Thursday, 28 February 2013

28‭ ‬February‭ ‬1921:‭ ‬Six IRA men were executed in Victoria Barracks,‭ ‬Cork on this day.‭ ‬The men were shot by firing squad.‭ ‬They were Sean Allen,‭ ‬Timothy McCarthy,‭ ‬Thomas O’Brien,‭ ‬Daniel O’Callaghan,‭ ‬John Lyons and Patrick O’Mahony.‭ ‬All bar the first‭ (‬Sean Allen from Tipperary‭) ‬had been captured at Dripsey,‭ [above] ‬outside Cork City on‭ ‬28‭ ‬January.‭ ‬As they laid in wait to ambush a British convoy the men were surrounded and captured by the‭ ‬1st Manchester Regiment.‭  ‬A local Loyalist Mrs Lindsay had given their position away.‭ ‬The IRA seized her and‭ ‬James Clarke‭ (‬her Chauffer‭) ‬as hostages to hold them against the execution of the men.‭ ‬The local British Commander,‭ ‬General Strickland,‭ ‬was informed by letter of the consequences.‭ ‬The letter he received read:

To General Strickland‭…

We are holding Mrs Mary Lindsay and her Chauffeur,‭ ‬James Clarke as hostages.‭ ‬They have been convicted of spying and are under sentence of death.‭ ‬If the five of our men taken at Dripsey are executed on Monday morning as announced by your office,‭ ‬the two hostages will be shot.
Irish Republican Army

Strickland and General‭ ‬Macready,‭ ‬the British Commander in Ireland,‭ ‬dismissed the idea that the threat was real.‭ ‬They did not believe that the Cork IRA would push it that far.‭ ‬Both men doubted that the IRA would kill a woman in cold blood and decided that the sentences should be carried out.

‭ ‬On the morning of the executions a large crowd gathered outside and prayed for the souls of the dead men who were executed in batches.‭ ‬That night the Cork IRA launched a number of attacks against British forces at different locations throughout the City.‭ ‬Six British soldiers were killed and four were seriously wounded.‭

Two other men captured at Dripsey were still detained in military custody:‭ ‬Captain James Barrett and Volunteer Denis Murphy.‭ ‬Barrett died in captivity on‭ ‬22‭ ‬March‭ ‬1921.‭ ‬Murphy stood trial in Victoria Barracks on‭ ‬9‭ ‬March,‭ ‬he was found guilty and sentenced to death but this sentence was later commuted to one of‭ ‬25‭ ‬years‭' ‬imprisonment.

Following the trial of Volunteer Denis Murphy the Cork IRA executed Mrs.‭ ‬Lindsay and James Clarke.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

26‭ ‬February‭ ‬943:‭ ‬The Vikings of Dublin got a lucky break,‭ ‬when they ambushed the heir apparent to the High King,‭ ‘‬Muirchertach of the Leather Cloaks/‭ ‬Muirchertach na Cochall Craicinn‭’ [as above] ‬and slew him on this day.

Muirchertach son of Niall,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬Muirchertach of the Leather Cloaks,‭ ‬king of Ailech and the Hector of the western world,‭ ‬was killed by the heathens,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬by Blacair son of Gothfrith,‭ ‬king of the foreigner,‭ ‬at Glas Liatháin beside Cluain Chaín,‭ ‬in Fir Rois,‭ ‬on the first feria,‭ ‬fourth of the Kalends of March‭ ‬[26‭ ‬Feb‭]
 Ard Macha was plundered by the same foreigners on the following day,‭ ‬the third of the Kalends of March‭…


Muirchertach was the son of Niall Glundubh who had himself been killed fighting the Vikings at Dublin in‭ ‬919‭ ‬AD.‭ ‬He had fought and won many battles and in one report is mentioned as leading a naval expedition against the Norsemen of the Hebrides.‭ ‬However he suffered an embarrassing episode in‭ ‬939‭ ‬when in a surprise raid his enemies‭’ ‬ships raided his fortress of Aileach‭ (‬outside Derry‭) ‬and carried him off.‭ ‬He was forced to ransom his own release to regain his freedom.‭ ‬Muirchertach,‭ ‬under the ancient rule of the kingship of Tara alternating between the northern and southern O’Neills,‭ ‬was due to replace King Donnachadh on the latter’s demise.‭ ‬Sometimes though ambition got the better of him and he clashed with his senior colleague and at other times co-operated with him.‭  ‬Muirchertach married Donnchad's daughter Flann,‭ ‬but relations between the two were not good.‭ ‬Conflict between them is recorded in‭ ‬927,‭ ‬929,‭ ‬and‭ ‬938.

