Sunday, 20 April 2014


20 April 1912: The death of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel Dracula on this day in London England. Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.



Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf , Dublin. His parents were Abraham Stoker (1799–1876), from Dublin, and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley (1818–1901), Stoker was the third of seven children. Abraham and Charlotte were members of the Church of Ireland and Bram was babtised in the local COI church.

Stoker was bedridden with an unknown illness until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, "I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years." He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods.

After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours as a BA in Mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society ('the Hist') and president of the University Philisophical Society, where his first paper was on "Sensationalism in Fiction and Society".

While manager for Irving and secretary and director of London's Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels, beginning with The Snakes Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was part of the literary staff of the The Daily Telegraph in London, and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady in the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, after Irving's death, he published his life of Irving, which proved successful.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry who was a Hungarian writer and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry's dark stories of the Carpathian mountains.Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires . Dracula is written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a "straightforward horror novel" based on imaginary creations of supernatural life. "It gave form to a universal fantasy . . . and became a part of popular culture."

After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker died on 20 April 1912 in London. He was cremated , and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium. After Irving Noel Stoker's death in 1961, his ashes were added to that urn. The original plan had been to keep his parents' ashes together, but after Florence Stoker's death, her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest. To visit his remains at Golders Green, visitors must be escorted to the room the urn is housed in, for fear of vandalism.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


19 April 1741: In a letter to Dr. Thomas Prior, Dublin, the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr. George Berkeley[above], wrote of the Famine which was then raging:


The distresses of the sick and poor are endless. The havoc of mankind in the counties of Cork, Limerick and some adjacent places hath been incredible. The nation, probably, will not recover this loss in a century. The other day I heard one from the county of Limerick say that whole villages were entirely dispeopled.

The Great Famine of 1741 had its origins in the ‘Great Frost’ of January 1740 when an intense and bitter cold that emanated from the Artic and not experienced in living memory swept across Western Europe. So cold was it that birds dropped from the sky and seed was destroyed in the ground. Trade came to a halt as ports froze up and travel became almost impossible. In the Springtime the expected rains did not come, and though the Frost dissipated, the temperatures remained low and the northerly winds very strong. By the Summer of 1740, the Frost had decimated the potatoes and the Drought had wrought havoc with the grain harvest and the herds of cattle and sheep had suffered huge losses.

In the Autumn a meagre harvest commenced and prices in the towns started to fall. Cattle began to recover, but in the dairying districts, cows had been so weak after the Frost that at least a third of them had failed to “take bull”. Then blizzards swept along the east coast in late October and more snow fell several times in November. A massive downpour of rain fell on 9 December causing widespread flooding. A day after the floods, the temperature plummeted, snow fell, and rivers and other bodies of water froze. Warm temperatures followed the cold snap, which lasted about ten days. Great chunks of ice careened down the River Liffey and through the heart of Dublin, overturning light vessels and causing larger vessels to break anchor. The price of foodstuffs rocketed and people began to starve.

The Spring of 1741 went down in popular memory as the Black Spring of ’41 as the impact of two very hard Winters and the destruction of so much livestock and grain supplies began to be felt. This was especially so amongst the rural and urban poor of whom there were very many in Ireland at that time. Diseases swept the Country: Dysentery; Smallpox and Typhus took the lives of many thousands.

Sir Richard Cox wrote from Cork in April that year:

Mortality is now no longer heeded; the instances are so frequent. And burying the dead, which used to be one of the most religious acts among the Irish, is now become a burthen…In short, by all I can learn, the dreadfullest civil war, or most raging plague never destroyed so many as this season. The distempers and famine increase so that it is no vain fear that there will not be hands to save the harvest.
Eventually in the Summer of 1741 the Crises abated and while the situation was still very hard the plagues and starvation eased off. The next Harvest while not abundant was sufficient to ensure that enough food would be available to avert a similar situation the following year.

So ended what was the worst set of recorded climatogical disasters to hit Ireland since at least the 14th Century. Nobody knows how many people died as a result of this Great Famine of 1741 and the hardships that preceded its apogee. Out of an overall estimated population at the time of around 2.4 million it seems probable that between 300,000 and 450,000 of the people died as a result – a mortality rate that stands comparison with if it did not actually exceed the more infamous events of the 1840s.



 

Friday, 18 April 2014


18 April 1690: Over 5,000 Irish soldiers organised in five Regiments sailed from Ireland for France at the request of Louis XIV [above]. He sent some 6,000 French regulars in exchange for these men. The Irish troops formed the nucleus of the famous ‘Irish Brigade’ that was to continue in French service for over 100 years until just after the Revolution.

The King of France wanted to support James II in his expedition to retake the British crown from the Dutchman William of Orange. However he could not afford the loss of 6,000 of his own soldiers during his own War against Holland. So Louis requested Irish replacements to take their place. The Irish regiments sailed out on the same ships that landed the French troops under Count de Lauzun.

