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Monday, 31 August 2015



31 August 1767: Henry Joy McCracken, United Irishman, was born on this day. His ancestors on both sides had come from the Continent to escape religious persecution. His father was a wealthy businessman and when he was twenty-two he was entrusted with the management of a cotton factory. In 1791 he co-operated with Thomas Russell in the formation of the first society of United Irishmen in Belfast and when the society in 1795 assumed its secret and military organization, he became one of the most trusted members of the council in the north.



In 1796 he was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Kilmainham Jail in Dublin along with his brother William. After his release he returned to Belfast and renewed the plans to bring about a Revolution in Ireland. He was appointed head of the United Irishmen of Antrim. In June of 1798 he raised the insurgents there to take arms and attack the Crown Forces. He and his followers briefly seized Antrim town but were defeated and dispersed.

McCracken went to hiding in the vicinity but was betrayed and was taken prisoner. His trial and conviction by court-martial followed. The British offered to spare his life on condition of his giving information concerning other leaders. His aged father encouraged him to spurn the proposition. On 17 July 1798 he was executed by hanging at the Cornmarket in Belfast on the evening of the conclusion of his Trial.

His sister Mary Ann McCracken accompanied him almost to the last, and wrote:




At five p.m. he was ordered to the place of execution…. I took his arm, and we walked together to the place of execution, where I was told it was the general's orders I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused. Harry begged I would go. Clasping my hands round him (I did not weep till then) I said I could bear anything but leaving him. Three times he kissed me, and entreated I would go... I suffered myself to be led away... I was told afterwards that poor Harry stood where I left him at the place of execution, and watched me until I was out of sight; that he then attempted to speak to the people, but that the noise of the trampling of the horses was so great that it was impossible he should be heard; that he then resigned himself to his fate.


The United Irishmen, their Lives and Times, Robert R. Madden


Sunday, 30 August 2015


30 August 1855: The Death of Feargus Edward O'Connor , Chartist Leader on this day. He was the son of Roger O'Connor, a United Irishman, and was born in 1796 in County Cork. When Feargus O'Connor was twenty-four he inherited an estate there. 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 of 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.
 

His finest moment should have been the Great Demonstration he organised to assemble in Kensington London in 10 April 1848 that was to march on the Houses of Parliament. 200,000 people were expected to attend and this projected assembly put the wind up the British Establishment. The Duke of Wellington was put in charge of the Military and tens of thousands of citizens were made temporary policemen to control the situation.


In the event it proved a damp squib as only about 25,000 people turned up in a heavy downpour to hear O’Connor make outlandish claims that proved to be untrue- namely that over five million people had signed his Petition on workers rights when it was really about two million. Even then on examination it was discovered that many were clearly forgeries including those of the Queen and the Iron Duke, who appeared to have endorsed the petition no fewer than seventeen times! It was all over by 2 O'clock that afternoon and the Establishment could breath again.



After 1848 Chartism went into sharp decline. From 1851, O'Connor's behaviour became increasingly irrational, possibly as a result of syphilis. In 1852 he was declared insane and sent to an asylum in Chiswick. He died on 30 August 1855.


A charismatic and talented actor on the stage of politics O’Connor at his best was a man to be watched. He claimed Royal descent from the last King of Ireland - Rory O’Connor of Connacht. He always supported the Repeal of the Union even though it must have cost him support amongst the English People. He was though dogged by personal problems and sometimes allowed his temperament to get the better of him. But whatever his faults he helped to raise the English Working Class up out of their misery enough to know that together and organised they could challenge the Establishment to at least listen to their demands to be treated fairly and with Justice.

Saturday, 29 August 2015



29 August 1975: Éamon de Valera died on this day. His active political career spanned the years 1913-1973 from when he first joined the Irish Volunteers until his retirement as President of Ireland.



