ON THIS DATE (16TH MARCH) 115 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF A “LIFELONG IRISH SUBVERSIVE”.
‘John O’Leary was a lifelong subversive, whose participation in extra-parliamentary attempts to achieve Irish statehood date back at least to 1848 when, at the age of 18, he partook in an unsuccessful attempt to free ‘Young Ireland’ prisoners from Clonmel jail. O’Leary also took part in another attempt at a rising in Tipperary in 1849, before half-heartedly engaging in legal and medical studies in several universities…his efforts in support of Irish nationalism came to little (and) increasingly lonely, isolated from events back home, and with money from his inheritance running out, O’Leary moved back to Dublin in 1885..’ (from here.)
This Irish dissident was born in Tipperary on the 23rd July, 1830 and, throughout his 77 years on this earth, he had studied both law and medicine in ‘Queens College Cork’ and ‘Queens College Galway’ but it was the opportunity to achieve Irish independence which captured his mind and his heart ; he never really took to medicine as a career, and refused to take the ‘oath of loyalty’ to the ‘Crown’ and to the Church of England, without which undertaking a career in law could not be entered into (incidentally, between the 16th and 19th centuries, ‘justices of the peace’, church ministers, business merchants and even members of the so-called ‘royal household’ could not operate as such unless they swore an ‘oath of loyalty’ to those two establishment institutions).
He survived as best he could on an inheritance and on income he received from rural tenancies, and turned his attention to an issue dear to his heart – that of Irish separatism and Fenianism. He was imprisoned by Westminster for the leading role he played in attempting to ‘break the connection’ and was also exiled in 1871, living as best he could in Paris and visiting America, all the while seeking to obtain assistance for fellow dissidents back home in Ireland.
He was on friendly terms with WB Yeats and was famously referenced by the poet in his 1913 work – ‘…romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave..’ and, indeed, in his 1937 book, ‘A General Introduction for My Work’, Yeats wrote that “..it was through the old Fenian leader John O’Leary I found my theme. His long imprisonment, his longer banishment, his magnificent head, his scholarship, his pride, his integrity, all that aristocratic dream nourished amid little shops and litle farms..”.
On a Saturday night in 1907 – on the 16th March, 115 years ago on this date – in his 78th year, John O’Leary, a “hater of established institutions”, died in near-poverty in his residence at 11 Warrington Place (between the Grand Canal and Lower Mount Street), in Dublin.
At a meeting to discuss the funeral of John O’Leary, the ‘Wolfe Tone and United Irishmen Memorial Committee’ issued the following statement – ‘To the day of his death he assited in the project which is dear to us all, and it is impossible to adequately express the feelings to which we struggled to give vent when we heard that all was over, the more especially as we knew that amongst those who were collected around his death-bed was one who was determined to prevent, if possible, a popular manifestation of sorrow and of sympathy with the princples which the old Fenian Chief held.
The day after Mr O’Leary’s death the Committee met in the morning and remained in session throughout the day sending several deputations to his relatives, asking that the arrangements for the funeral be handed over to us. This request was refused. Your Committee received numerous telegrams from friends in all parts of Ireland, Lodnon, and abroad, requesting to know the position of things, and urging your Committee to insist upon a public funeral.
Finally, it became obvious that there was but one course to pursue, namely, to proceed to the Church, after the Mass, to take quiet possesion of the coffin, carry it to the hearse, wrap it in the folds of the Green Flag of Ireland and form a proper funeral procession to Glasnevin. This was done, and, despite the harsh weather, it was a glorius and inspiriting sight to witness the people of Dublin turning out in their thousands to do honour to the old Leader…’
When he was practically on his death bed, he was asked by a friend what he thought about the neglect shown to him in his old age by some of those who once cherished him and by people overall ; he replied – ” Ah, they’ll make up for it by giving me a grand funeral…”
And they did.
