Tuesday, 29 September 2015

29 September 1979: Pope John Paul II began his visit to Ireland on this day. Ireland was the third pilgrimage of his Pontificate. The Holy Father's first visit was to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas, his second visit was to Poland and his third visit was to Ireland and the United States.

During his 1979 pilgrimage to Ireland, Pope John Paul undertook a hectic schedule travelling the country in order to greet the faithful in the four provinces of Ireland. Over the three days the Holy Father addressed large crowds in Dublin, Drogheda, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Knock, Maynooth and Limerick.

On that first day, September 29th, in the Phoenix Park, he met over one million people, the largest gathering of Irish people in history. He told the people why he felt called to visit Ireland and the Irish. He reminded them how St Patrick heard the “voice of the Irish” and came back to Ireland.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, Like St. Patrick, I too have heard “the voice of the Irish” calling to me, and so I have come to you, to all of you in Ireland. From the very beginning of it’s faith, Ireland has been linked with the Apostolic Sea of Rome. The early records attest that your first bishop, Palladius, was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine; and that Patrick, who succeeded Paladius, was “confirmed in the faith” by Pope Leo the Great.

Your people have spread this love for the Catholic Church everywhere they went, in every century of your history. This has been done by the earliest monks and the missionaries of Europe’s Dark Ages, by the refugees from persecution, by the exiles and by the missionaries men and women of the last century and this one.

Monday, 28 September 2015

28 September 1912: 'Ulster Day' The signing of the Solemn League and Covenant on this day. It was signed by the Loyalist men and the women signed a similar Declaration. It was taken by some 500,000 Ulster Unionists in protest against the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill by the British Parliament. Sir Edward Carson was the first person to sign as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

This public avowal of repudiation of the terms of the Bill alerted the political establishments in both Britain and Ireland that a major Constitutional Crises was brewing that would split Nations and Parties apart.

237,368 men signed it and 234,046 women signed a parallel declaration.

The Covenant ran as follows:

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.

And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.
However the key words within that were to have such fraught consequences were 'using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland.'

This opened the way for the importation of arms into Ireland, firstly for the Ulster Unionists and later by Irish Nationalists. The introduction of the concept of armed force to settle political affairs was to have terrible repercussions that has lasted right up until modern times in Ireland.

Friday, 25 September 2015

25 September 1917: Thomas Ashe died on this day. It was the 5th day of his Hunger Strike to secure Political Status for Republican prisoners. Born in Co Kerry in 1885 he was a member of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers. He took part in the Easter Rising in 1916 and led a column that successfully engaged the Crown Forces at the Battle of Ashbourne, Co Meath that week. He was sentenced to death in the aftermath but his life was spared as public indignation rose over the executions.

Released from captivity in June the following year he was in August 1917 arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford. He was detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including Austin Stack demanded prisoner of war status.

Ashe went on hunger strike on 20 September1917. He died at the Mater Hospital, Dublin after being force-fed by prison authorities. At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the "inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct". His death through being forced fed elicited widespread revulsion amongst the Irish people and his funeral acted as a catalyst to the further growth of the Sinn Fein Party and Republican ideals.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

24 September 1798: The Irish Patriot Bartholomew Teeling was hanged at Arbour Hill Prison Dublin on this day. A United Irishman he was the son of wealthy linen merchant from Lisburn, County Antrim. He travelled to France with Theobald Wolfe Tone in 1796 and in August 1798 he accompanied the French General Joseph Humbert on his Expedition to Ireland.

On 5 September at the battle of Carricknagat, outside of Collooney, Co Sligo, he displayed great bravery and helped to win the battle by riding directly up to a British cannon, which had been raking their lines and killing the gunner with his pistol. He was captured in the aftermath of the battle of Ballinamuck, along with Matthew Tone, Wolfe Tone’s brother. They were both executed on the same day and are buried in the Patriots Plot aka The Croppies Acre in front of the National Museum (formally Collins Barracks) at Benburb St, Dublin.

His final testimony ran as follows:

Fellow-citizens, I have been condemned by a military tribunal to suffer what they call an ignominious death, but what appears, from the number of its illustrious victims, to be glorious in the highest degree. It is not in the power of men to abase virtue nor the man who dies for it. His death must be glorious in the field of battle or on the scaffold.
A monument to his brave deeds - the Teeling Monument [above] - was erected in his honour on the centenary of 1798 Rising at Collooney, County Sligo.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

23 September 704 AD: The death of St Adhamhnán on this day. He passed away on the little island of Iona [above] off the western Scottish coast. He was one of the greatest scholars of his time and a member of the same family group as the founder of the monastic site, St Columba himself, as both were descended from the powerful Northern Uí Néill dynasty.