Born in New York City in 1882 he was brought back to Ireland two years later and raised by his wider family in Co Limerick



He was one of the leading commandants of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 and was sentenced to death by the British but this was commuted to Life Imprisonment as being born in the USA he was eligible to claim US citizenship



In 1917 he was elected as MP for East Clare but did not take his seat and in 1918 he was again imprisoned by the British but escaped from Lincoln Jail in England 1919. He returned home where he was elected by Dail Eireann as Príomh Aire (President). He then made his way to America where he campaigned hard to gain support for the Irish Republic especially amongst the huge Irish American community there



Returning home in 1920 he and the British began tentative negotiations which led to the Truce of July 1921. But he broke with many of his colleagues in December that year when the Treaty was signed. The Civil War of 1922-1923 saw him side lined and after another period of imprisonment by the Irish Free State he in 1926 founded his own Party Fianna Fáil which he led until 1959



In 1927 he led the Party into the Irish Parliament Dáil Éireann and took the Oath to the British King George V - but under protest that he felt not bound by it! A dodgy tactic but it worked and he carried most of the Republican Movement with him to back this approach.



After the General Election of January 1932 he was elected by the Dáil as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State and governed it until 1947 - being returned as Leader in every election. In the early 1930s he faced down General Eoin O’Duffy and his fascistic Blueshirt Movement and contained the threat from the IRA who wanted to re start the War with Britain over their continued Occupation of the North.



He refused to pay the Annuities due to the UK and this triggered the Economic war with England which brought great hardship to many farmers & others. While he was right in Principle the cost was high. He got rid of the Oath to the British Monarch in 1936 & brought before the People a New Constitution - Bunreacht na hÉireann - which was passed in a Referendum and came into operation in 1937. It is still the Constitution to this day - though somewhat amended now. In 1938 he got the British to hand back the Treaty Ports they still held and made a final settlement to the Economic War with a once off payment to them which finished the matter.



In 1939 the Second World War began and this State declared itself Neutral - the British were disgusted but had to accept it. However Dev played it well and ensured that co operation with England while low key was real nonetheless. He allowed anyone who wanted to go to cross the water to join up or work there if they wanted to. At War’s end in 1945 he offered condolences to the USA on the death of President Roosevelt but also to Germany on the death of Adolf Hitler - a gaffe in most people’s eyes.



He lost the General Election of 1947 and was out of power until 1951 when he was returned once again. However he was to lose it once more in 1954 and by this stage he was well into his 70s. The State could not provide enough jobs for its young people and Emigration was astronomical + widespread poverty in many parts of the Country. No Party seemed to have the solution. When he was returned to power in 1957 he came under pressure to look for new ways to change things and in 1958 it was decided to open up Ireland to Foreign Investment and Trade to which Dev gave his Imprimatur. This led to rapid economic expansion that continued until 1974.



But Dev was old and tired by now and his eyesight was failing. He resigned as Taoiseach in 1959 and was then elected President of Ireland in June of that year by popular vote. Probably the highlight of his term in Office was the visit of President John F Kennedy in 1963 and the celebrations in 1966 of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. In that year he also was re elected President defeating the Fine Gael candidate Tom O’Higgins by a narrow margin. His last years were much more low key as age caught up with him. By that stage he was seen by many younger people as an archaic figure out of touch with Modern Ireland.



Always a divisive figure and a controversial one he led his followers through many crises - though many would consider some at least self inflicted ones! There was no doubting his fine mind and his ability to think a few steps ahead of his opponents on most occasions. His abiding legacy must be though the Constitution of 1937 and keeping the Irish State out of the Second World War + initiating the change that started our rise in living standards from 1958.



At his retirement in 1973 at the age of 90, he was the oldest head of state in the world. His wife of many years Sinéad de Valera died some months before he did and he was buried alongside her in Glasnevin Cemetery [above] in Dublin after a State Funeral.


Friday, 28 August 2015


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].




Thursday, 27 August 2015


27 August 1979: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA on this day. He was blown up while sailing in his yacht at Mullaghmore, County Sligo. He was accompanied by members of his family and a local boy. Three of them were killed and others seriously injured. 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 retalitory fire by the Paras. The Paras were responsible for shooting dead 13 innocent Irishmen in Derry on ‘Bloody Sunday’ 30 January 1972.



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 very senior member of the British Royal Family. They felt his death at the hands of the IRA very keenly.


