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Sunday, 22 January 2017

22 January 1902: The death of Queen Victoria on this day. She died at her Royal home at Osborne on the Isle of White, England. Her playboy son, Edward The Prince of Wales, Earl of Dublin etc, succeeded her as King Edward VII.

Her relation with Ireland was always problematical. She became known as the ‘The Famine Queen’ after the disastrous events of 1845-1849 and during which she appeared so detached from the terrible sufferings of so many of her ‘Subjects’. She donated the miserly sum of just £2,000 towards Relief out of her ample personal Fortune. Queen Victoria visited Ireland three times in the early part of her reign: firstly in 1849 during the Great Famine; again in 1853 when she attended the Exhibition of Art and Art Industry at Leinster Lawn, Dublin, and the third time in 1861 when the royal family stayed at Killarney. It was to be 39 years before she returned again to visit this part her Realm!

Her last visit in April 1900 was a three week affair and generally considered a success. On each of these visits she was greeted with great enthusiasm by large crowds of well wishers as well as idle curiosity seekers. However it would seem there was a direct correlation between those who welcomed her presence and those who held political and social power in this Country at the time. The Ascendancy, the Gentry, the Protestant Churches and the followers of those denominations were the most enthusiastic. Amongst the Catholics of Ireland her reception was more lukewarm but not actively hostile either, at least at a personal level. The ‘Castle Catholics’ and certain sections of the Hierarchy were eager to ingratiate themselves but most kept their distance or were there for appearances only.

While she had affection for the Irish People as individuals she never seemed able to comprehend Ireland’s desire to manage her own affairs. Though reasonably tolerant in religious matters she was a reactionary in politics, viewing for instance the members of the Irish Parliamentary Party as ‘low disreputable men, who were elected by order of Parnell.’ As regards the Repeal of the Union she opposed it on the grounds that to countenance it would be repugnant to her Coronation Oath.

Her death was greeted in Ireland with regret by some but indifference by most. The Victorian Era was not one in which Ireland’s lot had improved but if anything declined - while there was no doubt that the converse had happened in her Other Island.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

21‭ ‬January‭ ‬1919:‭ ‬The Declaration of Irish Independence on this day.‭ ‬The first meeting of‭ ‬Dáil Éireann‭ ‬was held in Dublin to bring together all the T.D.s still at liberty to attend.‭ ‬Assembling in the Round Room of the Mansion House,‭ ‬those members elected the previous month in the General Election and not held prisoners by the British or on the run unanimously voted in favour of the Independence of Ireland.‭

Of the‭ ‬73‭ ‬Sinn Féin MPs elected only‭ ‬27‭ ‬TDs present,‭ ‬36‭ ‬were‭ “‬Fé‭ ‬ghlas an Gallaibh‭” (prisoner of the Foreigner) ‬including Eamon De Valera and Arthur Griffith.  

The Declaration was as follows:

Whereas the Irish people is by right a free people:‭ ‬And Whereas for seven hundred years the Irish people has never ceased to repudiate and has repeatedly protested in arms against foreign usurpation:‭ ‬And Whereas English rule in this country is,‭ ‬and always has been,‭ ‬based upon force and fraud and maintained by military occupation against the declared will of the people:‭ ‬And Whereas the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Dublin on Easter Monday,‭ ‬1916,‭ ‬by the Irish Republican Army acting on behalf of the Irish people:‭ ‬And Whereas the Irish people is resolved to secure and maintain its complete independence in order to promote the common weal,‭ ‬to re-establish justice,‭ ‬to provide for future defence,‭ ‬to insure peace at home and goodwill with all nations and to constitute a national polity based upon the people's will with equal right and equal opportunity for every citizen:

And Whereas at the threshold of a new era in history the Irish electorate has in the General Election of December,‭ ‬1918,‭ ‬seized the first occasion to declare by an overwhelming majority its firm allegiance to the Irish Republic:‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬therefore,‭ ‬we,‭ ‬the elected Representatives of the ancient Irish people in National Parliament assembled,‭ ‬do,‭ ‬in the name of the Irish nation,‭ ‬ratify the establishment of the Irish Republic and pledge curselves and our people to make this declaration effective by every means at our command:‭ ‬We ordain that the elected Representatives of the Irish people alone have power to make laws binding on the people of Ireland,‭ ‬and that the Irish Parliament is the only Parliament to which that people will give its allegiance:‭ ‬We solemnly declare foreign government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate,‭ ‬and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison.

We claim for our national independence the recognition and support of every free nation in the world,‭ ‬and we proclaim that independence to be a condition precedent to international peace hereafter:‭ ‬In the name of the Irish people we humbly commit our destiny to Almighty God who gave our fathers the courage and determination to persevere through long centuries of a ruthless tyranny,‭ ‬and strong in the justice of the cause which they have handed down to us,‭ ‬we ask His divine blessing on this the last stage of the struggle we have pledged ourselves to carry through to Freedom.

