Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Lindisfarne is located in Northumberland

31‭ ‬August‭ ‬651‭ ‬AD:‭ ‬the death of St Aiden of Lindisfarne on this day. Today the name of Saint Aiden is little remembered outside of being a popular name for Irish boys. But in his day and the years following his death his name was held in some reverence - none more so than amongst the English of Northhumbria - that is the part of England that lies to the north of the river Humber.

Once the people of Roman Britain had been mainly Christian, but in the years following the withdrawal of the last of the Empire’s Legions in the early 5th century the island lay open to Invasion. Soon barbarians flooded in from the north west coast of Europe, none more so than the Angles, Saxons and Jutes - commonly called today the ‘Anglo Saxons’. At the time though what later became the Kingdom of England was divided into warring States each with its own king and separate and conflicting interests.

In 563AD Saint Columba had crossed the sea between Ireland and Scotland and set up a Mission on the tiny island of Iona. From here he sent out missionaries to convert the people of Scotland to the Faith. Given the great success that was achieved there inevitably attention turned  to those who lived in the English kingdoms as to how they would be converted. Missionaries from Canterbury in southern England had already had some success in Northumbria. The big breakthrough came 633 AD when King Oswald became the ruler of Bernicia in northern Northhumbria. Oswald had been in exile on Iona and was much impressed with the piety and determination of the monks there to spread the Faith amongst the pagans of England.

‘He gave Aiden a commanding outcrop on the North Sea coast called ‘Lindisfarne’ aka ‘Holy Island’. Initially, Aidan concentrated his missionary work to Oswald’s kingdom, with Oswald himself often acting as Aidan’s interpreter. Later Aidan founded churches and monasteries, freeing slave boys and training them to serve in the Church. He encouraged the laity to follow monastic practices such as fasting and meditation on the Gospels and lived himself in poverty. With Oswald’s death in 642 AD, Aidan became friends with Oswin, the king of the southern Northumbrian kingdom of Deira.

Aidan died on 31 August 651 AD at Bamburgh. His body was taken to Lindisfarne and buried in the cemetery. Some time later, his bones were removed to the monastery church. Lindisfarne was sacked by the Vikings in 793 AD, after which Aidan’s reputation diminished somewhat.’

However, St Bede thought very highly of Aidan, perhaps more than of any other saint, and wrote of him:

“He neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given to him by kings or rich men of the world. He traversed both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity. Wherever on his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good works.”

He is known as the Apostle of Northumbria and is recognised as a saint by the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and others.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

30 August 1855: The Death of Feargus Edward O'Connor , Chartist Leader on this day. He was the son of Roger O'Connor, a United Irishman, and was born in 1796 in County Cork. When Feargus O'Connor was twenty-four he inherited an estate there. Although a Protestant, O'Connor was a reforming landlord and denounced the religious Tithes & the power of the Established Church. Daniel O’Connell soon spotted his potential and secured a candidacy for him in the General Election of 1832 in which he was returned as an MP for County Cork. But O’Connor rashly decided to try and unseat the Great Dan as Leader of the Irish MPs in the House of Commons and the two fell out.

O’Connor thereafter focused his attentions on Radical English Politics, moving to Manchester where he published the highly successful Northern Star newspaper. He became a leading light in the Chartist Movement, dedicated to Universal Suffrage and Annual parliaments. Here again though his maverick personality and impatience with pacific political activity led him into trouble with him advocating the threat of violence to achieve political Reform. O'Connor responded to criticism by forming a new Chartist organisation, the East London Democratic Association.

He was found guilty of sedition in 1839 and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. O'Connor continued to edit the Northern Star newspaper from his prison cell and upset the other Chartist leaders when he told his readers that from "September 1835 to February 1839 I led you single-handed and alone."

In 1845 O'Connor launched his Chartist Land Plan. His objective was to raise money to buy a large estate that would be divided into plots of three and four acres. Subscribers would then draw lots and the winners would obtain a cottage and some land. O'Connor promised that his Land Scheme would "change the whole face of society in twelve months" and would "make a paradise of England in less than five years".

But the scheme backfired and the estate went bankrupt before too long. Some of the tenants ended up being evicted and the whole disastrous enterprise badly damaged O’Connor’s credibility with the English Working Class. The stress and effort involved took its toll on O’Connor’s mental health. In 1847, O'Connor was elected MP for Nottingham, becoming the first and only Chartist MP.

His finest moment should have been the Great Demonstration he organised to assemble in Kensington London in 10 April 1848 that was to march on the Houses of Parliament. 200,000 people were expected to attend and this projected assembly put the wind up the British Establishment. The Duke of Wellington was put in charge of the Military and tens of thousands of citizens were made temporary policemen to control the situation.

In the event it proved a damp squib as only about 25,000 people turned up in a heavy downpour to hear O’Connor make outlandish claims that proved to be untrue- namely that over five million people had signed his Petition on workers rights when it was really about two million. Even then on examination it was discovered that many were clearly forgeries including those of the Queen and the Iron Duke, who appeared to have endorsed the petition no fewer than seventeen times! It was all over by 2 O'clock that afternoon and the Establishment could breath again.

After 1848 Chartism went into sharp decline. From 1851, O'Connor's behaviour became increasingly irrational, possibly as a result of syphilis. In 1852 he was declared insane and sent to an asylum in Chiswick. He died on 30 August 1855.

A charismatic and talented actor on the stage of politics O’Connor at his best was a man to be watched. He claimed Royal descent from the last King of Ireland - Rory O’Connor of Connacht. He always supported the Repeal of the Union even though it must have cost him support amongst the English People. He was though dogged by personal problems and sometimes allowed his temperament to get the better of him. But whatever his faults he helped to raise the English Working Class up out of their misery enough to know that together and organised they could challenge the Establishment to at least listen to their demands to be treated fairly and with Justice.

Monday, 29 August 2016

29 August 1975: Éamon de Valera died on this day. His active political career spanned the years 1913-1973 from when he first joined the Irish Volunteers until his retirement as President of Ireland.

Born in New York City in 1882 he was brought back to Ireland two years later and raised by his wider family in Co Limerick

He was one of the leading commandants of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 and was sentenced to death by the British but this was commuted to Life Imprisonment as being born in the USA he was eligible to claim US citizenship

In 1917 he was elected as MP for East Clare but did not take his seat and in 1918 he was again imprisoned by the British but escaped from Lincoln Jail in England 1919. He returned home where he was elected by Dail Eireann as Príomh Aire (President). He then made his way to America where he campaigned hard to gain support for the Irish Republic especially amongst the huge Irish American community there

Returning home in 1920 he and the British began tentative negotiations which led to the Truce of July 1921. But he broke with many of his colleagues in December that year when the Treaty was signed. The Civil War of 1922-1923 saw him side lined and after another period of imprisonment by the Irish Free State he in 1926 founded his own Party Fianna Fáil which he led until 1959

In 1927 he led the Party into the Irish Parliament Dáil Éireann and took the Oath to the British King George V - but under protest that he felt not bound by it! A dodgy tactic but it worked and he carried most of the Republican Movement with him to back this approach.

After the General Election of  January 1932  he was elected by the Dáil as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State and governed it until 1947 - being returned as Leader in every election. In the early 1930s he faced down General Eoin O’Duffy and his fascistic Blueshirt Movement and contained the threat from the IRA who wanted to re start the War with Britain over their continued Occupation of the North.

