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Sunday, 29 December 2013


30 December 999 AD: King Brian Boru won a great Victory over the Vikings of Dublin and their allies the Leinstermen at the Battle of Gleann Máma/ Cath Gleann Máma on this day.

In this engagement he had as an ally Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, the king of Meath. Not all accounts agree though that they were brothers in arms at this time. Indeed within a few years they were to clash with Brian emerging the victor. Years later they faced the Vikings again at Clontarf but as here the part played in that battle by the Mide king is open to question. Though we have the date and the year for this battle, 30 December 999, its exact location is now lost to us. Some have postulated that it was in glen in the Wicklow Mountains, others that it was fought much nearer to the walls of Dublin. The inherent military probability is that the second opinion is correct.

Whatever the immediate impact of Glenn Máma it did embed a deep sense of bitterness within the heart of King Maelmorda of the Province of Laigin (Leinster). He ignominiously hid in a tree as his army broke and ran. It was there he was taken by no less a figure than Brian’s son Murchad who hauled the hapless Maelmorda out of the yew tree where he had hidden.

The Battle of Glen Máma resulted in the total defeat of the Vikings and their Leinster Irish allies. The Leinstermen were none too enamoured with their subordinate status to the Kings of Tara and had seen in the Vikings allies worthy of their support if they could just shake off subjection by the O’Neills and now this upstart King Brian of Cashel. On this occasion however their support for the rulers of Dublin paid them no dividends. In the follow up to this Victory Dublin was captured and King Sitric was forced out of his capital.

Brian, king of Caisel, led an army to Glenn Máma and the foreigners of Áth Cliath, accompanied by the Laigin, came to attack him. And they were defeated and a slaughter was inflicted on them, including Aralt son of Amlaíb and Cuilén son of Eitigén and other nobles of the foreigners. This happened on Thursday the third of the Kalends of January 30 Dec. Brian afterwards entered Áth Cliath, and Áth Cliath was plundered by him.

Annals of Ulster U999.8


A great army was led by Mael Sechnaill son of Domnall and by Brian son of
Cendétigh to Glenn Máma and the foreigners of Áth Cliath came to attack
them, and the foreigners were defeated and slaughter inflicted on them,
including Aralt son of Amlaíb and Culén son of Etigén and the nobles of Áth
Cliath, and Mael Sechnaill and Brian went thereafter to Áth Cliath and were
a week there and carried off its gold and silver and captives, and expelled
the king i.e. Sitric son of Amlaíb.
Chronicon Scotorum



 
 

Saturday, 28 December 2013


28 December 1650: In Galway city Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh, last of the great scribes of Ireland, added an index of just under three thousand entries to his masterpiece the Leabhar na nGenealach, or the Book of Genealogies on this day. An index was rare in a Gaelic manuscript and MacFhirbhisigh was probably adapting more modern methods to his enormous work. In its current printed edition it runs to five volumes. The work is a compilation of Irish genealogical lore relating to the principal Gaelic and Anglo-Norman families of Ireland and covering the period from pre-Christian times to the mid-17th century and collected from a variety of sources

The fact that many of these sources no longer exist adds considerably to the value of Mac Fhirbhisigh's work. This great work stands comparison with The Annals of the Four Masters and is all the more remarkable for being the work of just one man. Preserved over the centuries it was not printed in full until Mayoman Nollaig Ó Muraíle published his comprehensive edition in five volumes (by De Burca books) in 2004. This is one of Ireland’s greatest Literary/Historical Treasures.



Friday, 27 December 2013


27 December 1171 AD: Petrus Ua Mórda [ang: Peter O’Moore) the Bishop of Clonfert/Clúain Fearta in what is now Co Galway, was drowned on this day in the River Shannon.

He appears to have been a member of a family from Ui Maine, one of the oldest and largest kingdoms located in Connacht, Ireland. Ua Mórda was abbot of Grellach dá Iach, the first of three sites inhabited by the Cistercians and who finally settled at Boyle Abbey. In around 1150 AD, he became Bishop of Clonfert; styled as Bishop of Cluain-fearta-Brenainn or Bishop of Ui Maine.


Petrus (Ua Mordha), bishop of Ui-Maine of Connacht (otherwise, bishop of Cluain-ferta of [St.] Brenann), a devout monk and authoritative man, was drowned in the Sinand (namely, at Port-da-Chaineg), namely, on the 6th of the Kalends of January [Dec. 27].

Annals of Ulster

Thursday, 26 December 2013


26 December 1796: Off Bantry Bay, Co Cork [above]Wolfe Tone wrote in his Journal aboard the French Man of War Indomptable the following entry:

December 26th —Last night, at half after six o'clock, in a heavy gale of wind still from the east, we were surprised by the Admiral's frigate running under our quarter, and hailing the Indomptable with orders to cut our cable and put to sea instantly; the frigate then pursued her course, leaving us all in the utmost astonishment. . . . All our hopes are now reduced to get back in safety to Brest, and I believe we will set sail for that port the instant the weather will permit. . . . Notwithstanding all our blunders, it is the dreadful stormy weather and the easterly winds, which have been blowing furiously and without intermission since we made Bantry Bay, that have ruined us.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013


25 December 1245: The terrible and unusual snow that had been falling in Ireland for the previous few weeks finally ended:

Poisonous
snow fell on the night of the festival of Saint Nicholas, [Dec.6]
which took off the heels and toes of those who walked
in it; and this snow did not disappear until Christmas
arrived.


Annals of Loch Cé

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


24 December 1895: The loss of the Dun Laoghaire/Kingstown Lifeboat, Civil Service No. 7 with all hands on this day. 15 men of the RNLI were swept to their deaths when attempting to rescue a boat in difficulties on Christmas Eve. The alarm had been raised earlier that morning. Onlookers on the shoreline had spotted that a Finnish ship of the Russian Mercantile Navy, the Palme, was in distress just outside the harbour entrance. A tremendous Storm was raging at the time and indeed so ferocious were the conditions that this ship had been pushed back up the Irish Sea by the intensity of the winds. The Captain had decided to run for the nearest port and seek shelter. Unfortunately his attempt to gain the harbour was in vain and he had no choice but to try and ride it out at anchor and await less stormy conditions. However his position was a precarious one and the ship was in imminent danger of been swept onto the rocky shoreline nearby.

The alarm was raised and the 15 volunteers of Civil Service No. 7 put out into the terrible seas to endeavour to rescue the crew. Alas within minutes of reaching the stricken vessel their own boat was overturned by a huge wave, and all the men went into the water. The boat, of a modern design, was supposed to right itself but this did not happen. Some of the crew managed to scramble onto the upturned hull but the temperature being so low hypothermia soon seized them. One by one they slid down the side and were swept away to their doom. The sailors on board the Palme, seeing the plight of their would be rescuers attempted to lower their own boat but it was smashed against the hull and they gave up all hope of being rescuers or indeed rescued themselves from their terrible plight.

