Thursday, 30 April 2015

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 DMP ‘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.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

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

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


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.

They never saw Ireland again for within a year Ruairi O’Donnell was dead of the fever, and Aodh O’Neill died at an advanced age in the Holy City in 1616. Their remains are still interred in the Church of San Pietro in Montorio on the hill of Janiculum, the traditional site of the Martydom of Saint Peter.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

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.

Monday, 27 April 2015

27 April 1953: Maud Gonne McBride died on this day in Dublin City. She was born in England in 1866 and was the eldest daughter of Captain Thomas Gonne of the 17th Lancers and his wife Edith Frith Gonne. Maud’s mother Edith died from tuberculosis when she was 4 years old, and from then on she and her sister Kathleen were mostly reared by governesses. When she was 16 her father was posted to Ireland and the family settled in Kildare.

Following the death of her father, she divided her time between France and Ireland. During this time she met and fell in love with the right wing politician and journalist Lucien Millevoye. She soon became his mistress. They had two children, one of whom died a child. The relationship ended and Maud returned to Ireland. Here she became the centre of attention of WB Yeats but she spurned his proposals of marraige. How intimate they became is a mysterey though.


After the Boer war she married Major John McBride (who had fought with the Boers against the British) and with whom she had a son - Sean McBride, who later was to be an IRA Chief of Staff and then a Cabinet Minister in the Irish Cabinet Minister. They soon split and Maud threw herself into working to secure Ireland’s Freedom from British rule. At 6 foot tall, with masses of auburn hair and fiery eyes, she was considered majestically beautiful and would spend her life fighting tirelessly for the cause of Irish Independence.

She fought evicitions and helped in organizing committes to feed the poorer children of Dublin. Maud was in France during the Easter Rising of April 1916. Her former husband was one of the leaders, and was executed for his involvement. Maud returned to Ireland in 1917, started to use her husband’s name and insisted on wearing black for many years.

Following her release Maud continued her public life. During the War of Independence she was instrumental in publicizing atrocities carried out by the English forces. She worked for the White Cross supplying financial relief to the families of victims of violence.

She was against the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, but as a loyal supporter of Arthur Griffith, who supported the treaty, she remained uncharacteristically quiet on the subject. Following his death in 1922, her position hardened, particularly as she disliked William Cosgrave’s Free State government.

As Civil War broke out in 1922, she founded the Women’s Prisoners’ Defence league with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Charlotte Despard “for the help, comfort and release of” Republican prisoners. The organization of “mothers” as Maud called them, was banned a year later. The group also introduced the lily as a symbol of the Rising of Easter 1916. The lily is still used today to remember the rebellion and those that died.

In the years that followed the Civil War, Maud continued to support the Republican side and maintained her efforts on behalf of political prisoners. She did not stop her agitation until Eamon De Valera began to release prisoners on his accession to power in 1932.

In 1938 she published her autobiography A Servant of the Queen, a vivid account of her life until her marriage. She outlived all her old friends and comrades and, in her old age, described herself as “a prisoner of old age, waiting for release”. She died on the 27th of April 1953, aged 87, and is buried in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

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 as 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 Sinn 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


Saturday, 25 April 2015

25 April 1915: Irish regiments of the British Army took part in the landings at Gallipoli on this day. They were part of an Expeditionary Force sent to seize the straits of the Dardanelles from the Ottoman Empire that if successful would allow free passage to the Allied navies through the straits and onto Constantinople, the capital of Turkey at that time.

However by the time the assaults were launched all surprise had been lost and the Turks were ready to repel any attempt to seize the Gallipoli peninsula. Irish troops of the 29th Division participated in the landings at Helles Beach on the southern tip of Gallipoli.

Troops of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Munster Fusiliers of the 29th Division took part in the landings at Gallipoli. Embarking from the steamer the River Clyde [above] hundreds of Irishmen were lost in the attempt to get ashore in the face of devastating fire from the Turkish defenders.

The British 29th Division had orders to land at the southern tip of the Dardanelles peninsula, at Cape Helles. The landing place named V Beach in the plan of operations was where the Irish were to come ashore. It proved to be an extremely unsuitable landing place. It was covered by Turkish positions in the village of Sedd-el-Bahr and more importantly by the fort of the same name. There were defensive positions with machine gun emplacements and snipers could decimate troops landing from the sea. The British plan of attack was first a naval bombardment of the Turkish positions around Sedd-el-Bahr, followed by a landing of troops. The naval bombardment failed to destroy the Turkish defences before the troops landed.

