Wednesday, 30 September 2020


30 September 1979: Pope John Paul began the second day of his tour with a short visit to the ancient monastery at Clonmacnoise in County Offaly. With 20,000 in attendance, he spoke of how the ruins were "still charged with a great mission". Later that morning he celebrated a Youth Mass for 300,000 at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway. It was here that the Pope uttered perhaps the most memorable line of his visit: "Young people of Ireland, I love you"

Pope John Paul II  had begun his visit to Ireland on the previous day. Ireland was the third pilgrimage of his Pontificate. The Holy Father's first visit was to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas, his second visit was to Poland and his third visit was to Ireland and the United States.

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

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

The final day of the visit began with a brief early morning visit to St Patrick's College, Maynooth, the National Seminary, in County Kildare.

Some 80,000 people joined 1,000 seminarians on the grounds of the college for the brief visit. A dense fog delayed the Pope's arrival from Dublin by helicopter. The final Mass of the Pope's visit to Ireland was celebrated at Greenpark Racecourse in Limerick before 400,000 people, many more than had been expected.

By any standards the Papal visit had been a huge success. The numbers attending the various gatherings far exceeded what was expected. Pope John Paul had been an actor in his youth and he could keep an audience enthralled. With the benefit of 40 years hindsight it can be seen as the apogee of the popularity of the Papacy with the bulk of the Irish People. No longer was the Pontiff a remote and distant figure in Rome but a living human being amongst the Faithful of Ireland.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020


29 September 1972: The death of Kathleen Clarke née Daly on this day. She was the widow of Thomas Clarke who had been executed by the British after the 1916 Rising. However she was also a political activist in her own right especially in the years after the Rising and in the early years of the Irish Free State.

She was born in Limerick in 1878 into a large family with connections to the Fenian Movement. In her early adulthood Kathleen went into the dressmaking business and did well for herself. When Thomas Clarke came out of prison in 1898 she was introduced to him by her Uncle. They quickly fell in love and married in New York in 1901. She was 23 years old and he was over 40.

Tom worked for John Devoy and the American Fenian group, Clan na Gael whose aim was to rid Ireland of British Rule. They returned to Ireland in 1907 with their young family in order to play their part in the coming struggle. He opened a tobacco shop in Dublin’s City Centre. In between having more children she was active as a founder member of Cumann na mBan, and worked hard at fundraising as well as raising her family and helping to run the shop.

After the week-long fighting and the surrender, Kathleen was taken to visit her husband in Kilmainham Jail the night before his execution. The interview lasted almost two hours, then Kathleen had to leave; Tom was shot in the early morning on 3 May. The following night she was back in the jail, with two of her sisters, to say goodbye to their brother Ned; he was executed on 4 May.

In May 1918 she was arrested by the British and spent 11 months in Holloway Jail in England. In 1919 she was elected as an Alderman for the Wood Quay and Mountjoy Wards of Dublin Corporation. In 1921 she was elected to the 2nd Dáil and afterwards she opposed the Treaty. She joined Fianna Fail on its foundation in 1926 won was elected a TD in the 1st election of 1927 but lost it in the 2nd contest of that year. She was the elected to the 1st Seanad in 1928 and served until its abolition in 1936.

In 1930 she was elected to the re-constituted Dublin Corporation for Fianna Fáil. She opposed the Constitution of Ireland of 1936 as she felt that several of its sections would place women in a lower position that they had been afforded in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

The peak of her political career came in 1941 when she became the Lord Mayor of Dublin. She was the first woman to hold that Office. She declined to stand as a Fianna Fáil candidate at the 1943 general election She helped found the Irish Red Cross while Lord Mayor of Dublin. However she split from De Valera & FF after that and contested the 1948 election for Clan na Poblactha but was not elected.

She died in a Liverpool Nursing Home in 1972 and was given a State Funeral. She is buried in Dean’s Grange Cemetery in Dublin. Her gravestone is inscribed with the name she wished to be known by: Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh (Kathleen, Mrs Clarke).

Monday, 28 September 2020


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

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

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

The Covenant ran as follows:

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

And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.

However the key words within that were to have such fraught consequences were 'using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland.'

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

Sunday, 27 September 2020


27 September 1922: The Passing of the 'Public Safety Act' on this day. It was proposed by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. This Act was brought in to allow for the detainment and execution of those found in arms against the State. The Irish Free State was still in the process of formation at this stage but wide sections of the IRA and indeed the general public did not accept its Legitimacy. 

On 28 June of that year the Irish Civil War had broken out in Dublin and quickly spread across the 26 Counties. The War soon degenerated into hit and run raids and sweeps and captures. There were numerous casualties on both sides. But the head of the new Government President WT Cosgrave felt that harsher methods were needed to bring the situation under control. In this he was fully supported by the Minister for Defence General Mulcahy who pressed for its introduction.

