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Friday, 30 September 2016



29 September 1979: Pope John Paul II began his visit to Ireland on this day. Ireland was the third pilgrimage of his Pontificate. The Holy Father's first visit was to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas, his second visit was to Poland and his third visit was to Ireland and the United States.

During his 1979 pilgrimage to Ireland, Pope John Paul undertook a hectic schedule travelling the country in order to greet the faithful in the four provinces of Ireland. Over the three days the Holy Father addressed large crowds in Dublin, Drogheda, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Knock, Maynooth and Limerick.

On that first day, September 29th, in the Phoenix Park, he met over one million people, the largest gathering of Irish people in history. He told the people why he felt called to visit Ireland and the Irish. He reminded them how St Patrick heard the “voice of the Irish” and came back to Ireland.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, Like St. Patrick, I too have heard “the voice of the Irish” calling to me, and so I have come to you, to all of you in Ireland. From the very beginning of it’s faith, Ireland has been linked with the Apostolic Sea of Rome. The early records attest that your first bishop, Palladius, was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine; and that Patrick, who succeeded Paladius, was “confirmed in the faith” by Pope Leo the Great.

Your people have spread this love for the Catholic Church everywhere they went, in every century of your history. This has been done by the earliest monks and the missionaries of Europe’s Dark Ages, by the refugees from persecution, by the exiles and by the missionaries men and women of the last century and this one.

http://www.catholicireland.net

Thursday, 29 September 2016



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29 September 1972: The death of Kathleen Clarke née Daly on this day. She was the widow of Thomas Clarke who had been executed by the British after the 1916 Rising. However she was also a political activist in her own right especially in the years after the Rising and in the early years of the Irish Free State.

She was born in Limerick in 1878 into a large family with connections to the Fenian Movement. In her early adulthood Kathleen went into the dressmaking business and did well for herself. When Thomas Clarke came out of prison in 1898 she was introduced to him by her Uncle. They quickly fell in love and married in New York in 1901. She was 23 years old and he was over 40.

Tom worked for John Devoy and the American Fenian group, Clan na Gael whose aim was to rid Ireland of British Rule. They returned to Ireland in 1907 with their young family in order to play their part in the coming struggle. He opened a tobacco shop in Dublin’s City Centre. In between having more children she was active as a founder member of Cumann na mBan, and worked hard at fundraising as well as raising her family and helping to run the shop.

After the week-long fighting and the surrender, Kathleen was taken to visit her husband in Kilmainham Jail the night before his execution. The interview lasted almost two hours, then Kathleen had to leave; Tom was shot in the early morning on 3 May. The following night she was back in the jail, with two of her sisters, to say goodbye to their brother Ned; he was executed on 4 May.

In May 1918 she was arrested by the British and spent 11 months in Holloway Jail in England. In 1919 she was elected as an Alderman for the Wood Quay and Mountjoy Wards of Dublin Corporation. In 1921 she was elected to the 2nd Dáil and afterwards she opposed the Treaty. She joined Fianna Fail on its foundation in 1926 won was elected a TD in the 1st election of 1927 but lost it in the 2nd contest of that year. She was the elected to the 1st Seanad in 1928 and served until its abolition in 1936.

In 1930 she was elected to the re-constituted Dublin Corporation for Fianna Fáil. She opposed the Constitution of Ireland of 1936 as she felt that several of its sections would place women in a lower position that they had been afforded in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

The peak of her political career came in 1941 when she became the Lord Mayor of Dublin. She was the first woman to hold that Office. She declined to stand as a Fianna Fáil candidate at the 1943 general election She helped found the Irish Red Cross while Lord Mayor of Dublin. However she split from De Valera & FF after that and contested the 1948 election for Clan na Poblactha but was not elected.

She died in a Liverpool Nursing Home in 1972 and was given a State Funeral. She is buried in Dean’s Grange Cemetery in Dublin. Her gravestone is inscribed with the name she wished to be known by: Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh (Kathleen, Mrs Clarke).



Wednesday, 28 September 2016


28 September 1912: 'Ulster Day' The signing of the Solemn League and Covenant on this day. It was signed by the Loyalist men and the women signed a similar Declaration. It was taken by some 500,000 Ulster Unionists in protest against the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill by the British Parliament. Sir Edward Carson was the first person to sign as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

This public avowal of repudiation of the terms of the Bill alerted the political establishments in both Britain and Ireland that a major Constitutional Crises was brewing that would split Nations and Parties apart.

237,368 men signed it and 234,046 women signed a parallel declaration.

The Covenant ran as follows:

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.

However the key words within that were to have such fraught consequences were 'using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland.'

This opened the way for the importation of arms into Ireland, firstly for the Ulster Unionists and later by Irish Nationalists. The introduction of the concept of armed force to settle political affairs was to have terrible repercussions that has lasted right up until modern times in Ireland.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

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27 September 1922: The Passing of the 'Public Safety Act' on this day. It was proposed by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. This Act was brought in to allow for the detainment and execution of those found in arms against the State. The Irish Free State was still in the process of formation at this stage but wide sections of the IRA and indeed the general public did not accept its Legitimacy.

On 28 June of that year the Irish Civil War had broken out in Dublin and quickly spread across the 26 Counties. The War soon degenerated into hit and run raids and sweeps and captures. There were numerous casualties on both sides. But the head of the new Government President WT Cosgrave felt that harsher methods were needed to bring the situation under control. In this he was fully supported by the Minister for Defence General Mulcahy who pressed for its introduction.

It was proposed amongst other measures that if persons were found guilty by Military Courts that they could face the death sentence:

The breach of any general order or regulation made by the Army Authorities and the infliction by such Military Courts or Committees of the punishment of death or of penal servitude for any period

Cosgrave spoke that:

If murderous attacks take place, those who persist in those murderous attacks must learn that they have got to pay the penalty for them…They must be taught that this Government is not going to suffer their soldiers to be maimed and ruined, crippled and killed, without at least bringing those responsible for such destruction before a tribunal that will deal out justice to those people.

