Thursday, 31 January 2019

The painting depicting the tragedy

31 January 1953: The Loss of the Princess Victoria. 126 people were drowned when the car ferry of that name sank while making it’s way from Stranraer to Larne. In one of the worst gales in living memory in these islands the ship went down when heavy seas caused the stern car deck doors to buckle and break open. Water then flooded into the ship causing her to capsize. Among the passengers who perished were Stormont’s Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Major J M Sinclair, and Sir Walter Smiles, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.
Captained by the 55 year old James Ferguson, the vessel left Stranraer's railway loading pier at 07:45 AM with 44 tons of cargo, 128 passengers and 51 crew. Captain Ferguson had served as master on various ferries on the same route for 17 years. A gale warning was in force but he made the decision to put to sea.
There were 44 survivors, notably none of the women and children on board were rescued but neither were any the ship's officers either incl Captain Ferguson. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a lifeboat containing at least some of the women and children being smashed against the side of the Princess Victoria by the huge waves. The disaster shocked many people because, although it took place in extreme weather conditions, it involved a routine journey, on a relatively short crossing (20 miles) in what were believed to be safe waters.
The ship had sent out distress signals in Morse code but due to the listing of the vessel continually gave wrong readings as to its actual location. The winds were terrific and visibility very poor in great storm that caused havoc across north west Europe that day. As a result ships sent to assist in the rescue failed to spot her as she sank and perhaps lives that could have been saved were thus lost. No aircraft was available to help locate her either.
The Court of Enquiry into the sinking, held in March 1953 at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast found that the Princess Victoria was lost due to a combination of factors. In a report of 30,000 pages the enquiry found that: firstly, the stern doors were not sufficiently robust.
Secondly, arrangements for clearing water from the car deck were inadequate. The report concluded "If the Princess Victoria had been as staunch as those who manned her, then all would have been well and the disaster averted."
In summary it found that the loss of the M V 'Princess Victoria' was caused or contributed to by the default of the owners and the manager in that they were negligent before the disaster:
a) In failing to appreciate that the vessel was unfit to encounter the full range of foreseeable weather conditions on the Larne and Stranraer route by reason of the inabilit6y of the stern doors to withstand heavy seas.
b) In not taking appropriate steps to provide adequate freeing arrangements on the car deck or else to make the stern doors sufficiently strong and adequate to prevent heavy seas from flooding that deck.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

30 January 1972: Bloody Sunday –  British soldiers shot 26 people taking part in a Civil Rights March in Derry City. 13  were killed that day and another man died of his wounds. Widespread condemnation followed throughout Ireland and abroad. The British Army claimed that its soldiers had fired at identifiable gunmen and bombers. The participants and survivors of the March and many independent witnesses refuted this.
The shootings took place as a major Civil Rights March was coming to an end. Sporadic rioting had broken out involving some hundreds of youths and members of the British Army. These developments were not unexpected and not seen as out of the ordinary at the time.  Then for some reason never satisfactorily explained members of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment  who were deployed in the City that day opened indiscriminate fire on rioters and innocent bystanders alike, shooting many people and arresting many more.  At the time panic and fear were quickly replaced by anger and grief. These gruesome events were a watershed for many Irish People and undermined any conception that the British were neutral in the North of Ireland.

The men shot dead that day were:

Patrick ('Paddy') Doherty ( 31)

Gerald Donaghy (17)

John ('Jackie ') Duddy (17)

Hugh Gilmour (17)

Michael Kelly (17)

Michael McDaid (20)

Kevin McElhinney (17)

Bernard D('Barney') lMcGuigan (41)

Gerald McKinney (35)

William ('Williee') McKinney  (26)

William Nash (19 )

James ('Jim')  Wray (22)

John Young (17)

John Johnston (59 ) – died 16  June 1972.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

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29 January circa 598AD: Feast day of Saint Dallán Forgaill. Saint Dallán's given name was Eochaid, his father was Colla, and his mother was Forgall. His nickname, Dallán ("little blind one"), was earned after he lost his sight, reputedly as a result of studying intensively. He was born in Maigen near what is now Ballyconnel Co Cavan circa 530AD.
He is famous for writing poetry in particular Amhra Coluim Cille - a poem in praise of St Columba and considered one of the most important poems we have from the early medieval Gaelic world. The "Amhra Coluim Cille" became a popular text for students in Irish monasteries. He also said to have wrote Rop Tú Mo Baile /Be Thou My Vision; it opens with the lines:
Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride
Be thou my vision O Lord
This has been set to music in modern times and is a prayer that belongs to a type known as a lorica - a prayer for protection.
Saint Dallán was killed while visiting his colleague Saint Conall Cael at his monastery on Inis keel/Inis Caoil [above] off the coast of Donegal when pirates raided the island. Dallán  was reportedly beheaded.  He was buried on Iniskeel, his friend Conall Cael was later laid to rest in the same grave. Today the island has no inhabitants.
Dallán was recognised as the Chief Ollam of Ireland - the Bard with the most status in the Country really and was also a noted Latin Scholar.
The following works are attributed to Dallán, although some may be later works by other poets who credited Dallán with authorship in order to make their poems more famous.

