Sunday, 28 February 2021

 


28‭ February 1921: Six IRA men were executed in Victoria Barracks, Cork on this day. The men were shot by firing squad. They were Sean Allen, Timothy McCarthy, Thomas O’Brien, Daniel O’Callaghan, John Lyons and Patrick O’Mahony. All bar the first (Sean Allen from Tipperary) had been captured at Dripsey, outside Cork City on 28 January. As they laid in wait to ambush a British convoy the men were surrounded and captured by the 1st Manchester Regiment. 

A local Loyalist Mrs Lindsay had given their position away. The IRA seized her and James Clarke (her Chauffer) as hostages to hold them against the execution of the men. The local British Commander, General Strickland, was informed by letter of the consequences.

The letter he received read:
To General Strickland‭…We are holding Mrs Mary Lindsay and her Chauffeur, James Clarke as hostages. They have been convicted of spying and are under sentence of death. If the five of our men taken at Dripsey are executed on Monday morning as announced by your office, the two hostages will be shot.
Irish Republican Army

Strickland and General‭ Macready, the British Commander in Ireland, dismissed the idea that the threat was real. They did not believe that the Cork IRA would push it that far. Both men doubted that the IRA would kill a woman in cold blood and decided that the sentences should be carried out.

On the morning of the executions a large crowd gathered outside and prayed for the souls of the dead men who were executed in batches. That night the Cork IRA launched a number of attacks against British forces at different locations throughout the City. Six British soldiers were killed and four were seriously wounded. 

Two other men captured at Dripsey were still detained in military custody:‭ ‬Captain James Barrett and Volunteer Denis Murphy. Barrett died in captivity on 22 March 1921. Murphy stood trial in Victoria Barracks on 9 March, he was found guilty and sentenced to death but this sentence was later commuted to one of 25 years' imprisonment. Following the trial of Volunteer Denis Murphy the Cork IRA under Frank Busteed executed Mrs. Lindsay and James Clarke on the 11 March. It is said that she stood up well at the end  but Clarke had to be propped up to shoot him. Their bodies have never been found.


Friday, 26 February 2021

 


26‭ ‬February 943: The Vikings of Dublin got a lucky break, when they ambushed the heir apparent to the High King, ‘Muirchertach of the Leather Cloaks/ Muirchertach na Cochall Craicinn’ and slew him on this day.

Muirchertach son of Niall,‭ i.e. Muirchertach of the Leather Cloaks, king of Ailech and the Hector of the western world, was killed by the heathens, i.e. by Blacair son of Gothfrith, king of the foreigner, at Glas Liatháin beside Cluain Chaín, in Fir Rois, on the first feria, fourth of the Kalends of March [26 Feb]

Ard Macha was plundered by the same foreigners on the following day,‭ the third of the Kalends of March…

ANNALS OF ULSTER

Muirchertach was the son of Niall Glundubh who had himself been killed fighting the Vikings at Dublin in‭ 919 AD. He had fought and won many battles and in one report is mentioned as leading a naval expedition against the Norsemen of the Hebrides. However he suffered an embarrassing episode in 939 when in a surprise raid his enemies’ ships raided his fortress of Aileach (outside Derry) and carried him off. He was forced to ransom his own release to regain his freedom.

Muirchertach,‭ ‬under the ancient rule of the kingship of Tara alternating between the northern and southern O’Neills, was due to replace King Donnachadh on the latter’s demise. Sometimes though ambition got the better of him and he clashed with his senior colleague and at other times co-operated with him.  Muirchertach married Donnchad's daughter Flann, but relations between the two were not good. Conflict between them is recorded in 927, 929, and 938. 

His most remarkable feat came in‭ 941 when he carried out a Circuit of Ireland with a picked force of 1,000 men and secured pledges from all the principal kingdoms and carried away with him hostages as security. The Dalcassians (Brian Boru’s people) alone refused to submit. But Muirchertach eventually handed over all his hostages to Donnachadh as a mark of respect.

But his luck ran out in‭ ‬943 when he was taken by surprise by the Vikings of Dublin somewhere near Ardee, Co Louth. It looks like Muirchertach was attempting to fend off a raid by them that was heading north towards Armagh when he was taken off guard: 

Muirchertach son of Niall,‭ heir designate of Ireland, was killed in Áth Firdia by the foreigners of  Ath Cliath, and Ard Macha was plundered by the heathens.

Chronicon Scotorum




Thursday, 25 February 2021

 


25 February 1852: Thomas Moore, Bard of Erin died on this day. He is best known today as the lyricist for ‘Irish Melodies’ in which he set lyrics to ancient Irish pieces whose origins stretched back many years beforehand. His Life however was much more than that.

He was born above his parents shop in Aungier St Dublin on 28 May 1779 & later attended Samuel Whyte's English grammar school whose other great alumni was the playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan, of whom Moore was one day to write a biography. It was while he was at Whyte’s  that he first developed his taste for the stage. On completing his scholarly studies he went on in 1795 to Trinity College to study for Law. At that time Ireland was in a state of ferment with Revolutionary sentiment sweeping the land. Moore too was swept along in the enthusiasm of the times but stopped short of fully committing himself to violent Revolution. In April 1798, Moore was acquitted at Trinity on the charge of being a party, through the Society of United Irishmen, to sedition.

The following year he departed for London where he continued his law studies at the Middle Temple. He was gradually drawn into the artistic world of this great metropolis and the necessity in those days of acquiring patrons to advance in Society. Moore's translations of Anacreon, celebrating wine, women and song, was published in 1800 with a dedication to the Prince of Wales. In 1801, Moore published a collection of his own verse: Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Little Esq. However nothing really came of any of this and in 1803 he sailed across the Atlantic  to become the registrar of the Admiralty Prize Court in Bermuda. He hated it and soon found a replacement so that he could travel to the USA and tour the Great Republic. He hated there too & the people he met even more, especially those with an attachment to the institution of Slavery.

On his return to London he built on his experience and acquainted himself with some of the most illustrious members of the City's’ artistic community. However the making of his name undoubtedly rests on his writing the lyrics to the work known as ‘Irish Melodies’ [1808] based on a collection of  old Irish compositions. The principal source for the tunes was Edward Bunting's A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music [1797]. The scores were arranged by Dublin born Sir John Andrew Stevenson with Moore putting the lyrics to them. They were an immediate & huge success and many of them are still extant in the singing world to this day e.g.  the "The Last Rose of Summer", "The Minstrel Boy", "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms" and "Oft in the Stilly Night" becoming immensely popular.

Thomas Moore was much involved in Politics as a ‘squib’ writer for the Whig party in England that was by the standards of the time was more progressive in outlook to Reform of the political order. He came under the patronage of various members of the Whig Establishment though how much he financially made directly or if anything at all is problematical - he always denied that he did. Though in that Age patronage was pretty well essential to open doors into Society.

Moore was also an actor and a singer of some note and he returned to Ireland on many occasions to perform on the stage. Through this medium he met his one & only wife  Elizabeth "Bessy" Dyke, they had five children together but alas they all pre-deceased their parents.

