Google+ Followers

Thursday, 23 October 2014


24 October 1878: Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first Cardinal and the most formidable man in the 19th Century Church died on this day. He was given the titular Roman church of San Pietro Montorio as his cardinality– a Church with Irish associations. He was born in Co Kildare in 1803. Paul Cullen himself was named after an uncle executed by crown forces in May 1798. Cullen's father was also involved with the United Irishmen, was arrested, and narrowly avoided court-martial and a probable death sentence. He was released in 1801. His family were prosperous Tenant Farmers.

Educated locally, incl time spent in a Quaker School he thereafter spent many years in Rome studying. He took his Doctorate in Theology in 1828, and defended it in the presence of Pope Leo XII. He was ordained there in 1829. He was later the Rector of the Irish College in the Holy City and was also appointed Rector of the College of the Propaganda of the Faith/Congregatio de Propaganda Fide – a most senior appointment. Due to his position as head of the Irish College he was the conduit for correspondence between the Irish Bishops and the Holy See for many years and became intimate with all aspects of the Church at home in Ireland.

When the revolutionary events of 1848 swept through Rome Cullen offered sanctuary to a number of clerics and cardinals wanted by the republican regime. He secured the protection of the United States Consul over his palace in Rome, which then flew the flag of the USA. The sight of that emblem precluded the Revolutionaries from setting foot inside. This act of some cunning earned Cullen the eternal gratitude of Pope Pius IX. His status in the eyes of this long lived and very conservative Pope was further enhanced in 1859 when he helped to organise an Irish Brigade that was sent to Italy to fight alongside the Papal troops in defending the Papal Estates from Garibaldi.

He was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1849 and returned home the following year. He convened the Synod of Thurles (1850), the first national synod held with due public solemnity in Ireland since the beginning of the Reformation period. The main purpose of the synod was to restore the authority of ecclesiastical order in Ireland, and this was in the fullest measure attained. The synod none the less marked the introduction of distinctly Roman devotional forms across the island. Cullen considered the synod's decrees to be his greatest achievement and worked hard to secure their implementation.

A noted conservative in politics he was opposed to the Young Irelanders and also the Fenians. He wanted the Irish Catholic Church to stay aloof from politics unless there were specific Catholic issues involved. His lifelong ambition was to see established a Catholic University in Ireland. While one was established in 1854 under John Henry Newman it never really got off the ground and limped on for years in a sort of educational limbo. He also wanted the Protestant Church of Ireland to be disestablished. While only partially successful in the 1st the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869 – much to Cullen’s satisfaction.!

He became Cardinal on 22 June 1866 and his motto was ‘Ponit Animam Pro Amicis’. He attended the Vatican Council in 1870 where he was a staunch defender of Papal Infallibility. His definition the Pope’s Authority on Theological matters infallibility was the one that was adopted with just minor modifications. He was Rome’s Representative to Ireland and ensured that the Church here was run under disciplined and regimented lines. The squabbles and localism of earlier times were suppressed and the Catholics of Ireland were ‘Romanised’ in a way that was not there before Cullen took over.

He was first and foremost a Roman. His allegiance to Rome, in the person of the pope and his authority, temporal and spiritual, was uncompromising. How Rome stood … on any question was Cullen’s point of departure.

Emmet Larkin

Cullen died suddenly at Eccles Street, Dublin on 24 October 1878. His funeral was a great public event. He was buried, according to his wishes, below the high altar in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe the college he had done so much to have founded.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

22/23 October 1641: The Rising of 1641/ Éirí Amach 1641 began prematurely on this night. The uprising had been long planned and was aimed at securing the religious and civil liberties of the Catholics of Ireland. It was to have started in Dublin the previous day but the plan to seize Dublin Castle was betrayed and it remained in English hands. The planners of the rising were a small group of Irish landowners, mainly Gaelic Irish and from the heavily planted provinces of Leinster and Ulster. Hugh MacMahon and Conor Maguire were to have seized Dublin Castle, while Sir Phelim O’Neill was to raise the North.

However in Dublin the plot to seize the Castle was betrayed:

On the evening of the 22nd of October, when the preparations had been completed in Dublin, a man named Owen O'Connolly, to whom MacMahon had confided the secret, went straight to Sir William Parsons one of the lords justices, and told him of the plot. Parsons at first gave no heed to the story, for he perceived that O'Connolly was half drunk. But on consultation with his colleague Sir John Borlase, they arrested Maguire and MacMahon on the morning of the 23rd: these were subsequently tried in London and hanged. Rory O'Moore and some others then in Dublin escaped. Instant measures were taken to put the city in a state of defence.

The plan was to use surprise rather than military force to take their objectives and to then issue their demands, in expectation of support from the rest of the country. As for why things came to head when they did the reasons are legion.

This great rebellion was brought about by the measures taken to extirpate the Catholic religion; by the plantations of Chichester and Strafford; and by the non-confirmation of the graces, which made the people despair of redress. There were complaints from every side about religious hardships. As to the plantations, no one could tell where they might stop; and there was a widespread fear that the people of the whole country might be cleared off to make place for new settlers. Besides all this, those who had been dispossessed longed for the first opportunity to fall on the settlers and regain their homes and farms.

A Concise History of Ireland

by P. W. Joyce

The Irish in the North had the greatest initial success, taking numerous strategic places, incl Charlemont Fort, Co Armagh, (one of the most modern in Ireland) by a ruse. This was Lord Caulfield's house, which became the chief fortress of the Irish in Ulster. They also captured the forts of Mountjoy, Dungannon, Castlecaulfield, Salterstown and Lissan. In the days that followed the Revolt grew and grew and most of the Protestants who had been planted in the northern counties were forced to flee.

