Monday, 6 July 2020



5‭ July 1828: Daniel O’Connell won the Parliamentary seat of County Clare in a bye –election. His Victory marked a triumph for his organisation the Catholic Association. O’Connell became the first Catholic to be returned for a Constituency since the 1690’s. This campaign was the culmination of a series of electoral contests conducted by the Association and threw down the gauntlet to the British Government to either remove the Laws barring Catholics from the Parliament in London or possibly face a Revolution in Ireland. 

O’Connell had decided some months before to put his name forward at the first available opportunity.‭ Instead of using surrogate candidates of Protestant background who were sympathetic to Catholic Emancipation he wanted to have himself elected in a direct challenge to the Penal Laws against Catholics. The current MP for Clare, William Vesey-Fitzgerald, had to stand for re-election because he had been appointed as President of the Board of Trade, which carried a salary.

Some days previously O’Connell had addressed the electors of Clare:

The oath at present required by law is‭—‘That the sacrifice of the Mass and the Invocation of the blessed Virgin Mary and other Saints, as now practiced in the Church of Rome, arc impious and idolatrous’. Of course I never will stain my soul with such an oath; I leave that to my honourable opponent, Mr Vesey-Fitzgerald. He has often taken that horrible oath…

If you return me to Parliament,‭ ‬I pledge myself to vote for every measure which can strengthen the right of every human being to unrestricted and unqualified freedom of conscience.

To vote for every measure favourable to radical reform in the representative system,‭ so that the House of Commons may truly, as our Catholic ancestors intended it should do, represent all the people.

To vote for every measure of retrenchment and reduction of the national expenditure,‭ so as to relieve the people from the burthen of taxation.

Ironically‭ Vesey-Fitzgerald claimed he was a moderate who supported a relaxation of the Penal Laws. In the event O’Connell won handsomely by 2,057 votes to 982. This triggered a serious political crisis because as an elected representative of the People he was barred from taking his seat- solely on account of his Religion.  

The defeated candidate was none too happy with the result,‭ ‬writing to the Lord Lieutenant the Marquis Anglesey that very night: 

The priests have triumphed,‭ and through them and their brethren, the Catholic parliament will dictate the representatives of every county in the south of Ireland…

The poll closed tonight.‭ ‬It was hopeless from the first day…What a convulsion for any man to throw the county into, to satisfy his own vanity and to obtain what he cannot use… 

The following year Catholic Emancipation was reluctantly passed through both Houses of the British Parliament and this Constitutional climb down opened the door for other Catholic politicians to follow in O’Connell’s footsteps.‭ For his efforts in leading the campaign to emancipate his fellow co-religionists from the odious Anti Catholic Penal Laws Daniel O’Connell was subsequently known as ‘The Liberator’.

Saturday, 4 July 2020


4 July 1776: The American Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA this day.



IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...


The document set out the rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens of the New Republic. It is one of the most important political documents that modern history has produced. There was a strong Irish input into its drafting and wording that reflected the experience of life under Monarchical and Aristocratic rule back in 18th century America and Ireland. Nine men who were either born in Ireland or whose parents or grandparents were from Ireland signed that day.

Thomas McKean (March 19, 1734 – June 24, 1817) was the son of William McKean from County Antrim. He would become an American lawyer and politician, serving as President of Delaware, Chief Justice and then Governor of Pennsylvania.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton in Maryland (September 19, 1737 – November 14, 1832). Though born in America his parents were Irish and he was the only Catholic signatory and also the longest-lived signatory of the Declaration of Independence, dying at age 95.

James Smith was born in Ireland in c.1719 and was forced with his family to emigrate to the American colonies as a boy due to abuse by landlords. The name "Smith" in Ireland is oftentimes a translation of MacGabhann, which is an older Irish name meaning "son of Goibhniu," who was the Celtic deity of metallurgy.

George Taylor was born in Antrim, Ireland in 1716 and emigrated to America in 1736 at the age of 20. Taylor operated a furnace and was an iron manufacturer in Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence, 1774-1776, and of the Continental Congress, 1776-1777.

Matthew Thornton was born in Ireland in 1714 and went out to America as a four-year-old child. He would practice medicine and become active in pre-revolutionary agitation before being elected to become a member of the Continental Congress in 1776. He was a Colonel of New Hampshire Militia, 1775-1783.

