Thursday, 24 June 2021

 


24 June 1921: The IRA blew up a train carrying British Army personnel & horses near Advoyle train station in Co Armagh OTD.

The regiment on board - 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own) - had acted as the mounted escort for King George V when he had opened the Northern Parliament two days previously. They were returning from Belfast to the Curragh Camp Co Kildare via Dublin. Other trains carrying regimental personnel had been allowed to pass but this one was carrying the HQ Staff of the Regiment under Capt. Lord W Montague Douglas Scott MC. Three special trains had been laid on and it was the third that was attacked. On board there were 113 men, 4 officers and 104 horses

Along this stretch of the line the railway traces through the Gap of the North at the south-east end of the Ring of Gullion. South-bound, the section of the line here is a steep climb and goods trains rarely exceeded 15 mph even with a good head of steam. It was thus a perfect place to lay an ambush as the track here was on an embankment with a 30 ft drop.

At approximately 10 AM that morning the guard car was hit as the mine exploded with devastating effect. It was blown asunder and two soldiers & one civilian guard were killed on the spot. Considerable carnage resulted as some 15 coaches belonging to the Great Northern Railway Company were derailed and many tumbled down the embankment causing devastating injuries to men and horses. In the aftermath numerous animals had to be finished off as they were beyond recovery. Two further soldiers died later of their injuries and two railway officials were seriously injured. Two unidentified civilians also died.

This attack was felt more keenly than many others at the time as the men and horses who were killed & injured were with the King-Emperor George V only two days before to escort him through the streets of Belfast and it was seen as an outrage on his status as head of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland had suffered terribly as a result. It underscored in a very bloody manner that many of his subjects here had no time for him as their Sovereign & wanted him and his Army gone from Ireland as quickly as possible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NJl9c4yuxQ


 


24‭ June 1798: The Battle of Castlecomer on this day. The picturesque County Kilkenny town of Castlecomer was burnt to the ground as the Army of the United Irishmen from Wexford clashed with the Crown Forces in the streets of the town. In the wake of the defeat at Vinegar Hill on 21 June it was decided by the Insurgents to leave County Wexford and advance on Castlecomer where it was hoped the militant colliers there would join them. In the event quite a few did but were of limited fighting value given the immediacy of the situation, not helped by the fact that town was already garrisoned by 300 soldiers under Walter Butler, a local Bigwig and the future 18th Earl of Ormonde.

‭Major General Charles Asgil of the British Army advanced from Kilkenny City with about  1,000 men to relieve the troops defending Castlecomer. He sent ahead some 100 men to augment the 300 or so already there under Butler’s command.

The Insurgents, with about 8,000 men advanced upon the town in two columns,‭ one under Father Murphy himself and the other under Miles Byrne. They eventually joined forces within the town and drew up plans to assault by storm Castlecomer House that still held out. But the appearance of Asgil’s relief force on the heights outside the town meant that the Wexfordmen had to turn their attention to that quarter. The British General opened up with artillery to cover the retreat of the trapped garrison. The United Irishmen fell back under this sustained under fire as Asgil held his ground long enough for his trapped soldiers & supporters in the town to get out and then he marched away.

Early in the morning of the‭ 24th the rebel troops diminished by desertion to about 8,000 descended from the heights and advancing towards Castlecomer defeated a body of about two hundred and fifty men at a place called Coolbawn a mile and a half from that town which they entered with the slaughter of about fifty Loyalists. The town was set on fire – and of this conflagration each party accuses the other. The General arriving at length with his army, fired with his artillery on the streets and houses not knowing that many Loyalists were still in the place who were making a desperate defence to prevent their families and friends from falling into the enemies hands. This firing however determined the rebels to retire from the town about four O'clock in the afternoon, which furnished an opportunity to Protestants there assembled to retreat with the general to Kilkenny, but they were obliged to leave their good s a prey to the enemy who took full possession of the place as soon as the Royal Army retreated

Musgrave’s History of the Rebellion in Ireland,‭ in the Year 1798

The forces Loyal to the Crown had a lucky escape as the Loyalists within and the troops without would have been overwhelmed had the relative numbers been known in the Insurgent camp.‭ ‬But an early morning fog and the smoke of the buildings alight within the town along with the firing of the guns masked the weakness of the Loyalist position. In the event Murphy decided that it was no use proceeding into areas where the prospects of revolt were so poor and after a brief foray into County Laois it was decided to return to Wexford and fight it out there.



Wednesday, 23 June 2021

 


23 June 1985: The destruction of Air India flight 182 on this day. The plane was flying from Toronto, Canada to Delhi, India via London, England. It was some 120 miles off the south west coast of Ireland at an altitude of 31,000 feet when at 8.13am the plane disappeared off the radar screen of Air Traffic Control at Shannon airport. It had exploded - killing all on board - 329 lives were lost, including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 Britons, and 24 Indians. 80 were children. 

The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens of Indian ancestry. The bombing of Air India 182 occurred at the same time as the Narita airport [Japan] bombing. Investigators believe that the two plots were linked, and that the group responsible was aiming for a double bombing. However, the bomb at Narita exploded before it could be loaded onto the plane.

Canadian law enforcement determined that the main suspects in the bombing were members of the Sikh group Babbar Khalsa. The attack is thought to have been a retaliation against India for the operation carried out by the Indian Army Operation Blue Star to flush out several hundred Sikh Militants who were within the premises of the Golden Temple and the surrounding structures. The operation was ordered by the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi. Though a handful of members were arrested and tried, Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian national, remains the only person legally convicted of involvement in the bombing. Singh pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for building the bombs that exploded aboard Flight 182 and at Narita.

The subsequent investigation and prosecution lasted almost twenty years and was the most expensive trial in Canadian history, costing nearly130 million Canadian dollars.

131 bodies were subsequently recovered from the sea. It was one of the biggest operations in the history of the State to recover their remains which was undertaken by the Irish Navy. The L.É. AISLING navy ship, under the command of Lieutenant Commander James Robinson, was one of the first vessels on scene. The RAF and the Royal Navy also helped to recover the bodies and debris from the site which extended over a large area of the sea.

Every year, a remembrance ceremony is held in Cork at the memorial garden and sundial in Ahakista in County Cork [above]


Tuesday, 22 June 2021














22 June 1921: King George V opened the first session of the Northern Ireland Parliament in Belfast on this day, thus formally dividing Ireland into two political entities.

The genesis of the division lay in the Ulster Unionists opposition to the establishment of a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. Their campaign against it dated back to 1886 when the British Prime Minister Gladstone had first brought a Bill before the British Parliament for its introduction. The bill was defeated and while it passed the House of Commons in 1893 it fell in the Lords.

However in 1909 the House of Lords had blocked the introduction of the Budget brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George. The British Government then brought in legislation to limit the power of the House of Lords to block a Bill passed by the Lower House to two parliamentary sessions and no more. This momentous change meant that sooner or later a new Home Rule Bill was bound to be passed and implemented.

In 1912 the Ulster Unionists organised themselves in para-military formations under an organisation known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Armed with weapons from Germany and Austria-Hungary they defied British Government attempts to introduce Home Rule for all of Ireland. The outbreak of the Great War stymied a looming Civil War situation and while Home Rule was passed in September 1914 it was suspended for the duration of the War.

With the ending of the Great War the issue of where Ulster stood in relation to the rest of Ireland once again came to the fore. By that stage the Ulster Unionist Council had accepted the concept of Home Rule if the six northern counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone were at least temporally excluded from its terms.

With the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1919 and the decline of British power throughout much of the Country the likelihood of a deal being struck between Unionists and Nationalists became more remote. On this basis the British Government decided to proceed with a plan to put before its Parliament a Bill to partition Ireland into two polities – Northern Ireland & Southern Ireland.

Consequently after the General Election of May 1921 in which unionist candidates won most of the seats in the Six Counties the formation of a northern State centred on Belfast was proceeded with. So it came about that King George V was dispatched to the Ireland to officiate at the opening of the Northern Parliament on 22 June 1921 in Belfast’s City Hall.

Addressing the members of the Senate and House of Commons from his throne he said:

"For all those who love Ireland, as I do with all my heart, this is a profoundly moving occasion in Irish history. My memories of the Irish people date back to the time when I spent many happy days in Ireland as midshipman. My affection for the Irish people has been deepened by the successive visits since that time, and I have watched with constant sympathy the course of their affairs.

