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Wednesday, 30 November 2016


30 November 3340 BC: The world's oldest known recording of a solar eclipse was made on stone.
The illustrations are found on the “Cairn L,” on Carbane West, at Loughcrew, outside Oldcastle, in County Meath. The landscape of rolling hills is littered with Neolithic monuments. Some say that originally there were at least 40 to 50 monuments, but others say the figure was more like 100.

They write that the Irish Neolithic astronomer priests recorded the events on three stones relating to the eclipse, as seen from that location. The date November 30th 3340 is the only one that fits with what could have been observed from that site in that age.

To the ancient Neolithic farmers of Ireland the observance of the changing skies was an important tool in determining the passage of the year and when to plant and harvest crops and stage their festivals to honour the Gods. An event like a Solar Eclipse would have been a fantastic event to them and something of a shocker to their calculations. No doubt that they would have seen this as an evil portent. Whether it proved so or not we of course do not know. However it proved an important enough event for them to carve a depiction of this celestial wonder in stone on the top of one of their most sacred sites.

Note: Irish archaeo -astronomer Paul Griffin has announced the confirmation of the world's oldest known solar eclipse recorded in stone, substantially older than the recordings made in 2800 BC by Chinese astronomers. This finding was made at the world's oldest lunar eclipse tracking multi cairn site at the Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument in Ireland, and corresponds to a solar eclipse which occurred on November 30, 3340 BC, calculated with The Digital Universe astronomy software.



Tuesday, 29 November 2016


29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that a relief force from Dublin was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill.



He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. The Irish troops actually engaged though were under the tactical command of one Colonel Plunkett on the day apparently. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Viscount Gormanstown that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into what was in effect an ambush. The Irish waited until the moment was ripe and then they uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless enemy cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came.




...the rebels forces who now furiously approached with a great shout and a lieutenant giving out the unhappy word of counter march all the men possessed as it were of a panic fear began somewhat confusedly to march back; but they were so much amazed with a second shout given by the rebels, who, seeing them in disorder followed close on, as not withstanding that they had gotten into a ground of great advantage, they could not be persuaded to stand a charge, but betook themselves to their heels, and so the rebels fell sharply on, as their manner is, upon the execution.

Bellings in Gilbert’s Irish Confederation



Prisoners were taken but according to Temple the attackers ‘spared very few or none that fell into their hands, but such as were Irish whose lives they preserved’

Sir John Temple The Irish Rebellion (London, 1646)



The commander of the Royalist force was Sir Patrick Wemyss, Scottish born but his mother was related to the Earls of Desmond. He was Captain-Lieutenant in the Army of King Charles I and was a close associate of the Earl of Ormond. He has left us the only known eye witness account of the battle. He wrote to Ormond on the following day:




I will now tell you of our misfortune. We lodged last night at Balrederie (Balrothery,), as my officers could not make the men march to Drogheda. We were informed that the enemy were upon us, but they did not fall on us. Next day on the march, we sent out scouts and saw a few rebels, but after crossing the Julanstowne bridge, I saw them advancing towards us in as good order as ever I saw any men. I viewed them all, and to my conjecture they were not less than 3,000 men....



I drew up the troops on their front, and told the captains that we were engaged in honour to charge them, and that I would charge them first with those horse I had. They promised faithfully to second me. But when I made the trumpet sound, the rebels advanced towards us in five great bodies of foot; the horse, being on both wings, a little advance before the foot; but just as I was going to charge, the troop cried unto me and told me the foot had left their officers, thrown down their arms, and took themselves to running. It was useless to fight, so I withdrew as best I could and escaped with a loyal remnant to Drogheda.



Two of my troop whose horses went lame were left behind. I hear however that they are safe, except for their clothes, which were taken from them, not by the rebels, but by natives as they passed through the village. All our arms and ammunition are in the rebel's hands. We can get no food here for man or horse.
Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1641


The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Catholic Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants. This was a real catalyst in the history of Ireland as it was the first time that the people descended from the English colonisers of the 12/13th centuries had come together in a common cause with the native Gaelic Irish.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Image result for anna haslam


28 November 1922: Anna Haslam Irish campaigner for Women's Rights died on this day. Anna was born in Youghal, the 16th of 17 children of Jane and Abraham Fisher. The Fishers, Quaker merchants with extensive business interests in Youghal, were noted for charitable works, particularly during the Great Famine.

She was one the earliest campaigners for the Rights of Women in this Country. She was born Anna Maria Fisher in Youghal , Co Cork in 1829 into a family of Quakers. She met her  husband Thomas Haslam when as a young adult she was teachng in Yorkshire, England. Thomas was also interested in political & social reform and hailed from Mountmellick, Co Laois. Anna and Thomas Haslam [above] married on 20 March 1854 in the Cork Registry Office. They had no children, perhaps by choice.

Anna and Thomas Haslam were founding members of the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association (DWSA) in 1876. Though they were not practising Quakers they retained a deep commitment to the pursuit of political reform by exclusively peaceful methods. They engaged in a campaign of drawing room meetings from their Dublin home in Rathmines road and continous letter writing to those public figures they believed could help to bring about votes for women and an improvement of their Status within Society. Anna could write up to 20 letters a day without difficulty. They also went to feminist meetings both in Ireland and England to lend support to like minded activists.

