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Wednesday, 22 August 2012



22 August 1922: Michael Collins was shot dead on this day. He was killed in an ambush at Béal na mBláth (Mouth of the Flowers) near Macroom in Co. Cork by a party of the local IRA. Huge controversy surrounds the unfolding of events on that day. It is not certain if the ambushers knew that Collins was in the Free State Army convoy that they attacked or whether they even recognised him.

 Late in the evening as the light started to fade the column was stopped by rifle fire in a narrow road that was overlooked by the IRA. Instead of putting the boot down and accelerating out of this death trap Michael Collins decided to fight it out. When the first shots were fired at the convoy, Emmet Dalton had ordered the driver to "drive like hell" out of the ambush. Collins himself countermanded the order and said "Stop! We'll fight them"

He stepped out of the armoured car he was being escorted in, the Slievenamon, and opened fire on the assailants. This proved his Nemeses as he became an instant target and was fatally hit. The general consensus at that time was it was a ricochet that took him out but that has been challenged in recent years.

The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis ("Sonny") O'Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950.


Collins's men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin's Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetary Dublin.



Tuesday, 21 August 2012



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

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 2012



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 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 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



18 August 670: St. Fiacre the Abbot, who was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century, died on this day. He retired to a hermitage on the banks of the 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. Faro was the Bishop there and 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 his Shrine 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, 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. He 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 for hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City.

Thursday, 16 August 2012




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 [above] 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.





Wednesday, 15 August 2012



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 was in the tradition of the great Medieval Fairs where people would come from miles around to trade and buy the wares on offer. Many valuable commodities would be on display 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 in order to undermine the ability of the English Crown to protect them.

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. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012




14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast 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 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 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.

The situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside & the British Army took up positions there. However the situation in Belfast slid out of control.  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. 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.

Monday, 13 August 2012



13 August 1925. President W.T. Cosgrave helped to raise the first pylon at the Ardnacrusha power station that would help spread electricity across the Land.

Ardnacrusha power plant is a hydroelectric power station which was originally referred to as The Shannon Scheme. It is located near Ardnacrusha within County Clare approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Limerick border. It is Ireland's largest river hydroelectric scheme and is operated on a purpose built canal connected to the River Shannon.

The generating plant at Ardnacrusha is composed of three vertical-shaft Francis turbine generators (commissioned in 1929) and one vertical-shaft Kaplan turbine generator (commissioned in 1934) operating under an average head of 28.5 metres.

In 1924-25 the new Irish Free State's Minister for Industry and Commerce Patrick McGilligan commissioned the engineer Dr. Thomas McLoughlin to submit proposals. Dr McLoughlin had started working for Siemens-Schuckert, a large German engineering firm, in late 1922, and produced a scheme that would cost £5.2m. This caused considerable political controversy as the new state's entire budget in 1925 was £25m, but it was accepted. The Siemens report drew on earlier hydrological work of John Chaloner-Smith an engineer with the Commissioners of Public Works.

Developed in conjunction with German engineering giant Siemens, most of the skilled workers and engineers on the power station were Germans. A camp was set up for the workers that included living quarters for 750 men and a dining room that seated 600. Initially employment for 700 was provided, whilst at its peak there were 5,200 employed during the construction phase, with this dropping back to 2,500 near completion. The construction project was not without controversy, with national and governmental debate over wages, conditions, strikes, and spending over-runs.

The Shannon Scheme was officially opened at Parteen Weir on 22 July 1929. One of the largest engineering projects of its day, it was successfully executed by Siemens to harness the Shannon River. It subsequently served as a model for large-scale electrification projects worldwide. Operated by the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland, it had an immediate impact on the social, economic and industrial development of Ireland and continues to supply significant power in the 21st century.



12 August 1922: The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day. He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. He was born in the city in 1872 and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism. He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.  His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the Gaelic League. He went out to South Africa in 1896 and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics. He returned home and in 1900, he founded Cumann na nGaedheal, a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.

In 1905 he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country. He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown. He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow. His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that ‘Home Rule’ was not enough.

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter 1916 Rising, dubbed by the British ‘The Sinn Fein Rebellion’ that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics. Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party. In the General Election of 1918 Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the Dáil met in 1919 it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President! Griffiths’ role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure. This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.

