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Saturday, 17 February 2018

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17 February 1980:The finding of the Derrynaflan hoard in Killeens bog Co. Tipperary in 1980 was one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times.

Derrynaflan is a small island of mineral soil in Killeens bog Co. Tipperary. The site was an important monastery in the eighth and ninth centuries and came under the patronage of the King-Bishops of Cashel. The site is best known for the treasure discovered there in 1980, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times.

The hoard was discovered by Michael Webb and his son Michael Jr. while metal detecting at the National Monument on 17 February 1980. The hoard consisted of a highly decorated ninth century silver chalice, a large eighth century paten and stand an eighth century liturgical strainer and an eighth to ninth century bronze basin. The objects in the hoard date to different periods and did not originally constitute a single communion set. The treasure appears to have been buried in the ninth or tenth centuries to conceal it, probably from Viking raiders. The hoard is on display in the national Museum in Kildare St. Dublin.

The discovery of the hoard lead to years of legal action between the finders and the Irish state that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In the course of the legal action the law of Treasure Trove, which had operated in Ireland since medieval times, was found to be incompatible with Irish law. This resulted in the 1994 National Monuments Act that vested in the state the ownership of all archaeological objects.





Friday, 16 February 2018



16‭ ‬February 1932: A General Election held in the Irish Free State on this day. The president of the Executive Council, W.T. Cosgrave, [above top] called the election early as he wished to have it out of the way in time for the Commonwealth Conference of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and he felt that a fresh mandate was needed. He fought the campaign on a programme of bringing political stability to the State and that a change of Government would see people sympathetic to republicanism and communism in power.

Eamon De Valera [above below] on the other hand promised to free IRA prisoners,‭ abolish the Oath to the King of England and to reduce the powers of the Governor General. He also indicated that more equitable social policies would be introduced at a time when the Great Depression was in full swing.

The general election took place in 30 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Irish Free State for 153 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. In the event there was a change of Government and Eamon de Valera won the contest.‭ Fianna Fáil received 566,498 votes and won 72 seats as opposed to Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhael, which got 449,506 votes and secured 57 seats. The Labour Party returned with just 7 seats on a vote from 98,286 of the electorate. While De Valera was still five seats short of an overall majority, he struck an informal deal with the Labour Party to back him up. On that basis he was able to govern the Free State with a fair deal of parliamentary political stability over the next few years.

This change of government marked a watershed in the history of the State as De Valera went on to abolish the Oath to the King of England [that all T.D.s who entered Dáil Éireann had to take], release prisoners and to give the polity a much more Republican flavour including a new Constitution some years later.‭ ‬He remained in power through an unbroken series of election victories until 1948.



Thursday, 15 February 2018


15 February 1853:‭ ‬The loss of the paddle steamship, the Queen Victoria on this day. She went down on the rocks off the Bailey Lighthouse on Howth head on this day. Over 80 lives were lost as she struck this outcrop of the peninsula in a blinding snowstorm.

This precipitous portion of the coast was the scene of a lamentable shipping disaster in‭ 1853. The steamship Queen Victoria, on a voyage from Liverpool to Dublin, with about 100 passengers and cargo, struck on the southern side of the Casana rock during a dense snowstorm, between 2 and 3 o'clock on the morning of the 15th February. Eight of the passengers managed to scramble overboard on to the rocks, from which they made their way up the cliffs to the Bailey Lighthouse. The captain, without further delay, ordered the vessel to be backed, so as to float her clear of the rocks, but she proved to be more seriously injured than was imagined, and began to fill rapidly when she got into deep water. Drifting helplessly towards the Bailey, she struck the rocky base of the Lighthouse promontory, and sank in fifteen minutes afterwards, with her bowsprit touching the shore. The Roscommon steamer fortunately happened to pass while the ill-fated vessel was sinking, and, attracted by the signals of distress, Promptly put out all her boats and rescued between 40 and 50 of the passengers. About 60, however, were drowned, including the captain.

After a protracted inquest extending over several days,‭ the jury found that the disaster was due to the culpable negligence of the captain and the first mate, in failing to slacken speed during a snowstorm which obscured all lights, they well knowing at the time that they were approaching land. The mate was subsequently put on trial for manslaughter.

It was believed by many that if the captain had not,‭ ‬in the first instance, backed off the rocks into deep water, all on board could have been saved.
From‭ ‬:‭ The Neighbourhood of Dublin by Weston St. John Joyce.‬

A subsequent Board of Trade inquiry blamed the ship's captain and first officer, as well as the lighthouse crew. A fog bell was supposed to have been installed in the lighthouse in 1846, seven years earlier, but was delayed due to costs of other construction projects. The bell was finally installed in April 1853, as a result of the Queen Victoria shipwreck and the subsequent inquiry.
At least one attempt to raise the ship was made afterwards, which failed, and the ship was salvaged where she lay. The wreck is still in place.

