Wednesday, 30 April 2014

30 April 1916: The Rising in Dublin fizzled out on this day.
Sniping had continued overnight as the Rising came to an end. The captured insurgents who were held outside the Rotunda over the night were marched off to Richmond Barracks, Inchicore. Here they were screened and questioned by detectives of the DMO ‘G’ Division under military supervision.
In his Prison Cell Padraig Pearse wrote out a brief note reiterating his instructions of the previous day that was forwarded on to the Republican Garrisons that still held out:
In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P.H. Pearse. Dublin 30th April 1916.
This brought about the surrender of the various outlying Insurgent positions as orders were brought to them to lay down their arms.
By last light that day the Rising was effectively over.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

29 April 1608: The entry into Rome of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconell on this day. After an epic journey that started at Rathmullan by the banks of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, the Earl of Tyrone Aodh (Hugh) O’Neill and the Earl of Tyrconell Ruairi O’Donnell along with their entourage of about 100 followers entered the City of Rome.

They had fled Ireland in fear of their lives as they believed that the English planned to eliminate them. With their flight the old Gaelic Order that had lasted over a thousand years and more finally collapsed. Most of their lands were confiscated and redistributed to those who were loyal to the Crown.

Porta del Populo was the name of the gate by which they entered the city. They went on after that through the principal streets of Rome in great splendour. They did not rest until they reached the great church of San Pietro in Vaticano. They put up their horses there, and entered the church. They worshipped, and went around, as if on a pilgrimage, the seven privileged altars of great merit which are in the church. Afterwards they proceeded to a splendid palace, which his Holiness the Pope had set apart for them in the Borgo Vecchio and in the Borgo Santo Spirito.

[The Flight of the Earls by Tadhg Ó Cianáin]

Monday, 28 April 2014

28 April 1916: The Insurrection continued in Dublin on this day.

General Sir John Maxwell arrived by boat from England. He came with orders to crush the Rising by whatever means were necessary. He was previously the GOC Egypt and a veteran of Britain’s Colonial Wars. He had recently suppressed a revolt of the Senussi People in Western Desert. He issued a Proclamation:

The most vigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing in their armed resistance to the law. If necessary I shall not hesitate to destroy any buildings within any area occupied by the rebels and I warn all persons within the area specified below, and now surrounded by HM troops, forthwith to leave such area.

By Friday morning much of the GPO was on fire and sections of the roof were collapsing. It was obvious to the men inside that they would have to evacuate the building sooner or later. One plan being considered was to tunnel through to the adjoining buildings and join up with the Four Courts garrison. However, this was not possible because of the worsening military situation. The British now had most of the streets around the GPO well covered with snipers and machine guns.

At around 8 pm Padraig Pearse decided to evacuate the GPO, which was aflame and under constant bombardment. He decided to try to escape via Henry Street and establish a new headquarters somewhere near there. The narrow streets around Henry Street and Moore Street were filled with smoke from the burning buildings. There was a great deal of confusion. In addition, nobody was quite sure exactly what the exact locations of the British Army were. Several groups of garrison tried to make their way down Henry Street but came under heavy fire. One of the casualties was The O’Rahilly who had come to Liberty Hall on Easter Monday to join the Rising even though he had initially tried to stop it going ahead.

Elizabeth O'Farrell, had been one of only three women (all members of Cumann na mBan) left in the GPO after Pearse had ordered the others to leave that morning. She recalled

We left in three sections, I being in the last. Commandant Pearse was the last to leave the building. He went round to see that no one was left behind. We immediately preceded him, bullets raining from all quarters as we rushed to Moore Lane.

Eventually Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett, Clarke and MacDermott halted in a house at Moore Street, number 16, where they planed to make their way through back streets to the Four Courts for a last stand.

However the British were not much the wiser of their opponents movements and continued to attack the GPO even after it was evacuated.

British troops killed up to a dozen innocent civilians on North King St in heavy fighting. At least some of these were killed in cold blood. But here only a handful of fighters remained and the British effectively controlled the area by nightfall.

In the north of County Dublin a Volunteer column under Thomas Ashe [above ] ambushed a convoy of RIC men. A running battle between members of the RIC and the insurgents took place, lasting five hours. The police casualties were heavy: the Meath County and District Inspectors, two sergeants and four constables were killed, and 16 constables wounded. Ashbourne barracks was captured but Volunteers Thomas Rafferty and John Crennigan lost their lives.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

26 April 1916: Field guns from Trinity College and the gunboat Helga on the River Liffey bombarded the Irish Citizen’s Army HQ at Liberty Hall and demolished it. Buildings in O’Connell St were also targeted and destroyed. The upper floor of the GPO was evacuated has the men there came under sustained attack from British snipers and guns.

Wednesday, April 26th, 9.30 a.m. - While we were dressing a terrific bombardment with field guns began - the first we had heard - and gave me cold shivers. The sound seemed to come from the direction of the G.P.O., and we concluded they were bombarding it. It went on for a quarter of an hour - awful! big guns and machine-guns - and then ceased, but we hear they were bombarding Liberty Hall, the headquarters of Larkin and the strikers two years ago, and always a nest of sedition. It is now crammed with Sinn Feiners. The guns were on H.M.S. Helga, that came up the river and smashed it from within about three hundred yards. It made me feel quite sick.

