Monday, 31 July 2017

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‭31 July 1917: The death of  the Irish Poet ‬Francis Ledwidge at the battle of Battle of Passchendaele on this day. He was killed when a German shell landed amongst the work detail he was with near the village of Boezinghe and blew him and five of his comrades to pieces.
He is considered the finest Irish War poet of the First World War and one that encapsulated so many of the contradictions facing Irish men who were recruited into the British Army in the First World War.

Francis Ledwidge was born near the village of Slane Co Meath in 1887. His family were not well off after the death of his father and he left school at age 13 to work on the roads. However he became interested in poetry and wrote on the Nature and history of the Boyne Valley. Encouraged by a local curate, Fr Smith, Ledwidge began contributing his poetry to the Drogheda Independent. Ledwidge was later befriended by Lord Dunsany who would become an invaluable patron.

Raised in the Irish Nationalist tradition he joined the Irish Volunteers and trained with the local battalion to resist Partition and to secure Ireland her own Parliament. When the First World War broke out he was shocked at the atrocities reportedly carried out by the German Army and though initially sceptical he decided to enlist in the British Army:

‘I  joined the British army because England stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilisation, and I would not have had it said that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions.'

On 24 October he joined Lord Dunsany’s regiment, the 5th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10th (Irish) Division at Navan, and was sent to Richmond Barracks in Dublin. He first saw action at Gallipoli in July 1915 against the Turks. He took part in the landings at Suvla Bay in August that were yet another costly Fiasco. By October the 10th Division was posted to Serbia and saw action against the Bulgarians. Ledwidge survived, but damaged his back during the retreat to Salonika, and was subsequently hospitalised in Cairo and later in Manchester.

It was while convalescing  there that word reached him that there had been a Rising in Dublin and that his friend Thomas McDonagh had been executed by the British. He was shattered by this news and became disillusioned with the War effort. In conversation with his brother Frank, his change of heart was revealed when he said that ‘if someone was to tell me now that the Germans were coming over the back wall, I wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them'.

Ledwidge returned to the front in France in the second half of 1916, and saw action at the Battle of Arras in the spring of 1917. His battalion was then ordered north to Belgium in preparation for the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The offensive began on 31 July 1917, but Ledwidge was kept in reserve behind the lines and put to work laying roads. While Ledwidge was drinking tea in a mud hole with his comrades, a shell exploded alongside, killing the poet and five others. A chaplain who knew him, Father Devas, arrived soon after, and recorded "Ledwidge killed, blown to bits."

The battle of Passchendaele ended some 100 days later with over 245,000 Allied and 215,000 German soldiers dead wounded and missing. Francis Ledwidge might have been amongst the first Irishmen to die at 3rd Ypres. Today though he is one of the very few who are remembered for their sacrifice in it and the contradictions he faced between his love for Ireland and his hatred of Tyranny as expressed in his evocative Poetry.

The silence of maternal hills
Is round me in my evening dreams;
And round me music-making rills
And mingling waves of pastoral streams.

Whatever way I turn I find
The path is old unto me still.
The hills of home are in my mind,
And there I wander as I will.
In France
February 1917

Saturday, 29 July 2017

29‭ ‬July‭ ‬1883:‭ ‬James Carey,‭ ‬the man who informed on the Phoenix Park assassins‭ (‬The Invincibles‭)‬,‭ ‬was shot dead on this day.‭ ‬He was killed by Patrick O'Donnell‭ (‬executed‭ ‬17‭ ‬November‭) ‬on board the‭ ‬Melrose Castle,‭ ‬which was making its way from Cape Town to Durban with the turncoat on board.‭ ‬On the evidence of James Carey five of the‭ "‬Invincible‭" ‬prisoners had been convicted and received the capital sentence.‭ ‬Their names were Joseph Brady,‭ ‬Daniel Curley,‭ ‬Michael Fagan,‭ ‬Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly.‭ ‬Their executions took place in Dublin,‭ ‬in the months of May and June‭ ‬1883.

But Carey was a hunted man as his old revolutionary companions sought out his whereabouts.‭ ‬It became known that the British had sent him to South Africa with his family to start a new life in a remote location.‭ ‬But his attempt to escape the rightful vengeance of the remnants of those Invincibles still at large proved a futile exercise.‭  

Nemesis was on his track in the person of Patrick O'Donnell,‭ ‬a fellow-passenger on board the Melrose.‭ ‬An acquaintance sprang up between the two men‭; ‬and O'Donnell,‭ ‬from the descriptions he had heard of Carey's personal appearance,‭ ‬was not slow in recognizing in his compangon de voyage,‭ ‬the notorious informer‭; ‬and his sensibilities were shocked by the discovery that he had given the hand of friendship to such a wretch.‭ ‬

An altercation between these men on Sunday,‭ ‬July‭ ‬29,‭ ‬1883,‭ ‬resulted (‬according to O'Donnell's statement‭) ‬in Carey drawing his revolver on O'Donnell,‭ ‬whereupon O'Donnell--as he claims in self-defense--fired his own revolver twice at Carey,‭ ‬with fatal effect.‭ ‬O'Donnell was immediately placed under arrest,‭ ‬and on the arrival of the Melrose at Port Elizabeth,‭ ‬was taken before a magistrate,‭ ‬who recommitted him for trial in England,‭ ‬as the shooting had taken place on the high seas.‭ ‬The doom of O'Donnell,‭ ‬tried before an English judge and jury,‭ ‬was a foregone conclusion,‭ ‬and though he had the advantage of the most able counsel that money could procure,‭ ‬and there was no lack of funds for his defense--the Irish World alone having raised upward of fifty-five thousand dollars for this purpose--his conviction was secured.
By A.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Sullivan

Friday, 28 July 2017

28 July 1270: The Battle of Athankip (Cath Ath in Chip) near Carrick on Shannon on this day. Aedh O'Conchobhair, King of Connaught, defeated the army of the Anglo –Norman Colony of the deputy-Justicar Richard of Exeter and Walter De Burgo on this day.

