Saturday, 31 July 2021


31 July 1975 The Miami ShowBand Massacre on this day: On the morning of Thursday 31 July 1975 people all across Ireland turned on their radios and heard the astonishing and terrible news that members of the most popular Showband here had been shot down in cold blood at Buskill County Down.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun and bomb attack on the members of the Miami Showband. Three members of the band were killed and one seriously injured during the attack. Two members of the UVF gang were also killed when a bomb they were handling exploded prematurely.

The Miami Showband had been playing at 'The Castle Ballroom' in Banbridge, Count Down. Five members of the band left in their minibus and travelled south on the main dual-carriageway. The minibus was stopped by what appeared to be a Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) checkpoint at Buskhill, near Newry. However the checkpoint was bogus and was being operated by approximately 10 members of the UVF - at least four of whom were also members of the UDR.

The members of the band were ordered out of the van and told to line up by the side of the road. Two UVF men then planted a bomb into the van. The bomb exploded prematurely killing the two UVF members. At this point the other UVF members opened fire on the band musicians.

Francis (Fran) O'Toole (29), the lead singer with band and famous for his good looks, was shot 22 times in the face while he lay on his back on the ground. Two other band members Anthony Geraghty (23), who was shot four times in the back, and Brian McCoy (33), shot nine times, both died at the scene. Another member of the group (Stephen Travers) was shot with a 'dum-dum' bullet and seriously injured but survived. The two UVF men who died were Harris Boyle (22) and Wesley Somerville (34); both were also members of the UDR.

There was speculation after the event that the UVF had tried to hide the bomb on the minibus with the intention of the bomb exploding after the members of the van had resumed their journey. It would then have been claimed that the members of the band were transporting explosives on behalf of the IRA. In 1976 two members of the UDR were sentenced to prison for their part in the attack. They received life sentences but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

A monument dedicated to the dead Miami Showband members was unveiled at a ceremony at Parnell Square North, Dublin, on 10 December 2007. Survivors Stephen Travers and Des McAlea were both present at the unveiling. The monument, made of limestone, bronze and granite, by County Donegal sculptor Redmond Herrity, is at the site of the old National Ballroom, where the band often played.

Bottom Picture: Miami Showband road manager Brian Maguire with sax player Des Lee and drummer Ray Miller at a wreath-laying ceremony organised by Justice for the Forgotten at Parnell square in Dublin. 

 

Friday, 30 July 2021

 


30 July 1990: The assassination of Ian Gow MP on this day. The eccentric British politician was blown up in his own car in the driveway of his home  in the village of Hankham, 40 miles south of London by an IRA bomb.

Gow had taken a strong stand against the IRA and indeed anything that weakened the position (as he saw it) of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. During a period of national service from 1955 to 1958 he was commissioned in the 15th/19th Hussars and served in Northern Ireland, Germany and Malaya. He subsequently served in the territorial army until 1976, reaching the rank of Major. After completing national service he took up a career in the law and qualified as a solicitor in 1962.

He entered politics in 1966 but failed to be elected. In this campaign he was described by The Times  in the following terms: "He is a bachelor solicitor, aged 29, wearing his public school manner as prominently as his rosette. Words such as 'overpowering', 'arrogant', and 'bellicose' are used to describe him."

After failing to take Clapham, he continued his quest to find a seat. He eventually succeeded at Eastbourne in 1972 after the local Party de-selected its sitting member, Sir Charles Taylor. Sir Charles had represented Eastbourne since 1935 and did not take kindly to Gow.

He admired Margaret Thatcher greatly and became a loyal follower of her brand of politics. However the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 proved a step too far for him as he saw it as the interference of a foreign Government in the internal affairs of the UK. But his open enmity to Irish Nationalist aspirations and his vehement & vociferous condemnation of the IRA campaign drew him attention that was deadly in intent. Though he did not seem to realise it he was in mortal danger.

Ian Gow was the ultimate loyalist and he paid the ultimate price. - His death had a terrible irony. A few weeks earlier, he had held a small drinks party. The conversation turned to the hardships suffered by MPs' wives, so often stuck at home in the constituency, cut off from the glamorous aspects of parliamentary life. Ian paid tribute to his beloved Jane, who never complained about being a grass-widow. He referred to her as "my poor widow" and "the Widow Gow". Then Ulster was mentioned. "Ian, old lad," said Jonathan Aitken, "I hope you vary your route to the Commons and check under your car." "Certainly not," Ian replied. "I am at less risk than any serving officer in Her Majesty's Royal Ulster Constabulary – and anyway, I wouldn't know what to look for."

 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/7918045/Ian-Gow-was-the-ultimate-loyalist-and-he-paid-the-ultimate-price.html

The IRA justified their action in a Statement saying that Gow  was one of a small group of influential Tories, centred on Airey Neave and Margaret Thatcher, who in the late 1970's formulated the British policy pursued in Ireland since the 1979 Tory election victory.



Thursday, 29 July 2021

 

29‭ July 1883: James Carey, the man who informed on the Phoenix Park assassins (The Invincibles), was shot dead on this day. He was killed by Patrick O'Donnell (executed 17 November) on board the Melrose Castle, which was making its way from Cape Town to Durban with the turncoat on board. On the evidence of James Carey five of the "Invincible" prisoners had been convicted and received the capital sentence. Their names were Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly. Their executions took place in Dublin, in the months of May and June 1883.

But Carey was a hunted man as his old revolutionary companions sought out his whereabouts.‭ It became known that the British had sent him to South Africa with his family to start a new life in a remote location. But his attempt to escape the rightful vengeance of the remnants of those Invincibles still at large proved a futile exercise.   

Nemesis was on his track in the person of Patrick O'Donnell,‭ a fellow-passenger on board the Melrose. An acquaintance sprang up between the two men; and O'Donnell, from the descriptions he had heard of Carey's personal appearance, was not slow in recognizing in his compangon de voyage, the notorious informer; and his sensibilities were shocked by the discovery that he had given the hand of friendship to such a wretch.  

An altercation between these men on Sunday,‭ July 29, 1883, resulted (according to O'Donnell's statement) in Carey drawing his revolver on O'Donnell, whereupon O'Donnell--as he claims in self-defense--fired his own revolver twice at Carey, with fatal effect. O'Donnell was immediately placed under arrest, and on the arrival of the Melrose at Port Elizabeth, was taken before a magistrate, who recommitted him for trial in England, as the shooting had taken place on the high seas. The doom of O'Donnell, tried before an English judge and jury, was a foregone conclusion, and though he had the advantage of the most able counsel that money could procure, and there was no lack of funds for his defense--the Irish World alone having raised upward of fifty-five thousand dollars for this purpose--his conviction was secured.

STORY OF IRELAND

By A.‭ M. Sullivan



Wednesday, 28 July 2021


 

28 July 1270: The Battle of Athankip (Cath Ath in Chip) near Carrick on Shannon on this day. Aedh O'Conchobhair, King of Connaught, defeated the army of the Anglo –Norman Colony of the deputy-Justicar Richard of Exeter and Walter De Burgo on this day.

King Aedh of Connacht was an able and dynamic leader with a ruthless streak. He fought hard to retain what was left of the ever shrinking lump of territory that was left to the kings of Connacht by the inroads of the English. It was a Land of which his family ancestors had once held sway over so much of as Kings. His enemies were many but at this time he was at war with Walter de Burgo of the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family. Walter was both the Lord of Connacht and the Earl of Ulster - a very powerful man indeed in the Ireland of that time.