Success though was limited but not altogether without results as very slowly support grew for the concept that women should be allowed some say in the running of Public Affairs. The big breakthrough came with the Local Government Act 1898 which allowed women of property to sit on local councils. In 1903 she travelled to Holborn, London to attend a major conference on Women’s Rights. However by the early years of the century a more militant type of feminism was emerging and more violent and and senationalist method were espoused.

The  Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL), a more militant organisation was formed in 1908. One of its founders Margaret Cousins recalled:

So a group of us went on November 6th to the dear old leader of the constitutional suffragetttes. Mrs Anna Haslam, to inform her that we younger women were ready to start a new women’s suffarage society on militant lines. She regretted what she felt  to be a duplication of effort’
Ireland’s Suffragettes by Sarah Beth Watkins

Hannah was getting on in years by then and younger more militant women were taking the reins from her. Her beloved husband died in 1917 and the political upheavals at home left her perplexed and confused as she saw Ireland’s future as best served by staying within the UK.
She died in November 1922 as the State was plunged into Civil War - her death un-noticed exept by the faithful few. Today though her life and work along with that of her husband are commemorated by a stone seat in St Stephen’s Green Dublin.

Sunday, 27 November 2016


27 November 789 AD: Saint Vergilius (Fergal) the Irish missionary and astronomer died at Salzburg, Austria on this day. He was said to have been a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. His original Christian name was Fergal. In the "Annals of the Four Masters" and the "Annals of Ulster" he is mentioned as Abbot of Aghaboe, in County Laois. He left Ireland, intending to visit the Holy land, but he made it no further than Paris where Pepin, then mayor of the Palace under Childeric III, received him with great favour. After spending two years at Cressy, near Compiegne, he went to Bavaria, at the invitation of Duke Otilo, and within a year or two was made Abbot of St. Peter's at Salzburg. Out of humility, he "concealed his orders", and had a bishop named Dobdagrecus, a fellow countryman, appointed to perform his episcopal functions for him. It was while Abbot of St. Peter's that he came into collision with St. Boniface. A priest having, through ignorance, conferred the Sacrament of Baptism using, in place of the correct formula, the words Baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritu sancta", Vergilius held that the sacrament had been validly conferred. Boniface complained to Pope Zachary. The latter, however, decided in favour of Vergilius.


Later on, St. Boniface accused Vergilius of teaching a doctrine in regard to the rotundity of the earth, which was:

"Contrary to the Scriptures". Pope Zachary's decision in this case was that "if it be proved that he held the said doctrine, a council be held, and Vergilius expelled from the Church and deprived of his priestly dignity"

Unfortunately we no longer possess the treatise in which Vergilius expounded his doctrine. Two things, however, are certain: first, that there was involved the problem of original sin and the universality of redemption; secondly, that Vergilius succeeded in freeing himself from the charge of teaching a doctrine contrary to Scripture. It is likely that Boniface misunderstood him, taking it for granted, perhaps, that if there are antipodes*, the "other race of men" are not descendants of Adam and were not redeemed by Christ. Vergilius, no doubt, had little difficulty in showing that his doctrine did not involve consequences of that kind.

After the martyrdom of St. Boniface, Vergilius was made Bishop of Salzburg (766 or 767) and laboured successfully for the up building of his diocese as well as for the spread of the Faith in neighbouring heathen countries, especially in Carinthia.. In 1233 he was canonized by Gregory IX. His doctrine that the Earth is a sphere was derived from the teaching of ancient geographers, and his belief in the existence of the antipodes was probably influenced by the accounts, which the ancient Irish voyagers gave of their journeys.

* The antipodes of any place on the Earth is the point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points that are antipodal to each other are connected by a straight line running through the centre of the Earth


Saturday, 26 November 2016



26 November 1972: Dramatic and bloody events occurred in the City of Dublin on this day: A Bombing was carried out on a crowded City Centre cinema. There was also the arrest and imprisonment for contempt of Court of one Kevin O’Kelly, a well known RTE journalist, plus an unsuccessful attempt by the IRA to rescue one of their top men, Seán Mac Stiofáin [above], from the Mater Hospital in the north inner City.


At 1.25 a.m. a bomb exploded in a laneway connecting Burgh Quay to Leinster Market. It was placed beside the rear exit door of the Film Centre cinema, O’Connell Bridge House. A late film was in progress: there were 3 staff and approximately 156 patrons in the cinema at the time of the explosion. No one was killed in the blast, but some 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment. It is believed that agent provocateurs sent over from Britain were responsible for this attack.


The events leading to O’Kelly and Mac Stiofáin’s arrests had begun on Sunday 19 November when RTE Radio broadcast a report based on an interview by Kevin O'Kelly with the IRA Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stiofáin. The leading Republican figure had been apprehended soon afterwards and brought before the Courts. O'Kelly was found guilty of contempt of Court when, during the conduct of the trial of Mac Stiofáin, he refused to identify the defendant as the subject of that interview.


The IRA Leader had embarked upon a Hunger Strike soon after he was arrested. He was convicted of being ‘a member of an unlawful organisation’ and as his condition was deteriorating he was sent to the Mater Hospital where he was to be placed under observation. That Sunday afternoon a crowd of about seven thousand people had gathered outside the GPO and marched to the hospital to demand his release. Later that night a rescue party of eight IRA men, two disguised as Priests and the others as Hospital Doctors tried to free Mac Stiofáin but were themselves captured. Two of the men had guns, and shots were exchanged with Special Branch detectives, resulting in minor injuries to a detective, two civilians and one of the raiders.