"I could not have allowed myself to give Ireland by deputy alone my earnest prayers and good wishes in the new era which opens with this ceremony, and I have therefore come in person, as the Head of the Empire, to inaugurate this Parliament on Irish soil.

"I inaugurate it with deep-felt hope, and I feel assured that you will do your utmost to make it an instrument of happiness and good government for all parts of the community which you represent.

"This is a great and critical occasion in the history of the Six Counties, but not for the Six Counties alone for every thing which interest them touches Ireland, and everything which touches Ireland finds an echo in the remotest part of the Empire....

The subsequent Belfast Parliament sitting at Stormont became a bastion of Loyalist Rule until 1972 when it was prorogued by the British Government in the wake of serious inter communal violence. Today an assembly sits in its place in which both British and Irish public representatives share power at local level but on a continually shaky foundation.






 

Monday, 21 June 2021

 


21 June 1798: The Battle of Vinegar Hill/Cath Chnoc Fhíodh na gCaor was fought on this day. The engagement was fought near the town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford. While not the last battle of the Rising of that year it was the most decisive - for after that date there was no real hope that the Insurrection could succeed without Foreign Intervention.

After the outbreak of the Rising in May under the United Irishmen forces were organised to try and break out of County Wexford and spread the Revolt. These attempts though were repulsed and eventually the Insurgents main force fell back on Vinegar Hill for a final stand.Here perhaps 20,000 men women and children had gathered in a huge makeshift camp to escape the depredations of the Military. They were in a blood lust against those who they considered to be ‘rebels’. Massacres and atrocities had been committed by people on both sides but the general consensus is that the Yeomanry and Militia were the worst and the hapless peasants of the Countryside the chief victims.*

A number of columns of the British Army under General Lake advanced upon Enniscorthy from various points on the compass. His intention was to completely surround the town and hill and force a capitulation. Lake divided his force into four columns to accomplish this; three columns, under Generals Dundas, Duff and Needham were to assault Vinegar Hill, while the fourth column, under General Johnson, was to storm Enniscorthy and its bridge. The insurgents had done little or nothing to prepare their defenses even though a number of weeks had elapsed since they occupied the position.

Miles Byrne was:

 surprised to find that scarcely anything had been done to make formidable against the enemy; that vast fences and ditches that surround it on three sides and which should have been levelled to the ground for at least a cannon shot, or half a mile of distance, were all left untouched. The English forces availing themselves of these defences advanced from field to field, bringing with  them their cannon which they placed to great advantage behind and under cover of the hedges and fences, whilst our men were exposed to a terrible fire from their artillery and small arms without being able to drive them back from their strongholds in those fields.

The battle began at dawn with an artillery bombardment by the British. This had a devastating impact on the masses of people gathered on the hill and it can only be expected that many took any opportunity they had to flee to safety. Sometime after 7 am the Infantry commenced their Advance. As the day wore on the net tightened and despite two charges by the pikemen it was hopeless against such a well armed force. Eventually those that could made a break for it as General Needham was unable to close in on his assigned position in time and a gap was open to which to escape. Through it flowed a mixture of fighters and peasants who had the incentive to get out while the going was good.

But many others were either too tired, shocked or plain terrified to risk it and remained to await their fate. It was not to be a good one. When the hill fell many were put to the sword or shot out of hand. Recent archaeological scanning of the site indicates large pits on the north side of the hill that are believed to be mass graves of those who were captured on that day. Though the graves have not yet been excavated perhaps the remains of 1,000 to 2,000 unfortunates are believed to be buried under the soil of Vinegar Hill.

Thomas Cloney [an envoy from Wexford]  came within a mile of Enniscorthy in the aftermath of the Battle and saw:

The dead and dying were scattered promiscuously in the fields, in dykes, on the roads, or wherever chance had directed their last steps. ... In one place we beheld some men with arms and some with legs off, and others cruelly mutilated in various ways; horses with their necks broken, and their cars with women and children under them, either dead or dying in the road and ditches, where in their precipitate flight they had been upset. 

In the town of Enniscorthy there had also been fierce fighting and much of the town burnt,

Edward Hay saw:

the house which had been used as an hospital by the insurgents, and which was set on fire with all the patients in it, continued burning until next morning, when I saw a part of a corpse still hissing in the embers.

* The accounts you see of the numbers of enemy destroyed  in every action are, I conclude greatly exaggerated. From my own knowledge of military affairs I am sure a very small proportion of them only could be killed in battle and I am much afraid that any man in a brown coat who is found within several miles of the field of action, is butchered without discrimination.

Marquis Cornwallis to the Duke of Portland 28 June 1798.

Quotes from Charles Dixon: The Wexford Rising in 1798: Its causes and its course.





Sunday, 20 June 2021

 


20 June 1210: King John of England landed at Crook, near Waterford on this day.

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

After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci,

or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.

Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the

Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the

king put men of his own company into it.

Annals of Loch Cé 1210 AD

His mission in Ireland was not so much to subdue the Irish Kings who still held power over large swathes of the Country, but instead to bring to heel the more powerful of the Anglo-Norman Lords who defied him. He was to remain in Ireland to the end of Summer.

King John was a most unpopular Monarch in England and faced constant trouble with his Lords and Barons who resented his attempts to rule them. A ruthless and devious man he - probably with good reason-  trusted very few of his councillors who advised him. The main objects of his attention were the De Lacy family, specifically Walter Earl of Meath and Hugh the Earl of Ulster. He believed they could act as a power base for malcontents back in England. Indeed they had backed the struggle of the once powerful Marcher Lord William de Braose against the King. It was to crush this family and punish the De Lacy's for their lack of loyalty that drove him to take a well armed military force to Ireland.

De Braose fled to England when he heard of the King's movements. There he endeavoured to make peace with his master, but failing to do so, he carefully avoided putting himself in his power, and took refuge in France.

John had been to Ireland before in 1185 when his father King Henry II had given him the title 'Lord of Ireland', but John had turned his journey into a Fiasco but upsetting the Irish kings with his youthful folly and the Gaels resented his attitude to them.

After arriving in Waterford he came to Dublin where he was well received by it’s citizens and after leaving the capital he advanced into Meath from which Walter de Lacy then fled. King John then met up with King Cathal Crobhderg O'Conner of Connacht near Ardbraccan, Co Meath. King Cathal recognised him as his Lord in return for being re-assured as the recognised & rightful King of Connacht. The two kings then proceeded northwards where they besieged the powerful fortress of Carrigfergus in Ulster which was taken, though Hugh made good his escape.

While in the North he also parlayed with King Aedh O'Neil of Tir Eoghan (Tyrone), whom he wished to secure homage and take hostages from. Keeping his distance, O'Neill made a pretence of wanting to help with the siege and being prepared to offer some kind of agreement to subordinate himself to the English King, but he pleaded for time to consult his advisors. He donated a supply of cattle to feed John's troops. He was though really loath to submit and give over important hostages, incl. his own son, to such a volatile character as King John. The negotiations fizzled out and O'Neill backed off and went home.

Cathal Crovderg was in a weaker position as his kingdom was riven by rivalries which he had to return home to sort out. He had made a promise to hand over his eldest son, Aed O'Conner, to King John. He would then have him conveyed to England as a security against King Cathal remaining in submission. However Cathal's wife would have none of it and the Irish king had to return to King John empty handed. When they next met at Rathwire in County Westmeath, as arranged, but without his son, the King of England was anything but pleased and seems to have forcibly apprehended four of Cathal's sub-kings and royal officers, whom he brought back to England.

Soon after King John left Ireland, arriving back at Fishguard in Wales on 26 August. His Expedition here was overall a success foe him. He had smashed the power of the De Lacy's, secured the city of Limerick, reformed the government of Dublin and the eastern counties and brought even as powerful figure as William Marshal of Leinster, the greatest Knight of the age, to heel.

But his attempts to bring the Kings of Connacht and Tir Eoghan under his thumb both failed, and while not the primary objective of his expedition John's ham fisted attempts only alienated these Irish Kings who rightly did not trust this ruthless man.

A final and horrible chapter to this attempt to punish his opponents was the fate of Maud De Braose and her infant son William de Braose. Captured in Scotland she was conveyed in chains to King John who had them imprisoned in Windsor Castle. They were locked up together but only given food and no water on the first day of their incarceration. Thereafter nothing. When the jailors yanked open the door to their cell 11 days later all that was left was their emaciated corpses.

