September 2016

History Selection

Kildare Round Tower
Round Tower
Kildare Market Place
Market Place
Newbridge Barracks
Newbridge Barracks
Co. Kildare
Franciscan Friary, Castledermot
Co. Kildare
Old Kildare town
Old Town
Carbury Castle, Co. Kildare
Carbury Castle
Co. Kildare

Ireland in 1976

January: Dr Ruth Patterson became the first female Presbyterian Minister in Ireland.

January 5th: The former Taoiseach, John A. Costello, died in Dublin aged 84.

January 5th: Ten Protestant workmen were murdered by the South Armagh Republican Action Force near Kingsmill in County Armagh.

February 3rd: In Northern Ireland, the Constitutional Convention was reconvened in an attempt to reach agreement on a constitutional arrangement.

February 12th: Death of PIRA volunteer Frank Stagg on hunger strike at Wakefield Prison. There was rioting in Derry and Belfast next day.

February 23rd: The Shankill Butchers kidnapped and murdered Catholic civilian Francis Rice.

The aftermath of the Kingsmill Massacre

The aftermath of the Kingsmill Massacre

The Maguire Family

The Maguire Family

March 1st: Special Category Status was ended for people sentenced for crimes related to civil violence in Northern Ireland.

March 3rd: The 'Maguire Seven' were convicted of possession of explosives. They would eventually be absolved.

March 4th: The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention was formally dissolved, and Northern Ireland came under direct rule.

March 12th: Lenny Murphy, leader of the Shankill Butchers, was arrested, but the murders continued.

March 17th: Birth of Stephen Gately, singer with Boyzone.

March 18th: American President Gerald Ford greeted the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave at the White House.

March 25th: Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced 'police primacy', also known as 'Ulsterisation', which meant that the RUC would take a leading role in security rather than the British army.

March 31st: A large sum of money was stolen from a CIÉ train at Sallins, County Kildare.

April 3rd: The last passenger train ran on the Limerick-Claremorris line.

April 9th: Two Catholic civilians died in separate attacks by Loyalists.

April 16th: Two Catholic civilians were killed by an IRA bomb in Servia Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.

May 5th: Nine members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party escaped from the Maze Prison via a tunnel.

May 17th: Tim Severin set off from Dingle in his boat Brendan, on the way to America.

May 22nd: The Ulster Volunteer Force announced a three month ceasefire, that would however be broken on several occasions.

The Brendan

Tim Severin's ship The Brendan

Ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs

Ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs

June 22nd: Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP, disclosed details of the UUP's talks with the SDLP.

June 29th: The highest temperature of the twentieth century in Ireland was recorded as 32.5C (90.5F) at Boora, Offaly.

July 15th: Four prisoners escaped from the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, when bombs exploded.

July 21st: The UK ambassador, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, and a civil servant, Judith Cooke, were killed by a landmine at Sandford, Co. Dublin.

July 25th: Three Protestant civilians were shot dead at the The Store Bar in Templepatrick by the Republican Action Force, an off-shoot of the IRA.

August 10th: Three children died when Danny Lennon, an IRA fugitive, was shot dead by British troops at the wheel of a car. A witness, Betty Williams, was inspired to set up Women for Peace.

August 14th: Ten thousand women, both Protestant and Catholic, demonstrated for peace in Northern Ireland.

September 2nd: The European Commission on Human Rights decided that Britain had to answer a case of ill-treatment of internees in 1971 before the European Court of Human Rights.

September 13th: Anne Dickson became the first woman to lead a political party in Ireland when she assumed leadership of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

September 14th: Ciaran Nugent was the first IRA man to be admitted to the Maze Prison without Special Category status. He became the first blanketman.

September 23rd: The President, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, consulted with the Council of State for four hours on whether to refer the Emergency Powers legislation to the Supreme Court.

September 25th: The band U2 was formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin.

October 22nd: President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigned after the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan, had accused him of being a 'thundering disgrace'.

Peace protesters in Belfast

Peace protesters in Belfast

Patrick Hillery

Patrick Hillery, President of Ireland

October 27th: A new £5 note was introduced with the image of the 9th-century philosopher Johannes Scotus Eriugena.