It was proposed amongst other measures that if persons were found guilty by Military Courts that they could face the death sentence:
'The breach of any general order or regulation made by the Army Authorities and the infliction by such Military Courts or Committees of the punishment of death or of penal servitude for any period'

Cosgrave spoke that:
If murderous attacks take place, those who persist in those murderous attacks must learn that they have got to pay the penalty for them…They must be taught that this Government is not going to suffer their soldiers to be maimed and ruined, crippled and killed, without at least bringing those responsible for such destruction before a tribunal that will deal out justice to those people.

The Labour Party Leader Thomas Johnson opposed the Bill likening it to a military dictatorship:
We are pretending to govern through this Dáil. We are supposed to have a Government which is responsible to this Dáil. The Government hands over that responsibility to an Army which is not fitted for this particular kind of work—entirely unfitted for this particular kind of work.

Thus it came about that on 27 September a Bill was put before the new parliament that was passed by 41 votes to 18 votes to allow its implementation. 

So notwithstanding the misgivings of some the Bill was passed and after an Amnesty ran out the first executions took place in November. By the time the Civil war was over 77 men had been executed under its terms.

Saturday, 26 September 2020


26 September 1902: The birth of James Dillon in Dublin on this day. Dillon was to become one of the most colourful and entertaining politicians in Ireland during the mid 20th century and was Leader of Fine Gael from 1959 to 1966. He came from a family of politicians, his father John Dillon & his grandfather John Blake Dillon had been Members of Parliament under the British Regime and had supported Home Rule.

James Dillon qualified as a Barrister and was called to the Bar in 1931. He then went abroad to study business methods in Britain and the USA before returning home to run the family business. But it was in the field of politics that he made his mark. Between 1932 and 1937 Dillon served as a TD for the Donegal constituency for the National Centre Party and later for Fine Gael. He played a key role in instigating the creation of Fine Gael and would become a senior member of the party in later years. He remained as TD for Monaghan from 1937 to 1969.

An intelligent man with an impressive oratory and a brilliant command of rhetoric he was perhaps too finely tuned an individual at times for his own good. He was in some respects a loner who stood out from the crowd. None more so than in the years of the Emergency when he advocated the Irish Free State joining the Allies in the war against the Axis Powers. He resigned from Fine Gael in 1942 over its refusal to back him on this.

The historian J.J.Lee believes that Dillon ‘showed great courage, if doubtful judgement, in defying the over-whelming consensus of Irish opinion, including that of his own party, in increasingly urging support for Britain and America, a position which obliged him to resign from Fine Gael in 1942 and plough his political furrow as an independent...
Times Literary Supplement 13 April 2001

After the War he was still an Independent and in that role served in the Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture (1948-1951) & later after re-joining FG in the same role in 1954-1957 in the inter Party Governments of John J. Costello. Times were very hard then but he made as good a job as he could of the role he was given. One of his major achievements as Minister for Agriculture was the Land Reclamation Programme. This scheme meant that more productive agricultural land was made available, especially in the West of Ireland.

In 1959 his fortunes changed again when he was elected Leader of Fine Gael and thus Leader of the Opposition. Brilliant oratorical performances followed but it was hard to dent the Fianna Fail Government of those years that oversaw the most dramatic rise in Irish living standards that had ever been seen. His last opportunity  came at the General Election of 1965 but a failure to cut a deal for a Coalition with the Labour Party meant that the odds were stacked against him and his Party. In the event Sean Lemass was returned as Taoiseach and Dillon’s tenure as Leader of Fine Gael came to an end. He retired from active politics in 1969 when he did not contest the General Election of that year. He died in Dublin in 1986 at the age of 83.

Friday, 25 September 2020


25 September 1983: 38 IRA prisoners escaped from Long Kesh aka H.M. Prison the Maze on this day. In a meticulously planned operation a selected number of men seized their wing from the Prison Officers [‘screws’] set to watch over them and made a dash for Freedom.

For months before the prisoners had done everything to put the screws at ease - they even volunteered for prison work and engaged their captors in social conversation. Small arms were smuggled into the wing and hidden away. Only a certain number of men were in on the act and were sworn to secrecy. That bond held and nothing leaked - the prison officers were caught completely off guard.

At 2:15pm that day, three prisoners, carrying concealed pistols fitted with silencers and which had been smuggled into the prison, moved into the central administration area of H-Block 7 on the pretext of cleaning out a store. They were joined by others and secured the area. The prison officers were made to strip and their captors donned their uniforms.

The escapees had studied the routine of the prison for months and knew the timetable for the delivery of food to their Block. A food lorry did a daily run to Long Kesh every day at roughly the same time. When it arrived it was hijacked. At this point a prison officer was stabbed to death.

‘The food lorry was then driven through a series of security gates in full view of prison guards and British Army watchtowers...The lorry arrived at a first ‘tally hut’, where the plan was to take control, arrest all the Screws, leave prisoners in charge and drive the lorry on to the front gate ‘tally hut’ and then out of the prison to freedom. However, there was a larger number of Screws than anticipated at the first hut, where others were coming on and off duty; the escapers could not control them all and the alarm was raised.’
Mícheál Mac Donncha An Phoblacht 25 September 2017

At this stage the prisoners decided to just run for it out through the front gate and across the fields...Amazingly despite the uproar within the prison as the Alarm was raised 19 of them got clean away.