Mary Louisa Hamilton Norway The Sein Fein Rebellion as I saw it

The Battle of Mount Street Bridge: British soldiers from the Sherwood Foresters regiment came under fire from a handful of Republican positions as they approach the Bridge there as they made their way up Northumberland Rd. Despite repeated attempts they were driven back sustaining over 200 casualties.

They were raw troops just off the boat from England. While the Officers and men showed great bravery they were tactically naïve and constantly launched full frontal attacks that cut down scores of them at a time. The defenders of the Bridge put up an equally heroic resistance against overwhelming odds and managed to hold their positions.

Eventually the British troops took Clanwilliam House by storm. Three of the twelve defenders were killed. The Insurgents were men drawn from the garrison at Boland’s Mill under the orders of Commandant Eamon De Valera.


British forces entered O’Connell St. and took up positions to cover the GPO and suppress the garrison within. A concentrated fire was opened on the GHQ of the Rising and the effects began to tell.
I was looking on O' Connell Bridge and Sackville Street, and the house facing me was Kelly's - a red-brick fishing tackle shop, one half of which was on the Quay and the other half in Sackville Street. This house was being bombarded.

I counted the report of six different machine guns, which played on it. Rifles innumerable and from every sort of place were potting its windows, and at intervals of about half a minute the shells from a heavy gun lobbed in through its windows or thumped mightily against its walls.

For three hours that bombardment continued, and the walls stood in a cloud of red dust and smoke. Rifle and machine gun bullets pattered over every inch of it, and unfailingly the heavy gun pounded its shells through the windows."

James Stephens The Insurrection in Dublin




Friday, 25 April 2014

25 April 1916: A statement was issued from the Insurgent HQ in the GPO Dublin on this day.


The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic salutes the Citizens of Dublin on the momentous occasion of the proclamation of a SOVEREIGN INDEPENDENT IRISH STATE, now in course of being established by Irishmen in arms.

The Republican forces hold the lines taken up at twelve noon on Easter Monday, and nowhere, despite fierce and almost continuous attacks of the British troops, have the lines been broken through. The country is rising in answer to Dublin’s call, and the final achievement of Ireland’s freedom is now, with God’s help, only a matter of days. The valour, self-sacrifice and discipline of Irish men and women are about to win for our country a glorious place among the nations.

Ireland’s honour has already been redeemed; it remains to vindicate her wisdom and her self-control. All citizens of Dublin who believe in the right of their country to be free will give their allegiance and their loyal help to the Irish Republic. There is work for everyone: for the men in the fighting line, and for the women in the provision of food and first aid. Every Irishman and Irishwoman worthy of the name will come forward to help their common country in this her supreme hour. Able-bodied citizens can help by building barricades in the streets to oppose the advance of the British troops. The British troops have been firing on our women and on our Red Cross. On the other hand, Irish Regiments in the British Army have refused to act against their fellow-countrymen.

The Provisional Government hopes that its supporters which means the vast bulk of the people of Dublin—will preserve order and self-restraint. Such looting as has already occurred has been done by hangers-on of the British Army. Ireland must keep her new honour unsmirched. We have lived to see an Irish Republic proclaimed. May we live to establish it firmly, and may our children and our children’s children enjoy the happiness and prosperity which freedom will bring.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government, P. H. PEARSE,

Commanding in Chief of the Forces of the Irish Republic, and President of the Provisional Government.
Meanwhile the British continued their preparations to crush the Rising. Lord French, the Commander of the British Army in Britain organised for an Expeditionary Force to be immediately despatched to Ireland. Within the Country General Lowe sent reinforcements from the Curragh to Dublin by train. More arrived from Belfast to bolster their positions. The General decided to seal off and isolate the various strongpoints and await further reinforcements. He established a tightening cordon in the outskirts of the City to stop any further support reaching the Volunteers and to guard against any breakout.

About 100 or so British soldiers seized the Shelbourne Hotel overlooking St Stephens Green and forced the Irish Citizen Army to withdraw under fire to the adjacent College of Surgeons. Commandant Daly who had seized the Linen Hall Barracks in north central Dublin set it alight to stop the British from using it as a base of attack.

Inside the GPO, work continued fortifying the building against attack. In order to improve communications, holes were tunnelled into the adjoining buildings. In this way, it became possible to move unseen from building to building thus avoiding sniper fire.

Artillery guns from the Curragh were used to bombard Republican positions.

A small contingent of Volunteers from Maynooth reached the Republican lines in the City after a forced march. Others arriving from the Country were not so lucky as the British tightened their hold.

Trinity College was secured by the British military and fortified by an ad hoc force of soldiers and students of the Colleges’ OTC and was then used as a base to harry communications between the various insurgent garrisons.

The South Dublin Union (now St James Hospital) garrison under vice Commandant Cathal Brugha was attacked but held out even though the fighting spread through the wards and corridors.

On this day the rumours began, and I think it will be many a year before the rumours cease The Irish Times published an edition which contained nothing but an official Proclamation that evily-disposed persons had disturbed the peace, and that the situation was well in hand. The news stated in three lines that there was a Sinn Fein rising in Dublin, and that the rest of the country was quiet.

No English or country papers came. There was no delivery or collection of letters. All the shops in the City were shut. There was no traffic of any kind in the streets. There was no way of gathering any kind of information, and rumour gave all the news. ...... It was believed also that the whole country had risen, and that many strong places and cities were in the hands of the Volunteers. Cork Barracks was said to be taken while the officers were away at the Curragh races, that the men without officers were disorganised, and the place easily captured. It was said that Germans, thousands strong, had landed and that many Irish Americans with German officers had arrived also with full military equipment."