However it was only after the Truce of 1921 when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear. This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British. Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the 26 Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign ‘the Treaty’ as well. He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera & a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.  After a mammoth series of debates aka the ‘Treaty Debates’ the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the Dáil and led his followers out. The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation. The outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.  Exhausted by his labours, he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the 12 August 1922 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Friday, 10 August 2012



10 August 1177: The Battle of the Bridge of Evora was fought on this day. The battle took place near where Howth Railway Station, Howth, Dublin is now situated. Sir John de Courcy sent a force ashore under the command of Sir Armoricus Tristram - probably a knight from Brittany.

 Their opponents were descendants of Vikings who had taken over the area centuries before. The port of Howth was a prize worth having as it was one of the best landing places to the north of Dublin at that time. Howth comes from the Norse word for a headland and is still the name today for this penninsula that dominates the skyline of north county Dublin. The old Irish name is Binn Éadair - or Eadairs Peak.


A desperate battle was fought at "The Bridge of Evora," which crossed the small river, called "The Bloody Stream," flowing into the sea near the railway station, and, after heavy losses on both sides, the natives were completely defeated. This battle having been fought on 10th August (Feast of St. Laurence, the Spaniard), the Tristram family, in commemoration of the event, thereafter assumed the name of St. Lawrence. 

Tristram was one of the Norman adventurers who came over to Ireland at the time of the Invasion, and had achieved a distinguished record for his prowess on many a hard-fought field. He and Sir John De Courcy sailed to Howth in 1177, accompanied by a chosen band of fighting men, and on landing were opposed by the inhabitants, mostly Danish pirates who had settled in this neighbourhood.


The following extract on the subject is taken from Hanmer's Chronicles of Ireland, but it may be observed that his account rests on no very certain authority, and that the entire circumstances connected with the landing and battle at Evora are involved in considerable obscurity: 

- "They landed at Howth and there fought a cruell fight by the side of a bridge, where Sir John De Courcy, being sickly, tarried about the shippe. Sir Armoricus, being chieftaine and generall of the field by land, behaved himselfe most worthily. Many were slaine on both sides, but Sir Armoricus got the victory, with the losse of seven of his owne blood, sonnes, uncles and newphewes; whereupon, for his singular valour, and good service, there performed, that lordship was allotted unto him for his part of the conquest.

A vague tradition of this battle seems to have lingered in the neighbourhood, and is to some extent corroborated by the discoveries of human bones, antique weapons and armour, which from time to time have been made during excavations for building purposes in the vicinity of the railway station.

The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St. John Joyce

De Courcy went on to raid into north east Ulster where he carved out his own domain after a series of bloody battles and held his conquests until by Royal command he was forced to hand them over to the King of England.

Armoricus was granted much of the land between the village and Sutton. Tristam took on the name of the saint on whose feast day the battle was won - St Lawrence. He built his first castle near the harbour and the St. Lawrence link remains even today. The original title of Baron of Howth was granted to Armoricus 'St. Lawrence' by Henry II of England in 1181, for one knight's fee.





Thursday, 9 August 2012




9 August 1971: Operation Demetrius (Internment) began on this day. In early morning raids the British army and the RUC lifted hundreds of men throughout the North in what was a ham fisted operation. Their aim was to catch as many members of the IRA in their homes as they could in one huge swoop. But the introduction of internment was a logical next move in the escalating War between Irish Republicans and the British. The IRA were of the opinion that their enemies would once again use this tactic as they had many times in the past & most of the key leadership figures had already gone ‘on the run’.

What the British did not predict was the high level of resistance they encountered in Nationalist areas as men young and old were dragged away by the Crown Forces in full view of their terrified families. There was widespread anger and within hours rioting had broken out in many areas. It quickly became obvious that the exercise was a huge fiasco and one with deadly consequences.

 Relying on outdated lists containing 450 names provided by the RUC Special Branch, the British Army swept into nationalist areas and arrested 342 men. Within 48 hours 116 of those arrested were released. The remainder were detained at Crumlin Road Prison and the prison ship 'The Maidstone' in Belfast Harbour.

Hundreds were injured in the rioting that followed and 12 people were shot dead that day – 2 British Soldiers, 7 Nationalists and 3 Loyalists.

The British Government had focused the entire strength of their Armed Forces on one community in the North and it was obvious to all as to whose side they were backing – a strategy even they had some qualms about but went along with to placate Stormont.

What they did not include was a single Loyalist. Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing, this organisation was left untouched, as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara, the Shankill Defenders Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. It is known that Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few 'Protestants' in the trawl but he refused.

The IRA

Tim Pat Coogan

Wednesday, 8 August 2012



8 August 1640: The Irishman Colonel Owen Roe O'Neill, defending the City of Arras against the French Army of Louis XIV ordered a sortie against the besiegers. The Irish Leader knew that the French had been resupplied and that the attack on the eastern section of the town's fortifications was dangerously close to being launched. It was in this desperate fight that the famous playwright and duellist Cyrano de Bergerac was injured by a sword-cut to the neck.

