Tuesday, 31 May 2022


31 May 1941 – The German bombing of the North Strand in Dublin by the Luftwaffe on this day. 28 were killed  & over 90 were injured, over 300 houses were destroyed or damaged in the attack. Smaller bombs damaged the American Embassy and Áras an Uachtarain the official home of President Douglas Hyde in the Phoenix Park. The bombing was in all probability accidental and the German Government apologised in June 1941 for the attack. 

The first fifteen burials took place on 4 June  incl. the internment of the tragic Brown family in their native Drumcooley, outside Edenderry Co Offaly . Harry Brown, who lived on the North Strand was a member of the Local Defense Force and was amongst the dead, as was his 65-year-old mother, Mary, his wife Mary (or Mollie as she was known, 32) and their children Maureen (7), Ann (5), Edward (3) and Angela (2).  On the same day the burial of eight more people took place  in Glasnevin and in Dean's Grange cemeteries in Dublin. Twelve of those killed were buried by Dublin Corporation at a Public Funeral on 5 June, at which Government members including Eamon De Valera attended. The service took place in the Church of St. Laurence O'Toole, Seville Place and was presided over by Archbishop McQuaid. 

An Taoiseach Eamon De Valera made the following statement in the Dáil on 5 June:

Members of the Dáil desired to be directly associated with the expression of sympathy already tendered by the Government on behalf of the nation to the great number of our citizens who have been so cruelly bereaved by the recent bombing. Although a complete survey has not yet been possible, the latest report which I have received is that 27 persons were killed outright or subsequently died; 45 were wounded or received other serious bodily injury and are still in hospital; 25 houses were completely destroyed and 300 so damaged as to be unfit for habitation, leaving many hundreds of our people homeless. It has been for all our citizens an occasion of profound sorrow in which the members of this House have fully shared. 

(Members rose in their places.)

The Dáil will also desire to be associated with the expression of sincere thanks which has gone out from the Government and from our whole community to the several voluntary organisations the devoted exertions of whose members helped to confine the extent of the disaster and have mitigated the sufferings of those affected by it. As I have already informed the public, a protest has been made to the German Government. The Dáil will not expect me, at the moment, to say more on this head.


Why these bombers ended up over Dublin is a mystery. Presumably they meant to bomb Belfast or Liverpool, became disorientated and ended up over Dublin where they were spotted by searchlights and fired upon by AA batteries. This probably confirmed them in their belief they were at least over a large urban area of enemy territory and they decided to drop their bombs here to lighten their load and allow them to make greater speed on the run back to their base in Occupied Europe.

After the War the post war Government of West Germany paid compensation for the destruction and the damaged caused. These bombings were the worst experienced in the Irish Free State during the War or ‘The Emergency’ as those times were called here.

Monday, 30 May 2022


30 May 1951: A General Election was held in the Irish Republic. The 1st Inter-Party Government under John A. Costello was defeated and Eamon De Valera was elected once again as Taoiseach.

TDs returned:

Fianna Fáil (Eamon de Valera): 69

Fine Gael (Richard Mulcahy)*: 40

Labour (William Norton): 16

Clann na Talmhan (Michael Donnellan): 6

Clann na Poblachta (Seán MacBride): 2

Independents: 14

* Head of FG but not of the Government 

The general election of 1951 was caused by a number of crises within the First Inter-Party Government, most notably the Mother and Child Scheme. While the whole affair, which saw the resignation of the Minister for Health, Noël Browne, was not entirely to blame for the collapse of the government it added to the pressure between the various political parties. There were other problems facing the country such as rising prices, balance of payments problems and two farmer TDs withdrew their support for the government because of rising milk prices.

The election result was inconclusive. Fianna Fáil's support increased by 61,000 votes, however, the party only gained one extra seat. The coalition parties had mixed fortunes. Fine Gael were the big winners increasing to forty seats. The Labour Party patched up its differences with the National Labour Party and fought the election together but in spite of this the party lost seats. Clann na Poblachta were the big losers of the election. Three years earlier the party was a big political threat, but now the party was shattered.

Fianna Fáil had not won enough seats to govern alone. However, the party was able to form a government with the support of Noël Browne, the former Minister for Health, and other Independent deputies.