James Stephens The Insurrection in Dublin


Thursday, 24 April 2014

24 April 1066 A hairy star, strange, enormous, was seen in the air on Tuesday after Little Easter, at the eight of the kalends of May [24 Apr] with the twenty sixth of the moon thereon. Such was its size and brightness that men said it was a moon, and to the end of four days it remained thus - The Irish Annals

What was this strange and apparently supernatural object that flew across the sky over Ireland in April 1066 AD? To people at that time such apparitions in the Heavens struck doubt and fear into their hearts and they were seen as a portent of evil doings to come. The Irish Monks duly noted its passing and no doubt prayed that whatever it portended it would pass over this Country without harm.

In fact what they witnessed was a comet - Halley's Comet in fact. It is the best-known of the short-period comets, and is visible from Earth every 75 to 76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and thus the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Other naked-eye comets may be brighter and more spectacular, but will appear only once in thousands of years.

This celestial phenomena did indeed harbour a portent of doom, but it was not in Ireland that its misfortune struck but in England. For it was in 1066 that the King Harold of the Saxons was overthrown and killed at the Battle of Hastings during the invasion of England by William the Conquerer of Normandy - who then took the Kingdom of England for himself.

The Comet was last seen over Ireland in 1986 - but don't worry its not due to return until 2061 AD!!!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

23 April 1014: The Battle of Clontarf /Cath Cluain Tarbh, (The Pasture of the Bulls) was fought on this day – Good Friday. The victors were the forces of King Brian Boru of Munster leading a force primarily of the men of Munster and south Connacht along with a small contingent of Limerick and perhaps Waterford Vikings. His erstwhile ally Mael Sechnaill of Meath held back on the day of the Battle. Thus Brian’s men alone faced the Vikings of Dublin and the Isles and their allies the Leinstermen under King Maelmorda. The result was a great Victory for King Brian but as the day ended he was killed himself while praying in his camp. Clontarf was the greatest and bloodiest battle of the Viking age in Ireland.

The location of the actual battle site has been open to dispute, some of it convoluted in argument, but there is no conclusive proof that it was not at the location of the place we know today as Clontarf, now a suburb of Dublin City. The indications are that both armies were divided into ‘Battles’ that were led by the most prominent Leaders of their respective contingents.

Those the side of the Vikings were Brodar the Manxman, Earl Sigurd from the Orkneys, King Sitric of Dublin and the forces of King Maelmorda of Leinster. It’s possible that around 5,500 men were available to fight against Brian’s Army on the day.

King Brian brought a formidable Army to Dublin to do Battle. He had his own core group made up of the Dal Cais from his Home Territory, and also the contingents of the men of Munster who owed him allegiance. From south Connacht there were the soldiers of two minor kingdoms related through family ties. He had too the services of perhaps some Vikings drawn from Limerick and Waterford. However around 7,000 warriors would be probably the maximum that Brian had available to bring to Dublin. There was also the Army of the King of Meath, Mael Sechnaill II, who would have at a maximum around 2,500 men to line out alongside Brian Boru.

The battle began at daybreak with challenges and shouts from both sides no doubt. Famous warriors would have been to the fore, eager to meet men of their own calibre in single combat. To the mass of combatants these epic struggles were just a prelude to the main Battles charging at each other and trying their best to emulate their own heroes. As the day wore on the Irish slowly gained the upper hand. The fighting was heavy on what appears to have been a sunny but somewhat windy Spring day. As the numbers of warriors dwindled on each side the fight started to concentrate around the standards and banners of the more important men.

With sunset approaching Victory was finally in the grasp of the Irish. King Brian had been left with just a few men to guard him in his Camp, no doubt men unfit for open combat and a few boys. The excitement of such a great Victory must have had this little Band on edge and they were keen to have a go themselves to finish off any stragglers that they could catch. News of all this was of course reaching Brian so he must have had the grim satisfaction of knowing the day was his. However he received a shattering blow in the closing stages of the battle for his aides had to inform him that Murchad’s Banner could no longer be seen and Brian knew that meant in all probability his beloved son and heir Murchad had fallen.

With Victory within sight the Irish pushed the Foreigners onto the seashore, their boats too far out to get to as the tide reached its high water mark. Many were drowned in desperate attempts to reach sanctuary onboard. The Manxman Brodar however was not amongst these forlorn fugitives. His Battle had been situated on the right flank of the Viking line and in the confusion of the final rout he and a few companions headed inland to avoid being trapped against the shore. As fate would have it his flight led him to Tomar’s Wood. Seeing a tent of some worth situated there he decided to find out to which worthy soul it might belong. Inside he saw just an old man with only a boy to protect him. He did not know who it was but one of his men had once served with the Vikings of Limerick and assured him it was actually King Brian who was inside. Brodar did not hesitate but set about the occupants with his weapon. He slew the King and fled the tent, exultant that his name would now live forever in memory of his bloody deed. Soon however word spread that a Viking had killed Brian and a search was organised to track him down. The pursuers surrounded the wood and in a circle of warriors moved towards the centre of the enclosure to find the killer. Brodar was eventually cornered and ritually disembowelled in a gruesome and bloody execution.