His most remarkable feat came in‭ ‬941‭ ‬when he carried out a Circuit of Ireland with a picked force of‭ ‬1,000‭ ‬men and secured pledges from all the principal kingdoms and carried away with him hostages as security.‭ ‬The Dalcassians‭ (‬Brian Boru’s people‭) ‬alone refused to submit.‭ But Muirchertach eventually handed over all his hostages to Donnachadh as a mark of respect.

But his luck ran out in‭ ‬943‭ ‬when he was taken by surprise by the Vikings of Dublin somewhere near Ardee,‭ ‬Co Louth.‭ ‬It looks like Muirchertach was attempting to fend off a raid by them that was heading north towards Armagh when he was taken off guard:

Muirchertach son of Niall,‭ ‬heir designate of Ireland,‭ ‬was killed in Áth Firdia by the foreigners of‭ 
Áth Cliath,‭ ‬and Ard Macha was plundered by the heathens.

Chronicon Scotorum

Monday, 25 February 2013

25‭ ‬February‭ ‬1570:‭ ‬Pope Pius V [above] excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England on this day.‭ ‬He issued a Papal Bull called‭ ‬Regnans in Excelsis‭ (‘‬ruling from on high‭’) ‬that absolved all her subjects from any obligations of allegiance to her.‭ ‬As Elizabeth claimed Ireland as part of her inheritance this Papal decree released by inference the Catholics of Ireland from any sense of obligation to her they may have felt.‭ ‬While the excommunication was of no personal interest to Elizabeth‭ ‬-‭ ‬who had long since abandoned the Catholic Faith‭ ‬-‭ ‬the political ramifications were profound.‭ ‬The Excommuncation made her dealings with the Catholic Powers of Europe more problematical and difficult and increased the chances of Spain under Philip II in particular lending his support to revolts within these islands.

In addition to being personally excommunicated the Bull also forbade any follower of the Church from helping here under pain of excommunication themselves:

It declared that:

...the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths to her, to be forever absolved from such an oath and from any duty arising from lordship. fealty and obedience; and we do, by authority of these presents , so absolve them and so deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the crown and all other the above said matters. We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication....

Given at St. Peter's at Rome, on 25 February1570 of the Incarnation; in the fifth year of our pontificate.

Pius PP

In response the Elizabeth increased anti-Catholic persecution and set out to eliminate the presence of the Jesuits from her territories.‭ ‬The position of the‭ ‘‬New English‭’ ‬Protestants in Ireland was made even more precarious as the Catholics here saw that the Pope himself was now openly opposed to her rule.‭ ‬The English Monarch did not have a high opinion of the Irish anyway as she expressed in a Letter to Sir Francis Walsingham in that month of February‭ ‬1570:

We have heard and knowne it to be true,‭ ‬that certain savage rebells,‭ ‬being men of no valour,‭ ‬had fled out of our realme of Ireland into Spaine,‭ ‬and to cover their lewdness,‭ ‬and procure both reliefe for themselves and for such like as they are in Ireland,‭ ‬they do pretend their departure out of the land for matter of religion,‭ ‬where indeed they be neither of one nor other religion,‭ ‬but given to beastiality,‭ ‬and yet have they writt enough to shewe hypocrisy for their purpose.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

24 February 1943: Thirty five girls and their 80 year old cook were killed when fire swept through their dormitory at St. Joseph's Orphanage & Industrial School in Cavan Town on this day.

In the early hours the morning a fire broke out in the basement laundry of the Orphanage. The Institution was run by the enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns who were charged with the protection of the girls. The fire spread very rapidly and quickly took hold. Local people did their best to try and rescue those within. When entry was finally gained it was too late to reach many the terrified screaming children trapped in the top floor dormitories.

The children who died were:

Mary Harrison -15 years of age from Dublin
Mary Hughes - 15 years of age from Killeshandra
Ellen McHugh -15 years of age from Blacklion
Kathleen & Frances Kiely - 12 & 9 years of age from Virginia
Mary & Margaret Lynch - 15 & 10 years of age from Cavan
Josephine & Mona Cassidy - 15 & 11 years of age from Belfast
Kathleen Reilly – 14 years of age from Butlersbridge
Mary & Josephine Carroll – 12 yrs & 10 years of age from Castlerahan
Mary & Susan McKiernan - 16 & 14 years of age from Dromard
Rose Wright – 11 years of age from Ballyjamesduff
Mary & Nora Barrett - 12 years of age -Twins – from Dublin
Mary Kelly - 10 years of age from Ballinagh
Mary Brady – 7 years of age from Ballinagh
Dorothy Daly – 7 years of age from Cootehill
Mary Ivers – 12 years of age from Kilcoole Wicklow
Philomena Regan – 9 years of age from Dublin
Harriet & Ellen Payne - 11 & 8 years of age from Dublin
Teresa White – 6 years of age from Dublin
Mary Roche - 6 years of age from Dublin
Ellen Morgan – 10 years of age from Virginia
Elizabeth Heaphy - 4 years of age from Swords
Mary O'Hara – 7 years of age from Kilnaleck
Bernadette Serridge - 5 years of age from Dublin
Katherine & Margaret Chambers - 9 & 7 years of age from Enniskillen
Mary Lowry – 17 years of age from Drumcrow, Cavan
Bridget & Mary Galligan - 17 & 18 years of age Drumcassidy, Cavan
Mary Smith 80 years of age employed as Cook

The bodies of the victims were so badly burnt that only charred remains remained when the gutted building was searched. They were placed in just eight coffins and hastily buried in a mass grave in the local cemetary.

The local fire service was totally overwhelmed and by the time they had brought their inadequate equipment to bear the flames had taken hold, the roof had caved in and the building was soon firmly ablaze.

The following day the remains of the thirty six bodies were recovered from the blackened ruins. They were put in just eight coffins and buried subsequently in a mass grave. (restored above)

While no definite reason was ever established as to how the fire started it was believed to have been caused by faulty wiring. The outbreak of fire totally overwhelmed the few staff on the premises and confusion broke out as the girls hastily tried to dress before the attempted to venture outside. Many were overcome by the smoke before they could do so or be rescued.

“While the Tribunal of Inquiry did make some recommendations which were the basis of reform of local fire fighting services and fire safety standards in Industrial Schools – the locked fire exits were to have horrific echoes in the Stardust almost 40 years later. Some argue that the true story of what really happened that night and why so many children were burned to death was not uncovered.”

Saturday, 23 February 2013

23‭ ‬February‭ ‬1886:‭ ‬Lord Randolph Churchill [above] spoke at a meeting in Belfast in which he uttered the phrase‭ ‘‬Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.‭’

Lord Churchill was anxious to undermine the rapport that had developed between the Liberal Party under William Gladstone and the Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell.‭ ‬The Liberals had won the General Election the previous year but had not secured an overall majority.‭ ‬They then relied on Parnell to secure their hold on the House of Commons.‭ ‬The price for such support was Gladstone committing himself to bring forward a Bill for Home Rule for Ireland in the current session of Parliament.‭

Churchill was fundamentally opposed to Home Rule and planned to use his name in Ulster to give heart to those within the ranks of the Orange Order that were prepared to resist by any means the bringing in of such a measure.‭ ‬He had written to a friend some days previously what his plan was:

I decided some time ago that if the G.O.M.‭* ‬went for Home Rule,‭ ‬the Orange card would be the one to play.‭ ‬Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two.

‭* ‘‬Grand Old Man’‭ – ‬Mr Gladstone, the British Prime Minister

The revitalised Orange Order had sponsored meetings for all who were against Home Rule.‭ ‬It arranged the meeting in the Ulster Hall at which the main speaker was to be Lord Randolph Churchill himself.‭ ‬He gave,‭ ‬to a wildly enthusiastic audience,‭ ‬a slogan that was to become their rallying cry in the years ahead:

‬Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.

Friday, 22 February 2013

22 February 1832: Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery, Dublin opened its gates on this day. The first internment was of Michael Carey, aged four, of Francis Street. This place of burial was established to allow the Catholic population of the City to have a place to bury their dead without impediment. The old Penal Laws had meant that all bodies had to be interred in Protestant graveyards. With the coming of full Catholic Emancipation in 1829 the imperative to establish a graveyard free from religious connotations took hold. When Glasnevin opened it was for the use of every person of regardless of Religion. The establishment of Prospect Cemetery coincided with burial reform and the rise of the 'garden cemetery' movement in Britain and Europe.

It now holds the graves of some 1.2 million people including those of many famous Irishmen and women. Amongst those were laid to rest within its walls are Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Eamon De Valera, James Larkin, Maud Gonne MacBride, Countess Markievicz, Ann Devlin, Brendan Behan, Michael Collins, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and many victims of the Great Famine.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

21 February 1922: A new Police Force, the ‘Civic Guard’ began its first Recruitment campaign on this day [above]. It was intended to replace the Royal Irish Constabulary as the instrument charged with Law enforcement within the prospective Irish Free State that was due to come into full operation by the end of the year.