King Aedh of Connacht was an able and dynamic leader with a ruthless streak. He fought hard to retain what was left of the ever shrinking lump of territory that was left to the kings of Connacht by the inroads of the English. It was a Land over which his family ancestors had once held sway over so much of as Kings.

His enemies were many but at this time he was at war with Walter de Burgo of the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family. Walter was both the Lord of Connacht and the Earl of Ulster - a very powerful man indeed in the Ireland of that time.

King Aedh knew that when the English began erecting a castle at Roscommon in 1269 that the Crown of England was putting pressure upon him by taking back lands lost in previous times. He expected war notwithstanding agreements entered into earlier with the Crown of England.

In 1270 the Justicar Robert d'Ufford* organised an expeditionary force that united all his forces with those of Walter de Burgo so that they had 'all the foreigners of Erin with them'. However d'Ufford quitted Ireland ahead of the expedition and returned home and his place was taken by his deputy Richard of Exeter. Eventually in the summer of 1270 the forces were assembled at Roscommon and set off to march upon King Aedh and his men.

* The chief representative of England in Ireland at that time

The Anglo-Norman Army went north by way of Elphin to the banks of the Shannon so that they were between Carrick and Jamestown, situated on what today is the riverine border between the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim.

There they decided upon a fatal course of action - they divided their forces in two so that the river Shannon would be between them. Walter was sent across the river with his men in order to camp beside Aedh's Army and to open negotiations with the King of Connacht so as to bring about his submission.

As part of the deal to agree to talk King Aedh entered into Walter's camp (a sign of submission in the Gaelic world!) but in return Walter had to hand over his own brother William to Aedh's camp 'while Aedh should be in the Earl's house arraigning the peace'.

Whatever exactly happened then we do not know but Aedh withdrew from the negotiations pretty fast. Meanwhile in his own camp two of the hostages who accompanied William were done to death and William himself was seized as a captive instead of being allowed to return to the care of his brother.

Walter was now on the wrong side of the river and with his brother's life in the balance and King Aedh obviously not prepared to agree to whatever terms were offered to him he decided to beat a retreat back to the other side of the Shannon and try and reunite his force with that of Richard of Exeter.

King Aedh on the other hand knew that in the aftermath of negotiations breaking down and the death of hostages that allowing Walter to cross the Shannon unmolested and re unite with Richard could only spell his own doom.

He decided to harry Walter's retreat and take out as many of his men as he could.

And O'Conchobhair was during these two

nights marching round them, as a furious, raging, tearing

lion goes about his enemies when killing them, so that
he permitted them neither to eat, sleep, nor be at rest.

Annals of Loch Cé

Eventually Walter's depleted and harried army made it to the banks of the Shannon at the ford of Ath An Chip where they proceeded to cross over to the other side. However they were caught here by Turlough O'Brien and his men. Turlough was if not the son then a close relative of King Brian of Thomond who had also turned against the English. Turlough might well have been on the western side of the Shannon already and waiting for Walter's army to turn up.

The Earl Walter turned to fight and with some courage sought out Turlough and engaged him in single combat and slew him. But this delay proved fatal for his army as the men of Connacht came upon his rearguard and turned a retreat into a rout. The English lost nine of the chief men (Knights) dead upon the battlefield and many hundreds of others as well. Over 100 apparelled and saddled horses were left behind by them. Aedh in the flush of Victory had Walter's own brother William put to death as a further insult to the man who had caused him so much trouble in his own life and that of his father King Felim too in his day.

The defeat of Ath-in-chip was inflicted by Aedh, son of Feidhlimidh Ua Conchobair and by the Connachtmen on the Earl, namely, on Walter de Burgh and on the Foreigners of Ireland besides, wherein was committed slaughter innumerable on the Foreigners. And William de Burgh junior was taken prisoner there and he was killed afterwards in the same captivity. And not greater than it was any defeat, or battle-rout that the Gaidhil ever gave to the Foreigners in Ireland previously.

For there was killed Richard of the Wood, kinsman of the Earl, as well as John Butler and many other knights and Foreigners and Gaidhil innumerable. And there were abandoned one hundred horses with their breastplates and with their saddles.
Annals of Ulster

Now when the Galls had gone to Ath in Chip in the morning, Toirrdelbach O Briain fell upon them there. The Earl himself turned upon him and slew him on the spot, single-handed.

At this moment the men of Connacht fell upon them. Their rearguard was dislodged and their van broken and nine of their noblest knights were killed on that moor, including Richard of the Wood and Seon Butler, and they left a hundred horses on the field, with their saddles and poitrels. Uilliam Oc was then killed in his captivity, after O Briain had been slain by the Earl, and none knew how many besides.
Annals of Connacht

It's possible that King Aedh was helped to gain this victory by the presence of a contingent of the famous Gallowglass (Gallóglaigh) warriors from Scotland which he had received as a dowry on his marriage in 1259 to the daughter of Dougall Mac Sorley of the western isles of Scotland.

