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Sunday, 30 June 2013


1 July 1916: The Battle of the Somme in France began on this day. The battle marked the beginning of the British Army’s summer Offensive against the German forces opposed to them.
The Germans were very well dug in and despite a week long bombardment their entrenchments were still more or less intact. Many soldiers from Ireland took part in this bloody battle - the most costly day in the history of the British Army.

One of the most successful operations that day was by the men of the 36th Ulster Division.

‘The 36th Ulster Division's sector of the Somme lay astride the marshy valley of the river Ancre and the higher ground south of the river. Their task was to cross the ridge and take the German second line near Grandcourt. In their path lay not only the German front line, but just beyond it, the intermediate line within which was the Schwaben Redoubt.

The First Day of the Somme was the anniversary (Julian Calendar) of the Battle of the Boyne, a fact remarked on by the leaders of the Division. Stories that some men went over the top wearing orange sashes are, however, thought to be myths.

On 1 July, following the preliminary bombardment, the Ulstermen quickly took the German front line. But intelligence was so poor that, with the rest of the division attacking under creep bombardment (artillery fired in front or over men; they advance as it moves), the Ulstermen would have come under attack from their own bombardment at the German first line.

But they still advanced, moving to the crest so rapidly that the Germans had no time to come up from their dugouts (generally 30–40 feet below ground) in the Schwaben Redoubt, which was also taken. So successful was the advance that by 10:00 some had reached the German second line. But again they came under their own barrage, not due to finish until 10:10. However, this successful penetration had to be given up before nightfall, as it was unmatched by those at its flanks. The Ulstermen were exposed in a narrow salient, open to attack on three sides. They were running out of ammunition and supplies, and a full German counter-attack at 22:00 forced them to withdraw, giving up virtually all they gained.'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/36th_(Ulster)_Division#36th_Ulster_Division.2C_Somme

While the Ulstermen had at least the satisfaction of achieving their initial goals the sad fate of the Tyneside Irish Brigade  was indicative of what was happening up and down the Front as the assaults of so many battalions were thrown back with appalling casualties.

'The Tyneside Irish Brigade was a British First World War infantry brigade of Kitchener's Army, raised in 1914. Officially numbered the 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade, it contained four Pals battalions from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, largely made up of men of Irish extraction. (Another Newcastle brigade — the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) — contained Tynesiders with Scottish connections).

The brigade's four battalions were known as the 1st to 4th Tyneside Irish. When taken over by the British Army, these became battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

1st Tyneside Irish (24th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers).
2nd Tyneside Irish (25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers).
3rd Tyneside Irish (26th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers).
4th Tyneside Irish (27th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers).
Along with the 101st and 102nd Brigades, the Tyneside Irish made up the 34th Division which arrived in France in January 1916 and first saw action in the Battle of the Somme that year. On the first day on the Somme, the 34th Division attacked astride the Albert-Bapaume road at La Boisselle. The brigade's task was to follow up the main attack by the 101st and 102nd Brigades and advance on a line from Pozières to Contalmaison.

Advancing at the same time as the main attack, the brigade started from the reserve trenches on the Tara-Usna Line. The four battalions, marching in extended line (from left to right; the 2nd, 3rd, 1st and 4th), advanced down into Avoca Valley and then up the other side to the British front-line trench. From there they had to cross no man's land, pass through the German front-line and advance to their objectives. However, the main attack was an almost complete failure and the Tyneside Irish were utterly exposed to the machine guns of the German defences. The brigade suffered heavy casualties even before its battalions reached the British front-line. Opposite La Boisselle the brigade was halted but on the right, elements of the 1st and 4th battalions were able to advance up 'Sausage Valley' and pass through the German front-line. Two small parties met up behind the German support trench and pushed on towards their objective of Contalmaison. Their effort was in vain as they were eventually killed or captured.

The 1st battalion suffered 620 casualties on 1 July (18 officers and 602 other ranks), its commander, Lieutenant Colonel L.M. Howard, was among the dead. The 4th battalion suffered 539 casualties (20 officers and 519 other ranks). While the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd battalions were both wounded, as was the Brigade commander, Brigadier General N.J.G. Cameron.’
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/103rd_(Tyneside_Irish)_Brigade

Saturday, 29 June 2013

29 June 1915: The death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Fenian, on this day. He was born at Roscarbery County Cork in 1831 to a family of tenant farmers. As a young man he kept a shop in Skibereen but became increasingly involved in revolutionary politics. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood on its foundation and was soon arrested by the British.  In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, put on trial for high treason and sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions. He spent five years in English jails in very harsh conditions. In 1869 he was elected an MP but his victory was annulled as he was considered a ‘Felon’. In 1870 he was released on condition that he went into Exile and he sailed for New York with a group of fellow exiles that were dubbed the ‘Cuba Five’ after the boat they left in.

