Tuesday, 31 July 2012

31 July 1975 The Miami Showband Massacre on this day

On the morning of Thursday 31 July 1975 people all across Ireland turned on their radios and heard the astonishing and terrible news that members of the most popular Showband here had been shot down in cold blood at Buskill County Down.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun and bomb attack on the members of the Miami Showband. Three members of the band were killed and one seriously injured during the attack. Two members of the UVF gang were also killed when a bomb they were handling exploded prematurely.

The Miami Showband had been playing at 'The Castle Ballroom' in Banbridge, Count Down. Five members of the band left in their minibus and travelled south on the main dual-carriageway. The minibus was stopped by what appeared to be a Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) checkpoint at Buskhill, near Newry. However the checkpoint was bogus and was being operated by approximately 10 members of the UVF - at least four of whom were also members of the UDR.

The members of the band were ordered out of the van and told to line up by the side of the road. Two UVF men then planted a bomb into the van. The bomb exploded prematurely killing the two UVF members. At this point the other UVF members opened fire on the band musicians.

Francis (Fran) O'Toole (29), the lead singer with band and famous for his good looks, was shot 22 times in the face while he lay on his back on the ground. Two other band members Anthony Geraghty (23), who was shot four times in the back, and Brian McCoy (33), shot nine times, both died at the scene. Another member of the group (Stephen Travers) was shot with a 'dum-dum' bullet and seriously injured but survived. The two UVF men who died were Harris Boyle (22) and Wesley Somerville (34); both were also members of the UDR.

There was speculation after the event that the UVF had tried to hide the bomb on the minibus with the intention of the bomb exploding after the members of the van had resumed their journey. It would then have been claimed that the members of the band were transporting explosives on behalf of the IRA. In 1976 two members of the UDR were sentenced to prison for their part in the attack. They received life sentences but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

A monument dedicated to the dead Miami Showband members was unveiled at a ceremony at Parnell Square North, Dublin, on 10 December 2007. Survivors Stephen Travers and Des McAlea were both present at the unveiling. The monument, made of limestone, bronze and granite, by County Donegal sculptor Redmond Herrity, is at the site of the old National Ballroom, where the band often played

Sunday, 29 July 2012

29 July 1883: James Carey, the man who informed on the Phoenix Park assassins (The Invincibles), was shot dead on this day. He was killed by Patrick O'Donnell (executed 17 November) on board the Melrose Castle, which was making its way from Cape Town to Durban with the turncoat on board. On the evidence of James Carey five of the "Invincible" prisoners were convicted and received the capital sentence. Their names were Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly. Their executions took place in Dublin, in the months of May and June 1883.

But Carey was a hunted man as his old revolutionary companions sought out his whereabouts. It became known that the British had sent him to South Africa with his family to start a new life in a remote location. But his attempt to escape the rightful vengeance of the remnants of those Invincibles still at large proved a futile exercise.  

Nemesis was on his track in the person of Patrick O'Donnell, a fellow-passenger on board the Melrose. An acquaintance sprang up between the two men; and O'Donnell, from the descriptions he had heard of Carey's personal appearance, was not slow in recognizing in his compangon de voyage, the notorious informer; and his sensibilities were shocked by the discovery that he had given the hand of friendship to such a wretch. 

An altercation between these men on Sunday, July 29, 1883, resulted (according to O'Donnell's statement) in Carey drawing his revolver on O'Donnell, whereupon O'Donnell--as he claims in self-defense--fired his own revolver twice at Carey, with fatal effect. O'Donnell was immediately placed under arrest, and on the arrival of the Melrose at Port Elizabeth, was taken before a magistrate, who recommitted him for trial in England, as the shooting had taken place on the high seas.

 The doom of O'Donnell, tried before an English judge and jury, was a foregone conclusion, and though he had the advantage of the most able counsel that money could procure, and there was no lack of funds for his defense--the Irish World alone having raised upward of fifty-five thousand dollars for this purpose--his conviction was secured.

By A. M. Sullivan

Saturday, 28 July 2012

28 July 1270: The Battle of Athankip (Cath Ath in Chip) near Carrick on Shannon. Aedh O'Conchobhair, King of Connaught, defeated the army of the Anglo –Norman Colony of the deputy-Justicar Richard of Exeter and Walter De Burgo on this day.

King Aedh of Connacht was an able and dynamic leader with a ruthless streak. He fought hard to retain what was left of the ever shrinking lump of territory that was left to the kings of Connacht by the inroads of the English and that his familial ancestors had once held sway over so much of.

His enemies were many but at this time he was at war with Walter de Burgo of the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family. Walter was both the Lord of Connacht and the Earl of Ulster - a very powerful man indeed in the Ireland of that time.

King Aedh knew that when the English began erecting a castle at Roscommon in 1269 that the Crown of England was putting pressure upon him by taking back lands lost in previous times. He expected war notwithstanding agreements entered into earlier with the Crown of England.

In 1270 the Justicar Robert d'Ufford* organised an expeditionary force that united all his forces with those of Walter de Burgo so that they had 'all the foreigners of Erin with them'. However d'Ufford quitted  Ireland ahead of the expedition and returned home and his place was taken by his deputy Richard of Exeter. Eventually in the summer of 1270 the forces were assembled at Roscommon and set off to march upon King Aedh and his men.
* The chief representitive of England in Ireland at that time

The Anglo-Norman Army went north by way of Elphin to the banks of the Shannon so that they were  between Carrick and Jamestown, situated on what today is the riverine border between the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim.

There they decided upon upon a fatal course of action - they divided their forces in two so that the river Shannon would be between them. Walter was sent across the river with his men in order to camp beside Aedh's Army and to open negotiations with the King of Connacht so as to bring about his submission.

As part of the deal to agree to talk King Aedh entered into Walter's camp (a sign of submission in the Gaelic world!) but in return Walter had to hand over his own brother William to Aedh's camp 'while Aedh should be in the Earl's house arraigning the peace'.

Whatever exactly happened then we do not know but Aedh withdrew from the negotiations pretty fast. Meanwhile in his own camp two of the hostages who accompanied William were done to death and William himself was seized as a captive instead of being allowed to return to the care of his brother.
Walter was now on the wrong side of the river and with his brother's life in the balance and King Aedh obviously not prepared to agree to whatever terms were offered to him he decided to beat a retreat back to the other side of the Shannon and try and reunite his force with that of Richard of Exeter.

King Aedh on the other hand knew that in the aftermath of negotiations breaking down and the death of hostages that allowing Walter to cross the Shannon unmolested and re unite with Richard could only spell his own doom.

He decided to harry Walter's retreat and take out as many of his men as he could.

And O'Conchobhair was during these two 
nights marching round them, as a furious, raging, tearing 
lion goes about his enemies when killing them, so that 
he permitted them neither to eat, sleep, nor be at rest. 
Annals of Loch Cé
Eventually Walter's depleted and harried army made it to the banks of the Shannon at the ford of Ath An Chip where they proceeded to cross over to the other side. However they were caught here by Turlough O'Brien and his men. Turlough was if not the son then a close relative of King Brian of Thomond who had also turned against the English. Turlough might well have been on the western side of the Shannon already and waiting for Walter's army to turn up. 

The Earl Walter turned to fight and with some courage sought out Turlough and engaged him in single combat and slew him. But this delay proved fatal for his army as the men of Connacht came upon his rearguard and turned a retreat into a rout. The English lost nine of the chief men (Knights) dead upon the battlefield and many hundreds of others as well. Over 100 apparelled and saddled horses were left behind by them. Aedh in the flush of Victory had Walter's own brother William put to death as a further insult to the man who had caused him so much trouble in his own life and that of his father King Felim too in his day.