He refused to pay the Annuities due to the UK and this triggered the Economic war with England which brought great hardship to many farmers & others. While he was right in Principle the cost was high. He got rid of the Oath to the British Monarch in 1936 & brought before the People a New Constitution - Bunreacht na hÉireann - which was passed in a Referendum and came into operation in 1937. It is still the Constitution to this day - though somewhat amended now. In 1938 he got the British to hand back the Treaty Ports they still held and made a final settlement to the Economic War with a once off payment to them which finished the matter.

In 1939 the Second World War began and this State declared itself Neutral - the British were disgusted but had to accept it. However Dev played it well and ensured that co operation with England while low key was real nonetheless. He allowed anyone who wanted to go to cross the water to join up or work there if they wanted to. At War’s end in 1945 he offered condolences to the USA on the death of President Roosevelt but also to Germany on the death of Adolf Hitler - a gaffe in most people’s eyes.

He lost the General Election of 1947 and was out of power until 1951 when he was returned once again. However he was to lose it once more in 1954 and by this stage he was well into his 70s. The State could not provide enough jobs for its young people and Emigration was astronomical + widespread poverty in many parts of the Country. No Party seemed to have the solution. When he was returned to power in 1957 he came under pressure to look for new ways to change things and in 1958 it was decided to open up Ireland to Foreign Investment and Trade to which Dev gave his Imprimatur. This led to rapid economic expansion that continued until 1974.

But Dev was old and tired by now and his eyesight was failing. He resigned as Taoiseach in 1959 and was then elected President of Ireland  in June of that year by popular vote. Probably the highlight of his term in Office was the visit of President John F Kennedy in 1963 and the celebrations in 1966 of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. In that year he also was re elected President defeating the Fine Gael candidate Tom O’Higgins by a narrow margin. His last years were much more low key as age caught up with him. By that stage he was seen by many younger people as an archaic figure out of touch with Modern Ireland.

Always a divisive figure and a controversial one he led his followers through many crises - though many would consider some at least self inflicted ones! There was no doubting his fine mind and his ability to think a few steps ahead of his opponents on most occasions. His abiding legacy must be though the Constitution of 1937 and keeping the Irish State out of the Second World War + initiating the change that started our rise in living standards from 1958.

At his retirement in 1973 at the age of 90, he was the oldest head of state in the world. His wife of many years Sinéad de Valera died some months before he did and he was buried alongside her in Glasnevin Cemetery [above] in Dublin after a State Funeral.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

28 August 1814: Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin on this day. His family name has French Huguenot roots. He was the author of many seminal works of Gothic Horror novels and short stories that influenced other writers and film directors down into modern times.

A great-nephew of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Le Fanu was the son of a Protestant churchman. He studied law at Trinity, but neglected the bar in favour of journalism and writing. Having made extensive use of his father’s library in his youth, Le Fanu went on to read Classics at Trinity College Dublin, before studying Law at King’s Inn in London. However the family fell on hard times and eventually the Library had to be sold to pay off debts.

From 1844 to 1858, he was married to Susanna Bennett, and they eventually moved into the Bennett family home in Merrion Square, Dublin. Susanna was prone to mental disorders that eventually killed her and that must have influenced Le Fanu's depiction of extreme neuroses. They had four children together. He wrote at the time of her death, as quoted by Kathryn West in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "The greatest misfortune of my life has overtaken me. My darling wife is gone… . She was the light of my life."

He was among the first practitioners of the psychological ghost story, in which the haunting might be the result of supernatural intrusion into the everyday world but could also arise from the broken psyche of a protagonist.

He tried his hand at a number of genres but it was as a writer of Horror stories that he had the greatest success. He published his first ghost story, The Ghost and the Bonesetter in the Dublin University Magazine in 1838. Originally set in Ireland his publications met with only limited recognition. When his editor suggested that he switch the locations to England he finally got the recognition he desired.

The novel Uncle Silas was his masterpiece and though ostensibly set in Derbyshire Le Fanu actually wrote it with Ireland in mind. The year before his death he published In a Glass Darkly which is a collection of five short stories first published in 1872. The second and third are revised versions of previously published stories, and the fourth and fifth are long enough to be called novellas.

The title is taken from Corithinans 13- a deliberate misquotation of the passage which describes humanity as perceiving the world "through a glass darkly". Some are set in Dublin and some abroad. The most famous one though is the ground breaking novella Carmilla which featured what was in effect a lesbian vampire sucking the blood of her innocent female victim Laura, this too was set abroad in eastern Europe.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever". ( "Carmilla" , Chapter 4)

Le Fanu died in his native Dublin on 7 February 1873, at the age of 58. Today there is a road and a park in Ballyfermot near his childhood home in the village of Chapelizod in south-west Dublin, named after him. He is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin [above].

Saturday, 27 August 2016

27 August 1979: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated  by the IRA on this day. Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis , 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO was the most senior member of the British Establishment ever to be killed by the IRA in their campaign against British rule in Ireland.

 He had served with distinction in the Royal Navy from the time of the First World War in 1916 to the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945. He was sunk at sea as captain of  HMS Kelly in 1941. He was then made Chief of Combined Operations where he had some success and some failures, notably the disastrous raid on the port of Calais in 1942. He ended that War as  Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asia Theatre where he oversaw the British campaign to retake Burma from the Japanese Army and the surrender of their troops in Malaya when the War ended.

Probably his most controversial role was in 1947 when he became the last Viceroy of India charged with handing over the Administration of India’s many parts to local rulers and politicians. He has been criticised for too hasty a withdrawal and the terrifying levels of violence that erupted between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus that resulted when India was partitioned. Nonetheless he got Britain out of a situation in double quick time that had the potential to turn into a Quagmire for the Imperial Power.

His Life was something of an anti climax after that but he remained a well known figure and while at times controversial with a tendency to meddle in the backwaters of British politics he remained a respected figure with the general public in the UK.  Though some of the more lurid tales of his antics in the 'Swinging Sixties’ England should be taken with a grain of salt.

He was blown up while sailing in his yacht at Mullaghmore,‭ ‬County Sligo.‭ ‬He was accompanied by members of his family and a local boy.‭ ‬Three of them were killed and others seriously injured.‭ ‬That same afternoon at Warrenpoint,‭ ‬County Down,‭ ‬the IRA killed‭ ‬18‭ ‬British soldiers,‭ ‬most of them members of the elite Parachute Regiment,‭ ‬in a double bomb attack.‭ ‬An innocent bystander on the Republic’s side of the border was also killed in retaliatory fire by the Paras.‭

This was the greatest loss of life suffered by the British during the Conflict and caused shock waves throughout the British Establishment and with the general British Public.‭ ‬The news of these events immediately spread around the World and made the North an International News story.‭ ‬Mountbatten,‭ ‬a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and uncle to Prince Charles was a very senior member of the British Royal Family.‭ ‬They felt his death at the hands of the IRA very keenly.

Soon after a grisly‭ ‬Graffiti appeared on Belfast walls.‭ ‬It read:‭

13‭ ‬gone but not forgotten‭ ‬-‭ ‬we got‭ ‬18‭ ‬and Mountbatten

This referred to the role of the Parachute Regiment in the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. Strangely enough the deaths of the Paras at Warrenpoint was a footnote to the press coverage that was given to the death of Mountbatten at the hands of the IRA.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

25 August 1986: Hurricane Charley swept across Ireland causing devastation in its wake on this night.

In Ireland the wind blows mainly from the west and it usually brings mild but somewhat wet weather across the island. This weather pattern along with the Gulf Stream ensures that the Country for its latitude enjoys a temperate climate that belies its position on the map of the globe. Sometimes though things take a different turn and the tail ends of powerful Hurricanes that emanate from the Caribbean make their way across the Atlantic and wreak devastation here. Such a one was the infamous ‘Hurricane Charley’ that hit Ireland 30 years ago on the night of 25 August 1986.

