Thursday, 25 February 2021


25 February 1852: Thomas Moore, Bard of Erin died on this day. He is best known today as the lyricist for ‘Irish Melodies’ in which he set lyrics to ancient Irish pieces whose origins stretched back many years beforehand. His Life however was much more than that.

He was born above his parents shop in Aungier St Dublin on 28 May 1779 & later attended Samuel Whyte's English grammar school whose other great alumni was the playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan, of whom Moore was one day to write a biography. It was while he was at Whyte’s  that he first developed his taste for the stage. On completing his scholarly studies he went on in 1795 to Trinity College to study for Law. At that time Ireland was in a state of ferment with Revolutionary sentiment sweeping the land. Moore too was swept along in the enthusiasm of the times but stopped short of fully committing himself to violent Revolution. In April 1798, Moore was acquitted at Trinity on the charge of being a party, through the Society of United Irishmen, to sedition.

The following year he departed for London where he continued his law studies at the Middle Temple. He was gradually drawn into the artistic world of this great metropolis and the necessity in those days of acquiring patrons to advance in Society. Moore's translations of Anacreon, celebrating wine, women and song, was published in 1800 with a dedication to the Prince of Wales. In 1801, Moore published a collection of his own verse: Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Little Esq. However nothing really came of any of this and in 1803 he sailed across the Atlantic  to become the registrar of the Admiralty Prize Court in Bermuda. He hated it and soon found a replacement so that he could travel to the USA and tour the Great Republic. He hated there too & the people he met even more, especially those with an attachment to the institution of Slavery.

On his return to London he built on his experience and acquainted himself with some of the most illustrious members of the City's’ artistic community. However the making of his name undoubtedly rests on his writing the lyrics to the work known as ‘Irish Melodies’ [1808] based on a collection of  old Irish compositions. The principal source for the tunes was Edward Bunting's A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music [1797]. The scores were arranged by Dublin born Sir John Andrew Stevenson with Moore putting the lyrics to them. They were an immediate & huge success and many of them are still extant in the singing world to this day e.g.  the "The Last Rose of Summer", "The Minstrel Boy", "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms" and "Oft in the Stilly Night" becoming immensely popular.

Thomas Moore was much involved in Politics as a ‘squib’ writer for the Whig party in England that was by the standards of the time was more progressive in outlook to Reform of the political order. He came under the patronage of various members of the Whig Establishment though how much he financially made directly or if anything at all is problematical - he always denied that he did. Though in that Age patronage was pretty well essential to open doors into Society.

Moore was also an actor and a singer of some note and he returned to Ireland on many occasions to perform on the stage. Through this medium he met his one & only wife  Elizabeth "Bessy" Dyke, they had five children together but alas they all pre-deceased their parents.

Possibly next to being the author of the lyrics for Irish Melodies the most famous or infamous incident in his life was his part in destroying the unpublished memoirs of his great companion Lord Byron who had entrusted the manuscript to him for safekeeping. However after the poets’ death [1824] Lady Byron wanted it destroyed as its contents were judged too shocking by those closest to him in this life. In what some were to call the greatest literary crime of the century, in Moore's presence the family solicitors tore up all extant copies of the manuscript and burned them in the fireplace!

Thomas Moore spent most of his professional life in London but never forgot his Homeland and lauded the efforts of the men of 1798 and 1803 to free her from Oppression. He much admired Lord Edward Fitzgerald one of the great heroes of the Rising of 1798. He had a particular contempt for Lord Castlereagh who had facilitated the passing of the Act of Union [1800] that abolished Ireland’s Parliament.

On point of Religion Moore took a middling course between Catholicism and the Anglican Church, he was theologically a doubter but could not completely break away from the religious culture of his upbringing - today he would probably be called a ‘Cultural Catholic’.

History & Biography was another subject to which he turned his pen and he published a Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Memoirs of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan the latter being a great success. His ‘History of Ireland’ published in four volumes between 1835 and 1846, was an enormous work but did not catch the public’s imagination.

But by the late 1840s his powers were fading and with his wife and all his children dead he drifted into senility. The end came on 25 February 1852 in his seventy-third year and he was buried at Bromham, near Devizes in Wiltshire. His epitaph in St. Nicholas churchyard grave is inscribed:

    Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,
    The cold chain of silence had hung o'er thee long;
    When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee.
    And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song!

25‭ ‬February 1570: Saint Pope Pius V [above*] excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England on this day. He issued a Papal Bull called Regnans in Excelsis (‘ruling from on high’) that absolved all her subjects from any obligations of allegiance to her. It read in part as follows:

"We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication."

