Tuesday, 30 April 2013
30 April 1916: The Rising in Dublin fizzled out on this day
Sniping had continued overnight as the Rising came to an end. The captured insurgents who were held outside the Rotunda over the night were marched off to Richmond Barracks, Inchicore. Here they were screened and questioned by detectives of the DMO ‘G’ Division under military supervision.
In his Prison Cell Padraig Pearse wrote out a brief note reiterating his instructions of the previous day that was forwarded on to the Republican Garrisons that still held out:
In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms.
P.H. Pearse. Dublin 30th April 1916.
This brought about the surrender of the various outlying Insurgent positions as orders were brought to them to lay down their arms.
By last light that day the Rising was effectively over.
Monday, 29 April 2013
29 April 1916: Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was allowed into the British lines carrying an offer to surrender from Padraig Pearse. General Lowe offered only Unconditional Surrender and at 3.30 pm that afternoon agreed and handed over his sword to the General.
It was about 3.30 pm when General Lowe received Commandant Pearse at the top of Moore Street, in Parnell Street. One of the officers that had been a prisoner in the GPO was asked to identify Pearse and he could not - he said he did not see him in the GPO. He asked Commandant Pearse was he in the GPO, and he said he was - the officer said: 'I did not see you there'. Commandant Pearse then handed his sword to General Lowe."
After meeting General Maxwell at British Army HQ at Parkgate St beside the Phoenix Park orders were sent out by Pearse to the various Republican garrisons still holding out to lay down their arms and surrender:
In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the city and county will order their commands to lay down their arms. (Signed) P.H. Pearse, 29 April, 1916, 3.45 pm
James Connolly also countersigned the surrender order, but only for men under his command in Moore Street and the St Stephen's Green area.
Commandant Ned Daly was allowed to lead a march of his men from the Four Courts to the surrender point at the Gresham Hotel in Upper O’Connell St.
One of the prisoners from Moore St recalled:
We filed out onto Moore Street and were lined up into fours and were marched up O'Connell Street and formed into two lines on each side of the street. We marched up to the front and left all our arms and ammunition and then went back to our original places. Officers with notebooks then came along and took down our names…
That night the Insurgents who surrendered were held under armed guard on open ground beside the Rotunda at the top of O’Connell St.
We were ordered to dump as much stuff as we could in the houses…We laid down arms between the Gresham and Parnell Monument. I don't remember any white flag. We were herded into the Rotunda Gardens, in a patch of grass in front. We were lying on top of one another. I was quite near Collins and Joe Plunkett. I remember the British officer threatening to shoot the whole lot of us, and Collins saying to this officer, 'This is a very sick man; will you leave him alone' - or words to that effect. He was, of course, referring to Joe Plunkett.
Sunday, 28 April 2013
28 April 1916: The Insurrection continued in Dublin on this day.
General Sir John Maxwell arrived by boat from England. He came with orders to crush the Rising by whatever means were necessary. He was previously the GOC Egypt and a veteran of Britain’s Colonial Wars. He had recently suppressed a revolt of the Senussi People in Western Desert. He issued a Proclamation:
The most vigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing in their armed resistance to the law. If necessary I shall not hesitate to destroy any buildings within any area occupied by the rebels and I warn all persons within the area specified below, and now surrounded by HM troops, forthwith to leave such area.
By Friday morning much of the GPO was on fire and sections of the roof were collapsing. It was obvious to the men inside that they would have to evacuate the building sooner or later. One plan being considered was to tunnel through to the adjoining buildings and join up with the Four Courts garrison. However, this was not possible because of the worsening military situation. The British now had most of the streets around the GPO well covered with snipers and machine guns.
At around 8 pm Padraig Pearse decided to evacuate the GPO, which was aflame and under constant bombardment. He decided to try to escape via Henry Street and establish a new headquarters somewhere near there. The narrow streets around Henry Street and Moore Street were filled with smoke from the burning buildings. There was a great deal of confusion. In addition, nobody was quite sure exactly what the exact locations of the British Army were. Several groups of garrison tried to make their way down Henry Street but came under heavy fire. One of the casualties was The O’Rahilly who had come to Liberty Hall on Easter Monday to join the Rising even though he had initially tried to stop it going ahead.
Elizabeth O'Farrell, had been one of only three women (all members of Cumann na mBan) left in the GPO after Pearse had ordered the others to leave that morning. She recalled
We left in three sections, I being in the last. Commandant Pearse was the last to leave the building. He went round to see that no one was left behind. We immediately preceded him, bullets raining from all quarters as we rushed to Moore Lane.
Eventually Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett, Clarke and MacDermott halted in a house at Moore Street, number 16, where they planed to make their way through back streets to the Four Courts for a last stand.
However the British were not much the wiser of their opponents movements and continued to attack the GPO even after it was evacuated.
British troops killed up to a dozen innocent civilians on North King St in heavy fighting. At least some of these were killed in cold blood. But here only a handful of fighters remained and the British effectively controlled the area by nightfall.
In the north of County Dublin a Volunteer column under Thomas Ashe ambushed a convoy of RIC men. A running battle between members of the RIC and the insurgents took place, lasting five hours. The police casualties were heavy: the Meath County and District Inspectors, two sergeants and four constables were killed, and 16 constables wounded. Ashbourne barracks was captured but Volunteers Thomas Rafferty and John Crennigan lost their lives.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
27 April 1916: The Insurrection continued in Dublin on this day.
The British commenced a bombardment of the GPO from close range. Buildings on the street were soon on fire and many were engulfed by the flames. . While supervising the erection of a barricade in a nearby street, James Connolly was wounded in the ankle and had to be helped back into the GPO.
Supplies in the City began to run short and many civilians became desperate for food.
"Thursday, April 27th, after lunch - In the forenoon I was down at Morehampton Road shop. All there was normal but supplies somewhat limited. Afterwards down at Baggot St. (Upper). Many shops were closed and supplies in many were running out. No meat. Got the last Oxtongue and 2 Mutton Kidneys at Butchers, all meat commandeered by military. Carried home, 2 stone Potatoes and meat, everybody out carrying home their own stores."
Alfred Fannin Letters from Dublin, Easter 1916
In North King Street there was intense house to house fighting and armoured cars were used to back up the British assaults. Further up the river the Four Courts, held by Commandant Edward Daly and his men, came under attack from the British artillery. Over at the South Dublin Union Cathal Brugha was wounded in the continued fighting.
At about 10 pm that Thursday evening, an oil depot opposite the GPO exploded sending flames high into the night sky.
This night also was calm and beautiful, but this night was the most sinister and woeful of all those that have passed. The sound of artillery, of rifles, machine guns, grenades, did not cease for a moment. From my window I saw a red flare that crept to the sky, and stole over it and remained there glaring; the smoke reached from the ground to the clouds, and I could see great red sparks go soaring to enormous heights; while always, in the calm air, hour after hour there was the buzzing and rattling and thudding of guns, and, but for the guns, silence.
James Stephens The Insurrection in Dublin
26 April 1916: Field guns from Trinity College and the gunboat Helga on the River Liffey bombarded the Irish Citizen’s Army HQ at Liberty Hall and demolished it. Buildings in O’Connell St were also targeted and destroyed. The upper floor of the GPO was evacuated has the men there came under sustained attack from British snipers and guns.
Wednesday, April 26th, 9.30 a.m. - While we were dressing a terrific bombardment with field guns began - the first we had heard - and gave me cold shivers. The sound seemed to come from the direction of the G.P.O., and we concluded they were bombarding it. It went on for a quarter of an hour - awful! big guns and machine-guns - and then ceased, but we hear they were bombarding Liberty Hall, the headquarters of Larkin and the strikers two years ago, and always a nest of sedition. It is now crammed with Sinn Feiners. The guns were on H.M.S. Helga, that came up the river and smashed it from within about three hundred yards. It made me feel quite sick.
Mary Louisa Hamilton Norway The Sein Fein Rebellion as I saw it
The Battle of Mount Street Bridge [above]: British soldiers from the Sherwood Foresters regiment came under fire from a handful of Republican positions as they approach the Bridge there as they made their way up Northumberland Rd. Despite repeated attempts they were driven back sustaining over 200 casualties.
