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Thursday, 31 October 2013


31 October 1867: The death occurred of the 3rd Earl of Rosse at Monkstown, Co Dublin on this day. 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. After studying at Trinity College he later gained a First in Mathematics from Magdalen College, Oxford. He first represented  the Kings County at Westminster 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 – 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.

This Reflecting telescope remained the largest in the world for over 70 years and is arguably the largest historic scientific instrument still working today. This ‘leviathan’ as it is named, remains in the centre of the Demesne as Ireland’s greatest scientific wonder and represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.

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. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


30 October 1651: Bishop Terence Albert O'Brien [above] Dominican, was hanged and beheaded at Gallow's Green, Limerick on this day. He was born into a well-off farming family near Cappamore in east Limerick in 1601. He became a Dominican in 1621 taking the name Albert. He studied in Toledo, Spain, where he was ordained in 1627. Returning to Ireland, he served as prior in Limerick and Lorrha near Portumna before becoming Provincial of the Irish province in 1643. He attended the general chapter of his order in Rome in 1644. After the siege of Limerick in 1651, O'Brien, who had encouraged citizens to resist, was captured as he tended the sick in the plague house. Tried by court-martial, he was condemned to death.
As he went to the gallows, he spoke to the people:
 "Do not weep for me, but pray that being firm and unbroken in this torment of death, I may happily finish my course."

 Two other Dominicans, Fathers John Collins and James Wolf, were executed at the same time.
After his death by strangulation his body was left hanging for three hours and treated with indignity by the soldiers. They cut off his head and spiked it on the river gate where it remained fresh and incorrupt, because, people said, he had preserved his virginity throughout his life. His headless body was buried near the old Dominican priory of Limerick, a wall of which still stands in the grounds of St Mary's Convent of Mercy. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


29 October 878 AD: A solar eclipse on the fourth of the Kalends of November [29 October] the twenty-eighth of the moon, on the fourth feria, about the seventh hour of daylight, fifteen solar days having intervened.
The Annals of Ulster 878 AD

This celestial phenomenon was seen as a total eclipse in central and northern Scotland and as a deep eclipse in all of Ireland as well as in parts of England and Wales. It was also recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Regino of Prüm, and annals from Iceland and Fulda in Germany, of which only the last compare with these Annals of Ulster record for accuracy.

Monday, 28 October 2013


28 October 1588: The Girona, a 700 ton Neopolitan gallass was wrecked off the north coast of Ireland at Lacada Point [above], Co Antrim on this day. The Lacada/Liach Fada (the long stone) is a rock promontory that juts into the ocean a few hundred yards west of the Giant's Causeway.The Italian built ship had been part of the ill fated Spanish Armada which Philip II had dispatched from his dominions to restore England to the Catholic Faith.

The Girona was a galleass - an oared fighting ship, designed for Mediterranean warfare. But she performed extraordinarily well in northern waters, and survived the coast of Ireland with need of only slight repairs.  On board were the survivors of two shipwrecks that had been washed upon the Irish shore. The Girona had picked them up at Killybegs, County Donegal.

The Commander of the vessel was a brave and charismatic Spanish Don Alonso de Leyva.

He was described by an Irish sailor (James Machary) as:

Don Alonso for his stature was tall and slender
of a whitely complexion
of a flaxen and smooth hair
of behavior mild and temperate
of speech good and deliberate
greatly reverenced not only of his men
but generally of all the whole company 
The Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland
Ken Douglas

Don Alonso decided that overladen as she was the best plan was to make for neutral Scotland and pick up more shipping there for the dash back to Spain. With over 1,300 men inside the ship she was sluggish in the stormy waters and despite having over 200 oars to guide her passage was vulnerable to any contrary turns of weather. In a storm the oars would have been useless.

Initially her luck held and she made progress towards the Scottish coast. But the wind turned to the north west and pushed her back onto the rocky Antrim shores. Disaster struck when her rudder snapped off and she drifted a helpless hulk upon the waters. In despair the crew and passengers, including some of the noblest names in Spain, could only pray for Eternal Salvation as they were cast to their doom upon the rocks of Lacada Point. Just a handful survived the ordeal and were rescued by the Irish of that coast.

While nothing now survives of the wreck, over the last 40 years the place where she sank, has yielded a rich haul of treasure - pathetic gold and jeweled trinkets, badges of rank, religious charms, tenderly inscribed love-tokens, money chains and nearly 1,200 gold and silver coins. A testimony to the riches in the possession of some of Spain's best families on the night that they perished. Much of this recovered haul is now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Thus perished some of the scions of the noblest families of Spain on that terrible night all those years ago.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


27 October 1980 - Beginning of the Hunger Strike by seven Republican prisoners in the 'H' Blocks at Long Kesh on this day. The prisoners who volunteered to go on the strike were Tom McFeeley, Brendan Hughes (until then, the OC for protesting prisoners), Raymond McCartney, Leo Green, John Nixon, Tommy McKearney and Sean McKenna.

