Google+ Followers

Sunday, 24 June 2018


24‭ ‬June‭ ‬1798: The Battle of Castlecomer on this day. The picturesque County Kilkenny town of Castlecomer was burnt to the ground as the Army of the United Irishmen from Wexford clashed with the Crown Forces in the streets of the town. Major General Charles Asgil of the British Army had about 1,400 men in total to oppose the 5,000 or so under Father John Murphy. In the wake of the defeat at Vinegar Hill on 21 June it was decided by the Insurgents to leave County Wexford and advance on Castlecomer where it was hoped the militant colliers there would join them. In the event quite a few did but were of limited fighting value. Asgil himself had advanced from Kilkenny City with about 1,000 men to relieve the troops defending Castlecomer. He sent ahead some 100 men to augment the 300 or so already there. Walter Butler, a local Bigwig and the future 18th Earl of Ormonde commanded the garrison within the town.

The Insurgents advanced upon the town in two columns,‭ ‬one under Father Murphy himself and the other under Miles Byrne. They eventually joined forces within the town and drew up plans to assault by storm Castlecomer House that still held out. But the appearance of Asgil’s relief force on the heights outside the town meant that the Wexfordmen had to turn their attention to that quarter. The British General opened up with artillery to cover the retreat of the trapped garrison. Asgil held his ground long enough for his trapped soldiers & supporters in the town to get out and then he marched away.

Early in the morning of the‭ ‬24th the rebel troops diminished by desertion to about 8,000 descended from the heights and advancing towards Castlecomer defeated a body of about two hundred and fifty men at a place called Coolbawn a mile and a half from that town which they entered with the slaughter of about fifty Loyalists. The town was set on fire – and of this conflagration each party accuses the other. The General arriving at length with his army, fired with his artillery on the streets and houses not knowing that many Loyalists were still in the place who were making a desperate defence to prevent their families and friends from falling into the enemies hands. This firing however determined the rebels to retire from the town about four O'clock in the afternoon, which furnished an opportunity to Protestants there assembled to retreat with the general to Kilkenny, but they were obliged to leave their good s a prey to the enemy who took full possession of the place as soon as the Royal Army retreated. 
Musgrave’s History of the Rebellion in Ireland,‭ in the Year 1798

The forces Loyal to the Crown had a lucky escape as the Loyalists within and the troops without would have been overwhelmed had the relative numbers been known in the Insurgent camp.‭ ‬But an early morning fog and the smoke of the buildings alight within the town along with the firing of the guns masked the weakness of the Loyalist position.‭ In the event Murphy decided that it was no use proceeding into areas where the prospects of revolt were so poor and after a brief foray into County Laois it was decided to return to Wexford and fight it out there.


Saturday, 23 June 2018


23 June 1985: The destruction of Air India flight 182 on this day. The plane was flying from Toronto, Canada to Delhi, India via London, England. It was some 120 miles off the south west coast of Ireland at an altitude of 31,000 feet when at 8.13am the plane disappeared off the radar screen of Air Traffic Control at Shannon airport. It had exploded - killing all on board - 329 lives were lost, including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 Britons, and 24 Indians. 80 were children. The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens of Indian ancestry. The bombing of Air India 182 occurred at the same time as the Narita airport bombing. Investigators believe that the two plots were linked, and that the group responsible was aiming for a double bombing. However, the bomb at Narita exploded before it could be loaded onto the plane.

Canadian law enforcement determined that the main suspects in the bombing were members of the Sikh group Babbar Khalsa. The attack is thought to have been a retaliation against India for the operation carried out by the Indian Army Operation Blue Star to flush out several hundred Sikh Militants who were within the premises of the Golden Temple and the surrounding structures ordered by the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi. Though a handful of members were arrested and tried, Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian national, remains the only person legally convicted of involvement in the bombing. Singh pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for building the bombs that exploded aboard Flight 182 and at Narita.

The subsequent investigation and prosecution lasted almost twenty years and was the most expensive trial in Canadian history, costing nearly130 million Canadian dollars.

