Google+ Followers

Sunday, 29 December 2013


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

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

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

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

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

Annals of Ulster U999.8


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



 
 

Saturday, 28 December 2013


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

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



Friday, 27 December 2013


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

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


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

Annals of Ulster

Thursday, 26 December 2013


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

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


Wednesday, 25 December 2013


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

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


Annals of Loch Cé

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


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

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

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

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


The men lost were:

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

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

George Sanders. Aged 30 married no children.

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

Edward Shannon, Aged 28 married with 4 children

Patrick Power. Aged 22. Single.

Edward Crowe, Aged 30 married no children.

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

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

John Bartley, Aged 45 married with two children.

William Dunphy Aged 40 married with 6 children.

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

Edward Murphy. Aged 30 married 3 children.

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

James Ryan Aged 24 not married.



Monday, 23 December 2013


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

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

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

Sunday, 22 December 2013


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

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


Friday, 20 December 2013

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 December 2013


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

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

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

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


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

* Now the Halfway House



Wednesday, 18 December 2013


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

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

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

They issued a Statement that included the following lines:

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



 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


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

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




Monday, 16 December 2013




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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, 14 December 2013



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

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


Thursday, 12 December 2013


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

That day the IRA issued the following statement:

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

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


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

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

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

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

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


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



 

 

Sunday, 8 December 2013


 

 

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

 


 

Saturday, 7 December 2013


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

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

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

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


 

 

Friday, 6 December 2013


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

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

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

These most controversial words read as follows:

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

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

The Articles were signed on behalf of the British by:

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

And by the Irish:

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



 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


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

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

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


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

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

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



Monday, 2 December 2013


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

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

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

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



 

Sunday, 1 December 2013



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