Possibly next to being the author of the lyrics for Irish Melodies the most famous or infamous incident in his life was his part in destroying the unpublished memoirs of his great companion Lord Byron who had entrusted the manuscript to him for safekeeping. However after the poets’ death [1824] Lady Byron wanted it destroyed as its contents were judged too shocking by those closest to him in this life. In what some were to call the greatest literary crime of the century, in Moore's presence the family solicitors tore up all extant copies of the manuscript and burned them in the fireplace!

Thomas Moore spent most of his professional life in London but never forgot his Homeland and lauded the efforts of the men of 1798 and 1803 to free her from Oppression. He much admired Lord Edward Fitzgerald one of the great heroes of the Rising of 1798. He had a particular contempt for Lord Castlereagh who had facilitated the passing of the Act of Union [1800] that abolished Ireland’s Parliament.

On point of Religion Moore took a middling course between Catholicism and the Anglican Church, he was theologically a doubter but could not completely break away from the religious culture of his upbringing - today he would probably be called a ‘Cultural Catholic’.

History & Biography was another subject to which he turned his pen and he published a Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Memoirs of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan the latter being a great success. His ‘History of Ireland’ published in four volumes between 1835 and 1846, was an enormous work but did not catch the public’s imagination.

But by the late 1840s his powers were fading and with his wife and all his children dead he drifted into senility. The end came on 25 February 1852 in his seventy-third year and he was buried at Bromham, near Devizes in Wiltshire. His epitaph in St. Nicholas churchyard grave is inscribed:

    Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,
    The cold chain of silence had hung o'er thee long;
    When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee.
    And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song!







25‭ ‬February 1570: Saint Pope Pius V [above*] excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England on this day. He issued a Papal Bull called Regnans in Excelsis (‘ruling from on high’) that absolved all her subjects from any obligations of allegiance to her. It read in part as follows:

"We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication."

As Elizabeth claimed Ireland as part of her inheritance this Papal decree released by inference the Catholics of Ireland from any sense of obligation to her they may have felt.‭ While the excommunication was of no personal interest to Elizabeth - who had long since abandoned the Catholic Faith - the political ramifications were profound. The Excommunication made her dealings with the Catholic Powers of Europe more problematical and difficult and increased the chances of Spain under Philip II in particular lending his support to revolts within these islands.

In response she increased anti-Catholic persecution and set out to eliminate the presence of the Jesuits from her Realms.‭ The position of the ‘New English’ Protestants in Ireland was made even more precarious as the Catholics here saw that the Pope himself was now openly opposed to her rule. The English Monarch did not have a high opinion of the Irish anyway as she expressed in a Letter to Sir Francis Walsingham in that month of February 1570:

We have heard and knowne it to be true,‭ that certain savage rebells, being men of no valour, had fled out of our realme of Ireland into Spaine, and to cover their lewdness, and procure both reliefe for themselves and for such like as they are in Ireland, they do pretend their departure out of the land for matter of religion, where indeed they be neither of one nor other religion, but given to beastiality, and yet have they writt enough to shewe hypocrisy for their purpose.

While tenuous on off relations between the Vatican and St James Palace continued in the years after Elizabeth’s reign it was not until the French Revolution that regular envoys were exchanged. Full relations were not established until April 1 1982 when Sir Mark Heath presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II and thus became the United Kingdom’s first ever ambassador to the Holy See.




Wednesday, 24 February 2021

 





24 February 1943: Thirty five girls and their 80 year old cook were killed when fire swept through their dormitory at St. Joseph's Orphanage & Industrial School in Cavan Town on this day.

In the early hours the morning a fire broke out in the basement laundry of the Orphanage. The Institution was run by the enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns who were charged with the protection of the girls. The fire & smoke spread very rapidly and quickly took hold. Local people did their best to try and rescue those within. When entry was finally gained it was too late to reach many of the terrified screaming children trapped in the top floor dormitories. 

The children who died were on the top floors of the building and on the night in question the three dormitories there contained 67 souls incl. 3 adults. On the next floor down there was one dormitory in which were 22 individuals incl.1 adult who all escaped the conflagration. In total 89 persons were present on the night in the actual Orphanage.

The local fire service was totally overwhelmed and by the time they had brought their inadequate equipment to bear the flames had taken hold, the roof had caved in and the building was soon firmly ablaze. Thirty five children and an elderly lay woman were burned to death when the roof of the building collapsed. The following day what remained of the thirty six bodies were recovered from the blackened ruins. They were put in just eight coffins and buried subsequently in a mass grave.

An Official State enquiry was held that reached the conclusion that in all probability the origin of the fire was a faulty flue in the chimney that set a clothes hanger on fire in the Laundry room and that those who died could have been brought to safety in time if they had been brought down to safety immediately instead of their supervisor going to get help & being unable to return to her charges before the smoke took hold.

REPORT OF THE

Tribunal Of Inquiry Into The Fire

AT ST. JOSEPH'S ORPHANAGE, MAIN STREET, CAVAN found:

That the loss of life was caused by combination of circumstances, namely,

(a) fright or panic resulting in faulty directions being given;

(b ) want of training in fire-fighting, including rapid

evacuation of personnel and movement in smoke laden atmosphere

(c ) lack of proper leadership and control of operations;

(d) want of knowledge of the lay-out 'of the premises on the part of persons from outside;

(e) inadequate rescue and firefighting service at the proper time;

(I) the absence of light at a critical period

362.7320941698-Report St. Joseph's Orphanage PDF.pdf (nuigalway.ie)

The children who died were:

Mary Harrison -15 years of age from Dublin

Mary Hughes - 15 years of age from Killeshandra

Ellen McHugh -15 years of age from Blacklion

Kathleen & Frances Kiely - 12 & 9 years of age from Virginia

Mary & Margaret Lynch - 15 & 10 years of age from Cavan

Josephine & Mona Cassidy - 15 & 11 years of age from Belfast

Kathleen Reilly – 14 years of age from Butlersbridge

Mary  & Josephine Carroll – 12 yrs & 10 years of age from Castlerahan

Mary & Susan McKiernan - 16 & 14 years of age from Dromard

Rose Wright – 11 years of age from Ballyjamesduff

Mary & Nora Barrett - 12 years of age -Twins – from Dublin

Mary Kelly - 10 years of age from Ballinagh

Mary Brady – 7 years of age from Ballinagh

Dorothy Daly – 7 years of age from Cootehill

Mary Ivers – 12 years of age from Kilcoole Wicklow

Philomena Regan – 9 years of age from Dublin

Harriet & Ellen Payne - 11 & 8 years of age from Dublin

Teresa White – 6 years of age from Dublin

Mary Roche - 6 years of age from Dublin

Ellen Morgan – 10 years of age from Virginia

Elizabeth Heaphy - 4 years of age from Swords

Mary O'Hara – 7 years of age from Kilnaleck

Bernadette Serridge - 5 years of age from Dublin

Katherine & Margaret Chambers - 9 & 7 years of age from Enniskillen

Mary Lowry – 17 years of age from Drumcrow, Cavan

Bridget & Mary Galligan - 17 & 18 years of age Drumcassidy, Cavan

&

Mary Smith 80 years of age employed as Cook



Tuesday, 23 February 2021


 23‭ February 1886: Lord Randolph Churchill of the Conservative Party spoke at a meeting in Belfast in which he is said to have  uttered the phrase ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’

‭The Liberals had won the General Election the previous year but had not secured an overall majority. ‬Lord Churchill was anxious to undermine the rapport that had developed between the Liberal Party under William Gladstone and the Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell.‭ ‬They thus relied on Parnell to secure their hold on the House of Commons. The price for such support was Gladstone committing himself to bring forward a Bill for Home Rule for Ireland in the current session of Parliament. 

