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Thursday, 20 July 2017

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

The O’Byrnes and O’Tooles were surrogates for Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh who was the most powerful Chieftain in Leinster and recognised as a King amongst his own people.‭ ‬He used them to fight a proxy war against the English and thus avoid a complete break with them.‭ ‬Kellistown is situated in‭ ‬County Carlow‭ ‬between the towns of Carlow and Tullow.
‭ ‬"Here fell the heir presumptive to the English crown,‭ ‬whose premature removal was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England a year or two later.‭" ‬
Mortimer was none other than the heir to the Throne of England.‭ ‬He was also dignified with the titles‭ ‘‬Earl of Ulster‭’ ‬and‭ ‘‬Lord Of Connaught‭’‬.‭ ‬Ironically he was a direct descendant of Aoife Murchada,‭ ‬whose father had let the English in.‭ ‬Thus he was a distant relation of his nemesis Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh‭!
Mortimer had been created the King of England’s Lieutenant in Ireland in‭ ‬1396‭ ‬and held this position until the Irish killed him.‭ ‬His body was cut to pieces during the battle but whether this as a result of combat or mutilation after his death is not recorded.‭ ‬Curiously enough he had decided to engage in the combat dressed in the Irish style - that is without body armour.‭ ‬There was at least enough of him remaining for his corpse to be brought back home to England where he was interred‭ ‬amongst his own people in Wigmore Abbey,‭ ‬Herefordshire.
King Richard II of‭ |‬England was so upset by the news he resolved to return to Ireland and settle matters once and for all with Art Mac Murrough.‭ ‬But his departure from his own Country in‭ ‬1399‭ ‬cost him his Kingdom as his domestic enemies took the opportunity to topple him from his throne. On return in the month of August he was compelled to give up his crown and submit to the advances of his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke. An embarrasment to the new King Henry IV he was allowed to wither away in captivity and ‘died’ - probably in early 1400.
An Cath‭ ‬Cell Osnadha‭ ‬was thus a battle of great importance in the history of two countries‭ – ‬England and Ireland.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

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

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

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

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

Annals of Loch Cé


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

18 July 1938: Douglas Corrigan  -‘Wrong way Corrigan’ - landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  Co Dublin after flying across the Atlantic solo in his aircraft Sunshine on this day. His arrival was totally unexpected and on being asked from whence he came he answered ‘New York’ - much the incredulity of those who had gathered around him.

Despite his assertion that he had simply lost his way on take off and instead of turning west for California he had  inadvertently headed east for Ireland no one really believed him. He had started his working life as a mechanic and had caught the Flying Bug when he took a ride up in a plane some years previously. He got his pilots license & took up stunt flying to earn a living. But he always hankered to do something out of the ordinary and settled on Ireland (the Homeland of his ancestors) as a place he would like to fly to.

He saved up his salary and spent $300 on buying a second hand 1929 Curtiss Robin OX-5 monoplane and flew it home, where he returned to work as an aircraft mechanic and began to modify the Robin for a transatlantic flight. Having installed an engine built from two old Wright Whirlwind J6-5 engines (affording 165 hp (123 kW) instead of the 90 hp (67 kW) of the original) and extra fuel tanks, Corrigan applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1935, seeking permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland. The application was rejected; his plane was deemed unsound for a nonstop transatlantic trip, although it was certified to the lower standard for cross-country journeys.

But Corrigan was nothing if not a tryer and on 17 July 1938 he took off at 5:15 in the morning with 320 US gallons (1,200 L) of gasoline and 16 US gallons (61 L) of oil on board. Corrigan headed east from the 4,200-foot (1,300 m) runway of Floyd Bennet Field New York to begin his epic journey.

He landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  on July 18, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight. His provisions had been just two chocolate bars & two boxes of fig bars, and 25 US gal (94.64 L) of water.

Corrigan's plane had fuel tanks mounted on the front, allowing him to see only out of the sides. He had no radio and his compass was 20 years old, but somehow he made it. His daring flight alone across the Atlantic Ocean made headlines across the World. Back in the USA he was nicknamed ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ when he claimed to have flown East instead of West on take off. It was said that his tickertape parade through the streets of New York City outshone that of his great hero Charles Lindbergh - who curiously never acknowledged his achievement.