The second Lifeboat on Station, the Hannah Pickard then put to sea. Pulling hard on the oars her crew attempted to make headway but she too capsized and all the men were thrown into the water. Fortunately for them they were close enough to the shore to swim for it and all were saved.

Other boats in the vicinity tried without success to close with her but the heavy seas drove them back. After that the Palme was left to her fate as no more could done for her. All that night and on Christmas Day and again that night she stood off shore at the end of a tenuous anchor. The Storm finally abated on the morning of St Stephens Day. Eventually a ship was able to approach and lower a boat that made a number of runs to her and first took off the Capitan’s wife and baby. Then the other 17 members of the crew and the Captain himself were brought ashore. Even the ships cat was rescued. But of the brave sailors lost only their bodies were ever recovered. It was the greatest loss of life ever recorded here in Ireland of the men of the RNLI.


The men lost were:

Alexander Williams. Aged 35 married with 6 children. The Coxswain.

Henry Williams . Aged 60 (Father of above) veteran silver medal holder. Ex-coxswains who had two other sons,

George Sanders. Aged 30 married no children.

Francis Saunders. Aged 27 (Brother of above) married with 5 children.

Edward Shannon, Aged 28 married with 4 children

Patrick Power. Aged 22. Single.

Edward Crowe, Aged 30 married no children.

John Baker. Aged 33 married with 3 children (wife very delicate).

Henry Underhill. Aged 32 years just married. No children.

John Bartley, Aged 45 married with two children.

William Dunphy Aged 40 married with 6 children.

Thomas Dunphy. Aged 31 (Brother of above) Married 3 children. _Nanny & Two Brothers.
Sarah Dunphy, Tom Dunphy & Jack Dunphy.

Edward Murphy. Aged 30 married 3 children.

Francis McDonald. Whose son was born to his widow early in 1896.

James Ryan Aged 24 not married.



Monday, 23 December 2013


23 December 1939: The Magazine Fort raid occurred on this day. This fort, situated in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, was the central location for the small arms ammunition of the Free State Army. It was only lightly guarded and the routine followed had not changed in years. Security was lax and a raid was the last thing expected by those charged with guarding the structure. The IRA decided that because they were short of ammunition for their Thompson guns that a descent on the fort would yield results. As it turned out the amount of bullets seized was way above their wildest imaginings and beyond the capacity of the back up units to dispose of into safe arms caches. 

On or about 10 O’Clock on the night in question a member of the IRA approached the MP on duty at the gate and explained he had a parcel for the Commanding Officer (who had gone out for the night). The hapless guard unbolted the entrance and was immediately confronted with a revolver in his face. Using him as a shield the intruder (now backed by other members of the team) made their way to the Guardroom where the rest of the tiny garrison promptly surrendered. While they were held captive a series of lorries were driven into the fort and the stockpile of ammunition was loaded on board before they departed into the night. Eventually soldiers in the nearby Islandbridge Barracks became suspicious of the volume of late night traffic in the vicinity of the Park and set out to investigate. Two of the raiders were apprehended but by then it was too late and the others had evaded capture. 

This embarrassing episode caused shock and anger amongst the Government as over a million rounds of scare ammunition had been lifted. But the IRA were as surprised as anyone else at the scale of the haul and could not safely dispose of their new found supply. Most of it was recovered in January in raids North and South of the Border.
 
Not only that but the events of this night led Eamon de Valera to bring forward emergency legislation to counter any threat to the State now that World War Two had broken out. He did not want to have to deal with any internal threats while the international situation was so fraught with danger. As a result Minister for Justice, Gerald Boland, at an emergency session introduced the Emergency Powers bill to reinstate internment, Military Tribunal, and executions for IRA members. It was rushed through and given its third reading the next day creating the Emergency Powers Act.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


22 December 1691: Patrick Sarsfield and 11,000 Irish soldiers and their families sailed from the City of Cork for Exile in France on this day. Their departure was part of the military terms agreed in the Treaty of Limerick that was signed in October of that year. Article 1 stated that:
 
That all persons, without any exceptions, of what quality or condition soever, that are willing to leave the kingdom of Ireland, shall have free liberty to go to any country beyond the seas (England and Scotland excepted) where they think fit, with their families, household-stuff, plate, and jewels.

It was agreed that 50 ships could be used to Transport all those that wished to go abroad. The port of Cork was the decided upon as the place of embarkation and it was to there that General Sarsfield marched his men after departing Limerick with the Honours of War. Like so many of the men he brought away to France he was never to see his Homeland again.
 
On 29 July 1693 he was severely wounded at the Battle of Landen whilst leading the Irish Brigade against William of Orange. Carried off the battlefield he was taken to the town of Huy, about twenty miles away, where he died three days later. He is buried in St. Martins Church in this city, where a plaque is erected marking the approximate spot of his grave.


Friday, 20 December 2013

20 December 1645: The 2nd ‘Glamorgan Treaty’ was signed in the city of Kilkenny on this day. The agreement was negotiated between the Confederation of Kilkenny and the Earl of Glamorgan. The Earl, as a trusted Englishman of the Catholic Faith, held a Commission from King Charles I to secretly negotiate with the Irish Catholics and secure military backing for the Royal cause in England. He had already in August of this year concluded a secret arrangement with the Confederates by which the Catholics of Ireland were to be exempted from the jurisdiction of the Protestant clergy and were granted possession of all the churches they had seized since the outbreak of the Rising in 1641. In return, the Confederates were to raise an army of 10,000 men to serve the King in England.

However since then the formidable Cardinal Rinuccini [above] had arrived in the Confederate Capital as the Papal Nuncio. He saw the opportunity of winning further concesions and pressed Glamorgan to agree the terms of a deal negotiated in Rome with an agent of Queen Henrietta Maria (King Charles’ wife).

Glamorgan agreed to the new terms as he was desperate to complete his mission and return at the head of an Army to England to serve the King. Under the new terms the King was to undertake never to appoint a Protestant lord-lieutenant in Ireland, Catholic bishops were to be allowed to sit in the Dublin Parliament and a Catholic University was to be established. In return, Glamorgan was to be appointed commander of an advance guard of 3,000 Confederate soldiers to sail immediately for the relief of Chester.

