Friday, 3 February 2023


3 February 1917: Count George Noble Plunkett [above with his wife Mary] won the north Roscommon bye election on this day. . It was dubbed “The Election of the Snows” due to the inclement weather prevalent at the time. Its candidate Count George Noble Plunkett took the seat by defeating the candidate of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He was the father of Joseph Mary Plunkett who had been shot by the British for being one of the Leaders of the Easter Rising in1916.

It was a contest between three candidates: Thomas Devine who sought to retain the seat for the Irish Parliamentary Party; Count George Noble Plunkett and the local newspaper owner and editor Jasper Tully of the Roscommon Herald who ran as an independent. All three candidates have professed themselves to be confident of success. Count Plunkett was elected with 3,022 votes to Devine’s 1,708 and Tully’s 687.

Amid scenes of jubilation Count Plunkett  announced that his policy regarding Westminster was one of abstentionism and said:

My place henceforth will be beside you in your own country, for it is in Ireland, that the battle of Irish liberty will be fought. I recognise no parliament in existence, as having a right over the people of Ireland, just as I deny the right of England to an inch of the soil of Ireland. I do not think I will go further than the old house in College Green to represent you. I am sent by Ireland to represent you in Ireland; to stand by you and to win Ireland’s freedom upon her own soil.

His daughter Geraldine, in her posthumously published memoir, remembered: “He was not a member of Sinn Féin, but a separatist supported by a combination of separatists and almost all advanced Nationalist opinion.”

His election sent a clear message that the days of popular support for the old Irish Parliamentary Party were effectively over and a new political movement was abroad - one that would not send its representatives to London but seek to establish an Irish Parliament in Dublin - free from British Rule.

Thursday, 2 February 2023


2 February 1922: The publication of Ulysses by James Joyce on this day in Paris, France. Considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century it had a huge influence on the genre of the writing of fiction and broke new ground in how to describe the human condition in prose. Hailed as a masterpiece by fellow novelists it quickly fell foul of authorities who saw it as vile and disgusting and without literary merit.

Indeed it had already to legal difficulties in the USA where extracts had appeared in the  Little Review a publication that specialised in Avant Garde type of articles and had featured some chapters from the forthcoming book that led to the owners being prosecuted in the Courts of New York.

The most important outcome of the case was that it rendered publication of Ulysses in the United States impossible for the foreseeable future. In Britain the authorities did not go to the trouble of having a court case; they simply suppressed the book on the ruling of the director of public prosecutions. Five hundred copies were burnt at the port of Folkestone in January 1923. And the British literary magazine The Egoist had found it impossible to print any more than a few short extracts before its printers refused to undertake any more of the work.

However all was not lost and in the more libertarian atmosphere of Paris an American lady Sylvia Beach, who had recently opened an English-language bookshop -Shakespeare and Company - undertook to publish Ulysses. It was here on 2 February 1922 on James Joyce’s 40th birthday that it first saw the light of day in a limited print run of 1,000 copies at the very expensive price of three guineas or 150 francs which put it out of the price range of the average reader.

Nevertheless out of this very shaky start the novel grew in reputation as more literary types heard of it and then read it themselves. The story centred around the perambulations & thoughts and emotions of the books’ central character Leopold Bloom and his alter ego Stephen Dedalus, both of them reflections of James Joyce in middle age and as a younger man.

Today the Novel is world famous and has made Dublin a mecca for those who love and are fascinated by the book set in the City on the 16th June 1904

- Bloomsday!

Wednesday, 1 February 2023


1 February‭ 523/25: The Feast Day of Saint Brigid/ Naomh Bhríde aka Féile Brígíd on this day. Or as the Irish Annals are fond of stating ‘according to some’.

1‭ February 525 AD: Saint Brighit, virgin, Abbess of Cill Dara, died. It was to her Cill Dara was first granted, and by her it was founded. Brighit was she who never turned her mind or attention from the Lord for the space of one hour, but was constantly meditating and thinking of him in her heart and mind, as is evident in her own Life, and in the Life of St. Brenainn, Bishop of Cluain Fearta. She spent her time diligently serving the Lord, performing wonders and miracles, healing every disease and every malady, as her Life relates, until she resigned her spirit to heaven, the first day of the month of February; and her body was interred at Dun, in the same tomb with Patrick, with honour and veneration.

Annals of the Four Masters

Though according to another account the key dates in her Life were as follows:

Birth of St.‭ Brigid, on a Wednesday, the 8th of the February moon; on a Sunday –

Wednesday,‭ the 18th, she received the veil, with eight virgins; Wednesday, the 28th, she rested.

