Monday, 28 February 2022


28 February 1985: The IRA attacked Newry RUC barracks and killed 9 of its members and injured many more. It was the worst single incident suffered by RUC in the course of the Troubles. The base was situated at Corry Square in the town and while heavily guarded the canteen inside was just a portacabin that was full at the time of the attack.

Shortly after 6.30 pm on 28 February, nine shells were launched from a lorry, which had been parked on Monaghan Street,  about 250 yards (230 m) from the base. At least one 50 lb shell landed on a portacabin containing a canteen, where many officers were having their evening tea break. 

“Myself and two other guys were sitting in an office and we were having our dinner. And at 6.35pm that evening, which was a Thursday evening, Crossroads had just started on the television. Then there were a series of bangs and the windows came in.

“I made my way out into the main corridor in the station, and was confronted by a uniformed police officer,” he said. “He asked what was happening, and my words to him were: ‘I think we’re all about to die’.

“The next recollection is an officer, a more senior officers, coming in through the back door from the yard where the canteen was. “And if you looked at him he looked like a typical cartoon character who has just been in an explosion. “His shirt was in tatters and he said something to the effect: It’s gone. “There were no more explosions, and myself and others ran out the back to where the canteen was. And it wasn’t there any more. It was just wreckage.

Retired RUC Officer

The Police Station is now long since demolished & has been replaced by the grassy McClelland Park and a town Car Park.

Those who died were:

Chief Inspector Alexander Donaldson, 41

Res Constable Geoffrey Campbell, 24

Detective Sgt John Dowd, 31

Detective Constable Ivy Kelly, 29

Res Constable Rosemary McGookin, 27

Res Constable Paul McFerran, 33

Res Constable Sean McHenry, 19

Res Constable Denis Price, 22

Constable David Topping, 22.

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

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

The letter he received read:

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

Irish Republican Army

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 February 2022


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Chronicon Scotorum

Friday, 25 February 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 24 February 2022


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

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

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

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

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


Tribunal Of Inquiry Into The Fire


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

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

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

evacuation of personnel and movement in smoke laden atmosphere

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

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

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

(I) the absence of light at a critical period

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

The children who died were:

Mary Harrison -15 years of age from Dublin

Mary Hughes - 15 years of age from Killeshandra

Ellen McHugh -15 years of age from Blacklion

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

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

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

Kathleen Reilly – 14 years of age from Butlersbridge

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

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

Rose Wright – 11 years of age from Ballyjamesduff

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

Mary Kelly - 10 years of age from Ballinagh

Mary Brady – 7 years of age from Ballinagh

Dorothy Daly – 7 years of age from Cootehill

Mary Ivers – 12 years of age from Kilcoole Wicklow

Philomena Regan – 9 years of age from Dublin

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

Teresa White – 6 years of age from Dublin

Mary Roche - 6 years of age from Dublin

Ellen Morgan – 10 years of age from Virginia

Elizabeth Heaphy - 4 years of age from Swords

Mary O'Hara – 7 years of age from Kilnaleck

Bernadette Serridge - 5 years of age from Dublin

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

Mary Lowry – 17 years of age from Drumcrow, Cavan

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


Mary Smith 80 years of age employed as Cook

Wednesday, 23 February 2022


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

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

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

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

* Grand Old Man – Mr Gladstone

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 February 2022


22 February 1832: Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery, Dublin opened its gates on this day. The first internment was of Michael Carey, aged four, of Francis Street. This place of burial was established to allow the Catholic population of the City to have a place to bury their dead without impediment. The old Penal Laws had meant that all bodies had to be interred in Protestant graveyards. 

However, when William Magee, an evangelist and steadfast opponent of Catholic Emancipation, became Archbishop of Dublin, all compromise was abandoned. One particular incident marked a turning point and the start of a huge change for Catholics. In St. Kevin’s Churchyard in September 1823 Dr. Michael Blake, Catholic Archdeacon of the Dublin diocese was about to offer some quiet graveside prayers when a Protestant sexton, who many believed was working on the orders of Archbishop Magee, stopped him. The funeral was that of Arthur D’Arcy a well-known and respected Dublin citizen whose brother would later become Lord Mayor. He had died suddenly in an accident and his funeral attracted a large crowd. This incident, witnessed by many, propelled the issue onto a wider stage...

