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Sunday, 31 August 2014



31 August 1994: The IRA announced a complete cessation of military activities on this day as their long awaited ‘Ceasefire’ came into effect. The efforts to bring the Provisonal IRA to this point had been years in the making but had faced many obstacles along the way, both within and without the Republican Movement.




The IRA announced: "Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic process and underlying our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight, August 31, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly....



The genesis for moving away from violence and towards a purely peaceful strategy began at the time of the 1981 Hunger Strikes when a number of republican representatives were elected both North and South of the Border - most notably Bobby Sands who was on hunger strike in the Long Kesh prison camp at the time.



In the aftermath of those events Sinn Fein decided to contest elections across Ireland and while initially any success they had was in the North they had made a start and there was no going back.



Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as the acknowledged leaders of the Republican Movement, were the two individuals most closely associated with developing a strategy that would see a metamorphosis of Sinn Fein into a purely political Party and an end to its support for the IRAs campaign. However they realised that at the end of the day only the IRA could call it.



Initially there was sceptism and hostility in many quarters but a number of factors, some positive and some negative helped push things along the way.



On the positive side was the election of Bill Clinton as President of the USA from 1991, a man with an Irish background and a real interest in helping to bring Peace about. Here in Ireland the appointment of Albert Reynolds as Taoiseach in 1992 brought to power a man of calibre who carried no baggage on the issue and was prepared to take risks to get the end result. In Britain John Major became Prime Minister in 1990 and if not as committed as others to the process he was of a practical turn of mind who was prepared to cut a deal at the end of the day.



On the negative side many many people, not least in Nationalist areas of the North of Ireland were sick and tired of years of violence with no end in sight. The yearning for Peace was high and in addition the Loyalist paramilitaries had been re armed and re organised and were launching effective counter strikes of their own. The British Army were still on the streets. Though the IRA were well armed and motivated it was clear the Armed Struggle had reached Deadlock.



The Hume Adams imitative was an internal attempt by Adams and John Hume, the leader of the SDLP, then the biggest nationalist party in the North, to develop a framework for Peace but was stymied by its utter rejection by Unionists and the British Government. The Unionist community did not trust what was happening and were wary of any initiatives that emanated from Dublin or indeed from any parties on the Nationalist side. Major in turn was reliant on Unionist votes to keep him in power and would not risk pushing them too far. Albert Reynolds had other ideas and had Hume and Adams sidelined as he went for cutting a deal with the British Prime Minister that would put them in the driving seat and steering the process down a road that all could follow.



Thus came about the in December 1993 the Downing Street Declaration when Reynolds and Major issued a joint statement which laid out the guidelines on which a settlement could be built.



It argued for self-determination on the basis of consensus for all the people of Ireland. It argued that any agreement had to be based on the right of people on both parts of the island to "exercise the right of self determination on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland if that is their wish." Not everyone was happy with this but at least there was now something to build upon.



Another significant breakthrough came at the end of January 1994 when Gerry Adams was given a 48 hour visa to visit the USA in order to be able to convince Republican supporters to support his efforts to stop the violence. The visa was granted on the personal authority of Bill Clinton, despite the opposition of his own State Department, FBI, CIA and speaker of the House, Tom Foley.



That same month The broadcasting ban under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was lifted in the Republic of Ireland. This allowed Sinn Féin access to the Irish media and marked the end of official political censorship in the South.



At Easter 1994 the IRA announced a three day ceasefire and across Ireland there was a growing expectation that a permanent one would follow.



Behind the scenes the Irish government had given written assurances that in the event of an IRA cessation, it would end its marginalisation of the Sinn Féin electorate and that there would be an early public meeting between Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, John Hume and Gerry Adams.



Despite some twists and turns and secret negotiations the momentum held. Not even shocking acts of violence like the Shankill road bombing in October 1993 in which eleven innocent people were killed by an IRA bomb and the revenge murders by the UVF at Greysteel were enough to derail the process. When it came though many were relieved that what had seemed almost impossible had at last come about. It was a seminal moment in Modern Irish History.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


30 August 1855: The Death of Feargus O’Connor, Chartist Leader on this day. He was the son of Roger O'Connor, a United Irishman.



Feargus O'Connor was born on 18 July 1794 in Connorville house, near Castletown-Kinneigh in west County Cork, into a prominent Irish Protestant family who claimed to be the descendants of the 12th-century king Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. His father was Irish nationalist politician Roger O'Connor, who like his uncle Arthur O'Connor was active in the United Irishmen. His elder brother Francis became a general in Simón Bolívar's army of liberation in South America.



When Feargus O'Connor was twenty-four he inherited an estate in County Cork. Although a Protestant, O'Connor was a reforming landlord and denounced the religious Tithes & the power of the Established Church. Daniel O’Connell soon spotted his potential and secured a candidacy for him in the General Election of 1832 in which he was returned as an MP for County Cork. But O’Connor rashly decided to try and unseat the Great Dan as Leader if the Irish MPs in the House of Commons and the two fell out.


O’Connor thereafter focused his attentions on Radical English Politics, moving to Manchester where he published the highly successful Northern Star newspaper. He became a leading light in the Chartist Movement, dedicated to Universal Suffrage and Annual parliaments. Here again though his maverick personality and impatience with pacific political activity led him into trouble with him advocating the threat of violence to achieve political Reform. O'Connor responded to criticism by forming a new Chartist organisation, the East London Democratic Association.

He was found guilty of sedition in 1839 and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. O'Connor continued to edit the Northern Star newspaper from his prison cell and upset the other Chartist leaders when he told his readers that from "September 1835 to February 1839 I led you single-handed and alone."

In 1845 O'Connor launched his Chartist Land Plan. His objective was to raise money to buy a large estate that would be divided into plots of three and four acres. Subscribers would then draw lots and the winners would obtain a cottage and some land. O'Connor promised that his Land Scheme would "change the whole face of society in twelve months" and would "make a paradise of England in less than five years".

But the scheme backfired and the estate went bankrupt before too long. Some of the tenants ended up being evicted and the whole disastrous enterprise badly damaged O’Connor’s credibility with the English Working Class. The stress and effort involved took its toll on O’Connor’s mental health and at a great rally in Kensington London in 1848 he made outlandish claims over the numbers of people who had signed a petition that was exposed as a gross distortion.

In 1847, O'Connor had been returned to Parliament for Nottingham, but after 1848 Chartism went into sharp decline. From 1851, O'Connor's behaviour became increasingly irrational, possibly as a result of syphilis.

