happened? Books will be published, and Tom Garvin's splendid and often contentious (naturally) 1922 is the leader so far. Earlier books will be reissued: Niall Harrington's Kerry Landing which records, with pain, the experiences of a National Army man at the time of Ballyseedy and other awful, incidents in that area. Ernie O'Malley's works for the other side, and perhaps, Florence O'Donoghue's No Other Law, a life of Liam Lynch. But a forest, preferably of broadleaves, cool and restful, and one of some size, would bear permanent witness to the terrible and ultimately triumphant process from which emerged this democratic State.

There is a Tree of Heaven; is there a Tree of Life? They all are. The Army - sorry, The Defence Forces - have brought out a very moving calendar for 1997 (not the first one they have done), originating, of course, from the Military Archives under the ever resourceful and ever helpful Commandant Peter Young. In photographs and in facsimiles of some remarkable documents, notably from the Department of Military Statistics of the year 1922, they bring those times vividly to us. Many photographs which will be new to all but the scholars.

What do you know of the Dublin Guards? Not policemen, but an army unit made up largely of members of the ASU's or Active Service Units of the Dublin Brigade and members of the Squad, with some new recruits into the Army. The documents equally bring history to life. They are not without humour. One, which is not included in this calendar, being for 1923, comes from the series of General Weekly Reports from the same Department of Military Statistics, and lists a big haul of arms taken after the ceasefire of May of that year. With a punchline of an unusual discovery. "Two huge dumps were discovered in the Cork Command containing 50 Land Mines, 91 bombs, 20 shotguns, 2 rifles, 2 revolvers, 2050 rounds assorted ammunition, 25 detonators, a Poteen Still and a quantity of equipment." No mention of any quantity of poteen, from which you could draw, possibly, a wrong conclusion.

Anyway, top marks to Military Archives and the Defence Forces Printing Press. And who will now move to plant a worthy forest.