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Tuesday, 12 December 2017


11/12 December 1956: ‘The Border Campaign’ or 'Operation Harvest' began on this day. The IRA under its Chief of Staff Sean Cronin carried out a series of attacks on Crown Forces personnel and installations in the Border areas of the Six Counties. A BBC relay transmitter was bombed in Derry, a courthouse was burned in Magherafelt, as was a B-Specials post near Newry and a half built Army barracks at Enniskillen was blown up. A raid on Gough barracks in Armagh was beaten off after a brief exchange of fire.


That day the IRA issued the following statement:


Spearheaded by Ireland’s freedom fighters, our people have carried the fight to the enemy…Out of this national liberation struggle a new Ireland will emerge, upright and free. In that new Ireland, we shall build a country fit for all our people to live in. That then is our aim: an independent, united, democratic Irish Republic. For this we shall fight until the invader is driven from our soil and victory is ours.

The campaign after an initial surge of activity was to be marked by a number of intermittent attacks on the British in the North that continued until 1962. But without a certain level of popular support on both sides of the Border it was obvious that further resistance was futile and the IRA called off their campaign and dumped arms. It was deliberately kept to the Border areas as it was felt to attempt actions in Belfast etc would only inflame sectarian tensions.

The IRA's Border Campaign was an ambitious plan to wage a guerrilla war in the North. In hindsight, it was an abject failure. But to many in the Republican Movement any action was better than no action.

'Operation Harvest, the codename for the IRA's border campaign of the 1950s, was an ambitious plan to wage a guerrilla war in the North. The IRA used tactics adopted by flying columns that had been successful during the War of Independence in a bid to make Northern Ireland ungovernable and force a British withdrawal. In hindsight, it was an abject failure. They received little or no support from the nationalist population in the North. Most volunteers were from the South with little knowledge of the North. Governments north and south of the border introduced internment and the campaign was almost stillborn.'
Soldiers of Folly: The IRA Border Campaign 1956-1962







Monday, 11 December 2017


11 December 1920: The burning of Cork on this day. After an IRA attack on a lorry load of RIC Auxiliaries at Dillons Cross in which one of them was killed members of the Crown Forces went on a rampage in Cork City Centre. Buildings were set alight and many were gutted by fire. Two men who were members of the Cork IRA, Con and Jer Delaney were shot dead in their own home. British forces deliberately set fire to several blocks of buildings along the east and south sides of Saint Patrick’s Street during the hours of darkness and the following morning. The City Hall and the Carnegie Library were also completely destroyed by fire. The loss of the stock of the library and of the records in Cork City Hall was a huge blow to future historians.

Florrie O'Donoghue described the scene in Cork on the morning of the 12th:

Many familiar landmarks were gone forever – where whole buildings had collapsed here and there a solitary wall leaned at some crazy angle from its foundation. The streets ran with sooty water, the footpaths were strewn with broken glass and debris, ruins smoked and smouldered and over everything was the all- pervasive smell of burning.

The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood, immediately denied that Crown forces were responsible for the conflagration. However subsequent local inquiries carried out by reputable bodies established that members of the Crown Forces were indeed culpable for the widespread destruction. Afterwards, some Auxiliaries took to wearing piece of half-burnt cork in their hats. But their black humour could not disguise the fact that these actions further undermined their already weakening authority and showed the World that Britain could not control her own Forces on the streets of a City that it claimed was part of their Empire.



Sunday, 10 December 2017


10 December 1710: The Irish Brigades in the service of France and Spain saw action at the battle of Villaviciosa in Spain on this day. The war of the Spanish Succession was between the two contenders for the Spanish Throne: Philip [Felipe] V backed by France and Charles of Austria backed by Austria, England and Holland. During this see saw war the fortunes of both sides waxed and waned. The battle took place about 70 miles north east of Madrid as Charles of Austria retreated towards Catalonia. Philip’s army hotly pursued him under the direct command of Marshal Vendome of France.

Three Irish regiments fought with the Spanish army in this battle, commanded by respectively Col. Don Demetrio MacAuliffe, Col. Don John de Comerford and Col. Don Reynaldo Mac Donnell. They were collectively known as the Brigade of Castlelar. The Marshal’s army also included a force of Dragoons under the dashing cavalry commander General Count Daniel O’Mahony who was assisted by General Henry Crofton. To this ‘Arme Blance’ was attached a Lord Killmaloc’s Regiment of Dragoons. All of the Irish troops were to play a full part in the battle that materially affected the outcome of the War in Spain.




The engagement was fought on a bleak day in the midst of a Spanish Winter. The main action began in the early afternoon and after many hours of hard fighting it looked like that Charles had won. Marshal Vendome had even ordered the Retreat when his cavalry under the Marquis de Val-de-Canas and Count O’Mahony won the day by charging into the enemy’s rear and forced them to retreat. Only the onset of the darkness of a December night stopped them from destroying their opponents in detail. Though O’Mahony did manage to hamstring 700 mules that severely hampered the enemy from carrying away much of their material from the battlefield. Combined with the defeat and capture the previous day by Vendome of 5,000 English soldiers at the town of Brihuega the losses inflicted upon the enemy were such to render them unable to maintain the field and Charles had no option but to continue his sorry retreat to Barcelona and safety. His bid though for the Throne of Spain was effectively over.

Their brave and daring actions raised the status of the Irish troops and their leaders immeasurably during the Campaign of 1710. Though Lord Killmaloc was mortally wounded in the final battle the Count O’Mahony was awarded for his services.


