Friday, 4 December 2020

 


4 December 1971: McGurk’s Bar in Belfast was blown up on this day. Fifteen innocent people were killed in the explosion and many more were injured. McGurk's family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast's main thoroughfares, five minute's walk away from the commercial hub of the City. The proprietor Paddy McGurk was a well known figure and the Vice President of the local GAA club, the Ardoyne Kickhams. His wife and daughter died that evening. 

The original target of the Loyalist bombers was a pub called ‘the Gem’ which was frequented by members of a Republican organisation in competition with the Provisional IRA. The gang were under instructions to plant the device there in the hope that the inevitable casualties would lead to violent strife between these rivals. However the Gem was well guarded and the bombers decided that McGurk’s was an easier target. 

Almost immediately in the aftermath of the attack a sinister campaign of disinformation was launched by sources within the Crown Forces that raised suspicions within the Nationalist Community that there was a hidden hand at work. The following day the journalist John Chartres writing in the London Times newspaper devoted a complete article to the debriefing of the British army. He recorded, without heeding any of the witness accounts:

Police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that Ulster's worst outrage, the killing of 15 people including two children and three women was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.

BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building. Other such reports in a similar vein followed that helped cast doubt in the public mind as to who was responsible and a plausible cover story was thus germinated that this was indeed an IRA ‘own goal’ that had gone disastrously wrong for the perpetrators. 

Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until a U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, turned himself in and confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28 July 1977. He admitted that he drove the vehicle used to transport the bomb on that fateful night but the bombers themselves have never been brought to justice. Robert James Campbell was sentenced on the 6 September 1978. He was released on the 9th September 1993 afters serving fifteen years for the murders of fifteen people.

In July 2008, British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward apologised in a letter to Scottish MP Michael Connarty about the role the British Army played in the cover up of who was responsible for the massacre. Mr Connarty’s great uncle was killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar this night 49 years ago.


Thursday, 3 December 2020

 


3 December 1925: The Boundary Commission, set up under the Treaty to finalise the Border, was scrapped and a financial settlement was agreed between the British and Irish Governments instead covering various aspects of Anglo-Irish affairs. The Commission’s findings had been fatally undermined when the British Morning Post newspaper leaked its results. This clearly showed that only minor adjustments in the Border were to be expected.

It was in effect a Fiasco and a humiliation for the Irish Free State and for the hopes of the Irish People. Mr Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. Cosgrave defended his successful negotiation of the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under Article 5 of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal.

That article stated that:
The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.

This would have been a heavy burden on the State that had not yet even started to make a contribution to the fund. While the British Government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not willing to budge on the Border been adjusted by any significant concession of territory to the Irish Free State it was prepared to concede on these repayments as a sop to the Irish to stave off political instability here.

In the Debate that followed in Leinster House Cosgrave defended his decision to do a deal that abrogated the State’s obligations to Britain’s Public Debt with the following words:
I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.

It was a classic case of Realpolitik as the Irish President was between a rock and a hard place and at least walked away from the negotiations with some thing tangible for his efforts - 1 Big Zero!
He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.



Wednesday, 2 December 2020

 


2 December 1791: The death of Henry Flood MP on this day. Flood was one of the great advocates of the legislative independence of Ireland during the latter 18th Century. He was a great orator and a man of considerable intelligence and political acumen. He was however primarily concerned with establishing the political dominance of the Ascendancy Class and the maintenance of the Established Church of Ireland free from the interference of the English Parliament.

He was born in 1732, the illegitimate son of Warden Flood, the Anglo-Irish chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. Henry Flood entered the Irish Parliament in 1759 as a placeman of the Ponsonby family (the Earls of Bessborough). His outstanding oratorical powers soon enabled him to create an effective opposition inside the Irish Parliament that agitated for political reforms. They demanded that Irish parliamentary elections should take place every eight years instead of merely at the start of a new British monarch's reign. In 1768 Flood's patriots agitated sufficiently to persuade the Duke of Grafton's government to pass the Octennial Act; in 1769 and 1771 they defeated measures to grant funds for the British administration in Ireland. Their long-range goal was legislative independence.

Although Flood was the first independent Irish statesman, he lost his support in 1775 when he accepted the office of vice treasurer under the British viceroy, Lord Harcourt. Henry Grattan, an even greater orator than Flood, replaced him as leader of the patriots. Grattan described Flood as a man "with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket." In 1779 Flood rejoined his old party, and two years later he was dismissed from his government post. Although Flood had lost his following, he helped Grattan to force North's government to renounce its restrictions on Irish trade in 1779 and grant legislative independence to Ireland in 1782. Flood then decided to challenge Grattan's leadership.