He became the 9th Abbot of Iona in 679 AD. He was involved in both religious and political affairs in Scotland, Ireland and in the English kingdom of Northumbria. In the year 687 he secured the release of some 60 important Irish prisoners being held by the Northumbrian King Aldfrith. Ten years later in 697 AD he was the chief instigator and author of Cáin Adomnáin (Law of Adhamhnán) also known as the Lex Innocentium (Law of Innocents) that was promulgated amongst a gathering of Irish, Dal Ríatan and Pictish notables at the Synod of Birr, Co Offaly. This set of laws were designed, among other things, to guarantee the safety and immunity of various types of non-combatants in War.

He is best known though as the biographer of St Columba in the Vita Columba, a hagiography based on the stories on the Saints' life passed down from those who knew him. This work is one of the most important religious and political sources for Ireland and Scotland that we have and is still extant. Adhamhnán also wrote poetry as well as a work called De Locus Sanctis, which was a study on the Christian Holy Places of Pilgrimage in Palestine.

Adamnán, abbot of Í, rests in the 77th year of his age.
Annals of Ulster 704 AD

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

22 September 1920: The Rineen Ambush on this day. The 4th Battalion of the Clare IRA under Commandant O’Neill ambushed a party of Black and Tans and killed six of them without loss to themselves. They then had a lucky escape as quite unexpectedly a large party of British Military arrived on the scene by chance but in the confusion all the men of the ambush party successfully got away. Men from the ambush part are pictured above on the anniversary of the encounter in 1957.

On September 22, 1920, one of the most remarkable encounters of the War of Independence took place at Dromin Hill, Rineen. The purpose of the act was to get revenge for the murder of Martin Devitt, an Irish soldier who was shot dead in an ambush in February of that year in the locality. A secondary function was to get arms for the poorly equipped volunteers in the area.

Men from several battalions took part in the ambush. The companies in question were Ennistymon, Lahinch, Inagh, Moy, Glendline, Miltown Malbay and Letterkelly. Most of these, however, were unarmed because of the lack of ammunition. The entire lot of arms consisted of 60 rounds of ammunition, eight rifles, two bombs, two revolvers and 16 shotguns.

All the RIC men in the tender were killed. The RIC men killed were an RIC Sergeant (Michael Hynes), along with five other constables (Reginald Hardman, Michael Harte, John Hodnett, Michael Kelly and John Maguire).

The ambush was carried out by men from the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare brigade led by Ignatius O’Neill, Battalion O/C and ex-soldier with the Irish Guards, British Army.

There were about 60 in the ambushing party but only nine had rifles. Among the men who took part were Seamus Hennessy, Peter Vaughan, Dan (Dave?) Kennelly, Steve Gallagher, Michael O’Dwyer, Michael Curtin, Pat Lehane, Sean Burke, Pake Lehane, Dan Lehane, Patso Kerin, Anthony Malone, John Joe Neylon, Owen Nestor, Tom Burke, Alphonsus O’Neill and Ned Hynes.

Thomas Moroney was in charge of the scouts, one of whom was John Clune, who cycled into Miltown Malbay to check when the tender would return. After the attack on the tender, the IRA had not fully withdrawn when the British military, consisting of about 150 soldiers, arrived on the scene. They were on their way to the site of the capture of RM Lendrum. A running pursuit followed with no deaths on either side but O’Neill and Curtin were wounded.


Monday, 21 September 2015

21 September 1795: The Battle of the Diamond on this day. This deadly encounter took place at a little crossroads in north County Armagh between the Protestant ‘Peep O Day Boys’ and the Catholic ‘Defenders’, both of which were semi paramilitary groups fighting for power in the County at that time. While there was always tension between the adherents of both religions this was excaberated by the situation in Armagh where the Linen industry was the economic powerhouse of the County and indeed one of the major industries in Ireland at that time. Both sides wanted a cut of the economic benefits that ensued from this lucrative industry but the Protestants viewed the steady enroachment of the Catholics into an Industry they saw as ‘theirs’ as something to be stamped out.

Tension had been building in the area for days and attempts at mediation had met with a certain level of success. The Protestants though were clearly being reinforced with weaponary as numbers of ‘off duty’ members of the Crown Forces arrived on the scenewhich gave them a considerable advantage over their opponents in anything other than a melee. By the morning of Monday 21 September it looked like the situation had calmed down enough that hundreds of men from both sides gathered on the hills around the area would depart and bloodshed would be avoided.

But as dawn broke the Defenders, egged on by men who had marched for miles to help them, descended onto the crossroads itself and seized the homestead of Dan Winter, a local Protestant. Daniel Winter and his sons defended their property as long as possible, having to retreat to the Diamond Hill when the thatch was fired. This was the trigger for the engagement to begin in earnest. The Protestants lined up their musketmen along the brow of the hill and proceeded to open fire on the Catholics gathered around the Diamond.