Churchill was fundamentally opposed to Home Rule and planned to use his name in Ulster to give heart to those within the ranks of the Orange Order that were prepared to resist by any means the bringing in of such a measure.‭ He had written to a friend some days previously what his plan was:

I decided some time ago that if the G.O.M.‭* ‬went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two.

‭* Grand Old Man – Mr Gladstone

The revitalised Orange Order had sponsored meetings for all who were against Home Rule.‭ ‬It arranged the meeting in the Ulster Hall at which the main speaker was to be Lord Randolph Churchill himself. He gave, to a wildly enthusiastic audience, this slogan that was to become their rallying cry in the years ahead...

Thus began the close association between the Conservative Party and the Unionists in Ireland that was to such a feature of Anglo-Irish relations for decades to come. It should be noted though that he may not have actually uttered these words - but he never actually denied saying them either! 

His more famous son Sir Winston Churchill was twice Prime Minister of Gt .Britain & led her to Victory in the Second World War.



Monday, 22 February 2021

 


22 February 1832: Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery, Dublin opened its gates on this day. The first internment was of Michael Carey, aged 11, of Francis Street. 

Michael Carey was born in Dublin’s Francis Street in 1821. His father was a scrap metal dealer. Michael has the auspicious legacy of being the very first burial in Glasnevin cemetery when it opened its gates. He died aged 11 on the 22nd February 1832. His gravestone by the original gate into the cemetery points out that he was the first to be interred. From that day to now, over 1 ½ million Irish people, from politicians to poets, revolutionaries to railway engineers, from shoemakers to soldiers,  have been laid to rest under the same earth as this young boy.

https://www.glasnevintrust.ie/visit-glasnevin/interactive-map/michael-carey/

This place of burial was established to allow the Catholic population of the City to have a place to bury their dead without impediment. The old Penal Laws had meant that all bodies had to be interred in Protestant graveyards. With the coming of full Catholic Emancipation in 1829 the imperative to establish a graveyard free from religious connotations took hold. When Glasnevin opened it was for the use of every person of regardless of Religion. The establishment of Prospect Cemetery coincided with burial reform and the rise of the 'garden cemetery' movement in Britain and Europe.

It now holds the graves of some 1.2 million people including those of many famous Irishmen and women. Amongst those were laid to rest within its walls are Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Eamon De Valera, James Larkin, Maud Gonne MacBride, Countess Markievicz, Ann Devlin, Brendan Behan, Michael Collins, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and many victims of the Great Famine.

There is now a full Museum on the site that tells the story of the establishment of the institution and the stories of some of the famous and indeed infamous people interred within.

 


22 February 1973: Elizabeth Bowen author, socialite and spy[?] died on this day. Of Anglo Irish stock she was born at 15 Herbert Place in the city of Dublin on 7 June 1899. Her parents were Henry Charles Cole Bowen and Florence (née Colley) Bowen. In 1907 her father declined into mental illness and she moved with her mother to England where they took up residence at the seaside town of Hythe in Kent. Tragedy was to strike her again though when her mother died in 1912. After that she was brought up by a committee of Aunts and shunted back and forth between them.

It was only as she grew older that she realised the chasm between the closed world of the Anglo-Irish set she belonged to and the bulk of the Catholic population of Ireland:
‘It was not until after the end of those seven winters that I understood that we Protestants were a minority, and that the unquestioned rules of our being came, in fact, from the closeness of a minority world’...
I took the existence of Roman Catholics for granted but met few and was not interested in them. They were simply “the others,” whose world lay alongside ours but never touched.'
Elizabeth Bowen, Bowen’s Court & Seven Winters: Memories of a Dublin Childhood, (London: Virago, 1984;1942)

After some time at art school in London she decided that her talent lay in writing. She mixed with the Bloomsbury Group, which contained some the most talented and outrageous (for the time) people involved in the London Arts scene. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Encounters was published in 1923. It was in that year she married one Alan Cameron. He had served in the Great War in which he was badly gassed. The marriage has been described as "a sexless but contented union." The marriage was reportedly never consummated! She reputedly had numerous extra martial affairs with other men though they stayed married until his death in 1952.

The great love of her life was Charles Ritchie, a Canadian diplomat of great charm and intelligence from a privileged Nova Scotia background. They first met in 1941 and continued an On-Off relationship for over 30 years until her death. She really could not live without knowing that he loved her - but to him she was a fascinating creature though not the absolute centre of his life. He later married another woman and that must have hurt Elizabeth - but there was nothing she could really do about it.

But while an author of some note its clear her personal life was an unsettled one. The loss of her parents while still a child must have had a had a huge impact on her psyche that left her reserved and unsure in human relations though with a great deal of silent perception on the frailties of the human condition. Though somewhat cryptic in style her reading of human nature was what made her novels such gems in the way she described her characters and the rarefied world that they moved through.

Strangely in Ireland she is remembered as much for her writing reports from here during the Second World War to the British Ministry of Information in London about the attitudes and feelings of the Great and the Ordinary towards Britain and the War - for which some have labelled her a ‘Spy’. A matter of opinion really.

She tried to spend as much time as possible at her beloved Bowen’s Court in Cork, the family seat she inherited in 1930. But while it was a idyll away from the drudgery of London its upkeep was a huge burden on her finances. Eventually it led her to a nervous breakdown, a string of unpaid debts and the sale and eventual demolition of Bowens Court in 1960. She returned to London and witnessed the ‘Swinging Sixties’ there. A smoker she developed Lung Cancer in 1972. That year she saw out her last Christmas in Ireland staying with friends in Kinsale Co Cork. She died in London on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in Farahy Co Cork  churchyard, close to the gates of Bowen's Court, where there is a memorial plaque to her.

Her best-known novels are The Death of the Heart and The Heat of the Day, but her own favourite was The Last September, published when she was still in her 20s; it was, she said, the work of hers “nearest to my heart”.

Her prose is so subtle and allusive that it would be a disservice to quote from her, but read almost any descriptive passage in The Last September and you will understand her greatness.
John Banville Irish Times 7 March 2015




Sunday, 21 February 2021

 


21‭ February 1922: A new Police Force, the ‘Civic Guard’ began its first Recruitment campaign on this day. It was intended to replace the Royal Irish Constabulary as the instrument charged with Law enforcement within the prospective Irish Free State that was due to come into full operation by the end of the year. 

In January‭ 1922, the Provisional Government had decided that the Royal Irish Constabulary was to be disbanded "as soon as possible". They decided to replace the Republican Police with a regular police force under a trained police officer. Michael Collins had reported to the Provisional Government on 28 January that a police organising committee was being formed, that would include members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police.