Edward Rutledge (November 23, 1749 – January 23, 1800) was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father Dr. John Rutledge left Co.Tyrone, Ireland in 1735, and would raise a son to be 39th Governor of South Carolina.

Thomas Lynch Jr. (August 5, 1749 – 1779) stood in for his father Thomas Lynch Sr. who was unable to represent South Carolina due to illness. His grandfather was Jonas Lynch of the Galway who were exiled following the defeats at Aughrim and the Boyne. At the close of 1776 he and his wife sailed for the West Indies. The ship disappeared and there is no record of his life after.

George Read was born in Maryland in 1733. He was the son of John Read and Mary Howell Read. John Read was a wealthy resident of Dublin who emigrated to Maryland. When George Read was an infant the family moved to Delaware.

John Dunlap was born in Strabane, County Tyrone. In 1757, when he was ten years old, he went to work as an apprentice to his uncle, William Dunlap, a printer and bookseller in Philadelphia.

During the American Revolutionary War, Dunlap became an officer in the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, and saw action with George Washington at the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

On July 2, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence, and on July 4 they agreed to the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. That evening John Hancock ordered Dunlap to print broadsides. Dunlap printed 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence. The first newspaper outside America to publish the first text was the Belfast News Letter in its edition of August 23-27, 1776.



Friday, 3 July 2020





Portrait of Henry Grattan.jpg


3 July 1746: The birth of Henry Grattan on this day. Grattan was one of the great orators of the Irish Parliament in the 18th Century who fought long and hard to secure Ireland’s legislative independence from Great Britain.

Grattan was born at Fishamble Street, Dublin, in 1746, and baptised in the nearby church of St. John the Evangelist. A member of the Anglo-Irish elite of Protestant background, Grattan was the son of James Grattan MP, of Belcamp Park, County Dublin and Mary youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Marlay, Attorney-General of Ireland, Chief Baron of the Exchequer and finally Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland). He thus came from a very privileged and aristocratic background.

Grattan was a distinguished student at Trinity College, Dublin where he began a lifelong study of classical literature, and was especially interested in the great orators of antiquity.

He entered the Parliament of Ireland in 1775, sponsored by Lord Charlemont. He quickly established a reputation as a brilliant speaker and one who was determined to press the Crown for Legislative Independence for Ireland. With Britain bogged down in the trying to suppress the American Revolutionaries he saw his chance to make his case. In this he was able to rely on the Anglo-Irish Volunteers who organised a Volunteer Army to 'Guard' the Country as more British troops were sent out of Ireland to fight in America. As a result of such agitation in 1782 the restrictions on Ireland having to submit legislation to the English Privy Council for prior approval or rejection was removed. It was to be Grattan's greatest Triumph.

For his efforts in securing Legislative Independence he was awarded £50,000 by the House of Commons 'in testimony of the gratitude of this nation for his eminent and unequalled services to this kingdom'. The money allowed him to by a house in Tinnehinch, co. Wicklow, and an estate at Moyanna in Queen's county (County Laois) .

However the subsequent operation of 'Grattan's  Parliament' was limited by its restrictive nature, its members being confined to those of the Established Church, and thus the exclusion of Catholics and Presbyterians from its benches. Crucially it had no independent Executive, all Ministers being in the gift of the Crown.

Grattan in the aftermath of the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792, was able to achieve one more success by helping to bring in legislation that gave a limited franchise to Catholics in a 'Catholic Relief Act'. The expectation was that the logical conclusion to such a move was that Catholic Emancipation (the right of Catholics to vote & sit in Parliament) must come about sooner rather than later.

In this Grattan and his supporters were to be disappointed, especially in 1795 in the quick recall of the new Lord Lieutenant Fitzwilliam. He had privately asked Grattan to propose a Bill for Catholic emancipation, promising the support of Pitt the British Prime Minister. But finally it appeared that the he had either misunderstood or exceeded his instructions; and on 19 February 1795, Fitzwilliam was recalled.

While Grattan kept a cool head in the aftermath of this setback his ability to influence the political scene was severely undermined as the forces of Revolution and Reaction took centre stage. He retired from politics in 1797 and though his name was implicated in the Rising of 1798 it would appear these accusations were unfounded and completely denied by him.