As Elizabeth claimed Ireland as part of her inheritance this Papal decree released by inference the Catholics of Ireland from any sense of obligation to her they may have felt.‭ While the excommunication was of no personal interest to Elizabeth - who had long since abandoned the Catholic Faith - the political ramifications were profound. The Excommunication made her dealings with the Catholic Powers of Europe more problematical and difficult and increased the chances of Spain under Philip II in particular lending his support to revolts within these islands.

In response she increased anti-Catholic persecution and set out to eliminate the presence of the Jesuits from her Realms.‭ The position of the ‘New English’ Protestants in Ireland was made even more precarious as the Catholics here saw that the Pope himself was now openly opposed to her rule. The English Monarch did not have a high opinion of the Irish anyway as she expressed in a Letter to Sir Francis Walsingham in that month of February 1570:

We have heard and knowne it to be true,‭ that certain savage rebells, being men of no valour, had fled out of our realme of Ireland into Spaine, and to cover their lewdness, and procure both reliefe for themselves and for such like as they are in Ireland, they do pretend their departure out of the land for matter of religion, where indeed they be neither of one nor other religion, but given to beastiality, and yet have they writt enough to shewe hypocrisy for their purpose.

While tenuous on off relations between the Vatican and St James Palace continued in the years after Elizabeth’s reign it was not until the French Revolution that regular envoys were exchanged. Full relations were not established until April 1 1982 when Sir Mark Heath presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II and thus became the United Kingdom’s first ever ambassador to the Holy See.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021


24 February 1943: Thirty five girls and their 80 year old cook were killed when fire swept through their dormitory at St. Joseph's Orphanage & Industrial School in Cavan Town on this day.

In the early hours the morning a fire broke out in the basement laundry of the Orphanage. The Institution was run by the enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns who were charged with the protection of the girls. The fire & smoke spread very rapidly and quickly took hold. Local people did their best to try and rescue those within. When entry was finally gained it was too late to reach many of the terrified screaming children trapped in the top floor dormitories. 

The children who died were on the top floors of the building and on the night in question the three dormitories there contained 67 souls incl. 3 adults. On the next floor down there was one dormitory in which were 22 individuals incl.1 adult who all escaped the conflagration. In total 89 persons were present on the night in the actual Orphanage.

The local fire service was totally overwhelmed and by the time they had brought their inadequate equipment to bear the flames had taken hold, the roof had caved in and the building was soon firmly ablaze. Thirty five children and an elderly lay woman were burned to death when the roof of the building collapsed. The following day what remained of the thirty six bodies were recovered from the blackened ruins. They were put in just eight coffins and buried subsequently in a mass grave.

An Official State enquiry was held that reached the conclusion that in all probability the origin of the fire was a faulty flue in the chimney that set a clothes hanger on fire in the Laundry room and that those who died could have been brought to safety in time if they had been brought down to safety immediately instead of their supervisor going to get help & being unable to return to her charges before the smoke took hold.


Tribunal Of Inquiry Into The Fire


That the loss of life was caused by combination of circumstances, namely,

(a) fright or panic resulting in faulty directions being given;

(b ) want of training in fire-fighting, including rapid

evacuation of personnel and movement in smoke laden atmosphere

(c ) lack of proper leadership and control of operations;

(d) want of knowledge of the lay-out 'of the premises on the part of persons from outside;

(e) inadequate rescue and firefighting service at the proper time;

(I) the absence of light at a critical period

362.7320941698-Report St. Joseph's Orphanage PDF.pdf (

The children who died were:

