Sunday, 31 October 2021


31‭ October 1867: The death occurred of the 3rd Earl of Rosse at Monkstown, Co Dublin on this day. He was the most prominent astronomer of his time and built the world’s largest and most powerful telescope of the age on his estates at Birr Castle, County Offaly. After studying at Trinity College he later gained a First in Mathematics from Magdalen College, Oxford. He first represented  the Kings County at Westminster as Lord Oxmanstown but was indifferent to deep political considerations. In politics he was a moderate conservative but of an independent mind on some leading questions.

After retiring from the world of politics he applied himself to the pursuit of astronomical science.‭ Starting almost from scratch he assembled a series of large telescopes that he perfected through trial and error till eventually he produced his magnificent 72 inch optical reflector – the ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’. With this he discovered or developed  many unknown or little understood heavenly objects including the remains of the burnt out star Supernova SN 1054. He observed that nebula at Birr Castle in the 1840s, and referred to the object as the ‘Crab Nebula’ because a drawing he made of it that looked like a crab, which is still the name it is most commonly known as to this day. 

One of Rosse's telescope admirers was Thomas Langlois Lefroy,‭ a fellow Irish MP, who said:

The planet Jupiter,‭ which through an ordinary glass is no larger than a good star, is seen twice as large as the moon appears to the naked eye/.../But the genius displayed in all the contrivances for wielding this mighty monster even surpasses the design and execution of it. The telescope weighs sixteen tons, and yet Lord Rosse raised it single-handed off its resting place, and two men with ease raised it to any height.

In‭ ‬1849 he was elected President of the Royal Society. He was elected a member of the Imperial Academy at St Petersburg, and created a knight of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III. He also received the Knighthood of St Patrick from Queen Victoria. Though born in England to an Anglo-Irish family he was strongly attached to this country by the ties of family, property and sympathy. 

Saturday, 30 October 2021


30 October 1651: Bishop Terence Albert O'Brien [above] Dominican, was hanged and beheaded at Gallow's Green, Limerick on this day. He was born into a well-off farming family near Cappamore in east Limerick in 1601. He became a Dominican in 1621 taking the name Albert. He studied in Toledo, Spain, where he was ordained in 1627. Returning to Ireland, he served as prior in Limerick and Lorrha near Portumna before becoming Provincial of the Irish province in 1643. He attended the general chapter of his order in Rome in 1644. After the siege of Limerick in 1651, O'Brien, who had encouraged citizens to resist, was captured as he tended the sick in the plague house. Tried by court-martial, he was condemned to death.

As he went to the gallows, he spoke to the people:

"Do not weep for me, but pray that being firm and unbroken in this torment of death, I may happily finish my course."

Two other Dominicans, Fathers John Collins and James Wolf, were executed at the same time.

After his death by strangulation his body was left hanging for three hours and treated with indignity by the soldiers. They cut off his head and spiked it on the river gate where it remained fresh and incorrupt, because, people said, he had preserved his virginity throughout his life. His headless body was buried near the old Dominican priory of Limerick, a wall of which still stands in the grounds of St Mary's Convent of Mercy.

Friday, 29 October 2021

 29 October 878 AD: A celestial  phenomenon was observed in Ireland on this day.

A solar eclipse on the fourth of the Kalends of November [29 October] the twenty-eighth of the moon, on the fourth feria, about the seventh hour of daylight, fifteen solar days having intervened.

The Annals of Ulster 

This celestial phenomenon was seen as a total eclipse in central and northern Scotland and as a deep eclipse in all of Ireland as well as in parts of England and Wales. It was also recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Regino of Prüm, and annals from Iceland and Fulda in Germany, of which only the last compare with the Annals of Ulster record for accuracy.

The sun rose totally eclipsed in 73° N. and 42° 8′ W. at about 9.53 local time, and the central line of the eclipse, after passing near Dublin, Aberystwyth [Wales], Dover [England] and Fulda [Germany], went off the earth at sunset, about 130 miles south of Moscow [Russia] at 4.20 local time; St. David’s, Winchester and London were within the limits of totality.

The Irish monks of ancient Ireland contained amongst their ranks not just scribes but also astronomers. They scanned the skies to record what they saw, not just so they could calculate the correct day to celebrate Easter according to the phases of the Moon but also for such signs or portents heralding the coming of the ‘Last Days’ as disclosed in the Biblical Book of Revelations.

Thursday, 28 October 2021


28 October 1976: Marie Drumm, Republican activist, Cumann na mBan member and Ard-Chomhairle of Sinn Fein was shot dead by a Loyalist Death Squad in Belfast  on this day. In one of the most dramatic assassinations of the Conflict in the North during the 1970s the death of Marie Drumm made headlines across the World. She was a thorn in the side of the British Crown Forces and faced huge levels of harassment for her stance against what she saw as the Occupation of part of Ireland by a Foreign Power.

Born Máire Drumm (née McAteer) in Newry Co Down in 1919 she grew up in the village of Killean Co Armagh. A keen Camogie player she came from a strong Republican family and she was from an early age interested in all things Irish: Language, Music and Culture. She moved to Belfast in 1942. While visiting republican prisoners there she met James Drumm whom she married on his release in 1946. The Drumms had five children: Séamus, Margaret, Seán, Catherine and Máire óg. When the IRA renewed the armed struggle in the late 50’s, James was again interned without trial from ‘57 to ‘61. When the civil rights movement began in the late 60s Máire was actively involved in the efforts to rehouse the thousands of nationalists forced from the homes by Unionist intimidation. 

As things spun out of control Marie Drumm became more and more involved in opposing British Rule. While a good organiser she found her forte in public speaking and no one could doubt that her speeches were direct and fiery at getting her message across. She was twice imprisoned by the British for making ‘seditious speeches’. Her house in Belfast became a focal point of Resistance and as a result was a target of constant raids and harassment by the British Army and RUC. This constant singling out of her and her family took its toll however. Her health declined and in October 1976 she was admitted to the Mater Hospital for an cataract eye operation. However the admittance of such a high profile figure to a public hospital could not escape notice. A Loyalist  hit team was put together to kill her. 

Ironically her health was so bad by that stage that her husband had to announce her standing down as Vice President of Sinn Fein on October 18. She planned to move South on 30 October to a Nursing Home. But on the evening of 28 October her assassins struck. Two men entered the grounds of the Mater Hospital to scout ahead and at approx. 10.30pm that night another two men dressed as hospital doctors s made their way up to the second floor and into the six bedroom Ward 38 where Marie Drumm was re-cuperating. Without warning one of them opened fire hitting her three times in the chest. They then turned and fled. Ten minutes later she died on the operating table. Her killers were never caught and no group claimed responsibility. But it generally accepted that it was a Loyalist Terror Gang that carried it out.

