Wednesday, 31 October 2018

31‭ ‬October‭ ‬1867:‭ ‬The death occurred of the‭ ‬3rd Earl of Rosse at Monkstown,‭ ‬Co Dublin on this day.‭ ‬He was the most prominent astronomer of his time and built the world’s largest and most powerful telescope of the age on his estates at Birr Castle,‭ ‬County Offaly.‭ ‬After studying at Trinity College he later gained a First in Mathematics from Magdalen College,‭ ‬Oxford.‭ ‬He first represented‭  ‬the Kings County at Westminster as Lord Oxmanstown but was indifferent to deep political considerations.‭ ‬In politics he was a moderate conservative but of an independent mind on some leading questions.

After retiring from the world of politics he applied himself to the pursuit of astronomical science.‭ ‬Starting almost from scratch he assembled a series of large telescopes that he perfected through trial and error till eventually he produced his magnificent‭ ‬72‭ ‬inch optical reflector‭ – ‬the‭ ‘‬Leviathan of Parsonstown‭’‬.‭ ‬With this he discovered or developed‭  ‬many unknown or little understood heavenly objects including the remains of the burnt out star Supernova SN‭ ‬1054.‭ ‬He observed that nebula at Birr Castle in the‭ ‬1840s,‭ ‬and referred to the object as the‭ ‘‬Crab Nebula‭’ ‬because a drawing he made of it that looked like a crab,‭ ‬which is still the name it is most commonly known as to this day.‭

One of Rosse's telescope admirers was Thomas Langlois Lefroy,‭ ‬a fellow Irish MP,‭ ‬who said:‭

The planet Jupiter,‭ ‬which through an ordinary glass is no larger than a good star,‭ ‬is seen twice as large as the moon appears to the naked eye/.../But the genius displayed in all the contrivances for wielding this mighty monster even surpasses the design and execution of it.‭ ‬The telescope weighs sixteen tons,‭ ‬and yet Lord Rosse raised it single-handed off its resting place,‭ ‬and two men with ease raised it to any height.

In‭ ‬1849‭ ‬he was elected President of the Royal Society.‭ ‬He was elected a member of the Imperial Academy at St Petersburg,‭ ‬and created a knight of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III.‭ ‬He also received the Knighthood of St Patrick from Queen Victoria.‭ ‬Though born in England to an Anglo-Irish family he was strongly attached to this country by the ties of family,‭ ‬property and sympathy.‭

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

30 October 1651: Bishop Terence Albert O'Brien [above] Dominican, was hanged and beheaded at Gallow's Green, Limerick on this day. He was born into a well-off farming family near Cappamore in east Limerick in 1601. He became a Dominican in 1621 taking the name Albert. He studied in Toledo, Spain, where he was ordained in 1627. Returning to Ireland, he served as prior in Limerick and Lorrha near Portumna before becoming Provincial of the Irish province in 1643. He attended the general chapter of his order in Rome in 1644. After the siege of Limerick in 1651, O'Brien, who had encouraged citizens to resist, was captured as he tended the sick in the plague house. Tried by court-martial, he was condemned to death.

As he went to the gallows, he spoke to the people:

"Do not weep for me, but pray that being firm and unbroken in this torment of death, I may happily finish my course."

Two other Dominicans, Fathers John Collins and James Wolf, were executed at the same time.

After his death by strangulation his body was left hanging for three hours and treated with indignity by the soldiers. They cut off his head and spiked it on the river gate where it remained fresh and incorrupt, because, people said, he had preserved his virginity throughout his life. His headless body was buried near the old Dominican priory of Limerick, a wall of which still stands in the grounds of St Mary's Convent of Mercy.

Monday, 29 October 2018

29 October 878 AD: A celestial  phenomenon was observed in Ireland on this day.

A solar eclipse on the fourth of the Kalends of November [29 October] the twenty-eighth of the moon, on the fourth feria, about the seventh hour of daylight, fifteen solar days having intervened.
The Annals of Ulster 

This celestial phenomenon was seen as a total eclipse in central and northern Scotland and as a deep eclipse in all of Ireland as well as in parts of England and Wales. It was also recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Regino of Prüm, and annals from Iceland and Fulda in Germany, of which only the last compare with the Annals of Ulster record for accuracy.

The sun rose totally eclipsed in 73° N. and 42° 8′ W. at about 9.53 local time, and the central line of the eclipse, after passing near Dublin, Aberystwyth [Wales], Dover [England] and Fulda [Germany], went off the earth at sunset, about 130 miles south of Moscow [Russia] at 4.20 local time; St. David’s, Winchester and London were within the limits of totality. 

