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Friday, 31 July 2015



31 July 1975 The Miami ShowBand Massacre on this day: On the morning of Thursday 31 July 1975 people all across Ireland turned on their radios and heard the astonishing and terrible news that members of the most popular Showband here had been shot down in cold blood at Buskill County Down.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun and bomb attack on the members of the Miami Showband. Three members of the band were killed and one seriously injured during the attack. Two members of the UVF gang were also killed when a bomb they were handling exploded prematurely.

The Miami Showband had been playing at 'The Castle Ballroom' in Banbridge, Count Down. Five members of the band left in their minibus and travelled south on the main dual-carriageway. The minibus was stopped by what appeared to be a Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) checkpoint at Buskhill, near Newry. However the checkpoint was bogus and was being operated by approximately 10 members of the UVF - at least four of whom were also members of the UDR.

The members of the band were ordered out of the van and told to line up by the side of the road. Two UVF men then planted a bomb into the van. The bomb exploded prematurely killing the two UVF members. At this point the other UVF members opened fire on the band musicians.

Francis (Fran) O'Toole (29), the lead singer with band and famous for his good looks, was shot 22 times in the face while he lay on his back on the ground. Two other band members Anthony Geraghty (23), who was shot four times in the back, and Brian McCoy (33), shot nine times, both died at the scene. Another member of the group (Stephen Travers) was shot with a 'dum-dum' bullet and seriously injured but survived. The two UVF men who died were Harris Boyle (22) and Wesley Somerville (34); both were also members of the UDR.

There was speculation after the event that the UVF had tried to hide the bomb on the minibus with the intention of the bomb exploding after the members of the van had resumed their journey. It would then have been claimed that the members of the band were transporting explosives on behalf of the IRA. In 1976 two members of the UDR were sentenced to prison for their part in the attack. They received life sentences but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

A monument dedicated to the dead Miami Showband members was unveiled at a ceremony at Parnell Square North, Dublin, on 10 December 2007. Survivors Stephen Travers and Des McAlea were both present at the unveiling. The monument, made of limestone, bronze and granite, by County Donegal sculptor Redmond Herrity, is at the site of the old National Ballroom, where the band often played.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


29 July 1883: James Carey, the man who informed on the Phoenix Park assassins (The Invincibles), was shot dead on this day. He was killed by Patrick O'Donnell (executed 17 November) on board the Melrose Castle, which was making its way from Cape Town to Durban with the turncoat on board. On the evidence of James Carey five of the "Invincible" prisoners were convicted and received the capital sentence. Their names were Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly. Their executions took place in Dublin, in the months of May and June 1883.



But Carey was a hunted man as his old revolutionary companions sought out his whereabouts. It became known that the British had sent him to South Africa with his family to start a new life in a remote location. But his attempt to escape the rightful vengeance of the remnants of those Invincibles still at large proved a futile exercise.




Nemesis was on his track in the person of Patrick O'Donnell, a fellow-passenger on board the Melrose. An acquaintance sprang up between the two men; and O'Donnell, from the descriptions he had heard of Carey's personal appearance, was not slow in recognizing in his compangon de voyage, the notorious informer; and his sensibilities were shocked by the discovery that he had given the hand of friendship to such a wretch. An altercation between these men on Sunday, July 29, 1883, resulted (according to O'Donnell's statement) in Carey drawing his revolver on O'Donnell, whereupon O'Donnell--as he claims in self-defense--fired his own revolver twice at Carey, with fatal effect. O'Donnell was immediately placed under arrest, and on the arrival of the Melrose at Port Elizabeth, was taken before a magistrate, who recommitted him for trial in England, as the shooting had taken place on the high seas. The doom of O'Donnell, tried before an English judge and jury, was a foregone conclusion, and though he had the advantage of the most able counsel that money could procure, and there was no lack of funds for his defense--the Irish World alone having raised upward of fifty-five thousand dollars for this purpose--his conviction was secured.


STORY OF IRELAND

By A. M. Sullivan



Tuesday, 28 July 2015


28 July 1270: The Battle of Athankip (Cath Ath in Chip) near Carrick on Shannon on this day. Aedh O'Conchobhair, King of Connaught, defeated the army of the Anglo –Norman Colony of the deputy-Justicar Richard of Exeter and Walter De Burgo on this day.

King Aedh of Connacht was an able and dynamic leader with a ruthless streak. He fought hard to retain what was left of the ever shrinking lump of territory that was left to the kings of Connacht by the inroads of the English and that his familial ancestors had once held sway over so much of.

His enemies were many but at this time he was at war with Walter de Burgo of the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family. Walter was both the Lord of Connacht and the Earl of Ulster - a very powerful man indeed in the Ireland of that time.

King Aedh knew that when the English began erecting a castle at Roscommon in 1269 that the Crown of England was putting pressure upon him by taking back lands lost in previous times. He expected war notwithstanding agreements entered into earlier with the Crown of England.


In 1270 the Justicar Robert d'Ufford* organised an expeditionary force that united all his forces with those of Walter de Burgo so that they had 'all the foreigners of Erin with them'. However d'Ufford quitted Ireland ahead of the expedition and returned home and his place was taken by his deputy Richard of Exeter. Eventually in the summer of 1270 the forces were assembled at Roscommon and set off to march upon King Aedh and his men.

* The chief representitive of England in Ireland at that time

The Anglo-Norman Army went north by way of Elphin to the banks of the Shannon so that they were between Carrick and Jamestown, situated on what today is the riverine border between the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim.

There they decided upon upon a fatal course of action - they divided their forces in two so that the river Shannon would be between them. Walter was sent across the river with his men in order to camp beside Aedh's Army and to open negotiations with the King of Connacht so as to bring about his submission.

