Friday, 21 January 2022


21‭ ‬January 1919: Sean Treacy & Dan Breen 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.

We expected there would be an escort of about six armed police and we had the full intention not alone of taking the gelignite they were escorting but also of shooting down the escort, as an assertion of the national right to deny the free passage of an armed enemy.

The moral aspect of such a decision has been talked about since and we have been branded as murderers, both by the enemy and even by some of our own people, but I want it to be understood that the pros and cons were thoroughly weighed up in discussion between Treacy and myself and, to put it in a nutshell, we felt that we were merely continuing the active war for the establishment of an Irish Republic that had begun on Easter Monday 1916.


 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...

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.

Thursday, 20 January 2022


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 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 ‘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.

* Ireland v's the All Blacks

Wednesday, 19 January 2022


19 January 1787: Mother Mary Frances Aikenhead was born  on this day at Daunt's Square off Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland. She was a frail child and was adopted out in her native city of Cork to a woman called Mary Rourke. Though baptised into the Church of Ireland it is thought that Mary was secretly baptised a Catholic from this early age by Mary Rourke who was a devout Catholic. However she was not formally received into the Catholic Faith until she was 15 years old on 6 June 1802. From an early age she was a devout disposition and wished to pursue a religious Life. 

In 1808, Mary went to stay with her friend Anne O’Brien in Dublin. Here she witnessed widespread unemployment and poverty and soon began to accompany her friend in visiting the poor and sick in their homes. From this experience she believed it would be her vocation to help the sick and the poor as a member of a religious Community. She trained for 3 years (1812-1815) in a convent in York, England in order to become a Nun. When she returned to Dublin she set up the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland. 

On 1 September 1815, the first members of the new institute took their vows, Sister Mary Augustine being appointed Superior General. Added to the traditional three vows of poverty chastity & obedience, was a fourth vow: to devote their lives to the service of the poor. For the next 15 years Mother Mary worked very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the less well-off but it took a terrible toll on her own Health.

During the Great Cholera Epidemic that swept across Europe from Asia and into Ireland in the year 1832 she organised Relief for the victims who were rendered helpless by this crippling waterborne parasite. 

Following a request from the Archbishop of Dublin Daniel Murray, a group of women known as the "Walking Nuns" entered the hospital to care for those who were sick and dying.

The women took a huge risk to undertake this task. They worked four-hour shifts, four people at a time. They washed, cleaned, fed, and offered emotional and spiritual support to those who were sick or dying. When they left the hospital, they washed both themselves and their clothes in lime and water thus reducing and even eliminating the risk of contagion. Only one of these ladies contracted the disease from which she recovered and none died. The "Walking Nuns" were some of the original sisters who followed the vision of Mary Aikenhead and who are now known as the Irish Sisters of Charity. The order work in the area to this day. 

Following the experiences of the sisters in Grangegorman, and realising the importance of nursing, Aikenhead sent three sisters to Paris to the Hospice de la Pitie to be trained in nursing and hospital management. By the time they returned, Aikenhead had secured £3,000 and opened St. Vincent's Hospital on St Stephen’s Green fulfilling her wish to have a hospital for the poor of Dublin.

Fr Alan Hilliard 

How Dublin dealt with the 19th century cholera epidemic (

The site for the new hospital was to be the Earl of Meath’s House, 56 St. Stephen’s Green which was purchased on behalf of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters then took  formal possession of house. & J.M O’Ferrall was appointed first physician. In April 1835 it opened with a ward for 12 female patients.

However she did not let her own personal misfortune get her down:

“Low spirits and dreads of evil to ourselves or Congregation, or even to the church, are actually the beginnings of despair. If all the rest of the world goes wrong, we should still persevere in trying to serve our God with faith and fervour.” (7 November 1834)

Confined to bed or a wheelchair she continued to direct her charges and set up new institutions both at home and abroad. Her Sisters were particularly active during the great Cholera outbreak in 1832. She died in Dublin, aged 71 on 22 July 1858 in Our Lady’s Mount Harold’s Cross and was buried in in the cemetery attached to St. Mary Magdalen's, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.


19 January 1785: The first ascent by an Irishman Richard Crosbie in a hot air balloon on this day. He was the 1st native of either Britain or Ireland to do so. The sensation took place from Ranelagh Gardens Co. Dublin . He hailed from Baltinglass Co Wicklow and had long harboured ambitions to go aloft.