1. Amra Conall Coel

2. Dubgilla dub-airm n-aisse

3. Fo réir Coluim cén ad-fías

4. Conn cet cathach a righi

5. Rop tú mo baile

Monday, 28 January 2019

28 January 1939:  The death of William Butler Yeats on this day. He died at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the south of France.  He was Ireland’s most distinguished poet and playwright of the 20th Century. Yeats’ works drew heavily on Irish mythology and history. He never fully embraced his Protestant past or the Catholic Religion but he devoted much of his life to study in numerous subjects including theosophy,  mysticism, spiritualism, and the Kabala.
He was born on  13 of June 1865 in Sandymount in County Dublin, Ireland.  His father was John Butler Yeats, a well known portrait painter and his mother was Susan Mary Pollexfen who was the daughter of a wealthy family from County Sligo. In 1884 Yeats enrolled in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin during which some of his first poems were printed in the Dublin University Review. He afterwards moved to London where his father was based though he was often homesick for Ireland. Though he visited Sligo almost every summer. He spent time in the British Museum of Natural History doing research for such collaborations as  Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry ( 1888), Irish Fairy Tales (1892) , and A Book of Irish Verse (1895).
In 1894 Yeats met Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole Park and he became involved with The Irish Literary Theatre, which became the Abbey Theatre. One of the first plays to be performed there was Yeats’  Cathleen ni Houlihan, with Maud Gonne in the title role. The Abbey Theatre opened in December of 1904  and became the flagship for leading Irish playwrights and actors. Yeats’ On Baile’s Strand was one of its first productions. Of his many dramatic and successful works to follow,  The Countess Cathleen (1892),  The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894) and The King’s Threshold (1904) are among his best known.
As a successful poet and playwright, in 1903 Yeats went on a lecture tour of the United States, and again in 1914, 1920, and 1932. Yeats and his sisters started the Cuala Press in 1904, which would print over seventy titles. At the age of forty-six, Yeats met Georgie (George) Hyde Lees  (1892-1968) and they married on the 20 October, 1917. They had two children Anne (born 1919 ) and Michael who was born in 1921.
In 1916 the Easter Rising occurred in Dublin, and some of Yeats’ s friends participated in it. This prompted his poem Easter  (Sept. 1916). In this year the first volume of Yeats’ autobiography Reveries over Childhood and Youth was published, with the second following in 1922 titled The Trembling of the Veil. In 1917 Yeats bought a Norman tower near Coole Park in Galway for his summer home.  The Wild Swans at Coole was then published in 1919.
In 1922 Yeats received an Honorary degree from Trinity College,  Dublin. He was elected to the Irish Free State Senate in the same year, and he served for six years before resigning due to failing health. In December of  1923  he established his International reputation when he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. He continued to work on his essays, poetry and the poetry anthology Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935. . As well as Coole Park he also spent time in his home ‘Riversdale’ at Rathfarnham, Dublin but also spent a number of winters abroad.
When he died in France at the age of 73  he was first buried there, but in 1948, in accordance with his wishes he was re-interred “under bare Ben Bulben’s head” in Drumcliff churchyard,  County Sligo. His epitaph reads:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

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27 January 1944: Ada English - Patriot and Psychiatrist – died on this day.
Ada English (1875-1944) grew up in Mullingar, where her father was a pharmacist and town commissioner. She studied medicine at the Catholic University School of Medicine, Cecilia Street (now Temple Bar), and worked at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Richmond Asylum, and Temple Street, before becoming assistant resident medical superintendent at Connaught District Lunatic Asylum in Ballinasloe in 1904. Ada spent four decades working tirelessly at the Ballinasloe hospital, until her retirement in 1942.
Brendan Kelly Irish Times 13 October 2014

These are the bare bones of the Life of Ada English. However her time on this earth was one filled with a pioneering spirit that pushed the boundaries of what was possible in this Country both on how we govern our own affairs and in how we treat our mentally ill. 

