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Saturday, 19 August 2017

19‭ ‬August‭ ‬1504:‭ ‬The battle of Knockdoe/Cnoc Tuagh‭ (‬the Hill of Axes‭) ‬was fought on this day.‭ ‬This battle was the greatest clash of arms seen in Ireland in hundreds of years.‭ ‬It took place around Knockdoe,‭ ‬a hillock about eight miles north east of Galway city.‭ ‬The combatants were the forces under Garret Fitzgerald,‭ ‬the Great Earl of Kildare and his rival Ulick‭ ‬Burke of Clanrickard.‭

Despite a somewhat uncertain relationship the Great Earl was King Henry VII’s man in Ireland.‭ ‬He was charged with ensuring that no other than himself should dictate the state of the King's affairs in this Country.‭ ‬Something of a poacher turned gamekeeper the Great Earl would brook no rivals.‭ ‬Ulick‭ ‬Burke had thrown down the gauntlet however by seizing three castles belonging to the O’Kellys of south Galway and also taking under his control the Royal city of Galway.‭ ‬Ironically Ulick was also Garret’s son in law‭! ‬While not a certainty he seems to have fallen out with his wife Eustacia and she had returned to be under her fathers roof.‭ ‬The O’Kellys also appealed to him for the restitution of their fortresses.‭

He decided to lead an Army to the West and settle the issue through battle.‭ ‬He led a formidable force with him,‭ ‬perhaps as many as‭ ‬6,000‭ ‬warriors and many of them the iron clad Gallowglass who dominated the battlefields of Ireland in the latter Middle Ages.‭ ‬To oppose him Ulick gathered a similar type of force but he could not match the Great Earls resources or network of connections.‭ ‬He had maybe about‭ ‬4,000‭ ‬men in the field on the day of battle.‭ ‬The Great Earl mustered forces from Leinster and Ulster with some Connacht allies too.‭ ‬Burkes‭’ ‬own force was comprised of his retinue from south Galway,‭ ‬and his allies from northwest Munster.‭ ‬To the Gaels it seemed that the great wars between the provincial kings of old in the days before the English arrived had returned.‭ ‬But to Garret it was more like a version of a suppression of a rebellion against Royal authority that the King of England might engage upon across the water.‭ ‬In truth there was a mixture of both these analogies in what happened.

In the event Garret Fitzgerald beat his opponent decisively and retook Galway from Ulick Burke.‭ ‬The battle though was bloody and hard fought‭ – ‘‬a dour struggle‭’‬.‭ ‬Essentially an infantry battle both sides hacked and slashed at each other to bring the other down.‭ ‬It is also the first battle to record the use of a gun‭ ‬-‭ ‬a Palesman beat out his opponent’s brains with the butt of his piece‭! ‬It was really a medieval battle of the old style and the last great one of its kind.‭ ‬Both sides clashed early in the morning and it was late in the day before the remnants of Burkes‭’ ‬much depleted host broke and ran.‭ ‬The Geraldine force camped on the battlefield that night to collect booty and bring in the stragglers.‭ ‬The Great Earl proceeded the next day to enter the City of Galway in Triumph and received the keys of the metropolis from the grateful Mayor.

A fierce battle was fought between them,‭ ‬such as had not been known of in latter times.‭ ‬Far away from the combating troops were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs,‭ ‬the vehement efforts of the champions,‭ ‬the charge of the royal heroes,‭ ‬the noise of the lords,‭ ‬the clamour of the troops when endangered,‭ ‬the shouts and exultations of the youths,‭ ‬the sound made by the falling of the brave men,‭ ‬and the triumphing of the nobles over the plebeians.‭ ‬The battle was at length gained against Mac William,‭ ‬O'Brien,‭ ‬and the chiefs of Leath-Mhogha‭; ‬and a great slaughter was made of them‭; ‬and among the slain was Murrough Mac-I-Brien-Ara,‭ ‬together with many others of the nobles.‭ ‬And of the nine battalions which were in solid battle array,‭ ‬there survived only one broken battalion.‭ ‬A countless number of the Lord Justice's forces were also slain,‭ ‬though they routed the others before them.‭ ‬It would be impossible to enumerate or specify all the slain,‭ ‬both horse and foot,‭ ‬in that battle,‭ ‬for the plain on which they were was impassable,‭ ‬from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters‭; ‬of broken spears,‭ ‬cloven shields,‭ ‬shattered battle-swords,‭ ‬mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead,‭ ‬and beardless youths lying hideous,‭ ‬after expiring.
Annals of the Four Masters

Friday, 18 August 2017

18 August 670: The Feast of St. Fiacre the Abbot on this day. He was was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century. He had a hermitage on the banks of the river Nore at Kilfera, County Kilkenny. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628 AD, at Meaux in what is now France. St. Farowas the Bishop there generously received him. He gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest, which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. Here he founded a Monastery and a Hospice. He resided in a little cell and led a frugal existence surrounded by a small garden, which he worked himself. He was very strict on the rule that no women should be about the place. He was noted for his great ability to cure the sick and many flocked to him to be cured.