A committee was formed to carry out the far from simple process of setting up a cemetery and in 1828 two acres of land was secured in Goldenbridge for a fee of £600. The following years proved very successful for the cemetery and today Goldenbridge holds the graves of many historically significant figures. Demand and limited space in Goldenbridge led to the opening of Glasnevin Cemetery in 1832.

Past and Present - Dublin Cemeteries Trust (

With the coming of full Catholic Emancipation in 1829 the imperative to establish a graveyard free from religious connotations took hold. When Glasnevin opened it was for the use of every person of regardless of Religion. The establishment of Prospect Cemetery coincided with burial reform and the rise of the 'garden cemetery' movement in Britain and Europe.

Glasnevin Cemetery was consecrated and opened to the public for the first time on 21 February 1832. The first burial, that of eleven-year-old Michael Carey from Francis Street in Dublin, took place on the following day in a section of the cemetery known as Curran's Square.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 21 February 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 February 2022

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

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

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

Dictionary of National Biography

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

Letter from Father Hugh Burke, bishop of Kilmacduagh

Eyewitness to Irish History

By Peter Berresford Ellis

* Near Marble Arch

Saturday, 19 February 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 17 February 2022


17 February 1978: An IRA Bomb at the La Mon Hotel near Belfast Co Down  killed 12 innocent people and injured many more in a horrific no warning attack.

The IRA unit had tried to issue a telephone warning but claimed that a vandalised phone box and a UDR checkpoint had delayed them. An incendiary device attached to an outside wall and fuelled by the addition of a number of jerrycans caused a devastating explosion that swept through the dining area where guests had taken their seats at a number of functions that were being held there that night. There were 450 diners, hotel staff and guests inside the building when the bomb went off.

The dead were all Protestant civilians. Half were young married couples. Most of the dead and injured were members of the Irish Collie Club and the Northern Ireland Junior Motor Cycle Club, holding their yearly dinner dances in the Peacock Room and Gransha Room, respectively. The former took the full force of the explosion and subsequent fire; many of those who died had been seated nearest the window where the bomb had gone off. Some of the injured were still receiving treatment 20 years later.

There was widespread anger and outrage in the wake of the attack and the IRA were forced to apologise for their terrible blunder that cost the lives of so many innocent people.

Even today the relatives of the victims are calling for an inquiry into who exactly gave the orders to go ahead with the attack. But with some files listed as 'missing' its unlikely that the exact circumstances behind one of the worst incidents in the 'Troubles' will ever be forthcoming.  

Those who died in the bombing were:

Thomas Neeson (52), from Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Sarah Wilson Cooper (62), from Alliance Crescent, north Belfast

Sandra Morris (27), from Alliance Crescent, north Belfast. *

Ian McCracken (25), from Bangor, Co Down

Elizabeth McCracken (25), from Bangor, Co Down.

Daniel Magill (37), from Dundonald, Co Down. 

Gordon Crothers (30), from Gilbourn Court, east Belfast.

Joan Crothers (26), from Gilbourn Court, east Belfast. 

Paul Nelson (37), from Dundonald, Co Down. 

Dorothy Nelson (34), from Dundonald, Co Down.

Christine Lockhart (33), from Richhill, Co Armagh,

* pictured above with her husband Joseph who survived.

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

Derrynaflan is a small island of mineral soil in Killeens bog Co. Tipperary. The site was an important monastery in the eighth and ninth centuries and came under the patronage of the King-Bishops of Cashel. The site is best known for the treasure discovered there in 1980, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times.

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

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

Wednesday, 16 February 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 February 2022


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

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

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

‭The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St. John Joyce.

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

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

Monday, 14 February 2022


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

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

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

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

As it so happened the Fianna Fáil Party were holding their Ard Fheis that same weekend

but once news broke of the terrible loss of life the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey cancelled the proceedings as a mark of respect. The import of such a terrible event as this was not lost upon him as the Stardust was within his own Constituency and he knew the families of many of the victims. He attended many of the funerals himself and indeed was seen in tears on at least one occasion as the internments took place.

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

The names of those who died are:

Michael Barrett, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Richard Bennett, Coolock, Dublin 5

Carol Bissett, Ringsend, Dublin 4.

James Buckley, Donnycarney, Dublin 5.