Chronicon Scotorum‭ 539 AD

Whatever the true story of Brigid’s Life we are capable of putting together the outlines of her story.‭ ‬She was born to a mother called Brocca, a Christian from Britain who was not married to but subservient to Dubhthach, a Gaelic Chieftain and the father of Brigid. Her place of birth was at Faughart in what is now north Co Louth. Whether Brocca was merely an attractive slave girl or a trophy mistress taken on a raid is an open question but its possible that Brigid did not know her father very well while a child and was more or less raised by her Mother. Her name Brigid was taken from that of a Celtic Goddess and this considered Deity was apparently worshipped in her Father’s Household. This female deity was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge.

As she grew to womanhood she showed signs of piety and generosity to those less fortunate than herself.‭ While the date is not quite certain she was perhaps took the veil in around 468 AD and was received into Holy Orders by Saint Mel. If this be true she might have already have been a devotee of Brigid and as the daughter of a powerful man who was won over to Christianity she would have been a important convert to the Church.

She is believed to have founded her first convent in Clara,‭ County Offaly, other ones followed after her fame grew. But it was to be in Kildare that her major foundation would emerge. Her father seems to have had his base around here and have used his local influence to secure her a good site, perhaps on the locus of an earlier Shrine to Goddess herself. Around 470 she founded Kildare Abbey, a double monastery, for nuns and monks, on the plains of Cill-Dara, "the church of the oak", her cell being made under a large oak tree.

As Abbess of this sacred place she wielded considerable power. Known as the ‘Mary of the Gael’ and the ‘Fiery Arrow’ she became famous for her great spiritual powers over men and women and the animals that she encountered. She was also reputed to have powerful gifts of divination and the ability to impose herself on the powers of Nature. Perhaps in a throwback to her earlier devotion she maintained a Sacred Flame at her abbey of Kildare that was never allowed to go out. 

We are not quite sure of the exact year of Brigit's settlement here‭; but it probably occurred about 485, when she was thirty years of age. Hard by the church she also built a dwelling for herself and her community. We are told in the Irish Life of St. Brigit that this first house was built of wood like the houses of the people in general; and the little church under the oak was probably of wood also, like most churches of the time. As the number of applicants for admission continued to increase, both church and dwelling had to be enlarged from time to time; and the wood was replaced by stone and mortar. Such was the respect in which the good abbess was held, that visitors came from all parts of the country to see her and ask her advice and blessing: and many of them settled down in the place, so that a town gradually grew up near the convent, which was the beginning of the town of Kildare.

From‭ ‘The Wonders of Ireland’ by P. W. Joyce, 1911

But eventually St Brigid went the way of all flesh and on her death her mortal remains were buried beside the High Alter of her beloved Church in Kildare.‭ Years later when the Viking Raids moved inwards her remains were dug up and moved to Downpatrick and eventually interred along with those of Saints Patrick and Columba (Columcille). Alas we now know not their exact place of burial but it is believed they may be buried underneath or adjacent to Downpatrick Cathedral.

In Down,‭ three saints one grave do fill,

Patrick,‭ Brigid and Columcille

After her death the‭ 1st February became known in Ireland as Féile Brígíd and it replaced the old Celtic Festival of Imbolc that celebrated the beginnings of Springtime. For nearly 1,500 years the eve of her day was marked throughout the Country but especially in Leinster with the St Brigid’s Cross, a reworking of the more traditional one and possibly based on an even more ancient design.

Numerous‭ ‘Lives’ were written about her of which we know the following:

The first of them is contained in a hymn in very ancient Irish,‭ written by St. Broegan Claen, abbot of Rosturk, in Ossory, on “The Titles and Miracles of the Saint.”

The second‭ Life is by Cogitosus. It is in Latin prose. Most probably he was a monk of the monastery of Kildare that was under the rule of St. Brigid in ancient times, for he describes, in great detail, the architecture, ornaments, and arrangements of the church.

The third‭ Life is by St. Ultan, ‬of Ardbraccan, in Meath, the same who induced St. Breogan to write the metrical Life already mentioned.

 The‭ 4th Life is by Anmchad, Latinized Animosus: it is in Latin metre. Who this Anmchad was — whether he was Bishop of Kildare and died in 980, or another — we have not sufficient grounds for saying with anything like certainty. The work seems to be that of one well acquainted with Kildare and its surroundings, and is more detailed than the others already mentioned.

‭The 5th Life is the work of Laurence of Durham, a Benedictine monk, who lived about the year 1100.

Lastly,‭ there is the Life by St. Caelan, a monk of Iniscealtra, in the Shannon, near Scariff. It is in Latin hexameters. It was discovered by an Irish Benedictine in the library of the mother-house of the Order, at Monte Cassino. The author lived in the first half of the eighth century.

