February 2016

History Selection

Nuala O'Faolain, journalist
Nuala O'Faolain
Nuala Ní Chonchúir, writer
Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Anna Maria Hall, novelist
Anna Maria Hall
Kate O'Brien, novelist
Kate O'Brien
Julia Kavanagh, writer
Julia Kavanagh
Dervla Murphy, cyclist and writer
Dervla Murphy
Travel writer

Ireland in 1987

January 2nd: Death of Roger McHugh, a professor, author and playwright.

January 20th: Labour Party ministers resigned from the government over a disagreement over budget proposals.

February 12th: A Unionist Petition with 400,000 signatures was delivered to Buckingham Palace to protest the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

February 19th: A Fianna Fáil minority government took power, with Charles Haughey as Taoiseach.

March 11th: Garret Fitzgerald, a former Taoiseach, resigned the leadership of Fine Gael, to be succeeded by Alan Dukes.

Fine Gael election leaflet from 1987

Fine Gael election leaflet from 1987

Jim Molyneux pictured in 1987

Jim Molyneux pictured in 1987

March 22nd: The Irish National Lottery was launched.

March 28th: The National Lottery brought out its first scratch cards.

April 8th: Death of Kevin McNamara, Archbishop of Dublin.

April 10th: Unionists, including eleven MPs, held an illegal march in Belfast to protest a new Public Order legislation.

April 25th: The IRA killed a senior judge and his wife at Killeen.

May 8th: The SAS killed eight members of the IRA at an ambush in Loughgall, Co. Tyrone.

May 9th: Johnny Logan won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland with Hold Me Now.

May 26th: Voters went to the poll in the referendum on the Single European Act. Nearly 70% voted in favour of the 10th amendment to the constitution.

June 11th: UK General Election saw the SDLP vote increase, while the overall Unionist vote fell.

June 22nd: Death of John Hewitt, poet.

Johnny Logan at Eurovision

Johnny Logan at Eurovision

Stephen Roche

Stephen Roche

July 3rd: Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand became the first people to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon, first touching down in Northern Ireland.

July 26th: Irishman Stephen Roche won the Tour de France.

August 12th: Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP, turned down a plan to talk to the four main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland.

August 26th: The IRA shot dead two RUC officers in a bar.

September 6th: Stephen Roche completed a treble by winning the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the World Championship.

September 16th: The Northern Ireland Office issued guidelines for fair employment.

October 3rd: Dr John Alderdice was elected as leader of the Alliance party.

October 18th: Death of Michael Lipper, Irish Labour Party politician.

November 1st: The Eksund was searched off the French coast and found to be carrying 150 tons of arms for the IRA, coming from Libya.

November 5th: Death of television and radio presenter Eamonn Andrews.

The Eksund

The Eksund

Aftermath of the Enniskillen bombing

Aftermath of the Enniskillen bombing

November 8th: Eleven civilians were killed by an IRA bomb during a Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen.

November 11th: The Republic of Ireland qualified for their first major international soccer tournament.

November 25th: Death of James McDyer, priest and community leader.

December 5th: The Downpatrick & Ardglass Railway began public operation.

December 22nd: Leading UDA member John McMichael was killed in a car bomb attack.

Old Images of Newry

Trevor Hill in Newry

Trevor Hill

The Low Ground in Newry

The Low Ground

Book Review

The Scorching Wind

Author:     Walter Macken

Publisher:    Macmillan

Date published: 1964

The Scorching Wind

In 1915, Ireland stood on the brink of major political changes. Macken brings us into the world of Dualta and Dominic, sons of a well-to-do family. Despite their father's nationalist sympathies, Dualta volunteers to fight for Britain in the Great War. His brother Dominic has no interest in politics; his focus is on struggling through with his medical studies. Yet events will draw both into the unfolding violence. At first, Dualta is the stronger of the pair; wounded in the war, he becomes an IRA commander. Dominic would have preferred to remain neutral, but his apathy is shattered when Black and Tans raid the family home. Toughened by internment and combat, almost burnt out by exhaustion, Dominic emerges as a hard, uncompromising republican. When Civil War breaks out and he finds himself on the opposite side to Dualta and his good friend Poric, who both support the Free State. Inevitably, only tragedy lies ahead.