However as it turned out Glamorgan’s Mission to Ireland was a Fiasco as a copy of the Treaty signed in August fell into enemy hands. When the details of what Glamorgan had conceeded reached Oxford and London a storm of protest was raised. In the meantime the Earl was arrested in Dublin by the Duke of Ormond and imprisoned in the Castle as a Traitor. The King had no choice but to disown him but secretely instructed that he be released from custody. He promptly fled to the Cardinal in Kilkenny but was never trusted with a secret mission again. A somewhat hapless figure he was ruined by the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and even after the Restoration his family never regained their antebellum status.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


19 December 1919: The IRA attempted to assassinate the British Lord Lieutenant on this day. The attack was carried out at Ashtown, in County Dublin. The IRA had been trying to assassinate Lord French for about three months. The IRA ambush party consisted of:  Mick McDonnell, Tom Kehoe, Martin Savage[above], Sean Tracey, Seamus Robinson, Sean Hogan, Paddy Daly (Leader), Vincent Byrne, Tom Kilkoyne, Joe Leonard, and Dan Breen.

It was known that Lord French was due to alight from the train station at Ashtown before proceeding in a two car convoy to the Vice Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park. As he generally travelled in the 2nd car the plan was based around separating the two vehicles through a ruse and then kill the target before the occupants of the other could intervene. It was decided to draw a hay cart some way across the crossroads where Kelly’s Public House* is situated. Once the 1st car had passed by two volunteers would complete the blocking of the road and that would be the signal for the attack. The plan almost came unstuck right at the start as a DMP man appeared on the scene and ordered them to stop. He was knocked unconscious and dragged aside.

There were two cars in Lord French's convoy taking him from the Ashtown railway station to the Vice-Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park. The ambushers thought he would be in the second car but he was in the first and drove through their blockade. A fierce gun battle then broke out as the ambushers turned their attention on the 2nd car but it quickly became apparent that their intended victim had made good his escape. Two DMP men (D/Sgt Halley and Constable O'Loughlin), the driver of the second car (McEvoy) and one of the attackers (Dan Breen) were wounded. 

With all hell breaking loose Martin Savage and another man took position behind the hay cart and opened up. Further members of the Crown Forces had now arrived on the scene and the volunteers were coming under rifle fire. Armed only with revolvers and pistols and a few grenades Savage decided to lob one of the bombs at their opponents but as he attempted to do so a Sgt. Rumbold shot him down. He died in the arms of Dan Breen
 
At the inquest a few days later the Jury recorded that:


We find that Martin Savage died from a bullet fired by a military escort and we beg to tender our sympathy to the relatives of the deceased.
 
Martin Savage’s remains were returned to his native Ballisodare, Co. Sligo where he was buried with full honours before a large crowd of local people and sympathisers. In 1948, The National Graves Association erected a memorial to Savage close to the site of the ambush at Ashtown Cross. In recent years due to road widening the memorial was removed to its present location. There is an annual commemoration of his death at the site of the ambush.

* Now the Halfway House



Wednesday, 18 December 2013


18 December 1980: The 1st Hunger Strike in Long Kesh dramatically and suddenly ended on this day. The strike had been called in late October as a means of winning Political Status for the Republican prisoners who had been captured during the conflict. Since 1976 anyone convicted before the North’s special courts had been deemed a ‘criminal’ and been treated accordingly. The prisoners so convicted and held in the jails were not prepared to accept this and many went ‘on the blanket’. By late 1980 the situation had reached such a stage that seven men volunteered to go on Hunger Strike to win a set of demands that would in effect give them the status of political prisoners. These men were:

Tom McFeeley, Brendan Hughes (until then, the OC for protesting prisoners), Raymond McCartney, Leo Green, John Nixon, Tommy McKearney and Sean McKenna. Mairead Farrell, Mairead Nugent and Mary Doyle, all prisoners in Armagh, joined the men in the H-Blocks on 1 December 1980.

On the night of the 18th of that month the British put before the men in Long Kesh a set of proposals that they claimed would allow the Strike to be called off without loss of face and give them the substance of what they wanted. One of the prisoners, Sean McKenna, was in a bad way by this stage and close to going blind. After considering the offer the prisoners decided to accept the assurances of the British Government and end their action.

They issued a Statement that included the following lines:

In ending our hunger strike, we make it clear that failure by the British Government to act in a responsible manner towards ending the conditions which forced us on to a hunger strike will not only lead to inevitable and continual strife within the H-Blocks, but will show quite clearly the intransigence of the British Government.
As it turned out their suspicions were well founded as Mrs Thatcher reneged on the deal and her bad faith led to the second great Hunger Strike of 1981 that was to prove a watershed in Irish Politics.



 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


17 December 1803: The famous Wicklow guerrilla leader, Michael Dwyer, surrendered to the British on this day. Since the failure of the Rising in 1798 he had kept up a resistance campaign in the Wicklow Mountains. Despite Dublin Castle putting a price on his head and conducting numerous sweeps of area by the Crown Forces Dwyer and his determined band always managed to evade capture. However the years of hardship in such a barren terrain and the mistreatment of members of his family in retaliation by the British led him to decide to call it a day and he came in of his own accord. While his life was spared he was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail and subject to harsh treatment there.

In 1805 he was transported to Botany Bay and imprisoned as a convict. He clashed there with the Governor, Captain Bligh of Bounty fame and was sent by him to Norfolk Island where conditions were diabolical. When Bligh was recalled in 1808 he was able to return to Sydney and was eventually given 100 acres on which to settle and farm. Ironically he became a local Constable and lived on undisturbed until 1825.




Monday, 16 December 2013




16 December 1971: General Richard Mulcahy died in Dublin on this day. Richard James Mulcahy was born in Waterford and educated by the Christian Brothers both there, and later in Thurles where his father was postmaster. He joined the post office and was employed initially at Bantry, transferring to the engineering department in Wexford and from there to Dublin. A member of the I. R. B. and the Gaelic League he joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913.

He fought with Thomas Ashe in Ashbourne during Easter 1916, was imprisoned at Frongoch, and released in the general amnesty in 1917. Chief of Staff of the IRA, he was elected MP for the Clontarf Division in 1918 and served as Minister for Defence in the First Dáil until April 1919. He played an important role as the senior staff officer in the War of Independence ensuring that the IRA was organised and conducted its affairs as a disciplined force answerable to its officers.

He supported the Treaty and served as Minister for National Defence in the Provisional Government and succeeded Michael Collins as Commander in Chief of the Free State Army after his death. He gave the graveside oration at Michael Collins funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery. He exercised primary responsibility for the conduct of the Civil War campaign against anti-Treaty forces. He pressed for harsh measures against the Republican forces including the execution of men taken in arms. However his ability to balance calculated harsh measures against atrocities and unofficial reprisals carried out at local level was problematic to say the least. While his determination and ruthlessness shortened the War it also prolonged the many years of bitterness that followed.

