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Monday, 20 February 2017

20 February 1644: The Execution of Sir Connor Maguire - ‘The Maguire’ of Fermanagh at Tyburn, London on this day. He was hanged, drawn and quartered for ‘High Treason’. Maguire had been one of the leaders of the 1641 Rising in Ireland and was tasked with seizing Dublin Castle from the English. At the last moment the plans were discovered and the plot was aborted. He was quickly captured and eventually confessed to his role in the affair. In June 1642 he and other prisoners were sent over to London and held in the Tower under severe conditions. They were then sent to Newgate Prison and held as ‘close prisoners’ - bread and water diet in close confinement. Moved back to the Tower they were treated somewhat better. The guard loosened Maguire and others managed to escape but while waiting for a ship to the Continent they were recognised and recaptured after just a few weeks of freedom.

'The peerage in Maguire’s case made a difficulty. There were several precedents for trying in England treasons committed in Ireland. That being admitted as good law, it was easy to show that an Irish peer was a commoner in England, and as such Maguire was tried. Many points of law were raised, but the facts were patent, and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. On the cart at Tyburn Maguire was cruelly harassed about religious matters, but he remained firm. He carried in his hand some curious papers, partly of a devotional character, with directions as to how he should bear himself. He declared that he forgave all his 'enemies and defenders, even those that have a hand in my death,' and that he died a Roman catholic.'
Dictionary of National Biography

On February 20 1644 Lord Maguire to whom the executioner would have shown some favour by leaving him to hang on the gallows until he should be quite dead and meanwhile the executioner was busy kindling the fire with which his entrails were to be burned after his death but so inhuman were the officers that they totally denied Lord Maguire the services of one of our Fathers on the scaffold and they waited not for the executioner but one of them cut the rope with a halberd and let the Lord Maguire drop alive and then called the executioner to open him alive and very ill the executioner did it the said Lord Maguire making resistance with his hand and defending himself with such little strength as he had; and such was the cruelty that for sheer compassion the executioner bore not to look upon him in such torment, and, to have done with him, speedily handled his knife well and cut his throat.
Letter from Father Hugh Burke, bishop of Kilmacduagh
Eyewitness to Irish History
By Peter Berresford Ellis

Sunday, 19 February 2017

19 February 1921: Brigadier-General s Frank Percy Crozier CB, CMG DSO the head of the ‘ Black and Tans’ submitted his resignation on this day. The General was disgusted at the undisciplined antics of many of the ‘cadets’  under his command of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary  (RIC). He had made inquiries that seemed to him to point the finger of blame at men under his nominal control in the murder of Father Griffin in Galway and the projected murder of Bishop Fogarty. He had sent back in disgrace 21 of the more outrageous members of his force to Britain only to discover that General Tudor, the overall head of the RIC, had recalled them for duty in Ireland. This proved a catalyst in Crozier deciding to resign his position. 

Following questions put to Sir Hamar Greenwood, Chief Secretary for Ireland, by the Irish MP Captain Redmond in the House of Commons this news became public and the affair became an open scandal. The notorious reputation of the ‘Black & Tans’ was further enhanced and their bloody reign was now open for all to see.

Born in Bermuda in 1879 Crozier spent a great deal of his youth in Ireland but was educated in England. He had seen active service in the Boer War and later in Northern Nigeria. He served in World War One leading the 9th Royal Irish Rifles, whose rank and file were drawn from Loyalist West Belfast. He led them 'over the top' on 1 July 1916 and displayed great bravery but also ruthlessness against those who wilted in the advance on the German positions. He was a hard man if ever there was one and an Empire Loyalist to boot. He was somewhat eccentric in his opinions and actions and not everyone found him a trustworthy character. But even he found the actions of some of his subordinates unacceptable and of course no fighting force can survive if discipline is not enforced. In this instance he really had no choice but to resign once his Authority over his men was flouted  by those above him in the Chain of Command.

