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Saturday, 23 September 2017

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

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

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

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



Friday, 22 September 2017


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

http://www.clarechampion.ie


Thursday, 21 September 2017


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


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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 19 September 2017


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

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

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

Monday, 18 September 2017

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18 September 1851: The death of Ann Devlin – Patriot - on this day. Her role in Irish History was a brief one and entirely sub ordinary to that of greater players on the stage than her. But while others have faded away with the passage of time her name is still remembered and admired to this day by those who are familiar with the events of 1803 in Ireland.
She was born circa 1780 into a farming family near Rathdrum Co Wicklow. Her father Bryan Devlin was committed to Ireland becoming an Independent Nation and raised his family to be the same determination. When the Rising of 1798 came he became a suspect in the eyes of Dublin Castle and was imprisoned in Wicklow Jail. He was released in 1800 and moved his family to the Dublin village of Rathfarnham. It was here that Fate played a part that placed Anne at the centre of the momentous events of 1803 and her place in Irish History.

Her father was still involved in the struggle for Irish Freedom and became acquainted with Robert Emmet who was planning another Uprising. To give cover to his designs a veneer of normality was essential and Mr. Devlin suggested that one of his daughters could play the role of ‘Housekeeper’ and convey messages across the City without arousing the suspicion. Eventually Anne was chosen for the role and she moved into the Emmet Household.

Eventually the Revolt kicked off pre-maturely on 27 July 1803 but quickly turned into a Fiasco and Emmet fled to the Wicklow mountains. He was eventually captured and executed. The Devlin family knew that sooner or later they would be implicated and they were tracked down and arrested. Ann herself was seized at the Emmet household at Butterfield Lane.

When the others came down she was examined. She said she knew nothing in the world about the gentleman, except that she was the servant maid, where they came from, and where they went to, she knew nothing about, and so long as her wages were paid she cared to know nothing else about them…The magistrate pressed her to tell the truth, he threatened her with death if she did not tell; she persisted in asserting her total ignorance of Mr. Ellis’s [Emmet’s] acts and movements, and of those of all the other gentlemen. At length the magistrate gave the word to hang her, and she was dragged into the court yard to be executed. There was a common car there, they tilted up the shafts and fixed a rope from the back band that goes across the shafts, and while these preparations were making for her execution, the yeomen kept her standing against the wall of the house, prodding her with their bayonets in the arms and shoulders, till she was all over covered with blood … and saying to her at every thrust of the bayonet, ‘Will you confess now; will you tell now where is Mr. Ellis?’ Her constant answer was ‘I have nothing to tell, I will tell nothing!!!’

The rope was at length put about her neck; she was dragged to the place where the car was converted into a gallows; she was placed over it, and the end of the rope was passed over the back-band. … She had just time to say, ‘The Lord Jesus have mercy on my soul,’ when a tremendous shout was raised by the yeomen: the rope was pulled by all of them, except those who held down the back part of the car, and in an instant, she was suspended by the neck. After she had been thus suspended for two or three minutes, her feet touched the ground, and a savage yell of laughter recalled her to her senses. The rope around her neck was loosened, and her life was spared: she was let off with a half hanging’

The life and times of Robert Emmet, Esq (1847) by R.R. Madden

Ann and her family were then incarcerated in the notorious Kilmainham Jail in Dublin where they were subjected to further interrogations and deprivations. They were released in 1806 when they were no longer considered a danger to British Rule. She quickly faded into obscurity.