The determination to launch this form of protest grew out of the campaign to secure a political status for republicans who had been captured by the British during the Conflict since 1976. It was in that year that the British Labour Government withdrew its further implementation for any one convicted after that. This then led to the ‘Dirty Protest’ but despite enduring terrible conditions it was obvious the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not for turning on this issue. The events that led out of this Hunger Strike and the one the following year were a turning point on modern Irish History. Part of the statement issued by the prisoners about to embark on Hunger strike read as follows:
We, the Republican Prisoners of War in the H-Blocks, Long Kesh, demand, as of right, political recognition and that we be accorded the status of political prisoners. We claim this right as captured combatants in the continuing struggle for national liberation and self-determination.
The campaign outside then got underway and was fought on the granting of Five Demands that the prisoners thought could lead to an honourable outcome:
 
1. The Right not to wear a prison uniform; 
2. The Right not to do prison work; 
3. The Right of free association with other prisoners; 
4. The Right to organise their own educational and recreational facilities; 
5. The Right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


26 October 1771: John MacKenna [above,left] was born in County Monaghan, Ireland on this day. He died 43 years later as one of the foremost men in Chile's struggle for Independence from Spain.

At an early age he was sent to Spain and joined the Irish Brigade of the Spanish Army. and joined the army fighting in Ceuta in northern Africa, under Lieutenant Colonel Luis Urbina, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. In 1791 Mackenna resumed his studies in Barcelona and acted as liaison with mercenaries recruited in Europe. The following year he was promoted to Lieutenant in the Royal Regiment of Engineers. In the War of the Pyrenees against the French, Juan Mackenna fought in Rosselló under General Ricardos and there met the future liberator of Argentina, José de San Martín. For his exploits in defence of the Plaza de Rozas, he was promoted to captain in 1795.

In October 1796, Juan Mackenna left Spain for South America. He arrived in Buenos Aires and then travelled to Mendoza and to Chile across the Andes and then to Peru. Once in Lima, he contacted Ambrosio O'Higgins, another Irishman, at that time Viceroy of Perú, who named him Governor of Osorno and put him in charge of the reconstruction works for this southern Chilean town.

After the Declaration of Chilean Independence in 1810, he adhered to the Patriot side and was commissioned by the first Chilean government to prepare a plan for the defense of the country and oversaw the equipment of the new Chilean Army. At this juncture he trained the first military engineers for the new army.

The following year he was called to the defence committee of the new Republic of Chile, and in 1811 was appointed governor of Valparaíso. He was a firm ally of Bernardo O'Higgins, who appointed him as one of the key officers to fight the Spanish army of General Antonio Pareja. Mackenna's major military honour was attained in 1814 at the Battle of Membrillar, in which the general assured a temporary collapse of the royal forces.


As a reward for his victory, he was appointed commandant-general by Bernardo O'Higgins, but after a coup d'état led by Luis Carrera he was exiled to Argentina in 1814, when Carrera took over power. Juan Mackenna died in Buenos Aires late in 1814, after a duel with Luis Carrera.

In 2010, the Irish and Chilean Postal Service jointly issued stamps jointly celebrating Juan MacKenna and Bernardo O’Higgins for their parts in the Liberation of Chile.

Friday, 25 October 2013


25 October 1920: IRA Volunteer Joseph Murphy [above] died in Cork Jail, on this day. He had been on a Hunger Strike for 76 days. For decades his fast was the longest on record anywhere in the World. He is buried in the Republican Plot in St. Finbarr's Cemetery in Cork City.

He was an avid sportsman who played hurling for the old Plunketts club in Togher and also enjoyed a game of road bowling on most Sunday mornings.

His life changed dramatically when he, along with many of his friends, joined the local company of the Irish Republican Army in the early stages of the War of Independence. Following a raid on his home on the night of July 15, 1920 he was arrested and imprisoned at Cork County Jail.

Two months later, he was one of a group of sixty Cork republicans - including Terence MacSwiney - who embarked on hunger strike. The mass protest captured the sympathy of the general public and large crowds congregated outside the jail gates each day, many reciting the rosary. However, after a fast lasting seventy-six days, twenty four year old Joe Murphy died.

