Sunday, 31 July 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Picture: Own photo from 31 July 2015. 

Top Picture: Miami Showband road manager Brian Maguire with sax player Des Lee and drummer Ray Miller at a wreath-laying ceremony organised by Justice for the Forgotten at Parnell square in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Saturday, 30 July 2022


30 July 1928: Doctor Pat O’Callaghan won Gold for Ireland at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on this day. He was the 1st Irishman to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics while representing Ireland under our own flag [Green - White - Orange]. He was not the first Irishman to win one as others had won when competing under the Union Jack when all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom but this was one the Irish could truly their own!

He was born in Kanturk Co Cork in 1906 and he and indeed his whole family had a keen interest in athletics. At university in Dublin in the mid 1920s  O’Callaghan broadened his sporting experiences by joining the local senior rugby club. In 1926, he returned to his native Duhallow where he set up a training regime in hammer-throwing. Here he fashioned his own hammer by boring a one-inch hole through a 16 lb shot and filling it with the ball-bearing core of a bicycle pedal. He also set up a throwing circle in a nearby field where he trained. In 1927, O’Callaghan returned to Dublin where he won that year's hammer championship with a throw of 43.36 m (142 ft 3 in). In 1928, he retained his national title with a throw of 49.53 m (162 ft 6 in), a win which allowed him to represent Ireland at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

In the summer of 1928, the three O’Callaghan brothers paid their own fares when travelling to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Pat O’Callaghan finished in sixth place in the preliminary round and started the final with a throw of 47.49 m (155 ft 10 in). This put him in third place behind Ossian Skiöld of Sweden, but ahead of Malcolm Nokes, the favourite from Great Britain. For his second throw, O’Callaghan used the Swede's own hammer and recorded a throw of 51.39 m (168 ft 7 in). This was 10 cm (4 in) more than Skiöld's throw and resulted in a first gold medal for O’Callaghan and for Ireland. The podium presentation was particularly emotional as it was the first time at an Olympic Games that the Irish tricolour was raised and Amhrán na bhFiann was played.

Speaking in Kanturk on returning from the ceremony he said:

  ‘I am glad of my Victory, not of the victory itself, but for the fact that the world has been shown that Ireland has a flag, that Ireland has a national anthem, and in fact that we have a nationality’.

This Day in Irish History by Padraic Coffey 

He continued to actively participate in hammer throwing for Ireland and retained his title at the Games in Los Angeles in 1932 where he was the flagbearer for the Irish Team. In later years he practised as a Doctor his native Cork and only retired in 1984.  He travelled to every Olympic Games up until 1988 and enjoyed fishing and poaching in Clonmel. He died on 1 December 1991.

Friday, 29 July 2022


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

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

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

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


By A.‭ M. Sullivan

Patrick O’Donnell from the parish of Gaoth Dobhair in County Donegal was hanged at New Gate prison London on the 17th of December 1883 for the murder of James Carey.

Thursday, 28 July 2022


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

King Aedh of Connacht was an able and dynamic leader with a ruthless streak. He fought hard to retain what was left of the ever shrinking lump of territory that was left to the kings of Connacht by the inroads of the English and that his familial ancestors had once held sway over so much of.

His enemies were many but at this time he was at war with Walter de Burgo of the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family. Walter was both the Lord of Connacht and the Earl of Ulster - a very powerful man indeed in the Ireland of that time.

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

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

* The chief representitive of England in Ireland at that time

The Anglo-Norman Army went north by way of Elphin to the banks of the Shannon so that they were between Carrick and Jamestown, situated on what today is the riverine border between the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim.

There they decided upon upon a fatal course of action - they divided their forces in two so that the river Shannon would be between them. Walter was sent across the river with his men in order to camp beside Aedh's Army and to open negotiations with the King of Connacht so as to bring about his submission.

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

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

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

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

And O'Conchobhair was during these two nights marching round them,

 as a furious, raging, tearing lion goes about his enemies when killing them,

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

Annals of Loch Cé

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

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

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

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

Annals of Ulster

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

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

Annals of Connacht

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

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

Annals of Loch Cé 1259

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

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

The end came for King Aedh on 3 May 1274.

