August 2015

History Selection

Countess Markievicz
Countess Markievicz
Kathleen Clarke
Kathleen Clarke
Mary MacSwiney
Mary MacSwiney
Margaret Pearse
Margaret Pearse
Caitlín Brugha
Caitlín Brugha
Helena Concannon
Helena Concannon


Ireland in 1952


January 9th: Peig Sayers travelled to Dublin for the first time, at the age of 81.

January 10th: An Aer Lingus Douglas DC-3, the St Kevin, crashed in Wales, killing twenty passengers and three crew.

February 25th: Birth of Joey Dunlop, motorbike racer.

March 18th: Birth of Pat Eddery, jockey.

Peig Sayers

Peig Sayers

Dublin, birthplace of Dermot Morgan

Dublin, birthplace of Dermot Morgan

March 31st: Birth of Dermot Morgan, actor.

April 4th: Birth of Gary Moore, guitarist.

April 13th: Birth of Jonjo O'Neill,jockey.

April 30th: The Adoption Bill made provision for the adoptions of orphans and illegitimate children.

May 11th: The House Foreign affairs Committee in Washington explained that Ireland had been excluded from Marshall Aid because of its wartime neutrality.

May 16th: Birth of Pierce Brosnan, actor, in Co. Meath.

May 30th: The Ministry of Education announced longer summer holidays for national school children.

Drogheda, birthplace of Pierce Brosnan

Drogheda, birthplace of Pierce Brosnan

Ballymena, birthplace of Liam Neeson

Ballymena, birthplace of Liam Neeson

June 7th: Birth of Liam Neeson, actor.

July 3rd: Bord Fáilte founded.

August: A statement by the Irish Workers' Party condemned the 'canned dope in the form of "popular" modern music'.

August 6th: Early sighting of a yellow-browed warbler at Great Saltee, Wexford.

August 30th: Death of Myles Keogh, politician, physician and surgeon.

September: Discussions continued on the Eden Plan. Gerard Boland declared that the Irish people would 'resist all forces that tried to "denationalise" them'.

Country children in Co. Wexford, 1950s

Country children in Co. Wexford, 1950s

Drimnagh, birthplace of Eamonn Coghlan

Drimnagh, birthplace of Eamonn Coghlan

October 12th: Final replay of All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final between Cavan and Meath, with Cavan winning.

November 21st: Birth of athlete and senator Eamonn Coghlan.

December 9th: Irish Management Institute held its inaugural meeting.



Images from Belfast during the Blitz



Clearing rubble after a raid
Belfast during the Blitz
Belfast during the Blitz
Book Review

Resurrection Man

Author:     Eoin McNamee

Publisher:    Faber and Faber

Date published: 1994

Resurrection Man

Written in a poetic, sometimes disconcerting style, Resurrection Man plays on themes of loss, death, misery and father/son tensions in a grey Belfast caught in the grip of the Troubles. Victor Kelly, the story's anti-hero, is a violent psychopath who believes that random murders of civilians will strength the cause of loyalism. Through intimidation and cruelty, he imagines himself bringing a welcome sense of order to his own community. His comrades in slaughter are equally deluded and self-glorifying. Victor's mother has absolute faith in her son's innocence, but why is he so easily able to escape justice? As this fictional echo of the Shankill Butchers goes about his grisly work, another man with equal ruthlessness and greater cunning has set up a house where members of the establishment go to compromise themselves. Journalist Ryan, his own life cramped with misery, finds his superiors are uninterested in the realities as Belfast staggers from one bloody day to the next.