The Irish monks of ancient Ireland contained amongst their ranks not just scribes but also astronomers. They scanned the skies to record what they saw, not just so they could calculate the correct day to celebrate Easter according to the phases of the Moon but also for such signs or portents heralding the coming of the ‘Last Days’ as disclosed in the Biblical Book of Revelations.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

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28 October 1976: Marie Drumm, Republican activist, Cumann na mBan member and Ard-Chomhairle of Sinn Fein was shot dead by a Loyalist Death Squad in Belfast  on this day.
In one of the most dramatic assassinations of the Conflict in the North during the 1970s the death of Marie Drumm made headlines across the World. She was a thorn in the side of the British Crown Forces and faced huge levels of harassment for her stance against what she saw as the Occupation of part of Ireland by a Foreign Power.

Born Máire Drumm (née McAteer) in Newry Co Down in 1919 she grew up in the village of Killean Co Armagh. A keen Camogie player she came from a strong Republican family and she was from an early age interested in all things Irish: Language, Music and Culture. She moved to Belfast in 1942. While visiting republican prisoners there she met James Drumm whom she married on his release in 1946. The Drumms had five children: Séamus, Margaret, Seán, Catherine and Máire óg. When the IRA renewed the armed struggle in the late 50’s, James was again interned without trial from ‘57 to ‘61. When the civil rights movement began in the late 60s Máire was actively involved in the efforts to rehouse the thousands of nationalists forced from the homes by Unionist intimidation. 

As things spun out of control Marie Drumm became more and more involved in opposing British Rule. While a good organiser she found her forte in public speaking and no one could doubt that her speeches were direct and fiery at getting her message across. She was twice imprisoned by the British for making ‘seditious speeches’. Her house in Belfast became a focal point of Resistance and as a result was a target of constant raids and harassment by the British Army and RUC. This constant singling out of her and her family took its toll however. Her health declined and in October 1976 she was admitted to the Mater Hospital for an cataract eye operation. However the admittance of such a high profile figure to a public hospital could not escape notice. A Loyalist  hit team was put together to kill her. 

Ironically her health was so bad by that stage that her husband had to announce her standing down as Vice President of Sinn Fein on October 18. She planned to move South on 30 October to a Nursing Home. But on the evening of 28 October her assassins struck. Two men entered the grounds of the Mater Hospital to scout ahead and at approx. 10.30pm that night another two men dressed as hospital doctors s made their way up to the second floor and into the six bedroom Ward 38 where Marie Drumm was re-cuperating. Without warning one of them opened fire hitting her three times in the chest. They then turned and fled. Ten minutes later she died on the operating table. Her killers were never caught and no group claimed responsibility. But it generally accepted that it was a Loyalist Terror Gang that carried it out.

Her death though was a blow to the Republican Movement as she was a high profile figure who gave as good as she got against her enemies. She was buried in the family plot in Milltown cemetery, Belfast on 1 November in a huge Republican Funeral.

"The only people worthy of freedom are those who are prepared to go out and fight for it every day, and die if necessary."

Saturday, 27 October 2018

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27 October 1651:  Aodh Dubh O'Neill surrendered the city of Limerick on this day. He capitulated under pressure from sections of the populace who were suffering from starvation and want. In addition some of his own troops had had enough too. The townsmen were granted quarter for their lives and property, but were warned that they could be evicted in the future. Over 2,000 English Parliamentary soldiers died at Limerick, mostly from disease. Among them was Henry Ireton, who died a month after the fall of the city. About 700 of the Irish garrison died and an unknown, but probably far greater number of civilians – usually estimated at about 5,000.

‭The soldiers of the garrison were disarmed and allowed to march away to Galway. Several of the leading defenders of Limerick were executed for prolonging the siege. ‬Under the terms of surrender, O'Neill was to be executed for his stubborn defence of the city, but the Parliamentarian general Edmund Ludlow did not carry out the sentence and instead sent O'Neill into imprisonment in the Tower of London.

His father was Art Og O'Neill, and was among those exiles who made careers for themselves in the Spanish Army of Flanders. Aodh was, as a result, born in Brussels in 1611 and grew up  there, becoming a professional soldier and serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish Army Of Flanders against the Revolt of the Dutch Provinces.

In 1642, his uncle Owen Roe O’Neill  organised the return of 300 Irish officers in the Spanish service to Ireland to support the Ulster Catholics regain their lands from the Scots and the English. O'Neill's men became the northern branch of the Army of Confederate Ireland which was based at the city of Kilkenny in the south of the Country. He was captured early in the fighting but was released after his Uncle’s great Victory of the Scots at Benburb in 1646. He subsequently rose to prominence after the death of his uncle, Owen Roe O'Neill, in 1649.