Thousands attended his removal to the Lough Chapel. The funeral ceremonies were dominated by a strong British military presence and no more than a hundred people were allowed to follow the hearse to St. Finbarr’s Cemetery.
http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/murphy.html

Thursday, 24 October 2013


24 October 1878: Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first Cardinal and the most formidable man in the 19th Century Church died on this day. He was given the titular Roman church of San Pietro Montorio as his cardinality– a Church with Irish associations. He was born in Co Kildare in 1803. Paul Cullen himself was named after an uncle executed by crown forces in May 1798. Cullen's father was also involved with the United Irishmen, was arrested, and narrowly avoided court-martial and a probable death sentence. He was released in 1801. His family were prosperous Tenant Farmers.

Educated locally, incl time spent in a Quaker School he thereafter spent many years in Rome studying. He took his Doctorate in Theology in 1828, and defended it in the presence of Pope Leo XII. He was ordained there in 1829. He was later the Rector of the Irish College in the Holy City and was also appointed Rector of the College of the Propaganda of the Faith/Congregatio de Propaganda Fide – a most senior appointment. Due to his position as head of the Irish College he was the conduit for correspondence between the Irish Bishops and the Holy See for many years and became intimate with all aspects of the Church at home in Ireland.

 When the revolutionary events of 1848 swept through Rome Cullen offered sanctuary to a number of clerics and cardinals wanted by the republican regime. He secured the protection of the United States Consul over his palace in Rome, which then flew the flag of the USA. The sight of that emblem precluded the Revolutionaries from setting foot inside. This act of some cunning earned Cullen the eternal gratitude of Pope Pius IX. His status in the eyes of this long lived and very conservative Pope was further enhanced in 1859 when he helped to organise an Irish Brigade that was sent to Italy to fight alongside the Papal troops in defending the Papal Estates from Garibaldi.

He was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1849 and returned home the following year. He convened the Synod of Thurles (1850), the first national synod held with due public solemnity in Ireland since the beginning of the Reformation period. The main purpose of the synod was to restore the authority of ecclesiastical order in Ireland, and this was in the fullest measure attained. The synod none the less marked the introduction of distinctly Roman devotional forms across the island. Cullen considered the synod's decrees to be his greatest achievement and worked hard to secure their implementation.

 A noted conservative in politics he was opposed to the Young Irelanders and also the Fenians. He wanted the Irish Catholic Church to stay aloof from politics unless there were specific Catholic issues involved. His lifelong ambition was to see established a Catholic University in Ireland. While one was established in 1854 under John Henry Newman it never really got off the ground and limped on for years in a sort of educational limbo. He also wanted the Protestant Church of Ireland to be disestablished. While only partially successful in the 1st the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869 – much to Cullen’s satisfaction.!

He became Cardinal on 22 June 1866 and his motto was ‘Ponit Animam Pro Amicis’. He attended the Vatican Council in 1870 where he was a staunch defender of Papal Infallibility. His definition the Pope’s Authority on Theological matters infallibility was the one that was adopted with just minor modifications. He was Rome’s Representative to Ireland and ensured that the Church here was run under disciplined and regimented lines. The squabbles and localism of earlier times were suppressed and the Catholics of Ireland were ‘Romanised’ in a way that was not there before Cullen took over.


He was first and foremost a Roman. His allegiance to Rome, in the person of the pope and his authority, temporal and spiritual, was uncompromising. How Rome stood … on any question was Cullen’s point of departure.
Emmet Larkin

Cullen died suddenly at Eccles Street, Dublin on 24 October 1878. His funeral was a great public event. He was buried, according to his wishes, below the high altar in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe the college he had done so much to have founded.








Wednesday, 23 October 2013


23 October 1970: In one of the most dramatic and controversial trials of modern times Charles J. Haughey, Captain James Kelly, John Kelly and Albert Luykx were all acquitted of the charges against them of attempting to illegally import Arms into the State. This marked the end of an extraordinary series of political and legal events, which had begun on 6 May that year when Cabinet Ministers Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney were sacked from Jack Lynch’s Government. Their summary dismissal was over alleged improprieties in the importation of weapons through Dublin. It was believed that these were for use by the Catholics in the North against further sectarian attacks.

Though they vehemently denied the allegation they and others were put on trial on 28 May. The charges against Blaney were dropped in the District Court July 2, 1970 and as a result he was not tried, before the main trial got underway under Justice Aindrias O'Caoimh. The trial collapsed a week later after allegations of bias. A 2nd trial began but no concrete evidence was ever presented that could secure a prosecution against the defendants. Following a second trial the other four defendants were cleared on October 23

The involvement of Haughey in all of this remains decidedly murky but he would seem to have had good grounds for believing that certain rivals within Fianna Fail shafted him. There were definitely political opponents who wished to stop his rise to power within the Party and his expected takeover one day.