King Aedh knew that when the English began erecting a castle at Roscommon in 1269 that the Crown of England was putting pressure upon him by taking back lands lost in previous times. He expected war notwithstanding agreements entered into earlier with the Crown of England.

In 1270 the Justicar Robert d'Ufford* organised an expeditionary force that united all his forces with those of Walter de Burgo so that they had 'all the foreigners of Erin with them'. However d'Ufford quitted Ireland ahead of the expedition and returned home and his place was taken by his deputy Richard of Exeter. Eventually in the summer of 1270 the forces were assembled at Roscommon and set off to march upon King Aedh and his men.

* The chief representative of the Crown of England in Ireland at that time

The Anglo-Norman Army went north by way of Elphin to the banks of the Shannon so that they were between Carrick and Jamestown, situated on what today is the riverine border between the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim. There they decided upon a fatal course of action - they divided their forces in two so that the river Shannon would be between them. Walter was sent across the river with his men in order to camp beside Aedh's Army and to open negotiations with the King of Connacht so as to bring about his submission.

As part of the deal to agree to talk King Aedh entered into Walter's camp (a sign of submission in the Gaelic world!) but in return Walter had to hand over his own brother William to Aedh's camp 'while Aedh should be in the Earl's house arraigning the peace'.

Whatever exactly happened then we do not know but Aedh withdrew from the negotiations pretty fast. Meanwhile in his own camp two of the hostages who accompanied William were done to death and William himself was seized as a captive instead of being allowed to return to the care of his brother.

Walter was now on the wrong side of the river and with his brother's life in the balance and King Aedh obviously not prepared to agree to whatever terms were offered to him he decided to beat a retreat back to the other side of the Shannon and try and reunite his force with that of Richard of Exeter.

King Aedh on the other hand knew that in the aftermath of negotiations breaking down and the death of hostages that allowing Walter to cross the Shannon unmolested and re unite with Richard could only spell his own doom. He decided to harry Walter's retreat and take out as many of his men as he could.

And O'Conchobhair was during these two

nights marching round them, as a furious, raging, tearing

lion goes about his enemies when killing them, so that

he permitted them neither to eat, sleep, nor be at rest.

Annals of Loch Cé

Eventually Walter's depleted and harried army made it to the banks of the Shannon at the ford of Ath An Chip where they proceeded to cross over to the other side. However they were caught here by Turlough O'Brien and his men. Turlough was if not the son then a close relative of King Brian of Thomond who had also turned against the English. Turlough might well have been on the western side of the Shannon already and waiting for Walter's army to turn up.

The Earl Walter turned to fight and with some courage sought out Turlough and engaged him in single combat and slew him. But this delay proved fatal for his army as the men of Connacht came upon his rear-guard and turned a retreat into a rout. The English lost nine of the chief men (Knights) dead upon the battlefield and many hundreds of others as well. Over 100 apparelled and saddled horses were left behind by them. Aedh in the flush of Victory had Walter's own brother William put to death as a further insult to the man who had caused him so much trouble in his own life and that of his father King Felim too in his day.

The defeat of Ath-in-chip was inflicted by Aedh, son of Feidhlimidh Ua Conchobair and by the Connachtmen on the Earl, namely, on Walter de Burgh and on the Foreigners of Ireland besides, wherein was committed slaughter innumerable on the Foreigners. And William de Burgh junior was taken prisoner there and he was killed afterwards in the same captivity. And not greater than it was any defeat, or battle-rout that the Gaidhil ever gave to the Foreigners in Ireland previously.

For there was killed Richard of the Wood, kinsman of the Earl, as well as John Butler and many other knights and Foreigners and Gaidhil innumerable. And there were abandoned one hundred horses with their breastplates and with their saddles.

Annals of Ulster

Now when the Galls had gone to Ath in Chip in the morning, Toirrdelbach O Briain fell upon them there. The Earl himself turned upon him and slew him on the spot, single-handed.

At this moment the men of Connacht fell upon them. Their rearguard was dislodged and their van broken and nine of their noblest knights were killed on that moor, including Richard of the Wood and Seon Butler, and they left a hundred horses on the field, with their saddles and poitrels. Uilliam Oc was then killed in his captivity, after O Briain had been slain by the Earl, and none knew how many besides.

Annals of Connacht

It's possible that King Aedh was helped to gain this victory by the presence of a contingent of the famous Gallowglass (Gallóglaigh) warriors from Scotland which he had received as a dowry on his marriage in 1259 to the daughter of Dougall Mac Sorley of the western isles of Scotland.

Aedh O'Conchobhair went to Doire-Choluim-Chille [Derry] to espouse the daughter of Dubhgall Mac Somhairle; and he brought home eight score young men with her, together with Ailin Mac Somhairle.

Annals of Loch Cé 1259

In the aftermath of the battle King Aedh raided far and wide across Connacht taking and destroying castles and driving his enemies before him. In the following years he raided further and took Roscommon itself in 1272. Athlone also fell to him and he broke the bridge across the Shannon.

Walter de Burgo died in his castle at Galway exactly a year to the day after the battle was fought - a broken man no doubt.

The end came for King Aedh on 3 May 1274:

Aed son of Fedlimid son of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, king of Connacht for nine years, died on the third day of May this year, a Thursday and the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Holy Cross; a king who wasted and desolated Connacht in fighting the Galls and Gaels who opposed him; a king who inflicted great defeats on the Galls and pulled down their palaces and castles; a king who took the hostages of the Ui Briuin and the Cenel Conaill; the destroyer and healer of Ireland was he; the king most dreaded and triumphant of all the kings of Ireland in his day, as the poet says: ‘For nine years did this Aed Engach defend the Family of Tara—no feeble forrayer was he—against Gall and Gael.’

Annals of Connacht

The Battle of Ath in Chip was his greatest military triumph.




Tuesday, 27 July 2021

 


27‭ ‬July 1261: The Battle of Callan was fought on this day. The battle site is located a few miles from Kenmare County Kerry, near where the Roughty and Slaheny Rivers converge and close by the castle of Ardtully. Callan is near Kilgarvan in the barony of Glanarought, Co. Kerry.

It came about as a result of an attempt by the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds‭ (‬supported by the Barrys) to wrest control of territory from the Gaelic McCarthy’s of Kerry. But the expedition met with disaster and was sorely defeated by the Irish. The head of the McCarthy’s, Finghin MacCarthaigh, selected a battleground suited to the fighting tactics of his men. They were mostly lightly armed but mobile troops who used correctly could be very effective against the better armoured but slower moving soldiers and Knights of the Colony.

The leading men of these invaders were the Fitzgerald’s of Munster,‭ led by John fitz Thomas and his son, Maurice fitz John. Another of the Norman leaders was 'the son of Richard’ probably Walter de Burgo, Lord of Connacht and later Earl of Ulster. The Colonists were also supported by a few would be hopefuls from amongst the Irish themselves led by one Domhnall Ruadh -  a claimant to the McCarthy Lands.

In the event when battle was joined John Fitzthomas FitzGerald and his son Maurice were killed together with fifteen knights and more than‭ ‬300 men. The survivors fled and Finghin MacCarthaigh was able to sweep all before him. But he overextended his reach and was in turn defeated and killed only a short while later. 

1261.4‭ A great war was waged, and numerous injuries were committed, by Finghin, son of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh, and his brothers, against Foreigners in this year.