Later that year he was sent south with 2,000 veteran Ulster troops to defend southern Ireland. He distinguished himself at the Siege of Clonmel in May 1650, inflicting the worst casualties ever experienced by Cromwell’s Army and their only military defeat.  He was then made commander of the defenders at the Siege of Limerick fighting off the first attempt to take the city in late 1650. However, the following year, Cromwell’s son in law Henry Ireton besieged the city again, eventually forcing the city to surrender when the city's population was dying of hunger and plague, and part of his garrison threatened a Mutiny. 

Aodh Dubh's imprisonment in London was cut short by the intervention of the Spanish Ambassador to England, who argued that he was a Spanish subject. He was subsequently released into Spanish custody on condition that he would not serve in campaigns against English forces ever again. He did not, therefore, return to Flanders, but was posted to Spain, where he became a General of Artillery.  He was recognized by the Spanish as the 5th Earl of Tyrone upon the death of his first cousin, Aodh Eugene. 

In around 1660 he wrote to the newly restored  King of England Charles II and asked for his family's ancestral lands to be restored, and that he be made recognised as the Earl of Tyrone. However Charles did not grant the request and Aodh Dubh died of disease later that year. He deserves his place in Military History as the only man to ever defeat Oliver Cromwell in a Clash of Arms.

Friday, 26 October 2018

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26 October 1588: The Girona, a 700 ton Neapolitan gallass was wrecked off the coast of Lacada Point, Co Antrim on this day. The Lacada/Lia Fada (the long stone) is a rock promontory that juts into the ocean a few hundred yards from the Giant's Causeway. The Italian built ship had been part of the ill fated Spanish Armada which Philip II had dispatched from his dominions to restore England to the Catholic Faith. The Girona was a galleass - an oared fighting ship, designed for Mediterranean warfare. But she performed extraordinarily well in northern waters, and survived the coast of Ireland with need of only slight repairs. 

On board were the survivors of two shipwrecks that had been washed upon the Irish shore. The Girona had picked them up at Killybegs, County Donegal. The Commander of the vessel decided that overladen as she was the best plan was to make for neutral Scotland and pick up more shipping there for the dash back to Spain. With over a thousand men inside the ship she was sluggish in the stormy waters and despite having over 200 oars to guide her passage was vulnerable to any contrary turns of weather. In a storm the oars would have been useless.

Initially her luck held and she made progress towards the Scottish coast. But the wind turned to the north west and pushed her back onto the rocky Antrim shores. Disaster struck when her rudder snapped off and she drifted a helpless hulk upon the waters. In despair the crew and passengers, including some of the noblest names in Spain, could only pray for Eternal Salvation as they were cast to their doom upon the rocks. Just a handful survived the ordeal and were rescued by the Irish of that coast. 

While nothing now survives of the wreck, over the last 40 years the place where she sank, now known as Port na Spaniagh, has yielded a rich haul of treasure - pathetic gold and jewelled trinkets, badges of rank, religious charms, tenderly inscribed love-tokens, money chains and nearly 1,200 gold and silver coins. A testimony to the riches in the possession of some of Spain's 'best' families on the night that they perished. Much of this recovered haul is now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. [above]

Thursday, 25 October 2018


25‭ ‬October‭ ‬1920:‭ ‬IRA Volunteer‭ ‬Joseph Murphy [above] died in Cork Jail,‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬He had been on a Hunger Strike for‭ ‬76‭ ‬days.‭ ‬For decades his fast was the longest on record anywhere in the World.‭ ‬He is buried in the Republican Plot in St.‭ ‬Finbarr's Cemetery in Cork City.

That same day Terence‭ ‬MacSwiney [below],‭ ‬T.D. , Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Cork City and Brigade Commandant‭ ‬1st Cork Brigade Irish Republican Army also died on Hunger Strike after 73 days.‭ ‬He had been arrested that August in Cork and charged with possession of:‭  ‬Documents the publication of which would be likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty.‭ He was summarily tried by court martial on 16 August and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Brixton Prison London.

He refused to recognise the Court and immediately decided to embark on a Hunger Strike.‭ ‬Three days afterwards in an effort to isolate him from the other prisoners,‭ ‬he was deported from Cork Jail to Brixton Prison,‭ ‬London.‭ ‬MacSwiney's hunger strike gained world attention.‭ ‬The British government was threatened with a boycott of British goods in America,‭ ‬and four countries in South America appealed to the Pope to intervene. ‭ ‬Protests were held in Germany and France as well.‭ ‬As the pressure mounted on the British government to release him,‭ ‬MacSwiney said:‭  ‬I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release.‭

On the‭ ‬20th of October he fell into a coma,‭ ‬and died five days later at‭ ‬5.40‭ ‬am on this day.‭ ‬His last words to a priest who visited were:‭ ‬ I want you to bear witness that I die as a Soldier of the Irish Republic.‭

Though his most famous words are:‭ ‬It is not those who can inflict the most,‭ ‬but those that can suffer the most who will conquer.

