Monday, 30 November 2020


30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh Poet, Author and Playwright died on this day. He was born  in Inniskeen County Monaghan. It would become the inspiration for much of his work and would ultimately become his final resting place.

He was born on 21 October 1904 & most of the first 35 years of his life were spent in the parish of Inniskeen and the countryside of County Monaghan. Kavanagh’s formal education ended after national school and he became an apprentice shoemaker to his father for a while. Kavanagh worked on the small family farm for twenty years and while there had his first work published. He was not a ‘natural’ at farming and his mind wandered over to what his lot was in this life. Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published in 1936. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life. The Green Fool, a loosely autobiographical novel, was published in 1938.

In 1939, after a short time in London, Patrick Kavanagh joined his brother Peter in Dublin. The city would become his home until his death in 1967. Kavanagh claimed to feeling like an exile in Dublin where for many years he struggled to make a living as a writer. Yet Kavanagh became a ‘Dublin character’ and the city had an important influence on his poetry. He was not impressed with the Dublin literary scene and thought a lot of what was spoken ‘drivel’. But his heart took to the Baggot St area of Dublin and he made it his ‘village’ where was known to everyone and they knew him.

"he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left. He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication. To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art. His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming".

John Nemo Patrick Kavanagh 1979

In 1942 he published his long poem The Great Hunger, which describes the privations and hardship of the rural life he knew well. Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. His life drifted downwards though and he became a dishevelled figure along the banks of the Grand Canal and in the local pubs. In 1955 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. It was while recovering from this that he rediscovered his poetic vision. He recalled: "As a poet I was born in or about 1955, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal". This proved a turning point and Kavanagh began receiving the acclaim that he had always felt he deserved. Between 1959 and 1962 Kavanagh spent more time in London, He gave lectures at UCD and in the United States he represented Ireland at literary symposiums, and became a judge of the Guinness Poetry Awards.

Kavanagh married his long-term companion Katherine Barry Moloney in April 1967 and they set up home together on the Waterloo Road in Dublin. Kavanagh fell ill at the first performance of Tarry Flynn. He died from an attack of bronchitis on 30 November 1967. He was buried in his native Inniskeen.

For most of his Life he had struggled with poverty both Material and of the Soul and with rejection by literary society and the wider world. It was only in the last two decades of his career that he really began to gain traction and recognition as one of Ireland’s finest poets of the 20th century.

There is a statue of Kavanagh beside Dublin's Grand Canal inspired by his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin":

O commemorate me where there is water

canal water preferably, so stilly

greeny at the heart of summer. Brother

commemorate me thus beautifully.


30 November 1900: Oscar Wilde, aged 46, Irish wit, writer, raconteur, husband, father & homosexual, died in exile in Paris on this day. He was living there under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth. He had lived in Paris since his release from prison in 1897. Oscar was a native born Dubliner and the son of William Wilde and Jane Francesca Elgee, who were well known characters in their own right. His father was a Medical man and antiquarian and his mother an ardent Nationalist. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie was born on October 16 1854 in the City of Dublin. He attended Portora Royal School at Enniskillen where he first showed promise as a writer. From there he attended Trinity College Dublin where he achieved a First in Classics. In 1874 he was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford..

While at Magdalen his examiners awarded him the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna,” and a First Class in both his “Mods” and “Greats”. After graduation, Oscar moved to London to live with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. “Poems” received mixed reviews by critics, but it helped to move Oscar's writing career along. At the end of this year he set off on an extended Lecture Tour of the United States ostensibly on the subject of Aesthetics but as the tour unfolded Oscar himself became the real focus of interest. On his return after an absence of some 14 months he embarked on another such like expedition around Britain and Ireland so that by the time of its completion he was what in modern parlance might be described as a ‘celebrity’ figure.

His marriage in 1884 to Constance Lloyd and the birth of children meant that Oscar now had responsibilities. This stimulated his creative mind to create literary works that would maintain himself and his family in some comfort in the London of the late Victorian era. The next six years were to become the most creative period of his life. He published children's stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales and The House of Pomegranates and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

However it was his brilliant satirical plays that are his abiding legacy and Oscar’s first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theatre. His subsequent plays included A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright on the London scene.

But while at the height of his fame Oscar became infatuated with a younger man, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, and the two became lovers. While not unknown a liaison of this nature was Illegal as the Law then stood and public exposure would ruin a man if convicted. The father of Oscar’s affections, the Marquis of Queensberry, took a dim view of this illicit relationship and publicly revealed the nature of the friendship. Oscar foolishly sued for libel in April 1895, withdrew the case but then was arrested and charged. The Trial was a sensation and scandalised London Society of the time. Oscar was found guilty and convicted of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years Hard Labour which he served in Reading Gaol.

On release he wrote his last literary work ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ but his career was at an end and he fled to Paris living incognito in a shabby series of hotels. His wife had abandoned him and taken the children to Switzerland and changed their surname to Holland. His spirit was shattered and his health declined. An ear infection set in and an operation to clear it was not a success. Broken and alone he passed away there a sad and lonely figure on this day 1900. He was eventually laid to rest in the City’s famous La Pére Lachaise Cemetery, which is by far the most visited site in that vast Necropolis.


30 November 3340 BC: The world's oldest known recording of a solar eclipse was made on stone.
The illustrations are found on the “Cairn L,” on Carbane West, at Loughcrew, outside Oldcastle, in County Meath. The landscape of rolling hills is littered with Neolithic monuments. Some say that originally there were at least 40 to 50 monuments, but others say the figure was more like 100.
They write that the Irish Neolithic astronomer priests recorded the events on three stones relating to the eclipse, as seen from that location. The date November 30th 3340 is the only one that fits with what could have been observed from that site in that age.

To the ancient Neolithic farmers of Ireland the observance of the changing skies was an important tool in determining the passage of the year and when to plant and harvest crops and stage their festivals to honour the Gods. An event like a Solar Eclipse would have been a fantastic event to them and something of a shocker to their calculations. No doubt that they would have seen this as an evil portent. Whether it proved so or not we of course do not know. However it proved an important enough event for them to carve a depiction of this celestial wonder in stone on the top of one of their most sacred sites.

Note: Irish archaeo -astronomer Paul Griffin has announced the confirmation of the world's oldest known solar eclipse recorded in stone, substantially older than the recordings made in 2800 BC by Chinese astronomers. This finding was made at the world's oldest lunar eclipse tracking multi cairn site at the Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument in Ireland, and corresponds to a solar eclipse which occurred on November 30, 3340 BC, calculated with The Digital Universe astronomy software.

