July 2015

History Selection

Frances Sheridan
Frances Sheridan
Maria Edgeworth
Maria Edgeworth
Jane Barlow
Jane Barlow
Edna O'Brien
Edna O'Brien
Anne Enright
Anne Enright
Cecilia Ahern
Cecilia Ahern


Ireland in 1993

January: The Braer Storm hit the North Atlantic.

January 12th: Albert Reynolds was elected Taoiseach as a Fianna Fáil–Labour Party coalition government came to power.

January 14th: Death of Jeremiah Dempsey, Chief Executive of Aer Lingus.

January 28th: English far left activists associated with the IRA bombed Harrods.

February 11th: Death of Brian Inglis, journalist, historian and TV presenter.

February 15th: Death of Peter Kavanagh, football player, aged 82.

March 4th: U2 tied with REM as 'best band' in a readers' poll by Rolling Stone magazine.

Article on Patrick Hayes, Harrods bomber

Article on Patrick Hayes, Harrods bomber

Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball, victims of the Warrington bombing

Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball, victims of the Warrington bombing

March 10th: The Gaelic Athletic Association received planning permission to redevelop Croke Park.

March 15th: Kitty Linnane of the Kilfenora Céili Band died.

March 20th: An IRA bomb in Warrington, England, killed two children.

March 23rd: Death of Denis Burkett, surgeon.

March 25th: The UDA shot dead four Catholics when they arrived for work at Castlerock, Derry.

April 24th: The IRA bombed Bishopsgate in London. One person died and a Medieval church was destroyed.

May 15th: Niamh Kavanagh won the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Co. Cork, with In Your Eyes.

May 27th: Mary Robinson became the first Irish head of state to meet with a British monarch when she met Elizabeth.

May: Dawson Stelfox became the first Irish man to climb Everest.

July 1st: President Mary Robinson met Mother Theresa at Áras an Uachtaráin.

July 24th: A bill was passed in the Dáil Éireann to decriminalise homosexual acts.

July 29th: Death of Patrick Lindsay, Fine Gael TD.

Niamh Kavanagh

Niamh Kavanagh

Zooropa

The Zooropa album

July 5th: U2 released Zooropa.

July 15th: The Beef Tribunal came to an end.

August 6th: The Snapper was released.

August 26th: U2 played the first of two concerts at the RDS Showgrounds.

September: The existence of Magdalene asylums came into public focus, after the sale of land beside a Dublin convent led to 153 bodies being exhumed.

October 7th: John Hume met the Taoiseach.

October 22nd: Nelson Mandela visited Dublin.

October 23rd: A PIRA bomb exploded on the Shankill Road, killing ten people in a fish shop.

October 30th: The UDA shot 21 people in the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, County Derry.

November 1st: Death of Maeve Brennan, author and journalist.

November 11th: The final Jacob's Award ceremony took place in Dublin.

November 28th: Death of Joe Kelly, racing driver.

Aftermath of the Shankill Road bombing

Aftermath of the Shankill Road bombing

Albert Reynolds and John Mayor announcing the Downing Street Declaration

Albert Reynolds and John Mayor announcing the Downing Street Declaration

November 28th: Secret talks took place between the British and Republicans.

December: Brú na Bóinne became the Republic's first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

December 12th: Ireland's first agony aunt, Frankie Byrne, passed away.

December 15th: Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and the British PM John Major issued their joint Downing Street Declaration on the future of Northern Ireland.

December 16th: In the Name of the Father premiered at the Savoy Cinema.

December 25th: Queen Elizabeth II spoke of her hopes for Northern Ireland.

December 29th: The IRA announced it would continue to fight.



Letters sent during war

Right click on pictures and 'open in new tab' to view full size image

Letter from Brendan Donovan, an Irishman serving in the American Civil War
Letter from Brendan Donovan, an Irishman serving in the American Civil War
Letter from Patrick Campion, serving in South Africa in 1899
Letter from Patrick Campion, serving in South Africa in 1899
Dublin child writing to Lord Kitchener, First World War
Dublin child writing to Lord Kitchener, First World War
Farewell letter from Kevin Barry, War of Independence
Farewell letter from Kevin Barry, War of Independence
Letter from Martin Burke, executed during the Civil War, 1923
Letter from Martin Burke, executed during the Civil War, 1923
Final letter to his mother by a young man - possibly during the Civil War
Final letter to his mother by a young man
Book Review

Secret Child

Author:     Gordon Lewis

Publisher:    Harper Element

Date published: 2015

Secret Child

Having lived for decades in America, Gordin Lewis returns to Dublin, the city of his birth, the learn about his past. He had been born in an age with a diferent social code, one in which illegitimacy was seen as deeply shameful. Gordon was lucky in the sense that his mother did not seek refuge in a Magdalene Laundry. Instead, she entered a secretive community where Gordon spent his early years. Cathleen worked outside the Regina Coeli, but neither her workmates nor her family realised that she was now a mother, whose rambunctious son would soon be getting into scrapes on the streets of Dublin.