Adeline English was born in 1875 in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry into a middle class family. Her father was a pharmacist and a member of the Mullingar Town Commissioners while her grandfather, Richard, had been Master of the Old Castle Workhouse in the town. She was educated at the Loreto Convent in Mullingar and graduated from Royal University of Ireland (she attended Queen's College Galway) in 1903, reputedly as one of the first female psychiatrists in Ireland.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, unlike psychologists, and must evaluate patients to determine whether their symptoms are the result of a physical illness, a combination of physical and mental ailments, or strictly psychiatric.

She seems to have made some impression there as Mary Macken (later Professor) remembered her:
I remember her crisp blond hair, remarkable eyes and fascinating lisp. She struck me as being singularly adult. She was in fact some years my senior and tolerant of everything except incompetence or willingness on our part to put up with it. For she burned to get at her real work of medicine; it was for her as much a vocation as a profession.
Ada English- Patriot and Psychiatrist
Brendan Kelly Dublin 2014 

At the time Ada started in her profession the treatment of mental illness in this Country was very different from now. The treatment of those with mental distress was based on incarcerating people in vast institutions with very little in the way of creature comforts or outlets for those unfortunate to be placed in them. 

For a short period, she had an appointment at a London hospital before, in 1904, taking the position of assistant RMS at the Lunatic Asylum (now St Bridget's Hospital), in Ballinasloe. When she started working at Ballinasloe in 1904, the asylum housed 1,293 patients, 774 of whom were males and 519 who were females. This number was to rise to close on 2,000! It was here that she developed the practice of the use of Occupational Therapy as a therapeutic to help to relieve the boredom and distress of the inmates. Ballinasloe was the first mental institution in Ireland to use electric convulsive therapy to administer shock therapy to patients – a controversial practice but still in use today on a more limited scale. 

Ada English was also a committed Nationalist and Republican. Almost her first act in arriving in Ballinasloe was to have the buttons on the staff tunics removed (minted with Queen Victoria) and replaced with Galway’s coat of arms. She was out in Easter 1916 with the Volunteers in Athenry and was jailed by the British in 1920 and spent six months in prison for ‘seditious literature’. In 1921 she was returned unopposed to represent the NUI constituency in Dáil Éireann. She opposed the subsequent Treaty with Britain and spoke against it in the Treaty Debates:
I think it is wrong; I have various reasons for objecting to it, but the main one is that, in my opinion, it was wrong against Ireland, and a sin against Ireland. I do not like talking here about oaths… but certainly, while those oaths are in it, oaths in which we are asked to accept the King of England as head of the Irish State, and we are asked to accept the status of British citizens—British subjects—that we cannot accept.

Ada lost her seat at the subsequent election in June 1922 but did not drop her interest in politics. She assisted anti-Treatyites during the Civil War and served in a medical capacity in the Dublin battles of July 1922. She maintained her opposition to the Treaty and refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Irish Free State. Along with other members of the rump 2nd Dáil, she played a part in that during the 1920s which saw itself as the true government of the Irish Republic.She died in 1944 in Ballinasloe a much respected figure both locally and nationally. She is buried in Creagh Cemetery in Ballinasloe.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

26‭ January 1316: The Battle of Ardscull on this day. Edward Bruce, the Scottish claimant to the Crown of Ireland, defeated an Anglo-Irish army led by Edmund Butler the Justicar, John Fitzthomas Baron of Offaly, Arnold Power, Seneschal of Kilkenny and Maurice Fitz Thomas (afterwards 1st Earl of Desmond). The battle site, near the Motte of Ardscull (Hill of Shouts) was about three miles east of Athy, Co Kildare. Bruce had been making his way south out of Ulster, raiding and burning as he went but his men were tired and hungry by the time he reached this place. A terrible famine was sweeping across the land and provisions were in short supply. To put a stop to the depredations of the Scots, the Anglo-Irish assembled a large but ramshackle force to meet them in the field. In the event the day was won by Bruce who had an easy victory over the Sassenach, as he led his battle hardened veterans against what was primarily a scratch force of country yokels with a leavening of English and Anglo Irish fighting men.

After the Battle,‭ ‬the Scottish dead were buried in the graveyard attached to the Dominican Priory in Athy, which occupied the area on the east bank of the River Barrow. Among those buried were two Scottish chiefs, Lord Fergus Andressan and Lord Walter de Morrey. The English lost two men worthy of note, Hamon le Gras and William of Prendergast. No doubt many of the lesser fry on both sides fell on this day as well.