A‭ ‬Ministry pro tempore‭ ‬[Temporary Cabinet‭]‬ was then selected to run the Country for the time being and attempt to bring effect to the Independence of Ireland so proclaimed:‭
Cathal Brugha was the First President,‭ ‬Professor Eoin MacNeill was Minister of Finance,‭ ‬Michael Collins of Home Affairs,‭ ‬George Noble Count Plunkett of Foreign Affairs and Richard Mulcahy‭  ‬in charge of National Defence.‭

On the same day 21‭ ‬January‭ ‬1919: ‬Dan Breen and Sean Treacy of the IRA carried out an ambush on an RIC escort at Soloheadbeag,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Tipperary.‭ ‬They were members of the South Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers‭ (‬IRA‭)‬.‭ ‬The cart the RIC were escorting was carrying gelignite for a quarry in the Soloheadbeag area‭ (‬about four miles from Tipperary Town and about one mile from Limerick Junction‭)‬.  In the ambush,‭ ‬the two RIC men,‭ ‬guarding the consignment,‭ ‬Constables James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell,‭ ‬were shot dead. It was the start of the Irish War for Independence.

Friday, 20 January 2017

20‭ ‬January‭ ‬1973:‭ ‬A Loyalist no warning bomb went off in Sackville Place Dublin on this day.‭ ‬The bomb killed a bus conductor and injured‭ ‬17‭ ‬other people.‭ ‬It exploded at‭ ‬3.20‭ ‬pm on a Saturday afternoon,‭ ‬as Ireland were playing the All-Blacks Rugby team at Lansdowne Road.‭ ‬The man killed was Thomas Douglas‭ (‬21‭)‬,‭ ‬originally from Stirling,‭ ‬Scotland.‭ ‬He had been living in Dublin for just four months.‭ ‬His mother was a native of Achill Island,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Mayo.

The car used in the bombing had been hijacked at Agnes Street,‭ ‬Belfast.‭ ‬While no organisation claimed responsibility for this attack it was generally accepted that a Loyalist gang carried it out.‭ ‬The location of the explosion was almost at the same spot of a bomb the previous month,‭ ‬which killed two other members of Dublin’s bus service.‭ ‬A man with an English accent telephoned a warning to the main telephone exchange stating that a bomb would explode on O'Connell Bridge.‭ ‬But the warning given was ten minutes before the actual explosion and the Gardaí concluded afterwards that it was a diversionary tactic.‭

The car, a Vauxhall Victor, which had been hired, was hijacked from its hirer that morning at Agnes Street, off the Shankill Road in Belfast. The driver was reported to have been held until shortly after 3 pm, about the time the bomb exploded. In almost all the details, the hijacking of the car that exploded in South Leinster Street, Dublin on 17th May 1974, resembled this earlier hijacking. There was a report that the car had been seen passing through Drogheda at about midday. However, many Northern registered cars were travelling south that day on their way to the rugby international.

‭No one was ever caught for this crime but it followed a pattern of attacks on Dublin which bore the hallmarks of operators acting in the pay of agents of another State - ie Britain. But ‘deniability’ was the modus operandi of this operation  and to this day the identities and whereabouts of the perpetrators are unknown - as is who it was who sent them here.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

18‭ ‬January‭ ‬1978:‭ ‬Britain was found Guilty by the European Court of Human Rights of the inhuman and degrading treatment of internees on this day under Article‭ ‬3‭ ‬of the European Convention on Human Rights.‭ ‬This decision was reached after a submission to the Court by the Irish Government of the day that Britain had tortured prisoners taken at the time Internment was introduced in August‭ ‬1971.‭ ‬While many men so taken were roughed up and indeed beaten one particular group was singled out for particularly harsh treatment.‭

The British had learnt from their contacts behind the Iron Curtain that robust and brutal interrogation methods if applied in a specific and methodological way could prove effective in breaking a prisoner into confessing.‭ ‬It was decided that when Internment was brought in that a select group of Internees would be used as‭ ‘‬Guinea Pigs’ to see if it was possible to gain information otherwise not forthcoming through other ways of interrogation.‭ 

More than 1,000 people would be interned, but just 14 men would be brought to the secret compound in Ballykelly, Co Derry. They did not see it, for they were hooded, and they did not know for many years where they had been.

Their names were Jim Auld, Pat Shivers, Joe Clarke, Michael Donnelly, Kevin Hannaway, Paddy Joe McLean, Francie McGuigan, Patrick McNally, Sean McKenna, Gerry McKerr, Michael Montgomery, Davy Rodgers, Liam Shannon and Brian Turley.