The hurricane had first been spotted off the South Carolina coast of the USA on the 15 August. It then made its way up along the east coast causing a fair degree of damage. By the 20th it was south of Nova Scotia moving east out into the Atlantic and losing strength rapidly. At that stage it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm. But while still out in the Atlantic it deepened again and split in two. The more powerful half then rapidly made its way towards Ireland. It reached the south west coast on the evening of Sunday 24 August and spread country wide on the following day with light to heavy rain and strong winds.

However it was only when it reached the east coast that its full power and fury was unleashed. It was in Little Bray County Dublin that it caused the most damage with the river Dargle bursting its banks and causing the evacuation of over 1,000 people to safety to higher ground. Elsewhere too it caused severe disruption with the river Dodder area in Ballsbridge in Dublin also hit hard. In the Phoenix Park hundreds of trees were destroyed and for sure it was not the only place in Ireland that night that suffered arboreal devastation. I think though for those who remember it the most memorable feature was the huge and terrifying winds combined with the tremendous amounts of rain that fell. My own house actually had water flowing into the bedroom!  It truly was a Storm that anyone who lived through it would never forget.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

24‭ ‬August‭ ‬1103:‭ ‬Magnus‭ ‘‬Bare Legs‭’‬,‭ ‬King of Norway,‭ ‬was killed by the Irish in a battle on this day.‭

King Magnus reigned as King of Norway from‭ ‬1093‭ ‬to his untimely death in‭ ‬1103,‭ ‬described as ambitious,‭ ‬his military campaigns were sought in Sweden,‭ ‬Wales,‭ ‬Scotland,‭ ‬Isle of Man and along the eastern coastline of Ireland.‭ ‬He was described as being very tall with bright yellow hair and bright blue eyes.‭ ‬His grandfather was Harald Hardrata,‭ ‬the Viking warrior king who died at the battle of Stamford Bridge,‭ ‬fighting the English in‭ ‬1066,‭ ‬and his father was Olaf the Peaceful.
Having formed an alliance in‭ ‬1102‭ ‬with Muirchertach O'Brien,‭ ‬King of Ireland‭ (‬1086‭ ‬-‭ ‬1119‭)‬,‭ ‬the arrangement being formalised by the marriage of Siguard the‭ ‬12‭ ‬year old son of Magnus to O'Briens‭' ‬5‭ ‬year old daughter,‭ ‬Biadmaynia.‭ ‬The deal was for Magnus to supply man power to O'Brien to assist him in his on going local wars,‭ ‬and in return Magnus was to receive cattle,‭ ‬to provide much needed provisions for his homeward to Norway.

Having sailed his long boats in from Strangford Lough,‭ ‬up the river Quoile,‭ ‬and beaching them on Plague Island to the present day Down Cathedral along the Ballyduggan Road,‭ ‬Magnus impatiently waited for the cattle to arrive on the agreed day St.‭ ‬Bartholomew's Day,‭ ‬23rd August‭ ‬1103.‭ ‬Evening came and no cattle had arrived,‭ ‬against the advice of his commander Eyvind Elbow he decided next morning to leave the safety of his ship and seek out the missing cattle,‭ ‬believing that O'Brien had broken his promise.

Marching along the side of the tidal marshes he came to a high hill,‭ ‬possible to site where Dundrum Castle now stands,‭ ‬looking west-wards he saw a great dust cloud,‭ ‬the cattle were on their way and soon he and his men would homeward bound.‭ ‬Perhaps in a joyous mood and letting their guard slip,‭ ‬suddenly‭ '‬the trees came alive,‭' ‬they had been ambushed,‭ ‬by the‭ '‬men of Ulster.‭' ‬In the ensuring battle that raged across the mud flats of the Quoile Estuary,‭ ‬now in total confusion,‭ ‬the Vikings,‭ ‬led by Magnus were slaughtered.‭ ‬

Some of the Vikings made it back to their boats,‭ ‬leaving King Magnus and a few of his loyal guard to fight to the death.‭ ‬The Norse King receiving a javelin thrust through his leg and then struck in the neck with an axe,‭ ‬he died.‭ ‬However his famous sword‭ '‬Legbiter,‭' ‬was retrieved and brought home to Norway,‭ ‬but the remains of its Loyal Master,‭ ‬and those of his loyal guard lie in a common grave on the marshes of Down.‭ ‬King Magnus Barefoot,‭ ‬nicknamed‭ '‬Barelegs,‭' ‬said,‭ "‬That Kings are made for honour not for long life,‭" - and ‬he was right in his own case ‬for he was not thirty years of age when he died.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

23 August 1170: Richard De Clare - aka Richard fitz Gilbert - aka Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke and Strigul, landed near Waterford on this day. Perhaps more than any man he saw to it that the Anglo Norman Invasion of Ireland gained a momentum that the Gaelic kings could not subsequently undo.

From an Earldom of some substance in Wales he found him self out of favour with the Angevin King Henry II who ruled over England & much of France. However the King of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada had been kicked out of Ireland by the High King Rory O’Conner/Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair and had appealed to Henry to help him. Henry could not leave France due to his commitments and issued a Royal appeal for his subjects to help the Irish king in any way they could. Richard De Clare saw his chance and offered to help Diarmait regain his kingdom and set about raising an expedition to send to Ireland. In return Strongbow for this service would gain the hand of Diarmait’s daughter Aoife and then succeed to the kingdom of Leinster when Diarmait died.

In August 1170, he landed at Waterford, captured the city, and his wedding to Aoife [above] was celebrated almost immediately in Reginald’s Tower - which still stands in the city. Strongbow together with the forces of Diarmait Mac Murchada, then set out to take the city of Dublin/Dubhlinn  from the Vikings and having done so, embarked on expansionist raids into Meath. Besieged in turn by the Ard Rí [High King] Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair he defeated him in battle and broke the siege. He thus secured the city for the Anglo Normans. In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada died at Ferns, and Strongbow’s control of Leinster was secured.

From 1172 onwards, Strongbow was titled "earl of Strigoil," which, however, brought him no additional lands. When Henry II came to Ireland to settle its affairs in his favour he removed control of Dublin, Waterford, and Wexford from Strongbow, retaining them for his own use. After military service in France Strongbow returned to Ireland and campaigned once more against the Irish kings. He was appointed Henry’s principal agent in Ireland, and, in that capacity, he issued charters on behalf of the king relating to the city of Dublin to which Henry had granted a Royal Charter.

He died unexpectedly in April 1176 from an injury to his foot and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. The tomb there that is traditionally associated with him is of later date though it probably does contain his remains. His funeral was presided over by Lorcan Ua tuathail (Laurence O’Toole), the Archbishop of Dublin. He left as his heir a three-year-old son, Gilbert, and a daughter, Isabella but his wife Aoife wielded power in her own name for a number of years thereafter. The current Monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II, counts Strongbow amongst her ancestors.

