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Thursday, 17 January 2019

17 January 1861: Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld died on this day. But to the World in which she lived she was universally known as ‘Lola Montez’ - dancer and courtesan and companion of the rich and famous in India, Europe, America and Australia.

Her life began as the daughter of a British Officer in Ireland circa 1820. She claimed to be from County Limerick but her birth cert says she was born in County Sligo in 1821. She was baptized at St Peter's Church in Liverpool on 16 February 1823, while her family was enroute to her father's post in India. Shortly after their arrival in India, Edward Gilbert died of cholera.

 Her mother married again and it was decided that Eliza would be sent to boarding school in England. She attended a series of educational establishments in England for young ladies but while intelligent it was noticed that Miss Eliza was a very wilful young woman with a mind of her own. On one occasion, she stuck flowers into the wig of an elderly man during a church service; on another, she ran through the streets naked...or so Legend has it. 

In 1837, 16-year-old Eliza eloped with Lieutenant Thomas James, and they married. The couple separated five years later. In Calcutta and she became a professional dancer under a stage name. This is where her career as a Sex Symbol really took off and made her name. She returned to London to continue her stage career and had affairs with numerous men of wealth and talent. She appears to have spent some months in Spain to master the arts of that Country’s  dancing technique. On return she passed herself off as ‘Lola Montez -Spanish Dancer’. After performing in various European capitals, she settled in Paris, where she was accepted in the rather Bohemian literary society of the time, being acquainted with Alexandre Dumas with whom she was rumoured to have had a dalliance. She is said to have also had an affair with the famous pianist/composer Franz Liszt.

Her really big break came in 1846 when King Ludwig of Bavaria - who had an eye for the Ladies-  fell for her. Today I saw Lola Montez dance. I am bewitched. In this Spanish woman [SIC] alone have I found love and life! (Ludwig's letters). The rumour was, at the time they met, Ludwig had asked her in public if her bosom was real, to which her response was to tear off enough of her garments to prove that it was.

Her arrogant and temperamental ways made her unpopular with the locals but the King was madly in love with her and made her Countess of Landsfeld on his next birthday, 25 August 1847. Along with her title, he granted her a large annuity. But in early 1848 a series of Revolutions began to sweep across Europe and Ludwig was overthrown. Lola was nearly lynched but she kept her demeanour  before the mob and sailed through them with her head held high. Her aplomb probably saved her life and she made it out of Bavaria alive but penniless.

She returned to London via Switzerland and then another marriage to a wealthy British Army officer George Heald. The Healds resided for a time in France and Spain, but within two years, the tempestuous relationship was in tatters, and George reportedly drowned. She then set off to seek her Fortune in the USA.

From 1851 to 1853, she performed as a dancer and actress in the eastern United States, one of her offerings being a play called Lola Montez in Bavaria. In May 1853, she arrived at San Francisco. Her performances there created a sensation. She married Patrick Hull, a local newspaperman, in July but her marriage soon failed; a doctor named as co-respondent in the divorce suit brought against her was shortly after murdered.

Next came Australia which took by Storm - basically by upping her act into even more erotic gyrations on the stage.
‘In September 1855 she performed her erotic Spider Dance at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne, raising her skirts so high that the audience could see she wore no underclothing at all. Next day, The Argus thundered that her performance was 'utterly subversive to all ideas of public morality'. Respectable families ceased to attend the theatre, which began to show heavy losses.'
Michael Cannon, Melbourne After the Gold Rush

But her life on the road and in various beds began to catch up with her. She began to noticeably age and decided to try her luck once again in America. She went back there in 1856 but her best days were behind her. However  in the late 1850's she returned on a triumphant tour to Ireland with a lecture at Dublin's Rotundo Rooms (now the Ambassador). The announcement of her Dublin lecture created a degree of interest unparalleled. The platform was regularly thronged by admirers giving Madame Montez barely space to stand.
She then returned back to New York where she spent her time helping fallen women and regretting her own fall from grace:
How many years of my life had been sacrificed to Satan and my own love of sin! I dare not think of the past. I have only lived for my passions. What would I not give to have my terrible experience given as an awful warning to such natures as my own!

In November 1859, the Philadelphia Express reported that Lola Montez was:
"living very quietly up town, and doesn't have much to do with the world's people. Some of her old friends, the Bohemians, now and then drop in to have a little chat with her, and though she talks beautifully of her present feelings and way of life, she generally, by way of parenthesis, takes out her little tobacco pouch and makes a cigarette or two for self and friend, and then falls back upon old times with decided gusto and effect. But she doesn't tell anybody what she's going to do."

By then she was showing the effects of possibly syphilis and her body began to waste away. She died at the age of 39 on 17 January 1861. She is buried in Green Wood Cemetery in New York City where her tombstone states: Mrs. Eliza Gilbert / Died 17 January 1861.

Her name has featured in many novels and biographies and Lola Montez has two lakes (an upper and lower) named after her in the Tahoe National Forest USA. There is also a mountain named in her honour, Mount Lola. At 9,148 feet, it is the highest point in Nevada County, California.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

16‭ January 1939: The Irish Republican Army, led by Sean Russell, declared War on Britain on this day. Russell had already sent a formal letter of intent to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain stating that:

I have the honour to inform you that the government of the Irish Republic,‭ having as its first duty towards the people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order, herewith demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland.