The defeat of Ath-in-chip was inflicted by Aedh, son of Feidhlimidh Ua Conchobair and by the Connachtmen on the Earl, namely, on Walter de Burgh and on the Foreigners of Ireland besides, wherein was committed slaughter innumerable on the Foreigners. And William de Burgh junior was taken prisoner there and he was killed afterwards in the same captivity. And not greater than it was any defeat, or battle-rout that the Gaidhil ever gave to the Foreigners in Ireland previously. 
For there was killed Richard of the Wood, kinsman of the Earl, as well as John Butler and many other knights and Foreigners and Gaidhil innumerable. And there were abandoned one hundred horses with their breastplates and with their saddles.
Annals of Ulster

Now when the Galls had gone to Ath in Chip in the morning, Toirrdelbach O Briain fell upon them there. The Earl himself turned upon him and slew him on the spot, single-handed.

At this moment the men of Connacht fell upon them. Their rearguard was dislodged and their van broken and nine of their noblest knights were killed on that moor, including Richard of the Wood and Seon Butler, and they left a hundred horses on the field, with their saddles and poitrels. Uilliam Oc was then killed in his captivity, after O Briain had been slain by the Earl, and none knew how many besides.
Annals of Connacht

It's possible that King Aedh was helped to gain this victory by the presence of a contingent of the famous Gallowglass (Gallóglaigh) warriors from Scotland which he had received as a dowry on his marraige in 1259 to the daughter of Dougall Mac Sorley of the western isles of Scotland.

Aedh O'Conchobhair went to Doire-Choluim-Chille 
to espouse the daughter of Dubhgall 
Mac Somhairle; and he brought home eight score young 
men with her, together with Ailin Mac Somhairle.
Annals of Loch Cé 1259

In the aftermath of the battle King Aedh raided far and wide across Connacht taking and destroying castles and driving his enemies before him. In the following years he raided further and took Roscommon itself in 1272. Athlone also fell to him and he broke the bridge across the Shannon.

Walter de Burgo died exactly a year to the day after the battle was fought in his castle at Galway- a broken man no doubt.

The end came for King Aedh on 3 May 1274.

Aed son of Fedlimid son of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, king of Connacht for nine years, died on the third day of May this year, a Thursday and the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Holy Cross; a king who wasted and desolated Connacht in fighting the Galls and Gaels who opposed him; a king who inflicted great defeats on the Galls and pulled down their palaces and castles; a king who took the hostages of the Ui Briuin and the Cenel Conaill; the destroyer and healer of Ireland was he; the king most dreaded and triumphant of all the kings of Ireland in his day, as the poet says: ‘For nine years did this Aed Engach defend the Family of Tara—no feeble forrayer was he—against Gall and Gael.’
Annals of Connacht

The Battle of Ath in Chip was his greatest military triumph.

Friday, 27 July 2012

27 July 1261: The Battle of Callan/Cath Callan was fought on this day. It came about as a result of an attempt by the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds (supported by the Barrys) to wrest control of territory from the Gaelic McCarthy’s of Kerry. But the expedition met with disaster and was sorely defeated by the Irish. The head of the McCarthy’s, Finghin MacCarthaigh, selected a battleground suited to the fighting tactics of his men. They were mostly lightly armed but mobile troops who when used correctly could be very effective against the better armoured but slower moving soldiers and Knights of the English Colony.
The battle site is located a few miles from Kenmare County Kerry, near where the Roughty and Slaheny Rivers converge and close by the castle of Ardtully. Callan is near Kilgarvan in the barony of Glanarought, Co. Kerry.

The leading men of these invaders were the Fitzgerald’s of Munster, led by John fitz Thomas and his son, Maurice fitz John. Another of the Norman leaders was 'the son of Richard’ probably Walter de Burgo, Lord of Connacht and later Earl of Ulster. The Colonists were also supported by a few would be hopefuls from amongst the Irish themselves led by one Domhnall Ruadh -  a claimant to the McCarthy Lands.

In the event when battle was joined John Fitzthomas FitzGerald and his son Maurice were killed together with fifteen knights and more than 300 men. The survivors fled and Finghin MacCarthaigh was able to sweep all before him. But he overextended his reach and was in turn defeated and killed only a short while later.
1261.4 A great war was waged, and numerous injuries were committed, by Finghin, son of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh, and his brothers, against Foreigners in this year.

1261.5 A great hosting by the Clann-Gerald into Des-Mumha, to attack Mac Carthaigh; and Mac Carthaigh attacked them, and defeated them, and Fitz-Thomas (John proprium nomen), and his son, and fifteen knights and eight noble barons along with them, were slain there, besides several young men, and soldiers innumerable. And the Barrach Mór was also killed there. Finghin Mac Carthaigh was subsequently slain by the Foreigners, and the sovereignty of Des-Mumha was assumed after him by his brother, i.e. the Aithchleirech Mac Carthaigh.


Ironically after many vicissitudes of Fortune it was Domhnall Ruadh, - the would be claimant who fought alongside the men of the English Colony on the day - who was the one who emerged as the chief beneficiary of these wars. 

Ironically after many vicissitudes of Fortune it was Domhnall Ruadh, - the would be claimant who fought alongside the men of the English Colony on the day - who was the one who emerged as the chief beneficiary of these wars. 
After the deaths of Finghin Reanna Ró and Cormac na Mangartan, he seems to have assumed and held the kingship of Desmond until his death in 1302--he reigned 40 years, according to A.I.--though not without opposition.
The Battle of Callan By Diarmuid Ó Murchadha
Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 1961.

As a result of the deaths of John fitz Thomas and his son, Maurice fitz John,the power of the Geraldines was curtailed and the MacCarthys ruled on in their own lands for another 300 years. The Battle of Callan was thus one of the most decisive clashes of arms in the History of Ireland. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

23 July 1803: Robert Emmet’s Rising took place on this day. Unfortunately the whole affair was a fiasco due to a series of unforeseen circumstances. Emmet quickly lost control of the situation and he called it off to avoid a massacre of his followers. Due to an accidental explosion of an arms depot in Patrick St Dublin the week before the date for the Rising was brought forth to 23 July. Emmet felt that Dublin Castle was on to him and he dared not wait any longer before striking for Ireland’s Freedom.

On the day of the Rising Robert Emmet stood in Thomas Street Dublin and issued a Proclamation of Independence:

You are now called on to shew to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognizance of you, as an independent country, by the only satisfactory proof you can furnish of your capability of maintaining your independence, your wresting it from England with your own hands.....

But on the day nothing went right. Not nearly enough men turned up and Emmet could not bring any order upon enough of those that did. The only blow struck was when Lord Kilwarden haplessly drove into the assembled crowd of insurgents and was hacked to death for his part in suppressing the 1798 Rising. This attack troubled Emmet greatly as he gave no orders for it. To him it was clear that at least a faction of those assembled would turn violent of their own accord and bring a bloody mayhem to the streets of the City rather than the ordered seizure of military points of importance around the Capital. Reluctantly that very night he called the enterprise off by the launching of a single rocket into the sky above Dublin. He immediately made for the Wicklow Mountains but returned to Rathfarnham some days later and went into hiding.

Notwithstanding the overall failure there had been some heavy fighting by armed insurgents against the British garrison in the Coome and scores of men died there, forcing the British back before the word was given to disperse. Around the City there were numerous smaller clashes and roads blocked. Amazingly Dublin Castle was caught completely on the hop and had no counter plan ready on the night. It was only the next day that they began to move and by that stage the insurgents had gone their separate ways. It was close run thing and the British had a lucky escape from having a full-blooded Insurrection on their hands.

Robert Emmet was arrested in Dublin on 25 August of the same year. He was put on trail and sentenced to death.  At his trial he made a brilliant speech from the dock that inspired Revolutionaries both at home and abroad for years to come. He was executed the following day, 20 September 1803, at Thomas St. A huge crowd of onlookers and well wishers gathered to witness his final moments. The whereabouts of his last resting place remains unknown.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

22 July [N.S.] [12 July O.S.] 1691: The Battle of Aughrim (Irish: Cath Eachroma) was fought on this day. It was the final battle of the Williamite War in Ireland. It was fought between the Armies of James II and of William III - neither of whom was in Ireland at the time.