"His complexion was somewhat ruddy and his skin freckled; he had grey eyes, feminine features, a weak voice, and short neck. For the rest, he was tall in stature, and a man of great generosity and of courteous manner. What he failed of accomplishing by force, he succeeded in by gentle words. In time of peace he was more disposed to be led by others than to command. Out of the camp he had more the air of any ordinary man-at-arms than of a general-in-chief; but in action the mere soldier was forgotten in the commander. With the advice of those about him, he was ready to dare anything; but he never ordered any attack relying on his own judgment, or rashly presuming on his personal courage. The post he occupied in battle was a sure rallying point for his troops. His equanimity and firmness in all the vicissitudes of war were remarkable, being neither driven to despair in adversity, nor puffed up by success."

Giraldus Cambrensus

* Painting - excerpt from The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise.
National Gallery of Ireland

Monday, 22 August 2016

22 August 1922: General Michael Collins was shot dead on this day. He was killed in an ambush at Béal na mBláth (Mouth of the Flowers) near Macroom in Co. Cork by a party of the local IRA.

Michael Collins had been the main driving force within the IRA that had helped to fight the War of Independence against the British Crown Forces in 1919-1921. It was a ‘War of the Shadows’ in which Collins wore no uniform but stayed in Mufti. But he had been one of the signatories of a Treaty with the British in December 1921 that had split the IRA into pro and anti Treaty camps. By the Summer of 1922 he thus found himself leading a new war against many of his old comrades in arms, dressed as the General in Chief of the new National Army of the emerging Irish Free State.

He was in his native Cork to inspect the local military forces. He travelled out to White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) in Bandon on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans.

The ambush party, allegedly commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed by 8:00 p.m. as they had given up any hope of an ambush so late in the day. So when Collins and his men returned through Béal na mBlath there was just a rear-guard left on the scene to open fire on Collins’ convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, however they had disconnected it and were in the process of removing it by the time the Collins convoy came into view.

Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality in the action. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. It is said that when the first shots were fired at the convoy, Emmet Dalton had ordered the driver to "drive like hell" out of the ambush. Collins himself countermanded the order and said "Stop! We'll fight them". He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’ body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. Collins was 31 years old.

There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis (”Sonny”) O’Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950. He later emigrated to the USA. This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. The general consensus at that time was it was a ricochet that took him out but that has been challenged in recent years.

Collins’ men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin for a State funeral. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral where there was a large military and civilian presence. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

21‭ ‬August‭ ‬1879:‭ ‬The Apparition of Knock on this day.‭ ‬A number of witnesses of various ages reported that they had seen the Virgin Mary,‭ ‬St Joseph and St John the Evangelist appear on the wall of Knock Church.‭ ‬As a result Knock became a major centre of Pilgrimage.

On a wet Thursday evening,‭ ‬21st August‭ ‬1879,‭ ‬at about‭ ‬8‭ ‬o'clock,‭ ‬a heavenly vision appeared at the south gable of the Church of St.‭ ‬John the Baptist in Knock,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Mayo.‭ ‬Fifteen people‭ ‬-‭ ‬men,‭ ‬women and children‭ ‬-‭ ‬ranging in age from six years to seventy-five,‭ ‬watched the Apparition in pouring rain for two hours,‭ ‬reciting the rosary.‭ ‬Though they themselves were soaked,‭ ‬no rain fell in the direction of the church gable,‭ ‬where the ground remained perfectly dry.

Our Lady wore a large white cloak,‭ ‬fastened at the neck.‭ ‬Her hands and eyes were raised towards heaven,‭ ‬in a posture of prayer.‭ ‬On her head was a brilliant crown and where the crown fitted the brow,‭ ‬was a beautiful rose.‭ ‬On her right was St Joseph,‭ ‬head bowed and turned slightly towards her as if paying her his respects.‭ ‬He wore white robes.‭ ‬On our Lady's left was St John the Evangelist,‭ ‬dressed as a bishop,‭ ‬with a book in his left hand and right hand raised as if preaching.‭ ‬His robes were also white.‭ ‬Beside the figures and a little to the right in the centre of the gable was a large plain altar.‭ ‬On the altar stood a lamb,‭ ‬facing the West and behind the lamb a large cross stood upright.‭ ‬Angels hovered around the lamb for the duration of the Apparition.

Most Rev.‭ ‬Dr.‭ ‬John MacHale,‭ ‬Archbishop of Tuam,‭ ‬only six weeks after the Apparition,‭ ‬set up a Commission of Enquiry.‭ ‬Fifteen witnesses were examined and the Commission reported that the testimony of all taken as a whole,‭ ‬were trustworthy and satisfactory.

There was a‭ ‬2nd Commission of enquiry in‭ ‬1936‭ ‬when,‭ ‬Mary Byrne,‭ ‬one of the last surviving witnesses,‭ ‬was interviewed.‭ 

 The commissioners interviewed her in her bedroom,‭ ‬as she was too ill to leave.‭ ‬She gave her final testimony and concluded with the words: ‭

'I am clear about everything I have said and I make this statement knowing I am going before my God‭'‬ ‭

‬She died six weeks later.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

20 August 1845: Phytophthora infestans, a fungal infection that rots the tubers of potatoes, was recorded in Ireland on this day. David Moore, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin noted that leaves of some of the potato plants in the institution were showing signs of blight. His was the first known scientific observation in Ireland of this fungus.

Phytophthora infestans (pronounced fy-TOF-thor-uh in-FEST-ans) is a rather common pathogen of potatoes wherever they are grown, but it is usually not a problem unless the weather is unusually cool and wet. The water is necessary for the spores to swim to infect the leaves of the potatoes; the tubers and roots of the potato are more resistant to the pathogen. The name, meaning "infesting plant destroyer" is especially appropriate, because under the right conditions and with the correct susceptibility genes in the host, Phytophthora can kill off a field of potatoes in just a few days!

Phytophthora infestans is so virulent in wet weather because it produces enormous numbers of swimming spores called zoospores in zoosporangia. The zoosporangia crack open and release dozens of zoospores. These zoospores have two flagella; a whiplash flagellum faces the back and pushes the spore through the water and a tinsel flagellum points forward and pulls the spores through the water.

From such mundane sequences in the life of a fungi did the fate of a People hang in the late summer of 1845. Within weeks the Blight had swept the land and millions of Irish men women and children knew that at least a year of hardship lay ahead of them. In fact the Blight was to come back each year until 1849 and in its wake leave at least a Million dead from starvation and disease and another Million forced to flee their Homeland.