So ended the Battle of Clontarf and Brian’s career. Tactically the battle was a great Irish Victory that smashed the invading force and Strategically it did mark the end of the threat of further Viking interference from overseas. However the cost of Victory had been high. King Brain was dead as was his heir Murchad and in turn his son Turlough. Many of the lesser kings of Munster had also fallen, including Brian’s son in law Cian. On the opposing side Earl Sigurd was dead and Brodar who met such a terrible end. King Maelmorda of Leinster was also killed on the field of battle, probably by Conaig, the nephew of Brian, who died of his wounds in turn. King Sitric of Dublin, if he was ever on the battlefield, returned to the city in time to view the final stages of the Munstermens Victory.

Brian was the most successful King to control Ireland prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion. He had shown that a King could indeed bring the whole island under personal sway. The battle of Clontarf unfortunately undid much of Brian’s work, not just in the fact of his death but also in the loss of his favourite son and heir, Murchad and in turn his son Turlough. Thus on one day three generations of Brian’s family had fallen. Brian was an old man and his death was not far off anyway. Within a few years his son Murchad, had he lived, would have had to face the challenge of imposing his will on the recently united island. He might just have pulled it off if Brian had lived long enough to secure commitments from the other kingdoms to recognise Murchad as his rightful successor to the Kingdom of Ireland.


Monday, 21 April 2014


21 April 1509: The death of King Henry VII of England [above] on this day. King Henry also held the title ‘Lord of Ireland’. This Country proved something of a thorn in his side though. His archenemies in the House of York used here as a base to plot his overthrow. In 1487 the pretender Lambert Simnel (a boy) was crowned as ‘Edward VI’ in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. This movement had been greatly assisted by Margaret, duchess dowager of Burgundy, and sister of the late Edward IV, who could not endure to see the House of York supplanted by that of the Tudors. A fair sized expedition from Ireland was put together. It was defeated at the Battle of Stoke in England amidst much slaughter of the hired German Mercenaries and the Irish soldiers who formed the military backbone of the Force. The young Simnel was captured and pardoned. He was set to work in the Royal kitchens.

The second pretender, Perkin Warbeck had first appeared in Ireland in 1491 and had somehow been persuaded there to personate Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two princes murdered in the Tower, pretending that he had escaped, though his brother had been killed. After many wanderings he returned to Ireland again in 1497 and from here landed in Cornwall with a small body of men. After a futile campaign he turned himself in. Imprisoned in the Tower he was eventually executed.

Henry relied a lot on the Anglo Irish magnates to hold or control Ireland for the Crown and none was more powerful than Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald, the 8th Earl of Kildare. The Earl however was an ardent supporter of the House of York. Too powerful to be ignored and too dangerous to be trusted he was in and out of favour with King Henry over the years. Sometimes he represented the Crown of England and at others he was imprisoned on charges of Treason. But he was never powerful enough to openly break with England and set himself up as a Monarch in his own right.

While King Henry always had to factor in Irish affairs relative to his security upon the Throne of England he was a shrewd and ruthless enough Operator to act in time and with decision to ensure that Ireland never quite slipped beyond his grasp.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

20 April 1912: The death of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel Dracula on this day in London England. Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf , Dublin. His parents were Abraham Stoker (1799–1876), from Dublin, and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley (1818–1901), Stoker was the third of seven children. Abraham and Charlotte were members of the Church of Ireland and Bram was babtised in the local COI church.

Stoker was bedridden with an unknown illness until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, "I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years." He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods.

After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours as a BA in Mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society ('the Hist') and president of the University Philisophical Society, where his first paper was on "Sensationalism in Fiction and Society".

While manager for Irving and secretary and director of London's Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels, beginning with The Snakes Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was part of the literary staff of the The Daily Telegraph in London, and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady in the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, after Irving's death, he published his life of Irving, which proved successful.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry who was a Hungarian writer and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry's dark stories of the Carpathian mountains.Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires . Dracula is written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a "straightforward horror novel" based on imaginary creations of supernatural life. "It gave form to a universal fantasy . . . and became a part of popular culture."

After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker died on 20 April 1912 in London. He was cremated , and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium. After Irving Noel Stoker's death in 1961, his ashes were added to that urn. The original plan had been to keep his parents' ashes together, but after Florence Stoker's death, her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest. To visit his remains at Golders Green, visitors must be escorted to the room the urn is housed in, for fear of vandalism.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

19 April 1741: In a letter to Dr. Thomas Prior, Dublin, the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr. George Berkeley[above], wrote of the Famine which was then raging:

The distresses of the sick and poor are endless. The havoc of mankind in the counties of Cork, Limerick and some adjacent places hath been incredible. The nation, probably, will not recover this loss in a century. The other day I heard one from the county of Limerick say that whole villages were entirely dispeopled.

The Great Famine of 1741 had its origins in the ‘Great Frost’ of January 1740 when an intense and bitter cold that emanated from the Artic and not experienced in living memory swept across Western Europe. So cold was it that birds dropped from the sky and seed was destroyed in the ground. Trade came to a halt as ports froze up and travel became almost impossible. In the Springtime the expected rains did not come, and though the Frost dissipated, the temperatures remained low and the northerly winds very strong. By the Summer of 1740, the Frost had decimated the potatoes and the Drought had wrought havoc with the grain harvest and the herds of cattle and sheep had suffered huge losses.