The Siege had begun when the French had invested Arras on June 13th with a vast force of 23,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. Maréchal de Châtillon and Maréchal de La Meilleraye commanded them. The French dug extensive lines of around the town, including a number of forts and a large fortified camp to the south.

The French dug extensive lines of circumvallation and contravallation around the town, including a number of forts and a large fortified camp to the south. The encirclement was made difficult by the nature of the ground around Arras - the lines needed to cross 4 wide waterways. This also posed numerous communication difficulties for the besiegers, who could not move large amounts of troops across the rivers quickly.


The fortifications of Arras consisted of two halves; the town in the east and the abbey in the west, forming a figure-of-eight. The walls had been bastioned in the 16th century under Charles V' and more recently some earthen demi-lunes'and a covered way had been added.

The siege was very important to both sides as Arras represented one of the most important fortified places under Spanish rule in Artois  - King Louis XIII himself joined the besieging army and Cardinal Richelieu had written to the marshals that:

 You will answer with your heads if you do not take Arras.

But the French pressed ahead and beat off Spanish attempts to cut their supply lines. The trenches drew ever closer to the fortress. Despite taking the French by surprise O’Neill’s attack  was at length beaten back within the walls. O’Neill had done all that was required of him and he had held a vastly superior force at bay for far longer than was expected. A siege that was expected to last days had cost the French weeks of the campaign season. The following day he asked for terms. His epic defence won the admiration of friend and foe alike. The following year he returned home to partake in uprising against English Rule.





Tuesday, 7 August 2012




7 August 1943: The death in Dublin of famous portrait artist Sarah Purser

She was born in Dun Laoghaire on 22 March 1848. She was the daughter of Benjamin Purser and Ann Mallet. They came to Dungarvan in the 1840's and lived firstly in Strand side South, Abbeyside, which is now the home of the Parish Priest. Later they moved to a house called 'The Hermitage' in Abbeyside. Sarah lived here for about 25 years. Her father was involved in brewing and flour milling while in Dungarvan. At the age of 13 Sarah was sent to school in Switzerland for two years. She left Dungarvan in the summer of 1873 to make her living as a painter and settled in Dublin. There she trained in the Metropolitan School of Art and later went to the Academie Julian in Paris and also to Italy. She became a highly successful portrait painter and an important figure in the Irish art world at the turn of the century.

She worked mostly as a portraitist. She was also associated with the stained glass movement, founding a stained glass workshop, An Túr Gloine, in 1903. Some of her stained glass work was commissioned from as far as New York, including a window at Christ Church, Pelham dedicated to the memory of Katharine Temple Emmet and Richard Stockton Emmet, grandson of the Irish patriot, Thomas Addis Emmet. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she was very successful in obtaining commissions, famously commenting "I went through the British aristocracy like the measles."

"some of her finest and most sensitive work was not strictly portraiture, for example, An Irish Idyll in the Ulster Museum, and Le Petit Déjeuner (in the National Gallery of Ireland)."
Bruce Arnold

Among her sitters were W.B.Yeats, Jack B Yeats, Maud Gonne, Roger Casement, James MacNeill, Sir Samuel Ferguson, the Bishops of Kells, Clogher and Limerick, John Kells Ingram, Sir Henry and Lady Gore Booth, Douglas Hyde,

In 1903 she founded An Tur Gloine, the first Irish stained glass studio. She was instrumental in drawing the attention of the art world to the works of John Yeats and Nathaniel Hone.

She exhibited widely in Dublin and London. At the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Irish Fine Art Society in Dublin. At the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery, Fine Art Society and New Gallery in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

In 1886 she founded the Dublin Art Club and in 1890 the RHA elected her an Honoury Member.

Sarah Purser became wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness. She was very active in the art world scene in Dublin and was known as an entertaining host - to those that pleased her. She was involved in the setting up of the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House to house the gallery.

In 1923 she became the first female member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

She persuaded W.T. Cosgrave to give Charlemont House in Dublin as a modern Art Gallery and also to house the Hugh lane collection.

Until her death she lived for years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. It was demolished after she died and developed into apartments. She was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.



Monday, 6 August 2012



5 August 1847: Daniel O’Connell’s body was interred in Glasnevin cemetery on this day. The ‘Liberator’ had died in Genoa, Italy on 15 May. His body was conveyed back to Ireland for burial. The Funeral service was held in the Metropolitan Church, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on the 4th August. The following day his cortege made its way through the City on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery.

