ON THIS DATE (29TH MAY) 297 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A LEINSTER HOUSE MAN!
‘Kildare House’, pictured, left (now known as ‘Leinster House’, and used as an administrative building by Free State political regimes), was built between 1745 and 1748 under the instructions of James Fitzgerald, and against the advice of his colleagues in the ‘establishment’ of the day – he was advised by his colleagues that that part of town was ‘dangerous and unfashionable’ but, so sure was he of his ‘standing’ within his societal ranks, that he declared that “..wherever I go, fashion will follow me..” (‘1169’ comment – a statement made for a ‘sheep’ metaphor, considering that the ‘sheep’ are still following the inhabitants of that House!)
James Fitzgerald (pictured) was born on this date – 29th May – in 1722, to Robert Fitzgerald (the ’19th Earl of Kildare’) and ‘Lady’ Mary Fitzgerald (a daughter of William O’Brien, the ‘3rd Earl of Inchiquin’) and, one presumes, they divided up their time visiting their estates in Waterford and Maynooth, among others, but still managed to find the time to ensure that young Jimmy would become and/or be anointed/appointed to the positions of 1st Duke of Leinster, 20th Earl of Kildare, 1st Marquess of Kildare, 6th Baron Offaly, 1st Earl of Offaly, Viscount Leinster of Taplow and Lord Justice of Ireland!
Have to admire their chutzpah and, indeed, their time-management skills, a ‘gift’ they obviously passed-on to James : at 25 years of age, Jimmy married the 15-years-young ‘Lady’ Emily Lennox, who was descended from ‘King’ Charles II and was therefore, obviously (!), a distant fifth cousin of ‘King’ George III, for it would take some time-management skills to parent the nineteen children that the couple had (Yes! – 19 children ; nine sons and ten daughters!), enough kids, if one were to be cynical about it, to say that the House Staff were kept busy with that task alone!
And James left them to it – he died in Kildare/Leinster House, in 1773, on the 19th of November, at 51 years of age, from ‘unspecified causes’. Exhaustion, probably…!
‘SINN FÉIN NATIONAL COLLECTION IN CORK / CORK SINN FÉIN CONCERT / SINN FÉIN PUBLIC MEETING IN WATERFORD’.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.
Sinn Féin National Collection in Cork – during the National Collection now in progress, the police have, in Ballincollig, Cobh, Mallow and Fermoy, attempted to stop the collection and demanded the names of our collectors. We congratulate the members of the Brian Dillon Cumann on their stand in Mallow and Fermoy. We should like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have already subscribed for their generous response, both in the city and county.
Cork Sinn Féin Concert – A concert will be held in the Opera House under the combined auspices of all the city cumann at 8pm on Sunday 12th December, 1954. We appeal to all Cork republicans to give this venture their full support. Prominent artists are being engaged and an enjoyable evening’s entertainment is assured.
Sinn Féin Public Meeting in Waterford – Arrangements are being made to hold a public meeting in Broad Street, Waterford City, at 8.30pm on Saturday night, 11th December 1954. Speakers from Cork City will address the meeting and the Cork Volunteers Band will attend.
(END of ‘Sinn Féin National Collection in Cork’, ‘Cork Sinn Féin Concert’ and ‘Sinn Féin Public Meeting in Waterford’ : NEXT – ‘Glasgow Sinn Féin’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (29TH MAY) 135 YEARS AGO : A “MISUNDERSTANDING” OCCURS BETWEEN OSCAR AND CONSTANCE!
“The proper basis for marriage is a mutual misunderstanding..” – Oscar Wilde (pictured, with his wife, Constance Lloyd) was born on the 16th of October, 1854, into a middle-class family who lived at Westland Row in Dublin : his father, ‘Sir’ William Wilde, was a doctor and his mother, who was known to be ‘unconventional’ for the times that were in it – Jane Francesca Agnes (née Elgee aka ‘Lady’ Wilde [‘Speranza of The Nation’]) – was a poet who mixed in artistic and intellectual circles, and was left-leaning in her political beliefs. The child was christened ‘Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde’ : Oscar Wilde.
Oscar was educated in Trinity College in Dublin and then in Magdalen College in Oxford, England, and won a ‘double-first’ in ‘Mods’ (one of the hardest examinations ever devised!) and the Newdigate Prize for Poetrty but, nonetheless, had to revert to lecturing and freelancing for periodicals to make a living. However, he persevered and, in his mid-30’s, made a name for himself with ‘The Happy Prince’, followed three years later with ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ and, in that same year, ‘A House of Pomegranates’.