In January 1922, the Provisional Government had decided that the Royal Irish Constabulary was to be disbanded "as soon as possible". They decided to replace the Republican Police with a regular police force under a trained police officer. Michael Collins had reported to the Provisional Government on 28 January that a police organising committee was being formed, that would include members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police.

The committee held their first meeting in the Gresham Hotel on Thursday, 9 February, with General Richard Mulcahy, Michael Collins, and Michael J. Staines among those in attendance. Work was started immediately under Michael Staines T.D. as the acting chairman. A veteran of the Easter Rising he had been active in
the administration of the National Arbitration Courts and the Republican Police during the War of Independence.

Volunteer Brigade Officers around the Country were requested to dispatch suitable recruits for training to a temporary headquarters at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Any candidates who attended for examination were to be at least 5' 9", unmarried and between the ages of 19 and 27. They were compelled to sit examinations in reading spelling and arithmetic to gain entry as cadets. The first man to join the Civic Guard was an ex RIC man P. J. Kerrigan.

However the name ‘Civic Guard’ was not formally decided upon until 27 February and on the following 10 March, Michael Joseph Staines was formally appointed as its first Commissioner. In August of the following year the Police Force of the State was renamed the Garda Síochána (Guardians of the Peace) and has remained the name of the Force ever since. Michael Staines was then retrospectively recognised as the first Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. His most famous saying was that:

The Garda Síochána will succeed, not by force of arms or numbers,
but by their moral authority as servants of the people.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

19 February 1921: Brigadier-General Frank Percy Crozier CMC, DSO. [above], the head of the ‘Black and Tans’ submitted his resignation on this day. The General was disgusted at the undisciplined antics of many of the ‘cadets’ under his command of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RIC).  He had made inquiries that seemed to him to point the finger of blame at men under his nominal control in the murder of Father Griffin and the projected murder of Bishop Fogarty. He had sent back in disgrace 21 of the more outrageous members of his force to Britain only to discover that General Tudor, the overall head of the RIC , had recalled them for duty in Ireland. This proved a catalyst in Crozier deciding to resign his position. Following questions put to Sir Hamar Greenwood, Chief Secretary for Ireland, by Captain Redmond in the House of Commons this news became public and the thing became an open scandal. The notorious reputation of the ‘Black & Tans’ was further enhanced and their bloody reign was now open for all to see.

Crozier drifted off into obscurity and spent his last years putting his energies and pen to the cause of peace, denouncing war as a means of settling international disputes in a series of books that sought to portray war with uncompromising brutality. These included ‘A Brass Hat in No Mans Land’ about his time on the Western Front with amongst others the 36th Ulster Division and ‘Ireland Forever’ on his time in charge of the ‘Black & Tans’ He died in 1937.

Monday, 18 February 2013

18 February 1366: The Viceroy, Lionel Duke of Clarence summoned a Parliament at Kilkenny on this day. From this emerged the series of infamous ordinances that became known as the ‘Statutes of Kilkenny’ and were designed to put a legal framework on the division of Ireland into two separate peoples: the English and the Irish. It contained thirty-five chapters of note.

For instance if any man took a name after the Irish fashion, used the Irish language, or dress, or mode of riding (without saddle), or adopted any other Irish customs, all his lands and houses were forfeited, and he himself was put into jail till he could find security that he would comply with the law. The Irish living among the English were permitted to remain, but were forbidden to use the Irish language under the same penalty. To use or submit to the Brehon law or to exact coyne and livery was treason.

The Statute of Kilkenny, though not exhibiting quite so hostile a spirit against the Irish as we find sometimes represented, yet carried out consistently the vicious and fatal policy of separation adopted by the government from the beginning. It was intended to apply only to the English, and was framed entirely in their interests. Its chief aim was to withdraw them from all contact with the "Irish enemies"--so the natives are designated all through the act--to separate the two races for evermore.

From A Concise History of Ireland by P. W. Joyce

Sunday, 17 February 2013

17 February 1978: The IRA Bomb the La Mon Hotel and kill 12 people and injure many more in a horrific attack near Belfast Co Down.

The IRA unit had tried to issue a telephone warning but claim that a vandalised phone box and a UDR checkpoint had delayed them.

An incendiary device attached to an outside wall and fueled by the addition of a number of jerrycans caused a devastating explosion that swept through the dining area where guests had taken their seats at a number of functions that were being held there that night.

Many of the killed and injured were young married couples and all were members of the North's Protestant Community.

There was widespread anger and outrage in the wake of the attack and the IRA were forced to apologise for their terrible blunder that cost the lives of so many innocent people.

