Thursday, 23 May 2013
23 May 1798: The Battle of Prosperous and the outbreak of the Rising of 1798.
The Rising was fixed for the night of 23rd May 1798. The signal was to be the simultaneous stopping of the mail coaches that left Dublin General Post Office daily for Belfast, Cork, Athlone and Limerick. On the 23rd of May the mail coaches were to be seized and burnt at Santry, Naas, Lucan and the Curragh, and the rising began.
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 revolutionaries 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.
From 24 May there was fighting at Prosperous, Clane, Kilcock, Maynooth, Rathangan, Timahoe, Monasterevan, and other places.
But it was at Prosperous, Co Kildare that the first military engagement began at 2 a.m on 24 May 1798 by a United Irishmen force about 600+ strong which targeted the British garrison consisting of Cork militia and a detachment of a Welsh regiment, the "Ancient Britons".
The garrison consisted of 35 of the City of Cork militia and 22 ancient Britons who were housed separately near the barracks. Captain Richard Longford Swayne, commander of the militia, had terrorised the area at free-quarters, since his arrival on the 20th May. Throughout Wednesday the 23rd, the locals gathered in the woods. At 2 o' clock the following morning, around 500 of them under Dr. John Esmond and Andrew Farrell. Their entry into the town was preceded by the infiltration of a small vanguard who, possibly aided by female sympathisers within, scaled the walls of the Militia barracks, killed the sentries and opened the gate.
At the barracks, they forced their way into Swayne's quarters where he was piked and shot before the troops could secure the building. Lighted faggots and furze were thrown through the windows of the underground office and the barracks was engulfed. Many of those who tried to escape were piked to death in the streets. Of the 57 soldiers in the garrison, nearly 40 were killed. Swayne's body was burnt in a tar barrel.
Thus was gained the first victory over the hated forces of the British Government.
But the next day, other members of the Ancient Britons, hearing of the death of their fellow soldiers, participated in the retaliatory massacre of 34 Irish prisoners at Dunlavin Green, Co. Wicklow.
Prosperous remained under United Irishmen control until 19 June when it was retaken by troops under the command of Colonel Stewart who boasted of destroying "this receptacle of rebellion".
By the end of the Summer of 1798 some 25,000 - 30,000 people lay dead across 11 counties of Ireland and the Rising was Crushed.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
21 May 1981
The Third and Fourth Hunger Strikers Died in Long Kesh Prison
Raymond McCreesh (24), a 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 preceeded 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
But perhaps best summed up in the 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.
Monday, 20 May 2013
20 May 1311: The Battle of Bunratty/Bun Raite.
Civil War raged in north Thomond (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
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 protege 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 [Munster], 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.
Sunday, 19 May 2013
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, 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 till 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....
Account of Nicholas Murphy
Lord Edward had fought like a lion against those sent to lead him into captivity, killing Capitan Ryan and wounding Major Swan. However with him badly outnumbered by men in arms his heroic defense could only last but a short time.
Desperately wounded in the struggle he lingered for a number of days in agony as septicemia 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 (Fitzpatrick’s “Secret Service under Pitt”)
Friday, 17 May 2013
17 May 1974: The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. Three car bombs exploded in Dublin, immediately killing 23 people and injuring more than 100 others during the rush hour. Five more people died and another 20 were hurt in a blast, which hit the town of Monaghan an hour later. The final death toll was 34 people. The bombings were the work of a UVF gang that had links to elements within the British Army Intelligence services. No one has ever been charged with these attacks.
It was a hot day in early summer when the terrorists launched their attacks. The City centre of Dublin was full of shoppers and workers heading home that Friday afternoon, little suspecting that such a murderous deed was about to be inflicted upon them.
In the North a huge Loyalist Strike was underway with the aim of bringing down the Power Sharing Executive that had been formed in January that year. Its aim was to allow both sides a share in the Government of the North so that no side would feel excluded. It also had as one of its terms the formation of an All Ireland Council. To many Unionists this was a step too far and a possible 'foot in the door' to a United Ireland without their consent.
The perpetrators of these bombings knew that the Executive at Stormont was in grave danger of collapse. It was clear the British Government under Harold Wilson was dithering with indecision as to what to do in the face of such a massive level of civil disobedience by most of the Unionist Community in Ulster. This was backed by widespread intimidation of those who tried to go about their business regardless.
Only the the Dublin Government under the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave stood firm against any collapse of what they had tried so hard in negotiations to have set up and running. While the Troubles had claimed hundreds of lives north of the Border the south had escaped relatively unscathed up until then - but not entirely free of atrocities either.
Clearly the aim of the attackers was to jolt the people of the South, and the Dublin Government in particular, out of any sense of complacency that they could escape the consequences (as they saw it) of unwarrented interference in Ulster.
At approximately 17:30 on Friday 17 May 1974, without prior warning, three car bombs exploded almost simultaneously in Dublin's city centre at Parnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street during rush-hour. According to one of the Irish Army's top bomb disposal officers, Commandant Patrick Trears, the bombs were constructed so well that one hundred per cent of each bomb exploded upon detonation.
