ON THIS DATE (25TH MARCH) 174 YEARS AGO : ‘FATHER OF THE IRISH LAND LEAGUE’ BORN.

The Irish ‘dissident’, Michael Davitt (pictured) was born on this date – 25th March – in 1846, in Straide, County Mayo, at the height of ‘An Gorta Mór’ (the attempted genocide) of the Irish people, and the poverty of those times affected the Davitt family – he was the second of five children and was only a few months older than 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 ((nee Kielty), 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 Wednesday, 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’ :

‘This body shall be known as the National Land League of Mayo and shall consist of farmers and others who will agree to labour for the objects here set forth, and subscribe to the conditions of membership, principles, and rules specified below.

Objects: The objects for which this body is organised are —

1) To watch over the interests of the people it represents and protect the same, as far as may be in its power to do so, from an unjust or capricious exercise of power or privilege on the part of landlords or any other class in the community.

2) To resort to every means compatible with justice, morality, and right reason, which shall not clash defiantly with the constitution upheld by the power of the British empire in this country, for the abolition of the present land laws of Ireland and the substitution in their place of such a system as shall be in accord with the social rights and necessities of our people, the traditions and moral sentiments of our race, and which the contentment and prosperity of our country imperatively demand.

3) Pending a final and satisfactory settlement of the land question, the duty of this body will be to expose the injustice, wrong, or injury which may be inflicted upon any farmer in Mayo, either by rack-renting, eviction, or other arbitrary exercise of power which the existing laws enable the landlords to exercise over their tenantry, by giving all such arbitrary acts the widest possible publicity and meeting their perpetration with all the opposition which the laws for the preservation of the peace will permit of. In furthernance of which, the following plan will be adopted : — a – Returns to be obtained, printed, and circulated, of the number of landlords in this county ; the amount of acreage in possession of same, and the means by which such land was obtained ; farms let by each, with the conditions under which they are held by their tenants and excess of rent paid by same over the government valuation. b – To publish by placard, or otherwise, notice of contemplated evictions for non-payment of exorbitant rent or other unjust cause, and the convening of a public meeting, if deemed necessary or expedient, as near the scene of such evictions as circumstances will allow, and on the day fixed upon for the same. c – The publication of a list of evictions carried out, together with cases of rack-renting, giving full particulars of same, names of landlords, agents, etc, concerned, and number people evicted by such acts. d – The publication of the names of all persons who shall rent or occupy land or farms from which others have been dispossessed for non-payment of exorbitant rents, or who shall offer a higher rent for land or farms than that paid by the previous occupier. The publication of reductions of rent and acts of justice or kindness performed by landlords in the county.

4) This body to undertake the defence of such of its members, or those of local clubs affiliated with it, who may be required to resist by law the actions of landlords or their agents who may purpose doing them injury, wrong, or injustice in connexion with their land or farms.

5) To render assistance when possible to such farmer-members as may be evicted or otherwise wronged by landlords or their agents.

6) To undertake the organising of local clubs or defence associations in the baronies, towns, and parishes of this county, the holding of public meetings and demonstrations on the land question, and the printing of pamphlets on that and other subjects for the information of the farming classes.

7) And finally, to act as a vigilance committee in Mayo, note the conduct of its grand jury, poor law guardians, town commissioners, and members of parliament, and pronounce on the manner in which their respective functions are performed, wherever the interests, social or political, of the people represented by this club renders it expedient to do so.’

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 but 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, 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.





‘CORK CEREMONY…’


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.



Michael McCarthy, from the Tomas MacCurtain Sinn Féin Cumann in Cork, paid a moving tribute to the three men who died in Manchester and to all who followed in their footsteps down to the present day. He appealed for recruits for the Republican Movement, saying that there is only one way to drive the British troops out of Ireland and that was with rifles and Thompson guns.


It is to be hoped that many other places in which commemorations in honour of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien were held annually in the past will follow the example of the people of East Cork and revive those parades. Ladybridge last Sunday demonstrated if demonstration be needed, that republican Ireland is on the march – our latest ‘felons’ have not sacrificed their liberty in vain.


