Wednesday, 30 June 2021


30 June 1922: The siege of the Four Courts building in Dublin came to an end OTD. The attack on the building marked the beginning of the Irish Civil War. It had begun two days earlier when the Army of the Irish Free State opened fire on the Irish Republican Army garrison within who would not lay down their arms. They had been given artillery pieces by the British Army still left in the City under General Sir Nevil Macready. On the 29th Free State troops had stormed the eastern wing of the Four Courts, losing three killed and 14 wounded and taking 33 prisoners. Relief forces in the City Centre found it impossible to reach them. So after two days intensive fire the Officers and men decided that their situation was a forlorn one as many parts of the main structure were aflame & besmoked. They were left sheltering for their lives & without hope that their attackers would desist in their endeavours to drive them out. With the situation hopeless Oscar Traynor who was in overall command of Republican forces in Dublin got a message through to them to call it a day:

As Senior Officer outside I take it that I am entitled to order you to make a move which places me in a better military position. This Order must be carried out without discussion. I take full responsibility.

The Irish Republic Dorothy MacCardle

About 140 men marched out and into captivity though some managed to give their captors the slip incl.  Ernie O’Malley who was to live to fight another day. Three of the republican garrison had died in the siege. The Free State lost seven dead and around seventy wounded.

before they left the building orders were given that all arms were to be given to the officers and destroyed...guns were stripped broken and piles together then doused with parafinn and set alight. ernie O'Malley as acting O/C of the garrison led the surrender. A bugler sounded the ceasefire order...

The Fall of Dublin Liz Gillis

However what happened after the surrender has reverberated down the decades in popular memory perhaps more than the battle itself - the destruction of the priceless records contained within the Public Record Office which contained documents dating back to the Middle Ages that were vital to narrating so much of Ireland’s History from the Anglo-Norman Invasion onwards.

One eyewitness John Hanratty recalled:

Along the road and the pavement driven by the force of the explosion came hurtling piles of law books, papers, documents which had lain undisturbed for years in the Four Courts. They bounded along, making a noise like a charging army.

In the Legion of the Vanguard J.A.Pinkman

An Irish Life reporter recorded that: 

a few minutes later, fragments of legal documents, urged into the sky by the explosion, were rained in several parts of the city...The explosion took place under the offices of the probate and land judges courts, completely demolishing that wing of the building and throwing myriads of forms and documents into the sky. 

Gillis

To this day blame is apportioned by both sides to the other for causing such huge devastation to such important historical records. There is no doubt that the Republicans did store vast quantities of explosives with the building or at least adjacent to it and mines had been laid for the unwary but the most probable immediate cause of the irruption was most likely a fire that started as a result of an artillery shell fired by the besiegers that set alight material that spread to the incendiary material within.

It was a momentous start to a Civil War that was to last until late Spring the following year and laid the foundations to decades of bitterness between the survivors on both sides & the political parties they established in the wake of the War that only really came to an end in recent years.


Tuesday, 29 June 2021

 


29 June 1915: The death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Fenian in New York City on this day. He was born at Roscarbery County Cork in 1831 to a family of tenant farmers. As a young man he kept a shop in Skibereen but became increasingly involved in revolutionary politics. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood on its foundation and was soon arrested by the British. In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, put on trial for high treason and sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions. He spent five years in English jails in very harsh conditions. In 1869 he was elected an MP but his victory was annulled as he was considered a ‘Felon’. In 1870 he was released on condition that he went into Exile and he sailed for New York with a group of fellow exiles that were dubbed the ‘Cuba Five’ after the boat they left in.

Once in New York he helped to organise clandestine operations against British rule and was the main instigator of the ‘Dynamite Campaign’ – a series of bombings in England designed to force Britain to relinquish her hold on Ireland. However he was allowed to return home in 1894 and in 1904 on brief visits. In later years he suffered from ill health and was confined to a hospital on Staten Island. He died there in 1915 and his remains were returned home for burial. His graveside was the occasion of Padraig Pearse’s famous oration on the power of the Fenian dead. On his immediate hearing of his death Pearse recorded the following:

O'Donovan Rossa was not the greatest man of the Fenian generation, but he was its most typical man. He was the man that to the masses of his countrymen then and since stood most starkly and plainly for the Fenian idea…

No man, no government, could either break or bend him. Literally he was incapable of compromise. He could not even parley with compromisers. Nay, he could not act, even for the furtherance of objects held in common, with those who did not hold and avow all his objects…

Enough to know that the valiant soldier of Ireland is dead; that the unconquered spirit is free.

