ON THIS DATE (30TH MAY) 220 YEARS AGO : “INSURGENTS TAKE POSSESSION…”.
“Nothing can exceed the melancholy aspect of this place. The insurgents in our neighbouring county of Wexford are so numerous as to have taken possession of and destroyed the town of Enniscorthy not a house remaining ; men, women, and children murdered and burnt, particularly the clergy. A gentleman has informed me that he saw the bodies of Mr. Hayden, a clergyman past eighty years of age, and of Mr. Nun, a very respectable rector, lying unburied in the street, the day after their entrance, with 400 more dead bodies. Some detachments sent from hence have been defeated : from one under the command of General Faucett, they took two fieldpieces.
The rebels amount to 15 or 16,000 ; march in a disciplined manner, have a squadron of cavalry, and fire their cannon with precision. These circumstances I give on the authority of officers who have been beaten back*. Every tide brings us in boats full of wounded and fugitives. Yesterday the rebels were in possession of Wexford ; thus a port is open to the French, but it is a very bad harbour. At New Ross, ten miles from hence, about 1000 troops and some artillery are got together : the insurgents are around Wexford, about twenty-eight miles from thence. As yet, from the spirit of the principal inhabitants and clergy uniting to guard it, this city has not risen…” – a letter written by a Doctor Christopher Butson, the ‘Dean of Waterford’, on the 31st May 1798. While ‘the rebels’ had indeed taken over, the “not a house remaining ; men, women and children murdered..” etc (information supplied to the good ‘Dean’ by British officers) would today be dismissed as (‘Kitsonian’) ‘fake news’, as it should be.
”SINN FÉIN IS EVERYTHING ITS NAME IMPLIES – GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE….!’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.
Would all Company OC’s please take note that we have moved into a new GHQ : our new address is 45 Upper Mount Street, Dublin.
CORK : The Department of AG received a letter from Mill Street, Cork, previous to our removal from Blessington Street. The letter, which contained a stamp for reply, was mislaid during our removal to the new GHQ – would the person please write again as soon as possible.
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE : All Companies who have not forwarded their annual affiliation fee of 10/- send the said amount on as soon as possible. This applies to Companies who have a membership of 12 scouts or over. (Next – ‘FREE STATEISM’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (30TH MAY) 211 YEARS AGO : ‘FIGHTING’ FOR ELECTION!
‘Irish elections can be boisterous and violent affairs but none more so than the Co.Wexford election to the British House of Commons in 1807, just a few years after the Act of Union…two of the candidates, William Congreve Alcock and John Colclough, fight a duel in front of the county sheriff, 16 magistrates and a large crowd of spectators. Alcock shoots Colclough dead ; he is elected ; he is also tried and acquitted for killing Colclough, but his mind is badly affected ; two years later, he will be confined in an asylum for the insane.
Among the contestants..were two local grandees, William Congreve Alcock and John Colclough. Colclough’s brother, who gloried in the traditional Irish monicker of ‘Caesar’, had been the local MP but was a prisoner of war in France. The Colclough’s, who were generally popular landlords, had lived at Tintern Abbey, a former monastery, since the mid-16th century.
The election campaign was a bitter one, polling was due to take place on 1 June but with just two days to go Alcock took exception to what he alleged was an attempt by Colclough to steal the support of tenants obligated to vote for him in what was, by today’s standards, a slightly democratic election. In what appears like a piece of egregious over-reaction, he challenged Colclough to a duel and in the encounter that followed Alcock shot his political opponent dead. As the MP for Athlone, George Tierney observed tartly, “that’s one way of getting an election”. As duelling was still socially acceptable in early 19th century Ireland, Alcock was acquitted of murder and allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons. But he was not to continue in office for long – two years after the duel he was committed to an asylum. The Irish judge and memoirist, Jonah Barrington wrote of Alcock that “..alas! The acquitted duellist suffered more in mind than his victim had done in body. The horror of the scene, and the solemnity of the trial, combined to make a fatal inroad on his reason! He became melancholy ; his understanding declined ; a dark gloom enveloped his entire intellect ; and an excellent young man and perfect gentleman at length sank into irrecoverable imbecility.”