Once in New York he helped to organise clandestine operations against British rule and was the main instigator of the ‘Dynamite Campaign’ – a series of bombings in England designed to force Britain to relinquish her hold on Ireland. However he was allowed to return home in 1894 and in 1904 on brief visits. In later years he suffered from ill health and was confined to a hospital on Staten Island. He died there in 1915 and his remains were returned home for burial. His graveside was the occasion of Padraig Pearse’s famous oration on the power of the Fenian dead. On his immediate hearing of his death Pearse recorded the following:

O'Donovan Rossa was not the greatest man of the Fenian generation, but he was its most typical man. He was the man that to the masses of his countrymen then and since stood most starkly and plainly for the Fenian idea…


No man, no government, could either break or bend him. Literally he was incapable of compromise. He could not even parley with compromisers. Nay, he could not act, even for the furtherance of objects held in common, with those who did not hold and avow all his objects…


Enough to know that the valiant soldier of Ireland is dead; that the unconquered spirit is free.

Friday, 28 June 2013


28 June 1691: At the 2nd Siege of Athlone Sgt. Custume led a small band of Volunteers that successfully tore down the attempted ‘planking’ by the Williamites of the partially destroyed bridge across the Shannon.

The siege had begun on the 19th when the Dutch General Ginkel of King William's of Orange Army had led a force of 21,000 men to the eastern side of Athlone and attacked the bastion there. The defenders were under the overall command of the French General St Ruth of King Louis XIV Army but whose troops had sworn loyalty to the Catholic King James III. St Ruth kept his main force back from the town to avoid encirclement and put a garrision of 1,500 men into to hold as long as possible.

By the 28th of June the Williamites had taken the eastern bastion and were advancing across the bridge of Athlone replacing the broken structure with lines of planks. As their men advanced the cannon and mortars of the Williamites kept up a terrific fire upon the defenders to stop them interfering with the progress of their operations.


It was Sunday, the 28th of June--the Irish saw with consternation that barely a few planks more laid on would complete the bridge. Their own few cannon were now nearly all buried in the ruined masonry, and the enemy beyond had battery on battery trained on the narrow spot--it was death to show in the line of the all but finished causeway.


Out stepped from the ranks of Maxwell's regiment, a sergeant of dragoons, Custume by name. "Are there ten men here who will die with me for Ireland?" A hundred eager voices shouted "Ay." "Then," said he, "we will save Athlone; the bridge must go down."


Grasping axes and crowbars, the devoted band rushed from behind the breastwork, and dashed forward upon the newly-laid beams. A peal of artillery, a fusillade of musketry, from the other side, and the space was swept with grapeshot and bullets. When the smoke cleared away, the bodies of the brave Custume and his ten heroes lay on the bridge, riddled with balls. They had torn away some of the beams, but every man of the eleven had perished.


Out from the ranks of the same regiment dashed as many more volunteers. "There are eleven men more who will die for Ireland." Again cross the bridge rushed the heroes. Again the spot is swept by a murderous fusillade. The smoke lifts from the scene; nine of the second band lie dead upon the bridge--two survive, but the work is done. The last beam is gone; Athlone once more is saved.

STORY OF IRELAND
By A. M. Sullivan
CHAPTER LXX.


Alas the brave stand of Sergeant Custume and his comrades was in vain for Lt General Ginkel, who commanded the besiegers was determined to take the town no matter what the cost. On the evening of the 30th he launched his troops 20 abreast under a German officer in the Danish service Major General Tettau into the ford at Athlone and through the waters of the Shannon. By sheer weight of numbers he got his men across while a terrific bombardment was opened up on the Irish positions. At the same time the Scottish General Mackay renewed the assault upon the bridge. Irish resistance crumbled as they were overwhelmed by superior numbers in men and material. So Athlone fell to the Williamite Army.

The Irish Army barracks in Athlone is named after the brave hero of 1691.