His funeral in Dublin at Glasnevin Cemetery on 1 August 1915 was a huge affair at which Pearse gave in the Irish Language his famous speech The Fools the fools the fools....

They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

There is a monument  in Dublin's St Stephen's Green to O'Donovan Rossa [pictured above] 


Monday, 28 June 2021

 

28 June 1691: At the 2nd Siege of Athlone Sgt. Custume led a small band of Volunteers that successfully tore down the attempted ‘planking’ by the Williamites of the partially destroyed bridge across the Shannon.

The siege had begun on the 19th when the Dutch General Ginkel of King William's of Orange Army had led a force of 21,000 men to the eastern side of Athlone and attacked the bastion there. The defenders were under the overall command of the French General St Ruth of King Louis XIV Army but whose troops had sworn loyalty to the Catholic King James II. St Ruth kept his main force back from the town to avoid encirclement and put a garrison of 1,500 men into to hold as long as possible.

By the 28th of June the Williamites had taken the eastern bastion and were advancing across the bridge of Athlone replacing the broken structure with lines of planks. As their men advanced the cannon and mortars of the Williamites kept up a terrific fire upon the defenders to stop them interfering with the progress of their operations.

It was Sunday, the 28th of June--the Irish saw with consternation that barely a few planks more laid on would complete the bridge. Their own few cannon were now nearly all buried in the ruined masonry, and the enemy beyond had battery on battery trained on the narrow spot--it was death to show in the line of the all but finished causeway.

Out stepped from the ranks of Maxwell's regiment, a sergeant of dragoons, Custume by name. "Are there ten men here who will die with me for Ireland?" A hundred eager voices shouted "Ay." "Then," said he, "we will save Athlone; the bridge must go down."

Grasping axes and crowbars, the devoted band rushed from behind the breastwork, and dashed forward upon the newly-laid beams. A peal of artillery, a fusillade of musketry, from the other side, and the space was swept with grapeshot and bullets. When the smoke cleared away, the bodies of the brave Custume and his ten heroes lay on the bridge, riddled with balls. They had torn away some of the beams, but every man of the eleven had perished.

Out from the ranks of the same regiment dashed as many more volunteers. "There are eleven men more who will die for Ireland." Again cross the bridge rushed the heroes. Again the spot is swept by a murderous fusillade. The smoke lifts from the scene; nine of the second band lie dead upon the bridge--two survive, but the work is done. The last beam is gone; Athlone once more is saved.

STORY OF IRELAND

By A. M. Sullivan

CHAPTER LXX.

Alas the brave stand of Sergeant Custume and his comrades was in vain for Lt General Ginkel, who commanded the besiegers was determined to take the town no matter what the cost. On the evening of the 30th he launched his troops 20 abreast under a German officer in the Danish service Major General Tettau into the ford at Athlone and through the waters of the Shannon. By sheer weight of numbers he got his men across while a terrific bombardment was opened up on the Irish positions. At the same time the Scottish General Mackay renewed the assault upon the bridge. Irish resistance crumbled as they were overwhelmed by superior numbers in men and material. So Athlone fell to the Williamite Army. The Irish Army barracks in Athlone is named after the brave hero of 1691.



Sunday, 27 June 2021

 


27 June 1963: The President the United States John F Kennedy visited his ancestral home at Dunganstown, Co Wexford on this day. His visit to Ireland was the first by a serving American President. His ‘Homecoming' was greeted with huge enthusiasm by nearly the whole population as the President with film star looks and charisma to burn made a deep and lasting impression on the Irish People:

While in New Ross Wexford that day he made a speech that became a classic of its kind, only a few hundred words long but delivered with great wit and style he struck a chord with his audience that was remembered long after his tragic death in Dallas Texas just a few short months later.

Mr. Mayor, I first of all would like to introduce two members of my family who came here with us: My sister Eunice Shriver, and to introduce another of my sisters, Jean Smith. I would like to have you meet American Ambassador McClosky, who is with us, and I would like to have you meet the head of the American labor movement, whose mother and father were born in Ireland, George Meany, who is travelling with us. And then I would like to have you meet the only man with us who doesn’t have a drop of Irish blood, but who is dying to, the head of the protocol of the United States, Angier Biddle Duke.

See, angie, how nice it is, just to be Irish?