With the prospect of a Union between Britain and Ireland looming in the aftermath of the crushing of the Rising he returned to Parliament to fight for its continued existence. When he was defeated in that effort he again stepped down but was returned for Dublin City in 1805 and took his seat in Westminster.

Here his oratorical skills were recognised and admired as one of the great parliamentarians of the age but as one amongst hundreds his influence was negligible and he was left in the Limelight. He continued to press for Catholic Emancipation but with conditions attached re the appointment of Catholic Bishops being within the approval of the British Government. As the years wore on he made less and less appearances in the House of Commons and reluctantly accepted that the Union was now a political reality.

In 1820 he left Ireland for London to attend the House once again but fell ill while there. He died at Portman Square, Baker Street, London on the 4th of June. He had wanted to be buried back home but such was the respect he had in the British Parliament that it was decided to bury him amongst the great and the good in Westminster Abbey.

As the only Irish politician to have a phase of parliamentary sessions named after him -'Grattan's Parliament' - Henry Grattan is unique in Irish history.

a superb orator – nervous, high-flown, romantic. With generous enthusiasm he demanded that Ireland should be granted its rightful status, that of an independent nation, though he always insisted that Ireland would remain linked to Great Britain by a common crown and by sharing a common political tradition
R. B. McDowell, ‘The Protestant Nation’ (1775–1800) in The Course of Irish History


Francis Wheatley (1780) shows Grattan (standing on right in red jacket) addressing the House.


Thursday, 2 July 2020


2 July 1779: The Irish Brigade in the service of France landed on the Caribbean island of Grenada on this day. They were part of an expeditionary force of some 2,300 men tasked with seizing the island from the British garrison based there. France and Britain were at War over the status of the United States, with the French backing the attempts of the Americans to secure their Independence from Britain.

Colonel Arthur Dillon led the Irish soldiers and the overall command of the Expedition rested with Admiral Compte d’Estaing. As it so happened another Irishman, Lord McCartney, was in charge of the British troops on the island. He had only a small force of about 500 men to resist these invaders and decided to withdraw to the heights of the position known as the Morne de l'Hopital and try to hold out there. Though outnumbered his position was strong and with luck he might have repulsed the assault until help arrived. Besides the steep incline, there were several walls on the hillside placed to impede the progress of any attacker. Dillon was sent ahead with a small force to ascertain whether an assault was possible and concluded that it was. 

As dusk fell on the 3rd the French launched a daring three-pronged assault with the Irish Brigade on the centre left. As a mark of honour they were accompanied by d’Estaing himself. Despite the obstacles in their way, the French and Irish troops fought their way up the slope and had taken the position by morning, forcing McCartney’s surrender. Several officers of Dillon's regiment were among the 100 casualties sustained by the attackers. Both the British and the French coveted this strategic Caribbean island and within days a British Relief Expedition arrived off its shores to engage the French Navy. They were beaten off and the island remained in French hands until 1783 when it was handed back to Britain on the conclusion of hostilities.



Wednesday, 1 July 2020


1 July 1916: The Battle of the Somme began on this day. After an immense bombardment lasting a week the British Army launched its Summer Offensive at precisely 7.30 am that morning. General Rawlinson commanded the British 4th Army, which contained 15 Divisions earmarked for the Offensive.

Rawlinson’s tactical plan was to see the infantry advance across no man’s land at a walking pace, carrying a full load of equipment (66 lbs. per man), to take possession of the German trenches from a demoralised and shaken foe. However during the bombardments most of the German troops took refuge in deep bunkers. Once the artillery had stopped firing on the front line trenches and the attack was imminent these men rushed to the surface and manned their posts. It was the failure of the British to anticipate the speed of the Germans reaction to the lifting of the barrage that led to their defeat on the 1 July. The casualties suffered by the attacking forces numbered almost 60,000 men incl about 20,000 dead. Many of these men were from Ireland.

The men of the 36th Ulster Division carried out the most famous attack of the day. They took the German stronghold of the Schwaben Redoubt by storm and overwhelmed the defenders. However due to the almost universal failure of the other attacking battalions on their flanks to take their objectives the Ulstermen were left dangerously exposed. They were out in a salient that the Germans were able to enfilade with devastating results. Despite a grim determination to hold their positions the 36th was forced back and the order was given to withdraw to their start lines. Given that they had suffered thousands of casualties that day this was a bitter pill to swallow - but a legend was born that day that still resonates down to our own times.