The Comte de Mahoni acquired a great deal of glory on the battle-day of Villaviciosa, at the head of the dragoons. The King was so satisfied with him, that he conferred upon him a Commandership of the Order of St. Jacques (ie Jago) producing a rent of 15,000 Livres. …


History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France
by John Cornelius O’Callaghan.

Painting: by Jean Alaux (1840) - Marshal Vendome presenting the captured colours to King Philip V




Saturday, 9 December 2017


9 December 1973: The Sunningdale Agreement was signed at Sunningdale in Berkshire, England on this day. Agreement was reached between the Irish Government & the SDLP representing the nationalists and the British Government and the Ulster Unionist Party representing the Unionists - with the Alliance Party taking more of a middle ground. It was agreed that a Power sharing Executive would be set up at Stormont. It was to include representatives from all the participant political parties that were elected to serve in the new parliament.

However Article 7 of the Agreement stated that a 'Council of Ireland' would be set up that would enhance cross border co-operation. Its opening lines read:



7. The Conference agreed that a Council of Ireland would be set up. It would he confined to representatives of the two parts of Ireland, with appropriate safeguards for the British Government's financial and other interests. It would comprise a Council of Ministers with executive and harmonising functions and a consultative role, and a Consultative Assembly with advisory and review functions. The Council of Ministers would act by unanimity, and would comprise a core of seven members of the Irish Government and an equal number of members of the Northern Ireland Executive...

This was to prove its downfall. While there was initially a measured welcome for this settlement in many quarters it was greeted with deep suspicion especially by the more hardline loyalist elements within the North. Also the IRA - who were engaged in a full scale campaign against the Crown Forces - were not interested as they saw it as irrelevant and if anything an impediment to a United Ireland. The ill-fated Executive only lasted a few months before the Loyalist Ulster Workers Council brought it down in May 1974.


Friday, 8 December 2017


8 December, 1856, Father Matthew, Apostle of Temperance, died at Cobh in County Cork after suffering a stroke on this day. He was born at Thomastown Castle, Co Tipperary in 1790. He was ordained a priest 1814 and spent 24 years in the Diocese of Cork before he began his great Crusade against Drink.

His striking personal appearance is thus described: "A finely-formed, middle-sized person, of exquisite symmetry; the head of admirable contour, and from which a finished model of the antique could be cast; the countenance intelligent, animated, and benevolent; its complexion rather sallow, inclining to paleness; eyes of dark lustre, beaming with internal peace, and rich in concentrated sensibility, rather than speaking or kindling with a super-abundant fire; the line of his mouth harmonizing so completely with his nose and chin, is of peculiar grace; the brow open, pale, broad, and polished, bears upon it the impress not merely of dignified thought, but of nobility itself."

www.libraryireland.com

In 1838 came the crisis of his life and after battling with his own Demons he founded the Cork Total Abstinence Society on 10 April 1838 in his own schoolhouse. He presided, delivered a modest address, and took the pledge himself. Then with the historic words, "Here goes in the Name of God", he entered his signature in a large book lying on the table. From then on night after night, Father Mathew addressed crowded assemblies. In three months he had enrolled 25,000 in Cork alone; in five months the number had increased to 130,000.

The movement now assumed a new phase. Father Mathew decided to go forth and preach his crusade throughout the land. In the following years he gave the Pledge to multitudes throughout Ireland and in Scotland and England too. When the Famine struck he devoted his efforts to the relief of the poor and hungry in Cork and used his influence in England and America to obtain food and money. In the early part of 1849, in response to earnest invitations, he set sail for America. He visited New York, Boston, Washington and many other cities, and secured more than 500,000 disciples. After a stay of two and a half years he returned home in 1851. By then it was estimated he had secured the Pledge from some seven million people. He is buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Cork city which he had himself established.




Thursday, 7 December 2017


7 December 1688 - The Apprentice Boys of Derry closed the gates against King James' troops on this day. With the advent of King James II to the throne in 1685 religious animosity had grown between the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland. The former resented the growing power of the latter and they in turn suspected their religious opponents of disloyalty to James who was of the Catholic Faith.

Events came to a head when a son was born to the King in June 1688. This meant that if the boy reached maturity he would succeed his father as a Catholic Monarch true to the Old Faith. But on 5 November of that year William of Orange landed in England and set himself in opposition to King James. A War between the Faiths looked inevitable and in Ireland this indeed proved the case.

King James wished to secure his position in this Country as at least here he could rely on the most widespread support from the Catholic population. The Catholic Earl of Antrim was ordered to secure the City of Londonderry for King James. The said Earl, Alexander MacDonnell, advanced to Derry with some 1200 men. He sent an advanced party across the river Foyle to enter and take the main gate and hold it until he brought up the bulk of his force.

Just at this moment thirteen young apprentices, most of whom appear, from their names, to have been of Scottish birth or descent, flew to the guard room, armed themselves, seized the keys of the city, rushed to the Ferry Gate, closed it in the face of the King’s officers, and let down the portcullis.

History of England’ by Lord Macaulay.

This was a setback for the Royal cause as it galvanised opposition amongst the Protestant population there to resist and await relief from England should (as was most likely) William succeed in his daring enterprise. As it turned out the city was not taken and despite much suffering held out until relieved the following Summer. It was a turning point in Irish History & indeed of British History as this act of defiance has imbued within the Protestant population of the North ever since a notion that loyalty to the Crown was conditional upon the Monarch being not a Catholic but one of their own.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

6 December 1921: The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland’ were signed between the British and Irish Delegations in London on this day.

