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Tuesday, 21 August 2018



21‭ August 1879: The Apparition of Knock on this day. A number of witnesses of various ages reported that they had seen the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist appear on the wall of Knock Church. As a result Knock became a major centre of Pilgrimage.

On a wet Thursday evening,‭ ‬21st August 1879, at about 8 o'clock, a heavenly vision appeared at the south gable of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Knock, Co. Mayo. Fifteen people - men, women and children - ranging in age from six years to seventy-five, watched the Apparition in pouring rain for two hours, reciting the rosary. Though they themselves were soaked, no rain fell in the direction of the church gable, where the ground remained perfectly dry.

Our Lady wore a large white cloak,‭ ‬fastened at the neck. Her hands and eyes were raised towards heaven, in a posture of prayer. On her head was a brilliant crown and where the crown fitted the brow, was a beautiful rose. On her right was St Joseph, head bowed and turned slightly towards her as if paying her his respects. He wore white robes. On our Lady's left was St John the Evangelist, dressed as a bishop, with a book in his left hand and right hand raised as if preaching. His robes were also white. Beside the figures and a little to the right in the centre of the gable was a large plain altar. On the altar stood a lamb, facing the West and behind the lamb a large cross stood upright. Angels hovered around the lamb for the duration of the Apparition.
http://www.knock-shrine.com/apparition_at_knock.htm

Most Rev.‭ ‬Dr. John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam, only six weeks after the Apparition, set up a Commission of Enquiry. Fifteen witnesses were examined and the Commission reported that the testimony of all taken as a whole, were trustworthy and satisfactory.

There was a‭ 2nd Commission of enquiry in 1936 when, Mary Byrne, one of the last surviving witnesses, was interviewed.  ‬

The commissioners interviewed her in her bedroom,‭ ‬as she was too ill to leave. She gave her final testimony and concluded with the words:
'I am clear about everything I have said and I make this statement knowing I am going before my God‭'‬ 
She died six weeks later.




Monday, 20 August 2018


20 August 1845: Phytophthora infestans, a fungal infection that rots the tubers of potatoes, was recorded in Ireland on this day. David Moore, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin noted that leaves of some of the potato plants in the institution were showing signs of blight. His was the first known scientific observation in Ireland of this fungus.

Phytophthora infestans (pronounced fy-TOF-thor-uh in-FEST-ans) is a rather common pathogen of potatoes wherever they are grown, but it is usually not a problem unless the weather is unusually cool and wet. The water is necessary for the spores to swim to infect the leaves of the potatoes; the tubers and roots of the potato are more resistant to the pathogen. The name, meaning "infesting plant destroyer" is especially appropriate, because under the right conditions and with the correct susceptibility genes in the host, Phytophthora can kill off a field of potatoes in just a few days! 

Phytophthora infestans is so virulent in wet weather because it produces enormous numbers of swimming spores called zoospores in zoosporangia. The zoosporangia crack open and release dozens of zoospores. These zoospores have two flagella; a whiplash flagellum faces the back and pushes the spore through the water and a tinsel flagellum points forward and pulls the spores through the water.
http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/m2001alt.html

From such mundane sequences in the life of a fungi did the fate of a People hang in the late summer of 1845. Within weeks the Blight had swept the land and millions of Irish men women and children knew that at least a year of hardship lay ahead of them. In fact the Blight was to come back each year until 1849 and in its wake leave at least a Million dead from starvation and disease and another Million forced to flee their Homeland.



Sunday, 19 August 2018


19‭ ‬August 1504: The battle of Knockdoe/Cnoc Tuagh (the Hill of Axes) was fought on this day. This battle was the greatest clash of arms seen in Ireland in hundreds of years. It took place around Knockdoe, a hillock about eight miles north east of Galway city. The combatants were the forces under Garret Fitzgerald, the Great Earl of Kildare and his rival Ulick Burke of Clanrickard. 