From this position, they gained three crucial advantages: the ability to comfortably rest their muskets, allowing for more accurate shooting; and a steep up-hill location which made it hard for attackers to scale; and a direct line-of-sight to Winter's cottage which the Defenders made their rallying point. It was all over very fast with the Defenders been cut down in droves in what in effect was a Massacre. Perhaps as many as 30 Catholics lay dead and many scores more were wounded. The Defenders then fled taking as many of their injured men with them as they could carry.

In the aftermath of the ‘battle’, the Peep o' Day Boys retired to James Sloans inn in Loughgall, and it was here that James Wilson, Dan Winter, and James Sloan would found the Orange Order with the stated aim of ‘defending the King and his heirs so long as he supported the Protestant Ascendancy’.

In the months that followed and through the winter of 1795-1796 hundreds of Catholic houses were attacked, people killed and injured and their linen looms destroyed in what became known as the 'Armagh Outrages’. It is estimated that over 7,000 Catholic men, women and children were driven from their homes in an orgy of violence - never to return. The effects of that fateful encounter at the Diamond in County Armagh are still with us to this day.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

20 September 1914: John Redmond, the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party encouraged members of the Irish Volunteers to join the British army on this day. He did this in a speech at Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow. In the wake of the British Parliament passing the Home Rule Act just two days previously [suspended for the duration of the War] he pledged his support to the Allied cause. The words he addressed to the Irish Volunteers that day were:

‘The interests of Ireland—of the whole of Ireland—are at stake in this war. This war is undertaken in the defence of the highest principles of religion and morality and right, and it would be a disgrace for ever to our country and a reproach to her manhood and a denial of the lessons of her history if young Ireland confined their efforts to remaining at home to defend the shores of Ireland from an unlikely invasion, and to shrinking from the duty of proving on the field of battle that gallantry and courage which has distinguished our race all through its history. I say to you, therefore, your duty is twofold. I am glad to see such magnificent material for soldiers around me, and I say to you: “Go on drilling and make yourself efficient for the Work, and then account yourselves as men, not only for Ireland itself, but wherever the fighting line extends, in defence of right, of freedom, and religion in this war”’.

His words were a watershed in Modern Irish History as for the first time a Leader of Nationalist Ireland called upon Irishmen to enlist in the British Army. In the months that followed tens of thousands of Nationalist Irishmen took up his call and joined up. But while initially a calculated move by Redmond to strengthen his hand the tides of History went down other channels and his bold stroke cost his Party dear - and darkened his own legacy to Ireland.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

19 September 1836: Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, was consecrated on this day. The name of the cemetery comes from an estate established there by the Reverend Stephen Jerome, then vicar of St. Kevin's Parish. Opened on a forty-seven acre site in Harold's Cross, by the General Cemetery Company of Dublin (which was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1837).

Mount Jerome was the first privately owned cemetery in Ireland, when it first opened in 1836. It is one of the most impressive of Dublin's cemeteries. Mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, Mount Jerome was the burial ground for many of Dublin's Protestant businessmen and their families. It has witnessed over 300,000 burials but it was not until the 1920's that the first Catholic burials took place there. Mount Jerome has a large number of highly ornate crypts and memorials. A series of sunken roads throughout the grounds allows for below ground access to many of the crypts.

Many well-known people are buried there. There is a large plot to the deceased members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) & the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and the remains of the French Huguenots from the St Stephens Green Cemetery, as are also prominent members of the Guinness family. Amongst its more notable internees are: Sir William Wilde, Thomas Davis, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, John Millington Synge, Æ (George Russell), Jack B. Yeats, Sir William Rowan Hamilton and George Petrie.

Friday, 18 September 2015

18 September 1867: The rescue of the Fenian Leaders Colonel Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy on this day. They were freed from captivity in Manchester, England. Col. Kelly was the head of the revolutionary Irish organisation, the Fenians, at the time. He was arrested with his aide de camp, Timothy Deasy. His identification by an informer led the Manchester Fenians to decide on the prison rescue.

A rescue party of some 30 men secured their release from a closely guarded Police Van. Unfortunately Sergeant Brett of the escort was shot dead when one of the assailants fired a pistol shot through the keyhole of the van to smash the lock. By misfortune Brett had put his eye to the keyhole to ascertain what the commotion was outside. The shot killed him.

As a result three men - Allen, Larkin and O'Brien (The Manchester Martyrs) - were publicly hanged at Salford on 23 November 1867 for taking part in this raid and their alleged complicity in shooting Brett dead. Colonel Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy were never recaptured.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

17 September 1860: Men of the Irish Battalion of St. Patrick of the Papal army fought a Piedmontese army under the command of General Brignone at Spoleto, Italy on this day. Spoleto is a walled city south of Florence with the fortress of Rocca on the side of a hill. Three companies of the Battalion of St. Patrick (312 soldiers & 15 officers) under the Battalion Commander, Major Myles O'Reilly (County Louth) were stationed there. Major O'Reilly commanded 645 men in total at Spoleto including 150 Italians, 160 Swiss, and 24 Franco-Belgians.