Aedh O'Conchobhair went to Doire-Choluim-Chille [Derry] to espouse the daughter of Dubhgall
Mac Somhairle; and he brought home eight score young men with her, together with Ailin Mac Somhairle.
Annals of Loch Cé 1259

In the aftermath of the battle King Aedh raided far and wide across Connacht taking and destroying castles and driving his enemies before him. In the following years he raided further and took Roscommon itself in 1272. Athlone also fell to him and he broke the bridge across the Shannon.

Walter de Burgo died exactly a year to the day after the battle was fought in his castle at Galway- a broken man no doubt.

The end came for King Aedh on 3 May 1274:

Aed son of Fedlimid son of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, king of Connacht for nine years, died on the third day of May this year, a Thursday and the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Holy Cross; a king who wasted and desolated Connacht in fighting the Galls and Gaels who opposed him; a king who inflicted great defeats on the Galls and pulled down their palaces and castles; a king who took the hostages of the Ui Briuin and the Cenel Conaill; the destroyer and healer of Ireland was he; the king most dreaded and triumphant of all the kings of Ireland in his day, as the poet says: ‘For nine years did this Aed Engach defend the Family of Tara—no feeble forrayer was he—against Gall and Gael.’
Annals of Connacht

The Battle of Ath in Chip was his greatest military triumph.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

27‭ ‬July‭ ‬1261:‭ ‬The Battle of Callan was fought on this day.‭ ‬The battle site is located a few miles from Kenmare County Kerry,‭ ‬near where the Roughty and Slaheny Rivers converge and close by the castle of Ardtully.‭ ‬Callan is near Kilgarvan in the barony of Glanarought,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Kerry.

It came about as a result of an attempt by the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds‭ (‬supported by the Barrys‭) ‬to wrest control of territory from the Gaelic McCarthy’s of Kerry.‭ ‬But the expedition met with disaster and was sorely defeated by the Irish.‭ ‬The head of the McCarthy’s,‭ ‬Finghin MacCarthaigh,‭ ‬selected a battleground suited to the fighting tactics of his men.‭ ‬They were mostly lightly armed but mobile troops who used correctly could be very effective against the better armoured but slower moving soldiers and Knights of the Colony.

The leading men of these invaders were the Fitzgerald’s of Munster,‭ ‬led by John fitz Thomas and his son,‭ ‬Maurice fitz John.‭ ‬Another of the Norman leaders was‭ '‬the son of Richard‭’ ‬probably Walter de Burgo,‭ ‬Lord of Connacht and later Earl of Ulster.‭ ‬The Colonists were also supported by a few would be hopefuls from amongst the Irish themselves led by one Domhnall‭ ‬Ruadh‭ ‬-‭ ‬ a claimant to the McCarthy Lands.

In the event when battle was joined John Fitzthomas FitzGerald and his son Maurice were killed together with fifteen knights and more than‭ ‬300‭ ‬men.‭ ‬The survivors fled and Finghin MacCarthaigh was able to sweep all before him.‭ ‬But he overextended his reach and was in turn defeated and killed only a short while later.‭

1261.4‭ ‬A great war was waged,‭ ‬and numerous injuries were committed,‭ ‬by Finghin,‭ ‬son of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh,‭ ‬and his brothers,‭ ‬against Foreigners in this year.

1261.5‭ ‬A great hosting by the Clann-Gerald into Des-Mumha,‭ ‬to attack Mac Carthaigh‭; ‬and Mac Carthaigh attacked them,‭ ‬and defeated them,‭ ‬and Fitz-Thomas‭ (‬John proprium nomen‭)‬,‭ ‬and his son,‭ ‬and fifteen knights and eight noble barons along with them,‭ ‬were slain there,‭ ‬besides several young men,‭ ‬and soldiers innumerable.‭ ‬And the Barrach Mór was also killed there.‭ ‬Finghin Mac Carthaigh was subsequently slain by the Foreigners,‭ ‬and the sovereignty of Des-Mumha was assumed after him by his brother,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬the Aithchleirech Mac Carthaigh.

Ironically after many vicissitudes of Fortune it was Domhnall‭ ‬Ruadh,‭ ‬-‭ ‬the would be claimant who fought alongside the men of the Colony on the day‭ ‬-‭ ‬who was the one who emerged as the chief beneficiary of these wars.‭

After the deaths of Finghin Reanna Ró and Cormac na Mangartan,‭ ‬he seems to have assumed and held the kingship of Desmond until his death in‭ ‬1302--he reigned‭ ‬40‭ ‬years,‭ ‬according to A.I.--though not without opposition.
The Battle of Callan‭ ‬By Diarmuid Ó Murchadha in 'Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society‭ ‬1961'.

As a result of the deaths of John fitz Thomas and his son,‭ ‬Maurice fitz John,the power of the Geraldines was curtailed and the MacCarthys ruled on in their own lands for another‭ ‬300‭ ‬years.‭ ‬The Battle of Callan was thus one of the most decisive clashes of arms in the History of Ireland.‭

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

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26‭ ‬July‭ ‬1914:‭ ‬Erskine Childers landed‭ ‬900‭ ‬Rifles and‭ ‬29,000‭ ‬rounds of ammunition at Howth from the yacht‭ ‬Asgard‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬He was helped by his wife Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice.‭ ‬Further to the south another‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬rifles and more ammunition were landed at Kilcoole,‭ ‬County Wicklow.