The committee held their first meeting in the Gresham Hotel on Thursday,‭ 9 February, with General Richard Mulcahy, Michael Collins, and Michael J. Staines among those in attendance. Work was started immediately under Michael Staines T.D. [above] as the acting chairman. A veteran of the Easter Rising he had been active in the administration of the National Arbitration Courts and the Republican Police during the War of Independence. 

Volunteer Brigade Officers around the Country were requested to dispatch suitable recruits for training to a temporary headquarters at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge,‭ ‬Dublin. Any candidates who attended for examination were to be at least 5' 9", unmarried and between the ages of 19 and 27. They were compelled to sit examinations in reading spelling and arithmetic to gain entry as cadets. The first man to join the Civic Guard was an ex RIC man P. J. Kerrigan.

However the name‭ ‘Civic Guard’ was not formally decided upon until 27 February and on the following 10 March, Michael Joseph Staines was formally appointed as its first Commissioner. In August of the following year the Police Force of the State was renamed An Garda Síochána  (Guardians of the Peace) and has remained the name of the Force ever since. Michael Staines was then retrospectively recognised as the first Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. His most famous saying was that:

The Garda Síochána will succeed,‭ ‬not by force of arms or numbers, but by their moral authority as servants of the people.



Saturday, 20 February 2021

 


20 February 1644: The Execution of Sir Connor Maguire - ‘The Maguire’ of Fermanagh at Tyburn, London on this day*. He was hanged, drawn and quartered for ‘High Treason’. Maguire had been one of the leaders of the 1641 Rising in Ireland and was tasked with seizing Dublin Castle from the English. At the last moment the plans were discovered and the plot was aborted. He was quickly captured and eventually confessed to his role in the affair.

 In June 1642 he and other prisoners were sent over to London and held in the Tower under severe conditions. They were then sent to Newgate Prison and held as ‘close prisoners’ - bread and water diet in close confinement. Moved back to the Tower they were treated somewhat better. The guard loosened Maguire and others managed to escape but while waiting for a ship to the Continent they were recognised and recaptured after just a few weeks of freedom.

'The peerage in Maguire’s case made a difficulty. There were several precedents for trying in England treasons committed in Ireland. That being admitted as good law, it was easy to show that an Irish peer was a commoner in England, and as such Maguire was tried. Many points of law were raised, but the facts were patent, and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. On the cart at Tyburn Maguire was cruelly harassed about religious matters, but he remained firm. He carried in his hand some curious papers, partly of a devotional character, with directions as to how he should bear himself. He declared that he forgave all his 'enemies and defenders, even those that have a hand in my death,' and that he died a Roman catholic.'
Dictionary of National Biography

On February 20 1644 Lord Maguire to whom the executioner would have shown some favour by leaving him to hang on the gallows until he should be quite dead and meanwhile the executioner was busy kindling the fire with which his entrails were to be burned after his death but so inhuman were the officers that they totally denied Lord Maguire the services of one of our Fathers on the scaffold and they waited not for the executioner but one of them cut the rope with a halberd and let the Lord Maguire drop alive and then called the executioner to open him alive and very ill the executioner did it the said Lord Maguire making resistance with his hand and defending himself with such little strength as he had; and such was the cruelty that for sheer compassion the executioner bore not to look upon him in such torment, and, to have done with him, speedily handled his knife well and cut his throat.
Letter from Father Hugh Burke, bishop of Kilmacduagh
Eyewitness to Irish History
By Peter Berresford Ellis
* Near Marble Arch


Friday, 19 February 2021

 


19 February 1921: Brigadier-General Frank Percy Crozier CB, CMG DSO the head of the
 ‘ Black and Tans’ submitted his resignation on this day. The General was disgusted at the undisciplined antics of many of the ‘cadets’  under his command of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary  (RIC). He had made inquiries that seemed to him to point the finger of blame at men under his nominal control in the murder of Father Griffin in Galway and the projected murder of Bishop Fogarty. He had sent back in disgrace 21 of the more outrageous members of his force to Britain only to discover that General Tudor, the overall head of the RIC, had recalled them for duty in Ireland. This proved a catalyst in Crozier deciding to resign his position.  

Following questions put to Sir Hamar Greenwood, Chief Secretary for Ireland, by the Irish MP Captain Redmond in the House of Commons this news became public and the affair became an open scandal. The notorious reputation of the ‘Black & Tans’ was further enhanced and their bloody reign was now open for all to see. 

Born in Bermuda in 1879 Crozier spent a great deal of his youth in Ireland but was educated in England. He had seen active service in the Boer War and later in Northern Nigeria. He served in World War One leading the 9th Royal Irish Rifles, whose rank and file were drawn from Loyalist West Belfast. He led them 'over the top' on 1 July 1916 and displayed great bravery but also ruthlessness against those who wilted in the advance on the German positions. 

He was a hard man if ever there was one and an Empire Loyalist to boot. He was somewhat eccentric in his opinions and actions and not everyone found him a trustworthy character. But even he found the actions of some of his subordinates unacceptable and of course no fighting force can survive if discipline is not enforced. In this instance he really had no choice but to resign once his Authority over his men was flouted  by those above him in the Chain of Command.

Crozier drifted off into obscurity after this and spent his last years putting his energies and pen to the cause of peace,  denouncing war as a means of settling international disputes in a series of books that sought to portray war with uncompromising brutality. These included ‘A Brass Hat in No Mans Land’ about his time on the Western Front with amongst others the 36th Ulster Division and  ‘Ireland Forever’ on his time in charge of the ‘Black & Tans’. He died in 1937.


Thursday, 18 February 2021

 


18 February 1366: The Viceroy of Ireland , Lionel Duke of Clarence summoned a Parliament at Kilkenny on this day. From this emerged in the following year the series of infamous ordinances that became popularly known as the ‘Statutes of Kilkenny’ and were designed to put a legal framework on the division of Ireland into two separate peoples: the English and the Irish. In fact it was one Statute and contained thirty-five articles of note.

It was officially entitled:

A Statute of the Fortieth Year of King Edward III., enacted in a parliament held in Kilkenny, A.D. 1367, before Lionel Duke of Clarence, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

For instance if any man took a name after the Irish fashion, used the Irish language, or dress, or mode of riding (without saddle), or adopted any other Irish customs, all his lands and houses were forfeited, and he himself was put into jail till he could find security that he would comply with the law. The Irish living among the English were permitted to remain, but were forbidden to use the Irish language under the same penalty. To use or submit to the Brehon law [Gaelic Law] or to exact 'coyne and livery' [extractions and billeting of soldiers on households] was treason. The Irish game of Hurling was also banned - a game which is still played today - esp in Kilkenny!

The Statute of Kilkenny, though not exhibiting quite so hostile a spirit against the Irish as we find sometimes represented, yet carried out consistently the vicious and fatal policy of separation adopted by the government from the beginning. It was intended to apply only to the English, and was framed entirely in their interests. Its chief aim was to withdraw them from all contact with the "Irish enemies"--so the natives are designated all through the act--to separate the two races for evermore.

A Concise History of Ireland by P. W. Joyce

Lionel was the third son of King Edward III [above] and certainly was well placed to have the King’s ear on matters relating to how to rule over Ireland. Nevertheless the Duke of Clarence did not have much success in Ireland and these measures were more the result of desperation than the confident exercise of power by him. They were more an attempt to hold back the tide as the English Colony in Ireland continued to disintegrate and shrink in size and influence.