De Valera was to stay in power for another 3 years until he lost to another Coalition headed by Fine Gael and Labour

Sunday, 29 May 2022


29 May 1914: The loss of the passenger liner Empress of Ireland on this day. The ship sank within minutes of being involved in a collision with a Norwegian Storstad in the St Lawrence river, Canada. The vessel had only left port in Quebec a few hours previously, but it was under a new Captain and sailed into a bank of fog where after spotting the approaching Storstad it tried to avoid contact but was unable to do so. Both skippers blamed the other but a subsequent Court of Inquiry blamed the Norwegian for the impact. A verdict that the Norwegians never accepted.

Of the 1,477 persons on board the ship, 1,012 (840 passengers, 172 crew) died. The number of those who were killed is the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime.

Empress of Ireland was built by at Govan on the Clyde in Scotland and was launched in 1906.The liner had just begun her 96th sailing when she sank.

There were only 465 survivors, 4 of whom were children (the other 134 children were lost) and 41 of whom were women (the other 269 women were lost). The fact that most passengers were asleep at the time of the sinking (most not even awakened by the collision) also contributed to the loss of life when they were drowned in their cabins, most of them from the starboard side where the collision happened.

One of the survivors was Captain Kendall, who was on the bridge at the time, and quickly ordered the lifeboats to be launched. When Empress of Ireland lurched onto her side, he was thrown from the bridge into the water, and was taken down with her as she began to go under. Swimming to the surface, he clung to a wooden grate long enough for crew members aboard a nearby lifeboat to row over and pull him in. Immediately, he took command of the small boat, and began rescue operations.

The lifeboat's crew successfully pulled in many people from the water, and when the boat was full, Kendall ordered the crew to row to the lights of the mysterious vessel that had rammed them, so that the survivors could be dropped off. Kendall and the crew made a few more trips between the nearby Storstad and the wreckage to search for more survivors. After an hour or two, Kendall gave up, since any survivors who were still in the water would have either succumbed to the freezing cold or had drowned by then.

While the ship had an Irish name there was no specific Irish connection other than she was based in Liverpool and sailed weekly back and forth across the Atlantic. However outside of Ireland it was the case that Liverpool was the most ‘Irish’ city on Earth at that time and also one of the greatest shipping ports in the World. Many of the crew would undoubtedly have had Irish links.

Sadly this terrible disaster has been almost forgotten, wedged as it is between the far more well know maritime disasters of the Titanic [1912] and the Lusitania [1915] which resonated with the public mind down the years.

The wreck lies in 40 metres (130 ft) of water, making it accessible to divers. Many artifacts from the wreckage have been retrieved. Some are on display in the Empress of Ireland Pavilion at the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père in Rimouski, Quebec. The Canadian government has passed legislation to protect the site. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Empress_of_Ireland#Passengers_and_crew

Saturday, 28 May 2022


28 May 1929: The death of the Irish Historian Alice Stopford Green on this day. Her father was the Rector of Kells  Co Meath where she was born in 1847. Despite the terrible conditions in the Country at the time Alice was raised in some comfort and educated herself through the use of her fathers extensive Library in Greek, German and metaphysics. At about the age of sixteen she was attacked by an eye ailment, rendering her temporarily blind. In 1873 her family moved to Dublin and there, hungry for knowledge, she started to attend lectures in physics at the College of Sciences. 

After her father’s death she moved with her mother and sisters to London, where she was noticed by an emerging Oxford historian, John Richard Green. In 1877 they were married. He made his name through the publication of a work called A short history of the English people which sold well. She acted as his secretary and assistant and things seemed to be going well. However in 1883 her husband suddenly died and she was on her own. Undeterred she set out to make a name for herself as an Historian in her own right and as a Woman of Letters. She had a formidable list of correspondents in the English speaking World. Her early works—a life of Henry II and a long two-volume study of Town life in the fifteenth century—confirmed her abilities as someone capable of producing serious works of History.

Though mildly interested in Irish affairs she resided in London and took a keen interest in Africa. Green found her niche editing the ‘Journal of the African Society’, which she did until 1906 and was of the opinion that Black Africans had their own cultures and traditions that should be highlighted and respected. The Boer War was something of a catalyst in how she viewed the Empire and she visited the prison camp on the island of St Helena where Boer prisoners-of-war were being held. In October 1900, returning to England aboard a steamship, she wrote to John Holt: I am certain if this Empire is to be held together at all that Englishmen will have to think more of knowledge v intelligence, & trust less to the argument.