1261.5‭ A great hosting by the Clann-Gerald into Des-Mumha, to attack Mac Carthaigh; and Mac Carthaigh attacked them, and defeated them, and Fitz-Thomas (John proprium nomen), and his son, and fifteen knights and eight noble barons along with them, were slain there, besides several young men, and soldiers innumerable. And the Barrach Mór was also killed there. Finghin Mac Carthaigh was subsequently slain by the Foreigners, and the sovereignty of Des-Mumha was assumed after him by his brother, i.e. the Aithchleirech Mac Carthaigh.

ANNALS OF LOCH CE

Ironically after many vicissitudes of Fortune it was Domhnall‭ Ruadh, - the would be claimant who fought alongside the men of the Colony on the day - who was the one who emerged as the chief beneficiary of these wars.

'After the deaths of Finghin Reanna Ró and Cormac na Mangartan,‭ ‬he seems to have assumed and held the kingship of Desmond until his death in 1302--he reigned 40 years, according to A.I.--though not without opposition.'

The Battle of Callan‭ By Diarmuid Ó Murchadha in 'Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 1961'.

As a result of the deaths of John fitz Thomas and his son,‭ Maurice fitz John, the power of the Geraldines was curtailed and the MacCarthys ruled on in their own lands for another 300 years. The Battle of Callan was thus one of the most decisive clashes of arms in the History of Ireland.


Monday, 26 July 2021

 



26‭ July 1914: Erskine Childers landed 900 Rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition at Howth from the yacht Asgard on this day. He was helped by his wife Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice. Further to the south another 2,000 rifles and more ammunition were landed at Kilcoole, County Wicklow.

Dublin Castle made strenuous efforts to block the distribution of these weapons but the cargo was eventually spirited away by Irish Volunteers after evading the Constables of the DMP.‭ Over a thousand members of the Irish Volunteers later paraded down O’Connell St in Dublin’s City Centre in defiance of the orders issued by the DMP. A clash seemed likely between the two sides but none took place.  

But later that evening British troops from the Kings Own Scottish Borderers‭ (‬KOSB) were drawn up across the narrow thoroughfare of Bachelors Walk in Dublin’s City Centre. A confrontation ensued between the soldiers and local people. What happened after that is a matter of some dispute. The British Military claimed their men were the subject of stones being thrown. Other observers claimed that the soldiers opened fire without warning. Three people, including a woman, were shot dead and almost 40 were wounded. A man died later in hospital and two of those injured were bayoneted as well.

Some days later John Redmond MP and the Leader of the Irish Nationalist Party rose in the British House of Commons to give his considered response to this Massacre.

Let the House clearly understand that four fifths of the Irish People will not submit any longer to be bullied,‭ or punished, or shot, for conduct which is permitted to go scot free in the open light of day in every County in Ulster by other sections of their fellow Countrymen. 

The situation in Ireland was at a Crises point and daily an outbreak of fighting was expected between those who supported Home Rule and those who were opposed to it.‭ Throughout Britain and Ireland Politicians and People expected Ireland to descend into Civil War.

But two days after the events at Bachelors Walk the Austro‭ - Hungarian Empire issued a Declaration of War upon Serbia and within a week the Bosnian Crises had sucked the Continent into a World War. The affairs of Ireland were relegated to the back pages and Irish History took a new and entirely unexpected turn.

Today this famous ship that help change the course of Irish History is housed in a fully restored state in the National History Museum on Benburb St Dublin.



Sunday, 25 July 2021

 

25 July 1886: Eliza Alice Lynch Lloyd died in the city of Paris on this day, an exile from the land of her birth in Ireland and the land of her Husband and children – Paraguay! Almost unknown in her native Country she is the most famous woman in the History of Paraguay where she reigned as the unofficial ‘Queen of Paraguay’ for a number of years.


Eliza started life in the city of Cork in 1833, she was the daughter of John Lynch, MD. and Jane Clarke Lloyd. When she was about 15 her family left Ireland for Paris, probably to escape the terrible conditions that beset Ireland at that time. A young and attractive girl she was wooed by a Xavier Quatrefages, an officer in the French Army. They married but it looks like it was an arranged affair and Eliza was not happy with the Union. Her husband was posted to Algeria and she followed him out there. But it did not last and she left him to return to her mother in Paris. 

Her prospects were not great but she was a good looker, young blond and ambitious. She put her feminine skills to use as a Courtesan moving in the circle of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte. It is believed that it was at this time (circa 1854) that she caught the eye of one General Francisco Solano López, the son of none other than Carlos Antonio López the President of Paraguay. The young man had been dispatched to Paris by his father to buy armaments to equip the Army of his Country. He quickly fell in love with the young Irish beauty and she with him.

He decided to take her with him on his return home to the capital city of Asunción. But for whatever reason they did not marry. Her marriage was annulled in 1857 but Eliza was never accepted by the social oligarchy of the City. They shunned her as a fallen woman. Notwithstanding all this she bore her husband six children in total. He gave her extensive properties that made her nominally fabulously wealthy but all this Power and Wealth as the unofficial 'Queen of Paraguay/La Reina del Paraguay brought her jealousy from those who thought she was an upstart and a blow in.

In 1862 Francisco succeeded his father as President. An impetuous man he was concerned and angry with the decision of Brazil to invade the neighbouring state of Uruguay believing that he must oppose this in arms. In 1864 he declared war on Brazil. This proved to be a disastrous move as the Empire of Brazil was far more powerful than tiny Paraguay. Eventually he was at War with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay - 'The War of the Triple Alliance' - and the Country suffered terribly when Paraguay was invaded. According to some estimates, Paraguay's pre-war population of 525,000 was reduced to 221,000, of which only 28,000 were men. 

In all of this Eliza went with her husband to the battlefields where she and her sister volunteers nursed the wounded as best they could. They were known as Las Residentas, composed of the soldiers' wives, daughters, and others. It was from involvement in helping the common soldiers that Eliza’s popularity with the Paraguayan People comes from. 

However the invading Powers eventually overran the Country and a bitter guerrilla war ensued. They eventually closed in on the increasingly paranoid and brutal Francisco López and his family and their band of ragged but loyal followers. 

The end came at the battle of Cerro Corá on 1 March 1870 when López was finally killed. To add to the trauma of Eliza her eldest son was shot down and killed in front of her. The Brazilian officers told him to surrender, and upon replying "Un coronel paraguayo nunca se rinde" (A Paraguayan colonel never surrenders) he was shot and killed by the allied soldiers. At this Lynch, after jumping and covering her son's body, exclaimed "¿Ésta es la civilización que han prometido?" (Is this the civilization you have promised?) - making a reference to the allies' claim that they intended to free Paraguay from a tyrant and deliver freedom and civilization to the nation. She then buried both López and her son with her bare hands before being led away as prisoner. 

She thus was taken captive and subsequently expelled from Paraguay with her remaining children.  She died in obscurity in Paris on 25 July 1886. Over one hundred years later, her body was exhumed and brought back to  Paraguay and proclaimed a National Heroine. Her remains are now located in the national cemetery "Cementerio de la Recoleta".






Sunday, 18 July 2021

 


18 July 1938: Douglas Corrigan  -‘Wrong way Corrigan’ - landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  Co Dublin after flying across the Atlantic solo in his aircraft Sunshine on this day. His arrival was totally unexpected and on being asked from whence he came he answered ‘New York’ - much the incredulity of those who had gathered around him.