The methods used were:

In depth interrogation with the use of hooding,‭ ‬white noise,‭ ‬sleep deprivation,‭ ‬prolonged enforced physical exercise together with a diet of bread and water.‭

Deceiving detainees into believing that they were to be thrown from highflying helicopters.‭ ‬In reality the blindfolded detainees were thrown from a helicopter that hovered approximately‭ ‬4‭ ‬feet above the ground.‭

Forcing detainees to run an obstacle course over broken glass and rough ground whilst being beaten.‭

They had been secretly moved from the internment clearing centres to a destination unknown to them and held for seven days.‭ ‬They had hoods on their heads throughout,‭ ‬and had no idea where they were.‭ ‬They were continually beaten throughout the time they were being subjected to this.‭ ‬Many of the men subjected to such an ordeal never fully recovered from their experience.‭ ‬Eventually word got out as to what was afoot and Ted Heath,‭ ‬the British Prime Minister had no alternative but to tell his Intelligence Services to back off as a Public Outcry gathered apace.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

17 January 1861: Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld died on this day. But to the World in which she lived she was universally known as ‘Lola Montez’ - dancer and courtesan and companion of the rich and famous in India, Europe, America and Australia.

Her life began as the daughter of a British Officer in Ireland circa 1820. She claimed to be from County Limerick but her birth cert says she was born in County Sligo in 1821. She was baptized at St Peter's Church in Liverpool on 16 February 1823, while her family was enroute to her father's post in India. Shortly after their arrival in India, Edward Gilbert died of cholera.

 Her mother married again and it was decided that Eliza would be sent to boarding school in England. She attended a series of educational establishments in England for young ladies but while intelligent it was noticed that Miss Eliza was a very wilful young woman with a mind of her own. On one occasion, she stuck flowers into the wig of an elderly man during a church service; on another, she ran through the streets naked...or so Legend has it.

In 1837, 16-year-old Eliza eloped with Lieutenant Thomas James, and they married. The couple separated five years later. In Calcutta and she became a professional dancer under a stage name. This is where her career as a Sex Symbol really took off and made her name. She returned to London to continue her stage career and had affairs with numerous men of wealth and talent. She appears to have spent some months in Spain to master the arts of that Country’s  dancing technique. On return she passed herself off as ‘Lola Montez -Spanish Dancer’. After performing in various European capitals, she settled in Paris, where she was accepted in the rather Bohemian literary society of the time, being acquainted with Alexandre Dumas with whom she was rumoured to have had a dalliance. She is said to have also had an affair with the famous pianist/composer Franz Liszt.

Her really big break came in 1846 when King Ludwig of Bavaria - who had an eye for the Ladies-  fell for her. Today I saw Lola Montez dance. I am bewitched. In this Spanish woman [SIC] alone have I found love and life! (Ludwig's letters). The rumour was, at the time they met, Ludwig had asked her in public if her bosom was real, to which her response was to tear off enough of her garments to prove that it was.

Her arrogant and temperamental ways made her unpopular with the locals but the King was madly in love with her and made her Countess of Landsfeld on his next birthday, 25 August 1847. Along with her title, he granted her a large annuity. But in early 1848 a series of Revolutions began to sweep across Europe and Ludwig was overthrown. Lola was nearly lynched but she kept her demeanour  before the mob and sailed through them with her head held high. Her aplomb probably saved her life and she made it out of Bavaria alive but penniless.

She returned to London via Switzerland and then another marriage to a wealthy British Army officer George Heald. The Healds resided for a time in France and Spain, but within two years, the tempestuous relationship was in tatters, and George reportedly drowned. She then set off to seek her Fortune in the USA.

From 1851 to 1853, she performed as a dancer and actress in the eastern United States, one of her offerings being a play called Lola Montez in Bavaria. In May 1853, she arrived at San Francisco. Her performances there created a sensation. She married Patrick Hull, a local newspaperman, in July but her marriage soon failed; a doctor named as co-respondent in the divorce suit brought against her was shortly after murdered.

Next came Australia which took by Storm - basically by upping her act into even more erotic gyrations on the stage.
‘In September 1855 she performed her erotic Spider Dance at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne, raising her skirts so high that the audience could see she wore no underclothing at all. Next day, The Argus thundered that her performance was 'utterly subversive to all ideas of public morality'. Respectable families ceased to attend the theatre, which began to show heavy losses.'
Michael Cannon, Melbourne After the Gold Rush

But her life on the road and in various beds began to catch up with her. She began to noticeably age and decided to try her luck once again in America. She went back there in 1856 but her best days were behind her.

However  in the late 1850's she returned on a triumphant tour to Ireland with a lecture at Dublin's Rotundo Rooms (now the Ambassador). The announcement of her Dublin lecture created a degree of interest unparalleled. The platform was regularly thronged by admirers giving Madame Montez barely space to stand.

