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Saturday, 23 September 2017

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23 September 704 AD: Feast day of St Adhamhnán on this day. He passed away on the little island of Iona [above] off the western Scottish coast. He was one of the greatest scholars of his time and a member of the same family group as the founder of the monastic site, St Columba himself, as both were descended from the powerful Northern Uí Néill dynasty.

He became the 9th Abbot of Iona in 679 AD. He was involved in both religious and political affairs in Scotland, Ireland and in the English kingdom of Northumbria. In the year 687 he secured the release of some 60 important Irish prisoners being held by the Northumbrian King Aldfrith. Ten years later in 697 AD he was the chief instigator and author of Cáin Adomnáin (Law of Adhamhnán) also known as the Lex Innocentium (Law of Innocents) that was promulgated amongst a gathering of Irish, Dal Ríatan and Pictish notables at the Synod of Birr, Co Offaly. This set of laws were designed, among other things, to guarantee the safety and immunity of various types of non-combatants in War.

He is best known though as the biographer of St Columba in the Vita Columba [Life of Columba], a hagiography based on the stories on the Saints' life passed down from those who knew him. This work is one of the most important religious and political sources for Ireland and Scotland that we have that is still extant. Adhamhnán also wrote poetry as well as a work called De Locus Sanctis, which was a study on the Christian Holy Places of Pilgrimage in Palestine.

Adamnán, abbot of Í, rests in the 77th year of his age.
Annals of Ulster 704 AD



Friday, 22 September 2017


22 September 1920: The Rineen Ambush on this day. The 4th Battalion of the Clare IRA under Commandant O’Neill ambushed a party of Black and Tans and killed six of them without loss to themselves. They then had a lucky escape as quite unexpectedly a large party of British Military arrived on the scene by chance but in the confusion all the men of the ambush party successfully got away. Men from the ambush part are pictured above on the anniversary of the encounter in 1957.


On September 22, 1920, one of the most remarkable encounters of the War of Independence took place at Dromin Hill, Rineen. The purpose of the act was to get revenge for the murder of Martin Devitt, an Irish soldier who was shot dead in an ambush in February of that year in the locality. A secondary function was to get arms for the poorly equipped volunteers in the area.


Men from several battalions took part in the ambush. The companies in question were Ennistymon, Lahinch, Inagh, Moy, Glendline, Miltown Malbay and Letterkelly. Most of these, however, were unarmed because of the lack of ammunition. The entire lot of arms consisted of 60 rounds of ammunition, eight rifles, two bombs, two revolvers and 16 shotguns.

All the RIC men in the tender were killed. The RIC men killed were an RIC Sergeant (Michael Hynes), along with five other constables (Reginald Hardman, Michael Harte, John Hodnett, Michael Kelly and John Maguire).

The ambush was carried out by men from the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare brigade led by Ignatius O’Neill, Battalion O/C and ex-soldier with the Irish Guards, British Army.

There were about 60 in the ambushing party but only nine had rifles. Among the men who took part were Seamus Hennessy, Peter Vaughan, Dan (Dave?) Kennelly, Steve Gallagher, Michael O’Dwyer, Michael Curtin, Pat Lehane, Sean Burke, Pake Lehane, Dan Lehane, Patso Kerin, Anthony Malone, John Joe Neylon, Owen Nestor, Tom Burke, Alphonsus O’Neill and Ned Hynes.

Thomas Moroney was in charge of the scouts, one of whom was John Clune, who cycled into Miltown Malbay to check when the tender would return. After the attack on the tender, the IRA had not fully withdrawn when the British military, consisting of about 150 soldiers, arrived on the scene. They were on their way to the site of the capture of RM Lendrum. A running pursuit followed with no deaths on either side but O’Neill and Curtin were wounded.

http://www.clarechampion.ie


Thursday, 21 September 2017


21 September 1795: The Battle of the Diamond on this day. This deadly encounter took place at a little crossroads in north County Armagh between the Protestant ‘Peep O Day Boys’ and the Catholic ‘Defenders’, both of which were semi paramilitary groups fighting for power in the County at that time. While there was always tension between the adherents of both religions this was exacerbated by the situation in Armagh where the Linen industry was the economic powerhouse of the County and indeed one of the major industries in Ireland at that time. Both sides wanted a cut of the economic benefits that ensued from this lucrative industry but the Protestants viewed the steady encroachment of the Catholics into an Industry they saw as ‘theirs’ as something to be stamped out.