Extract from The Story of Ireland

Published in 1896

The Hon. Emily Lawless

Emily Lawless


It was not long delayed. The Society of United Irishmen had now grown to be little more than a mere nest of Jacobinism, filled with all the turbulent and disaffected elements afloat in the whole country. Of this society Wolfe Tone was the creator, guide, and moving spirit. Any one who wishes to understand the movement rather as it originally took shape than in the form which it assumed when accident had deprived it of all its leaders, should carefully study his autobiography. As he reads its transparent pages, brimful of all the foolish, generous enthusiasms of the day, he will find it not a little hard, I think, to avoid some amount of sympathy with the man, however much he may, and probably will, reprobate the cause which he had so at heart.

Amongst the other leaders of the rising were Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a brother of the Duke of Leinster, Arthur O'Connor, a nephew of Lord Longueville, Thomas Addis Emmett, elder brother of the better known Robert Emmett--whose attempted rebellion in 1803, was a sort of postscript to this earlier one--and the two Sheare brothers. Compared to Wolfe Tone, however, all these were mere amateurs in insurrection, and pale and shadowy dabblers in rebellion. Lord Edward was an amiable warm-hearted visionary, high-minded and gallant, but without much ballast, and to a great degree under the guidance of others. The mainspring of the whole movement, as has been seen, was Protestant and Northern, and now that all hope of constitutional reform was gone, it was resolved to appeal openly to force and to call in the aid of the enemies of England to assist in the coming struggle.

Insane as the idea appears, looked back at from this distance, it evidently was not viewed in the same light by those at hand. England and France, it must be remembered, were at fierce war, and a descent upon the Irish coast was then, as afterwards by Napoleon, regarded as a natural and obvious part of the aggressive policy of the latter. In the summer of 1796 Lord Edward Fitzgerald went to Paris to open negotiations with the French Directory, and there met Wolfe Tone, who had been induced some time before to leave Ireland in order to avoid arrest. Lord Edward's Orleanist connection proving a bar to his negotiations, he left Paris, and the whole of the arrangements devolved into the latter's hand. He so fired Carnot, one of the Directory, and still more General Hoche, with a belief of the feasibility of his scheme of descent, that, in December of the same year a French fleet of forty-three vessels containing fifteen thousand troops were actually despatched under Hoche's command, Wolfe Tone being on board of one of them, which vessels, slipping past the English fleet in the Channel, bore down upon the Irish coast, and suddenly appeared off Cape Clear.

All Ireland was thrown into the wildest panic. There were only a small body of troops in the south and not a war-ship upon the coast. The peasantry of the district, it is true, showed no disposition to rise, but for all that had the French landed, nothing could have hindered them from marching upon the capital. But--"those ancient and unsubsidised allies of England upon which English ministers depend as much for saving kingdoms as washerwomen for drying clothes,"--the winds again stood true to their ancient alliance. The vessel with Hoche on board got separated from the rest of the fleet, and while the troops were waiting for him to arrive a violent gale accompanied with snow suddenly sprang up. The fleet moved on to Bear Island, and tried to anchor there, but the storm increased, the shelter was insufficient, the vessels dragged their anchors, were driven out to sea and forced to return to Brest. The ship containing Hoche had before this been forced to put back to France, and so ended the first and by far the most formidable of the perils which threatened England under this new combination.

One very unfortunate result of the narrowness of this escape was that the Irish Executive--stung by the sense of their own supineness, and utterly scared by the recent peril--threw themselves into the most violent and arbitrary measures of repression. The Habeas Corpus Act had already been suspended, and now martial law was proclaimed in five of the northern counties at once. The committee of the United Irishmen was seized, the office of their organ The Northern Star destroyed, and an immense number of people hurried into gaol. What was much more serious throughout the proclaimed districts, the soldiery and militia regiments which had been brought over from England were kept under no discipline, but were allowed to ill-use the population almost at their own discretion. Gross excesses were committed, whole villages being in some instances plundered and the people turned adrift, while half hangings, floggings and picketings, were freely resorted to to extort confessions of concealed arms.