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

Annals of Connacht

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

Wednesday, 27 July 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 July 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 July 2022


24 July 1750: John Philpot Curran was born on this day. He was one of the great Legal orators of his Age and a defender in the Courts of members of the United Irishmen. He was born in County Cork  and after receiving a local education was sent to Trinity College Dublin. He was intended for the Church of Ireland, and studied divinity, but never wrote more than two sermons! He switched to Law and moved to London to continue his studies at at the Middle Temple.

He suffered from a bad stammer that hampered his ability to speak publicly which he overcame by reciting the works of Shakespeare in front of a mirror until he mastered his impediment. During his second year in London he married his cousin, Miss Sarah Creagh. Her fortune and some money supplied by his family supported them until he was called to the Irish Bar in 1775. After a shaky start he soon built up a decent practise but could never free himself completely from Debt. His most famous early appearance in the Courts was  in Co Cork where he brought a case on behalf of a Catholic Priest Fr. Father Neale who had been horsewhipped by a local landlord Protestant Lord Doneraile. Against the odds Curran won the case and the priest was awarded 30 guineas! He afterwards fought a duel with a Captain St. Leger over this affair but both survived unscathed and indeed Curran was a notable duellist surviving a number of encounters.

In 1783 he entered the Parliament in Dublin  as member for Kilbeggan; three years afterwards he was returned for Rathcormack, which he represented until 1797. But he seems to have left little mark there and his great oratorical powers were confined to the Courts and his wit and intelligence in private conversations. He was an advocate of Catholic Emancipation [namely the right of Catholics to be elected to Parliament] and defended a number of the United Irishmen in the Courts. Amongst his most famous cases being Hamilton Ronan, Napper Tandy, the Sheares Brothers, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone in 1798. He was not a member of any revolutionary organisations himself did not seek or desire the violent overthrow of the Established Order in Ireland at that time. 

It was in 1803 that Curran’s most infamous entanglement in Irish affairs took place when circumstances placed him at the centre of events that involved politics, his legal career and his family. It was not a happy mixture for him. The attempted revolt of Robert Emmet that summer had ended in a bloody Fiasco and in the tumult Lord Kilwarden ( a friend to Curran) had been dragged from his carriage in the streets of Dublin and hacked to pieces. It could have fallen to Curran to defend Robert Emmet of the charges brought against him. However to complicate matters further Curran’s beautiful daughter Sarah was in affair of sorts with Robert. They were secretly engaged but to how deep a degree it went after that we do not know. Correspondence was discovered between them and seen by her father. Thereafter he would have nothing to do with defending Emmet from the charges brought against him and he immediately disowned his daughter forever.

Devastated by the turn of events in Ireland he nevertheless accepted the position of Master of the Rolls for Ireland in 1806 and this brought in a lucrative salary and pension. Whether you could say he was ‘bought’ at this stage is an open question but in fairness to him he never sought Revolution but Reform. 

His life became even more unhappy. His wife of many years left him and he was depressed also by the state Ireland was in after the Act of Union, without a Parliament of its own and under England’s Rule. The affairs of Ireland and the World weighed heavily upon him in his latter years:

"Everything I see disgusts and depresses me: I look back at the streaming of blood for so many years, and everything everywhere relapsed into its former degradation — France rechained, Spain again saddled for the priests, and Ireland, like a bastinadoed elephant, kneeling to receive the paltry rider."

After his resignation of this office in 1814 he resided much at his mansion in Brompton, London where he enjoyed the society of Erskine, Horne Tooke, Sheridan, the Prince Regent, Thomas Moore, and William Godwin.

In the summer of 1817 he was attacked by paralysis at the table of his friend Thomas Moore, in London. After his return home, another attack supervened, and he succumbed in London, 14th October 1817, aged 67. He was initially buried in Paddington Cemetery. His dying wish was to be interred in Ireland. In 1834 his remains arrived in Dublin on a very wet and stormy night and were brought to Glasnevin cemetery by torch light where they were reburied in an impressive sarcophagus that stands intact to this day.

A great Man for the quotes his most famous still has resonance for the modern world:

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

 John Philpot Curran

Saturday, 23 July 2022


23‭ July 1803: Robert Emmet’s Rising took place on this day. Unfortunately the whole affair was a fiasco due to a series of unforeseen circumstances. Emmet quickly lost control of the situation and he called it off to avoid a massacre of his followers. Due to an accidental explosion of an arms depot in Patrick St Dublin the week before the date for the Rising was brought forth to 23 July. Emmet felt that Dublin Castle was on to him and he dared not wait any longer before striking for Ireland’s Freedom.