The Prisoner was then transferred by helicopter to the Curragh General Military Hospital to serve the rest of his six month sentence - while his erstwhile rescuers were each sent down for seven years for their audacity when they in turn faced the Courts.


Friday, 25 November 2016


25 November 1913: The foundation of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda, Dublin on this day. The aim of the new organisation was to counter the Ulster Volunteers in providing a similar force for Irish nationalists in the event of an armed confrontation over Home Rule. The first President was Eoin MacNeill but it drew support from a wide spectrum of Irish nationalist opinion.

The idea arose from an article he wrote some weeks previously in An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light], an Irish language newspaper. His proposal was called ‘The North began’. In it MacNeill put forward the idea that a Force be established that would counter the formation of the UVF in the North. He intended to ensure that Irish Nationalism was not left unarmed and vulnerable as the political situation developed. It estimated that some 7,000 people went to the Rotunda’s Large Concert hall that night, with some 4,000 inside and another 3,000 outside. The meeting was called with the specific intention of raising a National Volunteer Force to be called ‘The Irish Volunteers’. In the Notices issued around Dublin in advance of the meeting it was stated that:

The purpose of the Irish Volunteers will be to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.

The new organisation quickly mushroomed and by April 1914 it was estimated to have around 80,000 members and by July that year some 160,000 men had signed up but only a few thousands had any weapons with which to fight. Nevertheless such a formidable body of public opinion could not be easily ignored by the British Government and all the indicators were that a bloody clash of arms was imminent in the late summer of 1914 between the Nationalist and Unionist armed camps over the thorny issue of Partition.

Only the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 precluded what otherwise would have been a Civil War here. The Irish Volunteers then split on the question of involvement in the Conflict with most though by no means all following John Redmond’s call for enlistment in the British Army while a core membership remained under MacNeill’s nominal control.



Thursday, 24 November 2016



24 November 1865: The dramatic rescue of James Stephens of the IRB from the Richmond Prison [above], Dublin on this day. The Fenian Leader was rescued from Richmond Prison in Dublin after only a few weeks captivity. He had been held only a few weeks when his escape was organised from without and within the prison itself. Inside the Richmond were John J. Breslin who was a hospital warder and a Daniel Byrne, an ordinary warder. The two men were sworn members of the I.R.B. and willing to help. On the outside the acting leader of the Organisation was Colonel Thomas Kelly and he helped put together a support team from within the Fenians to ensure that once on the outside Stephens remained free. At great risk Breslin managed to take wax impressions of the two keys he needed, one for Stephens cell, which was held in the Governors office and another for one of the outer doors. On the night of the actual rescue everything went according to plan. Only one other prisoner (a common criminal) was incarcerated on the same wing as Stephens and he wisely kept his mouth shut.

Once outside Stephens was ushered away to a safe house in the Summerhill area of the City where he remained for a number of months. The British put a price of £1,000 on his head but even this amount did not yield any informer willing to betray him. He eventually he made his way to Paris where he lived for many years and after a brief stay in Switzerland he returned home in 1891 and was left undisturbed by the Castle. He died in 1901.

It is curious to note that his escape from incarceration was an event that many Irish People at the time erroneously believed to have been acquiesced in by the British Government of the day. It was certainly an easy triumph for Irish Republicans that hugely embarrassed the occupying power.

The locale of Richmond Prison later became Wellington Barracks and after Independence was known as Griffith Barracks. Today the site is occupied by Griffith College on the South Circular Rd, Dublin.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016


23 November 1867: Execution of the Manchester Martyrs William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien. They were publicly hanged for their alleged role in the rescue of Fenian prisoners in which a Constable Brett was fatally wounded. Although neither Larkin, Allen and O’Brien had fired the fatal shot nor had they had any intention to kill anybody, they were hanged as accessories to the death of the policeman.

The martyrs were hanged in front of the New Bailey prison in Salford, Manchester. Part of the wall was removed so that the public could witness the event. The morning of their execution was a cold and foggy one. Large crowds, marshalled by police and troops had assembled to witness the spectacle. Shortly after 8 O’Clock the men were led out and hanged, the bodies dropping out of sight into the pit below and out of sight of the onlookers.

They were buried in quicklime in Strangeways Prison. Today they rest in a mass grave in Blackley Cemetery, Plot number C.2711. Manchester. Their noble stand in the dock and on the gallows inspired T. D. Sullivan to pen the famous ballad ‘God save Ireland’.


When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral processions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O'Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Co Offaly.


It was widely felt amongst the Irish both at home and abroad that these men were wrongly hanged as it was not their intention to kill and nor had they. The brave and courageous stand they took in the Dock and upon the Gallows inspired Irish People around the World and helped to restore morale in the wake of the abortive Rising of 1867.

Ironically the first prisoner to utter these immortal words was one O'Meagher Condon who had his death sentence commuted to Life Imprisonment while another man Thomas Maguire was released from captivity as the case against him was so poor even the English Media felt he should be set free.
Numerous monuments were erected to the Martyrs in the wake of their deaths across Ireland incl a symbolic grave to these brave men in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


The famous song, which their sacrifice gave birth to, opens with the lines:


High upon the gallows tree, swung the noble-hearted three,
By the vengeful tyrant, stricken in their bloom.
But they met him face to face with the courage of their race,
And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.

