Wednesday, 20 January 2021


20‭ January 1973: A Loyalist no warning bomb went off in Sackville Place Dublin on this day. The bomb killed a bus conductor and injured 17 other people. It exploded at 3.20 pm on a Saturday afternoon, as Ireland were playing the All-Blacks Rugby team at Lansdowne Road. The man killed was Thomas Douglas (21), originally from Stirling, Scotland. He had been living in Dublin for just four months. His mother was a native of Achill Island, Co. Mayo.

The car used in the bombing had been hijacked at Agnes Street,‭ Belfast. While no organisation claimed responsibility for this attack it was generally accepted that a Loyalist gang carried it out. The location of the explosion was almost at the same spot of a bomb the previous month, which killed two other members of Dublin’s bus service. A man with an English accent telephoned a warning to the main telephone exchange stating that a bomb would explode on O'Connell Bridge. But the warning given was ten minutes before the actual explosion and the Gardaí concluded afterwards that it was a diversionary tactic.

The car, a Vauxhall Victor, which had been hired, was hijacked from its hirer that morning at Agnes Street, off the Shankill Road in Belfast. The driver was reported to have been held until shortly after 3 pm, about the time the bomb exploded. In almost all the details, the hijacking of the car that exploded in South Leinster Street, Dublin on 17th May 1974, resembled this earlier hijacking. There was a report that the car had been seen passing through Drogheda at about midday. However, many Northern registered cars were travelling south that day on their way to the rugby international.

‭No one was ever caught for this crime. But ‘deniability’ was the modus operandi of this operation  and to this day the identities and whereabouts of the perpetrators are unknown - as is who it was who sent them here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021


 19 January 1785: The first ascent by an Irishman Richard Crosbie in a hot air balloon on this day. He was the 1st native of either Britain or Ireland to do so. The sensation took place from Ranelagh Gardens Co. Dublin . He hailed from Baltinglass Co Wicklow and had long harboured ambitions to go aloft.

He was born in Co. Wicklow in 1755 and was the son of Sir Paul Crosbie. He received a good education, and developed an exceptional mechanical ability at an early age. He was described as "a stately gentleman of six foot three inches tall with a fat ruddy face and possessed a smattering of all sciences and there was scarcely an art or trade of which he had not some practical knowledge. His chambers at College were like a general workshop of all kinds of artizans. He was very good-tempered, exceedingly strong and as brave as a lion, but as dogged as a mule, and nothing could change a resolution of his when once made". 
Late in 1784, Crosbie exhibited his "Aeronautic Chariot" at an exhibition at Ranelagh Gardens in Dublin. Made of wood covered with cloth, designed and built by himself, the Chariot resembled a boat, with rudder and sails, intended to enable navigation in the air, reducing reliance on wind direction... The balloon and chariot were beautifully painted with the arms of Ireland supported by Minerva and Mercury, and with emblematic figures of the wind. Crosbie's aerial dress "consisted of a robe of oiled silk, lined with white fur, his waistcoat and breeches in one, of white satin quilted, and morocco boots, and a montero cap of leopard skin"

Larry Walsh The Old Limerick Journal 

He appears to have had some very influential people to oversee his attempt for in the Annual Register it states: The Duke of Leinster & Lord Charlemont attended with white staves as regulators of the business of the day.

A Compendium of Irish Biography Alfred Webb

It is said that some 25 to 30,000 citizens were present to witness his attempt to conquer the skies and to try and float himself above the waves to reach the neighbouring island of Britain. Whether that was his real intention is debatable as he only cut the rope and ascended at around 2.30pm and he could not have hoped to reach the coast of Britain before darkness fell on a short Winter’s day. In the event he put discretion ahead of foolhardiness and descended to land in the sloblands off the North Strand on the other side of the Metropolis. 