Her death though was a blow to the Republican Movement as she was a high profile figure who gave as good as she got against her enemies. She was buried in the family plot in Milltown cemetery, Belfast on 1 November in a huge Republican Funeral.

"The only people worthy of freedom are those who are prepared to go out and fight for it every day, and die if necessary."

Wednesday, 27 October 2021


27 October 1651:  Aodh Dubh O'Neill surrendered the city of Limerick on this day. He capitulated under pressure from sections of the populace who were suffering from starvation and want. In addition some of his own troops had had enough too. The townsmen were granted quarter for their lives and property, but were warned that they could be evicted in the future. Over 2,000 English Parliamentary soldiers died at Limerick, mostly from disease. Among them was Henry Ireton, who died a month after the fall of the city. About 700 of the Irish garrison died and an unknown, but probably far greater number of civilians – usually estimated at about 5,000.

The soldiers of the garrison were disarmed and allowed to march away to Galway. Several of the leading defenders of Limerick were executed for prolonging the siege. Under the terms of surrender, O'Neill was to be executed for his stubborn defence of the city, but the Parliamentarian general Edmund Ludlow did not carry out the sentence and instead sent O'Neill into imprisonment in the Tower of London.

‭His father was Art Og O'Neill, and was among those exiles who made careers for themselves in the Spanish Army of Flanders. Aodh was, as a result, born in Brussels in 1611 and grew up  there, becoming a professional soldier and serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish Army Of Flanders against the Revolt of the Dutch Provinces.

In 1642, his uncle Owen Roe O’Neill  organised the return of 300 Irish officers in the Spanish service to Ireland to support the Ulster Catholics regain their lands from the Scots and the English. O'Neill's men became the northern branch of the Army of Confederate Ireland which was based at the city of Kilkenny in the south of the Country. He was captured early in the fighting but was released after his Uncle’s great Victory of the Scots at Benburb in 1646. He subsequently rose to prominence after the death of his uncle, Owen Roe O'Neill, in 1649.

Later that year he was sent south with 2,000 veteran Ulster troops to defend southern Ireland. He distinguished himself at the Siege of Clonmel in May 1650, inflicting the worst casualties ever experienced by Cromwell’s Army and their only military defeat.  He was then made commander of the defenders at the Siege of Limerick fighting off the first attempt to take the city in late 1650. However, the following year, Cromwell’s son in law Henry Ireton besieged the city again, eventually forcing the city to surrender when the city's population was dying of hunger and plague, and part of his garrison threatened a Mutiny. 

Aodh Dubh's imprisonment in London was cut short by the intervention of the Spanish Ambassador to England, who argued that he was a Spanish subject. He was subsequently released into Spanish custody on condition that he would not serve in campaigns against English forces ever again. He did not, therefore, return to Flanders, but was posted to Spain, where he became a General of Artillery.  He was recognized by the Spanish as the 5th Earl of Tyrone upon the death of his first cousin, Aodh Eugene. 

In around 1660 he wrote to the newly restored  King of England Charles II and asked for his family's ancestral lands to be restored, and that he be made recognised as the Earl of Tyrone. However Charles did not grant the request and Aodh Dubh died of disease later that year. He deserves his place in Military History as the only man to ever defeat Oliver Cromwell in a Clash of Arms.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021


26 October 1588: The Girona, a 700 ton Neapolitan gallass was wrecked off the coast of Lacada Point, Co Antrim on this day. The Lacada/Lia Fada (the long stone) is a rock promontory that juts into the ocean a few hundred yards from the Giant's Causeway. The Italian built ship had been part of the ill fated Spanish Armada which Philip II had dispatched from his dominions to restore England to the Catholic Faith. The Girona was a galleass - an oared fighting ship, designed for Mediterranean warfare. But she performed extraordinarily well in northern waters, and survived the coast of Ireland with need of only slight repairs. 

On board were the survivors of two shipwrecks that had been washed upon the Irish shore. The Girona had picked them up at Killybegs, County Donegal. The Commander of the vessel decided that overladen as she was the best plan was to make for neutral Scotland and pick up more shipping there for the dash back to Spain. With over a thousand men inside the ship she was sluggish in the stormy waters and despite having over 200 oars to guide her passage was vulnerable to any contrary turns of weather. In a storm the oars would have been useless.

Initially her luck held and she made progress towards the Scottish coast. But the wind turned to the north west and pushed her back onto the rocky Antrim shores. Disaster struck when her rudder snapped off and she drifted a helpless hulk upon the waters. In despair the crew and passengers, including some of the noblest names in Spain, could only pray for Eternal Salvation as they were cast to their doom upon the rocks. Just a handful survived the ordeal and were rescued by the Irish of that coast. 

While nothing now survives of the wreck, over the last 40 years the place where she sank, now known as Port na Spaniagh, has yielded a rich haul of treasure - pathetic gold and jewelled trinkets, badges of rank, religious charms, tenderly inscribed love-tokens, money chains and nearly 1,200 gold and silver coins. A testimony to the riches in the possession of some of Spain's 'best' families on the night that they perished. Much of this recovered haul is now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. [above]

Monday, 25 October 2021


25 October 1854: The Charge of the Light Brigade on this day. It took place in the Crimea on the Black Sea in what was then part of the Russian Empire. At the time Britain, France and Sardinia were at War with the Czar over Russia’s attacks on the Turkish Empire. This most famous (or infamous) cavalry charge was one with quite a few Irish connections.

The British and the French dispatched an Expeditionary Force to the Crimea to take the naval base of Sevastopol. In order to conduct the siege the small port of Balaklava was utilised to unload supplies for the British Army. On the morning of 25 October the Russians attempted to seize it but were repulsed. The battle however continued and by that afternoon the Light Brigade was tasked with attacking the Russian batteries that were being withdrawn.

‘The Light Brigade consisted of five regiments; the 4th Light Dragoons, the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, the 11th Hussars, the 13th Light Dragoons and the 17th Lancers.

The 4th Light Dragoons had one Irish officer serving in the Crimea, Cornet Robert Newcomen Goore-Booth of the Co. Sligo family, but he did not ride in the charge, being on sick leave aboard ship from 12th October to December 1854. Thirty-three Irish other ranks served in the 4th in the Crimea, of whom eighteen rode in the charge. Of these, four were killed, eight were wounded and three taken prisoner, one of whom was also wounded.

The 8th Hussars were an Irish Regiment and two Irish officers and nine-four other ranks served in the Crimea. One Irish officer and twenty-seven Irish other ranks actually charged with the brigade, of whom eight were killed, five wounded and two taken prisoner, one of whom was also wounded. The two Irish officers who served in the 8th in the Crimea were Captain Lord Killeen, later tenth Earl of Fingall, who did not rejoin the Regiment until after Balaklava, and Lieut. Viscount Fitzgibbon, who was almost certainly killed in the charge. John Viscount Fitzgibbon was the son of the third Earl of Clare and a grandson of ‘Black Jack’ Fitzgibbon, the controversial Lord Chancellor of Ireland at the time of the Union. He had joined the 8th in 1850‘.