Despite his assertion that he had simply lost his way on take off and instead of turning west for California he had  inadvertently headed east for Ireland no one really believed him. He had started his working life as a mechanic and had caught the Flying Bug when he took a ride up in a plane some years previously. He got his pilots license & took up stunt flying to earn a living. But he always hankered to do something out of the ordinary and settled on Ireland (the Homeland of his ancestors) as a place he would like to fly to.

He saved up his salary and spent $300 on buying a second hand 1929 Curtiss Robin OX-5 monoplane and flew it home, where he returned to work as an aircraft mechanic and began to modify the Robin for a transatlantic flight. Having installed an engine built from two old Wright Whirlwind J6-5 engines (affording 165 hp (123 kW) instead of the 90 hp (67 kW) of the original) and extra fuel tanks, Corrigan applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1935, seeking permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland. The application was rejected; his plane was deemed unsound for a nonstop transatlantic trip, although it was certified to the lower standard for cross-country journeys.

But Corrigan was nothing if not a tryer and on 17 July 1938 he took off at 5:15 in the morning with 320 US gallons (1,200 L) of gasoline and 16 US gallons (61 L) of oil on board. Corrigan headed east from the 4,200-foot (1,300 m) runway of Floyd Bennet Field New York to begin his epic journey. He landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome  on July 18, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight. His provisions had been just two chocolate bars & two boxes of fig bars, and 25 US gal (94.64 L) of water.

Corrigan's plane had fuel tanks mounted on the front, allowing him to see only out of the sides. He had no radio and his compass was 20 years old, but somehow he made it. His daring flight alone across the Atlantic Ocean made headlines across the World. Back in the USA he was nicknamed ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ when he claimed to have flown East instead of West on take off. It was said that his tickertape parade through the streets of New York City outshone that of his great hero Charles Lindbergh - who curiously never acknowledged his achievement.

The journalist H.R. Knickerbocker who met Corrigan in Ireland after his arrival, wrote in 1941:

You may say that Corrigan's flight could not be compared to Lindbergh's in its sensational appeal as the first solo flight across the ocean. Yes, but in another way the obscure little Irishman's flight was the more audacious of the two. Lindbergh had a plane specially constructed, the finest money could buy. He had lavish financial backing, friends to help him at every turn. Corrigan had nothing but his own ambition, courage, and ability. His plane, a nine-year-old Curtiss Robin  was the most wretched-looking jalopy.

As I looked over it at the Dublin airdrome I really marvelled that anyone should have been rash enough even to go in the air with it, much less try to fly the Atlantic. He built it, or rebuilt it, practically as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates. It looked it. The nose of the engine hood was a mass of patches soldered by Corrigan himself into a crazy-quilt design. The door behind which Corrigan crouched for twenty eight hours was fastened together with a piece of baling wire. The reserve gasoline tanks put together by Corrigan, left him so little room that he had to sit hunched forward with his knees cramped, and not enough window space to see the ground when landing.

The following year, he starred as himself in The Flying Irishman, a movie biography. The $75,000 he earned was the equivalent of 30 years income at his airfield jobs! During the War he flew planes for the US Transport Command and then went back to California where he bought an Orange Farm. He died there in 1995. To the end he never admitted to anything other than flying ‘the wrong way’.


Saturday, 17 July 2021


 17 July 1579: James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, the cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond arrived off Smerwick/ Ard na Caithne in County Kerry on this day. The Catholic adventurer had arrived back from Spain with high hopes of re launching the Catholic Cause in Ireland and in particular in Munster. He brought with him one Nicholas Sanders - an exiled priest and holding the position of Papal Nuncio to the Irish. Within days a few hundred men joined them in two Spanish galleys but this small force was only enough to garrison a little fort. Fitzmaurice knew that he would have to raise the flag of revolt and rely on the resentment of the Catholics of Munster against English Protestant encroachments to carry the day.

However many of the local chieftains had reached an uneasy peace with the English and did not want to risk all they had in a revolt in which the odds would be stacked against them. One such was Fitzmaurice’s own cousin Theobald Burke. Within days of the landing Fitzmaurice departed on a series of raids but his depredations turned many against him including his own cousin!

Mac-I-Brien sent a body of galloglasses and soldiers to Theobald. These then went in pursuit of those heroic bands, and overtook James, who had halted in a dense and solitary wood to await their approach. A battle was fought between both forces, in which James was shot with a ball in the hollow of the chest, which afterwards caused his death. Notwithstanding this, however, he defeated his lordly pursuers. In this conflict a lamentable death took place, namely, that of Theobald Burke, a young warrior, who was a worthy heir to an earldom for his valour and military skill, and his knowledge of the English language and the law. James, the son of Maurice, had not passed far from the scene of this battle when the languor of death came over him; upon which, in a few words, he made his will, and ordered his trusty friends to cut off his head after his death, in order that his enemies might not discover him, so as to recognise or mangle him.

ANNALS OF THE FOUR MASTERS

The killing of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald should have been the end of the matter. But while his return home to Ireland was cut short by his death in battle his actions had been enough to trigger off what became known as the 2nd Desmond War that proved to be a long and bloody affair.


Friday, 16 July 2021

 

16 July 1924: Eamon De Valera was released from captivity on this day. He had been held in Kilmainham Jail Dublin by the Free State. He had been in detention since August 1923 after having been arrested in Ennis Co Clare at a political rally he was due to address in the General Election of that year.

There were other Republican prisoners held in the jail too but De Valera was only allowed sporadic contact with them and did stints in solitary confinement. While there he thought over the events that had led him back into prison and pondered how he would go about breaking the Treaty and re establishing a Republican Party that was likely to be able gain the support of the Irish People.

On his release the Prison, which was built in 1792, was closed down and never used as a place of incarceration again. It is now a Museum dedicated to telling the story of Ireland's struggle to achieve Freedom.

The day De Valera came out of there saw the start of his comeback in Irish Politics and led two years later to his break with Sinn Féin and the foundation of his own political Party - Fianna Fáil.

....the immense crowds and the enthusiasm which everywhere greeted his appearance was a surprise even to the more optimistic Republicans who had believed that a long period of depression and defeatism had set in.

Chapter Ninety The Irish Republic by Dorothy Macardle

Thursday, 15 July 2021

 


15 July 1927:  Countess Constance Markievicz died on this day. Society Girl, Artist, Revolutionary, Feminist and Socialist there is no doubt that she was a woman who lived Life to the full and gave it her all for Ireland and her People. She was born in London in 1868 to the Artic explorer Sir Henry Gore Booth and Lady Georgina, Lady Gore-Booth. Her father owned a large Estate at Lissadell House in Co Sligo.

In the 1890s she studied Art in London and Paris where she met her future husband, the Polish Nobleman ‘Count Markievicz’ - and there after she was known as Countess Markievicz! She gave birth to their daughter, Maeve, at Lissadell in November 1901.The family moved to Dublin in 1903 and the Countess moved in the Literary and Art circles of the city, notably in the circle of the famous portrait artist Sarah Purcell. There she met many people who were involved in the politics of the day and from this her interest in Ireland’s future deepened.

 In 1908, she became actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland and joined Sinn Fein which was the most advanced Nationalist Party of its day. In 1913 Markievicz's husband moved back to Ukraine, and never returned to live in Ireland. However, they did correspond and he was by her side when she died.

When the 1916 Rising broke out she played an active part in it and was rumoured to have shot dead a DMP policeman while trying to storm Dublin Castle. She was part of the Stephens Green garrison that later withdrew to the Royal College of Surgeons on the Green. When the Rising was over she was taken prisoner, held in solitary confinement and sentenced to Death. Much to her disappointment the sentenced was commuted to Life Imprisonment. However she was released in 1917 after having served her time in an English Prison.

