October 2012

History Selection


Richard Boyle, born October 1566
James Barry, born October 1741
Mary Tighe, born October 1782
Fathew Mathew, born October 1790
William Smith O'Brien, born October 1803 Thomas Davis, born October 1814 Oscar Wilde, born October 1854 Michael Collins, born October 1890

On this Day: October
1st 1600 - Robert Grave, Church of Ireland Bishop, drowned together with his family at Dublin Bay.
1812 - English balloonist James Sadler started a balloon flight from Belvedere House in an attempt to cross the Irish Sea.
2nd 1601 - Beginning of Siege of Kinsale.
1649 - Beginning of the Siege of Drogheda.
1957 - The Voluntary Health Insurance Board as launched.
3rd 1691 - Treaty of Limerick.
1938 - Britain's last remaining forts in the twenty-six counties were handed back to Ireland.
1970 - US President Nixon arrived in Ireland.
1975 - Businessman Tiede Herrema was kidnapped by the IRA.
4th 1857 - Grand Opening of St. Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny.
5th 1968 - Police in Derry baton-charged a civil rights march.
6th 1980 - Mella Carroll became Ireland's first female high court judge.
7th 1843 - A proclamation was issued from Dublin Castle banning a Monster Meeting at Clontarf called by Daniel O'Connell.
8th 1974 - Seán MacBride was awarded a half-share of the Nobel Peace Prize.
2002 - Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams claimed that the raid on his party’s Stormont offices last week was an attempt to destabilise the peace process.
9th 1878 - St Mary's Cathedral in Tuam was consecrated.
10th 1773 - The Offerlane Blues, a Volunteer corps, was founded.
1918 - The RMS Leinster was sunk by a German submarine with the loss of around 500 lives.
1977 - Mairéad Corrigan and Betty Williams won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
11th 1649 - Sack of Wexford by Cromwell's forces.
12th 1798 -  Battle of Tory Island.
1867 - The final convict ship to transport convicts to Australia, the Hougoumont, took 62 Fenians on board.
1975 - Canonization of Oliver Plunkett.
1984 - The IRA killed five people in an attack on a Brighton hotel during the Conservative Party Conference.
13th 1994 - Loyalist paramilitary groups announced a ceasefire.
14th 1318 - Battle of Faughart, at which Edward Bruce was defeated.
1791 - The Society of United Irishmen formed in Belfast.
1866 - St Peter's Church, later to become a cathedral, opened in Belfast.
15th  1842 - The Nation newspaper was first printed in Dublin.
16th 1678 - Proclamations against Catholic clergy and schools in Ireland were issued.
1961 - Cork airport opened.
17th 1171 - Henry II landed at Waterford with an army.
1886 - John Dillon announced his 'Plan of Campaign' for Irish tenants against unfair rents.
18th 1382 - Death of James Butler, 2nd Earl of Ormond and three times Lord Justice of Ormond.
1880 - Ballycastle railway opened between Ballymoney and Ballycastle.
1881 - The Irish National Land League issued their 'No Rent' manifesto.
19th 1649 - New Ross fell to the English Parliamentarian forces.
1745 - Death of Jonathan Swift.
1795 - The brigs Trevor Totty and Nonpareil ran into trouble while crossing the Irish sea, reuslting in around 200 deaths.
1881 - The Irish National Land League was declared illegal.
20th 1794 - Col. John Gustavus Crosbie killed Sir Barry Denny in a duel related to the Kerry election.
2002 - The Irish people endorsed the Nice Treaty in a referendum.
21st 1803 - Thomas Russell, co-founder of the Society of United Irishmen, was hanged at Downpatrick Gaol.
22nd 1884 - Alice Walkington became the first woman to be awarded a degree in Ireland.
1976 - President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigned over the Emergency Powers Bill.
23rd 1641 - Beginning of an attempted coup d'etat by the Irish Catholic gentry against the English administration.
1831 - George Joseph Plunket Browne was consecrated as first Bishop of the new Roman Catholic Diocese of Galway.
1911 - 70,000 Unionists marched against Home Rule.
1970 - Charles Haughey, James Kelly, Albert Luykx and John Kelly were acquitted of conspiracy to import arms.
24th 1990 - The IRA forced three men to act as suicide bombers, resulting in seven deaths.
25th 1650 - Battle of Meelick Island.
1920 - The Lord Mayor of Cork, Thomas MacSwiney, died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.
26th 1878 - Founding meeting of the Mayo Tenants Defence Association.
27th 1645 - Archbishop Malachy Ó Caollaidhe killed after attempted to recover Sligo from Scottish Covenanters.
1651 - Hugh Dubh O’Neill surrendered Limerick.
1697 - Lightning struck Athlone castle, causing the arsenal to explode and unleashing a devastating fire.
1913 - James Larkin of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union was sent to prison for seditious language.
28th 1958 - The State Opening of Parliament was televised for the first time.
1976 - Sinn Féin vice president Máire Drumm was assassinated by loyalists.
29th 1816 - The Wildgoose Lodge murders, during which eight people burned to death.
30th 1939 - More than two dozen air-raid sirens were tested across Dublin.
31st 1845 - An emergency meeting of the British cabinet was held to discuss the potato failure in Ireland.
1920 - District-Inspector Philip Kelleher was shot dead in the Greville Arms Hotel, Granard. As a reprisal, British forces entered the town and destroyed its main businesses including the hotel.
1973 - Three IRA prisoners escaped from Mountjoy Prison in a hijacked helicopter.
1996 - The first Irish language TV station, Teilifís na Gaeilge (TnaG), was launched.