He then took the world by storm and ensured for himself a place at the top table of literary giants with his works ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, ‘A Woman of No Importance’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ and ‘The Importance of being Earnest’. But ‘life’ intervened – being, as Oscar Wilde was, a gay man in the Victorian era brought with it even more dangers than for a heterosexual who ‘played the field’ : his affair with (and letters to) his boyfriend lead to him serving two years in prison, after which he wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ –
“Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel ;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.” (‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, by Oscar Wilde, written after his release from Reading prison on the 19th May 1897, at 43 years of age)
He then went into exile and died, three years later, in Paris, on the 30th November 1900 ; he was then sixteen years married to Constance Lloyd (they had that “misunderstanding” on the 29th May, 1884 – 135 years ago, on this date) and, while they were on ‘good terms’, their marriage was a strained one…
Born on a Dublin council estate, supporter of the British Army in Ireland and an admirer of Thatcher.
By David Thorpe.
From ‘Magill’ Magazine, May 2002.
A bombshell hit Patrick Cosgrave when his idol, Margaret Thatcher, stormed to power – he was suddenly dropped by the Tories. It could have been because he was drinking prodigiously at the time, or because he was famously stubborn and not a man who took orders easily. Whatever the case, the glamour that surrounded him when he was at the centre of political influence in Britain soon dissipated and, except for a brief period as editor-in-chief of Tiny Rowland’s newspaper group, he spent the rest of his days leading the more isolated existence of a freelance writer.
Cosgrave followed in his father’s footsteps as a spendthrift, and was often generous beyond his means. Not with everyone, though – he dealt with the demands of the Inland Revenue by ignoring them and, after he failed to attend several court hearings, he was declared bankrupt in 1983. That same year he turned up on ‘The Late Late Show’, calling for the British Army to be given its head in the North of Ireland, for the border between the North and the Republic (sic) to be sealed off and for all Irish people in Britain who refused a British passport to be deported back to Ireland!
A childhood bout of rheumatic fever meant that he suffered from a weak heart all his life, something not helped by his drinking and the fact that he was an inveterate smoker. These, combined, caused ill health for much of his later life but, despite this, he continued to produce high-quality journalism, contributing to a swathe of literary and political publications in Britain and Ireland. He also wrote 14 books, including works on Churchill, socialism, and leading Tory Richard Austen (‘RA’) Butler, as well as three minor spy/thriller novels… (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (29TH MAY) 221 YEARS AGO : FATHER MURPHY OF BOOLAVOGUE STRIKES FOR FREEDOM!
‘One of a tenant farmer’s five children, John Murphy (pictured) was born near Ferns in 1753. He was educated at a hedge school and by a local parish priest, Dr. Andrew Cassin SJ, who had a great influence on him. He grew up speaking Irish and English and later learned Spanish, Latin and Greek. A splendid horseman, he excelled in athletics and handball. He was described as “a good-looking man, stout but rather low-sized and well built”.
At that time, students for the priesthood were ordained before they went to study at colleges in continental Europe, as seminaries were still forbidden by penal laws in Ireland. John Murphy was ordained by Bishop Sweetman of Ferns before leaving to study at a Dominican college in Seville in southern Spain in 1780. Sweetman was an ardent nationalist who had once been imprisoned in Dublin Castle on a charge of gunrunning.
Returning home five years later, Fr. Murphy was made curate in Kilcormuck, better known as Boolavogue, where he had a thatched chapel. Catholic churches were forbidden in some Wexford parishes by local landlords. He lodged with a tenant farmer and travelled round the parish on horseback.
Bishop Sweetman was meanwhile succeeded by Dr. James Caulfield, who held very different political views. He stated – “Loyalty to the good gracious King George III ; submission to His Majesty’s government ; and observance of the laws are to be a religious and indispensable duty to every Catholic.”