John died in 1216, probably from dysentery, as he desperately tried to hold his Kingdom together from Revolt. His expedition here was the last by a serving King of England for 184 years until  Richard II, another unloved Monarch, arrived here in the year 1394.

Effigy of King John [above] from his tomb in Worcester Cathedral



Friday, 18 June 2021

 



                                                        


18 June 1815: The Battle of Waterloo on this day. This great battle was fought out some 10 kilometres south of the Belgic city of Brussels, along the Ridge of Mont St Jean and on the fields to the south of it. The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the combined armies of the Duke of Wellington [above] of the British & Allied Armies and Marshal Blucher leading the forces of Prussia. It was a battle in which men of many nations participated. Soldiers from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United Provinces (Holland + Belgium), Hanover, Wurtembourg, Prussia and other minor German states fought the forces of France to decide the fate of Europe.

 At least three infantry or cavalry brigades were led by Anglo Irish generals. 

Major General Sir William Ponsonby (KIA)  2nd British (Union) Cavalry Brigade 

Major General Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur 4th British Cavalry Brigade.

Major General Sir Denis Pack 9th British Infantry Brigade

There were also a number of  battalion commanders with Irish connections who saw action on the field of Waterloo

Lt. Col.Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby [WIA] 12th Light Dragoons  

Lt. Col. Patrick Doherty 13th Light Dragoons 

Lt. Col. Henry Murray 18th Hussars 

Lt. Col. John Dawson [AWOL] 23 Light Dragoons but fought with the 18th Hussars later on

Lt. Col. John Millet Hammerton [WIA] 44th foot - succeded by Major George O’Malley 

Lt. Col. Sir Andrew Barnard 1st battalion Royal Green Jackets 

Major Dawson Kelly  - led the 73rd foot after all Officers were killed or wounded.

Major Arthur Rowley Heyland [KIA] 1st battalion 40th foot

While the British Army had 10 infantry regiments and 4 cavalry ones with ‘Irish’ in their description only three actually saw service in this campaign: 

18th (King's Irish) Hussars - 12 dead  73 wounded officers & men

6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons - 86 dead 107 wounded officers & men

1st Battalion, 27th (Inniskilling) Foot - 105 dead 373 wounded officers & men

History of the Waterloo Campaign - Major General H.T. Siborne

The Inniskillings ‘the Skins’ took some of the heaviest losses of any Regiment on the day.

‘By that evening, the 27th Regiment's casualties were apparently considerable for all to see and an officer of the 95th Rifles later wrote that, 'the twenty-seventh regiment were literally lying dead, in square, a few yards behind us'. When Wellington ordered the general advance around 2000 hours, there were, despite such descriptions, sufficient survivors to enable the Inniskillings to move forward to La Haye Sainte. Perhaps it was there that a captured French General was first reported as saying, 'I have seen Russian, Prussian and French bravery, but anything to equal the stubborn bravery of the regiment with castles I never before witnessed'.

The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot's killed and wounded amounted to almost 500 out of a total of 747 - amongst the highest casualties of British regiments. In this number were sixteen out of the nineteen officers and twenty-three of the thirty-four Colour Sergeants and Sergeants, all killed or wounded.’

https://www.royal-irish.com/events/battle-honour-waterloo

The British Army who fought that day fielded about 24,000 men drawn from England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland. At that time the Irish (Catholic, Protestant & Dissenter) comprised some 30% of the population of these islands. That ratio was well reflected in the ranks of the military force present at Waterloo with the Irish having a strong presence pretty well across the board in all arms Cavalry, Infantry and Artillery. Outside of the Officer Class most of these were poor men, labourers and weavers in the main who found in the Army a relatively secure measure of employment along with shelter & comradeship.

By all accounts the Irish were good fighters but rightly or wrongly were seen as undisciplined off the battlefield. Many were from Catholic households but the Protestant population was represented as best we can judge in numbers that matched their proportion of their Country’s population. The rank and file were seen as emanating from the ‘scum of the earth’ by Wellington and probably by most of the Officer Class too. In some respects he was right as many were there because they were outcasts and misfits from civil society or rough men who sought a fighting career. But they could fight and fight well - and that's what they were there to do.

When the battle ended that evening some 6,000 men of the British Army laid dead, dying or severely wounded on the battlefield - some 25% of the force engaged. On a per capita basis that would be around 2,000 or so men from Ireland who fell that day - a heavy enough toll. On the other hand the population of the island was some Six Million souls in 1815 so while a severe loss to those that had family in the Military it would not have been seen as a National Calamity. Indeed many might well have wished for a French Victory that day - Daniel O’Connell being one of them. 

There are a number of roads and landmarks in Ireland still that celebrate the battle that day. The most imposing being the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park in Dublin that commemorates the Duke of Wellington’s Victories. The halfpenny footbridge over the Liffey in the City Centre is officially ‘Wellington’ bridge and in the suburbs south of the city there are the Wellington and Waterloo roads. North of the river Liffey off the North Strand there is a Waterloo Avenue. In Trim Co Meath where his family hailed from there is also a monument to honour him. 

But while still a Hero in Britain his legacy at home is less sure given his vehement opposition to Catholic emancipation and his eventual sour acceptance of its political necessity. If Waterloo is remembered at all here its for it marking the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s career rather than any part that Ireland played in his Downfall.

Next to the formidable Duke the Irishman who is most worthy of mention was Sergeant James Graham [above] 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards from Clones Co Monaghan. He helped in closing the gates of the Hougoumont Farmhouse which was a vital strategic point on the battlefield, positioned out in front of the right of the allied line. It was attacked throughout the day by thousands of French infantrymen, but held out to the end. The Duke nominated him as 'the bravest of the Brave' and mentioned in him in his Supplementary Dispatches on the Battle:

He assisted Lieutenant-colonel Macdonnell* in closing the gates, which had been left open for the purpose of communication, and which the enemy were in the act of forcing. His brother, a corporal in the regiment, was lying wounded in a barn, which was on fire, and Graham removed him so as to be secure from the fire, and then returned to his duty.

* Coldstream Guards and the senior British Officer at Hougoumont.

Sergeant Graham lived on until 1845 and died in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham Dublin. He is buried in the Old Soldiers plot in the grounds of that Institution.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

 


17‭ ‬June 1959: Éamon de Valera was elected President of Ireland on this day. The contest for the highest Office in the Republic was between him and General Sean Mc Eoin from the Fine Gael Party, who had previously ran for the Office in 1945 and had been defeated. He like Dev had been active in the War of Independence but they had taken opposite sides in the Civil War of 1922 -23. The number of people eligible to vote was 1,678,450, of which 979,628 chose to exercise their Franchise. This represented a turnout of 58.4 %. Of the total numbers of votes cast 538,003 voted in favour of De Valera and 417,536 voted for Mc Eoin. 

‘De Valera won a majority of the vote in every constituency bar the northern Dublin city constituencies, Longford-Westmeath, which Mac Eoin had represented for over ten years, and Cork West, a strong Fine Gael area. As in the previous election, Mac Eoin's best results were in the Longford and surrounding areas, with strong results also where de Valera didn't win majorities in Dublin. De Valera's vote was strongest in Clare, Galway and Donegal - his share reaching 69% in parts of the latter two counties.'

http://irishpoliticalmaps.blogspot.ie/2011/10/irish-presidential-election-1959.html

On the same day was also held a Referendum to abolish Proportional Representation‭ - but here the tide of public opinion swung against Dev and it went down to defeat. ‬The following summary of the principal proposals in the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill,‭ 1958, was circulated for the information of voters:

At present,‭ members of Dáil Éireann are elected on a system of proportional representation for constituencies returning at least three members, each voter having a single transferable vote.

It is proposed in the Bill to abolish the system of proportional representation and to adopt,‭ instead, a system of single-member constituencies, ‬each voter having a single non- transferable vote. It is also proposed in the Bill to set up a Commission for the determination and revision of the constituencies, instead of having this done by the Oireachtas, as at present.

The total number of votes recorded in favour of the proposal contained in the Bill was‭ 453,322 and the total number of votes recorded against the proposal was 486,989. The people did not, therefore, approve the proposal. It was re submitted to the Electorate again in 1968 and again rejected.

Eamon De Valera thus became the third President of Ireland after Douglas Hyde and Sean T. O’Kelly. He was again elected in 1966 and retired from the post and thus active politics in 1973. He died in 1975.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

 


16‭ June 1929: 'Bloomsday' was first celebrated on this day. In one of the earliest Bloomsday celebrations, Sylvia Beach, publisher of James Joyce's classic novel Ulysses organised a 'Ulysses lunch' with her partner Adrienne Monnier in France in June 1929. 