Crozier drifted off into obscurity after this and spent his last years putting his energies and pen to the cause of peace,  denouncing war as a means of settling international disputes in a series of books that sought to portray war with uncompromising brutality. These included ‘A Brass Hat in No Mans Land’ about his time on the Western Front with amongst others the 36th Ulster Division and  ‘Ireland Forever’ on his time in charge of the ‘Black & Tans’. He died in 1937.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

18 February 1366: The Viceroy, Lionel Duke of Clarence summoned a Parliament at Kilkenny on this day. From this emerged in the following year the series of infamous ordinances that became popularly known as the ‘Statutes of Kilkenny’ and were designed to put a legal framework on the division of Ireland into two separate peoples: the English and the Irish. In fact it was one Statute and contained thirty-five articles of note.

It was officially entitled:

A Statute of the Fortieth Year of King Edward III., enacted in a parliament held in Kilkenny, A.D. 1367, before Lionel Duke of Clarence, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

For instance if any man took a name after the Irish fashion, used the Irish language, or dress, or mode of riding (without saddle), or adopted any other Irish customs, all his lands and houses were forfeited, and he himself was put into jail till he could find security that he would comply with the law. The Irish living among the English were permitted to remain, but were forbidden to use the Irish language under the same penalty. To use or submit to the Brehon law [Gaelic Law] or to exact 'coyne and livery' [extractions and billeting of soldiers on households] was treason. The Irish game of Hurling was also banned - a game which is still played today - esp in Kilkenny!

The Statute of Kilkenny, though not exhibiting quite so hostile a spirit against the Irish as we find sometimes represented, yet carried out consistently the vicious and fatal policy of separation adopted by the government from the beginning. It was intended to apply only to the English, and was framed entirely in their interests. Its chief aim was to withdraw them from all contact with the "Irish enemies"--so the natives are designated all through the act--to separate the two races for evermore.
From A Concise History of Ireland by P. W. Joyce

Lionel was the third son of King Edward III [above] and certainly was well placed to have the King’s ear on matters relating to how to rule over Ireland. Nevertheless the Duke of Clarence did not have much success in Ireland and these measures were more the result of desperation than the confident exercise of power by him. They were more an attempt to hold back the tide as the English Colony in Ireland continued to disintegrate and shrink in size and influence.

Bizarrely the noble Duke was not long to survive his sojourn in Ireland, some years later he died suddenly at Alba in the province of Piedmont in northern Italy while enjoying the comforts of his second wife, one Violante Visconti, daughter of the Lord of Pavia. He was probably poisoned by his father in Law in order to block the enormous Dowry he demanded as payment for marrying the man’s daughter!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

15 February‭ ‬1853:‭ ‬The loss of the paddle steamship,‭ ‬the Queen Victoria on this day.‭ ‬She went down on the rocks off the Bailey Lighthouse on Howth head on this day.‭ ‬Over‭ ‬80‭ ‬lives were lost as she struck this outcrop of the peninsula in a blinding snowstorm.
This precipitous portion of the coast was the scene of a lamentable shipping disaster in‭ ‬1853.‭ ‬The steamship‭ ‬Queen Victoria,‭ ‬on a voyage from Liverpool to Dublin,‭ ‬with about‭ ‬100‭ ‬passengers and cargo,‭ ‬struck on the southern side of the Casana rock during a dense snowstorm,‭ ‬between‭ ‬2‭ ‬and‭ ‬3‭ ‬o'clock on the morning of the‭ ‬15th February.‭ ‬Eight of the passengers managed to scramble overboard on to the rocks,‭ ‬from which they made their way up the cliffs to the Bailey Lighthouse.‭ ‬The captain,‭ ‬without further delay,‭ ‬ordered the vessel to be backed,‭ ‬so as to float her clear of the rocks,‭ ‬but she proved to be more seriously injured than was imagined,‭ ‬and began to fill rapidly when she got into deep water.‭ ‬Drifting helplessly towards the Bailey,‭ ‬she struck the rocky base of the Lighthouse promontory,‭ ‬and sank in fifteen minutes afterwards,‭ ‬with her bowsprit touching the shore.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Roscommon‭ ‬steamer fortunately happened to pass while the ill-fated vessel was sinking,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬attracted by the signals of distress,‭ ‬Promptly put out all her boats and rescued between‭ ‬40‭ ‬and‭ ‬50‭ ‬of the passengers.‭ ‬About‭ ‬60,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬were drowned,‭ ‬including the captain.