It all came to a head in the House of Commons in 1852. O'Connor struck three fellow MPs, including Sir Benjamin Hall, a very vocal critic of the Land Plan. Arrested by the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, O'Connor was sent by his sister to a private asylum, where he remained until 1854. He was subsequently removed to his sister's house in Notting Hill. He died on 30 August 1855, and, on 10 September, was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. No less than 40,000 people witnessed the funeral procession. Most Chartists preferred to remember O'Connor's strengths rather than his shortcomings. There is no evidence that, at the height of his political popularity in the late 1830s and 1840s, O'Connor was suffering from any form of mental illness.


Friday, 29 August 2014


29 August 1975: Éamon de Valera died in Linden Convalescent Home, Blackrock County Dublin on aged 92 on this day. His wife Sinéad had died just a few months previously in January on the eve of their 65th wedding anniversary.

He was born in New York on 14 October, 1882, and was brought to Ireland at the age of two and a half years. In 1910 he married Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin.

A teacher and university lecturer, he joined the Irish Volunteers when they were founded in 1913. As a Commandant he took part in the 1916 Irish National Uprising. He was sentenced to death, the sentence being commuted to penal servitude for life. He was released on General Amnesty in 1917.

He was elected Sinn Féin M.P. for East Clare in 1917 and re-elected as parliamentary representative for Clare at subsequent General Elections until his election as President in 1959.

He founded the Fianna Fáil Party in 1926 and from 1932 – 37 he was President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State and Minister for External Affairs.

He was President of Council of the League of Nations at its 68th and Special Sessions, September and October 1932 and President of the Assembly of the League of Nations, 1938.

Following enactment by the people of the Constitution, Eamon De Valera became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Minister for External Affairs from 1937 – 48. He was Taoiseach again from 1951 – 54, 1957 – 59.

On 25 June, 1959 he was inaugurated as President of Ireland.

http://www.president.ie/past_presidents/eamon-devalera/

 

De Valera served two terms as President of Ireland , being elected again in 1966. He left office in 1973 and retired from politics alltogether after a career spanning some 57 years.



Thursday, 28 August 2014


28 August 1814: Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin on this day. His family name has French Huguenot roots. He was the author of many seminal works of Gothic Horror novels and short stories that influenced other writers and film directors down into modern times.





A great-nephew of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Le Fanu was the son of a Protestant churchman. He studied law at Trinity, but neglected the bar in favour of journalism and writing. Having made extensive use of his father’s library in his youth, Le Fanu went on to read Classics at Trinity College Dublin, before studying Law at King’s Inn in London. However the family fell on hard times and eventually the Library had to be sold to pay off debts.




From 1844 to 1858, he was married to Susanna Bennett, and they eventually moved into the Bennett family home in Merrion Square, Dublin. Susanna was prone to mental disorders that eventually killed her and that must have influenced Le Fanu's depiction of extreme neuroses. They had four children together. He wrote at the time of her death, as quoted by Kathryn West in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "The greatest misfortune of my life has overtaken me. My darling wife is gone… . She was the light of my life."



He was among the first practitioners of the psychological ghost story, in which the haunting might be the result of supernatural intrusion into the everyday world but could also arise from the broken psyche of a protagonist.



He tried his hand at a number of genres but it was as a writer of Horror stories that he had the greatest success. He published his first ghost story, The Ghost and the Bonesetter in the Dublin University Magazine in 1838. Originally set in Ireland his publications met with only limited recognition. When his editor suggested that he switch the locations to England he finally got the recognition he desired.

The novel Uncle Silas was his masterpiece and though ostensibly set in Derbyshire Le Fanu actually wrote it with Ireland in mind. The year before his death he published In a Glass Darkly which is a collection of five short stories first published in 1872. The second and third are revised versions of previously published stories, and the fourth and fifth are long enough to be called novellas.

The title is taken from Corithinans 13- a deliberate misquotation of the passage which describes humanity as perceiving the world "through a glass darkly". Some are set in Dublin and some abroad. The most famous one though is the ground breaking novella Carmilla which featured what was in effect a lesbian vampire sucking the blood of her innocent female victim Laura, this too was set abroad in eastern Europe.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever". ( "Carmilla" , Chapter 4)

Le Fanu died in his native Dublin on 7 February 1873, at the age of 58. Today there is a road and a park in Ballyfermot near his childhood home in the village of Chapelizod in south-west Dublin, named after him. He is buried in Mount Jerome cemetary in Dublin [above].



Wednesday, 27 August 2014


27 August 1979: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA on this day. He was blown up while sailing in his yacht at Mullaghmore, whilst on holiday at his nearby Irish home Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo. During his lifetime, Mountbatten had received numerous honours, and honorary degrees and had attained high military rank in WWII. He was the last Viceroy of India. On the day of his death he was accompanied by members of his family and a local boy. Three of them were killed and others seriously injured. His funeral took place in Westminster Abbey and he was buried in Romsey Abbey.

That same afternoon at Warrenpoint, County Down, the IRA killed 18 British soldiers, most of them members of the elite Parachute Regiment, in a double bomb attack. An innocent bystander on the Republic’s side of the border was also killed in retaliatory fire by the Paras.

This was the greatest loss of life suffered by the British during the Conflict and caused shock waves throughout the British Establishment and with the general British Public. The news of these events immediately spread around the World and made the North an International News story. Mountbatten, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and uncle to Prince Charles was a person at the heart of the British Establishment as a senior member of the British Royal Family. They felt his death at the hands of the IRA very keenly.

The multiple deaths of the soldiers got much less coverage than Mountbatten’s killing but as the days past that too began to sink in. While British people were shocked and horrified there was no backlash against the Irish community in Britain like that which followed the Birmingham bombings in 1974.

But amongst the Republican community in the North there was a grim satisfaction notwithstanding the loss of some innocent lives. The deaths of the Paras was seen as revenge for the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 innocent people were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment. Soon after Mountbatten's death a grisly piece of Graffiti appeared on Belfast walls. It read:

 
13 gone but not forgotten - we got 18 and Mountbatten


 


 




 


 
 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


26 August 1913 The Great Strike and Lockout of 1913 in Dublin began on this day

It was a clash between the forces of Capital and Labour on the streets of Dublin that was to enter into the folklore of Dublin’s working class. Basically the workers in certain companies wished to exercise the right to be a member of a Union of their own choosing. The Employers in return were prepared to accept that – so long as it was not the Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGW)!