After his death a Shrine to him became a place of Pilgrimage and in later centuries he had some very famous devotees. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint to the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. St. Fiacre is also a patron saint of gardeners and of the cab-drivers of Paris. French cabs are called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

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17 August 1922: The transfer of Dublin Castle by the British to the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State was completed on this day.

The Castle loomed large in the consciousness of the Irish People as the source and origin of many of their troubles. It was from here that the Crown of England through its Viceroys and Lord Lieutenants and latterly its Chief Secretaries attempted with various degrees of success to administer the Country. ‘The Castle’ - as it was commonly referred to - was an imposing structure that dated back to the early 13th century when King John gave orders for its construction. It was completed by 1230 and the Great Courtyard (Upper Castle Yard) of today corresponds closely with the fortification

Though its origins go deeper into the past as ‘The Castle’ stands on the high ridge, the highest ground in the locality, at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the (now underground) Poddle, which formed a natural boundary on two sides. It is very probable that the original fortification on this easily defended strategic site was a Gaelic ráth [ringfort], which guarded the harbour, the adjacent Dubhlinn [Blackpool] monastic settlement and the four long distant roads that converged nearby. In the 930's, a Danish Viking Fortress stood on this site and part of the town's defences are on view at the Undercroft, where the facing stone revetments offered protection against the River Poddle.

It had large sturdy walls and four round towers to protect it from attack by the Irish. The south-east Record Tower is the last intact medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself. It functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times.

So strong and well-defended was it and so important to the Crown that it never fell to attack. It was besieged in 1537 during the Revolt of Silken Thomas, almost taken in the Rising of 1641 and later occupied by the soldiers of the English Parliament under Cromwell. In 1798 it again came under threat and at Easter 1916 the insurgents of the Irish Citizen Army attempted to seize it by coup de main but without success.

But with the signing of the Treaty in December of 1921 the British had agreed to withdraw from most of Ireland and the days of the Castle as the centre of British Power in this Country started to draw to a close. While the British Army pulled out in January 1922 the transfer of administration took months to organise.

Thus the day came about in August 1922 when the last contingent of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) marched out and the first detachment of the Civic Guards (later the Garda Síochána) marched in, led by the first Garda Commissioner Michael Staines & Chief Superintendent McCarthy. At last ‘The Castle’ was fully in Irish hands.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

16 August‭ ‬1927:‭ ‬The Alderman Jinks Affair.‭ ‬Mr Denis Johnstone,‭ ‬the leader of the Labour Party,‭ ‬proposed a motion of No Confidence in the Government of Mr W.T.‭ ‬Cosgrave.‭ ‬Johnstone opened the crucial debate with the following words:

The motion down in my name and which I move is:
‭“‬That the Executive Council has ceased to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.‭”
In effect,‭ ‬it is clear that that motion is intended to test the views of the House as to whether the present Executive Council shall continue in office.‭ ‬It is based on Article‭ ‬53‭ ‬of the Constitution,‭ ‬which says:‭ “‬The President and Ministers nominated by him shall retire from office when they cease to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.‭”

The result was a tie of‭ ‬71‭ ‬votes each.‭ ‬As a result the vote of the Speaker Mr Michael Hayes decided the issue for the Government.‭ ‬The absence of Mr Jinks of the National League Party‭ (‬who were in alliance with Fianna Fail‭) ‬was crucial to Cosgrave’s survival.‭

It is widely believed that Jinks non-appearance was due to the intervention of Major Bryan Cooper and J.M.‭ ‬Smyllie‭ (‬editor of the‭ ‬Irish Times‭) ‬who plied Jinks with liberal quantities of drink in the hours before the vote was taken.‭ ‬Their hospitality apparently rendered their hapless guest in no fit state to attend the House.‭ ‬The pair convinced their drinking companion that a ticket home was a better course of action than attendance upon the House when he was obviously the worse for wear.‭

‬They then put him on the Sligo train and thus unable to partake in the day’s parliamentary proceedings.‭ ‬This development thus saved Mr Cosgrave’s Government from almost certain defeat.‭
Jink’s, a National League Deputy, was the centre of wild speculation that he had been kidnapped to keep him from voting. Rumours swept the country and headlines such as, ‘The Mystery of Deputy Jinks, the missing deputy’ screamed from several newspapers not only in the U.K. and America.
The sensational affair began when Jinks walked out of the Dáil chambers before the vote was about to be called and he couldn’t be found despite a frantic search by colleagues.

