Sunday, 18 August 2019


18 August 670: The Feast of St. Fiacre the Abbot on this day. He was was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century. He had a hermitage on the banks of the river Nore at Kilfera, County Kilkenny. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628 AD, at Meaux in what is now France. 

St. Farowas the Bishop there generously received him. He gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest, which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. Here he founded a Monastery and a Hospice. He resided in a little cell and led a frugal existence surrounded by a small garden, which he worked himself. He was very strict on the rule that no women should be about the place. He was noted for his great ability to cure the sick and many flocked to him to be cured. 

After his death a Shrine to him became a place of Pilgrimage and in later centuries he had some very famous devotees. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint to the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV.

 St. Fiacre is also a patron saint of gardeners and of the cab-drivers of Paris. French cabs are called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City.






Saturday, 17 August 2019

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17 August 1922: The transfer of Dublin Castle by the British to the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State was completed on this day.

The Castle loomed large in the consciousness of the Irish People as the source and origin of many of their troubles. It was from here that the Crown of England through its Viceroys and Lord Lieutenants and latterly its Chief Secretaries attempted with various degrees of success to administer the Country. ‘The Castle’ - as it was commonly referred to - was an imposing structure that dated back to the early 13th century when King John gave orders for its construction. It was completed by 1230 and the Great Courtyard (Upper Castle Yard) of today corresponds closely with the fortification.

Though its origins go deeper into the past as ‘The Castle’ stands on the high ridge, the highest ground in the locality, at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the (now underground) Poddle, which formed a natural boundary on two sides. It is very probable that the original fortification on this easily defended strategic site was a Gaelic ráth [ringfort], which guarded the harbour, the adjacent Dubhlinn [Blackpool] monastic settlement and the four long distant roads that converged nearby. In the 930's, a Danish Viking Fortress stood on this site and part of the town's defences are on view at the 'Undercroft', where the facing stone revetments offered protection against the River Poddle. 

It had large sturdy walls and four round towers to protect it from attack by the Irish. The south-east Record Tower is the last intact medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself. It functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times.
So strong and well-defended was it and so important to the Crown that it never fell to attack. It was besieged in 1537 during the Revolt of Silken Thomas, almost taken in the Rising of 1641 and later occupied by the soldiers of the English Parliament under Cromwell. In 1798 it again came under threat and at Easter 1916 the insurgents of the Irish Citizen Army attempted to seize it by coup de main but without success. 

But with the signing of the Treaty in December of 1921 the British had agreed to withdraw from most of Ireland and the days of the Castle as the centre of British Power in this Country started to draw to a close. While the British Army pulled out in January 1922 the transfer of administration took months to organise. 

Thus the day came about in August 1922 when the last contingent of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) marched out and the first detachment of the Civic Guards (later the Garda Síochána) marched in, led by the first Garda Commissioner Michael Staines & Chief Superintendent McCarthy. At last ‘The Castle’ was fully in Irish hands.



Friday, 16 August 2019


16 August‭ 1927: The Alderman Jinks Affair. Mr Denis Johnstone, the leader of the Labour Party, proposed a motion of No Confidence in the Government of Mr W.T. Cosgrave. Johnstone opened the crucial debate with the following words:
The motion down in my name and which I move is:
‭“That the Executive Council has ceased to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.”
In effect,‭ ‬it is clear that that motion is intended to test the views of the House as to whether the present Executive Council shall continue in office. It is based on Article 53‭ ‬of the Constitution,‭ ‬which says: “The President and Ministers nominated by him shall retire from office when they cease to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Éireann.”

The result was a tie of‭ ‬71 votes each. As a result the vote of the Speaker Mr Michael Hayes decided the issue for the Government. The absence of Mr Jinks of the National League Party (who were in alliance with Fianna Fail) was crucial to Cosgrave’s survival.

It is widely believed that Jinks non-appearance was due to the intervention of Major Bryan Cooper and J.M.‭ Smyllie (editor of the Irish Times) who plied Jinks with liberal quantities of drink in the hours before the vote was taken. Their hospitality apparently rendered their hapless guest in no fit state to attend the House. The pair convinced their drinking companion that a ticket home was a better course of action than attendance upon the House when he was obviously the worse for wear. ‬They then put him on the Sligo train and thus unable to partake in the day’s parliamentary proceedings.This development thus saved Mr Cosgrave’s Government from almost certain defeat.
Jink’s, a National League Deputy, was the centre of wild speculation that he had been kidnapped to keep him from voting. Rumours swept the country and headlines such as, ‘The Mystery of Deputy Jinks, the missing deputy’ screamed from several newspapers not only in the U.K. and America.
The sensational affair began when Jinks walked out of the Dáil chambers before the vote was about to be called and he couldn’t be found despite a frantic search by colleagues.

