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John A. Sinnott & Co. Solicitors in 1916

Enniscorthy was the only town or city outside of Dublin to be seized by the Irish Volunteers in the course of the Easter Rising.  The Volunteers were established in the town in 1913, and since then, there was a small but vigorous constituency for separatist politics in the town under the leadership of figures such as Peter Paul Galligan.  The Irish Volunteers trained in the town, and attempted to make and obtain weapons in the months prior to the Rising.

On Thursday, 27 April 1916, Enniscorthy town was taken over by about 600 armed patriots, almost without opposition in a surprise attack. They were led by Robert Brennan.  The rebels consisted primarily of Irish Volunteers, supplemented by members of Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan. Seamus Doyle and Seán Etchingham were next in command.  The patriots made the Athenaeum Theatre, their headquarters, taking over the town and blocking the roads and the railway line. They surrounded the RIC barracks and though shots were fired, no real attempt was made to take the barracks.

A young girl and a member of the RIC were wounded by gunfire, but there were no fatalities.  Pubs were closed, pickets and guards were established, food and cars were commandeered, and the railway line was tampered with.  Meanwhile, a force under Paul Galligan occupied the town of Ferns and some northern parts of the county.  The British responded by sending a force of more than 1,000 men to retake Enniscorthy, under the command of G.A. French.

On Saturday, 29 April 1916, news of the general surrender in Dublin reached Enniscorthy.  The rebels refused to believe it.  They refused the demand to surrender and would only do so if ordered by Patrick Pearse.

The next day, 30 April 1916, the British escorted two patriots, Seamus Doyle and Seán R. Etchingham, to Dublin to consult Pearse in Arbor Hill Prison.  The order to surrender was obtained.

On Monday, 1 May 1916, the Enniscorthy patriots surrendered unconditionally. There had been no fatalities and relatively little damage to property. Some of the leaders, including Robert Brennan, were sentenced to death, but all had their sentences commuted.

Given that the Volunteers held a sizeable town for four days, their seizure of Enniscorthy was, arguably, the most significant event of the Rising outside Dublin.

Meanwhile, at John A. Sinnott & Co. Solicitors, 34 year old John N. Scallan was at the helm.  He took over the business from his uncle John A. Sinnott, some years previous, at the age of just 23.  Whilst the Rising in the town resulted in no fatalities, for Enniscorthy residents, it surely was a terrifying experience to live through, particularly as news of the horror of Dublin events filtered through.

Actual files from John A. Sinnott Solicitors from that period show how Scallan continued to act with courage, poise and relentlessness on behalf of his clients despite of occurrences.  Many of his letters merely refer to what was happening as ‘disturbances in the town.’  These letters provide fascinating insight into how the Rising affected local people and businesses and their mind-set at that time.

Letter from John N. Scallan to solicitor Frank Devine informing him of the arrest of John A. Sinnott Clerk, Denis Doran.

10th May, 1916

NEWTONBARRY AUCTIONEERING CO., LTD V. XXX
           “                              “                   “      V. YYY
            “                              “                   “     V. ZZZ

Dear Frank,

In above cases the Writs were served by my clerk, Denis Doran, as you will observe the endorsement on the back.  The difficulty I am now placed in is that amongst the Insurgents he was one who took part in the Rebellion, and as a result has been arrested, and is lodged “some place in England” as far as I can understand.  The Writs were served on him on the 22nd of April and of course would be right now for execution, but, the difficulty I am placed in is, I cannot get Affidavit of Service made.  That being so I am enclosing the Writs to you.  If you could have copies made of same and sealed I will have the Writs re-served on these parties, or could you suggest some alternative course.  I would be obliged if you would give this matter your prompt attention as the Company are anxious that Judgement be obtained in the several cases with as little delay as possible.

                                   Yours faithfully,

                                          John N. Scallan

 

F. Devine Esq, Solr.
Dame Street,
Dublin.

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Letter from John N. Scallan to Samuel Roche Solicitors explaining the delay on a case owing to the ‘unfortunate disturbance’ in the town. 

8th May, 1916

Re: XXXX DECEASED

Dear Roche,

In reply to yours of the 3rd inst., which reached me yesterday, owing to the unfortunate disturbance which took place here, I have not been able to see Mrs XXX.  I had purposely arranged to go out during the Easter Holidays to try and have this matter settled up, but unfortunate matters turned out in such a way that I could not reach on it, being besieged here in the line of fire between the Barracks and the Head Quarters of the Sinn Feiners.  However, as soon as matters become a little normal I shall go out and see her, as I am anxious to have the matter finished up.

                                          Yours faithfully,

                                                     John N. Scallan

Samuel Roche Esq.,
Solicitor,
Tullow.

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A letter from John N. Scallan to the National Irish Bank providing another little insight into Enniscorthy life during the Rising of 1916.