As part of the deal to agree to talk King Aedh entered into Walter's camp (a sign of submission in the Gaelic world!) but in return Walter had to hand over his own brother William to Aedh's camp 'while Aedh should be in the Earl's house arraigning the peace'.

Whatever exactly happened then we do not know but Aedh withdrew from the negotiations pretty fast. Meanwhile in his own camp two of the hostages who accompanied William were done to death and William himself was seized as a captive instead of being allowed to return to the care of his brother.

Walter was now on the wrong side of the river and with his brother's life in the balance and King Aedh obviously not prepared to agree to whatever terms were offered to him he decided to beat a retreat back to the other side of the Shannon and try and reunite his force with that of Richard of Exeter.

King Aedh on the other hand knew that in the aftermath of negotiations breaking down and the death of hostages that allowing Walter to cross the Shannon unmolested and re unite with Richard could only spell his own doom.

He decided to harry Walter's retreat and take out as many of his men as he could.


And O'Conchobhair was during these two

nights marching round them, as a furious, raging, tearing

lion goes about his enemies when killing them, so that
he permitted them neither to eat, sleep, nor be at rest.

Annals of Loch Cé



Eventually Walter's depleted and harried army made it to the banks of the Shannon at the ford of Ath An Chip where they proceeded to cross over to the other side. However they were caught here by Turlough O'Brien and his men. Turlough was if not the son then a close relative of King Brian of Thomond who had also turned against the English. Turlough might well have been on the western side of the Shannon already and waiting for Walter's army to turn up.

The Earl Walter turned to fight and with some courage sought out Turlough and engaged him in single combat and slew him. But this delay proved fatal for his army as the men of Connacht came upon his rearguard and turned a retreat into a rout. The English lost nine of the chief men (Knights) dead upon the battlefield and many hundreds of others as well. Over 100 apparelled and saddled horses were left behind by them. Aedh in the flush of Victory had Walter's own brother William put to death as a further insult to the man who had caused him so much trouble in his own life and that of his father King Felim too in his day.


The defeat of Ath-in-chip was inflicted by Aedh, son of Feidhlimidh Ua Conchobair and by the Connachtmen on the Earl, namely, on Walter de Burgh and on the Foreigners of Ireland besides, wherein was committed slaughter innumerable on the Foreigners. And William de Burgh junior was taken prisoner there and he was killed afterwards in the same captivity. And not greater than it was any defeat, or battle-rout that the Gaidhil ever gave to the Foreigners in Ireland previously.

For there was killed Richard of the Wood, kinsman of the Earl, as well as John Butler and many other knights and Foreigners and Gaidhil innumerable. And there were abandoned one hundred horses with their breastplates and with their saddles.
Annals of Ulster
Now when the Galls had gone to Ath in Chip in the morning, Toirrdelbach O Briain fell upon them there. The Earl himself turned upon him and slew him on the spot, single-handed.

At this moment the men of Connacht fell upon them. Their rearguard was dislodged and their van broken and nine of their noblest knights were killed on that moor, including Richard of the Wood and Seon Butler, and they left a hundred horses on the field, with their saddles and poitrels. Uilliam Oc was then killed in his captivity, after O Briain had been slain by the Earl, and none knew how many besides.
Annals of Connacht
It's possible that King Aedh was helped to gain this victory by the presence of a contingent of the famous Gallowglass (Gallóglaigh) warriors from Scotland which he had received as a dowry on his marraige in 1259 to the daughter of Dougall Mac Sorley of the western isles of Scotland.


Aedh O'Conchobhair went to Doire-Choluim-Chille
to espouse the daughter of Dubhgall


Mac Somhairle; and he brought home eight score young

men with her, together with Ailin Mac Somhairle.
Annals of Loch Cé 1259

In the aftermath of the battle King Aedh raided far and wide across Connacht taking and destroying castles and driving his enemies before him. In the following years he raided further and took Roscommon itself in 1272. Athlone also fell to him and he broke the bridge across the Shannon.

Walter de Burgo died exactly a year to the day after the battle was fought in his castle at Galway- a broken man no doubt.

The end came for King Aedh on 3 May 1274.


Aed son of Fedlimid son of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, king of Connacht for nine years, died on the third day of May this year, a Thursday and the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Holy Cross; a king who wasted and desolated Connacht in fighting the Galls and Gaels who opposed him; a king who inflicted great defeats on the Galls and pulled down their palaces and castles; a king who took the hostages of the Ui Briuin and the Cenel Conaill; the destroyer and healer of Ireland was he; the king most dreaded and triumphant of all the kings of Ireland in his day, as the poet says: ‘For nine years did this Aed Engach defend the Family of Tara—no feeble forrayer was he—against Gall and Gael.’



Annals of Connacht
The Battle of Ath in Chip was his greatest military triumph.


Monday, 27 July 2015


27 July 1261: The Battle of Callan was fought on this day. It came about as a result of an attempt by the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds (supported by the Barrys) to wrest control of territory from the Gaelic McCarthy’s of Kerry. But the expedition met with disaster and was sorely defeated by the Irish. The head of the McCarthy’s, Finghin MacCarthaigh, selected a battleground suited to the fighting tactics of his men. They were mostly lightly armed but mobile troops who used correctly could be very effective against the better armoured but slower moving soldiers and Knights of the Colony.
The battle site is located a few miles from Kenmare County Kerry, near where the Roughty and Slaheny Rivers converge and close by the castle of Ardtully. Callan is near Kilgarvan in the barony of Glanarought, Co. Kerry.


The leading men of these invaders were the Fitzgerald’s of Munster, led by John fitz Thomas and his son, Maurice fitz John. Another of the Norman leaders was 'the son of Richard’ probably Walter de Burgo, Lord of Connacht and later Earl of Ulster. The Colonists were also supported by a few would be hopefuls from amongst the Irish themselves led by one Domhnall Ruadh - a claimant to the McCarthy Lands.