With the growth of the Irish Revival at home and a renewed interest in Old Irish History she set about the study of it. Much influenced by her late husband’s focus on social and economic aspects of historical change she came out in 1908 with her seminal work The Making of Ireland and its Undoing 1200-1600. This was a bit of a shocker in the stuffy world of Irish Historiography and it seems ruffled quite a few feathers! But it did establish her as a prominent Irish historian as opposed to a British one.

With the growth of the Home Rule Crises in 1912 and the arming of the Northern Loyalists she became convinced that Nationalist Ireland had to reciprocate and helped along with Sir Roger Casement and others to land guns in Ireland to counter any attempt to Partition the Country. However it was only in 1918 that she moved to Dublin where she took up residence at 30 St Stephen’s Green where her house became a hub of social and political interaction. While she was an Irish historian and patriot she was not one of violent persuasion.

When the Treaty was signed in 1921 she fully supported it. In 1922 she won a seat in Seanad Éireann  as a Senator of the new Irish Free State. She remained as a member until her death. Her final major work was a History of the Irish State to 1014. Again in this volume she attempted to lay out the cultural, social and legal framework of Ireland and the National character and culture of the People up until that date and steered away from a political history of the period. 

Alice Stopford Green died on this day in 1929 - just two days short of her 82nd birthday. She is buried in Deans Grange cemetery Co Dublin.

Friday, 27 May 2022


27 May 1224: Cathal Crovderg [‘Redhand’] Ua Conchobair , king of Connacht, son of Turlough and brother of Rory O'Conor (the last 'High King' of Ireland), died at the age of 72. He was the last of the great Irish Kings. His death opened the way for the Norman takeover of Connacht.

King Cathal had to play what might be described in today's terms as a masterly game of 'Realpolitik' in his time as King. He was faced with a range of enemies both internal and external who wished to bring him down. Depending on circumstances he was prepared to 'switch sides' and play one off against another. He built alliances with Thomond (north Munster), Tir Owen and Fermanagh in the North and sometimes with the Anglo-Norman invaders. But he was not averse to throwing himself at the mercy of the Justicar in Dublin when he was forced to flee his own kingdom. From his base west of the river Shannon he was forced to deal with the Norman invaders. He was a competent leader despite problems, avoiding major conflicts and winning battles. Ua Conchobair attempted to make the best of the new situation with Ireland divided between Norman and Gaelic rulers.

He succeeded as head of the O'Conors on his brother Rory's death in 1198. The early part of his reign was passed in contests with the Anglo-Normans and with his nephew Cathal Carrach, who at one time succeeded in expelling him from his territories. In 1201, however, Cathal Crovderg, with the assistance of the Anglo Norman De Burghs, defeated and slew his nephew in battle near Boyle.
On his nephews death Cathal was finally in a position to have himself inaugurated as King of Connacht in the traditional way, surrounded by his close family and retainers along with the heads of the important monasteries and with the vassal families of the O’Conors in attendance. This ancient ceremony took place at Carn Fraoich near Ráth Cruachan  in County Roscommon. But in some ways it was an empty title too as Cathal was also a vassal of the King of England. He certainly did not have free sway over the whole province, just a portion thereof on sufferance really.

On King John's arrival in Ireland in 1210, he paid him homage, and by the surrender of a portion of his territories, secured to himself a tolerably peaceful old age. He died in the abbey of Knockmoy (having assumed the habit of a Grey Friar) in 1224. The principal abode of the heads of the O'Connor family at this period was around Rathcroghan, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon.

He founded Ballintubber Abbey in 1216, and was succeeded by his son, Aedh mac Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair. His wife, Mor Ní Briain, was a daughter of King Domnall Mór Ua Briain of Thomond, died in 1218. By the end of his Life he had come to accept the primacy of the King of England as also 'Lord of Ireland' as a political necessity and only wished to have his son recognised by King Henry III of England as his successor.

He wrote to King Henry in 1224 shortly before his death:
'To his dear Lord Henry,by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, from his faithful King of Connacht, greeting, and bond of sincere affection with faithful obedience.'
'We feel sure that you have heard, through the trusty men and counsellors of your father and your own, how that we did not fail to give faithful and devoted service to the Lord John, your father of happy memory ; and since his death, as your trusty servants stationed in Ireland know and have learned, we are not failing to give devoted obedience to you, nor do we wish ever as long as we live to fail you. Wherefore, although we possess a charter for the land of Connacht from the Lord your father given to ourselves and our heirs, and by name to Od [Aedh] our son and heir...'
Taken from A History of Ireland by Eleanor Hull