Matters between Murphy and the ITGWU came to a head in the summer of 1913. Murphy refused to employ ITGWU members on the staff of his Irish Independent newspapers and in July 1913, he forbade staff in the Tramways Company to join the Union. On Saturday, 27 July 1913 Murphy called a meeting of his employees in the Tramways Company. He warned his workers of the consequences of strike:

'I want you to clearly understand that the directors of this company have not the slightest objection to the men forming a legitimate Union. And I would think there is talent enough amongst the men in the service to form a Union of their own, without allying themselves to a disreputable organisation, and placing themselves under the feet of an unscrupulous man who claims the right to give you the word of command and issue his orders to you and to use you as tools to make him the labour dictator of Dublin. ... I am here to tell you that this word of command will never be given, and if it is, that it will be the Waterloo of Mr. Larkin.'

The following month, on 21 August, about 100 employees in the Tramways Company received a dismissal notice:

‘As the Directors of the Tramways Company understand that you are a member of the ITGWU whose methods are disorganising the trade and business of the city, they do not further require your service’.

This was a direct challenge to the ITGWU. There could only be one reply to Murphy. He and his fellow directors had started a lockout: the workers could only respond with a total withdrawal of labour. Larkin carefully chose the moment to strike in order to cause the maximum impact. Shortly after 10.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 August 1913—the first day of the Dublin Horse Show, one of the city’s busiest events—drivers and conductors stopped their trams and abandoned them in protest. About 700 of the 1,700 Tramways Company’s employees went on strike. The city was filled with tension on the days following. Strikers resented the workers who continued to operate the trams, and fights often took place between them. Workers who usually distributed the Irish Independent—[owned by Murphy] though not employed by Murphy—refused to handle it in protest. Messrs. Eason and Co., the large city newsagents, were asked by Larkin not to sell the paper. They refused. As a result dock-workers at Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) refused to handle any Eason and Co. goods from England or addressed to England.ultitext.ucc.ie/d/Dublin_1913Strike_and_Lockout#6TheBeginningoftheLockout

Monday, 25 August 2014


25 August 1580: The Battle of Glenmalure/ Cath Ghleann Molúra was fought on this day. Lord Deputy Arthur Grey de Wilton led an English army into the fastness of the Wicklow Mountains to seek out and kill or capture the Irish Chieftain Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne. This battle was fought during the 2nd Desmond War as the Catholics of Ireland united to stop the encroachments of the English Protestants. O’Byrne was joined in this campaign by Viscount Baltinglass, a member of the old Anglo-Irish colony of the Pale. Before the Reformation began the Gaels and the Palesman would have been traditional enemies but force of circumstance threw them together at this time.

The English leader brought his army of about 3,000 men down from Dublin through the flat Countryside of Kildare before proceeding to strike up into the rugged and wooded mountains of Wicklow in his pursuit of the Irish forces in revolt. But many of his men were raw levies from across the water, unused to the hardships and dangers involved in such an enterprise. As they entered the fastness near Feagh's residence of Ballinacor in the Glenmalure Valley they were attacked and harried from the dense woods thereabouts. The Irish used arquebuses, darts and spears to pick them off one by one. Eventually the English levies began to break and all cohesion lost fled back down the way that they came.

they [the Irish] were laied all along the woode as they shoulde passe behind trees, rocks, crags, bogs, and in covert.

Sir William Stanley

Once the Irish realised the tide of battle had turned in their favour they launched a furious counter attack and massacred any of the fleeing Englishmen they could lay about.

 
the enemy charged us very hottlye ....

Sir William Stanley
 

When the insurgents had heard of the approach of such an overwhelming force, they retreated into their fastnesses in the rough and rugged recesses of Glenmalure. The Lord Justice then selected the most trustworthy and best tried captains of his army, and despatched them, at the head of eight or nine companies of soldiers, to search and explore Glenmalure; but they were responded to without delay by the parties that guarded the valley, so that very few of these returned without being cut off and dreadfully slaughtered by the Irish party. On this occasion were slain Peter Carew Master Moor (John), and Master Frans, with many other gentlemen who had come from England in the retinue of the Lord Justice. When this news reached the Lord Justice, he left his camp.
 
Annals of the Four Masters

 
It is estimated that over 800 of the invaders fell in battle that day, around 25% of the total force that had left Dublin some days previously. It was England’s greatest defeat of the Desmond Wars. Amazingly the Irish fielded less than a thousand men on the day itself and were heavily outnumbered but still won the Battle! However this Victory over the Crown Forces did not trigger any nationwide revolt. The resistance to the Tudor Conquest at that time was too disparate and too local in effect to overthrow English Rule. Within a year the War was over and Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne had made his peace with the Crown while Baltinglass sought exile on the Continent.
 



 


 


 



Sunday, 24 August 2014


24 August 1103: Magnus ‘Bare Legs’, the King of Norway, was killed by the Irish in battle on this day. Magnus Barelegs or 'Barefoot’ got his name apparently by dressing like the Gaels of Scotland and Ireland who kept their legs uncovered. To the Irish though he was Manus Mór - ‘Big Manus’.



King Magnus reigned as King of Norway from 1093 until his untimely death in 1103. He was an ambitious man who sought to emulate his famous grandfather Harald Hardrata, the Viking warrior king. He had died at the battle of Stamford Bridge, fighting the Anglo Saxons in 1066, rather than his more placid father Olaf the Peaceful. His military campaigns were fought in Sweden, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and along the eastern coastline of Ireland. He was described as being very tall with bright yellow hair and bright blue eyes.

Magnus in his western campaigns moved along the coasts of the North Channel and the Irish Sea through Galloway, to the isle of Man and to the island of Anglesey enforcing his sway of the Norsemen in those places. He then sailed across to Dublin and took the submission of that city. At that time the most powerful man in Ireland was Muirchertach O'Brien, King of Munster and High King of Ireland (1086 - 1119). He played a long game with Magnus. He knew that outright opposition would be dangerous on a king who had naval supremacy and could strike anywhere. On the other submission to him was out of the question. Muirchertach therefore struck up an alliance with Magnus that saw them campaign together against Muirchertach’s Irish enemies. By 1103 his greatest enemy was King Domhnall Ua Lochlainn whose base was at Aileach, just outside Derry.

Their sanguine arrangement being formalised by the marriage of Magnus’ son Sigurd (12 years old) to O'Briens' 5 year old daughter, Blathmin. The deal was for Magnus to supply man power to O'Brien to assist him in his on going local wars, and in return Magnus was to receive cattle, to feed his men and to provide much needed provisions for his homeward to Norway.

But by August of 1103 Magnus and Muirchertach had parted ways and it looks like Magnus was on his way home to Norway, stopping off in stages to draw in supplies. Whether he met his end through treachery or an opportunist ambush by the local Ulaid (Ulster) cannot now be known. Though no doubt the news was greeted with a sigh of relief in Muirchertach’s camp. His only loss being that the marraige of his daughter to the son of Magnus was broken as the boy was brought back to Norway.