Thursday, 27 June 2013



27 June 1963: The President the United States John F Keneddy visited his ancestral home at Dunganstown, Co Wexford on this day. His visit to Ireland was the first by a serving American President. His ‘Homecoming' was greeted with huge enthusism by nearly the whole population as the President with film star looks and charisma to burn made a deep and lasting impression on the Irish People:

While in New Ross Wexford that day he made a speech that became a classic of its kind, only a few hundred words long but delivered with great wit and style he struck a chord with his audience that was remembered long after his tragic death in Dallas Texas just a few short months later.

Mr. Mayor, I first of all would like to introduce two members of my family who came here with us: My sister Eunice Shriver, and to introduce another of my sisters, Jean Smith. I would like to have you meet American Ambassador McClosky, who is with us, and I would like to have you meet the head of the American labor movement, whose mother and father were born in Ireland, George Meany, who is travelling with us. And then I would like to have you meet the only man with us who doesn’t have a drop of Irish blood, but who is dying to, the head of the protocol of the United States, Angier Biddle Duke.

See, angie, how nice it is, just to be Irish?

I am glad to be here. It took 115 years to make this trip and 6’000 miles, and three generations. But I am proud to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome you have given to all of us. When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great granchildren have valued that inheritance.

If he hadn’t left, I would be working over at the Albatross Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly. In any case, we are happy to be back here.

About 50 years ago, an Irishman from New Ross traveled down to Washington with his family, and in order to tell his neighbors how well he was doing, he had his picture taken in front of the White House and said, “This is our summer home. Come and see us.” Well, it is our home also in the Winter, and I hope you will come and see us.

Thank you.  

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


26 June 1932: The Eucharistic Congress culminated on this day when over 300,00 people attended the Pontifical High Mass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Times of London reported that while plans had been made for an attendance of 240,000 it was estimated that more 300,000 were actually in the Park when Mass began at midday.

The Chief Celebrant was the Papal Legate Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, personally selected by Pope  Pius XI himself. The Holy Father had charged him to:

Go to Ireland in my name and say to the good people assembled there that the Holy Father loves Ireland and sends to Ireland and its inhabitants and visitors not the usual Apostolic blessing but a very special all embracing one.

The arrival of the Cardinal and the holding of the 19th Eucharistic Congress in Dublin was seen as a great honour for the Catholics of Ireland. The week long event saw huge displays of religious devotion with crowds of tens of thousands in attendance at various events. The high point of the Eucharistic Congress came on the final Sunday of the week’s festivities in the form of a massive open air mass in the Phoenix Park. An ornate High Altar flanked with choirs and bands from all over the Catholic world was the main focus of attention. The Cardinal was accompanied by the highest ranks of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy in his fulfilment of his celebration of the Mass. In addition thousands of the Clergy were there to witness and partake in the biggest religious gathering the Country had ever seen.

“It is 12.30. The Bishops are assembling, their purple shining through the green of the trees. They march in hundreds, slowly, pensively, the Bishops of the world, in white and black and red, in cream and gold and brown. They file through the three thousand priests like a coloured thread being drawn through white silk. Then up the crimson carpet, turning right and left to the colonnades of the altar, and there they sit and seen from afar through the white pillars, each group looking like Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper.”

THE IRISH PRESS

The Government of Mr Eamon De Valera and the leading members of the Opposition were in attendance as well as numerous dignitaries from home and abroad. The huge multitude heard Mass broadcast over an extensive PA system, the largest in the world at that time. The event was listened to across the Nation and internationally through the medium of Radio Athlone. Count John McCormack gave a brilliant rendition of the Panis Angelicus (Bread of the Angels) to the multitude that grew praise from many quarters.

The audition was marvellous, whether it was of the full tones of the Cardinal Legate as he spoke the Mass, the tuneful antiphon of the choir, the sharp clamour of the trumpets as they paid homage at the elevation of the Host, or the beautiful voice of John Mc Cormack that came clear and bell like, borne without a tremor over the whole silent space, midway through the Service. It was at that moment of the Elevation of the Host, the supreme point in Catholic ritual, that one fully realised the common mind that swallowed up all individuality in the immense throng. Flung together in their hundreds of thousands, like the sands on the seashore, these people were merely parts of a great organism which was performing a great act of faith, with no more ego in them than the sands themselves.

IRISH TIMES

Prior to the closing ceremony a special blessing by Pope Pius XI broadcasting directly from the Vatican was relayed to the huge congregation. This marked the culmination of a series of events held over the previous four days, which saw scenes of unprecedented devotion by the Catholics of Ireland.