Bizarrely the noble Duke was not long to survive his sojourn in Ireland, some years later he died suddenly at Alba in the province of Piedmont in northern Italy while enjoying the comforts of his second wife, one Violante Visconti, daughter of the Lord of Pavia. He was probably poisoned by his father in Law in order to block the enormous Dowry he demanded as payment for marrying the man’s daughter!


Wednesday, 17 February 2021

 



17 February 1980:The finding of the Derrynaflan hoard in Killeens bog Co. Tipperary in that year was one of the greatest Irish archaeological discoveries of modern times.

Derrynaflan is a small island of mineral soil. The site was an important monastery in the eighth and ninth centuries and came under the patronage of the King-Bishops of Cashel. 

The hoard was discovered by Michael Webb and his son Michael Jr. while metal detecting at the National Monument on 17 February 1980. The hoard consisted of a highly decorated ninth century silver chalice, a large eighth century paten and stand an eighth century liturgical strainer and an eighth to ninth century bronze basin. The objects in the hoard date to different periods and did not originally constitute a single communion set. The treasure appears to have been buried in the ninth or tenth centuries to conceal it, probably from Viking raiders. The hoard is on display in the national Museum in Kildare St. Dublin.

The discovery of the hoard lead to years of legal action between the finders and the Irish state that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In the course of the legal action the law of Treasure Trove, which had operated in Ireland since medieval times, was found to be incompatible with Irish law. This resulted in the 1994 National Monuments Act that vested in the state the ownership of all archaeological objects.


Tuesday, 16 February 2021



16‭ February 1932: A General Election held in the Irish Free State on this day. The president of the Executive Council, W.T. Cosgrave, [above top] called the election early as he wished to have it out of the way in time for the Commonwealth Conference of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and he felt that a fresh mandate was needed. He fought the campaign on a programme of bringing political stability to the State and that a change of Government would see people sympathetic to republicanism and communism in power.

Eamon De Valera [above below] on the other hand promised to free IRA prisoners,‭ abolish the Oath to the King of England and to reduce the powers of the Governor General. He also indicated that more equitable social policies would be introduced at a time when the Great Depression was in full swing.

The general election took place in 30 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Irish Free State for 153 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. In the event there was a change of Government and Eamon de Valera won the contest.‭ Fianna Fáil received 566,498 votes and won 72 seats as opposed to Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhael, which got 449,506 votes and secured 57 seats. 

The Labour Party returned with just 7 seats on a vote from 98,286 of the electorate. While De Valera was still five seats short of an overall majority, he struck an informal deal with the Labour Party to back him up. On that basis he was able to govern the Free State with a fair deal of parliamentary political stability over the next few years.

This change of government marked a watershed in the history of the State as De Valera went on to abolish the Oath to the King of England [that all T.D.s who entered Dáil Éireann had to take], release the prisoners and to gave the State a much more Republican flavour including a new Constitution some years later.‭ He remained in power through an unbroken series of election victories until 1948.



 

Monday, 15 February 2021



15 February 1853:‭ The loss of the paddle steamship, the Queen Victoria on this day. She went down on the rocks off the Bailey Lighthouse on Howth head near Dublin on this day. Over 80 lives were lost as she struck this outcrop of the peninsula in a blinding snowstorm.

This precipitous portion of the coast was the scene of a lamentable shipping disaster in‭ 1853. The steamship Queen Victoria, on a voyage from Liverpool to Dublin, with about 100 passengers and cargo, struck on the southern side of the Casana rock during a dense snowstorm, between 2 and 3 o'clock on the morning of the 15th February. Eight of the passengers managed to scramble overboard on to the rocks, from which they made their way up the cliffs to the Bailey Lighthouse. The captain, without further delay, ordered the vessel to be backed, so as to float her clear of the rocks, but she proved to be more seriously injured than was imagined, and began to fill rapidly when she got into deep water. Drifting helplessly towards the Bailey, she struck the rocky base of the Lighthouse promontory, and sank in fifteen minutes afterwards, with her bowsprit touching the shore. The Roscommon steamer fortunately happened to pass while the ill-fated vessel was sinking, and, attracted by the signals of distress, Promptly put out all her boats and rescued between 40 and 50 of the passengers. About 60, however, were drowned, including the captain.

After a protracted inquest extending over several days,‭ the jury found that the disaster was due to the culpable negligence of the captain and the first mate, in failing to slacken speed during a snowstorm which obscured all lights, they well knowing at the time that they were approaching land. The mate was subsequently put on trial for manslaughter. It was believed by many that if the captain had not, in the first instance, backed off the rocks into deep water, all on board could have been saved.
The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St. John Joyce.

A subsequent Board of Trade inquiry blamed the ship's captain and first officer, as well as the lighthouse crew. A fog bell was supposed to have been installed in the lighthouse in 1846, seven years earlier, but was delayed due to costs of other construction projects. The bell was finally installed in April 1853, as a result of the Queen Victoria shipwreck and the subsequent inquiry. At least one attempt to raise the ship was made afterwards, which failed, and the ship was salvaged where she lay. The wreck is still in place.

Members of the Marlin Sun Aqua Club, Dublin discovered the wreck in 1983. They reported their discovery to the authorities, and were in part responsible for having the first Underwater Preservation Order placed on a shipwreck in Irish waters. They also carried out the first underwater survey on such a wreck. The wreck was the first to be protected by The National Monuments Act (Historic Wreck), when the order was granted in 1984, thanks to representations made by Kevin Crothers, IUART, and the Maritime Institute of Ireland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_Queen_Victoria_(1838)


 

Sunday, 14 February 2021

 


4 February 1981: A fire at the Stardust Night Club, Dublin killed 48 young people on this day. The origin, source and cause of the fire still remain a mystery but what is not in doubt is that the huge loss of life was caused by inadequate safety measures. The building was not purpose built as a place of entertainment. It was in fact a converted jam factory that obviously was not designed to hold within its walls so many people for such a purpose. Even more astonishing is that many of the fire exits were chained shut, ostensibly to avoid people entering the premises without paying. The victims were all young people enjoying a night out and the fire spread so rapidly that panic ensued as the lights went out and acrid thick smoke quickly engulfed the premises.

Hundreds fled for their lives as the building went up in minutes. The failure of the lighting in the club led to widespread panic causing mass trampling as many of the patrons instinctively ran for the main entrance. Many people mistook the entrance to the men's toilets for the main entrance doors but the windows there had metal plates fixed on the inside and iron bars on the outside. Firemen attempted in vain to pull off the metal bars using a chain attached to a fire engine. Firemen rescued between 25-30 of those trapped in the front toilets.

Dublin’s Emergency Disaster Plan was implemented and the bodies of the dead and dying and those burned, some horribly, were ferried to all the City’s major hospitals. The City Morgue could not cope with so many being brought in at once and the Army had to set up tents to hold the bodies of those who died until they could be identified by their loved ones. Scenes of heart rending grief were witness in the days that followed as these identifications were carried out and the funerals took place.