It was only years later that Dr. Madden, the Historian of the United Irishmen, tracked her down to a tenement in the Liberties of Dublin that her story was told. She had married a man called Campbell, had children and records show she probably had a good job as the Laundress in St Patrick’s Hospital but she eventually lost the position when new management were appointed. She fell on hard times and Dr. Madden found her living the life of a ‘Common Washerwoman’ taking in dirty laundry to clean. When she died she was buried in a pauper’s grave in Glasnevin cemetery Dublin. Afterwards Dr. Madden had her remains moved to a more desirable part of the cemetery. He also paid for the erection of a headstone which was later replaced by a large Celtic cross. [above]



Sunday, 17 September 2017


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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, 16 September 2017

Glen Imaal Memorial



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

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

Survivor Sergeant Richie Lennon described the fateful accident:

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

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

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




Friday, 15 September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Thursday, 14 September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, 13 September 2017


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

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


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

Fragmentary Annals of Ireland


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


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

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

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

Annals of Ulster

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


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

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

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

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

Gonzalvo Fernandez

Dingle 28 April 1529

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

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

JAMES OF DESMOND

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

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

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



Monday, 11 September 2017


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

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

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

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

Cromwell wrote afterwards that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Saturday, 9 September 2017


9 September circa 544/45 AD: The Feast of Naomh Ciarán (Saint Kieran) of Clonmacnoise on this day. He was born around 512 AD in Fuerty, County Roscommon. The son of Beoit, a carpenter and wheelwright, he inherited a love of learning from his mother’s side of the family, as his maternal grandfather had been a bard, poet, and historian. Baptized by deacon Justus, who also served as his first tutor he continued his education at the monastery of Clonard, which was led by St. Finnian. After completing his studies under Finnian, he left Clonard and moved to the monastery of Inishmore in the Aran Isles, which was directed by St. Enda.

After many wanderings he eventually settled at a location in the centre of Ireland, on the east bank of the River Shannon at a place called the meadows of the sons of Noise: Cluan mac Noise [as Gaeilge] or in the English language: Clonmacnoise. It was here he laid the foundations of what became one of Ireland’s greatest monasteries that was to last nearly one thousand years through many trials and turmoils. St. Ciarán’s task was greatly eased by the help and lands he received from Diarmait mac Cerbaill, the last pagan King of Tara. However just not long after he had commenced his great work St. Ciarán died. His early demise was in all probability from the Bléfed (the Great Plague) that was sweeping across Europe at the time and had made its way to the shores of Ireland.


The panel above shows what is believed to be a representation of St Ciarán [left] and King Diarmait mac Cerbaill [right] planting a stake in the ground at Clonmacnoise. If so it shows the symbiotic relationship between Church & State in early Christian Ireland - the Church gained protection and the King gained the blessing of the Church - even though in this case King Diarmait was a Pagan! However St Ciarán knew that the protection of the powerful was a necessary fact of life if the Church was ever to prosper and spread the Faith across the Land of Ireland.

Due to his great learning, his sanctity, and the generosity he displayed to those less fortunate in life and because of his prominence in the early Irish church, St. Ciarán is known as one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland.”


Friday, 8 September 2017

8 September 1798: The Battle of Ballinamuck Béal Átha na Muc - the Mouth of the Ford of the Pigs - was fought on this day. It was the last battle on Irish soil of the 1798 Rising. A vastly superior British force under General Lake cornered a small Franco-Irish Army under the command of General Humbert. After a desultory exchange of fire the French accepted terms and laid down their weapons. No such considerations were offered to the Irishmen who had accompanied him on his march on Dublin. Armed for the most part with pikes and agricultural instruments they were shot and cut down in their hundreds as a general massacre began.

General Humbert was a soldier of Revolutionary France & saw much action in the Republic’s wars against its enemies. He had served in the ill fated Bantry Bay expedition to Ireland in 1796 and narrowly escaped drowning when his ship was attacked by the British navy.

When word reached Paris in the summer of 1798 that a Revolution had broken out in Ireland the Directory hastily organised expeditions to sail to Ireland to give what assistance they could to those Irish in arms against Britain. General Humbert was given a command of some 1,000 men which he successfully brought ashore at Killala Co Mayo on the 23 August. His tiny command  chiefly consisted of infantry of the 70th demi-brigade with a few artillerymen and some cavalry of the 3rd Hussars. It was the only force to make it ashore.

Undaunted at hearing from the Irish that the main rising had already been defeated he decided to strike inland and take the town of Castlebar. Before he conducted his advance he clothed and armed those amongst the population who wished to join him in the endeavour. The numbers are not exactly known but it would appear that about one thousand Irishmen joined him on his march.