The commander of the Jacobite Army was the French general the Marquis St Ruth and that of the Williamite Army the Dutch General Godert de Ginkell. The Catholic Army had perhaps something just short of 20,000 men in its ranks, the Protestant one perhaps a little above that figure. But for all intents and purposes they were about equal in fighting manpower. Ginkel did however have the advanatge in gunnery with some 24 guns to St Ruth's 10 pieces.

The Jacobite Army was falling back from the banks of the Shannon after the fall of Athlone and was trying to cover any advance upon either Galway or Limerick by the Protestant Army. St Ruth was embarrassed by the loss of Athlone and was determined to give battle if possible once a secure position was reached. Near the village of Aughrim in Co Galway he surveyed the elongated hill of Kilcommadan  and decide to draw up his army there to await the enemy.

The feature stretched roughly two miles in a north west-south east direction and peaked at about 400 feet - thus giving theoretically a fine view of the approach of Ginkel and of his dispositions when he came up. The hill was lined with small stone walls and hedgerows which marked the boundaries of farmers' fields, but which could also be improved and then used as earthworks for the Jacobite infantry to shelter behind. In front was a boggy morass into which any troops would have to wade through to reach the other side. The left of the position was bounded by a bog near Aughrim Castle, through which there was only one causeway, overlooked by Aughrim village and the ruined castle. To the south was the narrow pass of Urrachree.

When dawn broke that morning a fine mist hung over both armies as  Ginkels army crossed the river Suck and advanced towards the hill of Kilcommadan. Thus it was not until later in the afternoon that Ginkel, after holding a Council of  War, gave the order for his troops to attack the opposing army.

Fighting commenced at extreme southern end of the line as the Williamites attempted to turn the Irish right flank. Their attempts were checked and Ginkel realised that another plan would have to be tried. He sent his foot regiments into the morass with orders to storm Kilcommadan Hill.  Here the Irish gave ground falling back through the hedgerows and low stone walls as their opponents advanced almost to the foot of the hill. Then a devastating counter attack was launched and the original attackers were pushed back onto the own lines.

Further north where the morass was of a narrower width the Williamites also tried to get across. Here too they were thrown back and the Irish were able almost to reach the the battery of artillery on the other side before they called off their pursuit.

Ginkel was now in two minds to continue but his Council urged him to try again. The Scottish General Mackay in particular wanted to continue the fight and had spotted what he perceived to be a weakness in the disposition of the forces drawn up opposite him to the south of Aughrim Castle.

Marquis St Ruth had so far fought a competent defensive battle and was constantly on the move exhorting his troops and directing reinforcements as and where needed. However his focus was almost entirely upon the centre and right of his line. To counter the actions of the enemy there he had drawn off forces from his northern flank and a vulnerable breach was left open to exploitation should the enemy take their chances.

His position started to unravel when Ginkel switched his attacks onto the extreme left wing of the Irish position at Aughrim castle and the narrow causeway there. It was just wide enough for two men on horseback abreast to enter. The Williamite Cavalry made a dash across and met with only scattered fire from the garrison in the castle, which legend has it were issued with English balls for French muskets!

A bit further to the south General Mackay sent some English Foot regiments across the open ground to his front where the boggy ground was narrowest. His hunch that the open ground on the other side (a cornfield) was no longer guarded proved correct and he sent across more units to back up the ones already across.

This was the critical moment of the battle. The only hope in saving the Jacobite Army from defeat was with the Irish cavalry. The men on the spot were Luttrells troopers. But Henry Luttrell was a bought man - in the pay of King William himself.* He ordered his men to withdraw as the Williamite cavalry debouched from the narrow pass at Aughrim Castle.

The other major body was with Patrick Sarsfield to the rear of the Army but too far back to be of immediate assistance. He had been given specific orders by St Ruth not to stir from his position until called upon to do so - the order never came!

So the hinge of fate fell upon St Ruth himself to save the day. He rode up towards where the breakthroughs were underway with his own French cavalry regiment. Riding down upon the enemy his distinctive white horse was spotted by the Williamite gunners who opened up upon the horsemen. A cannon shot took off his head. His stunned companions took a few moments to realise what had happened before they took themselves off and away from the battle:

Then, drawing his sword, and giving the word to advance for a charge, he exclaimed to his officers: "They are beaten, gentlemen; let us drive them back to the gates of Dublin." With a cheer, rising above the roar of the artillery—which, from the other side, was playing furiously on this decisive Irish advance—the squadron made reply; when, suddenly, louder still, at its close, there arose a cry—a shriek—from some one near the general. All eyes were turned upon the spot, and for an instant many failed to discern the cause for such a startling utterance. There sat the glittering uniformed figure upon his charger. It needed, with some, a second glance to detect the horrible catastrophe that had befallen. There sat the body of St. Ruth indeed, but it was his lifeless corpse—a headless trunk. A cannon shot from the Williamite batteries had struck the head from his body, as if the Tyburn ax and block had done their fearful work. St. Ruth, the vain, the brave, was no more!
By A. M. Sullivan

With the Jacobite army rudderless the whole position began to unravel and as night fell Victory rested with General Ginkel and his men.

Thousands of soldiers on Kilcommadan Hill were surrounded and left to their fate that night. When morning came those not already captured laid down their arms and were herded together in one great mass - where they were slaughtered. 

Patrick Sarsfield gathered what remained of the shattered remanents and led them away from the battlefield. Darkness, heavy rain and exhaustion hampered the Williamites from pursuing their defeated foes with any great vigour.

The Jacobite Army suffered some 7,000 men killed, wounded or made prisoner. Ginkel only admitted to some 1,500 men lost but it is likely this is an underestimate given that he was attacking a well defended position.

Aughrim was the last battle of the War, and the last big battle fought in Ireland (over 40,000 combatents). Galway surrendered soon afterwards and Limerick in October 1691. A new phase in the History of Ireland began.

* He paid for his treachery some years later with a bullet in his back when he was cut down on a Dublin street.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

21 July 1972: Bloody Friday. In a devastating series of attacks the Provisional IRA planted 22 bombs across the city of Belfast killing 9 people and injuring over 130 - most of them innocent civilians.

The IRA said it had sent adequate warnings for all of the bombs and accused the British forces of wilfully ignoring some of them for propaganda purposes. Others, however, say that they had been overwhelmed by the amount of bombs and bomb warnings and could not respond in time to clear all areas of civilians.

The first one went off around 2.10pm on that sunny afternoon at Smithfield Bus Station and the last was recorded at 3.30pm on the Grosvenor Road.

The one at the Oxford Street Bus Depot at 2.48pm caused six fatalities. Two British Army soldiers, Stephen Cooper (19) and Philip Price (27), were close to the car bomb at the moment of detonation and died instantly. Three Protestant civilians who worked for Ulsterbus were killed: William Crothers (15), Thomas Killops (39) and Jackie Gibson (45). One other Protestant Ulsterbus employee, who was a member of the Ulster Defence Association, was also killed in the blast: William Irvine (18). Close to 40 people were injured.

At 3.15pm a car bomb, estimated at 50 pounds of explosive, exploded without warning outside a row of single storey shops near the top of Cavehill Road, north Belfast. The shops were in a religiously-mixed residential area. Two women and a man died in this blast. Margaret O'Hare (37), a Catholic mother of seven children, died in her car. Her 11-year-old daughter was with her in her car and was badly injured. Catholic Brigid Murray (65) and Protestant teenager Stephen Parker (14) were also killed.