In the event when battle was joined John Fitzthomas FitzGerald and his son Maurice were killed together with fifteen knights and more than 300 men. The survivors fled and Finghin MacCarthaigh was able to sweep all before him. But he overextended his reach and was in turn defeated and killed only a short while later.
1261.4 A great war was waged, and numerous injuries were committed, by Finghin, son of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh, and his brothers, against Foreigners in this year.



1261.5 A great hosting by the Clann-Gerald into Des-Mumha, to attack Mac Carthaigh; and Mac Carthaigh attacked them, and defeated them, and Fitz-Thomas (John proprium nomen), and his son, and fifteen knights and eight noble barons along with them, were slain there, besides several young men, and soldiers innumerable. And the Barrach Mór was also killed there. Finghin Mac Carthaigh was subsequently slain by the Foreigners, and the sovereignty of Des-Mumha was assumed after him by his brother, i.e. the Aithchleirech Mac Carthaigh.


ANNALS OF LOCH CE
Ironically after many vicissitudes of Fortune it was Domhnall Ruadh, - the would be claimant who fought alongside the men of the Colony on the day - who was the one who emerged as the chief beneficiary of these wars.


After the deaths of Finghin Reanna Ró and Cormac na Mangartan, he seems to have assumed and held the kingship of Desmond until his death in 1302--he reigned 40 years, according to A.I.--though not without opposition.
The Battle of Callan By Diarmuid Ó Murchadha


Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 1961.
 
As a result of the deaths of John fitz Thomas and his son, Maurice fitz John,the power of the Geraldines was curtailed and the MacCarthys ruled on in their own lands for another 300 years. The Battle of Callan was thus one of the most decisive clashes of arms in the History of Ireland.

Sunday, 26 July 2015




26 July 1914: Erskine Childers landed 900 Rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition at Howth from the yacht Asgard [above] on this day. He was helped by his wife Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice. Further to the south another 20,000 rifles and more ammunition were landed at Kilcoole, County Wicklow.



Dublin Castle made strenuous efforts to block the distribution of these weapons but the cargo was eventually spirited away by Irish Volunteers after evading the Constables of the DMP. Over a thousand members of the Irish Volunteers later paraded down O’Connell St in Dublin’s City Centre in defiance of the orders issued by the DMP. A clash seemed likely between the two sides but none took place.



But later that evening British troops from the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) were drawn up across the narrow thoroughfare of Bachelors Walk in Dublin’s City Centre. A confrontation ensued between the soldiers and local people. What happened after that is a matter of some dispute. The British Military claimed their men were the subject of stones being thrown. Other observers claimed that the soldiers opened fire without warning. Three people, including a woman, were shot dead and almost 40 were wounded. A man died later in hospital and two of those injured were bayoneted as well.



Some days later John Redmond MP and the Leader of the Irish Nationalist Party rose in the British House of Commons to give his considered response to this Massacre.




Let the House clearly understand that four fifths of the Irish People will not submit any longer to be bullied, or punished, or shot, for conduct which is permitted to go scot free in the open light of day in every County in Ulster by other sections of their fellow Countrymen.


The situation in Ireland was at a Crises point and daily an outbreak of fighting was expected between those who supported Home Rule and those who were opposed to it. Throughout Britain and Ireland Politicians and People expected Ireland to descend into Civil War.



But two days after the events at Bachelors Walk the Austro - Hungarian Empire issued a Declaration of War upon Serbia and within a week the Bosnian Crises had sucked the Continent into a World War. The affairs of Ireland were relegated to the back pages and Irish History took a new and entirely unexpected turn.

From 2007 to 2012, a major conservation programme of Asgard was undertaken at Collins Barracks, and this aspect is also fully explored.

An expert team, led by Master Shipwright and Ship Conservator John Kearon, set out to conserve Asgard while retaining the structural integrity of the vessel and preserving as much of the existing original material as possible. The historic yacht that is now on exhibition in Collins Barracks is the result of their painstaking work and dedication. [above]




Thursday, 23 July 2015


23 July 1803: Robert Emmet’s Rising took place on this day. Unfortunately the whole affair was a fiasco due to a series of unforeseen circumstances. Emmet quickly lost control of the situation and he called it off to avoid a massacre of his followers. Due to an accidental explosion of an arms depot in Patrick St Dublin the week before the date for the Rising was brought forth to 23 July. Emmet felt that Dublin Castle was on to him and he dared not wait any longer before striking for Ireland’s Freedom.



But on the day nothing went right. Not nearly enough men turned up and Emmet could not bring any order upon enough of those that did. The only blow struck was when Lord Kilwarden haplessly drove into the assembled crowd of insurgents and was hacked to death for his part in suppressing the 1798 Rising. This attack troubled Emmet greatly as he gave no orders for it. To him it was clear that at least a faction of those assembled would turn violent of their own accord and bring a bloody mayhem to the streets of the City rather than the ordered seizure of military points of importance around the Capital. Reluctantly that very night he called the enterprise off by the launching of a single rocket into the sky above Dublin. He immediately made for the Wicklow Mountains but returned to Rathfarnham some days later and went into hiding.



Notwithstanding the overall failure there had been some heavy fighting by armed insurgents against the British garrison in the Coome and scores of men died there, forcing the British back before the word was given to disperse. Around the City there were numerous smaller clashes and roads blocked. Amazingly Dublin Castle was caught completely on the hop and had no counter plan ready on the night. It was only the next day that they began to move and by that stage the insurgents had gone their separate ways. It was close run thing and the British had a lucky escape from having a full-blooded Insurrection on their hands.