The Eucharistic Congress entered Catholic folk memory and remained the greatest public gathering in Ireland until the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979, which also took place in the Phoenix Park.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


25 June 1973: The murders of Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews took place in Belfast, on the night of 25/26 June 1973. The victims, Catholic Senator Paddy Wilson and hisProtestant friend, Irene Andrews, were hacked and repeatedly stabbed to death by members of the "Ulster Freedom Fighters" (UFF). This was a cover name for the Ulster Defence Association(UDA), a then-legal loyalist paramilitary organisation. John White, the UFF's commander, who used the pseudonym "Captain Black", was convicted of the sectarian double murder in 1978 and sentenced to life imprisonment. White, however maintained that the UFF's second-in-command Davy Payne helped him lead the assassination squad and played a major part in the attack. Although questioned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) after the killings, Payne admitted nothing and was never charged.

Wilson was the founder and General Secretary of the Social Democratic and Labour Party(SDLP) and Irene Andrews was noted in Belfast as a popular ballroom dancer. The mutilated bodies of Wilson and Andrews were found lying in pools of blood on either side of Wilson's car parked in a quarry off the Hightown Road near Cavehill. Wilson had been hacked and stabbed 30 times and his throat cut from ear-to-ear. Andrews had received 20 knife wounds. The killings were described by the judge at White's trial as "a frenzied attack, a psychotic outburst".

UFF leader and self-styled "Captain Black", John White confessed to the killings during a police interrogation for other offences at the Castlereagh Holding Centre in 1976. He was convicted of the murders in 1978 and given two life sentences. The trial judge described the killings as "a frenzied attack, a psychotic outburtst".He maintained that the UFF's second-in-command (and later North Belfast UDA brigadier) Davy Payne, also known as "the Psychopath", was part of the assassination squad and played a leading role in the killings. Author Ian S. Wood confirmed Payne's central involvement in the double killing. Although Payne had been questioned by the RUC after the killings, he admitted nothing and never faced any charges. It was alleged that whenever Payne wished to frighten or intimidate others he would shout: "Do you know who I am? I'm Davy Payne. They say I killed Paddy Wilson".

Following White's release from the Maze Prison in 1992, he joined the Ulster Democratic Party. A prominent figure in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, in 1996 he comprised part of a four-man loyalist delegation to 10 Downing Street where he met British Prime Minister John Major and shook his hand.

Later when asked why he had perpetrated the killings, White claimed that they were carried out to strike fear into the Catholic community after the IRA blew up six Protestant pensioners in Coleraine on 12 June 1973. Regarding Irene Andrews, White replied, "We didn't know she was."


Monday, 24 June 2013


24 June 1798: The Battle of Castlecomer on this day. The picturesque County Kilkenny town of Castlecomer was burnt to the ground as the Army of the United Irishmen from Wexford clashed with the Crown Forces in the streets of the town. Major General Charles Asgil of the British Army had about 1,400 men in total to oppose the 5,000 or so under Father John Murphy. In the wake of the defeat at Vinegar Hill on 21 June it was decided by the Insurgents to leave County Wexford and advance on Castlecomer where it was hoped the militant colliers there would join them. In the event quite a few did but were of limited fighting value. Asgil himself had advanced from Kilkenny City with about 1,000 men to relieve the troops defending Castlecomer. He sent ahead some 100 men to augment the 300 or so already there. Walter Butler, a local Bigwig and the future 18th Earl of Ormonde commanded the garrison within the town.

The Insurgents advanced upon the town in two columns, one under Father Murphy himself and the other under Miles Byrne. They eventually joined forces within the town and drew up plans to assault by storm Castlecomer House that still held out. But the appearance of Asgil’s relief force on the heights outside the town meant that the Wexfordmen had to turn their attention to that quarter. The British General opened up with artillery to cover the retreat of the trapped garrison. Asgil held his ground long enough for his trapped soldiers & supporters in the town to get out and then he marched away.

Early in the morning of the 24th the rebel troops diminished by desertion to about 8,000 descended from the heights and advancing towards Castlecomer defeated a body of about two hundred and fifty men at a place called Coolbawn a mile and a half from that town which they entered with the slaughter of about fifty Loyalists. The town was set on fire – and of this conflagration each party accuses the other. The General arriving at length with his army, fired with his artillery on the streets and houses not knowing that many Loyalists were still in the place who were making a desperate defence to prevent their families and friends from falling into the enemies hands. This firing however determined the rebels to retire from the town about four O’Clock in the afternoon, which furnished an opportunity to Protestants there assembled to retreat with the general to Kilkenny, but they were obliged to leave their good s a prey to the enemy who took full possession of the place as soon as the Royal Army retreated. 

