Thursday, 19 May 2022


19 May 1798: Lord Edward Fitzgerald was shot and arrested at the home of the Merchant Nicholas Murphy at whose house (now 151 Thomas Street, Dublin) he was taking refuge in.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald was a most unlikely 'Rebel'. He was born on 15 October 1763 at Carton House, Co Kildare, one of the most prestigious stately homes in the Country. He was the son of the Duke of Leinster, the most senior Aristocrat in Ireland. He was later brought up at Frascati House, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He received a Commission in the British Army at an early age and served with the distinction in the American Revolutionary War with the 19th Regiment of Foot in South Carolina, taking part in the Battle of Eutaw Springs (1781) where he was wounded.

In 1783 FitzGerald returned to Ireland, where his brother, the 2nd Duke of Leinster, had procured his election to the Irish Parliament as a Member for Athy, a seat he held until 1790. He represented then Kildare County from 1790 to 1798. He continued his Army career and served in Canada and then travelled extensively across eastern Canada and down the Mississippi before sailing for home through New Orleans.

However it was the events of the French Revolution that proved the turning point in his life. In 1792 he went to Paris and stayed with Thomas Paine. He sat in the observers gallery to listen to the debates of the French Convention and was impressed with what he heard. While there he married Pamela, who was the love child of Madame de Genlis herself by Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. The future King of the French, Louis Phillipe, was among the witnesses.

At a convivial gathering on the 18 November, after the French victory at Jemappes, he offered at a public dinner a toast to: ''The armies of France: may the example of its citizen soldiers be followed by all enslaved countries, till tyrants and tyrannies be extinct.'' He also proposed a toast to “the speedy abolition of all hereditary titles and feudal distinctions”, and gave proof of his zeal by expressly repudiating his own title. For his actions in Paris he was cashiered from the British Army.

On his return to Ireland his views both private and public became more Radical. However he did not join the revolutionary United Irishman until 1796 when he quickly immersed himself in the military plans for a Rising. He travelled as far as Hamburg to secure funds and military assistance from the French. Some of the United Irishmen wanted to wait until this was guaranteed but Lord Edward was of the opinion that it was better to strike sooner rather than later.

By early 1798 it was obvious that further delay would prove fatal and a Rising must come soon. The British Government was using forceful methods to disarm people of any weapons they might have that could used against them. However Martial Law had not yet been declared. The forces of the State also ran a very effective network of spies and informers that had infiltrated the United Irishmen or those who were on familiar terms with them.

On 23 March the military swept on the Dublin Committee of the revolutionaries and captured nearly all of them. Forewarned Lord Edward escaped the net but was now a hunted man.

In the aftermath the British declared Martial Law and it could be only a matter of time till things exploded. In response the date for the Rising was brought forward to be launched on 23 May 1798.

However on 9 May, with Lord Edward still at large, a bounty of £1,000 was put on his head for information leading to his capture - a huge sum in those days. Lord Edward was hiding in Thomas Street, Dublin but had just been involved in a skirmish with his pursuers and it was decided that his original place of refuge must have been compromised. He then moved on the night of the 18th to the home of the Feather Merchant Nicholas Murphy at what is now 151 Thomas Street. He was ill and under the weather but at breakfast the next morning was seen to recover. Murphy was apprehensive of having such a well known fugitive under his roof and (rightly) feared that his betrayal and arrest was only a matter of time.

That evening, at around 7pm Murphy went to Lord Edward's room to call him down for tea and remembered:

He was in bed. It was, at this time, about seven o’clock. I asked him to come down to tea. I was not in the room three minutes when in came Major Swan and a person following him with a soldier’s jacket, and a sword in his hand; he wore a round cap. When I saw Major Swan, I was thunderstruck. I put myself before him, and asked his business. He looked over me and saw Lord E. in the bed. He pushed by me quickly, and Lord E., seeing him, sprang up instantly and drew a dagger which he carried about him, and wounded Major Swan slightly, I believe. Major Swan had a pistol which he fired without effect; he immediately turned to me and gave me a severe thrust of the pistol under the left eye, at the same time desiring the person that came in with him to take me into custody. I was immediately taken away to the yard ; there I saw Major Sirr and about six soldiers of the Dumbarton Fencibles.

 Major Swan thought proper to run as fast as he could to the street, and I think he never looked behind him till he got out of danger, and he was the parading the flags, exhibiting his linen, which was stained with blood. Mr. Ryan supplied Major Swan’s place and came in contact with Lord E., and was wounded seriously. Major Sirr at that time came upstairs and keeping a respectful distance, fired a pistol shot at Lord E., in a very deliberate manner, and wounded him in the upper part of the shoulder. Reinforcements coming in, Lord E., surrendered after a very hard struggle. Lord Edward was imprisoned in Newgate....

Lord Edward had fought like a lion against those sent to lead him into captivity, killing Captain Ryan and wounding Major Swan. However with him badly outnumbered by men in arms his heroic defense last but a short time. Desperately wounded in the struggle he was taken in a closed sedan chair first to Dublin Castle and then to prison. There he lingered for a number of days in agony as septicaemia took its toll. He died on the 4th of June 1798 as the Rising he had so long planned for was well underway.

Thus died one of the bravest of men, from a conviction, I believe, that he wished to ameliorate the condition of his country.

Lord Edward’s remains were placed in a vault under the East end of St. Werburgh’s Church in Dublin, near to the house he was taken in.

Years later the outcome that Murphy had feared was finally revealed - Betrayal!