Having sailed his long boats in from Strangford Lough, up the river Quoile, and beaching them on Plague Island to the present day Down Cathedral along the Ballyduggan Road, Magnus impatiently waited for the cattle to arrive on the agreed day St. Bartholomew's Day, 23rd August 1103. Evening came and no cattle had arrived, and against the advice of his commander Eyvind Elbow he decided next morning to leave the safety of his ships and seek out the missing cattle, believing that O'Brien had broken his promise.

Marching along the side of the tidal marshes he came to a high hill, possible to site where Dundrum Castle now stands, looking west-wards he saw a great dust cloud, the cattle were on their way and soon he and his men would homeward bound. Perhaps in a joyous mood and letting their guard slip, suddenly 'the trees came alive,' they had been ambushed, by the 'men of Ulster.' However it is possible that Magnus expected a battle and just hoped that the dust cloud was indeed the cattle he was supposedly promised.But in the ensuring battle that raged across the mud flats of the Quoile Estuary, now in total confusion, the Vikings, led by Magnus were slaughtered. Some of the Vikings made it back to their boats, leaving King Magnus and a few of his loyal guard to fight to the death.

"King Magnus had a helmet on his head; a red shield, in which was inlaid a gilded lion; and was girt with the sword of Legbiter, of which the hilt was of tooth (ivory), and handgrip wound about with gold thread; and the sword was extremely sharp. In his hand he had a short spear, and a red silk short cloak, over his coat, on which, both before and behind, was embroidered a lion in yellow silk; and all men acknowledged that they never had seen a brisker, statelier man."
Magnus before the battle acc to Snorri Sturluson
 

The Norse King receiving a javelin thrust through his body and then struck in the neck with an axe, he died. However his famous sword 'Legbiter,' was retrieved and brought home to Norway, but the remains of its Loyal Master, and those of his loyal guard lie in a common grave on the marshes of Down.

King Magnus believed "That Kings are made for honour and not for a long life". He was right for he was not thirty years of age when he died.



Saturday, 23 August 2014

23 August 1170: Richard De Clare aka Richard fitz Gilbert aka (Strongbow) ,the Earl of Pembroke and Strigul, landed at Waterford on this day. Perhaps more than any man he saw to it that the Anglo Norman Invasion of Ireland gained a momentum that the Gaelic kings could not subsequently undo.

From an Earldom of some substance in Wales he found him self out of favour with the Angevin King Henry II who ruled England. However the King of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada had been kicked out of Ireland by the High King Ruari O’Conner and had appealed to Henry to help him. Henry could not leave France due to his commitments and issued a Royal appeal for his subjects to help the Irish king in any way they could. Richard De Clare saw his chance and offered to help Diarmait regain his kingdom and set about raising an expedition to send to Ireland. In return Strongbow would gain the hand of Diarmait’s daughter Aoife and then succeed to the kingdom of Leinster when Diarmait died.

In August 1170, he landed at Waterford, captured the city, and his wedding to Aoife [above] was celebrated almost immediately in Reginald’s Tower which still stands in the city. Together with the forces of Diarmait Mac Murchada, Strongbow then set out to take the city of Dublin and, having done so, embarked on expansionist raids into Meath. In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada died at Ferns, and Strongbow’s control of Leinster was secured.

From 1172 onwards, Strongbow was titled "earl of Strigoil," which, however, brought him no additional lands. When Henry II came to Ireland to settle its affairs in his favour he removed control of Dublin, Waterford, and Wexford from Strongbow, retaining them for his own use. After military servive in France Strongbow returned to Ireland and campaigned again against the Irish kings. He was appointed Henry’s principal agent in Ireland, and, in that capacity, he issued charters on behalf of the king relating to the now royal city of Dublin. He died unexpectedly in April 1176 from an injury to his foot and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral (the tomb there that is traditionally associated with him is of later date). His funeral presided over by Lorcan Ua tuathail (Laurence O’Toole), archbishop of Dublin. He left as his heir a three-year-old son, Gilbert, and a daughter, Isabella but his wife Aoife wielded power in her own name for a number of years thereafter. The current Monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II, counts Strongbow amongst her ancestors.

"His complexion was somewhat ruddy and his skin freckled; he had grey eyes, feminine features, a weak voice, and short neck. For the rest, he was tall in stature, and a man of great generosity and of courteous manner. What he failed of accomplishing by force, he succeeded in by gentle words. In time of peace he was more disposed to be led by others than to command. Out of the camp he had more the air of any ordinary man-at-arms than of a general-in-chief; but in action the mere soldier was forgotten in the commander. With the advice of those about him, he was ready to dare anything; but he never ordered any attack relying on his own judgment, or rashly presuming on his personal courage. The post he occupied in battle was a sure rallying point for his troops. His equanimity and firmness in all the vicissitudes of war were remarkable, being neither driven to despair in adversity, nor puffed up by success."
Giraldus Cambrensus


Friday, 22 August 2014



22 August 1922: General Michael Collins was shot dead on this day. He was killed in an ambush at Béal na mBláth (Mouth of the Flowers) near Macroom in Co. Cork by a party of the local IRA.


Michael Collins had been the main driving force within the IRA that had helped to fight the War of Independence against the British Crown Forces in 1919-1921. It was a War of the Shadows in which Collins wore no uniform but stayed in Mufti. But he had been one of the signatories of a Treaty with the British in December 1921 that had split the IRA into pro and anti Treaty camps. By the Summer of 1922 he thus found himself leading a new war against many of his old comrades in arms, dressed as the General in Chief of the new National Army of the emerging Irish Free State.


He was in his native Cork to inspect the local military forces. He travelled out to White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) in Bandon on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, “the Mouth of Flowers”), Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans.
 

The ambush party, allegedly commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed by 8:00 p.m. as they had given up any hope of an ambush so late in the day. So when Collins and his men returned through Béal na mBlath there was just a rear-guard left on the scene to open fire on Collins’ convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, however they had disconnected it and were in the process of removing it by the time the Collins convoy came into view.
 

Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality in the action. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. It is said that when the first shots were fired at the convoy, Emmet Dalton had ordered the driver to "drive like hell" out of the ambush. Collins himself countermanded the order and said "Stop! We'll fight them". He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’ body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. Collins was 31 years old.
 

There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis (”Sonny”) O’Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950. He later emigrated to the USA. This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. The general consensus at that time was it was a ricochet that took him out but that has been challenged in recent years.
 

Collins’ men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin for a State funeral. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral where a large military and civilian presence. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.