The explosives used in the attacks were of the type used by the Provisional IRA and were probably from a haul that members of the Crown Forces had captured and that rogue elements had got their hands on to launch these attacks.
The first of the three Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:28, in a parking bay outside the Welcome Inn pub and Barry's Supermarket and close to a petrol station, in Parnell Street near its southwestern intersection with Marlborough Street. Ten people were killed in this explosion, including two infant girls and their parents, and a World War I veteran.
The second of the Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:30 at number 18 Talbot Street near the northwestern Lower Gardiner Street intersection, outside O'Neill's shoe shop opposite Guineys department store. At least four bodies were found on the pavement just outside Guineys.
The third bomb went off at approximately 17:32 in South Leinster Street near the railings of Trinity College, Dublin. Two women were killed instantly in that explosion; they had been very close to the epicentre of the blast.
Ninety minutes later, at approximately 18:58, a fourth bomb (weighing 150 pounds) exploded outside Greacen's pub in North Road, Monaghan.This bomb killed five people initially, and another two died in the following weeks.
On the evening of the bombings, the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, said in a TV and radio broadcast that he wanted to express 'the revulsion and condemnation felt by every decent person in this island at these unforgivable acts.' He said it would help 'to bring home to us here what the people of NI have been suffering for five long years.' He added 'everyone who has practised violence, or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today's outrage'.
In Belfast, the UDA and the UVF denied responsibility for the explosions and in Dublin a statement issued by the Provisional IRA called the explosions 'vile murder'. Mr. Brian Faulkner, NI Chief Executive, sent a message to Mr. Cosgrave expressing 'deepest regret' from himself and his colleagues. The UDA Press Officer, Mr. Samuel Smyth, said: 'I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them'.
But within days the official attitude had changed and the feeling in Government ranks was to play down this huge atrocity to avoid heightening tensions and giving credibility to the Provisional IRA. As the weeks rolled by the Garda investigations were wound down and then effectively stopped. It has been rumoured that names of the killers were known to the police forces in both parts of Ireland even if it could never be proved. The event was buried by the forces of Officialdom over the years and forgotten about. No one has ever been charged with these crimes on that terrible day.
Dublin and Monaghan Bombings - 17th May 1974:
Patrick Askin (44) Co. Monaghan
Josie Bradley (21) Co. Offaly
Marie Butler (21) Co. Waterford
Anne Byrne (35) Dublin
Thomas Campbell (52) Co. Monaghan
Simone Chetrit (30) France
Thomas Croarkin (36) Co. Monaghan
John Dargle (80) Dublin
Concepta Dempsey (65) Co. Louth
Colette Doherty (20) Dublin
Baby Doherty (full term unborn) Dublin*
Patrick Fay (47), Dublin & Co. Louth
Elizabeth Fitzgerald (59) Dublin
Breda Bernadette Grace (34) Dublin and Co. Kerry
Archie Harper (73) Co. Monaghan
Antonio Magliocco, (37) Dublin & Italy
May McKenna (55) Co. Tyrone
Anne Marren (20) Co. Sligo
Anna Massey (21) Dublin
Dorothy Morris (57) Dublin
John (24), Anna (22), Jacqueline (17 months) & Anne-Marie (5 months) O'Brien, Dublin
Christina O'Loughlin (51), Dublin
Edward John O'Neill (39), Dublin
Marie Phelan (20), Co. Waterford
Siobhán Roice (19), Wexford Town
Maureen Shields (46), Dublin
Jack Travers (28), Monaghan Town
Breda Turner (21), Co. Tipperary
John Walsh (27), Dublin
Peggy White (44), Monaghan Town
George Williamson (72), Co. Monaghan
*Baby Doherty was recognised as the 34th victim of the Bombings by the Coroner for the City of Dublin during the course of the Inquests held in April and May 2004
Thursday, 16 May 2013
16 May circa 583 AD: Saint Brendan of Clonfert/Brénainn of Cluain Ferta aka 'St. Brendan the Navigator', early Atlantic voyager, died on this day. In the liturgical calendar, today is St. Brendan's Feast Day.
Saint Brendan/Bréanainn is one of Ireland's most famous saints, a man whose exploits on the High Seas have become legendary and whose fame spread throughout western Europe in the Middle Ages. He is reputed to have sailed far out into the Atlantic and discovered isles unknown to Europeans at that time. The Brendan Voyage/Navigatio Brendani was included in maps of Columbus’ time, which often showed an island called 'St. Brendan’s Isle' that was placed in the western Atlantic ocean.
Map makers of the time had no idea of its exact position of this island but did believe it existed somewhere out in the Atlantic. It was mentioned in a Latin text dating from the ninth century called Navigatio Santi Brendani Abatis (Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot). It described the voyage as having taken place in the sixth century. Several copies of this text have survived in monasteries throughout Europe. It was an important part of folklore in medieval Europe and may have influenced Columbus when he planned his great voyage to the Indies.