The two informers implicated in the betrayal of Lord Edward were Francis Higgins (proprietor of ‘The Freeman’s Journal’), at that time a paper in the interest of Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule in Ireland, and Francis Magan, M.A., Barrister at Law. On the 20th of June 1798, Francis Higgins was paid his reward of £1,000 for Lord Edward’s capture.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022


18 May 1613: The opening of Parliament in Dublin Castle on this day. This parliament had been called by King James I [above] in London in order to strengthen his rule in Ireland and to ensure that the Protestant Religion was the dominant one in that body. By doing this he would be able to get legislation passed for the raising of taxes and the enforcement of anti Catholic laws.

King James created some 40 micro boroughs (mostly in Ulster) in order to be able to ‘pack’ the Houses with Protestant supporters. In 1612 six of the major Catholic Lords of the Pale had written to him to complain about this:

the project of erecting so many corporations in places that constantly rank as the poorest villages in Christendom, do tend naught else but by the voices of a few selected for the purpose…extreme penal laws should be imposed on your subjects [i.e. Catholics]

But their protest was to no avail as James (a devout Protestant) was determined to see the measure through. He had once described the Catholics of Ireland as 'half subjects' and he did not trust their loyalty to his Throne at all.

When the members of parliament met that day they consisted of 132 Protestants and 100 Catholics - even though over 85% of the population of the Country were Catholics! Of the Catholics, 80 were Old English and only 20 Gaelic Irish. In the House of Lords, the block vote of 20 Protestant Bishops gave the British Crown control of the Upper House in which also sat 12 Catholic and 4 other protestant peers.

In the event on the day mayhem ensued as clashes erupted inside the Castle as the supporters of both religions exchanged blows as to who should have the Speakers Chair. The Catholics peremptorily installed their own nominee Sir John Everard literally into the Chair while the other side had left the Chamber to be counted. On return they then sat their champion Sir John Davies on top of him! After a scuffle Everard was rejected and the opposition withdrew.

 ‘Those within the house are no house and Sir John Everard is our Speaker, and therefore we will not join with you, but we will complain to my Lord Deputy and the King, and the King shall hear of this’ exclaimed Sir William Talbot.

The whole proceedings had turned into a Fiasco & after a series of adjournments the parliament was prorogued on 17 June to await the results of an appeal to England.

Primary Source: Chapter VII of Early Modern Ireland Volume III: Pacification, plantation and the catholic question 1603-23 by Aiden Clarke with R. Dudley Edwards

17 May 1797: The death of ‘Peg Plunkett’ in Dublin was reported on this day. Her journey through this Life was not an easy one but nevertheless it was one of her own choosing. She at an early age chose the profession of prostitution as her path to riches. She was the most famous ‘Madame’ of 18th century Dublin who wrote a sensational set of memoirs of her life.

Originally from Killough in Co. Westmeath she was christened Margaret and when her father and mother died she fell under the dominating will of her brother who abused her. She took leave of the family home and headed up to Dublin to seek her fortune. After a series of liaisons she took up with a Mr Leeson Wine Merchant whose name she took even though they never married. ‘Peg Plunkett’ was a later adoption to cover her real identity.

Dublin in the middle of the 18th Century was a rapidly expanding City with a burgeoning population. The metropolis was a mixture of great wealth and great poverty. A girl like Margaret with no connections faced limited choices as to how to make her way in the world. The choice she made was not an uncommon one for a girl of wit intelligence and beauty which she apparently was. She took up living with various wealthy men as their mistress. But the lure of ready money proved too big a temptation for her and she sold herself readily to those with the means to pay for her charms.

Eventually after years of being reliant on others to put a roof over head ‘Peg Plunkett’ decided that it was more lucrative to provide for her own accommodation and ply her Trade from there. While better than the Streets it was still a shoddy life. Her first establishment, run in partnership with friend and fellow-courtesan Sally Hayes, was in Drogheda Street. However her Brothel was vandalized by the Pinking-dindies – a group of high class rabble rousers. She then moved to Wood Street, before settling, most notoriously, in Pitt Street, on the site of the present Westbury Hotel, just off the then as now fashionable Grafton St in Dublin’s City Centre.

As well as the rich (a Bank of Ireland Governor and a Lord Lieutenant were among her clients), she served lawyers, theatre-folk and petty villains amongst others. She refused service to the Earl of Westmorland because he treated his second wife ‘shabbily’, and she insulted the Prince Regent twice whilst visiting London. After 30 years she decided to reform but found her cache of IOUs valueless and ended up in a debtors’ prison, run by a former client, Captain Mathews. To raise cash she decided to publish her memoirs, documenting her life as a madam and the vicissitudes of her later life. Her end though was a rather sordid one as she was apparently gang raped when in her 60s and eventually died of venereal disease.