The prison break was a huge propaganda victory for the IRA as the place was supposed to be the most heavily guarded prison in western Europe. A number of the 19 escapers later died on active service with the IRA while others were extradited back to prison in the Six Counties.

In an interview in An Phoblacht/Republican News at the time, the IRA described the escape:

“We perceived the escape as a military operation from beginning to end. It could not have been achieved in any other way, and the Active Service Unit – as Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army – were under strict orders throughout from an operations officer whose judgement was crucial and whose every order had to be obeyed.”

Thursday, 24 September 2020


25 September 1917: Thomas Ashe died on this day. It was the 5th day of his Hunger Strike to secure Political Status for Republican prisoners. He was born in Kinard, a townland on the eastern side of the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry. His parents, Gregory Ashe and Ellen Hanafin, were farmers. They spoke English and Irish in their household and were strong Nationalists. Thomas trained to be a Teacher at De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 and  began his teaching career as principal of Corduff National School, Lusk Co Dublin in 1908. He taught Irish in the Corduff school. He was fond of the Irish language and started branches of the Gaelic League in Skerries and other neighbouring villages.

Ashe joined the Irish Volunteers upon its foundation in November 1913. He was a member of the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League. He was also a member of the Lusk company of the Volunteers and probably founded it. He sat on the governing body of the Gaelic League and collected considerable sums of money during a trip to the USA in 1914 for both the Volunteers and the League.

He took part in the Easter Rising in 1916. Ashe was commandant of 5th battalion of the Dublin brigade; a force of 60–70 men engaged British forces around north County Dublin during the Rising. His column met with some success at the village of Ashbourne in Co Meath. Eleven RIC members, including County Inspector Alexander Gray, and two volunteers were killed during the five-and-a-half-hour battle. He was tried by the British and along with Eamon de Valera was sentenced to death but these were commuted and both were given Life in prison instead. They were sent to serve their sentences in Frognoch Internment Camp Wales.

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

As this protest evolved Ashe again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. As this was a breach of prison discipline the authorities retaliated by taking away the prisoners' beds, bedding and boots. After five or six days lying on a cold stone floor the prisoners were subjected to forcible feeding. On 25 September, his fellow Kerryman, Fionan Lynch saw Ashe being carried away to receive this treatment and called out to him: ' Stick it Tom boy'. Ashe called back 'I'll stick it, Fin'. That was the last time they spoke to each other. Ashe was carried back, blue in the face and unconscious. He was removed to the Mater Hospital across the road from the prison where he died within a few hours.

His death on Hunger Strike had a huge impact both at home and abroad. It reminded the Irish People once again that there were men prepared to give their lives for Ireland until she was Free from Foreign Rule. 30,000 people filed past his coffin layed out in State in the City Hall.

At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the "inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct". His death through being forced fed elicited widespread revulsion amongst the Irish people and his funeral acted as a catalyst to the further growth of the Sinn Fein Party and Republican ideals.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 September 2020


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

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

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

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

'The ambush was carried out by men from the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare brigade led by Ignatius O’Neill, Battalion O/C and ex-soldier with the Irish Guards, British Army.
There were about 60 in the ambushing party but only nine had rifles. Among the men who took part were Seamus Hennessy, Peter Vaughan, Dan (Dave?) Kennelly, Steve Gallagher, Michael O’Dwyer, Michael Curtin, Pat Lehane, Sean Burke, Pake Lehane, Dan Lehane, Patso Kerin, Anthony Malone, John Joe Neylon, Owen Nestor, Tom Burke, Alphonsus O’Neill and Ned Hynes.

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

Monday, 21 September 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 September 2020


20 September 1920: The sack of Balbriggan on this day. The then village of Balbriggan is situated some 20 miles north of north of Dublin City. On that day and night 100 years ago the Forces of the British Crown went on a rampage of looting, arson and destruction that culminated in the Murder of two local men who had been taken in for questioning by Special Constables  of the RIC  know as the ‘Black & Tans’.

The catalyst of this outbreak of vandalism and Murder had begun in a Public Bar in the town earlier in the night. Two members of the RIC Head Constable Peter Burke and his brother, Sergeant Michael Burke had stopped for a drink and became involved in a fracas with the clientle. The local police arrived, thought they had settled and left the scene. Alerted to the presence in the pub of two members of the RIC the IRA raided the premises and in an altercation that followed the two Constables were shot at close range. Peter Burke was shot dead and his brother seriously wounded.

At about 11pm, trucks carrying 100–150 Black and Tans arrived in Balbriggan from Gormanston. They began burning homes and businesses, smashing windows and firing in the streets. Witnesses said the Black and Tans were cheering and laughing during the attack. In all, 49 homes were destroyed or damaged, twenty of them on Clonard Street. Many townsfolk fled to the fields. The Dublin Evening Mail reported "men, women and children, some of them only scantily attired…fleeing to the country for refuge" and described how "a poor woman experienced great difficulty in getting her baby from its cot before her house was fired".

