Ernie O'Malley - Quotes from On Another Man's Wound
Writing about 1916
‘In the morning smoke could be seen, and flames, It was terrible to watch. Why had I not known about the fight earlier? I thought of all the chances I had had of joining the Irish Volunteers; instead I had laughed and scoffed. Now, when I wanted to help I could not. A Dublin Fusilier, a friend, came to visit us during the day. He drank his large glasses of whiskey and was eagerly listened to. He was an authority. His officers had told him, ‘Every man you see in green uniform, regard him as a German soldier, as an invader. Shoot him down.’ ‘We examine all suspects,’ he said, ‘and a bruise on anyone’s shoulder means that he has been using a long-barrelled Mauser. I’d like to stick them up against a wall instead of taking them prisoners.’ He was hailed by many, who were anxious to shake hands, as he walked away.’
At the dug out in St. Ita’s I met Cathal Brugha, Dick Mulcahy and Mick Collins. Brugha was chief of staff; Mulcahy, assistant chief; Collins was director of organisation, adjutant general and unofficial quartermaster general. Collins, in riding breeches and brown leggings was striding up and down the narrow room cursing, his strong Cork accent more emphasized. Mulcahy looked at Cathal Brugha who, thin-lipped, widemouthed, sat at one end of the bare wooden table. Brugha had never talked much to me; he always seemed to be holding himself in check. He showed little of his many wounds save round his mouth and eyes; his face was often grey. When he had to talk he spoke with directness and finality as if the matter had been thought out and was now finished. Mulcahy never said anything stronger than ‘bloody’; he did not smoke or drink. Cathal Brugha neither cursed, smoke nor drank. Collins was adept at all three.
1920 – life in a flying column.
Soon I learned to dread bacon and cabbage. The bacon was often home-cured. It hung in long narrow flitches on hooks in the smoke-blackened ceiling where it seasoned. It was fat – and I did not like fat. At home I was told it was good for me and I had tried to hide it under potato skins, cover it with bones or get it into a piece of paper in my pocket. The cabbage was boiled a long time and it was not strained. I ate the ‘mate’ – as it was called – because I did not want to offend the people. They were kind – they had taken more care with my food – and they would consider me stuck-up. They were very sensitive as a rule. For two years I ate bacon and cabbage or, if I had the option, changed to tea and an egg. Sometimes the tea was stewed. The pot ‘took a heat’ by the fire from the early breakfast or was allowed to draw too long. Strong tea that a mouse could trot on. Stewed tea took away hunger.
December 1920 – interrogation
'They brought me through a long passage and seated me on a wooden form. They tied my hands and legs as before; I felt trussed. They put a cloth across my eyes. I heard the voices of men singing and the tinkle of glass. I must have been near the canteen. Men stopped to threaten me, some said, ‘We’ll put you through it for Macroom.’ A few walked in their heavy boots on my stockinged feet. My toes were crushed; some stamped hard with the full weight of their legs on instep and toes. They lifted their boots again and came down on the same place; I tensed my body to stop myself from moaning. Two guards jabbed me a few times with their bayonets below my ribs on the abdominal muscles. Blood dribbled down my buttocks and legs. Other prisoners were brought in; they were kicked and beaten; some of them shouted in pain. I could not walk when I was told to move on. The guard lifted me, carried me along and flung me into a room. My head struck the stone floor and I was dazed.'