Photo from


30 November 862 AD: Mael Sechnaill mac Maele Ruanaid rí hÉrenn uile ‘King of all Ireland’ died on this day. A true warrior king he fought his many enemies long and hard but was never defeated in battle. His grandfather had been the king of Tara, a title that carried great status with the Irish, but only in the hands of those who could use it effectively. He was born into a  family group of high status - An Clann Cholmáin - a southern branch of the powerful dynasty the O’Neills/ Uí Néills. Their territory was based in roughly where Co Westmeath is today. By the time he reached young adulthood he was already blooded having first killed his cousin and then his own brother to secure his place in the first family of the Clann and then his own position as it’s leader. He had also gained fame by capturing the Viking chief Turgesius & drowning him in Lough Lough Owel (Irish: Loch Uail ).

His big breakthrough came in the year 846 when the king of the northern O’Neills and the High King of Ireland Niall mac Áeda was drowned near Armagh. By the long tradition of sharing the High Kingship between the northern & southern branches of the family it was now Mael Sechnaill’s turn to take that title as his own but for some reason now not alltogether clear he did not take up the reins of Power until the following year. That was not the end of his troubles with Vikings as they had allies with the southern O’Neills esp one Cináed mac Conaing the king of Knowth on the Boyne river. This man raided deep into O’Neill territory and caused mayhem.

The Annals of Ulster state:

Cinaed son of Conaing, king of Cianacht, rebelled against Mael Sechnaill with the support of the foreigners, and plundered the Uí Néill from the Sinann to the sea, both churches and states, and he deceitfully sacked the island of Loch Gabor, levelling it to the ground, and the oratory of Treóit, with seventy people in it, was burned by him.
AOU  850

In the year 850  Mael Sechnaill  met him & another local king Tigernach mac Fócartai in order to settle their differences put a more united front against the Vikings of Dublin. The end result though that Cináed mac Conaing was bound & drowned in a pit at the behest of the other two kings. This was "in spite of the guarantees of the nobles of Ireland, and the successor of Patrick [i.e. the abbot of Armagh] in particular".  AOU

 Presumably this conference was organised by the Church but they could hardly have been satisfied with the outcome with one of the participants there under sacred protection ending up dead in a watery grave! After this there was a major Royal conference at Armagh, the major ecclesiastical site in Ireland under the auspices of the Church but what exactly was decided is none too sure. 

A royal conference in Ard Macha, between Mael Sechnaill, accompanied by the nobles of Leth Cuinn, and Matudán with the nobles of Conchobor's Province, and Diarmait and Fethgna with the congregation of Patrick, and Suairlech with the clerics of Mide.

Here Mael Sechnaill met the current king of Ulster/ Ulaid [by then roughly Antrim & Down] Matudán mac Muiredaig and struck a deal whereby the Ulstermen would provide warriors to Mael Sechnaill to augment his campaigns elsewhere in Ireland. 

With his rule secured at home and Ulster in reluctant alliance Mael Sechnaill  turned his attention south to the powerful Kingdom of Munster/Muma with it’s royal seat at Cashel. Here the fractious Eóganachta extended family ruled over a large part of the South of Ireland. However to complicate matters a new proto kingdom has emerged roughly where Co Kilkenny is today called Ossory/Osraige under king Cerball mac Dúnlainge. To have a free hand in Munster Mael Sechnaill needed to either overwhelm this potential threat or make a deal of some sort to placate Cerball. He chose the latter option. The annals record expeditions to Munster to obtain tribute and hostages in 854, 856 and in 858, when Mael's army killed several kings, wasted the land and marched south to the sea in his attempts to obtain the submission to the Munster kings. The Annals of Ulster record that in 854:

Mael Sechnaill, king of Temair marched against the men of Mumu to Inneóin na nDéise, and took hostages from them.

That is Mael as king of Tara marched into Munster and took hostages from people basically where Co Waterford is now.

He also had further troubles in Munster with both the native inhabitants and also with the Vikings. 

Mael Sechnaill son of Mael Ruanaid came with the men of Ireland to the lands of Mumu and halted for ten nights at Niam; and he plundered them to the south as far as the sea, after their kings had been defeated at Carn Lugdach, Maelchrón son of Muiredach, king of the Déisi, being left dead there. Mael Sechnaill then took the hostages of Mumu from Belat Gabráin to Inis Tarbnai off the Irish coast, and from Dún Cermna to Ára Airthir.

But by 859 Cerball and Máel Sechnaill had fallen out and the king of Ossory allied with Vikings from Dublin to attack into Meath and perhaps as far north as Armagh. A general assembly of kings and clerics in 859 at Rahugh in County Westmeath settled matters by detaching Osraige from Munster. 

A royal conference was held at Ráith Aeda Meic Bric of the nobles of Ireland, including Mael Sechnaill, king of Temair, and Fethgna, successor of Patrick, and Suairlech, successor of Finnia, to make peace and amity between the men of Ireland, and as a result of that meeting Cerball, king of Osraige, gave his full dues to Patrick's congregation and his successor, and the Osraige were alienated to Leth Cuinn,* and Mael Guala, king of Mumu, warranted the alienation.

* Conn's half ie. the northern half of Ireland from roughly Dublin to Galway. The southern half was known Leath Moga (Mugh's half).

Basically King Mael ensured that the conference was held in his own neck of the woods as it were and that the leading churchmen of Armagh & Clonfert [in his own territory] were present to seal the deal that detached Ossory from the control of Cashel, the Royal site of Munster and became an independent entity under the protection Mael himself. The king of Ossory may have married Mael-Sechnaill’s daughter Ailbi on this occasion.

With all that settled Máel Sechnaill then fell out with his northern kinsmen the northern O’Neill led by the great Áed mac Néill aka Áed Findliath. In 860 he led an army raised from Munster, Leinster and Connacht against the northern Uí Néill. The annals say that Áed Findliath and Flann mac Conaing, brother of Cináed, led a night attack on Máel Sechnaill's camp near Armagh which was beaten off with heavy loss to Áed and Flann. Further fighting between Áed and Máel Sechnaill is reported in 861, and again in 862.

That must have been enough fighting for any man in his lifetime! We don’t know much about the character & personality of Máel but he comes across as a man who never took NO for an answer and preferred the sword to the pen to settle things. 

Máel Sechnaill died peacefully on 30 November 862. His obituary in the Annals of Ulster states:

Mael Sechnaill m. Mael Ruanaigh mc. Donnchadha mc. Domnaill mc Murchadha Midhi mc. Diarmada Den m. Oirmedhaigh Chaeich mc. Conaill Guthbhinn mc. Shuibhne mc. Colmain Moir mc. Diarmada Derg mc. Fergusa Cerrbeoil, ri h-Erenn uile, .ii. kl. Decimbris, .ii. feria, anno regni suo .xui., defunctus est.