He resigned from the Cabinet during the army crisis of 1924 but re-entered the Cabinet as Minister for Local Government in June 1927. After the resignation of W.T. Cosgrave in June 1944 Mulcahy was elected leader of Fine Gael. Because of his Civil War legacy he stood aside to allow John A. Costello to form the First and Second Inter-Party Governments and served as Minister for Education in both (1948–51, 1954–57) and as Minister for the Gaeltacht (July–October 1956). He resigned from the leadership of Fine Gael in 1959 and from active politics in 1961.

 

Saturday, 14 December 2013



14 December 1955: The Republic of Ireland became a member of the United Nations. Liam Cosgrave as Minister for External Affairs negotiated the deal allowing the accession. There was a window of opportunity in late 1955 due to a slight thaw in relations between the West and the Soviet Union. Italy and a cluster of smaller states (incl, ourselves) were allowed entry in a quid pro quo deal. Cosgrave committed Ireland to a number of policy guidelines that would serve as markers on how our relations with this World Wide Organisation would be conducted.

These were: We pledged to abide by the UN Charter; that we would remain independent of any power blocs and that we would oppose Communism.


Thursday, 12 December 2013


11/12 December 1956: ‘The Border Campaign’ began on this day. The IRA under its Chief of Staff Sean Cronin carried out a series of attacks on Crown Forces personnel and installations in the Border areas of the Six Counties. A BBC relay transmitter was bombed in Derry, a courthouse was burned in Magherafelt, as was a B-Specials post near Newry and a half built Army barracks at Enniskillen was blown up. A raid on Gough barracks in Armagh was beaten off after a brief exchange of fire.

That day the IRA issued the following statement:

Spearheaded by Ireland’s freedom fighters, our people have carried the fight to the enemy…Out of this national liberation struggle a new Ireland will emerge, upright and free. In that new Ireland, we shall build a country fit for all our people to live in. That then is our aim: an independent, united, democratic Irish Republic. For this we shall fight until the invader is driven from our soil and victory is ours.
The campaign after an initial surge of activity was to be marked by a number of intermittent attacks on the British in the North that continued until 1962. But without a certain level of popular support on both sides of the Border it was obvious that further resistance was futile and the IRA called off their campaign and dumped arms.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


10 December 1710: Irish Brigades in the service of France and Spain saw action at the battle of Villaviciosa on both sides on this day. The war in Spain was between the two contenders for the Spanish Throne: Philip V (backed by France) and Charles of Austria who had the backing of Austria, England and Holland. This dispute gave it’s name to the wider war being fought between various European Powers - The War of the Spanish Succession.

During this see saw war the fortunes of both sides waxed and waned. The battle took place about 70 miles north east of Madrid as Charles of Austria retreated towards Catalonia. Philip’s army hotly pursued him, but which was under the direct command of Marshal Vendome of France. Three Irish regiments fought with the Spanish army in this battle, commanded by respectively Col. Don Demetrio MacAuliffe, Col. Don John de Comerford and Col. Don Reynaldo Mac Donnell. They were collectively known as the Brigade of Castlelar. The Marshal’s army also included a force of Dragoons under the dashing cavalry commander General Count Daniel O’Mahony who was assisted by General Henry Crofton. To this ‘Arme Blance’ was attached a Lord Killmaloc’s Regiment of Dragoons. All of the Irish troops were to play a full part in the battle that materially affected the outcome of the War in Spain.

The engagement was fought on a bleak day in the midst of a Spanish Winter. The main action began in the early afternoon and after many hours of hard fighting it looked like that Charles had won. Marshal Vendome had even ordered the Retreat when his cavalry under the Marquis de Val-de-Canas and Count O’Mahony won the day by charging into the enemy’s rear and forced them to retreat. Only the onset of the darkness of a December night stopped them from destroying their opponents in detail. Though O’Mahony did manage to hamstring 700 mules that severely hampered the enemy from carrying away much of their material from the battlefield. Combined with the defeat and capture the previous day by Vendome of 5,000 English soldiers at town of Brihuega the losses inflicted upon the enemy were such to render them unable to maintain the field and Charles had no option but to continue his sorry retreat to Barcelona and safety.

Their brave and daring actions raised the status of the Irish troops and their leaders immeasurably during the Campaign of 1710. Though Lord Killmaloc was mortally wounded in the final battle the Count O’Mahony was awarded for his services.

The Comte de Mahoni acquired a great deal of glory on the battle-day of Villaviciosa, at the head of the dragoons. The King was so satisfied with him, that he conferred upon him a Commandership of the Order of St. Jacques (ie Jago) producing a rent of 15,000 Livres. …


History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France
by John Cornelius O’Callaghan.



 

 

Sunday, 8 December 2013


 

 

8 December, 1856, Father Matthew, Apostle of Temperance, died at Cobh in County Cork after suffering a stroke on this day. He was born at Thomastown Castle, Co Tipperary on 10th October 1790.
 
He was ordained a priest 1814 and spent 24 years in the Diocese of Cork before he began his great Crusade against Drink. In 1838 came the crisis of his life and after battling with his own Demons he founded the Cork Total Abstinence Society on 10 April 1838 in his own schoolhouse. He presided, delivered a modest address, and took the pledge himself. Then with the historic words, "Here goes in the Name of God", he entered his signature in a large book lying on the table. From then on night after night, Father Mathew addressed crowded assemblies. In three months he had enrolled 25,000 in Cork alone; in five months the number had increased to 130,000. The movement now assumed a new phase. Father Mathew decided to go forth and preach his crusade throughout the land. In the following years he gave the Pledge to multitudes throughout Ireland and in Scotland and England too. When the Famine struck he devoted his efforts to the relief of the poor and hungry in Cork and used his influence in England and America to obtain food and money.
 
 In the early part of 1849, in response to earnest invitations, he set sail for America. He visited New York, Boston, Washington and many other cities, and secured more than 500,000 disciples. After a stay of two and a half years he returned home in 1851. By then it was estimated he had secured the Pledge from some seven million people. But he most controversially seemed to fudge his position on the question of Slavery while there in order to not alienate his Southern backers by stating that the Bible did not condemn it.
 
He is buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Cork city which he had himself established.

