1921: Outnumbered and Outgunned

Poblacht na hÉireann - 23 April 1916

In the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), Irish republicans were vastly outnumbered and outgunned by British forcesyet they won, fighting to an eventual truce and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. How did they do it?

In his autobiography and memoir, Guerilla Days in Ireland (1949), IRA commander Tom Barry enumerates the strength of British forces in County Cork seven weeks before the truce:

The 1st Battalion, The Buffs Regiment ; The 1st Battalion, The King’s Regiment ; The 2nd Battalion, The Hamp­shires ; The 2nd Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers ; The 2nd Battalion, The South Stafford Regi­ment ; The 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment ; The ist Battalion, The Manchester Regiment ; The 2nd Battalion, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders ; The 2nd Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment ; The 1st Batta­lion, The West Surrey Regiment ; The 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment.

These forces comprised 8,800 first line infantry troops. In addition to this were Black and Tans (members of the occupying British police force), machine gun corps, artillery units, and others—totaling in all over 12,500 men. In contrast:

Standing against this field force was that of the Irish Repub­lican Army, never at any time exceeding three hundred and ten riflemen in the whole of the County of Cork, for the very excellent reason that this was the total of rifles held by the combined three Cork Brigades.

Why were the British unable to beat back this small group of rebels? The answer, according to Barry, is simple:

In the last analysis the struggle was never one between the British Army and a small Irish force of Flying Columns and Active Service Units. Had this been so, the few Flying Columns operating would not have existed for a month, no matter how bravely and skilfully they fought. This was a war between the British Army and the Irish people, and the problem before the British from mid-1920 was not how to smash the Flying Columns, but how to destroy the resistance of a people, for, as sure as day follows night, if a Flying Column were wiped out in any area, another would arise to continue the attacks on, and the resistance to the alien rulers. The Irish people had many weapons which the British lacked: their belief in the righteousness of their cause, their determination to be free, their political structure as declared in the General Election of December, 1918, and a strong, militant body of youth, who, though as yet unarmed, were a potential army of great possibilities.

The Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary organisation, ranks high in this estimate of values. The members, organised in companies and districts corresponding to I.R.A. units, were not in any sense women politicians, holding debating classes or propounding political theories. They were groups of women and girls from town and countryside, sisters, relatives or friends of the Volunteers, enrolled in their own organisation, far the sole purpose of helping the Irish Republican Army.

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1720: Women Working

Giacomo Ceruti - Women Working on Pillow Lace (c. 1720)

Giacomo Ceruti: Women Working on Pillow Lace (c. 1720)

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1875: Sunlight and Shadow


Martin Johnson Heade: Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes (c. 1871-1875)

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2013: Landscape

Yan Cong - Landscape No. 6(2013)

Yan Cong: Landscape #6 (2013)

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2014: Jahmal

Gabriel Garcia Roman - Jahmal (2014)

Gabriel Garcia Roman: Jahmal (2014);
from a series, Queer Icons

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1750 BC: Let Man Bear the Load of the Gods!


In one of the oldest surviving creation myths, humankind originates from a labor action. The story, told in the Babylonian Atrahasis Epic, goes like this: long before humankind, only gods exist, with some more powerful than others. These greater godsthe Anunnakiincluding the primary deity Ellil, wisdom god Ea, and  mother/birth goddess Belet-ili, force the lesser ones—the Igigi to perform all the necessary labor of producing food and building canals. This goes on for 3,600 years, until the lesser gods get fed upso they go on strike, burn their tools, and march on boss Enlil to demand a change.

The solution is mixed: After a council with the other Anunnaki, Ellil does agree that the situation merits redress, and Ea comes up with the idea of having Belet-ili create human beings to perform the menial labor—a tidy solution—but also the leader of the strike is killed to help make the new creature. Belet-ili mixes his flesh, blood, and spirit with clay to make the first humans. They will forever feel his spirit in the rhythm of their heartbeat, but will never be powerful enough to rebel themselves.

Here is the text:

When the gods instead of man
Did the work, bore the loads,
The gods’ load was too great,
The work too hard, the trouble too much
The great Anunnaki made the Igigi
Carry the workload sevenfold.
Anu their father was king,
Their counsellor warrior Ellil,
Their chamberlain was Ninurta,
Their canal-controller Ennugi.
They took the box (of lots) … ,
Cast the lots; the gods made the division.
Anu went up to the sky,
[And Ellil (?)] took the earth for his people (?).
The bolt which bars the sea
Was assigned to far-sighted Enki.
When Anu had gone up to the sky,
[And the gods of] the Apsu had gone below,
The Anunnaki of the sky
Made the Igigi bear the workload.
The gods had to dig out canals,
Had to clear channels, the lifelines of the land,

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1963: A Colour Guide to Clouds


Scorer and Wexler - A Colour Guide to Clouds (1963)Each time you look at the sky, try to identify the clouds in it and test whether the explanations given in the book could be true for them. Gradually you will come to know the important clouds and the circumstances in which they occur….The pictures are a selection of about one in nine from our Colour Encyclopaedia of Clouds, and it is intended to serve as an introduction to a subject which can be of absorbing interest to physicists, mathematicians, naturalists, geographers, and artists, and also to those with only an amateur interest in the sky. There are some challenging suggestions at the end about how the subject may be developed….Above all the book should be used—taken out on all trips along with maps and binoculars, and carried to the office, workshop, or school because this part of the study of nature can be continued even in the centre of cities.

Richard Scorer and Harry Wexler: A Colour Guide to Clouds (1963)



From top to bottom: Pileus, Cumulonimbus, and Cirrostratus halo.

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