This was the third defeat that the forces loyal to King Edward II of England had suffered since Edward Bruce had landed in Ireland the previous May.‭ ‬The English charged with defending the Colony were mortified to be defeated once again and John of Hotham,‭ ‬who had been commissioned by King Edward to make arrangements for the expulsion of the Scots,‭ ‬sent a report to him that excused the loss of the battle with the words:‭
‭ ‬‘but by bad luck the enemy kept the field,‭ losing however some of their good people, while the kings forces lost only one, thanks to God’‬.
Clearly being the bearer of bad tidings was an enterprise fraught with danger for one’s career then as now‭!

However it was Victory that was of limited use to the Scotsman as conditions rapidly became so bad that he had no choice but to turn round and march back to Ulster and the relative security of being in a Province where the Gaels of the North could offer him succour and his back would be towards Scotland and the promise of further help.‭ ‬Thus this battle decided nothing other than that if the English of Ireland wished to defeat the Scots here and stop the Country slipping completely out of their control they needed better equipped and supplied forces than were currently available during this campaign.‭

Friday, 25 January 2019

25‭ ‬January 1356: Maurice FitzThomas Fitzgerald, the 1st Earl of Desmond, died in Dublin Castle on this day. He was the first in a long line of the holders of this powerful name that ruled over much of south and southwest Ireland during the late Middle Ages. [above] The name Desmond derived from the Gaelic name Deasmhumhain, which means south Munster. An ambitious Anglo-Irish Freebooter at a time when Ireland was divided between the Gaels and the English he led a mixed force of English and Irish soldiers and into which Force he accepted any man willing to fight on his side. These bands were known as‭ ‘MacThomas’s Rout’ and terrorised the towns and the countryside wherever they made their appearance.

‭ ‬He was later accused by other Colonialists that he:
‘had filled his heart with such pride and ambition that he thought to obtain the whole of Ireland for his own and to crown himself a false king‭’

There is at least a fair level of plausibility that he wished to rule if not all of Ireland then at least a fair chunk of it by carving the Country up between the most powerful magnates,‭ ‬both Gaelic and of English stock, and to pretty well ignore the King of England’s writ if that could be done.
In the turbulent‭ ‬1320‭’s Maurice FitzThomas made war upon his enemies across Munster and especially with the powerful De Poer family based at Kilkenny. To placate him and also hopefully to reign in his depredations he was created by the Crown the 1st Earl of Desmond in August 1329. ‬

However the new Earl was determined to remain his own master and he resented the overbearing interference of Crown Officials sent over from England.‭ ‬His ambition though exceeding his ability to do so for in‭ ‬1331‭ ‬he was forced to submit to the Justicar and remained a prisoner of the Crown for almost two years.‭ 

In‭ ‬1341‭ ‬he was the primary hand in the letters of complaint issued by the‭ ‘‬Kilkenny Parliament‭’ ‬that were sent to King Edward III.‭ ‬Yet despite his proto Anglo-Irish Patriotism his continued ability to alienate the Colonial townsfolk of the various urban settlements such as Clonmel and Tipperary led to further complaints against him.

His most dangerous moments came in‭ 1345 when the new Justicar, Ralf Ufford, a man as ruthless as Maurice FitzThomas himself, launched an expedition from Dublin down to Limerick and Kerry to bring the obstreperous Earl to heel. Gathering an Army of over ‬2,000 men, both Foreign and Gaelic, the Justicar quickly took the Earl’s Castles of Askeaton in Limerick and Castleisland in Kerry. The Earl had to flee and go into hiding to avoid capture. But a stroke of Fortune paved the way for his recovery when Ufford died the following year. The Earl then made his way to England on issue of a summons to plead his case in person before King Edward III. Eventually after an enforced stay of some five or so years he was allowed to return home and restored to his lands.

Despite further tribulations in July‭ ‬1355 he achieved a full acceptance by the Crown when he was made the Justicar of Ireland, that is the King of England’s right hand man here. It was the pinnacle of his vicious and bloody career and no doubt of immense satisfaction to himself to have reached such high office and to be at last in the King’s favour. On the other hand the appointment of such a man to that position must have filled his most ardent enemies, chiefly the townsfolk of the English Colony and the Magnates of the other great Lordships with foreboding and not a little anger that such an individual would be trusted to rule in the King’s name.