Striking across the mountains he surprised the local garrison  on 27 August at Castlebar and against the odds defeated them. Thereafter the battle was known to the locals as the ‘Races of Castlebar’ so hasty was the exit of the Crown Forces after their defeat. The General here took the opportunity the declare ‘The Republic of Connacht’ which however lasted a matter of days after his departure.

Humbert crossed the Shannon at Ballintra on 7 September and stopping at Cloone that evening, he was halfway between his landing-point and Dublin. But by now the British had him well marked and with two large armies under General Lake and Viceroy Lord Cornwallis with a combined force of over 25,000 men closing in for the kill it could only be a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

While terms were offered to the French Army no such consideration was offered to the Irish in arms against His Majesty King George III. That day as the Irish stood defenceless on Shanmullagh Hill overlooking the village, volleys of musket shot was poured into them, followed by a cavalry charge, and an estimated five hundred souls perished in the carnage. After it was all over their bodies were gathered together and unceremoniously buried in a mass-grave, known ever since as the ‘Croppies grave.’ Their final resting place is marked by a modest cross, erected by the local people who care for the site on a voluntary basis. A memorial stone marks the spot.

96 French officers and 748 men were taken prisoner at Ballinamuck. British losses were initially reported as 3 killed and 16 wounded or missing, but the number of killed alone was later reported as 12. Approximately 500 Irish lay dead on the field, 200 prisoners were taken in the mopping up operations, almost all of whom were later hanged, including Matthew Tone, brother of Wolfe Tone. The prisoners were moved to Carrick-on-Shannon, St Johnstown, today's Ballinalee, where most were executed in what is known locally as Bully's Acre.

Humbert and his men were taken by canal to Dublin and repatriated to France in exchange for British POWS held by the French. After the battle the British army slowly spread out into the rebel held "Republic of Connaught" in a brutal campaign of killing and house burning which reached its climax on 23 September when Killala was stormed and retaken with much slaughter.


Thursday, 7 September 2017


7 September 1948: The Taoiseach John A Costello announced in Ottawa, Canada that the Irish Free State would leave the Commonwealth by repealing the 1936 External Relations Act and declaring Ireland a Republic. This shock announcement at a Commonwealth Conference was greeted at home with some puzzlement, as he had given no indication before his departure that such an action was contemplated.

Rumour circulated that Costello had been piqued when at a Dinner hosted by Earl Alexander, the Governor General of Canada and a dyed in the wool Ulster Unionist, the Taoiseach had looked down the barrels of table top sized miniatures of the guns that had held Derry in 1689! Specifically a miniature replica of the famous ‘Roaring Meg’ cannon [above].Chagrined at this insult he had called hastily arraigned press conference and announced his momentous decision.

Whatever the truth of the matter (and Costello denied this tale) when he returned home he brought forward a Bill that he claimed:

Was not conceived nor is it brought into this House in a mood of flamboyant patriotism or aggressive nationalism, nor in a spirit of irresponsible isolationism…

The Bill was passed and the Republic of Ireland came into being on 1 January 1949 with the State leaving the British Commonwealth as a result.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

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6 September 868 AD: The Battle of Cell ua nDaigri/ Killineer on this day. This clash of arms was fought just a few miles north of Drogheda, Co Louth. The opponents were the forces of the King of Tara, Aed Finnliath aka Áed mac Neíll of the northern Uí Néill, and his dynastic rivals the Uí Néill of Brega [east Meath] who had as allies the Vikings of Dubhlinn/Dublin and the men of Laigin [south Leinster]. King Aed had for support King Conchobor of Connacht who seems to have contributed the bulk of the warriors. They were probably dressed and fought like those above. That is in open formation where individual leadership and courage was the primary consideration on the battlefield.

The northern king appears to have brought south with him just a picked force of about one thousand men. Aed was faced with what was an alliance by the kings of greater Leinster against his hegemony – as they all feared dominance by a king as powerful and as skilful as he.