The Labour Party Leader Thomas Johnson opposed the Bill likening it to a military dictatorship;

We are pretending to govern through this Dáil. We are supposed to have a Government which is responsible to this Dáil. The Government hands over that responsibility to an Army which is not fitted for this particular kind of work—entirely unfitted for this particular kind of work.

http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates

Thus it came about that on 27 September a Bill was put before the new parliament of Dáil Éireann was passed by 41 votes to 18 votes to allow its implementation.

Notwithstanding the misgivings of some the Bill was passed and after an Amnesty ran out the first executions took place in November. By the time the Civil war was over 77 men had been executed under its terms.
--

Monday, 26 September 2016



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26 September 1902: The birth of James Dillon in Dublin on this day. Dillon was to become one of the most colourful and entertaining politicians in Ireland during the mid 20th century and was Leader of Fine Gael from 1959 to 1966. He came from a family of politicians, his father John Dillon & his grandfather John Blake Dillon had been Members of Parliament under the British Regime and had supported Home Rule.

James Dillon qualified as a Barrister and was called to the Bar in 1931. He then went abroad to study business methods in Britain and the USA before returning home to run the family business. But it was in the field of politics that he made his mark. Between 1932 and 1937 Dillon served as a TD for the Donegal constituency for the National Centre Party and later for Fine Gael. He played a key role in instigating the creation of Fine Gael and would become a senior member of the party in later years. He remained as TD for Monaghan from 1937 to 1969.

An intelligent man with an impressive oratory and a brilliant command of rhetoric he was perhaps too finely tuned an individual at times for his own good. He was in some respects a loner who stood out from the crowd. None more so than in the years of the Emergency when he advocated the Irish Free State joining the Allies in the war against the Axis Powers. He resigned from Fine Gael in 1942 over its refusal to back him on this.

The historian J.J.Lee believes that Dillon ‘showed great courage, if doubtful judgement, in defying the over-whelming consensus of Irish opinion, including that of his own party, in increasingly urging support for Britain and America, a position which obliged him to resign from Fine Gael in 1942 and plough his political furrow as an independent...

Times Literary Supplement 13 April 2001

After the War he was still an Independent and in that role served in the Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture (1948-1951) & later after re-joining FG in the same role in 1954-1957 in the inter Party Governments of John J. Costello. Times were very hard then but he made as good a job as he could of the role he was given. One of his major achievements as Minister for Agriculture was the Land Reclamation Programme. This scheme meant that more productive agricultural land was made available, especially in the West of Ireland.

In 1959 his fortunes changed again when he was elected Leader of Fine Gael and thus Leader of the Opposition. Brilliant oratorical performances followed but it was hard to dent the Fianna Fail Government of those years that oversaw the most dramatic rise in Irish living standards that had ever been seen. His last opportunity  came at the General Election of 1965 but a failure to cut a deal for a Coalition with the Labour Party meant that the odds were stacked against him and his Party. In the event Sean Lemass was returned as Taoiseach and Dillon’s tenure as Leader of Fine Gael came to an end. He retired from active politics in 1969 when he did not contest the General Election of that year. He died in Dublin in 1986 at the age of 83.







Sunday, 25 September 2016


25 September 1917: Thomas Ashe died on this day. It was the 5th day of his Hunger Strike to secure Political Status for Republican prisoners. Born in Co Kerry in 1885 he was a member of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers. He took part in the Easter Rising in 1916 and led a column that successfully engaged the Crown Forces at the Battle of Ashbourne, Co Meath that week. He was sentenced to death in the aftermath but his life was spared as public indignation rose over the executions.

Released from captivity in June the following year he was in August 1917 arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford. He was detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including Austin Stack demanded prisoner of war status.

Ashe went on hunger strike on 20 September1917. He died at the Mater Hospital, Dublin after being force-fed by prison authorities. At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the "inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct". His death through being forced fed elicited widespread revulsion amongst the Irish people and his funeral acted as a catalyst to the further growth of the Sinn Fein Party and Republican ideals.



Saturday, 24 September 2016


24 September 1798: Bartholomew Teeling, Irish Patriot  was hanged at Arbour Hill Prison Dublin on this day. A United Irishman he was the son of a wealthy linen merchant from Lisburn, County Antrim. He travelled to France with Theobald Wolfe Tone in 1796 and in August 1798 he accompanied the French General Joseph Humbert on his abortive Expedition to Ireland.

On 5 September at the battle of Carricknagat, outside of Collooney, Co Sligo, he displayed great bravery and helped to win the battle by riding directly up to a British cannon, which had been raking their lines and killing the gunner with his pistol. He was captured in the aftermath of the battle of Ballinamuck, along with Matthew Tone, Wolfe Tone’s brother. They were both executed on the same day and are buried in the Patriots Plot aka The Croppies Acre in front of the National Museum (formally Collins Barracks) at Benburb St, Dublin.

His final testimony ran as follows:

Fellow-citizens, I have been condemned by a military tribunal to suffer what they call an ignominious death, but what appears, from the number of its illustrious victims, to be glorious in the highest degree. It is not in the power of men to abase virtue nor the man who dies for it. His death must be glorious in the field of battle or on the scaffold.
Speeches From the Dock, or Protests of Irish Patriotism, by Seán Ua Cellaigh, Dublin, 1953

A monument to his brave deeds - the Teeling Monument [above] - was erected in his honour on the centenary of 1798 Rising at Collooney, County Sligo.