There was consternation amongst the opposition who had been confident that the Government would fall. Jinks was later tracked to a hotel at Harcourt Street having spent the day strolling through the streets of Dublin. He told reporters he had gone to Dublin with instruction from two thirds of his supporters to vote for the Government.

“I was neither kidnapped nor spirited away. I simply walked out of the Dáil when I formed my own opinion after listening to a good many speeches.

“I cannot understand the sensation nor can I understand the meaning or object of the many reports circulated. What I did was done after careful consideration of the entire situation.

I have nothing to regret for my action. I am glad I was the single individual who saved the situation for the Government, and perhaps, incidentally, for the country. I believe I acted for its good,” said Deputy Jinks.

The Sligo deputy arrived home on Wednesday night by the midnight mail train. A large crowd greeted his arrival. He spent the following morning receiving callers including one proclaiming him  “ The Ruler of Ireland.”!!!

Jinks had only been elected a TD in June of that year and subsequently lost his seat in the General Election of September that year. He returned to local politics where he served once again as Mayor of Sligo. He died in 1934.

To this day the bizarre actions of Mr Jinks have been the subject of much speculation. The common accepted story is that he was inveigled into doing the rounds of various establishments in Dublin City centre by Smylie and Cooper, men with Sligo connections and who were from a Unionist background. They did not want to see Mr De Valera in power!

By the time the vote was called he was nowhere to be seen and his somewhat ignominious place in modern Irish political history was assured.

Legend has it that Mr Cosgrave then purchased or had purchased on behalf of the Government a horse called Mr Jinks [above]. This horse went on to win the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, England in 1929!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

15‭ ‬August‭ ‬1569:‭ ‬The sack of Enniscorthy on this day by Sir Edmund Butler,‭ ‬the brother of the Earl of Ormond.‭ ‬The Co Wexford town held a great Fair on this date,‭ ‬named‭ ‘‬Lady Day‭’ ‬after Our Lady the Mother of Christ.‭ This date in August is celebrated in the Catholic Calendar as the Feast of her Assumption into Heaven. ‬

This was one of the great Medieval Fairs of Ireland where people would come from miles around to trade and buy the wares on offer.‭ ‬Many valuable commodities would be available and those with the coinage to buy or goods to barter would be there in plenty.‭ ‬But the Fair this year was held against a backdrop of a vicious War full of atrocities and counter atrocities committed by both sides.‭ ‬As the townsmen and country folk went about their business a large Geraldine raiding party overcame them.‭ ‬This was no doubt a well planned operation,‭ ‬designed to loot and punish the inhabitants who considered themselves under the protection of the Crown of England.

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

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

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14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to stave off the collapse of the Northern State. This was to try and stem the serious rioting in both cities and in other urban centres across the North and to stop the collapse of the State that could come about if the situation continued to spiral out of control.

In response to the growing Crises the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Jack Lynch had gone on the airwaves the previous day to announce the setting up of Field Hospitals near the Border and Refugee Camps further south to deal with the expected influx of people fleeing their homes. This gesture however only seriously angered and worried moderate Unionists and inflamed the more hard line and paranoid Loyalists - while doing nothing of real material benefit to help the beleaguered Nationalists at that time.

While the situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside& the British Army took up positions there the situation slid out of control in Belfast.  There was also serious rioting in Armagh, Newry & Omagh and other areas throughout the North. In Armagh a man was shot dead by the RUC. Five people were killed in overnight rioting in Belfast, one of them a nine year old boy. As the sectarian clashes worsened houses and business premises were set alight and hundreds were damaged or destroyed. Bombay street was totally destroyed and the Catholic residents had to flee for their lives.

It soon became clear that the discipline of a considerable number of the regular RUC and more particularly the B-Specials had collapsed. Numerous individuals from these organisations went on the rampage and became indistinguishable from the Loyalist mobs on the loose that night.