Musgrave’s History of the Rebellion in Ireland, in the Year 1798

The forces Loyal to the Crown had a lucky escape as the Loyalists within and the troops without would have been overwhelmed had the relative numbers been known in the Insurgent camp. But an early morning fog and the smoke of the buildings alight within the town along with the firing of the guns masked the weakness of the Loyalist position. In the event Murphy decided that it was no use proceeding into areas where the prospects of revolt were so poor and after a brief foray into County Laois it was decided to return to Wexford and fight it out there.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


22 June 1921: In Belfast King George V opened the first session of the Northern Ireland Parliament thus formally dividing Ireland into two political entities.

The genesis of the division lay in the Ulster Unionists opposition to the establishment of a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. Their campaign against it dated back to 1886 when the British Prime Minister Gladstone had first brought a Bill before the British Parliament for its introduction. The bill was defeated and while it passed the House of Commons in 1893 it fell in the Lords.

However in 1909 the House of Lords had blocked the introduction of the Budget brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George. The British Government then brought in legislation to limit the power of the House of Lords to block a Bill passed by the Lower House to two parliamentary sessions and no more. This momentous change meant that sooner or later a new Home Rule Bill was bound to be passed and implemented.


In 1912 the Ulster Unionists organised themselves in para-military formations under an organisation known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Armed with weapons from Germany and Austria-Hungary they defied the British Government attempts to introduce Home Rule for all of Ireland. The outbreak of the Great War stymied a looming Civil War situation and while Home Rule was passed in September 1914 it was suspended for the duration of the War.

With the ending of the Great War the issue of where Ulster stood in relation to the rest of Ireland once again came to the fore. By that stage the Ulster Unionist Council had accepted the concept of Home Rule if the six northern counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone were at least temperorally excluded from its terms.

With the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1919 and the decline of British power throughout much of the Country the likelihood of a deal being struck between Unionists and Nationalists became more remote.
On this basis the British Government decided to proceed with a plan to put before its Parliament a Bill to partition Ireland into two polities – Northern Ireland & Southern Ireland.

Consequently after the General Election of May 1921 in which unionist candidates won most of the seats in the Six Counties the formation of a northern State centred on Belfast was proceeded with.


It was on this basis that King George V was dispatched to the North to officiate at the opening of Northern Parliament on 22 June 1921 in Belfast’s City Hall

Addressing the members of the Senate and House of Commons from his throne he said:


"For all those who love Ireland, as I do with all my heart, this is a profoundly moving occasion in Irish history. My memories of the Irish people date back to the time when I spent many happy days in Ireland as midshipman. My affection for the Irish people has been deepened by the successive visits since that time, and I have watched with constant sympathy the course of their affairs.


"I could not have allowed myself to give Ireland by deputy alone my earnest prayers and good wishes in the new era which opens with this ceremony, and I have therefore come in person, as the Head of the Empire, to inaugurate this Parliament on Irish soil.


"I inaugurate it with deep-felt hope, and I feel assured that you will do your utmost to make it an instrument of happiness and good government for all parts of the community which you represent.


"This is a great and critical occasion in the history of the Six Counties, but not for the Six Counties alone for every thing which interest them touches Ireland, and everything which touches Ireland finds an echo in the remotest part of the Empire....


Friday, 21 June 2013


21 June 1854: Midshipman Charles Davis Lucas, by an act of outstanding bravery on board HMS Hecla on this day was awarded the first Victoria Cross. Lucas was born on 19 February 1834 in Druminargal House, Poyntzpass, Co Armagh, son of David and Elizabeth (Hill) Lucas.He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1847 and took part in the Burmese War of 1852-1853. He won the VC during a British Naval Expedition to the Baltic during the ‘Crimean War’. The fleet under Admiral Napier commenced a bombardment of the island fortress of Bomarsund. Three ships were sent forward to undertake the task, led by Captain Hall on HMS Hecla.

‘At the height of the bombardment, a live shell from an enemy battery landed on Hecla's upper-deck, with its fuse still hissing. All hands were ordered to fling themselves flat on the deck, but Lucas, with what Hall called in a letter to Napier next day 'great coolness and presence of mind', ran forward, picked up the shell and tossed it overboard. It exploded with a tremendous roar before it hit the water. Some minor damage was done to the ship's side and two men were slightly hurt but, thanks to Lucas, nobody was killed or seriously wounded. He was immediately promoted to Acting Lieutenant for his bravery, and the Admiralty later confirmed the promotion on Napier's strongest recommendation.’ 