In the event he defeated his enemies in what was probably a hard fought battle. It looks like the men of the East were the ones who opened the battle but were held in check. As both sides had more or less equal numbers its probable that the contest was a long drawn out affair. It certainly was a bloody one as the King of Brega and his ally Diarmait mac Etarscéle, the King of Loch Gabor were amongst the fallen. Many of the Vikings were also put to sword. But King Aed lost from amongst his own one Fachtna mac Mael Dúin, (the man selected to succeed him in the North) when he launched his own counter assault upon his enemies.

King Aed was one of the most successful kings to rule in Ireland in the 9th Century. He drove the Vikings out of the North and checked their power in north Leinster. He was also adept at keeping Irish rivals from usurping him from his throne. He died a peaceful death at the Monastery of Dromiskin, some 30 miles north of where this great battle was fought, in the year 879.

Aed (the son of Niall) who was the king of Temair [Tara], and Conchobor (the son of Tadc) who was the king of Connacht, won a battle at Cell ua nDaigri on the 8th of the Ides [6th of September]against the Uí Néill of Brega and the Laigin, and a large force of foreigners, i.e. three hundred or more.

Flann son of Conaing had five thousand and Aed Finnliath had one thousand,


Flann son of Conaing, king of all Brega, and Diarmait son of Etarscéle, king of Loch Gabor, fell in this battle.


Very many of the heathens were slaughtered there and Fachtna (the son of Mael Dúin), heir designate of the North, fell in the counterattack of the battle.


Chronicon Scotorum 868 AD

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

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5 September 1926. The Drumcollogher/ Drom Collachair Cinema Tragedy on this day. The village of Dromcollogher is nine miles south-west of the town of Charleville, Co Cork but situated just to the north of the Limerick/ Cork border in the County of Limerick. On the night in question 48 people lost their lives when a candle overturned and caused film to ignite during a showing of The Ten Commandments. A room in the centre of the town, which was being used as a temporary cinema in Dromcollogher, caught fire when the candle ignited a reel of film carelessly left nearby.

'This was on the upper floor of a building used for storing hardware and access to it was by an external timber ladder, fixed to the wall to form a stairs. The hall, which had been used for meetings and entertainments for a number of years, was a rectangular room with a separate small dressing room area in the right-hand rear corner. The show began about 9.15pm after Benediction had finished in the local church, at which many of the audience had been present.

Estimates of the attendance varied but it appears that at least 150 people crowded into the hall, many of them children. At around 10.00 pm as the second film was showing, one of the reels, which lay unprotected on a table near the door, went on fire when a candle on the table overturned and set it alight. The people immediately rushed to the single narrow door from which the ladder/stairs descended. Those seated nearest the exit escaped as the fire spread rapidly. Others fled to the rear of the hall where the two windows were located and crowded into the small dressing room area. Some got out through the window here but unfortunately it was blocked when a woman became trapped in it. Within minutes the floor of the hall collapsed and the victims were hurtled to the ground where they died from the combination of burns, asphyxiation and shock. Forty six people were dead within 15 minutes. Two survivors later died from their injuries.'
https://sites.google.com/site/dromcollogher/cinemadisaster


The fire spread rapidly resulting in the deaths of 46 people, which included a family of six, with two more dying later in hospital. The 46 original victims of the tragedy—often referred to locally as ‘the Dromcollogher Burning’—and are buried in a large grave in the grounds of the local church. The bodies of the victims were buried in a communal grave in the local churchyard. A large Celtic cross was erected as a memorial to the victims of this tragedy.


Monday, 4 September 2017


4 September 1828: The Annaghdown/Anach Cuain Boat Tragedy. Eleven men and eight women were drowned on the river Corrib aboard an old and decrepit boat the Caisleán Nua. The tragedy was the subject of a poem by Anthony O’Rafferty Anach Cuain. On September 4th, 1828 the boat left Annaghdown Pier bound for a fair at Galway City. On board were some sheep, which were for auction at the fair, and some thirty men and women who had intended to make a holiday out of the visit to Galway. Some two miles from the city on the river Corrib tragedy struck.