November: The Provisional Republican Army restructured on cellular lines.

November 20th: National Peace Day was marked with marches, church services and bell ringing.

December 1st: The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act came into effect, aiming to stop religious discrimination.

December 3rd: Patrick Hillery was inaugurated as the sixth President of Ireland at Dublin Castle.

December 9th: End of Term by Maeve Binchy premiered at the Abbey Theatre.

December 10th: Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan won the Nobel Peace Prize.

December 25th: The IRA declared a three-day ceasefire.

Donkeys in old Ireland

Irish History on Film

Rural Ireland in the 1920s

The Life Story of an Old Rebel

John Denvir

Originally published: 1910

John Denvir


O'Connell, when passing through Liverpool on his way to Parliament, always made the Adelphi Hotel his headquarters, and used to hear Mass not far off at the Church of St. Nicholas, or, as it was more generally called, "Copperas Hill Chapel," where I used to serve as an altar boy. I must have been a very small boy at the time when I first remember the Liberator coming to Mass at our Church, for, on one occasion, on stretching up to the altar to remove the Missal it was so difficult for me to reach that I let it fall over my head.

Without being by any means what is termed a "votheen," O'Connell was a faithful and devout son of the Catholic Church. During the many years when he was passing through Liverpool, going to and returning from Parliament, and on other occasions when he came to Irish gatherings in the town, he attended Mass daily whenever possible, and frequently approached Holy Communion.

O'Connell spoke several times from the balcony of the Adelphi Hotel. From my earliest days I was an earnest politician, and one of my most cherished remembrances is of having been brought by my father to one of these gatherings. The Liberator addressed a great multitude, who filled the whole square in front, and overflowed into the adjoining streets. My recollection of him on this occasion is that of a big man, in a long cloak, wearing what appeared to me some kind of a cap with a gold band on it. This must have been the famous "Repeal Cap" designed by the Irish sculptor, Hogan, who, when investing O'Connell with it at the great gathering at Mullaghmast, said: "Sir, I only regret this cap is not of gold."

As in our later Irish movements, we frequently had meetings in one or other of the Liverpool theatres. O'Connell was, as often as his attendance could be secured, the central figure, and drew enormous gatherings. At one of these meetings at the Royal Amphitheatre there was an attempt by an armed body of Orangemen to storm the platform, on which were all our leading Irishmen. Among the most active of these was Terence Bellew MacManus, who had all his lifetime been a devoted follower and admirer of O'Connell. On this particular night, which was long before the unfortunate split into "Old Ireland" and "Young Ireland," he had a fine opportunity of displaying his "physical force" proclivities in defence of the "moral force" leader.

The Orange attack was of short duration. They were simply cleared out as if by an irresistible whirlwind. We have always been able to hold our own in Liverpool, when it came to physical encounters against all comers. We have generally had some organisation or another—whether constitutional or unconstitutional—but, apart from this, the nature of the employment of our working-men, especially in O'Connell's time, brought them together in such a way that large numbers of them knew each other, and could act together in case of emergency.

MacManus, who had command of the stewards on the night of the attack, knew a number of men like Mick Digney, who was what was called a "lumper"—that is, a contractor in a small way who took work in the "lump" and employed men for loading and unloading ships. Digney and other friends would find their way for consultation and the making of the necessary arrangements beforehand on occasions like this to MacManus, whose place of business—he was an extensive forwarding agent—was one of those half-offices, half-warehouses, which used to be in North John Street.

Another class of men who were reliable for such occasions were the bricklayers' labourers. Of course, it is different now—and a sure sign that our people are rising in the social scale—but in those years, and long afterwards, I never knew a bricklayers' labourer who was not an Irishman.