The first Bloomsday celebrated in Ireland was in‭ 1954, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Bloomsday. The eccentric writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien visited locations such as the Martello Tower at Sandycove on the Dublin coastline, Davy Byrne’s pub on Duke Street and across the River Liffey at  7 Eccles Street where the fictional Leopold Bloom lived with his wife Molly. They spent part of their tour reading extracts from Ulysses and drinking a great deal as they went along!

"It wasn't until‭ ‬1954, its 50th anniversary, that John Ryan, restaurant owner and publisher of the literary periodical Envoy, and his literary friends, novelist Brian O'Nolan and poets Patrick Kavanagh and Anthony Cronin, resurrected Bloomsday in Ireland. There are photos at the National Library in Dublin…of their pilgrimage in two horse-cabs to various locations in Ulysses and several pubs."
Fritzi Horstman

Bloomsday celebrates the day on which the narrative of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place,‭ 16 June 1904, the day on which it is believed that Joyce first went out with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus (his younger alter ego) along with a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8 am on 16 June through to the early hours of the following morning. 

An Extract:

As he set foot on O'Connell bridge a puffball of smoke plumed up from the parapet.‭ ‬Brewery barge with export stout. England. Sea air sours it, I heard. Be interesting some day get a pass through Hancock to see the brewery. Regular world in itself. Vats of porter, wonderful. Rats get in too. Drink themselves bloated as big as a collie floating. Dead drunk on the porter. Drink till they puke again like Christians. Imagine drinking that! Rats: vats. Well of course if we knew all the things.
Episode‭ 8 – ‘Lestrygonians’


Tuesday, 15 June 2021

 


15 June 1919: The British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown made the first non-stop heavier than air flight across the Atlantic on this day. They flew a modified Vickers Vimy bomber plane from St. John’s Newfoundland to Clifden, Co Galway thus winning the Daily Mail prize of £10,000. The lucrative prize had been up for grabs since 1913 when the Daily Mail first proposed the idea. Their offer ran as follows:

"the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and land at any point in Great Britain or Ireland" in 72 continuous hours".

Both men had served as Aviators in the Great War and both had been shot down and captured, Alcock by the Turks and Brown by the Germans. During his captivity Alcock determined that if he survived the War he would go for it. As Fortune had it both men were at a loose end after their release and return home. Alcock approached Vickers with the idea of backing the attempt and teamed up with Brown as his co pilot for the crossing.

Several teams had entered the competition and when Alcock and Brown arrived in St Johns Newfoundland the Handley Page aircraft team were in the final stages of testing their machine for the flight but their leader, Admiral Mark Kerr, was determined not to take off until the plane was in perfect condition. The Vickers team quickly assembled their plane and at around 1:45 p.m. on 14 June, whilst the Handley Page team were conducting yet another test, the Vickers plane took off from Lester's Field.

The flight nearly ended in disaster several times owing to engine trouble, fog, snow and ice. It was only saved by Brown's continual climbing out on the wings to remove ice from the engine air intakes and by Alcock's excellent piloting despite extremely poor visibility at times and even snow filling the open cockpit. The aircraft was badly damaged upon arrival due to the attempt to land in what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field but which turned out to be the bog on Derrygimlagh Moor, near Clifden Co Galway,  but neither of the airmen was hurt.

The news of the adventure spread like wildfire and the two men were received as heroes in London. For their accomplishment, they were presented with Lord Northcliffe's Daily Mail prize of £10,000 by Winston Churchill, who was then Britain's Secretary of State. A few days later, both men were knighted at Buckingham Palace by King George V, for recognition of their pioneering achievement.

Alcock was tragically killed some months later in December 1919 while flying to the Paris Air Show. Brown lived on until 1948.



Monday, 14 June 2021



14‭ June 1884: Count John McCormack was born on this day. He is considered the greatest singer Ireland has ever produced. He was the fourth of eleven children born to Hannah and Andrew McCormack, and one of the five to survive childhood. Though his own parents hailed from Scotland his paternal Grandfather was originally from County Sligo. He was educated locally by the Marists in Athlone where his singing abilities were first recognised. 

I was nine and a slip of a lad and shy.‭ It was in the Marist brothers' school on a feast day, when Dr. Woodlock, Bishop of Clonmacnoise, was the guest of honour. I'll not forget the sensation at hearing the words, which Brother Hugh whispered in my ear. ‘We want you to sing, John, for Bishop Woodlock’. With that the good man lifted me upon a table, and left me looking at the gathering…I think they must have liked it. They seemed to. I had no extensive repertoire, but what I knew I knew. And the singing spirit must have been there. Like the man born to be hanged, I possibly was intended to sing.

Afterwards he won a Scholarship to study at the Diocesan College in Summerhill County Sligo.‭ He completed his studies there in 1902. After considering trying his hand at various lines of work he was offered a position with the Palestrina Choir in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral. Vincent O’Brien, the choir master & organist there, saw the great potential in him and recommended for the position of Tenor with the Choir.

He was organist of the Marlborough Street Cathedral,‭ in Dublin; a splendid musician, a fine man, and a staunch friend. He had vision and appeared, intuitively, to feel that all I needed was study and opportunity to achieve a goal worthy of serious aspiration. ‬It was the beginning of a hugely successful career that saw him perform around the World to International acclaim.‭ He was hugely popular in the USA in the 1920s and his celebrity status fore shadowed that of singers like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in the fame he achieved at that time. 

He is best remembered at home though for his magnificent performance of César Franck's‭ Panis Angelicus to the hundreds of thousands who thronged Dublin's Phoenix Park for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Pope Pius XI made him a Count of the Church in 1928. He died in Dublin in 1945 and is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery Dublin.



Sunday, 13 June 2021

 


13‭ June 1798: The Battle of Ballynahinch/Baile na hInse, (town of the isle) was fought on this day. This battle occurred in County Down between the insurgents of the United Irishman under ‘General’ Henry Munro [who was actually a linen merchant from Lisburn] and the forces of the Crown under ‬Major-General George Nugent ‭. The town had actually been seized some days previously by local insurgents but on the day before the battle a well-armed force of some 2,000 military under Nugent entered it and set about upending the place. That evening there was a great deal of skirmishing and much of Ballynahinch was ransacked as the soldiers and Yeomanry engaged in drinking and revelry. The insurgents had established themselves on the hills to the south and east of the town and had in all about 5,000 men under arms. However most were armed only with pikes and any attempt to meet the Crown Forces in open battle was bound to be a massacre. The superior firepower along with the discipline and cohesion of the soldiers was bound to tell against the insurgents if the British Army was to march out the next morning in line of battle. 

Munro’s officers urged him to launch a night attack upon the town and catch the enemy off guard,‭ as they were audibly not in a coherent state that night anyway to resist a determined assault. But he hesitated to do so as he did not have confidence in his men that they could carry off with any degree of certainty such a risky manoeuvre as a night attack. So the hours of darkness slipped away and with it a substantial number of the men who had gathered under the flag of the United Irishmen. Many of them in turn lacked confidence in Munro’s judgement and his obvious lack of experience. They felt that defeat was all but inevitable if the Crown Forces gained the initiative. It was readily apparent that when Nugent marched his men out the next day that the odds would be stacked against them. Even though the United Irishmen had the numbers the Crown Forces would be able to use their Combined Arms tactics of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery to devastating effect upon them.

An eyewitness reported:

A mixed and motley multitude met the eye.‭ They wore no uniforms, yet they presented a tolerably decent appearance, being dressed no doubt in their Sunday clothes, some better and some worse. The only thing in which they all concurred was the wearing of the green, almost every individual having a knot of ribbon of that colour, sometimes intermixed with yellow in his hat. ‬In their arms there was as great a diversity as in their dress.‭ By far the majority of them had pikes, which were truly formidable instruments in close fight, but of no use in distant warfare ... others wore swords, generally of the least efficient kind, and some had merely pitchforks.

At daylight Munro finally decided to attack and launched his men against the enemy inside the town.‭ Bloody hand to hand fighting ensued and the fortunes of war ebbed and flowed amongst the burning buildings of the place. At one stage it looked like Victory lay within the grasp of the United Irishmen as the Crown Forces fell back. But they eventually rallied and counterattacked and broke the back of the pikemens brave charges upon their positions.  