131 bodies were recovered from the sea. It was one of the biggest operations in the history of the State to recover the bodies which was undertaken by the Irish Navy. The L.É. AISLING navy ship, under the command of Lieutenant Commander James Robinson, was one of the first vessels on scene. The RAF and the Royal Navy also helped to recover the bodies and debris from the site which extended over a large area of the sea.

Every year, a remembrance ceremony is held in Cork at the memorial garden and sundial in Ahakista in County Cork [above]







Thursday, 21 June 2018

Image result for vinegar hill


21 June 1798: The Battle of Vinegar Hill/Cath Chnoc Fhíodh na gCaor was fought on this day. The engagement was fought near the town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford. While not the last battle of the Rising of that year it was the most decisive - for after that date there was no real hope that the Insurrection could succeed without Foreign Intervention.

After the outbreak of the Rising in May under the United Irishmen forces were organised to try and break out of County Wexford and spread the Revolt. These attempts though were repulsed and eventually the Insurgents main force fell back on Vinegar Hill for a final stand.

Here perhaps 20,000 men women and children had gathered in a huge makeshift camp to escape the depredations of the Military. They were in a blood lust against those who they considered to be ‘rebels’. Massacres and atrocities had been committed by people on both sides but the general consensus is that the Yeomanry and Militia were the worst and the hapless peasants of the Countryside the chief victims.*

A number of columns of the British Army under General Lake advanced upon Enniscorthy from various points on the compass. His intention was to completely surround the town and hill and force a capitulation. Lake divided his force into four columns to accomplish this; three columns, under Generals Dundas, Duff and Needham were to assault Vinegar Hill, while the fourth column, under General Johnson, was to storm Enniscorthy and its bridge.

The battle began at dawn with an artillery bombardment by the British. This had a devastating impact on the masses of people gathered on the hill and it can only be expected that many took any opportunity they had to flee to safety. As the day wore on the net tightened and despite two charges by the pikemen it was hopeless against such a well armed force. Eventually those that could made a break for it as General Needham was unable to close in on his assigned position in time and a gap was open to which to escape. Through it flowed a mixture of fighters and peasants who had the incentive to get out while the going was good.

But many others were either too tired, shocked or plain terrified to risk it and remained to await their fate. It was not to be a good one. When the hill fell many were put to the sword or shot out of hand. Recent archaeological scanning of the site indicates large pits on the north side of the hill that are believed to be mass graves of those who were captured on that day. Though the graves have not yet been excavated perhaps the remains of 1,000 to 2,000 unfortunates are believed to be buried under the soil of Vinegar Hill.

* I am very much afraid that any man in a brown coat who is found within several miles of the field of action, is butchered without discrimination.
Marquis Cornwallis to the Duke of Portland 28 June 1798.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


20 June 1763: Theobald Wolfe Tone was born on this day. His birth took place in the City of Dublin at 44 Stafford St – a house situated opposite the old St Mary’s Church of Ireland just off Mary St on the north side of the Liffey. His parents were Peter and Margaret Tone. His father was from near Clane in Co Kildare and his mother originally from Drogheda, Co Louth. Theobald was their first born. In all they had 16 children of whom 5 survived till adulthood. His parents were of the Established Church and came from respectable backgrounds but were not very well off. His father held a position as an Inspector of Globes with the Paving Board of Dublin Corporation that generated a salary of some £50 per annum. Wolfe Tone considered them to be pretty much like other people. 

Until he reached adulthood Wolfe Tone led a fairly regular existence. He was a good scholar but inclined to be a somewhat indifferent student. As a young man he hankered after becoming a soldier and pleaded with his father to release him from his studies to enter Trinity College. His appetite was whetted by skipping off from class and observing the drill and parades carried out in the Phoenix Park by the regiments based in Dublin. He wanted to apply for a career in the British Army, then at war with the American Revolutionaries. His father refused and Wolfe Tone duly entered the College and studied for a Law Degree. 