That same day the IRA raided the RIC barracks at Tempo,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Fermanagh with the help of insiders. ‭ ‬It resulted in the death of one RIC member‭ (‬Sgt Wilfred Lucas‭)‬. ‭ ‬It was only a partially successful raid though as some‭  ‬local loyalists came to the assistance of the garrison. ‭ ‬Subsequently,‭ ‬a local Republican‭ (‬Philip Breen‭) ‬was shot down and killed on his doorway in retaliation.

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25 October 1854: The Charge of the Light Brigade on this day. It took place in the Crimea on the Black Sea in what was then part of the Russian Empire. At the time Britain, France and Sardinia were at War with the Czar over Russia’s attacks on the Turkish Empire. This most famous (or infamous) cavalry charge was one with quite a few Irish connections. 

The British and the French dispatched an Expeditionary Force to the Crimea to take the naval base of Sevastopol. In order to conduct the siege the small port of Balaklava was utilised to unload supplies for the British Army. On the morning of 25 October the Russians attempted to seize it but were repulsed. The battle however continued and by that afternoon the Light Brigade was tasked with attacking the Russian batteries that were being withdrawn. 

‘The Light Brigade consisted of five regiments; the 4th Light Dragoons, the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, the 11th Hussars, the 13th Light Dragoons and the 17th Lancers.
The 4th Light Dragoons had one Irish officer serving in the Crimea, Cornet Robert Newcomen Goore-Booth of the Co. Sligo family, but he did not ride in the charge, being on sick leave aboard ship from 12th October to December 1854. Thirty-three Irish other ranks served in the 4th in the Crimea, of whom eighteen rode in the charge. Of these, four were killed, eight were wounded and three taken prisoner, one of whom was also wounded.
The 8th Hussars were an Irish Regiment and two Irish officers and nine-four other ranks served in the Crimea. One Irish officer and twenty-seven Irish other ranks actually charged with the brigade, of whom eight were killed, five wounded and two taken prisoner, one of whom was also wounded. The two Irish officers who served in the 8th in the Crimea were Captain Lord Killeen, later tenth Earl of Fingall, who did not re-join the Regiment until after Balaklava, and Lieut. Viscount Fitzgibbon, who was almost certainly killed in the charge. John Viscount Fitzgibbon was the son of the third Earl of Clare and a grandson of ‘Black Jack’ Fitzgibbon, the controversial Lord Chancellor of Ireland at the time of the Union. He had joined the 8th in 1850‘.
The 11th Hussars, who had been commanded by Brigadier the Earl of Cardigan, had two Irish officers in the charge, Lieut. George Houghton from Kilmanock House, Wexford, who was mortally wounded and died at Scutari on 22nd November and Lieut. Roger Palmer of Castle Lackin, Co. Mayo who survived, later transferred to the 2nd Life Guards and eventually rose to become a general. Troop Sergeant-Major Patrick Teevan from Belturbet and Private Larkin, who was killed, were two of the Irish rank and file in the charge from the 11th.
The 13th Light Dragoons had a total of forty personnel from Ireland serving in the Crimea. However only one Irish officer, Cornet Hugh Montgomery of Ballydrain, Co. Antrim, and four other ranks from Ireland, charged with the brigade. Montgomery was slain, having first shot four Russian hussars. Corporal Joseph Malone of the 13th won the V.C. at Balaklava for assisting in the rescue of the mortally wounded Captain Webb of the 17th Lancers. Malone performed his act of bravery while returning on foot after his horse had been shot.
From the 17th Lancers, two officers and fifteen other ranks of Irish origin participated in the charge. Captain White who had been educated at Trinity College Dublin, was severely wounded and Captain Winter from Agher, Co. Meath, was killed (there is a memorial tablet to him in the church there). Sergeant John Farrell of the 17th had his horse killed beneath him and won his V.C. assisting Sergeant Berryman of his regiment and Corporate Malone of the 13th to carry Captain Webb off the field. Troop Sergeant-Major Denis O’Hara who rallied some of the remnants of the 17th after the charge was afterwards painted by Orlando Norrie. The portrait is now in the museum of the 17/21st Lancers.
Source: Viscount Dillon. Irish Sword Vol xii - No. 48.

The seed of the whole disaster lay in botched instructions given by Lord Raglan, the British Commander to one Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who was of Irish-Italian stock. He was the finest Light Cavalry man in the Army, but somewhat rash and hot headed. On reaching the place where the Cavalry Division was drawn up he handed over a note dictated by Raglan which read:
"Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.