The night before the attack on the 25th of April, none of the men could sleep on board the Clyde through fear and apprehension. Cocoa was issued all round. At 0500 hours, the navy began their bombardment of the Turkish positions around the village of Sedd-el-Bahr. Before the Dublins and Munsters approached the beaches, their Brigade Commander addressed his men saying, ‘Fusiliers, our brigade has the honour of the first to land.’

At 06.25, the naval bombardment stopped and the skipper of the Clyde, Commander Unwin, ran her aground on the beach just under the ancient Fort at Sedd-el-Bahr. The section of the beach assigned to the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers was called 'V' Beach.

The SS River Clyde was a 4,000 ton converted collier. On the bows were fitted eleven machine guns. Sally ports had been cut in the hull to allow the men to embark via gangways. The ship held 2,000 men; the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers plus two companies of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment (from the 88th Brigade) and one company of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

The tows containing amongst others the Dubliners had gone in at 6 am. All appeared lifeless following the bombardment. As the boats were about to land, the Ottoman defenders opened up, laying down a withering fire. The guns in the fort and castle of Sedd el Bahr enfiladed the beach, slaughtering the men in the boats. As they came down the gangways they continued to be mown down. A few made it ashore and sought shelter under a sand bank at the edge of the beach where they remained, pinned down. Out of the 700 men who went in, only 300 survived, many of whom were wounded.

The River Clyde followed closely behind the tows. To connect the collier to the shore, a steam hopper, the Argyll, was to beach ahead of it, providing a bridge. However, the Argyll ended up broadside to the beach, out of touch with the River Clyde. The captain of the River Clyde, Commander Edward Unwin, led men outside to manhandle three lighters (transport boats) into place and so a bridge was formed. Two companies of Munsters emerged from the sally ports and tried to reach the shore but were cut to pieces, suffering 70% casualties. Around 9 am another company made an attempt which also failed.

A third attempt to get ashore from the River Clyde by a company of Hampshires who were likewise killed. The leader of the main force, Brigadier General Napier made an attempt to lead his force ashore and was also killed. Finally, at 10.21 am, General Hamilton, who had been watching the landing from the HMS Queen Elizabeth instructed Hunter-Weston to land the main force at W Beach. The 1,000 men remaining aboard the River Clyde waited until nightfall before making another attempt to land.

Tim Buckley, a Munster Fusilier from Macroom in Co. Cork, described the utter panic the men suffered in those few moments waiting to get down the gangway onto the cover of the barge pontoons. He wrote,

When my turn came I was wiser than my comrades. The moment I stood on the gangway, I jumped over the rope and on to the pontoon. Two more did the same, and I was already flat on the bridge. Those two chaps were at each side of me, but not for long, as the shrapnel was bursting all around. I was talking to the chap on my left when I saw a lump of lead enter his temple. I turned to the chap on my right, his name was Fitzgerald from Cork, but soon he was over the border. The one piece of shrapnel had done the job for two of them.

Some 115,000 men from the then United Kingdom of Britain & Ireland and from the Commonwealth countries Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC)were killed or wounded in the Gallipoli campaign. Many thousands of Irish born and the sons of those who emigrated also served in the ANZAC forces who fought on the beaches that day and in the rest of the campaign.While it is difficult to pinpoint exact numbers it would appear about 4,000 of those who died were men who were originally from Ireland, with perhaps another 10 or 12,000 wounded.

The campaign was to sputter on until January 1915 when the Allies withdrew under cover of darkness leaving the field to the Turks.


Friday, 24 April 2015

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 - CS 1066 + AT+ AFM 1066 + AC 1065.

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. It is 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 Conqueror 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!!!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

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, 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.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

21 April 1509: The death of King Henry VII of England on this day. King Henry also held the title ‘Lord of Ireland’. This Country proved something of 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.

A 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.

So 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 skipped beyond his grasp.

Monday, 20 April 2015

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.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

19 April 1741: In a letter to Dr. Thomas Prior, Dublin, the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr. George Berkeley, 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.

‘The Year of Slaughter’ (Bliadhain an Air) was one of the most tragic events in post-medieval Irish history

Saturday, 18 April 2015

18 April 1939: Ishbel Maria Gordon, Lady Aberdeen (1857-1939) died on this day. Her husband Lord Aberdeen held the Viceroyalty of Ireland in 1886 and again from 1906 to 1915.