In the Autumn a meagre harvest commenced and prices in the towns started to fall. Cattle began to recover, but in the dairying districts, cows had been so weak after the Frost that at least a third of them had failed to “take bull”. Then blizzards swept along the east coast in late October and more snow fell several times in November. A massive downpour of rain fell on 9 December causing widespread flooding. A day after the floods, the temperature plummeted, snow fell, and rivers and other bodies of water froze. Warm temperatures followed the cold snap, which lasted about ten days. Great chunks of ice careened down the River Liffey and through the heart of Dublin, overturning light vessels and causing larger vessels to break anchor. The price of foodstuffs rocketed and people began to starve.

The Spring of 1741 went down in popular memory as the Black Spring of ’41 as the impact of two very hard Winters and the destruction of so much livestock and grain supplies began to be felt. This was especially so amongst the rural and urban poor of whom there were very many in Ireland at that time. Diseases swept the Country: Dysentery; Smallpox and Typhus took the lives of many thousands.

Sir Richard Cox wrote from Cork in April that year:

Mortality is now no longer heeded; the instances are so frequent. And burying the dead, which used to be one of the most religious acts among the Irish, is now become a burthen…In short, by all I can learn, the dreadfullest civil war, or most raging plague never destroyed so many as this season. The distempers and famine increase so that it is no vain fear that there will not be hands to save the harvest.
Eventually in the Summer of 1741 the Crises abated and while the situation was still very hard the plagues and starvation eased off. The next Harvest while not abundant was sufficient to ensure that enough food would be available to avert a similar situation the following year.

So ended what was the worst set of recorded climatogical disasters to hit Ireland since at least the 14th Century. Nobody knows how many people died as a result of this Great Famine of 1741 and the hardships that preceded its apogee. Out of an overall estimated population at the time of around 2.4 million it seems probable that between 300,000 and 450,000 of the people died as a result – a mortality rate that stands comparison with if it did not actually exceed the more infamous events of the 1840s.


Friday, 18 April 2014

18 April 1690: Over 5,000 Irish soldiers organised in five Regiments sailed from Ireland for France at the request of Louis XIV [above]. He sent some 6,000 French regulars in exchange for these men. The Irish troops formed the nucleus of the famous ‘Irish Brigade’ that was to continue in French service for over 100 years until just after the Revolution.

The King of France wanted to support James II in his expedition to retake the British crown from the Dutchman William of Orange. However he could not afford the loss of 6,000 of his own soldiers during his own War against Holland. So Louis requested Irish replacements to take their place. The Irish regiments sailed out on the same ships that landed the French troops under Count de Lauzun.

After arriving in France, the five regiments were reorganized into three, commanded respectively by Justin McCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), Daniel O'Brien, and Arthur Dillon. Mountcashel was in overall command this Irish Brigade in the service of France. He had grown up in France, and became fluent in the French language. His father had lost everything due to his participation in the fight against Cromwell and subsequently went into exile in France. After the Treaty of Limerick Patrick Sarsfield’s men joined Mountcashel’s brigade in late 1691.

Like Sarsfield, Mountcashel did not survive for very long in French service. Shortly after his arrival in France he was seriously wounded in the chest fighting in down south in Savoy. Although he recovered from this wound and continued to command the Irish Brigade, it continued to dog him. He eventually had to retire from French Service and much weakened in health he died in 1694.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

17 April 1876: The whaling vessel Catalpa rescued six Irish prisoners from British Captivity on this day. The ship under Captain George S. Anthony carried out one of the most daring and long distance rescues in history when she was used to spirit away the six Fenian prisoners from Freemantle, Australia. Even though the British quickly realised the men had fled and gave chase the ship could not be boarded as she flew the American flag. The rescued men (Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston and James Wilson) were brought safely to New York City. The Fenians John Devoy and John J. Breslin planned the rescue operation from America and Breslin was dispatched to Australia to co-ordinate the rescue.

In July 1874 the Clan na Gael Organisation in the USA decided to rescue the six prisoners who were excluded from a conditional pardon for all civilian Fenian prisoners. These men had been members of the British Army and thus considered outright ‘Traitors’ by the British. John Devoy was assigned to co-ordinate this rescue. He saw that funds were raised and a Captain George S. Anthony was ‘head hunted’ to undertake the dangerous mission. When it was put to him he was willing to take the risk. It was then decided that the voyage must look like a whaling voyage, thus Captain Anthony went looking for a suitable ship. In the port of Boston he found one that suited his needs and purchased the Catalpa, a three-master whaler, for $5200.

The ship set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, in April 1875. The Voyage was undertaken with the deliberate intention engaging in a daring a yearlong mission of international rescue. On 28 March 1876 the Catalpa arrived off Bunbury Harbour, Western Australia and a meeting was set up between Captain Anthony and John Breslin. At this meeting they agreed the rescue date should be on 6 April. However due to the presence of a British gunboat at the Harbour and the information that another gunboat was due to arrive they rescheduled the rescue for 17 April.

With the help of the prison chaplain, the six men escaped to the coast where Captain Anthony was waiting with a small whaleboat that would take them to the Catalpa. The resistance they overcame, both from armed British vessels and a furious sea storm, made their escape the stuff of legend. The British attempted to capture the Catalpa but Captain Anthony had the Flag of the United States raised and warned the prospective boarders that such a move would be viewed as an Act of War. They thought the better of it and the Catalpa made good her escape.
The Catalpa landed the ‘Freemantle Six’ in New York Harbour on 19 August 1876. Though Captain Anthony would never again put to sea in open waters for fear of arrest by the British, his rescue voyage, made mostly without the use of a functioning chronometer, is one of the greatest feats of seamanship ever recorded in nautical annals.