But there is an interesting postscript to this sad tale. Not all those affected by the duel came out of it badly : Colclough’s estate at Tintern Abbey was managed by his steward, one James Kennedy. Because of the absence of Caesar Colclough in France Kennedy continued to run the estate until his Caesar’s return in 1815. During that period something of the order of £80,000 disappeared. Nobody could pin it directly on the steward but in 1818 Kennedy was dismissed at the behest of Caesar Colclough’s wife, Jane Stratford Kirwan. The money remains unaccounted for. There are, however, persistent rumours that at least some of it may have been used a generation later to fund the migration to the USA of the Kennedy family in the 1840s, and perhaps even to set up the Boston saloon that became the basis of the family fortune. A descendant of James Kennedy, by the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, went on to become President of the United States of American in 1961. Was the Kennedy fortune based on the tragic outcome of a tragic confrontation between two Irish aristocrats..?’ (from here.)
Whatever about the alleged/possible(probable?) Kennedy connection regarding the missing £80,000 (or part thereof)- highly unlikely, we believe, as professional, career politicians would run a mile from tainted money of that sort (!!) – the ‘tenants (being) obligated’ to vote for their ‘landlords’ is a position that, mentally and morally, still exists in this warped State : the ‘landlord’ ie the ‘distinguished’ [temporary] occupant of the ‘Big House’ accepts it as a given, morally, that ‘his tenants’ (constituents) will vote him/her back in for another term in office while the voter/tenant/serf accepts it as a given that he/she is ‘obligated’ to vote for someone from the ‘Big House’. And that’s ‘progress’, Irish style.
APPEAL TO THE PRODIGAL…”
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.
Do not be afraid of knowledge. Do not be indifferent to it. If you are sincere, if you have doubts about the righteousness of your stand, read the history of Ireland. Above all, learn the truth of what has happened in recent years and what is happening in Ireland – in your land, today. Read republican literature constantly, until you can say that you have honestly sought the facts. Then drown your pride and let truth come to the surface, and shine the light of your new-found knowledge on your former course. You will see that you have been going astray.
You know the art of war, you are experienced and you are no coward. You have been brave for England. I ask you to consider if it was for love of her? Do you not love Ireland, has she no claim to your allegiance? Will you not offer your experience and determination to your country? Surely you can see that your motherland has a mother’s right to claim your aid – to ask you to be brave for her. You gained knowledge of tremendous importance when you helped the occupation forces. Now you can use that knowledge to drive those forces out of your country. (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (30TH MAY) 112 YEARS AGO : ‘FATHER OF THE IRISH LAND LEAGUE’ DIES.
Michael Davitt was born on the 25th March, 1846, in Straide, County Mayo, at the height of An Gorta Mór (‘the Great Hunger’) and the poverty of those times affected the Davitt family – he was the second of five children and was only four years of age when his family were evicted from their home over rent owed and his father, Martin, was left with no choice but to travel to England to look for work.
Martin’s wife, Sabina, and their five children, were given temporary accommodation by the local priest in Straide. The family were eventually reunited, in England, where young Michael attended school for a few years. His family were struggling, financially, so he obtained work, aged 9, as a labourer (he told his boss he was 13 years old and got the job – working from 6am to 6pm, with a ninty-minute break and a wage of 2s.6d a week) but within weeks he had secured a ‘better’ job, operating a spinning machine but, at only 11 years of age, his right arm got entangled in the machinery and had to be amputated. There was no compensation offered, and no more work, either, for a one-armed machine operator, but he eventually managed to get a job helping the local postmaster.
He was sixteen years young at that time, and was curious about his Irish roots and wanted to know more – he learned all he could about Irish history and, at 19 years young, joined the Fenian movement in England. Two years afterwards he became the organising secretary for northern England and Scotland for that organisation and, at 25 years of age, he was arrested in Paddington Station in London after the British had uncovered an IRB operation to import arms. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, on a ‘hard labour’ ticket, and served seven years in Dartmoor Prison in horrific conditions before being released in 1877, at the age of 31, on December 19th.