However his enjoyment of such new found power was to be of short duration for he died in Dublin Castle on‭ 25 January 1356 just months after acceding to the position. He was interred in the Church of the Friars-preachers in Tralee and succeeded in the Earldom by his son Maurice, the 2nd Earl of Desmond.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

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24 January‭ ‬1957:‭ ‬Sir Alfred Chester Beatty became the first Honourary Irish Citizen for his distinguished service to the Nation on this day.‭ 

Born in New York in‭ 1875 Chester Beatty made his Fortune as a Mining Engineer. ‬He set up a highly successful mining consultancy firm in that city in 1908. By pioneering a new method of extracting copper from low-grade ore he made a Fortune in international mining operations. He was known as 'the king of Copper' and was a millionaire by his early '30s. 

However tragedy struck in‭ ‬1911‭ when his wife died and he then moved London where he began anew. He remarried in 1913 and visited Egypt on the eve of the Great War where his already considerable interest in Oriental artefacts was whetted when they bought ancient Koranic scripts in the bazaars of Cairo. The dry climate there suited Beatty and he wintered in Egypt on many occasions.   

In‭ 1917 he went further East and developed a deeper interest Chinese and Japanese paintings. In the inter war years he became one of the World’s greatest collectors of non western fine arts and was renowned for his great collections of Objects de Art that he amassed. He became a naturalised British in 1933.  During the Second World War he materially helped the Allied cause by ensuring that vital supplies of raw materials were shipped to the relevant destinations where they could be used in the War Effort. For these services he was Knighted by the British. 

In‭ 1950 he decided to move to Ireland and it was here he decided to set up a museum for his collection of priceless artefacts. In 1953 he purchased a large house on Shrewsbury Road in Dublin and it was here that the collection stayed for many years. He was made an honourary Citizen in 1957 and when he died in 1968 was accorded a State Funeral. His great collection is today housed in the grounds of Dublin Castle where it is permanently open to the Public.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

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23 January 1803: The death of Arthur Guinness on this day. He founded a Brewing empire in 18th century Dublin whose products have spread around the World. 

At 27, in 1752, Guinness's godfather the Archbishop of Cashel, bequeathed him £100 in his will. Guinness invested the money and in 1755 had a brewery at Leixlip,  just 17 km from Dublin. He married his wife Olivia Whitmore in Dublin in 1761 and they had 21 children, 10 of which survived till adulthood. He wrote years later that:

" of my sons* is grown up to be able to assist me in this Business, or I wd not have attempted it, tho' prompted by a demand of providing for Ten Children now living out of one & twenty born to us, & more likely yet to come..."
* Arthur - his 2nd son

His big break came in 1759  when he came to Dublin City and set up his own business. He took a 9,000-year lease on the 4-acre brewery at St. James's Gate Dublin for an annual rent of £45. Dublin was then one of the great cities of Europe and expanding rapidly. There was a growing population of thirsty souls and a demand for cheap good ale to slake their thirst and drown their sorrows in a city of great wealth and abject poverty. Ale was overwhelmingly a drink of the lowers orders though. A good businessman had to come up with a product that would attract the attention of its customer base and sell at a price they could afford to spend on it. Ten years later, on 19 May 1769, Guinness first exported his ale: he shipped six-and-a-half barrels to Great Britain.

At the time Red Ales were all the rage and at first that is what Arthur Guinness produced. But a beverage dubbed ‘porter’ was becoming increasingly popular. It was a  beer the company has become most famous for – porter stout – which was based on a London ale, a favourite of the street porters of Covent Garden and Billingsgate markets in that city. Arthur tried his hand at it from 1778 and it took off - it made Arthur a very wealthy man. 

Arthur Guinness was not just a businessman though but took an active if not prominent part in the commercial and local government of the city of Dublin. He was one of the four brewers' guild representatives on Dublin Corporation from the 1760s until his death. Politics in Ireland was highly volatile at the time and Arthur Guinness steered a middle path through the dramatic and eventually bloody events of those years. He favoured Catholic Emancipation - but opposed the United Irishmen who wanted a complete break with Britain through Revolution. 

When he died in 1803 he left a thriving business that continues to this day. But the direct involvement of the Guinness family came to an end in the 1980s and it is now part of an international conglomerate known as Diago. It is still produced at St James Gate Brewery Dublin and the Guinness Visitor Centre there is the most popular tourist attraction in the Country.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

22 January 1902: The death of Queen Victoria on this day. She died at her Royal home at Osborne on the Isle of White, England. Her playboy son, Edward The Prince of Wales, Earl of Dublin etc, succeeded her as King Edward VII. 