The Treaty allowed for the setting up of a Provisional Government, which was to oversee the establishment of an Irish Free State (not a Republic!) within one year. The new State was to have jurisdiction over 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland. The other six were to remain part of the United Kingdom, effectively under the control of the unionists. Their State, called ‘Northern Ireland’, had already come into existence in May 1921. A Boundary Commission was to review the exact border between the two states. Nationalists were hopeful that those areas along the northern side of the Border, where the Catholics were in a majority, would be transferred to the Free State. The British were also to retain control of certain ports, the ‘Treaty Ports’ for reasons of strategic defence.



However, the main stumbling block towards the acceptance of the Treaty was the inclusion of an ‘Oath of Allegiance’ to the British Crown. This obliged all those deputies elected to the Free State Parliament to take an oath of fidelity to King George V and his successors, in recognition of his status as head of the British Commonwealth. The British felt that this was crucial to them accepting the existence of a separate Irish state, which would have the status of a Dominion within the British Empire.


These most controversial words read as follows:


I ... do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H. M. King George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.


There is no doubt that the majority of the people in the South did favour accepting the Treaty. It gave them most of what they wanted, basically peace and a large measure of independence. The Catholic Church, the large farmers, the newspapers and the business community were its strongest supporters. The Labour movement was also largely in favour of acceptance. It was incomprehensible to the many supporters of the Treaty as to why it should be rejected. They argued that to all intents and purposes it allowed most of Ireland to manage her own affairs.

To quite a significant minority though, especially amongst the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, the Treaty was unacceptable. The Irish had signed the agreement under the threat of the immediate renewal of war by the British, if the Irish delegates turned down its terms. It recognised Partition and worst of all the Oath would mean a rejection of the Irish Republic, which they had fought for and which many of their comrades had died for. The very idea of taking an oath to the British King George whose armed forces had so recently brought fear and terror to the Irish people, turned the stomachs of many. There was to be a Governor General who could prorogue the Free State Parliament if he thought it necessary. It was believed by the Treaty’s opponents that any parliament that was bound by these conditions would be very limited in its independence and in effect a vassal state within the British Empire.

However the Treaty did mean that most of Ireland would be part of a State where Irishmen would be in control of public affairs for the first time in centuries. The new State would have its own Army and police forces. The control of taxes, and of customs and excise would be in its hands. It had the right to maintain relations with other countries. For the first time, the majority of the Irish people would have the power to elect an Irish Government, which in effect if not quite in theory only they could remove.


The Articles were signed on behalf of the British by:

D. LLOYD GEORGE; AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN; BIRKENHEAD; WINSTON S. CHURCHILL; L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS; HAMAR GREENWOOD; GORDON HEWART.


And by the Irish:


ART Ó GRÍOBHTA (ARTHUR GRIFFITH); MICHEÁL Ó COILEÁIN; RIOBÁRD BARTÚN; EUDHMONN S. Ó DÚGÁIN; SEÓRSA GHABHÁIN UÍ DHUBHTHAIGH.







Monday, 4 December 2017


5 December 1975: Internment in the North was finally abandoned on this day. Internment without trial was imposed by the British on 9 August 1971. It was brought in to stop the IRA in its tracks but backfired from the start as it drove a substantial block of the Nationalist Community into pretty well open revolt. By 1975 the fact that hundreds of men were held behind barbed wire without trial in western Europe in what was seen internationally as part of the United Kingdom was an embarrassment to the British Government under the UK Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.


The CO of the British Army in Ulster, Lieutenant General Sir Frank King, was of the opinion that the special category status was objectionable from the point of view of security. He believed it was 'an aid to the recruitment of terrorists.' The British had announced earlier in the year that 'Special Category Status' would be ended by Christmas 1975 and in that they kept their word. However its replacement, the concept of treating captured members of the IRA etc. as ‘common criminals’ proved an even more disastrous policy and led eventually to the Hunger Strikes in the H Blocks in 1980 and 1981.

Almost 2,000 nationalists had been detained during the time Internment was in operation. The total number from the unionist community detained was just 107. Most were held at Long Kesh Camp [above] where conditions were very poor. Internment alienated even more people from the British Government and its policies than had existed prior to its introduction. It has been seen ever since as a Disaster for their ability to rule the North at that time.







4 December 1971: McGurk’s Bar in Belfast was blown up on this day. Fifteen innocent people were killed in the explosion and many more were injured. McGurk's family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast's main thoroughfares, five minute's walk away from the commercial hub of the City. The proprietor Paddy McGurk was a well known figure and the Vice President of the local GAA club, the Ardoyne Kickhams. His wife and daughter died that evening.

The original target of the Loyalist bombers was a pub called ‘the Gem’ which was frequented by members of a Republican organisation in competition with the Provisional IRA. The gang were under instructions to plant the device there in the hope that the inevitable casualties would lead to violent strife between these rivals. However the Gem was well guarded and the bombers decided that McGurk’s was an easier target.

Almost immediately in the aftermath of the attack a sinister campaign of disinformation was launched by sources within the Crown Forces that raised suspicions within the Nationalist Community that there was a hidden hand at work. The following day the journalist John Chartres writing in the London Times newspaper devoted a complete article to the debriefing of the British army. He recorded, without heeding any of the witness accounts:

Police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that Ulster's worst outrage, the killing of 15 people including two children and three women ...was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.

BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building. Other such reports in a similar vein followed that helped cast doubt in the public mind as to who was responsible and a plausible cover story was thus germinated that this was indeed an IRA ‘own goal’ that had gone disastrously wrong for the perpetrators.


Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until a U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, turned himself in and confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28 July 1977. He admitted that he drove the vehicle used to transport the bomb on that fateful night but the bombers themselves have never been brought to justice. Robert James Campbell was sentenced on the 6 September 1978. He was released on the 9th September 1993 afters serving fifteen years for the murders of fifteen people.


In July 2008, British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward apologised in a letter to Scottish MP Michael Connarty about the role the British Army played in the cover up of who was responsible for the massacre. Mr Connarty’s great uncle was killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar this night 46 years ago.



Sunday, 3 December 2017


3 December 1925: The Boundary Commission, set up under the Treaty to finalise the Border, was scrapped and a financial settlement was agreed between the British and Irish Governments instead covering various aspects of Anglo-Irish affairs. The Commission’s findings had been fatally undermined when the British Morning Post newspaper leaked its results. This clearly showed that only minor adjustments in the Border were to be expected.

It was in effect a Fiasco and a humiliation for the Irish Free State and for the hopes of the Irish People. Mr Cosgrave [above], President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. Cosgrave defended his successful negotiation of the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under Article 5 of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal.


That article stated that:

The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.


This would have been a heavy burden on the State that had not yet even started to make a contribution to the fund. While the British Government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not willing to budge on the Border been adjusted by any significant concession of territory to the Irish Free State it was prepared to concede on these repayments as a sop to the Irish to stave off political instability here.

In the Debate that followed in Leinster House Cosgrave defended his decision to do a deal that abrogated the State’s obligations to Britain’s Public Debt with the following words:

I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.

It was a classic case of Realpolitik as the Irish President was between a rock and a hard place and at least walked away from the negotiations with some thing tangible for his efforts - 1 Big 0.

He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.



Friday, 1 December 2017


2 December 1791: The death of Henry Flood MP on this day. Flood was one of the great advocates of the legislative independence of Ireland during the latter 18th Century. He was a great orator and a man of considerable intelligence and political acumen. He was however primarily concerned with establishing the political dominance of the Ascendancy Class and the maintenance of the Established Church of Ireland free from the interference of the English Parliament.

He was born in 1732, the illegitimate son of Warden Flood, the Anglo-Irish chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. Henry Flood entered the Irish Parliament in 1759 as a placeman of the Ponsonby family (the Earls of Bessborough). His outstanding oratorical powers soon enabled him to create an effective opposition inside the Irish Parliament that agitated for political reforms. They demanded that Irish parliamentary elections should take place every eight years instead of merely at the start of a new British monarch's reign. In 1768 Flood's patriots agitated sufficiently to persuade the Duke of Grafton's government to pass the Octennial Act; in 1769 and 1771 they defeated measures to grant funds for the British administration in Ireland. Their long-range goal was legislative independence.


Although Flood was the first independent Irish statesman, he lost his support in 1775 when he accepted the office of vice treasurer under the British viceroy, Lord Harcourt. Henry Grattan, an even greater orator than Flood, replaced him as leader of the patriots. Grattan described Flood as a man "with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket." In 1779 Flood rejoined his old party, and two years later he was dismissed from his government post. Although Flood had lost his following, he helped Grattan to force North's government to renounce its restrictions on Irish trade in 1779 and grant legislative independence to Ireland in 1782. Flood then decided to challenge Grattan's leadership.


Alleging that Grattan had not gone far enough in his reforms, Flood obtained passage of a measure requiring the English Parliament to renounce all claims to control of Irish legislation. Flood's newly acquired popularity was destroyed upon the defeat of his attempt to reform the Irish Parliament in 1784. From 1783 until his retirement in 1790 he was a member of both the British and the Irish parliaments, though in England he failed to achieve the kind of political successes that he achieved in Ireland. Flood opposed Catholic emancipation and the lifting of the Williamite Penal Laws.

In his will, he bequeathed his estate to fund the study of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin: this was challenged successfully by a cousin. Flood died on 2 December 1791 at Farmley, County Kilkenny. While considered nowadays to be a ‘Patriot’ his brand of patriotism was of a very limited nature of those it wished to encompass.



1 December 1956 - Ronnie Delany leads the field home in Melbourne


1 December 1956: Ronnie Delaney won Gold for Ireland at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne Australia. His triumph in the Antipodes was heard in Ireland at breakfast time that Saturday morning and was a great morale boost for people back home in the midst of Winter.

Delaney was already an accomplished runner and was one of the few people in the World to have mastered the Four Minute Mile. He trained hard to make it onto Ireland’s Olympic Team and only just made it. The race that gave him his Gold Medal was the 1500 metres held at the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Local runner John Landy  was the big favourite. Delany kept close to Landy until the final lap, when he started a crushing final sprint, winning the race in a new Olympic record. Delany thereby became the first Irishman to win an Olympic title in athletics since Bob Tisdall in 1932. The Irish people learned of its new champion at breakfast time. Delany would be Ireland's last Olympic champion for 36 years, until Michael Carruth won the gold medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Reflecting on his win all those years ago he recalled: "I had this decisiveness. Where did it come from? Well, it came from this quantity of training I had put in, the tutoring I got, the mentoring I got and from the heart. Overall it was built in there from hard work, dedication and desire.