In spite of a long and heavy bombardment, the advancing Piedmontese troops were met with a withering fire by the Irish on the walls that stopped them in their tracks. However the bishop of Spoleto, distraught at the destruction and the loss of life, arranged a cease-fire. O'Reilly was nearly out of ammunition at that anyway. A Papal representative was sent to General Brignone and surrender terms were arranged. Brignone described O'Reilly as "both honourable and brave" and allowed the Irish to march out as prisoners with officers retaining their swords.

Given the task of protecting the North Wall and the vital Gate House of the majestic Castle Albornozian, the Irish performed with distinction, holding their ground and the gate for 14 hours despite heavy hand-to-hand fighting and under constant bombardment from General Brigonne's field artillery. After withstanding repeated attacks, Major O'Reilly eventually negotiated a favorable surrender when reinforcements had become unlikely.



For their service, each officer and enlisted man was awarded a commemorative service medal—Medaglia di Pro Petri Sede— [above] and all those who fought were declared ‘meritorious of the Catholic Church, the Holy See and all human society’.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

16 September 1945 –Count John McCormack, the great Irish Tenor died at his residence, Glena, Booterstown, Co. Dublin on this day. His remains were interred at Deansgrange cemetery. Born in Athlone in 1884 he went to Italy in 1903 to perfect his voice and enjoyed huge International success touring England, Australia, America and elsewhere. He became the most celebrated lyric tenor of his day. Famous for his extraordinary breath control, he could sing 64 notes on one breath in Mozart's Il Mio Tesoro from Don Giovanni, and his Handelian singing was just as impressive in this regard. He also made many popular recordings including It’s a Long way to Tipperary, The Wearing of the Green, The Ministrel Boy and The Last Rose of Summer.

He became a naturalized US Citizen in 1917 but returned to Ireland in the 1920’s. His last professional performance was in London at the Royal Albert Hall in 1938. He is best remembered at home though for his magnificent performance of César Franck's Panis Angelicus to the hundreds of thousands who thronged Dublin's Phoenix Park for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Pope Pius XI made him a Count of the Church in 1928.

His last professional performance was in London at the Royal Albert Hall in 1938. During the War he gave Concerts gratis for the Red Cross in Britain but had to stop in 1942 due to failing health. He moved back to Dublin and eventually settled in Booterstown. As his end approached he wrote in his Diary the following words:

I live again the days and evenings of my long career. I dream at night of operas and concerts in which I have had my share of success. Now, like the old Irish Minstrels, I have hung up my harp because my songs are all sung.

Monday, 14 September 2015

14 September 919 AD: Niall ‘Glundubh’ mac Aeda, (Niall ‘Black Knee’, son of Aed) the High King of Ireland, was killed in battle by the Vikings of Dublin on this day. He had raised an Army from amongst the Gaels and marched to Dublin/Dubhlinn [above] to retake it from the Vikings. On this day a great battle was fought outside the walls, the battle of Ath Cliath/Cell Moshamog, which was probably by the banks of the river Liffey at Islandbridge. The Irish were badly defeated and lost many of their warriors, King Niall himself being among the fallen. It was the Vikings greatest military victory over the Gaels of Ireland.

Niall was one of the Cenél nEóġain from what is now Co Tyrone in the North of Ireland. Son of Aed Finliath, Niall is first recorded succeeding his brother Domnall mac Áedo as King of Ailech upon his death in 911. Extending his control to neighbouring kingdoms, Niall defeated the Kings of Dál nAraidi and Ulaid at the Battles of Glarryford (in present day County Antrim) and Ballymena before his defeat by high-king Flann Sinna mac Maíl Sechnaill of the Clann Cholmáin Uí Néill at the Battle of Crossakiel (in present day County Meath). Following Flann's death in 916, Niall succeeded him as High King of Ireland. It was during his reign in which he would re-establish the Óenach Tailteann, a traditional gathering of Irish people. But his reign was short lived as he met with defeat by the banks of the Liffey.

Though some place the battle at Kilmashoge, near Rathfarnham in County Dublin as a location, the Ford at Islandbridge is a more likely spot as Niall was advancing from the North and had to cross the Liffey to get around to the river's right bank to attack the city's walls. It is from him that the O'Neills of the North trace their ancestry.

Mournful today is virginal Ireland

Without a mighty king in command of hostages;

It is to view the heaven and not to see the sun

To behold Niall's plain without Niall

Annals of Ulster

Sunday, 13 September 2015

13 September 908 AD: The Battle of Belach Mugna/Cath Belach Mugna was fought on this day. (Bellaghmoon, in the south of modern County Kildare). In this engagement the Bishop-King of Cashel, King Cormac mac Cuilennáin, was thoroughly defeated while trying to extract tribute from the King of Leinster [Laigan]. He invaded the Leinster territory expecting an easy victory but the King of Tara, one Flann Sinna of the southern O’Neills, was not prepared to see the land of Leinster under anyone’s thumb but his own. In alliance with the King of Connacht he led a relief expedition into Leinster and in a great battle the combined forces of Connacht, Leinster and the O’Neills of Meath routed the forces of King Cormac who was unhorsed and beheaded.