Four pubs were looted and burnt down.John Derham, a Sinn Féin town commissioner, was arrested and his pub was wrecked and burnt. He was punched in the face and clubbed with a rifle butt. His son Michael was beaten unconscious and left in the burning building. Other businesses were also attacked. A hosiery factory, Deeds & Templar, was destroyed. It had employed 130 workers and a further 180 who did work for it from home.

Two local men, dairyman Seán Gibbons and barber Seamus Lawless, were taken to the town's police barracks for questioning. They were beaten and bayoneted to death and their bodies dumped on Quay Street, near the barracks. According to The Guardian, "one was the chairman and the other was the acting secretary" of the local IRA battalion. A plaque on Quay Street commemorates the men, and a remembrance ceremony is held there every year.

Saturday, 19 September 2020


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

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

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

Friday, 18 September 2020


18 September 1961: Some 150 Irish soldiers quartered near the town of Jadotville Congo were led away into captivity on this day. They had been besieged for eight  days in their isolated position and their CO - Commandant Patrick Quinlan - had concluded that their position was hopeless. The night before  he had agreed with the besiegers to lay down arms and accept their offer of ‘protection’. As dawn broke that morning the men of ‘A’ Company awoke to a new reality, rather than been respected Peacekeepers of the United Nations they were effectively POWS of the breakaway Congolese province of Katanga.

It was a sorry saga and one that should never have happened. Reports had reached UN Headquarters in Elizabethville in early September that the White population in Jadotville were been subjected to harassment and molestation. It was decided to despatch a Company of UN soldiers to maintain order there and keep the peace - a mission that fell to ‘A’ Company of the Irish Army to carry out. However on arrival Comdt. Quinn was told by both Black and White residents that their presence was not required - as there was no trouble there to subdue. But the situation was tense - very tense. They were clearly not wanted there and they were refused entry to the town and their position was encircled by the Katangese forces.

Then un-beknownest to the Irish garrison the UN HQ in Elizabethville had decided to engage in what turned out to be a ham fisted attempt - Operation Morthor - to  disband and disarm the Katangese rebel government of Mr Tshombe in that city. Retaliation was swift and brutal. The first the Irish in Jadotville knew that things and gone from tense to outright warfare was when on the morning of Wednesday 13th September as Mass was being heard the Katangese Gendarmie launched a series of attacks on their positions.

For the next five days the Irish held their ground even though they were surrounded by thousands of their enemies. If they had one factor in their favour it was that the Katangese Gendarmie were not a professional fighting force but a heavily armed police one. Still they had enough weaponry in machine guns, mortars and the assistance of a jet fighter-bomber to make the Irish know that they were a lethal threat to them. They also had the assistance of White officer mercenaries. But the biggest factor that made the situation hopeless if they were not promptly relieved was a very simple one - WATER! For without that no man can last more than a few days and expect to survive. In the heat of the Congo that was even more so. The besiegers cut the mains into the camp and after that it could only be a matter of time.

Relief attempts were soon organised from Elizabethville but the problem was there was only one road that led from there to Jadotville. Progress was made along it until the relief column reached the bridge over the river Lufira. Here the Katangese had blocked the bridge and lined up men along the riverbank to stop any force from breaking through. The Irish along with allied troops from the Indian and Swedish armies did all they could to storm the bridge but each attempt was beaten back. By Sunday it was obvious that the bridge could not be taken with the forces available. Rescue by air was out of the question as the enemy had air superiority in that they had one aircraft and the UN had none!

Serious negotiations began on Saturday when the Mayor of Jadotville Mr Munongo proposed terms. There would be a Ceasefire & joint patrols, the water would be turned back on, the jet would be grounded and the UN allowed to patrol the town. But it quickly became clear that the terms were not going to be kept.

We played a delaying game as long as we could on that Sunday, hoping against hope that reinforcements would arrive as we negotiated a definite ceasefire. I hoped that we would get a written ceasefire but soon Munongo was demanding surrender and only surrender terms, otherwise the final onslaught would begin. I  realised that our situation had become hopeless and that there was no prospect of relief arriving in time. I knew too that if I continued my men would be massacred by a vastly superior force so I agreed to the terms.

Commandant Patrick Quinlan

Under the Blue Flag by Raymond Smith

Thus ended the ‘Siege of Jadotville’ where the Irish Army held off thousands of enemies for five long days. The men were held in captivity until 25 October when they were handed back to the UN in a prisoner exchange. Their conditions of captivity ranged from good to fair to bad and sometimes to the point that their lives were in immediate danger - but they all made it out alive.

However surrender and captivity is never an easy burden for any soldier or Army to bear and when the men returned home there was a stigma attached to them by some - none more so on the head of Commandant Patrick Quinlan. He had been put in an impossible situation by UN HQ and was effectively ‘up the creek without a paddle’ in Jadotville. There is no doubt his career suffered as a result and it is only in recent years that it is accepted that the decision he had to take was the correct one. For at the end of the day all the men he led in battle made it back home. There are now only a few survivors left of those events so long ago but finally their grit, courage and determination has at last been recognised for their heroic stand at Jadotville back in 1961.