Robert Emmet was arrested in Dublin on 25 August of the same year. He was put on trail and sentenced to death. At his trial he made a brilliant speech from the dock that inspired Revolutionaries both at home and abroad for years to come. He was executed the following day, 20 September 1803, at Thomas St. A huge crowd of onlookers and well wishers gathered to witness his final moments. The whereabouts of his last resting place remains unknown.



Monday, 20 July 2015



20 July 1398: The Battle of Kellistown/ An Cath Cell Osnadha was fought on this day. The battle was fought between the forces of the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles, and the English of Leinster led by Roger Mortimer, the 4th Earl of March and 6th Earl of Ulster.



The O’Byrnes and O’Tooles were surrogates for Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh who was the most powerful Chieftain in Leinster and recognised as a King amongst his own people. He used them to fight a proxy war against the English and thus avoid a complete break with them. Kellistown is situated in County Carlow between the towns of Carlow and Tullow.



"Here fell the heir presumptive to the English crown, whose premature removal was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England a year or two later."



So Mortimer was none other than the heir presumptive to the Throne of England! King Richard II had no issue, and Mortimer, a lineal descendant of Edward III, was next in line to the throne and married to his half-niece. He was also dignified with the titles ‘Earl of Ulster’ and ‘Lord Of Connaught’. Ironically he was a direct descendant of Aoife Murchada, whose father had let the English in. Thus he was a distant relation of his nemesis Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh!



Mortimer had been created the King of England’s Lieutenant in Ireland in 1396 and held this position until the Irish killed him. His body was cut to pieces during the battle but whether this as a result of combat or mutilation after his death is not recorded. Curiously enough he had decided to engage in the combat dressed in the Irish style that is without body armour. Its possible his attackers did not know him as he would have been a great prize. There was at least enough of him remaining for his corpse to be brought back home to England where he was interred amongst his own people in Wigmore Abbey, Herefordshire.



King Richard of |England was so upset by the news he resolved to return to Ireland and settle matters once and for all with Art Mac Murrough. But his departure of his Country in 1399 cost him his Kingdom as his domestic enemies toppled him from his throne while he conducted a fruitless campaign in here.



An Cath Cell Osnadha was thus a battle of great importance in the history of two countries – England and Ireland.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


19 July 1210: King John of England arrived before the Castle of Carrickfergus in Ulster and besieged it on this day. It soon fell into his hands and in the days following he received a visit from the King of Tir Eoghan, Aed Meith O Neill. His visitor brought a large contingent of troops with him, perhaps 2,000 warriors to impress the Anglo-Norman Monarch. The Ulster king agreed to render John service but the two kings drew different conclusions as to what that actually meant. The King of Connacht was also part of King John’s host and actively helped him in suppressing the Anglo-Norman De lacy family that had upset the King of England’s temperament.





Johannes, grandson of the Empress, king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year.



After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.



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


Annals of Loch Cé



Tuesday, 14 July 2015


14 July 1798: The Patriot brothers John and Henry Sheares were executed on this day in Dublin. They were both members of the Legal Profession and had joined the United Irishmen to fight tyranny and free Ireland from English rule. They were the sons of a wealthy banker who sat as a member of the Parliament in Dublin. In 1792 they had visited Revolutionary France and had caught the Spirit of the times there.

They soon joined the United Irishmen on their return. However they trusted others without caution and were led into revealing details of the conspiracy to overthrow the Ascendancy. A Spy, one Captain John Armstrong who had befriended them in order to betray them, revealed their intentions to Dublin Castle. They were arrested on 21 May 1798. Found guilty of ‘treason’, they were publicly hung outside Newgate Prison in Dublin. Both were buried in St. Michan's Church in Dublin City where their coffins can still be seen [above].





At midday on Saturday, July 14th, the hapless men were removed to the room adjoining the place of execution, where they exchanged a last embrace. They were then pinioned, the black caps put over their brows, and holding each other by the hand, they tottered out on the platform. The elder brother was somewhat moved by the terrors of his situation, but the younger bore his fate with unflinching firmness. They were launched together into eternity--the same moment saw them dangling lifeless corpses before the prison walls. They had lived in affectionate unity, inspired by the same motives, labouring for the same cause, and death did not dissolve the tie. "They died hand in hand, like true brothers."


`Speeches from the Dock'

By D. S. Sullivan
 

Sunday, 12 July 2015


12 July [O.S. 1 July] 1690: The Battle of the Boyne/Cath na Bóinne was fought on this day. The Protestant Army of King William of Orange defeated the Catholic Army of King James II. With around 36,000 Williamites against 25,000 Jacobites this battle, in terms of the numbers of men on the battlefield was the largest clash of arms ever fought in Ireland.

Both kings commanded their armies in person assisted by a number of men of high rank and status. King William had under his orders English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish, French Huguenots and Protestants from Ireland. King James Army mainly consisted of Catholic Irishmen, and a scattering of Englishmen loyal to the Stuarts. The King was also backed by around 6,500 regular French troops sent by King Louis XIV. 

William's Army was drawn up on the north side of the river.  King James's was on the south side with the two armies facing each other along an extended line of some miles. William's battle plan was to distract the attention of the Jacobite army on the river while a large force was sent upstream to turn the left flank of the Jacobite Army. William sent 10,000 men towards Slane with the advance guard under Count Meinhard, which drew the bulk of the Jacobites upstream in response. With some 1,300 Jacobites posted in downstream in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. Duke Frederick Marshal Schomberg (William’s top General) then led the Dutch Blue Guards and other regiments into the waters of the Boyne and across to the other side.

