Anita Mc Mahon

Cork City
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London City
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Keel Bay Achill Island
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Anita Mc Mahon, Journalist/Cumann na Bhan

Journalist / Cumann na mBhan

This committed Cumann na mBhan member was deeply involved in the nationalist movement.  She used her journalistic skills in promoting the local people’s plight on Achill Island.

Originally from Cork, Anita McMahon was employed in the newspaper business in Fleet Street, London.  Her wish to study the Irish language brought her to Achill Island.  As an active Cumann na mBhan member, she along with Scoil Acla founding members erected a monument at Dookinella to Fr. Manus Sweeney during 1944.  [i]

Scoil Acla

Anita Mc Mahon visited the Achill Summer School of 1911.  She co – founded Scoil Acla in 1910 with Claud Chevasse & Darrell Figgis. Tuam Herald April 3rd 2013    She befriended several founding members that included Mrs. Emily Weddal: who had arrived on the Island with her husband Captain Edward Weddel during 1906 when they founded the school.  One morning on her way to the school Anita Mc Mahon witnessed an event that so appalled her: she was distressed at how the agent treated the men by ‘extracting’ rather than ‘collecting’ their rent. She was compelled to take up the local peoples fight against the evictions by land owners like Agnes MacDonnell.  [ii]

Mayo News

From the moment of her arrival Anita Mc Mahon was prominent in the promotion of the economic plight & hardship of the people in national & local newspapers.  She penned a letter to The Mayo News newspaper entitled A Cry from Achill’ then she requested a column.  When informed she could have ‘as much space as she needed’  she began her work to expose the scandal on Achill Island.  The following week they published the headline The Achill Scandal  which in turn was followed by several other articles on the issue.  Her strong letter entitled A Cry from Achill  on the plight of the islanders was published in The Mayo News just a week before the attack on the hay cart convoy at Valley Crossroads.  ‘Achill Island was one of the first places that the Congested Districts Board, now twenty years in existence, was intended to benefit.’ she also commented.  One item of interest was her statement that ‘young children, girls as well as boys, are taken from school and sent with their elders for harvesting, where the horrible conditions under which they are obliged to live are a grave moral as well as physical danger’ as she informed  the public of the compulsory powers of purchase in the Birrel Land Act of 1909 that had not brought any benefit to the island. [iii]

Presentation Nuns

Due to her actions in assisting the locals Anita Mc Mahon began a campaign to convince the Archbishop of Tuam to establish a convent in Lower Achill.  One was established in Keel under the stewardship of Fr. Keaveney during 1932.  [iv]

Cuumann na mBhan

Another of her interests was the Irish Nationalist Movement.  She was active in the promotion of Irish culture along with her activities as a committed member of the local Cumann na mBhan.  Among her compatriots was Eva O’Flarhety.  [v]

Anita Mc Mahon was imprisoned in Galway Gaol during 1920 for carrying seditious documents.   [vi]

Tributes

Anita Mc Mahon has been fondly remembered in her adopted Achill community as ‘Auntie McMahon.’   She is referenced by Patricia Byrne in the Irish History Today in Ireland  issue of 7th March 2012. [vii]

She has been referenced by Turtle Bunbury in his Asgard and the Howth Gun-Running 1914. [viii]

Further Information

Patricia Byrne penned an article 21st May 2012 in The Irish Story  titled Achill Island: A Microcosmic Swirling Political Movement  where she discussed events at Scoil Acla during 1912 / 1913.  Emily Weddel, Anita Mc Mahon, Darell Figgis, Claud Chavasse with his sister & others were present at the Achill Assizes re land agitation issues.  They attended protest meetings, wrote strongly –  worded letters to local newspapers with their concern for the severe economic conditions on Achill Island.  Anita Mc Mahon was acknowledged by Emily Weddel ‘It was her influence in the direction of the Gaelic League to the economic plight of the people and not just to the Irish League:  I am happy to tell you… that though I have been inactive with regard to the economic question in Achill, the Gaelic League has not been inactive.  Anita Mc Mhathghamhna… has since she came here last summer done many wonderful things, both for the language and for the economic conditions of the place.’  (assessed 21st January 2021) at this site: https://www.theirishstory.com/2012/05/21/achill-island-1912-a-microcosm-of-swirling-political-movements/

Anita Mc Mahon is referenced in  Murphy Mary J.’s 2002 Centenary Stories  in Cathair na Mart Historical Journal  no. 37 (pages 58 – 65)

In The Mayo News 26th May 2020 under an article entitled Unravelling a Woman of Substance  by Mary J. Murphy on Eva O ‘Flaherty’s legacy.  Sile Mc Hugh  scholar & expert on Anita Mc Mahon stated that ‘Anita Mac who along with Eve & others co – founded the Islands Summer School during 1910.’

Anita Mc Mahon was referenced in The Connaught Telegraph’s  supplement titled Commemorating the War of Independence in Mayo  4th May 2021 (page 6)

Footnotes

[i] Anita Mc Mahon (https://scoilacla.ie/history/founding-members/anita-mcmahon/) [Assessed 11th March 2018]

[ii] Bridie arrives on Achill (http://emilymweddall.com/bridie-arrives-on-achill/ ) [Assessed 12th March 2018]

[iii] Today in Irish History (https://www.theirishstory.com/2012/03/07/today-in-irish-history-march-7-1913-march-women-take-sides-in-achill-land-agitation/ ) [Assessed 12th March 2018]

[iv] Anita Mc Mahon (https://scoilacla.ie/history/founding-members/anita-mcmahon/) [Assessed 12th March 2018]

[v] Women’s Museum (https://www.womensmuseumofireland.ie/) [Assessed 11th March 2018]

[vi] Tuam Goal (Tuam Herald 3rd April 2013) [Assessed 11th March 2018]

[vii] Today in Irish History (https://www.theirishstory.com/2012/03/07/today-in-irish-history-march-7-1913-march-women-take-sides-in-achill-land-agitation/ ) [Assessed 12th March 2018]

[viii] Anita Mc Mahon (Anita Mc Mahon (https://turtlebunbury.com/) [Assessed 11th March 2018]

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