Her relation with Ireland was always problematical. She became known as the ‘The Famine Queen’ after the disastrous events of 1845-1849 and during which she appeared so detached from the terrible sufferings of so many of her ‘Subjects’. She donated the miserly sum of just £2,000 towards Relief out of her ample personal Fortune. Queen Victoria visited Ireland three times in the early part of her reign: firstly in 1849 during the Great Famine; again in 1853 when she attended the Exhibition of Art and Industry at Leinster Lawn, Dublin, and the third time in 1861 when the royal family stayed at Killarney. It was to be 39 years before she returned again to visit this part her Realm!

Her last visit in April 1900 was a three week affair and generally considered a success. On each of these visits she was greeted with great enthusiasm by large crowds of well wishers as well as idle curiosity seekers. However it would seem there was a direct correlation between those who welcomed her presence and those who held political and social power in this Country at the time. The Ascendancy, the Gentry, the Protestant Churches and the followers of those denominations were the most enthusiastic. Amongst the Catholics of Ireland her reception was more lukewarm but not actively hostile either, at least at a personal level. The ‘Castle Catholics’ and certain sections of the Hierarchy were eager to ingratiate themselves but most kept their distance or were there for appearances only.

While she had affection for the Irish People as individuals she never seemed able to comprehend Ireland’s desire to manage her own affairs. Though reasonably tolerant in religious matters she was a reactionary in politics, viewing for instance the members of the Irish Parliamentary Party as ‘low disreputable men, who were elected by order of Parnell.’ As regards the Repeal of the Union she opposed it on the grounds that to countenance it would be repugnant to her Coronation Oath.
Her death was greeted in Ireland with regret by some but indifference by most. The Victorian Era was not one in which Ireland’s lot had improved but if anything declined - while there was no doubt that the converse had happened in her Other Island.

Monday, 21 January 2019

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21‭ ‬January 1919: Dan Breen and Sean Treacy carried out an ambush on an RIC escort at Soloheadbeag, Co. Tipperary. They were members of the South Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers (IRA). The cart the RIC were escorting was carrying gelignite for a quarry in the Soloheadbeag area (about four miles from Tipperary Town and about one mile from Limerick Junction).  In the ambush, the two RIC men, guarding the consignment, Constables James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell, were shot dead. It was the start of the Irish War for Independence.

We expected there would be an escort of about six armed police and vie had the full intention
not alone of taking the gelignite they were escorting but also of shooting down the escort, as an assertion of the national right to deny the free passage of an armed enemy.

The moral aspect of such a decision has been talked about since and we have been branded as murderers, both by the enemy and even by some of our own people, but I want it to be understood that the pros and cons were thoroughly weighed up in discussion between Treacy and myself and, to put it in a nutshell, we felt that we were merely continuing the active war for the establishment of an Irish Republic that had begun on Easter Monday 1916. 

21‭ ‬January‭ ‬1919: The Declaration of Irish Independence on this day. The first meeting of Dáil Éireann was held in Dublin to bring together all the T.D.s still at liberty to attend. Assembling in the Round Room of the Mansion House, those members elected the previous month in the General Election and not held prisoners by the British or on the run unanimously voted in favour of the Independence of Ireland. Of the‭ 73 Sinn Féin MPs elected only 27 TDs present, 36 were “Fé ghlas an Gallaibh” (prisoner of the Foreigner) including Eamon De Valera and Arthur Griffith.
The Declaration was as follows:
''Whereas the Irish people is by right a free people:‭ ‬And Whereas for seven hundred years the Irish people has never ceased to repudiate and has repeatedly protested in arms against foreign usurpation: And Whereas English rule in this country is, and always has been, based upon force and fraud and maintained by military occupation against the declared will of the people: And Whereas the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Dublin on Easter Monday, 1916, by the Irish Republican Army acting on behalf of the Irish people: And Whereas the Irish people is resolved to secure and maintain its complete independence in order to promote the common weal, to re-establish justice, to provide for future defence, to insure peace at home and goodwill with all nations and to constitute a national polity based upon the people's will with equal right and equal opportunity for every citizen.
And Whereas at the threshold of a new era in history the Irish electorate has in the General Election of December,‭ 1918, ‬seized the first occasion to declare by an overwhelming majority its firm allegiance to the Irish Republic: Now, therefore, we, the elected Representatives of the ancient Irish people in National Parliament assembled, do, in the name of the Irish nation, ratify the establishment of the Irish Republic and pledge ourselves and our people to make this declaration effective by every means at our command: We ordain that the elected Representatives of the Irish people alone have power to make laws binding on the people of Ireland, and that the Irish Parliament is the only Parliament to which that people will give its allegiance: We solemnly declare foreign government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison.
We claim for our national independence the recognition and support of every free nation in the world,‭ and we proclaim that independence to be a condition precedent to international peace hereafter: In the name of the Irish people we humbly commit our destiny to Almighty God who gave our fathers the courage and determination to persevere through long centuries of a ruthless tyranny, and strong in the justice of the cause which they have handed down to us, we ask His divine blessing on this the last stage of the struggle we have pledged ourselves to carry through to Freedom.‬''