Tuesday, 17 May 2022

17 May 1974: The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings on this day. Three car bombs exploded in Dublin, immediately killing 23 people and injuring more than 100 others during the rush hour. Five more people died and another 20 were hurt in a blast, which hit the town of Monaghan an hour later. The final death toll was 34 people. The bombings were the work of a UVF gang that had links to elements within the British Army Intelligence services. No one has ever been charged with these attacks.
It was a hot day in early summer when the terrorists launched their attacks. The City centre of Dublin was full of shoppers and workers heading home that Friday afternoon, little suspecting that such a murderous deed was about to be inflicted upon them.
In the North a huge Loyalist Strike was underway with the aim of bringing down the Power Sharing Executive that had been formed in January that year. Its aim was to allow both sides a share in the Government of the North so that no side would feel excluded. It also had as one of its terms the formation of an All Ireland Council. To many Unionists this was a step too far and a possible 'foot in the door' to a United Ireland without their consent.
The perpetrators of these bombings knew that the Executive at Stormont was in grave danger of collapse. It was clear the British Government under Harold Wilson was dithering with indecision as to what to do in the face of such a massive level of civil disobedience by most of the Unionist Community in Ulster. This was backed by widespread intimidation of those who tried to go about their business regardless.
Only the Dublin Government under the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave stood firm against any collapse of what they had tried so hard in negotiations to have set up and running. While the Troubles had claimed hundreds of lives north of the Border the south had escaped relatively unscathed up until then - but not entirely free of atrocities either.
Clearly the aim of the attackers was to jolt the people of the South, and the Dublin Government in particular, out of any sense of complacency that they could escape the consequences (as they saw it) of unwarranted interference in Ulster.
At approximately 17:30 on Friday 17 May 1974, without prior warning, three car bombs exploded almost simultaneously in Dublin's city centre at Parnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street during rush-hour. According to one of the Irish Army's top bomb disposal officers, Commandant Patrick Trears, the bombs were constructed so well that one hundred per cent of each bomb exploded upon detonation.
The explosives used in the attacks were of the type used by the Provisional IRA and were probably from a haul that members of the Crown Forces had captured and that rogue elements had got their hands on to launch these attacks.
The first of the three Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:28, in a parking bay outside the Welcome Inn pub and Barry's Supermarket and close to a petrol station, in Parnell Street near its southwestern intersection with Marlborough Street. Ten people were killed in this explosion, including two infant girls and their parents, and a World War I veteran.
The second of the Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:30 at number 18 Talbot Street near the northwestern Lower Gardiner Street intersection, outside O'Neill's shoe shop opposite Guineys department store. At least four bodies were found on the pavement just outside Guineys.
The third bomb went off at approximately 17:32 in South Leinster Street near the railings of Trinity College, Dublin. Two women were killed instantly in that explosion; they had been very close to the epicentre of the blast.
Ninety minutes later, at approximately 18:58, a fourth bomb (weighing 150 pounds) exploded outside Greacen's pub in North Road, Monaghan. This bomb killed five people initially, and another two died in the following weeks.
On the evening of the bombings, the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, said in a TV and radio broadcast that he wanted to express 'the revulsion and condemnation felt by every decent person in this island at these unforgivable acts.' He said it would help 'to bring home to us here what the people of NI have been suffering for five long years.' He added 'everyone who has practised violence, or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today's outrage'.
In Belfast, the UDA and the UVF denied responsibility for the explosions and in Dublin a statement issued by the Provisional IRA called the explosions 'vile murder'. Mr. Brian Faulkner, NI Chief Executive, sent a message to Mr. Cosgrave expressing 'deepest regret' from himself and his colleagues. The UDA Press Officer, Mr. Samuel Smyth, said: 'I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them'.
But within days the official attitude had changed and the feeling in Government ranks was to play down this huge atrocity to avoid heightening tensions and giving credibility to the Provisional IRA. As the weeks rolled by the Garda investigations were wound down and then effectively stopped. It has been rumoured that names of the killers were known to the police forces in both parts of Ireland even if it could never be proved. The event was buried by the forces of Officialdom over the years and forgotten about. No one has ever been charged with these crimes on that terrible day.

Dublin and Monaghan Bombings - 17th May 1974:
Patrick Askin (44) Co. Monaghan
Josie Bradley (21) Co. Offaly
Marie Butler (21) Co. Waterford
Anne Byrne (35) Dublin
Thomas Campbell (52) Co. Monaghan
Simone Chetrit (30) France
Thomas Croarkin (36) Co. Monaghan
John Dargle (80) Dublin
Concepta Dempsey (65) Co. Louth
Colette Doherty (20) Dublin
Baby Doherty (full term unborn) Dublin*
Patrick Fay (47), Dublin & Co. Louth
Elizabeth Fitzgerald (59) Dublin
Breda Bernadette Grace (34) Dublin and Co. Kerry
Archie Harper (73) Co. Monaghan
Antonio Magliocco, (37) Dublin & Italy
May McKenna (55) Co. Tyrone
Anne Marren (20) Co. Sligo
Anna Massey (21) Dublin
Dorothy Morris (57) Dublin
John (24), Anna (22), Jacqueline (17 months) & Anne-Marie (5 months) O'Brien, Dublin
Christina O'Loughlin (51), Dublin
Edward John O'Neill (39), Dublin
Marie Phelan (20), Co. Waterford
Siobhán Roice (19), Wexford Town
Maureen Shields (46), Dublin

Jack Travers (28), Monaghan Town

Breda Turner (21), Co. Tipperary

John Walsh (27), Dublin

Peggy White (44), Monaghan Town

George Williamson (72), Co. Monaghan

*Baby Doherty was recognised as the 34th victim of the Bombings by the Coroner for the City of Dublin during the course of the Inquests held in April and May 2004


Monday, 16 May 2022


16 May 1945: An Taoiseach Eamon DeValera made his famous reply on Radio Éireann to the speech of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill  a few days earlier in which he disparaged the role of the Irish Free State in the Second World War which had just ended.

In that speech Churchill had cast a cold eye on Mr Eamon De Valera’s role in denying to Britain the naval facilities known as the ‘Treaty Ports’ in the South that he felt they had a right to in time of war & compared it with the Loyalty of the North in the recent Conflict. In his Victory speech he called out the Irish Government:

...the approaches which the southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This indeed was a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland, we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera, or perish from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I venture to say, history will find few parallels, His Majesty’s Government never laid a violent hand upon them, though at times it would have been quite easy and quite natural, and we left the de Valera Government to frolic with the German and later with the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content."