Paula Byrne, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Caroline Carey, Coolock, Dublin 5.

John Colgan, Swords, Co. Dublin.

Jacqueline Croker, Killmore West, Dublin 5.

Liam Dunne, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Michael Farrell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

David Flood, Beaumount, Dublin 5.

Thelma Frazer, Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Michael French, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Josephine Glenn, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Michael Griffiths, Killmore, Dublin 5.

Robert Hillock, Twinbrook, Belfast.

Brian Hobbs, Whitehall, Dublin 9.

Eugene Hogan, Artane, Dublin 5.

Murtagh Kavanagh, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Martina Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Mary Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Robert Kelly, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Mary Kennedy, Killbarrack, Dublin 5.

Mary Kenny, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Margaret Kiernan, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Sandra Lawless, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Francis Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Maureen Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Paula Lewis, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Eamon Loughman, Beaumont, Dublin 9.

George McDermott Raheny, Dublin 5.

Marcella McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.

William McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Julie McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Teresa McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Gerard McGrath, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Caroline McHugh, Artane, Dublin 5.

Donna Mahon, Raheny, Dublin 5.

Helena Mangan, Coolock,

James Millar, Twinbrook, Belfast.

Susan Morgan, Derry.

David Morton, Artane, Dublin 5.

Kathleen Muldoon Kells, Co. Meath.

George O'Conner, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Brendan O'Meara Coolock, Dublin 5.

John Stout, Coolock, Dublin 5.

Margaret Thornton, Dublin 8.

Paul Wade, Artane, Dublin 5.

and not forgetting the 215 injured...

Sunday, 13 February 2022

 13 February 1922: Four children and two women were killed by a bomb thrown into Weaver St Belfast by persons unknown but undoubtedly linked to to a Loyalist Terror Gang.

 Ellen Johnstone (11) and Catherine Kennedy (15) died almost immediately; Elizabeth O’Hanlon (12) died the next day, and Rose-Anne McNeill (13) died on February 22nd. Many more suffered catastrophic injuries. Boys were injured too, as were adults. Two women subsequently died from their wounds, Maggie Smith (53) and Mary Owen (40). 

The city was in the grip of fear as hundreds of people on both sides were killed in sectarian attacks but an attack like this was unprecedented in its savagery as the perpetrators could have been in no doubt that the device they threw would land amongst innocent children.

‘On the evening of February 13th, 1922, just after 8.30pm, two suspicious looking men were spotted by residents of Weaver Street in north Belfast, a small Catholic enclave surrounded by Protestant districts. Despite it being mid-February, it was a crisp dry evening and children were playing on the street, boys with marbles, girls with a skipping rope tied to a lamp-post. Their parents watched them from their doorways.’

The following day, the Freeman’s Journal described the scenes at the Mater hospital: “When the wounded reached the hospital the entire staff was ready to receive them…Most of them had lost consciousness, but many were groaning and writhing in agony…Each child was carried into the hospital by the ambulance men, some of whom, hardened by contact with suffering, had been so moved by the scenes they had witnessed in Weaver Street, that they could ill repress the tears that welled into their eyes as they tenderly bore the groaning little ones into the building.”

It was an atrocity that shocked the City and indeed the whole of Ireland. 

The inquest, before a jury and the City Coroner, James Graham, was heard on the 3rd March. 

The jury brought in a verdict that the deaths had been caused by a bomb ‘…wilfully thrown by some person unknown.’ The City Coroner then adjourned the inquest for two weeks and requested that the Minister for Home Affairs in the northern government, Dawson Bates hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Catherine Kennedy, Ellen Johnston, Eliza O’Hanlon and Rose Ann McNeill.

The northern government didn’t even discuss it at its next cabinet meeting (although it did discuss the site for a Stormont egg-laying competition). In a telegram to Michael Collins, Churchill (then Colonial Secretary) called it “…the worst thing to have happened in Ireland in the last three years“. Edward Carson wrote in his diary that there was no evidence the bomb was purposely thrown at the children. But his attitude was clear, as he wrote that even if it was it was only “…one among how many on the other side?“.

In the aftermath of all this the lase Catholic residents of  Weaver St were forced to flee and the whole street no longer exists. Nothing remains to remind people today what happened there 100 years ago this night.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* pocket size

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

Saturday, 12 February 2022


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

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

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