19‭ ‬August‭ ‬1504:‭ ‬The battle of Knockdoe/Cnoc Tuagh‭ (‬the Hill of Axes‭) ‬was fought on this day.‭ ‬This battle was the greatest clash of arms seen in Ireland in hundreds of years.‭ ‬It took place around Knockdoe,‭ ‬a hillock about eight miles north east of Galway city.‭ ‬The combatants were the forces under Garret Fitzgerald,‭ ‬the Great Earl of Kildare and his rival Ulick‭ ‬Burke of Clanrickard.‭

Despite a somewhat uncertain relationship the Great Earl was King Henry VII’s man in Ireland.‭ ‬He was charged with ensuring that no other than himself should dictate the state of the King's affairs in this Country.‭ ‬Something of a poacher turned gamekeeper the Great Earl would brook no rivals.‭ ‬Ulick‭ ‬Burke had thrown down the gauntlet however by seizing three castles belonging to the O’Kellys of south Galway and also taking under his control the Royal city of Galway.‭ ‬Ironically Ulick was also Garret’s son in law‭! ‬While not a certainty he seems to have fallen out with his wife Eustacia and she had returned to be under her fathers roof.‭ ‬The O’Kellys also appealed to him for the restitution of their fortresses.‭

He decided to lead an Army to the West and settle the issue through battle.‭ ‬He led a formidable force with him,‭ ‬perhaps as many as‭ ‬6,000‭ ‬warriors and many of them the iron clad Gallowglass who dominated the battlefields of Ireland in the latter Middle Ages.‭ ‬To oppose him Ulick gathered a similar type of force but he could not match the Great Earls resources or network of connections.‭ ‬He had maybe about‭ ‬4,000‭ ‬men in the field on the day of battle.‭ ‬The Great Earl mustered forces from Leinster and Ulster with some Connacht allies too.‭ ‬Burkes‭’ ‬own force was comprised of his retinue from south Galway,‭ ‬and his allies from northwest Munster.‭ ‬To the Gaels it seemed that the great wars between the provincial kings of old in the days before the English arrived had returned.‭ ‬But to Garret it was more like a version of a suppression of a rebellion against Royal authority that the King of England might engage upon across the water.‭ ‬In truth there was a mixture of both these analogies in what happened.

In the event Garret Fitzgerald beat his opponent decisively and retook Galway from Ulick Burke.‭ ‬The battle though was bloody and hard fought‭ – ‘‬a dour struggle‭’‬.‭ ‬Essentially an infantry battle both sides hacked and slashed at each other to bring the other down.‭ ‬It is also the first battle to record the use of a gun‭ ‬-‭ ‬a Palesman beat out his opponent’s brains with the butt of his piece‭! ‬It was really a medieval battle of the old style and the last great one of its kind.‭ ‬Both sides clashed early in the morning and it was late in the day before the remnants of Burkes‭’ ‬much depleted host broke and ran.‭ ‬The Geraldine force camped on the battlefield that night to collect booty and bring in the stragglers.‭ ‬The Great Earl proceeded the next day to enter the City of Galway in Triumph and received the keys of the metropolis from the grateful Mayor.

A fierce battle was fought between them,‭ ‬such as had not been known of in latter times.‭ ‬Far away from the combating troops were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs,‭ ‬the vehement efforts of the champions,‭ ‬the charge of the royal heroes,‭ ‬the noise of the lords,‭ ‬the clamour of the troops when endangered,‭ ‬the shouts and exultations of the youths,‭ ‬the sound made by the falling of the brave men,‭ ‬and the triumphing of the nobles over the plebeians.‭ ‬The battle was at length gained against Mac William,‭ ‬O'Brien,‭ ‬and the chiefs of Leath-Mhogha‭; ‬and a great slaughter was made of them‭; ‬and among the slain was Murrough Mac-I-Brien-Ara,‭ ‬together with many others of the nobles.‭ ‬And of the nine battalions which were in solid battle array,‭ ‬there survived only one broken battalion.‭ ‬A countless number of the Lord Justice's forces were also slain,‭ ‬though they routed the others before them.‭ ‬It would be impossible to enumerate or specify all the slain,‭ ‬both horse and foot,‭ ‬in that battle,‭ ‬for the plain on which they were was impassable,‭ ‬from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters‭; ‬of broken spears,‭ ‬cloven shields,‭ ‬shattered battle-swords,‭ ‬mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead,‭ ‬and beardless youths lying hideous,‭ ‬after expiring.
Annals of the Four Masters

Thursday, 18 August 2016

18 August 670: The Feast of St. Fiacre the Abbot on this day. He was was born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century. He had a hermitage on the banks of the river Nore at Kilfera, County Kilkenny. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628 AD, at Meaux in what is now France. St. Farowas the Bishop there generously received him. He gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest, which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. Here he founded a Monastery and a Hospice. He resided in a little cell and led a frugal existence surrounded by a small garden, which he worked himself. He was very strict on the rule that no women should be about the place. He was noted for his great ability to cure the sick and many flocked to him to be cured.

After his death a Shrine to him became a place of Pilgrimage and in later centuries he had some very famous devotees. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint to the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. St. Fiacre is also a patron saint of gardeners and of the cab-drivers of Paris. French cabs are called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre in that City. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

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17 August 1922: The transfer of Dublin Castle by the British to the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State was completed on this day.

The Castle loomed large in the consciousness of the Irish People as the source and origin of many of their troubles. It was from there that the Crown of England through its Viceroys and Lord Lieutenants and latterly its Chief Secretaries attempted with various degrees of success to administer the Country. ‘The Castle’ - as it was commonly referred to - was an imposing structure that dated back to the early 13th century when King John gave orders for its construction. It was completed by 1230 and the Great Courtyard (Upper Castle Yard) of today corresponds closely with the fortification

Though its origins go deeper into the past as ‘The Castle’ stands on the high ridge, the highest ground in the locality, at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the (now underground) Poddle, which formed a natural boundary on two sides. It is very probable that the original fortification on this easily defended strategic site was a Gaelic Ringfort, which guarded the harbour, the adjacent Dubhlinn Ecclesiastical Centre and the four long distant roads that converged nearby. In the 930's, a Danish Viking Fortress stood on this site and part of the town defences is on view at the Undercroft, where the facing stone revetments offered protection against the River Poddle.

It had large sturdy walls and four round towers to protect it from attack by the Irish. The south-east Record Tower is the last intact medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself. It functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times.

So strong and well-defended was it and so important to the Crown that it never fell to attack. It was besieged in 1537 during the Revolt of Silken Thomas, almost taken in the Rising of 1641 and later occupied by the soldiers of the English Parliament under Cromwell. In 1798 it again came under threat and at Easter 1916 the insurgents of the Irish Citizen Army attempted to seize it by coup de main but without success.

But with the signing of the Treaty in December of 1921 the British had agreed to withdraw from most of Ireland and the days of the Castle as the centre of British Power in this Country started to draw to a close. While the British Army pulled out in January 1922 the transfer of administration took months to organise.

Thus the day came about in August 1922 when the last contingent of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) marched out and the first detachment of the Civic Guards (later the Garda Síochána) marched in, led by the first Garda Commissioner Michael Staines & Chief Superintendent McCarthy. At last ‘The Castle’ was fully in Irish hands.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

‭ ‬
16 August‭ ‬1927:‭ ‬The Alderman Jinks Affair.‭ ‬Mr Denis Johnstone,‭ ‬the leader of the Labour Party,‭ ‬proposed a motion of No Confidence in the Government of Mr W.T.‭ ‬Cosgrave.‭ ‬Johnstone opened the crucial debate with the following words:

The motion down in my name and which I move is:
‭“‬That the Executive Council has ceased to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.‭”
In effect,‭ ‬it is clear that that motion is intended to test the views of the House as to whether the present Executive Council shall continue in office.‭ ‬It is based on Article‭ ‬53‭ ‬of the Constitution,‭ ‬which says:‭ “‬The President and Ministers nominated by him shall retire from office when they cease to retain the support of the majority in Dáil Eireann.‭”

The result was a tie of‭ ‬71‭ ‬votes each.‭ ‬As a result the vote of the Speaker Mr Michael Hayes decided the issue for the Government.‭ ‬The absence of Mr Jinks of the National League Party‭ (‬who were in alliance with Fianna Fail‭) ‬was crucial to Cosgrave’s survival.‭

It is widely believed that Jinks non-appearance was due to the intervention of Major Bryan Cooper and J.M.‭ ‬Smyllie‭ (‬editor of the‭ ‬Irish Times‭) ‬who plied Jinks with liberal quantities of drink in the hours before the vote was taken.‭ ‬Their hospitality apparently rendered their hapless guest in no fit state to attend the House.‭ ‬The pair convinced their drinking companion that a ticket home was a better course of action than attendance upon the House when he was obviously the worse for wear.‭

‬They then put him on the Sligo train and thus unable to partake in the day’s parliamentary proceedings.‭ ‬This development thus saved Mr Cosgrave’s Government from almost certain defeat.‭
Jink’s, a National League Deputy, was the centre of wild speculation that he had been kidnapped to keep him from voting. Rumours swept the country and headlines such as, ‘The Mystery of Deputy Jinks, the missing deputy’ screamed from several newspapers not only in the U.K. and America.
The sensational affair began when Jinks walked out of the Dáil chambers before the vote was about to be called and he couldn’t be found despite a frantic search by colleagues.