The attacks were a disaster for the IRA as there was widespread revulsion throughout Britain and Ireland at these attacks on what were seen as civilian targets. The aftermath of this was to lay the groundwork for 'Operation Motorman' in which the British Army was able to occupy Free Derry at the end of the month.

Years later and RUC man at the time recalled:

The first thing that caught my eye was a torso of a human being lying in the middle of the street. It was recognisable as a torso because the clothes had been blown off and you could actually see parts of the human anatomy. One of the victims was a soldier I knew personally. He'd had his arms and legs blown off and some of his body had been blown through the railings. One of the most horrendous memories for me was seeing a head stuck to the wall. A couple of days later, we found vertebrae and a rib cage on the roof of a nearby building. The reason we found it was because the seagulls were diving onto it. I've tried to put it at the back of my mind for twenty-five years.

Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding of the IRA's Belfast Brigade, viewed the attack as a disaster.

"I was the operational commander of the 'Bloody Friday' operation. I remember when the bombs started to go off, I was in Leeson Street, and I thought, 'There's too much here'. I sort of knew that there were going to be casualties, either [because] the Brits could not handle so many bombs or they would allow some to go off because it suited them to have casualties. I feel a bit guilty about it because, as I say, there was no intention to kill anyone that day. I have a fair deal of regret that 'Bloody Friday' took place ... a great deal of regret ... If I could do it over again I wouldn't do it.

In 2002 the IRA issued a statement on the actions carried out that day by their Volunteers:

Sunday 21 July marks the 30th anniversary of an IRA operation in Belfast in 1972 which resulted in nine people being killed and many more injured. While it was not our intention to injure or kill non-combatants, the reality is that on this and on a number of other occasions, that was the consequence of our actions. It is therefore appropriate on the anniversary of this tragic event, that we address all of the deaths and injuries of non-combatants caused by us. We offer our sincere apologies and condolences to their families. ..

Friday, 20 July 2012

Tuesday 20 July 1982
In a devastating double bomb attack the Provisional IRA struck in the heart of the  British Capital in Hyde Park and Regent's Park targeting members of Britain's Crown Forces.

The Provos exploded two bombs in London, one at Rotten Row, Hyde Park and the other at the Bandstand in Regent's Park, resulting in the deaths of 11 British Soldiers. The first bomb exploded shortly before 11.00am when soldiers of the Blues and Royals were travelling on horseback to change the guard at Horseguards Parade. Three soldiers were killed instantly and a fourth died of his injuries on 23 July 1982. A number of civilians who had been watching the parade were also injured. One horse was killed in the explosion but a further six had to be shot due to their injuries. The bomb had been left in a car parked along the side of the road and is believed to have been detonated by a member of the IRA who was watching from within Hyde Park.

The second bomb, which exploded at lunch time, had been planted under the bandstand in Regent's Park. The explosion killed 7 bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets as they were performing a concert at the open-air bandstand. Approximately two dozen civilians who had been listening to the performance were injured in the explosion. It is thought that the bomb had been triggered by a timing device and may have been planted some time in advance of the concert.

British public opinion was outraged by the carnage caused by the IRA attacks. Coming weeks after the British Victory over Argentina in the south Atlantic the loss was keenly felt that London itself was not safe from attack from Britain's enemies. Particular disgust was felt at the loss of the horses of the Blues & Royals who did ceremonial duties in London.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

19 July 1210: King John of England arrived before the Castle of Carrickfergus in Ulster and besieged it on this day. It soon fell into his hands and in the days following he received a visit from the King of Tir Eoghan, Aed Meith O Neill. His visitor brought a large contingent of troops with him, perhaps 2,000 warriors to impress the Anglo-Norman Monarch. The Ulster king agreed to render John service but the two kings drew different conclusions as to what that actually meant. The King of Connacht was also part of King John’s host and actively helped him in suppressing the Anglo-Norman De lacy family that had upset the King of England’s temperament.  

Johannes, grandson of the Empress, king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year.

After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.

Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the king put men of his own company into it.

Annals of Loch Cé

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18 July 1579: James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, the cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond arrived off Smerwick/ Ard na Caithne in County Kerry on this day. The Catholic adventurer had arrived back from Spain with high hopes of re launching the Catholic Cause in Ireland and in particular in Munster. He brought with him one Nicholas Saunders - an exiled priest and holding the position of Papal Nuncio to the Irish. Within days a few hundred men joined them in two Spanish galleys but this small force was only enough to garrison a little fort. Fitzmaurice knew that he would have to raise the flag of revolt and rely on the resentment of the Catholics of Munster against English Protestant encroachments to carry the day.

However many of the local chieftains had reached an uneasy peace with the English and did not want to risk all they had in a revolt in which the odds would be stacked against them. Within days of the landing Fitzmaurice departed on a series of raids but his depredations turned many against him including his own cousin.

His near kinsman, Theobald Burke, on whose assistance he had counted, took the field against him, and at Bohereen, five miles from Limerick, FitzMaurice found him stationed to impede his passage. He had left the main body of his troops behind him, not anticipating danger, but both parties fought furiously until a lad discharged his fowling-piece full at FitzMaurice, who was distinguished by a yellow doublet, and mortally wounded him. For a time he managed to conceal his injury and fell only after having slain both the Burkes and driven off their men. Then, exhorting the bystanders never to make peace with the English, the chief instigator and leader of the insurrection passed away. The widow of Theobald Burke, his kinsman, received head-money for his death, and his cousin, Maurice Fitzjohn, cut off his head. The body, wrapped in a caddowe, was buried by a huntsman under an old oak, but it was found, brought to Kilmallock, and hanged on a gibbet, where it was used as a target by soldiers "who in his lifetime durst not look him in the face."

Taken from A History of Ireland by Eleanor Hull


Mac-I-Brien sent a body of galloglasses and soldiers to Theobald. These then went in pursuit of those heroic bands, and overtook James, who had halted in a dense and solitary wood to await their approach. A battle was fought between both forces, in which James was shot with a ball in the hollow of the chest, which afterwards caused his death. Notwithstanding this, however, he defeated his lordly pursuers. In this conflict a lamentable death took place, namely, that of Theobald Burke, a young warrior, who was a worthy heir to an earldom for his valour and military skill, and his knowledge of the English language and the law. James, the son of Maurice, had not passed far from the scene of this battle when the languor of death came over him; upon which, in a few words, he made his will, and ordered his trusty friends to cut off his head after his death, in order that his enemies might not discover him, so as to recognise or mangle him.


The  death of Fitz Maurice Fitzgerald should have been the end of the matter. But while his return home to Ireland was cut short by his death in battle his actions had been enough to trigger off what became known as the  2nd Desmond War that proved to be a long and bloody affair but ultimately ended in disaster for the House of Desmond, the people of Munster and the Catholic Cause therein. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

16 July 1924: Eamon De Valera was released from captivity on this day. He had been held in Kilmainham Jail Dublin by the Free State. He had been in detention since August 1923 after having been arrested in Ennis Co Clare at a political rally he was due to address in the General Election of that year.

There were other Republican prisoners held in the jail too but De Valera was only allowed sporadic contact with them and did stints in solitary confinement. While there he thought over the events that had led him back into prison and pondered how he would go about breaking the Treaty and re establishing a Republican Party that was likely to be able gain the support of the Irish People.

On his release the Prison, which was built in 1792, was closed down and never used as a place of incarceration again. It is now a Museum dedicated to telling the story of Ireland's struggle to achieve Freedom.

The day De Valera came out of there saw the start of his comback in Irish Politics and led two years later to his break with Sinn Féin and the foundation of his own political Party - Fianna Fáil.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

15 July 1927: The death of Constance Constance Georgine Markievicz, (Countess Markievicz).

Countess Constance Georgina Markievicz wasborn at 7 Buckingham Gate, London, on 4 February 1868. Her father, the philanthropist Henry Gore-Booth, was also an Arctic explorer and a landlord in the west of Ireland. Constance was educated by a governess at Lissadell, Co. Sligo where the family held extensive estates. In the monarch jubilee year of 1887 she was presented at court to Queen Victoria and was called ‘the new Irish beauty’, and took her place in society as a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. She was also noted as a fine horsewoman, and as an excellent shot. William Butler Yeats was a frequent guest at Lissadell.