Its not quite certain what caused the boat to sink, but the story is told that one of the sheep on board got restless and poked his hoof through the floor of the boat. One of the men on board tried to stuff the hole with a piece of clothing but only succeeded in knocking a plank out of the boat which caused the water to pour in. Nineteen men and women on board drowned in the ensuing panic and scarcely a family in the village of Annaghdown remained unaffected by the tragedy.

The boat and passengers proceeded without obstruction until they arrived opposite Bushypark, within two miles of the town, when she suddenly went down and all on board perished except twelve persons who were fortunately rescued from their perilous situation by another boat. 
Galway Advertiser
6 September 1828
One man on board was named John Cosgrave who was a strong swimmer. He saved several people and went back to save the woman he was shortly to marry. Some desperate people clung to him in a desperate bid to save themselves but only succeeded in drowning him also.

The recovered bodies of those who drowned were brought ashore near Menlo/Mionnloch Castle, [above] itself the scene of a tragic fire in 1910. It is now a ruin.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

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3 September 1916: The Battles of Guillemont & then Ginchy began on this day. The 16 (Irish) Division of the British Army was deeply involved in both affairs and suffered tremendous casualties as a result.

These two villages were on the extreme right flank of the British Army on the Somme battlefield where they met those of their allies the French. Guillemont and Ginchy lay on spurs, which constricted the British right flank and commanded the ground to the south, in the French Sixth Army area. It was the task of the British 4th Army to clear these devastated villages of their German defenders and remove the threat their possession posed to the Allied Armies. It was tasked to advance up the gradual but perceptible slope that the German Army had so skilfully entrenched and fortified in their attempts to stop their enemies from advancing any further upon their lines.

Most of these villages had fortified blockhouses within them that were interconnected by deep tunnels. To simply overrun these places would not be enough. Usually each had to be taken out one by one with companies of grenadiers much in demand to winkle out or simply destroy the defenders.

An Irish Officer of the 2nd Leinsters who witnessed the attacks upon Guillemont in August described the scene:

“Shell-fire was hellish all afternoon. Box barrages were put down all round and the earth was going up like volcanoes completely smothering us. During a bombardment one developed a craze for two things: water and cigarettes. Few could ever eat under an intense bombardment especially on the Somme, when every now and then a shell would blow pieces of mortality, or complete bodies which had been putrefying in no man’s land and slap into one’s trench.”

 Stand To! - A Diary Of The Trenches 1915-1918 by Captain F. C. Hitchcock

Villages were natural fortifications that the engineers of any army sought to fortify when threatened by an enemy. By 1916 the Germans had this down a high degree of skill and any attempt to take one was always going to be a tough nut to crack. Wilfrid Miles noted in the History of the Great War (the British official history, 1938), that the defence of Guillemont in late August and early September was judged by some observers to be the best performance of the war by the German army on the Western Front.

The assault was repeatedly delayed by bad weather but it was agreed to go ahead on September 3rd with the 20th (Light) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division attempting what had been beyond previous attempts.

The men lay down in their shallow trenches from 4am waiting for the assault. The regimental pipers were busy from early morning. They played Brian Boru’s March, The White Cockade, The Wearin’ o’ the Green and A Nation Once Again.

The Irish battalions involved in the Battle of Guillemont were the 7th Leinsters, the 6th Connaught Rangers, the 8th Royal Munster Fusiliers and the 6th Royal Irish Regiment.

The commanding officer of the Connaught Rangers, Lieutenant Colonel John Lenox-Conyngham, was killed as soon as he stood on the parapet to wave his men on. Undaunted, they pressed ahead. Within minutes, the German’s front positions in the village were overrun.

With Guillemont now captured the next objective was the equally hard target of the village of Ginchy. The preparations for attack took a few days to organise but by the morning of the 9th September all was ready - or as ready as it would ever be. The 47 & 48 Brigades of the 16 Irish Division were tasked with taking a lead role in the attack.