This was a jibe that DeValera felt he could not let go unanswered and he took to the airwaves to counter the accusation that Ireland should have actively taken part on Britain’s side in the World War just ended. Some days previous he had called upon the German Legation and commiserated with the German representative here Dr Hempel on the death of the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. To say this had not gone down well in certain quarters would be something of an understatement! However Churchill had then blundered in seeking to portray Irish Neutrality as something that Britain had the Right to override if it so wanted to do so. To this DeValera replied:

"Allowances can be made for Mr. Churchill’s statement, however unworthy, in the first flush of victory. No such excuse could be found for me in this quieter atmosphere. There are, however, some things it is essential to say. I shall try to say them as dispassionately as I can. Mr. Churchill makes it clear that, in certain circumstances, he would have violated our neutrality and that he would justify his actions by Britain’s necessity. It seems strange to me that Mr. Churchill does not see that this, if accepted, would mean that Britain's necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people’s rights were not to count... Surely Mr. Churchill must see that if his contention be admitted in our regard, a like justification can be framed for similar acts of aggression elsewhere and no small nation adjoining a great Power could ever hope to be permitted to go its own way in peace...

Mr. Churchill is proud of Britain’s stand alone, after France had fallen and before America entered the war. Could he not find in his heart the generosity to acknowledge that there is a small nation that stood alone not for one year or two, but for several hundred years against aggression; that endured spoliations, famine, massacres, in endless succession; that was clubbed many times into insensibility, but each time on returning to consciousness took up the fight anew; a small nation that could never be got to accept defeat and has never surrendered her soul?"

His speech had an electrifying effect on Irish public opinion and was seen as a dignified response to Churchill’s ill considered remarks about Ireland. It appears that on mature reflection the British Prime Minister realised he had gone too far and the matter was let drop. Anyway he heavily lost the British General Election in June that year and did not return to Office until 1951 - by which time the Irish Free State had declared itself a Republic and was not even nominally part of the British Empire  - an event that Mr DeValera had nothing at all to do with it!

Sunday, 15 May 2022

15‭ May 1847: The death of Daniel O’Connell  ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa in Italy while making his way to the Holy City of Rome on this day. He died at 9.35 p.m. in the evening. His heart was taken on to Rome (now lost) and his body was returned to Dublin for internment in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. He tomb was eventually capped by a replica Irish Round Tower that is the locus of the necropolis and is still visited by thousands of people every year.

On May‭ 15, 1847, Father Miley, O'Connell's companion on his last journey, wrote from Genoa: 

“The Liberator is not better. He is worse – ill as ill can be. At two o'clock this morning I found it necessary to send for the Viaticum and the holy oil. Though it was the dead of night, the cardinal archbishop (he is eighty-eight years old), attended by his clerics and several of the faithful, carried the Viaticum with the solemnities customary in Catholic countries, and reposed it in the tabernacle which we had prepared in the chamber of the illustrious sufferer. Though prostrate to the last degree, he was perfectly in possession of his mind whilst receiving the last rites. The adorable name of Jesus, which he had been in the habit of invoking was constantly on his lips with trembling fervour, His thoughts have been entirely absorbed by religion since his illness commenced. For the last forty hours he will not open his lips to speak of anything else. The doctors still say they have hope. I have none. All Genoa is praying for him. I have written to Rome. Be not surprised if I am totally silent as to our own feelings. It is poor Daniel who is to be pitied more than all.”

Henry Peel OP - St Martin de Porres Magazine,‭ a publication of the Irish Dominicans.

He was the greatest Irish political figure of the 19th century but curiously not the most revered. A great orator and a man of impressive appearance and political acumen he was considered too cute by half by both allies and opponents. 

However he rose a People off their knees and showed that it was possible to build a mass political movement in Ireland that could only be defeated when faced by Force of Arms and not the Force of Argument.


Saturday, 14 May 2022


14 May 1977: The strange death and disappearance of Captain Robert Nairac on this day. In one of the most bizarre and deadly incidents of the Conflict in the North in the 1970s this British Officer (in Mufti at the time  &  armed with a 9mm Browning pistol )  was set upon  in the carpark of The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that he was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA.

At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the car park and taken across the border into the Republic near Ravensdale Wood in Co Louth. Here he was  brutally interrogated but would admit to nothing. When he knew the game was up and he was going to be executed his last words were ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’.

Nairac was an experienced Intelligence Officer who began his military career with the Grenadier Guards before switching to Intelligence duties. He was used to taking chances - indeed he was known for taking exceptional risks to gather information on the IRA.

 Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Ghost Force by Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor

His disappearance triggered a huge manhunt North and South of the Border when news of his abduction broke. But despite the best efforts of the Crown Forces and An Garda Siochana his remains were never located. 

Was there a darker side to Captain Robert Nairac? He has been linked to some of the more murkier operations that happened at that time along the Border and it was known he was prepared to countenance taking on the IRA ‘at their own game’. But nothing has ever been substantiated and with the passage of time probably never will.

He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1978. In part the Citation reads as follows:

Captain Nairac's exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

To this day he is counted amongst the Disappeared whose bodies have never been found.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

12 May 1944: The death of the Venerable Edel Quinn on this day. She died of a heart attack in Nairobi Kenya after dedicated service to the Legion of Mary in Africa. She was born 14 September 1907 in Kanturk Co Cork where her father worked in a local bank. She was called  "Edelweiss - after the flower". The family moved a number of times as he was promoted to other branches but he was eventually posted to Dublin and they lived in the suburb of Monkstown. When she was 16 she was sent to finishing school in England where she completed her studies. On return to Dublin she did a secretarial course and found jobs in the city centre.

‘For some years she was the main support of the family; she also personally arranged for her siblings’ schooling. A keen athlete, Quinn entered fully into the social life of tennis events, dances, and theatre while running a girls’ club in the inner city.’

