A scene from the 2010 Cabhair Christmas Swim (pictured) – the year of the ‘Big Freeze’. As a Cabhair rep said at the time – “If we can continue to hold this fundraiser in that weather, and get our swimmers and supporters out, we can do it in any weather..”

And they’ve done it again – on the 25th December next, the 43rd successive Swim will be held, at about 12 noon, at the 3rd lock of the Grand Canal, in Inchicore, Dublin ; it’s a family day out, and all are welcome!

It began – properly structured and organised – in 1976, as a ‘fundraiser with a difference’, combined with the need to gain extra publicity for a situation which was then – as now – making world headlines. Those that sat down together in early September 1976 to tighten-up the then ‘hit-and-miss’ affair were a dedicated team who fully understood that to fail in their business would not only bring derision on them and the issue they sought to highlight, but would give their enemy a publicity coup which they would exploit to the fullest extent. With that in mind, the team persevered – favours were called-in, guarantees were secured, provisions obtained and word dispatched to like-minded individuals in the near-locale. At the appointed time on the agreed day – 12 Noon, Christmas Day 1976 – a soon-to-be 43-years-young event was ‘born’. The CABHAIR Christmas Day Swim is, thankfully, still going strong and will be, as mentioned, 43-years-young on December 25th next!

More details can be found here.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.

Which of us has not met the Irishman, inevitably a professed nationalist, whose spontanous comment on Patrick Pearse is something like this – “A great man, a fine patriot, but impractical, of course, like all idealists..” ?

At my first encounter with this kind of opinion, my blood pressure rose sharply ; Pearse, the founder of St Enda’s, “impractical”! Pearse, the pioneer of modern bi-lingual education in Ireland, “impractical”! The man who gave vital inspiration in the re-creation of the Irish national spirit and was its chief modern voice – “impractical”!

The clue to this all-too-common opinion is not difficult to discover – the Leinster House politicians and their newspaper voices have been largely responsible for this schizophrenic attitude to Pearse. Foremost in praising Pearse as a true patriot and great Irishman they have tried to discredit the means he would have had in mind to use to achieve freedom : armed force… (MORE LATER.)


‘4th December 1887 – Winifred Carney, trade unionist and revolutionary, is born in Bangor, Co. Down.

Winifred Carney was a suffragist and an advocate for trade unions. She was an activist in the Irish Textile Workers Union and became James Connolly’s personal secretary while he was based in Belfast in 1912. She was active in organising solidarity work for workers during the Dublin Lockout and she joined Cumann na mBan.

She became involved in the Easter Rising when Connolly asked her to come to Dublin to work for him. She was the only woman who participated in the initial occupation of the GPO where the Irish Citizen Army set up its headquarters. She was armed with a typewriter and a revolver. Winifred was well known for her reputation of being a crack shot. She was among the final group to leave the GPO (along with Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grennan) as she would not leave the wounded Connolly. She was arrested and taken to Kilmainham Gaol and later Aylesbury prison and was released in December 1916. Winifred died in 1943 and is buried in Belfast…’ (From here.)

“The conditions of your toil are unnecessarily hard, that your low wages do not enable you to procure sufficiently nourishing food for yourselves or your children, and that as a result of your hard work, combined with low wages, you are the easy victims of disease, and that your children never get a decent chance in life, but are handicapped in the race of life before they are born..” – part of the speech which Winifred Carney and James Connolly prepared for his speech to millworkers in Belfast in late 1911. Connolly was the Belfast Organiser for the ITGWU at the time, and Carney was just a few weeks away from becoming the full-time Secretary of the then newly-formed ‘Irish Textile Workers’ Union’.

On the 4th of December 1887 – 132 years ago today – Alfred and Sarah Carney welcomed the birth of their sixth child, Winifred, into their existing family – three boys (Ernest, Louie and Alfred) and two girls ( Maud and Mabel). The family were then living in Bangor, County Down but, not long after Winifred was born, the marriage broke down and Sarah moved with the children to Carlisle Circus in Belfast, where she started a small shop.

Winifred found work as a teacher and developed a love for the Irish language, joining the Gaelic League to further her interest and, at 27 years of age, she joined (membership number 56077) the then newly-formed ‘Cumann na mBan’ organisation and, indeed, was present in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin in April 1914 when that organisation was founded. Her duties included teaching first aid to the other members as well as training in the use of weapons, as she was known to be proficient in that particular field (a skill no doubt learned due to her activity with the ‘Irish Citizens Army’, which she joined on its formation in 1913). This was two years before the (1916) Easter Rising and, due to her connection with James Connolly and her membership of various republican/nationalist organisations, Winifred Carney knew that an action against British interference in Ireland was being discussed and she was determined to play her part in any such blow against the ’empire’ and said as much to Connolly, who by then had stationed himself in Dublin to assist the workers there in what became known as ‘the great lock out’.

Winifred Carney stayed in Belfast, collecting whatever money she could for the Dublin strikers and billeting as many families of the strikers as she could. Connolly kept her up to date on developments and, when the time came – April 1916 – he asked her to come to Dublin to help with the preparations for a rising against Westminster, which she did. At first she was ‘jobbed’ in Liberty Hall, writing dispatches and mobilisation orders etc but, on the day the rising began – 24th April 1916 – as an Adjutant in the Irish Citizen Army, she carried both ‘tools of her trade’ into the GPO : a typewriter and a revolver.