Image from History

The Irish Horse

Commandant F. A Aherne on Duhallow at Royal Dublin Society's Horse Show, c. 1944

Commandant Aherne rides Duhallow at Dublin Horse Show, c. 1944


The Dublin Horse Show was first held in 1864, and has been associated with the Royal Dublin Society since 1868. Calling August the 'Great Month of the Horse', the 1944 edition of The Irish Horse called the Show 'Ireland's great social event. It is of world-renown.[...] Preparations for this event start at the beginning of the year, when invitations are issued to foreign Governments to be represented in the International Military Jumping Contests. Approximately 1,000 horses are exhibited at the Show annually[...]  Apart from its social aspect, Dublin Horse Show is essentially a sale, and few horses appear at Dublin Show a second year'.

Bachelor's Button, 1899

Bachelor's Button, 1899

Bred in Co. Meath, Bachelor's Button is described as 'one of the greatest stayers in the early years of the present century.[...] He was the sole conquerer of Pretty Polly in England.
Book Review

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Author: Thomas Cahill

Publisher:  Hodder and Stoughton

Date published: 1995

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

When the Dark Ages settled on Europe in the fifth century, the learning of past ages was threatened with destruction. With Rome torn apart and ancient libraries lost, the 'isle of saints and scholars' took on the role of preserving and copying manuscripts from both pagan and Christian writers. It was the time of St Patrick, and the spread of Christianity in Ireland led to the setting up of monasteries that welcomed scholars from throughout Europe. Irish monks left the island to travel across the continent, setting up monasteries. This was a Golden Age for Ireland.

Cahill traces the work of Irish scribes in preserving and enhancing ancient wisdom. He describes in detail the lives of these knowledge-keepers, who devoted themselves to their task long after dark: 'Shivering monks o'er frozen stones / To the twain hours of nighttime go'. The monks would even copy documents of which they disapproved, such as the Tain, whose scribe recorded: 'Some things in it are devilish lies, and others are poetical figments'.  On occasion the personalities of the scribes come to us in the form of poems or comments scribbled down the side of texts. One monk wrote that 'it is easy to spot Gabrial's work here' while another, after a particularly arduous translation from Greek, remarked 'that's the end to that - and seven curses with it!' A third recorded 'Pangur Ban, my cat' for posterity.

As well as preserving old culture, Irish theologians developed their own.  Confession became private and could be repeated; this reflected the Irish view that a person's conscience was more important than public opinion. While not every Irish innovation (such as the date of Easter) was widely accepted, there can be no doubt that Ireland made a crucial contribution to European and consequently world culture.


My Life in the Irish Brigade

The Civil War Memoirs of Private William McCarter, 116th Pennslyvia Infantry

Bolivar Heights, Harper’s Ferry
Jefferson County, Virginia
October 9th, 1862

The town of Harper’s Ferry is built at the foot of the narrow tongue of land that thrusts itself out like a cutwater, separating the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers. It is known as Bolivar Heights. Just across the Potomac are the Maryland Heights, Washington County, Maryland. Over the Shenandoah beyond Loudon Heights lies Virginia proper.

Before the war, Harper’s Ferry had a population of about 2,000. But now, like Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, it was inhabited only by old men, black and white, women and children and a garrison then of Union troops. The Confederate Army evacuated it on the 19th of September after burning all the stores and government buildings. The Rebs left the once beautiful and comfortable town a heap of black ruins, save for a few small, mean brick and log huts. The saddest and the most humiliating sight to us here, and perhaps the heaviest loss to the United States government in this section of the country, was the celebrated Harper’s Ferry Arsenal and Armory. It was now one mass of ruins, with only a small portion of stone work standing. Our own forces had applied the fire fiend to keep it out of Confederate hands. This once magnificent and immense government structure, which manufactured firearms and artillery of every calibre and gave constant employment to twelve or fifteen hundred men, was destroyed. It was located by the side of the town along the river’s brink.
William McCarter

William McCarter
Here, drunkenness was very prevalent. We were informed that when the Rebel Army was in possession, it was even more so. To use the language of an old citizen there, “whiskey ran like water.” Our regiment was here brigaded, becoming a portion of the famous Irish Brigade under the command of General Thomas Francis Meagher. The brigade was part of Hancock’s Division, Sumner’s Corps (2nd Army Corps), Army of the Potomac, General George B. McClellan, Commander-in-Chief.