Mael Sechnaill son of Mael Ruanaid son of Donnchad son of Domnall son of Murchad of Mide son of Diarmait the Harsh son of Airmedach the One-eyed son of Conall of the Sweet Voice, son of Suibne son of Colmán the great son of Diarmait the red son of Fergus the wrymouth, king of all Ireland,  on the second of the Kalends of December, the second feria .. in the 16th year of his reign is no more.

From the Annals of the Four Masters we have this Eulogy: 

Maelseachlainn, son of Maelruanaidh, son of Donnchadh, Monarch of Ireland, died on the thirteenth day of November precisely, on Tuesday, after he had been sixteen years in the sovereignty. Of his death was sung:

Mournfully is spread
her veil of grief over Ireland,
Since the chieftain of our race has perished,
Maelseachlainn of the flowing Sinainn.*
Many a moan in every place,
it is a mournful news among the Gaeidhil;
Red wine has been spilled into the valley,
Erin's monarch has died.

* the Shannon river

Sunday, 29 November 2020


29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that a relief force from Dublin was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill. 

He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. The Irish troops actually engaged though were under the tactical command of one Colonel Plunkett on the day apparently. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Viscount Gormanstown that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into what was in effect an ambush. The Irish waited until the moment was ripe and then they uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless enemy cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came. 

...the rebels forces who now furiously approached with a great shout and a lieutenant giving out the unhappy word of counter march all the men possessed as it were of a panic fear began somewhat confusedly to march back; but they were so much amazed with a second shout given by the rebels, who, seeing them in disorder followed close on, as not withstanding that they had gotten into a ground of great advantage, they could not be persuaded to stand a charge, but betook themselves to their heels, and so the rebels fell sharply on, as their manner is, upon the execution.

Bellings in Gilbert’s Irish Confederation

Prisoners were taken but according to Temple the attackers ‘spared very few or none that fell into their hands, but such as were Irish whose lives they preserved’

Sir John Temple The Irish Rebellion (London, 1646) 

The commander of the Royalist force was Sir Patrick Wemyss, Scottish born but his mother was related to the Earls of Desmond. He was Captain-Lieutenant in the Army of King Charles I and was a close associate of the Earl of Ormond. He has left us the only known eye witness account of the battle. He wrote to Ormond on the following day:

I will now tell you of our misfortune. We lodged last night at Balrederie (Balrothery,), as my officers could not make the men march to Drogheda. We were informed that the enemy were upon us, but they did not fall on us. Next day on the march, we sent out scouts and saw a few rebels, but after crossing the Julanstowne bridge, I saw them advancing towards us in as good order as ever I saw any men. I viewed them all, and to my conjecture they were not less than 3,000 men....

I drew up the troops on their front, and told the captains that we were engaged in honour to charge them, and that I would charge them first with those horse I had. They promised faithfully to second me. But when I made the trumpet sound, the rebels advanced towards us in five great bodies of foot; the horse, being on both wings, a little advance before the foot; but just as I was going to charge, the troop cried unto me and told me the foot had left their officers, thrown down their arms, and took themselves to running. It was useless to fight, so I withdrew as best I could and escaped with a loyal remnant to Drogheda.

Two of my troop whose horses went lame were left behind. I hear however that they are safe, except for their clothes, which were taken from them, not by the rebels, but by natives as they passed through the village. All our arms and ammunition are in the rebel's hands. We can get no food here for man or horse.

Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1641

The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Catholic Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants. This was a real catalyst in the history of Ireland as it was the first time that the people descended from the English colonisers of the 12/13th centuries had come together in a common cause with the native Gaelic Irish.

Saturday, 28 November 2020


28 November 1920: The Kilmichael Ambush on this day. Commandant Tom Barry, of the West Cork No. 3 Brigade Column led the IRA in an ambush on the Auxiliaries near the village of Kilmichael in Co Cork. It was a pre planned operation which Barry organised with the intention of inflicting maximum casualties on the Auxiliaries who had quickly acquired a notorious reputation on their deployment here. The targets were packed into two Crossley tenders, each with nine cadets of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC on board - all ex officers - who were travelling from their base in Macroom towards Dunmanway when they were ambushed about one and a half miles south of the village of Kilmichael. 

After the Column had waited since dawn in the biting cold the Auxiliary unit was spotted approaching the ambush position just after 4 pm. Barry in a uniform stood in the road as the enemy column approached to slow it down and when the lead vehicle halted a mills grenade was lobbed at it to open the ambush. Then the IRA men opened a ferocious fusillade of rifle fire and swept both vehicles end to end. The first tenders’ occupants were all dealt with and left either dead or dying. 

However the second one had time to react and its members were able to gain cover and return sustained fire. Some of the Auxiliaries called out ‘We surrender’ but when men rose to take them in they were cut down. Barry had by this time worked his way around to the rear of the pinned down group and let them have it. He shouted orders that there was to be no let up until he gave the word. No prisoners were taken. Amazingly only about half the Column had actually fired upon the British as the fight was over in minutes with many of the men out of the line of fire before Barry called a halt. 

With dusk falling he reassembled his party and as some of the men were a bit shook up he decided to jerk them back into a proper frame of mind so as to be able to face the rigours ahead on that night. After giving orders to fire both the tenders he drilled them on the road there and then by the light of the burning vehicles. He then led his victorious column away to safety. 16 of the Auxiliaries lay dead on the roadside and although the IRA lost three men killed in action the Auxiliaries power had been broken. 

The Kilmichael Ambush was a propaganda coup for the IRA. Never again would the Auxiliaries prowl the country roads of Ireland with impunity. As far as they were concerned in a fair fight they had been shown not to be supermen but mere mortals who when taken unawares and in close combat were found wanting.

The names of the men who died for Ireland that day were:
Roll of Honour:
Michael McCarthy
Jim O’Sullivan
Pat Deasy

Friday, 27 November 2020

 27 November 789 AD: Feast day of Saint Vergilius (Fergal) the Irish missionary and astronomer died at Salzburg, Austria on this day. He was said to have been a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. His original Christian name was Fergal. In the "Annals of the Four Masters" and the "Annals of Ulster" he is mentioned as Abbot of Aghaboe, in County Laois.

He left Ireland, intending to visit the Holy land, but he made it no further than Paris where Pepin, then mayor of the Palace under Childeric III, received him with great favour. After spending two years at Cressy, near Compiegne, he went to Bavaria, at the invitation of Duke Otilo, and within a year or two was made Abbot of St. Peter's at Salzburg. Out of humility, he "concealed his orders", and had a bishop named Dobdagrecus, a fellow countryman, appointed to perform his episcopal functions for him.

It was while Abbot of St. Peter's that he came into collision with St. Boniface. A priest having, through ignorance, conferred the Sacrament of Baptism using, in place of the correct formula, the words Baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritu sancta. Vergilius held that the sacrament had been validly conferred. Boniface complained to Pope Zachary. The latter, however, decided in favour of Vergilius.