Saint Brigid of Kildare By the Rev.‭ ‬Denis Murphy S.J.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023


31 January 1953: The Loss of the Princess Victoria on this day. 126 people were drowned when the car ferry of that name sank while making it’s way from Stranraer to Larne. In one of the worst gales in living memory in these islands the ship went down when heavy seas caused the stern car deck doors to buckle and break open. Water then flooded into the ship causing her to capsize. Among the passengers who perished were Stormont’s Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Major J M Sinclair, and Sir Walter Smiles, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.

Captained by the 55 year old James Ferguson, the vessel left Stranraer's railway loading pier at 07:45 AM with 44 tons of cargo, 128 passengers and 51 crew. Captain Ferguson had served as master on various ferries on the same route for 17 years. A gale warning was in force but he made the decision to put to sea. The ship had sent out distress signals in Morse code but due to the listing of the vessel continually gave wrong readings as to its actual location. The winds were terrific and visibility very poor in great storm that caused havoc across north west Europe that day. As a result ships sent to assist in the rescue failed to spot her as she sank and perhaps lives that could have been saved were thus lost. No aircraft was available to help locate her either.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing a lifeboat containing at least some of the women and children being smashed against the side of the Princess Victoria by the huge waves. The disaster shocked many people because, although it took place in extreme weather conditions, it involved a routine journey, on a relatively short crossing (20 miles) in what were believed to be safe waters. Just 44 people survived the loss of the Princess Victoria. The Captain and his officers did not survive, nor did any of the women and children on board. David Broadfoot, who had courageously kept contact from the radio room until the sea flooded it, was awarded a posthumous George Cross. The captains of the merchant vessels were made members of the Order of the British Empire. Officers of the HMS Contest were awarded the George Medal for their bravery in entering the water to assist the survivors.

The Court of Enquiry into the sinking, held in March 1953 at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast found that the Princess Victoria was lost due to a combination of factors. In a report of 30,000 pages the enquiry found that: firstly, the stern doors were not sufficiently robust. Secondly, arrangements for clearing water from the car deck were inadequate.
In summary it found that the loss of the M V 'Princess Victoria' was caused or contributed to by the default of the owners and the manager in that they were negligent before the disaster:

a) In failing to appreciate that the vessel was unfit to encounter the full range of foreseeable weather conditions on the Larne and Stranraer route by reason of the inabilit6y of the stern doors to withstand heavy seas.
b) In not taking appropriate steps to provide adequate freeing arrangements on the car deck or else to make the stern doors sufficiently strong and adequate to prevent heavy seas from flooding that deck.

The report concluded "If the Princess Victoria had been as staunch as those who manned her, then all would have been well and the disaster averted."

Monday, 30 January 2023


30 January 1972: Bloody Sunday –  British soldiers shot 26 people taking part in a Civil Rights March in Derry City. 13 were killed outright and another man died of his wounds later. Widespread condemnation followed throughout Ireland and abroad. The British Army claimed that its soldiers had fired at identifiable gunmen and bombers. The participants and survivors of the March and many independent witnesses refuted this.

The shootings took place as a major Civil Rights March was coming to an end. Sporadic rioting had broken out involving some hundreds of youths and members of the British Army. These developments were not unexpected and not seen as out of the ordinary at the time.

Then for some reason never satisfactorily explained members of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment  who were deployed in the City that day opened indiscriminate fire on rioters and innocent bystanders alike, shooting many people and arresting many more. At the time panic and fear were then quickly replaced by anger and grief. These gruesome events were a watershed for many Irish People and undermined any conception they had that the British were neutral in the North of Ireland.

To add insult to injury the subsequent Widgery Tribunal in April 1972 exonerated the soldiers involved of any wrongdoing saying that at most the firing from the soldiers was 'bordering on the reckless'!  

After many years of campaigning by the victims & relatives of that day there was a Full Public Inquiry held at the Guildhall in Derry which led in 2010 to the then British Prime Minister David Cameron to issue a Full Apology for what happened on Bloody Sunday 1972:

But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.

The men shot dead that day were:

Patrick ('Paddy') Doherty ( 31)

Gerald Donaghy (17)

John ('Jackie ') Duddy (17)

Hugh Gilmour (17)

Michael Kelly (17)

Michael McDaid (20)

Kevin McElhinney (17)

Bernard D('Barney') McGuigan (41)

Gerald McKinney (35)

William ('Williee') McKinney  (26)

William Nash (19 )

James ('Jim')  Wray (22)

John Young (17)

John Johnston (59 ) – died 16  June 1972.

