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Tuesday, 31 May 2016


31 May 1941 – German bombing of North Strand, Dublin on this day – 28 dead, 90 + injured and over 300 houses were destroyed or damaged. Smaller bombs damaged the American Embassy and Áras an Uachtarain the official home of President Douglas Hyde. The bombing was in all probability accidental and the German Government apologised in June 1941 for the attack. After the War the post war Government of Germany paid compensation for the destruction and damaged caused. The bombings were the worst experienced in the Irish Free State during the War or ‘The Emergency’ as those times were called here.

The first fifteen burials took place on June 4th with the internment of the tragic Brown family in their native Drumcooley, outside Edenderry and the burial of eight more 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:

Members of the Dáil desire 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.

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.








Sunday, 29 May 2016


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 SS 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, and at that time one, if not the greatest Shipping Port 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 conscious 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 2016


28‭ ‬May‭ ‬1798:‭ ‬The Wexford insurgents,‭ ‬amounting to several thousand people,‭ ‬marched northwards to Camolin on this day.‭ ‬By midday they were at Ferns and by the early afternoon they had reached the outskirts of Enniscorthy.‭ ‬They now numbered about‭ ‬7,000‭ ‬people.‭ ‬The Crown Forces that opposed them there were supplied with small arms but had no artillery and numbered only about‭ ‬300‭ ‬soldiers.‭ ‬The Wexfordmen were without artillery too and mostly carried pikes and homemade weapons.‭ ‬Nevertheless they stormed the town and drove the British southwards toward Wexford Town.‭ ‬Enniscorthy was left more or less a blackened ruin.‭ ‬As a result the United Irishmen made Vinegar Hill [above],‭ ‬just to east of the town their headquarters.

Members of the Crown Forces under Sir James Duff slaughtered‭ ‬350‭ ‬insurgents at the Curragh,‭ ‬Co Kildare.‭ ‬They had gathered there to surrender their weapons on agreed terms.‭ ‬Once they had laid down their arms the massacre began.‭ ‬The chief culprits in this were‭ ‬Roden's Light Dragoons,‭ ‬including the Monasterevan cavalry along with other militia units.‭ ‬Many others were wounded and others either fled on realising what was‭ ‬happening or feigned death till the troops departed.

At Enniscorthy the released captives Edward Fitzgerald and John Henry Colclough,‭ ‬arrived from Wexford Town with a message from the British Commander there.‭  ‬They gave a message that they should disperse and return to their homes or face retribution.‭ ‬Fitzgerald and Colclough had both been arrested two days before as suspected members of the United Irishmen.‭ ‬The British seemed to have assumed they might have enough influence with the Insurgents to persuade them to call off their campaign.‭ ‬In a dramatic moment though,‭ ‬the crowds in the town persuaded both men to join them and the Leadership decided to lead the thousands of armed men they now had under their control,‭ ‬southwards to attack Wexford Town.




Thursday, 26 May 2016


26 May 1315: Edward de Bruce the Earl of Carrick (the younger brother of Robert de Bruce of Scotland) and his fleet (estimated at in excess of 6,000 men) landed on the Irish coast at points at and between Olderfleet Castle at Larne and Glendrum on the north east coast of Ireland. This 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 is ambitious sibling as a thorn in his side either. He steered his focus onto freeing the Gaels of Ireland from English Rule. If he could achieve that then he 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


Wednesday, 25 May 2016


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.


Vinny Byrne - a member of Collins hit men unit - ‘the Squad’ - 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. Vincent Byrne, a member of the execution gang attached to Michael Collins Intelligence Department, 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. So it was something of a Pyrrhic Victory for the men of the Dublin Brigade to burn out such an important edifice (both symbolic and real) of the British presence in Ireland that day.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016


24 May 1923: The Irish Civil War ended on this day. The newly appointed IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken issued the order to ‘dump arms’. It began:

To All Ranks:

Comrades
- The arms with which we have fought the enemies of our country are to be dumped. The foreign and domestic enemies of the Republic have for the moment prevailed...

The war had its origins in the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921 which agreed to the establishment of the Irish Free State. This State though would only govern 26 Counties and not the Six Counties of the North which would remain under British rule. More importantly it contained a commitment that anyone elected to the Southern Parliament would take an Oath of Fidelity to the King of England George V. This was anathema to those who supported the ideal of a fully independent Irish Republic. The Sinn Fein party and the IRA split on the issue and after months of haggling and negotiations the two sides were further apart than ever.

Following the June elections which saw a majority of voters backing pro Treaty candidates the war broke out on 28 June when the Free State Army (with borrowed British cannons) bombarded the Republican garrison occupying the Four Courts in Dublin.

As the months went by the FSA gained control of all the major cities and towns and the fighting degenerated into a ‘Dirty War’ with atrocities committed by both sides. A policy of Official Executions was adopted by the Free State against any men taken in arms. 77 men were shot in this manner and many more were killed out of hand in the countryside. Thousands of men were captured or interned and some women imprisoned. Most of the Irish People wanted Peace and not more War.

By the early Spring of 1923 it was obvious that the IRA could not win and attempts to bring the fighting to an end intensified as the situation became hopeless for them. Early Peace moves had failed but now the push for an end to the campaign came from within the IRA itself. The death in action of Liam Lynch, the IRA Chief of Staff on 10 April 1923 paved the way for the next move - a Ceasefire. Frank Aiken was appointed to the position and on 30 April called that Ceasefire. On 14 May a Joint meeting of the Republican Government and IRA Army Executive instructed Aiken to end the war. This was followed on 24 May by an Order to ‘Dump Arms’. The War was effectively over.

Éamon de Valera supported the order, issuing a statement to Anti-Treaty fighters on 24 May:

Soldiers of the Republic. Legion of the Rearguard: The Republic can no longer be defended successfully by your arms. Further sacrifice of life would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest and prejudicial to the future of our cause. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.

The Irish Civil War was over.

Monday, 23 May 2016


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.
http://www.libraryireland.com