Thursday, 17 September 2020


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 16 September 2020


16 September 1941: Sixteen Irish Officers & men were killed while training in the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow on this day. The Glen was and still is the main training and testing ground for the Irish Army. At the time of the tragedy the State had expanded its Army to meet any threat of invasion from either side in the Second World War. The troops involved in that days training were from an anti aircraft battalion based in Kildare.  

They were being instructed in the use of anti tank weapons. What quite what happened no one now knows. But a warning was shouted that ‘you have seven seconds’ which suggests that the officer handling the thing sensed something had gone horribly wrong - too late! While 16 officers and soldiers were killed another three men were blinded for life and one went deranged and shot a man to death.

Survivor Sergeant Richie Lennon described the fateful accident:

I heard the bang and I was carried was carried about 100 yards further...when I got up and went over you didn’t know who to render assistance to, it was an awful sight.

In 1958 a stained glass window commemorating the sixteen dead was installed in the Garrison Church in McKee Barracks. In September 1986, a memorial was unveiled in the Glen of Imaal, consisting of sixteen rick-stones and sixteen Mountain Ash trees arranged in a semi-circle around a 14 ton basalt monolith. A polished granite plaque on the monolith names the dead:

Lt John Brierton
Lt John Fennessy
Lt Thomas O’Neill
Lt Michael McLoughlin
CS Patrick MacMahon
Sgt Michael Scullion
Sgt Thomas Stokes
Cpl Edward Kennedy
Cpl William Shannon
Cpl Denis Cleary
Cpl Colm Heffernan
Cpl John Taylor
Gnr John Murphy
Gnr James McDonnell
Gnr Gerard O’Hagan
Gnr James Osborne

Tuesday, 15 September 2020


15 September 1643: The death of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork on this day. He was a classic Elizabethan ‘adventurer’ who seeked his Fortune in Ireland and outsmarted his enemies and rivals to become the richest man in Ireland and a power to be reckoned with both here and in England. He has been called an 'epitome of Elizabethan adventurer-colonist in Ireland'
Modern Ireland by R.F.Foster

Boyle was born at Canterbury in England on 3 October 1566 to a family with some means to their name but not enough that their ambitious son could expect to rely on them to pay his way in this World. Before completing his studies, Boyle decided "to gain learning, knowledge, and experience abroad in the world’ and left London for a new start in Ireland. He arrived in Dublin on 23 June 1588.

He proceeded to work his way up the ladder of public administration of English Rule over Ireland which was characterised by patronage, guile and corruption. It was a milieu well suited to the talents of Richard Boyle and one within which he made many enemies on his climb to the top. He was thrown into prison several times once on charges of fraud. He was also on one occasion charged with collusion with the Spanish – which was almost certainly false. But all his efforts came to naught in 1598 when the province of Munster (where he had most of his holdings) rose in Revolt against the English and he lost everything.

Forced to explain himself before the notorious Star Chamber in London he was lucky that Queen Elizabeth herself was in attendance that day and thought him hard done by. She famously said: "By God's death, these are but inventions against the young man" and she also said he was "a man fit to be employed by ourselves".

He was immediately appointed Clerk of the Council of Munster by Elizabeth I in 1600. In December 1601, Boyle brought to Elizabeth the news of the victory near Kinsale that gave the English Victory in the Nine Years War.

He was returned as a Member of Parliament for Lismore in 1614 and ascended to the Irish Peerage as Lord Boyle, Baron of Youghal, 6 September 1616, and was created Earl of Cork 26 October 1620. In 1629 he was appointed as a Lord Justice and in 1631 he became the Lord Treasurer of Ireland.

All the time he was building up his land bank in Ireland, particularly in Munster and amassing a fortune through developing towns and estates that he planted with immigrants from England - when he could get them to come over. The town of Clonakilty was founded in 1613 by Richard Boyle when he received a charter from King James I. He acquired the town of Bandon in 1625 and other towns developed included Midleton, Castlemartyr, Charleville and Doneraile.

However in the 1630s he fell out with the new Viceroy Thomas Wentworth who viewed him as an over mighty subject who needed to be put in his place. He connived to bring Wentworth down as a man who was ‘A most cursed man to all Ireland and to me in particular.’ When Wentworth went before the axe in 1640 Richard Boyle might have thought his troubles were over but in 1641 the Irish again rose in revolt and once again Boyle risked the loss of everything he had built up. One of his sons was killed in battle at this time. He retreated to his fortified residence at Youghal and there waited out his last days.

His mansion in Dublin, on the site of the present City Hall, gave the name to Cork-hill. While the 1st Earl's remains are interred in a vault in Youghal there is another one in St Patricks Cathedral Dublin to his 2nd wife Catherine Fenton. Their brilliant son Robert Boyle is known as the 'Father of Modern Chemistry’. But Richard Boyle of Canterbury - the 1St Earl of Cork - was a man that took hold of an opportunity when he saw one - regardless of the legal niceties in his way. He lived by the family motto he had decided upon: "God's providence is my inheritance.".