 

Thursday, 21 August 2014


21 August 1879: The Apparition of Knock on this day. A number of witnesses of various ages reported that they had seen the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist appear on the wall of Knock Church. As a result Knock became a major centre of Pilgrimage.
 
On a wet Thursday evening, 21st August 1879, at about 8 o'clock, a heavenly vision appeared at the south gable of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Knock, Co. Mayo. Fifteen people - men, women and children - ranging in age from six years to seventy-five, watched the Apparition in pouring rain for two hours, reciting the rosary. Though they themselves were soaked, no rain fell in the direction of the church gable, where the ground remained perfectly dry.
 
Our Lady wore a large white cloak, fastened at the neck. Her hands and eyes were raised towards heaven, in a posture of prayer. On her head was a brilliant crown and where the crown fitted the brow, was a beautiful rose. On her right was St Joseph, head bowed and turned slightly towards her as if paying her his respects. He wore white robes. On our Lady's left was St John the Evangelist, dressed as a bishop, with a book in his left hand and right hand raised as if preaching. His robes were also white. Beside the figures and a little to the right in the centre of the gable was a large plain altar. On the altar stood a lamb, facing the West and behind the lamb a large cross stood upright. Angels hovered around the lamb for the duration of the Apparition
 
Most Rev. Dr. John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam, only six weeks after the Apparition, set up a Commission of Enquiry. Fifteen witnesses were examined and the Commission reported that the testimony of all taken as a whole, were trustworthy and satisfactory.
 
There was a 2nd Commission of enquiry in 1936 when, Mary Byrne, one of the last surviving witnesses, was interviewed. 

The commissioners interviewed her in her bedroom, as she was too ill to leave. She gave her final testimony and concluded with the words: 

'I am clear about everything I have said and I make this statement knowing I am going before my God' 

She died six weeks later
.

 

 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


20 August 1845: Phytophthora infestans, a fungal infection that rots the tubers of potatoes, was recorded in Ireland on this day. David Moore, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin noted that leaves of some of the potato plants in the institution were showing signs of blight. His was the first known scientific observation in Ireland of this fungus.

Phytophthora infestans (pronounced fy-TOF-thor-uh in-FEST-ans) is a rather common pathogen of potatoes wherever they are grown, but it is usually not a problem unless the weather is unusually cool and wet. The water is necessary for the spores to swim to infect the leaves of the potatoes; the tubers and roots of the potato are more resistant to the pathogen. The name, meaning "infesting plant destroyer" is especially appropriate, because under the right conditions and with the correct susceptibility genes in the host, Phytophthora can kill off a field of potatoes in just a few days!

Phytophthora infestans is so virulent in wet weather because it produces enormous numbers of swimming spores called zoospores in zoosporangia. The zoosporangia crack open and release dozens of zoospores. These zoospores have two flagella; a whiplash flagellum faces the back and pushes the spore through the water and a tinsel flagellum points forward and pulls the spores through the water.
http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/m2001alt.html


From such mundane sequences in the life of a fungi did the fate of a People hang in the late summer of 1845. Within weeks the Blight had swept the land and millions of Irish men women and children knew that at least a year of hardship lay ahead of them. In fact the Blight was to come back each year until 1849 and in its wake leave at least a Million dead from starvation and disease and another Million forced to flee abroad.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014




19 August 1504: The battle of Knockdoe/Cnoc Tuagh (the Hill of Axes) was fought on this day. This battle was the greatest clash of arms seen in Ireland in hundreds of years. It took place around Knockdoe, a hillock about eight miles north east of Galway city. The combatants were the forces under Garret Fitzgerald, the Great Earl of Kildare and his rival Ulick Burke of Clanrickard.

 

Despite a somewhat uncertain relationship the Great Earl was King Henry VII’s man in Ireland. He was charged with ensuring that no other than himself should dictate the state of affairs in this Country. Something of a poacher turned gamekeeper the Great Earl would brook no rivals. Ulick Burke had thrown down the gauntlet however by seizing three castles belonging to the O’Kellys of south Galway and also taking under his control the Royal city of Galway. Ironically Ulick was also Garret’s son in law! While not a certainty he seems to have fallen out with his wife Eustacia and she had returned to under her fathers roof. The O’Kellys also appealed to him for the restitution of their fortresses.

 

He decided to lead an Army to the West and settle the issue through battle. He led a formidable force with him, perhaps as many as 6,000 warriors and many of them the iron clad Gallowglass who dominated the battlefields of Ireland in the latter Middle Ages. To oppose him Ulick gathered a similar type of force but he could not match the Great Earls resources or network of connections. He had maybe about 4,000 men in the field on the day of battle. The Great Earl mustered forces from Leinster and Ulster with some Connacht allies too. Burkes’ own force was comprised of his retinue from south Galway, and his allies from northwest Munster. To the Gaels it seemed that the great wars between the provincial kings of old in the days before the English arrived had returned. But to Garret it was more like a version of a suppression of a rebellion against Royal authority that the King of England might engage upon across the water. In truth there was a mixture of both these analogies in what happened.

 

In the event Garret Fitzgerald beat his opponent decisively and retook Galway from Ulick Burke. The battle though was bloody and hard fought – ‘a dour struggle’. Essentially an infantry battle both sides hacked and slashed at each other to bring the other down. It is also the first battle to record the use of a gun - a Palesman beat out his opponent’s brains with the butt of his piece! It was really a medieval battle of the old style and the last great one of its kind. Both sides clashed early in the morning and it was late in the day before the remnants of Burkes’ much depleted host broke and ran. The Geraldine force camped on the battlefield that night to collect booty and bring in the stragglers. The Great Earl proceeded the next day to enter the City of Galway in Triumph and received the keys of the metropolis from the grateful Mayor.

 

A fierce battle was fought between them, such as had not been known of in latter times. Far away from the combating troops were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs, the vehement efforts of the champions, the charge of the royal heroes, the noise of the lords, the clamour of the troops when endangered, the shouts and exultations of the youths, the sound made by the falling of the brave men, and the triumphing of the nobles over the plebeians. The battle was at length gained against Mac William, O'Brien, and the chiefs of Leath-Mhogha; and a great slaughter was made of them; and among the slain was Murrough Mac-I-Brien-Ara, together with many others of the nobles. And of the nine battalions which were in solid battle array, there survived only one broken battalion. A countless number of the Lord Justice's forces were also slain, though they routed the others before them. It would be impossible to enumerate or specify all the slain, both horse and foot, in that battle, for the plain on which they were was impassable, from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters; of broken spears, cloven shields, shattered battle-swords, mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead, and beardless youths lying hideous, after expiring.