While the situation in the Six Counties had became much more dangerous over the Summer the multiple deaths in open sectarian clashes was a huge shock to the people of Ireland. For the first time in decades people had been killed in almost open warfare between the Orange and the Green. It was a watershed in Modern Irish Politics.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Percy Bysshe Shelley

On hearing of his funeral Lord Byron wrote:

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

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

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

Saturday, 12 August 2017

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12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922:‭ ‬The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day.‭ ‬He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬He was born in the city in‭ ‬1872‭ ‬and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism.‭ ‬He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.‭  ‬His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood‭ (‬IRB‭) ‬and the Gaelic League.‭ ‬He went out to South Africa in‭ ‬1896‭ ‬and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics.‭ ‬He returned home and‭ ‬in‭ ‬1900,‭ ‬he founded Cumann na nGaedheal,‭ ‬a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.

In‭ ‬1905‭ ‬he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country.‭ ‬He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown.‭ ‬He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow.‭ ‬His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that‭ ‘‬Home Rule‭’ ‬was not enough.

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter‭ ‬1916‭ ‬Rising,‭ ‬dubbed by the British‭ ‘‬The Sinn Fein Rebellion‭’ ‬that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics.‭ ‬Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party.‭ ‬In the General Election of‭ ‬1918‭ ‬Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the‭ ‬Dáil met in‭ ‬1919‭ ‬it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President‭! ‬Griffiths‭’ ‬role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure.‭ ‬This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.‭

However it was only after the Truce of‭ ‬1921‭ ‬when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear.‭ ‬This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British.‭ ‬Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the‭ ‬26‭ ‬Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign‭ ‘‬the Treaty‭’ ‬as well.‭ ‬He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera‭ & ‬a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.‭  ‬After a mammoth series of debates aka the‭ ‘‬Treaty Debates‭’ ‬the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the‭ ‬Dáil and led his followers out.‭ ‬

The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation.‭ ‬The outbreak of the Civil War in June‭ ‬1922‭ ‬further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.‭  ‬Exhausted by his labours,‭ ‬he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the‭ ‬12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922‭ ‬and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.

Friday, 11 August 2017

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11 August 1861: Catherine Hayes ‘the Swan of Erin’ died on this day. She was probably the most internationally famous Irishwoman of her day. Her fame rested not on her notoriety but on her talents as a First Class singer – notably as an Operatic Soprano - in which role she toured the World.

She was born in Limerick circa 1818. Her parents were of humble origins and the father abandoned the family when Catherine was still a child. But from an early age she displayed great talent as a singer. Her accomplishments were brought to the attention of the Church of Ireland Bishop Knox of Limerick and he arranged that funds were raised to send her to Dublin to study under Antonio Sapio. Her first appearance took place on 3 May 1839 at Sapio's annual concert in the Rotunda, Dublin. Early next year she sang in her native city, and then frequently in Dublin, and soon raised her terms to ten guineas a concert.

Going to Paris in October 1842, studied under Manuel Garcia, who after a tuition of a year and a half advised her to proceed to Italy. At Milan she became the pupil of Felice Ronconi, and through the intervention of Madame Grassini was engaged for the Italian Opera House, Marseilles, where on 10 May 1846 she made her first appearance on the stage as Elvira in I Puritaui,' and was enthusiastically applauded. After her return to Milan she continued her studies under Ronconi, until Morelli, the director of La Scala at Milan.

She was described as a soprano of the sweetest quality, and of good compass, ascending with ease to D in alt. The upper notes were limpid, and like a well-tuned silver bell up to A. Her lower tones were the most beautiful ever heard in a real soprano, and her trill was remarkably good. She was a touching actress in all her standard parts. She was tall, with a fine figure, and graceful in her movements.

After a tour of the Italian cities, she returned to England in 1849, when Delafield engaged her for the season at a salary of 1,300l. On Tuesday, 10 April, she made her début at Covent Garden in 'Linda di Chamouni,' and was received with much warmth. At the close of the season she sang before Queen Victoria & 500 guests at Buckingham Palace where she daringly sang her signature tune the ‘rebel song’ Kathleen Mavourneen/ Caitlín mo mhúirnín for the Royal audience. On 5 Nov. 1849 she appeared at a concert given by the Dublin Philharmonic Society, and afterwards at the Theatre Royal, Dublin.