If so they were to be disappointed. Though it took Haughey nine long hard years to climb his way back to the top he achieved his life long ambition and unseated Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in December 1979.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


22/23 October 1641: The Rising of 1641/ Éirí Amach 1641 began prematurely on this night. The uprising had been long planned and was aimed at securing the religious and civil liberties of the Catholics of Ireland. It was to have started in Dublin the previous day but the plan to seize Dublin Castle was betrayed and it remained in English hands. The planners of the rising were a small group of Irish landowners, mainly Gaelic Irish and from the heavily planted provinces of Leinster and Ulster. Hugh MacMahon and Conor Maguire were to have seized Dublin Castle, while Sir Phelim O’Neill was to raise the North.

However in Dublin the plot to seize the Castle was betrayed:

On the evening of the 22nd of October, when the preparations had been completed in Dublin, a man named Owen O'Connolly, to whom MacMahon had confided the secret, went straight to Sir William Parsons one of the lords justices, and told him of the plot. Parsons at first gave no heed to the story, for he perceived that O'Connolly was half drunk. But on consultation with his colleague Sir John Borlase, they arrested Maguire and MacMahon on the morning of the 23rd: these were subsequently tried in London and hanged. Rory O'Moore and some others then in Dublin escaped. Instant measures were taken to put the city in a state of defence.

 The plan was to use surprise rather than military force to take their objectives and to then issue their demands, in expectation of support from the rest of the country. As for why things came to head when they did the reasons are legion.


This great rebellion was brought about by the measures taken to extirpate the Catholic religion; by the plantations of Chichester and Strafford; and by the non-confirmation of the graces, which made the people despair of redress. There were complaints from every side about religious hardships. As to the plantations, no one could tell where they might stop; and there was a widespread fear that the people of the whole country might be cleared off to make place for new settlers. Besides all this, those who had been dispossessed longed for the first opportunity to fall on the settlers and regain their homes and farms.
A Concise History of Ireland
 by P. W. Joyce

The Irish in the North had the greatest initial success, taking numerous strategic places, incl Charlemont Fort, Co Armagh, (one of the most modern in Ireland) by a ruse. This was Lord Caulfield's house, which became the chief fortress of the Irish in Ulster. They also captured the forts of Mountjoy, Dungannon, Castlecaulfield, Salterstown and Lissan.  In the days that followed the Revolt grew and grew and most of the Protestants who had been planted in the northern counties were forced to flee.
 
Lurid prints and accounts (The Depositions) were spread in London and other English cities at the indignities and sufferings visited upon the Protestant settlers who were forced to flee for their lives.While much exaggerated the stories were widely believed and they laid the foundations of the terrible vengeance visited upon Ireland when Oliver Cromwell landed here in 1649. Many Catholics were also assaulted and cut down by the Crown forces who were also at work against anyone they deemed as ‘Rebels’. 
 
Thus was opened one of the bloodiest and vicious wars Ireland has ever experienced as Death, Famine, War, and Plague [above] were visited upon her People. A War that did not fully abate for another twelve long years. 



Monday, 21 October 2013


21 October 1803: Thomas Russell, United Irishman, ‘the man from God knows where’, was hanged outside Downpatrick Jail, Co Down on this day. He had been captured in Dublin as he tried to organise a rescue of Robert Emmet. A former British Officer he resigned his Commission in the wake of the French Revolution. Russell was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement in Ireland for over a decade and had spent a number of years in prison for his beliefs.

He was a great friend of Wolfe Tone who he had first met in the visitors gallery in Ireland's House of Commons in the year 1790. He was a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen that aimed to secure Civil & Political  Liberties for the Irish People.

In 1795 Russell, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cave Hill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath:

 "never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence"

In 1796 he was arrested and held without Trial until 1802 when England and France signed the brief Peace of Amiens. He was released on condition he went into Exile. He made his way to Paris where he met Emmet and he agreed to try and raise the North. He returned from exile in France specifically to help stir the North into Revolt in conjunction with Emmet’s Rising in Dublin, but he found that the spirit of  ’98 was no longer there.

After Emmet's abortive Rising in Dublin he went on the run but after weeks in hiding he was caught and sent back to the North to be put on trial. He was sentenced to death for his part in the attempt to overthrow the Ascendency and was hanged at Downpatrick alongside other conspirators who had joined him in the enterprise.

His brave death was the subject of a famous ballad by Florence Wilson that ends with the death of Russell on the gallows:


For the man that they hanged at Downpatrick Jail 
Was the Man from God-knows-where!