"God save Ireland," said the heroes.
"God save Ireland," said them all.
"Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,
No matter when, for Ireland dear we fall!"



 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


22 November 1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas on this day. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and he was the youngest to die. He was hardly past his first thousand days in office. His great grandparents hailed from Co Wexford and had fled Ireland in the 1840s to Boston, Massachusetts.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."


His untimely and brutal death triggered a wave of shock and grief throughout Ireland that very night as word rapidly spread across the airwaves and by word of mouth that the President had succumbed to his wounds. He had visited this Country only a few months previously and had been met with a huge and ecstatic welcome. His election as President in 1960 was a source of great pride to the Irish People and of some advantage to the Country in its International relations.

When the news broke at home that fateful Friday evening  people could hardly believe it. The first reports indicated he had been wounded and that he had been rushed to hospital in Dallas. Then came the terrible confirmation of his death.

It was Telefís Éireann broadcaster Charles Mitchel who was given the grim task of breaking the news that Ireland's favourite son was dead.

At 7.05pm on November 22, 1963, the nation was stunned into silence when the station broke into a sports programme to report that President Kennedy had been the victim of a shooting.

"We have just heard that an attempt has been made on President Kennedy's life in Dallas, Texas," the veteran newsreader said. "First reports say that he has been badly wounded."

Just 20 minutes later a visibly moved Mitchel came back on air to announce: "President Kennedy has been shot dead by an assassin in Dallas, Texas."

People simply didn't believe the news, and there were numerous calls to the station seeking confirmation.
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/how-broadcasters-reported-the-shocking-killing-of-a-president-29758453.html



Monday, 21 November 2016

Image result for bloody sunday 1920

21‭ ‬November‭ ‬1920:‭ ‬Bloody Sunday.‭ ‬IRA units organised around Michael Collins hit team‭ ‘‬the Squad‭’ ‬raided the premises of British spies and agents across Dublin City.‭ ‬The plan was to kill up to‭ ‬35‭ ‬men on the day.‭ ‬The core of this group were the notorious‭ ‘‬Cairo Gang‭’ ‬brought into Ireland specifically to gather information on IRA members in the City.‭ ‬Most of the ones on the hit list who were caught unawares did not escape.‭ ‬Others were more fortunate and made their escape just in time.‭ ‬In the event‭ ‬14‭ ‬people were killed incl at least one entirely innocent female victim.‭ ‬The IRA lost just one man captured.‭ ‬Nearly all of the raids were carried out in a small area of middle class Dublin in the south of the City.

The events of that morning rocked Britain’s spy network in the Capital to the core and in effect destroyed it as a viable espionage force.‭ ‬Michael Collins justified what by necessity assassins‭’ ‬work with the words:‭  

My one intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens.‭ ‬I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed.‭ ‬If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile.‭ ‬By their destruction the very air is made sweeter‭… ‬For myself,‭ ‬my conscience is clear.‭ ‬There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer.‭ ‬They have destroyed without trial.‭ ‬I have paid them back in their own coin.

That afternoon the Crown Forces raided Croke Park where Dublin were playing Tipperary and proceeded to open fire on the teams and spectators,‭ ‬killing‭ ‬14‭ ‬innocent people (including two young boys and a 26-year-old woman). One of the dead was Michael Hogan who was playing for Tipperary that day.‭

Controversy as to who fired first was immediate with the Crown Forces insisting they were shot at before returning fire. However the most likley explanation is that members of the Auxilirary Division of the RIC fired warning shots in the air to panic the crowd and other members out of sight took it upon themselves to open up under the impression that IRA men in the crowd had targeted them.

A DMP Constable recounted to the Official Inquiry held in December 1920 by the British Military that:

‘On Sunday 21st inst. I was on duty outside the main entrance to Croke Park in Jones’s Road. At about 3.25 p.m. I saw six or seven large lorries accompanied by two armoured cars, one in front and one behind, pass along the Clonliffe Road from Drumcondra towards Ballybough. Immediately after a small armoured car came across Jones’s Road from Fitzroy Avenue and pulled up at the entrance of the main gate. Immediately after that, three small Crossley lorries pulled up in Jones’s Road. There were about ten or twelve men dressed in RIC uniforms in each. When they got out of the cars they started firing in the air which I thought was blank ammunition, and almost immediately firing started all round the ground.’

That night two senior members of the Dublin IRA,‭ ‬Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy and a hapless civilian,‭ ‬Conor Clune,‭ ‬all of whom had been captured the previous day were done to death inside Dublin Castle ostensibly while‭ ‘‬attempting to escape‭’‬.‭

Saturday, 19 November 2016


19 November 1807: The sinkings of the Prince of Wales & the Rochdale Packet ships * in Dublin Bay on this day. A convoy of British troop transport ships set sail from Dublin. It comprised five ships: Sarah, Lark, Albion, Rochdale and the Prince of Wales. Two of the ships, the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales did not make it to their destination. They ended up being wrecked on the South Bull in Dublin Bay, with the loss of approximately 380 lives. Public outcry was one of the key factors that brought about the construction of what is now known as Dun Laoghaire East Pier.

The Prince of Wales, the Parkgate packet ship, was a 103-ton wooden brig of Chester, originally built in Wales. It was en route to Liverpool with recruits from the South Cork and South Mayo Militia for the 18th and 97th Regiments.