In the meantime Nugent had directed other columns to come round in the rear of the hillside camps of his opponents and turn their positions.‭ ‬A detachment from the garrison in Downpatrick had arrived under Colonel Stapelton and circled the town to attack Montalto, a commanding eminence skirted by a thick wood. This was where Munro had established his HQ some days prior to the battle.

These developments unnerved his men and caught between the obvious superiority now being gained by the military within the town and the imminent closing off of any viable avenue of escape.‭ ‬This led to the collapse of their morale and a precipitate retreat away from Ballynahinch by the survivors of the battle. Munro attempted to rally his men on Ednavady Hill outside the town but all he could muster by that stage was a motley force of about 150 combatants. With the Crown Forces closing in for the kill they decided to make a break for it and scatter, every man for himself. Munro sought refuge nearby and evaded capture for a few days.

‭ ‬But he was taken through betrayal, brought back to Lisburn and tried and executed within a very short period of time. He was hanged almost within view of his own front door and his head was placed upon display in the Market Square. The town of Ballynahinch itself lay in ruins with almost half the houses within it burned during the engagement and its aftermath. This battle to all intents and purposes ended organised resistance in County Down.‭ ‬In the following days and weeks the military spread out across the Countryside, inflicting many atrocities upon those they suspected of being active participants or silent supporters of the Rising. 

Painting: Battle of Ballynahinch by Thomas Robinson


Saturday, 12 June 2021

 



12 June 1919 - At around midnight on 11/12 June a rather bedraggled man walked into an Irish bar on 10th Avenue New York City to start his Mission. His aim - to begin a crusade for the recognition of an Independent Irish Republic. Eamon De Valera had arrived back in the city of his Birth! Thus began an Odyssey that brought him across America over the next 18 months that were to become the stuff of Legend and controversy ever since.

His journey began in Dublin some weeks before when he slipped out of the city incognito and made his way to Liverpool to catch a boat the SS Lapland sailing to America. He was a wanted man after escaping from Lincoln jail in England some months previously and was on the run from the British. He kept undercover in a dingy cabin whilst aboard until just before he was spirited ashore to begin the first steps of his Mission.

As the last surviving Commandant of the Leaders of 1916 he was chosen as the Príomh Aire [President] of Dáil Éireann [Irish Parliament] in April 1919 after his return from captivity in England. However  his chances of being captured again were high in Ireland. Dev was an excellent public speaker and a natural leader of men. To make the movement for Irish Independence a success it was deemed necessary to seek International recognition abroad and secure large funds from the Irish Diaspora to help the propaganda and war effort. He could do little in Ireland where his talents would be of limited use but in America he would be able to speak freely to push for Ireland’s Cause and gain swathes of publicity on a huge stage.

 Dev was privately quite a self effacing man - he was by no means flamboyant. In America that was no path to success. Soon after arriving one of his Mentors [Joseph McGarrity] suggested to him that carrying his own luggage around and calling himself the title ‘President of the Ministry of Dáil Éireann’ was a dead end. He took him to a tailors and had him outfitted with a set of the finest suits - the Armanis’ of their day if you will - told him to not carry any bags - the President of a Country does not go around carrying his own bags  - and to style himself ‘The President of Ireland’!

Well it worked because he started getting attention and drawing huge crowds across the USA to hear him speak. For good measure he based himself in the finest hotel in America - the Waldorf - Astoria in New York city - as befitted the President of a Country visiting the United States of America. However his newly discovered status was a surprise to the Old Guard of Fenian’s there - led by Judge Daniel Florence Cohalan and John Devoy who basically viewed him as an upstart. They had ruled the roost there for years and wanted it kept that way.

 His biggest failure when there was his inability to mend fences with the Fenian faction led by Cohalan and Devoy. It can be said that De Valera was a man who throughout his life took his own council and did what he thought was best -  problem was many of his opponents were of a similar calibre - neither side was blameless!

By the time he returned to Ireland in December 1920 Dev had achieved quite a lot - especially financially in helping to raise millions of dollars for Irish Independence and making Ireland a front page issue with the US Press Corps. He did not however gain the support of either the Democrats or Republicans to recognise Ireland as an Independent Nation in the 1920 Presidential Campaign - but at least he made them aware of it. Probably the biggest political success of his Mission was that he ensured that Ireland’s cause was no longer just a domestic issue but was known throughout the most powerful Republic on Earth - the United States of America. That was a weight of opinion that the British Government could no longer ignore in how they conducted their actions in this Country.


Friday, 11 June 2021


 11‭ June 1534: The Revolt of Silken Thomas on this day. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald or ‘Silken Thomas’ as he was more popularly known, was a young man of just 21 years of age when he rode through the streets of Dublin with a large band of followers, and entered the Chapter House of St. Mary's Abbey [above] * where the King's Council were awaiting him.

Whereupon with his brilliant retinue of seven score horsemen he rode through the streets to St.‭ Mary's Abbey; and entering the chamber where the council sat, he openly renounced his allegiance, and proceeded to deliver up the sword and robes of state.

A Concise History of Ireland by P.‭ W. Joyce

His father was none other than Garret Óg,‭ the Earl of Kildare, the most powerful man in Ireland. In his father’s absence in England to answer charges against his name Lord Thomas had been appointed the King’s Deputy in his place. But false rumours that Henry VIII had executed Garret Óg reached his ears. He concluded, without waiting to check the veracity of this information, that his father was indeed dead. He felt that no time could be lost in staking out his claim to lead the Catholics of Ireland in opposing Henry and his now openly Protestant Court. He that day renounced his stewardship of being the King’s Deputy in Ireland and declared himself no longer bound to King Henry VIII by word or deed.

Henry VIII treated his defiance of Royal Power as an act of open revolt and confined Garret Óg to the Tower of London,‭ ‬where Garret died two months later. After a bloody Revolt that lasted into 1535 Silken Thomas gave himself up when his forces were defeated and conveyed to London for Trial. He too was placed in the Tower and held in wretched conditions. He wrote home from that place of cold captivity a letter full of pathos:

I never had any money since I came into prison,‭ but a noble, nor I have had neither hosen, doublet, nor shoes, nor shirt but one; nor any other garment but a single frieze gown, for a velvet furred with budge [i.e. instead of a velvet furred with lambskin fur], and so I have gone wolward [shirtless] and barefoot and barelegged divers times (when it hath not been very warm); and so I should have done still, but that poor prisoners of their gentleness hath sometimes given me old hosen and shoes and shirts.

P.‭ ‬W. Joyce

The unfortunate Silken Thomas,‭ born into a life of wealth and privilege, eventually was sent to the gallows. He was hanged alongside five of his captured uncles at Tyburn, London in February 1537. His epic Revolt marked the start of a series of Wars by the Irish against the growing power of a centralised Monarchy committed to enforcing English Royal Rule and the Protestant Religion in this Country.


Thursday, 10 June 2021

 


10 June 1688: James Francis Edward Stuart, aka ‘King James III of England and VII of Scotland’ was born on this day. He was born at St James Palace, London. He was the only legitimate son of James II by his wife Mary of Modena. His birth triggered a Constitutional Crises in these islands as he was baptised a Catholic and stood to inherit his fathers’ Realms in due course. Later that year occurred the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and the deposition and flight of James II to France. It was rumoured that the actual infant died at birth and a substitute was surreptitiously brought into the birth chamber inside a Warming Pan. While this is almost certainly a piece of propaganda spread by the enemies of his father such rumours undermined his status in England in particular when he reached maturity. His birth thus triggered a series of actions that led to the ‘War of the Two Kings’ that was fought upon the soil of Ireland between 1689 and 1691.

On the death of James II in 1701 he proclaimed himself King James III. He was recognised by the followers of the Stuart Cause as the legitimate successor to his father’s Kingdoms. He was also acknowledged as such by a number of Continental Powers incl France & Spain. He also had many secret adherents within England, Scotland and Ireland. As a young man he saw action in the War of the Spanish Succession and twice attempted to establish himself upon the Throne. In 1708 he was thwarted in a landing upon the coast of Scotland. His best chance came upon the death of Queen Anne in 1714 when the Crown was vacant and before George of Hanover (a Protestant) could arrive to take it. But delay proved fatal and James’s Scottish supporters only raised the banner of revolt in late 1715. Their attempt, though initially well backed proved a Fiasco. By the time James landed in December support was ebbing away and after a few weeks he was forced to depart for the Continent. He never saw the island of his birth again. 