There was consternation amongst the opposition who had been confident that the Government would fall. Jinks was later tracked to a hotel at Harcourt Street having spent the day strolling through the streets of Dublin.He told reporters he had gone to Dublin with instruction from two thirds of his supporters to vote for the Government.

“I was neither kidnapped nor spirited away. I simply walked out of the Dáil when I formed my own opinion after listening to a good many speeches.

“I cannot understand the sensation nor can I understand the meaning or object of the many reports circulated. What I did was done after careful consideration of the entire situation.

I have nothing to regret for my action. I am glad I was the single individual who saved the situation for the Government, and perhaps, incidentally, for the country. I believe I acted for its good,” said Deputy Jinks.

The Sligo deputy arrived home on Wednesday night by the midnight mail train. A large crowd greeted his arrival. He spent the following morning receiving callers including one proclaiming him  “ The Ruler of Ireland.”!!!

Jinks had only been elected a TD in June of that year and subsequently lost his seat in the General Election of September that year. He returned to local politics where he served once again as Mayor of Sligo. He died in 1934.

To this day the bizarre actions of Mr Jinks have been the subject of much speculation. The common accepted story is that he was inveigled into doing the rounds of various establishments in Dublin City centre by Smylie and Cooper, men with Sligo connections and who were from a Unionist background. They did not want to see Mr De Valera in power!

By the time the vote was called he was nowhere to be seen and his somewhat ignominious place in modern Irish political history was assured.

Legend has it that Mr Cosgrave then purchased or had purchased on behalf of the Government a horse called Mr Jinks [above]. This horse went on to win the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, England in 1929!

Monday, 15 August 2016

15‭ ‬August‭ ‬1569:‭ ‬The sack of Enniscorthy on this day by Sir Edmund Butler,‭ ‬the brother of the Earl of Ormond.‭ ‬The Co Wexford town held a great Fair on this date,‭ ‬named‭ ‘‬Lady Day‭’ ‬after Our Lady the Mother of Christ.‭ This date in August is celebrated in the Catholic Calendar as the Feast of her Assumption into Heaven. ‬

This was one of the great Medieval Fairs of Ireland where people would come from miles around to trade and buy the wares on offer.‭ ‬Many valuable commodities would be available and those with the coinage to buy or goods to barter would be there in plenty.‭ ‬But the Fair this year was held against a backdrop of a vicious War full of atrocities and counter atrocities committed by both sides.‭ ‬As the townsmen and country folk went about their business a large Geraldine raiding party overcame them.‭ ‬This was no doubt a well planned operation,‭ ‬designed to loot and punish the inhabitants who considered themselves under the protection of the Crown of England.

The Earl of Ormond,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬Thomas‭…‬,‭ ‬being at this time in England,‭ ‬his two brothers,‭ ‬Edmond of Caladh and Edward,‭ ‬had confederated with James,‭ ‬the son of Maurice.‭ ‬These two sons of the Earl went to the fair of Inis-corr on Great Lady-Day‭; ‬and it would be difficult to enumerate or describe all the steeds,‭ ‬horses,‭ ‬gold,‭ ‬silver,‭ ‬and foreign wares,‭ ‬they seized upon at that fair.‭ ‬The Earl returned to Ireland the same year,‭ ‬and his brothers were reconciled to the State.
Annals of the Four Masters

No quarter was given to the hapless inhabitants.‭ ‬Many of the Anglo-Irish Merchants were put to death and their bodies thrown in the River Slaney and their womenfolk raped.‭ ‬It was reported that‭ ‘‬divers young maidens and wives‭’ ‬were defiled before their parents and husbands faces‭’‬.‭  ‬The Castle of Enniscorthy was also taken and ransacked and lay abandoned for thirteen years thereafter.‭

Sunday, 14 August 2016

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14/15 August 1969: The British Army was deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast to stave off the collapse of the Northern State. This was to try and stem the serious rioting in both cities and in other urban centres across the North and to stop the collapse of the State that could come about if the situation continued to spiral out of control.

In response to the growing Crises the Irish Prime Minister An Taoiseach Jack Lynch had gone on the airwaves the previous day to announce the setting up of Field Hospitals near the Border and Refugee Camps further south to deal with the expected influx of people fleeing their homes. This gesture however only seriously angered and worried moderate Unionists and inflamed the more hard line and paranoid Loyalists - while doing nothing of real material benefit to help the beleaguered Nationalists at that time.

While the situation calmed down in Derry as the RUC were withdrawn from the Bogside& the British Army took up positions there the situation slid out of control in Belfast.  There was also serious rioting in Armagh, Newry & Omagh and other areas throughout the North. In Armagh a man was shot dead by the RUC. Five people were killed in overnight rioting in Belfast, one of them a nine year old boy. As the sectarian clashes worsened houses and business premises were set alight and hundreds were damaged or destroyed. Bombay street was totally destroyed and the Catholic residents had to flee for their lives.

It soon became clear that the discipline of a considerable number of the regular RUC and more particularly the B-Specials had collapsed. Numerous individuals from these organisations went on the rampage and became indistinguishable from the Loyalist mobs on the loose that night.

While the situation in the Six Counties had became much more dangerous over the Summer the multiple deaths in open sectarian clashes was a huge shock to the people of Ireland. For the first time in decades people had been killed in almost open warfare between the Orange and the Green. It was a watershed in Modern Irish Politics.

Friday, 12 August 2016

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12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922:‭ ‬The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day.‭ ‬He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬He was born in the city in‭ ‬1872‭ ‬and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism.‭ ‬He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.‭  ‬His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood‭ (‬IRB‭) ‬and the Gaelic League.‭ ‬He went out to South Africa in‭ ‬1896‭ ‬and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics.‭ ‬He returned home and‭ ‬in‭ ‬1900,‭ ‬he founded Cumann na nGaedheal,‭ ‬a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.

In‭ ‬1905‭ ‬he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country.‭ ‬He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown.‭ ‬He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow.‭ ‬His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that‭ ‘‬Home Rule‭’ ‬was not enough.

