Community Historian Brendan Matthews with another of his illuminating local history pieces that bring to life our past.
Sunday morning, 8th May 1881 and the final touches are being put in place throughout the streets of Drogheda in preparation for the arrival of Miss Anna Parnell, president of the National Ladies Land League and sister of Charles Stuart Parnell.
The principal streets were highly decorated with the flowers of early summer, while a large number of banners from the various guilds of the town were arched over the streets.
Charles Stuart Parnell had advised his sister to set up the Ladies National Land League a couple of months earlier, when he and his fellow men realised that their own movement was to be suppressed and imprisonment was imminent.
By the time Miss Parnell arrived by train, the streets of Drogheda were thronged with thousands of people from the town and countryside, to honour this great woman and to show their support for her fight against the unjust treatment of the labouring tenants of Ireland by an alien establishment and dominant landlordism.
Shortly before lunchtime, Miss Parnell stepped off the train and was greeted by the people amidst loud cheering and applause. The West gate, Greenhills and the Marsh Fife and Drum bands were also in attendance and played a selection of Irish Airs.
Miss Kirk, president of the Drogheda Ladies Land League then stepped forward and presented Miss Parnell with a bouquet of flowers, before the long procession left the railway station for West Street, led by the various trade bodies with their beautiful banners, which were reported to have been the, `richest and most artistically painted in Ireland.`
After Miss Parnell had lunched at the White Horse Hotel she made her way among the ever swelling crowd to the Mall on the North Quay. She had come to Drogheda to address a meeting of the executive of the ladies land league in Mayoralty House, but before going into the meeting she did address the huge crowd briefly and, in thanking the people of Drogheda for their support, she stated that she would be staying the night in Drogheda, as she was attending an eviction of a tenant family at Gormanston the next day.
Among the local women who also attended the executive meeting were, the Misses Johnson, Miss Malone, Mrs. Burke, the Misses Elcock, Miss Smith and Miss Tighe.
Anna Parnell became such a driving force behind the Land League movement, with strong militant tendencies, that by the end of the summer of 1881 the British Government began to panic and viewed the women as a threat in a growing rebellion.
Irish politicians also saw the Ladies Land League as a danger to their plans and, after the "Kilmainham Treaty" Charles Stuart Parnell agreed to suppress the Land League as a whole and in 1882 it was dissolved.
Anna Parnell was furious with her brother and they never spoke to each other again.
She retreated to Cornwall and lived under an assumed name until her death in 1911 in a swimming accident, and her death went unnoticed, due to her false identity.
In 1904 she had written an account of what happened in 1881-82, which she titled, The Great Sham, in which she slammed the male leaguers of the movement and this manuscript lay undetected until 1986.
Many of her brother’s close associates also secretly revealed that, 'Anna Parnell would have worked the revolution to a much better conclusion than her brother.`!
We should never forget the `uncrowned Queen of Ireland`.