But he did not realise that while all was clear from his vantage point up on the heights the withdrawal of the enemy pieces was hidden from view to the recipients of the message. To make matters worse Lord Lucan was the senior officer on the spot. Lord Lucan had vast estates in the west of Ireland in Co Mayo but the families title originated from the village of Lucan Co Dublin. He was thoroughly hated in Mayo for the number of evictions he carried out in the Great Famine.  The commander of the Light Brigade was Lord Cardigan, who while considered something of a dunderhead no one would doubt his bravery that day. The two men were brothers in law and coldly detested each other. A dispute arose over what they were to do. Captain Nolan then made his dramatic and fateful interjection, appearing to point up the valley before them he loudly proclaimed to his superiors: There is the enemy - there are the guns!

Lord Lucan then reluctantly ordered his much loathed relation to take the Light Brigade up the valley before them and seize the Russian guns at the far end. It was a hopeless task of course as there was no cover and the enemy had the place swept by guns on both flanks as well as where their main position was. The Brigade set off at a slow trot then at the gallop. Just as they gathered pace Nolan dashed out in front waving his sabre above his head as he tried desperately to shout something. At that very moment a Russian shell exploded overhead and he fell from his horse a dead man. What he meant to say no one knows but it looks like he realised his fatal error and tried to turn the Brigade in another direction.

The regiments made it down the valley, meleed amongst the enemy batteries but could not hold them as the Russians poured volleys of fire into them and prepared to counter attack with their Cossacks. They slowly made their way back up the valley, some on horseback but many on foot.

The brigade was not completely destroyed, but did suffer terribly, with 118 men killed, 127 wounded and about 60 taken prisoner out of some 670 men who took part . After regrouping, only 195 men were still with horses. The futility of the action and its reckless bravery prompted the French Marshal Pierre Bousqet to state "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." ("It is magnificent, but it is not war.") He continued, in a rarely quoted phrase: "C'est de la folie" — "It is madness." The Russian commanders are said to have initially believed that the British soldiers must have been drunk!
War correspondent William Howard Russell, who was from Dublin and was reporting for the London Times witnessed the battle, declared our Light Brigade was annihilated by their own rashness, and by the brutality of a ferocious enemy.

Of course there were scapegoats. Lord Raglan blamed Lord Lucan, who in turn blamed Captain Nolan and Lord Cardigan blamed Lord Lucan for being foolish enough to order it! But Raglan died out there as did Nolan while Lucan and Cardigan returned home and continued their military careers - though neither of them saw action again.

But we will leave the final say to Lord Cardigan who led the whole bloody affair:
I think that every man who was engaged in that disastrous affair at Balaklava, and who was fortunate enough to come out of it alive, must feel that it was only by a merciful decree of Almighty Providence that he escaped from the greatest apparent certainty of death which could possibly be conceived.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

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24 October 1787: Charles Manners 4th Duke of Rutland & Lord Lieutenant of Ireland died on this day. One of the more colourful characters to occupy the position in the 18th century. He owed his position to the patronage of the Pitt family of whom William Pitt the Younger was the Prime Minister at the time. He was the son of John Manners, Marquess of Granby - a noted soldier. They were an important family in the affairs of England and their primary residence is Belvoir castle in the county of Leicestershire. It has been the home of the Manners family for five hundred years and seat of the Dukes of Rutland for over three centuries. His brother Captain Lord Robert Manners also followed a military career and died at sea a Hero as a result of wounds received at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.

He was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge graduating the latter with a nobleman's MAin 1774. That year, he was elected for one their Parliamentary seat to the House of Commons in London. He continued to maintain the family's substantial electoral interests, and to collect objects d'art to decorate Belvoir castle . He pledged to redeem his father's substantial debts, but was hampered by his passion for gambling. He opposed the conduct of the War with the American Colonies. His maiden speech on 5 April 1775 championed the American rebels:
"I have a very clear, a very adequate idea of rebellion, at least according to my own principles; and those are the principles on which the [Glorious] Revolution was founded. It is not against whom a war is directed, but it is the justice of that war that does, or does not, constitute rebellion. ... 

On 26 December 1775, he married Lady Mary Isabella Somerset [above] , daughter of Charles Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort and a celebrated beauty, renowned for her elegance and good taste. She was one of the most prominent society hostesses of the day. They had six children.

Rutland did not reach Cabinet rank until February 1783, when he was made Lord Steward of the Household. He was not long able to enjoy his new position, for Shelburne resigned within weeks, but when Pitt became Prime Minister in December 1783 Rutland accepted the cabinet post of Lord Privy Seal under his friend. The pinnacle of his career and his Nemesis came in February 1784 when Pitt elevated him to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. It was not a role he relished as Ireland was notoriously difficult to govern with so many competing interests to placate. Ireland in theory since 1782 had gained the right to decide her own laws in ‘Grattan’s Parliament’ but Rutland was charged with ensuring that what London decided would be the final outcome.