After arriving in France, the five regiments were reorganized into three, commanded respectively by Justin McCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), Daniel O'Brien, and Arthur Dillon. Mountcashel was in overall command this Irish Brigade in the service of France. He had grown up in France, and became fluent in the French language. His father had lost everything due to his participation in the fight against Cromwell and subsequently went into exile in France. After the Treaty of Limerick Patrick Sarsfield’s men joined Mountcashel’s brigade in late 1691.

Like Sarsfield, Mountcashel did not survive for very long in French service. Shortly after his arrival in France he was seriously wounded in the chest fighting in down south in Savoy. Although he recovered from this wound and continued to command the Irish Brigade, it continued to dog him. He eventually had to retire from French Service and much weakened in health he died in 1694.




Thursday, 17 April 2014


17 April 1876: The whaling vessel Catalpa rescued six Irish prisoners from British Captivity on this day. The ship under Captain George S. Anthony carried out one of the most daring and long distance rescues in history when she was used to spirit away the six Fenian prisoners from Freemantle, Australia. Even though the British quickly realised the men had fled and gave chase the ship could not be boarded as she flew the American flag. The rescued men (Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston and James Wilson) were brought safely to New York City. The Fenians John Devoy and John J. Breslin planned the rescue operation from America and Breslin was dispatched to Australia to co-ordinate the rescue.

In July 1874 the Clan na Gael Organisation in the USA decided to rescue the six prisoners who were excluded from a conditional pardon for all civilian Fenian prisoners. These men had been members of the British Army and thus considered outright ‘Traitors’ by the British. John Devoy was assigned to co-ordinate this rescue. He saw that funds were raised and a Captain George S. Anthony was ‘head hunted’ to undertake the dangerous mission. When it was put to him he was willing to take the risk. It was then decided that the voyage must look like a whaling voyage, thus Captain Anthony went looking for a suitable ship. In the port of Boston he found one that suited his needs and purchased the Catalpa, a three-master whaler, for $5200.

The ship set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, in April 1875. The Voyage was undertaken with the deliberate intention engaging in a daring a yearlong mission of international rescue. On 28 March 1876 the Catalpa arrived off Bunbury Harbour, Western Australia and a meeting was set up between Captain Anthony and John Breslin. At this meeting they agreed the rescue date should be on 6 April. However due to the presence of a British gunboat at the Harbour and the information that another gunboat was due to arrive they rescheduled the rescue for 17 April.


With the help of the prison chaplain, the six men escaped to the coast where Captain Anthony was waiting with a small whaleboat that would take them to the Catalpa. The resistance they overcame, both from armed British vessels and a furious sea storm, made their escape the stuff of legend. The British attempted to capture the Catalpa but Captain Anthony had the Flag of the United States raised and warned the prospective boarders that such a move would be viewed as an Act of War. They thought the better of it and the Catalpa made good her escape.
The Catalpa landed the ‘Freemantle Six’ in New York Harbour on 19 August 1876. Though Captain Anthony would never again put to sea in open waters for fear of arrest by the British, his rescue voyage, made mostly without the use of a functioning chronometer, is one of the greatest feats of seamanship ever recorded in nautical annals.


 



 


 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

 
16 April 1172: King Henry II departed from Ireland on this day. He had landed in Waterford in October 1171 with a powerful force of well-equipped knights, archers and foot soldiers. He subsequently received the allegiance of many of the provincial kings of Munster and Leinster. However the High King of Ireland Rory O’Connor/Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair kept his distance and the chief Ulster kings ignored Henry’s visit alltogether. King Henry though was the most powerful man in Western Europe and his name alone carried tremendous weight. He ensured by his presence at the Irish Church’s Council of Cashel that the type of Church Reform in favour in England was adopted in Ireland.
 
While his Ecclesiastical Mission was the purported reason for his Expedition into Ireland he also had designs to bring the whole of the Country under his sway. He brought to heel his Anglo-Norman mercenaries and adventurers and tried to ensure that they recognised that anything they had taken in Ireland was his to grant and not theirs by right of conquest. He arrived in Dublin in mid November and wintered over in Dublin. He stayed outside the walls and in a Palace made of wattles that was specially built by local craftsmen. There he celebrated Christmas in some style, entertaining his guests lavishly. This rustic Court served as his Royal seat of power for the duration of his stay in the City.

His most compelling reason for coming to Ireland when he did however was his implication in the Murder of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral and the wrath that came down upon him from the Papacy as a result. So Ireland was a politic place for him to be until the furore died down and he judged it safe to return. Though Henry probably meant to spend a few more months in Ireland events abroad meant that he had to cut short his stay here and return forthwith. The winter was a bad one and few ships reached Ireland that carried any news of worth. Sensing that somewhere in his patchwork quilt ‘Angevin Empire’ would require his attention before too long Henry left Dublin for Wexford in the month of March for the port of Wexford. It was there he received news that the Papal Legates awaited him in Normandy to demand explanations for his conduct. He thus departed from our shores on the Easter Sunday of 1172– never to return.

The king of the Saxons (namely, Henry, son of the Empress) went from Ireland on Easter Sunday [April 16th] after celebration of Mass.