The journalist H.R. Knickerbocker who met Corrigan in Ireland after his arrival, wrote in 1941:

You may say that Corrigan's flight could not be compared to Lindbergh's in its sensational appeal as the first solo flight across the ocean. Yes, but in another way the obscure little Irishman's flight was the more audacious of the two. Lindbergh had a plane specially constructed, the finest money could buy. He had lavish financial backing, friends to help him at every turn. Corrigan had nothing but his own ambition, courage, and ability. His plane, a nine-year-old Curtiss Robin  was the most wretched-looking jalopy.

As I looked over it at the Dublin airdrome I really marveled that anyone should have been rash enough even to go in the air with it, much less try to fly the Atlantic. He built it, or rebuilt it, practically as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates. It looked it. The nose of the engine hood was a mass of patches soldered by Corrigan himself into a crazy-quilt design. The door behind which Corrigan crouched for twentyeight hours was fastened together with a piece of baling wire. The reserve gasoline tanks put together by Corrigan, left him so little room that he had to sit hunched forward with his knees cramped, and not enough window space to see the ground when landing.

The following year, he starred as himself in The Flying Irishman, a movie biography. The $75,000 he earned was the equivalent of 30 years income at his airfield jobs! During the War he flew planes for the US Transport Command and then went back to California where he bought an Orange Farm. He died there in 1995. To the end he never admitted to anything other than flying ‘the wrong way’.

Monday, 17 July 2017

17 July 1579: James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, the cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond arrived off Smerwick/ Ard na Caithne in County Kerry on this day. The Catholic adventurer had arrived back from Spain with high hopes of re launching the Catholic Cause in Ireland and in particular in Munster. He brought with him one Nicholas Sanders - an exiled priest and holding the position of Papal Nuncio to the Irish. Within days a few hundred men joined them in two Spanish galleys but this small force was only enough to garrison a little fort. Fitzmaurice knew that he would have to raise the flag of revolt and rely on the resentment of the Catholics of Munster against English Protestant encroachments to carry the day.However many of the local chieftains had reached an uneasy peace with the English and did not want to risk all they had in a revolt in which the odds would be stacked against them. One such was Fitzmaurice’s own cousin Theobald Burke. Within days of the landing Fitzmaurice departed on a series of raids but his depredations turned many against him including his own cousin.

Mac-I-Brien sent a body of galloglasses and soldiers to Theobald. These then went in pursuit of those heroic bands, and overtook James, who had halted in a dense and solitary wood to await their approach. A battle was fought between both forces, in which James was shot with a ball in the hollow of the chest, which afterwards caused his death. Notwithstanding this, however, he defeated his lordly pursuers. In this conflict a lamentable death took place, namely, that of Theobald Burke, a young warrior, who was a worthy heir to an earldom for his valour and military skill, and his knowledge of the English language and the law. James, the son of Maurice, had not passed far from the scene of this battle when the languor of death came over him; upon which, in a few words, he made his will, and ordered his trusty friends to cut off his head after his death, in order that his enemies might not discover him, so as to recognise or mangle him.

The killing of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald should have been the end of the matter. But while his return home to Ireland was cut short by his death in battle his actions had been enough to trigger off what became known as the 2nd Desmond War that proved to be a long and bloody affair.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

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15 July 1927:  Countess Constance Markievicz died on this day. Society Girl, Artist, Revolutionary, Feminist and Socialist there is no doubt that she was a woman who lived Life to the full and gave it her all for Ireland and her People. She was born in London in 1868 to the Artic explorer Sir Henry Gore Booth and Lady Georgina, Lady Gore-Booth. Her father owned a large Estate at Lissadell House in Co Sligo.

In the 1890s she studied Art in London and Paris where she met her future husband, the Polish Nobleman ‘Count Markievicz’ - and there after she was known as Countess Markievicz! She gave birth to their daughter, Maeve, at Lissadell in November 1901.The family moved to Dublin in 1903 and the Countess moved in the Literary and Art circles of the city, notably in the circle of the famous portrait artist Sarah Purcell. There she met many people who were involved in the politics of the day and from this her interest in Ireland’s future deepened. In 1908, she became actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland and joined Sinn Fein which was the most advanced Nationalist Party of its day. In 1913 Markievicz's husband moved back to Ukraine, and never returned to live in Ireland. However, they did correspond and he was by her side when she died.

When the 1916 Rising broke out she played an active part in it and was rumoured to have shot dead a DMP policeman while trying to storm Dublin Castle. She was part of the Stephens Green garrison that later withdrew to the Royal College of Surgeons on the Green. When the Rising was over she was taken prisoner, held in solitary confinement and sentenced to Death. Much to her disappointment the sentenced was commuted to Life Imprisonment. However she was released in 1917 after having served her time in an English Prison.