In the British General Election of December 1918 she was elected for a Dublin Constituency taking 66% of the vote, thus becoming the first woman  ever elected an MP - but refused to take her seat in the London Parliament. When the 1st Dáil met in January the Countess was back in an English Prison and when the roll call was taken her absence was noted by the words - fé ghlas ag Gallaibh -"imprisoned by the foreign enemy". She was made the Minister for Labour and held that position until January 1922. She also sat in the Cabinet of the Irish Republic from April 1919 till August 1919 - thus making her the First Woman Cabinet Minister in Irish History.

She left the government in January 1922 along with Eamon De Valera and others in opposition to the Treaty. She fought actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War helping to defend Moran's Hotel in Dublin. After the War she toured the United States. However, her staunch republican views led her to being sent to jail again. In prison, she and 92 other female prisoners went on hunger strike. Within a month, she was released. 

She joined the new Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926, chairing the inaugural meeting of the new party in La Scala Theatre. In the June 1927 Election she was re-elected to the Dáil as a candidate for the new party, which was pledged to return but died only five weeks later, before she could take up her seat.

Constance Markievicz died at the age of 59 on 15 July 1927, of complications related to appendicitis. She had given away the last of her wealth, and died in a public ward "among the poor where she wanted to be". One of the doctors attending her was her revolutionary colleague Kathleen Lynn. Also at her bedside were Casimir and Stanislas Markievicz, Eamon de Valera & others came by to pay their last respects. Refused a state funeral by the Free State government, she was buried Glasnevin Cemetery  Dublin, and Eamon de Valera gave the funeral oration. Sean O’Casey said of her: One thing she had in abundance—physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment.



Wednesday, 14 July 2021

 


14‭ July 1798: The Patriot brothers John and Henry Sheares were executed on this day. They were both members of the Legal Profession and had joined the United Irishmen to fight tyranny and free Ireland from English rule. They were the sons of a wealthy banker who sat as a member of the Parliament in Dublin. In 1792 they had visited Revolutionary France and had caught the Spirit of the times there. They soon joined the United Irishmen on their return.

‭However they trusted others without caution and were led into revealing details of the conspiracy to overthrow the Ascendancy. A Spy, one Captain John Armstrong who had befriended them in order to betray them, revealed their intentions to Dublin Castle. They were arrested on 21 May 1798. Found guilty of treason, they were publicly hung, drawn & quartered outside Newgate Prison [Green Street] in Dublin. Both were buried in the vaults of St. Michan's Church in Dublin City where their perfectly preserved coffins [above] are still on display.

At midday on Saturday,‭ ‬July 14th, the hapless men were removed to the room adjoining the place of execution, where they exchanged a last embrace. They were then pinioned, the black caps put over their brows, and holding each other by the hand, they tottered out on the platform. The elder brother was somewhat moved by the terrors of his situation, but the younger bore his fate with unflinching firmness. They were launched together into eternity--the same moment saw them dangling lifeless corpses before the prison walls. They had lived in affectionate unity, inspired by the same motives, labouring for the same cause, and death did not dissolve the tie. "They died hand in hand, like true brothers."

`Speeches from the Dock‭'

By D.‭ S. Sullivan


Tuesday, 13 July 2021


13 July 1866: The Great Eastern steamship [above], the largest vessel afloat at that time, departed Valentia Island Co Kerry for Newfoundland on this day. Its task was to attempt once again to try and lay a working telegraph cable from Europe to the Americas.

‘It was the brainchild of American entrepreneur Cyrus Field, who made two unsuccessful attempts before finally succeeding. The first officer on the Great Eastern - the biggest vessel in the world at the time - was Wicklow native Captain Robert Halpin. While Belfast born scientist and engineer, Lord Kelvin, worked on the technical aspects of the cable. Prior to the laying of the Transatlantic Cable it took approximately two weeks for message from Europe to reach North America … weather permitting as all communications were sent via boat.

The idea of a transatlantic cable was first proposed in 1845, but the distances and depths presented formidable problems. In 1856 the Atlantic Telegraph Company was registered with a capital of £350,000 (then about $1,400,000). On the American side Cyrus W. Field was the driving force; on the British side it was Charles Bright and brothers John and Jacob Brett.

After so many failed attempts, the final, successful, cable was laid with virtually no problems. On 27 July 1866, the cable was pulled ashore at a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland known by the charming name of Heart’s Content. The distance was 1686 nautical miles from Valentia Island. The Great Eastern had averaged 120 miles a day while laying out the cable.

The first message sent on this, finally successful, cable was: “A treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia”. Queen Victoria, then at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight, sent a message to the President of the United States. “The Queen congratulates the President on the successful completion of an undertaking which she hopes may serve as an additional bond of Union between the United States and England.'' *

Almost immediately, the cable opened for business but only the very wealthy could afford it – the initial rates were a startling $1 a letter, payable in gold – at a time that a monthly wage for a labourer might be $20.''

http://www.valentiaisland.ie/explore-valentia/valentia-transatlantic-cable-station/

Launched at the Isle of Dogs, Kent, 31 January 1858, The Great Eastern  was 693 feet in length (over 200 metres) 22,500 tons dead weight and had passenger accommodation for over 3,000 passengers. Five times larger than any other ship then built, she had six masts, five funnels, 6,500 yards of sail, two 58 ft paddle wheels, a 24 ft screw (which remains the biggest ever built) and a coal carrying capacity of 15,000 tons.

The ship’s Captain was Robert Charles Halpin of Co Wicklow who led the successful attempt to repair the line and also layed thousands of miles of vital cables to link together various far flung locations across the Globe. This helped usher in the Age of Telegraphy which enabled men and nations to communicate together at faster levels than ever before.

For the next 100 years Valentia Island was a major portal for the dispatch and reception of messages between the distant continents in what was for its time an Information Superhighway in itself. The station finally ceased being a conduit for transatlantic communication in 1966 when air mail & satellites made it un-economic to maintain it any longer. It was an end of an Era.

* No mention of Ireland!

 

Monday, 12 July 2021

 

12 July [O.S. 1 July] 1690: The Battle of the Boyne/Cath na Bóinne was fought on this day. The Protestant Army of King William of Orange defeated the Catholic Army of King James II. With around 36,000 Williamites against 25,000 Jacobites this battle, in terms of the numbers of men on the battlefield was the largest clash of arms ever fought in Ireland.

Both kings commanded their armies in person assisted by a number of men of high rank and status. King William had under his orders English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish, French Huguenots and Protestants from Ireland. King James Army mainly consisted of Catholic Irishmen, and a scattering of Englishmen loyal to the Stuarts. The King was also backed by around 6,500 regular French troops sent by King Louis XIV. William sent 10,000 men towards Slane with the advance guard under Count Meinhard, which drew the bulk of the Jacobites upstream in response. With some 1,300 Jacobites posted in downstream in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. Duke Frederick Marshal Schomberg (William’s top General) then led the Dutch Blue Guards and other regiments into the waters of the Boyne and across to the other side.

Opposing them were just seven regiments of the Catholics who shot their attackers down in great numbers as they attempted the passage of the Boyne at Oldbridge. A want of sufficient cavalry and artillery to block the crossing of so formidable a host eventually told against the Irishmen. They were pushed back from the riverbank as their enemies gained a toehold and then flowed across. William himself eventually crossed at Drybridge slightly downstream with about 3,500 mounted troops.