Eventually he settled in Rome under the protection of the Papacy where he took up residence at the Palazzo Muti and held a Jacobite Court there with funds provided by the Vatican, the Spanish Monarchy and his supporters. He thereafter lived a long but frustrating life. He married Princess Maria Klementyna Sobieska of Poland in 1719 and had two sons by her. She however died in 1733 and he never remarried. He lived long enough to see his son ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ fail in his attempt to overthrow the Hanoverian Dynasty in 1745/46. He was known in his years of Exile as the ‘Old Pretender’ to his enemies or ‘The King over the Water’ to his friends and admirers in these islands. He died in Rome on 1 January [O.S.] 1766 and is buried in St Peters in Rome. 

In following such a record of broken hopes and unrelieved failure, the initial sense of disappointment yields gradually to a more temperate compassion. There is an indefinable pathos in the spectacle of this tragedy- king, parading his solemn travesty of sovereignty before an unromantic and imperturbable audience. When it is remembered that he lived to see no less than five sovereigns on the English throne, all of whom he had been taught to regard as usurpers, it may help towards understanding how deeply the iron must have entered into his soul.

Macaulay


Wednesday, 9 June 2021


9 June 597 AD: The Death of Saint Columba (aka 'Colmcille' - Dove of the Church) on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.

Columba was the son of Fedlimid and Eithne of the Cenél Conaill. He was probably born in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, in what is now County Donegal. The earliest surviving evidence – that from his Vita/Life by Adomnán, written about a century after his death – tells us simply that:

‘the holy Columba was born of noble parents having as his father Fedelmid, Fergus’s son, and his mother, Eithne by name, whose father may be called in Latin "son of a ship''

When sufficiently advanced in letters he entered the monastery of Moville under St. Finnian, then at Clonard, governed at that time by Finnian. Another preceptor of Columba was St. Mobhi, whose monastery was at Glasnevin near Dubhlinn [Dublin]. The pestilence that devastated Ireland in 544 AD caused the dispersion of Mobhi's disciples and Columba returned to the North. However his following years were marked by the foundation of several important monasteries at Kells in the north midlands and at Derry in the North. After political troubles at home for which he was found at fault Columba left Ireland and passed over to the island of Iona in 563 AD. Conall, king of Dál Riata gave him the island to use as his base and there he founded his famous Monastery.

The people of Scottish Dál Riata shared a language, culture and political life with the Dál Riata of Ireland, and with Ireland as a whole. It is virtually certain that they also shared the Christian faith. Colum Cille came, therefore, to a Scottish Dál Riata which had already accepted Christianity. We can assume that he came to a landscape already dotted with churches, where priests and even an occasional bishop already ministered to their people.

What Colum Cille brought to Scottish Dál Riata was not Christianity, therefore, but a monastic community of brothers who would live and work and pray together. It is in this light above all that Adomnán seeks to portray him: as the father of monks, founding, teaching and guiding a community. He also portrays him as a man of power – not the secular power of kings and warlords, which Colum Cille had abandoned in Ireland, but the power of the ascetic, the contemplative. He exercises the divine power that is given to those who have rejected wordly power.

Colmcille: Life in Scotland - St Columba Trail

After spending some years among the Scots of Dál Riata, who were related to the Gaels of north east Ulster, Columba began the great work of his life, the conversion of the Northern Picts. After this the remaining years of Columba's life were mainly spent in preaching the Christian Faith to the inhabitants of the glens and wooded areas of northern Scotland. Of course 'Scotland' as such did not exist then as a separate country and indeed the word Scotland comes from the Roman word for the Gaels of Ireland - Scotii.

Saint Columba was famous for his prophecies and on Iona he lived the life of an ascetic while also engaged in the business of the Church in Scotland. Adomnán portrays Colum Cille as actively engaged with the kings of Dál Riata in western Scotland– not only obtaining land from them and blessing particular candidates for kingship, but even inaugurating Áedán mac Gabráin as king in the monastery of Iona.

He also kept in contact with Ireland too and he returned home on occasion even though he was formally exiled. Adomnán says he went back to Ireland when he founded the monastery of Dair Mag (Durrow) between 585 and 597. He also got involved in the politics of the North once again . He returned to Ireland for a conference of kings at which were present Áed mac Ainmirech, king of the northern Uí Néill and eventually king of Tara, and Áedán mac Gabráin, king of Dál Riata. Legend has it that having been told never to put his feet on the soil of Ireland again and agreeing to that he returned wearing shoes of sods of turf in order to keep his promise! Adomnán describes Colmcille as using two separate buildings during his daily life - a writing hut and a hut where he slept and ‘where at night instead of straw he had bare rock and stone for a pillow’.

He is also credited with the initiation of a continuous record of Irish History as set down in the Annals- the Iona Chronicle - whose successor scribes recorded the History of Ireland on a year by year basis down to the 17th Century. His 'Life' - Vita Columbae was written by his distant successor the 9th Abbot of Iona, Saint Adomnán. Columba is said never to have spent an hour without study, prayer, or similar occupations. He is the greatest Saint to have come out of Ireland.




 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021



8 June 1739: John Scott, Earl of Clonmell aka ‘Copper Faced Jack’ was born on this day. Scott was one of the most ambitious and successful men of 18th Century Ireland - and one of the most notorious. His family were of middle income but in early life he befriended one Hugh Carleton and his father helped to finance Scott’s studies at Trinity College Dublin in 1756 and subsequently in Law at the Middle Temple. Admitted to King's Inn in 1765, he was entitled to practice as a Barrister.

In 1769 he was himself elected M.P. for the borough of Mullingar. His ability and determination to rise attracted the attention of the lord chancellor, Lord Lifford, and, at his suggestion, Lord Townshend threw out to him the bait of office. The bait was swallowed with the cynical remark, ‘My lord, you have spoiled a good patriot.’

In December 1774 he became solicitor-general, and in November 1777 he was appointed  attorney-general and a privy Councillor.  But his personal feelings did not influence his political opinions, and to his colleague in London he wrote: 

‘Send us two men, or one man of ability and spirit; send him with the promise of extension of commerce in his mouth as he enters the harbour, unconnected with this contemptible tail of English opposition, meaning well to the king, to his servants, and to the country, and he will rule us with ease; but if you procrastinate and send us a timid and popular trickster, this kingdom will cost you more than America; it will cost you your existence and ours’ 

He refused to be badgered into any premature expression of opinion as to the right of England to bind Ireland by acts of parliament, but astounded the house on 4 May 1782 by announcing ‘in the most unqualified, unlimited, and explicit manner … as a lawyer, a faithful servant to the crown, a well-wisher to both countries, and an honest Irishman,’ that Great Britain possessed no such right, and that if the parliament of that kingdom was determined to be the lords of Ireland, ‘he for his part was determined not to be their villain in contributing to it’
Scott, John (1739-1798)
by Robert Dunlop
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Scott,_John_(1739-1798)_(DNB00)

He was dismissed but on the fall of Portland’s government he was soon restored and was more careful to not offend those above him in a Country and an Age when Patronage was everything to advancement. Being very much a careerist his noted stance on a principal was something ‘out of character’ for a man noted to crave the finer things in Life like power, money and social status.
 He was promoted on 10 May 1784 to be Chief Justice of the King's Bench and at the same time raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Earlsfort of Lisson Earl.  The King's Bench was the principal court of criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction, and its Chief Justice was the most senior judge in Ireland after the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. 

Probably his most notorious act though was his hounding the editor of the Dublin Evening Post, one John Magee who was being sued by an associate of Scott’s called Francis Higgins aka The Sham Squire. The chief justice, influenced by personal and political motives, caused a capias ad respondendum marked £4,000 to issue against Magee. It was a tyrannical act, but in the state of the law perfectly legal, and would, as Scott intended it should, have utterly ruined Magee had not the matter been brought before parliament by George Ponsonby. The discussion greatly damaged his judicial character.
(Dunlop)

In 1789, he was created 1st Viscount Clonmell, of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary and in 1793 he was created 1st Earl of Clonmell. By the 1790s he had an annual income of £20,000 - a Fortune in those days in Ireland.

John Scott was a very able man but one who made a lot of enemies due to his arrogant and somewhat dictatorial manner. He was a man who took little care of his personal appearance and drank and ate to excess.  Though he does not appear to have been a womaniser. In his diary he made frequent resolutions to mend the manner of his ways but does not seem to have followed them through to any effect. He did not suffer fools gladly however and even thought little of his childhood friend Hugh Carleton. His nickname ‘Copper Face Jack’ came from his very ruddy appearance, especially when he had Drink taken - which was often.