Friday, 23 September 2016


23 September 704 AD: Feast day of St Adhamhnán on this day. He passed away on the little island of Iona [above] off the western Scottish coast. He was one of the greatest scholars of his time and a member of the same family group as the founder of the monastic site, St Columba himself, as both were descended from the powerful Northern Uí Néill dynasty.

He became the 9th Abbot of Iona in 679 AD. He was involved in both religious and political affairs in Scotland, Ireland and in the English kingdom of Northumbria. In the year 687 he secured the release of some 60 important Irish prisoners being held by the Northumbrian King Aldfrith. Ten years later in 697 AD he was the chief instigator and author of Cáin Adomnáin (Law of Adhamhnán) also known as the Lex Innocentium (Law of Innocents) that was promulgated amongst a gathering of Irish, Dal Ríatan and Pictish notables at the Synod of Birr, Co Offaly. This set of laws were designed, among other things, to guarantee the safety and immunity of various types of non-combatants in War.

He is best known though as the biographer of St Columba in the Vita Columba [Life of Columba], a hagiography based on the stories on the Saints' life passed down from those who knew him. This work is one of the most important religious and political sources for Ireland and Scotland that we have that is still extant. Adhamhnán also wrote poetry as well as a work called De Locus Sanctis, which was a study on the Christian Holy Places of Pilgrimage in Palestine.

Adamnán, abbot of Í, rests in the 77th year of his age.
Annals of Ulster 704 AD




Thursday, 22 September 2016


22 September 1920: The Rineen Ambush on this day. The 4th Battalion of the Clare IRA under Commandant O’Neill ambushed a party of Black and Tans and killed six of them without loss to themselves. They then had a lucky escape as quite unexpectedly a large party of British Military arrived on the scene by chance but in the confusion all the men of the ambush party successfully got away. Men from the ambush part are pictured above on the anniversary of the encounter in 1957.

On September 22, 1920, one of the most remarkable encounters of the War of Independence took place at Dromin Hill, Rineen. The purpose of the act was to get revenge for the murder of Martin Devitt, an Irish soldier who was shot dead in an ambush in February of that year in the locality. A secondary function was to get arms for the poorly equipped volunteers in the area.


Men from several battalions took part in the ambush. The companies in question were Ennistymon, Lahinch, Inagh, Moy, Glendline, Miltown Malbay and Letterkelly. Most of these, however, were unarmed because of the lack of ammunition. The entire lot of arms consisted of 60 rounds of ammunition, eight rifles, two bombs, two revolvers and 16 shotguns.

All the RIC men in the tender were killed. The RIC men killed were an RIC Sergeant (Michael Hynes), along with five other constables (Reginald Hardman, Michael Harte, John Hodnett, Michael Kelly and John Maguire).

The ambush was carried out by men from the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare brigade led by Ignatius O’Neill, Battalion O/C and ex-soldier with the Irish Guards, British Army.

There were about 60 in the ambushing party but only nine had rifles. Among the men who took part were Seamus Hennessy, Peter Vaughan, Dan (Dave?) Kennelly, Steve Gallagher, Michael O’Dwyer, Michael Curtin, Pat Lehane, Sean Burke, Pake Lehane, Dan Lehane, Patso Kerin, Anthony Malone, John Joe Neylon, Owen Nestor, Tom Burke, Alphonsus O’Neill and Ned Hynes.

Thomas Moroney was in charge of the scouts, one of whom was John Clune, who cycled into Miltown Malbay to check when the tender would return. After the attack on the tender, the IRA had not fully withdrawn when the British military, consisting of about 150 soldiers, arrived on the scene. They were on their way to the site of the capture of RM Lendrum. A running pursuit followed with no deaths on either side but O’Neill and Curtin were wounded.

http://www.clarechampion.ie


Wednesday, 21 September 2016


21 September 1795: The Battle of the Diamond on this day. This deadly encounter took place at a little crossroads in north County Armagh between the Protestant ‘Peep O Day Boys’ and the Catholic ‘Defenders’, both of which were semi paramilitary groups fighting for power in the County at that time. While there was always tension between the adherents of both religions this was exacerbated by the situation in Armagh where the Linen industry was the economic powerhouse of the County and indeed one of the major industries in Ireland at that time. Both sides wanted a cut of the economic benefits that ensued from this lucrative industry but the Protestants viewed the steady encroachment of the Catholics into an Industry they saw as ‘theirs’ as something to be stamped out.


Tension had been building in the area for days and attempts at mediation had met with a certain level of success. The Protestants though were clearly being reinforced with weaponry as numbers of ‘off duty’ members of the Crown Forces arrived on the scene, which gave them a considerable advantage over their opponents in anything other than a melee. By the morning of Monday 21 September it looked like the situation had calmed down enough that hundreds of men from both sides gathered on the hills around the area would depart and bloodshed would be avoided.


But as dawn broke the Defenders, egged on by men who had marched for miles to help them, descended onto the crossroads itself and seized the homestead of Dan Winter, a local Protestant. Daniel Winter and his sons defended their property as long as possible, having to retreat to the Diamond Hill when the thatch was fired. This was the trigger for the engagement to begin in earnest. The Protestants lined up their musket men along the brow of the hill and proceeded to open fire on the Catholics gathered around the Diamond.

From this position, they gained three crucial advantages: the ability to comfortably rest their muskets, allowing for more accurate shooting; and a steep up-hill location which made it hard for attackers to scale; and a direct line-of-sight to Winter's cottage which the Defenders made their rallying point. It was all over very fast with the Defenders been cut down in droves in what in effect was a Massacre. Perhaps as many as 30 Catholics lay dead and many scores more were wounded. The Defenders then fled taking as many of their injured men with them as they could carry.

In the aftermath of the ‘battle’, the Peep o' Day Boys retired to James Sloans inn in Loughgall, and it was here that James Wilson, Dan Winter, and James Sloan would found the Orange Order with the stated aim of ‘defending the King and his heirs so long as he supported the Protestant Ascendancy’.