Alleging that Grattan had not gone far enough in his reforms, Flood obtained passage of a measure requiring the English Parliament to renounce all claims to control of Irish legislation. Flood's newly acquired popularity was destroyed upon the defeat of his attempt to reform the Irish Parliament in 1784. From 1783 until his retirement in 1790 he was a member of both the British and the Irish parliaments, though in England he failed to achieve the kind of political successes that he achieved in Ireland. Flood opposed Catholic emancipation and the lifting of the Williamite Penal Laws.

In his will, he bequeathed his estate to fund the study of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin: this was challenged successfully by a cousin. Flood died on 2 December 1791 at Farmley, County Kilkenny. While considered nowadays to be a ‘Patriot’ his brand of patriotism was of a very limited nature of those it wished to encompass.

http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/people/flood.htm













Tuesday, 1 December 2020

 


1 December 1901: The death of Thomas Clarke Luby, Fenian, at his home in Oak Street in Jersey City, USA on this day. His was the son of the Reverend James Luby a Protestant clergyman, He studied at Trinity College Dublin and at the Temple in London but was from an early age attracted to the Nationalist Movement. Initially a supporter of Daniel O’Connell he tried to organize a Rising in Dublin in 1848 but when that and the events in Tipperary proved a fiasco he fled Ireland for Australia then the USA. In 1851 he tried to join the French Foreign Legion but to his great disappointment they were not recruiting at the time. 

Ten years after leaving he was back in his native city and on 17 March 1858 in a Timber yard on Lombard Street East he along with James Stephens and others founded the IRB aka ‘the Fenians’. He travelled the Country helping to organise resistance and recruit members for the oath bound society. He played a leading role in the success of the Irish People newspaper. He was arrested along with other members in 1865 and was charged with ‘Treason-Felony’ and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. 

After his arrest and the suppression of the Irish People he was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude. In his speech from the dock he said:

From the time I came to what have been called the years of discretion, my entire thought has been devoted to Ireland. I believed the course I pursued was right; others may take a different view. When the proceedings of this trial go forth to the world, the people will say that the cause of Ireland is not to be despaired of, that Ireland is not yet a lost country—that as long as there are men in any country prepared to expose themselves to every difficulty and danger in its service, prepared to brave captivity, even death itself if needs be, that country cannot be lost.

 He was released in 1871 and moved to the USA. He became active in Clann na Gael and the Irish Confederation, raising funds and promoting the cause of Irish Freedom. He went on to become a respected journalist, lecturer and author. One of the ‘Grand Old Men’ of the Fenian movement he never wavered in his commitment to the Cause.


Monday, 30 November 2020

 



30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh Poet, Author and Playwright died on this day. He was born  in Inniskeen County Monaghan. It would become the inspiration for much of his work and would ultimately become his final resting place.

He was born on 21 October 1904 & most of the first 35 years of his life were spent in the parish of Inniskeen and the countryside of County Monaghan. Kavanagh’s formal education ended after national school and he became an apprentice shoemaker to his father for a while. Kavanagh worked on the small family farm for twenty years and while there had his first work published. He was not a ‘natural’ at farming and his mind wandered over to what his lot was in this life. Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published in 1936. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life. The Green Fool, a loosely autobiographical novel, was published in 1938.

In 1939, after a short time in London, Patrick Kavanagh joined his brother Peter in Dublin. The city would become his home until his death in 1967. Kavanagh claimed to feeling like an exile in Dublin where for many years he struggled to make a living as a writer. Yet Kavanagh became a ‘Dublin character’ and the city had an important influence on his poetry. He was not impressed with the Dublin literary scene and thought a lot of what was spoken ‘drivel’. But his heart took to the Baggot St area of Dublin and he made it his ‘village’ where was known to everyone and they knew him.

"he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left. He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication. To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art. His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming".

John Nemo Patrick Kavanagh 1979

In 1942 he published his long poem The Great Hunger, which describes the privations and hardship of the rural life he knew well. Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. His life drifted downwards though and he became a dishevelled figure along the banks of the Grand Canal and in the local pubs. In 1955 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. It was while recovering from this that he rediscovered his poetic vision. He recalled: "As a poet I was born in or about 1955, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal". This proved a turning point and Kavanagh began receiving the acclaim that he had always felt he deserved. Between 1959 and 1962 Kavanagh spent more time in London, He gave lectures at UCD and in the United States he represented Ireland at literary symposiums, and became a judge of the Guinness Poetry Awards.

Kavanagh married his long-term companion Katherine Barry Moloney in April 1967 and they set up home together on the Waterloo Road in Dublin. Kavanagh fell ill at the first performance of Tarry Flynn. He died from an attack of bronchitis on 30 November 1967. He was buried in his native Inniskeen.