Mary Harrison -15 years of age from Dublin

Mary Hughes - 15 years of age from Killeshandra

Ellen McHugh -15 years of age from Blacklion

Kathleen & Frances Kiely - 12 & 9 years of age from Virginia

Mary & Margaret Lynch - 15 & 10 years of age from Cavan

Josephine & Mona Cassidy - 15 & 11 years of age from Belfast

Kathleen Reilly – 14 years of age from Butlersbridge

Mary  & Josephine Carroll – 12 yrs & 10 years of age from Castlerahan

Mary & Susan McKiernan - 16 & 14 years of age from Dromard

Rose Wright – 11 years of age from Ballyjamesduff

Mary & Nora Barrett - 12 years of age -Twins – from Dublin

Mary Kelly - 10 years of age from Ballinagh

Mary Brady – 7 years of age from Ballinagh

Dorothy Daly – 7 years of age from Cootehill

Mary Ivers – 12 years of age from Kilcoole Wicklow

Philomena Regan – 9 years of age from Dublin

Harriet & Ellen Payne - 11 & 8 years of age from Dublin

Teresa White – 6 years of age from Dublin

Mary Roche - 6 years of age from Dublin

Ellen Morgan – 10 years of age from Virginia

Elizabeth Heaphy - 4 years of age from Swords

Mary O'Hara – 7 years of age from Kilnaleck

Bernadette Serridge - 5 years of age from Dublin

Katherine & Margaret Chambers - 9 & 7 years of age from Enniskillen

Mary Lowry – 17 years of age from Drumcrow, Cavan

Bridget & Mary Galligan - 17 & 18 years of age Drumcassidy, Cavan


Mary Smith 80 years of age employed as Cook

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

 23‭ February 1886: Lord Randolph Churchill of the Conservative Party spoke at a meeting in Belfast in which he is said to have  uttered the phrase ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’

‭The Liberals had won the General Election the previous year but had not secured an overall majority. ‬Lord Churchill was anxious to undermine the rapport that had developed between the Liberal Party under William Gladstone and the Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell.‭ ‬They thus relied on Parnell to secure their hold on the House of Commons. The price for such support was Gladstone committing himself to bring forward a Bill for Home Rule for Ireland in the current session of Parliament. 

Churchill was fundamentally opposed to Home Rule and planned to use his name in Ulster to give heart to those within the ranks of the Orange Order that were prepared to resist by any means the bringing in of such a measure.‭ He had written to a friend some days previously what his plan was:

I decided some time ago that if the G.O.M.‭* ‬went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two.

‭* Grand Old Man – Mr Gladstone

The revitalised Orange Order had sponsored meetings for all who were against Home Rule.‭ ‬It arranged the meeting in the Ulster Hall at which the main speaker was to be Lord Randolph Churchill himself. He gave, to a wildly enthusiastic audience, this slogan that was to become their rallying cry in the years ahead...

Thus began the close association between the Conservative Party and the Unionists in Ireland that was to such a feature of Anglo-Irish relations for decades to come. It should be noted though that he may not have actually uttered these words - but he never actually denied saying them either! 

His more famous son Sir Winston Churchill was twice Prime Minister of Gt .Britain & led her to Victory in the Second World War.

Monday, 22 February 2021


22 February 1832: Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery, Dublin opened its gates on this day. The first internment was of Michael Carey, aged 11, of Francis Street. 

Michael Carey was born in Dublin’s Francis Street in 1821. His father was a scrap metal dealer. Michael has the auspicious legacy of being the very first burial in Glasnevin cemetery when it opened its gates. He died aged 11 on the 22nd February 1832. His gravestone by the original gate into the cemetery points out that he was the first to be interred. From that day to now, over 1 ½ million Irish people, from politicians to poets, revolutionaries to railway engineers, from shoemakers to soldiers,  have been laid to rest under the same earth as this young boy.

This place of burial was established to allow the Catholic population of the City to have a place to bury their dead without impediment. The old Penal Laws had meant that all bodies had to be interred in Protestant graveyards. With the coming of full Catholic Emancipation in 1829 the imperative to establish a graveyard free from religious connotations took hold. When Glasnevin opened it was for the use of every person of regardless of Religion. The establishment of Prospect Cemetery coincided with burial reform and the rise of the 'garden cemetery' movement in Britain and Europe.

It now holds the graves of some 1.2 million people including those of many famous Irishmen and women. Amongst those were laid to rest within its walls are Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Eamon De Valera, James Larkin, Maud Gonne MacBride, Countess Markievicz, Ann Devlin, Brendan Behan, Michael Collins, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and many victims of the Great Famine.

There is now a full Museum on the site that tells the story of the establishment of the institution and the stories of some of the famous and indeed infamous people interred within.


22 February 1973: Elizabeth Bowen author, socialite and spy[?] died on this day. Of Anglo Irish stock she was born at 15 Herbert Place in the city of Dublin on 7 June 1899. Her parents were Henry Charles Cole Bowen and Florence (née Colley) Bowen. In 1907 her father declined into mental illness and she moved with her mother to England where they took up residence at the seaside town of Hythe in Kent. Tragedy was to strike her again though when her mother died in 1912. After that she was brought up by a committee of Aunts and shunted back and forth between them.