I am glad to be here. It took 115 years to make this trip and 6,000 miles, and three generations. But I am proud to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome you have given to all of us. When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance.

If he hadn’t left, I would be working over at the Albatross Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly. In any case, we are happy to be back here.

About 50 years ago, an Irishman from New Ross traveled down to Washington with his family, and in order to tell his neighbors how well he was doing, he had his picture taken in front of the White House and said, “This is our summer home. Come and see us.” Well, it is our home also in the Winter, and I hope you will come and see us.

Thank you.  

President Kennedy’s visit to the land of his ancestors was a huge event and his prestige  amongst the Irish as ‘one of our own’ who had become President of the United States was unprecedented. Even today he has a ‘God like’ status amongst the Irish People of that generation that still echoes down the years....



27 June 1846: Charles Stewart Parnell was born into a Protestant aristocratic and land-owning family at Avondale, Co. Wicklow on this day. His parents were John Henry Parnell and Delia Tudor Stewart (the daughter of an American naval hero, Commodore Charles Stewart). His parents split up when he was about six years old and so he was sent to school in England at an early age that included a stint at an academy for young ladies at Yeovil in Somerset. But here he contracted typhoid fever and was brought home for private tuition. He later went to a school in Kirk Langley, Derbyshire, from which he was expelled; and then to the Great Ealing School.

 It is generally accepted that his childhood was not a happy one and that his stays amongst them did not enhance his feelings for the English. His own grandfather had fought in the US Navy in the War of 1812 and won a medal for fighting the British. When his father died in 1859 the young Parnell inherited the Avondale estate. The family lived in a succession of homes in the Dublin area during the 1860s. Parnell also attended Rev. Whishaw’s Academy in Chipping Norton. He went on to Magdalene College, Cambridge, but did not graduate.

It was only when he was 27 years old, and after having toured the United States that he decided to seek a career in politics. In 1874 he became High Sheriff of his home county of Wicklow in which he was also officer in the Wicklow Militia. He was noted as an improving landowner who played an important part in opening the south Wicklow area to industrialisation. He was first elected to represent the County of Meath at the Parliament of Westminster in the year 1875.



 

Saturday, 26 June 2021

 



26‭ June 1932: The Eucharistic Congress culminated on this day when over one million people attended the Pontifical High Mass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Chief Celebrant was the Papal Legate Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri [above], personally selected by Pope  Pius XI himself. The Holy Father had charged him to:

Go to Ireland in my name and say to the good people assembled there that the Holy Father loves Ireland and sends to Ireland and its inhabitants and visitors not the usual Apostolic blessing but a very special all embracing one.

As his ship arrived in Dún Laoghaire on Monday 20 June, it was escorted into the harbour by aeroplanes flying in formation in the shape of a cross. He travelled in procession the nine miles from Dun Laoghaire to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin in the Lord Mayor’s Coach, led by the Blue Hussars, a recently created ceremonial cavalry unit. Made a Freeman of Dublin at a ceremony at Mansion House, during his week long stay, the Legate visited a number of towns including Armagh, Drogheda, and Dundalk.

Lauri wrote Edward Joseph Byrne, Archbishop of Dublin,

I shall never forget the unforgettably glorious days of this Eucharistic Congress . . . all have participated, all have co-operated to make this congress a triumph, government and civic leaders, as well as ecclesiastical authorities, priests, members of religious communities, men, women and children, have all united to make this Eucharistic Congress a plebiscite of love for the Blessed Eucharist, a plebiscite of devotion to the vicar of Christ."

The arrival of the Cardinal and the holding of the‭ 19th Eucharistic Congress in Dublin was seen as a great honour for the Catholics of Ireland. The week long event saw huge displays of religious devotion with crowds of tens of thousands in attendance at various events. The high point of the Eucharistic Congress came on the final Sunday of the week’s festivities in the form of a massive open air mass in the Phoenix Park. An ornate High Altar flanked with choirs and bands from all over the Catholic world was the main focus of attention. The Cardinal was accompanied by the highest ranks of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy in his fulfilment of his celebration of the Mass. In addition thousands of the Clergy were there to witness and partake in the biggest religious gathering the Country had ever seen.

“‬It is 12.30. The Bishops are assembling, their purple shining through the green of the trees. They march in hundreds, slowly, pensively, the Bishops of the world, in white and black and red, in cream and gold and brown. They file through the three thousand priests like a coloured thread being drawn through white silk. Then up the crimson carpet, turning right and left to the colonnades of the altar, and there they sit and seen from afar through the white pillars, each group looking like Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper.”