The centre of Dublin came to a standstill as tens of thousands of mourners lined the route as his hearse made its way along Westmoreland Street and up Sackville St (now O’Connell St) on its way to his resting place in the Graveyard he had help to found. The enormous triumphal car that O’Connell rode in when he was freed from prison in May 1844 led the procession. His Funeral was the largest ever recorded up to that time in Ireland.

Friday, 3 August 2012



3 August 1916: Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison London on this day. He was tried by the British for Treason as he had tried to enlist German help to free Ireland at a time when Britain and Germany were at War.

He was born in Dublin in 1864. His father was an Officer in the British Army. From 1895 onwards he worked for the British Foreign Office in a Consular capacity. He was sent to the Congo where he reported on the widespread abuses there against the Natives by the Belgian Colonialists. These reports earned Casement a CMG (Order of St Michael and St George) in 1905. He was then sent to Brazil and was commissioned to undertake a report on the reported abuse of workers in the rubber industry in the Putumayo basin in Peru. He once again found many instances of abuse and exploitation by the Rubber Barons there and was rewarded a Knighthood in 1911 for his services to Humanity.

But by 1912 Casement had become disillusioned with European Colonialism of which he found himself a reluctant part though albeit in a pacific role. At Home he had become a member of the Gaelic League and a strong Nationalist. He viewed with abhorrence the events in the North (his father was from Antrim) and was totally against Partition. In August 1914 he was in the USA raising funds for the Irish Volunteers when the Great War broke out. He soon made contact with Clan na Gael and John Devoy put him in contact with German Diplomats in New York. He made his way to Germany to raise military and financial support for a Rising in Ireland but met with little success. In particular his attempt to raise an Irish Brigade from amongst the Irishmen held as Prisoners of War was meagre. By this time the British Intelligence Service had latched onto his activities and set about undermining him.

When in early 1916 Casement learnt of the high likelihood of a Rising in Ireland he requested to be sent home to be there. However by the time he sailed in a German Submarine he was of the opinion that it should not go ahead if the Germans could not offer considerable military assistance – and of that there was no real prospect given their huge commitments at that time. In the event Casement’s small party was put ashore at Banna Strand, Co Kerry in the early hours of Good Friday 21 April 1916. They were soon spotted by the locals who took them for German spies and they were arrested by the RIC. Casement was dispatched hastily to London and imprisoned to await his Fate.

His Trail for Treason was conducted at the Old Bailey. Despite the best efforts of his Legal Team the evidence against him was pretty clear cut and on the facts he could hardly expect to escape the Death Sentence. A campaign was underway to enlist support for an amelioration of the execution of any judgement past by the Court. Casement was a widely respected figure for his humanitarian work and it could possibly be argued that while he had erred in Judgement his past services to Humanity should be taken into account.

But during the Trial the British produced the infamous ‘Black Diaries’ that they claimed were written in Casement’s own hand and showed him to be a Homosexual with a marked predilection for young boys he picked up while engaged in his work abroad. These Revelations proved a Sensation and as intended destroyed Casement’s Character and Reputation in the circles where his cause was most likely to find support. He vehemently denied all the accusations against him.

He was found Guilty of Treason and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison. He was 51 years old and had been received into the Catholic Faith in the hours before he made his way to the Scaffold. He received the Last sacraments and died as he said with with the body of his God as his last meal.

His body was buried in quicklime in the grounds of the Prison. There it remained until 1965 when the Labour Government of Harold Wilson agreed to hand it over the Republic of Ireland on condition he was not buried in the North (Casements wish). He was given a full State Funeral and interred in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin. President Eamon de Valera himself gave the graveside oration. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012



2 August 1800: The Parliament of Ireland on College Green in Dublin met for the last time on this day. It had been was persuaded to vote itself out of existence through an Act of Union with Great Britain. Many wealthy landlords and members of the Irish aristocracy were persuaded by promises of titles, honours and enumeration from London. With the Act of Union the centre of political power shifted decisively to London.

The idea of a union of Great Britain and Ireland had been considered many times over the previous 100 years or so. The grant of nominal legislative independence to the Dublin Parliament in 1782 gave the impression to many that the idea had been dropped.

However, the situation changed with the onset of the War with Revolutionary France and even more so with the 1798 Rising which was brutally crushed. But the Ascendancy had been shaken to its core by the events of the previous years and realised that if Catholic Emancipation were granted their situation would be fatally undermined. They were therefore amenable to be persuaded that the centre of power should reside in London and thus negating the possibility of the Catholics of Ireland gaining control of the Country’s Destiny.