The 11th Hussars, who had been commanded by Brigadier the Earl of Cardigan, had two Irish officers in the charge, Lieut. George Houghton from Kilmanock House, Wexford, who was mortally wounded and died at Scutari on 22nd November and Lieut. Roger Palmer of Castle Lackin, Co. Mayo who survived, later transferred to the 2nd Life Guards and eventually rose to become a general. Troop Sergeant-Major Patrick Teevan from Belturbet and Private Larkin, who was killed, were two of the Irish rank and file in the charge from the 11th.

The 13th Light Dragoons had a total of forty personnel from Ireland serving in the Crimea. However only one Irish officer, Cornet Hugh Montgomery of Ballydrain, Co. Antrim, and four other ranks from Ireland, charged with the brigade. Montgomery was slain, having first shot four Russian hussars. Corporal Joseph Malone of the 13th won the V.C. at Balaklava for assisting in the rescue of the mortally wounded Captain Webb of the 17th Lancers. Malone performed his act of bravery while returning on foot after his horse had been shot.

From the 17th Lancers, two officers and fifteen other ranks of Irish origin participated in the charge. Captain White who had been educated at Trinity College Dublin, was severely wounded and Captain Winter from Agher, Co. Meath, was killed (there is a memorial tablet to him in the church there). Sergeant John Farrell of the 17th had his horse killed beneath him and won his V.C. assisting Sergeant Berryman of his regiment and Corporate Malone of the 13th to carry Captain Webb off the field. Troop Sergeant-Major Denis O’Hara who rallied some of the remnants of the 17th after the charge was afterwards painted by Orlando Norrie. The portrait is now in the museum of the 17/21st Lancers.

Source: Viscount Dillon. Irish Sword Vol xii - No. 48.

The seed of the whole disaster lay in botched instructions given by Lord Raglan, the British Commander to one Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who was of Irish-Italian stock. He was the finest Light Cavalry man in the Army, but somewhat rash and hot headed. On reaching the place where the Cavalry Division was drawn up he handed over a note dictated by Raglan which read:

"Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.

But he did not realise that while all was clear from his vantage point up on the heights the withdrawal of the enemy pieces was hidden from view to the recipients of the message. To make matters worse Lord Lucan was the senior officer on the spot. Lord Lucan had vast estates in the west of Ireland in Co Mayo but the families title originated from the village of Lucan Co Dublin. He was thoroughly hated in Mayo for the number of evictions he carried out in the Great Famine.  The commander of the Light Brigade was Lord Cardigan, who while considered something of a dunderhead no one would doubt his bravery that day. The two men were brothers in law and coldly detested each other. A dispute arose over what they were to do. Captain Nolan then made his dramatic and fateful interjection, appearing to point up the valley before them he loudly proclaimed to his superiors: There is the enemy - there are the guns!

Lord Lucan then reluctantly ordered his much loathed relation to take the Light Brigade up the valley before them and seize the Russian guns at the far end. It was a hopeless task of course as there was no cover and the enemy had the place swept by guns on both flanks as well as where their main position was. The Brigade set off at a slow trot then at the gallop. Just as they gathered pace Nolan dashed out in front waving his sabre above his head as he tried desperately to shout something.At that very moment a Russian shell exploded overhead and he fell from his horse a dead man. What he meant to say no one knows but it looks like he realised his fatal error and tried to turn the Brigade in another direction.

The regiments made it down the valley, meleed amongst the enemy batteries but could not hold them as the Russians poured volleys of fire into them and prepared to counter attack with their Cossacks. They slowly made their way back up the valley, some on horseback but many on foot.

The brigade was not completely destroyed, but did suffer terribly, with 118 men killed, 127 wounded and about 60 taken prisoner out of some 670 men who took part . After regrouping, only 195 men were still with horses. The futility of the action and its reckless bravery prompted the French Marshal Pierre Bousqet to state "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." ("It is magnificent, but it is not war.") He continued, in a rarely quoted phrase: "C'est de la folie" — "It is madness." The Russian commanders are said to have initially believed that the British soldiers must have been drunk!

War correspondent William Howard Russell, who was from Dublin and was reporting for the London Times witnessed the battle, declared our Light Brigade was annihilated by their own rashness, and by the brutality of a ferocious enemy.

Of course there were scapegoats. Lord Raglan blamed Lord Lucan, who in turn blamed Captain Nolan and Lord Cardigan blamed Lord Lucan for being foolish enough to order it! But Raglan died out there as did Nolan while Lucan and Cardigan returned home and continued their military careers - though neither of them saw action again.

But we will leave the final say to Lord Cardigan who led the whole bloody affair:

I think that every man who was engaged in that disastrous affair at Balaklava, and who was fortunate enough to come out of it alive, must feel that it was only by a merciful decree of Almighty Providence that he escaped from the greatest apparent certainty of death which could possibly be conceived.


Sunday, 24 October 2021


24‭ October 1878: Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first Cardinal and the most formidable man in the 19th Century Church died on this day. He was given the titular Roman church of San Pietro Montorio as his cardinality– a Church with Irish associations. He was born in Co Kildare in 1803. Paul Cullen himself was named after an uncle executed by crown forces in May 1798. Cullen's father was also involved with the United Irishmen, was arrested, and narrowly avoided court-martial and a probable death sentence. He was released in 1801. His family were prosperous Tenant Farmers.

Educated locally,‭ incl time spent in a Quaker School he spent many years in Rome studying. He took his Doctorate in Theology in 1828, and defended it in the presence of the Pope. He was ordained there in 1829. He was later the Rector of the Irish College in the Holy City and was also appointed Rector of the College of the Propaganda of the Faith/Congregatio de Propaganda Fide – a most senior appointment. Due to his position as head of the Irish College he was the conduit for correspondence between the Irish Bishops and the Holy See for many years and became intimate with all aspects of the Church at home in Ireland.

When the revolutionary events of‭ 1848 swept through Rome Cullen offered sanctuary to a number of clerics and cardinals wanted by the republican regime. He secured the protection of the United States Consul over his palace in Rome, which then flew the flag of the USA. The sight of that emblem precluded the Revolutionaries from setting foot inside. This act of some cunning earned Cullen the eternal gratitude of Pope Pius IX. His status in the eyes of this long lived and very conservative Pope was further enhanced in 1859 when he helped to organise an Irish Brigade that was sent to Italy to fight alongside the Papal troops in defending the Papal Estates from Garibaldi.‬ 

He was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in‭ ‬1849 and returned home the following year. He convened the Synod of Thurles (1850), the first national synod held with due public solemnity in Ireland since the beginning of the Reformation period. The main purpose of the synod was to restore the authority of ecclesiastical order in Ireland, and this was in the fullest measure attained. The synod none the less marked the introduction of distinctly Roman devotional forms across the island. Cullen considered the synod's decrees to be his greatest achievement and worked hard to secure their implementation.