Thelma Frazer could only be identified by the jewellery she wore to the Stardust disco. [above]In at least five instances a formal identification was not possible as some bodies were burned beyond recognition. Recent advances in DNA though mean that at last this can now be resolved.

As it so happened the Fianna Fáil Party were holding their Ard Fheis that same weekend
but once news broke of the terrible loss of life the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey cancelled the proceedings as a mark of respect. The import of such a terrible event as this was not lost upon him as the Stardust was within his own Constituency and he knew the families of many of the victims. He attended many of the funerals himself and indeed was seen in tears on at least one occasion as the internments took place.

To this day no certain cause as to how the fire started has been established - whether it was arson or accident.

The names of those who died are:
Michael Barrett, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Richard Bennett, Coolock, Dublin 5
Carol Bissett, Ringsend, Dublin 4.
James Buckley, Donnycarney, Dublin 5.
Paula Byrne, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Caroline Carey, Coolock, Dublin 5.
John Colgan, Swords, Co. Dublin.
Jacqueline Croker, Killmore West, Dublin 5.
Liam Dunne, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Michael Farrell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
David Flood, Beaumount, Dublin 5.
Thelma Frazer, Sandymount, Dublin 4.
Michael French, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Josephine Glenn, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Michael Griffiths, Killmore, Dublin 5.
Robert Hillock, Twinbrook, Belfast.
Brian Hobbs, Whitehall, Dublin 9.
Eugene Hogan, Artane, Dublin 5.
Murtagh Kavanagh, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Martina Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Mary Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Robert Kelly, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Mary Kennedy, Killbarrack, Dublin 5.
Mary Kenny, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Margaret Kiernan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Sandra Lawless, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Francis Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.
Maureen Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.
Paula Lewis, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Eamon Loughman, Beaumont, Dublin 9.
George McDermott Raheny, Dublin 5.
Marcella McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.
William McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Julie McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Teresa McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Gerard McGrath, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Caroline McHugh, Artane, Dublin 5.
Donna Mahon, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Helena Mangan, Coolock,
James Millar, Twinbrook, Belfast.
Susan Morgan, Derry.
David Morton, Artane, Dublin 5.
Kathleen Muldoon Kells, Co. Meath.
George O'Conner, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Brendan O'Meara Coolock, Dublin 5.
John Stout, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Margaret Thornton, Dublin 8.
Paul Wade, Artane, Dublin 5.
and not forgetting the 215 injured...


Saturday, 13 February 2021

 


13 February 1871 Joseph Devlin, journalist and politician was born in Belfast on this day. He was raised in the lower Falls area of the city & was raised in the Nationalist tradition. On leaving school he got a job as a clerk and then became involved in the Pub Trade eventually running a Licensed Premises for a  brewery company ran by the Nationalist Samuel Young MP.

However from an early stage Devlin was noted for his remarkable skills of oratory which he put to good effect in debating the merits of Ireland having her own Parliament to decide her own affairs at home i.e. ‘Home Rule for Ireland’. 

During the 1890s he was an active nationalist organiser& founded the United Irish League (UIL) branch in Belfast in 1898.  He was elected unopposed  as Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) MP for Kilkenny North in 1902.  The Party then sent him to the USA on the first of several successful fund-raising missions.

While there he was very impressed with the Society of Ancient Hibernians & on his return home he used their members and skills to take over control of branches of the UIL & became the General Secretary of the Organisation. He then came to form a close bond with John Dillon MP of the IPP  & moved the UIL into a semi official alliance with his line of thinking which was to avoid compromise with the Landlord class. In tandem Devlin used his links with the AOH [in which he became a Grandmaster] to use its members to effectively control the UIL as well. Under his tutelage the AOH expanded from 10,000 members in 1905 to 60,000 in 1909.

In the 1906 general election, Devlin was re-elected to Kilkenny North, and also to Belfast West which he regained from the Unionists by 16 votes. Choosing to retain the Belfast seat, he served as its MP beyond 1918. He was the Leader of the North as far as Nationalism was concerned and something of an enforcer too against those throughout the Country who deviated from the program of the IPP.

In August 1914 Ireland was on the point of Civil War between Unionists & Nationalists over the Home Rule Crises when the Great War broke out. The Leader of the IPP John Redmond decided to support the War effort & encouraged Irishmen to join the Colours and take part in the Conflict. In this Devlin backed him and in the northern counties there was widespread nationalist recruitment into the British Army. Home Rule was put on hold for the duration of the War.

After the 1916 Easter Rising Devlin compromised with Northern Nationalists agreeing on a temporary six-county exclusion to assist Lloyd George's abortive home rule negotiations, organising a convention which endorsed his stance by a vote of 475 to 265. In April 1918 Devlin opposed the Conscription Bill & was returned for West Belfast in the December  ‘Khaki Election’ of that year, one of only six IPP members to do so! He really took a back seat after that but was present in the House of Commons in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday in November 1920 & when he attempted to raise the Atrociety he was shouted down & physically attacked by a fellow member the House.

He had an on- off relationship with the new northern parliament at Stormont, first opposing it then reluctantly taking his seat in 1925 just so the nationalist voice would not be left completely unheard. But after PR was abolished there in 1929 he chose to stand in Fermanagh -South Tyrone and represented the constituency until 1932 at Westminster where he won an amendment to the Northern Ireland Education Act of 1930 which improved the funding of Catholic schools.

A popular and outgoing character he was well known to his constituents and organised ‘Summer Fetes’  that were very well attended. A Director of Distillery Company and chairman of the ‘Irish News’ paper he was comfortably well off but never married.

A lifelong bachelor, Devlin, though short in stature (he was known in Belfast as ‘Wee Joe’ – and by Tim Healy , less affectionately, as ‘the duodecimo* Demosthenes’  was apparently highly attractive to women, and took a special interest in their problems. He was to found a holiday home for working-class women. Belfast linen workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s remembered him as a champion of the workers decades after his death.

* pocket size

He died in Belfast on 18 January 1934 and his funeral was at St Peters on the Falls Rd which was attended by members of both the Stormont & Leinster House Governments. He was buried in Milltown Cemetery.

.

 



13 February 1820: Leonard McNally, playwright, barrister, United Irishman and an Informer died on this day. He was born in Dublin in 1752, and became a barrister in England before returning home to practise at the Irish Bar. He was one of the original members of the Society of United Irishmen and came to and defended many of its members in the Courts. He turned informer in 1794 following the arrest of the French agent the Rev Jackson.  The general opinion is that his nerve snapped under threats during interrogation but the exact circumstances that led to his decision to become a tout remain unclear.

His play Robin Hood (1784) was playing in Dublin on the night in 1798 when Lord Edward Fitzgerald was captured on foot of information he had provided. During the Rising of 1798 and in 1803 he found himself in the bizarre situation of taking money both from revolutionary defendants before the Courts and from Dublin Castle for providing them with information that would compromise his clients. While some had their doubts, and indeed one ‘doubter’ sent him a snake in a parcel from America as a token of gratitude, his dark secret remained hidden until his death in 1820. Ironically he was given a Patriots funeral. It was only when his family demanded that his pension of £300  per annum be continued that his secret life as a traitor was exposed.