Sunday, 20 October 2013



20 October 1892 - General Eoin O’Duffy was born on this day near Castleblaney Co Monaghan. He was the 2nd Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. O’Duffy first came to local prominence in the G.A.A. and afterwards as a senior figure in the IRA during the War of Independence, taking part in the capture of Ballytrain RIC Barracks in 1920. He was elected a TD and after the Truce was sent to Belfast to organise the local defenses there against attacks by Loyalists. He supported the Treaty and was appointed a General in the Free State Army. He directed operations in the Limerick area with some success.

After the Civil War ended he was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and by all accounts did an excellent job of turning out a first rate force on a shoestring budget. However when De Valera came to power he lost favour, partially over his record in the Civil War and partly due to his obstreperous nature – especially when dealing with politicians!

He was sacked and became embroiled in party politics as a Leader the Army Comrades Association aka ‘the Blueshirts’ and then Fine Gael. His antics as a political leader lowered his esteem in the eyes of many and eventually his Blueshirt movement fizzled out and he parted company with F.G. He led a small expeditionary force to Spain to fight alongside the Fascists there but after a few minor skirmishes the group returned home and disbanded. O’Duffy died in 1944, a broken man living in lonely isolation, though for his past services De Valera granted him a State Funeral.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


19 October 1745: Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on this day. He was 77 years old. He was a brilliant satirist, an essayist, a political pamphleteer (first for Whigs then for the Tories), and a poet. He became a Cleric who became Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier's Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub.

He held a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Established Church  and in later  years was appointed Dean Of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. He was though never really happy in that role and devoted most of his time and energy to literary and political activities. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Dublin Administration and an advocate of Ireland controlling her own destiny - though within the Protestant framework.

He is still one of the best known literary figures of the 18th Century throughout the English speaking World. His novel Gulliver's Travels is one of the most widely known works of fiction in the English language.

His least years were sad ones as his friends died off and his intellectual capacity deserted him.

Definite symptoms of madness appeared in 1738. In 1741 guardians were appointed to take care of his affairs and watch lest in his outbursts of violence he should do himself harm. In 1742 he suffered great pain from the inflammation of his left eye, which swelled to the size of an egg; five attendants had to restrain him from tearing out his eye. He went a whole year without uttering a word.

 After being laid out in public view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson's [Stella] side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (twelve thousand pounds) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, originally known as St Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles, which opened in 1757, and which still exists as a psychiatric hospital.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien, Nationalist politician and Young Irelander was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate  the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.


That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.

There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.

The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.

Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing. In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.

 There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [above] directly across the road from where No 1 Merrion Square where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where he is buried.
A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 15 October 2013



15 October 878 AD: A Lunar Eclipse was observed in Ireland on this day. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon.

Retrospective astronomical observations confirm what the monks witnessed: A lunar eclipse at 3:53 am on the 15 October 878. The moon was just fully immersed in the umbra and 15 October that year did indeed fall on a Wednesday – the fourth day (feria) of the week.

There was a lunar eclipse on the Ides [15th] of October,
the fourteenth of the moon, 
on the fourth feria about the third watch.

Annals of Ulster 878 AD

Monday, 14 October 2013


14 October 1318 : The Battle of Faughart, also known as the Battle of Dundalk, was fought on this day. It was between an Anglo-Irish force led by John of Birmingham and Edmund Butler, and a Scots-Irish army commanded by Edward Bruce, claimant to the Crown of Ireland and brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Edward was killed in the battle. The defeat and death of Edward de Bruce at the battle ended the attempt to revive an independent Kingdom of Ireland. It also ended the attempt of King Robert of Scotland to open up a second front against the English in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.

 Edward had invaded Ireland with an Army of 6,000 men in May 1315 and initially swept all before him. But his arrival here coincided with the start of a Great Famine that swept Europe that was caused by devastating climatic change. That and the cruelties his followers inflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike won him few converts outside of Ulster. Like Hannibal of old he could win battles and sweep the land, but he could not take the city of Dublin – the Capital of Ireland.

By 1318 his position was desperate as he saw his ambition to be King of Ireland in his own right slip away. He decided on a desperate gamble - to give battle before reinforcements could arrive from Scotland and thus lessen his own glory. Thus the two armies met at Faughart, on rising ground just north of Dundalk. Bruce had placed the few Gaelic forces that stayed with him at the rear. He divided his army into three divisions. This disposition proved disastrous, as the divisions proved to be easy targets for deBirmingham’s forces who simply destroyed them as they met and engaged with them. They were too far away from each other to provide any support to each other.

The English 'Chronicle of Lanercost' recorded:

The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland.

At the beginning of the battle, Edward Bruce refused to wear the sur-coat bearing his coat of arms. This was worn by his man-servant Gib Harper, who fought beside his master. Both master and servant were killed by an English soldier called John Maupas, but not before Maupas himself had sustained a fatal sword thrust. All three were found together after the battle in which many Scottish nobles who had followed Bruce since the beginning of the campaign, were also killed.