He tried to reach Britain from Dublin again in July but had to ditch in the Irish Sea and was rescued by an accompanying barge. He again went aloft from Limerick City in April 1786 but this seemed to have been the last of his adventures up above and he faded away from the Records of the time after this. He had ploughed a considerable sum of funds into building these aeronautical wonders and as this was mostly raised by private subscription it is probable that once the novelty had worn off that not enough subscribers were subsequently forthcoming to make it worth his while to sustain the effort. He was married with a son & a daughter and presumably his mind became focused on more down to earth pursuits to provide for his family. 

The date of his death is usually given as c.1800, but Maurice Lenihan's History of Limerick, 1866, records his death in 1824:

May 30th. - Died in Dublin, Richard E. Crosbie, Esq., aged 68 years; the first who ascended in a balloon at Dublin or any where else. 


19 January 1787: Mother Mary Frances Aikenhead was born  on this day at Daunt's Square off Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland. She was a frail child and was adopted out in her native city of Cork to a woman called Mary Rourke. Though baptised into the Church of Ireland it is thought that Mary was secretly baptised a Catholic from this early age by Mary Rourke who was a devout Catholic. However she was not formally received into the Catholic Faith until she was 15 years old on 6 June 1802. From an early age she was a devout disposition and wished to pursue a religious Life. 

In 1808, Mary went to stay with her friend Anne O’Brien in Dublin. Here she witnessed widespread unemployment and poverty and soon began to accompany her friend in visiting the poor and sick in their homes. From this experience she believed it would be her vocation to help the sick and the poor as a member of a religious Community. She trained for 3 years (1812-1815) in a convent in York, England in order to become a Nun. When she returned to Dublin she set up the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland. 

On 1 September 1815, the first members of the new institute took their vows, Sister Mary Augustine being appointed Superior General. Added to the traditional three vows of poverty chastity & obedience, was a fourth vow: to devote their lives to the service of the poor. For the next 15 years Mother Mary worked very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the less well-off but it took a terrible toll on her own Health.

However she did not let her own personal misfortune get her down:

“Low spirits and dreads of evil to ourselves or Congregation, or even to the church, are actually the beginnings of despair. If all the rest of the world goes wrong, we should still persevere in trying to serve our God with faith and fervour.” (7 November 1834)

Confined to bed or a wheelchair she continued to direct her charges and set up new institutions both at home and abroad. Her Sisters were particularly active during the great Cholera outbreak in 1832. She died in Dublin, aged 71 on 22 July 1858 in Our Lady’s Mount Harold’s Cross and was buried in in the cemetery attached to St. Mary Magdalen's, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Monday, 18 January 2021


18‭ ‬January 1978: Britain was found Guilty by the European Court of Human Rights of the inhuman and degrading treatment of internees on this day under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This decision was reached after a submission to the Court by the Irish Government of the day that Britain had tortured prisoners taken at the time Internment was introduced in August 1971. While many men so taken were roughed up and indeed beaten one particular group was singled out for particularly harsh treatment.

The British had learnt from their contacts behind the Iron Curtain that robust and brutal interrogation methods if applied in a specific and methodological way could prove effective in breaking a prisoner into confessing.‭ It was decided that when Internment was brought in that a select group of Internees would be used as ‘Guinea Pigs’ to see if it was possible to gain information otherwise not forthcoming through other ways of interrogation.

More than 1,000 people would be interned, but just 14 men would be brought to the secret compound in Ballykelly, Co Derry. They did not see it, for they were hooded, and they did not know for many years where they had been.

Their names were Jim Auld, Pat Shivers, Joe Clarke, Michael Donnelly, Kevin Hannaway, Paddy Joe McLean, Francie McGuigan, Patrick McNally, Sean McKenna, Gerry McKerr, Michael Montgomery, Davy Rodgers, Liam Shannon and Brian Turley.

The methods used were:

In depth interrogation with the use of hooding,‭ ‬white noise,‭ sleep deprivation, prolonged enforced physical exercise together with a diet of bread and water.