After a protracted inquest extending over several days,‭ ‬the jury found that the disaster was due to the culpable negligence of the captain and the first mate,‭ ‬in failing to slacken speed during a snowstorm which obscured all lights,‭ ‬they well knowing at the time that they were approaching land.‭ ‬The mate was subsequently put on trial for manslaughter.

It was believed by many that if the captain had not,‭ ‬in the first instance,‭ ‬backed off the rocks into deep water,‭ ‬all on board could have been saved.

From‭ ‬:‭ ‬The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St.‭ ‬John Joyce.

A subsequent Board of Trade inquiry blamed the ship's captain and first officer, as well as the lighthouse crew. A fog bell was supposed to have been installed in the lighthouse in 1846, seven years earlier, but was delayed due to costs of other construction projects. The bell was finally installed in April 1853, as a result of the Queen Victoria shipwreck and the subsequent inquiry.

At least one attempt to raise the ship was made afterwards, which failed, and the ship was salvaged where she lay. The wreck is still in place.

Members of the Marlin Sun Aqua Club, Dublin discovered the wreck in 1983. They reported their discovery to the authorities, and were in part responsible for having the first Underwater Preservation Order placed on a shipwreck in Irish waters. They also carried out the first underwater survey on such a wreck. The wreck was the first to be protected by The National Monuments Act (Historic Wreck), when the order was granted in 1984, thanks to representations made by Kevin Crothers, IUART, and the Maritime Institute of Ireland

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

13/14 February 1981: 48 young people, with an average age of 19, died in a fire at the Stardust Ballroom in Artane, Dublin on this day. The origin, source and cause of the fire still remain a mystery but what is not in doubt is that the huge loss of life was caused by inadequate safety measures. The building was not purpose built as a place of entertainment. It was in fact a converted jam factory that obviously was not designed to hold within its walls so many people for such a purpose. Even more astonishing is that many of the fire exits were chained shut, ostensibly to avoid people entering the premises without paying. The victims were all young people enjoying a night out and the fire spread so rapidly that panic ensued as the lights went out and acrid thick smoke quickly engulfed the premises. Hundreds fled for their lives as the building went up in minutes. The failure of the lighting in the club led to widespread panic causing mass trampling as many of the patrons instinctively ran for the main entrance. Many people mistook the entrance to the men's toilets for the main entrance doors but the windows there had metal plates fixed on the inside and iron bars on the outside. Firemen attempted in vain to pull off the metal bars using a chain attached to a fire engine. Firemen rescued between 25-30 of those trapped in the front toilets.

Dublin’s Emergency Disaster Plan was implemented and the bodies of the dead and dying and those burned, some horribly, were ferried to all the City’s major hospitals. The City Morgue could not cope with so many being brought in at once and the Army had to set up tents to hold the bodies of those who died until they could be identified by their loved ones. Scenes of heart rending grief were witness in the days that followed as these identifications were carried out and the funerals took place. Thelma Frazer could only be identified by the jewellery she wore to the Stardust disco. [above]In at least five instances a formal identification was not possible as some bodies were burned beyond recognition. Recent advances in DNA though mean that at last this can now be resolved.

As it so happened the Fianna Fáil Party were holding their Ard Fheis that same weekend but once news broke of the terrible loss of life the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey cancelled the proceedings as a mark of respect. The import of such a terrible event as this was not lost upon him as the Stardust was within his own Constituency and he knew the families of many of the victims. He attended many of the funerals himself and indeed was seen in tears on at least one occasion as the internments took place.

To this day no certain cause as to how the fire started has been established - whether it was arson or accident

The names of those who died are:

Michael Barrett, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Richard Bennett, Coolock, Dublin 5

Carol Bissett, Ringsend, Dublin 4.

James Buckley, Donnycarney, Dublin 5.

Paula Byrne, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Caroline Carey, Coolock, Dublin 5.

John Colgan, Swords, Co. Dublin.

Jacqueline Croker, Killmore West, Dublin 5.

Liam Dunne, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Michael Farrell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

David Flood, Beaumount, Dublin 5.

Thelma Frazer, Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Michael French, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Josephine Glenn, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Michael Griffiths, Killmore, Dublin 5.

Robert Hillock, Twinbrook, Belfast.

Brian Hobbs, Whitehall, Dublin 9.