While he had reached the pinnacle of success in chosen career of Law it does not seem have brought him much happiness. In 1797, in the last conversation he would have with his wife's cousin, Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry, he exclaimed:

 'My dear Val, I have been a fortunate man in life. I am a Chief Justice and an Earl; but, believe me, I would rather be beginning the world as a young (chimney) sweep.'
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Scott,_1st_Earl_of_Clonmell

Although his tendency was to make his position subservient to government and his own advancement, he ‘never indulged in attacks on his country,’ and never sought ‘to raise himself by depressing her.’ His reluctance to support the arbitrary measures that marked the course of Earl Camden's administration caused him to lose favour at the castle, and as time went on his opinion was less consulted and considered.  He wrote, in his diary on 13 Feb. 1798, ‘‘I think my best game is to play the invalid and be silent; the government hate me, and are driving things to extremities; the country is disaffected and savage, the parliament corrupt and despised.’
(Dunlop)

He died on the day the Rising broke out 23 May 1798. His subsequent reputation suffered even more damage when his personal diary was published some years later. While not written for public consumption it nevertheless put a further blot on his name as within its pages he vilified even those whom he was considered close to both personally and in Law.

The Legal historian Elrington Ball wrote:
"an extraordinarily able man and an equally ambitious one. As he has revealed to us in his diary he had from the first no misgiving as to the object of his life being personal success, and although he wore out his mind and body in reaching his goal he made it against desperate odds."
Ball, The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 London 1926 

He was married twice and left a son and a daughter by his second marriage. He lived at Clonmel House 17 Harcourt Street Dublin. Today that street houses one of Dublin’s most popular and notorious [?] nightclubs ‘Copper Faced Jacks’.!!!

Portrait above: John Scott, 1st Earl of Clonmell by Gilbert Stuart





 

Sunday, 6 June 2021

 

6 June 1333: The death by murder of William Burke 'the Brown Earl' of Ulster and the Lord of Connacht near Belfast while on his way to Carrickfergus.

The young Earl was only 21 years old. Far from being a callow youth he was already a very able and ruthless man. In November 1332, at Greencastle, near the mouth of Lough Foyle, he had his cousin Sir Walter Liath de Burgh starved to death. William had feared that his cousin Walter would be a threat to him after his defeat of the O'Connor's in 1330. Clearly a man of some ambition his foul murder of his own cousin was a bit too much even for that ruthless age. In revenge, Sir Walter's sister, Gylle de Burgh, wife of Sir Richard de Mandeville, planned William’s assassination.

William Burke, Earl of Ulster, was killed by the English of Ulster. The Englishmen who committed this deed were put to death, in divers ways, by the people of the King of England; some were hanged, others killed, and others torn asunder, in revenge of his death.

Annals of the Four Masters

With his death the whole Anglo-Norman rule in the North began to unravel as the Burke/DeBurgo 'clan' fought amongst themselves over the division of the dead Earl's vast holdings. With the collapse of their power the first phase of the Conquest that had begun in 1169 came to an end. From then on until the Reformation the English Colony was to be basically on the defensive rather than on the offensive against the Gaels of Ireland.

No such blow had yet befallen the Anglo-Irish Colony. The whole De Burgo Lordship, which had reduced the proudest of the Irish to vassalage and had been the shield and rampart of the English interest in the north and the west, fell at one stroke. Released from a yoke which they alone could never have broken, the O'Neills and the O'Donnells were able to subject eastern and southern Ulster on the one hand, and DeBurgo's lordship of Sligo on the other. Within fifty years practically the whole province went back to the Irish order.

A History of Medieval Ireland

Edmund Curtis



Saturday, 5 June 2021

 

5 June 1646: The Battle of Benburb/ Cath Beann Borb was fought on this day. General Owen Roe O’Neill met and defeated a superior enemy force at Benburb. The battle was fought near the river Blackwater on the border between the counties Tyrone and Armagh. He had deliberately chosen a defensive position on which to meet a British Army under Major-General Robert Monroe. The British men had marched many miles in the days preceding the battle, fighting a series of tiring skirmishes against the Irish on the way. On the day of the battle itself his men had marched some 15 miles before they came up upon the Irish positions. O'Neill's men on the other hand were well rested and some were in concealed positions so the British did not know they were up against O'Neill's Main Force until the battle was joined.

O'Neill and Monroe were both experienced commanders, O'Neill had fought in the Spanish Army in the Low Countries and had conducted a brilliant defense of the town of Arras in 1640 for weeks against overwhelming odds when besieged by  the French before been forced to surrender. Monroe was a veteran of the 30 Years War in Flanders and Germany.

O'Neill was determined to bring his opponent to battle on his own terms by taking up a position that would convince the enemy to attack at a disadvantage. Described 'as a man of few words, cautious and phlegmatic in his operations' 'this great adept in concealing his feelings' as the Papal envoy Rinuccini called him.

O'Neill kept his plan to himself but its possible he sent a 'deserter' across the lines to point Monroe in the right direction for the battle to be sprung. The British army had crossed the river Blackwater after advancing from Armagh was advancing from the south west upon the Irish with the river on their right flank. The battle took place just over three miles south-east of Charlemont Fort in what is now County Tyrone.

The Scottish commander had over 6,000 men, made up of six Scottish and four English regiments of foot and around 600 horse. Monroe's infantry was two-thirds musketeers and one-third pikemen. Monroe also had six light cannon with him. O’Neill’s Army consisted of about 5,000 foot, half of whom were pikemen and half musketeers, and 500 horse, many of whom were lancers. He drew up his men with four brigades in the first line and three in the second. The Irish had no artillery available at all.Before the clash of arms, Father Boetius Mac Egan, Chaplain General of the Army, gave general absolution to the O'Neill's men.

O'Neill delayed the advance of Monroe's Army with lines of skirmishers, falling back step by step. The battle proper then did not begin until late in the day. When the British, confident of victory, finally attacked the Irish lines they were beaten off. Once this attack had been checked O’Neill gave the order to advance with his famous exhortation to his men:

Let your manhood be seen by the push of your pike

- your word is 'Sancta Maria'

- and so in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost

Advance!

- and give not fire till you are within pike-length. 

With that the Irish lines went forward to break the enemy's lines. By this stage the sun and wind were behind the Irish lines giving them a distinct tactical advantage. After about an hours' heavy fighting late in the evening the British lines began to buckle. Eventually most Monroe's troops broke and ran. Monroe was lucky to escape with his life and he lost probably half of his men in this rout, some 3,000 or so. Only Sir James Montgomery's Regiment getting away in good order. Much of his baggage and all of his artillery was taken. Irish casualties were in the low hundreds and they were left masters of the field as the sun went down. It was the greatest Irish Victory of the War of the Confederation.



Friday, 4 June 2021

 


4 June 1820 - Henry Grattan, the moving force behind the Irish Parliament at College Green Dublin before it was dissolved by the Act of Union, died on this day in London.

Grattan was born at Fishamble Street, Dublin, in 1746, and baptised in the nearby church of St. John the Evangelist. A member of the Anglo-Irish elite of Protestant background, Grattan was the son of James Grattan MP, of Belcamp Park, County Dublin and Mary youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Marlay, Attorney-General of Ireland, Chief Baron of the Exchequer and finally Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland). He thus came from a very privileged and aristocratic background.

Grattan was a distinguished student at Trinity College, Dublin where he began a lifelong study of classical literature, and was especially interested in the great orators of antiquity.

He entered the Parliament of Ireland in 1775, sponsored by Lord Charlemont. He quickly established a reputation as a brilliant speaker and one who was determined to press the Crown for Legislative Independence for Ireland. With Britain bogged down in the trying to suppress the American Revolutionaries he saw his chance to make his case. In this he was able to rely on the Anglo-Irish Volunteers who organised a Volunteer Army to 'Guard' the Country as more British troops were sent out of Ireland to fight in America. As a result of such agitation in 1782 the restrictions on Ireland having to submit legislation to the English Privy Council for prior approval or rejection was removed. It was to be Grattan's greatest Triumph.

For his efforts in securing Legislative Independence he was awarded £50,000 by the House of Commons in Dublin 'in testimony of the gratitude of this nation for his eminent and unequalled services to this kingdom'. The money allowed him to by a house in Tinnehinch, co. Wicklow, and an estate at Moyanna in Queen's county (County Laois) .