 'The VC at Sea' by John Winton. 

The 6-gun steam paddle sloop Hecla  was under the direct command of Capitan Hall. He reported to the Admiral that:

With regard to Mr. Lucas, I have the pleasure to report a remarkable instance of coolness and presence of mind in action, he having taken up, and thrown overboard, a live shell thrown on board the 'Hecla' by the enemy, while the fuse was burning.

Queen Victoria invested Charles Lucas with his Victoria Cross on the 26th June 1857 in Hyde Park, London. Lucas eventually reached the rank of Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy. He died on the 7th August 1914, aged 80, at his home in Great Culverden, Kent, and was buried in St. Lawrence's Churchyard, Mereworth.

His medal, the 1st VC, was on display at the National Museum, Dublin overlooking the river Liffey in recent years but is usually kept at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. They are not the original medals, which were left on a train and never recovered. Replacement copies were made, though the reverse of the Victoria Cross copy is uninscribed.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

20 June 1210: King John of England landed at Crook, near Waterford on this day.

Johannes, grandson of the Empress [Matilda], king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year 
After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, 
or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.


Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the
Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the
king put men of his own company into it.
Annals of Loch Cé 1210 AD

Sailing from south Wales, King John landed at Crook, near Waterford, on 20 June 1210. He was to remain in Ireland throughout the rest of the summer.

His mission in Ireland was not to subdue the Irish Kings who still held power over large swathes of the Country, but instead to bring to heel the more powerful of the Anglo-Norman Lords who defied him. King John was a most unpopular Monarch in England and faced constant trouble with his Lords and Barons who resented his attempts to rule them. A ruthless and devious man he probably rightly trusted very few of his councillors who advised him.

The main objects of his attention were the De Lacy family, specifically Walter Earl of Meath and Hugh the Earl of Ulster. He believed they could act as a power base for malcontents back in England. Indeed they had backed the struggle of the once powerful Marcher Lord William de Braose against the King. It was to crush this family and punish the De Lacy's for their lack of loyalty that drove him to take a well armed military force to Ireland.


De Braose fled to England when he heard of the King's movements. There he endeavoured to make peace with his master, but failing to do so, he carefully avoided putting himself in his power, and took refuge in France.

John had been to Ireland before in 1185 when his father King Henry II had given him the title 'Lord of Ireland', but John had turned his journey into a Fiasco but upsetting the Irish kings with his youthful folly and the Gaels resented his attitude to them.

After arriving in Waterford he came to Dublin where he was well received and after leaving the capital he advanced into Meath from which Walter de Lacy then fled. King John then met up with King Cathal Crobhderg O'Conner of Connacht near Ardbraccan, Co Meath. King Cathal recognised him as his Lord in return for being re-assured as the recognised & rightful King of Connacht. The two kings then proceeded northwards where they besieged the powerful fortress of Carrigfergus which was taken, though Hugh made good his escape.

While in the North he also parlayed with King Aedh O'Neil of  Tir Eoghan (Tyrone), whom he wished to secure homage and take hostages from. Keeping his distance, O'Neill made a pretence of wanting to help with the siege and being prepared to offer some kind of agreement to subordinate himself to the English King, but he pleaded for time to consult his advisors. He donated a supply of cattle to feed John's troops. He was though really loath to submit and give over important hostages, incl. his own son, to such a volatile character as King John. The negotiations fizzled out and O'Neill backed off and went home.


Cathal Crovderg was in a weaker position as his kingdom was riven by rivalries which he had to return home to sort out. He had made a promise to hand over his eldest son, Aed O'Conner, to King John. He would then have him conveyed to England as a security against King Cathal remaining in submission. However Cathal's wife would have none of it and the Irish king had to return to King John empty handed. When they next met at Rathwire in County Westmeath, as arranged, but without his son, the King of England was anything but pleased and seems to have forcibly apprehended four of Cathal's sub-kings and royal officers, whom he brought back to England.

Soon after King John left Ireland,  arriving back at Fishguard in Wales on 26 August. His Expedition here was overall a success. He had smashed the power of the De Lacy's, secured the city of Limerick, reformed the government of Dublin and the eastern counties and brought even as powerful figure as William Marshal of Leinster, the greatest Knight of the age, to heel.