Later on, St. Boniface accused Vergilius of teaching a doctrine in regard to the rotundity of the earth, which was: "Contrary to the Scriptures". Pope Zachary's decision in this case was that "if it be proved that he held the said doctrine, a council be held, and Vergilius expelled from the Church and deprived of his priestly dignity"

'Unfortunately we no longer possess the treatise in which Vergilius expounded his doctrine. Two things, however, are certain: first, that there was involved the problem of original sin and the universality of redemption; secondly, that Vergilius succeeded in freeing himself from the charge of teaching a doctrine contrary to Scripture. It is likely that Boniface misunderstood him, taking it for granted, perhaps, that if there are antipodes*, the "other race of men" are not descendants of Adam and were not redeemed by Christ. Vergilius, no doubt, had little difficulty in showing that his doctrine did not involve consequences of that kind.'

After the martyrdom of St. Boniface, Vergilius was made Bishop of Salzburg (766 or 767) and laboured successfully for the up building of his diocese as well as for the spread of the Faith in neighbouring heathen countries, especially in Carinthia.. In 1233 he was canonized by Gregory IX. His doctrine that the Earth is a sphere was derived from the teaching of ancient geographers, and his belief in the existence of the antipodes was probably influenced by the accounts, which the ancient Irish voyagers gave of their journeys.

* The antipodes of any place on the Earth is the point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points that are antipodal to each other are connected by a straight line running through the centre of the Earth

Thursday, 26 November 2020

26 November 1972: Dramatic and bloody events occurred in the City of Dublin on this day: A Bombing was carried out on a crowded City Centre cinema. There was also the arrest and imprisonment for contempt of Court of one Kevin O’Kelly, a well known RTE journalist, plus an unsuccessful attempt by the IRA to rescue one of their top men, Seán Mac Stiofáin [above], from the Mater Hospital in the north inner City. 

At 1.25 a.m. a bomb exploded in a laneway connecting Burgh Quay to Leinster Market. It was placed beside the rear exit door of the Film Centre cinema, O’Connell Bridge House. A late film was in progress: there were 3 staff and approximately 156 patrons in the cinema at the time of the explosion. No one was killed in the blast, but some 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment. It is believed that agent provocateurs sent over from Britain were responsible for this attack.

The events leading to O’Kelly and Mac Stiofáin’s arrests had begun on Sunday 19 November when RTE Radio broadcast a report based on an interview by Kevin O'Kelly with the IRA Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stiofáin. The leading Republican figure had been apprehended soon afterwards and brought before the Courts. O'Kelly was found guilty of contempt of Court when, during the conduct of the trial of Mac Stiofáin, he refused to identify the defendant as the subject of that interview. 

The IRA Leader had embarked upon a Hunger Strike soon after he was arrested. He was convicted of being ‘a member of an unlawful organisation’ and as his condition was deteriorating he was sent to the Mater Hospital where he was to be placed under observation. That Sunday afternoon a crowd of about 7,000 people had gathered outside the GPO and marched to the hospital to demand his release. Later that night a rescue party of eight IRA men, two disguised as Priests and the others as Hospital Doctors tried to free Mac Stiofáin but were themselves captured. Two of the men had guns, and shots were exchanged with Special Branch detectives, resulting in minor injuries to a detective, two civilians and one of the raiders. 

The Prisoner was then transferred by helicopter to the Curragh General Military Hospital to serve the rest of his six month sentence - while his erstwhile rescuers were each sent down for seven years for their audacity when they in turn faced the Courts.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

25 November 1913: The foundation of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda, Dublin on this day. The aim of the new organisation was to counter the Ulster Volunteers in providing a similar force for Irish nationalists in the event of an armed confrontation over Home Rule. The first President was Eoin MacNeill but it drew support from a wide spectrum of Irish nationalist opinion. 

The idea arose from an article he wrote some weeks previously in An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light], an Irish language newspaper. His proposal was called ‘The North began’. In it MacNeill put forward the idea that a Force be established that would counter the formation of the UVF in the North. He intended to ensure that Irish Nationalism was not left unarmed and vulnerable as the political situation developed. It estimated that some 7,000 people went to the Rotunda’s Large Concert hall that night, with some 4,000 inside and another 3,000 outside. The meeting was called with the specific intention of raising a National Volunteer Force to be called ‘The Irish Volunteers’. In the Notices issued around Dublin in advance of the meeting it was stated that:

The purpose of the Irish Volunteers will be to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.

The new organisation quickly mushroomed and by April 1914 it was estimated to have around 80,000 members and by July that year some 160,000 men had signed up but only a few thousands had any weapons with which to fight! Nevertheless such a formidable body of public opinion could not be easily ignored by the British Government and all the indicators were that a bloody clash of arms was imminent in the late summer of 1914 between the Nationalist and Unionist armed camps over the thorny issue of Partition. 

Only the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 precluded what otherwise would have been a Civil War here. The Irish Volunteers then split on the question of involvement in the Conflict with most though by no means all following John Redmond’s call for enlistment in the British Army while a core membership remained under MacNeill’s nominal control.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020


24 November 1865: The dramatic rescue of James Stephens of the IRB from the Richmond Prison [above], Dublin on this day. The Fenian Leader was rescued from Richmond Prison in Dublin after only a few weeks captivity. He had been held only a few weeks when his escape was organised from without and within the prison itself. Inside the Richmond were John J. Breslin who was a hospital warder and a Daniel Byrne, an ordinary warder. The two men were sworn members of the I.R.B. and willing to help.

 On the outside the acting leader of the Organisation was Colonel Thomas Kelly and he helped put together a support team from within the Fenians to ensure that once on the outside Stephens remained free. At great risk Breslin managed to take wax impressions of the two keys he needed, one for Stephens cell, which was held in the Governors office and another for one of the outer doors. On the night of the actual rescue everything went according to plan. Only one other prisoner (a common criminal) was incarcerated on the same wing as Stephens and he wisely kept his mouth shut.

Once outside Stephens was ushered away to a safe house in the Summerhill area of the City where he remained for a number of months. The British put a price of £1,000 on his head but even this amount did not yield any informer willing to betray him. He eventually he made his way to Paris where he lived for many years and after a brief stay in Switzerland he returned home in 1891 and was left undisturbed by the Castle. He died in 1901.

It is curious to note that his escape from incarceration was an event that many Irish People at the time erroneously believed to have been acquiesced in by the British Government of the day. It was certainly an easy triumph for Irish Republicans that hugely embarrassed the occupying power. The locale of Richmond Prison later became Wellington Barracks and after Independence was known as Griffith Barracks. Today the site is occupied by Griffith College on the South Circular Rd, Dublin.

