ON THIS DATE (3RD FEBRUARY) 102 YEARS AGO : KEY TO A BETTER/BITTER CAKE DISCOVERED.

At the first meeting of the 32-County Dáil Éireann, in Dublin’s Mansion House (on 21st January 1919), Cathal Brugha was elected as ‘Acting President’ in place of Eamonn de Valera, who was at that time still in a British jail (imprisoned for his part in an alleged ‘German Plot’ against Westminster). de Valera had contested a seat in the 14th December 1918 general election for the Falls constituency of Belfast but lost to local ‘United Irish League’ leader, Joe Devlin, by 8,488 votes to 3,245.


In September 1919, the British declared Dáil Éireann to be an “illegal assembly” and it was forced to go ‘underground’ but, ‘underground’ or not, it still functioned : Michael Collins and Harry Boland made plans to rescue de Valera from Lincoln Jail in England and, on the 3rd February 1919 – 102 years ago on this date – ‘..here is what actually happened at Lincoln Jail. As de Valera regularly served Mass in the church jail, it was an easy matter for him to pocket a few candles. He melted these down and took an impression of the Chaplain’s master key. As there were double locks on every door, the master key was a must.


There were two ordinary keys made that didn’t work. De Valera made the first impression and had it smuggled out of prison and sent to Gerard Boland in Dublin. Boland sent back the key in a Christmas cake but it didn’t turn the lock. A second impression was made which was sent to Manchester where craftsmen cut what they thought was a true replica. It too was a fiasco. At that juncture Peter De Loughry told dev to have a blank key sent into the prison with a file, saying: “I’ll cut it myself”. The blank key and the file arrived this time in a birthday cake. Peter who was an expert locksmith easily cut a perfect replica.


Outside waiting at the last gate to freedom were Michael Collins and Harry Boland. As Collins spied Dev, Milroy and McGarry coming towards the door, he inserted another key, which he believed would open the last door to freedom. He attempted to turn the lock, giving the key a powerful twist. It broke in the lock. Collins was raging. “I’ve broken the key in the lock – what are we going to do now?” Dev muttered something while inserting the key Peter De Loughry had cut for him. It knocked out the broken part and with one turn the lock clicked open. The five men shook hands and disappeared into the night. Peter De Loughry did not escape with the others as he had but a few weeks left to serve out his sentence…’ (from here.)


Rumours persist to this day that Westminster allowed de Valera to escape as they were aware that he would soon turn his back on republicanism and accept Westminster-imposed Free State structures, which he did in 1926, to the degree that he executed former comrades to help safeguard the British presence in Ireland.


Damn those weak locks in Lincoln Jail and damn those that followed de Valera through a ‘constitutional door’ and into Leinster House…






‘LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS’.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.




Sinn Féin candidates will be seeking election to local government bodies in several areas at the forthcoming lections. Some of the areas and candidates are listed below –


LOUTH :

Mrs O’Hagan, Dundalk.

Thomas Green, Dundalk.

Seamus Rafferty, Dundalk.

Peter Duffy, Dundalk.

Michael Clarke, Dundalk.

Cathal Cassidy, Dundalk.

S Crilly, Ravensdale.

Archie McKevitt, Carlingford.

Bernard Murphy, Kilkerley.

Thomas Corcoran, Dunleer.






OFFALY COUNTY COUNCIL :

Thomas Keena, Birr.

Bernard Conroy, Portlaoighise.

James Mullen Jun, Ossory.

Liam Bullin, Luggacurran.






PORTLAOISHISE TOWN COMMISSIONERS :

John O’Donovan.





CLARE :

Martin Whyte, Lisdooncarna.

Matthew Finucane, Tubber.

Michael O’Leary, Kilnamona.

(MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (3RD FEBRUARY) 125 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF ‘SPERANZA OF THE NATION’.

“No voice that was raised in the cause of the poor and oppressed, none that denounced political wrong-doing in Ireland, was more eagerly listened to than that of the graceful and accomplished woman known in literature as ‘Speranza’ and in society as Lady Wilde…” Martin MacDermott.