The stormy weather prevented the Prince of Wales from anchoring in Dublin Bay and it was forced to anchor off Bray Head in an attempt to gain some shelter. The wind direction changed and went SE, driving the Prince of Wales across Dublin Bay. It eventually ran ashore at Blackrock House. Captain Jones, the crew, two soldiers, a steward and his wife managed to get on board one of the ship’s boats and got ashore safely. The Prince of Wales started to break up soon afterwards and became a total wreck, with the loss of 120 lives.

The Rochdale suffered a similar fate near Seapoint, just 20 feet from the shore. The ships were part of a military fleet bound for Liverpool that had left Dublin that morning. Snow and sleet showers backed by a heavy wind developed as the ships made their way out of Dublin Bay and as night came on they were blown onto the sandbanks just off shore where the ships capsized and foundered. It is estimated that some 120 were lost from the Prince of Wales and about 265 from the Rochdale.

The Rochdale, a brig of Liverpool, was also en route with some passengers and 265 soldiers of the 97th Regiment. It encountered an easterly gale and a snow storm shortly after leaving Dublin Bay and was driven back into Dublin Bay by strong winds and could be seen from both Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire as it burned blue lights and fired guns as signals of distress.

In an attempt to prevent the vessel from being blown ashore, several anchors were dropped, but these failed when the cables snapped. The vessel was driven helplessly past Dun Laoghaire Pier and went ashore on rocks under the Martello Tower at Seapoint, half a mile from where the Prince of Wales had gone ashore.

Even though the wreck was only yards away from the shore all 265 aboard, including 42 women and 29 children, perished as the poor visibility and darkness of the night prevented them from comprehending their exact position. The next day the lower hull of the Rochdale was found to be completely smashed out, but the decks were relatively intact.

* like above


Thursday, 17 November 2016


17 November 1974: Erskine Childers, the President of Ireland, died suddenly on this day. He collapsed just after making a speech to the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, when he suffered a massive heart attack. He died that same day at the Mater Hospital Dublin. He is the only President to have died in Office.

He was born in London in 1905, the son of patriot and author Robert Erskine Childers, who was behind the Asgard ship gun-running in 1914. Childers junior followed in his father’s republican footsteps. In 1922, when Childers was sixteen, his father was executed by the new Irish Free State on politically inspired charges of gun-possession. The pistol he had been found with had been given to him by Michael Collins. Before his execution, in a spirit of reconciliation, the older Childers obtained a promise from his son to seek out and shake the hand of every man who had signed the death warrant.


He was first elected to the Dáil as a Fianna Fáil TD for Athlone-Longford in 1938 and held several ministerial offices. He was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1951-54) and oversaw the liberalisation of Radio Éireann in 1960. He served as Minister for Lands (1957), Minister for Transport and Power (1959-69) and Tánaiste and Minister for Health (1969-73).

Erskine's period as a minister was controversial. One commentator described his ministerial career as "spectacularly unsuccessful." But mostly he was a middle of the road politician who did not rock the boat. Others praised his willingness to make tough decisions. He was outspoken in his opposition to CJ Haughey in the aftermath of the 1970 Arms Crises when Haughey and another minister, both having been sacked, were sent for trial amid allegations of a plot to import arms for the IRA.

For the Presidential Campaign of 1973 Childers was nominated by Fianna Fáil at the behest of Eamon de Valera, who pressured Jack Lynch in the selection of the presidential candidate. He was a controversial nominee, owing not only to his British birth and upbringing but to his Anglo-Irish background. However, on the campaign trail his personal popularity proved enormous, his accent and Gravitas proving an asset rather than a handicap. In a political upset, Childers was elected the fourth President of Ireland on 30 May 1973, defeating Tom O'Higgins of Fine Gael by 635,867 votes to 578,771.

Childers had ideas to change the nature of the Presidency but in this he met opposition from Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael who had just been elected Taoiseach. He wanted the President to stay out of as much a possible and remain merely a figurehead. A role that Childers felt uncomfortable in and it is believed he contemplated resigning on more than one occasion. However fate intervened and Erskine Childers tenure as President was to be a short one.

On 17 November 1974, just after making a speech to the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, Childers suffered a heart attack. He died the same day at the Mater Hospital Dublin. His funeral was in St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin.* He was buried in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Derralossary church in Roundwood Co Wicklow.

His daughter Nessa Childers has continued his family’s involvement in Irish Politics and is today an MEP in the European Parliament.
* Where his bust is displayed as above




Wednesday, 16 November 2016


16 November 1965: The death occurred of William Thomas Cosgrave, 1st President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State on this day. He became Head of the Provisional Government following the deaths of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins in August 1922.

Born in Dublin in 1880 and educated by the Christian Brothers he joined Sinn Fein in 1905. He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1909 and joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and was actively involved in the 1916 Easter Rising. He was sentenced to death but this was commuted to Life Imprisonment and he was interned in Frognoch Camp. In 1918 he was elected in a bye-election for Kilkenny and in January 1919 took his seat in Dáil Éireann. He was appointed as Minister for Local Government but had only a political role during the War of Independence. When the Treaty was debated in the Dáil he voted in favour of accepting its terms and sided with those who were prepared to implement its conditions across the Irish Free State.