The IRA man had given the British Leader‭ ‬96 hours to reply before the DOW would take effect.
Copies were also dispatched to Adolf Hitler,‭ Benito Mussolini and Lord Brookborough in the North. Soon afterwards IRA bombs started to go off in England and eventually about 200 devices exploded causing limited material damage, many injuries and a few deaths. The worst such incident occurred in the City of Coventry in August 1939 when seven innocent people were killed and nearly a 100 injured in a no warning attack. 

The Bombing Campaign though eventually petered out.‭ The IRA never really had  sufficient numbers of Volunteers nor enough trained personnel to conduct a sustained campaign in Britain to other than annoy the British. Nothing they could realistically achieve would have made them change their minds over their presence in Ireland. 

Ironically when Britain declared War on Germany in September‭ 1939 the Ultimatum presented by Neville Chamberlain to the German Chancellor bore more than a few passing echoes to the one Sean Russell had sent to the very same British Prime Minister at the beginning of that fateful year. At least Russell had given Britain 96 hours grace to end their Occupation but Chamberlain had in effect given Hitler less than 48 hours in which to end his one!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

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15 January 1860: The birth of Eleanor Hull, historian and translator on this day. She was born in England to a family from Co Down. The biography of her early life is somewhat sketchy but at some stage she or her family must have moved to Dublin where she attended what was then one of the most prestigious girls schools in the Country - Alexandra College. It was perhaps there that her interest in ancient Irish manuscripts & the Gaelic Language  took hold?

We know that at the inaugural general meeting of the Irish Texts Society on 26 April 1898 which was held at the rooms of the ILS in London. Douglas Hyde was unanimously elected president, and Frederick York Powell chairman of the executive council. 

Norma Borthwick and Eleanor Hull were appointed honorary secretaries and R.A.S. Macalister became honorary treasurer.
The other members of the executive council included Goddard Orpen, Alfred Nutt, Thomas Flannery, J.G. O’Keeffe, Daniel Mescal, G.A. Greene and M. O’Sullivan. Eight vice-presidents were elected and the consultative council included many of the most distinguished scholars in the field of Celtic studies.

She certainly was a prolific writer on early Irish History and Legends:
Her published works include:
The Cuchulain Saga in Irish Literature (1898)
Pagan Ireland (Dublin, 1904 & 1923)
Early Christian Ireland
A Text Book of Irish Literature (2 volumes) (1906)
The Poem-Book of the Gael (London, 1912)
The Northmen in Britain (New York, 1913)
Folklore of the British Isles (1929)
A History of Ireland and her People (2 volumes) (1926)

The last of these being probably the one that has stood the test of time. Indeed it is a work (thanks to the wonders of the Internet) that I regularly consult for articles on this site:
She died in Wimbledon  England on 13 January 1935, two days shy of her 75th birthday.

Monday, 14 January 2019

14‭ ‬January‭ ‬1965:‭ ‬For the first time since the partition of Ireland the two current leaders of the respective parliaments on this island,‭ ‬Sean Lemass and Terence O’Neill,‭ ‬met in person. The meeting was held over cups of tea at Stormont, site of the Northern Parliament. O’Neill had approached Lemass through T. K. Whitaker, Secretary of the Department of Finance, and invited the Taoiseach to travel North. 

On the face of it this was a most unlikely encounter.‭ ‬Sean Lemass was a veteran of the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. A long time member of Fianna Fail he held Ministerial Office for many years until he came to power as Taoiseach in 1959 on Eamon De Valera’s election as President of Ireland. 

Terence O’Neill,‭ despite his Irish name, was a true son of the British Empire. He had been educated at Eton and served with the Irish Guards in World War Two. He was later elected an MP and served as a Minister of Government in the North. A dyed in the wool Aristocrat he had taken over the top job as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland when Lord Brookborough retired in 1963. 

Both men were however anxious to bring about a thaw in North‭ –South relations and thus it was agreed that they meet to break the ice on this day. However not everyone was happy with this development and a certain Reverend Ian Paisley organised a group of followers to protest at this perceived outrage. Upon the Taoiseach’s motorcade arrival at Stormont they threw snowballs at his car. The following month the Reverend gentleman denounced O’Neill as a ‘Traitor’, but such an outburst did not stop the leader of the Unionist Party from paying a complimentary return call on Sean Lemass in Dublin later in the year that was meant to further cement the relationship. 

However events precluded a further development of such contacts.‭ ‬Lemass retired the following year and Jack Lynch, who had little interest in the idea, replaced him.  O’Neill then thought better of pursuing such contacts, which he knew clearly upset such a wide body of the Unionist opinion. He was well aware that Paisley was all too ready to make use of any further such episodes to undermine him at a time when the political situation in the North was becoming increasingly fragile.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

13‭ ‬January‭ ‬1800:‭ ‬Daniel O’Connell made his first public speech at the Royal Exchange, Dublin opposing the idea of a Parliamentary Union of Britain and Ireland.

O’Connell was concerned on two grounds,‭ ‬one professional and the other political.‭ He knew, as did others, that the end of parliamentary sittings in the Capital of Ireland and the removal of the MPs to Westminster would rob Dublin of much of its vigour and political and monetary rewards. As an up and coming member of the Legal profession he well foresaw the pecuniary consequences of such a transfer of power and patronage out of the Country. 