"Tactically, I wanted to win and I raced to win. In the Olympic final, I ran the perfect race."
http://www.rte.ie/sport/athletics/2016/1201/835885-ronnie-delany/

In 2006, Delany was granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin and was also conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by University College Dublin in the same year.




Thursday, 30 November 2017



Image result for patrick kavanaghImage result for patrick kavanagh

30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh Poet, Author and Playwright died on this day. He was born  in Inniskeen County Monaghan. It would become the inspiration for much of his work and would ultimately become his final resting place.

He was born on 21 October 1904 & most of the first 35 years of his life were spent in the parish of Inniskeen and the countryside of County Monaghan. Kavanagh’s formal education ended after national school and he became an apprentice shoemaker to his father for a while. Kavanagh worked on the small family farm for twenty years and while there had his first work published. He was not a ‘natural’ at farming and his mind wandered over to what his lot was in this life. Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published in 1936. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life. The Green Fool, a loosely autobiographical novel, was published in 1938.

In 1939, after a short time in London, Patrick Kavanagh joined his brother Peter in Dublin. The city would become his home until his death in 1967. Kavanagh claimed to feeling like an exile in Dublin where for many years he struggled to make a living as a writer. Yet Kavanagh became a ‘Dublin character’ and the city had an important influence on his poetry. He was not impressed with the Dublin literary scene and thought a lot of what was spoken ‘drivel’. But his heart took to the Baggot St area of Dublin and he made it his ‘village’ where was known to everyone and they knew him.

"he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left. He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication. To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art. His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming".

John Nemo Patrick Kavanagh 1979

In 1942 he published his long poem The Great Hunger, which describes the privations and hardship of the rural life he knew well. Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. His life drifted downwards though and he became a dishelvled figure along the banks of the Grand Canal and in the local pubs. In 1955 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. It was while recovering from this that he rediscovered his poetic vision. He recalled: "As a poet I was born in or about 1955, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal". This proved a turning point and Kavanagh began receiving the acclaim that he had always felt he deserved. Between 1959 and 1962 Kavanagh spent more time in London, He gave lectures at UCD and in the United States he represented Ireland at literary symposiums, and became a judge of the Guinness Poetry Awards.

Kavanagh married his long-term companion Katherine Barry Moloney in April 1967 and they set up home together on the Waterloo Road in Dublin. Kavanagh fell ill at the first performance of Tarry Flynn. He died from an attack of bronchitis on 30 November 1967. He was buried in his native Inniskeen.

For most of his Life he had struggled with poverty both Material and of the Soul and with rejection by literary society and the wider world. It was only in the last two decades of his career that he really began to gain traction and recognition as one of Ireland’s finest poets of the 20th century.

There is a statue of Kavanagh beside Dublin's Grand Canal inspired by his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin":

O commemorate me where there is water
canal water preferably, so stilly
greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
commemorate me thus beautifully.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kavanagh#Writing_career

Painting by Robert Ballagh





Wednesday, 29 November 2017


29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that a relief force from Dublin was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill.

He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. The Irish troops actually engaged though were under the tactical command of one Colonel Plunkett on the day apparently. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Viscount Gormanstown that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into what was in effect an ambush. The Irish waited until the moment was ripe and then they uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless enemy cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came. 


...the rebels forces who now furiously approached with a great shout and a lieutenant giving out the unhappy word of counter march all the men possessed as it were of a panic fear began somewhat confusedly to march back; but they were so much amazed with a second shout given by the rebels, who, seeing them in disorder followed close on, as not withstanding that they had gotten into a ground of great advantage, they could not be persuaded to stand a charge, but betook themselves to their heels, and so the rebels fell sharply on, as their manner is, upon the execution.

Bellings in Gilbert’s Irish Confederation


Prisoners were taken but according to Temple the attackers ‘spared very few or none that fell into their hands, but such as were Irish whose lives they preserved’

Sir John Temple The Irish Rebellion (London, 1646)



The commander of the Royalist force was Sir Patrick Wemyss, Scottish born but his mother was related to the Earls of Desmond. He was Captain-Lieutenant in the Army of King Charles I and was a close associate of the Earl of Ormond. He has left us the only known eye witness account of the battle. He wrote to Ormond on the following day:




I will now tell you of our misfortune. We lodged last night at Balrederie (Balrothery,), as my officers could not make the men march to Drogheda. We were informed that the enemy were upon us, but they did not fall on us. Next day on the march, we sent out scouts and saw a few rebels, but after crossing the Julanstowne bridge, I saw them advancing towards us in as good order as ever I saw any men. I viewed them all, and to my conjecture they were not less than 3,000 men....

I drew up the troops on their front, and told the captains that we were engaged in honour to charge them, and that I would charge them first with those horse I had. They promised faithfully to second me. But when I made the trumpet sound, the rebels advanced towards us in five great bodies of foot; the horse, being on both wings, a little advance before the foot; but just as I was going to charge, the troop cried unto me and told me the foot had left their officers, thrown down their arms, and took themselves to running. It was useless to fight, so I withdrew as best I could and escaped with a loyal remnant to Drogheda.