Born Ishbel (Gaelic for Isabel) Maria Marjoribanks, she was the third daughter of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth and Isabella Weir-Hogg (daughter of Sir James Weir Hogg). On 7 November 1877 she married the Liberal politician the 7th Earl of Aberdeen (later the 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair), in St. George's Church, St. George Street, Hanover Square, London.

Both were fervent Home Rulers, and they were aware of the imbalance between urban poverty and the new rural prosperity. Lady Aberdeen founded the Women's National Health Association which established playgrounds in the Dublin slums and a depot to supply milk to the city's sick children. The Association, also opened sanatoriums and organised exhibitions, which travelled round Ireland as part of an intensive campaign against tuberculosis.

The Aberdeens were keen to see the revitalisation of Dublin's inner city and they twice brought a Town Planning Exhibition to Dublin and organised a civic exhibition attended by all municipal and local authorities. Although well intentioned, the new town plan was never implemented. Lady Aberdeen, later wrote:

'If we could have persuaded some of the Cabinet Ministers to come across to see things for themselves, the result might have been different ... To turn from rural to the urban districts of Ireland would have surely convinced [them] that the housing conditions of the cities and towns of Ireland remained a blot and a menace, culminating in Dublin ... '

A keen feminist, she did not endear herself to the social establishment by her efforts to promote women's rights, democratic attitudes, and religious and ethnic tolerance. She caused a social scandal while in Canada when she joined her servants to take high tea. The Aberdeens were given a huge farewell on their departure from Ireland in 1915.

Lady Aberdeen was president of the International Council of Women for thirty-six years (1893–1936) and the National Council of Women of Canada for six years (1893–1899). When her husband was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, she took up the fight against tuberculosis, starting the Woman's National Health Association.

'The Earl and Countess of Aberdeen had a greater impact on Dublin society than any Vice Regal couple since the Clarendons - but for very different reasons. They inspired some affection and a great deal of ridicule in the nine years that they spent in Vice-Regal Lodge. There was something faintly ridiculous about their appearance, described by Leon O'Broin as:

"he bearded and small and polite, she disproportionately large, matronly and masterful."

Lady Aberdeen had a genius for getting things a little wrong, for meddling in matters that had nothing whatsoever to do with her and for an apparent inability to recognise rebuff....

However all recognised that she had a heart of Gold and a string dislike of Injustice in this World. If she had faults they were far outweighed by her qualities of organising and basically cajoling the powers that be to improve the lot of the ordinary people.

However while very well meaning the good Lady was not the most tactful of people in all situations:

Dining in Dublin Castle, at the time of Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, [?] she remarked to Lord Chief Justice Morris:

"I suppose everyone but yourself is a Home Ruler here tonight."

"Not at all, Your Excellency", he replied frostily. "Barring yourself and the waiters there's not a Home Ruler in the room."

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Áras an Uachtaráin

Friday, 17 April 2015

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 [above] 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.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

16 April 1172: The King of England 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 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


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

15/16 April 1941: The Luftwaffe Bombed Belfast on this night. The city’s first major attack of War was on Easter Tuesday night, 15-16 April. An estimated 180 aircraft participated in the assault, which lasted for five and a half hours (11:30 pm–4:55 am). Bombs fell on average at a rate of two per minute. There was virtually no resistance from the ground. Due to blast damage to the city’s telephone exchange the anti-aircraft guns fell silent from 1:45 am onwards. By the time of the “all clear” it had to be rung by hand-bells because of a power failure.

An Observer from Dublin, Major Sean O’Sullivan noted that:

In the Antrim Road [North Belfast] and vicinity the attack was of a particularly concentrated character and in many instances bombs from successive waves of bombers fell within 15-20 yards of one another … In this general area, scores of houses were completely wrecked, either by explosion, fire or blast, while hundreds were damaged so badly as to be uninhabitable … In suburban areas, many were allowed to burn themselves out and during the day wooden beams were still burning … During the night of 16-17, many of these smouldering fires broke out afresh and fire appliances could be heard passing throughout the night…

The Air Raid killed some 745 people, injured 1,500 and destroyed about 1,600 houses with many more damaged to a greater or lesser extent. It was the bloodiest day of violence in Modern Irish History.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

14 April 1794 General Arthur Dillon, a French soldier of Irish descent, was guillotined in Paris on this day. The Dillon family were amongst the most famous of the ‘Wild Geese’ who served in the armies of France in the 17th and 18th Centuries. He was born in 1750 and had a distinguished military career, seeing action in the West Indies and in the American Revolutionary War. He was briefly Governor of the Caribbean island of St Kitts and also of Tobago. He was the representative of the island of Martinique in the National Assembly.