Marshal Schomberg brought down to the ford of Ouldbridge the gross of his cavalry, with orders to push on and suffer no check. At this, the seven regiments aforesaid of Irish foot, observing they would be soon overpowered, they cried to their own for horse to sustain them. In the meanwhile, they made a smart fire at the enemies, and laid them in heaps, as they were entering the waters. But their crying for horse was in vain; for they received but one troop, which was as good as nothing.

By the time reinforcements arrived it was too late and the enemy was across in strength. The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.

Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events.

The King himself with a considerable portion of his Irish and French troops did however block Lord Douglas in the Williamite service from crossing the Boyne at Donore - which is situated between the fords of Rosnaree and Oldbridge. But this was a stalemate while the outcome of the battle was decided to the left and the right of the King’s position at Donore.

Eventually the Williamites across the river in strength on both the left and right flanks the order was given to fall back on Duleek to the south and stop that village been taken by the enemy. If King Williams’s men had taken the vital bridge there then the whole of the Jacobite army would have been cut off from retreat and in all likelihood captured in its entirety.

As it turned out the retreat was carried out in good order and despite further clashes Lord Tyrconnel, given command of the rear-guard, was able to effect an orderly withdrawal. The enemy were content to follow in their footsteps and not risk a reverse.

However in these follow up operations the Williamites lost their best military leader – Marshal Schomberg.

Twas during these encounters that one master Bryen O'Tool, of the guards, discovering his former acquaintance, marshal Schomberg, near the village of Ouldbridge, resolved to sacrifice his life to the making him away, upon which he, with a few of the guards, and a few of Tyrconnell's horse, made up to him, and O'Tool with his pistol shot the marshal dead. But, soon after, fighting like a lion, he was slain.

King James's army retreated across the river Nanny at Duleek and evaded capture. It had been a ‘close run thing’ and though the battle had been lost the Army was intact and still a cohesive fighting force. 
Bad tactics rather than bad fighting had cost King James and his Irish followers the chance of victory against a more numerous enemy. The line of the Boyne might well have been held but King James had been outmanoeuvred by Marshal Schomberg’s plan - even though this crusty old Huguenot did not live to savour the Victory he had so materially helped to achieve.

Though there was some hot fighting in the course of the battle overall the casualties were light on both sides with perhaps 1,500 soldiers lying dead along the banks of the Boyne. Considering the strategic consequences of this clash of arms it was a very low number for a battle that determined the political and religious balance of power in Ireland for centuries to come and that still resonates down to our own day.




Sunday, 11 July 2021


 11‭ July 1921: ‘The Truce’ began at 12 noon on this day. This brought to an end organised military operations between the Irish Republican Army and the British Crown Forces during the Irish War of Independence. The negotiations leading up to the cessation of hostilities had been concluded some days previously at the Mansion House [above] in Dublin between representatives of the Irish President Eamon de Valera and the British Prime Minister Lloyd George. The British CIC in Ireland General Macready assented that his troops would obey what orders they were given from London.

On July 8th at the close of discussions at the Mansion House, de Valera telegraphed to to Lloyd George that he was ready to meet and discuss with him ‘on what basis such a conference as that proposed can reasonably hope to achieve the object desired’. Lloyd George telegraphed that he would be happy to see de Valera, and any colleagues he would wish to bring with him, at Downing Street. De Valera replied that he would be in London on the following Thursday, July 14th.

‭General Macready was now invited to the Mansion House ; the general principles governing the Truce was agreed upon and liaison officers were appointed to conduct discussions between the two armies on matters of detail, Robert Barton and Eammon Duggan for the IRA, and truce terms were discussed. ...It was not until 3pm on the 9th that terms were finally agreed to.

The Irish Republic

Dorothy Macardle 

The terms agreed were that no British reinforcements would enter Ireland,‭ raids and arrests would cease and secret operations end. The Irish in turn agreed to cease attacking the British, not to interfere with private or British owned property and not to disturb the peace that would necessitate military interference. Both sides agreed not to engage in provocative displays of their respective forces, armed or unarmed.

The following day an Irish Delegation consisting of Eamon de Valera,‭ Arthur Griffith, Austin Stack and Robert Barton departed for London to open negotiations with the British Government. The Lord Mayor of Dublin ‬Laurence O'Neill,‭ Count Plunkett and Erskine Childers also accompanied the delegation. It looked like the violence that had wracked Ireland for the last two and a half years was coming to an end.

‭Notwithstanding that it was the last days of the War of Independence there were still quite a number of violent incidents that led to the deaths of at some 60 individuals as the hours counted down to the  ceasefire including 10 who died violently on the day of the Truce itself. ‬But while an uneasy Peace settled down upon most of the Country it was a different story in the North, particularly in the city of Belfast. It had always been a volatile place in July – owing to the parades of the Orange Order on 12th July – but this was violence intensified and militarised on a scale not seen before. There sectarian clashes resulted in an orgy of murders, burnings and intimidation with the Police & Military openly taking sides against the Nationalist population.

The 11th fell on a Monday that year, and the previous day became known as Belfast's 'Bloody Sunday'. That day 16 people were killed violently, 1 RIC man, 10 Catholic and 5 Protestant civilians. By the end of the week, 23 people had been killed in Belfast, hundreds more wounded, two hundred homes destroyed and a thousand people made homeless.

See: www.theirishstory.com



Saturday, 10 July 2021


10 July 1927: The Assassination of Kevin O’Higgins, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Justice and Minister for External Affairs on this day.

His role in the Irish Civil War had still not been forgotten or forgiven by many Republicans. He had taken the side of those supporting the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which included an Oath of Fidelity to the British King. While a brilliant Minister and a shrewd politician he was also a man of ruthless determination. His decision to acquiesce in the execution of the best man at his own wedding, Rory O’Conner, was seen as a particularly hard act. He was viewed by quite a number of people as the most forceful personality in the Cumann na nGaedheal government. As a result of this legacy of bitterness plans were laid by a small group of Republicans to carry out an attempt on his life.

On the fateful Sunday in question O’Higgins left his house, (situated in south County Dublin)accompanied only by his bodyguard Detective O’Grady. His intention was to attend Mass at the local Catholic church on Booterstown Avenue. The Minister clearly forgot something along the way and he sent O’Grady back to fetch it, whatever it was. He then proceeded on alone down Cross Avenue to its junction with that of Booterstown. It was here that the assassins struck. A number of them approached him and opened fire simultaneously. Shot a number of times O’ Higgins started to run slowly across Booterstown Avenue only to collapse at the gates of a private residence, Sans Souci.

The gunmen thought they had mortally wounded him but then O’Higgins inadvertently committed a fatal error. He raised his hand, possibly to call attention to his plight. His assailants at once returned and pumped him full of more bullets before fleeing in a car up the avenue and off down the Stillorgan road in the direction of the nearby countryside.

 Within minutes people were rushing to his aid. Amazingly one of them was an ex Cabinet colleague, Professor O’Neill who had been making his way to Mass at the same time. O’Higgins was brought back to his home and made as comfortable as possible in the dining room. While conscious, he was in great pain as he had sustained a considerable number of gunshot wounds, the one to the skull proving to be the fatal shot. He was bleeding profusely by this stage and O’Higgins realised that his situation was hopeless. His dignity in the face of death drew the admiration of all who were with him in his final hours. Quite a number of people called in to pay their last farewells before the end. O’Higgins died at 4.45 that afternoon.