His eulogy in the Annals of Connacht relates the attributes that a true King was expected to portray to his People:
'A great affliction befell the country then, the loss of Cathal Crobderg son of Toirrdelbach O Conchobair, king of Connacht;
the king most feared and dreaded on every hand in Ireland;
the king who carried out most plunderings and burnings against Galls and Gaels who opposed him;
the king who was the fiercest and harshest towards his enemies that ever lived;
the king who most blinded, killed and mutilated rebellious and disaffected subjects;
the king who best established peace and tranquillity of all the kings of Ireland;
the king who built most monasteries and houses for religious communities;
the king who most comforted clerks and poor men with food and fire on the floor of his own habitation;
the king whom of all the kings in Ireland God made most perfect in every good quality;
the king on whom God most bestowed fruit and increase and crops;
the king who was most chaste of all the kings of Ireland;
the king who kept himself to one consort and practised continence before God from her death till his own;
the king whose wealth was partaken by laymen and clerics, infirm men, women and helpless folk, as had been prophesied in the writings and the visions of saints and righteous men of old;
the king who suffered most mischances in his reign, but God raised him up from each in turn;
the king who with manly valour and by the strength of his hand preserved his kingship and rule.

And it is in the time of this king that tithes were first levied for God in Ireland. This righteous and upright king, this prudent, pious, just champion, died in the robe of a Grey Monk, after a victory over the world and the devil, in the monastery of Knockmoy, which with the land belonging to it he had himself offered to God and the monks, on the twenty-seventh day of May as regards the solar month and on a Monday as regards the week-day, and was nobly and honourably buried, having been for six and thirty years sole monarch of the province of Connacht.
So says Donnchad Baccach O Maelchonaire in his poem on the Succession of the Kings:
‘The reign of Red-hand was a pleasant reign, after the fall of Cathal Carrach; he ruled for sixteen and twenty prosperous calm years.’
And he was in the seventy-second year of his age, as the poet Nede O Maelchonaire says: ‘Three years and a half-year, I say, was the life of Red-hand in Cruachu till the time that his father died in wide-stretching Ireland.’
He was born at Port Locha Mesca [ Loch Mask] and fostered by Tadc O Con Chennainn in Ui Diarmata, and it was sixty-eight years from the death of Toirrdelbach to the death of Cathal Crobderg, as the chronicle shows.'
The Annals of Connacht

And it is in the time of this king that tithes were first levied for God in Ireland. This righteous and upright king, this prudent, pious, just champion, died in the robe of a Grey Monk, after a victory over the world and the devil, in the monastery of Knockmoy* , which with the land belonging to it he had himself offered to God and the monks, on the twenty-seventh day of May as regards the solar month and on a Monday as regards the week-day, and was nobly and honourably buried, having been for six and thirty years sole monarch of the province of Connacht.

* He was buried beside his wife, Moy (Mór), who had died circa 1217/18.


27 May 1798: The Battle of Oulart Hill on this day. A  force of some 100 soldiers of the British Army was all but eliminated by the Wexford insurgents at Oulart Hill in that County. They had been dispatched from Wexford town to intimidate any actions by the disaffected countrymen of the locality who were taking to arms to defend themselves from the depredations of the Military. Columns of them were scouring the countryside, burning people out of their homes and murdering people whom they believed to be ‘Rebels’ against King George III. 

‘By mid-afternoon on Whitsunday, 27 May, having done a circuit of the district to gather their supporters, Fr. John Murphy, Curate of Boolavogue, United Irish Col. Edward Roche, Morgan Byrne of Castlesow and George Sparks of Blackwater assembled their men on Oulart Hill, in what appears to have been the implementation of an existing plan familiar to all. It was probably the original plan for raising North Wexford as part of the general national Rising that had collapsed in Dublin the previous Wednesday night. All the gunsmen along with perhaps 300 of the pikemen and men with sundry weapons were placed in a right-angled ambush on a corner and along its subtending ditches (fences). 

Government forces comprised 126 officers and men of the North Cork Militia (infantry) under Lieut. Col. Foote and Major Lombard supported by nineteen officers and men of the Shelmalier Yeoman Cavalry under Col. Le-Hunte. Almost half this latter body had been brought over to the rebel cause during the night by General Edward Roche who was Sergeant in the corps.'

The Battle of Oulart Hill, Context and Strategy by Brian Cleary.