The account of Brendan’s voyage contained a detailed description of the construction of his boat which was not unlike the currachs still made in Ireland today.
Skeptics could not accept that such a fragile vessel could possibly sail in the open sea. Several passages in the legend also seemed incredible—they were “raised up on the back of sea monsters”, they “passed by crystals that rose up to the sky”, and they were “pelted with flaming, foul-smelling rocks by the inhabitants of a large island on their route”.
Brendan and his companions finally arrived at the beautiful land they called “Promised Land of the Saints.” They explored until they came to a great river that divided the land. The journey of Brendan and his fellow monks took seven years. The return trip was probably the longest part of the odyssey.
The evidence that we have points to Brendan sailing North, possibly along the western coast of Scotland and onto Iceland and maybe as far as Greenland.
It is a story full of wonderful and strange adventures that while physically improbale in the way they have been handed down to us have enough information in them to point to actual happenings embelished by later medieval storytelling.
It is a story full of wonderful and strange adventures that while physically improbale in the way they have been handed down to us have enough information in them to point to actual happenings embelished by later medieval storytelling.
In the 1970's the Explorer Tim Sevrin embarked in a specially built Currach based on tehe one described as used by Saint Brendan and proved that it could survive a long sea voyage on the Atlantic.
He encountered whales who swam alongside and even underneath his ship. Saint Brendan's Voyage described the ancient mariners landing on a whale!
Sevrin encountered icebergs - St Brendan saw 'towering crystals'
The foul smelling rocks could well be from an Icelandic volcano that the poor monks thought was been thrown at them by the 'natives' of that fiery island!
St Brendan while one of the most famous of Irish Saints both at home and abroad is also one whose Life we can only reconstruct from the tales and legends about him. His fame meant that many Abbies and monastries wanted his name associated with him and which ones would (if it were possible) hold up to examination and which would not we now alas cannot determine.
St. Brendan,The Navigator - World Cultures European
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
15 May 1847 : The Death of Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa while making his way to the Holy City. His heart (now lost) was taken on to Rome and his body was returned to Dublin for internment in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.
On May 15, 1847, Father Miley, O'Connell's companion on his last journey, wrote from Genoa:
“The Liberator is not better. He is worse – ill as ill can be. At two o'clock this morning I found it necessary to send for the Viaticum and the holy oil. Though it was the dead of night, the cardinal archbishop (he is eighty-eight years old), attended by his clerics and several of the faithful, carried the Viaticum with the solemnities customary in Catholic countries, and reposed it in the tabernacle which we had prepared in the chamber of the illustrious sufferer. Though prostrate to the last degree, he was perfectly in possession of his mind whilst receiving the last rites. The adorable name of Jesus, which he had been in the habit of invoking was constantly on his lips with trembling fervour, His thoughts have been entirely absorbed by religion since his illness commenced. For the last forty hours he will not open his lips to speak of anything else. The doctors still say they have hope. I have none. All Genoa is praying for him. I have written to Rome. Be not surprised if I am totally silent as to our own feelings. It is poor Daniel who is to be pitied more than all.”
Henry Peel OP
St Martin de Porres Magazine, a publication of the Irish Dominicans.
Daniel O'Connell died at Genoa, in Italy, at 9.35 p.m. on the evening of May 15th, 1847, on his way to Rome
Born near Cahirciveen, County Kerry and adopted at an early age by his uncle Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell. His family had strong trading links with the Continent and he was educated at Saint-Omer and Douai; entered Lincoln’s Inns in 1794 and was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1798. A co-founder of the Catholic Association in 1823, he realised the movement’s enormous potential with the creation of the Catholic rent, enabling ordinary Catholics to become members for one penny a month and creating a substantial reserve of funds for a political campaign. A series of election victories culminated with O’Connell being returned as MP for Clare in 1828 and the Government introducing Catholic emancipation the following year. At the same time, however, they disenfranchised the forty-shilling freeholders who had been the bedrock of the Association’s success.
Giving up his immensely successful practice at the bar, O’Connell now turned his prodigious energy to the campaign to repeal the Act of Union. The 1830s saw swings in his political fortune and the momentum of the movement generally, the Irish Repeal MPs on occasion holding the balance of power at Westminster and some reform being effected on matters such as tithes and municipal administration. He was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841 and with subscriptions to his Repeal Association reaching enormous proportions, he began to organise monster rallies throughout Ireland, a meeting at Tara being attended by an estimated 750,000 people. A meeting scheduled for Clontarf on 8 October 1843 was proscribed and, to the dismay of his followers, O’Connell called it off. He was subsequently arrested, tried for conspiracy, convicted, fined £2,000 and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. He was released after five months but emerged from his imprisonment physically and mentally weakened. His influence over a fragmented movement continued to wane and the Great Famine removed the last of the popular fervour for repeal. He set out for Italy in March 1847 and died in Genoa on 15 May.