On succeeding to the position of President he was ruthless in crushing armed opposition by the IRA to the Treaty. He implemented a series of official executions and the rounding up of suspected political opponents. In the spring of 1923 the Civil war fizzled out as the effects of repression and the lack of support for violent opposition to the new State became apparent.

Once the War was over Liam Cosgrave was able to focus on building an Irish State that could show the World and Britain in particular that the Irish could govern themselves in an effective manner. He had some success here and he established the Irish Sugar Company and the Electricity Supply Board as well as the Agricultural Credit Corporation. He also exercised a prudent control over State’s Finances that paid dividends in ensuring that the balance of payments deficit was kept within limits.


However it was in the political sphere that Cosgrave had the most to contend with and here he had more mixed results. He formed a new Party in 1923 called Cumann na nGaedhael but in the same year he had limited results in a General Election though he held on to power. He gave up any claim to the North following the Boundary Commission fiasco in 1925 in return for a financial agreement with Britain. He also had to deal with a recurrent low intensity campaign by the IRA and widespread political agitation by Republicans in general.

The biggest post Civil War Crises he had to face was the assassination of Kevin O’Higgins in 1927 and that almost led to truly draconian measures being introduced. This was averted by Mr De Valera leading FF into Leinster House in September of that year and taking the Oath under protest. Cosgrave then narrowly avoided being forced to relinquish power to his new Parliamentary rival but survived as a result of the Mr Jinks affair.   

A general election was not necessary until the end of 1932, however, Cosgrave called one for February of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and a fresh mandate was needed for an important Commonwealth meeting in the summer.

In the event Cumann na nGaedhael lost it and Dev took over. Cosgrave then became the Leader of the Opposition. In 1933 three groups, Cumann na nGaedhael, the National Centre Party and the Army Comrades Association came together to form a new political force – Fine Gael. Cosgrave was retained as the head of the Party in the Free State Parliament but was given overall control when Eoin O’Duffy was persuaded to step down as President of Fine Gael. He then led the Party until 1944 when he retired from politics alltogether and he never held Office again.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


15 November 1985: The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by the Irish and British Government at Hillsborough, Co. Down on this day. The Agreement was the most important development in Anglo-Irish relations since the 1920s. Both Governments confirmed that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its citizens. But it also saw recognition by the British that the Irish State had a legitimate interest in the affairs of the North and would be consulted on a regular basis as to what policies would be followed in relation to its governance.

So the Irish Government, through the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and Maryfield Secretariat, was provided with a consultative role in the administration of Northern Ireland for the first time. It was this consultative role, accompanied by the continuing conditional nature of the British claim to Northern Ireland, that caused strong opposition to the Agreement from the unionist population of Northern Ireland. Republicans also opposed the Agreement as falling short of their demands for immediate British withdrawal and a united Ireland.

While the Irish Leader An Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald was chuffed to pull off what in his eyes was a diplomatc coup his co signatory Mrs Thatcher the British Prime Minister was not so sure. She saw the Agreement more as a security issue to get the southern government to crack down on the IRA rather than as a means towards a full political settlement. She also rightly forsaw that Unionist opposition to the Agreement would be strong and ferocious.


In retrospect the Agreement had mixed success. There was increased co operation in security issues between the police forces in both juristictions and the rise of Sinn Fein was temorarily stalled. But it was to be another 13 long years before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 laid the foundations for the current political settlement - something that most would consider to be still a ‘work in progress’...

"I had come to the conclusion that I must now give priority to heading off the growth of support for the IRA in Northern Ireland by seeking a new understanding with the British Government, even at the expense of my cherished, but for the time being at least clearly unachievable, objective of seeking a solution through negotiations with the Unionists."
Garret FitzGerald in his autobiography All in a Life (FitzGerald, 1991).

"I started from the need for greater security, which was imperative. If this meant making limited political concession to the South, much as I disliked this kind of bargaining, I had to contemplate it."
Margaret Thatcher in her autobiography The Downing Street Years (Thatcher, 1993).




Monday, 14 November 2016


14 November 1180 AD: The death occurred of St Laurence O’Toole / Lorcan Ua Tuathail at Eu in Normandy on this day. He is the patron Saint of Dublin. He was born in Kildare in about the year 1128 and was educated at the Monastery of Glendalough where he became a prominent member of the religious community there. Being the brother in law of the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, further enhanced his status.

In 1161 he obtained the key ecclesiastical appointment of Archbishop of Dublin and in the following year was consecrated as such in a great ceremony at Christ Church in the city by Gilla Isu the Primate of Armagh. O’Toole’s elevation was a novelty in that he was the first Gaelic leader of the Church in Dublin and that he owed his position to the See of Armagh and not that of Canterbury in England. The Archbishop was a man of great piety and charity and he founded a number of religious houses including the one of All Hallows where Trinity College now stands. Once a year he retreated to Glendalough where he entered a cave for 40 days to fast and pray.


However when Henry II crossed into Ireland and set up Court in Dublin he was a deft enough operator to ensure that he stayed in the Kings’ good standing. He acted as a go between in the delicate negotiations with Rory O’Connor the King of Ireland and Henry in his role as King of England. Indeed he was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 which recognised Henry as ‘Lord of Ireland’ but not as its King.