Even today the relatives of the victims are calling for an inquiry into who exactly gave the orders to go ahead with the attack.

 But with some files listed as 'missing' its unlikely that the exact circumstances behind one of the worst incidents in the 'Troubles' will ever be forthcoming.  

Saturday, 16 February 2013

16 February1932: A General Election held in the Irish Free State on this day. The president of the Executive Council, W.T. Cosgrave, [above] called the election early as he wished to have it out of the way in time for the Commonwealth Conference of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and he felt that a fresh mandate was needed. He fought the campaign on a programme of bringing political stability to the State and that a change of Government would see people sympathetic to republicanism and communism in power.

Eamon De Valera on the other hand promised to free IRA prisoners, abolish the Oath to the King of England and to reduce the powers of the Governor General. He also indicated that more equitable social policies would be introduced at a time when the Great Depression was in full swing.

In the event there was a change of Government and Eamon de Valera won the contest. Fianna Fáil received 566,498 votes and won 72 seats as opposed to Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhael, which got 449,506 votes and secured 57 seats. The Labour Party returned with just 7 seats on a vote from 98,286 of the electorate. While De Valera was still five seats short of an overall majority, he struck an informal deal with the Labour Party to back him up. On that basis he was able to govern the Free State with a fair deal of parliamentary political stability over the next few years.

This change of government marked a watershed in the history of the State as De Valera went on to abolish the Oath to the King of England and to give the polity a much more Republican flavour including a new Constitution some years later. He remained in power through an unbroken series of election victories until 1948.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

13 February 1820

The death of the Traitor Leonard McNally on this day at 22 Harcourt Street Dublin. McNally was a member the Legal Profession who had defended many of the men tried by the British after the 1798 Rising. As a former member of the United Irishmen he was trusted to the hilt by his political associates.

He was born in Dublin in 1752 and originally went into the grocery Trade, he also spent some time in Bordeaux before returning to Ireland and entering the Law.

His ‘outing’ however occurred only after his death and after he had received a Patriots funeral! His son had then applied to Dublin Castle for the continuation of his generous pension of £300 per annum, a not inconsiderable sum in those days.

Both his political comrades and his opponents were astonished to discover that McNally had been an agent of the Crown for some 25 years prior to his death. Indeed after the Rising was crushed and while taking fees from his clients to defend them from the Crown he had given all the evidence in their defence he had accumulated to those charged with their prosecution.

McNally continued to escape revelation of his ignoble role in the events of those times.While some had their doubts - and one anonymous individual had even sent him a parcel from America in appreciation of his efforts - within which was a snake...

He also dabbled in the profession of Playwright and author where he had some success, being the author of a number of dramas, including the opera of Robin Hood, 1779-96; also of The Claims of Ireland, 1782; Rules of Evidence, 1802; Justice of the Peace for Ireland, 1808; and other works. For two editions of his Justice he received £2,500.

Just how McNally was ‘turned’ is now a mystery, but its possible he cracked under pressure when faced with the reality of Torture at the hands of his interrogators back in 1794 when he was strongly suspected of involvement in the Jackson affair.

While no coward (he had fought in duels) maybe the indignity of being of being the subject of an extreme physical examination proved his undoing. His decision to throw in his lot with his Country’s oppressors was indeed a fateful one, not only for his comrades but also for his own posthumous reputation as one of Ireland’s most infamous sons.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

12 February 1813

OK Folks - I'm back

A little known but terrible sea tragedy struck the tiny community of Bruckless Bay in County Donegal on this day 200 years ago

Very few precise details are known about the exact details of the tragedy which still remains as one of Ireland’s worst fishing disasters.

Local legend has it that an old woman in the area used to run a “shebeen” where many of the fishermen used to drink but she fell out with them and then put a curse on them.

Later that evening on Feb. 12th. 1813 more than 200 small open boats, capsized in a sudden, violent storm with a tragic loss of lives.

No formal commemoration of the disaster, now called the Bruckless Bay drownings, has ever been held before but local records still indicate that between 46 and 80 people drowned.

TC McGinley, a noted school headmaster in south-west Donegal, recounted in 1867 a folk tale that the Bruckless Bay storm was brewed up by a witch performing incantations over a basin. In the tale, the woman was wreaking revenge for being scorned by the fishermen. Such was the lack of communications two centuries ago it took four days for news of the disaster to reach Dublin.

Historians have noted that Armagh observatory recorded freak weather over adjoining St John’s Point and Bruckless Bay, and a sudden change of wind direction, 200 years ago.

Between 45 and 80 local men lost their lives in this terrible Storm two centuries ago, their terrible fate forgotten until now.