On the day of the Rising Robert Emmet stood in Thomas Street Dublin and issued a Proclamation of Independence:



You are now called on to shew to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognizance of you, as an independent country, by the only satisfactory proof you can furnish of your capability of maintaining your independence, your wresting it from England with your own hands...

But on the day nothing went right.‭ ‬Not nearly enough men turned up and Emmet could not bring any order upon enough of those that did. The only blow struck was when Lord Kilwarden haplessly drove into the assembled crowd of insurgents and was hacked to death for his part in suppressing the 1798 Rising. This attack troubled Emmet greatly as he gave no orders for it. To him it was clear that at least a faction of those assembled would turn violent of their own accord and bring a bloody mayhem to the streets of the City rather than the ordered seizure of military points of importance around the Capital. Reluctantly that very night he called the enterprise off by the launching of a single rocket into the sky above Dublin. He immediately made for the Wicklow Mountains but returned to Rathfarnham some days later and went into hiding.

Notwithstanding the overall failure there had been some heavy fighting by armed insurgents against the British garrison in the Coome and scores of men died there,‭ forcing the British back before the word was given to disperse. Around the City there were numerous smaller clashes and roads blocked. Amazingly Dublin Castle was caught completely on the hop and had no counter plan ready on the night. It was only the next day that they began to move and by that stage the insurgents had gone their separate ways. It was close run thing and the British had a lucky escape from having a full-blooded Insurrection on their hands.

Robert Emmet was arrested in Dublin on‭ 25 August of the same year. He was put on trail and sentenced to death.  At his trial he made a brilliant speech from the dock that inspired Revolutionaries both at home and abroad for years to come. He was executed the following day, 20 September 1803, at Thomas St. A huge crowd of onlookers and well wishers gathered to witness his final moments. The whereabouts of his last resting place remains unknown.

Friday, 22 July 2022


22 July 1858: Mother Mary Frances Aikenhead died on this day. she set up the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland. She was a frail child and was adopted out in her native city of Cork to a woman called Mary Rourke. Though baptised into the Church of Ireland it is thought that Mary was secretly baptised a Catholic from this early age by Mary Rourke who was a devout Catholic. However she was not formally received into the Catholic Faith until she was 15 years old on 6 June 1802. From an early age she was a devout disposition and wished to pursue a religious Life.

In 1808, Mary went to stay with her friend Anne O’Brien in Dublin. Here she witnessed widespread unemployment and poverty and soon began to accompany her friend in visiting the poor and sick in their homes. From this experience she believed it would be her vocation to help the sick and the poor as a member of a religious Community. She trained for 3 years (1812-1815) in a convent in York, England in order to become a Nun. When she returned to Dublin she set up the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland.

On 1 September 1815, the first members of the new institute took their vows, Sister Mary Augustine being appointed Superior General. Added to the traditional three vows of poverty chastity & obedience, was a fourth vow: to devote their lives to the service of the poor. For the next 15 years Mother Mary worked very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the less well-off but it took a terrible toll on her own Health.

However she did not let her own personal misfortune get her down:

“Low spirits and dreads of evil to ourselves or Congregation, or even to the church, are actually the beginnings of despair. If all the rest of the world goes wrong, we should still persevere in trying to serve our God with faith and fervour.” (7 November 1834)

Confined to bed or a wheelchair she continued to direct her charges and set up new institutions both at home and abroad. Her Sisters were particularly active during the great Cholera outbreak in 1832. She died in Dublin, aged 71 in Our Lady’s Mount Harold’s Cross and was buried in in the cemetery attached to St. Mary Magdalen's, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Her cause for canonization as a saint has been progressing in Rome. On 18 March 2015, a decree was issued proclaiming her heroic virtues. This entitles her to be referred to as the Venerable Mary Aikenhead.


22 July N.S./12 July O.S. 1691. The Battle of Aughrim (Cath Eachroma) was fought on this day. The battle was fought near the little village of Aughrim in County Galway. The defeat of the Jacobite forces by those of the Williamite Army decided the War of the Two Kings in favour of King William of Orange. It is considered the bloodiest battle in recorded Irish History. 