On the other hand Daniel O’Connell was as Irish as they come and as proud of the land of his birth and her People as the next man.‭ ‬He rightly suspected that the British Ministers would attempt to pay even less attention to Ireland once the Union had taken place and a thorn in their side removed.‭ 

‘On‭ 13th January, 1800, he attended a meeting in the Royal Exchange convened by a number of influential Roman Catholics for the purpose of protesting against the insinuation that the Union was favourably regarded by them. Being induced to speak, he opened his mind freely on the subject. It was the first time he had addressed a public gathering; but the diffidence with which he began soon wore off before the approving cheers of his audience. Were the alternative offered him, he exclaimed, of union or the re-enactment of the penal code in all its rigour, he would without hesitation prefer the latter as the lesser and more sufferable evil, trusting to the justice of his brethren, the Protestants of Ireland, who had already liberated him rather than lay his country at the feet of foreigners. To this opinion he continued faithful through life. It is the key-note of his whole political creed — union amongst Irishmen of every religious and political persuasion for national objects an Irishman first and then only a Roman Catholic.’

It is a curious thing enough,‭ he afterwards re-marked to O'Neil Daunt, that all the principles of ‬my subsequent political life are contained in my very first speech.
‘‬Daniel O Connell’
 By Robert Dunlop.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

12‭ ‬January 1729: Edmund Burke, one of the foremost political thinkers of 18th century, was born in Dublin on this day. He was also Anglo-Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after relocating to England, served for many years in the British House of Commons as a member of the Whig party.

Burke was born in Dublin to a prosperous,‭ ‬professional solicitor father‭ (‬Richard‭; ‬d. 1761) who was a member of the Church of Ireland.  His mother Mary (c. 1702–1770), whose maiden name was Nagle, belonged to the Catholic Church and came from an impoverished but genteel Cork family. Burke was raised in his father's faith and would remain throughout his life a practising Anglican, unlike his sister Juliana who was brought up as and remained a Roman Catholic. His political enemies would later repeatedly accuse him of harbouring secret Catholic sympathies at a time when membership of the Catholic church would have disqualified him from public office. Once an MP, Burke was required to take the oath of allegiance and abjuration, the oath of supremacy, and declare against transubstantiation. Although never denying his Irishness, Burke often described himself as "an Englishman".

He spent the bulk of his life in England and became active on Politics,‭ ‬opposing Britain’s policy on the Revolt of the American Colonies and at the end of life British policy towards Ireland. He never totally adopted any political philosophy however but overall he could be said to represent a conservative liberalism that eschewed extremes. His most famous work was Reflections on the Revolution in France which was a best seller, and in it warned against the dangers of excess in political affairs especially as events unfolded in France in the wake of the start of the French Revolution. He basically wanted the role of the State to play but a limited role in the personal affairs of men and allow as much individual freedom of though and action that was commensurate with the Social Order.

‘‬That the State ought to confine itself to what regards the State, or the creatures of the State, namely, the exterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy‭; ‬its revenue‭; ‬its military force by sea and land‭; the corporations that owe their existence to its fiat; in a word, to every thing that is truly and properly public, to the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public prosperity.’
"All government,‭ indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."
'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'
 Edmund Burke

While hard to sum up such an active career over many decades a pithy summary of what he stood for might well be:
His soul revolted against tyranny,‭ ‬whether it appeared in the aspect of a domineering Monarch and a corrupt Court and Parliamentary system, or whether, mouthing the watch-words of a non-existent liberty, it towered up against him in the dictation of a brutal mob and wicked sect. Winston Churchill

Burke died in Beaconsfield,‭ ‬Buckinghamshire,‭ on ‬9 July‭ ‬1797, five days before the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille which marked the official start of the Revolution he so long predicted and fought against. He was buried in Beaconsfield alongside his son and brother. His wife survived him by nearly fifteen years.

Friday, 11 January 2019

11‭ January 1970: The foundation of ‘Provisional’ Sinn Fein on this day. The political organisation was activated after a formal split arose within Sinn Fein as to what was the best approach to take in regards to opposition to British Rule in the North and towards the 26 County Government. The more left wing members of the leadership like Cathal Goulding and Sean Garland wanted to operate a broad based ‘National Liberation Front’ that would include both Sinn Fein and the likes of the Communist party within its ranks. They also wanted to recognise the parliaments in Leinster House, Westminster and Stormont as legitimate. Political Action within the current political framework was their chosen method of approach.

However to the more traditionally minded SF members these policies were anathema.‭  ‬They wanted to pursue a policy of active opposition to British rule in the North that would include support for armed struggle to bring about a British withdrawal from Ireland.‭ ‬They did not want any recognition of the Partitionist States here. In an acrimonious Ard Feis that took place in Dublin at the Intercontinental Hotel a split emerged into the open that had long being brewing. 

Despite the best efforts of MacStiofáin and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who eventually led the subsequent walkout, the changes were finally approved by the party membership but not, however, by the two thirds majority required for an alteration of the party’s constitution. In the wake of these decisions they organised a walkout by a minority of like minded delegates who reconvened a meeting at Kevin Barry Hall on Dublin’s Parnell Street and duly set up a ‘caretaker’ Sinn Féin Executive to liase with the previously elected Army Council.