In April 1178 he entertained the papal legate, Cardinal Vivian, who presided at the Synod of Dublin. He also attended the great Third Lateran Council in March 1179. Pope Alexander III had summoned it with the particular object of putting an end to the schism within the Church and the quarrel between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papacy. About three hundred fathers assembled from the provinces of Europe and some from the Latin east, and a single legate from the Greek church. Laurence O’Toole returned home with the title of Papal Legate, which was a mark of the influence he had gained in Rome.



But his further term in office was to be a short one as in the following year he left Dublin to track down the peripatetic Henry in his wanderings across his patchwork quilt Empire of polities. His mission was to bring urgent matters in Ireland for his consideration. After three weeks of detention at Abingdon Abbey, England he followed Henry II to Normandy. Taken ill at the Augustinian Abbey of Eu, he was tended by Abbot Osbert and the canons of St. Victor in his confinement and it was there that he breathed his last. His tomb is in the crypt, under the Collegial Church at Eu. Many people still go there to pray. Laurence was canonized in 1225.





Sunday, 13 November 2016


13 November 1647: The Battle of Knocknanuss/ Cnoc na nos: "the hill of the fawns"  in Co Cork was fought on this day. The opposing armies were those of the Irish Protestant, Murrough O’Brien (the later Lord Inchiquin), who was commited to support the English Parliament and those of the English Catholic, Viscount Theobald Taafe, leading a Confederate Army loyal to the Supreme Council of Kilkenny.

Viscount Taafe was given the task by the Council of raiding into the lands under the control of Inchiquin’s troops. This was in retaliation for the attacks launched by the Parliamentary forces on Cashel and Callan in the previous months and the numerous atrocities they had carried out. The Catholic commander was able to assemble a force of about 6,000 infantry and some 1,200 cavalry. Amongst this force was a contingent of Scottish ‘Redshanks’ mercenaries under the legendry warrior leader Alasdair MacColla (Alistair McDonnell). However Viscount Taafe owed his appointment to political intrigue rather than any natural military abilities. It appears his heart was not really in the enterprise anyway and his conduct of the campaign reflected poorly on him.


His initial dispositions on the day of the battle were good in that he held the high ground but he fatally deployed his army in two separate wings divided by a hill that essentially cut one off from the other. Despite having a slight numerical advantage he did not utilise his force in a co ordinated manner but allowed each local commander to decide his own course of action. Alasdair MacColla’s men were the first into battle as they charged down upon the enemys’ flank opposite their own, broke their lines and routed them. Thinking the battle won they then fell to plundering Inchiquin’s Baggage Train and took no further meaningful part in the affair.

Murrough O’Brien however kept his cool throughout all of this. Sensing the moment was ripe he launched his own troopers uphill at the charge upon the Confederates left flank and put their cavalry to flight. The Munster infantrymen situated towards the centre of the line gave one ragged volley and then promptly fell back. The whole Confederate line then began to buckle and retreat developed into Rout. The Parliamentary Cavalry pursued their opponents for miles putting many to the sword as they did so. Meanwhile Alasdair MacColla and what remained of his men were surrounded and captured before being put to death on the spot. The defeat at Knocknanuss was a mortal blow for the Confederacy in the Province of Munster and was a defeat from which they never recovered.




Saturday, 12 November 2016

Liber Niger Page-page-0

12 November 1216: Magna Charta Hiberniae was issued on this day. It was a follow up to the original Magna Carta from the previous year that King John of England was forced to issue at the behest of his Barons in order to placate them from Revolt.

MAGNA CHARTA HIBERNIAE
Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, etc., to all his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, sheriffs, reeves, ministers, etc., and to all his faithful people, greeting.

Know that to the honour of God, the exaltation of Holy Church, and the amendment of our kingdom, by advice of Gualo, cardinal priest of St. Martin's, Legate of the Apostolic See, Peter, bishop of Winchester [and ten other bishops], William the Marshall, earl of Pembroke [and other earls and nobles], Hubert de Burgh, our justiciar, and others.

Firstly, we have granted to God, and by his present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever, that the Irish Church shall be free, and have all her rights entire and her liberties inviolable.

We have also granted to all free men of our kingdom, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties underwritten, to have and to hold to them and their heirs of us and our heirs.

This Charter was issued in Bristol, England by the Justicar of Ireland William Marshall, who was the most powerful man in both countries at that time. Its purpose was to extend to Ireland the rights and privileges that were to be enjoyed by men of similar standing in both jurisdictions. It was basically the importation into Ireland of the reformation of the Feudal System that Magna Carta initiated. In it the Rights of Nobles, Churchmen and the Freemen of the Lordship were to be guaranteed and protected.

However from an Irish perspective what was not said was as important as what was said. The key point is that ‘Freemen’ were in effect those men of Anglo-Norman birth or descent. The Gaelic Irish were not included. But their exclusion was not absolute. The rights of Freemen could be granted if the claimant was suitably loyal or rich or powerful enough to influence the Courts to grant such a privilege to them and their families. Also in effect the practise of the Laws of England was not always so rigid that an Irishman would have no Rights before one, but unlike ‘Freemen’ it was not a given that he would be given a fair hearing - or one at all.