Monday, 14 September 2020

 Image result for kathleen lynn

14 September 1955: Doctor Kathleen Florence Lynn died on this day. Dr Lynn was Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen Army garrison that seized Dublin City Hall on 24 April 1916.

She was born in Killala, Co Mayo on 28 January 1874. She was the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector and at a young age decided to become a Doctor. She studied for her Degree at Royal University of Ireland in Dublin. After spending some years in the USA she returned home and after much trying secured a place with the Royal Eye & Ear hospital becoming the first female doctor to be taken on there. She also ran a private practice from her home at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines. It was through her contacts there that she became involved in Revolutionary politics. She supported the workers during the Dublin Lockout in 1913, and became a friend and supporter of James Connolly.

During Easter Week she was taken prisoner by the British but they were at a loss what to do with her as she did not fit the typical profile of an Irish ‘Rebel’. After a few weeks of captivity she was deported to England and sent to work with a Doctor in Bath. By the end of the year, she was back at her home in Rathmines, re-establishing her practice.

In 1917, she became one of four women members of the national executive committee of Sinn Fein. She campaigned for Constance Markievicz in the general election of 1918 and was one of five women elected to the Dáil in 1923 but as an abstentionist in opposition to the Treaty, she did not take her seat. She was a member of Rathmines Urban District Council and vice-president of the Irish Women Workers' Union.

But perhaps her greatest contribution was in the work of dedicated and professional care for very young sick infants. In 1919 Lynn together with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen (her life long companion) and a number of other politically-active medical women founded St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in Charlemont Street, Dublin. At that time in Dublin, infant mortality was 150 per 1,000 births and there was extensive malnutrition among the general populace.

The initial focus of the hospital was on treating those suffering from malnutrition and syphilitic infants due to an epidemic of that disease amongst the poorest of working class Dubliners - probably spread by returning soldiers disbanded after the end of the First World War. They started with a Capital of some $200 and Then we worked – and worked. By 1925 they had a hospital with 25 beds where babies could be treated and had set up what was practically a dispensary to teach mothers how to care for their babies at home.

Today her hospital is now long gone, closing back in the 1980s. But she was a lifelong campaigner for women’s and workers’ rights. Kathleen Lynn has been described as one of the great Irish humanitarians of the 20th Century. Her influence extended throughout Irish society with her work in hospital medicine, her fight against poverty and disease, her career as a politician and as a lifelong social revolutionary. From 1916 she kept extensive diaries of her life and work which are now housed in the archives of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

On her death she was given a full military funeral as befitted one who had fought for Irish Freedom in 1916. That and her work in the years thereafter to alleviate the sufferings of the little children from the streets of Dublin means that she deserves her place in the Pantheon of 20th Century Irish Women who strove to make Ireland a better place for her People.

Sunday, 13 September 2020


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

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

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

Fragmentary Annals of Ireland

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

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

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

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

Annals of Ulster

Saturday, 12 September 2020


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

But he and many of his associates were deeply troubled at the turn of events in England as King Henry VIII sought to expand his power in Ireland by subduing the Great Lords of Ireland to his will. The Earl of Desmond was of the opinion that the English feared a prophecy that one day that Country would be conquered by one of his family - and in his eyes his family was a Royal one. He certainly was a very powerful man who ruled over much of the south west of Ireland and controlled three out of the four major ports of the island - namely Cork, Waterford and Limerick. Only Dublin was beyond his reach. His word was Law in his own lands and none dare oppose him except on peril of death.

The Emperor commissioned his chaplain Gonzalvo Fernandez to visit Ireland and report back on character and strength of this Earl from across the seas who so desperately sought his help against the King of England. He reported back on his mission to Dingle, of the resources of the country, of the demeanour of the Earl, and his reasons for hostility. He stated that:

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

Gonzalvo Fernandez Dingle 28 April 1529

The proud Earl added his own words to this appeal, stating that he could put over 16,000 men in the field but was in need of cannon to take the castles of the English.

And for myself, I promise on my Faith to obey your Majesty in all things. I will be friend of your friends enemy of your enemies and your Majesty's especial and particular subject.


Charles V was the most powerful man in the western World at that time, ruling over a vast Empire stretching across much of western Europe and into the Americas. He was also a very devout Catholic with a deep suspicion and contempt for Protestantism. But in effect Charles V had too many problems of his own to deal with in Germany, Spain & with France and also against the Turks to be able to offer any effective aid to his co religionist in what was to him a far flung island in the Atlantic Ocean that could not really alter the Balance of Power in Europe.

However while this particular appeal to get outside help  to resist the Crown of England’s attempt to dominate Ireland did not succeed it was by no means the last. Indeed such appeals for arms & finance from abroad has been a part and parcel of revolts against London right into the late 20th century.

In the event the Earl did not have long left in this World for he died at Dingle on 18 June 1529. He was buried alongside his father at Tralee, Co Kerry.