 After listening to his stories of Irish myths and folklore and to his passionate political ideas, she was stirred to action. At that time women were not allowed to vote in elections or to become Members of Parliament. Markievicz decided to join the suffragettes who were fighting for women’s rights. Around this time she joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, a cause she was to remain devoted to throughout her life.

In 1893 she moved to London to study at the Slade School of Art in London. In 1898 she moved to Paris where she continued to study art at the Julian School. While there she met and later married fellow artist and Count Casimir Dunin-Markievicz. The Polish widower’s family owned a large estate in Ukraine. In Dublin in 1903 began to make a name for herself as a landscape artist. She was attracted to the Gaelic League and the Abbey Theatre. She helped to found the United Arts Club in 1907, which helped bring together people of the artistic renaissance. 

Markievicz became active in nationalist politics and her aim was to make Ireland an independent nation. In 1908 she joined Sinn Féin and Maud Gonne’s women group, Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland).  She founded Na Fianna Éireann (1909), an organisation for boys, who were taught to drill and use arms. The movement aimed to establish an independent Ireland and also to promote the Irish language.

In 1911 Markievicz was arrested when she took part in a demonstration against the visit of King George V to Ireland. She worked closely with James Connolly who fought for Irish nationalism and social equality. She ran a soup kitchen in Liberty Hall during the 1913 Dublin lockout. Markievicz then joined the Irish Citizens Army. During the 1916 Rising Markievicz was appointed second in command to Michael Mallin at St. Stephen’s Green. Although condemned to death when the rising was crushed, she had her sentence commuted to penal servitude for life (on account of her sex) and was imprisoned in Aylesbury Jail. Under the general amnesty of 1917, Markievicz was released and immediately became a convert to Catholicism—she claimed to have experienced an epiphany during the rising. 

In 1918 she was again arrested by the British during their bogus ‘German Plot’, which was aimed at defeating the anti-conscription forces in Ireland. While in prison, she was returned in the general election of December 1918 for St. Patrick’s division of Dublin. Markievicz became the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, but in accordance with Sinn Féin policy she did not take her seat. She refused to take the oath of allegiance to the King.
She was a member of the first Dáil Éireann, which met on the 21 January 1919, and was appointed Minister for Labour. She was arrested in the summer of 1919 for making a seditious speech, and was sentenced to four months’ hard labour. After being arrested again in 1920 she received a sentence of two years’ hard labour.

She denounced the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State within the British Commonwealth, in the Dáil after being released from prison early under the general amnesty that followed its signing. She toured America in 1922 to enlist support for the Republican cause. She stated:

‘It is the capitalist interests in England and Ireland that are pushing this Treaty to block the march of the working people in England and Ireland ... Now I say that Ireland’s freedom is worth blood, and worth my blood, and I will willingly give it for it, and I appeal to the men of the Dáil to stand true’.

She was also leader of Cumann na mBan. An opponent of the Irish Free State, she supported the ‘Irregulars’ during the Civil War, for which she was imprisoned. She was released soon after she went on hunger strike in protest. In the general election of 1923 she was elected as Sinn Féin abstentionist TD for Dublin City South. When de Valera formed Fianna Fáil in 1926 Markievicz became a member. During the general election of 1927 she conducted her own campaign and was re-elected to the Dáil. For some years her health was failing, and she died in a public ward in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, Dublin on 15 July 1927. 

The working-class people of Dublin lined the streets of Dublin for her funeral. Eamonn de Valera was one of the pall-bearers. She is commemorated by a limestone bust in St. Stephen’s Green, by a plaque in St. Ultan’s Hospital and by the Yeats’s poem ‘In memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markievicz’. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Co. Dublin.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

14 July 1798: The brothers John and Henry Sheares were executed on this day. Henry and John Sheares were sons of John Sheares, a banker in Cork, who sat in the Parliament of Ireland for the borough of Clonakilty, Co Cork.

They were both members of the Legal Profession and had joined the United Irishmen to fight tyranny and free Ireland from English rule. They were the sons of a wealthy banker who sat as a member of the Parliament in Dublin. In 1792 they had visited Revolutionary France and had caught the Spirit of the times there. They soon joined the United Irishmen on their return. However they trusted others without caution and were led into revealing details of the conspiracy to overthrow the Ascendancy.

A Spy, one Captain John Armstrong who had befriended them in order to betray them, revealed their intentions to Dublin Castle. He paid daily visits to the house of the Sheareses in Baggot Street, chatted with their families, and fondled the children of Henry Sheares upon his knee. We have it on his own testimony, that each interview with the men whose confidence he was sharing was followed by a visit to the Castle.

They were arrested on 21 May 1798. Found guilty of treason, they were publicly hung outside Newgate Prison in Dublin. .

At midday on Saturday, July 14th, the hapless men were removed to the room adjoining the place of execution, where they exchanged a last embrace. They were then pinioned, the black caps put over their brows, and holding each other by the hand, they tottered out on the platform. The elder brother was somewhat moved by the terrors of his situation, but the younger bore his fate with unflinching firmness. They were launched together into eternity--the same moment saw them dangling lifeless corpses before the prison walls. They had lived in affectionate unity, inspired by the same motives, labouring for the same cause, and death did not dissolve the tie. "They died hand in hand, like true brothers."

`Speeches from the Dock'
By D. S. Sullivan

Both were buried in St. Michan's Church in Dublin City.

Friday, 13 July 2012

13 July 1981: Martin Hurson died on Hunger strike in Long Kesh on the 44th day of his fast on this day.

He was born on September 12th, 1956, in the townland of Aughnaskea, Cappagh, near Dungannon, the eighth of nine children: six girls and three boys. His father was a small farmer who worked the land in which Martin helped out as a lad.

After a spell working in England he returned home at Christmas 1974. Soon afterwards became involved in actions against the British Crown Forces. He was arrested and taken to Omagh RUC barracks on November 11th, 1976, along with six others arrested that day and two days previously. He was beaten about the head, back and testicles, spread-eagled against a wall and across a table, slapped, punched and kicked. He eventually confessed but later retracted these statements as they were extracted under torture.

Martin Hurson was tried and convicted of involvement in three IRA landmine incidents, one at Cappagh in September and one at Galbally in November 1975 and a third at Reclain in February 1976 when several members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment narrowly escaped being killed. He received concurrent sentences of twenty, fifteen and five years for these convictions

His appeals to the Courts against conviction went on until June 1980 but the charges were upheld. He went 'on the blanket' from the start of being sent into Long Kesh as a convicted prisoner.

On May 29th, 1981, Martin joined the hunger-strike, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLoughlin who was forced to drop out because of a burst stomach ulcer.

In the 26 County General Election in June, Martin was a candidate in Longford/Westmeath, and although missing election, obtained almost four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count, outlasting two Labour candidates and a Fine Gael contender.

Having seriously deteriorated after over forty days on hunger-strike, he was unable to hold down water and died after only forty-four days on hunger-strike, at 4.30am on Monday, July 13th.

Thousands of mourners attended his funeral a few days later when he was laid to rest in his townland of Cappagh Co Tyrone. An IRA Colour Party gave the final salute before his coffin was lowered into the ground.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

12 July [O.S. 1 July] 1690: The Battle of the Boyne/Cath na Bóinne was fought on this day. The Protestant Army of King William of Orange defeated the Catholic Army of King James II. With around 36,000 Williamites against 25,000 Jacobites this battle, in terms of the numbers of men on the battlefield was the largest clash of arms ever fought in Ireland.