Against these measures--so calculated to precipitate a rising, and by which the innocent and well-disposed suffered no less than the guilty--Grattan, Ponsonby, and other members of the Opposition protested vehemently. They also drew up and laid before the House a Bill of reform which, if passed, would, they pledged themselves, effectually allay the agitation and content all but the most irreconcilable. Their efforts, however, were utterly vain. Many of the members of the House of Commons were themselves in a state of panic, and therefore impervious to argument. The motion was defeated by an enormous majority, a general election was close at hand, and feeling the fruitlessness of further struggle Grattan, as already stated, refused to offer himself for re-election, and retired despairingly from the scene.

The commander-in-chief, Lord Carhampton and his subordinate General Lake were the two men directly responsible for the misconduct of the troops in Ireland. So disgraceful had become the license allowed that loud complaints were made in both the English Houses of Parliament, in consequence of which Lord Carhampton was recalled and Sir Ralph Abercromby sent in his place. He more than endorsed the worst of the accounts which had been forwarded. "Every cruelty that could be committed by Cossacks or Calmucks," he states, "has been committed here." "The manner in which the troops have been employed would ruin," he adds, "the best in Europe." He at once set himself to change the system, to keep the garrison in the principal towns, and to forbid the troops acting except under the immediate direction of a magistrate. The Irish Executive however was in no mood to submit to these prudent restrictions. Angry disputes broke out. Lord Camden, the Lord-Lieutenant, vacillated from side to side, and the end was that in April, 1797, Sir Ralph Abercromby indignantly resigned the command, which then fell into General Lake's hands, and matters again went on as before.

Meanwhile the failure of the French descent under Hoche, and the defeat of the Dutch fleet at the battle of Camperdown in the autumn of 1797, had determined Lord Edward Fitzgerald and the other chiefs of the executive committee to attempt an independent rising. Wolfe Tone was still in France, eagerly endeavouring to bring about a fresh expedition, so that their councils had not even the advantage of his guidance. The Government had full information of all their proceedings, being kept well informed by spies, several of whom were actually enrolled in the association. In March, 1798, a sudden descent was made upon the executive committee, which had met at the house of a man called Bond, and a number of delegates and several leaders arrested. Lord Edward, however, received warning and went into concealment, and it was while in hiding that he hastily concerted a scheme for a general rising, which was now definitely fixed to take place upon the 24th of May.

Only a few days before this date his hiding-place was betrayed to the Government by a man named Magan. A guard of soldiers was sent to arrest him, and a desperate struggle took place, in the course of which the captain of the guard was fatally stabbed, while Lord Edward himself received a bullet on the shoulder from the effects of which he shortly afterwards died in goal. Within a day or two of his arrest all the other leaders in Dublin were also seized and thrown into prison.

The whole of the executive committee were thus removed at one blow, and the conspiracy left without head. In estimating the hideous character finally assumed by the rising this fact must never be forgotten. The sickening deeds committed while it was at its height were committed by a mass of ignorant men, maddened by months of oppression, and deprived of their leaders at the very moment they most required their control.

In the meantime the 24th of May had come, and the rising had broken out. The non-arrival of the daily mail-coaches was to be the signal, and these were stopped and burnt by the insurgents in four different directions at once. In Kildare and Meath scattered parties of soldiers and yeomanry were attacked and killed, and at Prosperous the barracks were set on fire, and the troops quartered in it all burnt or piked. In Dublin prompt measures had been taken, and the more loyal citizens had enrolled themselves for their own defence, so that no rising took place there, the result being that the outlying insurgents found themselves isolated. In the north especially, where the whole movement had taken its rise, and where the revolutionists had long been organized, the actual rising was thus of very trifling importance, and the whole thing was easily stamped out within a week.

It was very different in Wexford. Here from the beginning the rising had assumed a religious shape, and was conducted with indescribable barbarity. Yeomanry corps and bodies of militia had been quartered in the county for months, and many acts of tyranny had been committed. These were now hideously avenged. Several thousand men and women, armed chiefly with pikes and scythes, collected together on the hill of Oulart under the guidance of a priest named Father John Murphy. They were attacked by a small party of militia from Wexford, but defeating them, burst into Ferns, where they burnt the bishop's palace, then hastened on to Enniscorthy, which they took possession of, and a few days afterwards appeared before the town of Wexford.