She then returned back to New York where she spent her time helping fallen women and regretting her own fall from grace:

How many years of my life had been sacrificed to Satan and my own love of sin! I dare not think of the past. I have only lived for my passions. What would I not give to have my terrible experience given as an awful warning to such natures as my own!

In November 1859, the Philadelphia Express reported that Lola Montez was

"living very quietly up town, and doesn't have much to do with the world's people. Some of her old friends, the Bohemians, now and then drop in to have a little chat with her, and though she talks beautifully of her present feelings and way of life, she generally, by way of parenthesis, takes out her little tobacco pouch and makes a cigarette or two for self and friend, and then falls back upon old times with decided gusto and effect. But she doesn't tell anybody what she's going to do."

By then she was showing the effects of possibly syphilis and her body began to waste away. She died at the age of 39 on 17 January 1861. She is buried in Green Wood Cemetery in New York City where her tombstone states: Mrs. Eliza Gilbert / Died 17 January 1861.

Her name has featured in many novels and biographies and Lola Montez has two lakes (an upper and lower) named after her in the Tahoe National Forest USA. There is also a mountain named in her honour, Mount Lola. At 9,148 feet, it is the highest point in Nevada County, California.

Monday, 16 January 2017

16‭ ‬January‭ ‬1939:‭ ‬The Irish Republican Army,‭ ‬led by Sean Russell,‭ ‬declared War on Britain on this day.‭ ‬Russell had already sent a formal letter of intent to the British Prime Minister,‭ ‬Neville Chamberlain stating that:

I have the honour to inform you that the government of the Irish Republic,‭ ‬having as its first duty towards the people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order,‭ ‬herewith demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland.

The IRA man had given the British Leader‭ ‬96‭ ‬hours to reply before the DOW would take effect.

Copies were also dispatched to Adolf Hitler,‭ ‬Benito Mussolini and Lord Brookborough in the North.‭ ‬Soon afterwards IRA bombs started to go off in England and eventually about‭ ‬200‭ ‬devices exploded causing limited material damage,‭ ‬many injuries and a few deaths.‭ ‬The worst such incident occurred in the City of Coventry in August‭ ‬1939‭ ‬when seven innocent people were killed and nearly a‭ ‬100‭ ‬injured in a no warning attack.‭

The Bombing Campaign though eventually petered out.‭ ‬The IRA never really had  sufficient numbers of Volunteers nor enough trained personnel to conduct a sustained campaign in Britain to other than annoy the British.‭ ‬Nothing they could realistically achieve would have made them change their minds over their presence in Ireland.‭

Ironically when Britain declared War on Germany in September‭ ‬1939‭ ‬the Ultimatum presented by Neville Chamberlain to the German Chancellor bore more than a few passing echoes to the one Sean Russell had sent to the very same British Prime Minister at the beginning of that fateful year.‭ ‬At least Russell had given Britain‭ ‬96‭ ‬hours grace to end their Occupation but Chamberlain had in effect given Hitler less than‭ ‬48‭ ‬hours in which to end his one‭!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Image result for eleanor hull

15 January 1860: The birth of Eleanor Hull, historian and translator on this day. She was born in England to a family from Co Down. The biography of her early life is somewhat sketchy but at some stage she or her family must have moved to Dublin where she attended what was then one of the most prestigious girls schools in the Country - Alexandra College. It was perhaps there that her interest in ancient Irish manuscripts & the Gaelic Language  took hold?

We know that at the inaugural general meeting of the Irish Texts Society on 26 April 1898 which was held at the rooms of the ILS in London. Douglas Hyde was unanimously elected president, and Frederick York Powell chairman of the executive council.
Norma Borthwick and Eleanor Hull were appointed honorary secretaries and R.A.S. Macalister became honorary treasurer.
The other members of the executive council included Goddard Orpen, Alfred Nutt, Thomas Flannery, J.G. O’Keeffe, Daniel Mescal, G.A. Greene and M. O’Sullivan. Eight vice-presidents were elected and the consultative council included many of the most distinguished scholars in the field of Celtic studies.

She certainly was a prolific writer on early Irish History and Legends:
Her published works include:
  • The Cuchulain Saga in Irish Literature (1898)
  • Pagan Ireland (Dublin, 1904 & 1923)
  • Early Christian Ireland
  • A Text Book of Irish Literature (2 volumes) (1906)
  • The Poem-Book of the Gael (London, 1912)
  • The Northmen in Britain (New York, 1913)
  • Folklore of the British Isles (1929)
  • A History of Ireland and her People (2 volumes) (1926)
The last of these being probably the one that has stood the test of time. Indeed it is a work (thanks to the wonders of the Internet) that I regularly consult for articles on this site:

She died in Wimbledon  England on 13 January 1935, two days shy of her 75th birthday.