In the British General Election of December 1918 she was elected for a Dublin Constituency taking 66% of the vote but refused to take her seat in a London Parliament. When the 1st Dáil met in January the Countess was back in an English Prison and when the roll call was taken her absence was noted by the words - fé ghlas ag Gallaibh -"imprisoned by the foreign enemy". She was made the Minister for Labour and held that position until January 1922. She also sat in the Cabinet of the Irish Republic from April 1919 till August 1919 - thus making her the First Woman Cabinet Minister in Irish History.

She left the government in January 1922 along with Eamon De Valera and others in opposition to the Treaty. She fought actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War helping to defend Moran's Hotel in Dublin. After the War she toured the United States. However, her staunch republican views led her to being sent to jail again. In prison, she and 92 other female prisoners went on hunger strike. Within a month, she was released. She joined the new Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926, chairing the inaugural meeting of the new party in La Scala Theatre. In the June 1927 Election she was re-elected to the Dáil as a candidate for the new party, which was pledged to return but died only five weeks later, before she could take up her seat.

Constance Markievicz died at the age of 59 on 15 July 1927, of complications related to appendicitus. She had given away the last of her wealth, and died in a public ward "among the poor where she wanted to be". One of the doctors attending her was her revolutionary colleague Kathleen Lynn. Also at her bedside were Casimir and Stanislas Markievicz, Eamon de Valera & others came by to pay their last respects. Refused a state funeral by the Free State government, she was buried Glasnevin Cemetery  Dublin, and Eamon de Valera gave the funeral oration. Sean O’Casey said of her: One thing she had in abundance—physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

13 July 1866: The Great Eastern steamship [above], the largest vessel afloat at that time, departed Valentia Island Co Kerry for Newfoundland on this day. Its task was to attempt once again to try and lay a working telegraph cable from Europe to the Americas.

‘It was the brainchild of American entrepreneur Cyrus Field, who made two unsuccessful attempts before finally succeeding. The first officer on the Great Eastern - the biggest vessel in the world at the time - was Wicklow native Captain Robert Halpin. While Belfast born scientist and engineer, Lord Kelvin, worked on the technical aspects of the cable.

Prior to the laying of the Transatlantic Cable it took approximately two weeks from a message to reach North America from Europe… weather permitting as all communications were sent via boat.

The idea of a transatlantic cable was first proposed in 1845, but the distances and depths presented formidable problems. In 1856 the Atlantic Telegraph Company was registered with a capital of £350,000 (then about $1,400,000). On the American side Cyrus W. Field was the driving force; on the British side it was Charles Bright and brothers John and Jacob Brett.

After so many failed attempts, the final, successful, cable was laid with virtually no problems. On 27 July 1866, the cable was pulled ashore at a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland known by the charming name of Heart’s Content. The distance was 1686 nautical miles Valentia Island. The Great Eastern had averaged 120 miles a day while paying out the cable.

The first message sent on this, finally successful, cable was: “A treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia”. Queen Victoria, then at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight, sent a message to the President of the United States. “The Queen congratulates the President on the successful completion of an undertaking which she hopes may serve as an additional bond of Union between the United States and England.'' *

Almost immediately, the cable opened for business but only the very wealthy could afford it – the initial rates were a startling $1 a letter, payable in gold – at a time that a monthly wage for a labourer might be $20.''

For the next 100 years Valentia Island was a major portal for the dispatch and reception of messages between the distant continents in what was for its time an Information Superhighway in itself. The station finally ceased being a conduit for transatlantic communication in 1966 when air mail & satellites made it un-economic to maintain it any longer. It was an end of an Era.

* No mention of Ireland!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

By the time reinforcements arrived it was too late and the enemy was across in strength.

The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.

Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

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11‭ ‬July‭ ‬1921:‭ ‘‬The Truce‭’ ‬began at‭ ‬12‭ ‬noon on this day.‭ ‬This brought to an end organised military operations between the Irish Republican Army and the British Crown Forces during the Irish War of Independence.‭ ‬The negotiations leading up to the cessation of hostilities had been concluded some days previously at the Mansion House [above] in Dublin between representatives of the President Eamon de Valera and the British Prime Minister Lloyd George.