They were raw troops just off the boat from England. While the Officers and men showed great bravery they were tactically naïve and constantly launched full frontal attacks that cut down scores of them at a time. The defenders of the Bridge put up an equally heroic resistance against overwhelming odds and managed to hold their positions.
Eventually the British troops took Clanwilliam House by storm. Three of the twelve defenders were killed. The Insurgents were men drawn from the garrison at Boland’s Mill under the orders of Commandant Eamon De Valera.
British forces entered O’Connell St. and took up positions to cover the GPO and suppress the garrison within. A concentrated fire was opened on the GHQ of the Rising and the effects began to tell.
I was looking on O' Connell Bridge and Sackville Street, and the house facing me was Kelly's - a red-brick fishing tackle shop, one half of which was on the Quay and the other half in Sackville Street. This house was being bombarded.
I counted the report of six different machine guns, which played on it. Rifles innumerable and from every sort of place were potting its windows, and at intervals of about half a minute the shells from a heavy gun lobbed in through its windows or thumped mightily against its walls.
For three hours that bombardment continued, and the walls stood in a cloud of red dust and smoke. Rifle and machine gun bullets pattered over every inch of it, and unfailingly the heavy gun pounded its shells through the windows."
James Stephens The Insurrection in Dublin
Thursday, 25 April 2013
25 April 1916: A statement was issued from the Insurgent HQ in the GPO Dublin on this day.
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT To The CITIZENS OF DUBLIN
The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic salutes the Citizens of Dublin on the momentous occasion of the proclamation of a SOVEREIGN INDEPENDENT IRISH STATE, now in course of being established by Irishmen in arms.
The Republican forces hold the lines taken up at twelve noon on Easter Monday, and nowhere, despite fierce and almost continuous attacks of the British troops, have the lines been broken through. The country is rising in answer to Dublin’s call, and the final achievement of Ireland’s freedom is now, with God’s help, only a matter of days. The valour, self-sacrifice and discipline of Irish men and women are about to win for our country a glorious place among the nations.
Ireland’s honour has already been redeemed; it remains to vindicate her wisdom and her self-control. All citizens of Dublin who believe in the right of their country to be free will give their allegiance and their loyal help to the Irish Republic. There is work for everyone: for the men in the fighting line, and for the women in the provision of food and first aid. Every Irishman and Irishwoman worthy of the name will come forward to help their common country in this her supreme hour. Able-bodied citizens can help by building barricades in the streets to oppose the advance of the British troops. The British troops have been firing on our women and on our Red Cross. On the other hand, Irish Regiments in the British Army have refused to act against their fellow-countrymen.
The Provisional Government hopes that its supporters which means the vast bulk of the people of Dublin—will preserve order and self-restraint. Such looting as has already occurred has been done by hangers-on of the British Army. Ireland must keep her new honour unsmirched. We have lived to see an Irish Republic proclaimed. May we live to establish it firmly, and may our children and our children’s children enjoy the happiness and prosperity which freedom will bring.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government, P. H. PEARSE,
Commanding in Chief of the Forces of the Irish Republic, and President of the Provisional Government.
Meanwhile the British continued their preparations to crush the Rising. Lord French, the Commander of the British Army in Britain organised for an Expeditionary Force to be immediately despatched to Ireland. Within the Country General Lowe sent reinforcements from the Curragh to Dublin by train. More arrived from Belfast to bolster their positions. The General decided to seal off and isolate the various strongpoints and await further reinforcements. He established a tightening cordon in the outskirts of the City to stop any further support reaching the Volunteers and to guard against any breakout.
About 100 or so British soldiers seized the Shelbourne Hotel overlooking St Stephens Green and forced the Irish Citizen Army to withdraw under fire to the adjacent College of Surgeons. Commandant Daly who had seized the Linen Hall Barracks in north central Dublin set it alight to stop the British from using it as a base of attack.
Inside the GPO, work continued fortifying the building against attack. In order to improve communications, holes were tunnelled into the adjoining buildings. In this way, it became possible to move unseen from building to building thus avoiding sniper fire.
Artillery guns from the Curragh were used to bombard Republican positions.
A small contingent of Volunteers from Maynooth reached the Republican lines in the City after a forced march. Others arriving from the Country were not so lucky as the British tightened their hold.
Trinity College was secured by the British military and fortified by an ad hoc force of soldiers and students of the Colleges’ OTC and was then used as a base to harry communications between the various insurgent garrisons.
The South Dublin Union (now St James Hospital) garrison under vice Commandant Cathal Brugha was attacked but held out even though the fighting spread through the wards and corridors.
On this day the rumours began, and I think it will be many a year before the rumours cease The Irish Times published an edition which contained nothing but an official Proclamation that evily-disposed persons had disturbed the peace, and that the situation was well in hand. The news stated in three lines that there was a Sinn Fein rising in Dublin, and that the rest of the country was quiet.
No English or country papers came. There was no delivery or collection of letters. All the shops in the City were shut. There was no traffic of any kind in the streets. There was no way of gathering any kind of information, and rumour gave all the news. ...... It was believed also that the whole country had risen, and that many strong places and cities were in the hands of the Volunteers. Cork Barracks was said to be taken while the officers were away at the Curragh races, that the men without officers were disorganised, and the place easily captured. It was said that Germans, thousands strong, had landed and that many Irish Americans with German officers had arrived also with full military equipment."
James Stephens The Insurrection in Dublin
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
24 April 1916: The Easter Rising/ Amach na Cásca began. The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army seized various locations around the centre of Dublin including:
The GPO; The Four Courts; Boland's Mill, Jacob’s biscuit factory; St. Stephen's Green and strategic buildings such as the South Dublin Union (now St. James' Hospital) as well as important approaches to the city such as Mount Street Bridge. Outbreaks of street fighting in the City commenced as the insurgents engaged members of the Crown Forces and endeavoured to secure their positions.
About noon outside the GPO Padraig Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic:
IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom….
signed by Thomas J. Clarke; Sean Mac Diarmada; Thomas MacDonagh P. H. Pearse, Eamon Ceannt; James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.
Apart from the GPO the other garrisons of the insurgents were distributed as follows:
First battalion: Under Commandant Edward Daly, took possession of the Four Courts.
Second battalion: Commandant Thomas McDonagh – occupied Jacob’s Biscuit factory.
Third battalion: Commandant Eamon de Valera - occupied Boland’s flour mills and the railway line from Westland Row to Lansdowne Road.
Fourth Battalion: Commandant Eamon Ceannt occupied the South Dublin Union.[James Street Hospital].
The Citizen Army commanded by Michael Mallin and Countess Markievizc occupied St. Stephen’s Green.
That day the men in the GPO fired upon patrol of British Lancers making their way down Sackville St, killing some of them and forcing the others to flee. There was also fighting at St Stephens Green, Dublin Castle, O’Connell St. and the North Wall. Commandant Daly seized the British Army’s Linen Hall Barracks in north central Dublin.
Overall the armed clashes on Easter Monday were little more than skirmishes as the British were dumbfounded by the day’s events. However they quickly rallied and desperate measures were implemented to hurry reinforcements to the City to regain Dublin from the Irish ‘Rebels’.
That day the men in the GPO fired upon a patrol of British Lancers making their way down Sackville St, killing some of them and forcing the others to flee. There was also fighting at St Stephens Green, Dublin Castle, O’Connell St. and the North Wall.
Commandant Daly seized the British Army’s Linen Hall Barracks in north central Dublin.
Overall the armed clashes on Easter Monday were little more than skirmishes as the British were dumbfounded by the day’s events. However they quickly rallied and desperate measures were implemented to hurry reinforcements to the City to regain Dublin from the Irish ‘Rebels’.
The men in the GPO fired upon patrol of British Lancers making their way down Sackville St, killing some of them and forcing the others to flee. There was also fighting at St Stephens Green, Dublin Castle, O’Connell St. and the North Wall.
Commandant Daly seized the British Army’s Linen Hall Barracks in north central Dublin.