A‭ ‬Ministry pro tempore [Temporary Cabinet] was then selected to run the Country for the time being and attempt to bring effect to the Independence of Ireland so proclaimed:
Cathal Brugha was the First President,‭ ‬Professor Eoin MacNeill was Minister of Finance,‭ ‬Michael Collins of Home Affairs, George Noble Count Plunkett of Foreign Affairs and Richard Mulcahy  in charge of National Defence.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

20‭ ‬January 1973: A Loyalist no warning bomb went off in Sackville Place Dublin on this day. The bomb killed a bus conductor and injured 17 other people. It exploded at 3.20 pm on a Saturday afternoon, as Ireland were playing the All-Blacks Rugby team at Lansdowne Road. The man killed was Thomas Douglas (21), originally from Stirling, Scotland. He had been living in Dublin for just four months. His mother was a native of Achill Island, Co. Mayo.

The car used in the bombing had been hijacked at Agnes Street,‭ ‬Belfast.‭ ‬While no organisation claimed responsibility for this attack it was generally accepted that a Loyalist gang carried it out.‭ ‬The location of the explosion was almost at the same spot of a bomb the previous month, which killed two other members of Dublin’s bus service. A man with an English accent telephoned a warning to the main telephone exchange stating that a bomb would explode on O'Connell Bridge.‭ ‬But the warning given was ten minutes before the actual explosion and the Gardaí concluded afterwards that it was a diversionary tactic.

The car, a Vauxhall Victor, which had been hired, was hijacked from its hirer that morning at Agnes Street, off the Shankill Road in Belfast. The driver was reported to have been held until shortly after 3 pm, about the time the bomb exploded. In almost all the details, the hijacking of the car that exploded in South Leinster Street, Dublin on 17th May 1974, resembled this earlier hijacking. There was a report that the car had been seen passing through Drogheda at about midday. However, many Northern registered cars were travelling south that day on their way to the rugby international.

‭No one was ever caught for this crime but it followed a pattern of attacks on Dublin which bore the hallmarks of operators acting in the pay of agents of another State - ie Britain. But ‘deniability’ was the modus operandi of this operation  and to this day the identities and whereabouts of the perpetrators are unknown - as is who it was who sent them here.‬

Thursday, 17 January 2019

17 January 1861: Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld died on this day. But to the World in which she lived she was universally known as ‘Lola Montez’ - dancer and courtesan and companion of the rich and famous in India, Europe, America and Australia.

Her life began as the daughter of a British Officer in Ireland circa 1820. She claimed to be from County Limerick but her birth cert says she was born in County Sligo in 1821. She was baptized at St Peter's Church in Liverpool on 16 February 1823, while her family was enroute to her father's post in India. Shortly after their arrival in India, Edward Gilbert died of cholera.

 Her mother married again and it was decided that Eliza would be sent to boarding school in England. She attended a series of educational establishments in England for young ladies but while intelligent it was noticed that Miss Eliza was a very wilful young woman with a mind of her own. On one occasion, she stuck flowers into the wig of an elderly man during a church service; on another, she ran through the streets naked...or so Legend has it. 

In 1837, 16-year-old Eliza eloped with Lieutenant Thomas James, and they married. The couple separated five years later. In Calcutta and she became a professional dancer under a stage name. This is where her career as a Sex Symbol really took off and made her name. She returned to London to continue her stage career and had affairs with numerous men of wealth and talent. She appears to have spent some months in Spain to master the arts of that Country’s  dancing technique. On return she passed herself off as ‘Lola Montez -Spanish Dancer’. After performing in various European capitals, she settled in Paris, where she was accepted in the rather Bohemian literary society of the time, being acquainted with Alexandre Dumas with whom she was rumoured to have had a dalliance. She is said to have also had an affair with the famous pianist/composer Franz Liszt.

Her really big break came in 1846 when King Ludwig of Bavaria - who had an eye for the Ladies-  fell for her. Today I saw Lola Montez dance. I am bewitched. In this Spanish woman [SIC] alone have I found love and life! (Ludwig's letters). The rumour was, at the time they met, Ludwig had asked her in public if her bosom was real, to which her response was to tear off enough of her garments to prove that it was.