In June 1792 he received command of the Army of the North but fell into political disfavour with the Jacobins and was reduced to a subordinate position where he distinguished himself. However he compromised his security by offering the Austrians a chance to withdraw unhindered and was arrested and imprisoned. He was eventually accused of being involved in a plot behind bars called the Luxembourg Prison Plot. He was executed with 20 others including his intimate friends Lucile Desmoulines and her husband. He was twice married and had two daughters. His daughter Fanny married General Bertrand and was with Napoleon on Elba and St Helena.

Monday, 13 April 2015

13 April 1742: George Frederic Handel conducted the first performance of his Messiah, in the New Music Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin on this day.

In the late summer of the year 1741 the Duke of Devonshire, the Viceroy of Ireland, invited Handel to Dublin. Moreover, the Governors of Mercer's Hospital, and of the Charitable Infirmary, had asked Handel to compose something special in aid of the Dublin sick. This special work, the immortal Messiah, was finished by Handel on September 14th, 1741, having been written in three weeks--a marvellous tour de force. On November 18th, 1741, Handel arrived in Dublin and spent the Winter in giving performances in the City and working on drafts of Messiah. He took a house in Abbey Street near Liffey Street where he received visitors.

Handel's first concert was on December 23rd, consisting of L'Allegro, with two concertos for several instruments, and a concerto on the organ. But it had become known that Handel was planning something special to mark his Season in Dublin and expectation grew that it would be a musical event of great importance. An open air Rehearsal Concert some days prior to the formal opening drew large crowds and was met with open approval.

In apprehension of overcrowding at the performance, posted The Dublin Journal on this day the following notice:

The Stewards of the Charitable Music Society request the Favour of the Ladies not to come with Hoops this Day to the Musick-Hall in Fishamble Street: The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords.

In its Edition of 17 April 1742 the publication wrote that:

On Tuesday last Mr. Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, the MESSIAH, was performed at the New Musick-Hall in Fishamble-street; the best Judges have allowed it to be the most finished piece of Musick. Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight it afforded to the admiring, crowded audience. The Sublime, Grand and Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words conspired to transport and charm the ravished heart and ear. It is but Justice to Mr. Handel that the World should know, he generously gave the money arising from this grand performance, to be equally shared by the Society for relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary and Mercer’s Hospital...

This great opening Performance was carried out with the help of the choirs from St. Patrick's and Christ Church. The £400 proceeds were given to Mercer's Hospital, the Charitable Infirmary and for the relief of prisoners.

Handel spent the rest of the Summer giving repeat performances of his many works including the Messiah. He also spent some time in the City of Cork. He left Ireland on Friday, August 13th, never to return but his time here marked one of the highest points of his later career as a Musician. He died in London in 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived.
I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

12/13 April 1928: The Bremen became the first aircraft to make the East – West crossing of the Atlantic. The crew was Colonel James Fitzmaurice, Captain Kohl (Pilot), and Baron von Heunfeld (Owner). They departed from Baldonnel Airfield outside Dublin City and then flew all the way non stop to Greenly Island, Newfoundland.

Fitzmaurice was chosen probably because of his experience and his position of Commanding Officer at Baldonnel. Von Hunefeld later wrote:

The welcome given to us by the Irish military and civil authorities was most hearty. We were made guests of the Irish Air Corps and soon it was settled between Koehl and me to invite Commandant Fitzmaurice to accompany us as second pilot on our flight to North America. And so our 'German-Irish Crew' as we came to call it was formed and none of us ever regretted the pact which proved itself so trustworthy in the course of extreme danger.

The aircraft to be used was a Junkers W.33 named Bremen. It carried 520 gallons of petrol, enough for forty-four hours in the air. Fully loaded the plane weighed 5 tons.

Fitzmaurice took every opportunity to acquaint himself with the Bremen and many trial runs were undertaken. The big take-off was delayed because of bad weather but following a favourable North Atlantic weather report Thursday 12th April was set as the date for the Bremen's departure. When news of the intended departure got out, thousands of people made their way from Dublin out to Baldonnel to wish the flyers well and to see the historic take-off.

Michael Burgess, a Garda on duty there that day recalled that the crowd were "very excited but well behaved, many of them had Rosary beads, and some of them were shaking holy water at the plane and its crew.