Overall the armed clashes on Easter Monday were little more than skirmishes as the British were dumbfounded by the day’s events. However they quickly rallied and desperate measures were implemented to hurry reinforcements to the City to regain Dublin from the Irish ‘Rebels’.
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
23 April 1014: The Battle of Clontarf /Cath Cluain Tarbh, (The Pasture of the Bulls) was fought on this day – Good Friday. The victors were the forces of King Brian Boru of Munster leading a force primarily of the men of Munster and south Connacht along with a small contingent of Limerick and perhaps Waterford Vikings. His erstwhile ally Mael Sechnaill of Meath held back on the day of the Battle. Thus Brian’s men alone faced the Vikings of Dublin and the Isles and their allies the Leinstermen under King Maelmorda. The result was a great Victory for King Brian but as the day ended he was killed himself while praying in his camp. Clontarf was the greatest and bloodiest battle of the Viking age in Ireland.
The location of the actual battle site has been open to dispute, some of it convoluted in argument, but there is no conclusive proof that it was not at the location of the place we know today as Clontarf, now a suburb of Dublin City. The indications are that both armies were divided into ‘Battles’ that were led by the most prominent Leaders of their respective contingents.
Those the side of the Vikings were Brodar the Manxman, Earl Sigurd from the Orkneys, King Sitric of Dublin and the forces of King Maelmorda of Leinster. It’s possible that around 5,500 men were available to fight against Brian’s Army on the day.
King Brian brought a formidable Army to Dublin to do Battle. He had his own core group made up of the Dal Cais from his Home Territory, the contingents of the men of Munster who owed him allegiance. From south Connacht there were the soldiers of two minor kingdoms related through family ties. He had too the services of perhaps some Vikings drawn from Limerick and Waterford. However around 7,000 warriors would be probably the maximum that Brian had available to bring to Dublin. There was also the Army of the King of Meath, Mael Sechnaill II, who would have at a maximum around 2,500 men to line out alongside Brian Boru.
The battle began at daybreak with challenges and shouts from both sides no doubt. Famous warriors would have been to the fore, eager to meet men of their own calibre in single combat. To the mass of combatants these epic struggles were just a prelude to the main Battles charging at each other and trying their best to emulate their own heroes. As the day wore on the Irish slowly gained the upper hand. The fighting was heavy on what appears to have been a sunny but somewhat windy Spring day. As the numbers of warriors dwindled on each side the fight started to concentrate around the standards and banners of the more important men.
With sunset approaching Victory was finally in the grasp of the Irish. King Brian had been left with just a few men to guard him in his Camp, no doubt men unfit for open combat and a few boys. The excitement of such a great Victory must have had this little Band on edge and they were keen to have a go themselves to finish off any stragglers that they could catch. News of all this was of course reaching Brian so he must have had the grim satisfaction of knowing the day was his. However he received a shattering blow in the closing stages of the battle for his aides had to inform him that Murchad’s Banner could no longer be seen and Brian knew that meant in all probability his beloved son and heir Murchad had fallen.
With Victory within sight the Irish pushed the Foreigners onto the seashore, their boats too far out to get to as the tide reached its high water mark. Many were drowned in desperate attempts to reach sanctuary onboard. The Manxman Brodar however was not amongst these forlorn fugitives. His Battle had been situated on the right flank of the Viking line and in the confusion of the final rout he and a few companions headed inland to avoid being trapped against the shore. As fate would have it his flight led him to Tomar’s Wood. Seeing a tent of some worth situated there he decided to find out to which worthy soul it might belong. Inside he saw just an old man with only a boy to protect him. He did not know who it was but one of his men had once served with the Vikings of Limerick and assured him it was actually King Brian who was inside. Brodar did not hesitate but set about the occupants with his weapon. He slew the King and fled the tent, exultant that his name would now live forever in memory of his bloody deed. Soon however word spread that a Viking had killed Brian and a search was organised to track him down. The pursuers surrounded the wood and in a circle of warriors moved towards the centre of the enclosure to find the killer. Brodar was eventually cornered and ritually disemboweled in a gruesome and bloody execution.
So ended the Battle of Clontarf and Brian’s career. Tactically the battle was a great Irish Victory that smashed the invading force and Strategically it did mark the end of the threat of further Viking interference from overseas. However the cost of Victory had been high. King Brain was dead as was his heir Murchad and in turn his son Turlough. Many of the lesser kings of Munster had also fallen, including Brian’s son in law Cian. On the opposing side Earl Sigurd was dead and Brodar who met such a terrible end. King Maelmorda of Leinster was also killed on the field of battle, probably by Conaig, the nephew of Brian, who died of his wounds in turn. King Sitric of Dublin, if he was ever on the battlefield, returned to the city in time to view the final stages of the Munstermens Victory.
Brian was the most successful King to control Ireland prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion. He had shown that a King could indeed bring the whole island under personal sway. The battle of Clontarf unfortunately undid much of Brian’s work, not just in the fact of his death but also in the loss of his favourite son and heir, Murchad and in turn his son Turlough. Thus on one day three generations of Brian’s family had fallen. Brian was an old man and his death was not far off anyway. Within a few years his son Murchad, had he lived, would have had to face the challenge of imposing his will on the recently united island. He might just have pulled it off if Brian had lived long enough to secure commitments from the other kingdoms to recognise Murchad as his rightful successor to the Kingdom of Ireland.
Monday, 22 April 2013
22 April 1916: The German Blockade runner ‘Aud’ (a.k.a. SMS Libau) [above], under Captain Karl Spindler was scuttled in the approaches to Cobh Harbour to ensure her cargo of arms did not fall into enemy hands. He and his crew spent the rest of the War in captivity in England.
Masquerading as the Aud —an existing Norwegian vessel of similar appearance— the Libau set sail from the Baltic port of Lübeck on April 9, 1916, under the Command of Karl Spindler, bound for the south-west coast of Ireland. Under Spindler was a crew of 22 men, all of whom were volunteers. The Aud, laden with an estimated 20,000 rifles, 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition, 10 machine guns, and explosives (under a camouflage of a timber cargo), evaded patrols of both the British 10th Cruiser Squadron, and local Auxiliary patrols.
After surviving violent storms off Rockall, the Aud arrived in Tralee Bay on April 20. There they were due to meet with Roger Casement and others, with Casement having been landed nearby by U-19. Due to a combination of factors (primarily as the ship carried no radio and was unaware that the date for its arrival off Fenit had been altered from Thursday, April 20 to Sunday, April 23, the transfer of arms did not take place. The Aud, attempting to escape the area, was trapped by a blockade of British ships. Captain Spindler allowed himself to be escorted towards Cork Harbour, in the company of Acacia class sloop HMS Bluebell. The German crew then scuttled the ship.
Though his attempt ended in failure the endeavours of Captain Spindler and his crew deserve a place in the annals of military seafaring as the voyage of the Aud through the British Naval Blockade on Germany was no easy task and one that few ships accomplished during the course of the War.
Sunday, 21 April 2013
21 April 1918: An anti Conscription Pledge was taken throughout Ireland on this day. It was taken throughout the Country as opposition to the proposed measure gathered pace. Four days before this the British House of Commons had passed the Military Service Bill, which empowered the British Government to enforce conscription – compulsory service in the British Army – for all men of military age in Ireland. This was the catalyst for a mobilization of Nationalist Ireland to resist what was seen as a gross imposition by Britain on the Irish People.
Acting on a resolution of Dublin Corporation, the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Laurence O'Neill) called a conference at the Mansion House, Dublin. The Irish Anti-Conscription Committee was convened to devise plans to resist conscription, and represented different sections of nationalist opinion: John Dillon and Joseph Devlin for the Irish Parliamentary Party, Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith for Sinn Féin, William O'Brien and Timothy Michael Healy for the All-for-Ireland Party and Michael Egan, Thomas Johnson and W X O'Brien representing Labour and the Trade Unions. [above]
Eamon De Valera devised the pledge that was to be taken:
‘Denying the right of the British Government to enforce compulsorily service in this Country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.’
