Friday, 16 November 2012

My apologies to all my regular readers but my computer crashed last week and I am temporarily using an alternate machine on loan

I hope to have this site up and running again in the New Year and I can resume posting a day by day journal of some of the events that make Ireland's History such a fascinating tale....

16 November 2012

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

6 November 1649: The death of General Owen Roe O’Neill/Eoghan Rua Ó Néill died at Cloughoughter/ Cloch Uachtar Castle in County Cavan on this day. He was the leader of the last Gaelic Army of the North and one of Ireland’s greatest Generals. He was born circa 1585/90 and was the son of Art Mac Baron O'Neill and the nephew of the Great Aodh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, who led the Catholics during the Nine Years War (1594-1603). He was sent to Spain at an early age and joined the Irish Brigade of the Spanish Army. He was an able and talented soldier and destined to command at a high level. He never forgot his Homeland though and kept in contact with those in Ireland who wished to overthrow the religious and civil persecutions that the Irish Catholic People suffered under. His greatest test came in 1640 when he was in command of the City of Arras (then part of the Spanish Netherlands) that was besieged by an overwhelming French Army. With just 1,500 men he held out against the odds for eight long weeks despite many assaults on the Citadel. Forced eventually to ask for terms he was allowed to march out with the Honours of War.

But the following year the Rising of 1641 erupted and he decided that his place was back in Ireland at the head of Irish soldiers. Accompanied by a cluster of trusted officers he sailed in a tiny fleet to make it back here in July 1642. Shocked by the mayhem and indiscipline he encountered he quickly reformed the men placed under his care into a cohesive and efficient armed force. Despite this he was defeated at the Battle of Clones in 1643 but he learnt his lesson of never again meeting the enemy on anything less than favourable terms. In 1645 the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Rinuccini, arrived with Arms & specie to breath life into the Confederate Armies, of which O’Neill’s force constituted a semi autonomous component. This was to be a turning point in the struggle to gain mastery over the North.

In the early summer of 1646 he achieved his greatest Victory when he took the field against the Anglo-Scots of Ulster under the command of Sir Robert Monro. At the Battle of Benburb on 5 June of that year he defeated and overwhelmed a British Army led by Monro. It was the biggest set-piece battle of the Confederate War and a major setback for the British in Ulster. However split by internal divisions and engaged in futile negotiations with the Duke of Ormond, the Confederates failed to follow up the military advantage of O'Neill's victory. The Catholics were hopelessly divided between those who wished to reach an agreement with King Charles I to allow for a level of toleration for the Catholic religion and those who would settle for nothing less than the removal of all impediments to the open practise of Catholicism.

Such internal pressures eventually led to what was in effect an internal Civil War in which Owen Roe O’Neill was called upon to move south to back the Papal Nuncio in his implacable opposition to the Peace Treaty with the Protestant Viceroy Ormond. In September 1646, O'Neill marched to Kilkenny to support Rinuccini, who then forced the Supreme Council to agree to a Confederate attack on Dublin with the Ulster and Leinster armies. Owen Roe O’Neill’s Ulster Army swept down upon the plains of Meath, burning homesteads and destroying the crops in an effort to hamper the  Royalist War effort. But the two pronged assault on Dublin fizzled out as the City was well protected by strong walls and a determined garrison. The onset of Winter then put a stop to any chance of a prolonged Siege.

During 1647, moderate members of the Supreme Council succeeded in relegating O'Neill to service in Connacht and relied upon Preston to protect Kilkenny with the Leinster army. In 1648 the Confederates again fell out amongst themselves. O'Neill remained loyal to Rinuccini. In June 1648, he declared war on the Supreme Council and marched against Kilkenny. Although he failed to capture the Confederate capital, he spent most of the summer pillaging the surrounding country and manoeuvring against Inchiquin and Confederate forces in Leinster. In January 1649 Archbishop Rinuccini departed from Ireland in despair. O'Neill refused all approaches to join the new Royalist-Confederate coalition because Ormond would not commit himself to promising the restoration of Irish lands in Ulster as O'Neill demanded. 