Dictionary of Irish Biography

She was a lively girl who went dancing & socialising but her heart was set on entering a Convent. She joined the Legion of Mary in 1929 and was appointed by its Founder Frank Duff to work with Dublin’s prostitutes and later with nurses in the City. However in 1931 she started to hemorrhage and she was referred to the Newcastle sanatorium with TB, where she remained from 5 February 1932 till shortly before Christmas 1932. Though one lung was not healed, she considered herself healthy, and for the remainder of her life she took precautions to separate her living quarters and her human contact from others lest she infect them.

Frank Duff sent her to Wales to help with the Legion there and she did well. On return he had an even bigger task for her - Africa! On 30 October 1936 she boarded the Llangibby Castle at Tilbury docks, London, arriving in Mombasa on 23 November. She found herself doing a lot of travel in East Africa where she proved herself a trainer of leaders, and a tactful link between priests and people. She worked among the African peoples in Kenya, Tanganyika (Tanzania), Uganda, and Nyasaland (Malawi), travelling vast distances by local transport. She established the official headquarters of her envoyship in Nairobi, conscious that the catholic missionary movement in East Africa was a developing one. She died from a heart attack on 12 May 1944 in the thirty-seventh year of her life.

In 1994 Edel Quinn was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II and thus on the path to Sainthood.



12 May 563 AD: The voyage of Colum Cille to the island of Í [Iona] in the 42nd year of his age.


Columba was in his forty-fourth year when he departed from Ireland. He and his twelve companions crossed the sea in a currach of wickerwork covered with hides. They landed at Iona on the eve of Pentecost.. The island, according to Irish authorities, was granted to the monastic colonists by King Conall of Dalriada, Columba's kinsman. ... It was a convenient situation, being midway between his countrymen along the western coast and the Picts of Caledonia.

He and his brethren proceeded at once to erect their humble dwellings, consisting of a church, refectory, and cells, constructed of wattles and rough planks.

After spending some years among the Scots of Dalriada, Columba began the great work of his life, the conversion of the Northern Picts.


But mystery surrounds why exactly did Saint Columba, a powerful and influential man in Ireland, depart the land of his birth for such a bleak and remote spot far from any place of influence in this World. Columba was like many other Irishmen of the Faith motivated by a desire to convert as many Pagans to Christianity as he could in order to save their souls from Damnation. But what exactly was the catalyst that pushed him over the edge to leave here? The idea of pilgrimage, or peregrinatio, which was central to Irish monks and to Columba, involved a permanent sense of exile, renunciation and searching for one's own place of resurrection; one's desert. But it did not necessarily mean a complete separation from the World, rather as search to find a place where solitude and reflection were needed they were readily at hand.

The Battle of Cúil Dreimne 560/561 AD was considered in later years to be the event that triggered Columba's peregrinatio.

Saint Columba, also known as Colum Cille [Colm of the Church], is the greatest of the Irish saints. His involvement is considered central to the subsequent story of this battle. It is probably the only one in Irish History in which the copyright to a book was remembered as one of the reasons for a battle! However that was not the only factor involved and indeed it is only fair to mention that whether the dispute over a copy write was one of the real reasons cannot be traced to a contemporary written source. We know that historically Columba fell foul of the Church authorities in the wake of this battle and the copy write story became accepted in later times as the reason for his subsequent exile.

The High King at the time was Diarmait Mac Cerbhall ,a descendant of the great Niall of the Nine Hostages. Saint Columba was himself of the Uí Néills of Cenel Conal and thus of Royal blood. However he was also a man of ambition and drive. He made the mistake of copying a holy book belonging to another saint and was caught red handed. He appealed to the High King for judgement, possibly hoping that familial ties, however distant, would swing things in his favour. The King decided otherwise and in a famous judgement declared that: to every cow its calf and to every book its copy

Much incensed Columba returned home to the North and raised the issue with his immediate kinsmen, of Royal blood themselves, against the High King. They brought the King of Connacht into their alliance, who seems to have become involved due to the treacherous death of his own son by King Diarmait, despite being under the protection of Saint Columba. He also owed his position as King of Connacht to the northern Uí Néills, who had helped him win the throne in 550 AD at the battle of Cuil Conaire.

No doubt land and power played a huge part in all this too that we are unable to trace in an exact path in the historical accounts. It is probable though that the northern Uí Néills viewed Diarmaid of the southern Ui Neills with some suspicion. He was certainly a character who was hard-hitting and ruthless and who brooked no opposition. He in turn felt that by siding with St. Columba in this dispute the northern Uí Néills were interfering in his affairs.

This great and important battle of Cúil Dreimne was fought at the foot of Ben Bulben, just above the Columban Church of Drumcliff in County Sligo. From the location it looks like it was Diarmait who initiated the Campaign by marching north to meet his enemies in battle. He probably wished to place himself between his opponents in Connacht and Ulster and defeat them in turn. While a good strategy his plan of campaign backfired and the High King was soundly defeated with a great loss of life to both sides. It is recorded that 3,000 men fell that day. As it turned out neither the northern Uí Néills nor the king of Connacht followed up their success, and Diarmait lived to fight another day. However the defeat of Diarmait was to have far reaching consequences that were not readily apparent at the time.

Columba was full of remorse afterwards. He was too good a man not to realise the enormity of what he had unleashed, however unwittingly. The Church too was less than impressed with his involvement in all this. He had foolishly allowed his personal pride to be used as a catalyst for War between the various branches of the Ui Neills, his own kinsmen. This in turned had pulled in the kingdom of Connacht so that three of Ireland’s five ancient provinces were involved in a bloody encounter that he had played a large part in starting. As a result of the battle of Cúil Dreimne St. Columba was banished from Ireland by his peers in the Church and made to swear he would never put his feet on the ground here again. Thus in the year 563 AD he made his momentous decision to sail for the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. From here his missionaries and their successors were one day to spread the word of the Gospel to the heathen Picts and the Pagan English of Northumberland.