Dublin Castle made strenuous efforts to block the distribution of these weapons but the cargo was eventually spirited away by Irish Volunteers after evading the Constables of the DMP.‭ ‬Over a thousand members of the Irish Volunteers later paraded down O’Connell St in Dublin’s City Centre in defiance of the orders issued by the DMP.‭ ‬A clash seemed likely between the two sides but none took place.‭

But later that evening British troops from the Kings Own Scottish Borderers‭ (‬KOSB‭) ‬were drawn up across the narrow thoroughfare of Bachelors Walk in Dublin’s City Centre.‭ ‬A confrontation ensued between the soldiers and local people.‭ ‬What happened after that is a matter of some dispute.‭ ‬The British Military claimed their men were the subject of stones being thrown.‭ ‬Other observers claimed that the soldiers opened fire without warning.‭ ‬Three people,‭ ‬including a woman,‭ ‬were shot dead and almost‭ ‬40‭ ‬were wounded.‭ ‬A man died later in hospital and two of those injured were bayoneted as well.

Some days later John Redmond MP and the Leader of the Irish Nationalist Party rose in the British House of Commons to give his considered response to this Massacre.

Let the House clearly understand that four fifths of the Irish People will not submit any longer to be bullied,‭ ‬or punished,‭ ‬or shot,‭ ‬for conduct which is permitted to go scot free in the open light of day in every County in Ulster by other sections of their fellow Countrymen.‭

The situation in Ireland was at a Crises point and daily an outbreak of fighting was expected between those who supported Home Rule and those who were opposed to it.‭ ‬Throughout Britain and Ireland Politicians and People expected Ireland to descend into Civil War.

But two days after the events at Bachelors Walk the Austro‭ ‬-‭ ‬Hungarian Empire issued a Declaration of War upon Serbia and within a week the Bosnian Crises had sucked the Continent into a World War.‭ ‬The affairs of Ireland were relegated to the back pages and Irish History took a new and entirely unexpected turn.

Today this famous ship that help change the course of Irish History is housed in a fully restored state in the National History Museum on Benburb St Dublin.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

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25 July 1886: Eliza Alice Lynch Lloyd died in the city of Paris on this day, an exile from the land of her birth in Ireland and the land of her Husband and children – Paraguay! Almost unknown in her native Country she is the most famous woman in the History of Paraguay where she reigned as the unofficial ‘Queen of Paraguay’ for a number of years.

Eliza started life in the city of Cork in 1833, she was the daughter of John Lynch, MD. and Jane Clarke Lloyd. When she was about 15 her family left Ireland for Paris, probably to escape the terrible conditions that beset Ireland at that time. A young and attractive girl she was wooed by a Xavier Quatrefages, an officer in the French Army. They married but it looks like it was an arranged affair and Eliza was not happy with the Union. Her husband was posted to Algeria and she followed him out there. But it did not last and she left him to return to her mother in Paris.

Her prospects were not great but she was a good looker, young blond and ambitious. She put her feminine skills to use as a Courtesan moving in the circle of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte. It is believed that it was at this time (circa 1854) that she caught the eye of one General Francisco Solano López, the son of none other than Carlos Antonio López the President of Paraguay. The young man had been dispatched to Paris by his father to buy armaments to equip the Army of his Country. He quickly fell in love with the young Irish beauty and she with him.

He decided to take her with him on his return home to the capital city of Asunción. But for whatever reason they did not marry. Her marriage was annulled in 1857 but Eliza was never accepted by the social oligarchy of the City. They shunned her as a fallen woman. Notwithstanding all this she bore her husband six children in total. He gave her extensive properties that made her nominally fabulously wealthy but all this Power and Wealth as the unofficial 'Queen of Paraguay/La Reina del Paraguay brought her jealousy from those who thought she was an upstart and a blow in.

In 1862 Francisco succeeded his father as President. An impetuous man he was concerned and angry with the decision of Brazil to invade the neighbouring state of Uruguay believing that he must oppose this in arms. In 1864 he declared war on Brazil. This proved to be a disastrous move as the Empire of Brazil was far more powerful than tiny Paraguay. Eventually he was at War with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay - 'The War of the Triple Alliance' - and the Country suffered terribly when Paraguay was invaded. According to some estimates, Paraguay's pre-war population of 525,000 was reduced to 221,000, of which only 28,000 were men.

In all of this Eliza went with her husband to the battlefields where she and her sister volunteers nursed the wounded as best they could. They were known as Las Residentas, composed of the soldiers' wives, daughters, and others. It was from involvement in helping the common soldiers that Eliza’s popularity with the Paraguayan People comes from. However the invading Powers eventually overran the Country and a bitter guerrilla war ensued. They eventually closed in on the increasingly paranoid and brutal Francisco López and his family and their band of ragged but loyal followers.

The end came at the battle of Cerro Corá on 1 March 1870 when López was finally killed. To add to the trauma of Eliza her eldest son was shot down and killed in front of her. The Brazilian officers told him to surrender, and upon replying "Un coronel paraguayo nunca se rinde" (A Paraguayan colonel never surrenders) he was shot and killed by the allied soldiers. At this Lynch, after jumping and covering her son's body, exclaimed "¿Ésta es la civilización que han prometido?" (Is this the civilization you have promised?) - making a reference to the allies' claim that they intended to free Paraguay from a tyrant and deliver freedom and civilization to the nation. She then buried both López and her son with her bare hands before being taken as prisoner.

She was taken prisoner and then was expelled and left Paraguay with her remaining children.  She died in obscurity in Paris on 25 July 1886. Over one hundred years later, her body was exhumed and brought back to and proclaimed a National Heroine. Her remains are now located in the national cemetery "Cementerio de la Recoleta".