Sketch of General Meagher

In personal appearance, General Meagher was about 35 years old, five feet-eight or ten inches high, of rather stout build, and had a clear high-coloured complexion. He wore a heavy, dark brown moustache, closely trimmed. Except in battle, where he generally wore only the uniform of a private soldier, he nearly always appeared in the full dress of his rank. Meagher presented an exceedingly neat and clean soldierly appearance, marked and admired by all. He was a gentleman of no ordinary ability. In thorough military skill and in courage and bravery on the battlefield, he was second to none in the Army of the Potomac.

In polished, gentlemanly manners and bearing (when himself), he was head and shoulders above any other man occupying a similar position in the army that I ever knew or heard of. His conversation was dignified. In point of education, his equal was hard to find. He spoke fluently not only English, but also Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Welsh, and the native Irish language. The latter sounded like a mixture of all the others jumbled up together, and was very seldom heard in the present day. Only a few of the natives of some of the wildest and most uncultivated parts of Ireland spoke it and even there that old, ancient language was fast going to decay.

In kindness and thoughtfulness for his men, he was the shining light and bright star of the whole Union Army. Meagher made unceasing efforts to have his soldiers all well provided for and made comfortable. He often brought some poor, sick or perhaps dying soldier into his own private tent in cold weather. Wrapping him up there in blankets, Meagher administered with his own hands such medicine as was prescribed by the brigade’s head doctor. In the surgeon’s absence, the general prescribed for and administered himself such remedies as he thought were needed. As a physician, Meagher had considerable judgment.

He was one of the very few military leaders who never required or would ask any of his command to go where he would not go himself. Meagher was first to lead the way. He was a soldier who not only prided in doing his own duty but encouraged and helped all under him to do theirs. Glory, honor and praise to his memory as a soldier, firm and true to his government and his country.

But, alas, poor fellow, he had one besetting sin. It was the besetting sin of so many Irish then and now – intemperance. Meagher found an untimely grave in the broad waters of the Missouri, having either stumbled or fallen overboard drunk from a steamboat on that river. He was serving then his term of office as Governor of Montana. Meagher had been appointed Acting Governor after the close of the war. Thus ended the eventful career of one of the truest and best soldiers that ever drew a sword in defense of the Union and his adopted country. His death and the reported cause of it was sad and melancholy. Yet his many acts of kindness, bravery and heroism will long be remembered and cherished with pleasure and pride by many an American and by thousands of his own native countrymen of the Emerald Isle.[1]
The Capture of Charlestown, West Virginia

Early on the morning of the 13th, our colonel sent me a message to be ready to accompany him to the headquarters of General Meagher, about 200 yards distant, at ten a.m. The general wanted to see me. I tried to think. Who could have told General Meagher about me or what could he want with me? I was a perfect stranger to him, one who perhaps he had never saw before except in the ranks and then in the distance. Had I been guilty of any crime or misdemeanour worthy of reproof or punishment?

The incident of the cornfield flashed upon my mind. Had I done wrong in refusing Col. Heenan admittance into the camp at the dead hour of nearly midnight without the countersign? Had I insulted him by telling him that I did now know him then in my position as a guard at my post? But even in this, I did not see how any charge could be brought against me for, in acting as I did, I was simply doing my duty. I was carrying out the instructions of my superior officer. In vain did any of my thoughts or ideas satisfy my mind as to the real nature of General Meagher’s business with me.
Thomas Francis Meagher
Thomas Francis Meagher

I, however, rigged myself up in my dress  uniform, brightened up all my buttons and brasses, and presented a pretty fair soldierly appearance. I was fit for inspection. I proceeded in accordance with orders to the tent of Colonel Heenan, whom I found all alone reading a Philadelphia newspaper. I saluted him and said, “Good morning, Colonel.”

“Good morning, my man,” he said, “what do you wish?”

“I have come here,” I said, “by your orders received early this morning.”

“Oh, yes,” he replied. “Sit down a moment and look over this paper from home.”

I sat down while he changed his camp dress for his full dress uniform. My feelings at this time I could not describe. Fear, courage, hope, dread, suspense and I know not what else took sole possession of me. I wondered what was coming.

After the colonel dressed, we got out of the tent. The colonel said, “We will now go over and see the general.”