Pitt, the British Prime Minister along with Lord Castlereagh went for sheer bribery to ‘buy’ the MPs consent to a Union. The going rate was £15,000 per seat and threats, bribes and promises were applied to swing the Honourable Members to consent to the measure.

Castlereagh stated that his task was to:

 ‘to buy out, and secure to the Crown forever, the fee simple of Irish corruption’.

Both houses of the College Green Parliament agreed the terms of the Union on 28 March 1800. An identical Bill was laid before both the Dublin and London Parliaments. The British one became law on 2 July and the Royal Assent was given to an Act of Union on 1 August. This Act of Union became operative on 1 January 1801.

Had there been a stable peace at home in Ireland and abroad, and no possibility of a further French attack & with no threat of Catholic Emancipation then it is very unlikely that the Dublin Parliament would have voted itself out of existence. Ironically Peace with France came, however briefly, in the year following the Union (1802). The Catholics of Ireland had to wait another 28 years for their Emancipation from last of the Penal Laws.



Wednesday, 1 August 2012




1 August 664 AD: A great Plague arrived in Ireland and swept the Country killing huge numbers of people. The ‘Great Mortality' was possibly a return of the Buide Conaill which had swept through Ireland in the 6th century. The 'Yellowness of Conaill' might perhaps refer to a prominent individual who had been amongst its first victims, as in the 20th century the 'Spanish Influenza' refers to King Alfonso XIII catching it - though he survived! A jaundice like fever was perhaps the root of the disease.

But it has been advanced that the Plague of 664 and the years following was actually a bubonic plague caused by rats - though the rat population in Ireland at that time is a matter of conjecture. Rats in large numbers as usually needed for that disease to take off and places of dense urbanity are their preferred locations - which Ireland did not possess at that time. However we cannot be sure that the plague that arrived in 664 was Bubonic Plague or the same type as that of the earlier one - or indeed another disease altogether!

The plague of 664 broke out on or about the 1st August that year after a warm summer which was followed by a warm autumn (ideal for the spread of plague) and continued into 665, and broke out with renewed violence in 667-668. It then quietened down for about a decade and a half but flared up again in 683-684 when it was described as the mortalitas puerorum (death of boys). Children seem to have been more heavily affected then because they had no resistance to it.


A great mortality in Ireland came on the calends of August i.e. in Magh Itha in Leinster.
The Annals of Tigernach 664 AD

The plague reached Ireland on the Kalends of August.
Chronicum Scotorum

A great mortality prevailed in Ireland this year, which was called the Buidhe Connail, and the following number of the saints of Ireland died of it: St. Feichin, Abbot of Fobhar, on the 14th of February; St. Ronan, son of Bearach; St. Aileran the Wise; St. Cronan, son of Silne; St. Manchan, of Liath; St. Ultan Mac hUi Cunga, Abbot of Cluain Iraird Clonard; Colman Cas, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois; and Cummine, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois.


After Diarmaid and Blathmac, the two sons of Aedh Slaine, had been eight years in the sovereignty of Ireland, they died of the same plague.


There died also Maelbreasail, son of Maelduin, and Cu Gan Mathair, King of Munster; Aenghus Uladh.There died very many ecclesiastics and laics in Ireland of this mortality besides these.
Annals of the Four Masters 664 AD

This Plague also struck in Britain, first along the southern coast before spreading north into Northumbria. It is more than likely that it spread from Britain into Ireland along the same channels. Many men of the English Nation then resided here and studied or practised the religious Life in Irish Monasteries. This was all given free of charge! The Venerable Bede recorded this Plague and it is the first such one recorded in the history of that Country:

IN the same year of our Lord 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the third day of May,about the tenth hour of the day. In the same year, a sudden pestilence depopulated first the southern parts of Britain, and afterwards attacking the province of the Northumbrians, ravaged the country far and near, and destroyed a great multitude of men. 

Moreover, this plague prevailed no less disastrously in the island of Ireland. Many of the nobility, and of the lower ranks of the English nation, were there at that time, who, in the days of the Bishops Finan and Colman, forsaking their native island, retired thither, either for the sake of sacred studies, or of a more ascetic life; and some of them presently devoted themselves faithfully to a monastic life, others chose rather to apply themselves to study, going about from one master’s cell to another. The Scots willingly received them all, and took care to supply them with daily food without cost, as also to furnish them with books for their studies, and teaching free of charge.
Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England