Sunday, 23 July 2017

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23‭ ‬July‭ ‬1803:‭ ‬Robert Emmet’s Rising took place on this day.‭ ‬Unfortunately the whole affair was a fiasco due to a series of unforeseen circumstances.‭ ‬Emmet quickly lost control of the situation and he called it off to avoid a massacre of his followers.‭ ‬Due to an accidental explosion of an arms depot in Patrick St Dublin the week before the date for the Rising was brought forth to‭ ‬23‭ ‬July.‭ ‬Emmet felt that Dublin Castle was on to him and he dared not wait any longer before striking for Ireland’s Freedom.

On the day of the Rising Robert Emmet stood in Thomas Street Dublin and issued a Proclamation of Independence:


You are now called on to shew to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognizance of you, as an independent country, by the only satisfactory proof you can furnish of your capability of maintaining your independence, your wresting it from England with your own hands

But on the day nothing went right.‭ ‬Not nearly enough men turned up and Emmet could not bring any order upon enough of those that did.‭ ‬The only blow struck was when Lord Kilwarden haplessly drove into the assembled crowd of insurgents and was hacked to death for his part in suppressing the‭ ‬1798‭ ‬Rising.‭ ‬This attack troubled Emmet greatly as he gave no orders for it.‭ ‬To him it was clear that at least a faction of those assembled would turn violent of their own accord and bring a bloody mayhem to the streets of the City rather than the ordered seizure of military points of importance around the Capital.‭ ‬Reluctantly that very night he called the enterprise off by the launching of a single rocket into the sky above Dublin.‭ ‬He immediately made for the Wicklow Mountains but returned to Rathfarnham some days later and went into hiding.

Notwithstanding the overall failure there had been some heavy fighting by armed insurgents against the British garrison in the Coome and scores of men died there,‭ ‬forcing the British back before the word was given to disperse.‭ ‬Around the City there were numerous smaller clashes and roads blocked.‭ ‬Amazingly Dublin Castle was caught completely on the hop and had no counter plan ready on the night.‭ ‬It was only the next day that they began to move and by that stage the insurgents had gone their separate ways.‭ ‬It was close run thing and the British had a lucky escape from having a full-blooded Insurrection on their hands.

Robert Emmet was arrested in Dublin on‭ ‬25‭ ‬August of the same year.‭ ‬He was put on trail and sentenced to death.‭  ‬At his trial he made a brilliant speech from the dock that inspired Revolutionaries both at home and abroad for years to come.‭ ‬He was executed the following day,‭ ‬20‭ ‬September‭ ‬1803,‭ ‬at Thomas St.‭ ‬A huge crowd of onlookers and well wishers gathered to witness his final moments.‭ ‬The whereabouts of his last resting place remains unknown.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

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22 July 1858: Mother Mary Frances Aikenhead died on this day. She was a frail child and was adopted out in her native city of Cork to a woman called Mary Rourke. Though baptised into the Church of Ireland it is thought that Mary was secretly baptised a Catholic from this early age by Mary Rourke who was a devout Catholic. However she was not formally received into the Catholic Faith until she was 15 years old on 6 June 1802. From an early age she was a devout disposition and wished to pursue a religious Life.

In 1808, Mary went to stay with her friend Anne O’Brien in Dublin. Here she witnessed widespread unemployment and poverty and soon began to accompany her friend in visiting the poor and sick in their homes. From this experience she believed it would be her vocation to help the sick and the poor as a member of a religious Community. She trained for 3 years (1812-1815) in a convent in York, England in order to become a Nun. When she returned to Dublin she set up the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland.

On 1 September 1815, the first members of the new institute took their vows, Sister Mary Augustine being appointed Superior General. Added to the traditional three vows of poverty chastity & obedience, was a fourth vow: to devote their lives to the service of the poor. For the next 15 years Mother Mary worked very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the less well-off but it took a terrible toll on her own Health.

However she did not let her own personal misfortune get her down:

“Low spirits and dreads of evil to ourselves or Congregation, or even to the church, are actually the beginnings of despair. If all the rest of the world goes wrong, we should still persevere in trying to serve our God with faith and fervour.” (7 November 1834)

Confined to bed or a wheelchair she continued to direct her charges and set up new institutions both at home and abroad. Her Sisters were particularly active during the great Cholera outbreak in 1832. She died in Dublin, aged 71 in Our Lady’s Mount Harold’s Cross and was buried in in the cemetery attached to St. Mary Magdalen's, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Her cause for canonization as a saint has been progressing in Rome. On 18 March 2015, a decree was issued proclaiming her heroic virtues. This entitles her to be referred to as the Venerable Mary Aikenhead.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

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20‭ ‬July‭ ‬1398:‭ ‬The Battle of Kellistown/‭ ‬An Cath‭ ‬Cell Osnadha‭ ‬was fought on this day.‭ ‬The battle was fought between the forces of the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles,‭ ‬and the English of Leinster led by Roger Mortimer,‭ ‬the‭ ‬4th Earl of March.