Tension had been building in the area for days and attempts at mediation had met with a certain level of success. The Protestants though were clearly being reinforced with weaponry as numbers of ‘off duty’ members of the Crown Forces arrived on the scene, which gave them a considerable advantage over their opponents in anything other than a melee. By the morning of Monday 21 September it looked like the situation had calmed down enough that hundreds of men from both sides gathered on the hills around the area would depart and bloodshed would be avoided.


But as dawn broke the Defenders, egged on by men who had marched for miles to help them, descended onto the crossroads itself and seized the homestead of Dan Winter, a local Protestant. Daniel Winter and his sons defended their property as long as possible, having to retreat to the Diamond Hill when the thatch was fired. This was the trigger for the engagement to begin in earnest. The Protestants lined up their musket men along the brow of the hill and proceeded to open fire on the Catholics gathered around the Diamond.

From this position, they gained three crucial advantages: the ability to comfortably rest their muskets, allowing for more accurate shooting; and a steep up-hill location which made it hard for attackers to scale; and a direct line-of-sight to Winter's cottage which the Defenders made their rallying point. It was all over very fast with the Defenders been cut down in droves in what in effect was a Massacre. Perhaps as many as 30 Catholics lay dead and many scores more were wounded. The Defenders then fled taking as many of their injured men with them as they could carry.

In the aftermath of the ‘battle’, the Peep o' Day Boys retired to James Sloans inn in Loughgall, and it was here that James Wilson, Dan Winter, and James Sloan would found the Orange Order with the stated aim of ‘defending the King and his heirs so long as he supported the Protestant Ascendancy’.

In the months that followed and through the winter of 1795-1796 hundreds of Catholic houses were attacked, people killed and injured and their linen looms destroyed in what became known as the 'Armagh Outrages’. It is estimated that over 7,000 Catholic men, women and children were driven from their homes in an orgy of violence - never to return. The effects of that fateful encounter at the Diamond in County Armagh are still with us to this day.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Anna, photographed by Henry O'Shea, Limerick (c. 1878). Fanny, in ‘mid-western' costume (1878)


20 September 1911: Anna Catherine Parnell [above] died on this day. She was the estranged sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Parliamentary Leader who tried so hard to gain Home Rule for Ireland.

When her brother was campaigning in America for the Land League in 1879/1880 she and her feisty older sister Fanny Parnell [below] used their own vehicle to help the peasants of Ireland in their fight to break the power of the Landlords of Ireland. This was the New York Ladies’ Land League that Fanny had set up in the USA to help her brother’s fund raising campaign over there. This was used in a successful campaign which raised thousands of dollars for transmission to Ireland.

On Anna’s return to Dublin in late 1880 and at the suggestion of Michael Davitt it was decided to set up a similar structure back Home. Thus on 31 January 1881 the Ladies’ Irish National Land League was founded, with Anna Parnell as its effective leader. Not everyone was happy about this or its usefulness to the Cause.  However they grew rapidly, with more than five hundred branches of the Ladies’ Land League throughout Ireland by the beginning of 1882.

But things changed radically in October 1881 when Parnell was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham jail Dublin. With most of the male leaders imprisoned or on the run the LLL took over what effective help could be given to the hard pressed followers of the League’s programme, namely that of securing ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’ by a programme of peaceful and constitutional action.

With the Leadership behind bars the shadow of 'Captain Moonlight' was soon felt in the fields and villages of Ireland as Agrarian agitation took hold. This was the field that Anna and her League pushed to the limits without going over the line. To some though their tactics were just a bit  too radical for some people’s liking. Some rejected them and some protected them. It is true that they spent money profusely to push as hard as they could to force the hand of the British Government to relent - and break the grip of the Landlords to the ownership of so much of the Land of Ireland. But under the circumstances where time was of the essence they might have felt justified in doing so.

When Charles S Parnell was released in May 1882 under the terms of the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ the Ladies League felt somewhat betrayed by its terms. Charles had never really felt comfortable with the idea of women being involved in politics - then an exclusively male affair. He examined the books kept by Anna of the records of her organisation and found them wanting. The LLL had run up debts of some £40,000! Charles then made his sister an offer she could not refuse: In return for paying off its debts the League was to be wound up and disbanded. Anna had no choice but to agree. But she never forgave her brother.