On the evening of the same day, the Roman Catholic bishops were holding their annual meeting and declared the conscription decree an oppressive and unjust law, and called on Catholics to resist "by the most effective means at our disposal" (if "consonant with the law of God.")
The Anti-Conscription Committee and bishops proposed that the anti-conscription pledge was to be taken at the church door of every Catholic parish on the following Sunday, 21 April.
Due to the clear intent of Nationalist Ireland to resist such an imposition the British Government baulked at actually implementing such a drastic measure and by the time the War ended some months later in November 1918 it still had not been introduced.
Saturday, 20 April 2013
20 April 1796: The First stone of the new buildings of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, was laid by Lord Lieutenant Camden on this day. The British Government had agreed to a Catholic Seminary being established in Ireland in order to placate the Catholic Hierarchy. They hoped that by doing this the Church would act as a brake upon the growth of Revolutionary ferment in the Country.
'Forty students and ten professors lived in the cramped conditions of Stoyte House during the first year of the College, 1795-1796. Stoyte House had been the home of John Stoyte, the land steward for the Duke of Leinster, who lived in Carton House.
Plans were prepared for the extension of Stoyte House, and the Foundation Stone for Long Corridor was laid by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Camden, on 20 April 1796 in the presence of the four judge-trustees, officials of Dublin Castle, the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, the Duke of Leinster and the first President of the College, Rev Thomas Hussey.
Since 1793 the French Republic had been at War with Britain in a clash of not just Nations but also between ideologies. The British knew that very many people in Ireland were sympathetic to the ideals of the French Revolution, some by a genuine sense of empathy and others through the principle of England’s enemy being Ireland’s opportunity. The Catholic Church on the other hand had been appalled by the Revolution and its excesses and the attempts of the revolutionaries to break their power in that Country.
So the foundation of Maynooth and the subsequent building programme put the seal on this marriage of convenience between two very unlikely partners under pressure of external and internal threats to their respective fields of Authority.
Friday, 19 April 2013
19 April 1741: In a letter to Dr. Thomas Prior, Dublin, the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr. George Berkeley, wrote of the Famine which was then raging:
The distresses of the sick and poor are endless. The havoc of mankind in the counties of Cork, Limerick and some adjacent places hath been incredible. The nation, probably, will not recover this loss in a century. The other day I heard one from the county of Limerick say that whole villages were entirely dispeopled.
The Great Famine of 1741 had its origins in the ‘Great Frost’ of January 1740 when an intense and bitter cold that emanated from the Artic and not experienced in living memory swept across Western Europe. So cold was it that birds dropped from the sky and seed was destroyed in the ground. Trade came to a halt as ports froze up and travel became almost impossible. In the Springtime the expected rains did not come, and though the Frost dissipated, the temperatures remained low and the northerly winds very strong. By the Summer of 1740, the Frost had decimated the potatoes and the Drought had wrought havoc with the grain harvest and the herds of cattle and sheep had suffered huge losses.
In the Autumn a meagre harvest commenced and prices in the towns started to fall. Cattle began to recover, but in the dairying districts, cows had been so weak after the Frost that at least a third of them had failed to “take bull”. Then blizzards swept along the east coast in late October and more snow fell several times in November. A massive downpour of rain fell on 9 December causing widespread flooding. A day after the floods, the temperature plummeted, snow fell, and rivers and other bodies of water froze. Warm temperatures followed the cold snap, which lasted about ten days. Great chunks of ice careened down the River Liffey and through the heart of Dublin, overturning light vessels and causing larger vessels to break anchor. The price of foodstuffs rocketed and people began to starve.
The Spring of 1741 went down in popular memory as the Black Spring of ’41 as the impact of two very hard Winters and the destruction of so much livestock and grain supplies began to be felt. This was especially so amongst the rural and urban poor of whom there were very many in Ireland at that time. Diseases swept the Country: Dysentery; Smallpox and Typhus took the lives of many thousands.
Sir Richard Cox wrote from Cork in April that year:
Mortality is now no longer heeded; the instances are so frequent. And burying the dead, which used to be one of the most religious acts among the Irish, is now become a burthen…In short, by all I can learn, the dreadfullest civil war, or most raging plague never destroyed so many as this season. The distempers and famine increase so that it is no vain fear that there will not be hands to save the harvest.
Eventually in the Summer of 1741 the Crises abated and while the situation was still very hard the plagues and starvation eased off. The next Harvest while not abundant was sufficient to ensure that enough food would be available to avert a similar situation the following year.
So ended what was the worst set of recorded climatogical disasters to hit Ireland since at least the 14th Century. Nobody knows how many people died as a result of this Great Famine of 1741 and the hardships that preceded its apogee. Out of an overall estimated population at the time of around 2.4 million it seems probable that between 300,000 and 450,000 of the people died as a result – a mortality rate that stands comparison with if it did not actually exceed the more infamous events of the 1840s.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
18 April 1690: Over 5,000 Irish soldiers organised in five Regiments sailed from Ireland for France at the request of the King of France Louis XIV. He sent some 6,000 French regulars in exchange for these men. The Irish troops formed the nucleus of the famous ‘Irish Brigades or 'Wild Geese' that were to continue in French service for over 100 years until just after the Revolution of 1789.
The King of France wanted to support James II in his expedition to retake the British crown from the Dutchman William of Orange. However he could not afford the loss of 6,000 of his own soldiers during his own War against Holland. So Louis requested Irish replacements to take their place.The Irish regiments sailed out on the same ships that landed the French troops under Count de Lauzun.
After arriving in France, the five regiments were reorganized into three, commanded respectively by Justin McCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), Daniel O'Brien, and Arthur Dillon. Mountcashel was in overall command this Irish Brigade in the service of France. He had grown up in France, and became fluent in the French language. His father had lost everything due to his participation in the fight against Cromwell and subsequently went into exile in France. After the Treaty of Limerick Patrick Sarsfield’s men joined Mountcashel’s brigade in late 1691.
Like Sarsfield, Mountcashel did not survive for very long in French service. Shortly after his arrival in France he was seriously wounded in the chest fighting in down south in Savoy. Although he recovered from this wound and continued to command the Irish Brigade, it continued to dog him. He eventually had to retire from French Service and much weakened in health he died in 1694.
The Wild Geese were to serve in the King of France's armies under the Flag shown above:
In Hoc Signo Vinces is a Latin rendering of the Greek phrase 'en touto nika' and means 'In this sign you will conquer'
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
17 April 1876: The whaling vessel Catalpa [above] rescued six Irish prisoners from British Captivity on this day. The ship under Captain George S. Anthony carried out one of the most daring and long distance rescues in history when she was used to spirit away the six Fenian prisoners from Freemantle, Australia. Even though the British quickly realised the men had fled and gave chase the ship could not be boarded as she flew the American flag. The rescued men (Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston and James Wilson) were brought safely to New York City. The Fenians John Devoy and John J. Breslin planned the rescue operation from America and Breslin was dispatched to Australia to co-ordinate the rescue.
In July 1874 the Clan na Gael Organisation in the USA decided to rescue the six prisoners who were excluded from a conditional pardon for all civilian Fenian prisoners. These men had been members of the British Army and thus considered outright ‘Traitors’ by the British. John Devoy was assigned to co-ordinate this rescue. He saw that funds were raised and a Captain George S. Anthony was ‘head hunted’ to undertake the dangerous mission. When it was put to him he was willing to take the risk. It was then decided that the voyage must look like a whaling voyage, thus Captain Anthony went looking for a suitable ship. In the port of Boston he found one that suited his needs and purchased the Catalpa, a three-master whaler, for $5200.
The ship set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, in April 1875. The Voyage was undertaken with the deliberate intention engaging in a daring a yearlong mission of international rescue. On 28 March 1876 the Catalpa arrived off Bunbury Harbour, Western Australia and a meeting was set up between Captain Anthony and John Breslin. At this meeting they agreed the rescue date should be on 6 April. However due to the presence of a British gunboat at the Harbour and the information that another gunboat was due to arrive they rescheduled the rescue for 17 April.