There was consternation in Wexford when news reached the town as the loss of this body of  troops left in almost defenseless. The Deputy Mayor wrote to Dublin appealing for help:

My Lord

 This has turned out a most unfortunate day. A party of rebels appearing in great force a few miles from Wexford, on the Dublin road were attacked by the grenadier company and other picked men to the amount of hundred of the North Cork Militia. The Major, four or five officers and all the party except three were cut off. Of the Officers Col. Foote only escaped. The Rebels, confident in their strength and flushed with their success are determined on the attack of the town of Wexford. By the loss of this day are numbers are so reduced that we much fear the event and request most earnestly that you will order such a reinforcement as may be sufficient to oppose them.

Ebenezer Jacob

Deputy Mayor of Wexford

The elimination of a full column of the Crown Forces by the men of the locality spread like wildfire throughout the County and further afield. It was indeed the spark which set the Wexford Rising off as it’s highly unlikely that a defeat here would have had any other outcome but a collapse in the morale of those in arms against the Crown and a hasty end of the whole affair.

Painting: The Battle of Oulart Hill by Fr. Edward Foran OSA (1861-1938)

Thursday, 26 May 2022

 26 May 1315: Edward de Bruce the Earl of Carrick (the younger brother of Robert de Bruce of Scotland) and soldiers from his fleet landed on the Irish coast on points at and between Olderfleet Castle at Larne and Glendrum on the north east coast of Ireland. The Earl's army contained a force estimated at in excess of 6,000 men, many of them veterans of the campaign of the previous year in Scotland in which the Earl Edward led the vanguard at the Battle of Bannockburn where he and his brother decisively defeated the King of England Edward II.

His descent on the north-west coast of Ireland was the start of his ultimately futile bid to seize Ireland from the English – an attempt that was to cause much bloodshed and suffering here for three long years

.Edward knew there was much dissatisfaction with English Rule in Ireland. He had helped his brother fight the Sassanach in Scotland and defeat their attempts to secure that Kingdom. But he was also a man of ambition and pride. He did not want to spend his life in his brother's shadow. King Robert in turn did not want his ambitious sibling as a thorn in his side either. He steered his brothers’ focus onto freeing the Gaels of Ireland from English Rule. If Edward could achieve that then Robert would be shot of him and would have also diverted the attentions of King Edward II of England away from Scotland and onto Ireland.

Edward the Bruce intended from the start to rely on the Gaels of Ireland to provide support, both in men and material, to the Scots. In this the Scotsman met with a measure of success but as he moved south the number of Irish Chieftains ready to throw in their lot with the newcomers diminished considerably.

At first the Irish/Scottish alliance seemed unstoppable as they won battle after battle, in less than a year they had most of Ireland in their control . However by the beginning of 1317 famine had stricken the country making it difficult for either side to undertake military operations. The Famine was of unusual intensity and struck right across Europe, killing countless numbers as crops failed and the weather turned much colder.

Then in the late summer of 1318, Sir John de Bermingham with his army began a march against Edward de Brus. On 14 October 1318, the Scots-Irish army was badly defeated at the Battle of Faughart by de Bermingham's forces. Edward was killed, his body being quartered and sent to various towns in Ireland, and his head being delivered to King Edward II. The Annals of Ulster summed up the hostile feeling held by many among the Anglo-Irish and Irish alike of Edward de Brus:

Edward de Brus, the destroyer of Ireland in general, both Foreigners and Gaels, was killed by the Foreigners of Ireland by dint of fighting at Dun-Delgan. And there were killed in his company Mac Ruaidhri, king of Insi-Gall Hebrides [i.e. Ailean mac Ruaidhri] and Mac Domhnaill, king of Argyll, together with slaughter of the Men of Scotland around him. And there was not done from the beginning of the world a deed that was better for the Men of Ireland than that deed. For there came death and loss of people during his time in all Ireland in general for the space of three years and a half and people undoubtedly used to eat each other throughout Ireland."

The Annals of Ulster

Map: History Ireland.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022


25 May 1921- The Custom House in Dublin was burnt out by members of the Dublin Brigade IRA. In an audacious and well planned operation some 200 IRA members seized control of the Custom House building on Dublin’s North Quay and set it alight. The purpose of the raid was to destroy the Local Government records of the British Administration in Ireland in order to further undermine their ability to rule the Country. 

The Operation had been decided upon by the senior members of the Republican Movement at the time incl. Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. It was hoped that such a devastating blow would undermine British rule to such a degree that it would never recover it ability to collect taxation at local level.