Lady Jane Wilde (‘Speranza of The Nation’ aka ‘John Fanshaw Ellis’) née Jane Francesca Elgee, mother of Oscar Wilde, died in London from bronchitis on the 3rd February 1896 – 125 years ago on this date. At the time, Oscar was incarcerated in Wandsworth Prison, serving a two year hard labour sentence for ‘gross indecency’ – homosexuality. Despite her dying wish, she was not allowed to see him.


Lady Jane Wilde was famous in her own right as a writer and poet : she was an ardent nationalist in addition to being a staunch feminist. Her most famous poem is probably ‘The Famine Year’ –

The Famine Year (The Stricken Land).




Weary men, what reap ye?—Golden corn for the stranger.


What sow ye?— human corpses that wait for the avenger.


Fainting forms, hunger–stricken, what see you in the offing?


Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger’s scoffing.


There’s a proud array of soldiers — what do they round your door?


They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor.


Pale mothers, wherefore weeping — would to God that we were dead;


Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.


Little children, tears are strange upon your infant faces,


God meant you but to smile within your mother’s soft embraces.




Oh! we know not what is smiling, and we know not what is dying;


We’re hungry, very hungry, and we cannot stop our crying.


And some of us grow cold and white — we know not what it means;


But, as they lie beside us, we tremble in our dreams.


There’s a gaunt crowd on the highway — are ye come to pray to man,


With hollow eyes that cannot weep, and for words your faces wan?




No; the blood is dead within our veins — we care not now for life;


Let us die hid in the ditches, far from children and from wife;


We cannot stay and listen to their raving, famished cries —


Bread! Bread! Bread! and none to still their agonies.


We left our infants playing with their dead mother’s hand:


We left our maidens maddened by the fever’s scorching brand:


Better, maiden, thou were strangled in thy own dark–twisted tresses —


Better, infant, thou wer’t smothered in thy mother’s first caresses.




We are fainting in our misery, but God will hear our groan:


Yet, if fellow–men desert us, will He hearken from His Throne?


Accursed are we in our own land, yet toil we still and toil;


But the stranger reaps our harvest— the alien owns our soil.


O Christ! how have we sinned, that on our native plains


We perish houseless, naked, starved, with branded brow, like Cain’s?


Dying, dying wearily, with a torture sure and slow —


Dying, as a dog would die, by the wayside as we go.




One by one they’re falling round us, their pale faces to the sky;


We’ve no strength left to dig them graves — there let them lie.


The wild bird, if he’s stricken, is mourned by the others,


But we — we die in a Christian land — we die amid our brothers,


In the land which God has given, like a wild beast in his cave,


Without a tear, a prayer, a shroud, a coffin or a grave.


Ha! but think ye the contortions on each livid face ye see,


Will not be read on judgement–day by eyes of Deity?




We are wretches, famished, scorned, human tools to build your pride,


But God will take vengeance for the souls for whom Christ died.


Now is your hour of pleasure — bask ye in the world’s caresses;


But our whitening bones against ye will rise as witnesses,


From the cabins and the ditches, in their charred, uncoffin’d masses,


For the Angel of the Trumpet will know them as he passes.


A ghastly, spectral army, before the great God we’ll stand,


And arraign ye as our murderers, the spoilers of our land.



Folklore has it that, as she lay dying in her home (146 Oakley Street, Chelsea), on the 3rd February 1896 – 125 years ago on this date – aware that her request to visit her son, Oscar, had been refused, her ‘fetch’ (apparition) appeared before Oscar in his cell.


Oscar was physically unable to arrange the details for his mother’s funeral and that onerous task fell to his brother, William (‘Willie’) Charles Kingsbury Wilde who, unfortunately, was penniless. Oscar managed to scrap together the bare amount to pay for the funeral service (which was held on the 5th February at Kensal Green Cemetery in London) but the family could not afford a headstone and so Jane Wilde was buried ‘anonymously in common ground’.