With the help of the prison chaplain, the six men escaped to the coast where Captain Anthony was waiting with a small whaleboat that would take them to the Catalpa. The resistance they overcame, both from armed British vessels and a furious sea storm, made their escape the stuff of legend. The British attempted to capture the Catalpa but Captain Anthony had the Flag of the United States raised and warned the prospective boarders that such a move would be viewed as an Act of War. They thought the better of it and the Catalpa made good her escape.
The Catalpa landed the ‘Freemantle Six’ in New York Harbour on 19 August 1876. Though Captain Anthony would never again put to sea in open waters for fear of arrest by the British, his rescue voyage, made mostly without the use of a functioning chronometer, is one of the greatest feats of seamanship ever recorded in nautical annals.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
16 April 1172: King Henry II [above] departed from Ireland on this day. He had landed in Waterford in October 1171 with a powerful force of well-equipped knights, archers and foot soldiers. He subsequently received the allegiance of many of the provincial kings of Munster and Leinster. However the High King of Ireland Rory O’Connor/Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair kept his distance and the chief Ulster kings ignored Henry’s visit alltogether. King Henry though was the most powerful man in Western Europe and his name alone carried tremendous weight. He ensured by his presence at the Irish Church’s Council of Cashel that the type of Church Reform in favour in England was adopted in Ireland. While his Ecclesiastical Mission was the purported reason for his Expedition into Ireland he also had designs to bring the whole of the Country under his sway. He brought to heel his Anglo-Norman mercenaries and adventurers and tried to ensure that they recognised that anything they had taken in Ireland was his to grant and not theirs by right of conquest. He arrived in Dublin in mid November and wintered over in Dublin. He stayed outside the walls and in a Palace made of wattles that was specially built by local craftsmen. There he celebrated Christmas in some style, entertaining his guests lavishly. This rustic Court served as his Royal seat of power for the duration of his stay beside the City.
His most compelling reason for coming to Ireland when he did however was his implication in the Murder of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral and the wrath that came down upon him from the Papacy as a result. So Ireland was a politic place for him to be until the furore died down and he judged it safe to return. Though Henry probably meant to spend a few more months in Ireland events abroad meant that he had to cut short his stay here and return forthwith. The winter was a bad one and few ships reached Ireland that carried any news of worth. Sensing that somewhere in his patchwork quilt ‘Angevin Empire’ would require his attention before too long Henry left Dublin in the month of March for the port of Wexford. It was there he received news that the Papal Legates awaited him in Normandy to demand explanations for his conduct. He thus departed from our shores on the Easter Sunday of 1172– never to return.
The king of the Saxons (namely, Henry, son of the Empress) went from Ireland on Easter Sunday [April 16th] after celebration of Mass.
The Annals of Ulster
Monday, 15 April 2013
15/16 April 1941: The Luftwaffe Bombed Belfast [above] on this day. The city’s first major attack of the War was on Easter Tuesday night, 15-16 April. An estimated 180 aircraft participated in the assault, which lasted for five and a half hours (11:30 pm–4:55 am). Bombs fell on average at a rate of two per minute. There was virtually no resistance from the ground. Due to blast damage to the city’s telephone exchange the anti-aircraft guns fell silent from 1:45 am onwards. By the time of the “all clear” it had to be rung by hand-bells because of a power failure.
An Observer from Dublin, Major Sean O’Sullivan noted that:
In the Antrim Road [North Belfast] and vicinity the attack was of a particularly concentrated character and in many instances bombs from successive waves of bombers fell within 15-20 yards of one another … In this general area, scores of houses were completely wrecked, either by explosion, fire or blast, while hundreds were damaged so badly as to be uninhabitable … In suburban areas, many were allowed to burn themselves out and during the day wooden beams were still burning … During the night of 16-17, many of these smouldering fires broke out afresh and fire appliances could be heard passing throughout the night…
The Air Raid killed some 745 people, injured 1,500 and destroyed about 1,600 houses with many more damaged to a greater or lesser extent.
It was the greatest loss of life through violence on the island of Ireland in the 20th century.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
14 April 1794: On this day General Arthur Dillon [likeness above], a soldier of Irish descent , was guillotined in Paris. The Dillon family were amongst the most famous of the Irish ‘Wild Geese’ who served in the armies of France in the 17th and 18th Centuries. He was born in England in 1750.
He was the son of Lady Charlotte Lee and Henry Dillon, 11th Viscount Dillon of Costello-Gallen, and cousin of Théobald Dillon (not to be confused with his brother, also named Théobald). His grandfather was general Arthur Dillon. He was the grandfather of Arthur Dillon (1834-1922), also a military officer.
He had a distinguished military career, seeing action in the West Indies and in the American Revolutionary War. He was briefly Governor of the Caribbean island of St Kitts and also of Tobago. He was the representative of Martinique in the National Assembly.
As the king called for the Estates General in 1789, Dillon was elected as one of two deputies of the nobility for Martinique. In 1792 he became a general and took command of his regiment and the left wing of the Army of the North under Lafayette. After the famous 10th of August, Dillon swore fidelity to the king and a week later was replaced by General Dumouriez. However, a week after that he was reintegrated into the army in command of a division under Dumouriez, where he took command of the advance guard. That September he served in the Argonne, but then in October returned to Paris to defend his conduct.
Back in Paris, Dillon was suspended of his command and then accused of conspiring with the enemy for having written a letter to the Landgrave of Hesse. Nevertheless, he remained free until July of 1793 when he was arrested. Imprisoned at the Luxembourg Palace, he was tried and condemned to death by a revolutionary tribunal. He was executed by guillotine on April 13, 1794. His daughter, Fanny Dillon, would go on to marry General Bertrand in 1808.
In June 1792 he received command of the Army of the North but fell into political disfavour with the Jacobins and was reduced to a subordinate position where he distinguished himself. However he compromised his security by offering the Austrians a chance to withdraw unhindered and was arrested and imprisoned. He was eventually accused of being involved in a plot behind bars called the Luxembourg Prison Plot.
He was executed with 20 others including his intimate friends Lucile Desmoulines and her husband. He was twice married and had two daughters. His daughter Fanny married General Bertrand and was with Napoleon on Elba and St Helena.
His name is commemorated on the North face of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Saturday, 13 April 2013
13 April 1742: George Frederic Handel [above] conducted the first performance of his Messiah, in the New Music Hall, Fishamble Street Dublin on this day.
In the late summer of the year 1741 the Duke of Devonshire, the Viceroy of Ireland, invited Handel to Dublin. Moreover, the Governors of Mercer's Hospital, and of the Charitable Infirmary, had asked Handel to compose something special in aid of the Dublin sick. This special work, the immortal Messiah, was finished by Handel on September 14th, 1741, having been written in three weeks--a marvellous tour de force. On November 18th, 1741, Handel arrived in Dublin and spent the Winter in giving performances in the City and working on drafts of Messiah. He took a house in Abbey Street near Liffey Street where he received visitors.
Handel's first concert was on December 23rd, consisting of L'Allegro, with two concertos for several instruments, and a concerto on the organ. But it had become known that Handel was planning something special to mark his Season in Dublin and expectation grew that it would be a musical event of great importance. An open air Rehearsal Concert some days prior to the formal opening drew large crowds and was met with open approval.
In apprehension of overcrowding at the performance, posted The Dublin Journal on this day the following notice:
The Stewards of the Charitable Music Society request the Favour of the Ladies not to come with Hoops this Day to the Musick-Hall in Fishamble Street: The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords.
In its Edition of 17 April 1742 the publication wrote that:
On Tuesday last Mr. Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, the MESSIAH, was performed at the New Musick-Hall in Fishamble-street; the best Judges have allowed it to be the most finished piece of Musick. Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight it afforded to the admiring, crowded audience. The Sublime, Grand and Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words conspired to transport and charm the ravished heart and ear. It is but Justice to Mr. Handel that the World should know, he generously gave the money arising from this grand performance, to be equally shared by the Society for relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary and Mercer’s Hospital...
This great opening Performance was carried out with the help of the choirs from St. Patrick's and Christ Church. The £400 proceeds were given to Mercer's Hospital, the Charitable Infirmary and for the relief of prisoners.