Friday, 11 September 2020


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

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

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

About 3,000 men of the Royalist garrison, both Irish and English soldiers were killed with the majority being put to the sword after they had laid down their weapons. The few hundred taken alive were shipped as slaves to Barbados. Aston was bludgeoned to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers believed to be filled with gold coins.

Cromwell wrote afterwards that:

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

For the Honourable William Lenthall, Speaker of the Parliament of England. Dublin, 17th September, 1649.

Some of the defenders of  the town made it over the north wall that was deliberately left unguarded by Cromwell  and made their way to safety. There they related the horrendous events that took place in Drogheda on that infamous day. Within weeks the Royalist pamphleteers were reporting on the terrible events in this Irish town and the massacre of the garrison and its inhabitants.

However while the numbers of defenders who were put to the sword is reasonably well established (circa 3,000) the numbers of inhabitants who died is a matter of conjecture. What though the fate of the civilians caught within the walls when the town fell? Perhaps hundreds of Catholic inhabitants were put to the sword when the town was taken - maybe more... Cromwell himself admitted that ‘many inhabitants’ died.

There is no doubt that by the conventions of War as then practised in the 17th century that the attackers had the right to destroy any caught in arms after the walls had been breached. On this occasion that ‘right' was carried out to the hilt. We know that at that time when a town was Stormed that it could be put to the Sack - usually of three days duration - and that all property and persons within were at the mercy of the troops. Sacking of towns and cities during the 30 Years War in Germany (1618-1648) and indeed to some degree in the Civil Wars in Britain at that time showed what could happen once soldiers stormed a place.

There is no reason to expect that Cromwell’s men, fired up at seeing their companions fall in the taking of the place and filled with a deep desire for revenge against Irish Catholics over the events of 1641 would have behaved any better than to take, loot, kill and ravish what they considered the spoils of War.

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

Thursday, 10 September 2020


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

O’Malley seems to have made this decision himself without consulting other ministers, however, he did discuss it with An Taoiseach Sean Lemass. Jack Lynch, who was Minister of Finance at the time had to find the money to pay for it, was certainly not consulted and was dismayed at the announcement.

In spite of this O’Malley’s proposals were hugely popular with the public and it was impossible for the government to go back on its word. O’Malley’s impromptu decision opened the way for free secondary education in the State that continues to this day. It was a watershed in Irish Education that changed Ireland forever.

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

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Promotional Shot

9 September 1953: Laurel & Hardy arrived in Cobh Co Cork to a rapturous reception. The famous duo stepped off a liner from the USA at the start of their final tour of the Music Halls & Theatres of Britain and Ireland. 

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had become a spectacularly famous comedy duo in the 1920s and 1940s in America & across the World with a series of slapstick films that relied heavily on old style theatrical vaudeville comedy sketches as a template upon to which to build their output. They both had successful careers in  film and on the stage before they permanently teamed up in 1927.They appeared as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films. By the late 40s though their routine was jaded and the World of Entertainment was starting to pass them by. They were not the draw they once were and film work started to dry up. 

In 1950–51, Laurel and Hardy made their final feature-length film together, Atoll K. During the filming, Hardy began to lose weight precipitously and developed an irregular heartbeat. Laurel was experiencing painful prostate complications as well. The film was not a commercial success on its first release and it brought an end to Laurel and Hardy's film careers. They carried on with stage performances and had a successful tour in Europe in 1952. They decided to return to these islands the following year for one final round of their routine. 

It was when they arrived in Cobh that day back in 1953 that they realised that whatever about the Hollywood Moguls the ordinary cinema going folk had nor forgotten them but turned out in droves to welcome them ashore. Laurel recounted their reception:

The love and affection we found that day at Cobh was simply unbelievable. There were hundreds of boats blowing whistles and mobs and mobs of people screaming on the docks. We just couldn't understand what it was all about. And then something happened that I can never forget. All the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song "Dance of the Cuckoos" and Babe (Oliver Hardy) looked at me and we cried. I'll never forget that day. Never.

On May 17, 1954, the pair made their last live stage performance in Plymouth, UK at the Palace Theatre. Oliver Hardy died in 1957 and Stan Laurel passed away in 1965. But they have never been forgotten and their deadpan comedies are still aired even today.



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

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

The panel above shows what is believed to be a representation of St Ciarán [left] and King Diarmait mac Cerbaill [right] planting a stake in the ground at Clonmacnoise. If so it shows the symbiotic relationship between Church & Kingship in early Christian Ireland - the Church gained protection and the King gained the blessing of the Church - even though in this case King Diarmait was a Pagan! However St Ciarán knew that the protection of the powerful was a necessary fact of life if the Church was ever to prosper and spread the Faith across the Land of Ireland.

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

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

 Battle of Ballinamuck, 1798 (9675655157).jpg

8 September 1798: The Battle of Ballinamuck/ Béal Átha na Muc - the Mouth of the Ford of the Pigs - was fought on this day. It was the last battle on Irish soil of the 1798 Rising. A vastly superior British force under General Lake cornered a small Franco-Irish Army under the command of General Humbert. After a desultory exchange of fire the French accepted terms and laid down their weapons. No such considerations were offered to the Irishmen who had accompanied him on his march on Dublin. Armed for the most part with pikes and agricultural instruments they were shot and cut down in their hundreds as a general massacre began.