A noted conservative in politics he was opposed to the Young Irelanders and also the Fenians.‭ ‬He wanted the Irish Catholic Church to stay aloof from politics unless there were specific Catholic issues involved. His lifelong ambition was to see established a Catholic University in Ireland. While one was established in 1854 under John Henry Newman it never really got off the ground and limped on for years in a sort of educational limbo. He also wanted the Protestant Church of Ireland to be disestablished. While only partially successful in the 1st the COI was disestablished in 1869 – much to Cullen’s satisfaction.

He became Cardinal on‭ 22 June 1866 and his motto was ‘Ponit Animam Pro Amicis’. He attended the Vatican Council in 1870 where he was a staunch defender of Papal Infallibility. His definition the Pope’s Authority on Theological matters infallibility was the one that was adopted with just minor modifications. He was Rome’s Representative to Ireland and ensured that the Church here was run under disciplined and regimented lines. The squabbles and localism of earlier times were suppressed and the Catholics of Ireland were ‘Romanised’ in a way that was not there before Cullen took over.

He was first and foremost a Roman.‭ His allegiance to Rome, in the person of the pope and his authority, temporal and spiritual, was uncompromising. How Rome stood … on any question was Cullen’s point of departure. 

Emmet Larkin

Cullen died suddenly at Eccles Street,‭ Dublin on 24 October 1878. His funeral was a great public event. He was buried, according to his wishes, below the high altar in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe - the college he had done so much to have founded.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

23 October 1970: In one of the most dramatic and controversial trials of modern times Charles J. Haughey, Captain James Kelly, John Kelly and Albert Luykx were all acquitted of the charges against them of attempting to illegally import Arms into the State. This marked the end of an extraordinary series of political and legal events, which had begun on 6 May that year when Cabinet Ministers Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney were sacked from Jack Lynch’s Government. Their summary dismissal was over alleged improprieties in the importation of weapons through Dublin. It was believed that these were for use by the Catholics in the North against further sectarian attacks.

Though they vehemently denied the allegation they and others were put on trial on 28 May. The charges against Blaney were dropped in the District Court July 2, 1970 and as a result he was not tried, before the main trial got underway under Justice Aindrias O'Caoimh. The trial collapsed a week later after allegations of bias. A 2nd trial began but no concrete evidence was ever presented that could secure a prosecution against the defendants. Following a second trial the other four defendants were cleared on October 23

The involvement of Haughey in all of this remains decidedly murky but he would seem to have had good grounds for believing that certain rivals within Fianna Fail shafted him. There were definitely political opponents who wished to stop his rise to power within the Party and his expected takeover one day.

If so they were to be disappointed. Though it took Haughey nine long hard years to climb his way back to the top he achieved his life long ambition and unseated Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in December 1979.


Friday, 22 October 2021


22/23 October 1641: The Rising/ Éirí Amach 1641 began prematurely on this night. The uprising had been long planned and was aimed at securing the religious and civil liberties of the Catholics of Ireland. It was to have started in Dublin the previous day but the plan to seize Dublin Castle was betrayed and it remained in English hands. The planners of the rising were a small group of Irish landowners, mainly Gaelic Irish and from the heavily planted provinces of Leinster and Ulster. Hugh MacMahon and Conor Maguire were to have seized Dublin Castle, while Sir Phelim O’Neill was to raise the North.

However in Dublin the plot to seize the Castle was betrayed:

On the evening of the 22nd of October, when the preparations had been completed in Dublin, a man named Owen O'Connolly, to whom MacMahon had confided the secret, went straight to Sir William Parsons, one of the lords justices, and told him of the plot. Parsons at first gave no heed to the story, for he perceived that O'Connolly was half drunk. But on consultation with his colleague Sir John Borlase, they arrested Maguire and MacMahon on the morning of the 23rd: these were subsequently tried in London and hanged. Rory O'Moore and some others then in Dublin escaped. Instant measures were taken to put the city in a state of defence.

The plan was to use surprise rather than military force to take their objectives and to then issue their demands, in expectation of support from the rest of the country. As for why things came to head when they did the reasons are legion.

This great rebellion was brought about by the measures taken to extirpate the Catholic religion; by the plantations of Chichester and Strafford; and by the non-confirmation of the graces, which made the people despair of redress. There were complaints from every side about religious hardships. As to the plantations, no one could tell where they might stop; and there was a widespread fear that the people of the whole country might be cleared off to make place for new settlers. Besides all this, those who had been dispossessed longed for the first opportunity to fall on the settlers and regain their homes and farms.

A Concise History of Ireland by P. W. Joyce

The Irish in the North had the greatest initial success, taking numerous strategic places, incl. Charlemont Fort, Co Armagh, (one of the most modern in Ireland) by a ruse. This was Lord Caulfield's house, which became the chief fortress of the Irish in Ulster. They also captured the forts of Mountjoy, Dungannon, Castlecaulfield, Salterstown and Lissan. In the days that followed the Revolt grew and grew and most of the Protestants who had been planted in the northern counties were forced to flee.

Lurid prints and accounts (as related in The Depositions) were spread in London and other English cities at the indignities and sufferings visited upon the Protestant settlers who were forced to flee for their lives. While much exaggerated the stories did contain kernels of truth and were widely believed. They laid the foundations of the terrible vengeance visited upon Ireland when Oliver Cromwell landed here in 1649.

Many Catholics were also assaulted and cut down by the Crown forces in the aftermath of 1641 as they initiated counter atrocities against anyone they deemed to be ‘Rebels’. 

Thus was opened one of the bloodiest and vicious wars Ireland has ever experienced as Death, Famine, War, and Plague [above]* were visited upon her People. The Revolt in Ireland acted as a catalyst for the start of the English Civil War the following year that spread throughout the islands of Britain & Ireland - ‘The War of the Three Kingdoms', - A War that did not fully abate here for another twelve long years. 

* Woodcut of The Four Horsemen of  The Apocalypse by Albrecht Dürer [1498]


Thursday, 21 October 2021


21 October 1803: Thomas Russell, United Irishman, ‘the man from God knows where’, was hanged outside Downpatrick Jail, Co Down on this day. He had been captured in Dublin as he tried to organise a rescue of Robert Emmet. A former British Officer he resigned his Commission in the wake of the French Revolution. Russell was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement in Ireland for over a decade and had spent a number of years in prison for his beliefs.