There was consternation amongst the opposition who had been confident that the Government would fall. Jinks was later tracked to a hotel at Harcourt Street having spent the day strolling through the streets of Dublin. He told reporters he had gone to Dublin with instruction from two thirds of his supporters to vote for the Government.

“I was neither kidnapped nor spirited away. I simply walked out of the Dáil when I formed my own opinion after listening to a good many speeches.
“I cannot understand the sensation nor can I understand the meaning or object of the many reports circulated. What I did was done after careful consideration of the entire situation.
“I have nothing to regret for my action. I am glad I was the single individual who saved the situation for the Government, and perhaps, incidentally, for the country. I believe I acted for its good,” said Deputy Jinks.

The Sligo deputy arrived home on Wednesday night by the midnight mail train. A large crowd greeted his arrival. He spent the following morning receiving callers including one proclaiming him  “ The Ruler of Ireland.”!!!

Jinks had only been elected a TD in June of that year and subsequently lost his seat in the General Election of September that same year. He returned to local politics where he served once again as Mayor of Sligo. He died in 1934.

To this day the bizarre actions of Mr Jinks have been the subject of much speculation. The common accepted story is that he was inveigled into doing the rounds of various establishments in Dublin City centre by Smylie and Cooper, men with Sligo connections and who were from a Unionist background. They did not want to see Mr De Valera in power!

By the time the vote was called he was nowhere to be seen and his somewhat ignominious place in modern Irish political history was assured - Legend has it that Mr Cosgrave then purchased or had purchased on behalf of the Government a horse called Mr Jinks [above]. This horse went on to win the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, England in 1929!


Thursday, 15 August 2019

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

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

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

A 500lb bomb packed in the Cavalier is detonated with a remote trigger. The explosion tears through Market Street. Shop fronts on both sides are blown back on top of customers still inside. Glass, masonry and metal tears through the crowd on the street as a fireball sweeps out from the epicentre. Twenty-one people are killed instantly - some of their bodies were never found, such was the force of the blast. A water main under the road ruptures. Gallons of water gushes out. Some of the dead and badly injured are washed down the hill.
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/timeline-of-the-omagh-bombing-1.1525134

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

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14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to stave off the collapse of the Northern State. This was to try and stem the serious rioting in both cities and in other urban centres across the North and to stop the collapse of the State that could come about if the situation continued to spiral out of control.

In response to the growing Crises the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Jack Lynch had gone on the airwaves the previous day to announce the setting up of Field Hospitals near the Border and Refugee Camps further south to deal with the expected influx of people fleeing their homes. This gesture however only seriously angered and worried moderate Unionists and inflamed the more hard line and paranoid Loyalists - while doing nothing of real material benefit to help the beleaguered Nationalists at that time.

While the situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside& the British Army took up positions there the situation slid out of control in Belfast.  There was also serious rioting in Armagh, Newry & Omagh and other areas throughout the North. In Armagh a man was shot dead by the RUC. Five people were killed in overnight rioting in Belfast, one of them a nine year old boy. As the sectarian clashes worsened houses and business premises were set alight and hundreds were damaged or destroyed. Bombay street was totally destroyed and the Catholic residents had to flee for their lives. 

It soon became clear that the discipline of a considerable number of the regular RUC and more particularly the B-Specials had collapsed. Numerous individuals from these organisations went on the rampage and became indistinguishable from the Loyalist mobs on the loose that night.
While the situation in the Six Counties had became much more dangerous over the Summer the multiple deaths in open sectarian clashes was a huge shock to the people of Ireland. For the first time in decades people had been killed in almost open warfare between the Orange and the Green. It was a watershed in Modern Irish Politics.

The troops arrived in the city in jeeps and large lorries which were covered over with protective steel mesh. About 100 troops jumped out and took up positions along Victoria Quay with rifles and sub-machine guns at the ready. They then moved in to Waterloo Place and are now in the act of sealing off William Street and Waterloo Street which lead into the Bogside.
While smoke still bellows over the Bogside, the troops are armed with gas and are wearing gas masks as they mingle with members of the ‘B’ Specials.
A RUC spokesman stated that in the future, the ‘B’ Specials will carry rifles and guns. The job of the troops is to protect the commercial premises in Waterloo Place and the nearby police station at Victoria Barracks.
Bernadette Devlin voices her opinions on the arrival of the troops from behind the barricades in the Bogside, “There can be no talking with the British army until we know what they are here for.”
There is currently a lull in violence, which Catholics say is only due to the fact that the RUC has stopped attacking them.
RTE Reporters Tom McCaughren and Pat Sweeney on the arrival of British troops in Derry.
https://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/1042-northern-ireland-1969/1048-august-1969/320426-british-troops-in-bogside-derry/

Monday, 12 August 2019

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12‭ ‬August 1922: The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day. He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬He was born in the city in‭ ‬1872 and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism. He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.  His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood‭ (‬IRB) and the Gaelic League. He went out to South Africa in 1896 and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics. He returned home and in 1900, he founded Cumann na nGaedheal, a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.