One day, a man appeared on the scene; one who was clearly deeply attached to Cathleen and who declared himself ready to care for mother and child in London. Gordon imagined a room to himself, a television set, and freedom from school, where he struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia. Events would turn out somewhat differently. For one thing, Bill was a Protestant, while Gordon had been raised Catholic; this was a time when sectarian tensions still caused problems in society. Struggling with poverty, Gordon needed to learn the lessons that would transform him from young tearaway to the successful adult he would become. Yet there was a sting in the tale, a final secret that remained for Gordon to uncover.



Extracts from

Phases of Irish History

Eoin MacNeill

Published in 1920

Eoin MacNeill

I. THE ANCIENT IRISH A CELTIC PEOPLE

Every people has two distinct lines of descent—by blood and by tradition. When we consider the physical descent of a people, we regard them purely as animals. As in any breed of animals, so in a people, the tokens of physical descent are mainly physical attributes—such as stature, complexion, the shape of the skull and members, the formation of the features. When we speak of a particular race of men, if we speak accurately, we mean a collection of people whose personal appearance and bodily characters, inherited from their ancestors and perhaps modified by climate and occupation, distinguish them notably from the rest of mankind. It is important for us to be quite clear in our minds about this meaning of Race, for the word Race is often used in a very loose and very misleading way in popular writings and discussions. Thus we hear and read of the Latin races, the Teutonic race, the Anglo-Saxon race, the Celtic race. If these phrases had any value in clear thinking, they would imply that in each instance it is possible to distinguish a section of mankind which, by its inherited physical characters, differs notably from the rest of mankind. Now in not one of the instances mentioned is any such distinction known to those who have made the races of man the subject of their special study. There is no existing Latin race, no Teutonic race, no Anglo-Saxon race, and no Celtic race. Each of the groups to whom these names are popularly applied is a mixture of various races which can be distinguished, and for the most part they are a mixture of the same races, though not in every case in the same proportions.

In the case of the populations which are recognised to be Celtic, it is particularly true that no distinction of race is found among them. And this is true of them even in the earliest times of their history. Tacitus, in the remarkable introductory chapters of his book, "De Moribus Germanorum," gives a brief physical description of the Germans of his time. "Their physical aspect," he says, "even in so numerous a population, is the same for all of them: fierce blue eyes, reddish hair, bodies of great size and powerful only in attack." Upon this the well-read editor of the Elzevir edition of 1573 has the following remarks: "What Tacitus says here of the Germans, the same is said by Florus and Livy in describing the Gauls.... Hence," he continues, "it appears that those ancient Gauls and Germans were remarkably similar in the nature of their bodies as well as of their minds." He goes on to develop the comparison, and sums up as follows: "Who then will deny that those earliest Celts were similar to the Germans and were in fact Germans?"

These Latin writers were contemporary witnesses, and among the captives taken by Roman armies they must have seen the men that they describe. Thus, in early times the Romans observed the same physical semblance in the two peoples, Celts and Germans. It may be pointed out, however, that the physical characteristics on which they lay stress are those which exhibit the greatest difference between these northern peoples and the peoples of southern Europe. For that reason we may suspect a certain element of exaggeration in the description. We may take leave to doubt whether all the Germans of antiquity were fair-haired and blue-eyed, as Tacitus describes them. It was the fair-haired and blue-eyed Germans and Celts that attracted the attention of Latin writers, accustomed to a population almost uniformly dark-haired and dark-eyed, and they would naturally seize upon the points of distinction and regard them as generally typical.

If, then, by the name Celts we cannot properly understand a distinct race, what are we to understand by it? By what criterion do we recognise any ancient population to have been Celts? The answer is undoubted—every ancient people that is known to have spoken any Celtic language is said to be a Celtic people. The term Celtic is indicative of language, not of race. We give the name Celts to the Irish and the Britons because we know that the ancient language of each people is a Celtic language.

