Saturday, 17 August 2019

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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.

Friday, 16 August 2019

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 Éireann.”

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 same 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!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

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15 August 1998: The Omagh Bombing. On a Saturday afternoon the quite town centre of Omagh Co Tyrone was ripped apart by a single bomb that killed 29 innocent people and injured hundreds more. The atrocity was carried out by a small splinter group of the 'Real IRA' [RIRA].

The group was being monitored by the British Secret Service who knew something was up but failed to pass on any information they may have had to the local RUC. It is an open question though whether this would have made much material difference. Warnings were phoned in but the location for the car bomb were vague. It referred to a bomb in 'Main St' near the Courthouse - but there is no street by that name in Omagh. The RUC started to clear the area where they thought the bomb was but in actual fact they sent people towards its location.

The car bomb detonated at about 3.10pm in the crowded shopping area. It tore the car into deadly shrapnel and created a fireball and shockwave. People were caught in "a storm" of glass, masonry and metal as the blast destroyed shop fronts and blew the roofs off buildings. A thick cloud of dust and smoke filled the street. Twenty-one people who were standing near the bomb were killed outright. Eight more people would die on the way to or in hospital. The people who died included a pregnant woman, six children, and six teenagers.

A 500lb bomb packed in the Cavalier is detonated with a remote trigger. The explosion tears through Market Street. Shop fronts on both sides are blown back on top of customers still inside. Glass, masonry and metal tears through the crowd on the street as a fireball sweeps out from the epicentre. Twenty-one people are killed instantly - some of their bodies were never found, such was the force of the blast. A water main under the road ruptures. Gallons of water gushes out. Some of the dead and badly injured are washed down the hill.

Injured survivor Marion Radford described hearing an "unearthly bang", followed by "an eeriness, a darkness that had just come over the place", then the screams as she saw "bits of bodies, limbs" on the ground while she searched for her 16-year-old son, Alan. She later discovered he had been killed only yards away from her, the two having become separated minutes before the blast.

In the aftermath there was widespread condemnation across the board from all sides. The Good Friday Agreement had been signed only months before and people throughout Ireland were genuinely hopeful that 'The Troubles’ were at an end. Some days later the RIRA admitted that they did it and apologised. But their words fell on deaf ears. 'Enough was Enough' as far as most people were concerned. The bombing campaign was suspended and never reactivated. While there have been deaths and murders in the North since then nothing like this [the worst single bombing atrocity in the Northern Troubles 1968-1998] has happened since.

Photo above: Two Spanish tourists stopped beside the car, and were photographed. The photographer died in the bombing, but the man and child in the photograph survived.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

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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.

The troops arrived in the city in jeeps and large lorries which were covered over with protective steel mesh. About 100 troops jumped out and took up positions along Victoria Quay with rifles and sub-machine guns at the ready. They then moved in to Waterloo Place and are now in the act of sealing off William Street and Waterloo Street which lead into the Bogside.
While smoke still bellows over the Bogside, the troops are armed with gas and are wearing gas masks as they mingle with members of the ‘B’ Specials.
A RUC spokesman stated that in the future, the ‘B’ Specials will carry rifles and guns. The job of the troops is to protect the commercial premises in Waterloo Place and the nearby police station at Victoria Barracks.
Bernadette Devlin voices her opinions on the arrival of the troops from behind the barricades in the Bogside, “There can be no talking with the British army until we know what they are here for.”
There is currently a lull in violence, which Catholics say is only due to the fact that the RUC has stopped attacking them.
RTE Reporters Tom McCaughren and Pat Sweeney on the arrival of British troops in Derry.

Monday, 12 August 2019

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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.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

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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.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

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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 defeat1914
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

Friday, 9 August 2019

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9‭ August 1971: The launch of Operation Demetrius on this day-  Internment without Trial 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.
The IRA Tim Pat Coogan

Thursday, 8 August 2019

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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”!!!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

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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 [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 & Lady Gore Booth and 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

Monday, 5 August 2019

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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  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 [above] in a magnificent casket in the base of the structure. There the Liberator lies today.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

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4 August 1914: Great Britain declared War on Germany. That afternoon the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith addressed the House of Commons in London and set out the reasons for the decision to declare War. Basically it was the crossing of the Belgian border by German forces that morning after Belgium had rejected Berlin’s demand that her armies have free passage across that country in order to attack France.

The problem for Britain was that if France’s northern coast was left open to German Naval operations then it was considered doubtful that she could hold out for long against attack by both land and sea. A quick German Victory in the West would then give the Kaiser a free hand to deal with Russia and thus make Germany the Master of Europe.

Britain however had an ace card to play as a Causi Belli and that was an International Treaty signed in 1839 guaranteeing the Independence of Belgium - which had been signed by both Britain and Prussia! Clearly the German attack on Belgium was a violation of that Treaty and this opened the door for her entering the war on the side of France. The stakes were believed to be just too high for Britain to risk staying out of it and having no influence on the outcome of the War.

That afternoon Asquith addressed a packed and silent House setting out the unfolding events  and the continuing diplomatic communications with Brussels and Berlin. Assurances received from the German Capital that Germany had no territorial ambitions on Belgium and was only acting on their convinced belief that France would attack her through that country otherwise did not find any favour with Asquith and the British Cabinet. Asquith concluded his speech with these fateful words:
I have to add this on behalf of His Majesty's Government: We cannot regard this as in any sense a satisfactory communication. We have, in reply to it, repeated the request we made last week to the German Government, that they should give us the same assurance in regard to Belgian neutrality as was given to us and to Belgium by France last week. We have asked that a reply to that request, and a satisfactory answer to the telegram of this morning—which I have read to the House—should be given before midnight. 

The House adjourned at 7.15 pm to meet again the following day. The Cabinet then retired to await the reply from Germany. However as the clock struck 11pm that night and as no reply had been received Winston Churchill - the First Lord of the Admiralty - noted that it was actually 12 midnight in Berlin so the Cabinet on his prompt decided there and then that there was no point wasting an hour when time was of the essence and the word went out to commence military operations with immediate effect.
The Foreign Office then issued the following official statement:-
Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by his Majesty's Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, his Majesty's Ambassador to Berlin has received his passports, and his Majesty's Government declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11 p.m. on August 4, 1914.

No mention of Ireland! But the previous day John Redmond the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons had spoken in that House and had stated that at least Ireland could be defended by Irishmen if the British Army was needed elsewhere.

Today there are in Ireland two large bodies of Volunteers. One of them sprang into existence in the North. Another has sprung into existence in the South. I say to the Government that they may to-morrow withdraw every one of their troops from Ireland. I say that the coast of Ireland will be defended from foreign invasion by her armed sons, and for this purpose armed Nationalist Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulstermen in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation there may spring a result which will be good not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation?

Redmond’s proposal was lost in the wash of unfolding events but his decision to support Britain and not oppose the War was a fateful one. Of course with Home Rule on the cards he had to play it careful and this position was one really of neither being in or out of the War. But it was a stance he could not maintain for long as the dramatic and bloody events of the next few weeks were to demonstrate. On the 20th September at Woodenbridge in Co Wicklow he finally threw his hat in the ring and committed his support for Nationalist Ireland's military involvement in the War Effort.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

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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 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.

Friday, 2 August 2019

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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 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 but is now a branch of the Bank of Ireland. 

Thursday, 1 August 2019

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