Despite a somewhat uncertain relationship the Great Earl was King Henry VII’s man in Ireland.‭ ‬He was charged with ensuring that no other than himself should dictate the state of the King's affairs in this Country. Something of a poacher turned gamekeeper the Great Earl would brook no rivals. Ulick Burke had thrown down the gauntlet however by seizing three castles belonging to the O’Kellys of south Galway and also taking under his control the Royal city of Galway. Ironically Ulick was also Garret’s son in law! While not a certainty he seems to have fallen out with his wife Eustacia and she had returned to be under her fathers roof. The O’Kellys also appealed to him for the restitution of their fortresses. 

He decided to lead an Army to the West and settle the issue through battle.‭ He led a formidable force with him, perhaps as many as 6,000 warriors and many of them the iron clad Gallowglass who dominated the battlefields of Ireland in the latter Middle Ages. To oppose him Ulick gathered a similar type of force but he could not match the Great Earls resources or network of connections. He had maybe about 4,000 men in the field on the day of battle. The Great Earl mustered forces from Leinster and Ulster with some Connacht allies too. Burkes’ own force was comprised of his retinue from south Galway, and his allies from northwest Munster. To the Gaels it seemed that the great wars between the provincial kings of old in the days before the English arrived had returned. But to Garret it was more like a version of a suppression of a rebellion against Royal authority that the King of England might engage upon across the water. In truth there was a mixture of both these analogies in what happened.

In the event Garret Fitzgerald beat his opponent decisively and retook Galway from Ulick Burke.‭ The battle though was bloody and hard fought – ‘a dour struggle’. Essentially an infantry battle both sides hacked and slashed at each other to bring the other down. It is also the first battle to record the use of a gun - a Palesman beat out his opponent’s brains with the butt of his piece! It was really a medieval battle of the old style and the last great one of its kind. Both sides clashed early in the morning and it was late in the day before the remnants of Burkes’ much depleted host broke and ran. The Geraldine force camped on the battlefield that night to collect booty and bring in the stragglers. The Great Earl proceeded the next day to enter the City of Galway in Triumph and received the keys of the metropolis from the grateful Mayor.‬ 

A fierce battle was fought between them,‭ such as had not been known of in latter times. Far away from the combating troops were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs, the vehement efforts of the champions, the charge of the royal heroes, the noise of the lords, the clamour of the troops when endangered, the shouts and exultations of the youths, the sound made by the falling of the brave men, and the triumphing of the nobles over the plebeians. The battle was at length gained against Mac William, O'Brien, and the chiefs of Leath-Mhogha; and a great slaughter was made of them; and among the slain was Murrough Mac-I-Brien-Ara, together with many others of the nobles. And of the nine battalions which were in solid battle array, there survived only one broken battalion. A countless number of the Lord Justice's forces were also slain, though they routed the others before them. It would be impossible to enumerate or specify all the slain, both horse and foot, in that battle, for the plain on which they were was impassable, from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters; of broken spears, cloven shields, shattered battle-swords, mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead, and beardless youths lying hideous, after expiring.
Annals of the Four Masters





Saturday, 18 August 2018


18 August 670: The Feast of St. Fiacre the Abbot on this day. He was was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century. He had a hermitage on the banks of the river Nore at Kilfera, County Kilkenny. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628 AD, at Meaux in what is now France. St. Farowas the Bishop there generously received him. He gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest, which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. Here he founded a Monastery and a Hospice. He resided in a little cell and led a frugal existence surrounded by a small garden, which he worked himself. He was very strict on the rule that no women should be about the place. He was noted for his great ability to cure the sick and many flocked to him to be cured. 

After his death a Shrine to him became a place of Pilgrimage and in later centuries he had some very famous devotees. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint to the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. St. Fiacre is also a patron saint of gardeners and of the cab-drivers of Paris. French cabs are called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City.


Friday, 17 August 2018

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17 August 1922: The transfer of Dublin Castle by the British to the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State was completed on this day.