He was a great friend of Wolfe Tone who he had first met in the visitors gallery in Ireland's House of Commons in the year 1790. He was a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen that aimed to secure Civil & Political Liberties for the Irish People. 

In 1795 Russell, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cave Hill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath:
"never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence"

In 1796 he was arrested and held without Trial until 1802 when England and France signed the brief Peace of Amiens. He was released on condition he went into Exile. He made his way to Paris where he met Emmet and he agreed to try and raise the North. He returned from exile in France specifically to help stir the North into Revolt in conjunction with Emmet’s Rising in Dublin, but he found that the spirit of ’98 was no longer there.

After Emmet's abortive Rising in Dublin he went on the run but after weeks in hiding he was caught and sent back to the North to be put on trial. He was sentenced to death for his part in the attempt to overthrow the Ascendency and was hanged at Downpatrick alongside other conspirators who had joined him in the enterprise.

His brave death was the subject of a famous ballad by Florence Wilson that ends with the death of Russell on the gallows:

For the man that they hanged at Downpatrick Jail
Was the Man from God-knows-where!

Wednesday, 20 October 2021


20 October 1892 - General Eoin O’Duffy was born on this day near Castleblaney Co Monaghan. He was the 2nd Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. O’Duffy first came to local prominence in the G.A.A. and afterwards as a senior figure in the IRA during the War of Independence as the leader of the Monaghan Brigade taking part in the capture of Ballytrain RIC Barracks in 1920. He was elected a TD for Monaghan in 1921 and after the Truce was sent to Belfast to organise the local defenses there against attacks by Loyalists. He supported the Treaty and was appointed a General in the Free State Army. He directed operations in the Limerick area with some success.

After the Civil War ended he was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and by all accounts did an excellent job of turning out a first rate force on a shoestring budget. However when De Valera came to power he lost favour, partially over his record in the Civil War and partly due to his obstreperous nature – especially when dealing with politicians!

He was sacked and became embroiled in party politics as a Leader the ‘Army Comrades Association’ aka ‘the Blueshirts’, a semi Fascist organisation and then he merged them with Fine Gael. His antics as a political leader lowered his esteem in the eyes of many and eventually his Blueshirt movement fizzled out and he parted company with F.G. He led a small expeditionary force to Spain to fight alongside the Fascists there but after a few minor skirmishes the group returned home and disbanded. O’Duffy died in 1944, a broken man living in lonely isolation, though for his past services De Valera granted him a State Funeral.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021


19 October 1745: Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on this day. He was 77 years old. He was a brilliant satirist, an essayist, a political pamphleteer (first for Whigs then for the Tories), and a poet. Ordained a Cleric he went on to become the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier's Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub. While living in London in 1711 he wrote The Conduct of the Allies an attack upon the conduct of the War with France and Spain.

'The success of this pamphlet has scarcely a parallel in history. It seems to have for a time almost reversed the current of public opinion, and to have enabled the Ministers to conclude the Peace of Utrecht'.

He held a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Established Church of Ireland and it was in his later years that he was appointed Dean Of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. He was though never really happy in that role and devoted most of his time and energy to literary and political activities. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Dublin Administration and an advocate of Ireland controlling her own destiny - though within the Protestant framework.

He is still one of the best known literary figures of the 18th Century throughout the English speaking World. His novel Gulliver's Travels is one of the most widely known works of fiction in the English language.

His last years were sad ones as his friends died off and his intellectual capacity deserted him. Definite symptoms of madness appeared in 1738. In 1741 guardians were appointed to take care of his affairs and watch lest that in his outbursts of violence he should do himself harm. In 1742 he suffered great pain from the inflammation of his left eye, which swelled to the size of an egg; five attendants had to restrain him from tearing out his eye. He went a whole year without uttering a word.

After being laid out in public view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson's [Stella] side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (twelve thousand pounds) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, originally known as St Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles, which opened in 1757, and which still exists today as a psychiatric hospital.

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
Abolishing Christianity and other Essays 

Monday, 18 October 2021


18 October circa 1720: Peg Woffington, the most beautiful and talented actress of her Age, was born in Dublin on this date. She was born into poor circumstances in the Dame street area of the city centre. Her father was a bricklayer but died when she was still a child leaving her mother and her siblings to fend for themselves. At an early age she displayed a gift for the stage and in between helping her mother sell watercress on the streets of Dublin she developed her career in the City's theatres.

At the age of 10 she had made her stage debut in a Juvenile production of The Beggars Opera. She made her name in Ireland as Ophelia in a 1737 production of Hamlet and came to London in 1740.

Discovered in Dublin by Signora Violante, an Italian acrobat and equilibrist, by the early 1730s she was performing as a member of Violante’s group of “Lilliputians” at Smock Alley, alongside her younger sister Mary.

Her personal charisma and acting ability were apparent - slender, with an expressive face and large, dark eyes, she soon toured with Signora Violante’s company to London.

'Peg Woffington, the best Irish actress of the 18th century'

Jessica Traynor Irish Times 3 October 2018 

There she was an immediate success. One of her most celebrated roles was as Sir Harry Wilder, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She caused quite a stir in this part by wearing breeches. 

Woffington enjoyed success in the role of Sylvia in The Recruiting Officer. She performed at Drury Lane for several years and later returned to Dublin, appearing in a variety of plays. Her most well-received performances were in comic roles, such as elegant women of fashion like Lady Betty Modish and Lady Townley, and breeches roles. But she was impeded in the performance of tragedy by a harsh tone in her voice that she did her best to overcome.

She lived openly with David Garrick, the foremost actor of the day, and her other love affairs (including liaisons with Edward Bligh, 2nd Earl of Darnley and MP Charles Hanbury Williams) were numerous and notorious. For whatever reason, Woffington left Garrick in about 1744 and moved to Teddington, into a house called Teddington Place.

She pursued a successful stage career in London and also briefly in Paris. When she returned to Dublin she was a sensation as people flocked in droves to see her perform at the famous Smock Alley Theatre. Again though her amorous affairs cost her dear and she departed to once again to act upon the London Stage.

But tragedy struck short her career when, at London’s Covent Garden in 1757, and playing the part of Rosalind in As You Like It she took ill on stage and could not continue. Her last words as an actress were:

If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased . . .

A spectator described what then happened:

Her voice broke, she faltered, endeavoured to go on but could not proceed – then in a voice of tremor cried ‘Oh, God! Oh, God!’ [she] tottered to the stage door speechless, where she was caught. The audience of course applauded until she was out of sight and then sank into awful looks of astonishment . . . to see one of the most handsome women of the age, a favourite principal actress . . . struck so suddenly by the hand of death.

Tate Wilkinson, Memoirs 1790

A broken women she lingered on for a number of years but never made a full recovery. A generous benefactor she died in her house at Teddington, London on 28 March 1760.