By then King Charles I had been executed and Oliver Cromwell was ready to lead a well equipped army to Ireland to attempt a Re Conquest. Despite negotiations O’Neill was wary of the shaky coalition of Catholic Confederates and Protestant Royalists led nominally by the Duke of Ormond - a rather shady character. Neither side trusted the other and O’Neill was effectively isolated from events in the rest of the Country. Indeed so weak had become O’Neills position and so starved was he of supplies that he made an arrangement with the Parliamentarians Colonel Monck and later with Sir Charles Coote in order to stop the lands he held been overrun by the Ulster Scots, who now fought under the banner of the newly  declared King Charles II. 

General O’Neill, perhaps unwisely, took up an invitation to dine in Derry with Sir Charles Coote, the Governor of the City. Soon afterwards he became ill, took a fever and died. His followers quickly suspected treachery and perhaps they were were right. If so it was a devious but effective way of the English Parliament to rid itself of one of the most able soldiers this Country has ever produced. He is buried in an island in Lough Oughter in Cavan.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

4 November 1846:

The Great Irish Famine/An Gorta Mor swept across the land of Ireland. The direct cause of the calamity that the Country experienced in those times was the failure of the Potato crop, whose tubers were left rotten by a blight. However an Act of Nature was compounded by acts of folly and nay indifference by those acting on behalf of the British Administration here.

By November 1846 it was clear that the poorest of the people faced another Winter of complete hardship as the blight returned to haunt the land. The effects of prolonged malnutrition on weakened bodies proved too much for many of those so afflicted by the want of necessities to sustain human life. The deaths of two such unfortunates was reported in the Cork Examiner on this day.

November 4, 1846
IN the letter of an "Out-Door Pauper" from Macroom, will be found the recital of the death at Sleaven, from famine, of a poor woman, returning from the Workhouse, where she and her children had received their daily meal. The Tallow Relief Committee, in a resolution just forwarded to the Lord LIEUTENANT and which we give elsewhere, announce the death of another man, named KEEFFE, of Kilbeg, who also perished for want of food.

We know not what to say. We have already expressed, with the most indignant vehemence, our horror of the negligence which permitted our fellow beings to perish in the midst of us. We leave these last instances to speak for themselves-- for murder speaks with a most miraculous organ-- and these are scarcely less than a murder. We trust in GOD we shall be shocked no more by such recitals. There is a promise of general employment, at last; and to this we turn from the prolonged horror of Irish suffering and despair.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

3 November [N.S.] 1717:

Colonel Henry Luttrell was brutally shot while being carried in his Sedan chair through the streets of Dublin on this day. No one was surprised as he was a man with many enemies - none more so than his ex comrades in Arms from the War of the Two Kings nearly 30 years before.

The deed was done at night near Colonel Henry Luttrell's town house in Stafford Street, while he was sitting in a hackney chair in which he had returned from a coffee house on Cork Hill, and although enormous rewards were offered and two persons were arrested the assassin was never discovered.

He was in the words of Lord Macaulay a man with:

 A sharpened intellect and polished manners, a flattering tongue, some skill in war, and much more skill in intrigue.

Henry Luttrell was born about 1655 into one of the most distinguished Anglo -Irish families in Dublin. His ancestors had arrived here with King John around the beginning of the 13th century and had extensive estates on the western outskirts of the County at Luttrellstown - by which name they are still known to this day. However his life, both public and private, brought his family into great disrepute. He appears to have passed his early life in France, where in 1684 we find him taking part in a quarrel, resulting in no less than three duels, in which he was wounded, and another of the combatants. Lord Purbecke, was killed.

With the advent of the War between King James and William of Orange for the Throne he sided with the original Monarch and saw service on a number of fronts. He did well at Sligo but at the crucial Battle of Aughrim he abruptly led his cavalry away from the scene of action as the Williamite Army was about to break through. While this may have been down to a disastrous error of judgement it cast a shadow over him that his further actions did nothing to dispel.