He favoured the Union of Ireland and Britain as the best possible outcome and told Pitt so:
that without an union Ireland will not be connected with Great Britain in twenty years longer ... Ireland is not a land of tranquillity, nor can Government be maintained respectable, unless it be prepared for all contingencies.
Jacqui Reiter

His attempts to push through legislation in 1785 allowing for Free Trade between Ireland and Britain was frustrated by parliamentary opposition both in London and Dublin and ended in Fiasco. Rutland found the situation impossible and only stayed out of loyalty to Pitt. He wrote:
I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bishopricks Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is.

However the one thing he was good at was social hospitality. His lavish receptions at Dublin Castle and at the vice Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park gained him a popularity that escaped him in the political sphere. The noted raconteur Sir Jonah Barrington recalled:

The vice-regal establishment was much more brilliant and hospitable than that of the monarch: the utmost magnificence signalized the entertainments of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and their luxury gave a powerful impulse to industry ... The Duke was singularly popular ... His Grace and the Duchess were reckoned the handsomest couple in Ireland.
Jonah Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland 

However it was too much of a good thing to last as Charles imbibed much Drink in his ‘Tours’ of the Kingdom of Ireland. His fondness for Claret was his Downfall and after a particularly long and difficult journey round the North he collapsed and just made it back to Dublin. He lingered for a few days but passed away on 24 October 1787.

Not much remains today to remind us of Charles Manners in this Country though his descendants in England can still make rather lurid headlines. In Dublin there is Rutland street in the north inner city and Parnell Square was previously known as Rutland Square until 1933. There is also a Granby Row.

But what is probably the most interesting and bizarre monument to his tenure here lies in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham Dublin. There lies a rather curious structure that started life as a water fountain donated to the people of Dublin in 1785 by the said Lord Lieutenant. It was installed in Barrack St [today Benburb St] the site of the then Royal Barracks and now the location of the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History. When the Royal Square was knocked down in 1889 due to a Typhoid epidemic the fountain was transferred to its present location where it became a soldiers urinal. On my last visit there I could not observe anyone availing of its facilities.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

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23 October 1970: Charles J. Haughey, Captain James Kelly, John Kelly and Albert Luykx in one of the most dramatic and controversial trials of in the history of Modern Ireland  were all acquitted of the charges against them of attempting to illegally import Arms into the State. 

This marked the end of an extraordinary series of political and legal events, which had begun on 6 May that year when Cabinet Ministers Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney were sacked from Jack Lynch’s Government. Their summary dismissal was over alleged improprieties in the importation of weapons through Dublin. It was believed that these were for use by the Catholics in the North against further sectarian attacks.

Though they vehemently denied the allegation they and others were put on trial on 28 May. The charges against Blaney were dropped in the District Court July 2, 1970 and as a result he was not tried. The main trial got underway under Justice Aindrias O'Caoimh. The trial collapsed a week later after allegations of bias. A 2nd trial began but no concrete evidence was ever presented that could secure a prosecution against the defendants. Following a second trial the other four defendants were cleared on October 23.

The involvement of Haughey in all of this remains decidedly murky but he would seem to have had good grounds for believing that certain rivals within Fianna Fail shafted him. There were definitely political opponents who wished to stop his rise to power within the Party and his expected takeover one day.

If so they were to be disappointed. Though it took Haughey nine long hard years to climb his way back to the top he achieved his life long ambition and unseated Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in December 1979. But the shadow of 1970 was to haunt his political reputation forever....

Monday, 22 October 2018

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22/23 October 1641: The Rising of 1641/ Éirí Amach 1641 began prematurely on this night. The uprising had been long planned and was aimed at securing the religious and civil liberties of the Catholics of Ireland. It was to have started in Dublin the previous day but the plan to seize Dublin Castle was betrayed and it remained in English hands. The planners of the rising were a small group of Irish landowners, mainly Gaelic Irish and from the heavily planted provinces of Leinster and Ulster. Hugh MacMahon and Conor Maguire were to have seized Dublin Castle, while Sir Phelim O’Neill was to raise the North.