3rd May, 1916

XXXX & Ors. 260 shares.

Transfer No. 85661

Dear Sir,

With reference to this matter we have not had an opportunity to getting the Deed completed owing to the disturbed status of the town here during the Easter Holidays, when we thought we could have it executed by the Trustees in the country, and no one was allowed to leave Town.  However, we hope to have it completed now and will send it to you as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

John N. Scallan

 

The Secretary,
The National Bank Ltd.,
13, Old Broad Street,
London E.C.

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A letter from John N. Scallan to a client providing a snapshot of Enniscorthy life during the Rising and the understated description of ‘these disturbed times’. 

5th May, 1916

Dear XXX,

I fear that you cannot do anything either by selling or removing the pigs at the present time until the restrictions have been removed by the Authorities.  In these disturbed times there is not much fear that they will be removed for some time as the authorities are very much taken up with other business at present.  I advise you to keep the pigs there and I will have a notification sent to the Police that they are well, as far as you can see.

Yours faithfully,

John N. Scallan

 

Enniscorthy.

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Letter from John N. Scallan, Principal Solicitor at John A. Sinnott & Co., to his solicitor uncle in Dublin.

10th May, 1916

My dear Uncle John,

Now, that the war is passed in these parts, I want to seek your assistance, if not troubling you too much, on a point which affects my Brother-Professionals here as well as myself.

A number of Traders in this Town, some of them my Clients, others, Clients of O’Flaherty and Moffat, were, under the Republic, waited upon by armed members, who brought with them what was called “Commandeering Notes” requiring them to deliver up goods; some to a considerable amount -£150, and on down to five or six pounds.

These Traders have waited on us with regard to being advised as to what course they should adopt for the recovery of the value of these goods which they supplied, and we three have consulted and find it difficult to know what course, or what procedure, should be adopted to recover payment of the amounts.  A majority of the Commandeering Notes were unsigned, but, those that were signed, were signed by Members of the Republic who were ‘men of straw’ and, of course, nothing could be recovered off them as they had no property to make liable for payment thereof.

I observe that you were, amongst other Citizens in Dublin, at the Meeting which was held for the purpose of seeing what could be done with reference to ruins and looting in the City, and, with your long experience, no doubt, you will be able to assist me in what course I should take for the recovery of the amounts and whether we should apply to the Government for payment of these.  None of us consider that a Malicious Injury Claim could be sustained, as we all agree that it could not be held to be maliciously obtained, but, when a revolver, or loaded rifle, is placed to your head, one hands out for peace sake what they have.

The Rebellion or Insurrection was sprung on us very suddenly here, as all was peace and quiet on Wednesday, and at 4 O’Clock a.m., on Thursday the Rebels were being posted in their several places around the Town.  Now, that the Police Barrack is situated next door to me, I need not tell you that my position in the Abbey Square was not what one might call pleasant, as bullets were flying up and down the top of Castle Hill and from the far side of the river to the Barrack.  Some have struck the house and it was with difficulty that I succeeded in getting the Family out of the place and lodged in the hotel while the insurrection lasted.

I am glad to say I have got a good Character from the Police, which perhaps, I did not deserve, though if I had not been in the house when one of the unfortunate Policeman was wounded, they could not have got assistance for a Doctor.  The District Inspector, Mr Heggart, broke one of the windows in the back of the Barracks and brought across here that a Policeman was hurt, and I at once went and got a doctor, and under fire, myself and two members of the town arranged for his conveyance to the Infirmary from whence I subsequently released him on Thursday last to Stephen’s Hospital.

It was, I may say, an appalling time here, and what is worse still, unfortunately two of my staff were mixed up in it and I have been left short-handed as they have been arrested and brought away.

I trust I am not troubling you too much, as I know at the present time your hands are fairly full, but I am quite sure you will be ready to assist me in my present difficulty as to what steps should be taken.

Hoping you are all quite well,

Kindest regards,

Yours affectionately,

John N. Scallan
 

J. L. Scallan Esq., Solr.,
25, Suffolk Street,
Dublin.

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Letter from John N. Scallan, Principal Solicitor at John A. Sinnott & Co., to his solicitor uncle in Dublin following up on previous correspondence.  See previous blog.

16th May, 1916

My dear Uncle John,

Many thanks for your letter which has given me a good deal of information.  I am obliged for the trouble you took.  The Solicitors along with myself have prepared a Memorial which we are forwarding to the Under-Secretary, setting out the amounts of the Commandeered Goods in a Schedule to same.

Whether any good will come out of this or not, I do not know, but these people however, are compelled to make some effort for the goods commandeered, which amount to close on One Thousand Pounds.

I am sorry I did not see you on Saturday, but, it was late when I got to Town and I left that evening for home.

Yours affectionately,

John N. Scallan

 

J. L. Scallan Esq., Solr.,
25, Suffolk Street,
Dublin.

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