After an unhappy love affair in the summer of 1785 Wolfe Tone first set eyes on Matilda (Martha) Witherington. She was very pretty and some 15 years old. She lived on Grafton St with her father, a draper by trade. They quickly fell in love and eloped. At first they lived near her family but after a family quarrel he removed himself to Bodenstown with his bride and resided there for a while. After study in London he returned home and was called to the Bar in early 1789. He had returned to Dublin, reconciled himself to his wife’s family and joined the Leinster Circuit. While competent he was soon bored and the more exciting public arena of Politics now drew his attention. And never was politics more exciting.

However it was only in the wake of the Revolution in France that he began to slowly but surely realise that the Ascendancy here would never accept serious Reform but at the point of a sword and in the wake of a Revolution from within Ireland itself. It took a couple of years for the import of the upheavals in France to sink in here in Ireland. He wrote that:

The French revolution became the test of every man’s political creed and the nation was fairly divided into two great parties, the aristocrats and the democrats…it is needless to say that I was a democrat from the very commencement.




20 June 1210: King John of England landed at Crook, near Waterford on this day.

Johannes, grandson of the Empress [Matilda], king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year
After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci,
or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.
Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the
Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the
king put men of his own company into it.
Annals of Loch Cé 1210 AD

Sailing from south Wales he was to remain in Ireland throughout the rest of the summer.
His mission in Ireland was not so much to subdue the Irish Kings who still held power over large swathes of the Country, but instead to bring to heel the more powerful of the Anglo-Norman Lords who defied him. King John was a most unpopular Monarch in England and faced constant trouble with his Lords and Barons who resented his attempts to rule them. A ruthless and devious man he - probably with good reason-  trusted very few of his councillors who advised him.

The main objects of his attention were the De Lacy family, specifically Walter Earl of Meath and Hugh the Earl of Ulster. He believed they could act as a power base for malcontents back in England. Indeed they had backed the struggle of the once powerful Marcher Lord William de Braose against the King. It was to crush this family and punish the De Lacy's for their lack of loyalty that drove him to take a well armed military force to Ireland.

De Braose fled to England when he heard of the King's movements. There he endeavoured to make peace with his master, but failing to do so, he carefully avoided putting himself in his power, and took refuge in France.

John had been to Ireland before in 1185 when his father King Henry II had given him the title 'Lord of Ireland', but John had turned his journey into a Fiasco but upsetting the Irish kings with his youthful folly and the Gaels resented his attitude to them.

After arriving in Waterford he came to Dublin where he was well received and after leaving the capital he advanced into Meath from which Walter de Lacy then fled. King John then met up with King Cathal Crobhderg O'Conner of Connacht near Ardbraccan, Co Meath. King Cathal recognised him as his Lord in return for being re-assured as the recognised & rightful King of Connacht. The two kings then proceeded northwards where they besieged the powerful fortress of Carrigfergus in Ulster which was taken, though Hugh made good his escape.

While in the North he also parlayed with King Aedh O'Neil of Tir Eoghan (Tyrone), whom he wished to secure homage and take hostages from. Keeping his distance, O'Neill made a pretence of wanting to help with the siege and being prepared to offer some kind of agreement to subordinate himself to the English King, but he pleaded for time to consult his advisors. He donated a supply of cattle to feed John's troops. He was though really loath to submit and have to give over important hostages, incl. his own son, to such a volatile character as King John. The negotiations fizzled out and O'Neill backed off and went home.

Cathal Crovderg was in a weaker position as his kingdom was riven by rivalries which he had to return home to sort out. He had made a promise to hand over his eldest son, Aed O'Conner, to King John. He would then have him conveyed to England as a security against King Cathal remaining in submission. However Cathal's wife would have none of it and the Irish king had to return to King John empty handed. When they next met at Rathwire in County Westmeath, as arranged, but without his son, the King of England was anything but pleased and seems to have forcibly apprehended four of Cathal's sub-kings and royal officers, whom he brought back to England.