The Annals of Ulster

Monday, 7 April 2014


7 April: 1973 - Death of the old Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid [above] . He was head of the Dublin Diocese from 1940 to 1972 and a man who ruled his fiefdom with an Iron Hand.

He was born in Cootehill, Co. Cavan, on 28 July 1895, to Dr. Eugene McQuaid and Jennie Corry. His mother died a week later and his father, a doctor, signed her death certificate. A little over a year later he married a woman named Agnes, who raised John and his sister Helen as her own. In his teens John learned that Agnes was not his real mother. Further children were born to Eugene and Agnes McQuaid.

Educated at Blackrock College and Clongowes, two of the top private Catholic schools in the Country, he went on to complete his University Education at UCD where he mastered on the Life of the Roman pagan philosopher Seneca. He then took up his studies for the priesthood and was was ordained at Kimmage in Dublin in 1924.

After a brief stay in Rome he returned to Ireland and was appointed to the staff of Blackrock College in 1925. He served as Dean of Studies from 1925–1931 and President of the College from 1931–1939. In this time he ran the school with a strict hand and encouraged the boys in Sport, Rugby in particular and also in classical studies.


However it was in his role as advisor to the President Eamon De Valera that he is best known for ensuring that a strong Catholic ethos was written into the new Irish Constitution of 1937, where the ‘Special Position’ of the Church was specifically recognised. Though recent commentators have pointed out that this had no actual legal meaning as such. It was removed from the Constitution in 1972 in a Referendum.

In 1940 McQuaid was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and from the start he had some overiding concerns. He wanted to ensure that the Church remained dominant in Irish Society and that a Catholic education was given to the children of the Diocese He also had great concerns about the widespread poverty in the city and encouraged acts of Charity towards the poor.

He was basically a typical Irish Archbishop in religiosity but with a lot more intelligence, drive and determination than most. His most controversial moment came in 1951 when he became embroiled in the legislation for a Bill that was before the Irish Parliament ( the Dail) that was known as the Mother & Child Scheme. McQuaid opposed it as giving more power to the State as against the Church. He was not the only one and the Irish Medical Organisation also rowed in against it for reasons of their own. The popular Minister of Health, Noel Browne, was forced to resign. But it proved a Pyrrhic Victory for the Church and for McQuaid in particular as public opinion slowly moved away from accepting the Church as the primary source of moral authority.


Further controversy dogged him in 1955 when he voiced opposition to the visit of the Communist soccer team from Yugoslavia (where in fairness Catholics were given a hard time) to Dublin yet over 20,000 people turned up to see them!

But Ireland was changing and even more so after 1960 when increased social prosperity brought into being new ways of thinking. The arrival of Television and foreign travel meant that people had a broader view of the World and its many and varied ways than heretofore.

It was though the opening of the Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1962 that put the cat amongst the pidgons as many of the Faithful saw hope for fundamental change in the strict and outdated modes of operation of the Church. McQuaid was deeply suspicious of change and made it pretty clear where he stood on the issue. He will always be remembered for his attempt to reassure his flock at the end of the Council that "No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives".

His eminent position in the decision making process of the Irish State became an increasing anachronism as the 1960's wore on. Politicians offering him public deference became a source of embarrassment and indeed anger to many voters, particularly in the upwardly mobile classes in South Dublin, where McQuaid lived himself.

He was a shy and reserved man who lived frugally and alone. He visited the sick in hospitals nearly every night and ensured that the Church’s works of Charity continued unabated. But these are now almost forgotten and his errors of judgement remembered.

Dr. McQuaid formally relinquished the government of the Archdiocese of Dublin when his successor was ordained Archbishop in February 1972.

‘On Saturday 7 April 1973 McQuaid was too ill to get up at his usual time of 6.30am to say Mass at his private residence in Killiney Co. Dublin. He was taken to Loughlinstown Hospital where he died within an hour. Shortly before his death he asked nurse Margaret O'Dowd if he had any chance of reaching heaven. She told him that if he as Archbishop could not get to heaven, few would. This answer appeared to satisfy him and he lay back on the pillow to await death. He died at about 11am. He is buried in St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Charles_McQuaid#Death






Saturday, 5 April 2014


5 April 1895: Oscar Wilde was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel, London, for homosexual offences with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the 8th Marquis of Queensbury. In Room 118 he was arrested after spending time with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, affectionately known as 'Bosie'. Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had suspected Wilde and his own son to be in an illicit relationship, and he challenged Wilde with a scribbled accusation of 'Somdomy' (sic).

Oscar Wilde knew that the arrest was coming, and ignored friends' pleas for him to flee the country. The Poet Laureate John Betjeman took up the tragic tale in his poem "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at The Cadogan Hotel":

A thump, and a murmur of voices--
(Oh, why must they make such a din?)
As the door of the bedroom swung open
And TWO PLAINCLOTHES POLICEMEN came in:
"Mr. Woilde, we 'ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.


The Hotel is still a going concern and is situated on Sloane Street, the famous Belgravia thoroughfare connecting the well-heeled districts of Chelsea and Knightsbridge in the City of London.