Tomás MacCurtain (pictured), was born on the 20th March 1884, and was murdered by British agents on the 20th March 1920, at 36 years of age.

The first Irish republican to hold the ‘Lord Mayor’ office, Tomás MacCurtain, was elected to that position on the 31st January 1920 – 98 years ago on this date. He was assassinated by the British at his home in Thomas Davis Street in Blackpool, Cork, between midnight 19th March 1920 and the next day, which was his 36th birthday – his killers, dressed in ‘civvies’ and speaking with pronounced English accents, were RIC members tasked with the ‘job’ by their political bosses. He was buried in the Republican Plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork on Monday 22nd March 1920.

“We find that the late Alderman MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, died from shock and hemorrhage caused by bullet wounds, and that he was wilfully murdered under circumstances of the most callous brutality, and that the murder was organised and carried out by the Royal Irish Constabulary, officially directed by the British Government, and we return a verdict of wilful murder against David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England ; Lord French, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland ; Ian McPherson, late Chief Secretary of Ireland ; Acting Inspector General Smith, of the Royal Irish Constabulary ; Divisional Inspector Clayton of the Royal Irish Constabulary ; District Inspector Swanzy and some unknown members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. We strongly condemn the system at present in vogue of carrying out raids at unreasonable hours. We tender to Mrs MacCurtain and family our sincerest sympathy. We extend to the citizens of Cork our sympathy in the loss they have sustained by the death of one so eminently capable of directing their civic administration” – the unanimous verdict of the inquest into the murder of Alderman Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork and considered by many to be the ‘inventor’ of the ‘Flying Column’ tactic, as read out on 17th April 1920 by Coroner James J. McCabe. Sixty-four ‘policemen’ were questioned at the inquest, along with two British military operatives and thirty-one civilians.

Tomás MacCurtain, Irish republican Lord Mayor, born 20th March 1884, died 20th March 1920, elected to Office on the 31st January 1920 – 98 years ago on this date.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

Since the above figures apply in respect of the 26 Counties only, to get an overall picture for Ireland it is necessary to add the relevent figures for the Six Counties.

So far as is known, foreign companies operating with the latter area do not publish separate returns indicating the extent of their business within the area – it is safe, however, to assume that through addition of the relevent figures the totals given for the foreign companies would be considerably increased.

It is also worthy of note that in the 23 years from 1927 to 1949 the annual premium income of foreign companies from business transacted within the 26 Counties shows a remarkable increase, the figures for ‘Life and Industrial Assurance’ alone being, for 1927, £1,829,730 and, for 1949, £3,717,360… (MORE LATER.)


Charles Stewart Parnell’s sisters, Anna and Fanny, established a ‘Ladies Land League’ on the 31st January 1881, which, at its full strength, consisted of about five hundred branches and didn’t always see eye-to-eye with its ‘parent’ organisation – in its short existence, it provided assistance to about 3,000 people who had been evicted from their rented land holdings.

The ‘Ladies Land League’ was formed to assist and/or take over land agitation issues, as it seemed certain that the ‘parent’ body was going to be outlawed by the British and, sure enough, the British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, introduced and enforced a ‘Crimes Act’ that same year, 1881 – that particular piece of British ‘statute law’ in Ireland was better known as the ‘Coercion/Protection of Person and Property Act’, which made it illegal to assemble in relation to certain issues and an offence to conspire against the payment of rents ‘owed’ which, ironically, was a piece of legislation condemned by the same catholic church which condemned the ‘Irish National Land League’ because that Act introduced permanent legislation and did not have to be renewed on each political term.

And that same church also condemned the ‘Ladies Land League’ to the extent that Archbishop McCabe of Dublin instructed priests loyal to him “not to tolerate in your societies (diocese) the woman who so far disavows her birthright of modesty as to parade herself before the public gaze in a character so unworthy of a Child of Mary..” – the best that can be said about that is that that church’s ‘consistency’ hasn’t changed much over the years!

In October 1881, Westminster proscribed the ‘Irish National Land League’ and imprisoned its leadership, but the gap was ably filled by the ‘Ladies Land League’ until it was acrimoniously dissolved on the 10th August 1882, 19 months after it was formed. And it should be noted that the anti-republican State parliament in Dublin, which was created by a British act of parliament, is still involved in the business of landlordism…


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

The phrase which entitles this article is from the writings of Padraig Pearse (‘Coming Revolution’, November 1913). Pearse applied to his own generation the doctrine of Irish nationalism taught by Tone, Lalor, Davis and Mitchell ; this was the true doctrine because it included Irish separatism among its tenets.

Pearse saw, however, that the modern separatists had drifted too far away from Gaelic culture and he also saw that the modern revivalists of Gaelic culture had drifted too far away from separatism. His main contribution to Irish nationalism was to weld these two movements together, and to relate the combined product to our Christian beliefs. The result was the Republican Movement as we know it today.

It is necessary that the present generation should know something about the effects of the Movement on modern nationalistic thought, that they should see that this was a logical process leading to logical solutions and clear-cut definitions… (MORE LATER.)