That year was to bring more heartbreak as her beloved sister Fanny passed away at an early age in the USA. Anna and Fanny shared with Charles a keen interest in Irish nationalism, and at the age of sixteen Fanny published her first poems in the Fenian newspaper, The Irish People. She became a prolific author of verse, much of it on patriotic themes, and her most famous poem, ‘Hold the harvest’, published in 1880, was described as the ‘Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.’ However, her health was poor and, though politically committed, much of her short life was spent out of Ireland.

But when Fanny died  her spirit was broken and she drifted away from Ireland and Irish politics. Charles tried at a reconciliation but she was having none of it and indeed cut him when once their paths afterwards inadvertently crossed. She did though publicly defend her brothers political reputation in the wake of the Kitty O’Shea divorce scandal and his subsequent Downfall and death in 1891. She forayed briefly into an Irish bye election in Longford in 1908 but was disillusioned  with the way she was treated.

She drifted from place to place in England under a multitude of assumed names and lived in a state of genteel poverty for much of it. She engaged in intermittent correspondence with political sympathisers back home but she became something of a Recluse. Very few of her acquaintances in the towns of England had a clue who she was and her relationship to Ireland’s fight for justice. She was however moved to write her own account of her role in the momentous events of the early 1880s that she had such a prominent but brief role in shaping. It was called The Tale of a Great Sham. However try as she might she could never find a publisher willing to cover the costs of publishing it. Indeed it was only in 1986 that a long lost copy was found and finally saw print.

After many moves in 1910 she re-located to the picturesque north Devon town of Ilfracombe where she went under the name of ‘Cerisa Palmer’. She had an early interest in art and indeed had been a painter of some merit in her early years. Perhaps that was why she moved to this spot to see out her last years. Her end came on a beach there on 20 September 1911 when she was drowned while swimming in the sea. She was 59 years old. A few days later she was buried in a local churchyard not as Anna Parnell but under her assumed name of ‘Cerisa Palmer’.

Katherine Tynan the Irish novelist and writer wrote of her a few years later, ‘her life ought to have been written, for she was a great woman, and yet I think that she herself would have preferred that her name be writ in water.’

And indeed while Anna was largely written out of Irish History it can hardly be denied that she played a part in  her virtual disappearance from its pages.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017


19 September 1836: Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, was consecrated on this day. The name of the cemetery comes from an estate established there by the Reverend Stephen Jerome, then vicar of St. Kevin's Parish. Opened on a forty-seven acre site in Harold's Cross, by the General Cemetery Company of Dublin (which was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1837).

Mount Jerome was the first privately owned cemetery in Ireland, when it first opened in 1836. It is one of the most impressive of Dublin's cemeteries. Mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, Mount Jerome was the burial ground for many of Dublin's Protestant businessmen and their families. It has witnessed over 300,000 burials but it was not until the 1920's that the first Catholic burials took place there. Mount Jerome has a large number of highly ornate crypts and memorials. A series of sunken roads throughout the grounds allows for below ground access to many of the crypts.

Many well-known people are buried there. There is a large plot to the deceased members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) & the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and the remains of the French Huguenots from the St Stephens Green Cemetery, as are also prominent members of the Guinness family. Amongst its more notable internees are: Sir William Wilde, Thomas Davis, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, John Millington Synge, Æ (George Russell), Jack B. Yeats, Sir William Rowan Hamilton and George Petrie.

Monday, 18 September 2017

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18 September 1851: The death of Ann Devlin – Patriot - on this day. Her role in Irish History was a brief one and entirely sub ordinary to that of greater players on the stage than her. But while others have faded away with the passage of time her name is still remembered and admired to this day by those who are familiar with the events of 1803 in Ireland.
She was born circa 1780 into a farming family near Rathdrum Co Wicklow. Her father Bryan Devlin was committed to Ireland becoming an Independent Nation and raised his family to be the same determination. When the Rising of 1798 came he became a suspect in the eyes of Dublin Castle and was imprisoned in Wicklow Jail. He was released in 1800 and moved his family to the Dublin village of Rathfarnham. It was here that Fate played a part that placed Anne at the centre of the momentous events of 1803 and her place in Irish History.

Her father was still involved in the struggle for Irish Freedom and became acquainted with Robert Emmet who was planning another Uprising. To give cover to his designs a veneer of normality was essential and Mr. Devlin suggested that one of his daughters could play the role of ‘Housekeeper’ and convey messages across the City without arousing the suspicion. Eventually Anne was chosen for the role and she moved into the Emmet Household.