The Munster men entered the battle at a distinct numerical disadvantage of which they were acutely aware of. Information had reached their camp in the woods that King Flann Sinna of Tara had brought his army south to reinforce King Cerball, King of Leinster . This was in order to ward off the threat to this kingdom. In addition King Cathal of Connacht came from the west with his host to support Flann Sinna, who he acknowledged as his High King. It looks like the Munstermen came out of their wooded enclosure and formed up for battle with the Wood at their backs. This may well have been a deliberate tactical decision as that way they could not be taken in the rear and such a disposition would make it difficult for their flanks to be turned.

Then the men of Munster sounded trumpets and battle cries, and proceeded to Mag Ailbe [Co Carlow]. They were waiting for their enemies with their backs to a dense wood. The men of Munster formed themselves into three equally large, equally extensive battalions: Flaithbertach son of Inmainén and Cellach son of Cerball, king of Osraige, leading the first battalion; Cormac son of Cuilennán, the king of Munster, leading the middle Munster battalion; Cormac son of Mothla, king of the Déissi, and the king of Ciarraige, and kings of many other tribes of West Munster in the third battalion.

Fragmentary Annals of Ireland

In the event the battle quickly became a rout. When the battle was joined, many important Munstermen began to desert. Cormac himself attempted to flee but fell from his horse and broke his neck. King Cellach mac Cerbaill of the Osraige [Kilkenny] too was amongst the slain along with a large number of prominent nobles.

In the aftermath of the battle his Cormac's head was offered to King Flann as a trophy but the King of Tara refused to dishonour his noble opponent. He took the head and kissed it and had it brought in all solemnity to be reunited with its torso. Cormac’s mortal remains were then given to Bishop Móenach who had the body interred at the Monastery of Dísert Diarmata [Castle Dermot, Co Kildare]. Móenach had tried to mediate between the warring sides prior to the battle but without success.

This was one of the most important battles in Ireland for a long time as Cormac’s death severely weakened the grip of the Eoghanachta - the extended royal family that had ruled Munster for centuries. Their power had been slipping and now the weakness of their line was out in the open. Within a few more decades their power was no more and Munster had new rulers with bigger agendas.

A battle was fought between the men of Mumu, the Leth Cuinn, and the Laigin in Mag Ailbi on the feast of Dagán of Inber Dáile, i.e. on Tuesday the Ides 13th of September, the thirteenth of the moon, and Cormac son of Cuilennán, king of Caisel, was killed there together with other distinguished kings. These are: Fogartach son of Suibne, king of Ciarraige, Cellach son of Cerball, king of Osraige, Ailill son of Eógan, superior of the Trian of Corcach, and Colmán, superior of Cenn Eitig. Flann son of Mael Sechnaill, king of Temair, Cerball son of Muirecán, king of Laigin, and Cathal son of Conchobor, king of Connacht, were victors.
Annals of Ulster

Saturday, 12 September 2015

12 September 1528: James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V [above] requesting military assistance against the English. The Earl was a very rich and influential Anglo-Irish Magnate whose family were descended from the Anglo-Norman Lords who came over at the time of the attempted Conquest of Ireland in the 12th Century.

But he and many of his associates were deeply troubled at the turn of events in England as King Henry VIII broke with Rome over his desire to divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon. The Reformation did not find fertile soil in Ireland either amongst the Gaels or the Anglo-Irish. This attempt to seek help from a European Monarch was a watershed in Irish History as the Catholics sought to seek an alliance outside of these islands to overthrow the English Crown in this Country.

The Emperor commissioned his chaplain to visit Ireland. The report of his mission to Dingle, of the resources of the country, of the demeanour of the Earl, and his reasons for hostility. He reported that:

'The Earl himself is from thirty to forty years old, and is rather above the middle height. He keeps better justice throughout his dominions than any other chief in Ireland. Robbers and homicides find no mercy, and are executed out of hand. His people are in high order and discipline. They are armed with short bows and swords. The Earl's guard are in a mail from neck to heel, and carry halberds. He has also a number of horse, some of whom know how to break a lance. They all ride admirably, without saddle or stirrup.'

But in effect Charles V had too many problems of his own to deal with in Germany, Spain & with France and also against the Turks to be able to offer any effective aid to his co religionist in what was to him a far flung island in the Atlantic Ocean that could not really alter the Balance of Power in Europe.

The Earl died at Dingle, 18th June 1529, and was buried with his father at Tralee, Co Kerry.

Friday, 11 September 2015

11 September 1649: The Massacre at Drogheda/ Droichead Átha on this day.[above]* It was carried out by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. The town was protected by a circuit of walls four to six feet wide and twenty feet high that were studded by a number of guard towers. Sir Arthur Aston (an Englishman) was the commander of the Royalist garrison and was convinced he could hold the town against the Parliamentary Army.

