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Sunday, 23 November 2014


23 November 1867: Execution of the Manchester Martyrs William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien. They were publicly hanged for their alleged role in the rescue of Fenian prisoners in which a Constable Brett was fatally wounded. Although neither Larkin, Allen and O’Brien had fired the fatal shot nor had they had any intention to kill anybody, they were hanged as accessories to the death of the policeman.


The martyrs were hanged in front of the New Bailey prison in Salford, Manchester. Part of the wall was removed so that the public could witness the event. The morning of their execution was a cold and foggy one. Large crowds, marshalled by police and troops had assembled to witness the spectacle. Shortly after 8 O’Clock the men were led out and hanged, the bodies dropping out of sight into the pit below and out of sight of the onlookers.


They were buried in quicklime in Strangeways Prison. Today they rest in a mass grave in Blackley Cemetery, Plot number C.2711. Manchester. Their noble stand in the dock and on the gallows inspired T. D. Sullivan to pen the famous ballad ‘God save Ireland’.


When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral pro¬cessions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O'Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Co Offaly.


It was widely felt amongst the Irish both at home and abroad that these men were wrongly hanged as it was not their intention to kill and nor had they. The brave and courageous stand they took in the Dock and upon the Gallows inspired Irish People around the World and helped to restore morale in the wake of the abortive Rising of 1867.


Ironically the first prisoner to utter these immortal words was one O'Meagher Condon who had his death sentence commuted to Life Imprisonment while another man Thomas Maguire was released from captivity as the case against him was so poor even the English Media felt he should be set free.


Numerous monuments were erected to the Martyrs in the wake of their deaths across Ireland incl a symbolic grave to these brave men in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


The famous song, which their sacrifice gave birth to, opens with the lines:


High upon the gallows tree, swung the noble-hearted three,

By the vengeful tyrant, stricken in their bloom.

But they met him face to face with the courage of their race,

And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.


"God save Ireland," said the heroes.

"God save Ireland," said them all.

"Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,

No matter when, for Ireland dear we fall!"



Saturday, 22 November 2014


22 November 1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas on this day. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and he was the youngest to die. He was hardly past his first thousand days in office. His great grandparents hailed from Co Wexford and had fled Ireland in the 1840s to Boston, Massachusetts.


His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."
 
His untimely and brutal death triggered a wave of shock and grief throughout Ireland that very night as word rapidly spread across the airwaves and by word of mouth that the President had succumbed to his wounds.

He had visited this Country only a few months previously and had been met with a huge and ecstatic welcome. His election as President in 1960 was a source of great pride to the Irish People and of some advantage to the Country in its International relations.

 





Friday, 21 November 2014


21 November 1974: The Birmingham Pub Bombings on this day. Two bombs exploded in the British city of Birmingham. The bombs were planted by members of the IRA who gave totally inadequate warnings.


Both bombs were planted in pubs in central Birmingham that were about 50 yards apart, the first in the Mulberry Bush at 8.17pm; the second in the Tavern in the Town 10 minutes later. Twenty-one people died, 182 were injured, many horribly so.

 
Most of the dead and wounded were young people between the ages of 17 and 25, including two brothers: Desmond and Eugene Reilly. One of the victims, 18-year-old Maxine Hambleton, had only gone into the "Tavern in the Town" to hand out tickets to friends for a party. She was killed seconds after entering the pub and had been standing beside the bag containing the bomb when it exploded. Her friend, 17-year-old Jane Davis, was the youngest victim of the bombings. The others who were killed by the bombs were Michael Beasley (30), Lynn Bennett (18), Stanley Bodman (51), James Caddick (40), Thomas Chaytor (28), James Craig (34), Paul Davis (20), Charles Gray (44), Anne Hayes (19), John Jones (51), Neil Marsh (20), Marylin Nash (22), Pamela Palmer (19), Maureen Roberts (20), John Rowland (46), Trevor Thrupp (33), and Stephen Whalley (21)

 
The was widespread revulsion and outrage at these atrocities, especially in England. This led to a backlash by some people against Irish residents in the UK.

 
In the wake of the bombings a number of people were arrested and charged with organising and planting the devices that exploded.

 
Six men - ‘The Birmingham Six’ - were convicted of Murder and sentenced to Life Imprisonment. The men - Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker - were beaten while in police custody and always claimed that they had no part in the bombings and that any confessions were forced from them.

 
Eventually after a long campaign they were declared innocent and freed in 1991. To this date none of the actual perpetrators have ever been convicted.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


19 November 1807: The sinkings of the Prince of Wales & the Rochdale in Dublin Bay on this day. A convoy of British troop transport ships set sail from Dublin. It comprised five ships: the Sarah, the Lark, the Albion, the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales. Two of the ships, the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales did not make it to their destination. They ended up being wrecked on the South Bull in Dublin Bay, with the loss of approximately 380 lives. Public outcry was one of the key factors that brought about the construction of what is now known as Dun Laoghaire East Pier.