IV. THE FIVE FIFTHS OF IRELAND

Among the written stories of antiquity, the primacy was accorded to those of the Ulster epic, Táin Bó Cuailnge and the other tales that range around it. Evidence of this primacy will be found in the oldest known Irish chronicle, in poems assigned by Meyer to the seventh century, and in the framework of the ancient genealogies. A number of modern investigators assure us that the antiquarian tradition of the Ulster sagas is marvellously true to the facts established by archæological research in regard of the age to which those sagas relate, the beginning of the Christian era. Their historical tradition was adopted without question by our medieval historians. The main fact of that historical tradition was that Ireland, in the time of Cú Chulainn, was divided into five coordinate chief kingdoms, whose kings were equal in rank and were not subordinate to a central monarchy. The old historians consequently call this period Aimser na Cóicedach (Aimsir na gCúigeadhach), the Time of the Pentarchs (the five equal kings), and leave the monarchy a blank at that time, though they profess to be able to give a list of kings of all Ireland for the earlier and later periods. This list of the pagan Monarchs of Ireland is not historical. It is compiled in a very artificial way from the pedigrees of various Irish dynasties, in a way so artificial that one name, the origin of which can be traced to the sleepy blundering of a copyist, a name which never belonged to any man, is found as the name of a king of Ireland in the list, with appropriate details telling how he acquired the sovereignty and how he lost it, and how many years he reigned. On the other hand, we are told that the fivefold division of Ireland was older than the Gaelic occupation. In fact, its origin was prehistoric, and the Pentarchy is the oldest certain fact in the political history of Ireland. That it is a certain fact, nobody who is acquainted with Irish literature and tradition will be disposed to question. To this day the word cuigeadh, "a fifth," is in general use among speakers of Irish as the term to denote each of the principal sub-divisions of the country; and cuig cuigidh na hEireann, "the Five Fifths of Ireland," is an expression familiar to all who speak the Irish language. This term cuigeadh, in this sense, is found in every age and generation of our written literature. And yet it is certain that throughout the whole period of our written literature, the political division of Ireland represented by this word cuigeadh, "a fifth," and "the Five Fifths of Ireland," had no existence. Already in St. Patrick's time the Five Fifths were only a memory of the past. Then and for centuries afterwards, instead of five, there were seven coordinate chief kingdoms and a monarchy over them.

V. GREEK AND LATIN WRITERS ON PRE-CHRISTIAN IRELAND

The earliest known mention of Ireland in literature appears to be found in a passage of the Greek writer Poseidonios which is quoted by Strabo. Poseidonios flourished about 150 B.C.

His information about Ireland is vague, and he says expressly and candidly that his authorities are not trustworthy. Whereas later writers erred in supposing that Ireland lay between Britain and Spain, Poseidonios says that Ireland stretched farther northward than Britain. We have nothing definite to tell about Ireland, he continues, except that the inhabitants are fiercer than those of Britain, being man-eaters and eaters of many kinds of food [we may understand perhaps that he supposed them to eat various foods not eaten by the Greeks]. They think it worthy to devour their own fathers who have died. Their marital customs are of the most unrestricted kind, disregarding even the closest ties of kindred. "This, however, we state as having no reliable testimony." For the custom of cannibalism, he says, is also ascribed to the Scythians, and the Celts and Iberians and many others are likewise said to practise it when reduced to great straits by a siege.

The name of Ireland, as quoted from Poseidonios, is Ierne, representing an old name Iverna. In Greek, as well as in the early Celtic language of Ireland, the sound of v or w had a tendency to disappear from words. I think, however, that the Greeks may have taken the name Ierne, without the v, direct from a Celtic source, for the dropping of the v or w sound in Greek took place earlier than the writing of the oldest extant Greek prose, and if the name of Ireland had been known to the Greeks at so early a time, we should expect to find mention of Ireland in early prose writers like Herodotus.

VIII. IRELAND'S GOLDEN AGE

Though Christianity did not make the Irish desist from this kind of warfare, it certainly changed their outlook on warfare in general. Men who had taken part in bloodshed were excluded from the immediate precincts of the churches. In the wars carried on by the heathen Irish in other countries, the principal gain was in captives who were sold, like St. Patrick, into slavery. In his epistle to the soldiers of the British ruler Coroticus, St. Patrick condemns this practice along with the killing of non-combatants. "These soldiers," he writes, "live in death, the associates of Scots and Picts who have fallen away from the Faith, the slayers of innocent Christians.... It is the custom of the Christians in Roman Gaul," he adds, "to send chosen men of piety with so much money to the Franks and other heathens, to ransom baptized captives. Thou slayest all, or sellest them to a foreign nation that knows not God. I know not what to say about the dead of the children of God upon whom the sword has fallen beyond measure. The Church deplores and bewails her sons and daughters whom the sword as yet hath not slain but who are carried far away and transported into distant lands, reduced to slavery, especially to slavery under the degraded and unworthy apostate Picts."

This, therefore, was also St. Patrick's teaching to the Irish; and in and after his time, not a single raiding expedition goes forth from Ireland. Kuno Meyer has shown that the military organisation of the Fiana still existed to some degree in early Christian Ireland; but it gradually disappears, and in the seventh century the Irish kings cease to dwell, surrounded by their fighting men, in great permanent encampments like Tara and Ailinn. In the eighth century, we hear the testimony of Bede, that the Irish are "a harmless nation, ever most friendly to the English."

Another change that came about, not suddenly, but gradually during this period, is the extinction of the old lines of racial demarcation in Ireland. The Church did not recognise these boundaries. Many noted ecclesiastics belonged to the old plebeian tribes.

In this connection, we may note one feature of the Irish secular law, not traceable to the influence of Christianity. The word soer, used as a noun, has two special meanings; it means a freeman and it means a craftsman. The contrary term doer means unfree—in the sense of serfdom rather than of slavery; there is a distinct term for "slave," viz., mugh. The plebeian communities are called doerthuatha. The inference, therefore, is that a skilled craftsman of unfree race became by virtue of his craft a freeman.