July 19th, 1912: From the archives

 

British prime minister Herbert Asquith visited Dublin in July 1912 for public meetings with Irish nationalists to sell their joint Home Rule Bill. The only protests came from English suffragettes who had followed him: one threw a hatchet at his carriage as it passed the GPO and struck his companion, nationalist leader John Redmond, on the ear. Three others tried to burn down the Theatre Royal as this report recorded. – JOE JOYCE

A DARING attempt was made last night by English militants to set fire to the Theatre Royal, in which the Prime Minister is to speak this evening. Fortunately, it was unsuccessful, and the damage to the theatre was slight.

One of the three women who took part in the attempt was seized by a soldier, and handed over to the police.

Although it was known that English “suffragettes” intended to come to Dublin to “protest” against Mr Asquith’s attitude towards the franchise question, it was not suspected that they would adopt so desperate a way of protesting as that of setting fire to the Theatre Royal.

The entertainment in the theatre this week is “Hippodrome,” and there are the usual two performances, one at 6.45 and the other at 9 o’clock. The attempt was made at the close of the first performance, which was not very largely attended on account of the interest in the procession to mark the arrival of Mr Asquith.

It has been best described by two soldiers, who caught one of the “suffragettes” in the act, and assisted to extinguish the fire. One was Sergeant D.W.F. Cooper, of the Connaught Rangers, stationed at the Curragh, and the other Colour-Sergeant J. Shea, of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who are at the Royal Barracks, Dublin.

Sergeant Cooper, accompanied by his wife and Colour-Sergeant and Mrs Shea, was sitting in the dress circle of the theatre. About a quarter to nine, when the performance had concluded and the people were going out, he saw a flame in the back seat, just in front of the cinematograph box.

With the presence of mind that one should expect in a soldier, he rushed to the place, and found that the carpet was saturated with oil and ablaze. He and Colour-Sergeant Shea beat the fire out with their mackintoshes. Just as they had succeeded in this, under the seat there was an explosion, which filled the dress circle with smoke.

At this moment Sergeant Cooper saw a young woman standing near. She was lighting matches. Opening the door of the cinematograph box, she threw in a lighted match, and then tried to escape. But she was caught by Sergeant Cooper and held by him. She is stated to have then said: “There will be a few more explosions in the second house. This is only the start of it.”

The young woman who was arrested was taken to College Street Police Station. There she gave her name as Gladys Evans, and, after some time, her address as Uzilli Cottage, Muswell Hill, North London. She is twenty-nine years of age and unmarried.


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