The huge crowd of sightseers cheered as the Bremen took off.

There they had to make a forced landing after a flight of 2,300 miles in just over 36 hours. Though they made a perfect landing it proved impossible to restart the plane due to propeller damage and the fact that it had landed on a thin crust of ice on a on a shallow, ice-covered, water reservoir.

They enjoyed a hero’s welcome in the USA & Canada and undertook a two month tour across North America before returning across the Atlantic by ship, landing at Bremen. There they under took more engagements and in July the three flyers came back to Ireland where the names of the three flyers were added to the "Roll of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin".

James Fitzmaurice was born in Dublin on January 6th, 1898. His father was a prison officer and the family moved to Portlaoise when James was five years old. His nickname was 'Fitz'. While growing up, he became interested in the idea of flight and he spent a lot of time in Aldritt's garage trying to build an airplane. His first attempt crash-landed in a field. He joined the British Army and fought in the Battle of the Somme in World War I. He then joined the RAF but resigned in 1921 to take up a position in the Irish Free State’s Air Corps. He eventually became its Officer-in-command before he was offered the chance of a Lifetime to partake in this historic flight.

The flight of the Bremen across the Atlantic Ocean remains one of the greatest feats in Aviation History.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

11 April 1951: Dr. Noel Browne resigned from John A. Costello’s Coalition Government as Minister of Health on this day. It was seminal moment in Modern Irish Politics. To many people it looked like the Catholic Church was dictating Government policy from the outside.

Browne had been elected a TD in 1948 and was appointed the Minister of Health on his first day in the House. Given his medical background and his work in sanatoriums both in Ireland and England he was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was a survivor of TB himself – a disease of the lungs that had claimed both his parents. Though the previous Government had already laid much of the groundwork it was Browne who provided the drive and energy to ensure that the job of eradicating the disease as a killer of thousands of Irish people every year was properly carried out. The late 1940s also saw the availability of powerful new drugs that could save many sufferers from death. Never a man to worry too much about trodden toes and ruffled feathers he brought a single-minded determinism to the problem that got results.

But while he had many qualities Browne also had quite a few faults especially as a Party colleague. He was not a good team player and not a master of the art of compromise. He alienated many of his fellow members of the Cabinet including his Party Leader Sean McBride of Clann na Poblachta. His Nemesis was his mishandling of the controversial ‘Mother and Child’ scheme which was intended to provide State support for mothers and children. This raised the hackles of many within the Catholic Hierarchy and the powerful Irish Medical Association. Many of them saw it as undermining their power and influence though quite a few were sympathetic to the general trust of the proposed Legislation if it was done right to their eyes. However Browne’s hamfisted attempts to influence the Church and Archbishop Charles McQuaid in particular backfired. When he turned to his colleagues at the Cabinet table for support little or none was forthcoming and he felt he was being hung out to dry.

Browne’s resignation was a huge embarrassment to the Government as he was very popular his record of getting results in the improvement of the Public Health could hardly be questioned. Whatever about the niceties or otherwise of the political infighting involved there is no doubt that Browne won the battle with the hearts and minds of the Irish People on this one. Though Costello’s First Coalition did not fall over this controversy its authority was severely weakened and it fell the following month over of all things the price to be placed on a bottle of milk!

Friday, 10 April 2015

10 April 1981: The IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands was deemed elected to the British House of Commons on this day. When the votes were counted it emerged that he had gained over 30,000 votes with over 52% of the vote in the by-election compared to 49% for the candidate of the Official Unionist party, Harry West. It was a straight fight between the two men with most political experts not rating Sands chances very high of being elected. Most analysis completely underestimated the strength of feeling within the Nationalist Community over what was happening in the H Blocks. Sands election though was met with consternation, anger and almost disbelief by the Unionists and within both the British and Irish Establishments.

His election was a huge boost to himself and his comrades within Long Kesh as he led the Hunger Strike to secure Political Status from the British. News teams from around the World covered this story and the unfolding drama within the H Blocks moved from being National to International News.

Bobby Sands' election agent, Owen Carron, said when interviewed that day that the British Government had been sent a message.

The nationalist people have voted against Unionism and against the H blocks. It is time Britain got out of Ireland and put an end to the torture of this country.
It was hoped that such an emphatic Election Victory would force Mrs Thatcher to arrange a compromise that would allow for an honourable settlement and avoid the embarrassment of an MP dying on Hunger Strike while the World looked on. But this challenge to her authority only strengthened her resolve not to be seen to back down to people she viewed as dangerous enemies. Bobby Sands died on 5 May on the 66th day of his Hunger Strike.