Extracts from

A History of Ireland and Her People

Eleanor Hull

Published in 1931

Sketch of destitution during the Famine

The condition of the country was such as to alarm the most optimistic mind. The Irish Poor Law enquiry of 1837 had witnessed to "the painful certainty that there is in all parts of Ireland much and deep-seated distress." The lack of industries threw the large majority of the population on the land for support but with wages averaging about 8 1/2d. a day or, for all the year round, 2s. or 2s. 6d. a week, it was impossible to support a decent existence or to attempt to save for sickness or old age. In bad harvests there was no choice but to starve, for the people had no money in their hands and no means of livelihood to turn to. During thirty weeks of each year, it was computed that not less than 585,000 labourers, not reckoning their families, were out of work, for the planting and cultivation of potatoes in no way filled a man's time and there was nothing else to do. The Government attempt to introduce the workhouse system into Ireland, though undoubtedly it proved a palliative during the famine years, was disliked even more in Ireland than in England and was denounced especially by O'Connell. The Report says that "the able-bodied out-of-works would endure any misery rather than live in a workhouse," and adds that "we see the labouring class eager for work." The Commissioners recommended State-aided emigration, drainage, the destruction of unwholesome cabins, and improvements on the farms, with the founding of agricultural schools, all which expedients were resorted to on a large scale during the famine with both good and evil results. One direct benefit from the establishment of the Poor Law, which was laid on the landlords for part payment, was an increased interest shown by them in the condition of their estates. It was better for them to keep their tenants in decency than that they should go on the rates and have to be maintained largely out of the landlords' pockets. In many cases they pulled down the insanitary cabins and assisted the cottiers to emigrate, introducing a better system on their properties. The one thousand properties held under the Courts of Chancery and Exchequer were noted for neglect, no attempt to improve them ever being made. The severity of the famine was the direct result of the mismanagement of the estates.

Famines were becoming chronic, but those of the years 1846-47 were the worst ever experienced. The potato disease passed over westwards from the Continent and was felt in a lesser degree in parts of England and Scotland. It spread with appalling rapidity. In one week in August the apparently abundant crop was stricken. Captain Mann of Clare writes: "In July, I had passed over thirty-two miles thickly studded with potato-fields in full bloom. The next time the face of the whole country was changed; the stalk remained a bright green but the leaves were all scorched black. It was the work of a night. Distress and fear were pictured on every countenance, and there was a general rush to dig or sell." The accounts by eye-witnesses of the horrors of the famine are too terrible to repeat. "It is as if a destroying angel had swept over the country," exclaimed a Member in the House of Commons; "the whole population struck down; the air a pestilence; the fields a solitude; the chapel deserted; the priest and the pauper famishing together; no inquest, no rites, no record even of the dead:...death, desolation, despair, reigning through the land." Before such a calamity the ordinary methods of relief were helpless. In similar extremities the usual trade regulations had been occasionally suspended and special means taken to preserve the food grown in the country for the famishing inhabitants.

The wheat crop in Ireland was hardly up to the average, and the barley and oats were deficient; yet it is undoubted that if the corn had been kept in the country a multitude of lives might have been saved. The English Parliament was at the moment immersed in the struggle for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and Peel was driven from power to make room for the party of Lord John Russell just when what Russell truly described as a thirteenth century famine in a nineteenth century population was at its height. The case of Ireland was used in debate as an example of the necessity of a free ingress of corn; but in this instance the prevention of corn leaving the country would have been a more effective means of preserving life. But a host of objections from merchants and ship-owners put a stop to all hope of such direct measures of relief and the removal of impediments to import took their place. For the moment this made the provision of outside supplies cheaper and easier, but its permanent effect was to encourage competition which brought down prices and ruined Ireland as a corn-producing country with a sure market close at hand. It encouraged the tendency to turn arable land into pasture, producing cattle for meat instead of wheat and barley.

This was one main cause of the wholesale evictions for which the famine years furnished a plausible excuse, the reversion to pasture requiring fewer labourers and bringing milling and its kindred trades to an end. The repeal of the Corn Laws was largely responsible for the very slow recovery of the country after the famine years. Conditions were changed; labour was not wanted; and though the population had been reduced through death and emigration by nearly two million persons between the census of 1841 and 1851, there were still too many inhabitants for the means of livelihood.