The Castle loomed large in the consciousness of the Irish People as the source and origin of many of their troubles. It was from here that the Crown of England through its Viceroys and Lord Lieutenants and latterly its Chief Secretaries attempted with various degrees of success to administer the Country. ‘The Castle’ - as it was commonly referred to - was an imposing structure that dated back to the early 13th century when King John gave orders for its construction. It was completed by 1230 and the Great Courtyard (Upper Castle Yard) of today corresponds closely with the fortification.

Though its origins go deeper into the past as ‘The Castle’ stands on the high ridge, the highest ground in the locality, at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the (now underground) Poddle, which formed a natural boundary on two sides. It is very probable that the original fortification on this easily defended strategic site was a Gaelic ráth [ringfort], which guarded the harbour, the adjacent Dubhlinn [Blackpool] monastic settlement and the four long distant roads that converged nearby. In the 930's, a Danish Viking Fortress stood on this site and part of the town's defences are on view at the 'Undercroft', where the facing stone revetments offered protection against the River Poddle. 

It had large sturdy walls and four round towers to protect it from attack by the Irish. The south-east Record Tower is the last intact medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself. It functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times.
So strong and well-defended was it and so important to the Crown that it never fell to attack. It was besieged in 1537 during the Revolt of Silken Thomas, almost taken in the Rising of 1641 and later occupied by the soldiers of the English Parliament under Cromwell. In 1798 it again came under threat and at Easter 1916 the insurgents of the Irish Citizen Army attempted to seize it by coup de main but without success. 

But with the signing of the Treaty in December of 1921 the British had agreed to withdraw from most of Ireland and the days of the Castle as the centre of British Power in this Country started to draw to a close. While the British Army pulled out in January 1922 the transfer of administration took months to organise. 

Thus the day came about in August 1922 when the last contingent of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) marched out and the first detachment of the Civic Guards (later the Garda Síochána) marched in, led by the first Garda Commissioner Michael Staines & Chief Superintendent McCarthy. At last ‘The Castle’ was fully in Irish hands.





Thursday, 16 August 2018



16 August‭ 1927: The Alderman Jinks Affair. Mr Denis Johnstone, the leader of the Labour Party, proposed a motion of No Confidence in the Government of Mr W.T. Cosgrave. Johnstone opened the crucial debate with the following words:

The motion down in my name and which I move is:
‭“That the Executive Council has ceased to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.”

In effect,‭ ‬it is clear that that motion is intended to test the views of the House as to whether the present Executive Council shall continue in office. It is based on Article 53‭ ‬of the Constitution,‭ ‬which says: “The President and Ministers nominated by him shall retire from office when they cease to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Éireann.‭”

The result was a tie of‭ ‬71‭ votes each. As a result the vote of the Speaker Mr Michael Hayes decided the issue for the Government. The absence of Mr Jinks of the National League Party (who were in alliance with Fianna Fail) was crucial to Cosgrave’s survival.

It is widely believed that Jinks non-appearance was due to the intervention of Major Bryan Cooper and J.M.‭ Smyllie (editor of the Irish Times) who plied Jinks with liberal quantities of drink in the hours before the vote was taken. Their hospitality apparently rendered their hapless guest in no fit state to attend the House. The pair convinced their drinking companion that a ticket home was a better course of action than attendance upon the House when he was obviously the worse for wear.
They then put him on the Sligo train and thus unable to partake in the day’s parliamentary proceedings.‭

‬This development thus saved Mr Cosgrave’s Government from almost certain defeat.
Jink’s, a National League Deputy, was the centre of wild speculation that he had been kidnapped to keep him from voting. Rumours swept the country and headlines such as, ‘The Mystery of Deputy Jinks, the missing deputy’ screamed from several newspapers not only in the U.K. and America.
The sensational affair began when Jinks walked out of the Dáil chambers before the vote was about to be called and he couldn’t be found despite a frantic search by colleagues.

There was consternation amongst the opposition who had been confident that the Government would fall. Jinks was later tracked to a hotel at Harcourt Street having spent the day strolling through the streets of Dublin. He told reporters he had gone to Dublin with instruction from two thirds of his supporters to vote for the Government.