However the subsequent operation of 'Grattan's Parliament' was limited by its restrictive nature, its members being confined to those of the Established Church, and thus the exclusion of Catholics and Presbyterians from its benches. Crucially it had no independent Executive, all Ministers being in the gift of the Crown.

Grattan, in the aftermath of the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792, was able to achieve one more success by helping to bring in legislation that gave a limited franchise to Catholics in a 'Catholic Relief Act'. The expectation was that the logical conclusion to such a move was that Catholic Emancipation (the right of Catholics to sit in Parliament) must come about sooner rather than later.

In this Grattan and his supporters were to be disappointed, especially in 1795 in the quick recall of the new Lord Lieutenant Fitzwilliam. He had privately asked Grattan to propose a Bill for Catholic emancipation, promising the support of Pitt the British Prime Minister. But finally it appeared that the he had either misunderstood or exceeded his instructions; and on 19 February 1795 Fitzwilliam was recalled to London as the forces of Reaction had undermined him.

While Grattan kept a cool head in the aftermath of this setback his ability to influence the political scene was severely undermined as the forces of Revolution and Reaction took centre stage. He retired from politics in 1797 and though his name was implicated in the Rising of 1798 it would appear these accusations were unfounded.

With the prospect of a Union between Britain and Ireland looming in the aftermath of the crushing of the Rising he returned to Parliament to fight for its continued existence. When he was defeated in that effort he again stepped down but was returned for Dublin City in 1805 and took his seat in Westminster.

Here his oratorical skills were recognised and admired as one of the great parliamentarians of the age but as one amongst hundreds his influence was negligible and he was left in the Limelight. He continued to press for Catholic Emancipation but with conditions attached - re the appointment of Catholic Bishops being within the approval of the British Government. As the years wore on he made less and less appearances in the House of Commons and reluctantly accepted that the Union was now a political reality.

In 1820 he left Ireland for London to attend the House once again but fell ill while there. He died at Portman Square, Baker Street, London on the 4th of June. He had wanted to be buried back home but such was the respect he had in the British Parliament that it was decided to bury him amongst the great and the good in Westminster Abbey.

As the only Irish politician to have a phase of parliamentary history named after him -'Grattan's Parliament' - Henry Grattan is unique in Irish history.

There is a fine statue of him [above] situated in College Green Dublin facing his old Alma Mater of Trinity College


Thursday, 3 June 2021

 


3 June 618 AD: The death of St Kevin/Naomh Caoimhghin at Glendaloch ( Gleann Da Locha - The Valley of the two Lakes) on this day. 

Caoimhghin means of fair birth and it would seem that St Kevin was born into a dominant family whose People controlled what is now north Wicklow in the 6th century. He was baptized by Cronan, and educated by St Petroc during that saint's sojourn in Ireland. He lived in solitude at Disert-Coemgen for seven years, sleeping on a dolmen (now known as "Saint Kevin's Bed") perched on a perilous precipice, that an angel had led him to, and later established a church for his own community at Glendalough. This monastery was to become the parent of several others. Eventually, Glendalough, with its seven churches, became one of the chief pilgrimage destinations in Ireland.

St. Kevin is said to have first lived in Kilnamanagh (church of the monks) in what is modern-day Tallaght, Dublin 24, but moved on to Glendalough in order to avoid the company of his followers, a group of monks who founded a monastery on the site. Locals say that it was his monastery that was demolished by developers in the 1970s when building the housing estate that is there today. St. Kevin’s well is all that remains today as the plot was unsuitable for building. It is now surrounded by a garden kept by locals in the saint’s honour. St. Kevin is today the patron saint of the Kilnamanagh parish.

After Bishop Lugidus ordained Kevin a priest he left Killnamanagh and set out to find his own hermitage. On arrival in Glendalough Kevin chose the area of the upper lake and settled on the south side of the foot of that lake in St. Kevin's Bed, an artificial cave about thirty feet above the level of the lake which was originally a Bronze Age tomb. Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an extraordinary closeness to nature, his companions were the animals and birds all around him. He lived as a hermit for seven years wearing only animal skins, sleeping on stones and eating very sparingly.

Disciples were soon attracted to Kevin and establishment of a further settlement enclosed by a wall, called Kevin's Cell and Reefert Church, situated nearer the lakeshore. All this building and expansion would have bothered Kevin who never really wanted to leave his hermit's life and seemed to have sought solitude and the life of a hermit whenever possible. By 540 Saint Kevin's fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many people came to seek his help and guidance.In time Glendalough grew into a renowned seminary of saints and scholars.

In 544 Kevin went to the Hill of Uisneach in Co.Westmeath to establish a league of brotherly friendship with other holy abbots. Until his death around 618 Kevin presided over his monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching.

Image: http://www.imogenstuart.com


Wednesday, 2 June 2021

 


2‭ June 1567: The death of Shane O’Neill on this day. The MacDonnells of Antrim murdered him after he sought refuge amongst them following his defeat at the Battle of Farsetmore. Séan the Proud/An Díomais Ó Néill was born in circa 1530. He was the son of Conn Bacach O'Neill, who was created the 1st Earl of Tyrone by the English. Conn decided that to placate the Tudors he would make his eldest but illegitimate son Matthew his legal heir under the English Law. This was unacceptable to Shane who slew his brother and other members of his family. This was to ensure that on his father’s death he would be declared ‘The O’Neill’ and thus the legitimate ruler of his ancestors lands in the North according to traditions of the Gael.

Notwithstanding this the English tried to rope him in anyway as the most powerful man in Ulster.‭ But Shane was determined to keep his distance and be his own man as much as he could. After engaging in conflict with the Earl of Sussex and managing to evade his enemy’s traps he was granted safe passage to London. In 1562, accompanied by the Irish Earls of Ormonde and Kildare, he had an audience at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I. Her courtiers were agog at Shane’s Bodyguard of Gallowglass warriors and his own apparel. The Queen however did not want an expensive War against this colourful Gaelic Chieftain and cut a deal with him. In return for recognising her position as Queen she would recognise him as the O’Neill and both sides agreed to a more pacific relationship in future.

On return Shane quickly suppressed any dissent within his own lands and then waged War against the O’Donnell’s of Donegal and the MacDonnell’s of Antrim.‭ He raided into Fermanagh and used his new found legitimacy to shove his weight around. But these attacks proved disconcerting to the English who did not want Shane, or any other Gaelic Leader, to gain sway over the other Chieftain’s and prove a thorn in their side. Divide et imperia was the name of the game as far as the English were concerned and Shane was not playing it their way. Elizabeth at last authorized Sussex to take the field against Shane, but two separate expeditions failed to accomplish anything except some depredations in O'Neill's country.

In‭ 1565 O’Neill defeated the MacDonnell’s at the Battle of Glenshesk and took Sorley Boy MacDonnell prisoner. He also held as his captive one Calvagh O’Donnell, who he allegedly kept in cage while he took his wife for his mistress in front of his eyes! O’Neill also armed the common people to fight his wars and hired bands of Scottish mercenaries to augment his forces. By this stage he was the most powerful man in the North and that the English had to recognise that like it or not.

By‭ 1566 they had had enough and an expedition was dispatched to Derry to establish a fort there. Meanwhile Lord Deputy Sidney marched from Dublin with a small but well armed force, which traversed the O’Neills heartland in Tyrone, pillaging and burning and turning the lesser Chieftains against him. The following year Shane decided to strike back and re establish his sway over the O’Donnell’s of Donegal.

But in May‭ 1567 he suffered a shock defeat at Farsetmore at the hands of these O’Donnell’s. He had to flee the field of battle with just a small band of followers. While feared he had no true allies and in desperation he threw himself upon the mercy of the MacDonnells of Antrim. It is not certain whether his death was a deliberate act of assassination or the result of a fight but his demise was greeted with relief in Dublin and by Queen Elizabeth of England who wrote:

'that we give thanks to Almighty God by whom we hold and rule all that we enjoy, for his goodness and favour shown in the punishment and extinguishing of such a rebellion so long continued'

Sidney State Papers 1565-70

T.O’Laidhin

The balance of probability is that English agents bribed Alexander Og MacDonnell,‭ his reluctant host, to kill him. And indeed they had no love for the man. The English demanded his head as proof of his death.  On receipt it was dispatched to the City of Dublin where it was displayed upon the walls of Dublin Castle. Thus ended the violent and bloody career of one of the most formidable and colourful characters that 16th Century Ireland produced.