Soon after a grisly Graffiti appeared on Belfast walls. It read:




13 gone but not forgotten - we got 18 and Mountbatten


 



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

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



Tuesday, 25 August 2015



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 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.



Monday, 24 August 2015



24 August 1103: Magnus ‘Bare Legs’, King of Norway, was killed by the Irish in a battle on this day in the north of Ireland.


King Magnus reigned as King of Norway from 1093 to his untimely death in 1103 in Ulster. Described as ambitious, 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. His grandfather was Harald Hardrata, the Viking warrior king who died at the battle of Stamford Bridge, fighting the English in 1066, and his father was Olaf the Peaceful.

Having formed an alliance in 1102 with Muirchertach O'Brien, King of Ireland (1086 - 1119), the arrangement was formalised by the marriage of - Siguard the 12 year old son of Magnus -  to Muirchertach's 5 year old daughter, Biadmaynia. 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 provide much needed provisions for his troops before they departed for Norway.

Having sailed his long boats in from Strangford Lough, up the river Quoile, and beaching them on Plague Island near 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, against the advice of his commander Eyvind Elbow he decided next morning to leave the safety of his ship 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.' 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. 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 Barefoot, nicknamed 'Barelegs,' had once said, "That Kings are made for honour not for long life," In his case he was right, for he was not thirty years of age when he met his end in Ireland.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


23 August 1170: Richard De Clare aka Richard fitz Gilbert aka (Strongbow) ,the Earl of Pembroke and Strigul, landed near 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 from the Vikings and, having done so, embarked on expansionist raids into Meath. Besieged in turn by the Ard Rí [High King] Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair  he defeated him in battle and secured the city for the Anglo Normans. 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 service in France Strongbow returned to Ireland and campaigned once more 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 city of Dublin to which Henry had granted a Royal Charter.

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 though it probably does contain his remains. His funeral was presided over by Lorcan Ua tuathail (Laurence O’Toole), the 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


Saturday, 22 August 2015



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 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.



Friday, 21 August 2015





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.






Thursday, 20 August 2015


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 their Homeland.


 


Wednesday, 19 August 2015



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

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


18 August 670: The death of St. Fiacre the Abbot, who was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century on this day. He had a hermitage on the banks of the river 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. Farowas 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.



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. French cabs are 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. 


Sunday, 16 August 2015



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. Mr 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 Dáil 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 Dáil 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 inveigled 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!

Saturday, 15 August 2015


 
15 August 1569: The sack of Enniscorthy on this day by Sir Edmund Butler, the brother of the Earl of Ormond. The Co Wexford town held a great Fair on this date, named ‘Lady Day’ after Our Lady the Mother of Christ. This was in the tradition of the great Medieval Fairs where people would come from miles around the trade and buy the wares on offer. Many valuable commodities would be on offer and those with the coinage to buy or goods to barter would be there in plenty. But the Fair this year was held against a backdrop of a vicious War full of atrocities and counter atrocities committed by both sides. As the townsmen and country folk went about their business a large Geraldine raiding party overcame them. This was no doubt a well planned operation, designed to loot and punish the inhabitants who were seen as a base of colonial influence.





The Earl of Ormond, i.e. Thomas…, being at this time in England, his two brothers, Edmond of Caladh and Edward, had confederated with James, the son of Maurice. These two sons of the Earl went to the fair of Inis-corr on Great Lady-Day; and it would be difficult to enumerate or describe all the steeds, horses, gold, silver, and foreign wares, they seized upon at that fair. The Earl returned to Ireland the same year, and his brothers were reconciled to the State.


Annals of the Four Masters


No quarter was given to the hapless inhabitants. Many of the Anglo-Irish Merchants were put to death and their bodies thrown in the River Slaney and their womenfolk raped. It was reported that ‘divers young maidens and wives’ were defiled before their parents and husbands faces’. The Castle of Enniscorthy was also taken and ransacked and lay abandoned for thirteen years thereafter.