The terms agreed were that no British reinforcements would enter Ireland,‭ ‬raids and arrests would cease and secret operations end.‭ ‬The Irish in turn agreed to cease attacking the British,‭ ‬not to interfere with private or British owned property and not to disturb the peace that would necessitate military interference.‭ ‬Both sides agreed not to engage in provocative displays of their respective forces,‭ ‬armed or unarmed.

The following day an Irish Delegation consisting of Eamon de Valera,‭ ‬Arthur Griffith,‭ ‬Austin Stack and Robert Barton departed for London to open negotiations with the British Government.‭ ‬The Lord Mayor of Dublin,‭ ‬Count Plunkett and Erskine Childers also accompanied the delegation. It looked like the violence that had wracked Ireland for the last two and a half years was coming to an end.

But while an uneasy Peace settled down upon most of the Country it was a different story in the North, particularly in the city of Belfast. It had always been a volatile place in July – owing to the parades of the Orange Order on 12th July – but this was violence intensified and militarised on a scale not seen before. There sectarian violence resulted in an orgy of violence, burnings and intimidation with the Police & Military openly taking sides against the Nationalist population.

The 11th fell on a Monday that year, and the previous day became known as Belfast's 'Bloody Sunday'. That day 16 people were killed violently, 1 RIC man, 10 Catholic and 5 Protestant civilians. By the end of the week, 23 people had been killed in Belfast, hundreds more wounded, two hundred homes destroyed and a thousand people made homeless.

Monday, 10 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* The plaque above was erected near the spot where he was gunned down in 2012 by then An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Sunday, 9 July 2017

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

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

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

 Murder,‭ ‬treachery,‭ ‬adultery,‭ ‬incest,‭ ‬theft,‭ ‬perjury‭ – ‬every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.
‭'‬His blood‭
‬Has crept through scoundrels since the flood.‭'

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

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

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

King George though was to be somewhat disappointed - as he never again set foot in the Fair City. It was to be 100 years before another British Monarch did so.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

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8 July 1981: The death of Joe McDonnell on Hunger Strike on this day. He died after 61 days without food. He was the fifth Republican prisoner to die that year in the ongoing campaign to gain Special Status for political prisoners.

Joe McDonnell was born in Belfast in 1950. He married his wife Goretti in 1970 and they had two children together. When the conflict erupted in the North Joe took sides and ended up in the IRA. He had joined the Republican Movement soon after the introduction of internment without trial in August 1971. He was himself interned on the prison ship Maidstone in 1972 and in Long Kesh from 1973 to 1974. He was captured in 1976 when the car he was in was stopped by the RUC and he and three other men (one of whom was Bobby Sands) were given long terms of imprisonment. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

McDonnell and many of the other Republican prisoners did not accept that they were criminals for fighting against the British Crown - something Irishmen had been doing for centuries. But in 1976 the British Government had abolished Special Category Status for political prisoners. From then on it could only be a matter of time till things escalated. By the Summer of 1981 a Hunger Strike was under way and a number of prisoners had died and others were in danger of dying.

Following the success of Bobby Sands being elected for Fermanagh South Tyrone prior to his death on 5 May it was decided by the Anti H Block campaign to contest the General Election in the 26 Counties that fell on 11 June that year. McDonnell was selected to contest the Constituency of Sligo-Leitrim. Veteran local republican John Joe McGirl was his election agent and Joe’s wife Goretti was conspicuous in her presence to help get him elected there.On the day of the election he received 5,639 1st preference votes - narrowingly missing being elected by a small margin.

When Joe McDonnell died on 8 July 1981 tensions were at razor point in the North. From Wednesday evening through to the Friday morning, Joe’s body had lain in state in the family home. During this time, thousands of people filed past the coffin to pay their respects to the fallen Volunteer.

When his funeral was held in Belfast some days later thousands of people followed the cortege on it way to Milltown Cemetery. Along the way the mourners were under close observation by the British Military. When they spotted an IRA Guard of Honour returning to a house after firing the final shots they swooped. Simultaneously, the British Army and RUC opened up on the cortege with a hail of plastic bullets amidst scenes of pandemonium and panic. The head of the funeral cortege had moved on a few minutes before the attack and was making its way towards Milltown. Six IRA Volunteers took the coffin on their shoulders for the last leg of the journey to the Republican Plot.

Today next to Bobby Sands he is the best known of the Hungers Strikers of 1981. He is the subject of a famous Republican Ballad written by Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones. It begins:

Oh my name is Joe McDonnell
From Belfast town I came
That city I will never see again...