Deceiving detainees into believing that they were to be thrown from highflying helicopters.‭ In reality the blindfolded detainees were thrown from a helicopter that hovered approximately 4 feet above the ground.

Forcing detainees to run an obstacle course over broken glass and rough ground whilst being beaten.

They had been secretly moved from the internment clearing centres to a destination unknown to them and held for seven days.‭ They had hoods on their heads throughout, and had no idea where they were. They were continually beaten throughout the time they were being subjected to this. Many of the men subjected to such an ordeal never fully recovered from their experience. Eventually word got out as to what was afoot and Ted Heath, the British Prime Minister had no alternative but to tell his Intelligence Services to back off as a Public Outcry gathered apace.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

 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 Rotunda 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.

Saturday, 16 January 2021


16 January 1922: Dublin Castle was handed over by the British garrison to Irish soldiers on this day. This came about when the British started transferring power to the Irish Provisional Government set up under the terms of the Anglo - Irish Treaty of December 1921 . Michael Collins arrived in Dublin Castle to receive the handover of the Castle on behalf of the new regime. He was met by Britain’s’ Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan, who is reported to have said 

"You are seven minutes late Mr. Collins" 

to which he received the reply:

"We've been waiting over seven hundred years, you can have the extra seven minutes".

'The eight members of the new Provisional Government, in three taxi cabs, made their way past cheering crowds, through the Castle’s Palace Street Gate and drove up the hill into the Upper Castle Yard. Led by Michael Collins, these ‘Strange Visitors’, as the Belfast Newsletter described them, quickly made their way through the doorway of the Chief Secretary’s Office in the north-east corner of the Yard. They were observed by journalists and photographers, Castle officials and soldiers, and a few lucky members of the public.

Once inside, the party made their way upstairs to the Privy Council Chamber, a ‘purple and gilded’ room above the archway that connected the Upper and Lower Castle Yards. The original room no longer survives – that wing of the Castle was reconstructed in the 1950s – however, The Irish Examiner remarked that the ‘simple stateliness of the Chamber with its two great brass chandeliers, pendant over the red cloth-covered table which occupies the centre of the room, must have impressed the new Ministers’.'

The Dublin playwright Séan O' Casey, described how FitzAlan handed over Dublin Castle and seemed to be doing it as if in a dream: "here's the key to the throne room, and this one's the key of St. Patrick's Hall, my good man".

The official account of the handover, released by Dublin Castle at 4 pm that day, reads:

'In the Council Chamber at Dublin Castle this afternoon his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant received Mr. Michael Collins as the head of the Provisional Government provided for in article 17 of the Treaty of 6th December. Mr. Collins handed to the Lord Lieutenant a copy of the Treaty … and other members of the Provisional Government were then introduced. The Lord Lieutenant congratulated Mr. Collins and his colleagues, and informed them they were now duly installed as the Provisional Government … He wished them every success in the task that they had undertaken and expressed the earnest hope that under their auspices the ideal of a happy, free and prosperous Ireland would be attained.'

The Castle had been laid out circa 1200 AD on instructions from King John of England to act as a secure base which the English could use to conquer Ireland. Through all the centuries of strife, wars and revolts it had never been taken, despite serious attempts to do so in 1534, 1641 and 1916. It had remained the focal point of the Royal Administration down through the years and a physical symbol of the Occupation of Ireland. So the early hand over of this ancient fortress to the supporters of the Free State was a useful coup for Collins and Cosgrave as it showed that the British were serious about leaving the 26 Counties and thus getting out of Dublin forever.

Picture: Kevin O’Higgins followed by Michael Collins leaving the meeting with  Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan guarded by a pair of formidable Constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

 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 that part of 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 in Ireland but Chamberlain had in effect given Hitler less than 48 hours in which to end his one in Poland!

‭Picture: Statue of Sean Russell in St Anne’s Park Raheny, Dublin.