Eventually the Revolt kicked off pre-maturely on 27 July 1803 but quickly turned into a Fiasco and Emmet fled to the Wicklow mountains. He was eventually captured and executed. The Devlin family knew that sooner or later they would be implicated and they were tracked down and arrested. Ann herself was seized at the Emmet household at Butterfield Lane.

When the others came down she was examined. She said she knew nothing in the world about the gentleman, except that she was the servant maid, where they came from, and where they went to, she knew nothing about, and so long as her wages were paid she cared to know nothing else about them…The magistrate pressed her to tell the truth, he threatened her with death if she did not tell; she persisted in asserting her total ignorance of Mr. Ellis’s [Emmet’s] acts and movements, and of those of all the other gentlemen. At length the magistrate gave the word to hang her, and she was dragged into the court yard to be executed. There was a common car there, they tilted up the shafts and fixed a rope from the back band that goes across the shafts, and while these preparations were making for her execution, the yeomen kept her standing against the wall of the house, prodding her with their bayonets in the arms and shoulders, till she was all over covered with blood … and saying to her at every thrust of the bayonet, ‘Will you confess now; will you tell now where is Mr. Ellis?’ Her constant answer was ‘I have nothing to tell, I will tell nothing!!!’

The rope was at length put about her neck; she was dragged to the place where the car was converted into a gallows; she was placed over it, and the end of the rope was passed over the back-band. … She had just time to say, ‘The Lord Jesus have mercy on my soul,’ when a tremendous shout was raised by the yeomen: the rope was pulled by all of them, except those who held down the back part of the car, and in an instant, she was suspended by the neck. After she had been thus suspended for two or three minutes, her feet touched the ground, and a savage yell of laughter recalled her to her senses. The rope around her neck was loosened, and her life was spared: she was let off with a half hanging’

The life and times of Robert Emmet, Esq (1847) by R.R. Madden

Ann and her family were then incarcerated in the notorious Kilmainham Jail in Dublin where they were subjected to further interrogations and deprivations. They were released in 1806 when they were no longer considered a danger to British Rule. She quickly faded into obscurity.

It was only years later that Dr. Madden, the Historian of the United Irishmen, tracked her down to a tenement in the Liberties of Dublin that her story was told. She had married a man called Campbell, had children and records show she probably had a good job as the Laundress in St Patrick’s Hospital but she eventually lost the position when new management were appointed. She fell on hard times and Dr. Madden found her living the life of a ‘Common Washerwoman’ taking in dirty laundry to clean. When she died she was buried in a pauper’s grave in Glasnevin cemetery Dublin. Afterwards Dr. Madden had her remains moved to a more desirable part of the cemetery. He also paid for the erection of a headstone which was later replaced by a large Celtic cross. [above]



Sunday, 17 September 2017


17 September 1860: Men of the Irish Battalion of St. Patrick of the Papal army fought a Piedmontese army under the command of General Brignone at Spoleto, Italy on this day. Spoleto is a walled city south of Florence with the fortress of Rocca on the side of a hill. Three companies of the Battalion of St. Patrick (312 soldiers & 15 officers) under the Battalion Commander, Major Myles O'Reilly (County Louth) were stationed there. Major O'Reilly commanded 645 men in total at Spoleto including 150 Italians, 160 Swiss, and 24 Franco-Belgians.

In spite of a long and heavy bombardment, the advancing Piedmontese troops were met with a withering fire by the Irish on the walls that stopped them in their tracks. However the bishop of Spoleto, distraught at the destruction and the loss of life, arranged a cease-fire. O'Reilly was nearly out of ammunition at that anyway. A Papal representative was sent to General Brignone and surrender terms were arranged. Brignone described O'Reilly as "both honourable and brave" and allowed the Irish to march out as prisoners with officers retaining their swords.

Given the task of protecting the North Wall and the vital Gate House of the majestic Castle Albornozian, the Irish performed with distinction, holding their ground and the gate for 14 hours despite heavy hand-to-hand fighting and under constant bombardment from General Brigonne's field artillery. After withstanding repeated attacks, Major O'Reilly eventually negotiated a favorable surrender when reinforcements had become unlikely.

http://www.thewildgeese.com/pages/popeirb2.html

For their service, each officer and enlisted man was awarded a commemorative service medal—Medaglia di Pro Petri Sede— [above] and all those who fought were declared ‘meritorious of the Catholic Church, the Holy See and all human society’.