 


 

Saturday, 7 December 2013


7 December 1688 - The Apprentice Boys of Derry closed the gates against King James' troops on this day. With the advent of King James II to the throne in 1685 religious animosity had grown between the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland. The former resented the growing power of the latter and they in turn suspected their religious opponents of disloyalty to the King in return. Events came to a head when a son was born to the King in June 1688. This meant that if he reached maturity he would succeed his father as a Catholic Monarch and thus perpetrate the dynasty of the Stuarts as true to the Old Faith. But on 5 November of this year William of Orange landed in England and set himself in opposition to James. A War between the Faiths looked inevitable and in Ireland this indeed proved the case.

King James wished to secure his position in this Country as at least here he could rely on the most widespread support from the Catholic population. The Catholic Earl of Antrim was ordered to secure the City of Londonderry for the Crown. The said Earl, Alexander MacDonnell, advanced to Derry with some 1200 men. He sent an advanced party across the river Foyle to enter and take the main gate and hold it until he brought up the bulk of his force.

 
Just at this moment thirteen young apprentices, most of whom appear, from their names, to have been of Scottish birth or descent, flew to the guard room, armed themselves, seized the keys of the city, rushed to the Ferry Gate, closed it in the face of the King’s officers, and let down the portcullis.‘History of England’ by Lord Macaulay.

This was a setback for the Royal cause as it galvanised opposition amongst the Protestant population here to resist and await relief from England should (as was most likely) William succeed to his daring enterprise. It was indeed a turning point in Irish History as this act of defiance imbued within the Protestant population of the North ever since a notion that loyalty to the Crown was conditional upon the Monarch being not a Catholic but one of their own.


 

 

Friday, 6 December 2013


6 December 1921: The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland’ were signed between the British and Irish Delegations in London on this day.

The Treaty allowed for the setting up of a Provisional Government, which was to oversee the establishment of an Irish Free State (not a Republic!) within one year. The new State was to have jurisdiction over 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland. The other six were to remain part of the United Kingdom, effectively under the control of the unionists. Their State, called ‘Northern Ireland’, had already come into existence in May 1921. A Boundary Commission was to review the exact border between the two states. Nationalists were hopeful that those areas along the northern side of the Border, where the Catholics were in a majority, would be transferred to the Free State. The British were also to retain control of certain ports, the ‘Treaty Ports’ for reasons of strategic defence.

However, the main stumbling block towards the acceptance of the Treaty was the inclusion of an ‘Oath of Allegiance’ to the British Crown. This obliged all those deputies elected to the Free State Parliament to take an oath of fidelity to King George V and his successors, in recognition of his status as head of the British Commonwealth. The British felt that this was crucial to them accepting the existence of a separate Irish state, which would have the status of a Dominion within the British Empire.

These most controversial words read as follows:

I ... do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H. M. King George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.
 
There is no doubt that the majority of the people in the South did favour accepting the Treaty. It gave them most of what they wanted, basically peace and a large measure of independence. The Catholic Church, the large farmers, the newspapers and the business community were its strongest supporters. The Labour movement was also largely in favour of acceptance. It was incomprehensible to the many supporters of the Treaty as to why it should be rejected. They argued that to all intents and purposes it allowed most of Ireland to manage her own affairs. To quite a significant minority though, especially amongst the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, the Treaty was unacceptable. The Irish had signed the agreement under the threat of the immediate renewal of war by the British, if the Irish delegates turned down its terms. It recognised Partition and worst of all the Oath would mean a rejection of the Irish Republic, which they had fought for and which many of their comrades had died for. The very idea of taking an oath to the British King George whose armed forces had so recently brought fear and terror to the Irish people, turned the stomachs of many. There was to be a Governor General who could prorogue the Free State Parliament if he thought it necessary. It was believed by the Treaty’s opponents that any parliament that was bound by these conditions would be very limited in its independence and in effect a vassal state within the British Empire.

However the Treaty did mean that most of Ireland would be part of a State where Irishmen would be in control of public affairs for the first time in centuries. The new State would have its own Army and police forces. The control of taxes, and of customs and excise would be in its hands. It had the right to maintain relations with other countries. For the first time, the majority of the Irish people would have the power to elect an Irish Government, which in effect if not quite in theory only they could remove.

The Articles were signed on behalf of the British by:

D. LLOYD GEORGE; AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN; BIRKENHEAD; WINSTON S. CHURCHILL; L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS; HAMAR GREENWOOD; GORDON HEWART.

And by the Irish:

ART Ó GRÍOBHTA (ARTHUR GRIFFITH); MICHEÁL Ó COILEÁIN; RIOBÁRD BARTÚN; EUDHMONN S. Ó DÚGÁIN; SEÓRSA GHABHÁIN UÍ DHUBHTHAIGH.



 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


4 December 1971: McGurk’s Bar in Belfast was blown up on this day. Fifteen innocent people were killed in the explosion and many more were injured. McGurk's family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast's main thoroughfares, five minute's walk away from the commercial hub of the City. The proprietor Paddy McGurk was a well known figure and the Vice President of the local GAA club, the Ardoyne Kickhams. His wife and daughter died that evening.
The original target of the Loyalist bombers was a pub called ‘the Gem’ which was frequented by members of a Republican organisation in competition with the Provisional IRA. The gang were under instructions to plant the device there in the hope that the inevitable casualties would lead to violent strife between these rivals. However the Gem was well guarded and the bombers decided that McGurk’s was an easier target.
Almost immediately in the aftermath of the attack a sinister campaign of disinformation was launched by sources within the Crown Forces that raised suspicions within the Nationalist Community that there was a hidden hand at work. The following day the journalist John Chartres writing in the London Times newspaper devoted a complete article to the debriefing of the British army. He recorded, without heeding any of the witness accounts:

 
Police and army intelligence officers believe that Ulster's worst outrage, the killing of 15 people, including two children and three women... was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.
 
BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building. Other such reports in a similar vein followed that helped cast doubt in the public mind as to who was responsible and a plausible cover story was thus germinated that this was indeed an IRA ‘own goal’ that had gone disastrously wrong for the perpetrators.
Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until a U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, turned himself in and confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28 July 1977. He admitted that he drove the vehicle used to transport the bomb on that fateful night but the bombers themselves have never been brought to justice. Robert James Campbell was sentenced on the 6 September 1978. He was released on the 9th September 1993 afters serving fifteen years for the murders of fifteen people.
In July 2008, British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward apologised in a letter to Scottish MP Michael Connarty about the role the British Army played in the cover up of who was responsible for the massacre. Mr Connarty’s great uncle was killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar this night 42 years ago.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


3 December 1925: The Boundary Commission, set up under the Treaty to finalise the Border, was scrapped and a financial settlement was agreed between the British and Irish Governments instead covering various aspects of Anglo-Irish affairs. The Commission’s findings had been fatally undermined when the Morning Post newspaper leaked its results. This clearly showed that only minor adjustments in the Border were to be expected. It was in effect a Fiasco for the Irish Free State and the hopes of the Irish People.