Some days later the new group made its intent clear in a freshly issued pamphlet:‭
We pledge our allegiance to the‭ ‬32‭ ‬county Irish Republic proclaimed at Easter‭ ‬1916, overthrown by force of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British imposed Six County and Twenty-Six County partition states’ 
Thus were born the‭ ‘‬Provos’!:

Thursday, 10 January 2019

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10 January 1868: Prisoners off the last convict ship from England to Australia came ashore at Freemantle Western Australia on this day. The ship set sail from Portsmouth (after picking up people along the way down the English coast)  on 12 October 1867 with 280 convicts and 108 passengers on board. Amongst the convicts were 62 Irish political prisoners, convicted for their part in the Rising of 1867. About 17 of these were military Fenians. The transportation of political prisoners contravened the agreement between the U.K. and Western Australia, and news of their impending arrival caused panic there. The fact that military Fenians were transported was also highly unusual, given the United Kingdom Government's previous firm policy not to transport military prisoners.

The presence of Fenians amongst the convicts meant that there were many more literate convicts on board than was usual for a convict ship. Consequently, a number of journals of the voyage are extant: the journal of Denis Cashman has been known of for many years, and the journal of John Casey and the memoirs of Thomas McCarthy Fennell have recently been discovered and published. During the voyage a number of the Fenians entertained themselves by producing seven editions of a shipboard newspaper entitled The Wild Goose copies of which survive to this day.

While conditions on board would have been horrendous by todays standards the only death recorded on the convict shipping and description lists was for Thomas Cochrane (9689) and other sources say he died near Africa on the voyage out.

The Fenians were all convicted for treason and some of them were military men who were court martialled for failing to report or stop the treason and mutinous acts of others within the British Army.  Some were not definitely identified as Fenians in other sources and they have been given a "Fenian???" notation in the passenger list below. The Fenians were members of a Secret Society the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the name came from the US branch of said society The Fenian Brotherhood. Military prisoners were not supposed to be shipped overseas but in this case the British Government made an exception. The transportation of prisoners of any type to the Antipodes was becoming increasingly controversial and this human shipment was the last of its kind.
* Headline from the Perth Gazette & Western Australian Times 17 January 1868

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

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9‭ January 1980: Charlie Haughey made his infamous 'as a community, we are living away beyond our means' speech on this day. He started his address to the Nation by saying  “I wish to talk to you this evening about the state of the nation’s affairs and the picture I have to paint is not, unfortunately, a very cheerful one.”

At the time the newly appointed Taoiseach was commended for his straight talking and his apparent determination to tackle the worsening Public Finances as the Economy started to go on the slide.‭ But it was all an illusion as his Government failed to grasp the nettle and engaged in only token reform of the State’s Finances. In the subsequent Budget, the Minister of Finance, Michael O’Kennedy increased PAYE allowances and widened tax bands, but also increased indirect taxation. Taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and petrol all went up, while duties on cars, television sets and gramophone records were also raised. But borrowing continued at unsustainable levels as Haughey fought to cling to power at any price by  spending more than the State could afford.

It was only in the late‭ ‬1990‭’‬s that it emerged that Charles J. Haughey, was also ‘living beyond his means’ with his extravagant Lifestyle as a Country Squire and a Yachtsman down in Kerry was being financed by figures known and unknown in the Irish Business World. In particular his penchant for expensive Charvet shirts from Paris at a time when he told people we had to ‘tighten our belts’ raised much anger - but not a little mirth at the mans audacity!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

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8 January 1979: The Whiddy Island Disaster. Some 50 men were killed at Wide Island, Bantry Bay, when the oil tanker SS Betelgeuse was blown asunder during fuelling operations on this day. They were killed when the 11-year-old oil tanker owned by the French multinational Total exploded while offloading its cargo at the offshore jetty at the Whiddy Island oil terminal in the early hours of the morning.

“Around 1:00 am (evidence on the precise time conflicts) on Monday, 8 January, a rumbling or cracking noise was heard from the vessel, followed shortly by a huge explosion within its hull. The force of the explosion was seen to blow men from the jetty into the sea. Local residents reported seeing Betelgeuse engulfed in a ball of fire a few moments later. A series of further explosions followed, breaking the vessel in half. Much of the oil cargo still on board ignited and this generated temperatures estimated to exceed 1,000 °C. The concrete unloading jetty crumbled and firefighters, arriving on the scene from several neighbouring towns, were unable to get near the vessel. The firefighters concentrated their efforts on preventing the fire from spreading to the tanks of the storage farm and on containing the oil spillage.[6] Local families living on the island fled for their lives.”

‘A series of explosions broke the back of the 120,000 tonnes tanker and quickly spread to the jetty as the sea was engulfed in flames which lit up the night sky and were visible as far away as Dunmanway.
There were fears at one point that the entire terminal, owned at the time by Gulf Oil, would also be caught up in the conflagration but the fire was confined to the tanker and the jetty and the tanks emerged intact. All 42 French crew of the Betelgeuse perished in the tragedy, as did seven local men who were on the jetty at the time, Charlie Brennan, Tim Kingston, Denis O'Leary, Neilly O'Shea, Jimmy O'Sullivan, Liam Shanahan and David Warner.’