They landed at the little island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland on the eve of the Feast of Pentecost. The island, according to Irish sources, was probably granted to the monastic colonists by King Conall of Dalriada, Columba's kinsman. It was a convenient situation, being midway between his countrymen along the north western coast of Ireland and the Picts of Caledonia. He and his brethren proceeded at once to erect their dwellings, consisting of a church, refectory, and cells, constructed of wattles and rough hewn wood.

However not only was Saint Columba to have great influence on the development of Christianity in Scotland but it is believed that it was here and in this year that the first Annals of contemporary events back home in Ireland were recorded on a regular basis that are the bedrock of historical inquiry into Ireland's Ancient past.



Wednesday, 11 May 2022


11 May 1745: The battle of Fontenoy was fought on this day. It occurred in what was then part of the Austrian Netherlands but is now in present day Belgium. The French under Marshal De Saxe defeated the British - Dutch Army under the Duke of Cumberland.

The Allied Army was on the advance to relieve the siege of Tournai when they encountered the French under Marshal De Saxe drawn up in prepared positions. In all the French army numbered 93 battalions, 146 squadrons and 80 cannon, some 70,000 troops, of which 27 battalions and 17 squadrons were left to cover Tournai. In support of this position was a reserve of picked infantry and cavalry regiments, including the Irish Brigade, the “Wild Geese’’.

Cumberland reconnoitred the French position on 10th May and decided to pin down the French right wing by attacking with the Austrian and Dutch contingents between Antoing and Fontenoy. While these attacks were being made the British and Hanoverians would advance between Fontenoy and the Bois de Bary across what appeared to be open ground. His so called ‘Pragmatic Army’ comprised 56 battalions of infantry and 87 squadrons of cavalry supported by 80 cannon, in all around 53,000 men.

The French Army however put up a formidable defence and the Allies found the advance heavy going, taking many casualties as they attempted to break their opponents line. But Cumberland pressed on and eventually forced his way into the centre of the French position. The troops opposing him began to buckle. It was the critical moment of the battle. 

It was at this point that Marshal De Saxe unleashed his reserve who enveloped the flanks of the British Column. The Irish Brigade (approx. 4,000 men) and dressed in Redcoats was in the thick of it, the men fired up by thought of revenge against their Country’s Oppressor. The Irish Regiments advanced upon the British lines to the cry: 'Cuimhnigidh ar Liumneac, agus ar fheile na Sacsanach’ – ‘Remember Limerick and British faith!’

It consisted that day of the regiments of Clare, Lally, Dillon, Berwick, Roth, and Buckley, with Fitzjames' horse. O'Brien, Lord Clare, was in command. Aided by the French regiments of Normandy and Vaisseany, they were ordered to charge upon the flank of the English with fixed bayonets without firing…

The fortune of the field was no longer doubtful. The English were weary with a long day's fighting, cut up by cannon, charge, and musketry, and dispirited by the appearance of the Brigade. Still they gave their fire well and fatally; but they were literally stunned by the shout, and shattered by the Irish charge. They broke before the Irish bayonets, and tumbled down the far side of the hill disorganized, hopeless, and falling by hundreds. The victory was bloody and complete. Louis is said to have ridden down to the Irish bivouac, and personally thanked them…

George the Second, on hearing it, uttered that memorable imprecation on the penal code, 'Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects.' The one English volley and the short struggle on the crest of the hill cost the Irish dear. One-fourth of the officers, including Colonel Dillon, were killed, and one-third of the men. The capture of Ghent, Bruges, Ostend, and Oudenard, followed the victory of Fontenoy."


By A. M. Sullivan

It was the Irish Brigade’s most famous Victory - though it came at a high cost, with hundreds of men dead and wounded. The Pragmatic Army lost almost 10,000 men, while the French suffered between 6,000-7,000 casualties.

Paintings: &

Tuesday, 10 May 2022


10 May 1972: The Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to join the European Economic Community. The Third Amendment of the Constitution Act 1972 was an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland that permitted the State to join the European Communities, which would later become the European Union, and provided that European Community law would take precedence over the constitution. It was approved by referendum on 10 May 1972, and signed into law by the President of Ireland Éamon de Valera on 8 June of the same year. Ireland thus joined the EEC along with Britain on 1 January 1973. 

Long mooted by the major political parties [FF & FG] as a solution to the need for  further economic expansion and a reduction on our reliance on the British Economy the State first applied for membership in 1963 when Sean Lemass was An Taoiseach. However our application was tied in with that of the UK and it was rejected as the President of France [Charles de Gaulle] did not want Britain to join  as he felt their presence would seriously weaken France’s influence in the Community. De Gaulle resigned in 1969 and was dead a year later and the way was now clear for both countries to apply again and this was accepted by the EEC States. 

A concerted campaign was undertaken by the Government in the months leading up to the referendum as Minsters made speech after speech to convince the public that such a move was to Ireland’s advantage. The Farming community were assured that farm prices would be far higher with increased sales into the European Markets and the Business Classes that the abolition of tariffs would open up new opportunities for Trade and thus Profits. 

There was some scepticism though especially from the Left with the Labour Party and in general the Republican Movement opposing membership as they felt that the working classes would see very little benefit and such a move would greatly reduce Ireland’s sovereignty and freedom of action on the World stage. 

Probably the greatest factor in its acceptance was An Taoiseach Jack Lynch who used his considerably popularity and perception as a quite thinker to ensure that on the day it was passed by a considerable margin. 