Her arrogant and temperamental ways made her unpopular with the locals but the King was madly in love with her and made her Countess of Landsfeld on his next birthday, 25 August 1847. Along with her title, he granted her a large annuity. But in early 1848 a series of Revolutions began to sweep across Europe and Ludwig was overthrown. Lola was nearly lynched but she kept her demeanour  before the mob and sailed through them with her head held high. Her aplomb probably saved her life and she made it out of Bavaria alive but penniless.

She returned to London via Switzerland and then another marriage to a wealthy British Army officer George Heald. The Healds resided for a time in France and Spain, but within two years, the tempestuous relationship was in tatters, and George reportedly drowned. She then set off to seek her Fortune in the USA.

From 1851 to 1853, she performed as a dancer and actress in the eastern United States, one of her offerings being a play called Lola Montez in Bavaria. In May 1853, she arrived at San Francisco. Her performances there created a sensation. She married Patrick Hull, a local newspaperman, in July but her marriage soon failed; a doctor named as co-respondent in the divorce suit brought against her was shortly after murdered.

Next came Australia which took by Storm - basically by upping her act into even more erotic gyrations on the stage.
‘In September 1855 she performed her erotic Spider Dance at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne, raising her skirts so high that the audience could see she wore no underclothing at all. Next day, The Argus thundered that her performance was 'utterly subversive to all ideas of public morality'. Respectable families ceased to attend the theatre, which began to show heavy losses.'
Michael Cannon, Melbourne After the Gold Rush

But her life on the road and in various beds began to catch up with her. She began to noticeably age and decided to try her luck once again in America. She went back there in 1856 but her best days were behind her. However  in the late 1850's she returned on a triumphant tour to Ireland with a lecture at Dublin's Rotundo Rooms (now the Ambassador). The announcement of her Dublin lecture created a degree of interest unparalleled. The platform was regularly thronged by admirers giving Madame Montez barely space to stand.
She then returned back to New York where she spent her time helping fallen women and regretting her own fall from grace:
How many years of my life had been sacrificed to Satan and my own love of sin! I dare not think of the past. I have only lived for my passions. What would I not give to have my terrible experience given as an awful warning to such natures as my own!

In November 1859, the Philadelphia Express reported that Lola Montez was:
"living very quietly up town, and doesn't have much to do with the world's people. Some of her old friends, the Bohemians, now and then drop in to have a little chat with her, and though she talks beautifully of her present feelings and way of life, she generally, by way of parenthesis, takes out her little tobacco pouch and makes a cigarette or two for self and friend, and then falls back upon old times with decided gusto and effect. But she doesn't tell anybody what she's going to do."

By then she was showing the effects of possibly syphilis and her body began to waste away. She died at the age of 39 on 17 January 1861. She is buried in Green Wood Cemetery in New York City where her tombstone states: Mrs. Eliza Gilbert / Died 17 January 1861.

Her name has featured in many novels and biographies and Lola Montez has two lakes (an upper and lower) named after her in the Tahoe National Forest USA. There is also a mountain named in her honour, Mount Lola. At 9,148 feet, it is the highest point in Nevada County, California.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

16‭ January 1939: The Irish Republican Army, led by Sean Russell, declared War on Britain on this day. Russell had already sent a formal letter of intent to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain stating that:

I have the honour to inform you that the government of the Irish Republic,‭ having as its first duty towards the people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order, herewith demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland.

The IRA man had given the British Leader‭ ‬96 hours to reply before the DOW would take effect.
Copies were also dispatched to Adolf Hitler,‭ Benito Mussolini and Lord Brookborough in the North. Soon afterwards IRA bombs started to go off in England and eventually about 200 devices exploded causing limited material damage, many injuries and a few deaths. The worst such incident occurred in the City of Coventry in August 1939 when seven innocent people were killed and nearly a 100 injured in a no warning attack. 

The Bombing Campaign though eventually petered out.‭ The IRA never really had  sufficient numbers of Volunteers nor enough trained personnel to conduct a sustained campaign in Britain to other than annoy the British. Nothing they could realistically achieve would have made them change their minds over their presence in Ireland. 

Ironically when Britain declared War on Germany in September‭ 1939 the Ultimatum presented by Neville Chamberlain to the German Chancellor bore more than a few passing echoes to the one Sean Russell had sent to the very same British Prime Minister at the beginning of that fateful year. At least Russell had given Britain 96 hours grace to end their Occupation but Chamberlain had in effect given Hitler less than 48 hours in which to end his one!