Two of my troop whose horses went lame were left behind. I hear however that they are safe, except for their clothes, which were taken from them, not by the rebels, but by natives as they passed through the village. All our arms and ammunition are in the rebel's hands. We can get no food here for man or horse.
Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1641

The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Catholic Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants. This was a real catalyst in the history of Ireland as it was the first time that the people descended from the English colonisers of the 12/13th centuries had come together in a common cause with the native Gaelic Irish.





Tuesday, 28 November 2017


28 November 1920: The Kilmichael Ambush on this day. Commandant Tom Barry, of the West Cork No. 3 Brigade Column led the IRA in an ambush on the Auxiliaries near the village of Kilmichael in Co Cork. It was a pre planned operation which Barry organised with the intention of inflicting maximum casualties on the Auxiliaries who had quickly acquired a notorious reputation on their deployment here. The targets were packed into two Crossley tenders, each with nine cadets of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC on board - all ex officers - who were travelling from their base in Macroom towards Dunmanway when they were ambushed about one and a half miles south of the village of Kilmichael.


After the Column had waited since dawn in the biting cold the Auxiliary unit was spotted approaching the ambush position just after 4 pm. Barry in a uniform stood in the road as the enemy column approached to slow it down and when the lead vehicle halted a mills grenade was lobbed at it to open the ambush. Then the IRA men opened a ferocious fusillade of rifle fire and swept both vehicles end to end. The first tenders’ occupants were all dealt with and left either dead or dying. However the second one had time to react and its members were able to gain cover and return sustained fire. Some of the Auxiliaries called out ‘We surrender’ but when men rose to take them in they were cut down. Barry had by this time worked his way around to the rear of the pinned down group and let them have it. He shouted orders that there was to be no let up until he gave the word. No prisoners were taken. Amazingly only about half the Column had actually fired upon the British as the fight was over in minutes with many of the men out of the line of fire before Barry called a halt.


With dusk falling he reassembled his party and as some of the men were a bit shook up he decided to jerk them back into a proper frame of mind so as to be able to face the rigours ahead on that night. After giving orders to fire both the tenders he drilled them on the road there and then by the light of the burning vehicles. He then led his victorious column away to safety. 16 of the Auxiliaries lay dead on the roadside and although the IRA lost three men killed in action the Auxiliaries power had been broken.

The Kilmichael Ambush was a propaganda coup for the IRA. Never again would the Auxiliaries prowl the country roads of Ireland with impunity. As far as they were concerned in a fair fight they had been shown not to be supermen but mere mortals who when taken unawares and in close combat were found wanting.



The names of the men who died for Ireland that day were:



Roll of Honour:



Michael McCarthy



Jim O’Sullivan



Pat Deasy




Image result for anna haslam


28 November 1922: Anna Haslam Irish campaigner for Women's Rights died on this day. Anna was born in Youghal, the 16th of 17 children of Jane and Abraham Fisher. The Fishers, Quaker merchants with extensive business interests in Youghal, were noted for charitable works, particularly during the Great Famine.

She was one the earliest campaigners for the Rights of Women in this Country. She was born Anna Maria Fisher in Youghal , Co Cork in 1829 into a family of Quakers. She met her  husband Thomas Haslam when as a young adult she was teaching in Yorkshire, England. Thomas was also interested in political & social reform and hailed from Mountmellick, Co Laois. Anna and Thomas Haslam [above] married on 20 March 1854 in the Cork Registry Office. They had no children, perhaps by choice.

Anna and Thomas Haslam were founding members of the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association (DWSA) in 1876. Though they were not practising Quakers they retained a deep commitment to the pursuit of political reform by exclusively peaceful methods. They engaged in a campaign of drawing room meetings from their Dublin home in Rathmines road and continous letter writing to those public figures they believed could help to bring about votes for women and an improvement of their Status within Society. Anna could write up to 20 letters a day without difficulty. They also went to feminist meetings both in Ireland and England to lend support to like minded activists.

Success though was limited but not altogether without results as very slowly support grew for the concept that women should be allowed some say in the running of Public Affairs. The big breakthrough came with the Local Government Act 1898 which allowed women of property to sit on local councils. In 1903 she travelled to Holborn, London to attend a major conference on Women’s Rights. However by the early years of the century a more militant type of feminism was emerging and more violent and sensationalist method were espoused.

The  Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL), a more militant organisation was formed in 1908. One of its founders Margaret Cousins recalled:

So a group of us went on November 6th to the dear old leader of the constitutional suffragetttes. Mrs Anna Haslam, to inform her that we younger women were ready to start a new women’s suffrage society on militant lines. She regretted what she felt  to be a duplication of effort’
Ireland’s Suffragettes by Sarah Beth Watkins

Hannah was getting on in years by then and younger more militant women were taking the reins from her. Her beloved husband died in 1917 and the political upheavals at home left her perplexed and confused as she saw Ireland’s future as best served by staying within the UK.
She died in November 1922 as the State was plunged into Civil War - her death un-noticed except by the faithful few. Today though her life and work along with that of her husband are commemorated by a stone seat in St Stephen’s Green Dublin.

Monday, 27 November 2017


27 November 789 AD: Saint Vergilius (Fergal) the Irish missionary and astronomer died at Salzburg, Austria on this day. He was said to have been a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. His original Christian name was Fergal. In the "Annals of the Four Masters" and the "Annals of Ulster" he is mentioned as Abbot of Aghaboe, in County Laois. He left Ireland, intending to visit the Holy land, but he made it no further than Paris where Pepin, then mayor of the Palace under Childeric III, received him with great favour. After spending two years at Cressy, near Compiegne, he went to Bavaria, at the invitation of Duke Otilo, and within a year or two was made Abbot of St. Peter's at Salzburg. Out of humility, he "concealed his orders", and had a bishop named Dobdagrecus, a fellow countryman, appointed to perform his episcopal functions for him.