The 2nd battalion Dublin IRA was tasked with carrying out the Operation. ‘The Squad’ made up of hitmen was to eliminate any one who tried to interfere. The 5th battalion was to cover them from without. Vincent Byrne, a member of the execution gang ‘the Squad’ attached to Michael Collins Intelligence Department recalled:

'However a 25 May IRA attack on the Customs House in Dublin made it clear that the advocates of continued force within the Irish Independence movement were more than content to keep the fight going. The attack, waged largely by the Dublin Brigade's 2nd Battalion, marked the largest armed deployment by the rebel forces since the Easter Rising. With some 200 men involved in all, the attack in retrospect might be judged to have been as foolhardy for the IRA as it was dramatic in scale. While the objective of damaging the Customs House and destroying thousands of tax records was achieved, in all the attack resulted in the loss of some seventy-five members of the Dublin Brigade due to arrests at the scene and the deaths of six others...

The objective for attacking the Customs House in fact dated back to the end of 1918, when the Irish Volunteers devised a plan for the building's destruction if and when the British Government imposed conscription on Ireland. Byrne also recalled his role in the attack and subsequent escape. 

I got a tin of petrol and proceeded to the second floor. I opened the door and sitting inside there were a lady and a gentleman, civil servants having tea. I requested them to leave, stating that I was going to set fire to the office. The gentleman stood up and said 'Oh, you can't do that.' I showed him my gun and told him I was serious. . . The lady then asked me if she could get her coat, and I replied: 'Miss, you'll be lucky if you get out with your life.'

The Irish Revolution and its Aftermath 1916-1923 - Years of Revolt

Francis Costello

So while the immediate objective was achieved the operation was a costly one for the IRA as many of its top operatives were captured. The building was quickly surrounded by the Auxiliaries of the RIC who while ruthless were all combat experienced men. Many of the Volunteers were unable to effect their escape in time and were captured. However the IRA stopped Dublin Fire Brigade from reaching the scene until the building was well ablaze. Five members of the IRA died as a result of the operation and four civilians were killed either wilfully or accidentally incl. the caretaker of the House as he tried to phone for help.

The operation was a spectacular success but it came at a high cost in men lost through death or capture and it could be said it was something of a Pyrrhic victory for the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. In the event the Truce was only weeks away & despite subsequent criticism they were to keep up the tempo of attacks within the City until a ceasefire was agreed in 2nd week of July.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

24 May 1921: Elections were held in Six Counties/Northern Ireland on this day. These were held as a result of the Partition of Ireland as implemented by the British under their Government of Ireland Act 1920 which divided the Country into two separate statelets - Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. In the South the election process was a fiasco as no other Party would take the field against Sinn Fein for seats in its prospective House of Commons and as a result that Party swept the boards as all its candidates had to be deemed elected by the returning officers. So no actual polling took place in southern Ireland as all 128 candidates were thus returned unopposed. Of these, 124 were won by Sinn Féin and four by independent Unionists representing Dublin University (Trinity College).

It was a very different situation in the North where opinion was much more deeply divided and Sinn Fein was in contention with the Nationalist Party under Joe Devlin for the votes of basically the Catholic populace. The northern entity came into existence at the beginning of May but without a sitting parliament so this contest was aimed at filling the seats needed to allow it to function as a legislative body.

In the event the Unionist Party dominated the whole proceedings with full control of the Military and Police forces that discouraged if not actively stopped nationalists from exercising their ability to cast their votes.

“Also on election day the Specials, who were the auxiliary police, who were all loyalists, they were very active at the polling stations and they intimidated nationalist and Sinn Féin election workers and people who came to claim their votes in areas in which they had been intimidated (out of their homes during sectarian violence)… You had lots of complaints that Specials were turning nationalist voters away and that the register had been impersonated.”

He added: “You had IRA attacks as well. Violence was raging across Ireland and the IRA began to up the ante towards polling day, bombing barracks like Springfield Road barracks in west Belfast."

Dr Éamon Phoenix quoted in the Irish News 24 May 2021


The results were as follows on a Total electorate of 582,464; turnout: 88.0% (512,842):

Ulster Unionists under Sir James Craig took 40 seats with 343,347 votes [66.95%] 

Sinn Fein under Eamon De Valera took 6 seats with 104,917 votes [20.5%]

Nationalists under Joe Devlin took 6 seats with 60,577 votes [11.8%]


As can be seen the results in terms of MPs returned was totally skewed in favour of the Unionist population.

