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Monday, 20 October 2014


21 October 1803: Thomas Russell, United Irishman, ‘the man from God knows where’, was hanged outside Downpatrick Jail, Co Down on this day. He had been captured in Dublin as he tried to organise a rescue of Robert Emmet. A former British Officer he resigned his Commission in the wake of the French Revolution. Russell was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement in Ireland for over a decade and had spent a number of years in prison for his beliefs.

He was a great friend of Wolfe Tone who he had first met in the visitors gallery in Ireland's House of Commons in the year 1790. He was a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen that aimed to secure Civil & Political Liberties for the Irish People.

In 1795 Russell, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cave Hill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath:

"never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence"

In 1796 he was arrested and held without Trial until 1802 when England and France signed the brief Peace of Amiens. He was released on condition he went into Exile. He made his way to Paris where he met Emmet and he agreed to try and raise the North. He returned from exile in France specifically to help stir the North into Revolt in conjunction with Emmet’s Rising in Dublin, but he found that the spirit of ’98 was no longer there.

After Emmet's abortive Rising in Dublin he went on the run but after weeks in hiding he was caught and sent back to the North to be put on trial. He was sentenced to death for his part in the attempt to overthrow the Ascendency and was hanged at Downpatrick alongside other conspirators who had joined him in the enterprise.

His brave death was the subject of a famous ballad by Florence Wilson that ends with the death of Russell on the gallows:

For the man that they hanged at Downpatrick Jail

Was the Man from God-knows-where!

Sunday, 19 October 2014


20 October 1892 - General Eoin O’Duffy was born on this day near Castleblaney Co Monaghan. He was the 2nd Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. O’Duffy first came to local prominence in the G.A.A. and afterwards as a senior figure in the IRA during the War of Independence, taking part in the capture of Ballytrain RIC Barracks in 1920. He was elected a TD and after the Truce was sent to Belfast to organise the local defenses there against attacks by Loyalists. He supported the Treaty and was appointed a General in the Free State Army. He directed operations in the Limerick area with some success.

After the Civil War ended he was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and by all accounts did an excellent job of turning out a first rate force on a shoestring budget. However when De Valera came to power he lost favour, partially over his record in the Civil War and partly due to his obstreperous nature – especially when dealing with politicians!

He was sacked and became embroiled in party politics as a Leader the Army Comrades Association aka ‘the Blueshirts’ and then Fine Gael. His antics as a political leader lowered his esteem in the eyes of many and eventually his Blueshirt movement fizzled out and he parted company with F.G. He led a small expeditionary force to Spain to fight alongside the Fascists there but after a few minor skirmishes the group returned home and disbanded. O’Duffy died in 1944, a broken man living in lonely isolation, though for his past services De Valera granted him a State Funeral.

Friday, 17 October 2014



17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien the Nationalist politician and Young Irelander, was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.

That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.

There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]

Thursday, 16 October 2014


16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.

The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.

Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing. In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.

There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [above] directly across the road from where No 1 Merrion Square where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where he is buried.

A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.

Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


15 October 878 AD: A Lunar Eclipse was observed in Ireland on this day. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon.

Retrospective astronomical observations confirm what the monks witnessed: A lunar eclipse at 3:53 am on the 15 October 878. The moon was just fully immersed in the umbra and 15 October that year did indeed fall on a Wednesday – the fourth day (feria) of the week.

There was a lunar eclipse on the Ides [15th] of October,

the fourteenth of the moon,

on the fourth feria about the third watch.

Annals of Ulster 878 AD

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


14 October 1318 : The Battle of Faughart, also known as the Battle of Dundalk, was fought on this day. It was between an Anglo-Irish force led by John of Birmingham and Edmund Butler, and a Scots-Irish army commanded by Edward Bruce, claimant to the Crown of Ireland and brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Edward was killed in the battle. The defeat and death of Edward de Bruce at the battle ended the attempt to revive an independent Kingdom of Ireland. It also ended the attempt of King Robert of Scotland to open up a second front against the English in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.

Edward had invaded Ireland with an Army of 6,000 men in May 1315 and initially swept all before him. But his arrival here coincided with the start of a Great Famine that swept Europe that was caused by devastating climatic change. That and the cruelties his followers inflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike won him few converts outside of Ulster. Like Hannibal of old he could win battles and sweep the land, but he could not take the city of Dublin – the Capital of Ireland.

By 1318 his position was desperate as he saw his ambition to be King of Ireland in his own right slip away. He decided on a desperate gamble - to give battle before reinforcements could arrive from Scotland and thus lessen his own glory. Thus the two armies met at Faughart, on rising ground just north of Dundalk. Bruce had placed the few Gaelic forces that stayed with him at the rear. He divided his army into three divisions. This disposition proved disastrous, as the divisions proved to be easy targets for deBirmingham’s forces who simply destroyed them as they met and engaged with them. They were too far away from each other to provide any support to each other.

The English 'Chronicle of Lanercost' recorded:

The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland.

At the beginning of the battle, Edward Bruce refused to wear the sur-coat bearing his coat of arms. This was worn by his man-servant Gib Harper, who fought beside his master. Both master and servant were killed by an English soldier called John Maupas, but not before Maupas himself had sustained a fatal sword thrust. All three were found together after the battle in which many Scottish nobles who had followed Bruce since the beginning of the campaign, were also killed.

After Edward's death his body was quartered and his limbs sent to various places in Ireland, with his head being delivered to Edward II, the King of England. Tradition holds that his torso was then buried in nearby graveyard [above].

His defeat and destruction at Faughart was as unexpected as it was sudden but the termination of this terrible war was greeted with relief as it brought to an end a bleak and dark chapter in Ireland’s History.

Edward Bruce, the destroyer of all Erinn in general,

both Foreigners and Gaeidhel, was slain by the Foreigners

of Erinn, and …

no better deed for the men of all Erinn was performed
since the beginning of the world, since the Fomorian
race was expelled from Erinn, than this deed
 
for theft and famine, and destruction of men occurred throughout
Erinn during his time
 
For the space of three years and a half
and people used to eat one another, without doubt
throughout Erinn.
Annals of Loch Cé 1318 AD

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


7 October 1921: Eamon de Valera, the President of Ireland issued secret instructions to the plenepotentaries about to depart to London on this day. They were to begin negotiations with the British Government to secure a Treaty that would give recognition to Ireland’s claim to be an independent Nation.





They were as follows:



(1) The Plenipotentiaries have full powers as defined in their credentials.

 
(2) It is understood however that before decisions are finally reached on the main questions that a despatch notifying the intention of making these decisions will be sent to the Members of the Cabinet in Dublin and that a reply will be awaited by the Plenipotentiaries before the final decision is made.

(3) It is also understood that the complete text of the draft treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin and reply awaited.

(4) In case of break the text of final proposals from our side will be similarly submitted.

(5) It is understood that the Cabinet in Dublin will be kept regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations

 

De Valera was concerned that the meeting of the inexperienced Irish delegates with some of the most astute and clever minds in British politics would leave the Irish wrong footed and he wanted to ensure that any deal would have his Imprimatur on it before it was signed.

 
And indeed when the Treaty was signed in December of that year he was not happy with the result that gave the Irish Free State the status of a British Dominion rather than all of Ireland becoming an independent Republic.