Ever since the Battle of the Boyne in July of the previous year the Catholic Jacobite armies had been on the defensive. King James had fled back to France never to return. Dublin and all the major cities of Ireland bar Galway and Limerick had fallen to the armies of King William of Orange. In June 1691 the line of the Shannon had been breached at Athlone and the Jacobites were retreating towards the city of Galway. It was decided to make a last stand at Aughrim and hope that the fortunes of a pitched battle would go in their favour. That way they would at least have a chance of turning the tide of the War back in their direction.

The Commander of the Catholic forces of King James II was the Marquis de St. Ruth, a veteran General of the French King Louis XIV. He had only arrived in Ireland in March that year. Although he had fumbled the defense of Athlone and thus allowed the Williamites to get across the Shannon he was determined to stop them reaching Galway. It was he who decided to make a stand at the village of Aughrim and on the ridge to the south of that settlement.  A pitched battle is a risky business and not all his Generals agreed it was worth it. But St Ruth realised that further retreat would only see the slow disintegration of his formations into a rabble incapable of effective resistance.

 The position was a good one as to its front was an almost impassable bog that meant that any attackers would be forced to make their main efforts either along the causeway leading to Aughrim or else at the ford to the south of the ridge which was a difficult crossing point. The Irish deployed some 15,000 - 20,000 men of various quality in regiments and squadrons of Infantry, Cavalry and Dragoons [mounted musketeers]. They had some nine field pieces to play upon the Enemy. 

Their opponents under Dutch General Ginkel, an experienced soldier had advanced from Ballinasloe that morning and it was late in the afternoon before either side came in contact with the other. Ginkel’s Army was perhaps 20,000 strong and also made up of Infantry, Cavalry and Dragoons with some half its ranks made up of Continental Regulars and half from amongst the British population of both Britain & Ireland.

To Ginkel it was an unexpected battle but he handled his dispositions well sending the bulk of his force to push on the southern flank of the Irish and pin them there. After  heavy fighting his men slowly made it across Tristaun Bridge and into the right flank of the Irish but were finally halted at a dip in the landscape called ever after ‘Bloody Hollow’. But this could not be held by the Irish without pulling troops across from their left  flank - perhaps unavoidable but St Ruths decision to reinforce his right at the expense of the left was to have baleful consequences for his Army.

Further north the Protestants advanced into the bogs in order to cross over and engage the Catholic infantrymen drawn up behind hedgerows and prepared positions. Their initial attempts were partially successful but very costly, they were thrown back and some units were routed and senior officers captured. St Ruth was elated by the efforts of his Irishmen calling out ‘Le Jour est a nous mes enfants!' Again though more men were committed here by him who could not be used elsewhere. So far the Irish had fought very well and stopped all the enemy attacks from advancing to a critical point.

It was though to the north around Aughrim village and the ruins of Aughrim Castle the battle was decided. It was on this flank that the Scottish General Mackay held command. Here a narrow causeway had to be crossed to get behind the Irish left flank. Mackay could see that the battle was at a critical stage as elsewhere the attacks of his fellows had been checked. The momentum had been lost and in if you will a last throw of the dice he led his troopers forward to take the causeway and turn the battle. He fell from his horse and the Huguenot Marquis de Ruvigny[later Earl of Galway] led the attack in. Against the odds he made it through.

 Burke’s Regiment in the Castle ran out of ammunition and could not stop the advance of the enemy. The Irish Horse under Luttrel and Sheldon were strong and in position. Incredibly they did nothing but quit the field of battle! To this day we do not know why, Treachery is suspected but nothing proven. But with them gone the position was well and truly turned and the Williamite cavalry swept down into the rear of the Irish ranks.

St Ruth soon got wind of this and moved north to check the dangerous situation in his left rear. Then Fortune truly turned her gaze against the Irish that day as a cannonball took his head clean off! Nothing could stop the disintegration by then and the infantry broke and ran for the bogs. Night soon came on and a misty rain began to fall and that must have saved many. But many, very many, had fallen in the fighting and the pursuit that followed. 

The Jacobite defeat was complete. They lost eleven standards of cavalry and dragoons, the colours of thirty two infantry battalions, nine field guns, all their ammunition, tents and camp equipment, most of their small arms and about 4,000 men killed. The Williamites too suffered heavily. Their casualties are variously stated; they were probably as many as 2,000.