“I was neither kidnapped nor spirited away. I simply walked out of the Dáil when I formed my own opinion after listening to a good many speeches.
“I cannot understand the sensation nor can I understand the meaning or object of the many reports circulated. What I did was done after careful consideration of the entire situation.
“I have nothing to regret for my action. I am glad I was the single individual who saved the situation for the Government, and perhaps, incidentally, for the country. I believe I acted for its good,” said Deputy Jinks.

The Sligo deputy arrived home on Wednesday night by the midnight mail train. A large crowd greeted his arrival. He spent the following morning receiving callers including one proclaiming him  “ The Ruler of Ireland.”!!!

Jinks had only been elected a TD in June of that year and subsequently lost his seat in the General Election of September that same year. He returned to local politics where he served once again as Mayor of Sligo. He died in 1934.

To this day the bizarre actions of Mr Jinks have been the subject of much speculation. The common accepted story is that he was inveigled into doing the rounds of various establishments in Dublin City centre by Smylie and Cooper, men with Sligo connections and who were from a Unionist background. They did not want to see Mr De Valera in power!

By the time the vote was called he was nowhere to be seen and his somewhat ignominious place in modern Irish political history was assured - Legend has it that Mr Cosgrave then purchased or had purchased on behalf of the Government a horse called Mr Jinks [above]. This horse went on to win the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, England in 1929!


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

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15 August 1998: The Omagh Bombing. On a Saturday afternoon the quite town centre of Omagh Co Tyrone was ripped apart by a single bomb that killed 29 innocent people and injured hundreds more. The atrocity was carried out by a small splinter group of the 'Real IRA' [RIRA]

The group was being monitored by the British Secret Service who knew something was up but failed to pass on any information they may have had to the local RUC. It is an open question though whether this would have made much material difference. Warnings were phoned in but the location for the car bomb were vague. It referred to a bomb in 'Main St' near the Courthouse - but there is no street by that name in Omagh. The RUC started to clear the area where they thought the bomb was but in actual fact they sent people towards its location.

The car bomb detonated at about 3.10pm in the crowded shopping area. It tore the car into deadly shrapnel and created a fireball and shockwave. People were caught in "a storm" of glass, masonry and metal as the blast destroyed shop fronts and blew the roofs off buildings. A thick cloud of dust and smoke filled the street. Twenty-one people who were standing near the bomb were killed outright. Eight more people would die on the way to or in hospital. The people who died included a pregnant woman, six children, and six teenagers.

A 500lb bomb packed in the Cavalier is detonated with a remote trigger. The explosion tears through Market Street. Shop fronts on both sides are blown back on top of customers still inside. Glass, masonry and metal tears through the crowd on the street as a fireball sweeps out from the epicentre. Twenty-one people are killed instantly - some of their bodies were never found, such was the force of the blast. A water main under the road ruptures. Gallons of water gushes out. Some of the dead and badly injured are washed down the hill.
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/timeline-of-the-omagh-bombing-1.1525134

Injured survivor Marion Radford described hearing an "unearthly bang", followed by "an eeriness, a darkness that had just come over the place", then the screams as she saw "bits of bodies, limbs" on the ground while she searched for her 16-year-old son, Alan. She later discovered he had been killed only yards away from her, the two having become separated minutes before the blast.

In the aftermath there was widespread condemnation across the board from all sides. The Good Friday Agreement had been signed only months before and people throughout Ireland were genuinely hopeful that 'The Troubles’ were at an end. Some days later the RIRA admitted that they did it and apologised. But their words fell on deaf ears. 'Enough was Enough' as far as most people were concerned. The bombing campaign was suspended and never reactivated. While there have been deaths and murders in the North since then nothing like this [the worst single bombing atrocity in the Northern Troubles 1968-1998] has happened since.

Photo above: Two Spanish tourists stopped beside the car, and were photographed. The photographer died in the bombing, but the man and child in the photograph survived.