 

Annals of the Four Masters


 

Monday, 18 August 2014


18 August 670: St. Fiacre the Abbot, who was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century, died on this day. He retired to a hermitage on the banks of the Nore at Kilfera, County Kilkenny. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628 AD, at Meaux in what is now France. St. Faro was the Bishop there and generously received him. He gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest, which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie.

Here he founded a Monastery and a Hospice. He resided in a little cell and led a frugal existence surrounded by a small garden, which he worked himself. He was very strict on the rule that no women should be about the place. He was noted for his great ability to cure the sick and many flocked to him to be cured.


Saint-Fiacre is now a commune in the Seine et Marne department in the Île-de-France to the north west of Paris.

After his death his Shrine became a place of Pilgrimage and in later centuries he had some very famous devotees. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint, the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. He is also a patron saint of gardeners and of the cab-drivers of Paris.

From about 1650 French coaches for hire were called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City. 



 

Saturday, 16 August 2014


16 August 1927: The ‘Alderman Jinks Affair’ on this day. The refusal of the Sligo TD John Jinks to vote with his Party ‘National League Party’ saved the Government. This meant that Eamon De Valera’s attempt to topple the President of the Executive Council W.T. Cosgrave from power and replace it with a Coalition guided by him had failed, and it remained in Office until January 1932. The saga began when Mr Denis Johnstone, the leader of the Labour Party, proposed a motion of No Confidence in the Government of Cosgrave. Johnstone opened the crucial debate with the following words:


The motion down in my name and which I move is:

“That the Executive Council has ceased to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.”

In effect, it is clear that that motion is intended to test the views of the House as to whether the present Executive Council shall continue in office. It is based on Article 53 of the Constitution, which says: “The President and Ministers nominated by him shall retire from office when they cease to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.”

The result was a tie of 71 votes each. As a result the vote of the Speaker Mr Michael Hayes decided the issue for the Government. The absence of Mr Jinks of the National League Party (who were in alliance with Fianna Fail) was crucial to Cosgrave’s survival.


It is widely believed that Jinks non-appearance was due to the intervention of Major Bryan Cooper and J.M. Smyllie (editor of the Irish Times) who plied Jinks with liberal quantities of drink in the hours before the vote was taken. Their hospitality apparently rendered their hapless guest in no fit state to attend the House. The pair convinced their drinking companion that a ticket home was a better course of action than attendance upon the House when he was obviously the worse for wear. They then put him on the Sligo train and thus unable to partake in the day’s parliamentary proceedings. This development thus saved Mr Cosgrave’s Government from almost certain defeat.

Jink’s, a National League Deputy, was the centre of wild speculation that he had been kidnapped to keep him from voting. Rumours swept the country and headlines such as, ‘The Mystery of Deputy Jinks, the missing deputy’ screamed from several newspapers not only in the U.K. and America.

The sensational affair began when Jinks walked out of the Dail chambers before the vote was about to be called and he couldn’t be found despite a frantic search by colleagues.

There was consternation amongst the opposition who had been confident that the Government would fall.

Jinks was later tracked to a hotel at Harcourt Street having spent the day strolling through the streets of Dublin.

He told reporters he had gone to Dublin with instruction from two thirds of his supporters to vote for the Government.

“I was neither kidnapped nor spirited away. I simply walked out of the Dail when I formed my own opinion after listening to a good many speeches.

“I cannot understand the sensation nor can I understand the meaning or object of the many reports circulated. What I did was done after careful consideration of the entire situation.

“I have nothing to regret for my action. I am glad I was the single individual who saved the situation for the Government, and perhaps, incidentally, for the country. I believe I acted for its good,” said Deputy Jinks.

The Sligo deputy arrived home on Wednesday night by the midnight mail train. A large crowd greeted his arrival. He spent the following morning receiving callers including one proclaiming him “ The Ruler of Ireland.”
Jinks had only been elected a TD in June of that year and subsequently lost his seat in the General Election of September that year. He returned to local politics where he served once again as Mayor of Sligo. He died in 1934.

To this day the bizarre actions of Mr Jinks have been the subject of much speculation. The common accepted story is that he was inveighled into doing the rounds of various establishments in Dublin City centre by Smylie and Cooper, men with Sligo connections and who were from a Unionist background. They did not want to see Mr De Valera in power!

By the time the vote was called he was nowhere to be seen and his somewhat ignominious place in modern Irish political history was assured.

Legend has it that Mr Cosgrave then purchased or had purchased on behalf of the Government a horse called Mr Jinks [above]. This horse went on to win the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, England in 1929!

Friday, 15 August 2014



15 August 1249: The 1st Battle of Athenry/Ath an Ri was fought on this day. Ath an Ri had existed as a minor settlement prior to the foundation of a castle there by the de Bermingham family in 1241. It was at the time little more than a forward military base for English colonisation of southern Connacht. The King of Connacht, one Felim O’Connor, was basically a vassal of the English King Henry III. His position was constantly being undermined and he ruled of a shrunken rump of the Province that his ancestors had held sway over in times past.


His son Aodh realised that to do nothing in the face of English expansion was merely a way for the great dynasty of the O’Connors to slide out of history. Aodh attacked a column of the English on their way to Sligo and cut off and destroyed the advance guard. But his actions while demonstrating his ardour were not enough to make the intruders back off. Indeed they sought revenge. His father then bolted to the O’Neills of the North and sought refuge there from English wrath. The English then marched into Connacht and started to burn and plunder. They set up one Turlough O’Connor as king in Felim’s place. Turlough’s kin though were no more inclined to await events either and on Lady Day 1249 they arrived before the small town of Athenry and offered battle to the garrison.


 

An army was led by the Roydamnas heirs presumptive of Connaught, namely, Turlough and Hugh, two sons of Hugh, the son of Cathal Crovderg, to Athenry, on Lady Day in mid-autumn, to burn and plunder it. The sheriff of Connaught was in the town before them, with a great number of the English. The English demanded a truce for that day from the sons of the King of Connaught, in honour of the Blessed virgin Mary, it being her festival day; but this they did not obtain from them; and although Turlough forbade his troops to assault the town, the chiefs of the army would not consent, but determined to make the attack in spite of him.


When Jordan and the English saw this, they marched out of the town, armed and clad in mail, against the Irish army. The youths of the latter army, on seeing them drawn up in battle array, were seized with fear and dismay, so that they were routed; and this was through the miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on whose festival they had refused to grant the truce demanded from them. Of their chiefs were here killed Hugh, son of Hugh O'Conor; Dermot Roe, son of Cormac O'Melaghlin, the two sons of O'Kelly; Brian an Doire, the son of Manus; Carragh Inshiubhail, son of Niall O'Conor; Boethius Mac Egan; the two sons of Loughlin O'Conor; Donnell, son of Cormac Mac Dermot; Finnanach Mac Branan; Cumumhan Mac Cassarly, and others besides.