Wednesday, 16 April 2014

16 April 1172: King Henry II departed from Ireland on this day. He had landed in Waterford in October 1171 with a powerful force of well-equipped knights, archers and foot soldiers. He subsequently received the allegiance of many of the provincial kings of Munster and Leinster. However the High King of Ireland Rory O’Connor/Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair kept his distance and the chief Ulster kings ignored Henry’s visit alltogether. King Henry though was the most powerful man in Western Europe and his name alone carried tremendous weight. He ensured by his presence at the Irish Church’s Council of Cashel that the type of Church Reform in favour in England was adopted in Ireland.
While his Ecclesiastical Mission was the purported reason for his Expedition into Ireland he also had designs to bring the whole of the Country under his sway. He brought to heel his Anglo-Norman mercenaries and adventurers and tried to ensure that they recognised that anything they had taken in Ireland was his to grant and not theirs by right of conquest. He arrived in Dublin in mid November and wintered over in Dublin. He stayed outside the walls and in a Palace made of wattles that was specially built by local craftsmen. There he celebrated Christmas in some style, entertaining his guests lavishly. This rustic Court served as his Royal seat of power for the duration of his stay in the City.

His most compelling reason for coming to Ireland when he did however was his implication in the Murder of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral and the wrath that came down upon him from the Papacy as a result. So Ireland was a politic place for him to be until the furore died down and he judged it safe to return. Though Henry probably meant to spend a few more months in Ireland events abroad meant that he had to cut short his stay here and return forthwith. The winter was a bad one and few ships reached Ireland that carried any news of worth. Sensing that somewhere in his patchwork quilt ‘Angevin Empire’ would require his attention before too long Henry left Dublin for Wexford in the month of March for the port of Wexford. It was there he received news that the Papal Legates awaited him in Normandy to demand explanations for his conduct. He thus departed from our shores on the Easter Sunday of 1172– never to return.

The king of the Saxons (namely, Henry, son of the Empress) went from Ireland on Easter Sunday [April 16th] after celebration of Mass.

The Annals of Ulster

Monday, 7 April 2014

7 April: 1973 - Death of the old Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid [above] . He was head of the Dublin Diocese from 1940 to 1972 and a man who ruled his fiefdom with an Iron Hand.

He was born in Cootehill, Co. Cavan, on 28 July 1895, to Dr. Eugene McQuaid and Jennie Corry. His mother died a week later and his father, a doctor, signed her death certificate. A little over a year later he married a woman named Agnes, who raised John and his sister Helen as her own. In his teens John learned that Agnes was not his real mother. Further children were born to Eugene and Agnes McQuaid.

Educated at Blackrock College and Clongowes, two of the top private Catholic schools in the Country, he went on to complete his University Education at UCD where he mastered on the Life of the Roman pagan philosopher Seneca. He then took up his studies for the priesthood and was was ordained at Kimmage in Dublin in 1924.

After a brief stay in Rome he returned to Ireland and was appointed to the staff of Blackrock College in 1925. He served as Dean of Studies from 1925–1931 and President of the College from 1931–1939. In this time he ran the school with a strict hand and encouraged the boys in Sport, Rugby in particular and also in classical studies.

However it was in his role as advisor to the President Eamon De Valera that he is best known for ensuring that a strong Catholic ethos was written into the new Irish Constitution of 1937, where the ‘Special Position’ of the Church was specifically recognised. Though recent commentators have pointed out that this had no actual legal meaning as such. It was removed from the Constitution in 1972 in a Referendum.

In 1940 McQuaid was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and from the start he had some overiding concerns. He wanted to ensure that the Church remained dominant in Irish Society and that a Catholic education was given to the children of the Diocese He also had great concerns about the widespread poverty in the city and encouraged acts of Charity towards the poor.

He was basically a typical Irish Archbishop in religiosity but with a lot more intelligence, drive and determination than most. His most controversial moment came in 1951 when he became embroiled in the legislation for a Bill that was before the Irish Parliament ( the Dail) that was known as the Mother & Child Scheme. McQuaid opposed it as giving more power to the State as against the Church. He was not the only one and the Irish Medical Organisation also rowed in against it for reasons of their own. The popular Minister of Health, Noel Browne, was forced to resign. But it proved a Pyrrhic Victory for the Church and for McQuaid in particular as public opinion slowly moved away from accepting the Church as the primary source of moral authority.

Further controversy dogged him in 1955 when he voiced opposition to the visit of the Communist soccer team from Yugoslavia (where in fairness Catholics were given a hard time) to Dublin yet over 20,000 people turned up to see them!

But Ireland was changing and even more so after 1960 when increased social prosperity brought into being new ways of thinking. The arrival of Television and foreign travel meant that people had a broader view of the World and its many and varied ways than heretofore.

It was though the opening of the Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1962 that put the cat amongst the pidgons as many of the Faithful saw hope for fundamental change in the strict and outdated modes of operation of the Church. McQuaid was deeply suspicious of change and made it pretty clear where he stood on the issue. He will always be remembered for his attempt to reassure his flock at the end of the Council that "No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives".

His eminent position in the decision making process of the Irish State became an increasing anachronism as the 1960's wore on. Politicians offering him public deference became a source of embarrassment and indeed anger to many voters, particularly in the upwardly mobile classes in South Dublin, where McQuaid lived himself.

He was a shy and reserved man who lived frugally and alone. He visited the sick in hospitals nearly every night and ensured that the Church’s works of Charity continued unabated. But these are now almost forgotten and his errors of judgement remembered.