However in Dublin the plot to seize the Castle was betrayed:

On the evening of the 22nd of October, when the preparations had been completed in Dublin, a man named Owen O'Connolly, to whom MacMahon had confided the secret, went straight to Sir William Parsons, one of the lords justices, and told him of the plot. Parsons at first gave no heed to the story, for he perceived that O'Connolly was half drunk. But on consultation with his colleague Sir John Borlase, they arrested Maguire and MacMahon on the morning of the 23rd: these were subsequently tried in London and hanged. Rory O'Moore and some others then in Dublin escaped. Instant measures were taken to put the city in a state of defence.
The plan was to use surprise rather than military force to take their objectives and to then issue their demands, in expectation of support from the rest of the country. As for why things came to head when they did the reasons are legion.
This great rebellion was brought about by the measures taken to extirpate the Catholic religion; by the plantations of Chichester and Strafford; and by the non-confirmation of the graces, which made the people despair of redress. There were complaints from every side about religious hardships. As to the plantations, no one could tell where they might stop; and there was a widespread fear that the people of the whole country might be cleared off to make place for new settlers. Besides all this, those who had been dispossessed longed for the first opportunity to fall on the settlers and regain their homes and farms.
A Concise History of Ireland
by P. W. Joyce

The Irish in the North had the greatest initial success, taking numerous strategic places, incl. Charlemont Fort, Co Armagh, (one of the most modern in Ireland) by a ruse. This was Lord Caulfield's house, which became the chief fortress of the Irish in Ulster. They also captured the forts of Mountjoy, Dungannon, Castlecaulfield, Salterstown and Lissan. In the days that followed the Revolt grew and grew and most of the Protestants who had been planted in the northern counties were forced to flee.

Lurid prints and accounts (as related in The Depositions) were spread in London and other English cities at the indignities and sufferings visited upon the Protestant settlers who were forced to flee for their lives. While much exaggerated the stories did contain kernels of truth and were widely believed. They laid the foundations of the terrible vengeance visited upon Ireland when Oliver Cromwell landed here in 1649.

 Many Catholics were also assaulted and cut down by the Crown forces in the aftermath of 1641 as they initiated counter atrocities against anyone they deemed to be ‘Rebels’. 

Thus was opened one of the bloodiest and vicious wars Ireland has ever experienced as Death, Famine, War, and Plague [above]* were visited upon her People. The Revolt in Ireland acted as a catalyst for the start of the English Civil War the following year that spread throughout the islands of Britain & Ireland - ‘The War of the Three Kingdoms', - A War that did not fully abate here for another twelve long years.

Woodcut of The Four Horsemen of  The Apocalypse
by Albrecht Dürer [1498]

Sunday, 21 October 2018

21 October 1803: Thomas Russell, United Irishman, ‘the man from God knows where’, was hanged outside Downpatrick Jail, Co Down on this day. He had been captured in Dublin as he tried to organise a rescue of Robert Emmet. A former British Officer he resigned his Commission in the wake of the French Revolution. Russell was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement in Ireland for over a decade and had spent a number of years in prison for his beliefs.

He was a great friend of Wolfe Tone who he had first met in the visitors gallery in Ireland's House of Commons in the year 1790. He was a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen that aimed to secure Civil & Political Liberties for the Irish People. 

In 1795 Russell, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cave Hill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath:
"never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence"

In 1796 he was arrested and held without Trial until 1802 when England and France signed the brief Peace of Amiens. He was released on condition he went into Exile. He made his way to Paris where he met Emmet and he agreed to try and raise the North. He returned from exile in France specifically to help stir the North into Revolt in conjunction with Emmet’s Rising in Dublin, but he found that the spirit of ’98 was no longer there.

After Emmet's abortive Rising in Dublin he went on the run but after weeks in hiding he was caught and sent back to the North to be put on trial. He was sentenced to death for his part in the attempt to overthrow the Ascendency and was hanged at Downpatrick alongside other conspirators who had joined him in the enterprise.

His brave death was the subject of a famous ballad by Florence Wilson that ends with the death of Russell on the gallows:

For the man that they hanged at Downpatrick Jail
Was the Man from God-knows-where!

Saturday, 20 October 2018

20 October 1892 - General Eoin O’Duffy was born on this day near Castleblaney Co Monaghan. He was the 2nd Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. O’Duffy first came to local prominence in the G.A.A. and afterwards as a senior figure in the IRA during the War of Independence, taking part in the capture of Ballytrain RIC Barracks in 1920. He was elected a TD and after the Truce was sent to Belfast to organise the local defenses there against attacks by Loyalists. He supported the Treaty and was appointed a General in the Free State Army. He directed operations in the Limerick area with some success.

After the Civil War ended he was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and by all accounts did an excellent job of turning out a first rate force on a shoestring budget. However when De Valera came to power he lost favour, partially over his record in the Civil War and partly due to his obstreperous nature – especially when dealing with politicians!

He was sacked and became embroiled in party politics as a Leader the ‘Army Comrades Association’ aka ‘the Blueshirts’ and then merged with Fine Gael. His antics as a political leader lowered his esteem in the eyes of many and eventually his Blueshirt movement fizzled out and he parted company with F.G. He led a small expeditionary force to Spain to fight alongside the Fascists there but after a few minor skirmishes the group returned home and disbanded. O’Duffy died in 1944, a broken man living in lonely isolation, though for his past services De Valera granted him a State Funeral.