The frequent mention at these gatherings of a sterling Irishman I knew well in after years, Patrick O'Hanlon, reminds me of two friends of my father of the same name who belonged to another class of men, the wood-sawyers, who, at that time, were mostly Irish. They had not exactly the same name as Patrick, for it was not so customary to use the O' or Mac in those days as it has since become. Not that Hughey and Ned Hanlon did not know that they were entitled to the honourable Gaelic prefix, but, with the good nature which is rather too characteristic of Irishmen sometimes, those who had preceded them had allowed other people to drop the O' in using their name, until it became rather difficult to resume it.

Needless to say that Hughey and Ned Hanlon, John Green, Mike Doolan, and other wood-sawyers were at the Royal Amphitheatre among MacManus's volunteers. The Hanlons, in particular, were fine lathy men, without an ounce of spare flesh, but they had sinews of iron. Hughey used to come to our house with other neighbours every week to hear the "Nation" read, and the songs in it sung to the accompaniment of Harry Starkey's or my Uncle John's fiddle. The Hanlons were North of Ireland men, and Hughey often used to proudly tell us that the O'Hanlons were the Ulster standard-bearers.

At that time, besides the Amphitheatre, where during those years several Irish demonstrations were held, a popular place for our gatherings was the Adelphi Theatre (previously the "Queen's"), which was in somewhat better standing then than afterwards, though it, too, has had within its walls most of the Irish leaders of the last half century.

I remember one occasion in particular when O'Connell was, of course, the hero of the day, which impressed itself upon my youthful mind the more forcibly on account of the presence on the platform of Jack Langan—of whom I have already spoken—a warm-hearted and generous supporter of the great Dan, and the Cause of Repeal. Indeed, we boys regarded the Irish champion boxer with the admiration we would have bestowed upon Finn MacCool or some other of the ancient Fenians, could they have appeared in bodily form amongst us.

Little we then thought that we should be welcoming on the same platform the Fenians of our own days.

That meeting in the Adelphi has also been frequently brought back to my mind since, because for a long time the "leading man" in the stock company at that theatre was Edmond O'Rourke (stage name Falconer), a sterling Nationalist, with whom I made a closer acquaintance in later years.

I was often brought by my father to the weekly gatherings in the Repeal Hall, Paradise Street, where, among the speakers on the Sunday nights I can best remember were Terence Bellew MacManus, Patrick O'Hanlon, Dr. Reynolds, George Smyth, and George Archdeacon.

MacManus and Smyth (the latter of whom I knew well in after years), besides being prominent workers in O'Connell's agitation for Repeal of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain, took active parts in the "Young Ireland" movement. Dr. Reynolds was another of the Young Irelanders. So also was Archdeacon, who, in addition, still showed his belief in physical force by his connection with Fenianism, for which he suffered imprisonment.

Young as I was, I shall never forget the days of the Famine, for Liverpool, more than any other place outside of Ireland itself, felt its appalling effects. It was the main artery through which the flying people poured to escape from what seemed a doomed land. Many thousands could get no further, and the condition of the already overcrowded parts of the town in which our people lived became terrible, for the wretched people brought with them the dreaded Famine Fever, and Liverpool became a plague-stricken city. Never was heroism greater than was shown by the devoted priests—English as well as Irish—in ministering to the sick and dying. So terrible was the mortality amongst them that several of the churches lost their priests twice over. Our own family were nearly left orphans, for both father and mother were stricken down by the fever, but happily recovered.

It will not be wondered at that one who saw these things, even though he was only a boy, should feel it a duty stronger than life itself to reverse the system of misgovernment which was responsible.

There was, no doubt, a good deal of English sympathy for the famine-stricken people, and there were some remedial measures by Parliament—totally inadequate, however, but I am afraid that the "Times" and "Punch," two great organs of public opinion, but too faithfully represented the feelings of many of our rulers. The "Times" actually gloated over what appeared to be the impending extinction of our race. Young as I then was, but learning my weekly lessons from the "Nation," I can remember how my blood boiled one day when I saw in a shop window a cartoon of "Punch"—a large potato, which was a caricature of O'Connell's head and face, with the title—"The Real Potato Blight."