The tide of emigration, once set in, has never come to an end. The population, which numbered in 1841 some 8,196,597 persons had been reduced, by the time the census was taken in 1911, to 4,390,219, hardly more than half the number. The 1926 Census gives 4,229,124 as the total population, the decrease being entirely in the Free State. Though Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws was an indirect cause of this great decrease, at the moment of carrying the measure he relied on it to bring corn into the harbours of Ireland to relieve distress. The slow methods of Parliamentary debate were, however, not suited to such an emergency; on the heels of the famine typhus and dysentery were treading and immediate aid was called for; even from the consideration of self-preservation succour was needed, for the people were pouring over to Lancashire, Lanarkshire, and other places to seek work, bringing with them the seeds of pestilence and death. The emigrant vessels to the United States were becoming plague-ships, in which the victims, closely packed and already weakened by hunger, succumbed long before they reached the shores of the New World. The efforts to meet the emergency, inadequate as they proved to be, were on a liberal scale. Private charity found its way to the sufferers through thousands of channels, "of the aggregate result of which no estimate can be formed." England, the States, and Ireland itself formed innumerable associations for relief, and did voluntary work for the suffering which has perhaps only been equalled in the recent Great War. The Government suspended the duties on foreign corn, ordered Indian meal from the United States to the amount of £100,000, and established all over the country depots for its distribution on a large scale. But the lack of money to purchase food among the sufferers showed the necessity for other measures; and public works were set on foot which employed at one time as many as 97,000 persons.

Unfortunately, like most hurried or panic legislation, these extensive relief works were planned on no system of permanent benefit to the country. It was made a stipulation that no private landowner should benefit by them, a rule which excluded reclamation, drainage, and many other much-needed plans for the permanent advantage of the country. The £50,000 voted by Parliament, which was to be supplemented on the spot, was mostly wasted in entirely unproductive labour. The Knight of Glyn found large numbers of people engaged in filling up the cutting in a hill with the stuff they had taken out of it. Thousands were set to dig up good macadamized coach-roads with spades and turf-cutters.

An army of twelve thousand overseers superintended these useless works, absorbing a large proportion of the relief money into their own pockets. The fisheries were deserted, the fields untilled, shoes and boots went without mending, because from all over the country men crowded in to get "the Queen's pay." Universal demoralization set in. The landlords, already sore beset with the increased poor rates and cess, were none too well off, as was later to be proved by their efforts to sell their properties under the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849. Lord Clarendon wrote to Peel when the Bill was mooted: "The condition of the landlords generally is deplorable. As a body they are insolvent. Many of them lack the first necessaries of life." In these circumstances it is not altogether surprising that many of them took little interest in relief works which were quite useless to the country or themselves, or that the labourers did the smallest amount of work compatible with drawing the wages given. The average number employed was in October 1846 some 114,000 persons, but early in the following year it had risen to 570,000; more than two million persons altogether were employed on relief works. The old, the young, and the disabled died; their corpses lay along the roads or were cast into hasty pits without coffins. Those who had saved money and could afford the passage fled to America or took low-grade employment in London, Manchester, and Glasgow, or other towns. The emigration returns show an increase of from 28,000 in 1840 to 105,955 in 1846. It was the best and most thrifty of the young people who emigrated to the States and Canada, many of them respectable agriculturalists and artisans whose loss to the country was a severe one.

The landlords in many cases took full advantage of the inability of their people to pay their rents to eject them in large numbers and to burn down their cabins. The obligation to become responsible for the support or part-support of the famine-stricken of their own townlands led to a general adoption by needy proprietors of this cheap but heartless method of relieving themselves of their responsibilities; and the clause introduced into the Poor Law Act of 1847 which forbade relief to all who occupied more than a quarter of an acre of land, though intended to limit relief to the most necessitous, had the effect of inducing large numbers of distressed people to give up their holdings in order to claim relief. Admission to a workhouse was only allowed to those who held no land. The universal impoverishment caused by this clause, coming to reinforce the temptation which the Corn Law Repeal gave to owners to turn their properties into pasture and get rid of their tenants greatly changed the face of the country. A Tipperary priest in 1852 wrote: "Two-thirds of my congregation have departed to the workhouse or gone to America. I was, God help me, very proud of my flock seven or eight years ago...I used to point to them as the decentest and best conducted people in the country. My chapel always overflowed. There is hardly a third of it occupied at present...There is squalor and rags, tottering old age and no children." The people were "clad like beggars, housed like beggars, and fed like beggars."