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Local Studies Department

WORLD WAR I: Chapter 2 - The Home Front

Kildare County Council

A perusal of the Kildare County Council Minutes from 1913 to 1920 show that its quarterly meeting agendas were dominated not by issues of war but those of rural and urban development, for example;

Agenda-26 February, 1917
23-To consider application from Mr. R. Griffin for permission to erect poles, etc., in connection with Monasterevan Electric Lighting Scheme. (granted)

It is important to establish, at this stage, that domestic life progressed alongside War. Life did anything but stand still for those at home. In fact, the war actually led to the overall advancement of many areas of domestic life. Electric Lighting Schemes for the whole of the County, including the Curragh Camp, the Barracks at Naas and Newbridge etc., were all considered during the War years.

“Now that the question of the lighting of the town is engaging
the attention of the Naas Urban council, it would be well if
special provision was made for the lighting of the town on
Sunday nights. On week nights the necessity for the lighting
of the street lamps is almost nil.... ”
Leinster Leader - 7 October, 1916

“The condition of the sewerage in Naas is a matter that is
causing a considerable amount of unpleasantness and
uneasiness at present, especially in the South Main Street,
where residents complain of the offensive colour emanating
from the sewer traps....”
Leinster Leader - 26 August, 1916

Individuals were becoming less tolerant of conditions that their ancestors took for granted. The Welfare State was beginning to emerge. The tarring of the streets in Athy in response to the same development in Naas was also discussed and finally granted. Tuberculosis was a serious problem and much of the Council’s agenda had been taken up with the treatment and confinement of patients who were burdened by this ailment. During the War the Council established a Central Tuberculosis Dispensary in Athy. Venereal diseases took up much of the Council’s time and it was in April 1918 that a Scheme was finally approved to deal with the problem in the County. The development of the sewerage and water systems in the Council proved a topic of much concern. So apart from any aspects of the War that seemed to dominate at this time, domestic areas kept individuals busy ensuring that the mundane still existed.

However, very few meetings of the Council actually escaped some mention of the War. The letter at the end of this Chapter is the first substantial mention of the War in the County Council Agendas. After this every quarterly meeting discussed some aspect of the War;

Agenda for Wednesday, 20th January 1915 (Special Meeting)
(3) To consider letter dated 7th December 1914, from Her Excellency, the
Countess of Aberdeen, relative to the Scheme whereby the State apartments
at Dublin Castle are to be converted into a Red Cross Hospital. (Scheme
recommended for support in County).

Agenda for Monday, 31 May 1915
(44) To consider letter dated 20th May 1915, from the Central Council for the
organisation of recruiting, relative to the appointment of a Local Recruitment
Committee. (That the whole Council be and is hereby appointed a Local
Recruiting Committee for the county-proposed by chairman Cllr. M.J. Minch,
Seconded by Cllr. Edward Hayden).

Agenda for 22 November 1915
17- To consider the advisability of appointing a War Savings Committee for
the County.

Agenda for 29 May 1916
25- To Prepare a Scheme for the constitution of a Local Committee for the
county, under the Naval and Military War Pensions’ Act, 1915 (signed and sealed).

Agenda for 6th November 1916 (Special Meeting)
(1) To take into consideration the action of the Government in connection
with the application of conscription to Ireland. etc.
Kildare County Council Minutes -25 August 1913 - January 31, 1920

The work at home was carried out by the men and women left behind. It was not anticipated from the beginning what the role of women would be in this new adventure;

“Sadness and gloom overshadows many homes in Kildare in
consequence of the departure of the bread winners to join their
respective regimental units en route to meet the foe. The strain
has been nobly borne by many sorrowed wives and mothers,
who sobbingly encouraged their martial husbands to unsheath
their swords, conquer and return triumphantly to homes of
prayerful love and trustful devotion.”
Kildare Observer -8 August, 1914

This idealised view of women weeping and waiting patiently, as their loved ones bore the brunt of war, soon disappeared as the reality of the situation hit home. It quickly became apparent that the support mechanism at home was as important as the act of fighting abroad. Women were drafted into areas of work and responsibility never before dreamed of.

The war prompted the formation of various organisations, and the strengthening and reassessment of already established ones, to suit the emergency situation. County Kildare joined in this effort to organise help from home. Priority was given at first to the women who had been left behind to fend for themselves. Help came to these in the form of separation allowances from the Board of Guardians. Organisations in place, and newly set up aided soldiers abroad; soldiers at the front, prisoners of war, injured soldiers etc. Those whose livelihoods, affected by war, were also considered for aid within the new mechanisms set up to adjust to the new wartime economy. Distress Committees did much to help those who found it difficult to adjust financially to the war situation.

Kildare Co. Council,
Council Chamber,
Court House,

19th October 1914

Rev. Sir, Sir or Madam:­-

I am directed by the Chairman of the County Council (Mr. M.J. Minch, J.P.) to request your attendance at a meeting to be held at the Courthouse, Naas, on Wednesday next, 21st October 1914, at 11 o’clock, A.M. for the purpose of appointing a Committee to deal with Distress that may arise in consequence of the present war.

I am,
Rev. Sir, Sir or Madam,
Your Obedient Servant,

Secretary to County Council.

To Each Member of the County Insurance Committee,

And also to each member of the Finance Committee of the County Council.

The result of this meeting was the setting up of the Distress Committee and the appointment of members.