Monday, 23 November 2020


23 November 1867: Execution of the Manchester Martyrs William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien. They were publicly hanged for their alleged role in the rescue of Fenian prisoners in which a Constable Brett was fatally wounded. Although neither Larkin, Allen and O’Brien had fired the fatal shot nor had they had any intention to kill anybody, they were hanged as accessories to the death of the policeman. 

The martyrs were hanged in front of the New Bailey prison in Salford, Manchester. Part of the wall was removed so that the public could witness the event. The morning of their execution was a cold and foggy one. Large crowds, marshalled by police and troops had assembled to witness the spectacle. Shortly after 8 O’Clock the men were led out and hanged, the bodies dropping out of sight into the pit below and out of sight of the onlookers. 

They were buried in quicklime in Strangeways Prison. Today they rest in a mass grave in Blackley Cemetery, Plot number C.2711. Manchester. Their noble stand in the dock and on the gallows inspired T. D. Sullivan to pen the famous ballad ‘God save Ireland’

When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral processions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O'Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Co Offaly.

It was widely felt amongst the Irish both at home and abroad that these men were wrongly hanged as it was not their intention to kill and nor had they. The brave and courageous stand they took in the Dock and upon the Gallows inspired Irish People around the World and helped to restore morale in the wake of the abortive Rising of 1867.

Ironically the first prisoner to utter these immortal words was one Edward O'Meagher Condon  a veteran of the US Civil War & who had his death sentence commuted to Life Imprisonment. Prior to his sentencing, Condon addressed the Court in a famous speech in which he said 'You will soon send us before God, and I am perfectly prepared to go, I have nothing to regret, or to retract, or take back. I shall only say -GOD SAVE IRELAND!

Another man Thomas Maguire was released from captivity as the case against him was so poor even the English Media felt he should be set free!

Numerous monuments were erected to the Martyrs in the wake of their deaths across Ireland incl. a symbolic grave to these brave men in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The famous song, which their sacrifice gave birth to, opens with the lines:

High upon the gallows tree, swung the noble-hearted three,
By the vengeful tyrant, stricken in their bloom.
But they met him face to face with the courage of their race,
And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.
"God save Ireland," said the heroes.
"God save Ireland," said them all.
"Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,
No matter when, for Ireland dear we fall!"

Sunday, 22 November 2020

 22 November 1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas on this day. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and he was the youngest to die. He was hardly past his first thousand days in office. His great grandparents hailed from Co Wexford and had fled Ireland in the 1840s to Boston, Massachusetts.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

His untimely and brutal death triggered a wave of shock and grief throughout Ireland that very night as word rapidly spread across the airwaves and by word of mouth that the President had succumbed to his wounds. He had visited this Country only a few months previously and had been met with a huge and ecstatic welcome. His election as President in 1960 was a source of great pride to the Irish People and of some advantage to the Country in its International relations.

When the news broke at home that fateful Friday evening  people could hardly believe it. The first reports indicated he had been wounded and that he had been rushed to hospital in Dallas. Then came the terrible confirmation of his death. It was Telefís Éireann broadcaster Charles Mitchel who was given the grim task of breaking the news that Ireland's favourite son was dead. At 7.05pm on November 22, 1963, the nation was stunned into silence when the station broke into a sports programme to report that President Kennedy had been the victim of a shooting.

"We have just heard that an attempt has been made on President Kennedy's life in Dallas, Texas," the veteran newsreader said. "First reports say that he has been badly wounded." Just 20 minutes later a visibly moved Mitchel came back on air to announce: "President Kennedy has been shot dead by an assassin in Dallas, Texas." People simply didn't believe the news, and there were numerous calls to the station seeking confirmation.

Saturday, 21 November 2020


21 November 1974: The Birmingham Pub Bombings on this day. Two bombs exploded in the British city of Birmingham. The bombs were planted by members of the IRA who gave totally inadequate warnings. Both bombs were planted in pubs in central Birmingham that were about 50 yards apart, the first in the Mulberry Bush at 8.17pm; the second in the Tavern in the Town 10 minutes later. Twenty-one people died, 182 were injured, many horribly so.

Most of the dead and wounded were young people between the ages of 17 and 25, including two brothers: Desmond and Eugene Reilly. One of the victims, 18-year-old Maxine Hambleton, had only gone into the "Tavern in the Town" to hand out tickets to friends for a party. She was killed seconds after entering the pub and had been standing beside the bag containing the bomb when it exploded. Her friend, 17-year-old Jane Davis, was the youngest victim of the bombings. The others who were killed by the bombs were Michael Beasley (30), Lynn Bennett (18), Stanley Bodman (51), James Caddick (40), Thomas Chaytor (28), James Craig (34), Paul Davis (20), Charles Gray (44), Anne Hayes (19), John Jones (51), Neil Marsh (20), Marylin Nash (22), Pamela Palmer (19), Maureen Roberts (20), John Rowland (46), Trevor Thrupp (33), and Stephen Whalley (21)

The was widespread revulsion and outrage at these atrocities, especially in England. This led to a backlash by some people against Irish residents in the UK. In the wake of the bombings a number of people were arrested and charged with organising and planting the devices that exploded.

Six men - ‘The Birmingham Six’ - were convicted of Murder and sentenced to Life Imprisonment. The men - Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker - were beaten while in police custody and always claimed that they had no part in the bombings and that any confessions were forced from them. Eventually after a long campaign they were declared innocent and freed in 1991. To this date none of the actual perpetrators have ever been convicted.


21‭ ‬November 1920: Bloody Sunday. IRA units organised around Michael Collins hit team ‘the Squad’ raided the premises of British spies and agents across Dublin City. The plan was to kill up to 35 men on the day. The core of this group were the notorious ‘Cairo Gang’ brought into Ireland specifically to gather information on IRA members in the City. Most of the ones on the hit list who were caught unawares did not escape. Others were more fortunate and made their escape just in time. In the event 14 people were killed incl at least one entirely innocent female victim. The IRA lost just one man captured. Nearly all of the raids were carried out in a small area of Dublin in the centre of the City.

The events of that morning rocked Britain’s spy network in the Capital to the core and in effect destroyed it as a viable espionage force.‭ Michael Collins justified what by necessity assassins’ work with the words:  

My one intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens.‭ I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed. If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile. By their destruction the very air is made sweeter… For myself, my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.

That afternoon the Crown Forces raided Croke Park where Dublin were playing Tipperary and proceeded to open fire on the teams and spectators,‭ killing 14 innocent people (including two young boys and a 26-year-old woman). One of the dead was Michael Hogan who was playing for Tipperary that day.

Controversy as to who fired first was immediate with the Crown Forces insisting they were shot at before returning fire. However the most likely explanation is that members of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC fired warning shots in the air to panic the crowd and other members out of sight took it upon themselves to open up under the impression that IRA men in the crowd had targeted them.