Here resistance was at first offered them by Colonel Maxwell, who was in command of the militia regiments. Nearly all the Roman Catholics, however under his orders deserted, the rest grew disorganized and fled, and the end was that the militia departed and the rebels took possession triumphantly of the town. It at once became the scene of horrible outrages. Houses were plundered; many of the Protestant citizens murdered; others dragged from their homes, and cruelly maltreated. Bagenal Harvey, a United Irishman and a Protestant, who had been imprisoned at Wexford by the Government, was released and elected general of the rebels. He found himself, however, utterly unable to control them. A camp had been formed upon Vinegar Hill, near. Enniscorthy, and from it as a centre the whole district was overrun, with the exception of New Ross, where most of the available troops had been concentrated. The wretched Protestants, kept prisoners on Vinegar Hill, were daily taken out in batches, and slaughtered in cold blood, while at Scullabogue, after an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the rebels to take New Ross, the most frightful episode of the whole rising occurred; a barn containing over a hundred and eighty Protestant loyalists collected from the country round being set on fire, and all of them perishing in the flames.

In the meanwhile troops were rapidly arriving from Dublin. Arklow and New Ross had defended themselves gallantly, and the rebels had fallen back from them repulsed. Vinegar Hill was attacked upon June 21st by General Lake, and after a struggle the rebels fled precipitately, and were slaughtered in great numbers. The day before this Father Roche and the rebels under him were met outside Wexford and also put to flight after hard fighting. Inside the town a horrible butchery was the same day perpetrated by a body of ruffians upon over ninety Protestant prisoners, who were slaughtered with great cruelty upon the bridge leading to New Ross, and only the passionate intervention of a priest named Corrin hindered the deaths of many more.

With the recapture of Wexford and Vinegar Hill the struggle ended. Such of the rebels as had escaped the infuriated soldiery fled to hide themselves in Wicklow and elsewhere. Father Michael Murphy--believed by his followers to be bullet proof--had been already killed during the attack on Arklow. Father Roche was hung by Lake's order over the bridge at Wexford, the scene of the late massacres. So also was the unfortunate Bagenal Harvey, the victim rather than the accomplice of the crimes of others. Father John Murphy was caught and hung at Tallow, as were also other priests in different parts of the country. The rising had been just long enough, and just formidable enough, to awaken the utmost terror and the most furious thirst for vengeance, yet not formidable enough to win respect for itself from a military point of view. As a result the retribution exacted was terrible; the scenes of violence which followed being upon a scale which went far to cause even the excesses committed by the rebels themselves to pale into insignificance.

Two final incidents, either of which a few months earlier might have produced formidable results, brings the dismal story to an end. In August, just after the rising had been definitely stamped out, General Humbert with a little over a thousand French troops under his command landed at Killala, where he was joined, if hardly reinforced, by a wild mob of unarmed peasants. From Killala he advanced to Ballina, defeated General Lake, who was sent against him, and moved on to Sligo. Shortly afterwards, however, he found himself, after crossing the Shannon, confronted with an overwhelming force under Lord Cornwallis, who had recently succeeded Lord Camden, and held double offices of Lord-Lieutenant and Commander-in-chief. Yielding to the inevitable, Humbert surrendered at discretion, and he and his men were received with due courtesy as prisoners of war. The account given by the bishop of Killala who was kept prisoner while that town was occupied by the French, will be found to be extremely well worth reading.

The last scene of the drama brings Wolfe Tone appropriately back upon the gloomy stage. When General Humbert sailed for Killala a much larger French force under General Hardi had remained behind at Brest. In September this second detachment sailed, Wolfe Tone being on board the principal vessel called the Hoche. Outside Lough Swilly they were overtaken by an English squadron, and a desperate struggle ensued. The smaller French vessels escaped, but the Hoche was so riddled with shot and shell as to be forced to surrender, and was towed by the victors into Lough Swilly. Here the French officers including Wolfe Tone were hospitably entertained at dinner by Lord Cavan. While at table Tone was recognized by an old school friend, and was at once arrested and sent prisoner to Dublin. A court martial followed, and despite his own plea to be regarded as a French officer, and therefore, if condemned shot, he was sentenced to be hung. In despair he tried to kill himself in prison, but the wound though fatal, was not immediately so, and the sentence would have been carried rigorously out but for the intervention of Curran, who moved for a writ of Habeas Corpus on the plea that as the courts of law were then sitting in Dublin, a court martial had no jurisdiction. The plea was a mere technicality, but it produced the required delay, and Wolfe Tone died quietly in prison.