At this stage the World outside of Europe beckoned and in September 1851, she left London for New York first singing there on the 23rd of that month. During 1853 she was in California, where fabulous sums were paid for the choice of seats, one ticket selling for 1,150 dollars. She then departed for South America, and after visiting the principal cities embarked for Australia. She gave concerts in the Sandwich Islands, and arrived at Sydney in January 1854. After singing in that city, Melbourne, and Adelaide, she went to India and Batavia; revisited Australia, and returned to England in August 1856, after an absence of five years.

Whether such an attractive and talented woman received the favours of her many male admirers in the course of her career we do not know but on 8 Oct. 1857, at St. George's, Hanover Square, she married a William Avery Bushnell. However the Union was to be short and tragic. He soon fell into ill-health, and died at Biarritz, France, on 2 July 1858, aged thirty five years. Catherine continued to perform but she had bouts of ill health in the past and such a demanding schedule from an early age must have taken their toll. The end came for her in the house of a friend, Henry Lee, at Roccles, Upper Sydenham, London, on 11 August 1861. She was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery on 17 August where her tomb can still be seen. She was just forty three years old.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

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

This was one of the most decisive battles of the Bruce Wars‭ (‬1315-1318‭)‬.‭ ‬The numbers involved are unknown,‭ ‬and can only be estimated.‭ ‬But while it is doubtful that they were any higher than seven thousand‭ (‬and even this figure should be treated with caution‭) ‬the list of participants on the Irish side alone indicates that an overall figure of at least three to four thousand were involved.‭ ‬The English claimed‭  ‬that they took some‭ ‬1100‭ ‬heads from the Irish on that day.

Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair the King of Connacht led a coalition of the Gaels to stop the return of William Burke,‭ ‬the Anglo-Irish Lord of Connacht.‭ ‬He had come back from Scotland to try and regain his lost lands in the western province.‭ ‬He gathered together a large and well equipped army from the colonists of Connacht and Meath.‭ ‬Richard de Bermingham led the English of Meath.‭ ‬O'Conchobhair also put together a formidable army drawn from North Munster,‭ ‬south Connacht‭ & ‬the kingdoms of Breifne and Meath.‭ ‬But whatever happened on the day of battle‭ (‬and the record is very sketchy‭) ‬the Irish met with Catastrophe.‭ ‬Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair and Tadhg O'Cellaigh,‭ ‬King of Uí-Maine were among those that fell along with numerous other kings and chieftains of the Gaels.

Many of the men of Erin all,‭ ‬around the great plain
Many sons of kings,‭ ‬whom I name not,‭ ‬were slain in the great defeat
Sorrowful to my heart is the conflict of the host of Midhe and Mumha

Annals of Loch Cé

Another account states:

The Gael charged all day with desperate courage,‭ ‬but they were driven back by a line of steel,‭ ‬and mown down by the deadly English archers. ‭ ‬Their standard was captured. ‭ ‬Sixty chieftains were slain,‭ ‬including Felim and Tadhg O'Kelly from whom,‭ ‬the Gael expected more than from any man of his time.‭"

So was quenched the greatest hope for a century of restoring a Gaelic kingdom.‭ ‬The defeat and death of Felim at once restored De Burgo’s Lordship…the O’Connor‭ ‘‬kingdom of Connacht‭’ ‬was henceforth but an empty name.‭’

A History of Medieval Ireland‭ by Edmund Curtis

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

9‭ ‬August‭ ‬1971: The launch of Operation Demetrius on this day- ‭ ‬Internment was introduced by the British in the North of Ireland.‭ ‬In early morning raids the British army and the RUC lifted hundreds of men throughout the North in what was a ham fisted operation.‭ ‬Their aim was to catch as many members of the IRA in their homes as they could in one huge swoop.‭ ‬But the introduction of internment was a logical next move in the escalating War between Irish Republicans and the British.‭ ‬The IRA were already of the opinion that their enemies would once again use this tactic as they had many times in the past‭ & thus ‬most of the key leadership figures had already gone‭ ‘‬on the run‭’ by the time the round ups began‬. In the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s republican suspects had been imprisoned without trial by the British Government, but this time the exercise was to blow back in their faces.

