Chapter 6: 1936-39 and the Second World War
In 1936 the work continued. In that year the leadership of ILKE was: - President – Father P Parker; Vice-President – Fr. M H Gaffney; Treasurer – J M Rae; Secretary – E W Ruddell; Secretary of the Irish-language section – D Ó hEachaidh; other committee members – Fr. John Dawson (President of the Catholic University School), Lorcán Ó hUiginn. The classes at the Technical School, Parnell Square, and the “Easy Reading” column in The Irish Catholic continued.
On 21st January 1936 it was announced that there was “great progress” in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, where a thriving club had been formed.
On 14th February a Grand Dance for Esperantists was held at 31 Parnell Square, Dublin, organised by the Social Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Byrne. It lasted from 8pm to 11.30pm; music was provided by the orchestra Atlantic Beach. The entry fee was two shillings.
In March 1936 the Examinations Committee arranged exams. In April William Mullan, secretary of the Esperanto Group of St Paul’s, Belfast, was elected to the National Leadership. At the same time a postal Esperanto book service for members outside Dublin was organised. The subscription was one shilling per year and members had to pay their own postal costs.
In that year the Catholic Missionary Organisation of the Legion of Mary made much use of Esperanto for promoting its message worldwide, and for contacting indigenous priests in China. It published a beautiful little multi-coloured prayerbook in Esperanto.
In October the excellent information column in The Irish Catholic came to an end, but instead, easy lessons for beginners were started in the youth section of the paper. These continued until August 1938 when regrettably they were replaced by French lessons. In all 44 lessons were published and they induced many young people to learn Esperanto. I myself first learned the language from those lessons.
In the years 1937, 1938 and 1939 the Movement continued to thrive. There were constant meetings, dances, examinations and celebrations. In those years many Irish Esperantists attended World Esperanto Congresses in Vienna, Warsaw, London and Berne, where they greeted the participants in the name of the Irish Esperanto Association. They also attended the Catholic Congresses and meetings of the Esperanto associations of other countries.
But the war clouds began to gather over Europe. Already it was not possible to contact Esperantists in Germany because of Hitler’s ban, likewise in Spain because of the civil war. Then, on that sad day the first of September 1939, the Second World War exploded and almost destroyed the Esperanto movement in Europe. The Historio de Esperanto by L. Courtinat says:
“The declaration of the world war in September 1939 halted for six years the progress of the movement and put off for 60 years the definitive success, that is, compulsory introduction into schools.”
In Ireland, also, the movement stagnated.