The Free State President W.T. Cosgrave [above] could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. He defended his handling of the subsequent negotiations that saw the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal. He stated in the parliament of the Free State that:

I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.
 
He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.



Monday, 2 December 2013


December 1791: The death of Henry Flood MP on this day. Flood was one of the great advocates of the legislative independence of Ireland during the latter 18th Century. He was a great orator and a man of considerable intelligence and political acumen. He was however primarily concerned with establishing the political dominance of the Ascendancy Class and the maintenance of the Established Church of Ireland free from the interference of the English Parliament.

He was born in 1732, the illegitimate son of Warden Flood, the Anglo-Irish chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. Henry Flood entered the Irish Parliament in 1759 as a placeman of the Ponsonby family (the Earls of Bessborough). His outstanding oratorical powers soon enabled him to create an effective opposition inside the Irish Parliament that agitated for political reforms. They demanded that Irish parliamentary elections should take place every eight years instead of merely at the start of a new British monarch's reign. In 1768 Flood's patriots agitated sufficiently to persuade the Duke of Grafton's government to pass the Octennial Act; in 1769 and 1771 they defeated measures to grant funds for the British administration in Ireland. Their long-range goal was legislative independence.

Although Flood was the first independent Irish statesman, he lost his support in 1775 when he accepted the office of vice treasurer under the British viceroy, Lord Harcourt. Henry Grattan, an even greater orator than Flood, replaced him as leader of the patriots. Grattan described Flood as a man "with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket." In 1779 Flood rejoined his old party, and two years later he was dismissed from his government post. Although Flood had lost his following, he helped Grattan to force North's government to renounce its restrictions on Irish trade in 1779 and grant legislative independence to Ireland in 1782. Flood then decided to challenge Grattan's leadership.

Alleging that Grattan had not gone far enough in his reforms, Flood obtained passage of a measure requiring the English Parliament to renounce all claims to control of Irish legislation. Flood's newly acquired popularity was destroyed upon the defeat of his attempt to reform the Irish Parliament in 1784. From 1783 until his retirement in 1790 he was a member of both the British and the Irish parliaments, though in England he failed to achieve the kind of political successes that he achieved in Ireland. Flood opposed Catholic emancipation and the lifting of the Williamite Penal Laws In his will, he bequeathed his estate to fund the study of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin: this was challenged successfully by a cousin. Flood died on 2 December 1791 at Farmley, County Kilkenny. While considered nowadays to be a ‘Patriot’ his brand of patriotism was of a very limited nature of those it wished to encompass.
http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/people/flood.htm



 

Sunday, 1 December 2013



1 December 1901: The death of Thomas Clarke Luby, Fenian, at his home in Oak Street in Jersey City, USA on this day. His was the son of the Reverend James Luby a Protestant clergyman, He studied at Trinity College Dublin and at the Temple in London but was from an early age attracted to the Nationalist Movement.  Initially a supporter of Daniel O’Connell he tried to organize a Rising in Dublin in 1848 but when that and the events in Tipperary proved a fiasco he fled Ireland for Australia then the USA. In 1851 he tried to join the French Foreign Legion but to his great disappointment they were not recruiting at the time.
 
Ten years after leaving he was back in his native city and on 17 March 1858 in a Timber yard on Lombard Street East he along with James Stephens and others founded the IRB aka ‘the Fenians’. He travelled the Country helping to organise resistance and recruit members for the oath bound society. He played a leading role in the success of the Irish People newspaper. He was arrested along with other members in 1865 and was charged with ‘Treason-Felony’ and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment.
 
He was released in 1871 and moved to the USA. He became active in Clann na Gael and the Irish Confederation, raising funds and promoting the cause of Irish Freedom. He went on to become a respected journalist, lecturer and author. One of the ‘Grand Old Men’ of the Fenian movement he never wavered in his commitment to the Cause.

Saturday, 30 November 2013




30 November 1900: Oscar Wilde, aged 46, Irish wit, writer and homosexual, died in exile in Paris on this day. He was living there under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth. He had lived in Paris since his release from prison in 1897. Oscar was a native born Dubliner and the son of William Wilde and Jane Francesca Elgee, who were well known characters in their own right. His father was a Medical man and antiquarian and his mother an ardent Nationalist. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie was born on October 16 1854 in the City of Dublin. He attended Portora Royal School at Enniskillen where he first showed promise as a writer. From there he attended Trinity College Dublin where he achieved a First in Classics. In 1874 he was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford.

While at Magdalen his examiners awarded him the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna,” and a First Class in both his “Mods” and “Greats”. After graduation, Oscar moved to London to live with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. “Poems” received mixed reviews by critics, but it helped to move Oscar's writing career along. At the end of this year he set off on an extended Lecture Tour of the United States ostensibly on the subject of Aesthetics but as the tour unfolded Oscar himself became the real focus of interest. On his return after an absence of some 14 months he embarked on another such like expedition around Britain and Ireland so that by the time of its completion he was what in modern parlance might be described as a ‘celebrity’ figure.

His marriage in 1884 to Constance Lloyd and the birth of children meant that Oscar now had responsibilities. This stimulated his creative mind to create literary works that would maintain himself and his family in some comfort in the London of the late Victorian era. The next six years were to become the most creative period of his life. He published children's stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales and The House of Pomegranates and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
 
However it was his brilliant satirical plays that are his abiding legacy and Oscar’s first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theatre. His subsequent plays included A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright on the London scene.

But while at the height of his fame Oscar became infatuated with a younger man, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, and the two became lovers. While not unknown a liaison of this nature was Illegal as the Law then stood and public exposure would ruin a man if convicted. The father of Oscar’s affections, the Marquis of Queensberry, took a dim view of this illicit relationship and publicly revealed the nature of the friendship. Oscar foolishly sued for libel in April 1895, withdrew the case but then was arrested and charged. The Trail was a sensation and scandalised London Society of the time. Oscar was found guilty and convicted of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years Hard Labour which he served in Reading Gaol.
 
On release he wrote his last literary work ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ but his career was at an end and he fled to Paris living incognito in a shabby series of hotels. His wife had abandoned him and taken the children to Switzerland and changed their surname to Holland. His spirit was shattered and his health declined. An ear infection set in and an operation to clear it was not a success. Broken and alone he passed away there a sad and lonely figure on this day 1900. He was eventually laid to rest in the City’s famous La Pére Lachaise Cemetery. His tomb is now a ‘must see’ site on any tour of this hallowed ground for those who value the wit, the wisdom and the humour of one of Ireland’s most talented but tragic sons.
 