Irish Times 8 January 2009

The Irish government appointed a tribunal to investigate the incident, presided over by Justice Declan Costello. This tribunal took a year to hear evidence and prepare a 480-page report.[9] The report indicated three main factors had contributed to the incident:
1. The poor condition of the Betelgeuse for which its operator, Total S.A., was to blame.
2. Incorrect unloading sequences and ballasting which resulted in the buoyancy of the hull becoming uneven and the hull therefore strained.
3. Inadequate and poorly maintained fire-fighting and rescue systems both on the vessel and on the jetty.

Monday, 7 January 2019

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6/7‭ January 1839: The Night of the Big Wind/ Oiche na Gaoithe Mire. A storm of Hurricane Force swept across Ireland on this night. A Depression of unusual severity it caused much structural damage and considerable fright and distress, especially to those less well off inhabitants of this island whose dwellings were just plain thatched cabins of loose construction. However even more solidly built structures did not escape unscathed and in some ways were even more dangerous to those within as chimneys came crashing down upon at least some of the unfortunates inside. Overall though the numbers of deaths caused by this violent tempest were few and the loss of life was limited to just a few dozen at most. However there is no doubt that for a considerable proportion of the Irish population the events of this visitation remained in the popular imagination as a night never to be forgotten. 

The sequence of events had begun the previous evening,‭ Saturday 5th January 1839, when heavy snow fell throughout Ireland. The next morning, Sunday the 6th, it was completely calm and the sky was covered with motionless, dense cloud. As the morning progressed, the temperature rose well above the January average. While children played in the snow outdoors, mothers and fathers were inside their homes preparing for the festivities of Little Christmas - the feast of the Epiphany. It became unnaturally still. So calm that voices floated between farmhouses more than a mile apart. Something strange was happening, but no one knew exactly what. 

Then the snow started to melt as the temperature rose to an unnatural degree for that time of year.‭ ‬However as the warm front which covered the country gradually moved eastwards, and rose in the atmosphere, it was replaced by a cold front which brought with it high winds and heavy rain. The rain commenced before noon in the west and spread very slowly eastwards. In Mayo, the late afternoon turned chilly while the east of the country still enjoyed the unseasonably high temperatures experienced in Mayo earlier that day. At dusk, wind speeds increased, conditions got colder and alternate showers of rain and hail began to fall. By nine o'clock at night the wind had reached gale force and continued to increase. By midnight it had reached hurricane force and remained at that level until five o'clock in the morning when it reduced again to gale force. During the hurricane the wind blew variously from the southwest, west and northwest. Gales continued until six o'clock on Monday evening. At nine o'clock on Monday morning air pressure was at 972.6 Millibars and the temperature was then 4.4. Degrees Celsius in Dublin.‭ 

In Dublin the‭ Freeman’s Journal afterwards reported that:
The storm with which this city was visited on Sunday night was one of the most violent which has blown from the face of Heaven within the memory of the oldest inhabitants.‭ At an early hour on Sunday evening the wind freshened to a degree that seemed to promise a rough night, and about half-past ten it rose into a high gale, which continued to increase in fury until shortly after midnight, when it blew a most fearful and destructive tempest. Not a soul dare venture into the streets; the lamps were, without almost any exception, extinguished; and amidst the roaring of the hurricane, which threatened to sweep every obstacle before it from the surface of the earth, the pealing of fire-bells -- the sounds of falling chimneys -- windows breaking, and slates and tiles flying through the streets, were fearfully audible; and sometimes the still more dreadful rocking walls and falling roofs threatened them momentarily with destruction. 

In the streets,‭ ‬however, it was impossible to tell in what direction the storm was, for it came in sudden gusts, sweeping sometimes up, and sometimes down, the street, and occasionally two contrary blasts meeting and forming a whirlwind, which made the strongest houses tremble and rock to their foundations. At intervals dense clouds obscured the sky, and added to the horror of the scene by the gloomy darkness which they produced; but when they were driven by, the heavens did not appear less ominous, for the Aurora Borealis burned brightly a great portion of the night, mantling the hemisphere with sheets of red, and corresponding well with the lurid gleams which ascended to the zenith from the flames of burning houses that the tempest threatened to fan into a general conflagration. 
After four o'clock the storm sensibly diminished,‭ ‬but continued to rage with considerable fury until daybreak,‭ ‬when it sank back into a steady and heavy gale from the S.W.‭ ‬that continued throughout the remainder of the day.
THE FREEMAN'S JOURNAL Dublin:‭ ‬Tuesday,‭ ‬January 8,1839‭

For decades afterwards the‭ ‘‬Night of the Big Wind‭’ ‬was used as a marker in the Irish People’s memories to recall events that happened before or after that date.‭ ‬Indeed as late as 1909‭ ‬when Old age Pensions were introduced many claimed entitlement based on their ability to remember this most unusual and terrible Storm from the days of their youth.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

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6 January 1931: The death of Harry Clarke at Chur, Switzerland on this day. He was and remains Ireland’s foremost practitioner of stained glass windows. These are now on display across Ireland and abroad in various locations. His father Joshua Clarke was from the city of Leeds in England and moved to Dublin in the late 1870s. He set up a church decorating business and married a local woman Brigid Clarke (née MacGonigal). It was into this family that Harry Clarke was born on St Patricks’ Day 1889.