Most people were shocked by the news. The action was universally condemned. Even Eamon De Valera was taken aback by the brutal death of his political opponent and he swiftly moved to disassociate both himself and his party from this violent and gratuitous deed. However it is true to say that not all of his supporters were that upset by O’Higgins death.

The following day O’Higgins body was removed from his home. President Cosgrave and the members of his Cabinet, along with General O’Duffy and nine senior officers of the Garda Síochána were in attendance to accompany the Minister’s remains to a lying in state at the Mansion House, Dublin. Huge crowds queued for hours to pay their final respects.

His remains were removed from his residence, Dunamase House, Booterstown, to the Mansion House, Dublin, where thousands filed past the coffin. His funeral mass was held at St Andrew’s Church, Westland row. The funeral cortège stretched for over 3 miles. O’Higgins was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, the same grave as his infant son.

For years his assassins were unknown to the general Public. However it is now known that they were three IRA members acting off their own bat. They did it in order to avenge the loss of their comrades in the Civil War, in which O'Higgins played such a prominent role in the execution of Republican prisoners and the introduction of draconian legislation to deal with the Anti Treaty IRA. They were Timothy Coughlan, Bill Gannon and Archie Doyle. None of them were ever charged with what they did that fateful day.

* The plaque above was erected near the spot where he was gunned down in 2012 by then An Taoiseach Enda Kenny





 

 



10 July 1921 - Belfast’s Bloody Sunday & the deadliest day in the WOI

Sunday the 10th July 1921was a day of hope & prayer throughout Ireland following the announcement that a Truce between the IRA & the Crown Forces was due to come into effect the following day [Monday] at 12 noon sharp. It was hoped that the terrible & bloody events of the last two years would finally come to an end and Ireland would return to a peaceful state.

However in the City of Belfast there was tension in the air as the annual 12th July parades approached that was exacerbated by continuing armed clashes between the IRA & their opponents. The announcement of the Truce came as a shock to many supporters of the Crown that the IRA was in effect recognised as a legitimate Army. Many felt betrayed and that the rug was being pulled from under them. 

On the Saturday night a patrol of the RIC had been attacked in Raglan St. as they attempted to raid a Nationalist area & a Constable had been shot dead with many more wounded. This incensed the ultra loyalist Ulster Special Constabulary in particular to engage in an orgy of violence in nationalist areas in the city that were supported by Orange mobs going on the rampage in a kind of symbiotic meeting of minds. The Catholics struck back  & they inflicted casualties on both the innocent & guilty alike in turn. Over a thousand  people had to flee their homes [the vast majority Catholics] and some 160 dwellings were left gutted [again the vast majority Catholic occupied]. By the time things quietened down on the afternoon of the 11th there were twenty one  people dead thus giving it the dubious honour of being the bloodiest bout of sectarian violence in the City’s long and bloody history.  

Meanwhile violence continued else where in Ireland and while contrary to myth there was no concerted effort to kill supporters of the British Crown whether military, police or spies because a Truce was in the offing there were a number of incidents some of which proved to be quite controversial. Perhaps the most notorious one being the shooting dead of four British soldiers just outside Cork City by local volunteers at a place called  Ellis’ Quarry. They had been captured in Mufti while out on a walk and apparently oblivious that they were still in danger until the Truce actually began the next day. Their foolhardiness cost them their lives and they were executed as enemy combatants. The night before an IRA volunteer had been taken from his bed in the City and found shot by a wayside, so presumably this action was a revenge operation by some at least in the Cork Brigade.

There were numerous violent incidents elsewhere in the Country that day with the most serious armed clash between the IRA & the British Army taking place at Castleisland Co Kerry. It had been decided by Kerry No 2 Brigade that they would ambush a curfew patrol drawn from the North Lancashire Regiment in the town. This went awry when a shot was discharged prematurely and in the ensuing gunfight 3 members of the IRA and four British soldiers were shot dead right on the eve of the Truce. In all some 34 people died violently throughout Ireland that day making it the deadliest 24 hours in the Irish War of Independence.



Friday, 9 July 2021

 


9‭ July 1911: King George V and Queen Mary visited the Catholic Seminary of Maynooth on this day. The British king was on a brief tour of Ireland to mark his accession to the throne. He spent four days in and around Dublin on a royal visit to the city. The King and the royal party, led by the 8th Royal Hussars on horseback, had travelled from the harbour in Kingstown/ Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Castle, as thousands lined the streets to view his procession. Here the King and Queen based themselves in a very secure location and circulated from there to the various locations in a meticulously  planned series of events designed to enhance Royal Power in the wake of George V’s Coronation.

It was decided that a visit to the educational centre of Catholic Ireland would help to balance any attempt of the Orange Order to make his stay here the preserve of any one side.‭ The King was accompanied by his formidable wife Queen Mary of Teck [Germany] who was bedecked in a stunning white dress with a matching hat of feathers. Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and Dr Daniel Mannix the President of the College, greeted the Royal couple on arrival. Other senior members of the Catholic Hierarchy were also in attendance. The visit was the highlight of the King’s stay in Ireland. 

However King George’s visit by no means met with everyone’s approval.‭ Even someone as socially conservative as William Martin Murphy turned down the offer of a Knighthood from the King. Dublin Corporation would not issue an address welcoming him to the City of Dublin. James Connolly warned people to stay away and issued a stern rebuttal of the majesty of kings and this one in particular:

 Murder,‭ treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man has been committed by some one or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George is proud to trace his descent. '‬His blood has crept through scoundrels since the flood.'

Ours be the task to enlighten the ignorant among our class,‭ to dissipate and destroy the political and social superstitions of the enslaved masses and to hasten the coming day when, in the words of Joseph Brenan, the fearless patriot of '48, all the world will maintain:

‭'The Right Divine of Labour

To be first of earthly things‭;

That the Thinker and the Worker

Are Manhood's only Kings.‭'‬ 

King George though seems to have enjoyed his stay.‭ ‬On 12 July from Dublin Castle he issued a 'Letter of Thanks' for the reception he and his children had received. It ended with the following passage:

Looking forward,‭ as we do, to coming amongst our Irish people again, and at no distant date, and repeating in other parts of the Country the delightful experience of the last few days, we can now only say that our best wishes will ever be for the increased prosperity of your ancient capital, and for the contentment and happiness of our Irish People.‬ 

King George though was to be somewhat disappointed - as he never again set foot in the Fair City. It was to be 100 years before another British Monarch did so.


Thursday, 8 July 2021

 





8 July 1981: The death of Joe McDonnell on Hunger Strike on this day. He died after 61 days without food. He was the fifth Republican prisoner to die that year in the ongoing campaign to gain Special Status for political prisoners.

Joe McDonnell was born in Belfast in 1950. He married his wife Goretti in 1970 and they had two children together. When the conflict erupted in the North Joe took sides and ended up in the IRA. He had joined the Republican Movement soon after the introduction of internment without trial in August 1971. He was himself interned on the prison ship Maidstone in 1972 and in Long Kesh from 1973 to 1974. He was captured in 1976 when the car he was in was stopped by the RUC and he and three other men (one of whom was Bobby Sands) were given long terms of imprisonment. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

McDonnell and many of the other Republican prisoners did not accept that they were criminals for fighting against the British Crown - something Irishmen had been doing for centuries. But in 1976 the British Government had abolished Special Category Status for political prisoners. From then on it could only be a matter of time till things escalated. By the Summer of 1981 a Hunger Strike was under way and a number of prisoners had died and others were in danger of dying.