During the subsequent Siege of Limerick he was caught in secret correspondence with the besiegers in attempt to open private negotiations towards a capitulation. On the surrender of Limerick he went over openly to King William, and was active in inducing Irish soldiers to join the winning side or to enlist in foreign service. William III had the family estates and a pension of £500 settled on him, and became a major-general in the Dutch army. The Estate at Luttrellstown really belonged to his elder brother who went into Exile with King James. In 1693 he was employed as agent for the Venetian government to enlist 2,000 Irish Catholics for service against the Turks. On the death of William III he returned to Luttrellstown, where he thenceforward chiefly resided.

He returned to Ireland in the service of James II., bringing back to his native country the same sense of intrigue with which he left it. He fell out with his late brother's widow and as Colonel Henry Luttrell seems still to have professed to be a Roman Catholic, and a quarrel between him and Lady Eustace, a sister of Colonel Simon Luttrell's wife, is said, by Archbishop King writing in 1699, to have created two very furious parties amongst Roman Catholics. Intrigue on his part was not confined to public affairs, and whether the assassin to whom his death was due was actuated by political or private motives is open to doubt, although the Irish parliament and the publisher of an elegy on his death attributed his murder to the former.
A History of County Dublin
Francis Elrington Ball

In a bizarre and macabre twist to the tale of his life many years later in the 1790s, as Ireland exploded into more violence, his tomb at Clonsilla Graveyard, near to Luttrellstown Castle, was broken open and his skull smashed in.  

Friday, 2 November 2012

2 November 1920:  Private James Daley [above] was executed by a British firing squad in India on this day. Daley had been one of the leaders of the so-called ‘India Mutiny’. A member of one of the oldest Irish Regiments in the British Army – the Connaught Rangers – he and his comrades had been angered about reports from home of the conduct of the Crown Forces there during the War of Independence.

The Mutiny in the Regiment had started at Jullundur in the Punjab, India at the end of June that year but then spread to the hill station of Solan. It was here that Daly was based. He played a leading part in the protest but after two of their comrades, Privates Patrick Smythe of Drogheda and Peter Sears of Neale, County Mayo were shot dead the men surrendered. They were all arrested and over 70 men were court-martialled. After handing down heavy sentences 14 men were sentenced to death but all bar one of these were commuted to life imprisonment. James Daley was the only soldier whose capital punishment was carried out.

 In his final letter to his mother he wrote:

It is all for Ireland, I am not afraid to die.

He was executed at Daghshai Prison, Solan and buried in India. In 1970 his remains and those of Privates Smythe and Sears and were returned to Ireland. James Daley was re-interred in his hometown of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

1 November 527 AD: After Muircheartach [Muirchertach Mac Erca]  … had been twenty four years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he was burned in the house of Cleiteach, over the Boyne, on the night of Samhain [the first of November] after being drowned in wine.
Annals of the Four Masters

Muirchertach Mac Erca was one of the greatest of the early Irish Kings. His first great victory was at the Battle of Ocha in County Meath in circa 483 AD. There he helped defeat and kill Ailill Molt, the King of Connacht. Muirchertach was the great grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages and from the Northern Uí Néill branch of that family. Initially he ruled most of the North from his royal site at Ailech (near Derry). But after the death of King Lugaid of Tara from the Southern Uí Néill (and the joint victor of Ocha) Muirchertach succeeded him to the title of ‘King of Tara’ and moved his power base south. He was clearly a king of some military ability and after Ocha he was victorious in 11 further battles over his enemies in the course of a long career.

These were the battles of:  Cenn Losnada, Inne Mór, Segais, Cenn Eich, Áth Sige, Éblenn, Mag Ailbe, Aidne, Almuin, and the 2nd battles of Cenn Eich and Áth Sige.

King Muirchertach came to a bizarre end, being drowned in a vat of wine. This strange event took place somewhere about the location of those ancient Neolithic passage tombs, Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.   [ Knowth kerb stone above] It would appear that this was a planned royal assassination in which the King’s body was to be left unblemished but his soul sent to eternity. Possibly his death was due to an internal family rivalry due to him taking a much younger mistress - a woman by the name of Sín!

Sín is the woman that killed thee,
O, Mac Earca, as I perceive;
Numerous will her names be here—
She will set one astray.
Chronicon Scotorum

It must be said though that the various Annals differ as to the year of his death it would appear to have been circa 530 AD and on the night of Samhain [31 October/1 November]