His mother died in 1903 when he was just 14 years old which was a heavy blow on him. He followed his father into the family business after that and had a  particular affinity with the stained glass works that his dad carried out. Interest developed into love of the genre and as his skill grew so did his reputation as a skilful artist with his own unique style. His ‘The Consecration of Saint Mel, Bishop of Longford, by Saint Patrick’ won the gold medal for stained glass work in the 1910 Board of Education National Competition. He married in Margaret Crilly (a noted artist in her own right) in 1914 and they had three children together. 

Clarke moved to London to seek work as a book illustrator.  He was picked up by the noted London publisher Harrap to illustrate their upcoming titles. Difficulties with various projects made Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen his first printed work in 1916, a year in which some of his material was destroyed in Dublin during the 1916 Rising. His illustrated books are noted works of art in themselves but there is no doubt that today it is his fantastic stained glass windows that are still in the public eye and how he is best remembered.

Clarke's stained glass work includes many religious windows, but also much secular stained glass.  He found an influential patron in politician and stockbroker Laurence “Larky” Waldron. A major stained glass commission, 11 windows for the Honan Chapel at University College Cork, completed in 1918, established Clarke’s reputation, and commissions flowed in.

Harry was plagued  by ill health, he was diagnosed with TB in 1929 and was sent to Davos in Switzerland to recuperate. As time went by he feared he would die there far from Ireland and decided to make to long trek home to be there should he succumb to his illness. He didn't make it and passed away in the town of Chur in the valley of the Rhine. He was buried locally but in 1946 his remains were removed and placed in the communal plot there, his family unaware of what had happened until after the deed was done. While his works are now spread over various locations in  Ireland and abroad probably the best place to see his work and the ones best known to the general public are the six on display in Bewleys Cafe in Grafton St Dublin, Be sure to check them out the next time you are in the Fair City.
Images: Harry Clarke; "The Nativity depicted on a Harry Clarke stained glass window in St Barrahane's Church, Castletownshend, Cork & Harry Clarke windows in Bewleys Café Grafton St Dublin.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

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5 January 1941: The death of Jennie Wise Power, Revolutionary and campaigner for Women's Rights on this day. Born Jane O'Toole in Baltinglass Co Wicklow in 1858, the daughter of Edward O'Toole and Mary Norton. When she was only two years old her father sold the business and moved to Dublin, yet before she was twenty she and her four siblings lost both their parents to illness.

In 1881 she became involved in politics for the first time by joining the Ladies Land League  that year and was an associate of Anna Parnell - the sister of Charles Stewart Parnell and the leading light of the LLL. After the death of C.S.Parnell in 1891 she published Words of the Dead Chief, with an introduction from Anna Parnell, containing a selection of extracts from Parnell's speeches. 

During this time she met her husband, John Wyse Power the then editor of the Leinster Leader  newspaper and a member of the IRB. He was also one of the founder members of the GAA. They married on 5 July 1883 and lived in Naas Co Kildare. The family moved to Dublin in 1885 after John secured a position with the national newspaper The Freemans Journal. They must have some impact on Dublin’s social scene as The Wyse Powers appear as the Wyse Nolans in Ulysses by James Joyce.
Jennie Wyse Power operated a restaurant and shop (The Irish Farm Produce Company) at 21 Henry Street. Her shop the Irish Farm Produce Company where she sold eggs, butter, cream, honey, confectionery and all-Irish produce. The business included a restaurant with tea and luncheon rooms. She lived above it. In 1908 she expanded her business by acquiring new premises at 21 Lower Camden Street, again emphasising the sale of solely Irish produce.

Jennie's age on the 1911 Census is recorded as 47 years old, but other sources (such as the Houses of the Oireachtas) state that she was born in 1858 which would mean that she was 53 in 1911. The return is filled out by Jennie’s husband, Séaghan, but perhaps he got his wife’s age incorrect. The Census return is filled out in Irish. Her daughter Máire aged 20 is recorded as having a BA. Another daughter Aine, aged 21, is recorded as is her son Charles Stewart and Cathal mc Seáin who was aged 12.

 By 1912 Wyse Power was a Vice-President of Sinn Féin: on 5 April 1914 at Wynne's Hotel, Dublin she became a founder member of Cumann na Ban and was an active member of the Central Branch. On 31 October 1914, she was elected the first President of Cumann na mBan. The signing of the 1916 Proclamation took place in her house in Henry Street.

Jennie Wyse Power took the Pro-Treaty side in 1921/1922, extremely uncommon within Cumann na mBan, and she helped to found Cumann na Saoirse which became the Pro-Treaty women's movement. She was gutted that the split occurred and wrote that:

It is to be regretted that this splendid force of women should have been the first body to repudiate the National Parliament, and thus initiate a policy, which has had such disastrous results. The decision had the further effect of limiting Cumann na nBan to purely military work.

The Civil War marked a falling out of many comrades who had led the struggle against the British and none more so than amongst the women who had stood up for Ireland at that time. Her premises in Camden St Dublin were attacked in December 1922 and much damage done. However she was appointed to the Free State Senate and was one of only four women to sit in it. Her time there saw her become more disillusioned with how things were drifting and after the Debacle of the Boundary Commission in December 1925 she sat as an Independent and not as a Cumann na nGaedheal (pro Treaty member). 