In the months that followed and through the winter of 1795-1796 hundreds of Catholic houses were attacked, people killed and injured and their linen looms destroyed in what became known as the 'Armagh Outrages’. It is estimated that over 7,000 Catholic men, women and children were driven from their homes in an orgy of violence - never to return. The effects of that fateful encounter at the Diamond in County Armagh are still with us to this day.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Anna, photographed by Henry O'Shea, Limerick (c. 1878). Fanny, in ‘mid-western' costume (1878)

20 September 1911: Anna Catherine Parnell [above] died on this day. She was the estranged sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Parliamentary Leader who tried so hard to gain Home Rule for Ireland.

When her brother was campaigning in America for the Land League in 1879/1880 she and her feisty older sister Fanny Parnell [below] used their own vehicle to help the peasants of Ireland in their fight to break the power of the Landlords of Ireland. This was the New York Ladies’ Land League that Fanny had set up in the USA to help her brother’s fund raising campaign over there. This was used in a successful campaign which raised thousands of dollars for transmission to Ireland.

On Anna’s return to Dublin in late 1880 and at the suggestion of Michael Davitt it was decided to set up a similar structure back Home. Thus on 31 January 1881 the Ladies’ Irish National Land League was founded, with Anna Parnell as its effective leader. Not everyone was happy about this or its usefulness to the Cause.  However they grew rapidly, with more than five hundred branches of the Ladies’ Land League throughout Ireland by the beginning of 1882.

But things changed radically in October 1881 when Parnell was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham jail Dublin. With most of the male leaders imprisoned or on the run the LLL took over what effective help could be given to the hard pressed followers of the League’s programme, namely that of securing ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’ by a programme of peaceful and constitutional action.

With the Leadership behind bars the shadow of 'Captain Moonlight' was soon felt in the fields and villages of Ireland as Agrarian agitation took hold. This was the field that Anna and her League pushed to the limits without going over the line. To some though their tactics were just a bit  too radical for some people’s liking. Some rejected them and some protected them. It is true that they spent money profusely to push as hard as they could to force the hand of the British Government to relent - and break the grip of the Landlords to the ownership of so much of the Land of Ireland. But under the circumstances where time was of the essence they might have felt justified in doing so.

When Charles S Parnell was released in May 1882 under the terms of the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ the Ladies League felt somewhat betrayed by its terms. Charles had never really felt comfortable with the idea of women being involved in politics - then an exclusively male affair. He examined the books kept by Anna of the records of her organisation and found them wanting. The LLL had run up debts of some £40,000! Charles then made his sister an offer she could not refuse: In return for paying off its debts the League was to be wound up and disbanded. Anna had no choice but to agree. But she never forgave her brother.

That year was to bring more heartbreak as her beloved sister Fanny passed away at an early age in the USA. Anna and Fanny shared with Charles a keen interest in Irish nationalism, and at the age of sixteen Fanny published her first poems in the Fenian newspaper, The Irish People. She became a prolific author of verse, much of it on patriotic themes, and her most famous poem, ‘Hold the harvest’, published in 1880, was described as the ‘Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.’ However, her health was poor and, though politically committed, much of her short life was spent out of Ireland.

But when Fanny died  her spirit was broken and she drifted away from Ireland and Irish politics. Charles tried at a reconciliation but she was having none of it and indeed cut him when once their paths afterwards inadvertently crossed. She did though publicly defend her brothers political reputation in the wake of the Kitty O’Shea divorce scandal and his subsequent Downfall and death in 1891. She forayed briefly into an Irish bye election in Longford in 1908 but was disillusioned  with the way she was treated.

She drifted from place to place in England under a multitude of assumed names and lived in a state of genteel poverty for much of it. She engaged in intermittent correspondence with political sympathisers back home but she became something of a Recluse. Very few of her acquaintances in the towns of England had a clue who she was and her relationship to Ireland’s fight for justice. She was however moved to write her own account of her role in the momentous events of the early 1880s that she had such a prominent but brief role in shaping. It was called The Tale of a Great Sham. However try as she might she could never find a publisher willing to cover the costs of publishing it. Indeed it was only in 1986 that a long lost copy was found and finally saw print.

After many moves in 1910 she re-located to the picturesque north Devon town of Ilfracombe where she went under the name of ‘Cerisa Palmer’. She had an early interest in art and indeed had been a painter of some merit in her early years. Perhaps that was why she moved to this spot to see out her last years. Her end came on a beach there on 20 September 1911 when she was drowned while swimming in the sea. She was 59 years old. A few days later she was buried in a local churchyard not as Anna Parnell but under her assumed name of ‘Cerisa Palmer’.

Katherine Tynan the Irish novelist and writer wrote of her a few years later, ‘her life ought to have been written, for she was a great woman, and yet I think that she herself would have preferred that her name be writ in water.’

And indeed while Anna was largely written out of Irish History it can hardly be denied that she played a part in  her virtual disappearance from its pages.




Monday, 19 September 2016


19 September 1836: Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, was consecrated on this day. The name of the cemetery comes from an estate established there by the Reverend Stephen Jerome, then vicar of St. Kevin's Parish. Opened on a forty-seven acre site in Harold's Cross, by the General Cemetery Company of Dublin (which was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1837).

Mount Jerome was the first privately owned cemetery in Ireland, when it first opened in 1836. It is one of the most impressive of Dublin's cemeteries. Mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, Mount Jerome was the burial ground for many of Dublin's Protestant businessmen and their families. It has witnessed over 300,000 burials but it was not until the 1920's that the first Catholic burials took place there. Mount Jerome has a large number of highly ornate crypts and memorials. A series of sunken roads throughout the grounds allows for below ground access to many of the crypts.