Opposing them were just seven regiments of the Catholics who shot their attackers down in great numbers as they attempted the passage of the Boyne at Oldbridge. A want of sufficient cavalry and artillery to block the crossing of so formidable a host eventually told against the Irishmen. They were pushed back from the riverbank as their enemies gained a toehold and then flowed across. William himself eventually crossed at Drybridge slightly downstream with about 3,500 mounted troops.



Marshal Schomberg brought down to the ford of Ouldbridge the gross of his cavalry, with orders to push on and suffer no check. At this, the seven regiments aforesaid of Irish foot, observing they would be soon overpowered, they cried to their own for horse to sustain them. In the meanwhile, they made a smart fire at the enemies, and laid them in heaps, as they were entering the waters. But their crying for horse was in vain; for they received but one troop, which was as good as nothing.
 
By the time reinforcements arrived it was too late and the enemy was across in strength.



The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.
 
Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events.

The King himself with a considerable portion of his Irish and French troops did however block Lord Douglas in the Williamite service from crossing the Boyne at Donore - which is situated between the fords of Rosnaree and Oldbridge. But this was a stalemate while the outcome of the battle was decided to the left and the right of the King’s position at Donore.

Eventually the Williamites across the river in strength on both the left and right flanks the order was given to fall back on Duleek to the south and stop that village been taken by the enemy. If King Williams’s men had taken the vital bridge there then the whole of the Jacobite army would have been cut off from retreat and in all likelihood captured in its entirety.

As it turned out the retreat was carried out in good order and despite further clashes Lord Tyrconnel, given command of the rearguard, was able to effect an orderly withdrawal. The enemy were content to follow in their footsteps and not risk a reverse.

However in these follow up operations the Williamites lost their best military leader – Marshal Schomberg.

Twas during these encounters that one master Bryen O'Tool, of the guards, discovering his former acquaintance, marshal Schomberg, near the village of Ouldbridge, resolved to sacrifice his life to the making him away, upon which he, with a few of the guards, and a few of Tyrconnell's horse, made up to him, and O'Tool with his pistol shot the marshal dead. But, soon after, fighting like a lion, he was slain

King James's army retreated across the river Nanny at Duleek and evaded capture. It had been a ‘close run thing’ and though the battle had been lost the Army was intact and still a cohesive fighting force.

Bad tactics rather than bad fighting had cost King James and his Irish followers the chance of victory against a more numerous enemy. The line of the Boyne might well have been held but King James had been outmanoeuvred by Marshal Schomberg’s plan - even though this crusty old Huguenot did not live to savour the Victory he had so materially helped to achieve.

Though there was some hot fighting in the course of the battle overall the casualties were light on both sides with perhaps 1,500 soldiers lying dead along the banks of the Boyne. Considering the strategic consequences of this clash of arms it was a very low number for a battle that determined the political and religious balance of power in Ireland for centuries to come and that still resonates down to our own day.



 

Saturday, 11 July 2015



11th July 703 AD: The Battle of Corann/Cath Corainn was fought on this day. The battle was a clash of arms between two of Ireland’s great kings - Cellach mac Rogallaig, king of Connacht (from the Uí Briúin dynasty) and Loingsech mac Óengusso, king of Tara and of the Cenél Conaill (a sub branch of the great Uí Néill dynasty.)

The events leading up to the battle began when Loingsech mac Óengusso, king of Tara, invaded Connacht with a large host intending to give battle to Cellach mac Rogallaig, the king of that province. As his army advanced, Loingsech’s poets satirized Cellach, man of advanced years by this stage, making fun of his old age and his inability to cope with the king of Tara.

Legend has it that when Cellach saw the devastation wrought by Loingsech, he summoned the two Dúnchads (i.e. Dúnchad Muirisce and another man named Dúnchad), whom he had chosen to succeed him as king of Connacht.  With the one Dúnchad on his right and the other on his left, Cellach harangued the Connacht forces, telling them to defend their freedom bravely.  Then, Cellach led his troops into battle.  The Uí Néills were routed and Loingsech was killed along with a number of those closest to him, including three of his sons.

The site of the battle is not known with certainty, but the old name Corann refers to parts of what is now Co. Sligo and Co. Mayo.


The battle of Corann in which fell the king of Ireland, Loingsech son of Aengus son of Domnall son of Aed son of Ainmire, i.e. by Cellach of Loch Cime son of Ragallach, together with his three sons, and two sons of Colgu, and Dub Díberg son of Dúngal and Fergus Forcraid and Congal of Gabar, and many other leaders. On Saturday, the fourth of the Ides of July, at the sixth hour, this battle was fought.
Annals of Ulster 703.2

Friday, 10 July 2015


10 July 1927: The Assassination of Kevin O’Higgins, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Justice and Minister for External Affairs on this day.

His role in the Irish Civil War had still not been forgotten or forgiven by many Republicans. He had taken the side of those supporting the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which included an Oath of Fidelity to the British King. While a brilliant Minister and a shrewd politician he was also a man of ruthless determination. His decision to acquiesce in the execution of the best man at his own wedding, Rory O’Conner, was seen as a particularly hard act. He was viewed by quite a number of people as the most forceful personality in the Cumann na nGaedheal government. As a result of this legacy of bitterness plans were laid by a small group of Republicans to carry out an attempt on his life.

On the fateful Sunday in question O’Higgins left his house, accompanied only by his bodyguard Detective O’Grady. His intention was to attend Mass at the local Catholic church on Booterstown Avenue. The Minister clearly forgot something along the way and he sent O’Grady back to fetch it, whatever it was. He then proceeded on alone down Cross Avenue to its junction with that of Booterstown. It was here that the assassins struck. A number of them approached him and opened fire simultaneously. Shot a number of times O’ Higgins started to run slowly across Booterstown Avenue only to collapse at the gates of a private residence, Sans Souci. The gunmen thought they had mortally wounded him but then O’Higgins inadvertently committed a fatal error. He raised his hand, possibly to call attention to his plight. His assailants at once returned and pumped him full of more bullets before fleeing in a car up the avenue and off down the Stillorgan road in the direction of the nearby countryside. Within minutes people were rushing to his aid. Amazingly one of them was an ex Cabinet colleague, Professor O’Neill who had been making his way to Mass at the same time.