The O’Byrnes and O’Tooles were surrogates for Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh who was the most powerful Chieftain in Leinster and recognised as a King amongst his own people.‭ ‬He used them to fight a proxy war against the English and thus avoid a complete break with them.‭ ‬Kellistown is situated in‭ ‬County Carlow‭ ‬between the towns of Carlow and Tullow.
‭ ‬"Here fell the heir presumptive to the English crown,‭ ‬whose premature removal was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England a year or two later.‭" ‬
Mortimer was none other than the heir to the Throne of England.‭ ‬He was also dignified with the titles‭ ‘‬Earl of Ulster‭’ ‬and‭ ‘‬Lord Of Connaught‭’‬.‭ ‬Ironically he was a direct descendant of Aoife Murchada,‭ ‬whose father had let the English in.‭ ‬Thus he was a distant relation of his nemesis Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh‭!
Mortimer had been created the King of England’s Lieutenant in Ireland in‭ ‬1396‭ ‬and held this position until the Irish killed him.‭ ‬His body was cut to pieces during the battle but whether this as a result of combat or mutilation after his death is not recorded.‭ ‬Curiously enough he had decided to engage in the combat dressed in the Irish style - that is without body armour.‭ ‬There was at least enough of him remaining for his corpse to be brought back home to England where he was interred‭ ‬amongst his own people in Wigmore Abbey,‭ ‬Herefordshire.
King Richard II of‭ |‬England was so upset by the news he resolved to return to Ireland and settle matters once and for all with Art Mac Murrough.‭ ‬But his departure from his own Country in‭ ‬1399‭ ‬cost him his Kingdom as his domestic enemies took the opportunity to topple him from his throne. On return in the month of August he was compelled to give up his crown and submit to the advances of his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke. An embarrasment to the new King Henry IV he was allowed to wither away in captivity and ‘died’ - probably in early 1400.
An Cath‭ ‬Cell Osnadha‭ ‬was thus a battle of great importance in the history of two countries‭ – ‬England and Ireland.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

19 July 1210: King John of England arrived before the Castle of Carrickfergus in Ulster and besieged it on this day. It soon fell into his hands and in the days following he received a visit from the King of Tyrone Tir Eoghan, Aed Meith O Neill. His visitor brought a large contingent of troops with him, perhaps 2,000 warriors to impress the Anglo-Norman Monarch. The Ulster king agreed to render John service but the two kings drew different conclusions as to what that actually meant. The King of Connacht was also a somewhat reluctant part of King John’s host and actively helped him in suppressing the Anglo-Norman De lacy family that had upset the King of England’s temperament.  

Johannes, grandson of the Empress, king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year.

After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.

Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the king put men of his own company into it.

Annals of Loch Cé


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

18 July 1938: Douglas Corrigan  -‘Wrong way Corrigan’ - landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  Co Dublin after flying across the Atlantic solo in his aircraft Sunshine on this day. His arrival was totally unexpected and on being asked from whence he came he answered ‘New York’ - much the incredulity of those who had gathered around him.

Despite his assertion that he had simply lost his way on take off and instead of turning west for California he had  inadvertently headed east for Ireland no one really believed him. He had started his working life as a mechanic and had caught the Flying Bug when he took a ride up in a plane some years previously. He got his pilots license & took up stunt flying to earn a living. But he always hankered to do something out of the ordinary and settled on Ireland (the Homeland of his ancestors) as a place he would like to fly to.

He saved up his salary and spent $300 on buying a second hand 1929 Curtiss Robin OX-5 monoplane and flew it home, where he returned to work as an aircraft mechanic and began to modify the Robin for a transatlantic flight. Having installed an engine built from two old Wright Whirlwind J6-5 engines (affording 165 hp (123 kW) instead of the 90 hp (67 kW) of the original) and extra fuel tanks, Corrigan applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1935, seeking permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland. The application was rejected; his plane was deemed unsound for a nonstop transatlantic trip, although it was certified to the lower standard for cross-country journeys.

But Corrigan was nothing if not a tryer and on 17 July 1938 he took off at 5:15 in the morning with 320 US gallons (1,200 L) of gasoline and 16 US gallons (61 L) of oil on board. Corrigan headed east from the 4,200-foot (1,300 m) runway of Floyd Bennet Field New York to begin his epic journey.

He landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  on July 18, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight. His provisions had been just two chocolate bars & two boxes of fig bars, and 25 US gal (94.64 L) of water.

Corrigan's plane had fuel tanks mounted on the front, allowing him to see only out of the sides. He had no radio and his compass was 20 years old, but somehow he made it. His daring flight alone across the Atlantic Ocean made headlines across the World. Back in the USA he was nicknamed ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ when he claimed to have flown East instead of West on take off. It was said that his tickertape parade through the streets of New York City outshone that of his great hero Charles Lindbergh - who curiously never acknowledged his achievement.

The journalist H.R. Knickerbocker who met Corrigan in Ireland after his arrival, wrote in 1941:

You may say that Corrigan's flight could not be compared to Lindbergh's in its sensational appeal as the first solo flight across the ocean. Yes, but in another way the obscure little Irishman's flight was the more audacious of the two. Lindbergh had a plane specially constructed, the finest money could buy. He had lavish financial backing, friends to help him at every turn. Corrigan had nothing but his own ambition, courage, and ability. His plane, a nine-year-old Curtiss Robin  was the most wretched-looking jalopy.

As I looked over it at the Dublin airdrome I really marveled that anyone should have been rash enough even to go in the air with it, much less try to fly the Atlantic. He built it, or rebuilt it, practically as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates. It looked it. The nose of the engine hood was a mass of patches soldered by Corrigan himself into a crazy-quilt design. The door behind which Corrigan crouched for twentyeight hours was fastened together with a piece of baling wire. The reserve gasoline tanks put together by Corrigan, left him so little room that he had to sit hunched forward with his knees cramped, and not enough window space to see the ground when landing.

The following year, he starred as himself in The Flying Irishman, a movie biography. The $75,000 he earned was the equivalent of 30 years income at his airfield jobs! During the War he flew planes for the US Transport Command and then went back to California where he bought an Orange Farm. He died there in 1995. To the end he never admitted to anything other than flying ‘the wrong way’.