Friday, 7 July 2017

7‭ ‬July‭ ‬1816:‭ ‬The great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan died on this day.‭ ‬He died in the City of London in impoverished circumstances.‭

Sent to be educated at Harrow by his father he completed his education before he eloped and married Elizabeth Linley and with her modest fortune behind him he established himself in London and began his career as a playwright.‭In the same year, 1772, Richard Sheridan, at the age of 21, eloped with and subsequently married Elizabeth Ann Linley and set up house in London on a lavish scale with little money and no immediate prospects of any—other than his wife's dowry. The young couple entered the fashionable world and apparently held up their end in entertaining.

‬He enjoyed some success with his first major play‭ ‬The Rivals that was performed at Covent Garden in‭ ‬1775.‭ ‬However his most famous play is‭ ‬The School for Scandal‭ ‬which was first performed at Drury Lane in May‭ ‬1777.‭ ‬It still ranks as‭ ‬one of the greatest comedies of manners of the English stage.‭ ‬Having quickly made his name and fortune,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1776‭ ‬Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent,‭ ‬and in‭ ‬1778‭ ‬the remaining share.‭ ‬His later plays were all produced there.‭

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

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

In‭ ‬1809‭ ‬his beloved Drury Lane Theatre burned down.‭ ‬Legend has it that‭ ‬on being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire,‭ ‬Sheridan was famously reported to have said:
‭ ‬A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.

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

Thursday, 6 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

To vote for every measure of retrenchment and reduction of the national expenditure,‭ ‬so as to relieve the people from the burthen of taxation‭ &‬c.

Ironically‭ ‬Vesey-Fitzgerald claimed he was a moderate who supported a relaxation of the Penal Laws.‭ ‬In the event O’Connell won handsomely by‭ ‬2,057‭ ‬votes to‭ ‬982.‭ ‬This triggered a serious political crisis because as an elected representative of the People he was barred from taking his seat
- solely on account of his Religion.‭ 

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

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

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

What a convulsion for any man to throw the county into,‭ ‬to satisfy his own vanity and to obtain what he cannot use‭…‬

The following year Catholic Emancipation was reluctantly passed through both Houses of the British Parliament and this Constitutional climb down opened the door for other Catholic politicians to follow in O’Connell’s footsteps.‭ ‬For his efforts in leading the campaign to emancipate his fellow co-religionists from the odious Anti Catholic Penal Laws Daniel O’Connell was subsequently known as‭ ‘‬The Liberator‭’‬.‭

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

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

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

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

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

The document set out the rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens of the New Republic. It is one of the most important political documents that modern history has produced. There was a strong Irish input into its drafting and wording that reflected the experience of life under Monarchical and Aristocratic rule back in 18th century America and Ireland. Nine men who were either born in Ireland or whose parents or grandparents were from Ireland signed that day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 2 July 2017

2 July 1779: The Irish Brigade in the service of France landed on the Caribbean island of Grenada on this day. They were part of an expeditionary force of some 2,300 men tasked with seizing the island from the British garrison based there. France and Britain were at War over the status of the United States, with the French backing the attempts of the Americans to secure their Independence from Britain.

Colonel Arthur Dillon led the Irish soldiers and the overall command of the Expedition rested with Admiral Compte d’Estaing. As it so happened another Irishman, Lord McCartney, was in charge of the British troops on the island. He had only a small force of about 500 men to resist these invaders and decided to withdraw to the heights of the position known as the Morne de l'Hopital and try to hold out there. Though outnumbered his position was strong and with luck he might have repulsed the assault until help arrived. Besides the steep incline, there were several walls on the hillside placed to impede the progress of any attacker. Dillon was sent ahead with a small force to ascertain whether an assault was possible and concluded that it was.

As dusk fell on the 3rd the French launched a daring three-pronged assault with the Irish Brigade on the centre left. As a mark of honour they were accompanied by d’Estaing himself. Despite the obstacles in their way, the French and Irish troops fought their way up the slope and had taken the position by morning, forcing McCartney’s surrender. Several officers of Dillon's regiment were among the 100 casualties sustained by the attackers. Both the British and the French coveted this strategic Caribbean island and within days a British Relief Expedition arrived off its shores to engage the French Navy. They were beaten off and the island remained in French hands until 1783 when it was handed back to Britain on the conclusion of hostilities.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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