O’Higgins was brought back to his home and made as comfortable as possible in the dining room. While conscious, he was in great pain as he had sustained a considerable number of gunshot wounds, the one to the skull proving to be the fatal shot. He was bleeding profusely by this stage and O’Higgins realised that his situation was hopeless. His dignity in the face of death drew the admiration of all who were with him in his final hours. Quite a number of people called in to pay their last farewells before the end. O’Higgins died at 4.45 that afternoon.

Most people were shocked by the news. The action was universally condemned. Even Eamon De Valera was taken aback by the brutal death of his political opponent and he swiftly moved to disassociate both himself and his party from this violent and gratuitous deed. However it is true to say that not all of his supporters were that upset by O’Higgins death.

The following day O’Higgins body was removed from his home. President Cosgrave and the members of his Cabinet, along with General O’Duffy and nine senior officers of the Garda Síochána were in attendance to accompany the Minister’s remains to a lying in state at the Mansion House, Dublin. Huge crowds queued for hours to pay their final respects.

His remains were removed from his residence, Dunamase House, Booterstown, to the Mansion House, Dublin, where thousands filed past the coffin. His funeral mass was held at St Andrew’s Church, Westland row. The funeral cortège stretched for over 3 miles. O’Higgins was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, the same grave as his infant son.

For years his assassins were unknown to the general Public. However it is now known that they were three IRA members acting off their own bat. They did it in order to avenge the loss of their comrades in the Civil War, in which O'Higgins played such a prominent role in the execution of Republican prisoners and the introduction of draconian legislation to deal with the Anti Treaty IRA. They were Timothy Coughlan, Bill Gannon and Archie Doyle. None of them were ever charged with what they did that fateful day.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


 
9 July 1911: King George V and Queen Mary visited the Catholic Seminary of Maynooth on this day. The British king was on a brief tour of Ireland to mark his accession to the throne. He spent four days in and around Dublin on a royal visit to the city. The King and the royal party, led by the 8th Royal Hussars on horseback, had travelled from the harbour in Kingstown/ Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Castle, as thousands lined the streets to view his procession. Here the King and Queen based themselves in a very secure location and circulated from there to the various locations in a meticously planned series of events designed to enhance Royal Power in the wake of George V’s Coronation.



It was decided that a visit to the educational centre of Catholic Ireland would help to balance any attempt of the Orange Order to make his stay here the preserve of any one side. The King was accompanied by his formidable wife Queen Mary who was bedecked in stunning white dress with matching hat of feathers. Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and by Dr Daniel Mannix the President of the College, greeted the Royal couple on arrival. Other senior members of the Catholic Hierarchy were also in attendance. The visit was the highlight of the King’s stay in Ireland.



However King George’s visit by no means met with everyone’s approval. Even someone as reactionary and anti worker as William Martin Murphy turned down the offer of a Knighthood from the King. Dublin Corporation would not issue an address welcoming him to the City of Dublin. James Connolly warned people to stay away and issued a stern rebuttal of the majesty of kings and this one in particular:




 Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.



'His blood
Has crept through scoundrels since the flood.'



Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class, to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of '48, all the world will maintain:
'The Right Divine of Labour
To be first of earthly things;
That the Thinker and the Worker
Are Manhood's only Kings.
'


King George though seems to have enjoyed his stay. On 12 July from Dublin Castle he issued a Letter of Thanks for the reception he and his children had received.



It ended with the following passage:




Looking forward, as we do, to coming amongst our Irish people again, and at no distant date, and repeating in other parts of the Country the delightful experience of the last few days, we can now only say that our best wishes will ever be for the increased prosperity of your ancient capital, and for the contentment and happiness of our Irish People.





Tuesday, 7 July 2015


7 July 1816: The great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan died in London, England on this day in impoverished circumstances. He was born in Dublin on the 30th of October, 1751 and at the age of seven was sent to be educated at Harrow school in London by his father where he completed his education. Thereafter he eloped and married Elizabeth Linley and with her modest fortune behind him he established himself in London and began his career as a playwright. He enjoyed some success with his first major play The Rivals that was performed at Covent Garden in 1775. However his most famous play is The School for Scandal which was first performed at Drury Lane in May 1777. It still ranks as one of the greatest comedies of manners of the English stage. Having quickly made his name and fortune, in 1776 Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent, and in 1778 the remaining share. His later plays were all produced there.



However his later literary career was more of a business venture rather than as an original playwright and Sheridan switched a lot of his attention to English Parliamentary politics where he supported the Whigs. He entered parliament for Stafford in 1780, as the friend and ally of Charles James Fox. He opposed the American War and was instrumental in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. An excellent public speaker his voice and eloquence commanded attention whenever he rose in the House. Initially a supporter of non intervention against France as the Revolution took hold he was more sanguinary in approach as Napoleon rose to dominance.



He was however one of the few MPs at Westminster to oppose the Act of Union. When the Whigs came into power in 1806 Sheridan was appointed treasurer of the Royal Navy, and became a member of the Privy Council. Throughout his parliamentary career Sheridan was one of the close companions of the Prince of Wales (the later King George IV). He tried though to distance himself from the suggestion that he was the Prince’s advisor or even a mouthpiece for him. He did however defend the controversial Royal member in parliament in some dubious matters of payment of debts.



In 1809 his beloved Drury Lane Theatre burned down. Legend has it that on being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said:



A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.