What the British did not predict was the high level of resistance they encountered in Nationalist areas as men young and old were dragged away by the Crown Forces in full view of their terrified families.‭ ‬There was widespread anger and within hours rioting had broken out in many areas.‭ ‬It quickly became obvious that the exercise was a huge fiasco and one with deadly consequences.
Relying on outdated lists containing‭ ‬450‭ ‬names provided by the RUC Special Branch,‭ ‬the British Army swept into nationalist areas and arrested‭ ‬342‭ ‬men.‭ ‬Within‭ ‬48‭ ‬hours‭ ‬116‭ ‬of those arrested were released.‭ ‬The remainder were detained at Crumlin Road Prison and the prison ship‭ '‬The Maidstone‭' ‬in Belfast Harbour.‭

Hundreds were injured in the rioting that followed and‭ ‬12‭ ‬people were shot dead that day‭ – ‬2‭ ‬British Soldiers,‭ ‬7‭ ‬Nationalists and‭ ‬3‭ ‬Loyalists.‭

The British Government had focused the entire strength of their Armed Forces on one community in the North and it was obvious to all as to whose side they were backing‭ – ‬a strategy even they had some qualms about but went along with to placate the Stormont Government of Brian Faulkner.
What they did not include was a single Loyalist.‭ ‬Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing,‭ ‬this organisation was left untouched,‭ ‬as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara,‭ ‬the Shankill Defenders Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.‭ ‬It is known that Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few‭ '‬Protestants‭' ‬in the trawl but he refused.
Tim Pat Coogan

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

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8‭ ‬August‭ ‬1649:‭ ‬Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh,‭ ‬one of the last of the great scribes of Ireland,‭ ‬completed his catalogue of the Kings of Ireland,‭ ‬from Parthalón to Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair,‭ ‬entitled‭ ‬Réim Ríoghraidhe Éireann‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬This was for inclusion within his masterpiece the‭ ‬Leabhar na nGenealach,‭ ‬or the‭ ‬Book of Genealogies.‭ ‬The work is a compilation of Irish genealogical lore relating to the principal pre Gaelic, Gaelic, Viking and Anglo-Norman families of Ireland and covering the period from pre-Christian times to the mid-17th century collected from a variety of sources.‭ ‬The fact that many of these sources no longer exist adds considerably to the value of Mac Fhirbhisigh's work.‭

The opening sentence of Leabhar na nGenealach, quoted in 'The Celebrated Antiquary Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh', goes some way towards describing the contents. It reads

the branches of kinship and branches of genealogy of every invasion which took possession of Ireland from this time up to Adam (except the Fomhóraigh, the Vikings and English, whom we treat of only since they came to our country), together with the history of the saints and the list of the kings of Ireland and finally, an index in which are collected, in alphabetical order, the surnames and famous places mentioned in this book…

This great work stands comparison with‭ ‬The Annals of the Four Masters and is all the more remarkable for being the work of just one man.‭ ‬Preserved over the centuries it was not printed in full until Mayoman Nollaig Ó Muraíle published his comprehensive edition in five volumes‭ (‬by De Burca books‭) ‬in‭ ‬2004.‭ ‬This is one of Ireland’s greatest Literary/Historical Treasures.

Nollaig Ó Muraíle sums up his career as follows:

"... an astonishingly large proportion of the manuscripts we still possess passed through the hands of this one scholar, and it may well be that by that very fact that they have actually survived – thanks to their being passed on (eventually) from Mac Fhirbhisigh to the likes of Edward Lhuyd. Without the great diligence, then, of Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbisigh, as copyist, compiler and translator, and also as collector and transmitter of manuscripts, some quite significant remnants of the civilization that was Gaelic Ireland would have gone into almost certain oblivion. That is his legacy to succeeding generations, and one which merits our undying gratitude."

It might be worth noting that his name is pronounced  “DOOaltach MacIrvishy”. Which was anglicised, incredibly, as “Dudley Forbes”!!!

Monday, 7 August 2017

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7 August 1943: The death in Dublin of famous portrait artist Sarah Purser on this day.
She was born in Kingstown/ Dun Laoghaire on 22 March 1848. She was the daughter of Benjamin Purser and Ann Mallet. The family moved to  Dungarvan County Waterford, a seaside market town nestled beneath the Comeragh mountains soon after her birth and lived firstly in Strand side South, Abbeyside, which is now the home of the Parish Priest. Later they moved to a house called 'The Hermitage' in Abbeyside. Sarah lived here for about 25 years. Her father was involved in brewing and flour milling while in Dungarvan. At the age of 13 Sarah was sent to school in Switzerland for two years. She left Dungarvan in the summer of 1873 to make her living as a painter and settled in Dublin. There she trained in the Metropolitan School of Art and later went to the Academie Julian in Paris and also to Italy. She became a highly successful portrait painter and an important figure in the Irish art world at the turn of the century.