But his attempts to bring the Kings of Connacht and Tir Eoghan under his thumb both failed, and while not the primary objective of his expedition John's ham fisted attempts only alienated these Irish Kings who rightly did not trust this ruthless man.

A final and horrible chapter to this attempt to punish his opponents was the fate of Maud De Braose and her infant son William de Braose. Captured in Scotland they were conveyed in chains to King John who had them imprisoned in Windsor Castle. They were locked up together but only given food and no water on the first day of their incarceration. Thereafter nothing. When the jailors yanked open the door to their cell 11 days later all that was left was their emaciated corpses.


John died in 1216, probably from dysentery, and his expedition here was the last by a serving King of England for 184 years until King Richard II, another unloved Monarch, arrived in the year 1394.


20 June 1210: King John of England landed at Crook, near Waterford on this day.

Johannes, grandson of the Empress [Matilda], king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year 
After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, 
or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.


Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the
Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the
king put men of his own company into it.
Annals of Loch Cé 1210 AD

Sailing from south Wales, King John landed at Crook, near Waterford, on 20 June 1210. He was to remain in Ireland throughout the rest of the summer.

His mission in Ireland was not to subdue the Irish Kings who still held power over large swathes of the Country, but instead to bring to heel the more powerful of the Anglo-Norman Lords who defied him. King John was a most unpopular Monarch in England and faced constant trouble with his Lords and Barons who resented his attempts to rule them. A ruthless and devious man he probably rightly trusted very few of his councillors who advised him.

The main objects of his attention were the De Lacy family, specifically Walter Earl of Meath and Hugh the Earl of Ulster. He believed they could act as a power base for malcontents back in England. Indeed they had backed the struggle of the once powerful Marcher Lord William de Braose against the King. It was to crush this family and punish the De Lacy's for their lack of loyalty that drove him to take a well armed military force to Ireland.


De Braose fled to England when he heard of the King's movements. There he endeavoured to make peace with his master, but failing to do so, he carefully avoided putting himself in his power, and took refuge in France.

John had been to Ireland before in 1185 when his father King Henry II had given him the title 'Lord of Ireland', but John had turned his journey into a Fiasco but upsetting the Irish kings with his youthful folly and the Gaels resented his attitude to them.

After arriving in Waterford he came to Dublin where he was well received and after leaving the capital he advanced into Meath from which Walter de Lacy then fled. King John then met up with King Cathal Crobhderg O'Conner of Connacht near Ardbraccan, Co Meath. King Cathal recognised him as his Lord in return for being re-assured as the recognised & rightful King of Connacht. The two kings then proceeded northwards where they besieged the powerful fortress of Carrigfergus which was taken, though Hugh made good his escape.

While in the North he also parlayed with King Aedh O'Neil of  Tir Eoghan (Tyrone), whom he wished to secure homage and take hostages from. Keeping his distance, O'Neill made a pretence of wanting to help with the siege and being prepared to offer some kind of agreement to subordinate himself to the English King, but he pleaded for time to consult his advisors. He donated a supply of cattle to feed John's troops. He was though really loath to submit and give over important hostages, incl. his own son, to such a volatile character as King John. The negotiations fizzled out and O'Neill backed off and went home.


Cathal Crovderg was in a weaker position as his kingdom was riven by rivalries which he had to return home to sort out. He had made a promise to hand over his eldest son, Aed O'Conner, to King John. He would then have him conveyed to England as a security against King Cathal remaining in submission. However Cathal's wife would have none of it and the Irish king had to return to King John empty handed. When they next met at Rathwire in County Westmeath, as arranged, but without his son, the King of England was anything but pleased and seems to have forcibly apprehended four of Cathal's sub-kings and royal officers, whom he brought back to England.

Soon after King John left Ireland,  arriving back at Fishguard in Wales on 26 August. His Expedition here was overall a success. He had smashed the power of the De Lacy's, secured the city of Limerick, reformed the government of Dublin and the eastern counties and brought even as powerful figure as William Marshal of Leinster, the greatest Knight of the age, to heel.

But his attempts to bring the Kings of Connacht and Tir Eoghan under his thumb both failed, and while not the primary objective of his expedition John's ham fisted attempts only alienated these Irish Kings who rightly did not trust this ruthless man.

A final and horrible chapter to this attempt to punish his opponents was the fate of Maud De Braose and her infant son William de Braose. Captured in Scotland they were conveyed in chains to King John who had them imprisoned in Windsor Castle. They were locked up together but only given food and no water on the first day of their incarceration. Thereafter nothing. When the jailors yanked open the door to their cell 11 days later all that was left was their emaciated corpses.