Soon after King John left Ireland, arriving back at Fishguard in Wales on 26 August. His Expedition here was overall a success for him. He had smashed the power of the De Lacy's, secured the city of Limerick, reformed the government of Dublin and the eastern counties and brought even as powerful figure as William Marshal of Leinster, the greatest Knight of the age, to heel.

But his attempts to bring the Kings of Connacht and Tir Eoghan under his thumb both failed, and while not the primary objective of his expedition John's ham fisted attempts only alienated these Irish Kings who rightly did not trust this ruthless man.

A final and horrible chapter to this attempt to punish his opponents was the fate of Maud De Braose and her infant son William de Braose. Captured in Scotland they were conveyed in chains to King John who had them imprisoned in Windsor Castle. They were locked up together but only given food and no water on the first day of their incarceration. Thereafter nothing. When the jailors yanked open the door to their cell 11 days later all that was left was their emaciated corpses.

John died in 1216, probably from dysentery, as he desperately tried to hold his Kingdom together from Revolt. His expedition here was the last by a serving King of England for 184 years until  Richard II, another unloved Monarch, arrived here in the year 1394.

Effigy of King John [above] from his tomb in Worcester Cathedral


Monday, 18 June 2018

Image result

18 June 1815: The Battle of Waterloo took place on this day. This great battle was fought out some 10 kilometres south of the Belgic city of Brussels, along the Ridge of Mont St Jean and on the fields to the south and east of it. The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the combined armies of the Duke of Wellington [above] of the British & Allied Armies and Marshal Blucher leading the forces of Prussia. It was a battle in which men of many nations participated. Men from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United Provinces (Holland + Belgium), Hanover, Wurttemberg, Prussia and other minor German states fought the forces of France to decide the fate of Europe.

Many soldiers in the British Army were recruited in Ireland though surprisingly few regiments with ‘Irish’ in their title played a part on the day. The Duke of Wellington was born in Dublin and spent much his early life in Ireland, his family hailing from Co Meath. At least three infantry or cavalry brigades were led by Anglo-Irish generals. Commanding the 9th British Infantry Brigade was Major General Sir Denis Pack, a native of County Kilkenny, Major General Sir William Ponsonby (KIA) led the 2nd British (Union) Cavalry Brigade, so-called because it included an English, a Scottish and an Irish regiment . Major General Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur led the 4th British Cavalry Brigade, a light cavalry formation. There were also some five battalion commanders with Irish connections who served in the Waterloo campaign. However it was in the lower ranks of the British Army that the highest number of men who were either from Ireland or of Irish origin served.

While the British Army had 10 infantry regiments and 4 cavalry ones with ‘Irish’ in their description only three actually saw service in this campaign: 1st Battalion, 27th (Inniskilling) Foot; 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons and the 18th (King's Irish) Hussars. They all saw heavy action in the actual battle, the 27th in particular taking huge casualties whilst in Square in the front line.

The British Army who fought that day fielded about 28,000 men drawn from England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland. At that time the Irish (Catholic, Protestant & Dissenter) comprised some 38% of the population of these islands. That ratio was well reflected in the ranks of the military force present at Waterloo with the Irish having a strong presence pretty well across the board in all arms Cavalry, Infantry and Artillery. Most of these were poor men, labourers and weavers who found in the Army a relatively secure measure of employment and shelter.

By all accounts the Irish were good fighters but rightly or wrongly were seen as undisciplined off the battlefield. Many were from Catholic households but the Protestant population were represented as best we can judge in numbers that matched their proportion of the Country’s population. The rank and file were seen as the ‘scum of the earth’ by Wellington and probably by most of the Officer Class too. In some respects he was right as many were there because they were outcasts and misfits from civil society or rough men who sought a fighting career. But they could fight and fight well - and that's what they were there to do.