It was while Abbot of St. Peter's that he came into collision with St. Boniface. A priest having, through ignorance, conferred the Sacrament of Baptism using, in place of the correct formula, the words Baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritu sancta. Vergilius held that the sacrament had been validly conferred. Boniface complained to Pope Zachary. The latter, however, decided in favour of Vergilius.

Later on, St. Boniface accused Vergilius of teaching a doctrine in regard to the rotundity of the earth, which was: "Contrary to the Scriptures". Pope Zachary's decision in this case was that "if it be proved that he held the said doctrine, a council be held, and Vergilius expelled from the Church and deprived of his priestly dignity"

Unfortunately we no longer possess the treatise in which Vergilius expounded his doctrine. Two things, however, are certain: first, that there was involved the problem of original sin and the universality of redemption; secondly, that Vergilius succeeded in freeing himself from the charge of teaching a doctrine contrary to Scripture. It is likely that Boniface misunderstood him, taking it for granted, perhaps, that if there are antipodes*, the "other race of men" are not descendants of Adam and were not redeemed by Christ. Vergilius, no doubt, had little difficulty in showing that his doctrine did not involve consequences of that kind.


After the martyrdom of St. Boniface, Vergilius was made Bishop of Salzburg (766 or 767) and laboured successfully for the up building of his diocese as well as for the spread of the Faith in neighbouring heathen countries, especially in Carinthia.. In 1233 he was canonized by Gregory IX. His doctrine that the Earth is a sphere was derived from the teaching of ancient geographers, and his belief in the existence of the antipodes was probably influenced by the accounts, which the ancient Irish voyagers gave of their journeys.


* The antipodes of any place on the Earth is the point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points that are antipodal to each other are connected by a straight line running through the centre of the Earth


Sunday, 26 November 2017


26 November 1972: Dramatic and bloody events occurred in the City of Dublin on this day: A Bombing was carried out on a crowded City Centre cinema. There was also the arrest and imprisonment for contempt of Court of one Kevin O’Kelly, a well known RTE journalist, plus an unsuccessful attempt by the IRA to rescue one of their top men, Seán Mac Stiofáin [above], from the Mater Hospital in the north inner City.



At 1.25 a.m. a bomb exploded in a laneway connecting Burgh Quay to Leinster Market. It was placed beside the rear exit door of the Film Centre cinema, O’Connell Bridge House. A late film was in progress: there were 3 staff and approximately 156 patrons in the cinema at the time of the explosion. No one was killed in the blast, but some 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment. It is believed that agent provocateurs sent over from Britain were responsible for this attack.


The events leading to O’Kelly and Mac Stiofáin’s arrests had begun on Sunday 19 November when RTE Radio broadcast a report based on an interview by Kevin O'Kelly with the IRA Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stiofáin. The leading Republican figure had been apprehended soon afterwards and brought before the Courts. O'Kelly was found guilty of contempt of Court when, during the conduct of the trial of Mac Stiofáin, he refused to identify the defendant as the subject of that interview.


The IRA Leader had embarked upon a Hunger Strike soon after he was arrested. He was convicted of being ‘a member of an unlawful organisation’ and as his condition was deteriorating he was sent to the Mater Hospital where he was to be placed under observation. That Sunday afternoon a crowd of about seven thousand people had gathered outside the GPO and marched to the hospital to demand his release. Later that night a rescue party of eight IRA men, two disguised as Priests and the others as Hospital Doctors tried to free Mac Stiofáin but were themselves captured. Two of the men had guns, and shots were exchanged with Special Branch detectives, resulting in minor injuries to a detective, two civilians and one of the raiders.

The Prisoner was then transferred by helicopter to the Curragh General Military Hospital to serve the rest of his six month sentence - while his erstwhile rescuers were each sent down for seven years for their audacity when they in turn faced the Courts.


Saturday, 25 November 2017


25 November 1913: The foundation of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda, Dublin on this day. The aim of the new organisation was to counter the Ulster Volunteers in providing a similar force for Irish nationalists in the event of an armed confrontation over Home Rule. The first President was Eoin MacNeill but it drew support from a wide spectrum of Irish nationalist opinion.

The idea arose from an article he wrote some weeks previously in An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light], an Irish language newspaper. His proposal was called ‘The North began’. In it MacNeill put forward the idea that a Force be established that would counter the formation of the UVF in the North. He intended to ensure that Irish Nationalism was not left unarmed and vulnerable as the political situation developed. It estimated that some 7,000 people went to the Rotunda’s Large Concert hall that night, with some 4,000 inside and another 3,000 outside. The meeting was called with the specific intention of raising a National Volunteer Force to be called ‘The Irish Volunteers’. In the Notices issued around Dublin in advance of the meeting it was stated that:

The purpose of the Irish Volunteers will be to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.

The new organisation quickly mushroomed and by April 1914 it was estimated to have around 80,000 members and by July that year some 160,000 men had signed up but only a few thousands had any weapons with which to fight. Nevertheless such a formidable body of public opinion could not be easily ignored by the British Government and all the indicators were that a bloody clash of arms was imminent in the late summer of 1914 between the Nationalist and Unionist armed camps over the thorny issue of Partition.