After Edward's death his body was quartered and his limbs sent to various places in Ireland, with his head being delivered to Edward II, the King  of England. Tradition holds that his torso was then buried in nearby graveyard [above].

His defeat and destruction at Faughart was as unexpected as it was sudden but the termination of this terrible war was greeted with relief as it brought to an end a bleak and dark chapter in Ireland’s History.
 Edward Bruce, the destroyer of all Erinn in general,
 both Foreigners and Gaeidhel, was slain by the Foreigners
 of Erinn, and …
 
 no better deed for the men of all Erinn was performed
 since the beginning of the world, since the Fomorian
 race was expelled from Erinn, than this deed 
 
 for theft and famine, and destruction of men occurred throughout
 Erinn during his time
 
 For the space of three years and  a half
 and people used to eat one another, without doubt
 throughout Erinn.
 
Annals of Loch Cé 1318 AD



Sunday, 13 October 2013


13 October 1881: Charles Stuart Parnell MP was arrested in Morrison’s Hotel, Dublin and conveyed to Kilmainham Jail on this day. Detectives Mallon and Sheridan of the ‘G’ Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police carried out the arrest. They arrived at the hotel and asked the hotel porter to request an interview with Mr Parnell. The leader of the Land League asked for time to dress and then called up his two visitors who were greeted with the words Do you intend to arrest me? – Yes - replied John Mallon.

The trio went downstairs and into a waiting cab, though Parnell refused to leave until he had been given 10% off the Bill! Mallon then gave the order to Kilmainham and they set off with a police escort to the notorious jail.  Once there Parnell was incarcerated with the other political prisoners already held being held. Gladstone had ordered Parnell’s arrest the previous night after a Cabinet meeting. He then and there dispatched Mr Foster (Britain’s Chief Secretary for Ireland) to Dublin with orders to capture the Irish Leader.

 He wrote to his lover Katharine O’Shea when he was arrested:

‘Politically it is a fortunate thing for me that I have been arrested, as the movement is breaking fast and all will be quiet in a few months, when I shall be released’.

For the arrest of Parnell backfired on the British Government as left without a Leader the rural population increasingly turned to Captain Moonlight to settle agrarian disputes - as Parnell had predicted at the time of his arrest!

By the start of 1882, Irish agrarian unrest escalated to unprecedented levels (3,433 episodes of agrarian violence were recorded) and it was clear to both Gladstone and Parnell that it was time to reach a compromise.

The Kilmainham Treaty was agreed. The agreement was that Gladstone would amend the Land Act of 1881 to include tenants in arrears and leaseholders; drop coercion; and release ‘suspects’ in police custody. In return, Parnell would help to pacify the people of Ireland and co–operate with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles and measures of general reform. Parnell was released on 2 May 1882 and crossed directly to England where he made a dramatic appearance in the House of Commons.
http://multitext.ucc.ie/d/Charles_Stewart_Parnell



Saturday, 12 October 2013


12 October 1984: An IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel, Brighton killed five members of the Conservative Party and narrowly missed killing the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – it’s intended target. Until that time this was the most audacious attack ever undertaken against a British Leader. Thatcher was lucky in that her room was changed from the previous years and this saved her life. For the IRA bomber - Patrick Magee - had booked into her old room weeks previously and planted a bomb with a timing device primed to explode on the night she would arrive.

The bomb detonated at 2:54 a.m. on 12 October. The mid-section of the building collapsed into the basement, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel's façade. Firemen said that many lives were likely saved because the well-built Victorian hotel remained standing. Margaret Thatcher was still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. The blast badly damaged her bathroom, but left her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Both she and her husband Denis escaped injury. She changed her clothes and was led out through the wreckage along with her husband and Cynthria Crawford (her friend and aide) and driven to Brighton police station.

 Those killed were Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, Eric Taylor (North-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Jeanne Shattock (wife of Sir Gordon Shattock, Western Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Muriel Maclean (wife of Sir Donald Maclean, President of the Scottish Conservatives), and Roberta Wakeham (wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham). Donald and Muriel Maclean were in the room in which the bomb exploded.

Several more, including Margaret Tebbit—the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade—were left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people were taken to hospital and recovered from their injuries. When hospital staff asked Tebbit whether he was allergic to anything, he famously answered "bombs"

That night the IRA issued a statement soon after:

Mrs. Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war.