When the battle ended that evening some 7,500 men of the British Army laid dead, dying or severely wounded on the battlefield - some 28% of the force engaged. On a per capita basis that would be around 3,000 or so men from Ireland who fell that day - a heavy enough toll. On the other hand the population of the island was some Six Million souls in 1815 so while a severe loss to those that had family in the Military it would not have been seen as a National cause for grief. Indeed many at home might well have wished for a French Victory that day - Daniel O’Connell being one of them. 

There are a number of roads and landmarks in Ireland still that commemorate the battle that day. The most imposing being the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park in Dublin that commemorates the Duke of Wellington’s Victories. The halfpenny footbridge over the river Liffey in Dublin City Centre is officially ‘Wellington’ bridge and in the suburbs south of the city are the Wellington and Waterloo roads. In Trim Co Meath where his family hailed from there is also a monument to honour him. 

But while still a Hero in Britain his legacy in most of Ireland is less sure given his vehement opposition to Catholic emancipation and his eventual sour acceptance of its political necessity. If Waterloo is remembered at all here its for it marking the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s career rather than any part that Ireland played in his Downfall.

Next to the illustrious Duke the Irishman who is most worthy of mention was Sergeant James Graham of 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards from Clones Co Monaghan. He helped in closing the gates of the Hougoumont Farmhouse which was a vital strategic point on the battlefield, positioned out in front of the right of the allied line. It was attacked throughout the day by thousands of French infantrymen, but held out to the end. The Duke nominated him as 'the bravest of the Brave' and mentioned in him in his Supplementary Dispatches on the Battle:

He assisted Lieutenant-colonel Macdonnell* in closing the gates, which had been left open for the purpose of communication, and which the enemy were in the act of forcing. His brother, a corporal in the regiment, was lying wounded in a barn, which was on fire, and Graham removed him so as to be secure from the fire, and then returned to his duty.
* Coldstream Guards and the senior British Officer at Hougoumont.


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Image result

17‭ ‬June 1959: Éamon de Valera was elected President of Ireland on this day. The contest for the highest Office in the Republic was between him and General Sean Mc Eoin from the Fine Gael Party, who had previously ran for the Office in 1945 and had been defeated. He like Dev had been active in the War of Independence but they had taken opposite sides in the Civil War of 1922 -23. The number of people eligible to vote was 1,678,450, of which 979,628 chose to exercise their Franchise. This represented a turnout of 58.4 %. Of the total numbers of votes cast 538,003 voted in favour of De Valera and 417,536 voted for Mc Eoin. 

‘De Valera won a majority of the vote in every constituency bar the northern Dublin city constituencies, Longford-Westmeath, which Mac Eoin had represented for over ten years, and Cork West, a strong Fine Gael area. As in the previous election, Mac Eoin's best results were in the Longford and surrounding areas, with strong results also where de Valera didn't win majorities in Dublin. De Valera's vote was strongest in Clare, Galway and Donegal - his share reaching 69% in parts of the latter two counties.'
http://irishpoliticalmaps.blogspot.ie/2011/10/irish-presidential-election-1959.html

On the same day was also held a Referendum to abolish Proportional Representation‭ ‬- but here the tide of public opinion swung against Dev and it went down to defeat. 

The following summary of the principal proposals in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill,‭ ‬1958, was circulated for the information of voters:

At present,‭ members of Dáil Éireann are elected on a system of proportional representation for constituencies returning at least three members, each voter having a single transferable vote.
It is proposed in the Bill to abolish the system of proportional representation and to adopt,‭ instead, a system of single-member constituencies, ‬each voter having a single non- transferable vote. It is also proposed in the Bill to set up a Commission for the determination and revision of the constituencies, instead of having this done by the Oireachtas, as at present.

The total number of votes recorded in favour of the proposal contained in the Bill was‭ ‬453,322 and the total number of votes recorded against the proposal was 486,989. The people did not, therefore, approve the proposal.

Eamon De Valera thus became the third President of Ireland.‭ ‬He was again elected in 1966 and retired from the post and active politics in 1973. He died in 1975.