Annals of the Four Masters

But the battle settled nothing other than to weaken Turlough further. The following year King Felim returned from the North with a large host, drove the now weakened and discredited Turlough out and resumed his place as King of Connacht. The English again recognised him and he remained upon his somewhat unstable perch until he died in 1266 to be succeeded by his more warlike son Aodh.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast to stave off the collapse of the Northern State. This was to try and stem the serious rioting in both cities and in other urban centres across the North and to stop the collapse of the State that could come about if the situation continued to spiral out of control. In response to the growing Crises the Taoiseach Jack Lynch had gone on the airwaves the previous day to announce the setting up of Field Hospitals near the Border and Refugee Camps further south to deal with the expected influx of people fleeing their homes. This gesture however only seriously angered and worried moderate Unionists and inflamed the more hard line and paranoid Loyalists - while doing nothing of real material benefit to help the beleaguered Nationalists at that time.


While the situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside& the British Army took up positions there the situation slid out of control in Belfast. There was also serious rioting in Armagh, Newry & Omagh and other areas throughout the North. In Armagh a man was shot dead by the RUC. Five people were killed in overnight rioting in Belfast, one of them a nine year old boy. As the sectarian clashes worsened houses and business premises were set alight and hundreds were damaged or destroyed. It soon became clear that the discipline of a considerable number of the regular RUC and more particularly the B-Specials had collapsed. Numerous individuals from these organisations went on the rampage and became indistinguishable from the Loyalist mobs on the loose that night.


While the situation in the Six Counties had became much more dangerous over the Summer the multiple deaths in open sectarian clashes was a huge shock to the people of Ireland. For the first time in decades people had been killed in almost open warfare between the Orange and the Green. It was a watershed in Modern Irish Politics.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014


12 August 1922: The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day. He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. He was born in the city in 1872 and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism. He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.  His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the Gaelic League. He went out to South Africa in 1896 and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics. He returned home and in 1900, he founded Cumann na nGaedheal, a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.
 

In 1905 he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country. He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown. He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow. His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that ‘Home Rule’ was not enough.
 

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter 1916 Rising, dubbed by the British ‘The Sinn Fein Rebellion’ that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics. Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party. In the General Election of 1918 Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the Dáil met in 1919 it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President! Griffiths’ role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure. This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.
 

However it was only after the Truce of 1921 when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear. This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British. Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the 26 Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign ‘the Treaty’ as well. He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.
 

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera & a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.  After a mammoth series of debates aka the ‘Treaty Debates’ the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the Dáil and led his followers out. The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation. The outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.  Exhausted by his labours, he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the 12 August 1922 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

 

Sunday, 10 August 2014


10 August 1177: The Battle of the Bridge of Evora was fought on this day. The engagement was fought near where Howth railway station is [top of map] situated in County Dublin. Their opponents were probably a band of armed Norsemen who some years previously had been driven from the city by the Anglo Normans and had made camp near Howth in order to make a living through raiding and piracy. While the affair is to some degree lost in the mists of time it is probable that the Invaders launched a counter attack on this band of Nordic desperadoes in order to eliminate their threat to the new Colony.

A desperate battle was fought at "The Bridge of Evora," which crossed the small river, called "The Bloody Stream," flowing into the sea near the railway station, and, after heavy losses on both sides, the natives were completely defeated. This battle having been fought on 10th August (Feast of St. Laurence, the Spaniard), the Tristram family, in commemoration of the event, thereafter assumed the name of St. Lawrence.
 
Tristram was one of the Norman adventurers who came over to Ireland at the time of the Invasion, and had achieved a distinguished record for his prowess on many a hard-fought field. He and Sir John De Courcy sailed to Howth in 1177, accompanied by a chosen band of fighting men, and on landing were opposed by the inhabitants, mostly Danish pirates who had settled in this neighbourhood.

The following extract on the subject is taken from Hanmer's Chronicles of Ireland, but it may be observed that his account rests on no very certain authority, and that the entire circumstances connected with the landing and battle at Evora are involved in considerable obscurity:
 
 "They landed at Howth and there fought a cruell fight by the side of a bridge, where Sir John De Courcy, being sickly, tarried about the shippe. Sir Armoricus, being chieftaine and generall of the field by land, behaved himselfe most worthily. Many were slaine on both sides, but Sir Armoricus got the victory, with the losse of seven of his owne blood, sonnes, uncles and newphewes; whereupon, for his singular valour, and good service, there performed, that lordship was allotted unto him for his part of the conquest.''
A vague tradition of this battle seems to have lingered in the neighbourhood, and is to some extent corroborated by the discoveries of human bones, antique weapons and armour, which from time to time have been made during excavations for building purposes in the vicinity of the railway station.

The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St. John Joyce
 
One anolomy to this account is that John De Courcy spent that year campaigning in the North of Ireland. Why he detoured his desperate battle to carve out a power base in Ulster to sail back to Dublin is a moot point. One possible explanation is that these Norse seafarers were taking supply ships or cutting the arterial roads leading north out Dublin and he felt compelled to return south and deal with them. On the day though he was too poorly to take the field himself.

Interesting to note the Howth Castle, on our about the spot where the victor of the battle, Sir Armoricus [Almeric] Tristam, built his original Mote & Baily there now stands a Castle still occupied by members of the St Laurence family.
 

 






 


 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

 
9 August 1971: Internment was introduced by the British in the North of Ireland on this day. In early morning raids the British army and the RUC lifted hundreds of men throughout the North in what was a ham fisted operation. Their aim was to catch as many members of the IRA in their homes as they could in one huge swoop. But the introduction of internment was a logical next move in the escalating War between Irish Republicans and the British. The IRA were of the opinion that their enemies would once again use this tactic as they had many times in the past & most of the key leadership figures had already gone ‘on the run’.


What the British did not predict was the high level of resistance they encountered in Nationalist areas as men young and old were dragged away by the Crown Forces in full view of their terrified families. There was widespread anger and within hours rioting had broken out in many areas. It quickly became obvious that the exercise was a huge fiasco and one with deadly consequences.

Relying on outdated lists containing 450 names provided by the RUC Special Branch, the British Army swept into nationalist areas and arrested 342 men. Within 48 hours 116 of those arrested were released. The remainder were detained at Crumlin Road Prison and the prison ship 'The Maidstone' in Belfast Harbour.