The 47th  Brigade was understrength going into the assault with around a thousand men ready for battle - roughly about the strength of a single battalion. With four battalions to a brigade it was some task they were been given. To make matters worse due to a cock up they were sent ‘over the top’ just as the Germans launched a counter barrage and to add to their misery they ran right into a nest of German machine guns that cut down many of the survivors.

However the 48th brigade achieved great success. It attacked in two waves, the 1st battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers, and 7th battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, led off , with the remaining two battalions following in support. It too was also severely under strength. The RIR also had the indignity of being heavily shelled by British Artillery as they attempted to hold their positions prior to attack. Then the 7th battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, the divisional reserve, was brought up to reinforce the lines and at 4.45pm both battalions attacked.

 Second Lieutenant Young of the 7th battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, remembered the scene:

The bombardment was now intense. Our shells bursting in the village of Ginchy made it belch forth smoke like a volcano… We couldn’t run. We advanced at a steady walking pace, stumbling here and there…(a shell) landed in the midst of a bunch of men about seventy yards away on my right. I have a most vivid recollection of seeing a tremendous burst of clay and earth go shooting up into the air—yes, and even parts of human bodies and that when the smoke cleared away there was nothing left. I shall never forget that horrifying spectacle as long as I live.

But terrible as the suffering and sacrifice had been by 5.25pm Ginchy itself was captured and positions secured beyond the village to guard against counter attack. Unfortunately the 48th brigade paid a high price for this success; half the attacking force were casualties.

The 16th (Irish) Division paid a terrible price for its efforts to secure these villages, now reduced to a smudge on the surface of the Earth. Of the nearly 11,000 officers and men who arrived there on September 1st, more than 4,300 were casualties. The number of dead amounted to 1,067.

Today the land of the Somme has long since  been re-landscaped to reflect how it looked before the Great War began. There are not that many monuments to commemorate the sacrifices of Irishmen who fell on the Western Front in the War but such is in the village of Guillemont that has one known as the ‘Ginchy Cross’. This monument is a replacement of the original one which is now secured in the War Memorial Gardens Islandbridge Dublin. I had the chance to stand it before it in the pouring rain on a summers day some years ago. Upon it is written the following words:

1914-1918 - In commemoration of the victories of Guillemont and Ginchy September 3rd and 9th 1916 in memory of those who fell therein and of all Irishmen who gave their lives in the great war. RIP.

Pictures: The 'Ginchy Cross' at Guillemont & German dead at Guillemont, Summer 1916.



3 September 1658: Oliver Cromwell ‘The Lord Protector’ died on this day at Whitehall in the City of London. He still remains one of the most hated figures in Irish History even though he spent less than a year of his life in this Country.

Hee was very restlesse most part of the night, speaking often to himself. And there being something to drink offered him, hee was desired to take the same, and endeavour to sleep, unto which hee answered:

‘It is not my design to drink or to sleep, but my design is to make what haste I can to bee gone’.Afterwards towards morning, using divers holy expressions, implying much inward consolation and peace, among the rest hee spake some exceeding self-debasing words, annihilating and judging himself. And truly it was observed, that a publick spirit to Gods cause did breath in him (as in his life-time) so now to the very last...

An account by his valet, Charles Harvey, of his final hours


He was born in 1599 but did not rise to prominence until the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 when he raised a troop of cavalry to fight for their Parliament against King Charles I.

Quickly proving his worth in his native area of east Anglia he played a significant role in the parliamentary victories at Marston Moor [1644] and Naseby [1645]. When civil war flared up again he commanded a force which first crushed a Royalist revolt in South Wales and then at the battle of Preston [1648] when he defeated a Scottish-royalist army of invasion. Cromwell consistently attributed his military success to ‘God's Will’ but there is no doubt that he had natural leadership talents that made him the best military Leader that England’s Parliament had - and indeed one of the most able soldiers of that Age.

Following the execution of King Charles in January 1649 an Expedition was assembled to take back Ireland from the Catholics. This was a task that Cromwell did indeed consider ‘Gods Will’ and as its Commander he was determined to see that those who had ‘rebelled’ against the rule of England’s Parliament were punished for what he believed were the huge atrocities and massacres committed against the Protestants of Ireland in the Rising of 1641.