‘Among Republicans elected for constituencies in the Six Counties were President De Valera for South Down, Michael Collins for Armagh, Eoin O’Neill for Derry, and Arthur Griffith Sean Milroy and Sean O’Mahony for Fermanagh South Tyrone....

When the Northern Parliament met on June 7th, the Nationalist Party and Republican members were absent. Later, Joseph Devlin and his followers decided to take their seats; the Republicans, however, continued to abstain.

Sir James Craig became Prime Minister, Carson having declined the leadership owing to advancing age.’

The Irish Republic by Dorothy Macardle


Monday, 23 May 2022


May 23-4 1798: The outbreak of the United Irishmen Rising on this day. Overnight mail coaches were attacked on the roads to Dublin to signal the start of revolutionary action. In order to give some degree of co ordination it was agreed that the ‘Rising of the Moon’ would be the hour to strike the coaches.

In the City itself attempts to trigger an outbreak were thwarted as the British Army moved to seize strategic assembly points and thus nip things in the bud. Small crowds of men had set out from the poor districts of the city of Dublin to seize the Castle and other key public buildings. Agents of the Crown had infiltrated their revolutionary organization, the United Irishmen, and had already arrested several of their key leaders, Lord Edward FitzGerald being the most important of them. The Militia mobilized before the insurgents could assemble in large groups and what their leaders had hoped would be an almost bloodless coup turned into a debacle.

Outside the City though the insurgents fared better and many gathered in rural areas of County Dublin as well as southern County Meath, northern County Kildare and northern and western County Wicklow. These groups attacked towns and villages in their respective localities and stopped and destroyed some of the mail coaches that were making their way out to the provinces.

On the 23rd of May, Dublin was placed under martial law; the citizens were armed, the guard was trebled, the barristers pleaded with regimentals and swords, and several of the lamplighters were hung from their own lamp-posts for neglecting to light the lamps. The country people were prepared to march on the city, but Lord Roden and his Foxhunters soon put down their attempt. The next morning the dead were exhibited in the Castle-yard, and the prisoners were hanged at Carlisle-bridge.[now O’Connell Bridge] Sir Watkins Wynn and his Ancient Britons distinguished themselves by their cruelties.


Sunday, 22 May 2022


22 May 1849: Maria Edgeworth died on this day. She was born in England in 1767 and spent her early years there. Her mother died while she was quite young and she was raised by a series of step mothers. (Her father married four times and sired 22 children!). Unusual for the Age for a female she was sent to school where she excelled at her studies. However in 1782 she accompanied her father, his third wife and a number of children to Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford. It was here that she made her home for the rest of her Life.

An intelligent and curious woman she corresponded with famous and learned people across these islands, though in her heart she wanted to be a writer and with her material needs provided by her father and her social isolation on his Estate she began to pour out a succession of publications. She served as her father's secretary as well, and collaborated with him on several nonfiction works. She also helped to raise many of the numerous brood of his offspring.

Her first work was Letters for Literary Ladies (1795), and this owed much her fathers’ ideas on women's education. It was followed by The Parent's Assistant (1796), a collection of children's stories, and their jointly written Practical Education (1798). More children's stories were published in 1801 as Early Lessons and Moral Tales. Her first and best novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), was published anonymously. It achieved immediate success, and her name appeared on subsequent editions. Indeed her reputation today more less rests on this work and its portrayal of Irish life at that time. 

Castle Rackrent is also recognized as the first regional novel, depicting the speech, mannerisms, and activities of a specific Irish region and social class. This technique influenced subsequent novelists, including William Thackeray, James Fenimore Cooper, and Sir Walter Scott, who commended "the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and admirable tact" of Edgeworth's novel and expressed the hope that his own novels would accomplish for Scotland "something . . . of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland".

In 1802 the Edgeworths toured the English midlands. They then travelled to the continent, first to Brussels and then to France when a brief Peace operated  between Britain and Napoleonic France.  They met all the notables, and Maria received a marriage proposal from a Swedish courtier, Count Edelcrantz- but it appears she wasn’t very interested in him.

On a visit to London in 1813, where she was received as a literary lioness, Maria met Lord Byron (whom she disliked). She entered into a long correspondence with the ultra-Tory Sir Walter Scott and they formed a lasting friendship. She visited him at his home in Scotland at in 1823 where he took her on a tour of the area.