Many well-known people are buried there. There is a large plot to the deceased members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) & the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and the remains of the French Huguenots from the St Stephens Green Cemetery, as are also prominent members of the Guinness family. Amongst its more notable internees are: Sir William Wilde, Thomas Davis, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, John Millington Synge, Æ (George Russell), Jack B. Yeats, Sir William Rowan Hamilton and George Petrie.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

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18 September 1961: Some 150 Irish soldiers quartered near the town of Jadotville Congo were led away into captivity on this day. They had been besieged for eight  days in their isolated position and their CO - Commandant Patrick Quinlan - had concluded that their position was hopeless. The night before  he had agreed with the besiegers to lay down arms and accept their offer of ‘protection’. As dawn broke that morning the men of ‘A’ Company awoke to a new reality, rather than been respected Peacekeepers of the United Nations they were effectively POWS of the breakaway Congolese province of Katanga.

It was a sorry saga and one that should never have happened. Reports had reached UN Headquarters in Elizabethville in early September that the White population in Jadotville were been subjected to harassment and molestation. It was decided to despatch a Company of UN soldiers to maintain order there and keep the peace - a mission that fell to ‘A’ Company of the Irish Army to carry out. However on arrival Comdt. Quinn was told by both Black and White residents that their presence was not required - as there was no trouble there to subdue. But the situation was tense - very tense. They were clearly not wanted there and they were refused entry to the town and their position was encircled by the Katangese forces.

Then un-beknownest to the Irish garrison the UN HQ in Elizabethville had decided to engage in what turned out to be a ham fisted attempt - Operation Morthor - to  disband and disarm the Katangese rebel government of Mr Tshombe in that city. Retaliation was swift and brutal. The first the Irish in Jadotville knew that things and gone from tense to outright warfare was when on the morning of Wednesday 13th September as Mass was being heard the Katangese Gendarmie launched a series of attacks on their positions.

For the next five days the Irish held their ground even though they were surrounded by thousands of their enemies. If they had one factor in their favour it was that the Katangese Gendarmie were not a professional fighting force but a heavily armed police one. Still they had enough weaponry in machine guns, mortars and the assistance of a jet fighter-bomber to make the Irish know that they were a lethal threat to them. They also had the assistance of White officer mercenaries. But the biggest factor that made the situation hopeless if they were not promptly relieved was a very simple one - WATER! For without that no man can last more than a few days and expect to survive. In the heat of the Congo that was even more so. The besiegers cut the mains into the camp and after that it could only be a matter of time.

Relief attempts were soon organised from Elizabethville but the problem was there was only one road that led from there to Jadotville. Progress was made along it until the relief column reached the bridge over the river Lufira. Here the Katangese had blocked the bridge and lined up men along the riverbank to stop any force from breaking through. The Irish along with allied troops from the Indian and Swedish armies did all they could to storm the bridge but each attempt was beaten back. By Sunday it was obvious that the bridge could not be taken with the forces available. Rescue by air was out of the question as the enemy had air superiority in that they had one aircraft and the UN had none!

Serious negotiations began on Saturday when the Mayor of Jadotville Mr Munongo proposed terms. There would be a Ceasefire & joint patrols, the water would be turned back on, the jet would be grounded and the UN allowed to patrol the town. But it quickly became clear that the terms were not going to be kept.

We played a delaying game as long as we could on that Sunday, hoping against hope that reinforcements would arrive as we negotiated a definite ceasefire. I hoped that we would get a written ceasefire but soon Munongo was demanding surrender and only surrender terms, otherwise the final onslaught would begin. I  realised that our situation had become hopeless and that there was no prospect of relief arriving in time. I knew too that if I continued my men would be massacred by a vastly superior force so I agreed to the terms.

Commandant Patrick Quinlan

Under the Blue Flag by Raymond Smith

Thus ended the ‘Siege of Jadotville’ where the Irish Army held off thousands of enemies for five long days. The men were held in captivity until 25 October when they were handed back to the UN in a prisoner exchange. Their conditions of captivity ranged from good to fair to bad and sometimes to the point that their lives were in immediate danger - but they all made it out alive.

However surrender and captivity is never an easy burden for any soldier or Army to bear and when the men returned home there was a stigma attached to them by some - none more so on the head of Commandant Patrick Quinlan. He had been put in an impossible situation by UN HQ and was effectively ‘up the creek without a paddle’ in Jadotville. There is no doubt his career suffered as a result and it is only in recent years that it is accepted that the decision he had to take was the correct one. For at the end of the day all the men he led in battle made it back home. There are now only a few survivors left of those events so long ago but finally their grit, courage and determination has at last been recognised for their heroic stand at Jadotville back in 1961.



Saturday, 17 September 2016


17 September 1860: Men of the Irish Battalion of St. Patrick of the Papal army fought a Piedmontese army under the command of General Brignone at Spoleto, Italy on this day. Spoleto is a walled city south of Florence with the fortress of Rocca on the side of a hill. Three companies of the Battalion of St. Patrick (312 soldiers & 15 officers) under the Battalion Commander, Major Myles O'Reilly (County Louth) were stationed there. Major O'Reilly commanded 645 men in total at Spoleto including 150 Italians, 160 Swiss, and 24 Franco-Belgians.

In spite of a long and heavy bombardment, the advancing Piedmontese troops were met with a withering fire by the Irish on the walls that stopped them in their tracks. However the bishop of Spoleto, distraught at the destruction and the loss of life, arranged a cease-fire. O'Reilly was nearly out of ammunition at that anyway. A Papal representative was sent to General Brignone and surrender terms were arranged. Brignone described O'Reilly as "both honourable and brave" and allowed the Irish to march out as prisoners with officers retaining their swords.