John O’Leary ; born 23rd July 1830, died 16th March 1907 (…and John B.Yates, the father of WB, was born on this date [16th March] in 1839 ; he was born in Tullylish, in County Down).
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, July, 1954.
Tomás O Dubhghaill stated – “For generations the Irish people have been fighting to break the grip of the English invaders in Ireland. As a result of the great struggle in 1920/21 the English forces of occupation have withdrawn from the greater part of the country but they still hold, by sheer force of arms, 6 counties out of the thirty-two, and by holding these six counties they dominate and control the whole thirty-two.
Just as we would expect the Englishman* in face of German or other occupation forces in England to do his* utmost to resist them, so in Ireland’s case today we insist that it is not merely a duty but a God-given right and privilege for every Irishman* to resist and oppose by every means in his* power the British occupation forces in Ireland.
That quite simply is our case and we make no apologies for our attitude in the matter. I may be asked if I am advocating the use of force. In reply I must emphasise that the continued presence of British troops in Ireland is based not on any question of right or invitation, but purely on force of arms…” (*woman/her.) (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (16TH MARCH) 103 YEARS AGO : A JAILBREAK BY A CONFUSED FIANNA FÁIL ‘REBEL’.
Robert Barton (pictured – of Barton and Guestier fame), an ex-British Army officer, was one of the delegation team sent to London in October 1921 by the republican administration in Ireland to discuss the terms of what transpired to be the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ would have been known to those he sold out to as, among other attributes, a jailbreaker.
In February 1919, he was delivering a speech in the town of Carnew, in the south of County Wicklow, which was considered by the British ‘authorities’ to be ‘a seditious speech during which threats were uttered’, and he was ‘arrested’ by them for same and incarcerated in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin.
But the republican leadership on the outside had other plans for Mr Barton and wanted him out of prison, so Michael Collins and others organised for a file to be smuggled into him by a friendly prison warder, Patrick J. Berry, a Kilkenny man (a plumber by trade) who had been working in the prison system for about 13 years and was practically ‘above suspicion’ as far as his employers were concerned.
Barton got the file and used it to saw through one of the bars on his ground-floor cell and, at an agreed time, he moved the bar in the cell window to one side and made his way to an agreed location at the 20-foot high prison wall, from where he threw a bar of soap over the wall as a signal ; a rope was thrown over to him, which was attached to a rope ladder, half of which was being held by the Volunteers on the footpath.
He climbed to the top of the wall and jumped into a stretched blanket which his colleagues were holding, the rope ladder was then removed from the scene and he was then taken to the home of Batt O’Connor in Donnybrook, then an active Volunteer and one of Collins’ ‘office workers’ – he handled financial matters for the Movement because, being in the building trade, he was well versed in book-keeping. However, within a few short years, he was using his skills to prop-up the Free State, as a Fine Gael member of the Leinster House administration.
Anyway – before he left his cell, Robert Barton had mocked-up an effigy of himself sleeping in the bed, and left a note for the prison administration stating that the accommodation was not acceptable and he felt compelled to vacate it, adding that he will send for his luggage later..!
The next time the British were ‘introduced’ to him was in October 1921 – he voiced concern about the ‘Articles of Agreement’ (the ‘Treaty’) but was eventually persuaded, by himself (!) and his fellow pro-treaty delegates, to accept it.
When the Movement split, politically and militarily over that ‘false dawn’ document, Mr Barton then joined the anti-Treaty fighters and, among other republican activities he was part of, he was active in the republican occupation of the Hammam Hotel in O’Connell Street, Dublin, during the ‘Battle of Dublin’, when the Free State was fighting against the IRA.
He later turned again, joining with and campaigning for the Fianna Fáil party and, when/if he was asked about his previous political incarnations he would reply that the signatories of the Treaty (of Surrender) had been misguided and tricked into signing same by false promises and it has been said that he was haunted to the end of his life by his decision to sign it.
He died at 94 years of age, on the 10th August in 1975. But maybe he didn’t – he might have ‘misjudged’ that, too.