It was only as she grew older that she realised the chasm between the closed world of the Anglo-Irish set she belonged to and the bulk of the Catholic population of Ireland:
‘It was not until after the end of those seven winters that I understood that we Protestants were a minority, and that the unquestioned rules of our being came, in fact, from the closeness of a minority world’...
I took the existence of Roman Catholics for granted but met few and was not interested in them. They were simply “the others,” whose world lay alongside ours but never touched.'
Elizabeth Bowen, Bowen’s Court & Seven Winters: Memories of a Dublin Childhood, (London: Virago, 1984;1942)

After some time at art school in London she decided that her talent lay in writing. She mixed with the Bloomsbury Group, which contained some the most talented and outrageous (for the time) people involved in the London Arts scene. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Encounters was published in 1923. It was in that year she married one Alan Cameron. He had served in the Great War in which he was badly gassed. The marriage has been described as "a sexless but contented union." The marriage was reportedly never consummated! She reputedly had numerous extra martial affairs with other men though they stayed married until his death in 1952.

The great love of her life was Charles Ritchie, a Canadian diplomat of great charm and intelligence from a privileged Nova Scotia background. They first met in 1941 and continued an On-Off relationship for over 30 years until her death. She really could not live without knowing that he loved her - but to him she was a fascinating creature though not the absolute centre of his life. He later married another woman and that must have hurt Elizabeth - but there was nothing she could really do about it.

But while an author of some note its clear her personal life was an unsettled one. The loss of her parents while still a child must have had a had a huge impact on her psyche that left her reserved and unsure in human relations though with a great deal of silent perception on the frailties of the human condition. Though somewhat cryptic in style her reading of human nature was what made her novels such gems in the way she described her characters and the rarefied world that they moved through.

Strangely in Ireland she is remembered as much for her writing reports from here during the Second World War to the British Ministry of Information in London about the attitudes and feelings of the Great and the Ordinary towards Britain and the War - for which some have labelled her a ‘Spy’. A matter of opinion really.

She tried to spend as much time as possible at her beloved Bowen’s Court in Cork, the family seat she inherited in 1930. But while it was a idyll away from the drudgery of London its upkeep was a huge burden on her finances. Eventually it led her to a nervous breakdown, a string of unpaid debts and the sale and eventual demolition of Bowens Court in 1960. She returned to London and witnessed the ‘Swinging Sixties’ there. A smoker she developed Lung Cancer in 1972. That year she saw out her last Christmas in Ireland staying with friends in Kinsale Co Cork. She died in London on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in Farahy Co Cork  churchyard, close to the gates of Bowen's Court, where there is a memorial plaque to her.

Her best-known novels are The Death of the Heart and The Heat of the Day, but her own favourite was The Last September, published when she was still in her 20s; it was, she said, the work of hers “nearest to my heart”.

Her prose is so subtle and allusive that it would be a disservice to quote from her, but read almost any descriptive passage in The Last September and you will understand her greatness.
John Banville Irish Times 7 March 2015

Sunday, 21 February 2021


21‭ February 1922: A new Police Force, the ‘Civic Guard’ began its first Recruitment campaign on this day. It was intended to replace the Royal Irish Constabulary as the instrument charged with Law enforcement within the prospective Irish Free State that was due to come into full operation by the end of the year. 

In January‭ 1922, the Provisional Government had decided that the Royal Irish Constabulary was to be disbanded "as soon as possible". They decided to replace the Republican Police with a regular police force under a trained police officer. Michael Collins had reported to the Provisional Government on 28 January that a police organising committee was being formed, that would include members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police.

The committee held their first meeting in the Gresham Hotel on Thursday,‭ 9 February, with General Richard Mulcahy, Michael Collins, and Michael J. Staines among those in attendance. Work was started immediately under Michael Staines T.D. [above] as the acting chairman. A veteran of the Easter Rising he had been active in the administration of the National Arbitration Courts and the Republican Police during the War of Independence. 

Volunteer Brigade Officers around the Country were requested to dispatch suitable recruits for training to a temporary headquarters at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge,‭ ‬Dublin. Any candidates who attended for examination were to be at least 5' 9", unmarried and between the ages of 19 and 27. They were compelled to sit examinations in reading spelling and arithmetic to gain entry as cadets. The first man to join the Civic Guard was an ex RIC man P. J. Kerrigan.

However the name‭ ‘Civic Guard’ was not formally decided upon until 27 February and on the following 10 March, Michael Joseph Staines was formally appointed as its first Commissioner. In August of the following year the Police Force of the State was renamed An Garda Síochána  (Guardians of the Peace) and has remained the name of the Force ever since. Michael Staines was then retrospectively recognised as the first Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. His most famous saying was that:

The Garda Síochána will succeed,‭ ‬not by force of arms or numbers, but by their moral authority as servants of the people.