It was a big day in Maryborough - August 16, 1914. On that date, John Redmond, leader of the Irish Party in the House of Commons and a strong supporter of Britain’s war effort, presented the colours to the local corps of the Irish Volunteers.
Amidst cheers, the told the Volunteers: “It is the holiest work that men can undertake - to maintain the freedom and the rights, and to uphold the peace and the order and the safety of their own nation.
“You ought to be proud, you, the sons and grandsons of men who were shot down for daring to arm themselves, you ought to be proud that you have lived to see the day when, with the goodwill of the democracy of England, you are arming yourselves in the light of heaven.”
Irish Volunteers from the Maryborough Corps and The Heath Corps greeted John Redmond, his wife, and brother Willie, who was also an MP, on their arrival by motor car in the town. The Maryborough men saluted in smart military style, while their more informal Heath comrades burst into cheers.
Maryborough Pipe Band and Maryborough Fife and Drum Band played national airs as local curate Fr J J Kearney, Mr P J Meehan MP and others welcomed Mr Redmond. Town clerk John Mulhall presented an address from the Town Commissioners. The Redmond party lunched with Fr Kearney.
Later, in the GAA grounds, Mr Redmond inspected Volunteers from throughout Laois. With him were Mr Meehan; Sir Timothy O’Brien, Chief Inspection Officer of the Queen’s County Volunteers; Lieut Col Sir Hutcheson Poe, Captain Bland and “other gentlemen.”
Earlier, Mary Bolger, on behalf of the Cumann na mBan nursing committee, had presented Mrs Redmond with a “handsome bouquet.”
Flags flew and banners bloomed and bands were there aplenty, from Abbeyleix, Mountmellick, Coolrain, Maryborough, playing The Boys of Wexford as a special tribute to Mr Redmond, a native of that county.
After his speech, Mr Redmond presented the colours to Mr Moy, who accepted them on behalf of the Maryborough Corps.
Many Volunteers went on to enlist in the British army. Many fought in World War One. Many never returned. Some returned maimed. Others split from John Redmond and fought the British.