THE IRISH PRESS

The Government of Mr Eamon De Valera and the leading members of the Opposition were in attendance as well as numerous dignitaries from home and abroad.‭ ‬The huge multitude heard Mass broadcast over an extensive PA system, the largest in the world at that time. The event was listened to across the Nation and internationally through the medium of Radio Athlone. Count John McCormack gave a brilliant rendition of the Panis Angelicus (Bread of the Angels) to the multitude that grew praise from many quarters. 

The audition was marvellous,‭ whether it was of the full tones of the Cardinal Legate as he spoke the Mass, the tuneful antiphon of the choir, the sharp clamour of the trumpets as they paid homage at the elevation of the Host, or the beautiful voice of John Mc Cormack that came clear and bell like, borne without a tremor over the whole silent space, midway through the Service. It was at that moment of the Elevation of the Host, the supreme point in Catholic ritual, that one fully realised the common mind that swallowed up all individuality in the immense throng. Flung together in their hundreds of thousands, like the sands on the seashore, these people were merely parts of a great organism which was performing a great act of faith, with no more ego in them than the sands themselves.

IRISH TIMES

Prior to the closing ceremony a special blessing by Pope Pius XI broadcasting directly from the Vatican was relayed to the huge congregation.‭ This marked the culmination of a series of events held over the previous four days, which saw scenes of unprecedented devotion by the Catholics of Ireland.  The Eucharistic Congress entered Catholic folk memory and remained the greatest public gathering in Ireland until the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979, which also took place in the Phoenix Park.



Friday, 25 June 2021

 


25 June 1990: Ireland beat Rumania 5-4 in a penalty shoot out in Genoa Italy to reach the quarter finals of the World Cup for the first time ever on this day. Thousands of Irish fans [above] travelled to Italy to watch the Irish Team progress through the competition as back home the Irish Nation held its breath as the final minutes of the game were played out live on TV. The match had ended in a scoreless draw and the outcome was to be decided in a penalty shoot out. It went to 4-4 each as Ireland’s goalie Packie Bonner did sterling work in taking the saves. Then David O’Leary stepped forward to take the final kick and delivered the killer blow - We were through! 

The whole country erupted with jubilation and anyone who was old enough at the time to witness it can still recall to this day where they were when they saw it happen in what is still probably Ireland’s greatest shared sporting moment on the World stage.

In Dublin Castle, then Taoiseach Charles Haughey had suspended a press conference marking the end of Ireland’s presidency of the European Union, saying, "There’s something we should be watching on TV that might be a little bit interesting, for the Irish amongst us, at any rate."

The team was led by the legendry English soccer player Jack Charlton who was a no nonsense Yorkshireman with a shrewd eye for players who could meet the grade. The euphoria of getting to the World Cup was palpable across the Nation as a feeling of National pride swept the Country. In the event we then went down to hosts Italy in Rome by one goal. But nonetheless the team arrived back home as heroes welcome.

In its' first World Cup finals the Republic of Ireland had bowed out at the quarterfinals stage losing by a single goal to the hosts, Italy, at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. It had been a very strange campaign in that Ireland had not won any of their matches, had only scored two goals, and had played in some really poor matches in terms of quality of play. Notwithstanding this the Irish had over-achieved which was fully appreciated by the Irish supporters. The green army stayed on in the Olympic Stadium long after the final whistle to laud Jack Charlton and his gallant squad.

- See more at: http://www.soccer-ireland.com/world-cup-1990/#sthash.Fsud0Ivi.dpuf

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.

Word reached Republican circles that three trains carrying troops were leaving Belfast bound for Dublin. The local IRA under Frank Aiken decided to launch an attack on at least one of them and inflict as many casualties as they could.

By March 1921 the physically imposing Aiken, every inch the IRA ‘big man’, had risen to commandant of the IRA’s 4th Northern Division. A few months later, Aiken’s reputation was bolstered by his responsibility for a ‘spectacular’: the derailment of the train carrying the cavalry regiment that had escorted King George V at the opening of the Northern Ireland parliament.

https://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/frank-aiken-revolutionary-statesman-polymath/

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. Another soldier died later of his wounds. In the aftermath men from the 10th Hussars swept along the tracks rounding up hapless farm labourers, shooting dead one man who tried to make a run for it.

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.