In‭ ‬1905‭ ‬he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country. He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown. He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow. His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that ‘Home Rule’ was not enough.

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter‭ ‬1916 Rising, dubbed by the British ‘The Sinn Fein Rebellion’ that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics. Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party. In the General Election of 1918 Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the‭ ‬Dáil met in‭ ‬1919‭ ‬it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President‭! ‬Griffiths’ role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure. This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.

However it was only after the Truce of‭ ‬1921 when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear. This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British. Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the 26 Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign ‘the Treaty’ as well. He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera‭ & ‬a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.‭  ‬After a mammoth series of debates aka the ‘Treaty Debates’ the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the Dáil and led his followers out. 

The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation. The outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.  Exhausted by his labours, he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the‭ ‬12 August 1922 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.


Sunday, 11 August 2019

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11 August 1861: Catherine Hayes ‘the Swan of Erin’ died on this day. She was probably the most internationally famous Irishwoman of her day. Her fame rested not on her notoriety but on her talents as a First Class singer – notably as an Operatic Soprano - in which role she toured the World.
She was born in Limerick circa 1818. Her parents were of humble origins and the father abandoned the family when Catherine was still a child. But from an early age she displayed great talent as a singer. Her accomplishments were brought to the attention of the Church of Ireland Bishop Knox of Limerick and he arranged that funds were raised to send her to Dublin to study under Antonio Sapio. Her first appearance took place on 3 May 1839 at Sapio's annual concert in the Rotunda, Dublin. Early next year she sang in her native city, and then frequently in Dublin, and soon raised her terms to ten guineas a concert.

Going to Paris in October 1842, studied under Manuel Garcia, who after a tuition of a year and a half advised her to proceed to Italy. At Milan she became the pupil of Felice Ronconi, and through the intervention of Madame Grassini was engaged for the Italian Opera House, Marseilles, where on 10 May 1846 she made her first appearance on the stage as Elvira in I Puritaui,' and was enthusiastically applauded. After her return to Milan she continued her studies under Ronconi, until Morelli, the director of La Scala at Milan. 

She was described as a soprano of the sweetest quality, and of good compass, ascending with ease to D in alt. The upper notes were limpid, and like a well-tuned silver bell up to A. Her lower tones were the most beautiful ever heard in a real soprano, and her trill was remarkably good. She was a touching actress in all her standard parts. She was tall, with a fine figure, and graceful in her movements.

After a tour of the Italian cities, she returned to England in 1849, when Delafield engaged her for the season at a salary of 1,300l. On Tuesday, 10 April, she made her début at Covent Garden in 'Linda di Chamouni,' and was received with much warmth. At the close of the season she sang before Queen Victoria & 500 guests at Buckingham Palace where she daringly sang her signature tune the ‘rebel song’ Kathleen Mavourneen/ Caitlín mo mhúirnín for the Royal audience. On 5 Nov. 1849 she appeared at a concert given by the Dublin Philharmonic Society, and afterwards at the Theatre Royal, Dublin.

At this stage the World outside of Europe beckoned and in September 1851, she left London for New York first singing there on the 23rd of that month. During 1853 she was in California, where fabulous sums were paid for the choice of seats, one ticket selling for 1,150 dollars. She then departed for South America, and after visiting the principal cities embarked for Australia. She gave concerts in the Sandwich Islands, and arrived at Sydney in January 1854. After singing in that city, Melbourne, and Adelaide, she went to India and Batavia; revisited Australia, and returned to England in August 1856, after an absence of five years.

Whether such an attractive and talented woman received the favours of her many male admirers in the course of her career we do not know but on 8 Oct. 1857, at St. George's, Hanover Square, she married a William Avery Bushnell. However the Union was to be short and tragic. He soon fell into ill-health, and died at Biarritz, France, on 2 July 1858, aged thirty five years. Catherine continued to perform but she had bouts of ill health in the past and such a demanding schedule from an early age must have taken their toll. The end came for her in the house of a friend, Henry Lee, at Roccles, Upper Sydenham, London, on 11 August 1861. She was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery on 17 August where her tomb can still be seen. She was just forty three years old.