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British shipping company refuses to carry Irish passengers
The Cunard Line, the British shipping company who has refused to carry Irish men eligible for military service. Photo: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. USA

British shipping company refuses to carry Irish passengers

John Dillon: ‘an ignominious and contemptible flight’

Liverpool, 13 November 1915 - The British shipping company Cunard has refused to carry Irish men eligible for military service on its liner Saxonia.

A party of Irish emigrants arrived in Liverpool from Dublin but, having been denied entry to the ship, returned to Dublin.

Every week hundreds of Irish men and women leave for the United States. Many of the emigrants were young people from agricultural and laboring families. It is reported in the Irish press that for every week in the last month an average of 500 men have left Dublin for America. Other estimates suggest that some 1,400 Irish men had planned to cross the Atlantic this week alone.

It is widely held that these men are rushing from Ireland to escape the possible introduction of conscription. This has led to hostile comments in the House of Commons and on the street.

'The Shadow on the Wall: The slacker's time is running short.' A cartoon from Irish Life commenting on the threat of conscription. (Irish Life, 19 November 1915. Full collection available in National Library of Ireland)

‘Silly and cowardly’

Referring to the rush to America, John Dillon, the Irish Parliamentary Party MP, said: ‘I would urge most sincerely upon all nationalists to remonstrate with any young men who are silly and cowardly enough to think of flying from the country for fear of conscription.’

‘Even those who, from whatever reason, have not so far made up their minds to join the army must see that it is their duty to remain in Ireland, and stand by the men who have protected Ireland from conscription; and not by an ignominious and contemptible flight from a danger which has no existence, cover themselves, and so far as it is in their power to do it, the great fighting race to which they belong, with contempt and ridicule.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.