On 15th August 1649 he came ashore at Ringsend near Dublin having left Milford Haven in Wales two days before. He brought with him an army of 4,000 horse and 8,000 foot. He quickly moved north to take the town of Drogheda where there was a strong force of Royalists. On 11 September with the help of his artillery train he breached the town’s walls and stormed the place. A massacre followed in which most of the garrison was put to the sword and it is believed many of the inhabitants too.

After the massacre, Cromwell sought to explain his actions in a letter to William Lenthall, speaker of the Parliament:

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

One month later on 11 October his Army was before the walls of the important port of Wexford and while still in negotiations with the garrison his troops gained entry through an agent inside. Another massacre followed and many priests and women were slaughtered.

These actions sent shock waves throughout Ireland and Cromwell’s reputation for ferocity was firmly established.

With Winter now closing in and his Army ravaged by disease and the cold Cromwell curtailed his operations. He too came down sick and he allowed his subordinates to do the running. It was not to be until the following Spring that he was again involved in a major siege - this time at Clonmel in County Tipperary.

On 9 May the Parliamentarians poured through a breach in the towns walls –and right into a trap. Cromwell had to withdraw with a loss of 2,500 men. The following day General O’Neill led his men out - and Cromwell led his battered men in. Surprisingly this time he kept them on a leash and no massacre followed. But a deeply chastened Cromwell had suffered the biggest defeat of his military career.

Less than a month later Cromwell returned to England, which was facing a threat of invasion from Scotland, which had declared for the exiled King Charles II. He never returned.

But Cromwell’s legacy did not end there. In the years that followed his lieutenants and subordinates issued forth from their strongholds across Ireland to wage a vicious campaign of war and slaughter on many of the populace.

Tens of thousands of people were shipped off as virtual slaves to the West Indies & many landowners were dispossessed of their ancient holdings. Religious Freedom was denied to the Catholics of Ireland & their civil and political liberties trampled on. To this day his name is reviled amongst the Irish.



Saturday, 2 September 2017

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2 September 1022 AD: The death of the King of Mide (Meath), Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, on this day. He died on an island in Lough Ennell in what is now County Westmeath. His passing marked the end of an era in Irish History. Since the Battle of Ocha in circa 483 AD the southern and northern O’Neill’s had shared back and forth the title of King of Temair (Tara) in Meath between them on a more or less continual basis. This made the holder of the title the most influential king in Ireland - if he had the wherewithal to make use of the status the title gave him.

For it was believed that in ancient times Ireland had been ruled from the Royal seat of Tara. The O’Neills believed that any man who held that hallowed ground was the heir to a lost Kingdom - and thus had precedence over the other kings of Ireland. However King Brian Boru of Munster in 1002 had pushed aside King Máel and had himself recognised as the superior king in his stead. The line of succession had been broken.

But with the death of King Brian at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 it came about that Máel Sechnaill had regained his position. However he was by then an old man and Ireland had changed greatly since his predecessors had established their dual kingdoms all those centuries before. After him Mide(Meath) would no longer be the force it was in Irish Wars and Politics. It never regained what it had lost in terms of Power & Prestige in the ‘Game of Thrones’ that dominated Irish politics at that time.

Mael Sechnaill son of Domnall son of Donnchad, overlord of Ireland, pillar of the dignity and nobility of the western world, died in the 43rd year of his reign and the 73rd of his age on Sunday the fourth of the Nones 2nd of September, the second of the moon.
Annals of Ulster 1022 AD

Mael Sechnaill son of Domnall, son of Donnchad, overking of Ireland, the flood of honour of the western world, died in Cró-inis of Loch Aininne in the forty-third year of his reign on the 4th of the Nones 2nd of September, that is, on Sunday, the second day of the moon, the one thousandth and
twenty-second year after the Lord's Incarnation, and died penitent and at peace, with the successors of venerable saints Pátraic and Colum Cille and Ciarán present and assisting him.
Chronicon Scotorum