Friday, 11 October 2013



11 October 1741: Birth of James Barry, the great neo Classicalist Painter, in Cork on this day. His contemporaries considered Barry a child prodigy. He started painting while still in Cork and then moved to Dublin. There he produced several large pictures, which decorated his father's house, such as Aeneas escaping with his Family from the Flames of Troy, Susanna and the Elders and Daniel in the Lions' Den. The painting that first brought him into widespread public notice, and gained him the acquaintance and patronage of Edmund Burke, was founded on an old tradition St Patrick visiting Cashel, and of the conversion of its king in The Baptism of the King of Cashel by St Patrick. [above]

After some time in Dublin he made his way to London where he gained the patronage of Edmund Burke and won renown for his artistic talent. He then went on an extended tour, first to Paris, then to Rome, where he remained upwards of three years, from Rome to Florence and Bologna, and thence to Venice. He returned to London in about 1771. There he produced his picture of Venus, which was compared to the Galatea of Raphael, the Venus of Titian and the Venus de Medici.

He is best remembered though for his six part series of paintings entitled The Progress of Human Culture in the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in London, in which city he made the rest of his career.

He produced numerous paintings in the course of artistic career that varied greatly in accomplishment but little in style. He was determined to follow his own path in life and in Art and while this won him admiration it also lost him friends and more crucially Patrons in an Age when patronage was essential to social advancement.

He died in London on 22 February 1806 and the following month his remains were interred in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Sunday, 6 October 2013


6 October 1175: The Treaty of Windsor was agreed between representatives of Rory O'Connor [above] the High King of Ireland (Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair an Ard Rí na hÉireann) and King Henry II of England on this day. King Rory was the last High King of Ireland.

King Henry forced him to submit as a result of the Anglo- Norman Invasion of 1169 and King Henry’s own Expedition to Ireland in 1170/71. Basically the King of Ireland eventually submitted to circumstances and recognised Henry II as his Overlord.

The negotiations were conducted at Windsor in Berkshire, England.

The Treaty began:

This is the agreement which was made at Windsor in the octaves of Michaelmas [October 6] in the year of Our Lord 1175, between Henry, king of England, and Roderic [Rory], king of Connaught, by Catholicus, archbishop of Tuam, Cantordis, abbot of Clonfert, and Master Laurence, chancellor of the king of Connaught, namely:

The King of England has granted to Roderic [Rory], his liegeman, king of Connaught, as long as he shall faithfully serve him, that he shall be king under him, ready to his service, as his man. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peacefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peracefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute...

The witnesses are Robert, bishop of Winchester; Geoffrey, bishop of Ely; Laurence, archbishop of Dublin; Geoffrey, Nicholas and Roger, the king's chaplains; William , Earl of Essex; Richard de Luci; Geoffrey de Purtico, and Reginald de Courtenea

This Treaty marked the end of an era in Irish History as Ireland was no longer seen as a distinct kingdom

- but a Lordship under English domination.


Saturday, 5 October 2013


5 October 1968: A Civil Rights march attended by some 2,000 people and organised by local activists and the NICRA was attacked by the RUC in the Waterside district of Derry. Serious rioting then erupted in the wake of the breaking up of the demonstrators. That night and the following day further clashes occurred and some 80 members of the public and 11 RUC men were injured. The pictures subsequently shown on TV throughout Britain and Ireland and further afield awoke large bodies of public opinion to the sectarian nature of the northern State and from that day on the ‘Troubles’ in the North were to be continually front page news.

'The Civil Rights march in Derry on 5 October 1968 was organised to draw attention to a series of grievances over issues related to housing, employment and electoral practices in the city. The driving force behind the idea for the march was a group of left-wing radicals who, through the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) and other organisations, had been taking non-violent direct action to try and improve conditions in the area. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was contacted and following a meeting the NICRA decided to support the proposed march. When the march was publicised Loyalists announced that they were holding an 'annual' parade on the same day, at the same time, and over the same route. The Stormont government then issued a banning order on all marches and parades. When the demonstration went ahead the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) blocked the route of the march and then baton charged the crowd. The scenes were recorded by television cameras and the subsequent news coverage sparked rioting in Derry. Most commentators consider the 5 October 1968 to be the start date of 'the Troubles'.
http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/derry/sum.htm

4 October 1957: The Soviet Union amazed the World when it launched the first man made object into orbit around the Earth – Sputnik 1 on this day. Sputnik was a small silver-coloured ball 58cm (2 feet) in diameter, with four frond-like antennae and two radio transmitters. Radio stations rushed to record and re-broadcast the crackly 'beep-beep' signal emitted by the satellite, and it became an iconic sound for a new era - the space generation.

By a fortuitous coincidence the trajectory of the satellite brought it over Ireland and many thousands of Irish people were able to witness the birth of the Space Age as the rocket booster used to launch the metal ball was visible high in the night sky as it orbited the Earth. People from Dublin drove up into the Dublin Mountains to see it more clearly away from the city lights and were not disappointed to see the distinct object as it made its way overhead  – incl. Yours truly!