Given the task of protecting the North Wall and the vital Gate House of the majestic Castle Albornozian, the Irish performed with distinction, holding their ground and the gate for 14 hours despite heavy hand-to-hand fighting and under constant bombardment from General Brigonne's field artillery. After withstanding repeated attacks, Major O'Reilly eventually negotiated a favorable surrender when reinforcements had become unlikely.

http://www.thewildgeese.com/pages/popeirb2.html

For their service, each officer and enlisted man was awarded a commemorative service medal—Medaglia di Pro Petri Sede— [above] and all those who fought were declared ‘meritorious of the Catholic Church, the Holy See and all human society’.




Friday, 16 September 2016

Glen Imaal Memorial

16 September 1941: Sixteen Irish Officers & men were killed while training in the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow on this day. The Glen was and still is the main training and testing ground for the Irish Army. At the time of the tragedy the State had expanded its Army to meet any threat of invasion from either side in the Second World War. The troops involved in that days training were from an anti aircraft battalion based in Kildare. 

They were being instructed in the use of anti tank weapons. What quite what happened no one now knows. But a warning was shouted that ‘you have seven seconds’ which suggests that the officer handling the thing sensed something had gone horribly wrong - too late! While 16 officers and soldiers were killed another three men were blinded for life and one went deranged and shot a man to death.

Survivor Sergeant Richie Lennon described the fateful accident:

I heard the bang and I was carried was carried about 100 yards further...when I got up and went over you didn’t know who to render assistance to, it was an awful sight.

In 1958 a stained glass window commemorating the sixteen dead was installed in the Garrison Church in McKee Barracks. In September 1986, a memorial was unveiled in the Glen of Imaal, consisting of sixteen rick-stones and sixteen Mountain Ash trees arranged in a semi-circle around a 14 ton basalt monolith. A polished granite plaque on the monolith names the dead:

Lt John Brierton
Lt John Fennessy
Lt Thomas O’Neill
Lt Michael McLoughlin
CS Patrick MacMahon
Sgt Michael Scullion
Sgt Thomas Stokes
Cpl Edward Kennedy
Cpl William Shannon
Cpl Denis Cleary
Cpl Colm Heffernan
Cpl John Taylor
Gnr John Murphy
Gnr James McDonnell
Gnr Gerard O’Hagan
Gnr James Osborne


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Image result for Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork


15 September 1643: The death of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork on this day. He was a classic Elizabethan ‘adventurer’ who seeked his Fortune in Ireland and outsmarted his enemies and rivals to become the richest man in Ireland and a power to be reckoned with both here and in England. He has been called an 'epitome of Elizabethan adventurer-colonist in Ireland'
Modern Ireland by R.F.Foster

Boyle was born at Canterbury in England on 3 October 1566 to a family with some means to their name but not enough that their ambitious son could expect to rely on them to pay his way in this World. Before completing his studies, Boyle decided "to gain learning, knowledge, and experience abroad in the world’ and left London for a new start in Ireland. He arrived in Dublin on 23 June 1588.

He proceeded to work his way up the ladder of public administration of English Rule over Ireland which was characterised by patronage, guile and corruption. It was a milieu well suited to the talents of Richard Boyle and one within which he made many enemies on his climb to the top. He was thrown into prison several times once on charges of fraud. He was also on one occasion charged with collusion with the Spanish – which was almost certainly false. But all his efforts came to naught in 1598 when the province of Munster (where he had most of his holdings) rose in Revolt against the English and he lost everything.

Forced to explain himself before the notorious Star Chamber in London he was lucky that Queen Elizabeth herself was in attendance that day and thought him hard done by. She famously said: "By God's death, these are but inventions against the young man" and she also said he was "a man fit to be employed by ourselves".

He was immediately appointed Clerk of the Council of Munster by Elizabeth I in 1600. In December 1601, Boyle brought to Elizabeth the news of the victory near Kinsale that gave the English Victory in the Nine Years War.

He was returned as a Member of Parliament for Lismore in 1614 and ascended to the Irish Peerage as Lord Boyle, Baron of Youghal, 6 September 1616, and was created Earl of Cork 26 October 1620. In 1629 he was appointed as a Lord Justice and in1631 he became the Lord Treasurer of Ireland.

All the time he was building up his land bank in Ireland, particularly in Munster and amassing a fortune through developing towns and estates that he planted with immigrants from England - when he could get them to come over. The town of Clonakilty was founded in 1613 by Richard Boyle when he received a charter from King James I. He acquired the town of Bandon in 1625 and other towns developed included Midleton, Castlemartyr, Charleville and Doneraile.

However in the 1630s he fell out with the new Viceroy Thomas Wentworth who viewed him as an over mighty subject who needed to be put in his place. He connived to bring Wentworth down as a man who was ‘A most cursed man to all Ireland and to me in particular.’ When Wentworth went before the axe in 1640 Richard Boyle might have thought his troubles were over but in 1641 the Irish again rose in revolt and once again Boyle risked the loss of everything he had built up. One of his sons was killed in battle at this time. He retreated to his fortified residence at Youghal and there waited out his last days.


His mansion in Dublin, on the site of the present City Hall, gave the name to Cork-hill.While the 1st Earl's remains are interred in a vault in Youghal there is another one in St Patricks Cathedral Dublin to his 2nd wife Catherine Fenton. Their brilliant son Robert Boyle is known as the 'Father of Modern Chemistry’. But Richard Boyle of Canterbury - the 1St Earl of Cork - was a man that took hold of an opportunity when he saw one - regardless of the legal niceties in his way. He lived by the family motto he had decided upon: "God's providence is my inheritance.".






Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Image result for kathleen lynn
14 September 1955: Doctor Kathleen Florence Lynn died on this day. Dr Lynn was Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen Army garrison that seized Dublin City Hall on 24 April 1916.