Handel spent the rest of the Summer giving repeat performances of his many works including the Messiah. He also spent some time in the City of Cork. He left Ireland on Friday, August 13th, never to return but his time here marked one of the highest points of his later career as a Musician. He died in London in 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived.
I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.
Friday, 12 April 2013
12/13 April 1928: The Bremen became the first aircraft to make the East – West crossing of the Atlantic on this day. The crew was Colonel James Fitzmaurice, Captain Kohl (Pilot), and Baron von Heunfeld (Owner) [above]. They departed from Baldonnel Airfield outside Dublin City and then flew all the way non stop to Greenly Island, Newfoundland.
Fitzmaurice was chosen probably because of his experience and his position of Commanding Officer at Baldonnel. Von Hunefeld later wrote:
The welcome given to us by the Irish military and civil authorities was most hearty. We were made guests of the Irish Air Corps and soon it was settled between Koehl and me to invite Commandant Fitzmaurice to accompany us as second pilot on our flight to North America. And so our 'German-Irish Crew' as we came to call it was formed and none of us ever regretted the pact which proved itself so trustworthy in the course of extreme danger.
The aircraft to be used was a Junkers W.33 named Bremen. It carried 520 gallons of petrol, enough for forty-four hours in the air. Fully loaded the plane weighed 5 tons.
Fitzmaurice took every opportunity to acquaint himself with the Bremen and many trial runs were undertaken. The big take-off was delayed because of bad weather but following a favourable North Atlantic weather report Thursday 12th April was set as the date for the Bremen's departure. When news of the intended departure got out, thousands of people made their way from Dublin out to Baldonnel to wish the flyers well and to see the historic take-off.
Michael Burgess, a Garda on duty there that day recalled that the crowd were "very excited but well behaved, many of them had Rosary beads, and some of them were shaking holy water at the plane and its crew.
The huge crowd of sightseers cheered as the Bremen took off.
There they had to make a forced landing after a flight of 2,300 miles in just over 36 hours. Though they made a perfect landing it proved impossible to restart the plane due to propeller damage and the fact that it had landed on a thin crust of ice on a on a shallow, ice-covered, water reservoir.
They enjoyed a hero’s welcome in the USA & Canada and undertook a two month tour across North America before returning across the Atlantic by ship, landing at Bremen. There they under took more engagements and in July the three flyers came back to Ireland where the names of the three flyers were added to the "Roll of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin".
James Fitzmaurice was born in Dublin on January 6th, 1898. His father was a prison officer and the family moved to Portlaoise when James was five years old. His nickname was 'Fitz'. While growing up, he became interested in the idea of flight and he spent a lot of time in Aldritt's garage trying to build an airplane. His first attempt crash-landed in a field.
He joined the British Army and fought in the Battle of the Somme in World War I. He then joined the RAF but resigned in 1921 to take up a position in the Irish Free State’s Air Corps. He eventually became its Officer-in-command before he was offered the chance of a Lifetime to partake in this historic flight.
The flight of the Bremen across the Atlantic Ocean remains one of the greatest feats in Aviation History.
Thursday, 11 April 2013
11 April 1951: Dr. Noel Browne [above] resigned from John A. Costello’s Coalition Government as Minister of Health on this day. It was seminal moment in Modern Irish Politics. To many people it looked like the Catholic Church was dictating Government policy from the outside.
Browne had been elected a TD in 1948 and was appointed the Minister of Health on his first day in the House. Given his medical background and his work in sanatoriums both in Ireland and England he was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was a survivor of TB himself – a disease of the lungs that had claimed both his parents. Though the previous Government had already laid much of the groundwork it was Browne who provided the drive and energy to ensure that the job of eradicating the disease as a killer of thousands of Irish people every year was properly carried out. The late 1940s also saw the availability of powerful new drugs that could save many sufferers from death. Never a man to worry too much about trodden toes and ruffled feathers he brought a single-minded determinism to the problem that got results.
But while he had many qualities Browne also had quite a few faults especially as a Party colleague. He was not a good team player and not a master of the art of compromise. He alienated many of his fellow members of the Cabinet including his Party Leader Sean McBride of Clann na Poblachta. His Nemesis was his mishandling of the controversial ‘Mother and Child’ scheme which was intended to provide State support for mothers and children. This raised the hackles of many within the Catholic Hierarchy and the powerful Irish Medical Association (IMO). Many of them saw it as undermining their power and influence though quite a few were sympathetic to the general trust of the proposed Legislation if it was done in a way right to their eyes. However Browne’s hamfisted attempts to influence the Church and Archbishop Charles McQuaid in particular backfired. When he turned to his colleagues at the Cabinet table for support little or none was forthcoming and he felt he was being hung out to dry.
In his resignation speech he stated that::
Since becoming Minister for Health I have striven within the limits of my ability to improve the health services of the country. Some progress has been made but much remains to be done. It is perhaps only human that I should wish to have the honour of continuing the work. However that is not to be. To me the provision of a health scheme for the benefit of the mothers and children of our nation seems to be the very foundation stone of any progressive health service without which much of our efforts in other directions would prove fruitless. It seemed equally important to me that any such scheme to be effective and indeed just should be made available free to all our people who choose of their own free will to use it without the imposition of any form of means test. On this point did I stand firm in my negotiations with the medical profession. On other matters I was willing and, indeed, eager that the profession should from their knowledge and experience play their full part in improving the scheme.
I had been led to believe that my insistence on the exclusion of a means test had the full support of my colleagues in the Government. I now know that it had not. Furthermore, the Hierarchy has informed the Government that they must regard the mother and child scheme proposed by me as opposed to Catholic social teaching. This decision I, as a Catholic, immediately accepted without hesitation. At the same time I do not feel that I could be instrumental in introducing a scheme which would be subject to a means test. Apart from my personal views about a means test I feel that in taking the decision which I have had to take, as a man privileged to hold my high office, there is another principle to which I had to have regard. I have pledged myself to the public and to the Clann na Poblachta Party to introduce a mother and child health scheme which would not embody a means test. Since I could not succeed in fulfilling my promise in this regard I consider it my duty to vacate my office.
While, as I have said, I as a Catholic accept unequivocally and unreservedly the views of the Hierarchy on this matter, I have not been able to accept the manner in which this matter has been dealt with by my former colleagues in the Government.
Browne’s resignation was a huge embarrassment to the Government as he was very popular as his record of getting results in the improvement of the Public Health could hardly be questioned. Whatever about the niceties or otherwise of the political infighting involved there is no doubt that Browne won the battle with the hearts and minds of the Irish People on this one. Though Costello’s First Coalition did not fall over this controversy its authority was severely weakened and it fell the following month - over of all things the price to be placed on a bottle of milk!
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
10 April 1923: The Death of Liam Lynch [above] on this day. This legendary IRA Chief of Staff was killed as a result of an encounter with Free State forces in the Knockmealdown Mountains on the border of counties Tipperary and Waterford. Realising that Free State columns were closing in on their position Lynch and a number of other Republican Officers decided to escape across the exposed slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains. It was while attempting to avoid capture that a Column of opposing forces fired upon this small band and Lynch was hit. Realising that his wound was fatal he ordered his comrades to proceed without him and was captured.
A Lieutenant Clancy of the Free State Army soon reached the spot where Lynch was lying and he asked him to identify himself Lynch gave his name and rank, Chief of Staff Irish Republican Army. The soldiers then dressed his wound and placed him on a stretcher made from rifles and coats and carried him down the mountain. A priest, Fr Hallinan, arrived on the scene and administrated last rites to the dying Leader. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel and died there about 8.45pm that evening.
Liam Lynch was a veteran of the War for Independence and had carried out numerous attacks on the British Army. He had kidnapped the British General Lucas and had captured Mallow Barracks and set it alight. While he initially welcomed the Truce he rejected the Treaty. When the Civil War came he was in Dublin and captured but was allowed to walk free. He reorganised the IRA in Munster and did his best to slow the advance of the Free State Forces into that Province. But as they were pushed back the calls from both without and within the IRA were for a Ceasefire or a negotiated settlement. Liam Lynch rejected both and was determined to fight on. His death marked a watershed in the Civil War as without his influence demoralisation within the IRA increased and all hope of Victory in the War dissipated. Frank Aiken became Chief of Staff and on the 3 April he ordered a Ceasefire. On the 24 May he issued the order to ‘Dump Arms’. The Civil War was over.