General Humbert was a soldier of Revolutionary France & saw much action in the Republic’s wars against its enemies. He had served in the ill fated Bantry Bay expedition to Ireland in 1796 and narrowly escaped drowning when his ship was attacked by the British navy.

When word reached Paris in the summer of 1798 that a Revolution had broken out in Ireland the Directory hastily organised expeditions to sail to Ireland to give what assistance they could to those Irish in arms against Britain. General Humbert was given a command of some 1,000 men which he successfully brought ashore at Killala Co Mayo on the 23 August. His tiny command  chiefly consisted of infantry of the 70th demi-brigade with a few artillerymen and some cavalry of the 3rd Hussars. It was the only force to make it ashore.

Undaunted at hearing from the Irish that the main rising had already been defeated he decided to strike inland and take the town of Castlebar. Before he conducted his advance he clothed and armed those amongst the population who wished to join him in the endeavour. The numbers are not exactly known but it would appear that about one thousand Irishmen joined him on his march.

Striking across the mountains he surprised the local garrison  on 27 August at Castlebar and against the odds defeated them. Thereafter the battle was known to the locals as the ‘Races of Castlebar’ so hasty was the exit of the Crown Forces after their defeat. The General here took the opportunity the declare ‘The Republic of Connacht’ which however lasted a matter of days after his departure.

Humbert crossed the Shannon at Ballintra on 7 September and stopping at Cloone that evening, he was halfway between his landing-point and Dublin. But by now the British had him well marked and with two large armies under General Lake and Viceroy Lord Cornwallis with a combined force of over 25,000 men closing in for the kill it could only be a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

While terms were offered to the French Army no such consideration was offered to the Irish in arms against His Majesty King George III. That day as the Irish stood defenceless on Shanmullagh Hill overlooking the village, volleys of musket shot was poured into them, followed by a cavalry charge, and an estimated five hundred souls perished in the carnage. After it was all over their bodies were gathered together and unceremoniously buried in a mass-grave, known ever since as the ‘Croppies grave.’ Their final resting place is marked by a modest cross, erected by the local people who care for the site on a voluntary basis. A memorial stone marks the spot.

96 French officers and 748 men were taken prisoner at Ballinamuck. British losses were initially reported as 3 killed and 16 wounded or missing, but the number of killed alone was later reported as 12. Approximately 500 Irish lay dead on the field, 200 prisoners were taken in the mopping up operations, almost all of whom were later hanged, including Matthew Tone, brother of Wolfe Tone. The prisoners were moved to Carrick-on-Shannon, St Johnstown, today's Ballinalee, where most were executed in what is known locally as Bully's Acre.

Humbert and his men were taken by canal to Dublin and repatriated to France in exchange for British POWS held by the French. After the battle the British army slowly spread out into the rebel held "Republic of Connaught" in a brutal campaign of killing and house burning which reached its climax on 23 September when Killala was stormed and retaken with much slaughter.

Monday, 7 September 2020


7 September 1948: An Taoiseach John A Costello announced in Ottawa, Canada that the Irish Free State would leave the Commonwealth by repealing the 1936 External Relations Act and declaring Ireland a Republic. This shock announcement at a Commonwealth Conference was greeted at home with some puzzlement, as he had given no indication before his departure that such an action was contemplated.

Rumour circulated that Costello had been piqued when at a Dinner hosted by Earl Alexander, the Governor General of Canada and a dyed in the wool Ulster Unionist, the Taoiseach had looked down the barrels of table top sized miniatures of the guns that had held Derry in 1689! Specifically a miniature replica of the famous ‘Roaring Meg’ cannon [above].Chagrined at this insult he had called hastily arraigned press conference and announced his momentous decision.

Whatever the truth of the matter (and Costello denied this tale) when he returned home he brought forward a Bill that he claimed:

Was not conceived nor is it brought into this House in a mood of flamboyant patriotism or aggressive nationalism, nor in a spirit of irresponsible isolationism…

The Bill was passed and the Republic of Ireland came into being on 1 January 1949 with the State leaving the British Commonwealth as a result.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

 Celtic warfare Archives ~ Mark E. Fisher

6 September 868: The Battle of Killineer/  Cath Cell ua nDaigri on this day. This clash of arms was fought just a few miles north of Drogheda, Co Louth. The opponents were the forces of the King of Tara, Aed Finnliath of the northern Uí Néill, and his dynastic rivals the Uí Néill of Brega [east Meath] who had as allies the Vikings of Dublin and the men of Laigin [south Leinster]. 

King Aed had for support King Conchobor of Connacht who seems to have contributed the bulk of the warriors. The northern king appears to have brought south with him just a picked force of about one thousand men. Aed was faced with what was an alliance by the kings of greater Leinster against his hegemony – as they all feared dominance by a king as powerful and as skilful as he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicon Scotorum 868 AD