Both kings commanded their armies in person assisted by a number of men of high rank and status. King William had under his orders English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish, French Huguenots and Protestants from Ireland. King James Army mainly consisted of Catholic Irishmen, and a scattering of Englishmen loyal to the Stuarts. The King was also backed by around 6,500 regular French troops sent by King Louis XIV.

William's Army was drawn up on the north side of the river.  King James's was on the south side with the two armies facing each other along an extended line of some miles. William's battle plan was to distract the attention of the Jacobite army on the river while a large force was sent upstream to turn the left flank of the Jacobite Army. William sent 10,000 men towards Slane with the advance guard under Count Meinhard, which drew the bulk of the Jacobites upstream in response. With some 1,300 Jacobites posted in downstream in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. Duke Frederick Marshal Schomberg (William’s top General) then led the Dutch Blue Guards and other regiments into the waters of the Boyne and across to the other side.

Opposing them were just seven regiments of the Catholics who shot their attackers down in great numbers as they attempted the passage of the Boyne at Oldbridge. A want of sufficient cavalry and artillery to block the crossing of so formidable a host eventually told against the Irishmen. They were pushed back from the riverbank as their enemies gained a toehold and then flowed across. William himself eventually crossed at Drybridge slightly downstream with about 3,500 mounted troops.

Marshal Schomberg brought down to the ford of Ouldbridge the gross of his cavalry, with orders to push on and suffer no check. At this, the seven regiments aforesaid of Irish foot, observing they would be soon overpowered, they cried to their own for horse to sustain them. In the meanwhile, they made a smart fire at the enemies, and laid them in heaps, as they were entering the waters. But their crying for horse was in vain; for they received but one troop, which was as good as nothing.

The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.

Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events. 

The King himself with a considerable portion of his Irish and French troops did however block Lord Douglas in the Williamite service from crossing the Boyne at Donore - which is situated between the fords of Rosnaree and Oldbridge. But this was a stalemate while the outcome of the battle was decided to the left and the right of the King’s position at Donore.

Eventually the Williamites across the river in strength on both the left and right flanks the order was given to fall back on Duleek to the south and stop that village been taken by the enemy. If King Williams’s men had taken the vital bridge there then the whole of the Jacobite army would have been cut off from retreat and in all likelihood captured in its entirety.

As it turned out the retreat was carried out in good order and despite further clashes Lord Tyrconnel, given command of the rearguard, was able to effect an orderly withdrawal. The enemy were content to follow in their footsteps and not risk a reverse.

However in these follow up operations the Williamites lost their best military leader – Marshal Schomberg.

Twas during these encounters that one master Bryen O'Tool, of the guards, discovering his former acquaintance, marshal Schomberg, near the village of Ouldbridge, resolved to sacrifice his life to the making him away, upon which he, with a few of the guards, and a few of Tyrconnell's horse, made up to him, and O'Tool with his pistol shot the marshal dead. But, soon after, fighting like a lion, he was slain.

King James's army retreated across the river Nanny at Duleek and evaded capture. It had been a ‘close run thing’ and though the battle had been lost the Army was intact and still a cohesive fighting force.

Bad tactics rather than bad fighting had cost King James and his Irish followers the chance of victory against a more numerous enemy. The line of the Boyne might well have been held but King James had been outmanoeuvred by Marshal Schomberg’s plan - even though this crusty old Huguenot did not live to savour the Victory he had so materially helped to achieve. 

Though there was some hot fighting in the course of the battle overall the casualties were light on both sides with perhaps 1,500 soldiers lying dead along the banks of the Boyne. Considering the strategic consequences of this clash of arms it was a very low number for a battle that determined the political and religious balance of power in Ireland for centuries to come and that still resonates down to our own day.

Quotes: A Jacobite Narrative of the war in Ireland

‘A light to the blind’; Plunket memoirs

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

11th July 703 AD: The Battle of Corann/Cath Corainn was fought on this day. The battle was a clash of arms between two of Ireland’s great kings - Cellach mac Rogallaig, king of Connacht (from the Uí Briúin dynasty) and Loingsech mac Óengusso, king of Tara and of the Cenél Conaill (a sub branch of the great Uí Néill dynasty.)

The events leading up to the battle began when Loingsech mac Óengusso, king of Tara, invaded Connacht with a large host intending to give battle of Cellach mac Rogallaig, the king of the province.  As his army advanced, Loingsech’s poets satirized Cellach, making fun of his old age and his inability to cope with the king of Tara.

Legend has that when Cellach saw the devastation wrought by Loingsech, he summoned the two Dúnchads (i.e. Dúnchad Muirisce and another man named Dúnchad), whom he had chosen to succeed him as king of Connacht.  With the one Dúnchad on his right and the other on his left, Cellach harangued the Connacht forces, telling them to defend their freedom bravely.  Then, Cellach led his troops into battle.  The Uí Néills were routed and Loingsech was killed along with a number of those closest to him, including three of his sons.

The site of the battle is not known with certainty, but the old name Corann refers to parts of what is now Co. Sligo and Co. Mayo.

The battle of Corann in which fell the king of Ireland, Loingsech son of Aengus son of Domnall son of Aed son of Ainmire, i.e. by Cellach of Loch Cime son of Ragallach, together with his three sons, and two sons of Colgu, and Dub Díberg son of Dúngal and Fergus Forcraid and Congal of Gabar, and many other leaders. On Saturday, the fourth of the Ides of July, at the sixth hour, this battle was fought.
Annals of Ulster 703.2

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

10 July 1927: The Assassination of Kevin O’Higgins, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Justice and Minister for External Affairs on this day.

His role in the Irish Civil War had still not been forgotten or forgiven by many Republicans. He had taken the side of those supporting the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which included an Oath of Fidelity to the British King. While a brilliant Minister and a shrewd politician he was also a man of ruthless determination. His decision to acquiesce in the execution of the best man at his own wedding, Rory O’Conner, was seen as a particularly hard act. He was viewed by quite a number of people as the most forceful personality in the Cumann na nGaedheal government. As a result of this legacy of bitterness plans were laid by a small group of Republicans to carry out an attempt on his life.

On the fateful Sunday in question O’Higgins left his house, accompanied only by his bodyguard Detective O’Grady. His intention was to attend Mass at the local Catholic church on Booterstown Avenue. The Minister clearly forgot something along the way and he sent O’Grady back to fetch it, whatever it was. He then proceeded on alone down Cross Avenue to its junction with that of Booterstown. It was here that the assassins struck. A number of them approached him and opened fire simultaneously. Shot a number of times O’ Higgins started to run slowly across Booterstown Avenue only to collapse at the gates of a private residence, Sans Souci. The gunmen thought they had mortally wounded him but then O’Higgins inadvertently committed a fatal error. He raised his hand, possibly to call attention to his plight. His assailants at once returned and pumped him full of more bullets before fleeing in a car up the avenue and off down the Stillorgan road in the direction of the nearby countryside. Within minutes people were rushing to his aid. Amazingly one of them was an ex Cabinet colleague, Professor O’Neill who had been making his way to Mass at the same time.

O’Higgins was brought back to his home and made as comfortable as possible in the dining room. While conscious, he was in great pain as he had sustained a considerable number of gunshot wounds, the one to the skull proving to be the fatal shot. He was bleeding profusely by this stage and O’Higgins realised that his situation was hopeless. His dignity in the face of death drew the admiration of all who were with him in his final hours. Quite a number of people called in to pay their last farewells before the end. O’Higgins died at 4.45 that afternoon.

Most people were shocked by the news. The action was universally condemned. Even Eamon De Valera was taken aback by the brutal death of his political opponent and he swiftly moved to disassociate both himself and his party from this violent and gratuitous deed. However it is true to say that not all of his supporters were that upset by O’Higgins death. 