When Fianna Fail entered constitutional politics in 1927 she started to drift towards them and struck up a working relationship with Sean T O’Kelly. O'Kelly was probably the one who persuaded Wyse Power to join Fianna Fáil that year and stand for the party in the 1934 Seanad Election where she was re-elected for nine years and would serve until that Seanad was abolished in 1936.

On 5 January 1941, aged 82, she died at her home in Dublin, and was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery with her husband and daughter, Máire (who predeceased her). Her funeral was attended by many from both sides of the Dáil and old revolutionary comrades.

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4‭ ‬January‭ ‬1969:‭ ‬The‭ ‘‬Peoples Democracy’ March from Belfast to Derry ‭ was attacked at Burntollet Bridge by Loyalists on this day‬.‭ ‬The RUC flanking the procession failed to offer any meaningful procession to the marchers as they were assaulted and beaten. The original march had begun from Queens University in Belfast on‭ ‬1‭ ‬January and was undertaken to highlight the lack of Civil Rights in the North of Ireland.

Along the way to Derry the marchers had been continually heckled and occasionally attacked.‭ However when they reached the narrow defile at Burntollet outside Derry City they were the victims of an organised ambush and viciously attacked by a Loyalist mob. The RUC who were in attendance made no serious attempt to intervene and thus encouraged the attackers that kept up their assault as the marchers ran the gauntlet through to the other side.

One eyewitness described what he saw:
"‬The major portion of the C.R. procession was cut off and left at the mercy of the attackers. A fusillade of stones and bottles was followed by the full weight of the attack against the young men and women who had pledged themselves to a policy of non-violence.
"The attackers showed no mercy.‭ ‬Men were beaten senseless.‭ ‬Girls tore their way through the hedges screaming:‭ '‬No! No!' Shouting, club-waving, men pursued them."

Irish News

Eventually the marchers got through,‭ ‬but not before many of them,‭ ‬incl. women and girls,‭ had been attacked and beaten and some seriously injured. Those still able then made their went into Derry and the sanctuary of those of their own persuasion.

‭It was a watershed moment for the Catholics in the North as it became clear that their attempts to achieve civil and political parity with the Protestant population would trigger a violent reaction by ultra Loyalists - and that many members of the RUC would be very reluctant to protect them from those forces of Reaction.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

3 & 4 (N.S.) January 1602 - 23-24 December 1601 [O.S]: The Battle of Kinsale/Cath Chionn tSáile was fought on this day.
Probably the most decisive battle in Irish History took place on this day. The forces of the Irish under the Earl of Tyrone, Aodh (Hugh) O’Neill, and his ally Aodh ‘Red Hugh’ O’Donnell attacked the English lines surrounding the besieged town of Kinsale and were defeated. Inside was the Spanish garrison under Don John Aquila. The siege had begun two months before when the Spanish had landed at this small fishing port on Ireland’s south east coast. They had been sent by King Philip II of Spain to aid the Catholic Irish in their revolt against the Protestant Queen Elizabeth of England.
News quickly spread throughout the Country of their landing and both the Irish and the English made haste their forces to march south and meet Aquila either as friends or enemies. The English were under the command of Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Mountjoy in Dublin was nearer to Kinsale than the northern leaders in Ulster and consequently got his forces to Kinsale first. He quickly laid siege to Kinsale. However he was not strong enough to risk taking it by storm. With the place blocked by land and by sea he intended to starve the garrison out and hope that the Irish would not be able to envelop him from the outside as well. In the event the Irish came south in sufficient numbers to make it very difficult to re-supply his forces. Both side’s forces suffered from want and lack of shelter but Mountjoy’s men felt it more and thousands of the besiegers of Kinsale died from cold and disease.

The Irish on the outside were not equipped to be so far from their base of operations in Ulster and could not remain indefinitely on the outside unless they had hope of Victory. Eventually they agreed with the Spanish commander to launch an assault if they could be guaranteed that a sally would be made by Aquila’s men to support them. But getting the timing right was crucial and with the English between them it was fright with difficulty.

There was some dispute amongst the Irish as to the best course of action to follow, with O’Donnell for making a determined attack while O’Neill counselled caution. In all probability the decisions of the Irish leaders to attack when they did was taken in light of their dwindling supplies and the desperation of their men to march North to their homes (where English pressure and intrigue was intense). It was a calculated gamble to meet the English in the open as their men were used to a different kind of warfare, one of the woods, the bogs and the rough terrain where English cannon and cavalry were of limited use.The northern leaders chose to bring their forces up to the English lines under cover of night but such a night march is never an easy venture and in the dark columns became disorientated.

They spent much time in the early hours in dispute and contention, which arose between them. The two noble hosts and armies marched at last side by side and shoulder to shoulder together, until they happened to lose their way and go astray, so that their guides and pathfinders could not hit upon the right road, though the winter night was very long and though the camp which they were to attack was very near them, it was not until the time of sunrise on the next day, so that the sun was shining brightly on the face of the solid earth when O’Neills forces found their own flank at the lord Deputy’s camp, and they retired a short distance while their ranks and order would be reformed, for they had left the first order in which they had been drawn up through the straying and the darkness of the night….
Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Ui Domhnaill (The Life of Red Hugh O’Donnell) - Lughaidh O Cleirigh

Formed up in crude and unwieldy copies of the Spanish ‘Tercios’ [blocks of fighting men] it would appear the Irish could not manoeuvre in front of Mountjoy’s fixed positions in a manner that could hope to inflict upon the enemy any significant casualties. In the event Mountjoy was on the ball and took the initiative, using his cannon and cavalry to good effect and scattering the Irish columns and riding down the survivors with his Horse. 