No man is rich enough to buy back his past.
Oscar Wilde

Friday, 29 November 2013



29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that an English relief force was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill.

He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Lord Fingal that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into an ambush. O’More waited until the moment was ripe and then the Irish warriors uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless column cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came.

The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants.

 

 

Thursday, 28 November 2013



28 November 1920: The ambush at Kilmichael on this day. Commandant Tom Barry, of the West Cork No. 3 Brigade Column led the IRA in an ambush on the British Auxiliaries near the village of Kilmichael in Co Cork. It was a pre planned operation which Barry organised with the intention of inflicting maximum casualties on these ex British regulars who had quickly acquired a notorious reputation on their deployment here. The targets were packed into two Crossley tenders, each with nine cadets of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC on board, who were travelling from their base in Macroom towards Dunmanway when they were ambushed about one and a half miles south of the village of Kilmichael.

After the Column had waited since dawn in the biting cold the Auxiliary unit was spotted approaching the ambush position just after 4 pm. Barry arranged for one man in uniform to stand in the road as the enemy column approached and when the lead vehicle slowed a mills grenade was lobbed at it to open the ambush. Then the IRA men opened a ferocious fusillade of rifle fire and swept both vehicles end to end. The first tenders’ occupants were all dealt with and left either dead or dying. However the second one had time to react and its members were able to gain cover and return sustained fire. Some of the Auxiliaries called out ‘We surrender’ but when men rose to take them in they were cut down. Barry had by this time worked his way around to the rear of the pinned down group and let them have it. He shouted orders that there was to be no let up until he gave the word. No prisoners were taken. Amazingly only about half the Column had actually fired upon the British as the fight was over in minutes with many of the men out of the line of fire before Barry called a halt.

With dusk falling he reassembled his party and as some of the men were a bit shook up he decided to jerk them back into a proper frame of mind so as to be able to face the rigours ahead on that night. After giving orders to fire both the tenders he drilled them on the road there and then by the light of the burning vehicles. He then led his victorious column away to safety. 18 of the Auxiliaries lay dead on the roadside and although the IRA lost three men Killed in Action the Auxiliaries power had been broken. Never again would they prowl the country roads of Ireland with impunity. In a fair fight they had been shown not to be supermen but mere mortals who when taken unawares and in close combat were found wanting.

The names of the men who died for Ireland that day were:

 Roll of Honour:

Michael McCarthy

Jim O’Sullivan

Pat Deasy

 

 


Tuesday, 26 November 2013



26 November 1972: Dramatic and bloody events occurred in the City of Dublin on this day: A Bombing was carried out on a crowded City Centre cinema. There was also the arrest and imprisonment for contempt of Court of one Kevin O’Kelly, a well known RTE journalist, plus an unsuccessful attempt by the IRA to rescue one of their top men, Seán Mac Stiofáin [above], from the Mater Hospital in the north inner City.

At 1.25 a.m. a bomb exploded in a laneway connecting Burgh Quay to Leinster Market. It was placed beside the rear exit door of the Film Centre cinema, O’Connell Bridge House. A late film was in progress: there were 3 staff and approximately 156 patrons in the cinema at the time of the explosion. No one was killed in the blast, but some 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment. It is believed that agent provocateurs sent over from Britain were responsible for this attack.

The events leading to O’Kelly and Mac Stiofáin’s arrests had begun on Sunday 19 November when RTE Radio broadcast a report based on an interview by Kevin O'Kelly with the IRA Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stiofáin. The leading Republican figure had been apprehended soon afterwards and brought before the Courts. O'Kelly was found guilty of contempt of Court when, during the conduct of the trial of Mac Stiofáin, he refused to identify the defendant as the subject of that interview.

The IRA Leader had embarked upon a Hunger Strike soon after he was arrested. He was convicted of being  ‘a member of an unlawful organisation’ and as his condition was deteriorating he was sent to the Mater Hospital where he was to be placed under observation. That Sunday afternoon a crowd of about seven thousand people had gathered outside the GPO and marched to the hospital to demand his release.
 
Later that night a rescue party of eight IRA men, two disguised as Priests and the others as Hospital Doctors tried to free Mac Stiofáin but were themselves captured. Two of the men had guns, and shots were exchanged with Special Branch detectives, resulting in minor injuries to a detective, two civilians and one of the raiders. The Prisoner was then transferred by helicopter to the Curragh General Military Hospital to serve the rest of his six month sentence while his erstwhile rescuers were each sent down for seven years for their audacity when they in turn faced the Courts. 

 

Monday, 25 November 2013


 
25 November 1913: The foundation of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda, Dublin on this day. The aim of the new organisation was to counter the Ulster Volunteers in providing a similar force for Irish nationalists in the event of an armed confrontation over Home Rule. The first President was Eoin MacNeill but it drew support from a wide spectrum of Irish nationalist opinion.

The idea arose from an article he wrote some weeks previously in An Claidheamh Soluis, an Irish language newpaper. His proposal was called ‘The North began’. In it MacNeill put forward the idea that a Force be established that would counter the formation of the UVF in the North. He intended to ensure that Irish Nationalism was not left unarmed and vulnerable as the political situation developed. It estimated that some 7,000 people went to the Rotunda’s Large Concert hall that night, with some 4,000 inside and another 3,000 outside. The meeting was called with the specific intention of raising a National Volunteer Force to be called ‘The Irish Volunteers’. In the Notices issued around Dublin in advance of the meeting it was stated that:

The purpose of the Irish Volunteers will be to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.

The new organisation quickly mushroomed and by April 1914 it was estimated to have around 80,000 members and by July that year some 160,000 men had signed up but only a few thousands had any weapons with which to fight. Nevertheless such a formidable body of public opinion could not be easily ignored by the British Government and all the indicators were that a bloody clash  of arms was imminent in the late summer of 1914 between the Nationalist and Unionist armed camps over the thorny issue of Partition.

Only the outbreak of the Great War precluded what otherwise would have been a Civil War here. The Irish Volunteers then split on the question of involvement in the Conflict with most though by no means all following John Redmond’s call for enlistment in the British Army while a core membership remained  under MacNeill’s nominal control.
 
It was from that core group that the bulk of the men who took part in the Easter Rising of 1916 were drawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 24 November 2013



24 November 1865: The dramatic rescue of James Stephens of the IRB from the Richmond Prison, Dublin on this day. The Fenian Leader was rescued from Richmond Prison in Dublin after only a few weeks captivity. His his escape was organised from within and without the prison itself. Inside the Richmond were John J. Breslin who was a hospital warder and a Daniel Byrne, an ordinary warder. The two men were sworn members of the I.R.B. and willing to help. On the outside the acting leader of the Organisation was Colonel Thomas Kelly and he helped put together a support team from within the Fenians to ensure that once on the outside Stephens remained free.
 
