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Wednesday, 23 July 2014


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.


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 area of the City 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.



 

Monday, 21 July 2014


21 July 1914: The Buckingham Palace Conference began on this day. It ran between 21 and 24 July. Though the issue of home rule had been on the political agenda since the 1870s, the 1914 conference was the first time that a formal conference had been called involving both Nationalists and Unionists.


Those who attended were the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, Lloyd George for the Liberal Party, the Irish Parliamentary leader John Redmond, his deputy, John Dillon, across the table the leader of the Irish Unionists, Edward Carson together with Bonar Law, James Craig and Lord Landsdowne. The Speaker of the House of Commons presided.


Each delegation was met in person on arrival by King George V who was anxious for a peaceful settlement over whether Ulster should be in whole or part be included in an All Ireland Parliament under a form of ‘Home Rule’ for the Country.

By the second day Asquith saw that no solution as to which counties were to be temporarily excluded was going to emerge. He wrote to an associate:

"I have rarely felt more helpless in any particular affair, an impasse with unspeakable consequences, upon a matter which to English eyes seems inconceivably small and to Irish eyes immeasurably big. Isn't it a real tragedy?"

The conference broke up after three days without agreement. All sides, however, argued that it had been a useful engagement, with Unionists and Nationalists for the first time having meaningful discussions on how to allay each other's fears about the other. A limited understanding emerged between Carson and the Nationalists that if Ulster were to be excluded, in its entirety, the province should come in or out as a whole.

With hindsight it was seen as a failure as there was only so far each side was prepared to go on a compromise - and to the other side that was not far enough.

Within weeks the First World War broke out and any tenuous development that might have come from this meeting of the main players was washed away by the momentous and bloody events in Europe.





Sunday, 20 July 2014


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.

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 the English Crown. 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 was none other than the heir to the Throne of England. He was also dignified with the titles ‘Earl of Ulster’ and ‘Lord Of Connaught’. His family arms [above] marked him as a member of one of the most powerful families in England. Ironically he was a direct descendant of Aoife Murchada, whose father King Diarmait Mac Murchada had let the English in back in 1169. Thus he was a distant relation of his nemesis Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh!

 
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.

King Richard II of England was so upset by the news he resolved to return to Ireland and settle matters once and for all with Art Mac Murrough. But his departure of his Country in 1399 to campaign in Ireland cost him his Kingdom as his domestic enemies rallied to the support of the future King Henry IV.

By the time King Richard got back to England his power had gone, captured and imprisoned he died a lonely and cruel death

An Cath Cell Osnadha was thus a battle of great importance in the history of two countries – England and Ireland.





 




 



 

Saturday, 19 July 2014



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 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 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.  
 
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

 

Thursday, 17 July 2014


July 17 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.
ANNALS OF THE FOUR MASTERS

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.





 


Monday, 14 July 2014



14 July 1798: The brothers John and Henry Sheares were executed on this day. They were both members of the Legal Profession and had joined the United Irishmen to fight tyranny and free Ireland from English rule. They were the sons of a wealthy banker who sat as a member of the Parliament in Dublin. In 1792 they had visited Revolutionary France and had caught the Spirit of the times there. They soon joined the United Irishmen on their return. However they trusted others without caution and were led into revealing details of the conspiracy to overthrow the Ascendancy. A Spy, one Captain John Armstrong who had befriended them in order to betray them, revealed their intentions to Dublin Castle. They were arrested on 21 May 1798. Found guilty of treason, they were publicly hung outside Newgate Prison in Dublin. Both were buried in St. Michan's Church in Dublin City.


At midday on Saturday, July 14th, the hapless men were removed to the room adjoining the place of execution, where they exchanged a last embrace. They were then pinioned, the black caps put over their brows, and holding each other by the hand, they tottered out on the platform. The elder brother was somewhat moved by the terrors of his situation, but the younger bore his fate with unflinching firmness. They were launched together into eternity--the same moment saw them dangling lifeless corpses before the prison walls. They had lived in affectionate unity, inspired by the same motives, labouring for the same cause, and death did not dissolve the tie. "They died hand in hand, like true brothers."
 

`Speeches from the Dock'


By D. S. Sullivan

Saturday, 12 July 2014



12 July [O.S. 1 July] 1690: The Battle of the Boyne/Cath na Bóinne was fought on this day. The Protestant Army of King William of Orange defeated the Catholic Army of King James II. With around 36,000 Williamites against 25,000 Jacobites this battle, in terms of the numbers of men on the battlefield was the largest clash of arms ever fought in Ireland.