The following day O’Higgins body was removed from his home. President Cosgrave and the members of his Cabinet, along with General O’Duffy and nine senior officers of the Garda Síochána were in attendance to accompany the Minister’s remains to a lying in state at the Mansion House, Dublin. Huge crowds queued for hours to pay their final respects. 

Admirers from abroad included Winston Churchill who described O’Higgins as “a figure from antiquity cast in bronze”. 

In its editorial on the day after the slaying on July 11, 1927, the Irish Times paid tribute to the fallen statesman declaring:

‘of no other Irishman can it be said with more truth that he dedicated splendid gifts whole-heartedly, unsparingly, religiously, to his country’s service’.

His remains were removed from his residence, Dunamase House, Booterstown, to the Mansion House, Dublin, where thousands filed past the coffin. His funeral mass was held at St Andrew’s Church, Westland row. The funeral cortège stretched for over 3 miles. O’Higgins was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, the same grave as his infant son.

For years his assassins were unknown to the general Public. However it is now known that they were three IRA members acting off their own bat. They did it in order to avenge the loss of their comrades in the Civil War, in which O'Higgins played such a prominent role in the execution of Republican prisoners and the introduction of draconian legislation to deal with the Anti Treaty IRA.

They were Timothy Coughlan, Bill Gannon and Archie Doyle. None were ever charged with what they did that day.

Monday, 9 July 2012

9 July 1911: King George V and Queen Mary visited the Catholic Seminary of Maynooth on this day. The British king was on a brief tour of Ireland to mark his accession to the throne. He spent four days in and around Dublin on a royal visit to the city. The King and the royal party, led by the 8th Royal Hussars on horseback, had travelled from the harbour in Kingstown/ Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Castle, as thousands lined the streets to view his procession. Here the King and Queen based themselves in a very secure location and circulated from there to the various locations in a meticulously planned series of events designed to enhance Royal Power in the wake of George V’s Coronation.

It was decided that a visit to the educational centre of Catholic Ireland would help to balance any attempt of the Orange Order to make his stay here the preserve of any one side. The King was accompanied by his formidable wife Queen Mary who was bedecked in stunning white dress with matching hat of feathers. Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop of Dublin William Walsh and Dr Daniel Mannix (the President of the College)greeted the Royal couple on their arrival. Other senior members of the Catholic Hierarchy were also in attendance. The visit was the highlight of the King’s stay in Ireland.

However King George’s visit by no means met with everyone’s approval. Even someone as reactionary and anti worker as William Martin Murphy turned down the offer of a Knighthood from the British King. Dublin Corporation would not issue an address welcoming him to the City of Dublin. James Connolly warned people to stay away and issued a stern rebuttal of the majesty of kings and this one in particular:

Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent.

'His blood
Has crept through scoundrels since the flood.'

Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class, to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of '48, all the world will maintain:

'The Right Divine of Labour
To be first of earthly things;
That the Thinker and the Worker
Are Manhood's only Kings.'
King George though seems to have enjoyed his stay. On 12 July from Dublin Castle he issued a Letter of Thanks for the reception he and his children had received.

It ended with the following passage:

Looking forward, as we do, to coming amongst our Irish people again, and at no distant date, and repeating in other parts of the Country the delightful experience of the last few days, we can now only say that our best wishes will ever be for the increased prosperity of your ancient capital, and for the contentment and happiness of our Irish People.

From the departure of King George no reigning British Monarch visited the City of Dublin for a hundred years.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

8 July 1971: Two unarmed civilians were shot dead the British army in riots in Derry. Welder and former boxer Seamus Cusack, 28 and 19-year-old George Desmond Beattie of Donegal Street, Bogside were both shot in controversial circumstances that further alienated the Nationalist community.

At about 1.00 a.m. on the morning of 8th July 1971, in the Bogside area of Derry City, Seamus Cusack, a local man aged twenty-eight, was shot in the upper part of the leg by a soldier of the Crown Forces. He died about forty minutes later in Letterkenny Hospital in the Republic of Ireland. His death gave rise to further disturbances in the city, and in the course of these, George Desmond Beattie, a youth of nineteen, was also shot by a soldier and died instantly, at about 3.15 on the afternoon of 8th July.

Immediately after the shootings, two totally conflicting accounts of the circumstances of these deaths began to emerge. The British Army maintained that both men had been armed, Cusack with a rifle and Beattie with a nail bomb. This assertion was repeated on 12th July in the House of Commons by Lord Balniel, Minister of State for Defence. Local people on the other hand insisted that the two men were unarmed.

Repeated demands were made for an official inquiry. Opposition MPs at Stormont, in a statement on 11th July, said:

'Our demand for an inquiry is a decisive test of the sincerity and determination of the British Government. If it is not granted, then as publicly elected representatives we will accept the logic of our position. which is that there is no role we can usefully play within the present system.’ 

When their demand was not met, these MPs announced their withdrawal from Stormont and the setting up of an alternative assembly.

The shooting dead of two young local men in such controversial circumstances led to further alienation of the local Nationalist population from the British State. But within weeks Internment had been introduced in the North and these killings were just a precursor of an even more violent response to come from the Crown Forces over the following months.

7 July 1816: The great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan died on this day. He died in the City of London in impoverished circumstances.

Sent to be educated at Harrow by his father he completed his education before he eloped and married Elizabeth Linley and with her modest fortune behind him he established himself in London and began his career as a playwright. He enjoyed some success with his first major play The Rivals that was performed at Covent Garden in 1775. However his most famous play is The School for Scandal which was first performed at Drury Lane in May 1777. It still ranks as one of the greatest comedies of manners of the English stage. Having quickly made his name and fortune, in 1776 Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent, and in 1778 the remaining share. His later plays were all produced there.

However his later literary career was more of a business venture rather than as an original playwright and Sheridan switched a lot of his attention to English Parliamentary politics where he supported the Whigs. He entered parliament for Stafford in 1780, as the friend and ally of Charles James Fox. He opposed the American War and was instrumental in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. An excellent public speaker his voice and eloquence commanded attention whenever he rose in the House. Initially a supporter of non intervention against France but as the Revolution took hold he became more sanguinary in his approach especially as Napoleon rose to dominance.

He was however one of the few MPs at Westminster to oppose the Act of Union. When the Whigs came into power in 1806 Sheridan was appointed treasurer of the Royal Navy, and became a member of the Privy Council. Throughout his parliamentary career Sheridan was one of the close companions of the Prince of Wales (the later King George IV). He tried though to distance himself from the suggestion that he was the Prince’s advisor or even a mouthpiece for him. He did however defend the controversial Royal member in parliament in some dubious matters of the payment or otherwise of debts.

In 1809 his beloved Drury Lane Theatre burned down. Legend has it that on being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said:

 A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.

His last years were marred by personal and financial troubles as he lost his parliamentary seat, fell out with the Prince and was pursued by numerous debtors. In December 1815 he became ill, and was largely confined to bed. His last few weeks were spent in almost total destitution as his funds ran out. He died on the 7th of July 1816, and was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. His funeral was attended by Dukes, Earls, Lords, Viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

6 July 1907: The Irish Crown Jewels, then valued at over £30,000 were discovered to be missing from the safe in which they were kept in Dublin Castle on this day. The theft is one one of the most bizarre and puzzling robberies in Ireland's History.

They were kept in the Bedford Tower off the to the Bedford Tower that linked the Lower Castle Yard to the Upper Castle Yard of the Castle.

On the morning of this day a cleaning lady in Dublin Castle noticed that the door to the safe room in which these jewels were kept lay open. However the keys were still in place. She locked the door again and left the keys for the Messenger who had immediate responsibility for the security of the room. However the man responsible for their safe keeping was Sir Arthur Vicars the head of the Office of Arms and the Ulster King of Arms.