But Cromwell had shipped over to Ireland a siege train that was put to work against the walls and within days had made a breach wide enough for the besiegers to risk a storming. By noon on 11 September, the heavy siege guns had blasted breaches in the southern and eastern walls and demolished the steeple of St Mary's Church. Around five o'clock that evening, Cromwell ordered the storming to begin.

The defenders put up a spirited defense and cost their attackers dear. In a furious passion, Cromwell ordered that no quarter was to be given. Catholic priests and friars were treated as combatants and killed on sight and many civilians died in the carnage as the ‘Roundheads' ran amuck.

About 3,000 men of the Royalist garrison, both Irish and English soldiers were killed with the majority being put to the sword after they had laid down their weapons. Aston was bludgeoned to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers believed to be filled with gold coins. In addition at least a 1,000 Catholic inhabitants of the town were massacred.

However a good number of the occupants of the town made it over the north wall that was left unguarded by Cromwell’s men and made their way to safety. There they related the horrendous events that took place in Drogheda on that infamous day.

Cromwell wrote afterwards that:

"I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds for such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret."

* The view from the headquarters of Colonel John Hewson, in command of the attack on the eastern wall at the time of the second - and successful - assault on Drogheda. Gouache painting by Graham Turner

Thursday, 10 September 2015

10 September 1966: Donogh O’Malley the Irish Education Minister announced a scheme for free secondary education on this day. His surprise decision that he would implement free secondary education up to Intermediate Level for all students caught both his political colleagues and opponents on the hop. He announced that from 1969 all schools up to Intermediate level would be free and that free buses would bring students from rural area to the nearest school.

O’Malley seems to have made this decision himself without consulting other ministers, however, he did discuss it with An Taoiseach Sean Lemass. Jack Lynch, who was Minister of Finance at the time had to find the money to pay for it, was certainly not consulted and was dismayed at the announcement. In spite of this O’Malley’s proposals were hugely popular with the public and it was impossible for the government to go back on its word. O’Malley’s impromptu decision opened the way for free secondary education in the State that continues to this day.

O’Malley’s brilliant but flamboyant political career was cut tragically short when he was killed in a motorcar crash in 1968. He left a wife and two children behind him. He was a close colleague of Brian Lenihan and C. J. Haughey Had he lived he would undoubtedly have been a senior political player for many years more. His nephew Desmond O'Malley succeeded him as the TD for Limerick East.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

9 September circa 544/45 AD: The death of Naomh Ciarán (Saint Kieran) of Clonmacnoise on this day. He was born around 512 AD in Fuerty, County Roscommon. The son of Beoit, a carpenter and wheelwright, he inherited a love of learning from his mother’s side of the family, as his maternal grandfather had been a bard, poet, and historian. Baptized by deacon Justus, who also served as his first tutor he continued his education at the monastery of Clonard, which was led by St. Finnian. After completing his studies under Finnian, he left Clonard and moved to the monastery of Inishmore in the Aran Isles, which was directed by St. Enda.

After many wanderings he eventually settled at a location in the centre of Ireland, on the east bank of the River Shannon at a place called the meadows of the sons of Noise: Cluan mac Noise [as Gaeilge] or in the English language: Clonmacnoise. It was here he laid the foundations of what became one of Ireland’s greatest monasteries that was to last nearly one thousand years through many trials and turmoils. St. Ciarán’s task was greatly eased by the help and lands he received from Diarmait mac Cerbaill, the last pagan King of Tara. However just not long after he had commenced his great work St. Ciarán died. His early demise was in all probability from the Bléfed (the Great Plague) that was sweeping across Europe at the time and had made its way to the shores of Ireland.

Due to his great learning, his sanctity, and the generosity he displayed to those less fortunate in life and because of his prominence in the early Irish church, St. Ciarán is known as one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland.”

The panel above shows what is believed to be a representation of St Ciarán and King Diarmait mac Cerbaill planting a stake in the ground at Clonmacnoise. If so it shows the symbiotic relationship between Church & State in early Medieval Ireland - the Church gained protection and the King gained the blessing of the Church - even though in this case King Diarmait was a Pagan!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

6 September 868: The Battle of Cell ua nDaigri/ Killineer on this day. This clash of arms was fought just a few miles north of Drogheda, Co Louth. The opponents were the forces of the King of Tara, Aed Finnliath of the northern Uí Néill, and his dynastic rivals the Uí Néill of Brega [east Meath] who had as allies the Vikings of Dublin and the men of Laigin [south Leinster]. King Aed had for support King Conchobor of Connacht who seems to have contributed the bulk of the warriors. The northern king appears to have brought south with him just a picked force of about one thousand men. Aed was faced with what was an alliance by the kings of greater Leinster against his hegemony – as they all feared dominance by a king as powerful and as skilful as he.