Sunday, 17 October 2021


17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien the Nationalist politician and Young Irelander, was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.

That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.
There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]

Saturday, 16 October 2021


16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.

The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.

Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing.

In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honour the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.

There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [below in Merrion Square Dublin directly across the road from No 1 Merrion Sq. where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery [ above] in Paris where he is buried. Which is as far as I could judge on the day I visited it some years ago by far the most popular attraction in that most famous of cemeteries.

A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.

Oscar Wilde

Friday, 15 October 2021


15 October 1945: The death of Eoin MacNeill occurred in Dublin on this day. Born in County Antrim he became a scholar of the Irish language, a prominent nationalist, a revolutionary and a politician.. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, founded to preserve the Irish language and culture. In 1909 he was appointed foundation Professor of Early Irish History in UCD and was elected to the first Senate of the new NUI where, along with Douglas Hyde, he campaigned to make Irish a compulsory subject for entry to the university. 

While primarily a scholar and cultural activist, in an article entitled ‘The North began’ in An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light] on 1 November 1913, McNeill advocated the formation of a national volunteer force on the lines of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The organisation was established in Dublin on 25 November with the intent to back the push for Home Rule by force of arms if necessary.

He was Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers at the time of the Easter Rising but was kept out of it and indeed tried to stop it as he foresaw a bloody failure if it went ahead. On the eve of the planned  Rising ( 22 April 1916) he issued his infamous countermand order to try and stop the Rising going ahead:

"Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow, Sunday, are completely cancelled...

As a result the Revolt went off at half cock and only in Dublin did enough Volunteers turn out to be able to make a go of it to take on the British Army in battle. But for all his attempts to stop the Rising he was interned in Frognoch Camp in Wales with the other prisoners taken in the aftermath and remained under British suspicion on release.

He supported the Treaty in 1921 and held the Cabinet position of Minister of Education in the first Free State Government. He represented the State on the Anglo Irish Boundary Commission in 1925 but resigned when the findings were leaked to a British newspaper. He lost his seat in the 1927 General Election. In that same year he was the first man to come across Kevin O’Higgins as he lay fatally injured after being shot near his home on Booterstown Avenue in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He retired from politics completely and became Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He published a number of books on Irish history incl. Phases of Irish History (1919) and Celtic Ireland (1921) His work on early Irish History was ground breaking esp. his study of Kingship and succession rights in Ireland before the Anglo Norman Invasion in 1169 AD. Indeed he was one of the first Irish Historians to make a serious attempt to divide fact from myth in the study of the ancient sources of Irish History. His works are still of value today as one of the foundation stones of modern historical study in this Country.

Thursday, 14 October 2021


14 October 1318 : The Battle of Faughart, also known as the Battle of Dundalk, was fought on this day. It was between an Anglo-Irish force led by John of Birmingham and Edmund Butler, and a Scots-Irish army commanded by Edward Bruce, claimant to the Crown of Ireland and brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Edward was killed in the battle. The defeat and death of Edward de Bruce at the battle ended the attempt to revive an independent Kingdom of Ireland. It also ended the attempt of King Robert of Scotland to open up a second front against the English in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.

Edward had invaded Ireland with an Army of 6,000 men in May 1315 and initially swept all before him. But his arrival here coincided with the start of a Great Famine that swept Europe that was caused by devastating climatic change. That and the cruelties his followers inflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike won him few converts outside of Ulster. Like Hannibal of old he could win battles and sweep the land, but he could not take the city of Dublin – the Capital of Ireland.

By 1318 his position was desperate as he saw his ambition to be King of Ireland in his own right slip away. He decided on a desperate gamble - to give battle before reinforcements could arrive from Scotland and thus lessen his own glory. Thus the two armies met at Faughart, on rising ground just north of Dundalk. Bruce had placed the few Gaelic forces that stayed with him at the rear. He divided his army into three divisions. This disposition proved disastrous, as the divisions proved to be easy targets for deBirmingham’s forces who simply destroyed them as they met and engaged with them. They were too far away from each other to provide any support to each other.

The English 'Chronicle of Lanercost' recorded:

The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland. 

At the beginning of the battle, Edward Bruce refused to wear the sur-coat bearing his coat of arms. This was worn by his man-servant Gib Harper, who fought beside his master. Both master and servant were killed by an English soldier called John Maupas, but not before Maupas himself had sustained a fatal sword thrust. All three were found together after the battle in which many Scottish nobles who had followed Bruce since the beginning of the campaign, were also killed.

After Edward's death his body was quartered and his limbs sent to various places in Ireland, with his head being delivered to Edward II, the King of England. Tradition holds that his torso was then buried in nearby graveyard.

His defeat and destruction at Faughart was as unexpected as it was sudden but the termination of this terrible war was greeted with relief as it brought to an end a bleak and dark chapter in Ireland’s History. One in which the provinces of Ulster and Leinster bore the brunt of the devastation and in which armies of both sides freely indulged at the cost of the inhabitants both Irish and English who suffered greatly in these harshest of years. 

Edward Bruce, the destroyer of all Erinn in general,

both Foreigners and Gaeidhel, was slain by the Foreigners of Erinn, and …

no better deed for the men of all Erinn was performed

since the beginning of the world, since the Fomorian race was expelled from Erinn, than this deed

for theft and famine, and destruction of men occurred throughout Erinn during his time

For the space of three years and a half

and people used to eat one another, without doubt throughout Erinn.

Annals of Loch Cé 1318 AD

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

 13 October 1881: Charles Stuart Parnell MP was arrested in Morrison’s Hotel, Dublin and conveyed to Kilmainham Jail on this day. The British Prime Minister Gladstone had ordered Parnell’s arrest the previous night after a Cabinet meeting. He then and there dispatched Mr Foster (Britain’s Chief Secretary for Ireland) to Dublin with orders to capture the Irish Leader. Detectives Mallon and Sheridan of the ‘G’ Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police carried out the arrest. They arrived at the hotel and asked the hotel porter to request an interview with Mr Parnell. The leader of the Land League asked for time to dress and then called up his two visitors who were greeted with the words: 

Do you intend to arrest me?

Yes - replied John Mallon.

The trio went downstairs and into a waiting cab, though Parnell refused to leave until he had been given 10% off the Bill! Mallon then gave the order to Kilmainham and they set off with a police escort to the notorious jail. Once they arrived Parnell was incarcerated with the other political prisoners already held being held there. 

He wrote to his lover Katharine O’Shea when he was arrested:

‘Politically it is a fortunate thing for me that I have been arrested, as the movement is breaking fast and all will be quiet in a few months, when I shall be released’.