John died in 1216, probably from dysentery, and his expedition here was the last by a serving King of England for 184 years until King Richard II, another unloved Monarch, arrived in the year 1394.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


18 June 1812: The USA declared War on Britain and Ireland:

An Act Declaring War Between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dependencies Thereof and the United States of America and Their Territories.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That war be and the same is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their territories; and that the President of the United States is hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect, and to issue to private armed vessels of the United States commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the subjects thereof

APPROVED, June 18, 1812

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain's ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas and possible American desire to annex Canada.

The War of 1812 formally began on June 18, 1812, when President James Madison signed the this act into law. 

Monday, 17 June 2013


17 June 1800: The Birth of the future  3rd Earl of Rosse on this day. He was born at York in northern England. He went to Oxford and graduated in 1822 with a 1st Class Degree in Mathematics. He inherited an Earldom and a large Estate in County Offaly in 1841 upon the death of his father.

He was the most prominent astronomer of his time and built the world’s largest and most powerful telescope of the age on his estates at Birr Castle, County Offaly. He first represented  the Kings County at Westminister as Lord Oxmanstown but was indifferent to deep political considerations. In politics he was a moderate conservative but of an independent mind on some leading questions.

After retiring from the world of politics he applied himself to the pursuit of astronomical science. Starting almost from scratch he assembled a series of large telescopes that he perfected through trial and error till eventually he produced his magnificent 72 inch optical reflector telescope– the ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’.

With this he discovered or developed  many unknown or little understood heavenly objects including the remains of the burnt out star Supernova SN 1054. He observed that nebula at Birr Castle in the 1840s, and referred to the object as the ‘Crab Nebula’ because a drawing he made of it that looked like a crab, which is still the name it is most commonly known as to this day.


One of Rosse's telescope admirers was Thomas Langlois Lefroy, a fellow Irish MP, who said:

 The planet Jupiter, which through an ordinary glass is no larger than a good star, is seen twice as large as the moon appears to the naked eye/.../But the genius displayed in all the contrivances for wielding this mighty monster even surpasses the design and execution of it. The telescope weighs sixteen tons, and yet Lord Rosse raised it single-handed off its resting place, and two men with ease raised it to any height.

In 1849 he was elected President of the Royal Society. He was elected a member of the Imperial Acadamy at St Petersburg, and created a knight of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III. He also received the Knighthood of St Patrick from Queen Victoria. Though born in England to an Anglo-Irish family he was strongly attached to this country by the ties of family, property and sympathy.

In addition to his astronomical interests, Rosse served as an Member of Parliament (MP) for King's County from 1821 to 1834, an Irish representative peer after 1845, president of the Royal Society (1848–1854), and chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin (1862–1867).

Sunday, 16 June 2013



16 June 1929: 'Bloomsday' was first celebrated on this day.

In one of the earliest Bloomsday celebrations, Sylvia Beach, publisher of Ulysses organised a Ulysses lunch with her partner Adrienne Monnier in France in June 1929. The first Bloomsday celebrated in Ireland was in 1954, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Bloomsday. The eccentric writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien visited locations such as the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrne’s pub, and 7 Eccles Street where the fictional Leopold Bloom lived with his wife Molly. They spent part of their tour reading extracts from Ulysses and drinking a great deal as they went along!

"It wasn't until 1954, its 50th anniversary, that John Ryan, restaurant owner and publisher of the literary periodical Envoy, and his literary friends, novelist Brian O'Nolan and poets Patrick Kavanagh and Anthony Cronin, resurrected Bloomsday in Ireland. There are photos at the National Library in Dublin…of their pilgrimage in two horse-cabs to various locations in Ulysses and several pubs."
Fritzi Horstman

Bloomsday celebrates the day on which the narrative of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place, 16 June 1904, the day on which it is believed that Joyce first went out with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8 am on 16 June through to the early hours of the following morning. 

An Extract:
As he set foot on O'Connell bridge a puffball of smoke plumed up from the parapet. Brewery barge with export stout. England. Sea air sours it, I heard. Be interesting some day get a pass through Hancock to see the brewery. Regular world in itself. Vats of porter, wonderful. Rats get in too. Drink themselves bloated as big as a collie floating. Dead drunk on the porter. Drink till they puke again like christians. Imagine drinking that! Rats: vats. Well of course if we knew all the things.
Episode 8 – ‘Lestrygonians’