 
His last years were marred by personal and financial troubles as he lost his parliamentary seat, fell out with the Prince and was pursued by numerous debtors. In December 1815 he became ill, and was largely confined to bed. His last few weeks were spent in almost total destitution as his funds ran out. He died on the 7th of July 1816, and was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. His funeral was attended by dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.


Monday, 6 July 2015


6 July 1958 Sir John Lymbrick Esmonde, 14th Baronet died on this day. Born on 5 February 1893 he was an Irish nationalist politician who unusually served as both Member of Parliament (MP) in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London and later as a Teachta Dála (TD) in Dáil Eireann in Dublin.

Sir John was the son of Dr John Joseph Esmonde MP (1862–1915), of Drominagh, Borrisokane, County Tipperary. On the death of his father in 1915, he was elected in his place (opposed by two nationalist contenders) as Irish Parliamentary Party MP for North Tipperary while serving in World War I with the Leinster Regiment, then as Captain The Royal Dublin Fusiliers with the Intelligence Corps; he was an engineer.

He was one of five Irish MPs who served with Irish regiments in World War I, the others Stephen Gwynn, Willie Redmond, William Redmond and D. D. Sheehan as well as former MP Tom Kettle. John Lymbrick Esmonde served with the forces that put down the Easter Rising. He withdrew without defending his seat in the 1918 general election. He inherited the Esmonde Baronetcy when the senior male line died out in 1943.

He subsequently served as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) for Wexford, where he won a seat at the 1937 general election. He was re-elected in 1938 and 1943, but lost his Dáil seat in the 1944 election. He became a barrister at the King's Inns, Dublin, called to the inner Bar as Senior Counsel in 1942, Bencher 1948. He was re-elected TD for Wexford in the 1948 general election serving until the 1951 general election, when he retired from politics. In 1948 he was suggested as possible Taoiseach by Seán MacBride, on the grounds that he had no link to either side in the Civil War.

His younger brother Lt. Geoffrey Esmonde (1897–1916) aged 19 was killed in action in World War I serving with the 4th Tyneside Irish Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. His second younger brother was Sir Anthony Esmonde, 15th Baronet (1899–1981). His half-brother Eugene Esmonde was awarded a VC posthumously for in February 1942 leading the air attack on the German battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau as they made a dash through the English Channel.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


5 July 1828: Daniel O’Connell won the Parliamentary seat of County Clare in a bye –election. His Victory marked a triumph for his organisation the Catholic Association. O’Connell became the first Catholic to be returned for a Constituency since the 1690’s. This campaign was the culmination of a series of electoral contests conducted by the Association and threw down the gauntlet to the British Government to either remove the Laws barring Catholics from the Parliament in London or possibly face a Revolution in Ireland.

O’Connell had decided some months before to put his name forward at the first available opportunity. Instead of using surrogate candidates of Protestant background who were sympathetic to Catholic Emancipation he wanted to have himself elected in a direct challenge to the Penal Laws against Catholics. The current MP for Clare, William Vesey-Fitzgerald, had to stand for re-election because he had been appointed as President of the Board of Trade, which carried a salary.

Some days previously O’Connell has addressed the electors of Clare:


The oath at present required by law is—‘That the sacrifice of the Mass and the Invocation of the blessed Virgin Mary and other Saints, as now practiced in the Church of Rome, arc impious and idolatrous’. Of course I never will stain my soul with such an oath; I leave that to my honourable opponent, Mr Vesey-Fitzgerald. He has often taken that horrible oath…

If you return me to Parliament, I pledge myself to vote for every measure which can strengthen the right of every human being to unrestricted and unqualified freedom of conscience.

To vote for every measure favourable to radical reform in the representative system, so that the House of Commons may truly, as our Catholic ancestors intended it should do, represent all the people.

To vote for every measure of retrenchment and reduction of the national expenditure, so as to relieve the people from the burthen of taxation &c.
Ironically Vesey-Fitzgerald claimed he was a moderate who supported a relaxation of the Penal Laws. In the event O’Connell won handsomely by 2,057 votes to 982. This triggered a serious political crisis because as an elected representative of the People he was barred from taking his seat solely on account of his Religion.

The defeated candidate was none too happy with the result, writing to the Lord Lieutenant the Marquis Anglesey that very night:


The priests have triumphed, and through them and their brethren, the Catholic parliament will dictate the representatives of every county in the south of Ireland…

The poll closed tonight. It was hopeless from the first day…

What a convulsion for any man to throw the county into, to satisfy his own vanity and to obtain what he cannot use…
The following year Catholic Emancipation was reluctantly passed through both Houses of the British Parliament and this Constitutional climb down opened the door for other Catholic politicians to follow in O’Connell’s footsteps. For his efforts in leading the campaign to emancipate his fellow co-religionists from the odious Anti Catholic Penal Laws Daniel O’Connell was subsequently known as ‘The Liberator’.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


4 July 1776: The American Declaration of Independence was signed on this day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania




IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
The document set out the rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens of the New Republic. It is one of the most important political documents that modern history has produced. There was a strong Irish input into its drafting and wording that reflected the experience of life under Monarchical and Aristocratic rule back in 18th century America and Ireland. Nine men who were either born in Ireland or whose parents or grandparents were from Ireland signed that day.

Thomas McKean (March 19, 1734 – June 24, 1817) was the son of William McKean from County Antrim. He would become an American lawyer and politician, serving as President of Delaware, Chief Justice and then Governor of Pennsylvania.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton in Maryland (September 19, 1737 – November 14, 1832). Though born in America his parents were Irish and he was the only Catholic signatory and also the longest-lived signatory of the Declaration of Independence, dying at age 95.