She was born in Killala, Co Mayo on 28 January 1874. She was the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector and at a young age decided to become a Doctor. She studied for her Degree at Royal University of Ireland in Dublin. After spending some years in the USA she returned home and after much trying secured a place with the Royal Eye & Ear hospital becoming the first female doctor to be taken on there. She also ran a private practice from her home at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines. It was through her contacts there that she became involved in Revolutionary politics. She supported the workers during the Dublin Lockout in 1913, and became a friend and supporter of James Connolly.

During Easter Week she was taken prisoner by the British but they were at a loss what to do with her as she did not fit the typical profile of an Irish ‘Rebel’. After a few weeks of captivity she was deported to England and sent to work with a Doctor in Bath. By the end of the year, she was back at her home in Rathmines, re-establishing her practice.

In 1917, she became one of four women members of the national executive committee of Sinn Fein. She campaigned for Constance Markievicz in the general election of 1918 and was one of five women elected to the Dáil in 1923 but as an abstentionist in opposition to the Treaty she did not take her seat. She was a member of Rathmines Urban District Council and vice-president of the Irish Women Workers' Union.

But perhaps her greatest contribution was in the work of dedicated and profesional care for very young sick infants. In 1919 Lynn together with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen (her life long companion) and a number of other politically-active medical women founded St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in Charlemont Street, Dublin. At that time in Dublin, infant mortality was 150 per 1,000 births and there was extensive malnutrition among the general populace.

The initial focus of the hospital was on treating those suffering from malnutrition and syphilitic infants due to an epidemic of that disease amongst the poorest of working class Dubliners - probabaly spread by returning soldiers disbanded after the end of the First World War. They started with a Capital of some $200 and Then we worked – and worked. By 1925 they had a hospital with 25 beds where babies could be treated and had set up what was practically a dispensary to teach mothers how to care for their babies at home.

Today her hospital is now long gone, closing back in the 1980s. But she was a lifelong campaigner for women’s and workers’ rights. Kathleen Lynn has been described as one of the great Irish humanitarians of the 20th Century. Her influence extended throughout Irish society with her work in hospital medicine, her fight against poverty and disease, her career as a politician and as a lifelong social revolutionary. From 1916 she kept extensive diaries of her life and work which are now housed in the archives of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

On her death she was given a full military funeral as befitted one who had fought for Irish Freedom in 1916. That and her work in the years thereafter to alleviate the sufferings of the little children from the streets of Dublin means that she deserves her place in the Pantheon of 20th Century Irish Women how strove to make Ireland a better place for her People.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016


13 September 908 AD: The Battle of Belach Mugna/Cath Belach Mugna was fought on this day. (Bellaghmoon, in the south of modern County Kildare). In this engagement the Bishop-King of Cashel, King Cormac mac Cuilennáin, was thoroughly defeated while trying to extract tribute from the King of Leinster [Laigan]. He invaded the Leinster territory expecting an easy victory but the King of Tara, one Flann Sinna of the southern O’Neills, was not prepared to see the land of Leinster under anyone’s thumb but his own. In alliance with the King of Connacht he led a relief expedition into Leinster and in a great battle the combined forces of Connacht, Leinster and the O’Neills of Meath routed the forces of King Cormac who was unhorsed and beheaded.

The Munster men entered the battle at a distinct numerical disadvantage of which they were acutely aware of. Information had reached their camp in the woods that King Flann Sinna of Tara had brought his army south to reinforce King Cerball, King of Leinster . This was in order to ward off the threat to this kingdom. In addition King Cathal of Connacht came from the west with his host to support Flann Sinna, who he acknowledged as his High King. It looks like the Munstermen came out of their wooded enclosure and formed up for battle with the Wood at their backs. This may well have been a deliberate tactical decision as that way they could not be taken in the rear and such a disposition would make it difficult for their flanks to be turned.


Then the men of Munster sounded trumpets and battle cries, and proceeded to Mag Ailbe [Co Carlow]. They were waiting for their enemies with their backs to a dense wood. The men of Munster formed themselves into three equally large, equally extensive battalions: Flaithbertach son of Inmainén and Cellach son of Cerball, king of Osraige, leading the first battalion; Cormac son of Cuilennán, the king of Munster, leading the middle Munster battalion; Cormac son of Mothla, king of the Déissi, and the king of Ciarraige, and kings of many other tribes of West Munster in the third battalion.

Fragmentary Annals of Ireland


In the event the battle quickly became a rout. When the battle was joined, many important Munstermen began to desert. Cormac himself attempted to flee but fell from his horse and broke his neck. King Cellach mac Cerbaill of the Osraige [Kilkenny] too was amongst the slain along with a large number of prominent nobles.


In the aftermath of the battle his Cormac's head was offered to King Flann as a trophy but the King of Tara refused to dishonour his noble opponent. He took the head and kissed it and had it brought in all solemnity to be reunited with its torso. Cormac’s mortal remains were then given to Bishop Móenach who had the body interred at the Monastery of Dísert Diarmata [Castle Dermot, Co Kildare]. Móenach had tried to mediate between the warring sides prior to the battle but without success.

This was one of the most important battles in Ireland for a long time as Cormac’s death severely weakened the grip of the Eoghanachta - the extended royal family that had ruled Munster for centuries. Their power had been slipping and now the weakness of their line was out in the open. Within a few more decades their power was no more and Munster had new rulers with bigger agendas.

A battle was fought between the men of Mumu, the Leth Cuinn, and the Laigin in Mag Ailbi on the feast of Dagán of Inber Dáile, i.e. on Tuesday the Ides 13th of September, the thirteenth of the moon, and Cormac son of Cuilennán, king of Caisel, was killed there together with other distinguished kings. These are: Fogartach son of Suibne, king of Ciarraige, Cellach son of Cerball, king of Osraige, Ailill son of Eógan, superior of the Trian of Corcach, and Colmán, superior of Cenn Eitig. Flann son of Mael Sechnaill, king of Temair, Cerball son of Muirecán, king of Laigin, and Cathal son of Conchobor, king of Connacht, were victors.