THE NOT SO IRISH NEWS…
Rita Smyth examines the editorials of the Northern newspaper, ‘The Irish News’, for the first six months of 1987.
Her analysis shows how the paper reflects the political attitudes of the Stormont Castle Catholics (who dominate the SDLP*) and the conservative values of the Catholic Hierarchy, especially Bishop Cahal Daly.
(From ‘Iris’ magazine, October 1987.)
(‘1169’ comment – *…and who now fill the ranks of other Stoop-like political parties in Stormont and Leinster House.)
Condemning the alleged control of building sites by paramilitaries, ‘The Irish News’ opined – ‘(It is) ridiculous that the police (sic) have only 20 members to investigate this massive fiddle and intimidation..’ (February 13th).
Returning to the subject a few days later, the ‘paper stated – ‘This corruption of a moral climate can only end when we can give our total, unqualified support to the law-makers and enforcers. Everyone should strive to achieve the structures of justice and impartiality that would give birth to such support.’
No-one, it would seem, is striving harder than the police themselves. Commenting on the unionist opposition to the ‘Public Order’ legislation, they say – ‘Perhaps they’re annoyed at the totally reasonable desire of the police to see an atmosphere created in which all flags are flown with dignity, and not used for offensive or provocative purposes (April 2nd).
One of the reasons for the RUC’s behaviour at Laurence Marley’s funeral was, we are expected to believe, that it ‘…allowed the RUC to set the ground for the loyalist marching season.’ (!) Needless to say, no such behaviour was evident this summer.
And again in April, we are assured of the good intentions of the ‘forces of law and order’ and appealed to support the RUC** – ‘We are convinced that the vast majority of the minority sector in Northern Ireland (sic) now acknowledges that due recognition must be given to the determined efforts which the police, under the command of Sir John Hermon, have implemented to make the force a truly professional organisation, divorced from the political area..’ (April 25th.) [‘1169’ comment – any person or entity which considers that a British ‘police force’ in Ireland can behave like “a truly professional organisation, divorced from the political area..” are themselves “divorced” – from reality!]
(**See our ‘Comment’, above, just under the title of this piece!)
ON THIS DATE (16TH MARCH) 101 YEARS AGO : RIC AMBUSH, 2 JAIL BREAKS AND A REPUBLICAN SUPPORTER IN THE BRITISH ARMY.
On the 16th March, 1921, an RIC patrol was ambushed by the IRA near Ballymote, in County Sligo, resulting in the death of an RIC member, James O’Brien, from Lancashire in England ; he had joined that grouping in December 1920.
An IRA Volunteer, Jim Molloy, was captured at the scene of the ambush and was badly beaten by the RIC before being thrown into a cell in Boyle Military Barracks, where a British soldier, a Corporal George (‘Charlie’) Meadlarklan, befriended him ; the British Army man had served with the Bedfordshire Regiment for about 15 years and was then drafted to Ireland ; he had a political understanding of the conflict in Ireland to the point that he had some agreement with what the IRA was hoping to achieve.
His political position was picked-up on by a local shopkeeper, Margaret Judge, who was a member of Cumann na mBan, and who availed of her shop duties to glean whatever information she could from the British soldiers and RIC members who frequented her shop, which was also used as a meeting place for local republicans.
Discussions were held with the Corporal and he agreed to assist with breaking Jim Molloy out of prison and, on the 21st May, 1921, the plan was put into action ; six IRA Volunteers – Brennan, Dempsey, Derby, Lohan, Delahunty and Reid – were waiting outside the barracks and brought the (ex-)prisoner to safety, and much the same plan (with the same six Volunteers involved) was used about one week later to secure the release of another IRA prisoner from the same barracks, Michael Dockery, the Officer Commanding of the North Roscommon Brigade IRA.