In the event he defeated his enemies in what was probably a hard fought battle. It looks like the men of the East were the ones who opened the battle but were held in check. As both sides had more or less equal numbers its probable that the contest was a long drawn out affair. It certainly was a bloody one as the King of Brega and his ally Diarmait mac Etarscéle, the King of Loch Gabor were amongst the fallen. Many of the Vikings were also put to sword. But King Aed lost from amongst his own one Fachtna mac Mael Dúin, (the man selected to succeed him in the North) when he launched his own counter assault upon his enemies.

King Aed was one of the most successful kings to rule in Ireland in the 9th Century. He drove the Vikings out of the North and checked their power in north Leinster. He was also adept at keeping Irish rivals from usurping him from his throne. He died a peaceful death at the Monastery of Dromiskin, some 30 miles north of where this great battle was fought, in the year 879.

Aed (the son of Niall) who was the king of Temair [Tara], and Conchobor (the son of Tadc) who was the king of Connacht, won a battle at Cell ua nDaigri on the 8th of the Ides [6th of September] against the Uí Néill of Brega and the Laigin, and a large force of foreigners, i.e. three hundred or more.

Flann son of Conaing had five thousand and Aed Finnliath had one thousand,

Flann son of Conaing, king of all Brega, and Diarmait son of Etarscéle, king of Loch Gabor, fell in this battle.

Very many of the heathens were slaughtered there and Fachtna (the son of Mael Dúin), heir designate of the North, fell in the counterattack of the battle.

Chronicon Scotorum 868 AD

Friday, 4 September 2015

4 September 1828: The Annaghdown/Anach Cuain Boat Tragedy. Eleven men and eight women were drowned on the river Corrib aboard an old and decrepit boat the Caisleán Nua. The tragedy was the subject of a poem by Anthony O’Rafferty Anach Cuain. On September 4th, 1828 the boat left Annaghdown Pier bound for a fair at Galway City. On board were some sheep, which were for auction at the fair, and some thirty men and women who had intended to make a holiday out of the visit to Galway. Some two miles from the city on the river Corrib tragedy struck.

Its not quite certain what caused the boat to sink, but the story is told that one of the sheep on board got restless and poked his hoof through the floor of the boat. One of the men on board tried to stuff the hole with a piece of clothing but only succeeded in knocking a plank out of the boat which caused the water to pour in. Nineteen men and women on board drowned in the ensuing panic and scarcely a family in the village of Annaghdown remained unaffected by the tragedy.

The boat and passengers proceeded without obstruction until they arrived opposite Bushypark, within two miles of the town, when she suddenly went down and all on board perished except twelve persons who were fortunately rescued from their perilous situation by another boat. Galway Advertiser 6 September 1828

One man on board was named John Cosgrave who was a strong swimmer. He saved several people and went back to save the woman he was shortly to marry. Some desperate people clung to him in a desperate bid to save themselves but only succeeded in drowning him also.

The recovered bodies of those who drowned were brought ashore near Menlo/Mionnloch Castle, [above] itself the scene of a tragic fire in 1910. It is now a ruin.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

3 September 1658: Oliver Cromwell ‘The Lord Protector’ died on this day. He still remains one of the most hated figures in Irish History even though he spent less than a year of his life in this Country. He was born in 1599 but did not rise to prominence until the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 when he raised a troop of cavalry to fight for their Parliament against King Charles I.

Quickly proving his worth in his native area of east Anglia he played a significant role in the parliamentary victories at Marston Moor [1644] and Naseby [1645]. When civil war flared up again he commanded a force which first crushed a Royalist revolt in South Wales and then at the battle of Preston [1648] when he defeated a Scottish-royalist army of invasion. Cromwell consistently attributed his military success to ‘God's Will’ but there is no doubt that he had natural leadership talents that made him the best military Leader that England’s Parliament had - and indeed one of the most able soldiers of that Age.

Following the execution of King Charles in January 1649 an Expedition was assembled to take back Ireland from the Catholics. This was a task that Cromwell did indeed consider ‘Gods Will’ and as its Commander he was determined to see that those who had ‘rebelled’ against the rule of England’s Parliament were punished for what he believed were the huge atrocities and massacres committed against the Protestants of Ireland in the Rising of 1641.

On 15th August 1649 he came ashore at Ringsend near Dublin having left Milford Haven in Wales two days before. He brought with him an army of 4,000 horse and 8,000 foot. He quickly moved north to take the town of Drogheda where there was a strong force of Royalists. On 11 September with the help of his artillery train he breached the town’s walls and stormed the place. A massacre followed in which most of the garrison was put to the sword and it is believed many of the inhabitants too.

After the massacre, Cromwell sought to explain his actions in a letter to William Lenthall, speaker of the Parliament:

…I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgement of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood, and it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remourse and regret….