Friday, 19 October 2018

19 October 1745: Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on this day. He was 77 years old. He was a brilliant satirist, an essayist, a political pamphleteer (first for Whigs then for the Tories), and a poet. Ordained a Cleric he went on to become the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier's Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub. While living in London in 1711 he wrote The Conduct of the Allies an attack upon the conduct of the War with France and Spain.

The success of this pamphlet has scarcely a parallel in history. It seems to have for a time almost reversed the current of public opinion, and to have enabled the Ministers to conclude the Peace of Utrecht.

He held a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Established Church of Ireland and it was in his later years that he was appointed Dean Of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. He was though never really happy in that role and devoted most of his time and energy to literary and political activities. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Dublin Administration and an advocate of Ireland controlling her own destiny - though within the Protestant framework.

He is still one of the best known literary figures of the 18th Century throughout the English speaking World. His novel Gulliver's Travels is one of the most widely known works of fiction in the English language.

His last years were sad ones as his friends died off and his intellectual capacity deserted him. Definite symptoms of madness appeared in 1738. In 1741 guardians were appointed to take care of his affairs and watch lest that in his outbursts of violence he should do himself harm. In 1742 he suffered great pain from the inflammation of his left eye, which swelled to the size of an egg; five attendants had to restrain him from tearing out his eye. He went a whole year without uttering a word.

After being laid out in public view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson's [Stella] side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (twelve thousand pounds) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, originally known as St Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles, which opened in 1757, and which still exists today as a psychiatric hospital.

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
Abolishing Christianity and other Essays 

Picture: Jonathan Swift, by Rupert Barber, circa 1745 [above]

Thursday, 18 October 2018

18 October circa 1720: Peg Woffington, the most beautiful and talented actress of her Age, was born in Dublin on this date. She was born into poor circumstances in the Dame street area of the city centre. Her father was a bricklayer but died when she was still a child leaving her mother and her siblings to fend for themselves. At an early age she displayed a gift for the stage and in between helping her mother sell watercress on the streets of Dublin she developed her career in the City's theatres.

At the age of 10 she had made her stage debut in a Juvenile production of The Beggars Opera. She made her name in Ireland as Ophelia in a 1737 production of Hamlet and came to London in 1740. There she was an immediate success. One of her most celebrated roles was as Sir Harry Wilder, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She caused quite a stir in this part by wearing breeches. 

Woffington enjoyed success in the role of Sylvia in The Recruiting Officer. She performed at Drury Lane for several years and later returned to Dublin, appearing in a variety of plays. Her most well-received performances were in comic roles, such as elegant women of fashion like Lady Betty Modish and Lady Townley, and breeches roles. But she was impeded in the performance of tragedy by a harsh tone in her voice that she did her best to overcome.

She lived openly with David Garrick, the foremost actor of the day, and her other love affairs (including liaisons with Edward Bligh, 2nd Earl of Darnley and MP Charles Hanbury Williams) were numerous and notorious. For whatever reason, Woffington left Garrick in about 1744 and moved to Teddington, into a house called Teddington Place.

She pursued a successful stage career in London and also briefly in Paris. When she returned to Dublin she was a sensation as people flocked in droves to see her perform at the famous Smock Alley Theatre. Again though her amorous affairs cost her dear and she departed to once again act upon the London Stage.

But tragedy struck short her career when, at London’s Covent Garden in 1757, and playing the part of Rosalind in As You Like It she took ill on stage and could not continue. Her last words as an actress were:

If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased . . .

A spectator described what then happened:

Her voice broke, she faltered, endeavoured to go on but could not proceed – then in a voice of tremor cried ‘Oh, God! Oh, God!’ [she] tottered to the stage door speechless, where she was caught. The audience of course applauded until she was out of sight and then sank into awful looks of astonishment . . . to see one of the most handsome women of the age, a favourite principal actress . . . struck so suddenly by the hand of death.
Tate Wilkinson, Memoirs 1790

A broken women she lingered on for a number of years but never made a full recovery. A generous benefactor she died in her house at Teddington, London on 28 March 1760.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

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17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien the Nationalist politician and Young Irelander, was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.

That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.
There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Image result for oscar wilde grave

16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.

The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.

Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing.

In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honour the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.

There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [above in Merrion Square Dublin directly across the road from No 1 Merrion Sq. where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery [ below] in Paris where he is buried. Which is as far as I could judge on the day I visited it some years ago by far the most popular attraction in that most famous of cemeteries.

A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
Oscar Wilde