He died at 22 Harcourt-street Dublin, 13th February 1820, aged 68. Then only did his treachery appear. His heir claimed a continuance of a secret service pension of £300 a year, which his father had enjoyed since 1798. The Lord-Lieutenant demanded a detailed statement of the circumstances under which the agreement had been made; it was furnished after some hesitation, and the startling fact became generally known, not only that he had been in regular receipt of the pension claimed, but that during the state trials of 1798 and 1803, while he was receiving fees from the prisoners to defend them, he also accepted large sums from Government to betray the secrets of their defence. The Cornwallis Correspondence, Madden's Lives of the United Irishmen, and communications from Mr. FitzPatrick in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, put all this beyond doubt.
A Compendium of Irish Biography: Richard Webb Dublin 1878
http://www.libraryireland.com/biography/index.php

Friday, 12 February 2021

 



12 February 1976: The Hunger Striker Frank Stagg died after 61 days on hunger strike in Wakefield Prison, Yorkshire, on this day. He had been on hunger strike in protest at the British government's refusal to transfer him to a prison in Ireland. He had been arrested in Coventry in 1973 and had been given a sentence of 10 years for criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson. He initially went on Hunger Strike in 1974 along with others to gain repatriation to Ireland. In this strike his comrade Michael Gaughan died and Stagg felt a degree of moral responsibility for convincing him to embark upon it.

While other hunger strikers were sent back the British refused to move Stagg and he was incarcerated in Long Lartin Prison. Here he was subjected to prolonged periods of Solitary Confinement for and again went on hunger strike. Eventually the Prison Governor relented and Stagg called off his strike. In 1975 he was transferred to Wakefield Prison where he again refused to do prison work. Just before Christmas that year he and others again embarked on a Hunger strike. Their demand were: An end to Solitary Confinement; No Prison Work and Repatriation to Ireland. He died on 12 February 1976.

When his body was returned to Ireland his coffin was seized by the Government and buried under concrete so that it could not be interred in the Republican Plot in Ballina, Co Mayo. However in November 1976, a group of republicans tunnelled under the concrete to recover the coffin under cover of darkness and reburied it in the Republican plot.


Thursday, 11 February 2021

 

11‭ February 1867: The abortive Fenian Raid on Chester Castle on this day. An audacious plan had been put together by the Fenian Leadership to seize the arsenal at Chester Castle in England.  The plotters would then bring the considerable stock of weapons and ammunition held there to Ireland where they would be distributed to the volunteers in order to overthrow British rule. So much for the plan - but the night before it was to be put into operation the whole scheme was betrayed to the local police by an informer from within the Movement. It had been betrayed by John Carr, alias Corydon who was a paid informer. The cache of rifles had been removed from the castle and the garrison quickly reinforced by another 70 regular soldiers from Manchester.

Despite efforts to turn their men back,‭ an estimated 1,300 Fenians reached Chester, in small parties from Manchester, Preston, Halifax, Leeds and elsewhere. Mostly, they discarded what few weapons they had and melted away. The next day, with nothing now happening, a further 500 household troops arrived by train from London in time for a tumultuous reception and breakfast at Chester hotels.

The man who was the mastermind of the projected operation was John McCafferty,‭ ‬US Citizen and an ex Irish American soldier who had served in the Confederate Army in the American Civil War. Once he realised that his cover had been blown he effected a quick escape with the intention of making it back to Dublin. His accomplice was John Flood and as a result of the hunt now on for them they decided to return to Ireland by collier and not a passage steamer which were all being watched. The ship they returned home on was called the New Draper.

However,‭ when the New Draper arrived at Dublin on the 23rd February 1867, the harbour was being watched. The two Fenians were to be put ashore from the vessel in an oyster boat, but were spotted by policemen, and their vessel was pursued in a chase across the river Liffey involving a ferry, a canal boat and a collier and the men were arrested. Ultimately they were tried for ‘High Treason’ and McCafferty was sentenced to life imprisonment,  but he was released under an Amnesty in 1871.

 He returned to the US where he kept up the Fenian Campaign against Britain. He went back to Ireland in the 1870’s and became involved in Mayo bye election of 1874. After a further period of revolutionary activity when he became involved with the Invincibles he went back to America and disappeared.



Wednesday, 10 February 2021

 




10‭ February 1173: The death of Muiredhach Ua Cobhthaigh [Murtagh O’Coffey], the Bishop of Cenel-Eoghan on this day. He was a respected ecclesiastical figure in the North of Ireland and the focus of his influence was in the land of Tír Eoghan [Tyrone].

 While little is known about him during his time on Earth his eulogy in the Annals makes for interesting reading as to what was expected of an Irish Bishop in the 12th Century. Purity, wisdom and innocence were all prized virtues that Muiredhach practised. He ordained Priests and Deacons. He renovated and consecrated Churches and cemeteries and also built Churches and Monasteries throughout his Diocese. He was a man of great Charity and bestowed food and clothing amongst the wretched and unfortunate of his flock. As his end approached he did penance and made his way on his last pilgrimage to the monastery of Colm Cille at Derry and ‘sent forth his spirit unto heaven’ at this sacred place.

The night of his death coincided with a great astronomical event over the skies of Ireland when what was perhaps a large comet or meteor swept by the Earth at a very close distance overhead:
Now, a great marvel was wrought on the night he died,—the night was illuminated from Nocturne to the call of the cock and the whole world [was] a-blaze and a large mass of fire arose over the place and went south-east and every one arose, it seemed to them it was the day. And it was like that by the sea on the east.
Annals of Ulster 1173 A.D.


Tuesday, 9 February 2021

 


9 February 1815: Ellen Hutchins, Ireland’s first Lady botanist, died on this day. Miss Hutchins was a self effacing girl who kept herself to herself and steered a lonely path through this world. For solace in her life she turned to the study of the Natural World in the shores and creeks of her native Bantry in south west Ireland. Her pioneering work helped lay the foundations of the study of this Country’s Natural Flora and Fauna.

Ellen was born in 1785 at Ballylickey House, Bantry, Co. Cork, one of the six surviving children of Thomas and Elinor Hutchins. Her father was a wealthy protestant tenant of a catholic landowner, Lord Kenmare. But her father died when she was very young and eventually she was packed off the Dublin to stay with a Dr William Stokes and his family at Harcourt Street, Dublin. Dr Stokes was Professor of Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons from 1800 and he had a keen interest in botany, founding the Botanic Gardens at Trinity in 1806.  It was through Dr Stokes that Ellen met the next of her mentors, James Townsend Mackay, the first curator of Trinity’s Botanic Garden.

‘Ellen’s particular branch was in cryptogamic botany, the study of non-flowering plants (the term ‘cryptogam’ does indeed come from the same root as ‘cryptic’). These algae, mosses, liverworts and seaweeds to which Ellen devoted her keenest attentions, were vastly understudied compared to the more easily observed flowering plants. In addition, Ellen was collecting specimens in the Bantry Bay environs, an area containing an interesting dispersal of rare flora. The combination of very good eyesight and great artistic talent meant that she could render the fine detail of species in exquisite detail.’