Monday, 17 July 2017

17 July 1579: James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, the cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond arrived off Smerwick/ Ard na Caithne in County Kerry on this day. The Catholic adventurer had arrived back from Spain with high hopes of re launching the Catholic Cause in Ireland and in particular in Munster. He brought with him one Nicholas Sanders - an exiled priest and holding the position of Papal Nuncio to the Irish. Within days a few hundred men joined them in two Spanish galleys but this small force was only enough to garrison a little fort. Fitzmaurice knew that he would have to raise the flag of revolt and rely on the resentment of the Catholics of Munster against English Protestant encroachments to carry the day.However many of the local chieftains had reached an uneasy peace with the English and did not want to risk all they had in a revolt in which the odds would be stacked against them. One such was Fitzmaurice’s own cousin Theobald Burke. Within days of the landing Fitzmaurice departed on a series of raids but his depredations turned many against him including his own cousin.

Mac-I-Brien sent a body of galloglasses and soldiers to Theobald. These then went in pursuit of those heroic bands, and overtook James, who had halted in a dense and solitary wood to await their approach. A battle was fought between both forces, in which James was shot with a ball in the hollow of the chest, which afterwards caused his death. Notwithstanding this, however, he defeated his lordly pursuers. In this conflict a lamentable death took place, namely, that of Theobald Burke, a young warrior, who was a worthy heir to an earldom for his valour and military skill, and his knowledge of the English language and the law. James, the son of Maurice, had not passed far from the scene of this battle when the languor of death came over him; upon which, in a few words, he made his will, and ordered his trusty friends to cut off his head after his death, in order that his enemies might not discover him, so as to recognise or mangle him.

The killing of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald should have been the end of the matter. But while his return home to Ireland was cut short by his death in battle his actions had been enough to trigger off what became known as the 2nd Desmond War that proved to be a long and bloody affair.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

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15 July 1927:  Countess Constance Markievicz died on this day. Society Girl, Artist, Revolutionary, Feminist and Socialist there is no doubt that she was a woman who lived Life to the full and gave it her all for Ireland and her People. She was born in London in 1868 to the Artic explorer Sir Henry Gore Booth and Lady Georgina, Lady Gore-Booth. Her father owned a large Estate at Lissadell House in Co Sligo.

In the 1890s she studied Art in London and Paris where she met her future husband, the Polish Nobleman ‘Count Markievicz’ - and there after she was known as Countess Markievicz! She gave birth to their daughter, Maeve, at Lissadell in November 1901.The family moved to Dublin in 1903 and the Countess moved in the Literary and Art circles of the city, notably in the circle of the famous portrait artist Sarah Purcell. There she met many people who were involved in the politics of the day and from this her interest in Ireland’s future deepened. In 1908, she became actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland and joined Sinn Fein which was the most advanced Nationalist Party of its day. In 1913 Markievicz's husband moved back to Ukraine, and never returned to live in Ireland. However, they did correspond and he was by her side when she died.

When the 1916 Rising broke out she played an active part in it and was rumoured to have shot dead a DMP policeman while trying to storm Dublin Castle. She was part of the Stephens Green garrison that later withdrew to the Royal College of Surgeons on the Green. When the Rising was over she was taken prisoner, held in solitary confinement and sentenced to Death. Much to her disappointment the sentenced was commuted to Life Imprisonment. However she was released in 1917 after having served her time in an English Prison.

In the British General Election of December 1918 she was elected for a Dublin Constituency taking 66% of the vote but refused to take her seat in a London Parliament. When the 1st Dáil met in January the Countess was back in an English Prison and when the roll call was taken her absence was noted by the words - fé ghlas ag Gallaibh -"imprisoned by the foreign enemy". She was made the Minister for Labour and held that position until January 1922. She also sat in the Cabinet of the Irish Republic from April 1919 till August 1919 - thus making her the First Woman Cabinet Minister in Irish History.

She left the government in January 1922 along with Eamon De Valera and others in opposition to the Treaty. She fought actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War helping to defend Moran's Hotel in Dublin. After the War she toured the United States. However, her staunch republican views led her to being sent to jail again. In prison, she and 92 other female prisoners went on hunger strike. Within a month, she was released. She joined the new Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926, chairing the inaugural meeting of the new party in La Scala Theatre. In the June 1927 Election she was re-elected to the Dáil as a candidate for the new party, which was pledged to return but died only five weeks later, before she could take up her seat.

Constance Markievicz died at the age of 59 on 15 July 1927, of complications related to appendicitus. She had given away the last of her wealth, and died in a public ward "among the poor where she wanted to be". One of the doctors attending her was her revolutionary colleague Kathleen Lynn. Also at her bedside were Casimir and Stanislas Markievicz, Eamon de Valera & others came by to pay their last respects. Refused a state funeral by the Free State government, she was buried Glasnevin Cemetery  Dublin, and Eamon de Valera gave the funeral oration. Sean O’Casey said of her: One thing she had in abundance—physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

13 July 1866: The Great Eastern steamship [above], the largest vessel afloat at that time, departed Valentia Island Co Kerry for Newfoundland on this day. Its task was to attempt once again to try and lay a working telegraph cable from Europe to the Americas.

‘It was the brainchild of American entrepreneur Cyrus Field, who made two unsuccessful attempts before finally succeeding. The first officer on the Great Eastern - the biggest vessel in the world at the time - was Wicklow native Captain Robert Halpin. While Belfast born scientist and engineer, Lord Kelvin, worked on the technical aspects of the cable.