‘The decision which the Irish people will make on 10 May will be recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which we chose to grasp with incalculable gain, or which we chose to throw away with irreparable loss’

—Taoiseach Jack Lynch, April 1972

In the event the result was 1,041,890 [83.10%] for and 211,89 [16.90%] against. 

The implications were profound as from now on the future destiny of Ireland was inexorably tied in with that of Europe.  


10‭ ‬May‭ ‬1318:‭ ‬The Battle of Dysert O'Dea was fought on this day. It took place near near Corofin, Co Clare. The battle occurred during the Bruce Invasion of Ireland.

The Anglo Norman Lord Richard De Clare‭ ( a descendant of Strongbow) attacked the Irish chieftain Conor O’Dea, chief of the Cineal Fearmaic and the ally of  King Muirchertach O’Brien of Thomond.

De Clare made the mistake of dividing his army in three in the face of the enemy and he led the van towards Castle Dysert O’Dea‭ – the home of the Irish Chieftain. O’Dea held them at the ford of Fergus and sent messengers out to bring up reinforcements as De Clare charged at his opponents only to be surrounded and cut down by the axe of Conor O’Dea himself. 

As the rest of the Anglo Norman force came up they waded into the Irish and were on the point of extracting a bloody revenge when‭ Felim O'Connor's troops charged down the hill of Scamhall (Scool) and cut a path through the English to join the battle. De Clare's son then arrived on the scene and was cut down and killed by Felim O'Connor

As the two forces were locked in this deadly struggle both expected reinforcements to arrive and as King Muirchertach O'Brien’s men galloped onto the scene Conor O’Dea almost lost heart until he heard the Irish war cries and knew the victory was won.‭  ‬Soon Lochlann O'Hehir and the MacNamaras joined the fight and it was all over for the Anglo Normans who went down fighting.

‘so dour the hand to hand work was , that neither noble or commander of them left the ground but the far greater part fell where they stood.’

Irish Battles, G.A. Hayes McCoy

The power of one of the great Anglo Norman families was shattered forever.‭ In the wake of this victory King Muirchertach O'Brien advanced upon the environs  of Bunratty Castle, home of the De Clare’s to find much of it burnt by De Clare’s widow who promptly fled to England. The Castle though held out for a couple of weeks and the Irish completely destroyed it in 1322. The De Clare’s never returned and Thomond west of the Shannon remained under Irish rule until the early 17th Century. It was the greatest Gaelic victory of the Bruce War.

Monday, 9 May 2022


9 May 1916: Thomas Kent/ Tomás Ceannt was executed in Cork Detention Barracks on this day: Born in 1865, Kent was arrested at his home in Castlelyons, Co. Cork following a raid by the Royal Irish Constabulary during which his brother Richard was fatally wounded. It had been his intention to travel to Dublin to participate in the Rising, but when the mobilisation order for the Irish Volunteers was cancelled on Easter Sunday he assumed that the Rising had been postponed, leading him to stay at home.  In 1966 the railway station in Cork was renamed Ceannt Station in his honour.
- See more at:

When the Kent residence was raided they were met with resistance from Thomas and his brothers Richard, David and William. A gunfight lasted for four hours, in which an RIC officer, Head Constable William Rowe, was killed and David Kent was seriously wounded. Eventually the Kents were forced to surrender, although Richard made a last minute dash for freedom and was fatally wounded. 

Along with Roger Casement he was the only other person to be executed outside of Dublin for their part in the Easter Rising.

In September 2015 he was given a State funeral  after his remains were identified via DNA genetic testing thanks to samples supplied by Kent family descendants still living in the Castlelyons and Fermoy areas of north Cork. Following the requiem mass, Thomas Kent, who was 50 when he was executed, was buried in his family's crypt alongside the remains of his brothers William, Richard and David.

ADD 9 May, 1766 - Thomas Arthur Lally, Comte de Lally was executed for losing Pondicherry in India to the English. The General was convicted of ‘treason’ as a result. He was decapitated by sword before a huge crowd at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Paris on this day.

Sunday, 8 May 2022


8 May 1567: The Battle of Farsetmore/ Farseid Mór was fought near Letterkenny in County Donegal on this day. The battle was fought between the rival armies of Shane O’Neill of Tir Eoghan (Tyrone) and Aodh O'Donnell of Tir Connell (Donegal). Each side probably had about 2,000 men apiece. The battle began when O'Neill's cavalry crossed the ford at Fearsad-Suilighe at low tide.

Aodh O'Donnell, gathered with his band of loyal followers around the little hill fort of Ard-an-ghaire, dispatched his son, also called Aodh, to hold them as long as he could. The father was expecting reinforcements that very day and if he could just hold back O'Neill's army until he could assemble a force to near match the invaders he would be in with a chance. With his son locked in combat with the van of O'Neill's force he took the opportunity to fall back behind the shelter of a bog across which O'Neill's men could not advance but at a disadvantage.

After a vicious fight in which a number of leading men on both sides fell, young Aodh could hold his position no longer and pulled back to join his father behind the bog. But by then relief was at hand as three war bands of Gallowglass mercenaries drawn from the McSweenys came up to support Aodh O'Donnell in his hour of need.

O'Donnell saw his opportunity and without further ado launched his whole force upon O'Neill's men, who were possibly still forming up into a line of battle.

Fierce and desperate were the grim and terrible looks that each cast at the other from their starlike eyes; they raised the battle cry aloud, and their united shouting, when rushing together, was sufficient to strike with dismay and turn to flight the feeble and the unwarlike. They proceeded and continued to strike, mangle, slaughter, and cut down one another for a long time, so that men were soon laid low, heroes wounded, youths slain, and robust heroes mangled in the slaughter.
Annals of the Four Masters - 1567

How long this brutal melee lasted we do not know but eventually O'Neill's army was forced back onto the riverline and there it buckled and disintegrated into fragments. Then O'Neills men fled for their lives. However the sandy tidal ford they had crossed that morning in the expectation of Victory was now filled with the waters of the swiftly advancing tide. There was no way out but to try their luck in the treacherous waters, encumbered as they were by their weaponry and armour. Hundreds were cut down or drowned as they sought the safety of the other bank.