The ‘Oscar Wilde Society’ later erected a Celtic Cross monument in her memory in the cemetery in the late 1990’s. As Oscar himself might have observed – “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”





‘IN THE NAME OF THE LAW…’

Confidence in the Garda Siochana continues to erode as more incidents of questionable Garda ‘evidence’ emerge.

By Sandra Mara.

From ‘The Magill Annual’, 2002.


Bernard Conlon is a small-time criminal from Sligo. He claimed he’d travelled from Sligo to Donegal for a pint and, in breach of the licensing laws, was refused food in McBrearty’s nightclub. Gardai issued further summonses on foot of this complaint.


Conlon also made allegations against Mark McConnell and Michael Peoples, stating that they had called to his home in Sligo and showed him a silver bullet with the warning that “he’d get it” if he gave evidence but, unfortunately for Conlon, Peoples and McConnell had a watertight alibi for the day of the alleged incident ; both men were at the Holiday Inn in Letterkenny with their legal advisors, who had travelled from Dublin for the meeting. Their lawyers and the hotel records backed up their alibi.


At a hearing in Donegal, two senior gardai from Sligo were called before Letterkenny District Court by Judge John O’Donnell to explain why an alleged “falsified record” – an edited typed version – had been produced in respect of Bernard Conlon. Martin Giblin SC for the McBrearty family said the gardai used Conlon as “an agent provocateur”, and said that he found the explanation of Inspector Gerard Connolly, who told the court “I did not look up the computer”, and Garda John McHale, who said that “a typed list was easier to produce” rather than the normal computer print-out, as “more puzzling than the fact that the document was put in…” (MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (3RD FEBRUARY) 140 YEARS AGO : ‘LAND LEAGUE’ LEADER ARRESTED BY BRITISH FORCES.

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.


The 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 ; Michael Davitt, who was born into poverty in Straide, Mayo, on the 25th of March, 1846 – at the time of the attempted genocide/ 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 the dwelling was destroyed by the evicting militia. 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 but, on the 18th July 1870 – in his early 20’s – 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 above-mentioned meeting in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar 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…”


In January 1881, Westminster introduced a ‘Land Act’ (‘Coercion/The Protection of Person and Property Act’) which was the first of over a hundred such ‘laws’ that aimed to suppress the increasing discontent in Ireland with British ‘landlordism’ and it was under those ‘laws’ that, on the 3rd February 1881 – 140 years ago on this date – Michael Davitt was arrested for being too ‘outspoken’ in his speeches (he had then only recently addressed a crowd in Loughgall, County Armagh : “Landlords of Ireland are all of one religion. Their god is mammon and rack-rents and evictions their only morality while the toilers of the fields – whether Orangemen, Catholics, Presbyterians or Methodists – are the victims…”). While in prison, he was elected MP for Meath but was disqualified from taking his seat as he was ‘an incarcerated felon’.


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.




‘LICENSED TO KILL…’

From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.


Of course the ‘B Specials’, who did the shooting, were aiming at the wheels of the van, in the attempt to puncture the tyres and so force the van to a stop.


That’s what they said afterwards. But at least four shots were fired – that much is admitted. And some of those shots smashed the windscreen to smithereens ; that was a long way above the wheels, and one of those shots pierced young Leonard’s brain, tearing a hole two-and-a-half-inches wide in the side of his head. That shot could hardly have been aimed at the wheels.


Be the evidence what it may, be the ‘official’ verdict what it may, the fact is that young Leonard, going about his ordinary every-day affairs, completely unaware that he was in any way transgressing any of the so-called ‘laws’ of the Six County Police State, was suddenly cold-bloodedly shot to death by the modern Black-And-Tans, while it was only a miracle that his three young companions did not also meet the same fate. If ever there was an outrage which reflected directly on the deliberate policy of the Stormont junta, this one certainly does… (MORE LATER.)



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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