She worked mostly as a portraitist eg as above Girl with red hair. She was also associated with the stained glass movement, founding a stained glass workshop, An Túr Gloine, in 1903. Some of her stained glass work was commissioned from as far as New York, including a window at Christ Church, Pelham dedicated to the memory of Katharine Temple Emmet and Richard Stockton Emmet, grandson of the Irish patriot, Thomas Addis Emmet. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she was very successful in obtaining commissions, famously commenting "I went through the British aristocracy like the measles."

"some of her finest and most sensitive work was not strictly portraiture, for example, An Irish Idyll in the Ulster Museum, and Le Petit Déjeuner (in the National Gallery of Ireland)."
Bruce Arnold

Among her sitters were W.B.Yeats, Jack B Yeats, Maud Gonne, Roger Casement, James MacNeill, Sir Samuel Ferguson, the Bishops of Kells, Clogher and Limerick, John Kells Ingram, Sir Henry and Lady Gore Booth, Douglas Hyde,

When she founded An Tur Gloine, she was instrumental in drawing the attention of the art world to the works of John Yeats and Nathaniel Hone. She exhibited widely in Dublin and London. At the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Irish Fine Art Society in Dublin. At the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery, Fine Art Society and New Gallery in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. In 1886 she founded the Dublin Art Club and in 1890 the RHA elected her an Honoury Member.

Sarah Purser became wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness. She was very active in the art world scene in Dublin and was known as an entertaining host - to those that pleased her. She was involved in the setting up of the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House to house the gallery.

In 1923 she became the first female member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. She persuaded W.T. Cosgrave to give Charlemont House in Dublin as a modern Art Gallery and also to house the Hugh lane collection.

Until her death she lived for years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. It was demolished after she died and developed into apartments. She was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

* Portrait by John Butler Yeats, c. 1880–1885

Saturday, 5 August 2017

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5 August 1847: Daniel O’Connell’s body was interred in Glasnevin cemetery on this day. The ‘Liberator’ had died in Genoa, Italy on 15 May. His last bequest was : “My body to Ireland – my heart to Rome – my soul to heaven”. Thus his body was conveyed back to Ireland for burial.

The Funeral service was held in the Metropolitan Church, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on the 4th August. The following day his cortege made its way through the City on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery. The centre of Dublin came to a standstill as tens of thousands of mourners lined the route as his hearse made its way along Westmoreland Street [above] and up Sackville St (now O’Connell St) on its way to his resting place in the Graveyard he had help to found. The enormous triumphal car that O’Connell rode in when he was freed from prison in May 1844 led the procession. His Funeral was the largest ever recorded up to that time in Ireland.

In 1869 his remains were re interred in the crypt of the O’Connell Round Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery in a magnificent casket in the base of the structure. There the Liberator lies today.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

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2‭ ‬August‭ ‬1800:‭ ‬The‭ ‘‬Irish‭’ ‬Parliament on College Green in Dublin met for the last time on this day.‭ ‬It had been was persuaded to vote itself out of existence through an Act of Union with Great Britain.‭ ‬Many wealthy landlords and members of the Irish aristocracy were persuaded by promises of titles and honours from London.‭ ‬With the Act of Union the centre of political power shifted to London.‭

The idea of a union of Great Britain and Ireland had been considered many times in over the previous‭ ‬100‭ ‬years or so.‭ ‬The grant of nominal legislative independence to the Dublin Parliament in‭ ‬1782‭ ‬gave the impression to many that the idea had been dropped.‭

However,‭ ‬the situation changed in 1793 with the onset of War with Revolutionary France and even more so with the‭ ‬1798‭ ‬Rising here in Ireland which was brutally crushed.‭ The‬ Ascendancy (that is the Anglo-Irish Elite) had been shaken to its core by the events of the previous years and realised that if Catholic Emancipation were granted their situation would be fatally undermined. If Catholics gained the right to sit in Ireland’s parliament then it was only a matter of time until the Ascendency was finished as a political & economic power in the land.‭ ‬They were therefore amenable to be persuaded that the centre of power should reside in London thus by negating the possibility of the Catholics of Ireland gaining control of the Country’s Destiny.‭

Pitt,‭ ‬the British Prime Minister along with Lord Castlereagh went for sheer bribery to‭ ‘‬buy‭’ ‬the MPs consent to a Union.‭ ‬The going rate was‭ ‬£15,000‭ ‬per seat and threats,‭ ‬bribes and promises were applied to swing the Honourable Members consent to the measure.‭

Castlereagh stated that his task was to:
‘‬to buy out,‭ ‬and secure to the Crown forever,‭ ‬the fee simple of Irish corruption‭’‬.