The UVF, pictured, in the early 1900’s ; it was a politically-minded organisation when it was first formed, on the 31st January 1913 by the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’, with support from the ‘Ulster Reform Club’, but transformed itself into a drug-fuelled mini-mafia in later years.

One of the (original) UVF’s better-known leadership figures (apart from ‘Sir’ George Richardson, a retired British Army general) was Colonel Frederick Hugh Crawford CBE, who viewed himself as a breed apart from others who shared the planet with him – “From these settlers sprang a people, the Ulster-Scot, who have made themselves felt in the history of the British Empire and, in no small measure, in that of the United States of America. I am ashamed to call myself an Irishman. Thank God I am not one. I am an Ulsterman, a very different breed..” ‘His official title read Director of Ordnance of the HQ Staff of the UVF…he had first rate Protestant credentials for he had been one of those who signed the Ulster Covenant in his own blood. He had travelled the world, fought for a time in South Africa and returned to throw himself tirelessly into the fight against Home Rule for Ireland…’ (from here.)

Colonel Frederick was born in Belfast on the 21st August 1861, and died in his 92nd year on the 5th November 1952. His father, James, was a factory owner in Belfast (manufacturing starch) but Frederick struck out on his own, becoming an engineer with a shipping firm before taking to a military life, which brought him into the Boer War. On the night of the 24th April, 1914, Frederick Crawford, the ‘Director of Ordnance HQ Staff UVF’ (who was cooperating re acquiring arms with, and for, the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’) and the main instigator in an operation in which over 25,000 guns were successfully smuggled into Ireland, witnessed his plans come to fruition – for at least the previous four years, he and some other members of the ‘Ulster Reform Club’ had been making serious inquiries about obtaining arms and ammunition to be used, as they saw it, for ‘the protection of fellow Ulstermen’. Advertisements had been placed in newspapers in France, Belgium, Germany and Austrian newspapers seeking to purchase ‘10,000 second-hand rifles and two million rounds of ammunition..’ and, indeed, between August 1913 and September 1914, it is known that Crawford and his colleagues in the UVF/URC/UUC obtained at least three million rounds of .303 ammunition and 500 rifles, including Martini Enfield carbines, Lee Metford rifles, Vetterlis and BSA .22 miniature rifles, all accompanied by their respective bayonets, and six Maxim machine guns (from the Vickers Company in London, for £300 each).

The ads were placed and paid for by a ‘H.Matthews, Ulster Reform Club’ ; Crawford’s middle name was Hugh and his mother’s maiden name was Matthews, an action which some members of the Ulster Reform Club objected to, leading to Crawford resigning from that group and describing the objectors as “a hindrance” : he described that period in his life as being “so crowded with excitement and incidents that I can only remember some of them, and not always in the order in which they happened..”. Crawford and his UVF/URC/UUC colleagues had ordered some munitions from a company in Hamburg, in Germany, and had paid a hefty deposit up front but, months later, as they had not heard from the company, Crawford was sent there to see what the delay was and discovered that the German boss, who was in Austria while Crawford was in Germany, had informed Westminster about the order and was asked by that institution not to proceed with same – the deposit would not be returned and the deal was off, as far as the company was concerned. Crawford tracked him down, in Austria, and called him and his company swindlers and was then told of a similar ‘deal’ involving that arms company regarding Mexican purchasers who also got swindled but, on that occasion, words and bullets were exchanged, the latter from gun barrels!

At 60 years of age (in 1921) he was named in the British ‘Royal Honours List’ as a ‘CBE’ (‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’) and he wrote his memoirs in 1934 at 73 years of age. He died, in his 92nd year, in 1952, and is buried in the City Cemetery in the Falls Road in Belfast. The then British PM, ‘Sir’ Basil Brooke, described him as “a fearless fighter in the historic fight to keep Ulster British..” but, whatever about his ‘successes on the battlefield’, he was apparently less successful in his family life –

“What sort of man was my Father? As a boy and as a man he was never very intelligent. He was an unconscious bully and for that reason unloved by his children. Each in turn left the home as soon as we became adults and were able to do so. The U.V.F rifles – I think about 15,000, were stored and kept in good condition in a shed in the grounds of Harland and Wolff where I once saw them. For legal reasons they were in my father’s name. After the retreat from Dunkirk Britain was desperately short of arms and wanted to purchase the U.V.F rifles. As you are now aware my father was not a very intelligent person and was a hopeless business man. My father’s chartered accountant sent word to him to say that Sir Dawson Bates wanted to meet him about something important. Accordingly my father went to the accountant’s office where his old friend Sir Dawson Bates was waiting for him – “Ah Fred, so glad you’ve come”. The three, my Father, the accountant and Sir Dawson Bates sat down at a table.