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter‭ ‬1916‭ ‬Rising,‭ ‬dubbed by the British‭ ‘‬The Sinn Fein Rebellion‭’ ‬that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics.‭ ‬Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party.‭ ‬In the General Election of‭ ‬1918‭ ‬Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the‭ ‬Dáil met in‭ ‬1919‭ ‬it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President‭! ‬Griffiths‭’ ‬role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure.‭ ‬This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.‭

However it was only after the Truce of‭ ‬1921‭ ‬when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear.‭ ‬This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British.‭ ‬Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the‭ ‬26‭ ‬Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign‭ ‘‬the Treaty‭’ ‬as well.‭ ‬He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera‭ & ‬a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.‭  ‬After a mammoth series of debates aka the‭ ‘‬Treaty Debates‭’ ‬the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the‭ ‬Dáil and led his followers out.‭ ‬

The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation.‭ ‬The outbreak of the Civil War in June‭ ‬1922‭ ‬further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.‭  ‬Exhausted by his labours,‭ ‬he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the‭ ‬12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922‭ ‬and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.‭

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

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10‭ ‬August‭ ‬1316:‭ ‬The Second Battle of Athenry/‭ ‬Ath na righ took place on this day.‭ ‬The English Colonists defeated the Irish in a very bloody battle.

This was one of the most decisive battles of the Bruce Wars‭ (‬1315-1318‭)‬.‭ ‬The numbers involved are unknown,‭ ‬and can only be estimated.‭ ‬But while it is doubtful that they were any higher than seven thousand‭ (‬and even this figure should be treated with caution‭) ‬the list of participants on the Irish side alone indicates that an overall figure of at least three to four thousand were involved.‭ ‬The English claimed‭  ‬that they took some‭ ‬1100‭ ‬heads from the Irish on that day.

Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair the King of Connacht led a coalition of the Gaels to stop the return of William Burke,‭ ‬the Anglo-Irish Lord of Connacht.‭ ‬He had come back from Scotland to try and regain his lost lands in the western province.‭ ‬He gathered together a large and well equipped army from the colonists of Connacht and Meath.‭ ‬Richard de Bermingham led the English of Meath.‭ ‬O'Conchobhair also put together a formidable army drawn from North Munster,‭ ‬south Connacht‭ & ‬the kingdoms of Breifne and Meath.‭ ‬But whatever happened on the day of battle‭ (‬and the record is very sketchy‭) ‬the Irish met with Catastrophe.‭ ‬Feidlilimidh O'Conchobhair and Tadhg O'Cellaigh,‭ ‬King of Uí-Maine were among those that fell along with numerous other kings and chieftains of the Gaels.

Many of the men of Erin all,‭ ‬around the great plain
Many sons of kings,‭ ‬whom I name not,‭ ‬were slain in the great defeat
Sorrowful to my heart is the conflict of the host of Midhe and Mumha

Annals of Loch Cé

Another account states:

The Gael charged all day with desperate courage,‭ ‬but they were driven back by a line of steel,‭ ‬and mown down by the deadly English archers. ‭ ‬Their standard was captured. ‭ ‬Sixty chieftains were slain,‭ ‬including Felim and Tadhg O'Kelly from whom,‭ ‬the Gael expected more than from any man of his time.‭"

So was quenched the greatest hope for a century of restoring a Gaelic kingdom.‭ ‬The defeat and death of Felim at once restored De Burgo’s Lordship…the O’Connor‭ ‘‬kingdom of Connacht‭’ ‬was henceforth but an empty name.‭’

A History of Medieval Ireland‭ by Edmund Curtis

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

9‭ ‬August‭ ‬1971: The launch of Operation Demetrius on this day- ‭ ‬Internment was introduced by the British in the North of Ireland.‭ ‬In early morning raids the British army and the RUC lifted hundreds of men throughout the North in what was a ham fisted operation.‭ ‬Their aim was to catch as many members of the IRA in their homes as they could in one huge swoop.‭ ‬But the introduction of internment was a logical next move in the escalating War between Irish Republicans and the British.‭ ‬The IRA were already of the opinion that their enemies would once again use this tactic as they had many times in the past‭ & thus ‬most of the key leadership figures had already gone‭ ‘‬on the run‭’ by the time the round ups began‬. In the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s republican suspects had been imprisoned without trial by the British Government, but this time the exercise was to blow back in their faces.

What the British did not predict was the high level of resistance they encountered in Nationalist areas as men young and old were dragged away by the Crown Forces in full view of their terrified families.‭ ‬There was widespread anger and within hours rioting had broken out in many areas.‭ ‬It quickly became obvious that the exercise was a huge fiasco and one with deadly consequences.
Relying on outdated lists containing‭ ‬450‭ ‬names provided by the RUC Special Branch,‭ ‬the British Army swept into nationalist areas and arrested‭ ‬342‭ ‬men.‭ ‬Within‭ ‬48‭ ‬hours‭ ‬116‭ ‬of those arrested were released.‭ ‬The remainder were detained at Crumlin Road Prison and the prison ship‭ '‬The Maidstone‭' ‬in Belfast Harbour.‭

Hundreds were injured in the rioting that followed and‭ ‬12‭ ‬people were shot dead that day‭ – ‬2‭ ‬British Soldiers,‭ ‬7‭ ‬Nationalists and‭ ‬3‭ ‬Loyalists.‭

The British Government had focused the entire strength of their Armed Forces on one community in the North and it was obvious to all as to whose side they were backing‭ – ‬a strategy even they had some qualms about but went along with to placate the Stormont Government of Brian Faulkner.
What they did not include was a single Loyalist.‭ ‬Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing,‭ ‬this organisation was left untouched,‭ ‬as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara,‭ ‬the Shankill Defenders Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.‭ ‬It is known that Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few‭ '‬Protestants‭' ‬in the trawl but he refused.
Tim Pat Coogan

Monday, 8 August 2016

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8‭ ‬August‭ ‬1649:‭ ‬Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh,‭ ‬one of the last of the great scribes of Ireland,‭ ‬completed his catalogue of the Kings of Ireland,‭ ‬from Parthalón to Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair,‭ ‬entitled‭ ‬Réim Ríoghraidhe Éireann‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬This was for inclusion within his masterpiece the‭ ‬Leabhar na nGenealach,‭ ‬or the‭ ‬Book of Genealogies.‭ ‬The work is a compilation of Irish genealogical lore relating to the principal pre Gaelic, Gaelic, Viking and Anglo-Norman families of Ireland and covering the period from pre-Christian times to the mid-17th century collected from a variety of sources.‭ ‬The fact that many of these sources no longer exist adds considerably to the value of Mac Fhirbhisigh's work.‭

The opening sentence of Leabhar na nGenealach, quoted in 'The Celebrated Antiquary Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh', goes some way towards describing the contents. It reads

the branches of kinship and branches of genealogy of every invasion which took possession of Ireland from this time up to Adam (except the Fomhóraigh, the Vikings and English, whom we treat of only since they came to our country), together with the history of the saints and the list of the kings of Ireland and finally, an index in which are collected, in alphabetical order, the surnames and famous places mentioned in this book…

This great work stands comparison with‭ ‬The Annals of the Four Masters and is all the more remarkable for being the work of just one man.‭ ‬Preserved over the centuries it was not printed in full until Mayoman Nollaig Ó Muraíle published his comprehensive edition in five volumes‭ (‬by De Burca books‭) ‬in‭ ‬2004.‭ ‬This is one of Ireland’s greatest Literary/Historical Treasures.

Nollaig Ó Muraíle sums up his career as follows:

"... an astonishingly large proportion of the manuscripts we still possess passed through the hands of this one scholar, and it may well be that by that very fact that they have actually survived – thanks to their being passed on (eventually) from Mac Fhirbhisigh to the likes of Edward Lhuyd. Without the great diligence, then, of Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbisigh, as copyist, compiler and translator, and also as collector and transmitter of manuscripts, some quite significant remnants of the civilization that was Gaelic Ireland would have gone into almost certain oblivion. That is his legacy to succeeding generations, and one which merits our undying gratitude."