Members of the Marlin Sun Aqua Club, Dublin discovered the wreck in 1983. They reported their discovery to the authorities, and were in part responsible for having the first Underwater Preservation Order placed on a shipwreck in Irish waters. They also carried out the first underwater survey on such a wreck. The wreck was the first to be protected by The National Monuments Act (Historic Wreck), when the order was granted in 1984, thanks to representations made by Kevin Crothers, IUART, and the Maritime Institute of Ireland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_Queen_Victoria_(1838)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


13/14 February 1981:48 young people died in a fire at the Stardust Night Club, Dublin on this day. The origin, source and cause of the fire still remain a mystery but what is not in doubt is that the huge loss of life was caused by inadequate safety measures. The building was not purpose built as a place of entertainment. It was in fact a converted jam factory that obviously was not designed to hold within its walls so many people for such a purpose. Even more astonishing is that many of the fire exits were chained shut, ostensibly to avoid people entering the premises without paying. The victims were all young people enjoying a night out and the fire spread so rapidly that panic ensued as the lights went out and acrid thick smoke quickly engulfed the premises.

Hundreds fled for their lives as the building went up in minutes. The failure of the lighting in the club led to widespread panic causing mass trampling as many of the patrons instinctively ran for the main entrance. Many people mistook the entrance to the men's toilets for the main entrance doors but the windows there had metal plates fixed on the inside and iron bars on the outside. Firemen attempted in vain to pull off the metal bars using a chain attached to a fire engine. Firemen rescued between 25-30 of those trapped in the front toilets.

Dublin’s Emergency Disaster Plan was implemented and the bodies of the dead and dying and those burned, some horribly, were ferried to all the City’s major hospitals. The City Morgue could not cope with so many being brought in at once and the Army had to set up tents to hold the bodies of those who died until they could be identified by their loved ones. Scenes of heart rending grief were witness in the days that followed as these identifications were carried out and the funerals took place. Thelma Frazer could only be identified by the jewellery she wore to the Stardust disco. [above]In at least five instances a formal identification was not possible as some bodies were burned beyond recognition. Recent advances in DNA though mean that at last this can now be resolved.

As it so happened the Fianna Fáil Party were holding their Ard Fheis that same weekend but once news broke of the terrible loss of life the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey cancelled the proceedings as a mark of respect. The import of such a terrible event as this was not lost upon him as the Stardust was within his own Constituency and he knew the families of many of the victims. He attended many of the funerals himself and indeed was seen in tears on at least one occasion as the internments took place.

To this day no certain cause as to how the fire started has been established - whether it was arson or accident.

The names of those who died are:
Michael Barrett, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Richard Bennett, Coolock, Dublin 5
Carol Bissett, Ringsend, Dublin 4.
James Buckley, Donnycarney, Dublin 5.
Paula Byrne, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Caroline Carey, Coolock, Dublin 5.
John Colgan, Swords, Co. Dublin.
Jacqueline Croker, Killmore West, Dublin 5.
Liam Dunne, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Michael Farrell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
David Flood, Beaumount, Dublin 5.
Thelma Frazer, Sandymount, Dublin 4.
Michael French, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Josephine Glenn, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Michael Griffiths, Killmore, Dublin 5.
Robert Hillock, Twinbrook, Belfast.
Brian Hobbs, Whitehall, Dublin 9.
Eugene Hogan, Artane, Dublin 5.
Murtagh Kavanagh, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Martina Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Mary Keegan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Robert Kelly, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Mary Kennedy, Killbarrack, Dublin 5.
Mary Kenny, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Margaret Kiernan, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Sandra Lawless, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Francis Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.
Maureen Lawlor, Finglas, Dublin 11.
Paula Lewis, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Eamon Loughman, Beaumont, Dublin 9.
George McDermott Raheny, Dublin 5.
Marcella McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.
William McDermott, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Julie McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Teresa McDonnell, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Gerard McGrath, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Caroline McHugh, Artane, Dublin 5.
Donna Mahon, Raheny, Dublin 5.
Helena Mangan, Coolock,
James Millar, Twinbrook, Belfast.
Susan Morgan, Derry.
David Morton, Artane, Dublin 5.
Kathleen Muldoon Kells, Co. Meath.
George O'Conner, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Brendan O'Meara Coolock, Dublin 5.
John Stout, Coolock, Dublin 5.
Margaret Thornton, Dublin 8.
Paul Wade, Artane, Dublin 5.
and not forgetting the 215 injured...





Tuesday, 13 February 2018


13 February 1820: Leonard McNally, playwright, barrister, United Irishman and an Informer died on this day. He was born in Dublin in 1752, and became a barrister in England before returning home to practise at the Irish Bar. He was one of the original members of the Society of United Irishmen and came to and defended many of its members in the Courts. He turned informer in 1794 following the arrest of the French agent the Rev Jackson.  The general opinion is that his nerve snapped under threats during interrogation but the exact circumstances that led to his decision to become a tout remain unclear.