He was born in Co. Wicklow in 1755 and was the son of Sir Paul Crosbie. He received a good education, and developed an exceptional mechanical ability at an early age. He was described as "a stately gentleman of six foot three inches tall with a fat ruddy face and possessed a smattering of all sciences and there was scarcely an art or trade of which he had not some practical knowledge. His chambers at College were like a general workshop of all kinds of artizans. He was very good-tempered, exceedingly strong and as brave as a lion, but as dogged as a mule, and nothing could change a resolution of his when once made". 

Late in 1784, Crosbie exhibited his "Aeronautic Chariot" at an exhibition at Ranelagh Gardens in Dublin. Made of wood covered with cloth, designed and built by himself, the Chariot resembled a boat, with rudder and sails, intended to enable navigation in the air, reducing reliance on wind direction... The balloon and chariot were beautifully painted with the arms of Ireland supported by Minerva and Mercury, and with emblematic figures of the wind. Crosbie's aerial dress "consisted of a robe of oiled silk, lined with white fur, his waistcoat and breeches in one, of white satin quilted, and morocco boots, and a montero cap of leopard skin"

Larry Walsh The Old Limerick Journal 

He appears to have had some very influential people to oversee his attempt for in the Annual Register it states: The Duke of Leinster & Lord Charlemont attended with white staves as regulators of the business of the day.

A Compendium of Irish Biography Alfred Webb

It is said that some 25 to 30,000 citizens were present to witness his attempt to conquer the skies and to try and float himself above the waves to reach the neighbouring island of Britain. Whether that was his real intention is debatable as he only cut the rope and ascended at around 2.30pm and he could not have hoped to reach the coast of Britain before darkness fell on a short Winter’s day. In the event he put discretion ahead of foolhardiness and descended to land in the sloblands off the North Strand on the other side of the Metropolis. 

He tried to reach Britain from Dublin again in July but had to ditch in the Irish Sea and was rescued by an accompanying barge. He again went aloft from Limerick City in April 1786 but this seemed to have been the last of his adventures up above and he faded away from the Records of the time after this. He had ploughed a considerable sum of funds into building these aeronautical wonders and as this was mostly raised by private subscription it is probable that once the novelty had worn off that not enough subscribers were subsequently forthcoming to make it worth his while to sustain the effort. He was married with a son & a daughter and presumably his mind became focused on more down to earth pursuits to provide for his family. 

The date of his death is usually given as c.1800, but Maurice Lenihan's History of Limerick, 1866, records his death in 1824:

May 30th. - Died in Dublin, Richard E. Crosbie, Esq., aged 68 years; the first who ascended in a balloon at Dublin or any where else. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022


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.

The victims of these interrogation methods became known as ‘The Hooded Men’.

In December 2021 ‬the UK Supreme Court recognised that the14 men held without charge in in 1971 were tortured.

Monday, 17 January 2022


17 January 1972: In a dramatic escape seven internees on the Maidstone ship in Belfast harbour swam to Freedom on this day. The men were Seamus Convery, Tom Gorman, James Bryson, Thomas Toland, Thomas Kane, Peter Rodgers and Martin Taylor. They had planned their escape well in advance and the internees had saved their butter rations for weeks so that the men would be able to smear their bodies in a protective cover before they took to the icy waters of Belfast Lough. They also applied black boot polish to themselves for further protection.

 Approximately 850 people were present on the ship at any one time, consisting of around 700 British military personnel and 150 prisoners, including Provisional and Official IRA members and some others that were not involved with either group.

Straight after the delayed afternoon roll call they cut a bar on a porthole, slid down the hawser and swam in single file to the docks about 600 yards away. Meanwhile up above their comrades struck up a ‘Skiffle Group’ to cover any sounds they would make hitting the water. Overheard the British searchlights from the ship swept the darkened surface of the Lough but spotted nothing.

Up to this point everything had gone according to plan but on reaching dry land they realised that they had landed adrift of where their would be rescuers should have been waiting for them. Dripping wet and ice cold and dressed only in shorts and socks they eventually managed to gain control of a bus and by a stroke of fortune one of the group had been a bus driver in Belfast some years before. They made off down into Anderstown and into a local pub where immediately they were offered help. Fully clothed and in a car given to them by one of the clientele they then set off to safe house.

Within days they were in Dublin and by their audacious and daring action they gave the IRA a major publicity coup that severely embarrassed the British Government.