Aughrim 1691, Irish Battles G.A. Hayes-McCoy

It was all over - there was no way another Field Army could be put together after a defeat of this magnitude. Galway surrendered on 21 July [OS] and Limerick on 3 October [OS]. The Treaty of Limerick was the end of Catholic Ireland for over a Century. It was also to be over a hundred years before another pitched battle was fought on the soil of Ireland during the Risings of 1798.

Thursday, 21 July 2022


21 July 1972: Bloody Friday. In a devastating series of attacks the Provisional IRA planted 22 bombs across the city of Belfast killing 9 people and injuring over 130 - most of them innocent civilians. Among the injured were 77 women and girls, and 53 men and boys.

The IRA said it had sent adequate warnings for all of the bombs and accused the British forces of wilfully ignoring some of them for propaganda purposes. Others, however, say that they had been overwhelmed by the amount of bombs and bomb warnings and could not respond in time to clear all areas of civilians.

The first one went off around 2.10pm on that sunny afternoon at Smithfield Bus Station and the last was recorded at 3.30pm on the Grosvenor Road.

The one at the Oxford Street Bus Depot at 2.48pm caused six fatalities. Two British Army soldiers, Stephen Cooper (19) and Philip Price (27), were close to the car bomb at the moment of detonation and died instantly. Three Protestant civilians who worked for Ulsterbus were killed: William Crothers (15), Thomas Killops (39) and Jackie Gibson (45). One other Protestant Ulsterbus employee, who was a member of the Ulster Defence Association, was also killed in the blast: William Irvine (18). Close to 40 people were injured.

At 3.15pm a car bomb, estimated at 50 pounds of explosive, exploded without warning outside a row of single storey shops near the top of Cavehill Road, north Belfast. The shops were in a religiously-mixed residential area. Two women and a man died in this blast. Margaret O'Hare (37), a Catholic mother of seven children, died in her car. Her 11-year-old daughter was with her in her car and was badly injured. Catholic Brigid Murray (65) and Protestant teenager Stephen Parker (14) were also killed.

The attacks were a disaster for the IRA as there was widespread revulsion throughout Britain and Ireland at these attacks on what were seen as civilian targets. The aftermath of this was to lay the groundwork for 'Operation Motorman' in which the British Army was able to occupy Free Derry and eliminate the last of the 'No-Go’ aeas at the end of the month.

Years later an RUC man at the time recalled:

The first thing that caught my eye was a torso of a human being lying in the middle of the street. It was recognisable as a torso because the clothes had been blown off and you could actually see parts of the human anatomy. One of the victims was a soldier I knew personally. He'd had his arms and legs blown off and some of his body had been blown through the railings. One of the most horrendous memories for me was seeing a head stuck to the wall. A couple of days later, we found vertebrae and a rib cage on the roof of a nearby building. The reason we found it was because the seagulls were diving onto it. I've tried to put it at the back of my mind for twenty-five years.

Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding of the IRA's Belfast Brigade, viewed the attack as a disaster.

I was the operational commander of the "Bloody Friday" operation. I remember when the bombs started to go off, I was in Leeson Street, and I thought, "There's too much here". I sort of knew that there were going to be casualties, either [because] the Brits could not handle so many bombs or they would allow some to go off because it suited them to have casualties. I feel a bit guilty about it because, as I say, there was no intention to kill anyone that day. I have a fair deal of regret that "Bloody Friday" took place ... a great deal of regret ... If I could do it over again I wouldn't do it
Those who died:

Stephen Cooper (19), member of the British Army
William Crothers (15), civilian
John Gibson (45), civilian
William Irvine (18), civilian
Thomas Killops (39), civilian
Brigid Murray (65), civilian
Margaret O'Hare (34), civilian
Stephen Parker (14), civilian
Philip Price (27), member of the British Army

Wednesday, 20 July 2022


20 July 1982: In a devastating double bomb attack the Provisional IRA struck in the heart of the  British Capital in Hyde Park and Regent's Park targeting members of Britain's Crown Forces.

The Provos exploded two bombs in London, one at Rotten Row, Hyde Park and the other at the Bandstand in Regent's Park, resulting in the deaths of 11 British Soldiers. The first bomb exploded shortly before 11.00am when soldiers of the Blues and Royals were travelling on horseback to change the guard at Horse Guards Parade. Three soldiers were killed instantly and a fourth died of his injuries on 23 July 1982. A number of civilians who had been watching the parade were also injured. One horse was killed in the explosion but a further six had to be shot due to their injuries. The bomb had been left in a car parked along the side of the road and is believed to have been detonated by a member of the IRA who was watching from within Hyde Park.