As light faded Aodh O'Donnell had won a great victory over the men of Tir Eoghan with perhaps as many as 1300 of his enemies either drowned or dead on the field of battle.*

Shane O'Neill was turned within the course of a single day from being the most powerful Chieftain in the North into a desperate fugitive fleeing for his life. He had lost some of those dearest to him in this catastrophe: two of his grandsons, plus MacDonald, the leader of his Gallowglasses, and Dubhaltach, his foster brother and 'the person most faithful and dear to him in existence'

As fortune would have it Shane had recruited some of the O'Gallagers of Tir Connell onto his side and with their local knowledge he was able to evade his pursuers by turning upstream to Scarrifhollis and then ride for home.

When he got back he found his support base collapsing around him and turned in desperation to the Mac Donald's of Cantire in Scotland under Alexander to support him. The Mac Donald's were old enemies so it was a strange place to seek Allies but they came anyway to see if they could cut a deal. They met up at Cushendun in Antrim. Whatever happened when they initially met things soon turned sour and a fight broke out. Shane was cut down and put to the sword. His body was flung in a pit and his head dispatched to Dublin for display on the Castle Walls.

So ended the colourful and dramatic career of Shane O'Neill, a man who was a thorn in the side of the English for many years and was both respected and feared by all, Irish or Foreign, whom he clashed with.

Queen Elizabeth I of England stated:

'that we give thanks to Almighty God by whom we hold and rule all that we enjoy, for his goodness and favour shown in the punishment and extinguishing of such a rebellion so long continued'
Sidney State Papers 1565-70

* A report to Lord Deputy Sidney stated that 613 men were counted dead on the battlefield. Many others must have drowned in the waters and been swept away

Map, and the painting by Seán Ó Brógáin from:

Saturday, 7 May 2022


7 May 1915: The liner RMS Lusitania (New York to Liverpool) was torpedoed off the Old head of Kinsale by the German submarine U20 on this day. She sank within 18 minutes. (Two explosions rocked the ship. The first was clearly caused by a torpedo from U-20. The cause of the second explosion has never been definitively determined and remains the source of much controversy.) Of those on board, 761 were rescued, while 1,198 perished, including 115 US Citizens.

On the 7th September 1907 under the command of Captain James B. Watt, the RMS Lusitania sailed on her maiden voyage to New York. She carried over 3,000 passengers and crew. Her passengers were delighted with the new ship. The standards of accommodation and services were well documented. Most third class passengers enjoyed the voyage. Dinning on her was like eating in the best restaurants or hotel anywhere.

In August 1914 World War One broke out. The day of anticipation finally arrived when the British Navy needed the ship for wartime service. The Lusitania had to be refitted for the purpose. Her four funnels were fully painted black to conceal her identity from enemy ships

On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort. As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.

Following the loss of the Titanic, the Lusitania was fitted with 48 boats (22 wooden and 26 collapsible). Every boat was fitted with 2 chains to anchor them to the deck. This would prove disastrous when the ship sank because the chains would have to be released before the boats could be swung clear of the ship. When the Lusitania was sinking many of the chains were not released and thus preventing the boats from being launched successfully. Many boats went down with the ship.

On Friday 7th May 1915 she had reached the War Zone. The usual precautions of blackening out the portholes and doubling the watch were obeyed.

The lookouts were tentatively at their posts. At about 1.30 p.m. Leslie Morton saw the torpedo heading towards the Starboard side travelling at about 22 knots. He gave the alarm stating "Torpedo coming in the Starboard side". The Bridge was slow in reacting to his warnings.

Another lookout, Thomas Quinn also said that the torpedo and sounded the alarm. It was too late. The torpedo struck the ship and detonated before Turner could do anything. Power was suddenly lost. The watertight door could not be closed. Radio distress signals had to be sent using battery power.

At 2.10 p.m. after lunch the passengers were eagerly waiting for their desserts when they heard:

"the sound of an arrow entering the canvas and straw of a target magnified a thousand times" or and "a pearl of thunder" and "the slamming of a door".

A second explosion came within seconds. Suddenly the ship took a 15º list to Starboard, which began to sharpen to 16º then 17º etc until the list reached 25º - a point at which the ship could not survive. The list had become so severe that the Officers could not swing the lifeboats clear of the ship.

Panic had set in amongst the passengers. Some jumped into the water trying to flee for their lives. Captain Turner jumped into the water when the Bridge was flooding. He swam for three hours before finding a lifeboat to climb into.

Within 18 minutes the ship had rolled over and sunk with 1,195 passengers. Only 289 bodies were recovered. 764 people survived.

The survivors were landed at Cobh (Queenstown) in Co Cork. It was here too that the bodies were brought ashore or washed up in the days after the sinking. The corpses, men, women and children, were placed in coffins and lined up along the Cunard Line’s dock. A huge funeral procession made its way through the streets of Cobh to the cemetery. Many of the dead were buried in mass graves, marked by two crudely hewn stones. Others victims, likely the more affluent, were buried in individual graves with headstones noting their death on the Lusitania.

The loss of the Lusitania was to reverberate on the World stage as the USA was shocked and stunned by the actions of the German Navy in sinking what was to all appearances a civilian Liner engaged in peaceful commerce. It pushed US public opinion firmly in the direction of the Allies and helped to bring the USA into the War against Germany in April 1917.