There is though a body of opinion that believes that Magna Carta owed a lot to the Brehon Laws of Ireland for its concepts that laws are separate from the will of a king. In ancient Irish Law the king was not the originator or arbiter of laws but merely a player in their enforcement with the advice of his Brehons - those men learned in the laws of Ireland. Many of the Barons of King John (eg William Marshall) had lands in Ireland and were familiar with its concepts.

see http://ua_tuathal.tripod.com/magna.html

As it happens King John was dead by this time having died of dysentery the previous month while on campaign against his Barons as he tried unsuccessfully to crush them once more. With his death William Marshall became the most powerful of the Barons as King John’s son Henry (Henry III) was but a boy. He must have taken the opportunity to ensure that the ‘Great Charter’ was extended to this Country as by passing this into Law here he would be greatly extending his power to rule the Lordship of Ireland as befitted him and his fellow Barons.


Thursday, 10 November 2016


10 November 1798: The Court Martial of Theobold Wolfe Tone commenced on this day. A court was assembled consisting of General Loftus, who performed the functions of President, Colonels Vandeleur, Daly, and Wolfe, Major Armstrong, and a Captain Curran; Mr Paterson performed the functions of a Judge Advocate. At an early hour, the neighbourhood of the barracks was crowded with eager and anxious spectators. As soon as the doors were thrown open, they rushed in and filled every corner of the hall. Wolfe Tone was brought in and appeared before the crowd dressed in the in the uniform of a Chef de Brigade of the Army of the French Republic [above].

This created quite a stir and Tone was allowed to address the Court as to his motivations for the actions he had undertaken. On balance he did pretty well in getting his case heard at all. His noble and open admission of his role of been found in arms against the soldiers of the King of England in his native country of Ireland was admired by some but removed any small chance that he might escape execution. He concluded his defence (if it may be called that) with the words:

As to the connection between this country and Great Britain, I repeat it, all that has been imputed to me, words, writings, and actions, I here deliberately avow. I have spoken and acted with reflection, and on principle, and am ready to meet the consequences. Whatever be the sentence of this Court, I am prepared for it. Its members will surely discharge their duty; I shall care not to be wanting to mine.

Tone’s last request was that he would be shot by shot by a platoon of grenadiers in the uniform of a Chef de Brigade in the French Army. This plea along with his statement to the Court was conveyed to Lord Cornwallis for consideration but quickly rejected. Wolfe Tone was then sentenced by the members of the Court Martial to die the death of a traitor within 48 hours on the 12 of November 1798.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


9 November 1920: The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George gave his infamous speech at the Guildhall Banquet in London on this day. His remarks were taken as a public acceptance that the Crown Forces were using ‘Terror’ as a weapon of war against the IRA. In fact they were using it as a means of intimidation against the Nationalist population, especially in areas where armed resistance to British rule was most active. In his address to the distinguished members he stated that:

We have murder by the throat, we had to reorganise the police. When the Government was ready we struck the terrorists and now the terrorists are complaining of terror.

However the Prime Minister’s words came to haunt him as it became increasingly apparent his taunts were hollow when in the following weeks as the IRA struck even further blows against British agents and paramilitary units.

The following year 'The Welsh Wizard' was sitting at the table in No 10 Downing Street in London negotiating face to face with those very same Irish 'Terrorists'!


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Image result for niemba cross

8 November 1960: The Niemba Ambush in the Congo on this day. An eleven-man Irish patrol under Lt Kevin Gleeson was ambushed by Baluba tribesmen at a river crossing near the village of Niemba, in the Congo. The patrol was surrounded by up to 100 African warriors who attacked them with primitive weapons and killed all but two of their number. Though well armed with 2 Bren guns, 4 Gustaf sub-machine guns and 4 rifles it seems the men were taken unawares and unable to organise any effective resistance before been overcome. One of the party, the Medical Officer, carried no weapon at all. Nor did they have any wireless equipment to which to signal their plight. Their opponents carried bows and arrows, spears, panga knives and clubs. The action had commenced at approximately 3 p.m. local time. The first search party left Albertville at 10.30 p.m., arrived at Niemba at 3.45 a.m. and was on the scene of the ambush about first light on 9 November.

The remains of eight of the victims were found almost immediately but those of Trooper Anthony Browne could not be located. An intensive search for him proved fruitless and he was officially posted "missing - presumed dead". It was not until a year later almost to the date that Trooper Brown's body was found. Trooper Brown had survived the ambush and wandered in the jungle until he came upon some Baluba women who gave him up to a party of Baluba men, who murdered him.
Two of the Platoon survived to tell the story of the ambush. They were Troopers Thomas Kenny and Private Joe Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick recalled that:

The air was suddenly black with a shower of arrows, and the Buluba let out blood-curdling yells that sounded like a war cry and rushed down the road like madmen, jumping in the air and waving their weapons.

The names of the men who were ambushed were:

KIA:

Lt Kevin Gleeson (Co)
Sgt Hugh Gaynor
Cpl. Liam Duggan
Pte.Matthew Farrell (Unarmed Medic)
Pte Gerard Kileen
Cpl. Peter Kelly, Driver
Tpr Thomas Fellell
Pte. Michael McGuinn

Murdered on Capture:

Tpr Anthony Browne

Survived:
Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick
Pte Thomas Kenny

The death of nine Irish soldiers on the Irish Army’s first large scale overseas mission shocked the Nation when word of this terrible massacre reached home. Many recalled the hope and pride that had been felt by the Irish People when the soldiers had departed from Ireland just a few short months beforehand.

The Memorial Cross (above) was erected by their comrades at the place of the ambush to commemorate their sacrifice in the service of the United Nations.