The second bomb, which exploded at lunch time, had been planted under the bandstand in Regent's Park. The explosion killed 7 bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets as they were performing a concert at the open-air bandstand. Approximately two dozen civilians who had been listening to the performance were injured in the explosion. It is thought that the bomb had been triggered by a timing device and may have been planted some time in advance of the concert.

British public opinion was outraged by the carnage caused by the IRA attacks. Coming weeks after the British Victory over Argentina in the south Atlantic the loss was keenly felt that London itself was not safe from attack from Britain's enemies. Particular disgust was felt at the loss of the horses of the Blues & Royals who did ceremonial duties in London.


20‭ July ‬1398: The Battle of Kellistown/ An Cath Cell Osnadha was fought on this day. The battle was fought between the forces of the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles, and the English of Leinster led by Roger Mortimer, the 4th Earl of March.

A battle was given to the English by O'Byrne and O'Toole, in which the Earl of March was slain, and the English were slaughtered.
Annals of the Four Masters

The O’Byrnes and O’Tooles were surrogates for Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh who was the most powerful Chieftain in Leinster and recognised as a King amongst his own people.‭ He used them to fight a proxy war against the English and thus avoid a complete break with them. Kellistown is situated in County Carlow between the towns of Carlow and Tullow.

"Here fell the heir presumptive to the English crown, whose premature removal was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England a year or two later."  

Mortimer had been created the King of England’s Lieutenant in Ireland in‭ 1396 ‬and held this position until the Irish killed him. His body was cut to pieces during the battle but whether this as a result of combat or mutilation after his death is not recorded. Curiously enough he had decided to engage in the combat dressed in the Irish style - that is without body armour. There was at least enough of him remaining for his corpse to be brought back home to England where he was interred amongst his own people in Wigmore Abbey, Herefordshire.

Mortimer was none other than an heir to the throne of England then held by the childless king Richard II [above].‭ He was also dignified with the titles ‘Earl of Ulster’ and ‘Lord Of Connaught’. Ironically he was a direct descendant of Aoife Murchada, whose father Diarmait had let the English way in back in 1169 AD. Thus he was a distant relation of his nemesis Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh! However the unstable & paranoid King Richard II  had ordered his arrest just after this engagement[27 July] but the news had not reached England before his death in battle. With him dead then the primary candidate to succeed the childless Richard became ‬Henry Bolingbroke whom the King had sent into exile.

Richard‭ was so concerned by the news from Ireland that his Authority had been so flouted and decided to settle matters once and for all by returning to Ireland with an Expedition to make Art Mac Murrough submit to English rule as he had  before when Richard had last campaigned here in 1394. But his departure from his own Country in the following year of 1399 cost him his Kingdom as his domestic enemies took the opportunity to topple him from his throne. On return in the month of August of that year he was compelled to give up his crown and submit to the advances of his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke who had returned in Richard’s absence and risen in revolt. 

Henry was crowned King in Westminster Abbey on 13 October and Richard was now his prisoner. An embarrassment to the new King Henry IV he was allowed to wither away in captivity in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire and ‘died’ (probably from deliberate starvation?] in early 1400.

An Cath‭ ‬Cell Osnadha was thus a battle of great importance in the history of two countries – England and Ireland - as it was a catalyst for a series of events that led to the Downfall of a Monarch who claimed to be both ‘King of England’ and ‘Lord of Ireland’ - claims that at the end of the day he found impossible to maintain.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022


19 July 1210: King John of England arrived before the Castle of Carrickfergus in Ulster and besieged it on this day. It soon fell into his hands and in the days following he received a visit from the king of Tyrone/ Tir Eoghan, Aed Meith O Neill. His visitor brought a large contingent of troops with him, perhaps 2,000 warriors to impress the Anglo-Norman Monarch. The Ulster king agreed to render John service but the two kings drew different conclusions as to what that actually meant. 

The king of Connacht was also a somewhat reluctant part of King John’s host and actively helped him in suppressing the Anglo-Norman De lacy family that had upset the King of England’s temperament. King John had met up with king Cathal Crobhderg O’Conner of Connacht near Ardbraccan, Co Meath. King Cathal recognised him as his Lord in return for being re-assured as the recognised & rightful king of Connacht.