Annals of Ulster

Monday, 12 September 2016


12 September 1528: James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V  requesting military assistance against the English. The Earl was a very rich and influential Anglo-Irish Magnate whose family were descended from the Anglo-Norman Lords who came over at the time of the attempted Conquest of Ireland in the 12th Century.

But he and many of his associates were deeply troubled at the turn of events in England as King Henry VIII sought to expand his power in Ireland by subduing the Great Lords of Ireland to his will. The Earl of Desmond was of the opinion that the English feared a prophecy that one day that Country would be conquered by one of his family - and in his eyes his family was a Royal one. He certainly was a very powerful man who ruled over much of the south west of Ireland and controlled three out of the four major ports of the island - namely Cork, Waterford and Limerick. Only Dublin was beyond his reach. His word was Law in his own lands and none dare oppose him except on peril of death.

The Emperor commissioned his chaplain Gonzalvo Fernandez to visit Ireland and report back on character and strength of this Earl from across the seas who so desperately sought his help against the King of England. He reported back on his mission to Dingle, of the resources of the country, of the demeanour of the Earl, and his reasons for hostility. He stated that:

'The Earl himself is from thirty to forty years old, and is rather above the middle height. He keeps better justice throughout his dominions than any other chief in Ireland. Robbers and homicides find no mercy, and are executed out of hand. His people are in high order and discipline. They are armed with short bows and swords. The Earl's guard are in a mail from neck to heel, and carry halberds. He has also a number of horse, some of whom know how to break a lance. They all ride admirably, without saddle or stirrup.'

Gonzalvo Fernandez

Dingle 28 April 1529

The proud Earl added his own words to this appeal, stating that he could put over 16,000 men in the field but was in need of cannon to take the castles of the English.

And for myself, I promise on my Faith to obey your Majesty in all things. I will be friend of your friends enemy of your enemies and your Majesty's especial and particular subject.

JAMES OF DESMOND

Charles V was the most powerful man in the World at that time ruling over a vast Empire stretching across much of western Europe and into the Americas. He was also a very devout Catholic with a deep suspicion and contempt for Protestantism. But in effect Charles V had too many problems of his own to deal with in Germany, Spain & with France and also against the Turks to be able to offer any effective aid to his co religionist in what was to him a far flung island in the Atlantic Ocean that could not really alter the Balance of Power in Europe.

However while this particular appeal to get outside help to resist the Crown of England’s attempt to dominate Ireland did not succeed it was by no means the last. Indeed such appeals for arms & finance from abroad has been a part and parcel of revolts against London right into the late 20th century.

In the event the Earl did not have long left in this World for he died at Dingle on 18 June 1529. He was buried alongside his father at Tralee, Co Kerry.


Sunday, 11 September 2016



11 September 1649: The Massacre at Drogheda/ Droichead Átha on this day.[above]* It was carried out by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. The town was protected by a circuit of walls four to six feet wide and twenty feet high that were studded by a number of guard towers. Sir Arthur Aston (an Englishman) was the commander of the Royalist garrison and was convinced he could hold the town against the Parliamentary Army.

But Cromwell had shipped over to Ireland a siege train that was put to work against the walls and within days had made a breach wide enough for the besiegers to risk a storming. By noon on 11 September, the heavy siege guns had blasted breaches in the southern and eastern walls and demolished the steeple of St Mary's Church. Around five o'clock that evening, Cromwell ordered the storming to begin.

The defenders put up a spirited defense and cost their attackers dear. In a furious passion, Cromwell ordered that no quarter was to be given. Catholic priests and friars were treated as combatants and killed on sight and many civilians died in the carnage as the ‘Roundheads' ran amuck.

About 3,000 men of the Royalist garrison, both Irish and English soldiers were killed with the majority being put to the sword after they had laid down their weapons. The few hundred taken alive were shipped as slaves to Barbados. Aston was bludgeoned to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers believed to be filled with gold coins.

Cromwell wrote afterwards that:

"I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds for such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret."

For the Honorable William Lenthall, Speaker of the Parliament of England. Dublin, 17th September, 1649.

Some of the defenders of  the town made it over the north wall that was deliberately left unguarded by Cromwell  and made their way to safety. There they related the horrendous events that took place in Drogheda on that infamous day. Within weeks the Royalist pamphleteers were reporting on the terrible events in this Irish town and the massacre of the garrison and its inhabitants. 

However while the numbers of defenders who were put to the sword is reasonably well established (circa 3,000) the numbers of inhabitants who died is a matter of conjecture.  What though the fate of the civilians caught within the walls when the town fell? Perhaps hundreds of Catholic inhabitants were put to the sword when the town was taken - maybe more... Cromwell himself admitted that ‘many inhabitants’ died.

There is no doubt that by the conventions of War as then practised in the 17th century that the attackers had the right to destroy any caught in arms after the walls had been breached. On this occasion that ‘right' was carried out to the hilt. We know that at that time when a town was Stormed that it could be put to the Sack - usually of three days duration - and that all property and persons within were at the mercy of the troops. Sacking of towns and cities during the 30 Years War in Germany (1618-1648) and indeed to some degree in the Civil Wars in Britain at that time showed what could happen once soldiers stormed a place.

There is no reason to expect that Cromwell’s men, fired up at seeing their companions fall in the taking of the place and filled with a deep desire for revenge against Irish Catholics over the events of 1641 would have behaved any better than to take, loot, kill and ravish what they considered the spoils of War.

* The view from the headquarters of Colonel John Hewson, in command of the attack on the eastern wall at the time of the second - and successful - assault on Drogheda. Gouache painting by Graham Turner

http://www.studio88.co.uk/acatalog/Ireland_1649-52.html