Hundreds were injured in the rioting that followed and 12 people were shot dead that day – 2 British Soldiers, 7 Nationalists and 3 Loyalists.


The British Government had focused the entire strength of their Armed Forces on one community in the North and it was obvious to all as to whose side they were backing – a strategy even they had some qualms about but went along with to placate Stormont.



What they did not include was a single Loyalist. Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing, this organisation was left untouched, as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara, the Shankill Defenders Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. It is known that Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few 'Protestants' in the trawl but he refused.

The IRA


Tim Pat Coogan

Friday, 8 August 2014



8 August 1640: The Irishman Colonel Owen Roe O'Neill, defending the City of Arras against the French Army of Louis XIV ordered a sortie against the besiegers. The Irish Leader knew that the French had been resupplied and that the attack on the eastern section of the town's fortifications was dangerously close to being launched. It was in this desperate fight that the famous playwright and duellist Cyrano de Bergerac was injured by a sword-cut to the neck.
 

The Siege had begun when the French had invested Arras on June 13th with a vast force of 23,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. Maréchal de Châtillon and Maréchal de La Meilleraye commanded them. The French dug extensive lines around the town, including a number of forts and a large fortified camp to the south.
 

The besiegers were hampered by the nature of the ground surrounding the fortress – one of numerous waterways which made communication difficult.
 

The siege was very important to both sides as Arras represented one of the most important fortified places under Spanish rule in Artois  - King Louis XIII himself joined the besieging army and Cardinal Richelieu had written to the marshals that:
 

 You will answer with your heads if you do not take Arras.
 

But the French pressed ahead and beat off Spanish attempts to cut their supply lines. The trenches drew ever closer to the fortress. Despite taking the French by surprise O’Neill’s attack  was at length beaten back within the walls. O’Neill had done all that was required of him and he had held a vastly superior force at bay for far longer than was expected. The following day he asked for terms. His epic defence won the admiration of friend and foe alike. The following year he returned home to partake in an uprising against English Rule.

 

 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014



5 August 1847: Daniel O’Connell’s body was interred in Glasnevin cemetery on this day. The ‘Liberator’ had died in Genoa, Italy on 15 May. His body was conveyed back to Ireland for burial. The Funeral service was held in the Metropolitan Church, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on the 4th August. The following day his cortege made its way through the City on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery. The centre of Dublin came to a standstill as tens of thousands of mourners lined the route as his hearse made its way along Westmoreland Street and up Sackville St (now O’Connell St) on its way to his resting place in the Graveyard he had help to found. The enormous triumphal car that O’Connell rode in when he was freed from prison in May 1844 led the procession. His Funeral was the largest ever recorded up to that time in Ireland.


In 1869 his remains were re interred in the crypt of O’Connell Round Tower in a magnificent casket in the base of the tower. There the Liberator lies today.



Monday, 4 August 2014


4 August 1914: Great Britain declared War on Germany. That afternoon the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith [top above] addressed the House of Commons in London and set out the reasons for the decision to declare War. Basically it was the crossing of the Belgian border by German forces that morning after Belgium had rejected Berlin’s demand that her armies have free passage across that country in order to attack France.




The problem for Britain was that if France’s northern coast was left open to German Naval operations then it was considered doubtful that she could hold out for long against attack by both land and sea. A quick German Victory in the West would then give the Kaiser a free hand to deal with Russia and thus make Germany the Master of Europe.



Britain however had an ace card to play as a Causi Belli and that was an International Treaty signed in 1839 guaranteeing the Independence of Belgium - which had been signed by both Britain and Prussia! Clearly the German attack on Belgium was a violation of that Treaty and this opened the door for her entering the war on the side of France. The stakes were believed to be just too high for Britain to risk staying out of it and having no influence on the outcome of the War.



That afternoon Asquith addressed a packed and silent House setting out the unfolding events and the continuing diplomatic communications with Brussels and Berlin. Assurances recieved from the German Capital that Germany had no territorial ambitions on Belgium and was only acting on their convinced belief that France would attack her through that country otherwise did not find any favour with Asquith and the British Cabinet.



Asquith concluded his speech with these fateful words:



 

I have to add this on behalf of His Majesty's Government: We cannot regard this as in any sense a satisfactory communication. We have, in reply to it, repeated the request we made last week to the German Government, that they should give us the same assurance in regard to Belgian neutrality as was given to us and to Belgium by France last week. We have asked that a reply to that request, and a satisfactory answer to the telegram of this morning—which I have read to the House—should be given before midnight.



The House adjourned at 7.15 pm to meet again the following day. The Cabinet then retired to await the reply from Germany.



However as the clock struck 11pm that night and as no reply had been received from Berlin  the Cabinet had decided to wait no longer than that hour as it would be already midnight in that city. Apparently this was on a prompt from Winston Churchill - the First Lord of the Admiralty - who was eager for War. Time was now of the essence and the word went out to commence military operations with immediate effect.

"It was 11 o'clock at night -- 12 by German time -- when the ultimatum expired. Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing 'God Save The King' floated in.
"On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, 'Commence hostilities against Germany', was flashed to the ships and establishments... all over the world."
Winston Churchill

The Foreign Office then issued the following official statement:-

Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by his Majesty's Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, his Majesty's Ambassador to Berlin has received his passports, and his Majesty's Government declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11 p.m. on August 4, 1914.

No mention of Ireland! But the previous day John Redmond [bottom above] - the Leader of Nationalist Ireland - had spoken in the House and had stated that at least Ireland could be defended by Irishmen if the British Army was needed elsewhere.



Today there are in Ireland two large bodies of Volunteers. One of them sprang into existence in the North. Another has sprung into existence in the South. I say to the Government that they may to-morrow withdraw every one of their troops from Ireland. I say that the coast of Ireland will be defended from foreign invasion by her armed sons, and for this purpose armed Nationalist Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulstermen in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation there may spring a result which will be good not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation? I ought to apologise for having intervened, but while Irishmen generally are in favour of peace, and would desire to save the democracy of this country from all the horrors of war, while we would make every possible sacrifice for that purpose, still if the dire necessity is forced upon this country we offer to the Government of the day that they may take their troops away, and that if it is allowed to us, in comradeship with our brethren in the North, we will ourselves defend the coasts of our country.



Redmond’s proposal was lost in the wash of unfolding events but his decision to support Britain and not oppose the War was a fateful one. Of course with Home Rule on the cards he had to play it careful and this position was one really of neither being in or out of the War. But it was a stance he could not maintain for long as the dramatic and bloody events of the next few weeks were to demonstrate.