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
9 April 1793: The Catholic Relief Act (33 George III, c.21) that extended the parliamentary franchise to Catholics was put before the Parliament of Ireland in Dublin on this day. This enabled Catholics to hold civil and military offices that were not specifically excepted, and removed the statuary bar to university degrees.
The members of this Parliament were all Protestants and mostly hostile to lifting restrictions on Catholics.
But this latest Catholic Relief Act was brought in as the situation in Revolutionary France brought the prospect of War with the new Republic and Britain ever closer. Indeed within weeks the two States were at War. With many Catholics now alienated from Revolutionary France (under the Monarchy their traditional ally against Protestant Britain) over the mistreatment of Priests and the revolutionists attacks on the Catholic Church the time was ripe for Britain to seek an accommodation with Catholic Ireland in order to placate the Country and remove any threat of a revolt while they faced a major War with the French.
The Act was brought in at the behest of William Pitt the Younger [above], the brilliant and shrewd British Prime Minister. He recognised that Britain was in imminent danger of an explosion on her western flank if he did not act fast to stave off trouble here. But as it turned out his actions were not enough to placate the Country as the forces of Revolution and Reaction gained ground with many sections of the Populace.
AN ACT FOR THE RELIEF OF HIS MAJESTY'S POPISH, OR ROMAN CATHOLIC SUBJECTS OF IRELAND
Whereas various acts of parliament have been passed, imposing on his Majesty's subjects professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion many restraints and disabilities, to which other subjects of this realm are not liable, and from the peaceful and loyal demeanour of his Majesty's popish or Roman Catholic subjects, it is fit that such restraints and disabilities shall be discontinued; be it therefore enacted...
THE CATHOLIC RELIEF ACT, 1793
This Act was the big breakthrough for Catholics as they now were allowed to vote, were free from having their property taken from them by 'discovery', could hold arms in certain circumstances and were allowed to hold most Civil and Military offices open to Protestants.
Despite much hope and speculation though it was to be another 36 years before the last of the impediments to being a Catholic in Ireland were removed when Daniel O'Connell led the Campaign for full Catholic Emancipation.
After 1793 Catholics were still barred from sitting in parliament, from the offices of lord lieutenant, chief secretary, chancellor of the exchequer, and from other senior political positions. They could not be king's counsel, judges or governors, sheriffs or sub-sheriffs, and could not hold higher military rank than colonel. Hopes for further relief were briefly raised under Fitzwilliam, and again at the time of the Act of Union. So it was not until 1829 that the last Catholic Relief Act removed these remaining disabilities.
Monday, 8 April 2013
8 April 1886: British Prime Minister William Gladstone [above] introduced the 1st Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons on this day. He did so with the intent of giving Ireland a limited control of her own internal affairs. His intention was to prove to the House that since the Act of Union in 1800 all efforts to govern Ireland through the Parliament at Westminster had failed, and to propose for that reason a system of governing her through a legislative body sitting in Dublin.
In a long and winding speech he outlined the historical background to Ireland’s grievances and the attempts by the Crown to suppress Discontent. All concessions had failed to satisfy the Irish and the reason was that they wished to govern their own affairs. He proposed a limited form of self Government or ‘Home Rule’ to resolve the issue.
Law is discredited in Ireland, and discredited in Ireland upon this ground especially—that it comes to the people of that country with a foreign accent, and in a foreign garb….
These Coercion Bills of ours…are stiffly resisted by the Members who represent Ireland in Parliament.
The case of Ireland, though she is represented here not less fully than England and Scotland, is not the same as that of England and Scotland….The consequence is that the mainspring of law in England is felt by the people to be English; the mainspring of law in Scotland is felt by the people to be Scotch; but the mainspring of law in Ireland is not felt by the people to be Irish.
Gladstone however was determined that any devolution of political power to an Irish Legislature:
Everything that relates to the Crown—Succession, Prerogatives, and the mode of administering powers during incapacity, Regency, and, in fact, all that belongs to the Crown. The next would be all that belongs to defense--the Army, the Navy, the entire organisations of armed force. I do not say the Police Force, which I will touch upon by-and-by, but everything belonging to defense. And the third would be the entire subject of Foreign and Colonial relations. Those are the subjects most properly Imperial, and I will say belonging, as a principle, to the Legislature established under the Act of Union and sitting at Westminster.
While he ruled out a separate Parliament for the North he stated that:
We propose to provide that the Legislative Body should not be competent to pass a law for the establishment or the endowment of any particular religion.
He concluded with the lofty words:
The best and surest foundation we can find to build upon is the foundation afforded by the affections, the convictions, and the will of the nation; and it is thus, by the decree of the Almighty, that we may be enabled to secure at once the social peace, the fame, the power, and the permanence of the Empire.
But for all Gladstone’s fine words his attempt to accommodate Ireland’s claim to legislate for her own affairs was to result in a political fiasco and the downfall of his own Government. Two months later to the day the Home Rule Bill was defeated in the Commons by 341 votes to 311. The Parliament was quickly dissolved, and elections were held in early July. Gladstone’s hopes were dashed—the Liberals won 191 seats, the Home Rulers won 85 but the Tories and Liberal Unionists won 317. With his very comfortable majority, Lord Salisbury formed a government, which remained in power until 1892.
Sunday, 7 April 2013
7 April: 1973 - Death of the old Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid [above] . He was head of the Dublin Diocese from 1940 to 1972 and a man who ruled his fiefdom with an Iron Hand.
He was born in Cootehill, Co. Cavan, on 28 July 1895, to Dr. Eugene McQuaid and Jennie Corry. His mother died a week later and his father, a doctor, signed her death certificate. A little over a year later he married a woman named Agnes, who raised John and his sister Helen as her own. In his teens John learned that Agnes was not his real mother. Further children were born to Eugene and Agnes McQuaid.
Educated at Blackrock College and Clongowes, two of the top private Catholic schools in the Country, he went on to complete his University Education at UCD where he mastered on the Life of the Roman pagan philosopher Seneca. He then took up his studies for the priesthood and was was ordained at Kimmage in Dublin in 1924.
After a brief stay in Rome he returned to Ireland and was appointed to the staff of Blackrock College in 1925. He served as Dean of Studies from 1925–1931 and President of the College from 1931–1939. In this time he ran the school with a strict hand and encouraged the boys in Sport, Rugby in particular and also in classical studies.
However it was in his role as advisor to the President Eamon De Valera that he is best known for ensuring that a strong Catholic ethos was written into the new Irish Constitution of 1937, where the ‘Special Position’ of the Church was specifically recognised. Though recent commentators have pointed out that this had no actual legal meaning as such. It was removed from the Constitution in 1972 in a Referendum.
In 1940 McQuaid was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and from the start he had some overiding concerns. He wanted to ensure that the Church remained dominant in Irish Society and that a Catholic education was given to the children of the Diocese He also had great concerns about the widespread poverty in the city and encouraged acts of Charity towards the poor.
He was basically a typical Irish Archbishop in religiosity but with a lot more intelligence, drive and determination than most. His most controversial moment came in 1951 when he became embroiled in the legislation for a Bill that was before the Irish Parliament ( the Dail) that was known as the Mother & Child Scheme. McQuaid opposed it as giving more power to the State as against the Church. He was not the only one and the Irish Medical Organisation also rowed in against it for reasons of their own. The popular Minister of Health, Noel Browne, was forced to resign. But it proved a Pyrrhic Victory for the Church and for McQuaid in particular as public opinion slowly moved away from accepting the Church as the primary source of moral authority.
Further controversy dogged him in 1955 when he voiced opposition to the visit of the Communist soccer team from Yugoslavia (where in fairness Catholics were given a hard time) to Dublin yet over 20,000 people turned up to see them!
But Ireland was changing and even more so after 1960 when increased social prosperity brought into being new ways of thinking. The arrival of Television and foreign travel meant that people had a broader view of the World and its many and varied ways than heretofore.