There Sir Dawson carefully explained the desperate need Britain had for arms and asked my father, for patriotic reasons, to release the rifles – it would only be a simple matter of signing a prepared document. My father, in the presence of the accountant and Sir Dawson Bates, for patriotic reasons, signed the document without reading it. It conveyed ownership of the rifles from my father to Sir Dawson Bates who sold them to the British Government for, I believe, £2 a barrel…an unholy trio had been cheating him for years ; his estate agent who collected all revenues due to my father was keeping most of it. His chartered accountant was presenting false figures for income tax purposes and all this skulduggery was made legal by the co-operation of his trusted friend, his solicitor…” (from here.)

Colonel Frederick Crawford CBE proudly worked for, and aided and abetted, British imperialism, only to be used, abused and cheated by that same system. A lesson (which will no doubt go unheeded) to be learned, even at this late stage, by those who, today, work that imperialist system in this country, north and south.

The ‘modern day’ UVF, meanwhile, are a self-sustaining criminal outfit, using politics as a disguise for their continued existence – ‘Loads of youngsters were recruited…but the only thing these kids are good for is blocking the street. They wouldn’t know the difference between Edward Carson and Frank Carson..drug dealers and housebreakers have also been recruited. They are given the option of having their arms broken for anti-social behaviour or joining up…nearly everyone joins up. I know of a few fellas who have been out of work and deliberately allowed to run up tabs in UVF pubs. The UVF comes to them at the end of the month and says “pay up lads”. When they cannot they are given the option of a beating or signing up…’ (from here.)

First established on this date – 31st January – 105 years ago, they are still cheating on each other to this day.



By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

My comrades in Cage Eleven immediately voted unanimously to honour my special talent by electing me as the first captain of Cage Eleven’s First Team, the rest of which was a mixture of failed soccer wannabes with a prima donna called ‘Farron’ or something like that, from the St. James Road area of Belfast. But they were eager to learn. I heard someone say years later that they were donkeys being led by a lion (…thank God for artistic licence).

The first matches between Cage 9 and Cage 10, then Cage 12 and Cage 13, were pretty boring affairs. There wasn’t one fight! But, when it happened, it came without warning – the umpire threw the ball up into the air between the two teams and it was fully five minutes before anyone else touched it. There was fighting breaking out all over the pitch. The actual fighting itself was more relentless than vicious, far more gratifying than gratuitous – and I can’t help thinking that the umpire, Cleaky, must assume a lot of the responsibility for it.

The instant he threw the ball in the air to start the match he punched the full forward of Cage 9 on the chin – it wasn’t that Cleaky disliked the comrade, or maybe he did ; he was just setting the scene for the rest of the season. To say that old scores and grudges were being settled would be inaccurate, so new scores and new grudges were created and settled. On the spot! I looked around for an Ardoyne man to hit, as they were generally considered to be the easiest (a curse on artistic licence) – Ardoyne men are universally well known for their fantastic sense of humour and, by their nature, are very forgiving (!). But I wonder, do they post out a Fatwa to you or will it just appear in the ‘North Belfast News’? Anyway, the Ardoyne men were all on our team, so it was academic. I let it go… (MORE LATER).


‘Saint Brigid was

A problem child.

Although a lass

Demure and mild,

And one who strove

To please her dad,

Saint Brigid drove

The family mad.

For here’s the fault in Brigid lay:

She WOULD give everything away…
(from here.)

A belief associated with St. Brigid is that of the ‘Brigid’s Bed’, where single females of the area would each make a doll (a ‘Brideog’) to represent Brigid and dress it with as much colour as they could and then make a bed for the doll to lie in. On St. Brigid’s Eve – 31st January – the girls and young women would gather together in one house to stay up all night with the ‘Brideog’, and are then visited by all the young men of the community who must ask permission to enter the home, and treat them and the doll with respect. Unless, of course, you’re a rich male egotist who lives in a mansion paid for by those who work for a living or those living to find work.

The terminolgy in the following piece about St. Brigid is a bit ‘dated’, but would definitely appeal to the above-mentioned mansion-house lodger :

‘The housewife used the occasion of St. Brigid’s eve to ensure the house was respectable and tidy, a festive supper was also prepared consisting of apple cake, dumplings and colcannon, irrespective of the financial situation of the household. Allied to this all farmers wives made what was known as a bairin-breac, neighbours were invited around and engaged in drinking and merrymaking. On St. Brigids eve it was generally believed that the saint travelled around the countryside, bestowing blessings on the people and livestock.

Various elements were used to indicate that her visit to the house was welcomed. A common practice entailed the placing of a cake or pieces of bread and butter on the window-sill outside. Often this offering was left to be collected by a tramp or impoverished person. In other areas it was brought in the next morning and shared between the members of the household. Often a sheaf of corn was placed beside the cake as a refreshment for the Saint’s favourite cow who accompanied her. Other households placed a bundle of straw or fresh rushes on the threshold on which the Saint may kneel to bless the house or on which she could wipe her feet before entering. Further traditions include that dishes of water, salt, pieces of meat or butter being left outdoors as an offering for the saint and, after she had passed by, these would have acquired medicinal properties and were used to ward off illness…’ (from here.)

Happy St. Brigid’s Eve!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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