Following the success of Bobby Sands being elected for Fermanagh South Tyrone prior to his death on 5 May it was decided by the Anti H Block campaign to contest the General Election in the 26 Counties that fell on 11 June that year. McDonnell was selected to contest the Constituency of Sligo-Leitrim. Veteran local republican John Joe McGirl was his election agent and Joe’s wife Goretti was conspicuous in her presence to help get him elected there. On the day of the election he received 5,639 1st preference votes - narrowingly missing being elected by a small margin.

When Joe McDonnell died on 8 July 1981 tensions were at razor point in the North. From Wednesday evening through to the Friday morning, Joe’s body had lain in state in the family home. During this time, thousands of people filed past the coffin to pay their respects to the fallen Volunteer.

When his funeral was held in Belfast some days later thousands of people followed the cortege on it way to Milltown Cemetery. Along the way the mourners were under close observation by the British Military. When they spotted an IRA Guard of Honour returning to a house after firing the final shots they swooped. Simultaneously, the British Army and RUC opened up on the cortege with a hail of plastic bullets amidst scenes of pandemonium and panic. The head of the funeral cortege had moved on a few minutes before the attack and was making its way towards Milltown. Six IRA Volunteers took the coffin on their shoulders for the last leg of the journey to the Republican Plot.

Today next to Bobby Sands he is the best known of the Hungers Strikers of 1981. He is the subject of a famous Republican Ballad written by Brian Warfield of The Wolfe Tones. It begins:

Oh my name is Joe McDonnell 
From Belfast town I came 
That city I will never see again...



Wednesday, 7 July 2021


7 July 1978: The death of Mary Swanzy on this day. An artist of some merit she never received great recognition for her considerable number of paintings that spanned decades both here and abroad. She was born in Dublin in 1882.  ''Her parents, Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy, an ophthalmic surgeon who played a central role in establishing the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital; and Mary (nee Denham), were, as Julian Campbell put it in his 1986 study of the painter, “of the professional Protestant classes who were so influential in that generation''.

Aiden Dunne Irish Times 19 January 2019

She seems to have had a perfectly normal though somewhat straitlaced upbringing, traits that continued into adult life. She basically kept herself to herself and dedicated her energies to her work as an artist. Competent rather than brilliant she nevertheless produced quite a range of paintings that covered many different styles.

With the death of her parents she became financially independent after the Great War. With political turmoil in Ireland and the involvement of a 2nd cousin in a notorious incident she set off to travel the World, visiting the South Sea islands amongst other places. She only came back to live in Dublin in the Second World War presumably to avoid the bombing of London where she usually lived. In 1943, she held a one-woman show at the Dublin Painters' Gallery, and she was also featured at the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art. She was exhibited at St George's Gallery, London in 1946.

Swanzy was made an honorary member of the RHA in 1949,[1] showing with them in 1950 and 1951. She did not exhibit in Ireland for a number of years, but the Hugh Lane Gallery held a major retrospective of her work in 1968. Following this she held two one woman shows at the Dawson Gallery in 1974 and 1976. In 1975 she was featured at the Cork ROSC and resumed showing with the RHA. She continued to paint until her death at her home in London on 7 July 1978. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Swanzy


 

 


7‭ July 1816: The great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan died on this day. He died in the City of London in impoverished circumstances. 

Sent to be educated at Harrow by his father he completed his education before he eloped and married Elizabeth Linley and with her modest fortune behind him he established himself in London and began his career as a playwright.‭ In the same year, 1772, Richard Sheridan, at the age of 21, eloped with and subsequently married Elizabeth Ann Linley and set up house in London on a lavish scale with little money and no immediate prospects of any—other than his wife's dowry. The young couple entered the fashionable world and apparently held up their end in entertaining.

He enjoyed some success with his first major play‭ The Rivals that was performed at Covent Garden in 1775. However his most famous play is The School for Scandal which was first performed at Drury Lane in May 1777. It still ranks as one of the greatest comedies of manners of the English stage. Having quickly made his name and fortune, in 1776 Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent, and in 1778 the remaining share. His later plays were all produced there. 

However his later literary career was more of a business venture rather than as an original playwright and Sheridan switched a lot of his attention to English Parliamentary politics where he supported the Whigs.‭ He entered parliament for Stafford in 1780, as the friend and ally of Charles James Fox. He opposed the American War and was instrumental in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. An excellent public speaker his voice and eloquence commanded attention whenever he rose in the House. Initially a supporter of non intervention against France as the Revolution took hold he was more sanguinary in approach as Napoleon rose to dominance. 

He was as it happens one of the few MPs at Westminster to oppose the Act of Union.‭ ‬When the Whigs came into power in 1806 Sheridan was appointed treasurer of the Royal Navy, and became a member of the Privy Council. Throughout his parliamentary career Sheridan was one of the close companions of the Prince of Wales (the later King George IV). He tried though to distance himself from the suggestion that he was the Prince’s advisor or even a mouthpiece for him. He did however defend the controversial Royal member in parliament in some dubious matters of payment of debts.

In‭ 1809 his beloved Drury Lane Theatre burned down. Legend has it that on being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said:

A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.

His last years were marred by personal and financial troubles as he lost his parliamentary seat,‭ fell out with the Prince and was pursued by numerous debtors. In December 1815 he became ill, and was largely confined to bed. His last few weeks were spent in almost total destitution as his funds ran out. He died on the 7th of July 1816, and was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. His funeral was attended by dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.


Tuesday, 6 July 2021


 6 July 1958 Sir John Lymbrick Esmonde, 14th Baronet died on this day. Born on 5 February 1893 he was an Irish nationalist politician who unusually served as both Member of Parliament (MP) in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London and later as a Teachta Dála (TD) in Dáil Eireann in Dublin.

Sir John was the son of Dr John Joseph Esmonde MP (1862–1915), of Drominagh, Borrisokane, County Tipperary. On the death of his father in 1915, he was elected in his place (opposed by two nationalist contenders) as Irish Parliamentary Party MP for North Tipperary while serving in World War I with the Leinster Regiment, then as Captain The Royal Dublin Fusiliers with the Intelligence Corps; he was an engineer.

He was one of five Irish MPs who served with Irish regiments in World War I, the others Stephen Gwynn, William Redmond and D. D. Sheehan as well as former MP Tom Kettle. John Lymbrick Esmonde served with the forces that put down the Easter Rising. He withdrew without defending his seat in the 1918 general election. He inherited the Esmonde Baronetcy when the senior male line died out in 1943.

He subsequently served as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) for Wexford, where he won a seat at the 1937 general election. He was re-elected in 1938 and 1943, but lost his Dáil seat in the 1944 election. He became a barrister at the King's Inns, Dublin, called to the inner Bar as Senior Counsel in 1942, Bencher 1948. He was re-elected TD for Wexford in the 1948 general election serving until the 1951 general election, when he retired from politics. In 1948 he was suggested as possible Taoiseach by Seán MacBride, on the grounds that he had no link to either side in the Civil War.

His younger brother Lt. Geoffrey Esmonde (1897–1916) aged 19 was killed in action in World War I serving with the 4th Tyneside Irish Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. His second younger brother was Sir Anthony Esmonde, 15th Baronet (1899–1981). His half-brother Eugene Esmonde was awarded a VC posthumously for in February 1942 leading the air attack on the German battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau as they made a dash through the English Channel.