It was though the opening of the Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1962 that put the cat amongst the pidgons as many of the Faithful saw hope for fundamental change in the strict and outdated modes of operation of the Church. McQuaid was deeply suspicious of change and made it pretty clear where he stood on the issue. He will always be remembered for his attempt to reassure his flock at the end of the Council that "No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives".
His eminent position in the decision making process of the Irish State became an increasing anachronism as the 1960's wore on. Politicians offering him public deference became a source of embarrassment and indeed anger to many voters, particularly in the upwardly mobile classes in South Dublin, where McQuaid lived himself.
He was a shy and reserved man who lived frugally and alone. He visited the sick in hospitals nearly every night and ensured that the Church’s works of Charity continued unabated. But these are now almost forgotten and his errors of judgement remembered.
Dr. McQuaid formally relinquished the government of the Archdiocese of Dublin when his successor was ordained Archbishop in February 1972.
‘On Saturday 7 April 1973 McQuaid was too ill to get up at his usual time of 6.30am to say Mass at his private residence in Killiney Co. Dublin. He was taken to Loughlinstown Hospital where he died within an hour. Shortly before his death he asked nurse Margaret O'Dowd if he had any chance of reaching heaven. She told him that if he as Archbishop could not get to heaven, few would. This answer appeared to satisfy him and he lay back on the pillow to await death. He died at about 11am. He is buried in St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.’
Friday, 5 April 2013
5 April 1895: Oscar Wilde [above] the great Irish novelist, playwright and wit, was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel, London, on suspicion of homosexual offences with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the 8th Marquis of Queensbury. In Room 118 he was arrested after spending time with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, affectionately known as 'Bosie'. Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had suspected Wilde and his own son to be in an illicit relationship, and he challenged Wilde with a scribbled accusation of 'Somdomy' (sic).
Oscar Wilde knew that the arrest was coming, and ignored friends' pleas for him to flee the country. The Poet Laureate John Betjeman took up the tragic tale in his poem "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at The Cadogan Hotel":
A thump, and a murmur of voices--
(Oh, why must they make such a din?)
As the door of the bedroom swung open
And TWO PLAINCLOTHES POLICEMEN came in:
"Mr. Woilde, we 'ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.
The Hotel is still a going concern and is situated on Sloane Street, the famous Belgravia thoroughfare connecting the well-heeled districts of Chelsea and Knightsbridge in the City of London.
Wilde’s arrest on these charges marked the begining of his downfall and his social ostrastication by Society. In just over five years he would be dead, an exile living in poverty and a social outcast.
Thursday, 4 April 2013
April 4 1774: Oliver Goldsmith [above], Irish novelist, playwright and poet, died in London on this day. He was born in the Irish Midlands in about 1730 the son of an Anglican clergyman. At the age of eight he had a severe attack of smallpox which disfigured him for life. He studied Theology and Law at Trinity College in Dublin during the 1740s and eventually graduated from there as a Bachelor of Arts in 1749. While a student he picked up a taste for the good life of drinking, singing and playing cards. He spent some time studying Medicine in Edinburgh and in Leiden in the Austrian Netherlands but gave it up. He then drifted about and wandered on foot across Flanders, France, Switzerland and Northern Italy. He survived on his wits and ‘busked’ for a living when he could.
He settled in London in 1756 and started to earn an income by the pen. Necessity being the mother of invention he produced much low grade material but some gems too as he honed his art. His fortunate inclusion in ‘the Club’ of Samuel Johnson gave him an introduction to many of the City’s literati. Though Boswell depicted him as a ridiculous, blundering, but tender hearted and generous creature.
His most famous works are his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) a humorous melodrama and his short and ironic poem An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog of the same year ; his poem The Deserted Village (1770) a lament on a fictional Irish village in the Midlands and his play She Stoops to Conquer (1773) a comedy of manners, all made his name. He also turned out many works of lesser importance incl Histories and works on Philosophy which helped give him a lucrative income.
He was known as a very generous man but with extravagant tastes and when he died he owed £2,000 – a small fortune in those days. He had a close relationship with Mary Horneck, with whom he fell in love in 1769 but they never married. He died after a short illness in 1774 and was buried in the Church of St Mary or ‘The Temple’. His Latin Epitaph by Johnson was praise indeed:
Oliver Goldsmith: A Poet, Naturalist, and Historian, who left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn. Of all the passions, whether smiles were to move or tears, a powerful yet gentle master. In genius, vivid, versatile, sublime. In style, clear, elevated, elegant.
A statue of him stands outside the front doors of his old Alma Mater,Trinity College Dublin.
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
3 April 1925: The amalgamation of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) with An Garda Síochána took place on this day.
The Capital’s own Police Force had been established under an Act of the British Parliament in 1836 and the force had become operational in January 1838. It was closely modelled on the London Metropolitan Police founded by Sir John Peel. While never a greatly popular force with Dubliners the DMP had nevertheless proved to be a magnet to men (mostly countrymen) in search of secure employment in the city with a guaranteed pension at the end of their service. Its members were unarmed unless on specific duties and the individual members relied on their formidable physical strength to settle affairs on the street when necessary. Among the generally undersized citizenry of Dublin they certainly stood out as men not to be trifled with.
Things started to turn sour for the DMP in 1913 when there was serious labour unrest in Dublin. In a fight for Trade Union recognition the employers resorted to locking out the workers till they dropped their demand for the right to belong to one. The DMP as a result found itself involved in upholding the interests of the employers at the expense of the workers rights. Vicious street battles developed with the police involved in sometimes fatal baton charges, which lost them a lot of credibility and respect with the public. Of course the DMP men suffered too! Then the events of 1914, when the DMP and the British Army tried unsuccessfully to block the distribution of the weapons landed at Howth, further weakened their morale and general standing. Indeed as a result of this incident the Assistant Commissioner had to resign.
The outbreak of the Great War saw a considerable number of the men volunteer for war service from which, no doubt, a high proportion never returned. The Easter Rising of 1916 was yet another shock to its morale. By the time the War of Independence started in 1919 the force was at a low ebb, which the events of the next two and a half years did nothing to alleviate. By and large they escaped the deadly fate of so many of their counterparts in the RIC simply because of their unarmed status. So long as they turned a blind eye to the activities of the IRA then they were allowed to proceed with the enforcement of the civil law. Not so the men of the ‘ G ’ Division. They were armed and were tasked by the British with hunting down Republicans in the city. Michael Collins had his own answer to them: the men of ‘ the Squad ‘, a select group of gunmen who were given the job of eliminating especially dangerous opponents of the Republic in Dublin. In this they succeeded brilliantly, and effectively put a stop to the flow of intelligence to the British administration in Dublin Castle.
By the Summer of 1921 Irish recruitment to the DMP was at a standstill and the ranks had to be filled by taking on men from across the water, many of them British ex-servicemen. With the Truce of July 1921 the DMP was left hanging in the air, not knowing whether they would be kept on or swept aside in the impending change of government.
When the new Government took over they decided to retain the DMP at least temporarily as the only fully trained Police Force in the State. In Irish the Force was known as Políní Átha Cliath and cap badges were issued to reflect this.
In 1923 Major General W.R.E. Murphy DSO, MC was appointed to command as Chief Commissioner and he was able to instil a sense of purpose back into the Force. He had numerous difficulties to contend with both internal and external. Many of the men wished to retire and Jim Larkin had returned from America and organised a series of Strikes across the City. On the other hand Murphy was instrumental in ensuring that Frank Duff’s efforts to shut down the notorious Red Light district known as the Monto succeeded. In sport the DMP continued to enjoy great success their crowning glory being winning the World Tug of War Championship in London in 1924.
However Kevin O’Higgins had decided that two police forces in one State was one too many and in 1925 the DMP was amalgamated into the Garda Síochána. Murphy became a Deputy Commissioner of the Garda under General O’Duffy with whom he had served in the Irish Civil war. Thus after a run of 87 years Dublin’s own Police Force and its formidable Constables [as above] came to be seen no more on the streets of the Fair City.