Friday, 14 August 2015



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.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


12 August 1822: The Death by suicide of Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh on this day. Born in Dublin in 1769 to a political family of wealthy Presbyterian stock, Castlereagh’s sympathies – in an era of awakening nationalisms – were for the Irish patriot cause. But a visit to revolutionary France in the early 1790s tempered his thinking. He now warned of the dangers for any nation to be placed “in the hands of experimental philosophers”. Castlereagh was not initially a counter-revolutionary, but a reformist keen on political progress (not least Catholic emancipation). However ambition meant he could never rise in politics with such an approach and the further he rose the more reactionary he became.



As Chief Secretary of Ireland during the 1798 Rising he oversaw its brutal repression and in 1800 was instrumental in ensuring that the old Parliament of Ireland voted itself out of existence by the use of threats, bribery and the use of Government placement to get the result needed. Even 20 years later, political cartoons would depict Castlereagh lurking around Westminster with a cat o’ nine tails behind his back.



But while a cold and calculating man there was no doubting Castlereagh’s great skills of diplomacy and the ability to form alliances against Napoleonic Rule on the European Continent. As chief secretary for Ireland from 1796 to 1800, colonial secretary from 1802 to 1805, war secretary from 1806 to 1809 and foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822 he was on top of his game dealing with those who he viewed as a threat to the established order.



While he took criticism of his politics with aplomb it eventually started to effect his internal stability and that combined with his ‘workaholic’ character led to a gradual and then noticeable deteriation of his mental faculties. Friends, political colleagues and his own family became ever more concerned for his well being.

He began suffering from paranoia, which could be attributed to the years of abuse by an angry citizenry and press, overwork, or even gout or VD. He imagined himself persecuted from every quarter and became irrational and incoherent. His devoted wife continued sleeping with him but removed pistols and razors from his reach and kept in close contact with her husband's physician, Dr. Bankhead, who had cupped him.

Three days before his death he met with King George IV, who became upset over Castlereagh's mental state, as did the Duke of Wellington, with whom he was close. Knowing that he was losing his mind, Castlereagh left London for Loring Hall, his country estate in Kent.

The morning of his death he became violent with his wife, accusing her of being in a conspiracy against him. She left their bedroom to call the doctor. That was when her husband went to his dressing room with a small knife which he had managed to hide. He stabbed himself in the carotid artery. Just as Dr. Bankhead entered the room, he said, "Let me fall on your arm, Bankhead. It's all over!"

Not many liked him and indeed many hated him including some of England’s greatest poets.




I met Murder on the way – / He had a mask like Castlereagh– / Very smooth he looked, yet grim; / Seven bloodhounds followed him… one by one, and two by two, / He tossed them human hearts to chew.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley



On hearing of his funeral Lord Byron wrote:




Cold-blooded, smooth-faced, placid miscreant
Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin's gore...



Posterity will ne'er survey
a Nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and p----- !

Notwithstanding his suicide and unpopularity Lord Castlereagh was buried in Westminster Abbey London, safe from those who would rather he not rest in Peace.

Monday, 10 August 2015


10 August 1316: The Second Battle of Athenry/ Ath na righ took place on this day. The English Colonists defeated the Irish in a very bloody battle.

This was one of the most decisive battles of the Bruce Wars (1315-1318). The numbers involved are unknown, and can only be estimated. But while it is doubtful that they were any higher than seven thousand (and even this figure should be treated with caution) the list of participants on the Irish side alone indicates that an overall figure of at least three to four thousand were involved. The English claimed that they took some 1100 heads from the Irish on that day.
Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair the King of Connacht led a coalition of the Gaels to stop the return of William Burke, the Anglo-Irish Lord of Connacht. He had come back from Scotland to try and regain his lost lands in the western province. He gathered together a large and well equipped army from the colonists of Connacht and Meath. Richard de Bermingham led the English of Meath. O'Conchobhair also put together a formidable army drawn from North Munster, south Connacht & the kingdoms of Breifne and Meath. But whatever happened on the day of battle (and the record is very sketchy) the Irish met with Catastrophe. Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair and Tadhg O'Cellaigh, King of Uí-Maine were among those that fell along with numerous other kings and chieftains of the Gaels.