Dr. McQuaid formally relinquished the government of the Archdiocese of Dublin when his successor was ordained Archbishop in February 1972.

‘On Saturday 7 April 1973 McQuaid was too ill to get up at his usual time of 6.30am to say Mass at his private residence in Killiney Co. Dublin. He was taken to Loughlinstown Hospital where he died within an hour. Shortly before his death he asked nurse Margaret O'Dowd if he had any chance of reaching heaven. She told him that if he as Archbishop could not get to heaven, few would. This answer appeared to satisfy him and he lay back on the pillow to await death. He died at about 11am. He is buried in St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.’

Saturday, 5 April 2014

5 April 1895: Oscar Wilde was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel, London, for homosexual offences with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the 8th Marquis of Queensbury. In Room 118 he was arrested after spending time with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, affectionately known as 'Bosie'. Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had suspected Wilde and his own son to be in an illicit relationship, and he challenged Wilde with a scribbled accusation of 'Somdomy' (sic).

Oscar Wilde knew that the arrest was coming, and ignored friends' pleas for him to flee the country. The Poet Laureate John Betjeman took up the tragic tale in his poem "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at The Cadogan Hotel":

A thump, and a murmur of voices--
(Oh, why must they make such a din?)
As the door of the bedroom swung open
"Mr. Woilde, we 'ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.

The Hotel is still a going concern and is situated on Sloane Street, the famous Belgravia thoroughfare connecting the well-heeled districts of Chelsea and Knightsbridge in the City of London.

Friday, 4 April 2014

April 4 1774: Oliver Goldsmith, Irish novelist, playwright and poet, died in London on this day. He was born in the Irish Midlands in about 1730 the son of an Anglican clergyman. At the age of eight he had a severe attack of smallpox which disfigured him for life. He studied Theology and Law at Trinity College in Dublin during the 1740s and eventually graduated from there as a Bachelor of Arts in 1749. While a student he picked up a taste for the good life of drinking, singing and playing cards. He spent some time studying Medicine in Edinburgh and in Leiden in the Austrian Netherlands but gave it up. He then drifted about and wandered on foot across Flanders, France, Switzerland and Northern Italy. He survived on his wits and ‘busked’ for a living when he could.

He settled in London in 1756 and started to earn an income by the pen. Necessity being the mother of invention he produced much low grade material but some gems too as he honed his art. His fortunate inclusion in ‘the Club’ of Samuel Johnson gave him an introduction to many of the City’s literati. He is pictured above [far right] in distinguished company with other of Dr Johnson's choice companions. Though Boswell depicted him as a ridiculous, blundering, but tender hearted and generous creature.

His most famous works are his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) a humorous melodrama and his short and ironic poem An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog of the same year ; his poem The Deserted Village (1770) a lament on a fictional Irish village in the Midlands and his play She Stoops to Conquer (1773) a comedy of manners, all made his name. He also turned out many works of lesser importance incl Histories and works on Philosophy which helped give him a lucrative income.
He was known as a very generous man but with extravagant tastes and when he died he owed £2,000 – a small fortune in those days. He had a close relationship with Mary Horneck, with whom he fell in love in 1769 but they never married. He died after a short illness in 1774 and was buried in the Church of St Mary or ‘The Temple’. His Latin Epitaph by Johnson was praise indeed:

Oliver Goldsmith: A Poet, Naturalist, and Historian, who left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn. Of all the passions, whether smiles were to move or tears, a powerful yet gentle master. In genius, vivid, versatile, sublime. In style, clear, elevated, elegant.

A statue of him stands outside the front doors of his old Alma Mater, Trinity College Dublin.




Thursday, 3 April 2014

3 April 1925: The amalgamation of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) with An Garda Síochána took place on this day.

The Capital’s own Police Force had been established under an Act of the British Parliament in 1836 and the force had become operational in January 1838. It was closely modelled on the London Metropolitan Police founded by Sir John Peel. 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. Its members were unarmed unless on specific duties and the individual members relied on their formidable physical strength to settle affairs on the street when necessary. Among the generally undersized citizenry of Dublin they certainly stood out as men not to be trifled with.

Things started to turn sour for the DMP in 1913 when there was serious labour unrest in Dublin. In a fight for Trade Union recognition the employers resorted to locking out the workers till they dropped their demand for the right to belong to one. The DMP as a result found itself involved in upholding the interests of the employers at the expense of the workers rights. Vicious street battles developed with the police involved in sometimes fatal baton charges, which lost them a lot of credibility and respect with the public. Of course the DMP men suffered too! Then the events of 1914, when the DMP and the British Army tried unsuccessfully to block the distribution of the weapons landed at Howth, further weakened their morale and general standing. Indeed as a result of this incident the Assistant Commissioner had to resign.

The outbreak of the Great War saw a considerable number of the men volunteer for war service from which, no doubt, a high proportion never returned. The Easter Rising of 1916 was yet another shock to its morale. By the time the War of Independence started in 1919 the force was at a low ebb, which the events of the next two and a half years did nothing to alleviate. By and large they escaped the deadly fate of so many of their counterparts in the RIC simply because of their unarmed status. So long as they turned a blind eye to the activities of the IRA then they were allowed to proceed with the enforcement of the civil law. Not so the men of the ‘ G ’ Division. They were armed and were tasked by the British with hunting down Republicans in the city. Michael Collins had his own answer to them: the men of ‘ the Squad ‘, a select group of gunmen who were given the job of eliminating especially dangerous opponents of the Republic in Dublin. In this they succeeded brilliantly, and effectively put a stop to the flow of intelligence to the British administration in Dublin Castle.