Both kings commanded their armies in person assisted by a number of men of high rank and status. King William had under his orders English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish, French Huguenots and Protestants from Ireland. King James Army mainly consisted of Catholic Irishmen, and a scattering of Englishmen loyal to the Stuarts. The King was also backed by around 6,500 regular French troops sent by King Louis XIV. 

William's Army was drawn up on the north side of the river.  King James's was on the south side with the two armies facing each other along an extended line of some miles. William's battle plan was to distract the attention of the Jacobite army on the river while a large force was sent upstream to turn the left flank of the Jacobite Army. William sent 10,000 men towards Slane with the advance guard under Count Meinhard, which drew the bulk of the Jacobites upstream in response. With some 1,300 Jacobites posted in downstream in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. Duke Frederick Marshal Schomberg (William’s top General) then led the Dutch Blue Guards and other regiments into the waters of the Boyne and across to the other side.

Opposing them were just seven regiments of the Catholics who shot their attackers down in great numbers as they attempted the passage of the Boyne at Oldbridge. A want of sufficient cavalry and artillery to block the crossing of so formidable a host eventually told against the Irishmen. They were pushed back from the riverbank as their enemies gained a toehold and then flowed across. William himself eventually crossed at Drybridge slightly downstream with about 3,500 mounted troops.

Marshal Schomberg brought down to the ford of Ouldbridge the gross of his cavalry, with orders to push on and suffer no check. At this, the seven regiments aforesaid of Irish foot, observing they would be soon overpowered, they cried to their own for horse to sustain them. In the meanwhile, they made a smart fire at the enemies, and laid them in heaps, as they were entering the waters. But their crying for horse was in vain; for they received but one troop, which was as good as nothing.

By the time reinforcements arrived it was too late and the enemy was across in strength.

The seven regiments of Irish foot, which guarded the great ford of Ouldbridge, not being supported by horse, were also forced to retreat, but were in danger to be intercepted by such of the enemy as had traversed first the river before they joined their main army, which the duke of Tyrconnell, from the right, perceiving, flew with his regiment of horse to their rescue, as did the duke of Berwick with the two troops of guards, as did colonel Parker with his regiment of horse, and colonel Sutherland with his. It was Tyrconnell's fortune to charge first the blue regiment of foot-guards to the prince of Orange, and he pierced through.

Further upstream Count Meinhard had by then crossed the Boyne by the ford at Rosnaree and though blocked by O’Neills cavalry regiment he was soon reinforced. With King James flank now turned his position was a precarious one. Most of his army was at this critical moment of the battle betwixt and between these two vital points and unable to render assistance to either in enough strength to turn the days events.

The King himself with a considerable portion of his Irish and French troops did however block Lord Douglas in the Williamite service from crossing the Boyne at Donore - which is situated between the fords of Rosnaree and Oldbridge. But this was a stalemate while the outcome of the battle was decided to the left and the right of the King’s position at Donore.

Eventually the Williamites across the river in strength on both the left and right flanks the order was given to fall back on Duleek to the south and stop that village been taken by the enemy. If King Williams’s men had taken the vital bridge there then the whole of the Jacobite army would have been cut off from retreat and in all likelihood captured in its entirety.

As it turned out the retreat was carried out in good order and despite further clashes Lord Tyrconnel, given command of the rearguard, was able to effect an orderly withdrawal. The enemy were content to follow in their footsteps and not risk a reverse.

However in these follow up operations the Williamites lost their best military leader – Marshal Schomberg.

 Twas during these encounters that one master Bryen O'Tool, of the guards, discovering his former acquaintance, marshal Schomberg, near the village of Ouldbridge, resolved to sacrifice his life to the making him away, upon which he, with a few of the guards, and a few of Tyrconnell's horse, made up to him, and O'Tool with his pistol shot the marshal dead. But, soon after, fighting like a lion, he was slain

King James's army retreated across the river Nanny at Duleek and evaded capture. It had been a ‘close run thing’ and though the battle had been lost the Army was intact and still a cohesive fighting force.

Bad tactics rather than bad fighting had cost King James and his Irish followers the chance of victory against a more numerous enemy. The line of the Boyne might well have been held but King James had been outmanoeuvred by Marshal Schomberg’s plan - even though this crusty old Huguenot did not live to savour the Victory he had so materially helped to achieve.

Though there was some hot fighting in the course of the battle overall the casualties were light on both sides with perhaps 1,500 soldiers lying dead along the banks of the Boyne. Considering the strategic consequences of this clash of arms it was a very low number for a battle that determined the political and religious balance of power in Ireland for centuries to come and that still resonates down to our own day.