Many of the men of Erin all, around the great plain

Many sons of kings, whom I name not, were slain in the great defeat

Sorrowful to my heart is the conflict of the host of Midhe and Mumha


Annals of Loch Cé


Another account states:



The Gael charged all day with desperate courage, but they were driven back by a line of steel, and mown down by the deadly English archers.  Their standard was captured.  Sixty chieftains were slain, including Felim and Tadhg O'Kelly from whom, the Gael expected more than from any man of his time."
 
‘So was quenched the greatest hope for a century of restoring a Gaelic kingdom. The defeat and death of Felim at once restored De Burgo’s Lordship…the O’Connor ‘kingdom of Connacht’ was henceforth but an empty name.’




A History of Medieval Ireland


Edmund Curtis


Sunday, 9 August 2015


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 by
Tim Pat Coogan



 


Saturday, 8 August 2015


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 valued 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.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


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.




Tuesday, 4 August 2015




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.


Monday, 3 August 2015


3 August 1916: Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison London on this day. He was tried by the British for Treason as he had tried to enlist German help to free Ireland at a time when Britain and Germany were at War.

  

He was born in Dublin in 1864. His father was an Officer in the British Army. From 1895 onwards he worked for the British Foreign Office in a Consular capacity. He was sent to the Congo where he reported on the widespread abuses there against the Natives by the Belgian Colonialists. These reports earned Casement a CMG (Order of St Michael and St George) in 1905. He was then sent to Brazil and was commissioned to undertake a report on the reported abuse of workers in the rubber industry in the Putumayo basin in Peru. He once again found many instances of abuse and exploitation by the Rubber Barons there and was rewarded a Knighthood in 1911 for his services to Humanity.



But by 1912 Casement had become disillusioned with European Colonialism of which he found himself a reluctant part though albeit in a pacific role. At Home he had become a member of the Gaelic League and a strong Nationalist. He viewed with abhorrence the events in the North (his father was from Antrim) and was totally against Partition. In August 1914 he was in the USA raising funds for the Irish Volunteers when the Great War broke out. He soon made contact with Clan na Gael and John Devoy put him in contact with German Diplomats in New York. He made his way to Germany to raise military and financial support for a Rising in Ireland bit met with little success. In particular his attempt to raise an Irish Brigade from amongst the Irishmen held as Prisoners of War was meagre. By this time the British Intelligence Service had latched onto his activities and set about undermining him.



When in early 1916 Casement learnt of the high likelihood of a Rising in Ireland he requested to be sent home to be there. However by the time he sailed in a German Submarine he was of the opinion that it should not go ahead if the Germans could not offer considerable military assistance – and of that there was no real prospect given their huge commitments at that time. In the event Casement’s small party was put ashore at Banna Strand, Co Kerry in the early hours of Good Friday 21 April 1916. They were soon spotted by the locals who took them for German spies and they were arrested by the RIC. Casement was dispatched hastily to London and imprisoned to await his Fate.



His Trail for Treason was conducted at the Old Bailey. Despite the best efforts of his Legal Team the evidence against him was pretty clear cut and on the facts he could hardly expect to escape the Death Sentence. A campaign was underway to enlist support for an amelioration of the execution of any judgment past by the Court. Casement was a widely respected figure for his humanitarian work and it could possibly be argued that while he had erred in Judgment his past services to Humanity should be taken into account.



But during the Trial the British produced the infamous ‘Black Diaries’ that they claimed were written in Casement’s own hand and showed him to be a Homosexual with a marked predilection for young boys he picked up while engaged in his work abroad. These Revelations proved a Sensation and as intended destroyed Casement’s Character and Reputation in the circles where his cause was most likely to find support. He vehemently denied all the accusations against him.



He was found Guilty of Treason and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison. He was 51 years old and had been received into the Catholic Faith in the hours before he made his way to the Scaffold. He received the Last sacraments and died as he said with the body of his God as his last meal.



 
His body was buried in quicklime in the grounds of the Prison. There it remained until 1965 when the Labour Government of Harold Wilson agreed to hand it over the Republic of Ireland on condition he was not buried in the North (Casements wish). He was given a full State Funeral and interred in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin. President Eamon de Valera himself gave the graveside oration.