During the early stages of the week-long battle she was the only female in the building and, towards the end of that particular battle (..but not the end of the fight itself!) she refused orders at the time to leave the premises, as did her two colleagues, Julia Grenan and Elizabeth O’Farrell. Altogether, there was a total of thirty-four women in the GPO at the time, members of the ‘Irish Citizens Army’ and ‘Cumann na mBan’, thirty-one of whom followed orders and vacated the building, with the wounded. The female Volunteers were also tasked with carrying military instructions around the city during which trips they gathered intelligence on the strength and locations of the enemy and carried as much food and ammunition as they could safely deliver to their comrades.

The Rising ended when Winifred Carney, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Greenan, who were by now based in the Moore Street Headquarters as there was no safety or shelter to be had in the remains of the GPO, were instructed to deliver a surrender notice to British General Lowe, stating the following – ‘In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms.

P.H. Pearse, Dublin, 30th April 1916.’

Winifred Carney , Brigid Foley, Maire Perolz, Nell Ryan and Helena Moloney were the five female Volunteers that were deported to prisons and internment camps in England and Wales, following the surrender, as were 1,836 male Volunteers, and approximately 80 other female Volunteers were taken, firstly, to Richmond Barracks and then to Kilmainham Jail and, although most were released within a week, Winifred Carney, Helena Moloney and Nell Ryan were held captive in Aylesbury Prison in Buckinghamshire in England until the 24th December (1916). They had been offered early release if they signed an undertaking “…not to engage in any act of a seditious character..” but they had refused to do so.

She maintained her republican principles in the years that followed, despite being targeted repeatedly by agents of the State and, despite many personal setbacks (most of which were related to her strong political beliefs) she never compromised her republicanism. When ill health forced her off the picket lines she continued to verbally challenge the State at every opportunity until even that became too much for her : she died at fifty-five years of age on the 21st November 1943, just as opposed to Free Staters and partition as she had always been, and is buried in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast. The Republican Movement lost a woman like her recently, but there are still more like her in the ranks. Thankfully.


‘Manus Nunan is a small, genial, cultivated Irish gentleman whose mother was an actress. He speaks fluent French. He was born in Dublin in 1926 and was educated there, graduating from Trinity College with third-class honours in law ; he is no high-flyer, intellectually, as he admits, but circuit judges and recorders do not need to be. His Irish catholic family was one of the few to continue to serve the crown after the partition of Ireland in 1922. His family has a history of service to the crown..’ – this is how the English judge, James Pickles, introduces a central character in his new book, ‘Straight From The Bench’. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.

For nine years, Manus Nunan had been averaging an annual fifty days on the bench, mostly in the north-east of England. He had never had a conviction or dismissal successfully appealed against him. He assumed his meeting with an official in the British Lord Chancellor’s office in September 1984 to be a routine affair prior to the renewal of his recordership.

On October 11th, the official wrote to Manus Nunan – “I will be writing to you again in due course about the renewal of your recordership.” On December 7th, the official wrote again – “The Lord Chancellor has decided not to renew your recordership when your current term runs out on 31st December 1984.”

There was no explanation, and all of Nunan’s – and later, Judge James Pickles’ – efforts were not to produce an explanation. Manus Nunan was to state that he believed he was the victim of anti-Irish prejudice. He linked his failure to be re-appointed – generally an automatic affair – to one particular event : on the day after his meeting with the British Lord Chancellor’s official, the IRA had set off a bomb in Brighton aimed at British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The ‘Guardian’ newspaper took up the case in 1986 when Judge Pickles drew their notice to it and, as a result, the Bar Council and the Liberal Party also made representations. And, following various ventures through the “Kafka-like” – as Judge Pickles calls it – world of judicial officialdom, a first-ever direct meeting was arranged between Manus Nunan and Lord Hailsham… (MORE LATER.)


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.

Sunday morning, 17th October, at 3.30am, saw a daring raid carried out by an IRA detachment on the British Army barracks at Omagh, County Tyrone. The raiders succeeded in entering the barrack grounds, had taken prisoner the boilerman and approached one of the sentries on the main gate. This man surrendered immediately but, terrified with fright, became hysterical and started to scream.

The alarm was given before he could be silenced, and the soldiers in the guard-room turned out armed with rifles and machine guns. A pitched battle ensued, lasting 15 to 20 minutes, in which five British soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously. Two of the IRA Volunteers were also wounded in the fight. Then began the greatest panic that the British occupation forces in Ireland have undergone for years – army, navy, air force, RUC and B Specials, all armed to the teeth, swarmed into County Tyrone. Estimates range from 7,000 as high as 30,000 men, with every type of equipment from helicopters to police dogs.

Every road and lane was patrolled by armed men, road blocks set-up at each crossing, cars stopped, searched and travellers questioned. Naked and unashamed, the British invaders showed their traditional attitude in Ireland, or any other country unfortunate enough to come under their heel. Everyone not in uniform was treated as an enemy to be threatened, brow-beaten, cowed, by the armed bullies of the Empire… (MORE LATER.)


…we won’t be posting our usual contribution, and probably won’t be in a position to post anything at all until the following Wednesday (18th) ; this coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 7th/8th December) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Cabhair group in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the ‘autopsy’ into same which will take place on Monday evening, 9th, in Dublin, meaning that we will not have the time to post here. But we’ll be back, as stated above, on Wednesday 18th December 2019, providing we recover in time – the gig on the 8th is the last such fund-raiser for 2019 (apart from the Christmas Swim) and there’s always a bit of a do afterwards…!

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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