Thursday, 17 October 2019

Image result for william smith o'brien

17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien the Nationalist politician and Young Irelander, was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.

That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.
There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]


Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Image result for oscar wilde grave


16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.
The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.
Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing.
In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honour the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.
There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [above in Merrion Square Dublin directly across the road from No 1 Merrion Sq. where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery [ below] in Paris where he is buried. Which is as far as I could judge on the day I visited it some years ago by far the most popular attraction in that most famous of cemeteries.
A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
Oscar Wilde







Tuesday, 15 October 2019


15 October 1945: The death of Eoin MacNeill occurred in Dublin on this day. Born in County Antrim he became a scholar of the Irish language, a prominent nationalist, a revolutionary and a politician.. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, founded to preserve the Irish language and culture. In 1909 he was appointed foundation Professor of Early Irish History in UCD and was elected to the first Senate of the new NUI where, along with Douglas Hyde, he campaigned to make Irish a compulsory subject for entry to the university. 

While primarily a scholar and cultural activist, in an article entitled ‘The North began’ in An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light] on 1 November 1913, McNeill advocated the formation of a national volunteer force on the lines of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The organisation was established in Dublin on 25 November with the intent to back the push for Home Rule by force of arms if necessary.

He was Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers at the time of the Easter Rising but was kept out of it and indeed tried to stop it as he foresaw a bloody failure if it went ahead. On the eve of the planned  Rising ( 22 April 1916) he issued his infamous countermand order to try and stop the Rising going ahead:
"Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow, Sunday, are completely cancelled...

As a result the Revolt went off at half cock and only in Dublin did enough Volunteers turn out to be able to make a go of it to take on the British Army in battle. But for all his attempts to stop the Rising he was interned in Frognoch Camp in Wales with the other prisoners taken in the aftermath and remained under British suspicion on release.

He supported the Treaty in 1921 and held the Cabinet position of Minister of Education in the first Free State Government. He represented the State on the Anglo Irish Boundary Commission in 1925 but resigned when the findings were leaked to a British newspaper. He lost his seat in the 1927 General Election. In that same year he was the first man to come across Kevin O’Higgins as he lay fatally injured after being shot near his home on Booterstown Avenue in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He retired from politics completely and became Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He published a number of books on Irish history incl. Phases of Irish History (1919) and Celtic Ireland (1921) His work on early Irish History was ground breaking esp. his study of Kingship and succession rights in Ireland before the Anglo Norman Invasion in 1169 AD. Indeed he was one of the first Irish Historians to make a serious attempt to divide fact from myth in the study of the ancient sources of Irish History. His works are still of value today as one of the foundation stones of modern historical study in this Country.

Monday, 14 October 2019


14 October 1318 : The Battle of Faughart, also known as the Battle of Dundalk, was fought on this day. It was between an Anglo-Irish force led by John of Birmingham and Edmund Butler, and a Scots-Irish army commanded by Edward Bruce, claimant to the Crown of Ireland and brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Edward was killed in the battle. The defeat and death of Edward de Bruce at the battle ended the attempt to revive an independent Kingdom of Ireland. It also ended the attempt of King Robert of Scotland to open up a second front against the English in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.

Edward had invaded Ireland with an Army of 6,000 men in May 1315 and initially swept all before him. But his arrival here coincided with the start of a Great Famine that swept Europe that was caused by devastating climatic change. That and the cruelties his followers inflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike won him few converts outside of Ulster. Like Hannibal of old he could win battles and sweep the land, but he could not take the city of Dublin – the Capital of Ireland.

By 1318 his position was desperate as he saw his ambition to be King of Ireland in his own right slip away. He decided on a desperate gamble - to give battle before reinforcements could arrive from Scotland and thus lessen his own glory. Thus the two armies met at Faughart, on rising ground just north of Dundalk. Bruce had placed the few Gaelic forces that stayed with him at the rear. He divided his army into three divisions. This disposition proved disastrous, as the divisions proved to be easy targets for deBirmingham’s forces who simply destroyed them as they met and engaged with them. They were too far away from each other to provide any support to each other.

The English 'Chronicle of Lanercost' recorded:
The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland. 

At the beginning of the battle, Edward Bruce refused to wear the sur-coat bearing his coat of arms. This was worn by his man-servant Gib Harper, who fought beside his master. Both master and servant were killed by an English soldier called John Maupas, but not before Maupas himself had sustained a fatal sword thrust. All three were found together after the battle in which many Scottish nobles who had followed Bruce since the beginning of the campaign, were also killed.

After Edward's death his body was quartered and his limbs sent to various places in Ireland, with his head being delivered to Edward II, the King of England. Tradition holds that his torso was then buried in nearby graveyard.

His defeat and destruction at Faughart was as unexpected as it was sudden but the termination of this terrible war was greeted with relief as it brought to an end a bleak and dark chapter in Ireland’s History. One in which the provinces of Ulster and Leinster bore the brunt of the devastation and in which armies of both sides freely indulged at the cost of the inhabitants both Irish and English who suffered greatly in these harshest of years. 

Edward Bruce, the destroyer of all Erinn in general,
both Foreigners and Gaeidhel, was slain by the Foreigners of Erinn, and …
no better deed for the men of all Erinn was performed
since the beginning of the world, since the Fomorian race was expelled from Erinn, than this deed
for theft and famine, and destruction of men occurred throughout Erinn during his time
For the space of three years and a half
and people used to eat one another, without doubt throughout Erinn.