An inquiry into the escapes was held by the British ‘authorities’ and thirty other IRA prisoners were moved from Boyle Barracks and locked-up in the Curragh Concentration Camp in Kildare and a smaller number were brought to Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. The Corporal’s role in the escapes was uncovered and he was court-martialled and sent back to England, where he was imprisoned in Colchester Jail, in Essex.
Shortly afterwards he resurfaced in Ireland using the name ‘George McLoughlin’, claiming that he had escaped from custody, and made contact with Michael Dockery, who was now in the Free State Army. The two of them used their old IRA contacts (including Alex McCabe and Jim Hunt, both now Free State operatives) and secured an FSA position for Meadlarklan/McLoughlin as a cook in the officers mess.
He joined that State grouping in February 1922 and within a few months he was working in the kitchen in Sligo Jail. A glass bottle he was holding exploded and he lost two fingers as a result of that incident and received a ‘Wound Pension’ for his trouble ; he then applied for a ‘Military Service Pension’ but was unsuccessful. He went back to England and died there, in the Maida Vale Hospital in London, in October 1958.
The IRA Volunteer Jim Molly was ‘arrested’ again, this time by the Staters, in August 1922, and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin and was held there for a number of years. On his release he moved to Ballaghaderreen, in County Roscommon, and managed to get a job with Roscommon County Council. He became well known as an Irish musician, died in 1980 and is buried in Carracastle Cemetery, in County Mayo. His son, Matt, took to the music too, and done well for himself!
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.
It should never be forgotten that, at the end of the 18th century, Ireland was rapidly becoming united and would have become completely united but for British interference.
The real author of the Orange Terror etc was Britain ; our brother Irishmen (sic) were merely the master’s puppets. They certainly sinned, but we sin equally if we fail to forgive them. Unity is not to be built on foundations of hatred, and sectarianism lacks charity. In the 18th century there were sectarian parties in Ulster ; the protestant ‘Peep O’ Day Boys’ and the catholic ‘Defenders’. Politico-religious animosity was more bitter than it is today. Violence was common, and after one bloody affray the ‘Orange Order’ was instituted.
Despite this unfavourable background, the ‘Society of United Irishmen’ was formed in Belfast, mainly by enlightened protestants. The catholic element in the Society grew rapidly in numbers and soon the mass of the Defender organisation had been enrolled. This signified that the catholics had been converted to the idea that their real enemy was not the Orangeman but England and, at the same time, the ‘United Irishmen’ were able to convert some of the Orangemen to the idea that their fear of catholic numerical superiority was unfounded… (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (16TH MARCH) IN…
The caretaker/maintenance man in Caherdaniel Courthouse in County Kerry, Cornelius Kelly (40), had been told by the IRA not to be assisting the RIC by storing equipment for them (including six ‘police’ bicycles) in a storeroom in the courthouse but he ignored the warnings. On the 16th March, 1920, IRA men called to his house and demanded the keys to the storeroom. He argued with them and they shot him dead.
On Tuesday, 16th March 1920, two RIC members, James Rocke (26) and Charles Healy (25), were walking back to their barracks, having attended Mass in the village of Toomevara, in County Tipperary. Two IRA men, John Hackett and Paddy Whelehan, wearing disguises and each armed with a revolver, challenged them on the street at about 7.30pm before shooting them.
RIC member Rocke died at about 11.15pm that night and his colleague, Charles Healy, died in Limerick Military Hospital later on that same night.
‘Constable’ Rocke was new to Toomevara, having been transferred there from Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary, a few weeks earlier. ‘Constable’ Healy had been in Toomevara for some years.
Tipperary No. 1 Brigade IRA had previously tried to clear the operation with their headquarters but had been refused authorisation to carry out the attack, so they took matters into their own hands. John Hackett, Paddy Whelehan and nine others were later ‘arrested’ by the RIC over the shootings but were never brought to trial.