They were not long considering them till they fired a thick shower of round balls [to welcome the Irish] from clean, beautiful big guns, with well oiled mechanisms and from finely ridged, costly muskets, and from sharp-aiming, quick firing matchlocks, and they threw upon them every other kind of shot and missile besides. Then burst out over the walls against them nimble troops, hard to resist, of active steady cavalry, who up to that were longing for the order to test the seed of their high galloping horses on the plain. They allowed their foot to follow after for they were certain that the hail of spherical bullets and the force attack of the troops would make destructive gaps in front of them among their enemies. Both armies were mingled together, maiming and wounding each other so that many were slain on both sides.
But in the end O’Neill’s forces were defeated, an unusual thing with them, and they fled swiftly away from the place, and they way the hurry urged them was to pour in on top of O’Donnell’s forces who happened to be east of them and had not yet come to the field of battle. When the routed army of O’Neill, and the troops of the Lord Deputy’s army following them, and swiftly smiting their rear, broke into the midst of O’Donnell’s people, wavering and unsteadiness seized on the soldiers, fright and terror on their horses and though it was their desire and their duty to remain on the field of battle, they could not.
O Cleirigh

Inside Kinsale nothing stirred and De Aquila claimed he was not aware what the Irish planned to do that day. He soon after surrendered and was allowed to depart for Spain with his men.
The morale of the Irish in revolt never recovered after this huge setback and the forced departure of the expeditionary force sent by the King of Spain to help them. O’Donnell almost immediately took ship for Spain to organise another expedition but was poisoned there by English agents. O’Neill returned North and fought on until 1603 when he surrendered to Mountjoy. Remarkably he got his personal Estates back and with a fair degree of local control again in his hands. 

But his days were numbered as English Law was gradually extended into Ulster and his authority continually undermined. Fearing imprisonment and execution on trumped up accusations he fled to the Continent in 1607 in the famous ‘Flight of the Earls’. He ended his days in Rome as a charge on the Spanish Monarchy but under the immediate protection of the Pope. He died and was buried there in 1616 - still plotting to regain his lost lands.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2‭ ‬January 1417: The death of Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh ('King of Leinster') on this day. 

Art,‭ ‬the son of Art, son of Murtough, son of Maurice, Lord of Leinster, a man who had defended his own province against the English and Irish from his sixteenth to his sixtieth year; a man full of hospitality, knowledge, and chivalry; a man full of prosperity and royalty; the enricher of churches and monasteries, by his alms and offerings, died (after having been forty-two years in the lordship of Leinster) a week after Christmas.
Some assert that it was of a poisonous drink which a woman gave to him,‭ ‬and to O'Doran, Chief Brehon of Leinster, at Ros-Mic-Triuin [New Ross], that both died. Donough, his son, assumed his place after him.

Annals of the Four Masters 1417 AD 

Art McMurrough Cavanagh was a formidable character in his day.‭ He ‬was born in the year 1357. From an early age he was distinguished by his great hospitality,‭ ‬intelligence and bravery, and I should imagine his contemporaries recognised a certain level of guile in the young Art that would serve him well in his dealings with rivals both internal and external. About the year‭ ‬1375 while he was still under age he was elected successor to his father, according to the annalists, who record his death in 1417, 'after being forty-two years in the government of Leinster.' A traditional Gaelic Leader he married a Lady from the Pale named Elizabeth and so through marriage, inheritance and conquest he dominated large tracts of Wexford, Wicklow, Kildare and Carlow.‭ ‬The Palesmen paid him tribute to keep him sweet and of course in the Gaelic areas he ruled in the old way.

However he did suffer a severe reverse in‭ 1392 when the Earl of Ormond defeated him at Tiscoffin and killed 600 of his best warriors. But Art McMurrough pulled of a great coup when he captured the Colonial town of New Ross.

‭In 1395 he had to contend with a descent on Ireland by the King of England, the hapless Richard II, who brought a huge army with him to overawe the Irish Kings and Chieftains. Though his lands in Carlow were invaded and his warriors defeated the English King could not however get Art to ‘come into his House’ and submit. Instead he gave a promise of safe passage to the Leinsterman to come up to Dublin and treat with him. Though wary, Art accepted the invitation and was imprisoned and could only get his freedom by promising to agree to Richard’s terms. Once free though he resumed his independent way of life and soon fell to harrying the invaders once more.

In the summer of‭ 1398 his allies the O’Byrnes defeated and slew Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March, ‬a potential heir to the Throne of England. This political earthquake brought Richard II back to Ireland in the following year,‭ ‬bent on re establishing English Rule on this island.

But his campaign here was a fiasco,‭ ‬with not even a series of nominal submissions to flaunt at Court when he returned home.‭ ‬Indeed while he was bogged down here news reached him that Henry of Bolingbroke had landed in England to claim the throne for himself.‭ ‬This he did and when Richard went back he was taken prisoner and then probably starved to death by the now King of England Henry IV.‭ ‬Thus Art McMurrough Cavanagh was the‭ ‬catalyst for one of the most momentous events in England’s history.