James Smith was born in Ireland in c.1719 and was forced with his family to emigrate to the American colonies as a boy due to abuse by landlords. The name "Smith" in Ireland is oftentimes a translation of MacGabhann, which is an older Irish name meaning "son of Goibhniu," who was the Celtic deity of metallurgy.

George Taylor was born in Antrim, Ireland in 1716 and emigrated to America in 1736 at the age of 20. Taylor operated a furnace and was an iron manufacturer in Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence, 1774-1776, and of the Continental Congress, 1776-1777.

Matthew Thornton was born in Ireland in 1714 and went out to America as a four-year-old child. He would practice medicine and become active in pre-revolutionary agitation before being elected to become a member of the Continental Congress in 1776. He was a Colonel of New Hampshire Militia, 1775-1783.

Edward Rutledge (November 23, 1749 – January 23, 1800) was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father Dr. John Rutledge left Co.Tyrone, Ireland in 1735, and would raise a son to be 39th Governor of South Carolina.

Thomas Lynch Jr. (August 5, 1749 – 1779) stood in for his father Thomas Lynch Sr. who was unable to represent South Carolina due to illness. His grandfather was Jonas Lynch of the Galway who were exiled following the defeats at Aughrim and the Boyne. At the close of 1776 he and his wife sailed for the West Indies. The ship disappeared and there is no record of his life after.

George Read was born in Maryland in 1733. He was the son of John Read and Mary Howell Read. John Read was a wealthy resident of Dublin who emigrated to Maryland. When George Read was an infant the family moved to Delaware.

John Dunlap was born in Strabane, County Tyrone. In 1757, when he was ten years old, he went to work as an apprentice to his uncle, William Dunlap, a printer and bookseller in Philadelphia.

During the American Revolutionary War, Dunlap became an officer in the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, and saw action with George Washington at the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

On July 2, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence, and on July 4 they agreed to the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. That evening John Hancock ordered Dunlap to print broadsides. Dunlap printed 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence. The first newspaper outside America to publish the first text was the Belfast News Letter in its edition of August 23-27, 1776.

Thursday, 2 July 2015



2 July 1863: The Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac fought at Gettysburg on this day. In one of the most famous incidents of the American Civil War they were blessed and granted general absolution by Father William Corby, the Brigade Chaplain, in front of thousands of their comrades in arms who witnessed this awe inspiring spectacle.

Little more than 500 men remained of the original 3,000 veterans of the brigade, but they were to be sent to the rescue of the crumbling Union flank in a vicious maelstrom that would become known to history as The Wheatfield. Father Corby donned his stole and mounted a large rock as the men of the brigade knelt, Catholic and Protestant alike. He offered absolution to the whole brigade, reminding them of their duties and warning them not to waver and to uphold the flag. Their attack bought precious time for the Union defenses but cost them dearly, with over one third of the brigade becoming casualties.


Today on the battlefield a statue stands upon the rock where the Chaplain gave his famous blessing. It reads:

 "Reverend William E. Corby, C.S.C. Congregation of Holy Cross. This memorial depicts Father Corby, a Chaplain of the Irish Brigade, giving general absolution and blessing before the battle at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. President, University of Notre Dame 1866-72 1877-81."

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


1 July 1916: The Battle of the Somme began on this day. After an immense bombardment lasting a week the British Army launched its Summer Offensive at precisely 7.30 am that morning. General Rawlinson commanded the British 4th Army, which contained 15 Divisions earmarked for the Offensive.



Rawlinson’s tactical plan was to see the infantry advance across no man’s land at a walking pace, carrying a full load of equipment (66 lbs. per man), to take possession of the German trenches from a demoralised and shaken foe. However during the bombardments most of the German troops took refuge in deep bunkers. Once the artillery had stopped firing on the front line trenches and the attack was imminent these men rushed to the surface and manned their posts. It was the failure of the British to anticipate the speed of the Germans reaction to the lifting of the barrage that led to their defeat on the 1 July. The casualties suffered by the attacking forces numbered almost 60,000 men incl about 20,000 dead. Many of these men were from Ireland.



The men of the 36th Ulster Division carried out the most famous attack of the day. They took the German stronghold of the Schwaben Redoubt by storm and overwhelmed the defenders. However due to the almost universal failure of the other attacking battalions on their flanks to take their objectives the Ulstermen were left dangerously exposed. They were out in a salient that the Germans were able to enfilade with devastating results. Despite a grim determination to hold their positions the 36th was forced back and the order was given to withdraw to their start lines. Given that they had suffered thousands of casualties that day this was a bitter pill to swallow - but a legend was born that day that still resonates down to our own times.



The other great attack that day that had strong Irish connections was the series of assaults carried out by the 34th Division. This included the 103rd Tyneside Irish Brigade from Northumberland, in the main consisting of the descendants of Irish immigrants in the 19th Century to the coalfields there. However the connections with Ireland were still extant and these men were proud of their ancestry. That day they met the full force of the German machine-guns as they went over the top and were slaughtered in great numbers. For them there was no success to match the sacrifice made and thousands lay dead and wounded upon the field of battle for no great purpose.



There were also Irish battalions engaged this day within other Divisions and some 14 battalions with definite Irish identities took part in the day’s battle. In addition thousands more served in an individual capacity in various units like those raised in Liverpool, Manchester and London as well as in units with no particular connections to Ireland like the 1st South Staffordshire’s. Thus on 1st July 1916 many men from Ireland met their end in one of the bloodiest days in Military History. The survivors too never forgot that terrible day when so many from this island fought and suffered on the bloody fields of Picardy.



By the time the battle petered out in the November rains some 420,000 British & Commonwealth, 205,000 French and 465,000 German soldiers were killed, wounded or missing- over One Million men had fallen.