The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales, the Parkgate packet ship, was a 103-ton wooden brig of Chester, originally built in Wales. It was en route to Liverpool with recruits from the South Cork and South Mayo Militia for the 18th and 97th Regiments.

The stormy weather prevented the Prince of Wales from anchoring in Dublin Bay and it was forced to anchor off Bray Head in an attempt to gain some shelter. The wind direction changed and went SE, driving the Prince of Wales across Dublin Bay. It eventually ran ashore at Blackrock House. Captain Jones, the crew, two soldiers, a steward and his wife managed to get on board one of the ship’s boats and got ashore safely. The Prince of Wales started to break up soon afterwards and became a total wreck, with the loss of 120 lives.


The Rochdale suffered a similar fate near Seapoint, just 20 feet from the shore. The ships were part of a military fleet bound for Liverpool that had left Dublin that morning. Snow and sleet showers backed by a heavy wind developed as the ships made their way out of Dublin Bay and as night came on they were blown onto the sandbanks just off shore where the ships capsized and foundered. It is estimated that some 120 were lost from the Prince of Wales and about 265 from the Rochdale.



The Rochdale
The Rochdale, a brig of Liverpool, was also en route with some passengers and 265 soldiers of the 97th Regiment. It encountered an easterly gale and a snow storm shortly after leaving Dublin Bay and was driven back into Dublin Bay by strong winds and could be seen from both Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire as it burned blue lights and fired guns as signals of distress.

In an attempt to prevent the vessel from being blown ashore, several anchors were dropped, but these failed when the cables snapped. The vessel was driven helplessly past Dun Laoghaire Pier and went ashore on rocks under the Martello Tower at Seapoint, half a mile from where the Prince of Wales had gone ashore.

Even though the wreck was only yards away from the shore all 265 aboard, including 42 women and 29 children, perished as the poor visibility and darkness of the night prevented them from comprehending their exact position. The next day the lower hull of the Rochdale was found to be completely smashed out, but the decks were relatively intact.

http://emigrant.scoilpac.com


Amongst those on board these doomed ships were large contingents of Irish recruits commanded by their Officers and drawn in the main from south Cork and south Mayo. Numerous civilians were also amongst the victims and also the crews of said vessels. Most of the bodies washed ashore in the wake of this double tragedy were buried in graves along the south Dublin shore and some of the slabs erected in their memory can still be seen to this day.


Sunday, 16 November 2014


16 November 1965: The death occurred of William Thomas Cosgrave, 1st President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State on this day. He became Head of the Provisional Government following the deaths of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins in August 1922. Born in Dublin in 1880 and educated by the Christian Brothers he joined Sinn Fein in 1905. He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1909 and joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and was actively involved in the 1916 Easter Rising. He was sentenced to death but this was commuted to Life Imprisonment and he was interned in Frognoch Camp. In 1918 he was elected in a bye-election for Kilkenny and in January 1919 took his seat in Dáil Éireann. He was appointed as Minister for Local Government but had only a political role during the War of Independence. When the Treaty was debated in the Dáil he voted in favour of accepting its terms and sided with those who were prepared to implement its conditions across the Irish Free State. On succeeding to the position of President he was ruthless in crushing armed opposition by the IRA to the Treaty. He implemented a series of official executions and the rounding up of suspected political opponents. In the spring of 1923 the Civil war fizzled out as the effects of repression and the lack of support for violent opposition to the new State became apparent.



Once the War was over Liam Cosgrave was able to focus on building an Irish State that could show the World and Britain in particular that the Irish could govern themselves in an effective manner. He had some success here and he established the Irish Sugar Company and the Electricity Supply Board as well as the Agricultural Credit Corporation. He also exercised a prudent control over State’s Finances that paid dividends in ensuring that the balance of payments deficit was kept within limits.



However it was in the political sphere that Cosgrave had the most to contend with and here he had more mixed results. He formed a new Party in 1923 called Cumann na nGaedhael but in the same year he had limited results in a General Election though he held on to power. He gave up any claim to the North following the Boundary Commission fiasco in 1925 in return for a financial agreement with Britain. He also had to deal with a recurrent low intensity campaign by the IRA and widespread political agitation by Republicans in general. The biggest post Civil War Crises he had to face was the assassination of Kevin O’Higgins in 1927 and that almost led to truly draconian measures being introduced. This was averted by Mr De Valera leading FF into Leinster House in September of that year and taking the Oath under protest. Cosgrave then narrowly avoided being forced to relinquish power to his new Parliamentary rival but survived as a result of the Mr Jinks affair.

