Frongoch Roll Call

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On July 1 The Battle of The Somme began in France. On that day alone the British lost 60,000 men and by November that figure had risen to 420,000 men.

Conscription had been introduced into England on 6 January 1916. The threat of conscription hung over certain Frongoch prisoners - there were about 60 prisoners who had British addresses prior to The Rising and who qualified for membership of the British Army. The introduction of Conscription into Ireland would later become a significant bone of contention. The British made many attempts to coerce prisoners to identify themselves and the Daily Roll Call which had not been carried out from June became an instrument of such use. The prisoners smelled a "rat" and saw it as an attempt to identify the 60 "refugees", As a result they made the task of roll calling an extremely confusing affair. Not answering - answering to the wrong names - and surrendering the wrong people became regular occurrences. "Refusing to answer roll call" became a court-martialling offence . . .

As a consequence 15 of the Hut leaders were court-martialled and George Gavan Duffy defended most of the men. The leaders were convicted and sentenced to 28 days hard labour. The Manchester Guardian and the Irish Independent were present during the trials and which were afforded wide publicity throughout Ireland.

Joe wrote in a letter to Annie " The 15 of us (camp leaders) are in cells at present but in some respects we are better off than if we were outside, our cells are not locked and we are treated and fed like officers" 

He penned the Frongoch Roll Call as a satirical comment on what he called - a Court whose function was sublime.