Prior to the laying of the Transatlantic Cable it took approximately two weeks from a message to reach North America from Europe… weather permitting as all communications were sent via boat.

The idea of a transatlantic cable was first proposed in 1845, but the distances and depths presented formidable problems. In 1856 the Atlantic Telegraph Company was registered with a capital of £350,000 (then about $1,400,000). On the American side Cyrus W. Field was the driving force; on the British side it was Charles Bright and brothers John and Jacob Brett.

After so many failed attempts, the final, successful, cable was laid with virtually no problems. On 27 July 1866, the cable was pulled ashore at a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland known by the charming name of Heart’s Content. The distance was 1686 nautical miles Valentia Island. The Great Eastern had averaged 120 miles a day while paying out the cable.

The first message sent on this, finally successful, cable was: “A treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia”. Queen Victoria, then at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight, sent a message to the President of the United States. “The Queen congratulates the President on the successful completion of an undertaking which she hopes may serve as an additional bond of Union between the United States and England.'' *

Almost immediately, the cable opened for business but only the very wealthy could afford it – the initial rates were a startling $1 a letter, payable in gold – at a time that a monthly wage for a labourer might be $20.''

For the next 100 years Valentia Island was a major portal for the dispatch and reception of messages between the distant continents in what was for its time an Information Superhighway in itself. The station finally ceased being a conduit for transatlantic communication in 1966 when air mail & satellites made it un-economic to maintain it any longer. It was an end of an Era.

* No mention of Ireland!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

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12 July [O.S. 1 July] 1690: The Battle of the Boyne/Cath na Bóinne was fought on this day. The Protestant Army of King William of Orange defeated the Catholic Army of King James II. With around 36,000 Williamites against 25,000 Jacobites this battle, in terms of the numbers of men on the battlefield was the largest clash of arms ever fought in Ireland.

Both kings commanded their armies in person assisted by a number of men of high rank and status. King William had under his orders English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish, French Huguenots and Protestants from Ireland. King James Army mainly consisted of Catholic Irishmen, and a scattering of Englishmen loyal to the Stuarts. The King was also backed by around 6,500 regular French troops sent by King Louis XIV. 

William's Army was drawn up on the north side of the river.  King James's was on the south side with the two armies facing each other along an extended line of some miles. William's battle plan was to distract the attention of the Jacobite army on the river while a large force was sent upstream to turn the left flank of the Jacobite Army. William sent 10,000 men towards Slane with the advance guard under Count Meinhard, which drew the bulk of the Jacobites upstream in response. With some 1,300 Jacobites posted in downstream in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. Duke Frederick Marshal Schomberg (William’s top General) then led the Dutch Blue Guards and other regiments into the waters of the Boyne and across to the other side.

Opposing them were just seven regiments of the Catholics who shot their attackers down in great numbers as they attempted the passage of the Boyne at Oldbridge. A want of sufficient cavalry and artillery to block the crossing of so formidable a host eventually told against the Irishmen. They were pushed back from the riverbank as their enemies gained a toehold and then flowed across. William himself eventually crossed at Drybridge slightly downstream with about 3,500 mounted troops.

Marshal Schomberg brought down to the ford of Ouldbridge the gross of his cavalry, with orders to push on and suffer no check. At this, the seven regiments aforesaid of Irish foot, observing they would be soon overpowered, they cried to their own for horse to sustain them. In the meanwhile, they made a smart fire at the enemies, and laid them in heaps, as they were entering the waters. But their crying for horse was in vain; for they received but one troop, which was as good as nothing.

By the time reinforcements arrived it was too late and the enemy was across in strength.

The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.

Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events.

The King himself with a considerable portion of his Irish and French troops did however block Lord Douglas in the Williamite service from crossing the Boyne at Donore - which is situated between the fords of Rosnaree and Oldbridge. But this was a stalemate while the outcome of the battle was decided to the left and the right of the King’s position at Donore.

Eventually the Williamites across the river in strength on both the left and right flanks the order was given to fall back on Duleek to the south and stop that village been taken by the enemy. If King Williams’s men had taken the vital bridge there then the whole of the Jacobite army would have been cut off from retreat and in all likelihood captured in its entirety.

As it turned out the retreat was carried out in good order and despite further clashes Lord Tyrconnel, given command of the rearguard, was able to effect an orderly withdrawal. The enemy were content to follow in their footsteps and not risk a reverse.

However in these follow up operations the Williamites lost their best military leader – Marshal Schomberg.

Twas during these encounters that one master Bryen O'Tool, of the guards, discovering his former acquaintance, marshal Schomberg, near the village of Ouldbridge, resolved to sacrifice his life to the making him away, upon which he, with a few of the guards, and a few of Tyrconnell's horse, made up to him, and O'Tool with his pistol shot the marshal dead. But, soon after, fighting like a lion, he was slain

King James's army retreated across the river Nanny at Duleek and evaded capture. It had been a ‘close run thing’ and though the battle had been lost the Army was intact and still a cohesive fighting force.

Bad tactics rather than bad fighting had cost King James and his Irish followers the chance of victory against a more numerous enemy. The line of the Boyne might well have been held but King James had been outmanoeuvred by Marshal Schomberg’s plan - even though this crusty old Huguenot did not live to savour the Victory he had so materially helped to achieve.

Though there was some hot fighting in the course of the battle overall the casualties were light on both sides with perhaps 1,500 soldiers lying dead along the banks of the Boyne. Considering the strategic consequences of this clash of arms it was a very low number for a battle that determined the political and religious balance of power in Ireland for centuries to come and that still resonates down to our own day.