One month later on 11 October his Army was before the walls of the important port of Wexford and while still in negotiations with the garrison his troops gained entry through an agent inside. Another massacre followed and many priests and women were slaughtered.

These actions sent shock waves throughout Ireland and Cromwell’s reputation for ferocity was firmly established.

With Winter now closing in and his Army ravaged by disease and the cold Cromwell curtailed his operations. He too came down sick and he allowed his subordinates to do the running. It was not to be until the following Spring that he was again involved in a major siege - this time at Clonmel.

On 9 May the Parliamentarians poured through a breach in the towns walls –and right into a trap. Cromwell had to withdraw with a loss of 2,500 men. The following day General O’Neill led his men out - and Cromwell led his battered men in. Surprisingly this time he kept them on a leash and no massacre followed. But a deeply chastened Cromwell had suffered the biggest defeat of his military career.

Less than a month later Cromwell returned to England, which was facing a threat of invasion from Scotland, which had declared for the exiled King Charles II. He never returned.

But Cromwell’s legacy did not end there. In the years that followed his lieutenants and subordinates issued forth from their strongholds across Ireland to wage a vicious campaign of war and slaughter on many of the populace.

Tens of thousands of people were shipped off as virtual slaves to the West Indies & many landowners were dispossessed of their ancient holdings. Religious Freedom was denied to the Catholics of Ireland & their civil and political liberties trampled on. To this day his name is reviled amongst the Irish.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

2 September 1022 AD: The death of the King of Mide, Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, on this day. His passing marked the end of an era in Irish History. Since the Battle of Ocha in circa 483 AD the southern and northern O’Neill’s had shared the title of King of Temair (Tara) [above] between them on a more or less continual basis. This made the holder of the title the most influential king in Ireland - if he had the wherwithal to make use of the status the title gave him.

For it was believed that in ancient times Ireland had been ruled from the Royal seat of Tara. The O’Neills believed that any man who held that hallowed ground was the heir to a lost Kingdom. However Brian Boru of Munster in 1002 had pushed aside King Máel and had himself recognised as the superior king in his stead.

It was only with the death of King Brian at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 that Máel Sechnaill had regained his position. But by then he was an old man and Ireland had changed greatly since his predecessors had established their dual kingdoms all those centuries before. After him Mide(Meath) would no longer be the force it was in Irish Wars and Politics.

Mael Sechnaill son of Domnall son of Donnchad, overlong of Ireland, pillar of the dignity and nobility of the western world, died in the 43rd year of his reign and the 73rd of his age on Sunday the fourth of the Nones 2nd of September, the second of the moon.
Annals of Ulster 1022 AD

Mael Sechnaill son of Domnall, son of Donnchad, overking of Ireland, the

flood of honour of the western world, died in Cró-inis of Loch Aininne in

the forty-third year of his reign on the 4th of the Nones 2nd of September,

that is, on Sunday, the second day of the moon, the one thousandth and

twenty-second year after the Lord's Incamation, and died penitent and at

peace, with the successors of venerable saints Pátraic and Colum Cille and

Ciarán present and assisting him.

Chronicon Scotorum

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

1 September 1701: The Irish Brigade in the service of France fought in the Battle of Chiari [above]*on this day. This clash of arms took place in Lombardy in northern Italy during the War of the Spanish Succession. The French Army was under the command of Marshal Villeroy who was opposed by Prince Eugene of Savoy in the service of the Austrian Empire. Villeroy decided to attack the town of Chiari as he felt it was his duty to fight for King Louis rather than just observe the enemy.

Villeroy ignored the warnings of his subordinate Marshal Catinat that Eugene was in a strong position, remarking his deputy that the King had not sent so many brave men there just to look at the enemy through their spy glasses!

The attack was however a fiasco as the French were cut down in droves. Amongst the regiments leading the attack was the Irish regiment of Galmoy (Its Colonel was Pierce Butler, 3rd Viscount Galmoy), which suffered heavily in the assault. Eventually the attempt was called off and the surviving troops were told to retire. The French losses were over 2,000 men killed or wounded while their enemies sustained a loss in the low hundreds. The most prominent Irish casualty was Dominick Sarsfield, 4th Lord Killmallock who was killed at the head of his men in the attack.


Some of the Irishmen who survived were badly wounded. Felix MacNamee, aged 35, a native of Armagh, had had his left arm taken off by a cannon ball and, put out of service, was admitted into the military hospital of Les Invalides in Paris, dying at Arras in 1726. The ensign of the Colonel’s company, Terence Sweeny, aged 33, was hit in the right thigh by cannon shot and across the body by a musket ball. He too, was admitted to Les Invalides and survived until 1750. Also hit by a cannon shot in the right leg was the reformed Lieutenant Thomas Meade, aged 31, a native of Kilmallock, who survived until 1736. John Conor, aged 31, a Kerryman and the sergeant of grenadiers, lost his right arm through a musket ball but lived until 1721.


* Battle of Chiari, by Jan van Huchtenburg