A DMP Constable recounted to the Official Inquiry held in December 1920 by the British Military that:

‘On Sunday 21st inst. I was on duty outside the main entrance to Croke Park in Jones’s Road. At about 3.25 p.m. I saw six or seven large lorries accompanied by two armoured cars, one in front and one behind, pass along the Clonliffe Road from Drumcondra towards Ballybough. Immediately after a small armoured car came across Jones’s Road from Fitzroy Avenue and pulled up at the entrance of the main gate. Immediately after that, three small Crossley lorries pulled up in Jones’s Road. There were about ten or twelve men dressed in RIC uniforms in each. When they got out of the cars they started firing in the air which I thought was blank ammunition, and almost immediately firing started all round the ground.’

That night two senior members of the Dublin IRA,‭ Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy and a hapless civilian, Conor Clune, all of whom had been captured the previous day were done to death inside Dublin Castle ostensibly while ‘attempting to escape’.


21 November 615 AD: The death of St Columbanus at Bobbio in northern Italy on this day. Columbanus was the greatest of the Irish Apostles to preach the Faith on the Continent. He founded a string of monasteries that acted as bases from which his disciples spread the Word amongst the new Germanic kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the collapse of Roman power. Columbanus (the Latinised form of Columbán, meaning ‘the white dove’) was born in Ireland in 543, Prior to his birth, his mother was said to have had visions of bearing a child who, in the judgement of those interpreting the visions, would become a "remarkable genius". Columbanus was well-educated in the areas of grammar, rhetoric, geometry, and the Holy Scriptures.

Columbanus left home to study under Sinell, Abbot of Cluaninis in Lough Erne. Under Sinell's instruction, Columbanus composed a commentary on the Psalms. He then moved to Bangor Abbey on the coast of north east Ireland, where Saint Comgall was serving as the abbot. He stayed at Bangor until his fortieth year, when he received Comgall's permission to travel to the continent.

So after many years there as a leading member of the community he felt the call to go abroad and spread the Gospel amongst the Heathens. With some reluctance he was allowed to depart by his mentor and took twelve followers with him. Proceeding through Scotland and England they made their way to eastern France to the Court of the King of Burgundy. Here Columbanus was well received and given the old castle of Annegray in the isolated Vosges Mountains upon which to found a Monastery. Here the abbot and his monks led the simplest of lives, their food oftentimes consisting of nothing but forest herbs, berries, and the bark of young trees. So great was the devotion to Columbanus and so great were the numbers who flocked to witness his Piety and Sanctity that soon another site was required to cope with the influx of followers and penitents. Thus a new site was established at Luxeuil just a few miles away and Columbanus ruled his religious domain from there. However his great success evoked jealousy amongst the Frankish bishops and they conspired against him. 

Forced to flee he made his way down the Loire to catch a ship home to Ireland but a great storm swept the vessel back into the Bay. Columbanus then decided that he would make his way back across France to the Rhine Valley in order to reach the Suevi and Alamanni, to whom he wished to preach the Gospel. After a couple of years of mixed success in what is now Switzerland his small band of followers reached northern Italy and the Court of King Agilulf at Milan in the year 612 AD. The King although a follower of the heretical Arian viewpoint was favourably disposed to Columbanus and gave him a plot of land on the Bobbio river near Genoa in which to establish himself. Here the Saint passed the last years of his life. 

Columbanus is best known in monastic circles for his set of ‘Rules’ which governed the way each monk within the community had to conduct themselves. The Rule of Saint Columbanus embodied the customs of Bangor and other Celtic monasteries. It consisted of ten chapters, on the subjects of obedience, silence, food, poverty, humility, chastity, choir offices, discretion, mortification, and perfection.

However Columbanus did not lead a perfect life. According to his biographer Jonas and other sources, he could be impetuous and even headstrong, for by nature he was eager, passionate, and dauntless. These qualities were both the source of his power and the cause of his mistakes. His virtues, however, were quite remarkable. Like many saints, he had a great love for God's creatures. Stories claim that as he walked in the woods, it was not uncommon for birds to land on his shoulders to be caressed, or for squirrels to run down from the trees and nestle in the folds of his cowl. Although a strong defender of his Celtic traditions, he never wavered in showing deep respect for the Holy See as the supreme authority. 

It possible that Columbanus had travelled to Rome at some stage in his life to meet Pope Gregory to discuss various matters but he also communicated with his successor Pope Boniface on the Paschal question over when exactly Easter should be celebrated. The Celtic Church still followed the old ways of observance and Columbanus was eager to ensure that he did the right thing. He wrote to the Pontiff Theodore I that:

We Irish though dwelling at the far ends of the earth, are all disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul. . . Neither heretic, nor Jew, nor schismatic has ever been among us; but the Catholic Faith. Just as it was first delivered to us by yourselves, the successors of the Apostles, is held by us unchanged . . . we are bound to the Chair of Peter, and although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair alone is she looked on as great and illustrious among us…

By this stage Columbanus was over 70 years old and his end was approaching. He prepared for death by retiring to his cave on the mountainside overlooking the Trebbia River and when he died his remains were interred in the Abbey Church in Bobbio. His final resting place became a site of pilgrimage and was famed throughout Western Europe as the site where one of the Christianity’s greatest advocates lay buried. It still exists today. [above]

Friday, 20 November 2020


20 November 1917: The Battle of Cambrai began on this day. The British High Command under General Haig wished to take a major position on the German ‘Hindenburg Line’ - a very powerful and well defended set of lines and structures to which they had withdrawn to earlier in the year. The British adapted some novel tactics to take a chunk out of the German defenses before Cambrai that had not been tried previously on such a scale. The attack was to be carried out by General Byng’s Third Army in the nature of  a coup de main, “to take advantage of the existing favourable local situation” where “surprise and rapidity of action are … of the utmost importance”. 

Initially a British victory it overwhelmed the German defenses and made - by WW1 standards - a rapid advance. The key to such success was a very brief but extremely heavy initial bombardment and the mass use of  almost 500 Tanks that took the Germans completely by surprise. The use of numerous aircraft in a tactical role was also employed. The British High Command were somewhat surprised too as they failed to have enough Reserve divisions on hand to exploit their early gains. Some days later in England church bells were rung out to celebrate a ‘Victory’ for the first time since the War began in 1914.

On this day regiments from two Irish Divisions took part -  the 36th (Ulster) Division & the 16th (Irish) Division. The 36th was deployed on the main line of advance at Cambrai on the far left flank and the 16th was further north at Bullcourt in a major diversionary attack. The attack opened with an intensive predicted-fire barrage on the Hindenburg Line and key points to the rear, which caught the Germans by surprise. Initially, this was followed by the curtain of a creeping barrage behind which the tanks and infantry followed. At Cambrai the planes of the RFC were used overhead to mask the noise of the tanks moving up to their start lines. The 36th (Ulster) Division attacked well and moved up the dry excavations of the Canal du Nord, and lay alongside the Bapaume-Cambrai road by nightfall.