His play Robin Hood (1784) was playing in Dublin on the night in 1798 when Lord Edward Fitzgerald was captured on foot of information he had provided. During the Rising of 1798 and in 1803 he found himself in the bizarre situation of taking money both from revolutionary defendants before the Courts and from Dublin Castle for providing them with information that would compromise his clients. While some had their doubts, and indeed one ‘doubter’ sent him a snake in a parcel from America as a token of gratitude, his dark secret remained hidden until his death in 1820. Ironically he was given a Patriots funeral. It was only when his family demanded that his pension of £300  per annum be continued that his secret life as a traitor was exposed.

He died at 22 Harcourt-street Dublin, 13th February 1820, aged 68. Then only did his treachery appear. His heir claimed a continuance of a secret service pension of £300 a year, which his father had enjoyed since 1798. The Lord-Lieutenant demanded a detailed statement of the circumstances under which the agreement had been made; it was furnished after some hesitation, and the startling fact became generally known, not only that he had been in regular receipt of the pension claimed, but that during the state trials of 1798 and 1803, while he was receiving fees from the prisoners to defend them, he also accepted large sums from Government to betray the secrets of their defence. The Cornwallis Correspondence, Madden's Lives of the United Irishmen, and communications from Mr. FitzPatrick in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, put all this beyond doubt.
A Compendium of Irish Biography: Richard Webb Dublin 1878
http://www.libraryireland.com/biography/index.php

Monday, 12 February 2018


12 February 1976: The Hunger Striker Frank Stagg died after 61 days on hunger strike in Wakefield Prison, Yorkshire, on this day. He had been on hunger strike in protest at the British government's refusal to transfer him to a prison in Ireland. He had been arrested in Coventry in 1973 and had been given a sentence of 10 years for criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson. He initially went on Hunger Strike in 1974 along with others to gain repatriation to Ireland. In this strike his comrade Michael Gaughan died and Stagg felt a degree of moral responsibility for convincing him to embark upon it.

While other hunger strikers were sent back the British refused to move Stagg and he was incarcerated in Long Lartin Prison. Here he was subjected to prolonged periods of Solitary Confinement for and again went on hunger strike. Eventually the Prison Governor relented and Stagg called off his strike. In 1975 he was transferred to Wakefield Prison where he again refused to do prison work. Just before Christmas that year he and others again embarked on a Hunger strike. Their demand were: An end to Solitary Confinement; No Prison Work and Repatriation to Ireland. He died on 12 February 1976.

When his body was returned to Ireland his coffin was seized by the Government and buried under concrete so that it could not be interred in the Republican Plot in Ballina, Co Mayo. However in November 1976, a group of republicans tunnelled under the concrete to recover the coffin under cover of darkness and reburied it in the Republican plot.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

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11‭ February 1867: The abortive Fenian Raid on Chester Castle on this day. An audacious plan had been put together by the Fenian Leadership to seize the arsenal at Chester Castle in England.  The plotters would then bring the considerable stock of weapons and ammunition held there to Ireland where they would be distributed to the volunteers in order to overthrow British rule. So much for the plan - but the night before it was to be out into operation the whole scheme was betrayed to the local police by an informer from within the Movement. It had been betrayed by John Carr, alias Corydon who was a paid informer. The cache of rifles had been removed to the castle and the garrison quickly reinforced by another 70 regular soldiers from Manchester.

Despite efforts to turn their men back,‭ ‬an estimated 1,300 Fenians reached Chester, in small parties from Manchester, Preston, Halifax, Leeds and elsewhere. Mostly, they discarded what few weapons they had and melted away. The next day, with nothing now happening, a further 500 household troops arrived by train from London in time for a tumultuous reception and breakfast at Chester hotels.

The man who was the mastermind of the projected operation was John McCafferty,‭ ‬US Citizen and an ex Irish American soldier who had served in the Confederate Army in the American Civil War. Once he realised that his cover had been blown he effected a quick escape with the intention of making it back to Dublin. His accomplice was John Flood and as a result of the hunt now on for them they decided to return to Ireland by collier and not a passage steamer which were all being watched. The ship they returned home on was called the New Draper.

However,‭ ‬when the New Draper arrived at Dublin on the‭ ‬23rd February‭ ‬1867,‭ ‬the harbour was being watched.‭ ‬The two Fenians were to be put ashore from the vessel in an oyster boat,‭ ‬but were spotted by policemen,‭ ‬and their vessel was pursued in a chase across the river Liffey involving a ferry, a canal boat and a collier and the men were arrested.‭ ‬Ultimately they were tried for ‘High Treason‭’ ‬and McCafferty was sentenced to life imprisonment,‭  ‬but he was released under Amnesty in‭ ‬1871.‭ ‬He returned to the US where he kept up the Fenian Campaign against Britain. He went back to Ireland in the‭ ‬1870‭’s and became involved in Mayo bye election of 1874. After a further period of revolutionary activity when he became involved with the Invincibles he went back to America and disappeared.