For the arrest of Parnell backfired on the British Government as left without a Leader the rural population increasingly turned to 'Captain Moonlight'* to settle agrarian disputes - as Parnell had predicted at the time of his arrest!

By the start of 1882, Irish agrarian unrest escalated to unprecedented levels (3,433 episodes of agrarian violence were recorded) and it was clear to both Gladstone and Parnell that it was time to reach a compromise.

'The 'Kilmainham Treaty' was agreed. The agreement was that Gladstone would amend the Land Act of 1881 to include tenants in arrears and leaseholders; drop coercion; and release ‘suspects’ in police custody. In return, Parnell would help to pacify the people of Ireland and co–operate with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles and measures of general reform. Parnell was released on 2 May 1882 and crossed directly to England where he made a dramatic appearance in the House of Commons'

* Attackers in the moonlight


Tuesday, 12 October 2021


12 October 1984: An IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel, Brighton killed five members of the Conservative Party and narrowly missed killing the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – it’s intended target. Until that time this was the most audacious attack ever undertaken against a British Leader. Thatcher was lucky in that her room was changed from the previous years and this saved her life. For the IRA bomber - Patrick Magee - had booked into her old room weeks previously and planted a bomb with a timing device primed to explode on the night she would arrive.

The bomb detonated at 2:54 a.m. on 12 October. The mid-section of the building collapsed into the basement, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel's façade. Firemen said that many lives were likely saved because the well-built Victorian hotel remained standing. Margaret Thatcher was still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. The blast badly damaged her bathroom, but left her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Both she and her husband Denis escaped injury. She changed her clothes and was led out through the wreckage along with her husband and Cynthria Crawford (her friend and aide) and driven to Brighton police station.

Those killed were Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, Eric Taylor (North-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Jeanne Shattock (wife of Sir Gordon Shattock, Western Area Chairman of the Conservative Party), Lady Muriel Maclean (wife of Sir Donald Maclean, President of the Scottish Conservatives), and Roberta Wakeham (wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham). Donald and Muriel Maclean were in the room in which the bomb exploded.

Several more, including Margaret Tebbit—the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade—were left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people were taken to hospital and recovered from their injuries. When hospital staff asked Tebbit whether he was allergic to anything, he famously answered "bombs".

That night the IRA issued a statement:

Mrs. Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war.

Monday, 11 October 2021


11‭ October 1741: Birth of James Barry, the great neo Classicalist Painter, in Cork on this day. His contemporaries considered Barry a child prodigy. He started painting while still in Cork and then moved to Dublin. There he produced several large pictures, which decorated his father's house, such as Aeneas escaping with his Family from the Flames of Troy, Susanna and the Elders and Daniel in the Lions' Den. The painting that first brought him into widespread public notice, and gained him the acquaintance and patronage of Edmund Burke, was founded on an old tradition of St Patrick visiting Cashel, and of the conversion of its king in The Baptism of the King of Cashel by St Patrick. 

After some time in Dublin he made his way to London where he gained the patronage of Edmund Burke and won renown for his artistic talent.‭ He then went on an extended tour, first to Paris, then to Rome, where he remained upwards of three years, from Rome to Florence and Bologna, and thence to Venice. He returned to London in about 1771. There he produced his picture of Venus, which was compared to the Galatea of Raphael, the Venus of Titian and the Venus de Medici.

He is‭ best remembered though for his six part series of paintings entitled The Progress of Human Culture [below] in the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in London, in which city he made the rest of his career.

He produced numerous paintings in the course of artistic career that varied greatly in accomplishment but little in style.‭ ‬He was determined to follow his own path in life and in Art and while this won him admiration it also lost him friends and more crucially Patrons in an Age when patronage was essential to social advancement. 

He died in London on‭ 22 February 1806 and the following month his remains were interred in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Above: Self portrait circa 1803: National Gallery of Ireland

Sunday, 10 October 2021


10 October 1918: The sinking of the mailboat RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea on this day. The ship was sunk by a German submarine and went down very rapidly. Over 560 men, women and children were drowned. It was the greatest loss of life suffered by an Irish owned vessel in the 20th century. The ship had set sail that morning from Kingstown [Dún Laoghaire ] for Holyhead, Wales. On that morning the Leinster carried about 180 civilians, 77 crew, some 500 soldiers and 22 postal workers. She was only just over the horizon soon after 10am that morning when disaster struck. The first torpedo hit her forward on the port side which blew open the mail sorting office aboard and killed many of the Royal Mail employees.

RMS Leinster (2,640 gross tons) was built in 1897 at Laird Brothers, Birkenhead for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. At the time she was one of the fastest ships at sea with a speed of 24 knots.

Captain Birch ordered the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to port but the ship began to settle slowly by the bow; however the ship sank rapidly after a third torpedo struck her, causing a huge explosion. Attempts were made to launch the lifeboats but panic ensued as there was a mad scramble for them.

The ship's log states that she carried 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage and at least 564 people are known to have been drowned - the vast majority serving military personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and the RAF. Captain Birch was lost in the rescue operation undertaken by HMS Lively, Mallard & Seal. Survivors were brought ashore at Kingstown where emergency services treated them.

Ironically the U Boat that sank her was herself lost soon after. The UB-123 was probably lost in a minefield in the North Sea on its way back to Germany, on or about 19 October 1918. The bodies of her commander Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm and his crew of two officers and thirty-three men were never recovered.

The sinking of the Leinster had international ramifications. Delicate behind the scenes negotiations were going on to bring the War to an end. When US President Wilson heard the news he stalled the talks telling the Germans that, amongst other things there could be no peace as long as Germany attacked passenger ships. This was technically true but the ship was protected by Royal Navy sailors and armed with a 12 pounder. She was painted in camouflage colours and was carrying serving military personnel returning to Active Service. To the Germans she would have been seen as a legitimate target.

Nevertheless within days the German High Command realised the game was up. On 21 October Reinhard Scheer, Admiral of the German High Seas Fleet, signalled his submarines:

"To all U-boats: Commence return from patrol at once. Because of ongoing negotiations any hostile actions against merchant vessels prohibited. Returning U-boats are allowed to attack warships only in daylight. End of message. Admiral."

One Month later the War was over. In the months and years that followed the loss of the Leinster was forgotten due to the great events that followed in Ireland in the aftermath of the War. It is only within the last decade or so that this tragedy has finally been given recognition as something that has its place in Irish History.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

 9 October 1834: The first railway in Ireland - the Dublin to Kingstown [ Dún Laoghaire] line - opened for business on this day. The novelty of a railway for commercial purposes was a relatively recent one the first being the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830. The town of Dún Laoghaire some eight miles south east of Dublin possessed a deep water port that was viable for vessels that could not make it up the river Liffey. A group of businessmen decided to develop a rail line between the two urban centres to turn a profit from this new mode of transportation.  For this purpose a company was formed the Dublin and Kingstown Rail Company, with a capital of £200,000, and the necessary Act of Parliament (I & 2 Wm. IV, Cap. 69) received Royal assent on 6th September 1831. 