For most of his Life he had struggled with poverty both Material and of the Soul and with rejection by literary society and the wider world. It was only in the last two decades of his career that he really began to gain traction and recognition as one of Ireland’s finest poets of the 20th century.


There is a statue of Kavanagh beside Dublin's Grand Canal inspired by his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin":


O commemorate me where there is water

canal water preferably, so stilly

greeny at the heart of summer. Brother

commemorate me thus beautifully.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kavanagh#Writing_career


 

30 November 1900: Oscar Wilde, aged 46, Irish wit, writer, raconteur, husband, father & homosexual, died in exile in Paris on this day. He was living there under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth. He had lived in Paris since his release from prison in 1897. Oscar was a native born Dubliner and the son of William Wilde and Jane Francesca Elgee, who were well known characters in their own right. His father was a Medical man and antiquarian and his mother an ardent Nationalist. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie was born on October 16 1854 in the City of Dublin. He attended Portora Royal School at Enniskillen where he first showed promise as a writer. From there he attended Trinity College Dublin where he achieved a First in Classics. In 1874 he was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford..

While at Magdalen his examiners awarded him the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna,” and a First Class in both his “Mods” and “Greats”. After graduation, Oscar moved to London to live with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. “Poems” received mixed reviews by critics, but it helped to move Oscar's writing career along. At the end of this year he set off on an extended Lecture Tour of the United States ostensibly on the subject of Aesthetics but as the tour unfolded Oscar himself became the real focus of interest. On his return after an absence of some 14 months he embarked on another such like expedition around Britain and Ireland so that by the time of its completion he was what in modern parlance might be described as a ‘celebrity’ figure.

His marriage in 1884 to Constance Lloyd and the birth of children meant that Oscar now had responsibilities. This stimulated his creative mind to create literary works that would maintain himself and his family in some comfort in the London of the late Victorian era. The next six years were to become the most creative period of his life. He published children's stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales and The House of Pomegranates and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

However it was his brilliant satirical plays that are his abiding legacy and Oscar’s first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theatre. His subsequent plays included A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright on the London scene.

But while at the height of his fame Oscar became infatuated with a younger man, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, and the two became lovers. While not unknown a liaison of this nature was Illegal as the Law then stood and public exposure would ruin a man if convicted. The father of Oscar’s affections, the Marquis of Queensberry, took a dim view of this illicit relationship and publicly revealed the nature of the friendship. Oscar foolishly sued for libel in April 1895, withdrew the case but then was arrested and charged. The Trial was a sensation and scandalised London Society of the time. Oscar was found guilty and convicted of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years Hard Labour which he served in Reading Gaol.

On release he wrote his last literary work ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ but his career was at an end and he fled to Paris living incognito in a shabby series of hotels. His wife had abandoned him and taken the children to Switzerland and changed their surname to Holland. His spirit was shattered and his health declined. An ear infection set in and an operation to clear it was not a success. Broken and alone he passed away there a sad and lonely figure on this day 1900. He was eventually laid to rest in the City’s famous La Pére Lachaise Cemetery, which is by far the most visited site in that vast Necropolis.
 



 



30 November 3340 BC: The world's oldest known recording of a solar eclipse was made on stone.
The illustrations are found on the “Cairn L,” on Carbane West, at Loughcrew, outside Oldcastle, in County Meath. The landscape of rolling hills is littered with Neolithic monuments. Some say that originally there were at least 40 to 50 monuments, but others say the figure was more like 100.
They write that the Irish Neolithic astronomer priests recorded the events on three stones relating to the eclipse, as seen from that location. The date November 30th 3340 is the only one that fits with what could have been observed from that site in that age.

To the ancient Neolithic farmers of Ireland the observance of the changing skies was an important tool in determining the passage of the year and when to plant and harvest crops and stage their festivals to honour the Gods. An event like a Solar Eclipse would have been a fantastic event to them and something of a shocker to their calculations. No doubt that they would have seen this as an evil portent. Whether it proved so or not we of course do not know. However it proved an important enough event for them to carve a depiction of this celestial wonder in stone on the top of one of their most sacred sites.

Note: Irish archaeo -astronomer Paul Griffin has announced the confirmation of the world's oldest known solar eclipse recorded in stone, substantially older than the recordings made in 2800 BC by Chinese astronomers. This finding was made at the world's oldest lunar eclipse tracking multi cairn site at the Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument in Ireland, and corresponds to a solar eclipse which occurred on November 30, 3340 BC, calculated with The Digital Universe astronomy software.

Photo from https://www.newgrange.com/loughcrew-eclipse.htm