After her father's death in 1817 she edited his memoirs, and extended them with her biographical comments. She was an active writer to the last. She was might be perhaps described as a mild unionist who believed in fair treatment for all but not in the separation of England and Ireland. She was a strong believer in Woman’s Rights and Children's’ Rights.

After a visit to see her relations in Trim, Maria, now in her eighties, began to feel heart pains and died suddenly of a heart attack in Edgeworthstown on 22 May 1849. She was buried in the family vault there alongside her father.

 Edgeworth was a prolific writer – both for children and adults – an astute businesswoman, and an engaging companion, adroit at observing and mimicking life. Lionised in her own time, she was superseded by the Victorian novelists, but enjoyed a renaissance from the 1970s with Marilyn Butler's biography, new invigoration in the field of Anglo-Irish studies, and the republication of her work in the 1990s by Oxford University Press, Penguin Classics, and Pickering & Chatto. Edgeworth is the first novelist to examine human society through focusing on the local. Jane Austen admired her, Sir Walter Scott modelled  Waverley (1814) on The absentee, and there is an apocryphal story that Turgenev's peasant sketches draw on Edgeworth's. Her Irish novels, exploring relations between protestant settler and catholic native mindsets, were instrumental in developing the realist novel in English, and gave birth to the following sub-genres: the regional novel, national tale, socio-historical novel, and big-house novel. 
Edwina Keown

* Portrait of Maria Edgeworth by John Downman 1807

Saturday, 21 May 2022


21 May 1981: The Third and Fourth Irish Hunger Strikers Died in Long Kesh Prison on this day.

Raymond McCreesh (24), an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, and Patsy O'Hara (23), an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, both died having spent 61 days on hunger strike. Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, criticised the British government's attitude to the hunger strike.

The two men were preceded by Bobby Sands (5 May) and Frankie Hughes (12 May) in their struggle for political status.

Their 5 demands were:

The right not to wear a prison uniform;

The right not to do prison work;

The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;

The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;

Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

Perhaps what they felt is best summed up in these lines from this famous H Block Ballad:

But I'll wear no convict's uniform

Nor meekly serve my time

That Britain may call Ireland's fight

Eight hundred years of crime.

The strike was to last until 3 October 1981 and was to see 10 Republican prisoners starve themselves to death in support of their protest. The strike led to a heightening of political tensions in the region. It was also to pave the way for the emergence of Sinn Féin (SF) as a major political force in Ireland.

Friday, 20 May 2022


20 May 1311: The Battle of Bunratty/Bun Raite on this day. Civil War raged in north Thomond/Tuadhmhumhain (today's Co Clare) in the year 1311, a war that had been going on and off for decades as the O'Briens of that part of Ireland fought with one another to control their own territory. The chief antagonists at the time of this battle were King Dermot O'Brien[Clan Brien] and King Donough O'Brien [Clan Turlough].

The King of England's Justicar in Dublin was worried about the situation in Thomond and in May 1311 issued instructions that:

The war in the parts of Thomond between Richard Clare and Donatus Obreen, who calls himself prince of the Irish of Thomond, disturbs the peace throughout Ire. by its continuation. ORDER to prohibit Richard and Donatus from continuing that war and cause them to keep the peace for life.

Patent Roll 4 Edward II | CIRCLE

Which both sides ignored!

Donough O'Brien had the support of the Anglo-Norman DeBurghs of Connacht while Dermot O'Brien had the support of Anglo-Norman Richard de Clare based in Bunratty Castle.

The DeBurghs, led by William DeBurgh himself, invaded Clare to support their protégé and clashed with Richard de Clare's men near Bunratty Castle. While the DeBurghs won the tactical battle disaster befell them when William was taken prisoner and Donough O'Brien fled the field of battle as a result.

Lord William de Burgh was captured. On the day of the Ascension of the Lord lord john de Crok* was killed with many others in the battle of Bunratty with a great deal of booty given up in battle.

Annals of Ireland by Friar John Clyn

*He was deBurgh’s Standard bearer.

However the hapless Lord was most unfortunate as another account of this Battle relates:

A great hosting by William Burk into Mumha, against the Clarach;

and they gave battle to each other,

and the Clarach was worsted, and a great defeat was inflicted on him there.

William Burk was himself taken prisoner in the rere of his people, whilst he was following up the rout;

and although he was there taken prisoner,

it was he that had the triumph of that battle.

Annals of Loch Cé

None of this ended the War and even though King Donough was treacherously killed later that year and Dermot died in 1313 the dispute lingered on for many more years.

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.