The following day the advance was to be renewed  & to the north, the 36th (Ulster) Division, planning to continue their advance beyond Moeuvres, waited for the success signal, signifying that the 62nd had captured Bourlon [Wood]. It never came, for the 62nd could not penetrate beyond the sunken lane facing the wood. By the evening of the 21st, Haig was satisfied that ‘no possibility any longer existed of enveloping Cambrai from the south’

At Bullcourt further north the 16th Division went ‘over the top’ that morning of 20 November to capture a position known as ‘Tunnel Trench’ - in actual fact a very well defended line of trenches and fortifications. The morning was overcast with low visibility but that would have helped to mask the advance. The operation was very successful catching the Germans off guard. A barrage of smoke shells had convinced many of the defenders that a gas attack was underway and they donned gas masks and took cover in their dug outs. They were quickly overrun and flushed out and taken prisoners. Only on the right flank was there any serious opposition as the Connacht Rangers came under severe counter attack as to their right the 3rd Division made little progress thus leaving the Connachts flank hanging in the air.

The Germans soon gathered their wits about them and counter attacked with devastating effect on 30th November. They quickly cut swathes out of the British Front line and took back not just ground they had lost 10 days before but fresh gains where they had not initially sought to take. Chunks of the British Front line collapsed with men streaming back to the rear. Of course eventually the German advance ran of steam and the British consolidated their positions. 

In the further battles around Cambrai the British Guards Division was thrown into action. It contained two Irish battalions - the 1st and 2nd battalions Irish Guards. They suffered heavy casualties in attacking Gouzeaucourt and in defending what part of Bourlon Wood that the British had managed to take. The Germans fought a determined action to take back this position as the wood was on the high ground that dominated the surrounding countryside. The British tried desperately to cling on but its advanced position made it untenable and eventually it was conceded to the Germans. What had started as a ‘Victory’ turned into yet another bloody mess with no overall victor. But the lessons both sides learned there were to be applied on a massive scale in the battles of 1918 which decided the War.

In a battle that created many anecdotes one stands out of Irish interest involving the Irish Guards in the aftermath of the capture of Gouzeaucourt:
One grim incident stays in the minds of those who survived—the sight of an enormous Irishman urging two captives, whom he had himself unearthed from a cellar, to dance before him. He demanded the jigs of his native land, and seemed to think that by giving them drink his pupils would become proficient. Men stood about and laughed till they could hardly stand; and when the fun was at its height a chance shell out of the darkness to the eastward wiped out all that tango-class before their eyes. (“’Twas like a dhream, ye’ll understand. One minute both Jerries was dancin’ hard to oblige him, an’ then—nothin’, nothin’—nothin’—of the three of them!”)
The Irish Guards in the Great War Volume 1
Rudyard Kipling

Picture: Men of the 11th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, with German prisoners near Havrincourt, 20 November 1917. - courtesy of the Imperial War Museum London -

Thursday, 19 November 2020


19 November 1984: The British Prime Minister made her infamous speech ‘Out, Out, Out’ at a news conference in London OTD. She had been asked a number of questions about the progress of Anglo-Irish talks in relation to the North of Ireland and the continuing Conflict there that seemed to unresolvable. She had earlier that day met the Irish Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald at Chequers and they had according to her had  ‘the fullest, frankest, the most realistic bilateral meeting I have ever had with the Taoiseach. We have not, in fact, come to decisions.’ However the Taoiseach was holding a separate news conference that evening and was unaware of what Mrs Thatcher was about to say.

Towards the end of the conference in which she was reserved in her comments & gave nothing away she bluntly told an RTE reporter exactly what was NOT going to be on the table for discussion down the line:.

RTE: Prime Minister, you said that you want political stability within Northern Ireland, within the United Kingdom. Could I ask you, in your view, does Dr. FitzGerald  therefore accept that what you are both working towards is an internal solution within Northern Ireland, within the United Kingdom, and by implication, does that mean that the British Government has for the foreseeable future ruled out the three main options within the Forum Report?

Prime Minister: I have made it quite clear—and so did Mr. Prior when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—that a unified Ireland was one solution that is out. A second solution was confederation of two states. That is out. A third solution was joint authority. That is out. That is a derogation from sovereignty. We made that quite clear when the Report was published.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. She is part of the United Kingdom because that is the wish of the majority of her citizens. The majority wish to stay part of the United Kingdom.

The Forum Report indicated that they realized that any change in the status of Northern Ireland could only come about by the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, so we are dealing with a situation where Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom because the majority of her people wish to be part of the United Kingdom and we have a minority community.

That is the situation we are presented with.

This was a humiliation for Dr Fitzgerald who did not seem to realise the import of what she has said until he returned to Dublin and it finally sunk in with the media that he had been made to look like a supplicant and not an equal in these talks between the two States. Indeed Mrs Thatcher’s blunt words are still the official position of Her Majesty’s Government to this day...

19 November 1807: The sinkings of the Prince of Wales & the Rochdale Packet ships * in Dublin Bay on this day. A convoy of British troop transport ships set sail from Dublin. It comprised five ships: Sarah, Lark, Albion, Rochdale and the Prince of Wales. Two of the ships, the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales did not make it to their destination. The ships were part of a military fleet bound for Liverpool that had left Dublin that morning. Snow and sleet showers backed by a heavy wind developed as the ships made their way out of Dublin Bay and as night came on they were blown onto the sandbanks just off shore where the ships capsized and foundered. It is estimated that some 120 were lost from the Prince of Wales and about 265 from the Rochdale.

They ended up being wrecked on the South Bull in Dublin Bay, with the loss of approximately 380 lives. Public outcry was one of the key factors that brought about the construction of what is now known as Dun Laoghaire East Pier.

The Prince of Wales, the Parkgate packet ship, was a 103-ton wooden brig of Chester, originally built in Wales. It was en route to Liverpool with recruits from the South Cork and South Mayo Militia for the 18th and 97th Regiments. The stormy weather prevented the Prince of Wales from anchoring in Dublin Bay and it was forced to anchor off Bray Head in an attempt to gain some shelter. The wind direction changed and went SE, driving the Prince of Wales across Dublin Bay. It eventually ran ashore at Blackrock House. Captain Jones, the crew, two soldiers, a steward and his wife managed to get on board one of the ship’s boats and got ashore safely. The Prince of Wales started to break up soon afterwards and became a total wreck, with the loss of 120 lives. 