Lurid prints and accounts (The Depositions) were spread in London and other English cities at the indignities and sufferings visited upon the Protestant settlers who were forced to flee for their lives.While much exaggerated the stories were widely believed and they laid the foundations of the terrible vengeance visited upon Ireland when Oliver Cromwell landed here in 1649. Many Catholics were also assaulted and cut down by the Crown forces who were also at work against anyone they deemed as ‘Rebels’.

Thus was opened one of the bloodiest and vicious wars Ireland has ever experienced as Death, Famine, War, and Plague [above] were visited upon her People. A War that did not fully abate for another twelve long years.

Monday, 20 October 2014


21 October 1803: Thomas Russell, United Irishman, ‘the man from God knows where’, was hanged outside Downpatrick Jail, Co Down on this day. He had been captured in Dublin as he tried to organise a rescue of Robert Emmet. A former British Officer he resigned his Commission in the wake of the French Revolution. Russell was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement in Ireland for over a decade and had spent a number of years in prison for his beliefs.


He was a great friend of Wolfe Tone who he had first met in the visitors gallery in Ireland's House of Commons in the year 1790. He was a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen that aimed to secure Civil & Political Liberties for the Irish People.

In 1795 Russell, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cave Hill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath:

"never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence"

In 1796 he was arrested and held without Trial until 1802 when England and France signed the brief Peace of Amiens. He was released on condition he went into Exile. He made his way to Paris where he met Emmet and he agreed to try and raise the North. He returned from exile in France specifically to help stir the North into Revolt in conjunction with Emmet’s Rising in Dublin, but he found that the spirit of ’98 was no longer there.

After Emmet's abortive Rising in Dublin he went on the run but after weeks in hiding he was caught and sent back to the North to be put on trial. He was sentenced to death for his part in the attempt to overthrow the Ascendency and was hanged at Downpatrick alongside other conspirators who had joined him in the enterprise.

His brave death was the subject of a famous ballad by Florence Wilson that ends with the death of Russell on the gallows:

For the man that they hanged at Downpatrick Jail

Was the Man from God-knows-where!

Sunday, 19 October 2014


20 October 1892 - General Eoin O’Duffy was born on this day near Castleblaney Co Monaghan. He was the 2nd Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. O’Duffy first came to local prominence in the G.A.A. and afterwards as a senior figure in the IRA during the War of Independence, taking part in the capture of Ballytrain RIC Barracks in 1920. He was elected a TD and after the Truce was sent to Belfast to organise the local defenses there against attacks by Loyalists. He supported the Treaty and was appointed a General in the Free State Army. He directed operations in the Limerick area with some success.

After the Civil War ended he was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and by all accounts did an excellent job of turning out a first rate force on a shoestring budget. However when De Valera came to power he lost favour, partially over his record in the Civil War and partly due to his obstreperous nature – especially when dealing with politicians!

He was sacked and became embroiled in party politics as a Leader the Army Comrades Association aka ‘the Blueshirts’ and then Fine Gael. His antics as a political leader lowered his esteem in the eyes of many and eventually his Blueshirt movement fizzled out and he parted company with F.G. He led a small expeditionary force to Spain to fight alongside the Fascists there but after a few minor skirmishes the group returned home and disbanded. O’Duffy died in 1944, a broken man living in lonely isolation, though for his past services De Valera granted him a State Funeral.

Friday, 17 October 2014



17 October 1803 William Smith O'Brien the Nationalist politician and Young Irelander, was born in Dromoland, Co. Clare on this day. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 he was part of a Delegation that went to Paris to congratulate the birth of the Second Republic, they returned with a new flag for Ireland - Green, White and Orange.

That year the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania.

After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.

There is a statue of him in Dublin's O'Connell Street [above]

Thursday, 16 October 2014


16 October 1854: Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on this day. His father Dr. William Wilde was a renowned medical statistician and he was knighted for his work. He also had an international reputation as an antiquarian and archaeologist and he was recognised as an expert on Irish pre-history. His mother Jane Wilde was a figure in her own right. She became closely associated with the Young Irelanders, Thomas Davis, William Smith O'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy and she wrote revolutionary poetry for 'The Nation' newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Speranza’. She subsequently became a leading society hostess in Dublin.

The Wildes' house at 21 Westland Row attracted some of the leading figures in art, literature, science and medicine - including John Hogan, Samuel Ferguson and William Rowan Hamilton. It was here that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was brought into this world in which he would prove to be such a delightful yet such a tragic figure. He became fluent in French and German early in life.

Until he was nine he was educated at home by a French Governess and he was sent to the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen to complete his secondary education. While there he excelled in the Classics, taking top prize in his last two years, and also earning a second prize in drawing. In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. After finishing his scholastic career in Oxford he moved to London where his literary career took off.

There is a colourful edifice of Oscar [above] directly across the road from where No 1 Merrion Square where he spent most of his childhood years. It attracts many visitors each day. Though perhaps the most famous and popular one to his memory is his mausoleum in the graveyard of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where he is buried.

A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.

Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


15 October 878 AD: A Lunar Eclipse was observed in Ireland on this day. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon.

Retrospective astronomical observations confirm what the monks witnessed: A lunar eclipse at 3:53 am on the 15 October 878. The moon was just fully immersed in the umbra and 15 October that year did indeed fall on a Wednesday – the fourth day (feria) of the week.

There was a lunar eclipse on the Ides [15th] of October,

the fourteenth of the moon,

on the fourth feria about the third watch.

Annals of Ulster 878 AD