 

Sunday, 2 August 2015



2 August 1649: The Battle of Rathmines/Ráth Maonais on this day. The battle was fought in what was then open fields to the south of Dublin City and what is now long since suburbia. The city itself was under siege by James Butler, Marquis of Ormond, in command of the Royal Army that gave its allegiance to the uncrowned King Charles II, the son of the recently executed King Charles I.

Ormond hoped to force the city garrison of the English Parliament under Colonel Jones to capitulate before Oliver Cromwell could sail from Britain with a large relief army to retake Ireland from the Catholics. However it was Ormond himself who had handed the city over to the parliamentary forces some years beforehand when he realised he could no longer defend it from the Catholics. His logic was 'better English rebels than Irish ones’!


In the wake of the collapse of the Royal Army in England and the capture and execution of King Charles I the remnants of his forces in Ireland formed a reluctant alliance with the Catholic forces here to oppose the Parliamentarians. Thus the army besieging the city under Ormond was a disparate one of divided loyalties, their only point of unity was a hatred of the English Parliament and its armed forces. The Irish Catholics especially those from drawn from the ranks of Gaelic Ireland did not trust Ormond and indeed his inept conduct on the day of the battle led to questions being asked - though nothing was ever proven.

The battle began when Ormond ordered an advance force to seize the partially demolished Baggotrath Castle, [ lower right side of map] situated roughly just south of where Baggot street bridge now is on the Grand Canal. However the force lost its way in the dark and Colonel Jones must have got wind of the venture and launched a counter attack that caught the would be attackers off guard. Disorder turned to rout and Jones seized his moment and called out his strike force to pursue and kill or capture as many of their opponents as they could. Ormond had already retired to his Camp at Rathmines when word reached him that Jones had come out to fight.


‘Meanwhile, Colonel Jones had observed the movement around Baggotrath and guessed Ormond's intention. He quickly deployed 4,000 foot and 1,200 horse from the Dublin garrison on the meadows between the city walls and Baggotrath, intending to dispute Ormond's occupation of the castle. Ormond gave orders that his whole army should stand to arms to support Purcell and Vaughan at Baggotrath in case of a Parliamentarian attack. Having been awake all night, Ormond then retired to his tent at Rathmines to rest while his army deployed, but he had underestimated Colonel Jones' determination.

At about nine o'clock in the morning, Jones' whole force advanced rapidly across the meadows towards Baggotrath. Sir William Vaughan's cavalry were routed in the first charge and Vaughan himself was killed. Major-General Purcell's infantry held the position for a short time but were soon overwhelmed; most were killed or taken prisoner, the rest fled. Having regained Baggotrath, Jones saw an opportunity to attack the main Royalist camp. He quickly regrouped and advanced towards Rathmines. Ormond was awakened by the sound of gunfire and rode to the battle, where he bravely tried to rally the troops that were streaming back from Baggotrath.

Any remaining Royalist troops fled as the Parliamentarians overran the camp at Rathmines. Ormond retreated south with his lifeguard and made his way to Kilkenny.

 

Estimates of the number of coalition soldiers killed at Rathmines vary between 600 and 4,000. More than 2,500 were taken prisoner, including many experienced officers. Ormond's artillery and baggage train were captured, as well as his private papers and correspondence.’
http://bcw-project.org/military/confederate-war/rathmines

Colonel Jones had won a great victory and when Cromwell arrived some weeks later with 14,000 men he was quickly able to seize the initiative without having to secure Dublin first.


The battle gave the names to several local landmarks. 'The Bleeding Horse' public house, which stands at the corner of modern Upper Camden street, was established in 1649, when, after the Battle of Rathmines, a wounded horse wandered into a tavern. This made such an impression on the owner that he named his premises 'The Bleeding Horse'.

In addition, an area in the townland of Milltown was formerly known as the "Bloody Fields", where it is believed that some of the fleeing Royalist soldiers were overtaken by the Parliamentarian cavalry, killed and subsequently buried

Ironically that Jones died of a fever some months later when on campaign in County Waterford, while Ormond went on to be the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under King Charles II and is buried in Westminster Abbey!