From the start though the scheme met with opposition from two different landowners who insisted on large cash compensations and in the case of Lord Cloncurry  the building of a private foot bridge over the line to a bathing area complete with a Romanesque temple, a short tunnel and a cutting to maintain his privacy!

The contract was given to William Dargan, son of a tenant farmer from near Carlow, who had already established a reputation as a road and canal builder. Work began in April 1833. At one stage 1,800 men were toiling away. Work at the Dublin end went on around the clock. At night the scene was lit by coal and wood fires and blazing tar barrels.

The Dublin Penny Journal of 25th October 1834, gives the following description:

On the 9th instant a train of carriages, crowded with ladies and gentlemen, proceeded the entire length of the line from the station-house at Westland Row to Salt-hill. There were eight carriages attached to the train; one of the first class, three second, and four of the third class. The first trip was made by the locomotive engine called the 'Hibernia",* and with the many disadvantages attendant on a first starting, the trip to the station-house at Salt-hill was performed in fifteen minutes and a half; and back to Dublin in twenty-two and a half minutes Having joined in one of these trips we were delighted with the perfect ease and safety with which it was performed; there is so little motion perceptible even when going at the quickest rate, that we could read or write without the slightest inconvenience.

The Neighbourhood of Dublin: The History of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway

Weston St. John Joyce 

* The Hibernia had been specially built for the Dublin and Kingstown Rail Company by Richard Roberts, a Welsh engineer. 

Friday, 8 October 2021


8 October 1899: The foundation stone of a monument to Charles Stewart Parnell was laid in Upper Sackville (O'Connell) Street, Dublin, on this day. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Daniel Tallon, marched at the head of a procession which that year replaced the usual demonstration at the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell in Glasnevin Cemetery, and subsequently laid the foundation stone of the Parnell Statue at the head of Sackville Street. It was completed in 1911.

When finished to monument was inscribed with a excerpt from one of Parnell’s most famous speeches:

No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation.
No man has a right to say to his country: ‘Thus far shalt thou go, and no further’;
and we have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland's nationhood, and we never shall.

Parnell had led the Irish Parliamentary Party to some of its greatest triumphs and to some of its greatest defeats. A man with a commanding presence he put the question of Ireland at the heart of British Politics. He was brought down as a result of his liaison with another man’s wife - Kitty O’Shea. He died in 1891 and his stature with the Irish rose again with his internment in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. The monument was erected to honour his name - it still stands today.

Thursday, 7 October 2021


7 October 1921: Eamon de Valera, the President of Ireland issued secret instructions to the plenipotentiaries about to depart to London on this day. They were to begin negotiations with the British Government to secure a Treaty that would give recognition to Ireland’s claim to be an independent Nation.

They were as follows:

(1) The Plenipotentiaries have full powers as defined in their credentials.

(2) It is understood however that before decisions are finally reached on the main questions that a despatch notifying the intention of making these decisions will be sent to the Members of the Cabinet in Dublin and that a reply will be awaited by the Plenipotentiaries before the final decision is made.

(3) It is also understood that the complete text of the draft treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin and reply awaited.

(4) In case of break the text of final proposals from our side will be similarly submitted.

(5) It is understood that the Cabinet in Dublin will be kept regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations

De Valera was concerned that the meeting of the inexperienced Irish delegates with some of the most astute and clever minds in British politics would leave the Irish wrong footed and he wanted to ensure that any deal would have his Imprimatur on it before it was signed.

And indeed when the Treaty was signed in December of that year he was not happy with the result that gave the Irish Free State the status of a British Dominion rather than all of Ireland becoming an independent Republic.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021


6 October 1175: The Treaty of Windsor was agreed between representatives of Rory O'Connor [above] the High King of Ireland (Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair an Ard Rí na hÉireann) and King Henry II of England on this day. King Rory was the last High King of Ireland.

King Henry forced him to submit as a result of the Anglo- Norman Invasion of 1169 and King Henry’s own Expedition to Ireland in 1170/71. Basically the King of Ireland eventually submitted to circumstances and recognised Henry II as his Overlord.

The negotiations were conducted at Windsor in Berkshire, England.

The Treaty began:

This is the agreement which was made at Windsor in the octaves of Michaelmas [October 6] in the year of Our Lord 1175, between Henry, king of England, and Roderic [Rory], king of Connaught, by Catholicus, archbishop of Tuam, Cantordis, abbot of Clonfert, and Master Laurence, chancellor of the king of Connaught, namely:

The King of England has granted to Roderic [Rory], his liegeman, king of Connaught, as long as he shall faithfully serve him, that he shall be king under him, ready to his service, as his man. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peacefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peacefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute...

The witnesses are Robert, bishop of Winchester; Geoffrey, bishop of Ely; Laurence, archbishop of Dublin; Geoffrey, Nicholas and Roger, the king's chaplains; William , Earl of Essex; Richard de Luci; Geoffrey de Purtico, and Reginald de Courtenea.

This Treaty marked the end of an era in Irish History as Ireland was no longer seen as a distinct kingdom

- but a Lordship under English domination.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021


5 October 1968: A Civil Rights march attended by some 2,000 people and organised by local activists and the NICRA was attacked by the RUC in the Waterside district of Derry. Serious rioting then erupted in the wake of the breaking up of the demonstrators. That night and the following day further clashes occurred and some 80 members of the public and 11 RUC men were injured. The pictures subsequently shown on TV throughout Britain and Ireland and further afield awoke large bodies of public opinion to the sectarian nature of the northern State and from that day on the ‘Troubles’ in the North were to be continually front page news.

'The Civil Rights march in Derry on 5 October 1968 was organised to draw attention to a series of grievances over issues related to housing, employment and electoral practices in the city. The driving force behind the idea for the march was a group of left-wing radicals who, through the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) and other organisations, had been taking non-violent direct action to try and improve conditions in the area. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was contacted and following a meeting the NICRA decided to support the proposed march. When the march was publicised Loyalists announced that they were holding an 'annual' parade on the same day, at the same time, and over the same route. The Stormont government then issued a banning order on all marches and parades. When the demonstration went ahead the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) blocked the route of the march and then baton charged the crowd. The scenes were recorded by television cameras and the subsequent news coverage sparked rioting in Derry. Most commentators consider the 5 October 1968 to be the start date of 'the Troubles'.

To most people in these islands outside the North the outbreak of political violence there came as profound shock. As the months rolled by in the aftermath of the events in Derry that weekend the situation spiralled out of control. By Christmas it was obvious that a new set of ‘Troubles’ were beginning - and God only knew where it would all end...