On the 16th March, 1921, at about 10pm, an RIC patrol of four operatives was ambushed by the IRA at King’s Corner/Market Square, in Clifden, County Galway. At least 18 Volunteers from a Flying Column attached to the West Galway (Connemara) Brigade IRA were involved in the operation, under the Command of Peter (‘Petie’) Joe McDonnell.
Two RIC members, Charles Reynolds (33) (‘Service Number 62614’), a Roscommon man, died within minutes of being shot and his colleague, Thomas Sweeney (25) (‘Service Number 75734’), from Aughrim, in County Galway, died from his wounds on the 18th March.
The IRA Volunteers then regrouped and made their way to the Maam valley, where they ambushed British reinforcements at Munterowan and Screebe.
In the days after that IRA operation the RIC went on a rampage burning down at least 16 buildings in Clifden and killed a civilian, J.J. MacDonnell, who called to the RIC barracks to ask for help to extinguish a fire which was engulfing his father’s hotel. MacDonnell was a retired British Army officer.
On the 16th March, 1922, British/Loyalist operatives on the Newtonards Road threw a bomb into Seaforde Street in Belfast and injured five people, one of whom, John Kearney, died later in hospital. Also, John Taylor (52), was shot by the British in the west of the city and another man, William Johnson, (27) was shot by the British Army for allegedly sniping from his Louisa Street home. Four bombs were thrown around this time in Belfast, three in the Short Strand.
On the 16th March, 1922, seven Free State Army soldiers were ‘arrested’ by the RIC and B-Specials in Cosquin, just across the Donegal-Derry border in Derry. They were held for several months but were released in September after they recognised the ‘Northern Court system’. (‘1169’ comment – we’re surprised that it took them ‘several months to recognise the legitimacy’ of a ‘court’ system which they, themselves, were in effect bearing arms to uphold.)
On the 16th March, 1922, a milkman – William Kane – was shot dead on the Newtownards Road in Belfast.
An IRA convention was held in Kilkenny Military Barracks on the 16th March, 1922 (the building had been vacated by the British on the 11th February that year), with all nine IRA battalions and 62 companies represented. Speeches for and against the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ were heard, but no vote was taken.
On the 16th March, 1923, the Free State Army sent local members into the town of Newport, in County Mayo, searching for republican operatives, and some ‘arrests’ were made. At the same time, the FSA were searching parts of Wexford for IRA Volunteers when they came under attack – one FSA member and two IRA Volunteers were killed in the gunfight.
LÁ FHÉILE PÁDRAIG SONA DAOIBH! (‘Happy St. Patricks Day!’)
Enjoy your day – ye are all Irish for this day, but some of us are blessed and will still be Irish tomorrow!
Happy St Patricks Day for tomorrow, readers – if we get home in one piece after our Paddy’s Day long weekend, then we won’t be contacting ya for bail money!
Incidentally, St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in New York City for the first time, in 1762, at the ‘Crown and Thistle Tavern’. Next time we’re in that glorious city, we’ll pop in and see if the party is still going on. If not, we’ll re-start it!
We hope you get a break for the holiday and, if you do, that you enjoy it : we intend to do just that…!
CYBER ATTACKED BY ‘FACEBOOK’!
That’s the notification I got (pictured) yesterday (15th March 2022) when I logged-on to my ‘Facebook’ account : no warning from them that it was about to happen, no contact at all from them beforehand, no reason or explanation as to why they banned me, and no contact from them since.
I tried to contact them and finally got ‘speaking’ to a ‘computer-says-no’ bot, so I’ve emailed them and contacted them on social media asking that my page be reinstated but no joy yet. One of the Girl Gang, Ceclia, has signed over her page to me (thanks again, Bud!) so I’m back – for now, anyway!
My new page can be found here (…until the Facebook censorship bots come lookin’ for me again!) so please do check-in and bookmark it for future reference. If/when I get my own page back I’ll let ya know but, until then, you’ll get me on the new one (…and I’m on Twitter, too, but probably only until FB rat me out…!).
Thanks for the visit, and for reading.
Sharon and the team.