So for once I can say I witnessed the birth of an Age: The Space Age!

Thursday, 3 October 2013


3 October 1981: The Irish Hunger Strike of 1981 ended on this day. The remaining prisoners on the strike in the H Blocks [above] of Long Kesh issued a statement which read in part:

We, the protesting Republican prisoners in the H-Blocks, being faced with the reality of sustained family intervention, are forced by this circumstance, over which we have little control at the moment, to end the hunger strike...

Our comrades have lit with their very lives an eternal beacon which will inspire this nation and people to rise and crush oppression forever and this nation can be proud that it produced such a quality of manhood...

We reaffirm our commitment to the achievement of the five demands by whatever means we believe necessary and expedient. We rule nothing out. Under no circumstances are we going to devalue the memory of our dead comrades by submitting ourselves to a dehumanising and degrading regime.

On 6 October 1981 James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced a series of measures which went a long way to meeting many aspects of the prisoners' five demands.

The hunger strike of 1981 had very important and far-reaching consequences and proved to be one of the key turning points of 'the Troubles'. The Republican movement had achieved a huge propaganda victory over the British government and had obtained a lot of international sympathy. Active and tacit support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) increased in Nationalist areas. Political support for Sinn Féin (SF) was demonstrated in two by-elections (and the general election in the Republic of Ireland) and eventually led to the emergence of SF as a significant political force in Ireland

The Republican prisoners who died on Hunger Strike that year were:

Bobby Sands
Francis Hughes
Ray McCreesh
Patsy O'Hara
Joe McDonnell
Martin Hurson
Kevin Lynch
Kieran Doherty
Thomas McElwee
Michael Devine


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

2 October 1600: The Battle of the Moyry Pass /Cath Bealach na mhaighre on this day. The 'Gap of the North' was the traditional invasion route between Ulster and Leinster going back centuries. It began with a clash of arms between the forces of Aodh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and the army of the English Viceroy, Lord Mountjoy. He brought with him some 3,000 foot soldiers and 300 cavalry to try and crush O'Neill's revolt against the English Queen Elizabeth I. The size of O'Neill's force is unknown but was probably in the range of 1,500-2,000 men of all arms.

The battle was initiated by Mountjoy who tried to force his way through the pass west of Newry, which the Irish had fortified. His forces were repulsed with loss and despite repeated attempts over the following days he could not break the Irish lines.

On the 9th he withdrew towards Dundalk. Honour satisfied and with his supplies low the Earl withdrew towards Dungannon. Mountjoy then cautiously advanced through the Pass to build Fort Norris an din which he placed a garrison of some 400 men. He then went back to Dundalk, not through the pass (where an ambush was possible), but by way of Carlingford. However O'Neill attacked him anyway and harassed his columns from the woods as they marched by the lough.

But the lateness of the season meant this campaign was now over. O’Neill had done enough to stymie the Viceroy’s attempt to take Dungannon that year and cost the English hundreds of casualties in their futile attempts to take his power base. But Irish losses were heavy too and O'Neill could not so easily replace the expenditure of arms and munitions like Mountjoy was capable of so doing. Of the defences the English encountered in this battle one wrote he never saw: a more villainous piece of work, and an impossible thing for an army to pass without intolerable loss.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


1 October 1843: Daniel O’Connell addressed a huge ‘Monster Meeting’ at Mullaghmast, Co Kildare on this day.

O’Connell was attempting to get the British Government to Repeal the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland. He believed that the pressure of Irish public opinion would leave Westminster no option but to capitulate. He stated that after the meeting held at Tara, Co Meath the one at Mullaghmast was the largest.

At Tara I protested against the Union—I repeat the protest at Mullaghmast. I declare solemnly my thorough conviction as a constitutional lawyer, that the Union is totally void in point of principle and of constitutional force. I tell you that no portion of the empire had the power to traffic on the rights and liberties of the Irish people…

One hundred years before Eamon De Valera’s famous ‘Comely Maidens’ speech of 1943 ‘The Great Dan’ gave his own vision of the Promised Land he would lead his People to:

I will see every man of you having a vote, and every man protected by the ballot from the agent or landlord. I will see labour protected, and every title to possession recognized, when you are industrious and honest. I will see prosperity again throughout your land…

I will see prosperity in all its gradations spreading through a happy, contented, religious land. I will hear the hymn of a happy people go forth at sunrise to God in praise of His mercies—and I will see the evening sun set down among the uplifted hands of a religious and free population. Every blessing that man can bestow and religion can confer upon the faithful heart shall spread throughout the land. Stand by me—join with me—I will say be obedient to me, and Ireland shall be free.