Only the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 precluded what otherwise would have been a Civil War here. The Irish Volunteers then split on the question of involvement in the Conflict with most though by no means all following John Redmond’s call for enlistment in the British Army while a core membership remained under MacNeill’s nominal control.



Friday, 24 November 2017


24 November 1865: The dramatic rescue of James Stephens of the IRB from the Richmond Prison [above], Dublin on this day. The Fenian Leader was rescued from Richmond Prison in Dublin after only a few weeks captivity. He had been held only a few weeks when his escape was organised from without and within the prison itself. Inside the Richmond were John J. Breslin who was a hospital warder and a Daniel Byrne, an ordinary warder. The two men were sworn members of the I.R.B. and willing to help. On the outside the acting leader of the Organisation was Colonel Thomas Kelly and he helped put together a support team from within the Fenians to ensure that once on the outside Stephens remained free. At great risk Breslin managed to take wax impressions of the two keys he needed, one for Stephens cell, which was held in the Governors office and another for one of the outer doors. On the night of the actual rescue everything went according to plan. Only one other prisoner (a common criminal) was incarcerated on the same wing as Stephens and he wisely kept his mouth shut.

Once outside Stephens was ushered away to a safe house in the Summerhill area of the City where he remained for a number of months. The British put a price of £1,000 on his head but even this amount did not yield any informer willing to betray him. He eventually he made his way to Paris where he lived for many years and after a brief stay in Switzerland he returned home in 1891 and was left undisturbed by the Castle. He died in 1901.

It is curious to note that his escape from incarceration was an event that many Irish People at the time erroneously believed to have been acquiesced in by the British Government of the day. It was certainly an easy triumph for Irish Republicans that hugely embarrassed the occupying power.

The locale of Richmond Prison later became Wellington Barracks and after Independence was known as Griffith Barracks. Today the site is occupied by Griffith College on the South Circular Rd, Dublin.


Thursday, 23 November 2017


23 November 1867: Execution of the Manchester Martyrs William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien. They were publicly hanged for their alleged role in the rescue of Fenian prisoners in which a Constable Brett was fatally wounded. Although neither Larkin, Allen and O’Brien had fired the fatal shot nor had they had any intention to kill anybody, they were hanged as accessories to the death of the policeman.


The martyrs were hanged in front of the New Bailey prison in Salford, Manchester. Part of the wall was removed so that the public could witness the event. The morning of their execution was a cold and foggy one. Large crowds, marshalled by police and troops had assembled to witness the spectacle. Shortly after 8 O’Clock the men were led out and hanged, the bodies dropping out of sight into the pit below and out of sight of the onlookers.


They were buried in quicklime in Strangeways Prison. Today they rest in a mass grave in Blackley Cemetery, Plot number C.2711. Manchester. Their noble stand in the dock and on the gallows inspired T. D. Sullivan to pen the famous ballad ‘God save Ireland’.


When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral processions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O'Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Co Offaly.

It was widely felt amongst the Irish both at home and abroad that these men were wrongly hanged as it was not their intention to kill and nor had they. The brave and courageous stand they took in the Dock and upon the Gallows inspired Irish People around the World and helped to restore morale in the wake of the abortive Rising of 1867.

Ironically the first prisoner to utter these immortal words was one O'Meagher Condon who had his death sentence commuted to Life Imprisonment while another man Thomas Maguire was released from captivity as the case against him was so poor even the English Media felt he should be set free.
Numerous monuments were erected to the Martyrs in the wake of their deaths across Ireland incl. a symbolic grave to these brave men in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The famous song, which their sacrifice gave birth to, opens with the lines:



High upon the gallows tree, swung the noble-hearted three,
By the vengeful tyrant, stricken in their bloom.
But they met him face to face with the courage of their race,
And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.


"God save Ireland," said the heroes.
"God save Ireland," said them all.
"Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,
No matter when, for Ireland dear we fall!"



 


Tuesday, 21 November 2017


22 November 1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas on this day. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President and he was the youngest to die. He was hardly past his first thousand days in office. His great grandparents hailed from Co Wexford and had fled Ireland in the 1840s to Boston, Massachusetts.


His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."



His untimely and brutal death triggered a wave of shock and grief throughout Ireland that very night as word rapidly spread across the airwaves and by word of mouth that the President had succumbed to his wounds. He had visited this Country only a few months previously and had been met with a huge and ecstatic welcome. His election as President in 1960 was a source of great pride to the Irish People and of some advantage to the Country in its International relations.

When the news broke at home that fateful Friday evening  people could hardly believe it. The first reports indicated he had been wounded and that he had been rushed to hospital in Dallas. Then came the terrible confirmation of his death.

It was Telefís Éireann broadcaster Charles Mitchel who was given the grim task of breaking the news that Ireland's favourite son was dead.

At 7.05pm on November 22, 1963, the nation was stunned into silence when the station broke into a sports programme to report that President Kennedy had been the victim of a shooting.


"We have just heard that an attempt has been made on President Kennedy's life in Dallas, Texas," the veteran newsreader said. "First reports say that he has been badly wounded."

Just 20 minutes later a visibly moved Mitchel came back on air to announce: "President Kennedy has been shot dead by an assassin in Dallas, Texas."

People simply didn't believe the news, and there were numerous calls to the station seeking confirmation.
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/how-broadcasters-reported-the-shocking-killing-of-a-president-29758453.html