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Saturday, 19 August 2017

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

Friday, 18 August 2017

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. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

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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.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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 Eireann.‭”

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 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!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

15‭ ‬August‭ ‬1569:‭ ‬The sack of Enniscorthy on this day by Sir Edmund Butler,‭ ‬the brother of the Earl of Ormond.‭ ‬The Co Wexford town held a great Fair on this date,‭ ‬named‭ ‘‬Lady Day‭’ ‬after Our Lady the Mother of Christ.‭ This date in August is celebrated in the Catholic Calendar as the Feast of her Assumption into Heaven. ‬

This was one of the great Medieval Fairs of Ireland where people would come from miles around to trade and buy the wares on offer.‭ ‬Many valuable commodities would be available and those with the coinage to buy or goods to barter would be there in plenty.‭ ‬But the Fair this year was held against a backdrop of a vicious War full of atrocities and counter atrocities committed by both sides.‭ ‬As the townsmen and country folk went about their business a large Geraldine raiding party overcame them.‭ ‬This was no doubt a well planned operation,‭ ‬designed to loot and punish the inhabitants who considered themselves under the protection of the Crown of England.

The Earl of Ormond,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬Thomas‭…‬,‭ ‬being at this time in England,‭ ‬his two brothers,‭ ‬Edmond of Caladh and Edward,‭ ‬had confederated with James,‭ ‬the son of Maurice.‭ ‬These two sons of the Earl went to the fair of Inis-corr on Great Lady-Day‭; ‬and it would be difficult to enumerate or describe all the steeds,‭ ‬horses,‭ ‬gold,‭ ‬silver,‭ ‬and foreign wares,‭ ‬they seized upon at that fair.‭ ‬The Earl returned to Ireland the same year,‭ ‬and his brothers were reconciled to the State.
Annals of the Four Masters

No quarter was given to the hapless inhabitants.‭ ‬Many of the Anglo-Irish Merchants were put to death and their bodies thrown in the River Slaney and their womenfolk raped.‭ ‬It was reported that‭ ‘‬divers young maidens and wives‭’ ‬were defiled before their parents and husbands faces‭’‬.‭  ‬The Castle of Enniscorthy was also taken and ransacked and lay abandoned for thirteen years thereafter.‭

Monday, 14 August 2017

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14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to stave off the collapse of the Northern State. This was to try and stem the serious rioting in both cities and in other urban centres across the North and to stop the collapse of the State that could come about if the situation continued to spiral out of control.

In response to the growing Crises the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Jack Lynch had gone on the airwaves the previous day to announce the setting up of Field Hospitals near the Border and Refugee Camps further south to deal with the expected influx of people fleeing their homes. This gesture however only seriously angered and worried moderate Unionists and inflamed the more hard line and paranoid Loyalists - while doing nothing of real material benefit to help the beleaguered Nationalists at that time.

While the situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside& the British Army took up positions there the situation slid out of control in Belfast.  There was also serious rioting in Armagh, Newry & Omagh and other areas throughout the North. In Armagh a man was shot dead by the RUC. Five people were killed in overnight rioting in Belfast, one of them a nine year old boy. As the sectarian clashes worsened houses and business premises were set alight and hundreds were damaged or destroyed. Bombay street was totally destroyed and the Catholic residents had to flee for their lives.

It soon became clear that the discipline of a considerable number of the regular RUC and more particularly the B-Specials had collapsed. Numerous individuals from these organisations went on the rampage and became indistinguishable from the Loyalist mobs on the loose that night.

While the situation in the Six Counties had became much more dangerous over the Summer the multiple deaths in open sectarian clashes was a huge shock to the people of Ireland. For the first time in decades people had been killed in almost open warfare between the Orange and the Green. It was a watershed in Modern Irish Politics.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

12 August 1822: The Death by suicide of Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh on this day. Born in Dublin in 1769 to a political family of wealthy Presbyterian stock, Castlereagh’s sympathies – in an era of awakening nationalisms – were for the Irish patriot cause. But a visit to revolutionary France in the early 1790s tempered his thinking. He now warned of the dangers for any nation to be placed “in the hands of experimental philosophers”. Castlereagh was not initially a counter-revolutionary, but a reformist keen on political progress (not least Catholic emancipation). However ambition meant he could never rise in politics with such an approach and the further he rose the more reactionary he became.

As Chief Secretary of Ireland during the 1798 Rising he oversaw its brutal repression and in 1800 was instrumental in ensuring that the old Parliament of Ireland voted itself out of existence by the use of threats, bribery and the use of Government placement to get the result needed. Even 20 years later, political cartoons would depict Castlereagh lurking around Westminster with a cat o’ nine tails behind his back.

But while a cold and calculating man there was no doubting Castlereagh’s great skills of diplomacy and the ability to form alliances against Napoleonic Rule on the European Continent. As chief secretary for Ireland from 1796 to 1800, colonial secretary from 1802 to 1805, war secretary from 1806 to 1809 and foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822 he was on top of his game dealing with those who he viewed as a threat to the established order.

While he took criticism of his politics with aplomb it eventually started to effect his internal stability and that combined with his ‘workaholic’ character led to a gradual and then noticeable deteriation of his mental faculties. Friends, political colleagues and his own family became ever more concerned for his well being.

He began suffering from paranoia, which could be attributed to the years of abuse by an angry citizenry and press, overwork, or even gout or VD. He imagined himself persecuted from every quarter and became irrational and incoherent. His devoted wife continued sleeping with him but removed pistols and razors from his reach and kept in close contact with her husband's physician, Dr. Bankhead, who had cupped him.

Three days before his death he met with King George IV, who became upset over Castlereagh's mental state, as did the Duke of Wellington, with whom he was close. Knowing that he was losing his mind, Castlereagh left London for Loring Hall, his country estate in Kent.

The morning of his death he became violent with his wife, accusing her of being in a conspiracy against him. She left their bedroom to call the doctor. That was when her husband went to his dressing room with a small knife which he had managed to hide. He stabbed himself in the carotid artery. Just as Dr. Bankhead entered the room, he said, "Let me fall on your arm, Bankhead. It's all over!"

Not many liked him and indeed many hated him including some of England’s greatest poets.

I met Murder on the way – / He had a mask like Castlereagh– / Very smooth he looked, yet grim; / Seven bloodhounds followed him… one by one, and two by two, / He tossed them human hearts to chew.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

On hearing of his funeral Lord Byron wrote:

Cold-blooded, smooth-faced, placid miscreant
Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin's gore...

Posterity will ne'er survey
a Nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and p----- !

Notwithstanding his suicide and unpopularity Lord Castlereagh was buried in Westminster Abbey London, safe from those who would rather he not rest in Peace.