The jewels consisted of the insignia of the Grand Master of the Order of St Patrick (the Lord Lieutenant) and the collars and badges of the Knights of St Patrick. The insignia of the Grand Master comprised a star and a badge. The jewels forming the star consisted of Brazilian diamonds with eight star-points with a central shamrock made of emeralds and a cross of rubies in the centre on a background of blue enamel. The badge also had emerald shamrocks and a ruby cross surrounded by blue enamel and rose diamonds and within Brazilian diamonds. The jewels been the property of Queen Charlotte, then of King George IV and finally of King William IV. This king thought that they would form fine ceremonial decorations for the Order of St Patrick and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to wear on ceremonial occasions and so he presented them to the Order in 1830. In 1907, these jewels were valued at £33,000.

On the same day that the cleaning lady made her discovery a parcel arrived at the Castle containing a gold and enamelled collar of the Order of St Patrick which had been worn by the recently deceased Lord de Ros. When this was taken to the safe room it was discovered the safe was unlocked and the boxes containing the regalia of the Grand Master and of the Knights of the Order of St Patrick were found to be empty!

The theft had been orderly and tidy and had evidently taken some time. A piece of silk ribbon attached to the Star had been carefully detached and replaced in the box, an operation which would have taken about ten minutes. It transpired during investigations that while staff and members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police had keys to the front door, the only keys – two in number – to the safe were held by Vicars.

Both the Lord Lieutenant (Lord Aberdeen) and Vicars had convinced themselves that the theft had been an elaborate practical joke. Vicars waited for the regalia to be returned to him by parcel-post. It never arrived.

The Dublin Metropolitan Police were called into investigate this audacious theft of royal jewels that belonged to Head of the British Empire King Edward VII. Despite much investigation they could make no progress in the case and an appeal was made to Scotland Yard to help crack it.

Over the next few months suspicion crystalised around two people -  the Dublin Herald Francis R. Shackleton (brother of Polar Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton) and Sir Arthur Vicars himself.

On  23 October Vicars was informed that his services as Ulster King of Arms were no longer required. The same message was relayed to the Athlone Pursuivant (Francis Bennett-Goldney), the Cork Herald (Pierce Gun Mahony) and the Dublin Herald (Francis R. Shackleton). 

On 6 January 1908, the Crown Jewels Commission (Ireland) was established. The terms of the Commission were to investigate the theft of the regalia of the Order of St Patrick and to enquire as to whether Vicars had exercised sufficient care of them. Vicars would have nothing to do with the enquiry as he felt he would not secure a fair hearing. He had already told Scotland Yard that he believed Shakleton was the real culprit. He was known to have financial difficulties and to be a somewhat degenerate character. However his suspicions were not accepted and a third part was suspected by the police but the Yard's Report is now missing.

The printed published report of the Commission of Inquiry stated that Vicars had been found not to have exercised proper care as the custodian of the Regalia of the Order of St Patrick. On 30 January 1908, Vicars received a letter stating that his role as Ulster King of Arms was at an end and that a successor would be appointed. 

Vicars was now socially ostracised and without a means of income. He sold off many of his possessions and relied on the kindness of his half brother to financially sustain him. He turned to genealogical research to make ends meet. Francis Shackleton faded from the pages of this story but Sir Arthur was once again to make headlines though in a very tragic way.

In 1917, aged 53, Vicars married Miss Gertrude Wright. In May 1920, Vicars was attacked in his home, Kilmorna House, near Listowel, county Kerry. Vicars showed great courage and the intruders left. On 14 April 1921, the house was again attacked, this time during daylight. One of the attackers stated that their only intent was to burn the house and that no lives would be lost. Shortly after 10.00 a.m. the house was set alight, and Vicars was murdered as he left the house. The house and its contents were completely destroyed. The Irish Republican Army issued a statement that the murder had not been carried out under its orders.
In his last Will and Testament Sir Arthur clearly pointed the finger of blame upon Shackleton as the Thief in the Castle. The full contents of that accusation only came to public attention in 1976.

With regard to my personal effects – I give and bequeath all my Genealogical and heraldic MSS. other than family pedigrees to the British Museum. It is not my wish that any should go to the Office of Arms Ireland. The rest of my books on Heraldry Genealogy Archaeology & history I bequeath to my dear wife to do as she likes with – perhaps she may desire to give any of interest to my family or the British Museum or the National Library of Ireland...

I might have had more to dispose of had it not been for the outrageous way in which I was treated by the Irish Govt. over the loss of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907 backed up by the late King Edward VII whom I had always loyally & faithfully served - when I was made a scapegoat to save other departments responsible and when they shielded the real culprit & thief Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the Explorer who didn’t reach the South Pole). 

My whole life & work was ruined by this cruel misfortune & by the wicked and blackguardly acts of the Irish Government. I had sunk my whole fortune in my profession & was left without any means but for the magnanimous conduct of my dear brother George Gun Mahony. I am unconscious of having done anyone wrong & my very misfortune arose from my being unsuspicious & trusting to a one time friend & official of my former office. I had hoped to leave a legacy to my dear little dog “Ronnie” had he not been taken from me this year – well we shall meet in the next world.


To this day the real story of who stole the 'Irish Crown Jewels', for what reason and what became of them remains a complete mystery.

Friday, 6 July 2012

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 has 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 &c.

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’. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

4 July 1836:  The Dublin Police Act of 1836 established the Dublin Metropolitan Police on this day. It was set up to regularise the policing of Ireland’s Capital City and was based on a template of Sir Robert Peel’s London Metropolitan Police. The Constables were under the direct command of a Chief Commissioner and the remit of the force was almost exclusively within the urban areas of the metropolis. The DMP mainly consisted within its ranks of countrymen of good physic and of a basic education. The hours were long and conditions frugal but it proved a magnet in a Country with so many heading for the boat. Each member was a full time policeman and based in the City. The force was  unarmed except for a small detective force and the carrying of arms at ceremonial occasions or on specific guard duty.

Though it was latter to gain some notoriety in the Lock Out of 1913 and in the political turbulence that occurred between 1916-1921 it was generally considered to be a disciplined force and retained the confidence most of the city’s inhabitants till the end. Even though established in 1836 it did not become operational until January 1838 and remained in existence until it was amalgamated with the Garda Síochána in 1925.

Their status as an Imperial police force did not endear them to some of their fellow citizens but the DMP do not seem to have received the same opprobrium as their colleagues in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Unlike the RIC they did not, as a rule, carry firearms. Apart from ceremonial duties and the protection of specific individuals weapons were only carried by the ‘ G ’ Division, which investigated serious crime in the city. The ordinary constables were only allowed to carry truncheons. The vast majority of crimes and misdemeanours brought before the city courts were for petty thefts, drunkenness, prostitution, infringements of the highway codes, breaches of the public health etc. Serious violent crime was a rarity. While Dublin had a higher overall crime rate than most of the other cities in Britain or Ireland it was a relatively peaceful city for those living outside the overcrowded slums.

While never a greatly popular force with Dubliners the DMP had nevertheless proved to be a magnet to men (mostly countrymen) in search of secure employment in the city with a guaranteed pension at the end of their service. The pay was not great and the hours were long, at some 56 hours a week, but in a country where emigration was the only course open to so many the chance of a regular job in Dublin was attraction enough. The men were of above average build and height, many of them touching nearly six feet in their socks. Among the generally undersized citizenry of Dublin they certainly stood out as men not to be trifled with!

Between 1836 and 1925 some 12,500 men served in the DMP and in its final years the Force had around 1,100 constables available for duty in any 24 hour period.

When the Irish Free State came into existence in 1921/1922 it was decided by the new government to amalgamate the old DMP with the new police force - the Garda Síochána. Kevin O'Higgins the Minister of Justice appointed Major General WRE Murphy to oversee its final years and in April 1925 the DMP ceased its patrols on the streets of Dublin.