Captain (later Lieutenant-Colonel Sir) Wilfrid Spender, of the Ulster Division’s HQ staff, commenced his famous account that was widely carried by the British press, with the following words:  ‘I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, July 1, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world.’

The other great attack that day that had strong Irish connections was the series of assaults carried out by the 34th Division. This included the 103rd Tyneside Irish Brigade from Northumberland, in the main consisting of the descendants of Irish immigrants in the 19th Century to the coalfields there. However the connections with Ireland were still extant and these men were proud of their ancestry. That day they met the full force of the German machine-guns as they went over the top and were slaughtered in great numbers. For them there was no success to match the sacrifice made and thousands lay dead and wounded upon the field of battle for no great purpose.

There were also Irish battalions engaged this day within other Divisions and some 14 battalions with definite Irish identities took part in the day’s battle. In addition thousands more served in an individual capacity in various units like those raised in Liverpool, Manchester and London as well as in units with no particular connections to Ireland like the 1st South Staffordshire’s. Thus on 1st July 1916 many men from Ireland met their end in one of the bloodiest days in Military History. The survivors too never forgot that terrible day when so many from this island fought and suffered on the bloody fields of Picardy.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Image result for o'donovan rossa




29‭ ‬June‭ ‬1915:‭ ‬The death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Fenian, on this day in New York City. He was born at Roscarbery County Cork in 1831 to a family of tenant farmers. As a young man he kept a shop in Skibereen but became increasingly involved in revolutionary politics. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood on its foundation and was soon arrested by the British.  In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, put on trial for high treason and sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions. He spent five years in English jails in very harsh conditions. In 1869 he was elected an MP but his victory was annulled as he was considered a ‘Felon’. In 1870 he was released on condition that he went into Exile and he sailed for New York with a group of fellow exiles that were dubbed the ‘Cuba Five’ after the boat they left in.

Once in New York he helped to organise clandestine operations against British rule and was the main instigator of the‭ ‘Dynamite Campaign’ – a series of bombings in England designed to force Britain to relinquish her hold on Ireland. However he was allowed to return home in 1894 and in 1904 on brief visits. In later years he suffered from ill health and was confined to a hospital on Staten Island. He died there in 1915 and his remains were returned home for burial. His graveside was the occasion of Padraig Pearse’s famous oration on the power of the Fenian dead. On his immediate hearing of his death Pearse recorded the following:

O'Donovan Rossa was not the greatest man of the Fenian generation,‭ ‬but he was its most typical man. He was the man that to the masses of his countrymen then and since stood most starkly and plainly for the Fenian idea…

No man,‭ ‬no government, could either break or bend him. Literally he was incapable of compromise. He could not even parley with compromisers. Nay, he could not act, even for the furtherance of objects held in common, with those who did not hold and avow all his objects…

Enough to know that the valiant soldier of Ireland is dead‭; that the unconquered spirit is free.




28 June 1920: Irish soldiers in India engaged in a Mutiny on this day. Five men from C Company, 1st battalion Connaught Rangers, refused to take orders from their officers, declaring their intent not to serve the King until the British forces left Ireland. They were disturbed by reports reaching them from home that members of the Crown Forces in Ireland were committing atrocities. The news quickly spread amongst the other outposts of the Rangers in the Punjab and rumours were rife that these five men had been summarily executed. This in turn triggered more a serious incident some days later at Solan.

At the barracks there Private James Daly and 70 other Rangers attacked the armoury. However it was successfully defended and Privates Smyth and Sears were shot dead. In total, nearly 400 men had joined the mutiny. 88 men were court martialled in the aftermath, 14 were sentenced to death and the rest given up to 15 years in jail. James Daly was executed on November 2nd 1920. Privates Sears and Smyth were buried at Solan; Daly and John Miranda (who died in prison of harsh treatment) were buried at the Dagshai graveyard. In 1970 the remains of Daly Smith and Sears were returned to Ireland for reburial.

They were repatriated to Ireland by The National Graves Association and given a military funeral with full honours. A special monument in their honour was erected at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. [above]