Sunday, 29 January 2023


29 January circa 598AD: Feast day of Saint Dallán Forgaill. Saint Dallán's given name was Eochaid, his father was Colla, and his mother was Forgall. His nickname, Dallán ("little blind one"), was earned after he lost his sight, reputedly as a result of studying intensively. He was born in Maigen near what is now Ballyconnel Co Cavan circa 530AD.

He is famous for writing poetry in particular Amhra Coluim Cille - a poem in praise of St Columba and considered one of the most important poems we have from the early medieval Gaelic world. The "Amhra Coluim Cille" became a popular text for students in Irish monasteries. He also said to have wrote Rop Tú Mo Baile /Be Thou My Vision; it opens with the lines:

Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride

[Be thou my vision O Lord]

This has been set to music in modern times and is a prayer that belongs to a type known as a lorica - a prayer for protection.

Saint Dallán was killed while visiting his colleague Saint Conall Cael at his monastery on Inis keel/Inis Caoil [above] off the coast of Donegal when pirates raided the island. Dallán  was reportedly beheaded.  He was buried on Iniskeel, his friend Conall Cael was later laid to rest in the same grave. Today the island has no inhabitants.

Dallán was recognised as the Chief Ollam of Ireland - the Bard with the most status in the Country really and was also a noted Latin Scholar.

The following works are attributed to Dallán, although some may be later works by other poets who credited Dallán with authorship in order to make their poems more famous.

1. Amra Conall Coel

2. Dubgilla dub-airm n-aisse

3. Fo réir Coluim cén ad-fías

4. Conn cet cathach a righi

5. Rop tú mo baile

Saturday, 28 January 2023


28 January 1939:  The death of William Butler Yeats on this day. He died at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the south of France.  He was Ireland’s most distinguished poet and playwright of the 20th Century. Yeats’ works drew heavily on Irish mythology and history. He never fully embraced his Protestant past or the Catholic Religion but he devoted much of his life to study in numerous subjects including theosophy,  mysticism, spiritualism, and the Kabala.

He was born on  13 of June 1865 in Sandymount in County Dublin, Ireland.  His father was John Butler Yeats, a well known portrait painter and his mother was Susan Mary Pollexfen who was the daughter of a wealthy family from County Sligo. In 1884 Yeats enrolled in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin during which some of his first poems were printed in the Dublin University Review. He afterwards moved to London where his father was based though he was often homesick for Ireland. Though he visited Sligo almost every summer. He spent time in the British Museum of Natural History doing research for such collaborations as  Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry ( 1888), Irish Fairy Tales (1892) , and A Book of Irish Verse (1895).

In 1894 Yeats met Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole Park and he became involved with The Irish Literary Theatre, which became the Abbey Theatre. One of the first plays to be performed there was Yeats’  Cathleen ni Houlihan, with Maud Gonne in the title role. The Abbey Theatre opened in December of 1904  and became the flagship for leading Irish playwrights and actors. Yeats’ On Baile’s Strand was one of its first productions. Of his many dramatic and successful works to follow,  The Countess Cathleen (1892),  The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894) and The King’s Threshold (1904) are among his best known.

As a successful poet and playwright, in 1903 Yeats went on a lecture tour of the United States, and again in 1914, 1920, and 1932. Yeats and his sisters started the Cuala Press in 1904, which would print over seventy titles. At the age of forty-six, Yeats met Georgie (George) Hyde Lees  (1892-1968) and they married on the 20 October, 1917. They had two children Anne (born 1919 ) and Michael who was born in 1921.

In 1916 the Easter Rising occurred in Dublin, and some of Yeats’ s friends participated in it. This prompted his poem Easter (Sept. 1916). In this year the first volume of Yeats’ autobiography Reveries over Childhood and Youth was published, with the second following in 1922 titled The Trembling of the Veil. In 1917 Yeats bought a Norman tower near Coole Park in Galway for his summer home.  The Wild Swans at Coole was then published in 1919.

In 1922 Yeats received an Honorary degree from Trinity College,  Dublin. He was elected to the Irish Free State Senate in the same year, and he served for six years before resigning due to failing health. In December of  1923  he established his International reputation when he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. He continued to work on his essays, poetry and the poetry anthology Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935. . As well as Coole Park he also spent time in his home ‘Riversdale’ at Rathfarnham, Dublin but also spent a number of winters abroad.

When he died in France at the age of 73  he was first buried there, but in 1948, in accordance with his wishes he was re-interred “under bare Ben Bulben’s head” in Drumcliff churchyard,  County Sligo.

 His epitaph reads: 

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by.