At the time of the Rising of 1848 I was commencing my apprenticeship with a firm of builders, who were also my father's employers. They were successors to the firm through whose agency he had been sent to Ireland as clerk of the works, just previous to my birth there. It was the custom of the firm, when a boy came to commence his apprenticeship to be a joiner, to keep him in the office for a time as office boy. I was employed in the office at the time of the Rising, but one of the partners in this firm of builders, who was also an architect, seeing that I had had a good education, and, through attending evening classes at the Catholic Institute and Liverpool Institute, had a considerable knowledge of mathematics and architectural drawing, gave me employment which was more profitable to the firm and congenial to me than that of an ordinary office boy or junior clerk. Besides helping in the ordinary clerical work in the office, I was put to copying and making tracings of ground plans, elevations and sections of buildings, and working drawings for the use of the artizans, besides assisting in surveying. I was about three years employed in this way before entering into the joiners' workshop. The firm was most anxious that I should remain in the office altogether, and I have often thought since that my father made a mistake in insisting that I should learn the trade of a joiner, which he considered a more certain living than that of an architect or draughtsman, unless one had influential connections.

It was from the upper window of the office where I was at the work I have described that I could see the men belonging to our firm drilling as special constables in the school yard opposite, in anticipation of trouble in connection with an Irish Rising.

The authorities were evidently preparing for a formidable outbreak in Liverpool, for there was a large military camp at Everton—a suburb of the city—and three gunboats in the river ready for action, in case any part of the town fell into the hands of the Irish Confederates. Special constables, as in the case of our own firm, were being sworn in all over the town, and the larger firms were putting pressure upon their employees to be enrolled. Indeed, some 500 dock labourers were discharged because they would not be sworn in. My father declined to be a special constable, but suffered no further from this than becoming a suspect—his services being too valuable to be dispensed with by his employers.

He was a genuinely patriotic Irishman, steadfast in his political creed, though unostentatious in his professions, being more a man of action than of words. My mother, as I think I have already sufficiently indicated, was, on the other hand, more demonstrative. I think she must have had a positive genius for conspiracy. Whatever the movement was she must have a hand in it. On one occasion—I forget exactly what it was—some compromising documents had to be got out of the way for the time being. In those days sloops used to come over from Ireland with potatoes, and the cargoes used to be sold on the quay at the King's Dock. She often bought a load of potatoes here to supply a small general shop which she kept to help out my father's earnings. It was under such a load of potatoes that she had brought home that she concealed the dangerous documents.

It was in June, 1848, in the columns of the "Nation" that I first met with the name of Bernard MacAnulty. In after years I worked in successive national movements with him, and ever found him a dear friend and most active and enthusiastic colleague. As showing that he was a man of advanced proclivities, I may mention that he wrote to the "Nation" suggesting the formation of the "Felon Repeal Club" in Newcastle-on-Tyne. From then up to the last day of his life he was the same generous whole-souled Irishman he had been from the beginning. His stalwart frame and pleasant, genial face were well known during the whole of the Home Rule movement, in which I was thrown into frequent contact with him, when we were both members of the Executive of the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain.

He was a North man, from the County Down, a successful merchant—having started life as a packman—in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and so won the respect of all classes that he was elected a member of the Town Council, in which he served with great credit. The northern Catholic, who is so often a pure Celt, is sometimes credited with having acquired some of the qualities of his Presbyterian neighbours of Lowland Scots extraction. But this is only on the surface, and Bernard MacAnulty was a typical example of this. No braver or more generous Irishman ever breathed, and he had a fund of humour which would have done credit to the quickest-witted Connaughtman or Munsterman that ever lived. Though the Ulster accent is generally regarded as a hard one, I never thought it was so with my friend. Perhaps this is owing to my partiality as a County Down man, which, though born in Antrim, I always consider myself, Down being the native place of my people from time immemorial. I have always thought that the people born and reared, as Bernard was, among the Mourne Mountains and their surroundings have anything but an unmusical accent.

In connection with the Fenian movement my dear old friend was a strong, active, and generous sympathiser. His purse was always available for every good National object, whether "legal" or "illegal," and I know as a fact that many a good fellow "on the run" found shelter under his roof, and never went away empty-handed.