Cork City Commemoration – the annual commemoration in honour of those three heroes, under the auspices of the Cork City Manchester Martyrs Commemoration Committee, representative of all republican organisations, was held at 12 noon on Sunday 12th November 1954. In the morning the wreaths were laid on the grave of Brian Dillon at Rathcooney Cemetery, on the Republican Plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery and at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Padraig Cullinane, who spoke of the martyrdom of the three men, asked those present to come into the Republican Movement to complete the task of freeing our country. A film was made of the ceremonies and also of the Ladysbridge Commemoration, which will shortly be shown in the Thomas Ash Memorial Hall. Seamus Farrell, of the commemoration committee, and Michael McCarthy were also on the platform… (MORE LATER.)





ON THIS DATE (25TH MARCH) 180 YEARS AGO : IRISH LITTLE BIGHORN ‘HERO’ BORN.

The temporary marker (pictured) erected at the site of the battle of the Little Bighorn, in 1876, where Irishman Myles Keogh died.

Myles Walter Keogh was born in Orchard, Leighlinbridge, Carlow, on this date (25th March) in 1840, to parents that were not on the breadline. He was one of 13 children, being the youngest of five boys and seven sisters. As a ‘soldier of fortune’, he fought with Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (pictured, here) against the native American population and was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on the 25th June, 1876, in Montana, by those he sought to annihilate. He was known to be an excellent horseman and had an apparently deserved reputation as a brave soldier even if, in my opinion, he was fighting on the wrong side. However, he is regarded as a ‘hero’ by some (homage to the man, here, penned by an Irish ‘comedian’) while ‘neutrals’ might declare that ‘one man’s terrorist…’ etc. The remains of Myles Keogh were disinterred from the Bighorn site in 1877 and he was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.

Incidentally, the horse that Myles Keogh rode into battle on that fateful day, ‘Comanche’ (pictured), was the only living survivor of the fight (other than the victorious native americans, obviously!), having been found, barely alive, with bullet wounds and seven arrows in his body : four on the back of his shoulder, one on each of his back legs and one which pierced a hoof. The poor animal died on the 7th of November, 1891 – 15 years after ‘Bighorn’ – at Fort Riley, in Kansas, going into his 30th year in these pastures and is one of only two horses to be buried with full military honours. This horse was actually the subject of a ‘HQ 7th US Calvary General Order’ issued on the 10th of April, 1878 :

‘(1.) The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.

(2.) The commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.

(3.) Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation, ‘Comanche,’ saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led by a mounted trooper of Company I, will be paraded with the regiment.

By command of Colonel Sturgis, E. A. Garlington, First Lieutenant and Adjutant, Seventh Cavalry.’

Shame that those people didn’t show the same respect to their ‘quarry’.





ILLEGAL ARMS : IN BAD COMPANY…

A man suspected of being one of the world’s biggest dealers in illegal weapons was a director of two companies based in Ireland.

By Annamarie Comiskey.

From ‘Magill’ magazine, July 2002.


Ireland was getting a reputation as a good place to launder the proceeds of drug dealing and other illegal activities, tax free. The UN backed this up in a 1998 report on tax havens – thousands of companies were opened up by non-resident individuals or holding companies, with their business activity often described as ‘other’.


Were Leonid Minin’s companies still in existence, they would have to pay tax to the exchequer, provide documentation to the Company Register Office and have a clearly defined activity, or face being struck off. The Italian magistrate, Dr Walter Mapelli, is now trying to piece together the Ukrainian’s international business interests and is frustrated by the diversity of national laws. He told journalists after Leonid Minin was charged a second time – “Each State is very jealous of its own sovereignty and its own prerogatives within its borders*. The consequence of this is that each State only sees one little segment of the whole business. I hope that a successful outcome in this case against Leonid Minin will mean that such international smugglers can no longer feel they can exploit the legal differences between countries for their purposes.”