Annals of Loch Cé 1318 AD



Sunday, 13 October 2019

Charles Stewart Parnell - Brady-Handy.jpg

13 October 1881: Charles Stuart Parnell MP was arrested in Morrison’s Hotel, Dublin and conveyed to Kilmainham Jail on this day. The British Prime Minister Gladstone had ordered Parnell’s arrest the previous night after a Cabinet meeting. He then and there dispatched Mr Foster (Britain’s Chief Secretary for Ireland) to Dublin with orders to capture the Irish Leader. Detectives Mallon and Sheridan of the ‘G’ Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police carried out the arrest. They arrived at the hotel and asked the hotel porter to request an interview with Mr Parnell. The leader of the Land League asked for time to dress and then called up his two visitors who were greeted with the words Do you intend to arrest me? – Yes - replied John Mallon.


The trio went downstairs and into a waiting cab, though Parnell refused to leave until he had been given 10% off the Bill! Mallon then gave the order to Kilmainham and they set off with a police escort to the notorious jail. Once there Parnell was incarcerated with the other political prisoners already held being held there. 

He wrote to his lover Katharine O’Shea when he was arrested:
‘Politically it is a fortunate thing for me that I have been arrested, as the movement is breaking fast and all will be quiet in a few months, when I shall be released’.

For the arrest of Parnell backfired on the British Government as left without a Leader the rural population increasingly turned to Captain Moonlight* to settle agrarian disputes - as Parnell had predicted at the time of his arrest!

By the start of 1882, Irish agrarian unrest escalated to unprecedented levels (3,433 episodes of agrarian violence were recorded) and it was clear to both Gladstone and Parnell that it was time to reach a compromise.

The 'Kilmainham Treaty' was agreed. The agreement was that Gladstone would amend the Land Act of 1881 to include tenants in arrears and leaseholders; drop coercion; and release ‘suspects’ in police custody. In return, Parnell would help to pacify the people of Ireland and co–operate with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles and measures of general reform. Parnell was released on 2 May 1882 and crossed directly to England where he made a dramatic appearance in the House of Commons.
http://multitext.ucc.ie/d/Charles_Stewart_Parnell
* Attackers in the moonlight


Saturday, 12 October 2019



12 October 1984: An IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel, Brighton killed five members of the Conservative Party and narrowly missed killing the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – it’s intended target. Until that time this was the most audacious attack ever undertaken against a British Leader. Thatcher was lucky in that her room was changed from the previous years and this saved her life. For the IRA bomber - Patrick Magee - had booked into her old room weeks previously and planted a bomb with a timing device primed to explode on the night she would arrive.

The bomb detonated at 2:54 a.m. on 12 October. The mid-section of the building collapsed into the basement, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel's façade. Firemen said that many lives were likely saved because the well-built Victorian hotel remained standing. Margaret Thatcher was still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. The blast badly damaged her bathroom, but left her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Both she and her husband Denis escaped injury. She changed her clothes and was led out through the wreckage along with her husband and Cynthria Crawford (her friend and aide) and driven to Brighton police station.

Those killed were Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, Eric Taylor (North-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Jeanne Shattock (wife of Sir Gordon Shattock, Western Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Muriel Maclean (wife of Sir Donald Maclean, President of the Scottish Conservatives), and Roberta Wakeham (wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham). Donald and Muriel Maclean were in the room in which the bomb exploded.

Several more, including Margaret Tebbit—the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade—were left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people were taken to hospital and recovered from their injuries. When hospital staff asked Tebbit whether he was allergic to anything, he famously answered "bombs".

That night the IRA issued a statement:
Mrs. Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war.



Friday, 11 October 2019


11‭ ‬October 1741: Birth of James Barry, the great neo Classicalist Painter, in Cork on this day. His contemporaries considered Barry a child prodigy. He started painting while still in Cork and then moved to Dublin. There he produced several large pictures, which decorated his father's house, such as Aeneas escaping with his Family from the Flames of Troy, Susanna and the Elders and Daniel in the Lions' Den. The painting that first brought him into widespread public notice, and gained him the acquaintance and patronage of Edmund Burke, was founded on an old tradition St Patrick visiting Cashel, and of the conversion of its king in The Baptism of the King of Cashel by St Patrick. 

After some time in Dublin he made his way to London where he gained the patronage of Edmund Burke and won renown for his artistic talent.‭ ‬He then went on an extended tour,‭ ‬first to Paris, then to Rome, where he remained upwards of three years,‭ ‬from Rome to Florence and Bologna, and thence to Venice. He returned to London in about 1771. There he produced his picture of‭ ‬Venus, which was compared to the Galatea of Raphael, the Venus of Titian and the Venus de Medici.

He is‭ ‬best remembered though for his six part series of paintings entitled The Progress of Human Culture in the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in London, in which city he made the rest of his career.

He produced numerous paintings in the course of artistic career that varied greatly in accomplishment but little in style.‭ ‬He was determined to follow his own path in life and in Art and while this won him admiration it also lost him friends and more crucially Patrons in an Age when patronage was essential to social advancement. 

He died in London on‭ 22 February 1806 and the following month his remains were interred in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Above: Self portrait circa 1803: National Gallery of Ireland