Meagher’s tent or headquarters was not more than 100 yards distant. It was on the camp line of the 69th New York Infantry, one of the regiments of our Irish Brigade. On the way, the only remarks made by the colonel concerned the weather and healthy location of various camps scattered all over Bolivar Heights and Loudon Heights. There were some 25,000 troops stationed there. He never in the remotest manner made the slightest allusion to the nature and object of our mission to General Meagher.

We reached our destination, stopping at the fly door of the general’s tent. There stood one of his orderlies; Colonel Heenan inquired if the general was in. The orderly replied, “Yes.” “Can I see him?” returned the colonel.

“I will ask,” said the orderly turning around and going into the tent.

In a moment he returned and invited the colonel and myself to enter. We then did. Now comes the tug of war, I thought.

General Meagher was in fatigue dress, partly stretched out on a wooden bench covered with brown army blankets. His feet were propped up against an empty cracker (hardtack) box. Around him on the partly rough boarded floor of his tent were scattered newspapers. On a small, plain wooden table there were a few books, maps and a fieldglass. In another part of his tent stood a large empty box, covered with an India-rubber blanket. It held three canteens. Nearby was a bright tin bucket full of clear spring water with a tin cup attached by a string. Along one of the sides of the tent were placed three or four campstools and a writing desk, on which an inkstand and paper had been placed. These articles constituted the entire furniture of General Meagher’s tent on Bolivar Heights, Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.

On entering the tent, the usual military salute passed between the two commanders and me. The colonel then turned round to me standing close behind him and addressed Meagher, saying, “General, here is your man.”

“Ah,” said the general, “be seated.”

I fetched one of the campstools for Colonel Heenan who sat down on it near to General Meagher. I then took a seat myself on another one nearby, facing them. Silence reigned for about half a minute, until it was broken by the general. With that pleasing smile on his countenance which he always wore when addressing personally any of his soldiers, he asked, “Well, you are from the Old Sod, ain’t you?”

My reply was simply, “Yes, sir.”

Meagher then put his hand into his coat breastpocket and pulled out a lot of papers. After looking them all over but seeming not to have found what he wanted, he called his orderly standing outside of the tent. The soldier immediately entered. The general asked him if he knew what had become of the piece of poetry entitled “The Land of My Birth” with the name McCarter written on the back.

“Yes, sir,” said the orderly, “you bid me put it into your portfolio.”

Going over to the writing desk and opening a book thereon, the orderly took from one of its pockets the paper in question and handed it to General Meagher. He, in his habitual polite and gentlemanly manner, thanked the attendant. The man then retired. The general looked at the paper a moment. Then glancing at me, he held it out, asking, “Is that your handwriting?” “Yes sir,” I replied. I also stated, “Yes, sir, that is my handwriting.”[2]

Colonel Heenan interrupted our conversation by saying, “General, this is a man that I think we can trust. As my regiment requires a good man to distribute, collect and attend to its mail, I am thinking of giving him the position. My own staff recommend the appointment.”

Then and not until then did I discover and, so agreeably too, the nature of our visit to General Meagher. But this was not all.

“Well, really, Colonel,” said the general, “that is all very good. But he writes so well. I think with all respect to you and your regiment, I am in much need of a clerk for the brigade. He could make himself more useful and be of more service in that capacity than in the position you propose.” Turning to me, he asked, “What say you yourself, McCarter?”

‘”Fix it between yourselves, gentlemen,” said I. “I am satisfied.”

“Thank you,” responded the general.

“Now, Mac,” said General Meagher, “Colonel Heenan and I will arrange it. And, in the meantime, you can go to your quarters and the colonel will instruct you this afternoon what to do. Before you go, just help yourself from either of those canteens on that box,” pointing to it.

I did so and left, saluting both officers and returned to camp.



[1]The foregoing sketch of General Meagher is from my own personal knowledge of him for nearly two months prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13, 1862, commencing at Harper’s Ferry.

[2] How this paper got into the hands of General Meagher, I never learned. I remember, however, writing it at home in Philadelphia in the year 1860. Upon leaving the city with my regiment on the 1st of September for the seat of war, I accidentally put it with several other private papers into my memorandum book. When in camp near Washington, I pulled it out one day. When I was reading it over again, one of our lieutenants (Montgomery, afterwards killed at Fredericksburg) sitting on the grass nearby, happened to see the heading. He asked me to let him read it. I did so, after which he took such a fancy to it and the style of the penmanship that he offered me a $10 greenback on the spot for it. I at once refused, saying, “No sir, but if you accept it as a gift, it is yours.” He very thankfully did so. Ever after, he was unremitting in his attention and kindness to me. Quite likely this was the channel through which General Meagher got possession of the paper, although I never knew for certain it was.