By the Summer of 1921 Irish recruitment to the DMP was at a standstill and the ranks had to be filled by taking on men from across the water, many of them British ex-servicemen. With the Truce of July 1921 the DMP was left hanging in the air, not knowing whether they would be kept on or swept aside in the impending change of government.

When the new Government took over they decided to retain the DMP at least temporarily as the only fully trained Police Force in the State. In Irish the Force was known as Políní Átha Cliath and cap badges were issued to reflect this.

In 1923 Major General W.R.E. Murphy DSO, MC [above]was appointed to command as Chief Commissioner and he was able to instil a sense of purpose back into the Force. He had numerous difficulties to contend with both internal and external. Many of the men wished to retire and Jim Larkin had returned from America and organised a series of Strikes across the City. On the other hand Murphy was instrumental in ensuring that Frank Duff’s efforts to shut down the notorious Red Light district known as the Monto succeeded. In sport the DMP continued to enjoy great success their crowning glory being winning the World Tug of War Championship in London in 1924.

However Kevin O’Higgins had decided that two police forces in one State was one too many and in 1925 the DMP was amalgamated into the Garda Siochana. Murphy became a Deputy Commissioner of the Garda under General O’Duffy with whom he had served in the Irish Civil war. Thus after a run of 87 years Dublin’s own Police Force and its formidable Constables came to be seen no more on the streets of the Fair City.




Wednesday, 2 April 2014

2 April 1914: The Foundation of Cumann na Ban on this day.  It was formed to organise the Women of Ireland to help in the fight for Ireland’s Freedom. Its first ‘official’ meeting was in Wynn’s Hotel, Dublin [above]. Agnes O’Farrelly was its first president and Mary Colum was one of its first organisers. The initial provisional committee consisted of O’Farrelly, Agnes MacNeill, Nancy O’Rahilly, Mary Colum, Jennie Wyse-Power, Louise Gavan-Duffy, Maire Tuohy and Maureen MacDonagh O’Mahoney. Its primary appeal was to women who could give time to the establishment of the organisation, women who did not need to work, but soon most were women who worked for a living—influenced by suffrage and labour issues.

Although it had its own command structures, the Cumann as a whole was subordinate to the Volunteers. Most early members were wives, girlfriends or sisters of male nationalists whose interest in the success of the Rising was due to their family ties to it. The women of Cumann na mBan used their unique position to increase the visibility of Irish women in the struggle for independence.

Following the split between John Redmond’s National Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers, the Cumann na mBan convention of November 1914 voted to support the minority Irish Volunteers led by Eoin MacNeill. Cumann na mBan issued a statement in the Irish Volunteer: ‘We came into being to advance the cause of Irish liberty . . . We feel bound to make the pronouncement that to urge or encourage Irish Volunteers to enlist in the British Army cannot, under any circumstances, be regarded as consistent with the work we have set ourselves to do.’

In 1916 there were three branches in Dublin: central, with headquarters at 25 Parnell Square; Inghinidhe na nÉireann, based at 6 Harcourt Street; and Columcill in Blackhall Place. In contrast with other organisations, the Cumann na mBan preserved its position after the Rising and it is probably because of its existence that the struggle for independence continued. The commitment of women before, during and after the Rising helped to bring the Irish nation to support the separatist movement. The widows of those executed in Kilmainham Gaol after the Rising did more to draw attention to the independence movement than any other group. The widows and female relatives of the executed and captives filled the voids in leadership and ensured that Irish independence did not die with their loved ones.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

1 April 1129: The death of Cellach mac Aeda on this day. This famed and holy man was the Bishop of Armagh. His status as head of the Irish Church had been recognised at the Synod of Rathbressail in the year 1111. He was born in the year 1080 and was an advocate of reform in the Irish Church to put it on a more formal and set lines that matched similar moves on the Continent.

While on a visit to Munster (Mumu) he took ill and died at the religious settlement of Ard Patrick near Limerick, possibly at the monastic settlement there whose ruins are still just about visible. He was buried at his own request at Lismore. Shortly before he died he designated the future Saint Malachy as his successor. However his protégé was to be frustrated in his attempts to secure the see of Armagh by Muirchertach mac Domnall who installed himself at Armagh before Malachy could get there. The situation was only resolved in 1134 after much political and ecclesiastical power politics had been played out.
Cellach, successor of Patrick, a virgin and the chief bishop of western Europe, and the only head whom Irish and foreigners, lay and clergy, obeyed, having ordained bishops and priests and all kinds of cleric also, and having consecrated many churches and churchyards, having bestowed goods and valuables, having exhorted all, both laity and clergy, to uprightness and good conduct, after a life of saying the hours, saying mass, fasting, prayer, after being anointed and having made excellent repentance, sent forth his soul to the bosom of angels and archangels in Ard Pátraic in Mumu on Monday, the Kalends 1st of April, the twenty-fourth year of his abbacy and the fiftieth year of his age. His body was brought on the third of the Nones 3rd of April to Lis Mór of Mo-Chutu in accordance with his own testament, and was waked with psalms and hymns and canticles, and buried with honour in the burial-ground of the bishops, on the day before the nones 4th of April, that is, Thursday. Muirchertach son of Domnall was appointed to the successorship of Patrick on the Nones 5th of April.

Annals of Ulster