‘Her field work was done in the Bantry environs in her early twenties. Between 1809 and 1811, she identified and listed (in Latin) around 1100 plants around Bantry Bay. Her distant cousin and friend Thomas Taylor most likely got her on to collecting shells and she began studying molluscs.’

Source: Charlotte Salter-Townshend @  http://womensmuseumofireland.ie/articles/ellen-hutchins-1785-1815

But alas Ellen’s life was not a happy one. She had been forced to return to the family home in Bantry to look after her aging mother and her brother who was an invalid. Her outings in search of specimens was her only break from a life of drudgery and toil. To make matters worse her elder brother kicked them out of the family home and they had to move away. Ellen herself was sick herself by this stage.  She was consumptive and taking mercury for a liver complaint – the effects of which had reduced the young woman to ‘a mere skeleton’.

Eventually her situation overwhelmed her and it would appear she did away with herself. She was buried in an unmarked site outside the south wall of Garryvurcha Church, Bantry. Her invalid brother Thomas passed away a few months later.

William Henry Harvey was greatly influenced by the work of Ellen Hutchins. Years after her death, wrote in 1847 of her lasting effect on Irish botany in his work Phycologiae Brittanica:

‘[Her] name is held in grateful remembrance by botanists in all parts of the world. To her the botany of Ireland is under many obligations, particularly the cryptogamic branch, in which field until her time little explored. She was particularly fortunate in detecting new and beautiful objects, several of which remain the rarest species to the present day.’

Salter-Townshend

Monday, 8 February 2021

 


8‭ ‬February 1847: Daniel O’Connell’s last speech in the British House of Commons on this day. In his final speech in the House, he predicted that unless more aid was forthcoming from the British Government for Ireland ‘one quarter of her population will perish’. His warning to his fellow MPs came as the full force of the Famine was raging in his final speech in the House,‭ ‬he predicted that unless more aid was forthcoming from the British Government for Ireland ‘one quarter of her population will perish’.

His warning to his fellow MPs came as the full force of the Famine was raging in Ireland.‭ ‬The terrible outcome of the successive failures of the Potato Crop threatened to overwhelm the relief efforts at home to alleviate the worst excesses of hunger and disease that were sweeping across most of the Country at that time.

His valedictory address in the House was almost inaudible and those assembled to hear what would clearly be his last speech before them strained to catch his softly spoken words.‭ Observers reflected that he was but a dim shadow of his former self. ‬He that on so many previous occasions had roused the House to heights and depths of emotions now struggled to exert himself so that his message of appeal could be heard and acted upon. He told the members that he had come to plead for the last time for Ireland. He made an accurate but terrible prophecy and that was:

Ireland is in your hands...‭ your power. If you do not save her she can't save herself... I predict... that one quarter of the population will perish unless you come to her relief.

He stated that if they did not come to help her he solemnly called on them to recollect that he predicted that such a calamity would come to pass.

But O’Connell knew that while he was paid a respectful deference due to reputation and status as a powerful orator and due to his visibly declining health,‭ ‬that the members of the House of Commons had but a limited interest in Irish affairs and that his heartfelt and sincere appeal fell on deaf ears. He remarked some weeks after this noble but doomed appearance that:

How different it would all be if Ireland had her own Parliament.

Daniel O’Connell died in Genoa on the 15 May on his way to Rome. His heart was sent on to the Holy City [and later disappeared!] and his body returned to Ireland where it was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin, which he himself had helped to found. 


Sunday, 7 February 2021

 

7 February 1988: Nora Herlihy, one of the founders of the modern Irish Credit Union system, died on this day.

Nora Herlihy was born on 27 February 1910 in Ballydesmond, on the Cork-Kerry Border. She attended school in Newcastle West at the Sisters of Mercy Secondary School and trained to become a teacher at Carysfort College, graduating in 1931. She began teaching in Ferrybank and in 1936 was hired by the Irish Sisters of Charity school in Dublin. She was a national school teacher, educating in Dublin during the 1950s. As a teacher she observed the effects of poverty, unemployment and money-lending on her students and their families.

Herlihy was a student of the Liberal Arts Extramural Course at University College Dublin. There she met social economics student Tomas O'Hogain who invited her to a December 1953 meeting with Seamus MacEoin about the co-operative model. In March 1954 she and O'Hogain founded the Dublin Central Co-operative Society with the goal of reducing unemployment and emigration through the formation of worker co-operatives. The United States' Credit Union National Association (CUNA) asked Herlihy to form a subcommittee to examine how the credit union model could be put to use in Ireland. With Sean Forde and O'Hogain she formed the Credit Union Extension Service.

 In 1957, Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass appointed Herlihy to a legislative advisory committee on non-agricultural co-operatives. The first two Irish credit unions were formed under Herlihy's influence in 1958 and she promoted credit unions throughout Ireland. She was instrumental in the formation of the Civil Service Credit Union and the Irish League of Credit Unions, which was founded in 1960 and run from the living room of her Dublin house.

She served as unpaid secretary for the organisation, teaching full-time and funding the movement's development with her earnings. In 1963 the board of the Credit Union League of Ireland recognized her as having made the greatest individual contribution to the Irish credit union movement. Her efforts aided the passage of the 1966 Credit Union Act and she stood beside President Éamon de Valera as he signed the act into law.

Nora Herlihy died on 7 February 1988, 28 years after the creation of the Irish League of Credit Unions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nora_Herlihy




Saturday, 6 February 2021


6 February 1918 - Women in Britain and Ireland gained the right to vote in General Elections for the first time on this day. The Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed into Law by the Westminster Parliament. It gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote and all men over the age of 21. The law said that women over the age of 30 who occupied a house (or were married to someone who did) could now vote.

This meant 8.5 million women now had their say over who was in Parliament - about 2 in every 5 women in the UK. It also said that all men over the age of 21 could vote - regardless of whether or not they owned property - and men in the armed forces could vote from the age of 19. The number of men who could now vote went from 8 million to 21 million. This was a legislative Revolution as it meant that any future Parliament would have a very different profile than the current or previous ones.

The campaign to extend the Franchise to women had been a long and arduous one over many years with women protesting and been sent to prison and even dying to achieve electoral equality with menfolk at the polls. The Suffragettes were led by Emmeline Pankhurst who from 1905 led a militant campaign to change the law. In Ireland too women campaigned holding meetings, smashing windows and generally making a nuisance of themselves to draw attention to their cause. But the various groups here found no sympathy from either John Redmond the Irish Nationalist Leader or Sir Edward Carson the Irish Unionist Leader.

Nevertheless when the ‘Khaki Election’ of December 1918 came round the only woman to win a seat as a Member of Parliament was  the Irish Revolutionary Countess Markievicz who amongst other things was a vocal supporter of the Suffragette Movement. However as an Irish Republican she refused to take her seat in the Westminster Parliament and pledged her allegiance to Dáil Éireann in Dublin instead. Britain had to wait until 1919 for its for its first female MP - one Lady Astor - who was born and raised in the USA!

Curious to note that while women in the United Kingdom had to wait until 1928 for the franchise to be fully extended to all women over the age of 21 in the Irish Free State this discrimination between the sexes was abolished in 1922 putting the Irish State well ahead of the British one in a woman’s Right to Vote.