At great risk Breslin managed to take wax impressions of the two keys he needed, one for Stephens cell, which was held in the Governors office and another for one of the outer doors. On the night of the actual rescue everything went according to plan. Only one other prisoner (a common criminal) was incarcerated on the same wing as Stephens and he wisely kept his mouth shut.

Once outside Stephens was ushered away to a safe house in the Summerhill area of the City where he remained for a number of months. The British put a price of £1,000 on his head but even this amount did not yield any informer willing to betray him. He eventually he made his way to Paris where he lived for many years and after a brief stay in Switzerland he returned home in 1891 and was left undisturbed by the Castle. He died in 1901.

It is curious to note that his escape from incarceration was an event that many Irish People at the time erroneously believed to have been acquiesced in by the British Government of the day. It was certainly an easy triumph for Irish Republicans that hugely embarrassed the occupying power.

 

Saturday, 23 November 2013



23 November 1867: Execution of the Manchester Martyrs William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien. They were publicly hanged for their alleged role in the rescue of Fenian prisoners in which a Constable Brett was fatally wounded. Although neither Larkin, Allen and O’Brien had fired the fatal shot nor had they had any intention to kill anybody, they were hanged as accessories to the death of the policeman.

The martyrs were hanged in front of the New Bailey prison in Salford, Manchester. Part of the wall was removed so that the public could witness the event. The morning of their execution was a cold and foggy one. Large crowds, marshalled by police and troops had assembled to witness the spectacle. Shortly after 8 O’Clock the men were led out and hanged, the bodies dropping out of sight into the pit below and out of sight of the onlookers.

They were buried in quicklime in Strangeways Prison. Today they rest in a mass grave in Blackley Cemetery, Plot number C.2711. Manchester. Their noble stand in the dock and on the gallows inspired T. D. Sullivan to pen the famous ballad ‘God save Ireland’.

When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral pro­cessions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O'Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Co Offaly.

It was widely felt amongst the Irish both at home and abroad that these men were wrongly hanged as it was not their intention to kill and nor had they. The brave and courageous stand they took in the Dock and upon the Gallows inspired Irish People around the World and helped to restore morale in the wake of the abortive Rising of 1867.

Ironically the first prisoner to utter these immortal words was one O'Meagher Condon who had his death sentence commuted to Life Imprisonment while another man Thomas Maguire was released from captivity as the case against him was so poor even the English Media felt he should be set free. 

Numerous monuments were erected to the Martyrs in the wake of their deaths across Ireland incl a symbolic grave to these brave men in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The famous song, which their sacrifice gave birth to, opens with the lines:

High upon the gallows tree, swung the noble-hearted three,
By the vengeful tyrant, stricken in their bloom.
But they met him face to face with the courage of their race,
And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.

"God save Ireland," said the heroes.
"God save Ireland," said them all.
"Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,
No matter when, for Ireland dear we fall!"

 

Friday, 22 November 2013


22 November 1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas on this day. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and he was the youngest to die. He was hardly past his first thousand days in office. His great grandparents hailed from Co Wexford and had fled Ireland in the 1840s to Boston, Massachusetts.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

His untimely and brutal death triggered a wave of shock and grief throughout Ireland that very night as word rapidly spread across the airwaves and by word of mouth that the President had succumbed to his wounds. He had visited this Country only a few months previously and had been met with a huge and ecstatic welcome. His election as President in 1960 was a source of great pride to the Irish People and of some advantage to the Country in its International relations.
 
It was like we had lost one of our own - and indeed in many respects we had.




Thursday, 21 November 2013


21 November 615 AD: The death of St Columbanus at Bobbio in Italy on this day. Columbanus was the greatest of the Irish Apostles to preach the Faith on the Continent. He founded a string of monasteries that acted as bases from which his disciples spread the Word amongst the new Germanic kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the collapse of Roman power. He was born in Leinster circa 543 AD and after an initial period of study he made his way to the great monastery of Bangor in the North where he became a Priest under the tutelage of St Comgall himself.

After many years there as a leading member of the community he felt the call to go abroad and spread the Gospel amongst the Heathens. With some reluctance he was allowed to depart by his mentor and took twelve followers with him. Proceeding through Scotland and England they made their way to eastern France to the Court of the King of Burgundy. Here Columbanus was well received and given the old castle of Annegray in the isolated Vosges Mountains upon which to found a Monastery. Here the abbot and his monks led the simplest of lives, their food oftentimes consisting of nothing but forest herbs, berries, and the bark of young trees.  So great was the devotion to Columbanus and so great were the numbers who flocked to witness his Piety and Sanctity that soon another site was required to cope with the influx of followers and penitents. Thus a new site was established at Luxeuil just a few miles away and Columbanus ruled his religious domain from there. However his great success evoked jealousy amongst the Frankish bishops and they conspired against him.

Forced to flee he made his way down the Loire to catch a ship home to Ireland but a great storm swept the vessel back into the Bay. Columbanus then decided that he would make his way back across France to the Rhine Valley in order to reach the Suevi and Alamanni, to whom he wished to preach the Gospel. After a couple of years of mixed success in what is now Switzerland his small band of followers reached northern Italy and the Court of King Agilulf at Milan in the year 612 AD. The King although a follower of the heretical Arian viewpoint was favourably disposed to Columbanus and gave him a plot of land on the Bobbio river near Genoa in which to establish himself. Here the Saint passed the last years of his life. It possible that Columbanus had travelled to Rome at some stage in his life to meet Pope Gregory to discuss various matters but he also communicated with his successor Pope Boniface on the Paschal question over when exactly Easter should be celebrated. The Celtic Church still followed the old ways of observance and Columbanus was eager to ensure that he did the right thing. He wrote to the Pontiff that:

 We Irish though dwelling at the far ends of the earth, are all disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul. . . Neither heretic, nor Jew, nor schismatic has ever been among us; but the Catholic Faith. Just as it was first delivered to us by yourselves, the successors of the Apostles, is held by us unchanged . . . we are bound to the Chair of Peter, and although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair alone is she looked on as great and illustrious among us…

By this stage Columbanus was over 70 years old and his end was approaching. He prepared for death by retiring to his cave on the mountainside overlooking the Trebbia River and when he died his remains were interred in the Abbey Church in Bobbio. His final resting place became a site of pilgrimage and was famed throughout Western Europe as the site where one of the Christianity’s greatest advocates lay buried.