Early in January 1914 I informed the Irish Club that I was going home to Ireland and they gave me a letter to deliver to John Devoy in New York (my point of embarkation).
Did they tell me what was in the letter? No! And I was the first in Philadelphia to carry out Casement’s order. They would not trust a man who was going home to do his duty. I think they were glad to get rid of me. They did not even ask me had I sufficient money: to me, they did not seem to be playing the game.
I did not tell any one in the Irish Club about the ammunition I had in my lodgings. Safety first! How were our Irish members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood situated as regards their oath to the order ? Could not these members exert themselves? And if not returning to Ireland, see to it that younger Irishmen should go?
I sailed from New York early in January 1915 bound for Liverpool. The Customs Officer who examined my trunk was very nice: he asked if I had any firearms etc. I handed him my Stephens .22 bore rifle which I had purchased in Stephen Byrne’s in Hill Street Newry in 1909. I had taken it with me to Toronto in 1913. He thanked me for handing it up to him and said if more passengers did the same it would save a lot of time and searching.
He examined my books which I had collected in Toronto and Philadelphia. He seemed a bookworm.
As he was getting near the bottom of my trunk, a brother Customs Officer called him and asked him if he was nearly finished. He said he was. He chalked my trunk and I was not long locking it. I had my 600 rounds of ammunition safe so far. The Customs Officer gave me a clearance sheet to bring home to Newry to be signed by Stephen Byrne to prove I had bought the rifle from him.
Pat Larkin of Queen Street Newry was one of the crew of the SS Iveagh from New York to Liverpool. He took the form with him and in a week’s time took the Stephens rifle back to me.
The rifle was very handy to carry on one’s person for it could be separated at the trigger, so the holster could go up one sleeve and the barrel up the other. This was very useful when going to the hurling and football matches, in case the RIC would be on patrol!
… more later …