Wednesday, 8 April 2015

8 April 1886: British Prime Minister William Gladstone introduced the 1st Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons on this day. He did so with the intent of giving Ireland a limited control of her own internal affairs. His intention was to prove to the House that since the Act of Union in 1800 all efforts to govern Ireland through the Parliament at Westminster had failed, and to propose for that reason a system of governing her through a legislative body sitting in Dublin.

In a long and winding speech he outlined the historical background to Ireland’s grievances and the attempts by the Crown to suppress Discontent. All concessions had failed to satisfy the Irish and the reason was that they wished to govern their own affairs. He proposed a limited form of self Government or ‘Home Rule’ to resolve the issue.

Law is discredited in Ireland, and discredited in Ireland upon this ground especially—that it comes to the people of that country with a foreign accent, and in a foreign garb….

These Coercion Bills of ours…are stiffly resisted by the Members who represent Ireland in Parliament.

The case of Ireland, though she is represented here not less fully than England and Scotland, is not the same as that of England and Scotland….The consequence is that the mainspring of law in England is felt by the people to be English; the mainspring of law in Scotland is felt by the people to be Scotch; but the mainspring of law in Ireland is not felt by the people to be Irish.

Gladstone however was determined that any devolution of political power to an Irish Legislature:

Everything that relates to the Crown—Succession, Prerogatives, and the mode of administering powers during incapacity, Regency, and, in fact, all that belongs to the Crown. The next would be all that belongs to defence--the Army, the Navy, the entire organisations of armed force. I do not say the Police Force, which I will touch upon by-and-by, but everything belonging to defence. And the third would be the entire subject of Foreign and Colonial relations. Those are the subjects most properly Imperial, and I will say belonging, as a principle, to the Legislature established under the Act of Union and sitting at Westminster.

While he ruled out a separate Parliament for the North he stated that:

We propose to provide that the Legislative Body should not be competent to pass a law for the establishment or the endowment of any particular religion.

He concluded with the lofty words:

The best and surest foundation we can find to build upon is the foundation afforded by the affections, the convictions, and the will of the nation; and it is thus, by the decree of the Almighty, that we may be enabled to secure at once the social peace, the fame, the power, and the permanence of the Empire.

But for all Gladstone’s fine words his attempt to accommodate Ireland’s claim to legislate for her own affairs was to result in a political fiasco and the downfall of his own Government. Two months later to the day the Home Rule Bill was defeated in the Commons by 341 votes to 311. The Parliament was quickly dissolved, and elections were held in early July. Gladstone’s hopes were dashed—the Liberals won 191 seats, the Home Rulers won 85 but the Tories and Liberal Unionists won 317. With his very comfortable majority, Lord Salisbury formed a government, which remained in power until 1892.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

7 April: 1973 - John Charles McQuaid [above], the old Archbishop of Dublin, died on this day . 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.’

Sunday, 5 April 2015


5 April 1895: Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish playwright, was arrested in Room 118 of the Cadogan Hotel, London on this day. He was to be charged with having a homosexual relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (son of the 8th Marquis of Queensbury), 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.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

4 April 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. 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 Philosphy which helped give him a lucrative income.

He was known as a very generous man but with extravagent 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 [above].

Friday, 3 April 2015

3 April 1925: The end of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) on this day as they amalgamated with An Garda Síochána .

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 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.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim on this day. William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim was born in Dublin 1806. He had a successful career as an Officer in the British Army. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded him as 3rd Earl and he retired from the Military in 1855. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants. He personally took on many of the legal cases of Eviction against his tenants and was a very hard taskmaster. His oppression of his tenants and his rumoured seduction of some of the local girls made him a marked man in the eyes of many of the local people. He had already survived a number of attempts on his life before his luck ran out.

He was finally shot dead in an ambush at Cratlagh Wood while making his way to Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. His clerk and driver were killed along with him so there would be no witnesses.

It was reported that there was:

an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants was shot through the mouth.

Manchester Guardian, April 4 1878

His assassins, Michael Hegarty, Michael McElwee and Neil Shields all escaped prosecution by the British - even though it was generally well knows who they were. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.

The Earl’s remains were conveyed to Dublin for burial in the family vault of St Michan’s Church where they can be viewed to this day [above].