The Italian case will be the first time a court prosecutes an international criminal for committing crimes outside its territory. Dr Walter Mapelli is trying the case on the grounds that Leonid Minin allegedly broke a UN arms embargo ; the sale of illegal arms to Africa is regarded as the second most important impediment to economic development in the region after government corruption. The influx of small arms from the former Soviet bloc countries is blamed for fuelling ethnic conflicts. Illegal arms dealers have been known to supply both sides of a conflict, thus keeping their order books busy.



(*Not so – this corrupt State places economic and political considerations above that of its sovereignty and its own prerogatives ; those in Leinster House sell themselves to the highest bidder at the expense of its citizens.)


(MORE LATER.)





ON THIS DATE (25TH MARCH) 100 YEARS AGO – MORE ARMED BRITISH SCUM ARRIVE IN IRELAND.

Ireland, 1920 : a report in the ‘Daily News’ newspaper in March 1920, which was penned by Erskine Childers, stated – ‘Take a typical night in Dublin. As the citizens go to bed, the barracks spring to life. Lorries, tanks and armoured search-light cars muster in fleets, lists of objectives are distributed and, when the midnight curfew order has emptied the streets – pitch dark streets – the weird cavalcades issue forth to the attack. A thunder of knocks ; no time to dress or the door will crash in. On opening, in charge the soldiers – literally charge – with fixed bayonets and in full war-kit…’

The 15th January 1920 municipal and urban elections not only saw an Irish republican Lord Mayor elected in Cork – that same political office was also conferred on Michael O’Callaghan in Limerick and Tom Kelly in Dublin ; on 6th March, 1921, Michael O’Callaghan was shot dead in his house by the Black and Tans, in what became known as ‘The Curfew Murders‘ and, on that same night (6th March 1921), the then serving Lord Mayor of Limerick, a Mr. George Clancy (and his wife) were also shot dead in their own house (Tom Kelly took the Free State side after the 1921 Treaty of Surrender, and died in April 1942).


Westminster had hoped that, between the new voting system of proportional representation and their ‘banning’ of the Sinn Fein organisation, plus the introduction of martial law and the imprisonment and deportation of Irish Republican candidates, that Sinn Fein would do poorly at the 15th January 1920 Elections – but that was not how things turned out.

The republican administration had secured the allegiance of practically all the local councils since the elections (1918 and 1920) and the law courts (pictured), legal system and police force operated by the Irish republican administration had now virtually supplanted those of the British Crown and the IRA was also scoring notable successes in its guerrilla war against the British military.


Westminster responded by recruiting mercenaries in England for use in Ireland ; the Black and Tans and The Auxiliaries, and the first batch of these British ‘peace-keepers’ landed in Ireland on the 25th March 1920 – 100 years ago on this date. The ‘Tan’s’ consisted of unemployed (and unemployable) ex-British servicemen and convicts, who were given guns and a ‘uniform’ of a Khaki outfit with a black RIC-type cap and belt, while the brutal and equally undisciplined actions of the other gang of rabble, the Auxiliaries, actually led to its Commanding Officer in Ireland, a Brigadier F. P. Crozier, resigning in protest at their conduct in this country!


Both groups of these British thugs were in Ireland between 1920 and 1922 – more than seven-thousand Black and Tans and approximately one-thousand-five-hundred Auxiliaries, all of whom caused havoc in Ireland until the 18th of February 1922, when both outfits were disbanded and sent back home to the dole queue. But there are still thousands of their ilk in our six north-eastern counties and Westminster continues to claim jurisdictional control over that part of Ireland. The struggle for self-determination is not over yet.





‘RESURGENCE.’

From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.


The action of the Army which took place in Omagh on the early morning of Sunday, 17th October 1954, is the talk of the entire countryside. And this is very natural because, apart from its real significance, the intelligence, bravery and skill of our soldiers were almost mythical in their magnificence.


The recent action in Armagh was so perfect that people wondered if the thing actually happened at all! There, a detachment of men entered the barrack in broad daylight, carried out their objective and withdrew exactly according to plan. The first reaction to this was not so much amazement as amusement at the coolness of the operation. The country laughed.