Eugene Hogan, Artane, Dublin 5.

Murtagh Kavanagh, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Martina Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Mary Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Robert Kelly, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Mary Kennedy, Killbarrack, Dublin 5.

Mary Kenny, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Margaret Kiernan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Sandra Lawless, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Francis Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Maureen Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Paula Lewis, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Eamon Loughman, Beaumont, Dublin 9.

George McDermott Raheny, Dublin 5.

Marcella McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.

William McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Julie McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Teresa McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Gerard McGrath, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Caroline McHugh, Artane, Dublin 5.

Donna Mahon, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Helena Mangan, Coolock,

James Millar, Twinbrook, Belfast.

Susan Morgan, Derry.

David Morton, Artane, Dublin 5.

Kathleen Muldoon Kells, Co. Meath.

George O'Conner, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Brendan O'Meara Coolock, Dublin 5.

John Stout, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Margaret Thornton, Dublin 8.

Paul Wade, Artane, Dublin 5.

and not forgetting the 215 injured...

Monday, 13 February 2017

13 February 1820: Leonard McNally, playwright, barrister, United Irishman and an Informer died on this day. He was born in Dublin in 1752, and became a barrister in England before returning home to practise at the Irish Bar. He was one of the original members of the Society of United Irishmen and came to and defended many of its members in the Courts. He turned informer in 1794 following the arrest of the French agent the Rev Jackson.  The general opinion is that his nerve snapped under threats during interrogation but the exact circumstances that led to his decision to become a tout remain unclear.

His play Robin Hood (1784) was playing in Dublin on the night in 1798 when Lord Edward Fitzgerald was captured on foot of information he had provided. During the Rising of 1798 and in 1803 he found himself in the bizarre situation of taking money both from revolutionary defendants before the Courts and from Dublin Castle for providing them with information that would compromise his clients. While some had their doubts, and indeed one ‘doubter’ sent him a snake in a parcel from America as a token of gratitude, his dark secret remained hidden until his death in 1820. Ironically he was given a Patriots funeral. It was only when his family demanded that his pension of £300  per annum be continued that his secret life as a traitor was exposed.

He died at 22 Harcourt-street Dublin, 13th February 1820, aged 68. Then only did his treachery appear. His heir claimed a continuance of a secret service pension of £300 a year, which his father had enjoyed since 1798. The Lord-Lieutenant demanded a detailed statement of the circumstances under which the agreement had been made; it was furnished after some hesitation, and the startling fact became generally known, not only that he had been in regular receipt of the pension claimed, but that during the state trials of 1798 and 1803, while he was receiving fees from the prisoners to defend them, he also accepted large sums from Government to betray the secrets of their defence. The Cornwallis Correspondence, Madden's Lives of the United Irishmen, and communications from Mr. FitzPatrick in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, put all this beyond doubt.

A Compendium of Irish Biography: Richard Webb Dublin 1878

Sunday, 12 February 2017

12 February 1976: The Hunger Striker Frank Stagg died after 61 days on hunger strike in Wakefield Prison, Yorkshire, on this day. He had been on hunger strike in protest at the British government's refusal to transfer him to a prison in Ireland. He had been arrested in Coventry in 1973 and had been given a sentence of 10 years for criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson. He initially went on Hunger Strike in 1974 along with others to gain repatriation to Ireland. In this strike his comrade Michael Gaughan died and Stagg felt a degree of moral responsibility for convincing him to embark upon it.

While other hunger strikers were sent back the British refused to move Stagg and he was incarcerated in Long Lartin Prison. Here he was subjected to prolonged periods of Solitary Confinement for and again went on hunger strike. Eventually the Prison Governor relented and Stagg called off his strike. In 1975 he was transferred to Wakefield Prison where he again refused to do prison work. Just before Christmas that year he and others again embarked on a Hunger strike. Their demand were: An end to Solitary Confinement; No Prison Work and Repatriation to Ireland. He died on 12 February 1976.

When his body was returned to Ireland his coffin was seized by the Government and buried under concrete so that it could not be interred in the Republican Plot in Ballina, Co Mayo. However in November 1976, a group of republicans tunnelled under the concrete to recover the coffin under cover of darkness and reburied it in the Republican plot.