Both houses of the College Green Parliament agreed the terms of the Union on‭ ‬28‭ ‬March‭ ‬1800.‭ ‬An identical Bill was laid before the both the Dublin and London Parliaments.‭ ‬The British one became law on‭ ‬2‭ ‬July and the Royal Assent was given to an Act of Union on‭ ‬1‭ ‬August.‭ ‬This Act of Union became operative on‭ ‬1‭ ‬January‭ ‬1801.

Had there been a stable peace at home in Ireland and abroad,‭ ‬and no possibility of a further French attack & with no threat of Catholic Emancipation then it is very unlikely that the Dublin Parliament would have voted itself out of existence.‭ ‬Ironically Peace with France came,‭ ‬however briefly,‭ ‬in the year following the Union‭ (‬1802‭) ‬and the Catholics of Ireland had to wait another‭ ‬28‭ ‬years to their Emancipation from last of the Penal Laws.

The imposing parliament building still stands in College Green Dublin [above], today it is a branch of the Bank of Ireland.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

1 August 664 AD: A great Plague arrived in Ireland and swept the Country killing huge numbers of people. The ‘Great Mortality' was possibly a return of the Buide Conaill which had swept through Ireland in the 6th century. The 'Yellowness of Conaill' might perhaps refer to a prominent individual who had been amongst its first victims, as in the 20th century the 'Spanish Influenza' refers to King Alfonso XIII of Spain catching it - though he survived! A jaundice like fever was perhaps the root of the disease.

But it has been advanced that the Plague of 664 and the years following was actually a bubonic plague caused by rats - though the rat population in Ireland at that time is a matter of conjecture. Rats in large numbers are usually needed for that disease to take off and places of dense urbanity are their preferred locations - which Ireland did not possess at that time. However we cannot be sure that the plague that arrived in 664 was a bubonic plague or the same type as that of the earlier one - or indeed another disease altogether!

The plague of 664 broke out on or about the 1st August that year after a warm summer which was followed by a warm autumn (ideal for the spread of plague) and continued into 665, and broke out with renewed violence in 667-668. It then quietened down for about a decade and a half but flared up again in 683-684 when it was described as the mortalitas puerorum (death of boys). Children seem to have been more heavily affected then because they had no resistance to it.

A great mortality in Ireland came on the calends of August i.e. in Magh Itha in Leinster.
The Annals of Tigernach 664 AD

The plague reached Ireland on the Kalends of August.
Chronicum Scotorum

A great mortality prevailed in Ireland this year, which was called the Buidhe Connail, and the following number of the saints of Ireland died of it: St. Feichin, Abbot of Fobhar, on the 14th of February; St. Ronan, son of Bearach; St. Aileran the Wise; St. Cronan, son of Silne; St. Manchan, of Liath; St. Ultan Mac hUi Cunga, Abbot of Cluain Iraird Clonard; Colman Cas, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois; and Cummine, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois.
After Diarmaid and Blathmac, the two sons of Aedh Slaine, had been eight years in the sovereignty of Ireland, they died of the same plague.
There died also Maelbreasail, son of Maelduin, and Cu Gan Mathair, King of Munster; Aenghus Uladh. There died very many ecclesiastics and laics in Ireland of this mortality besides these.

Annals of the Four Masters 664 AD

This Plague also struck in Britain, first along the southern coast before spreading north into Northumbria. It is more than likely that it spread from Britain into Ireland along the same channels. Many men of the English Nation then resided here and studied or practised the religious Life in Irish Monasteries. This was all given free of charge! The Venerable Bede recorded this Plague and it is the first such one recorded in the history of that Country:

IN the same year of our Lord 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the third day of May, about the tenth hour of the day. In the same year, a sudden pestilence depopulated first the southern parts of Britain, and afterwards attacking the province of the Northumbrians, ravaged the country far and near, and destroyed a great multitude of men.

Moreover, this plague prevailed no less disastrously in the island of Ireland. Many of the nobility, and of the lower ranks of the English nation, were there at that time, who, in the days of the Bishops Finan and Colman, forsaking their native island, retired thither, either for the sake of sacred studies, or of a more ascetic life; and some of them presently devoted themselves faithfully to a monastic life, others chose rather to apply themselves to study, going about from one master’s cell to another. The Scots willingly received them all, and took care to supply them with daily food without cost, as also to furnish them with books for their studies, and teaching free of charge.

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England