He returned to Ireland and was seen as a hero by his own people, and travelled extensively in his native Connaught, observing how, in his absence, nothing had improved for the working class. He realised that if the power of the tenant farmers could be organised, it would be possible to bring about the improvements that were badly needed, and he arranged a convention in August of 1879 ; the result was a body called the ‘National Land League of Mayo’. Thus began the land agitation movement. On the 21st October 1879, a meeting of concerned individuals was held in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo, to discuss issues in relation to ‘landlordism’ and the manner in which that subject impacted on those who worked on small land holdings on which they paid ‘rent’, an issue which other groups, such as tenants’ rights organisations and groups who, confined by a small membership, agitated on land issues in their own locality, had voiced concern about.
Those present agreed to announce themselves as the ‘Irish National Land League’ (which, at its peak, had 200,000 active members) and Charles Stewart Parnell who, at 33 years of age, had been an elected member of parliament for the previous four years, was elected president of the new group and Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt, and Thomas Brennan were appointed as honorary secretaries. That leadership had ‘form’ in that each had made a name for themselves as campaigners on social issues of the day and were, as such, ‘known’ to the British authorities – Davitt was a known member of the Supreme Council of the IRB and spoke publicly about the need “..to bring out a reduction of rack-rents..to facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers..the object of the League can be best attained by promoting organisation among the tenant-farmers ; by defending those who may be threatened with eviction for refusing to pay unjust rents ; by facilitating the working of the Bright clauses of the Irish Land Act during the winter and by obtaining such reforms in the laws relating to land as will enable every tenant to become owner of his holding by paying a fair rent for a limited number of years..”
Davitt realised that the ‘Land League’would be well advised to seek support from outside of Ireland and, under the slogan ‘The Land for the People’, he toured America, being introduced in his activities there by John Devoy and, although he did not have official support from the Fenian leadership (some of whom were neutral towards him while others were suspicious and/or hostile of and to him) he obtained constant media attention and secured good support for the objectives of the organisation.
He died before he could accomplish all he wanted to, at 60 years of age, in Elphis Hospital in Dublin, on the 30th of May 1906 – 112 years ago on this date – from blood poisoning : he had a tooth extracted and contracted septicaemia from the operation. His body was taken to the Carmelite Friary in Clarendon Street, Dublin, then by train to Foxford in Mayo and he was buried in Straide Abbey, near where he was born. The ‘Father of the Irish Land League’ was gone, but will not be forgotten.
VIEW FROM THE HILLTOP CAFE.
A cafe at Drumcree and the insights it offers into the Orangemen who frequent it. Carl Whyte paid a visit. From ‘Magill’ magazine, July 2002.
Drumcree Hill, on the outskirts of Portadown. The theatre for some of the worst civil disturbances witnessed in the recent history of the six counties. Traditionally, the Church of Ireland at Drumcree has invited the local Orange Order to hold a service in the church on the Sunday before the 12th of July, a service which has been the catalyst for widespread disorder.
Since 1998, the ‘Parades Commission’ has refused permission for the Orangemen to return to Portadown via the Garvaghy Road after the service. Orangemen gathered in their thousands in 1998 but despite the fact that authorities had previously banned parades and then permitted their passage, that particular year no such permission was given. The ‘District Grand Master’, Harold Gracey, swore that he would stay at the hill until the parade was allowed to march.
Four years later (ie 2002) the Orangemen still maintain a presence at the hill. Evolving from a caravan and car boots, there now exists a small cafe with the motto ‘ Here we stand, we can do no other’ emblazoned across the front. Windowless, it offers the traditional Ulster soda bread and bacon with tea to any visitors. Mid-evening on a June Friday, it is a bustling place ; suitably decked out with bunting (“for the Jubilee”, as everyone is keen to point out), the interior is an oasis of that uniquely loyalist brand of ‘Britishness’, with in-your-face union flags, portraits of ‘Her Majesty’ and that other colossus of Northern Protestantism, “Our own Dr. Paisley”… (MORE LATER).
Thanks for reading, Sharon.