It might be worth noting that his name is pronounced  “DOOaltach MacIrvishy”. Which was anglicised, incredibly, as “Dudley Forbes”!!!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

7 August 1943: The death in Dublin of famous portrait artist Sarah Purser on this day.
She was born in Kingstown/ Dun Laoghaire on 22 March 1848. She was the daughter of Benjamin Purser and Ann Mallet. The family moved to  Dungarvan County Waterford, a seaside market town nestled beneath the Comeragh mountains soon after her birth and lived firstly in Strand side South, Abbeyside, which is now the home of the Parish Priest. Later they moved to a house called 'The Hermitage' in Abbeyside. Sarah lived here for about 25 years. Her father was involved in brewing and flour milling while in Dungarvan. At the age of 13 Sarah was sent to school in Switzerland for two years. She left Dungarvan in the summer of 1873 to make her living as a painter and settled in Dublin. There she trained in the Metropolitan School of Art and later went to the Academie Julian in Paris and also to Italy. She became a highly successful portrait painter and an important figure in the Irish art world at the turn of the century.

She worked mostly as a portraitist eg as above Girl with red hair. She was also associated with the stained glass movement, founding a stained glass workshop, An Túr Gloine, in 1903. Some of her stained glass work was commissioned from as far as New York, including a window at Christ Church, Pelham dedicated to the memory of Katharine Temple Emmet and Richard Stockton Emmet, grandson of the Irish patriot, Thomas Addis Emmet. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she was very successful in obtaining commissions, famously commenting "I went through the British aristocracy like the measles."

"some of her finest and most sensitive work was not strictly portraiture, for example, An Irish Idyll in the Ulster Museum, and Le Petit Déjeuner (in the National Gallery of Ireland)."
Bruce Arnold

Among her sitters were W.B.Yeats, Jack B Yeats, Maud Gonne, Roger Casement, James MacNeill, Sir Samuel Ferguson, the Bishops of Kells, Clogher and Limerick, John Kells Ingram, Sir Henry and Lady Gore Booth, Douglas Hyde,

When she founded An Tur Gloine, she was instrumental in drawing the attention of the art world to the works of John Yeats and Nathaniel Hone. She exhibited widely in Dublin and London. At the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Irish Fine Art Society in Dublin. At the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery, Fine Art Society and New Gallery in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. In 1886 she founded the Dublin Art Club and in 1890 the RHA elected her an Honoury Member.

Sarah Purser became wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness. She was very active in the art world scene in Dublin and was known as an entertaining host - to those that pleased her. She was involved in the setting up of the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House to house the gallery.

In 1923 she became the first female member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. She persuaded W.T. Cosgrave to give Charlemont House in Dublin as a modern Art Gallery and also to house the Hugh lane collection.

Until her death she lived for years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. It was demolished after she died and developed into apartments. She was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Friday, 5 August 2016


5 August 1847: Daniel O’Connell’s body was interred in Glasnevin cemetery on this day. The ‘Liberator’ had died in Genoa, Italy on 15 May. His last bequest was : “My body to Ireland – my heart to Rome – my soul to heaven”. Thus his body was conveyed back to Ireland for burial.

The Funeral service was held in the Metropolitan Church, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on the 4th August. The following day his cortege made its way through the City on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery. The centre of Dublin came to a standstill as tens of thousands of mourners lined the route as his hearse made its way along Westmoreland Street [above] and up Sackville St (now O’Connell St) on its way to his resting place in the Graveyard he had help to found. The enormous triumphal car that O’Connell rode in when he was freed from prison in May 1844 led the procession. His Funeral was the largest ever recorded up to that time in Ireland.

In 1869 his remains were re interred in the crypt of the O’Connell Round Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery in a magnificent casket in the base of the structure. There the Liberator lies today.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Image result for John Redmond

4 August 1914: Great Britain declared War on Germany. That afternoon the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith addressed the House of Commons in London and set out the reasons for the decision to declare War. Basically it was the crossing of the Belgian border by German forces that morning after Belgium had rejected Berlin’s demand that her armies have free passage across that country in order to attack France.

The problem for Britain was that if France’s northern coast was left open to German Naval operations then it was considered doubtful that she could hold out for long against attack by both land and sea. A quick German Victory in the West would then give the Kaiser a free hand to deal with Russia and thus make Germany the Master of Europe.

Britain however had an ace card to play as a Causi Belli and that was an International Treaty signed in 1839 guaranteeing the Independence of Belgium - which had been signed by both Britain and Prussia! Clearly the German attack on Belgium was a violation of that Treaty and this opened the door for her entering the war on the side of France. The stakes were believed to be just too high for Britain to risk staying out of it and having no influence on the outcome of the War.

That afternoon Asquith addressed a packed and silent House setting out the unfolding events  and the continuing diplomatic communications with Brussels and Berlin. Assurances recieved from the German Capital that Germany had no territorial ambitions on Belgium and was only acting on their convinced belief that France would attack her through that country otherwise did not find any favour with Asquith and the British Cabinet. 

Asquith concluded his speech with these fateful words:

I have to add this on behalf of His Majesty's Government: We cannot regard this as in any sense a satisfactory communication. We have, in reply to it, repeated the request we made last week to the German Government, that they should give us the same assurance in regard to Belgian neutrality as was given to us and to Belgium by France last week. We have asked that a reply to that request, and a satisfactory answer to the telegram of this morning—which I have read to the House—should be given before midnight.

The House adjourned at 7.15 pm to meet again the following day. The Cabinet then retired to await the reply from Germany.

However as the clock struck 11pm that night and as no reply had been received  Wintson Churchill - the First Lord of the Admiralty - noted that it was actually 12 midnight in Berlin so the Cabinet on his prompt decided there and then that there was no point wasting an hour when time was of the essence and the word went out to commence military operations with immediate effect.
The Foreign Office then issued the following official statement:-

Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by his Majesty's Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, his Majesty's Ambassador to Berlin has received his passports, and his Majesty's Government declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11 p.m. on August 4, 1914.

No mention of Ireland! But the previous day John Redmond [above] the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons had spoken in that House and had stated that at least Ireland could be defended by Irishmen if the British Army was needed elsewhere.

Today there are in Ireland two large bodies of Volunteers. One of them sprang into existence in the North. Another has sprung into existence in the South. I say to the Government that they may to-morrow withdraw every one of their troops from Ireland. I say that the coast of Ireland will be defended from foreign invasion by her armed sons, and for this purpose armed Nationalist Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulstermen in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation there may spring a result which will be good not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation? I ought to apologise for having intervened, but while Irishmen generally are in favour of peace, and would desire to save the democracy of this country from all the horrors of war, while we would make every possible sacrifice for that purpose, still if the dire necessity is forced upon this country we offer to the Government of the day that they may take their troops away, and that if it is allowed to us, in comradeship with our brethren in the North, we will ourselves defend the coasts of our country.

Redmond’s proposal was lost in the wash of unfolding events but his decision to support Britain and not oppose the War was a fateful one. Of course with Home Rule on the cards he had to play it careful and this position was one really of neither being in or out of the War. But it was a stance he could not maintain for long as the dramatic and bloody events of the next few weeks were to demonstrate. On the 20th September at Woodenbridge in Co Wicklow he finally threw his hat in the ring and committed his support for Nationalist Ireland's military involvement in the War Effort.