But when we settle down to the real significance of the Omagh engagement what are the thoughts which strike us? Probably the first is that, after more than thirty years, our men have answered the taunt of British guns with actual shots, and have proved themselves superior by far as soldiers. They are well trained – we have an army – in spite of the endeavour to kill the spirit in us, not only by the foreigner, but much more subtly by some of our own countrymen. We have an army of well-trained Volunteers, and this Army has had two encounters with the army of occupation and in both they came out best. A very heartening thought… (MORE LATER.)





ON THIS DATE (25TH MARCH) 282 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF TURLOUGH O’CAROLAN, IRISH HARPER.

‘Turlough O’Carolan (Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin, pictured) was born in 1670 near Nobber, County Meath and died March 25th, 1738 at the home of his patron Mrs. MacDermott Roe, in Alderford, County Roscommon. He was one of the last Irish harpers who composed and a significant number of his works survive in single line melody. Carolan’s fame was not due to his skill with the harp (having started at 18), but to his gift for composition and verse.


His father, John, was either a farmer or a blacksmith (who) moved his family to Ballyfarnon when Carolan was fourteen to take employment with the MacDermott Roe family. Mrs. MacDermott befriended the boy and gave him an education. Around the age of 18 he was blinded by smallpox.


Even before his illness Carolan had shown talent for poetry and may have been taught, even before his illness, by a harper Named MacDermott Roe (possibly Ruari Dall who lived with the MacDermott Roes). He studied for three years at the end of which Mrs. MacDermott Roe gave him a harp, a horse and some money to begin his career as an itinerant harper. For forty-five years Carolan would travel throughout Ireland composing tunes (planxties) for his patrons.


His first patron, George Reynolds, of County Leitrim, suggested he try composing (and) with this encouragement he composed Sheebeg and Sheemore. Thereafter he composed tunes for his patrons, usually composing tunes on his journeys. He travelled widely throughout Ireland, (but) in 1738, feeling ill, he returned to the home of Mrs. MacDermott Roe. After several days he called for a drink and repeated these lines to his first patron :


‘Mary Fitzgerald, dear heart,

Love of my breast and my friend,

Alas that I am parting from you,

O lady who succored me at every stage.’



His final composition was to the butler, Flinn, who brought him his last drink (and his) funeral was widely attended ; in fitting tribute to the man, the wake lasted four days…’ (From here.)





ON THIS DATE (25TH MARCH) 81 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A DODGY ‘SHAMROCK PIMPERNEL’.

‘Jim ‘Just call me the Shamrock Pimpernel’ McCann is wanted all over the world for a variety of crimes, and is regarded as a colourful figure in the underworld. The reformed cannabis smuggler Howard Marks wrote in his autobiography that McCann mixed with unsuspecting IRA men and Hollywood actors like James Coburn during his heyday in the 1980s.


McCann, originally from Belfast, in 1971 became the first man in decades to escape from Crumlin Road jail, where he was on remand for petrol-bombing Queen’s University. In the intervening period he linked up with international cannabis dealer Marks, while still trading on his reputation as a revolutionary. In 1977 he was arrested in France for extradition to Germany for allegedly bombing a British Army base in Moenchengladbach.


A subsequent case failed, thanks largely to protests by French political radicals. Next he turned up in Naas, when Gardai caught him with nearly £100,000 worth of cannabis. When arrested, he would only say: “My name is Mr Nobody. My address is The World.”


McCann was later freed by the Garda on a technicality. He was last seen in Argentina…’ (From here.)


This man was born on the 25th March, 1939, had dual British and Irish citizenship but mostly used his Free State passport. He was not the first unsavoury character to latch-on to Irish republicanism and, unfortunately, probably won’t be the last. Had he persevered in his ‘political’ endeavours, he could now well be sitting in Leinster House with other dodgy ‘republicans’.



Thanks for reading. And take care of yourself and your family and friends etc ; in these uncertain medical and (enforced) financial times, please don’t fully depend on this corrupt State and those incompetents who oversee it to have your back. They haven’t, nor will they – you and yours are not their concern, except on a voting day.


Sharon and the ‘1169’ team.





About 11sixtynine

A mother of three and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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