Johannes, grandson of the Empress, king of the Saxons, came to Erinn, with a great fleet, in this year.

After arriving he commanded a great hosting of the men of Erinn to Ulidia, to apprehend Hugo de Laci, or to expel him from Erinn, and to capture Carraic-Fergusa.

Hugo left Erinn, and the persons who were defending the Carraic abandoned it, and came to the king; and the king put men of his own company into it.

Annals of Loch Cé

For John this was quite a success as the strongest castle in the north east had fallen without a fight and 30 Knights had surrendered to him. However the primary targets of this expedition into Ulster - the Brothers Hugh & Walter - escaped to France.

Monday, 18 July 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 17 July 2022


17 July 1579: James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, the cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond arrived off Smerwick/ Ard na Caithne in County Kerry on this day. The Catholic adventurer had arrived back from Spain with high hopes of re launching the Catholic Cause in Ireland and in particular in Munster. He brought with him one Nicholas Sanders - an exiled priest and holding the position of Papal Nuncio to the Irish. Within days a few hundred men joined them in two Spanish galleys but this small force was only enough to garrison a little fort. Fitzmaurice knew that he would have to raise the flag of revolt and rely on the resentment of the Catholics of Munster against English Protestant encroachments to carry the day.However many of the local chieftains had reached an uneasy peace with the English and did not want to risk all they had in a revolt in which the odds would be stacked against them. One such was Fitzmaurice’s own cousin Theobald Burke. Within days of the landing Fitzmaurice departed on a series of raids but his depredations turned many against him including his own cousin.

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

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

Saturday, 16 July 2022

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

‘Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. While most of the prisoners were common criminals, it also held political prisoners involved in Ireland’s struggle for independence. Included amongst those held here were Robert Emmet, Anne Devlin, the Fenians, Charles Stewart Parnell, Countess Markievicz and the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, 14 of whom were executed by firing squad in the Stonebreaker’s yard. The Gaol was closed in 1924 but was preserved as a national monument in the 1960s and restored by the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee. It was handed over to the State in 1986 and today is run by the Office of Public Works.'

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

....the immense crowds and the enthusiasm which everywhere greeted his appearance was a surprise even to the more optimistic Republicans who had believed that a long period of depression and defeatism had set in.
The Irish Republic, Chapter 90 by Dorothy Macardle

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


Friday, 15 July 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 14 July 2022


14 July 1792 : The Belfast Harp Festival ended on this day. It was held with the intention of bringing together Irelands finest harpers and to award prizes to the best players amongst them. Organised by a committee chaired by Dr James MacDonnell, Belfast’s leading physician and who could play the harp himself which included Henry Joy  the editor of the Belfast News-Letter [uncle of Henry Joy McCracken] and Thomas Russell, the ‘man from God knows where’ its aim was ‘to revive and perpetuate the Ancient Music and Poetry of Ireland’. It took place in the in the Assembly Rooms at The Exchange at the corner of North Street and Waring Street.

‘Ten traditional Irish harpers (including one woman) and a Welshman were brought together to compete for prizes. They ranged in age from 97-year-old Denis Hempson from Magilligan, Co. Derry, who played the harp in the old style of plucking with the fingernails, to fifteen-year-old William Carr from County Armagh. Six of them, including Hempson, were blind. First prize went to Charles Fanning from County Cavan and second to Arthur O’Neill from County Tyrone, though they were all given a payment.’

Not all listeners were enamoured with what they heard though, dropping in to hear them Wolfe Tone wrote in his diary: ‘The harpers again. Strum, strum and be hanged.’

But this gathering did have important cultural consequences as amongst those in attendance  was the young musician  Edward Bunting who the committee had commissioned to write down the music as it was being played, which he duly did, along with a mine of information about the harpers themselves and harp lore. His collection, arranged for piano, was subsequently published in three volumes, notably the final volume popularly known as ' The ancient music of Ireland’ (1840). 

‘This was to prove by far the most significant; it can fairly be described as the most seminal and influential publication in the history of Irish music. It inaugurated a long tradition of systematic music collection which has continued to flourish in Ireland.’

Thomas Moore later drew on Bunting’s pioneering work, adding matchless words to the collected airs in his immensely popular Irish Melodies.

A History of Ireland in 250 episodes 

Jonathan Bardon

Image 1 :  The Blind Harper Arthur O’Neill who played at the Festival.

Image 2: The Exchange Building