Ireland was then a British sectarian colony, with political and economic power controlled by Protestants. Catholics could not even vote, let alone sit in the Dublin parliament. But influenced by the success of the British colonists’ revolt in the 1776 American War of Independence and the 1789 French Revolution, some liberal Irish Protestants began to campaign for independence from Britain and freedom for Irish Catholics. With these aims they founded the United Irishmen in 1791. The rebellion they planned for May 1798 was a failure in Dublin, where most of its leaders were arrested at the start. Elsewhere in Leinster it had little success. In Wexford, Bishop Caulfield was regarded as “a government man” and a collaborator with the British. He ordered all Catholics to surrender their arms and be loyal to George III, “the best of kings.” At first Fr. Murphy urged his people to do so. He and 757 of his parishioners even signed an oath, demanded by their local landlord, that they were not United Irishmen.
The country was then under martial law, which was ruthlessly enforced by the army with the help of two new armed auxiliary forces, militia and yeomen. Both imposed a reign of terror on the people. On 26 May, twenty-eight local men were taken into Carnew and shot dead by the yeoman. When Fr. Murphy and his people heard this and also learned that the yeomen planned a raid on Boolavogue, they decided to resist. Armed with one gun and a few pikes, he and about thirty local men intercepted the yeomen, led by a Lieut. Bookey, as they began burning the houses in Boolavogue. When Bookey and another yeoman were killed, the rest fled. The Wexford Rising had begun…” (from here.)
During the 1798 Rising, Wexford had 85 priests, of whom only 11 joined the rebels, including Fr Murphy of Boolavogue. He was captured, flogged and hanged in Tullow, Co Carlow, on the 2nd of July, 1798, aged in his mid-forties. One of the few decent priests, recognised as such by the British and dealt with accordingly by them : ‘At Boolavogue as the sun was setting o’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier
A rebel band set the heather blazing and brought the neighbors from far and near
Then Father Murphy from old Kilcormac spurred up the rock with a warning cry
“Arm, arm,” he cried, “For I’ve come to lead you, for Ireland’s freedom we’ll fight or die…”
MICHAEL DAVITT TV PROGRAMME, TG4, 9.30PM, WEDNESDAY 29TH MAY 2019.
Michael Davitt was born into poverty in Straide, Mayo, on the 25th of March, 1846 – at the time of the forced hunger/attempted genocide known as ‘An Gorta Mór’ – 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 a job.
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.
Almost immediately, he took on the position as a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB and returned to Ireland in January 1878, to a hero’s welcome. At the Castlebar meeting he spoke 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…”
The new organisation realised that they would be well advised to seek support from outside of Ireland and, under the slogan ‘The Land for the People’, Michael Davitt 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 Land League. Michael Davitt died at 60 years of age in Elphis Hospital in Dublin on the 30th of May 1906, 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.
Should be worth watching tonight, especially as it’s a TG4 programme, and (hopefully!) not the usual anti-republican/pro-British RTE-type of propaganda – ‘Michael Davitt – Radacach : The story of the land activist’.
‘IRELAND NOT DISCUSSED IN WASHINGTON’.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, January 1955.
Ireland was not mentioned in his recent talks with President Eisenhower in Washington, Sir Winston Churchill told Mr Cahir Healy, Irish Nationalist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, in the House of Commons recently.
Mr Healy had asked the British Prime Minister whether the case of Ireland was discussed between himself and President Eisenhower before signing the recent statement on the principle of unifying countries whose people desired it ; Churchill replied – “The case of Ireland was not discussed between the President and myself..” (interruptions, shouts of “Why not?”) “..I thought all that was settled happily a long time ago..” (interruptions, laughter).
Cahir Healy : “Do you not consider that clause three – namely, the case of nations divided against their will – fits the case of Ireland like a glove? Would it not be a strange omission not to consider the views of 2,000,000 Irish voters whose swing-over contributed to the Republican victory last year, and resent the partition both of Ireland and Korea..” (interruptions, laughter) “..are the principles of democracy to be applied only to nations abroad?”
During the pause, before Churchill stood up, there were loud shouts of “Answer!”, and much laughter. Then Churchill replied – “The principles of democracy, subject to their usual qualifications, are of general application..” (interruptions, laughter). (‘1169’ comment – “the principles of democracy” are there only on paper, as far as Westminster is concerned, and are to be invoked only when it suits Westminster, whatever the year – 1955, or before then, or now, in 2019. That’s “the general application”, as far as the British ‘establishment’ are concerned.)
(END of ‘IRELAND NOT DISCUSSED IN WASHINGTON’ : Next – ‘Poland And Ourselves’, from the same source.)
Thanks for reading, Sharon.