The Rochdale suffered a similar fate near Seapoint, just 20 feet from the shore. A brig of Liverpool, she was also on route with some passengers and 265 soldiers of the 97th Regiment. It encountered an easterly gale and a snow storm shortly after leaving Dublin Bay and was driven back into Dublin Bay by strong winds and could be seen from both Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire as it burned blue lights and fired guns as signals of distress. 

In an attempt to prevent the vessel from being blown ashore, several anchors were dropped, but these failed when the cables snapped. The vessel was driven helplessly past Dun Laoghaire Pier and went ashore on rocks under the Martello Tower at Seapoint, half a mile from where the Prince of Wales had gone ashore.

Even though the wreck was only yards away from the shore all 265 aboard, including 42 women and 29 children, perished as the poor visibility and darkness of the night prevented them from comprehending their exact position. The next day the lower hull of the Rochdale was found to be completely smashed out, but the decks were relatively intact.

* like above


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

 18 November 1657: The death of the Luke Wadding on this day. He was a Franciscan Friar and an historian of the Order of Franciscans. He was also instrumental in establishing the Irish College in Rome to train priests to send back to Ireland to keep the Faith alive in the face of increasing attempts to suppress the Catholic Religion by the government of England.

He was born into a wealthy merchant family in the city of Waterford in 1588. After the death in 1602 of his mother from the Plague that was sweeping Ireland at the time he was sent to Portugal to begin his his religious studies at Coimbra in order to become a Franciscan friar & he was ordained a priest in 1613. He then moved to the University of Salamanca where he gained a reputation as a theologian with a particular interest in the historic and spiritual tradition of the Franciscan Order. He was chosen to be a member of the Spanish Embassy to the Papacy as  secretary & Theologian to the delegation. 

He worked with the commission on the immaculate conception, producing four volumes on the question. He edited concordances of the Hebrew and Latin Bibles. His fame as a scholar, however, mainly rests on his commentaries on the works of the Franciscan theologian Duns Scotus (d. 1308) and his masterly treatises on the history of the Franciscan Order, the Annales Minorum (the Order’s history from 1208 to 1540) and the Scriptores Ordinis Minorum (a collection of the primary sources of the Order). That he is regarded as the father of the history of the Franciscans to this day was recognised in January 2007, when the archive of the General Order in Rome was named after him.’

With the assistance of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovis, the cardinal protector of Ireland and one of Wadding’s many influential friends in Rome, he founded St Isidore’s College in 1625. This was to train Priests to send back to Ireland to keep the Faith alive. He procured for the library 5000 select works, besides a precious collection of manuscripts bound in 800 volumes. During the first thirty years of its existence this college educated 200 students, 70 of which number filled chairs of philosophy and theology in various corners of Europe.  Each year Wadding kept the Feast of St. Patrick with great solemnity at St. Isidore's; and it is due to his influence, as member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary, that the festival of Ireland's Apostle was inserted on 17 March in the calendar of the Universal Church.

It had a precarious existence both financially & politically but somehow or other Luke Wadding kept the project going. He was an avid supporter of the Catholic Cause when the Rising of 1641 broke out and the Confederation of Kilkenny was established. He was instrumental in getting Archbishop  Rinuccini sent to Ireland with specie & weapons to fuel the Catholic Armies in the field here.

Wadding's fame as a writer and a critic rests chiefly on his monumental edition of Scotus, on the "Scriptores", and, above all, on the "Annales ord. minorum". In 1639 he published at Lyons a complete edition of the writings of the Subtle Doctor, in 16 volumes, having devoted four years to the proximate preparation. He corrected the text throughout according to the best manuscripts and earliest impressions, inserted everywhere critical notes and learned scholia, and enriched the edition with the commentaries of MacCaughwell, Hickey, Lychetus, Ponce, and others. It was a colossal undertaking, and would alone have immortalized his name. His life of John Duns Scotus, which is prefixed to the first volume, appeared separately in 1644.’

Historian and theologian he died at St. Isidore's College, Rome on18 November, 1657. He  was one of the greatest Catholic scholars’ of his day who upheld the Catholic Religion and Ireland’s cause to the end of his days.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020


17 November 1974: Erskine Childers, the President of Ireland, died suddenly on this day. He collapsed just after making a speech to the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, when he suffered a massive heart attack. He died that same day at the Mater Hospital Dublin. He is the only President to have died in Office.

He was born in London in 1905, the son of patriot and author Robert Erskine Childers, who was behind the Asgard ship gun-running in 1914. Childers junior followed in his father’s republican footsteps. In 1922, when Childers was sixteen, his father was executed by the new Irish Free State on politically inspired charges of gun-possession. The pistol he had been found with had been given to him by Michael Collins. Before his execution, in a spirit of reconciliation, the older Childers obtained a promise from his son to seek out and shake the hand of every man who had signed the death warrant.

He was first elected to the Dáil as a Fianna Fáil TD for Athlone-Longford in 1938 and held several ministerial offices. He was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1951-54) and oversaw the liberalisation of Radio Éireann in 1960. He served as Minister for Lands (1957), Minister for Transport and Power (1959-69) and Tánaiste and Minister for Health (1969-73). 

Erskine's period as a minister was controversial. One commentator described his ministerial career as "spectacularly unsuccessful." But mostly he was a middle of the road politician who did not rock the boat. Others praised his willingness to make tough decisions. He was outspoken in his opposition to CJ Haughey in the aftermath of the 1970 Arms Crises when Haughey and another minister, both having been sacked, were sent for trial amid allegations of a plot to import arms for the IRA.

For the Presidential Campaign of 1973 Childers was nominated by Fianna Fáil at the behest of Eamon de Valera, who pressured Jack Lynch in the selection of the presidential candidate. He was a controversial nominee, owing not only to his British birth and upbringing but to his Anglo-Irish background. However, on the campaign trail his personal popularity proved enormous, his accent and Gravitas proving an asset rather than a handicap. In a political upset, Childers was elected the fourth President of Ireland on 30 May 1973, defeating Tom O'Higgins of Fine Gael by 635,867 votes to 578,771.

Childers had ideas to change the nature of the Presidency but in this he met opposition from Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael who had just been elected Taoiseach. He wanted the President to stay out of as much a possible and remain merely a figurehead. A role that Childers felt uncomfortable in and it is believed he contemplated resigning on more than one occasion. However fate intervened and Erskine Childers tenure as President was to be a short one.

On 17 November 1974, just after making a speech to the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, Childers suffered a heart attack. He died the same day at the Mater Hospital Dublin. His funeral was in St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin.* He was buried in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Derralossary church in Roundwood Co Wicklow. 

His daughter Nessa Childers continued his family’s involvement in Irish Politics and was an MEP in the European Parliament for a number of years.
* Where his bust is displayed as above