A general election was not necessary until the end of 1932, however, Cosgrave called one for February of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and a fresh mandate was needed for an important Commonwealth meeting in the summer.

In the event Cumann na nGaedhael lost it and Dev took over. Cosgrave then became the Leader of the Opposition. In 1933 three groups, Cumann na nGaedhael, the National Centre Party and the Army Comrades Association came together to form a new political force – Fine Gael. Cosgrave was retained as the head of the Party in the Free State Parliament but was given overall control when Eoin O’Duffy was persuaded to step down as President of Fine Gael. He then led the Party until 1944 when he retired from politics all together and he never held Office again.


 

Friday, 14 November 2014


14 November 1180: The death occurred of St Laurence O’Toole / Lorcan Ua Tuathail at Eu in Normandy on this day. He had been born in Kildare in about the year 1128 and was educated at the Monastery of Glendalough where he became a prominent member of the religious community there. Being the brother in law of the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, further enhanced his status. In 1161 he obtained the key ecclesiastical appointment of Archbishop of Dublin and in the following year was consecrated as such in a great ceremony at Christ Church in the city by Gilla Isu the Primate of Armagh. O’Toole’s elevation was a novelty in that he was the first Gaelic leader of the Church in Dublin and that he owed his position to the See of Armagh and not that of Canterbury in England. The Archbishop was a man of great piety and charity and he founded a number of religious houses including the one of All Hallows where Trinity College now stands. Once a year he retreated to Glendalough where he entered a cave for 40 days to fast and pray.

However when Henry II crossed into Ireland and set up Court in Dublin he was a deft enough operator to ensure that he stayed in the Kings’ good standing. He acted as a go between in the delicate negotiations with Rory O’Connor the King of Ireland and Henry in his role as King of England. In April 1178, he entertained the papal legate, Cardinal Vivian, who presided at the Synod of Dublin. He also attended the great Third Lateran Council in March 1179. Pope Alexander III had summoned it with the particular object of putting an end to the schism within the Church and the quarrel between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papacy. Laurence O’Toole returned home with the title of Papal Legate, which was a mark of the influence he had gained in Rome. However his term in office was to be a short one as in the following year he left Dublin to track down the peripatic Henry in his wanderings across his patchwork quilt Empire of polities. His mission was to bring urgent matters in Ireland for his consideration. After three weeks of detention at Abingdon Abbey, England he followed Henry II to Normandy. Taken ill at the Augustinian Abbey of Eu, he was tended by Abbot Osbert and the canons of St. Victor in his confinement and it was there that he breathed his last.
 

Thursday, 13 November 2014


13 November 1647: The Battle of Knocknanuss [The Hill of the Fawns] was fought near the town of Kanturk in Co Cork on this day. The opposing armies were those of the Irish Protestant, Murrough O’Brien (the later Lord Inchiquin), who was commited to support the English Parliament and those of the English Catholic, Viscount Theobald Taafe, leading a Confederate Army loyal to the Supreme Council of Kilkenny. Viscount Taafe was given the task by the Council of raiding into the lands under the control of Inchiquin’s troops. This was in retaliation for the attacks launched by the Parliamentry forces on Cashel and Callan in the previous months and the numerous atrocities they had carried out. The Catholic commander was able to assemble a force of about 6,000 infantry and some 1,200 cavalry. Amongst this force was a contingent of Scottish ‘Redshanks’ mercenaries under the legendry warrior leader Alasdair MacColla (Alistair McDonnell). However Viscount Taafe owed his appointment to political intrigue rather than any natural military abilities. It appears his heart was not really in the enterprise anyway and his conduct of the campaign reflected poorly on him.



His initial dispositions on the day of the battle were good in that he held the high ground but he fatally deployed his army in two separate wings divided by a hill that essentially cut one off from the other. Despite having a slight numerical advantage he did not utilise his force in a co ordinated manner but allowed each local commander to decide his own course of action. Alasdair MacColla’s men were the first into battle as they charged down upon the enemys’ flank opposite their own, broke their lines and routed them. Thinking the battle won they then fell to plundering Inchiquin’s Baggage Train and took no further meaningful part in the affair.

Murrough O’Brien however kept his cool throughout all of this. Sensing the moment was ripe he launched his own troopers uphill at the charge upon the Confederates left flank and put their cavalry to flight. The Munster infantrymen situated towards the centre of the line gave one ragged volley and then promptly fell back. The whole Confederate line then began to buckle and retreat developed into Rout. The Parliamentry Cavalry pursued their opponents for miles putting many to the sword as they did so. Meanwhile Alasdair MacColla and what remained of his men were surrounded and captured before being put to death on the spot. The defeat at Knocknanuss was a mortal blow for the Confederacy in the Province of Munster and was a defeat from which they never recovered.