ON THIS DATE (30TH NOVEMBER) 122 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF THE IRISH ‘GALLEY SLAVE / GOLDEN CHAINS’ AUTHOR : OSCAR WILDE.
On the 16th October, 1854, a boy was born to a middle-class family who lived at Westland Row, Dublin : the child’s father, ‘Sir’ William Wilde, was a doctor, and his wife, who was known to be ‘unconventional’ for the times that were in it – Jane Francesca Agnes (née Elgee aka ‘Lady’ Wilde) – 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 (pictured).
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 Poetry 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 (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 19 May 1897.)
When he was released (at 43 years of age, in 1897) he went into exile and died, three years later, in Paris, on the 30th November 1900 – 122 years ago on this date.
Oscar was born on October 16th, 1854, in Westland Row, Dublin, and he died (at 2pm) on November 30th, 1900, in Paris, France. He was broke, financially – the last roof he lived under was a rented room in a ’10th category hotel’ (the Hôtel d’Alsace in Paris’s Rue des BeauxArts).
He was permanently in debt and his boyfriend, ‘Lord’ Alfred Bruce Douglas (‘Bosie’), when asked to help him out with a few bob, refused, and stated that Oscar was “wheedling at me like an old whore”.
A few weeks before he died he had confided in a friend that he was “ill and without a penny”, and was in debt to the amount of £400 at the time of his death.
“And now, I am dying beyond my means.”
‘TOMÁS MacCURTAIN COMMEMORATION…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
In his oration, Domhnall O Cathain said –
“There is work there for us all. One of the clearest things in Irish history is that history repeats itself and runs in cycles. There have been periods of resurgence, periods of quietness. Maybe Tomás MacCurtain was lucky in his time, he was born into a resurgent Ireland, but he was ready and waiting to harness the tide and direct it into the right channel.
There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune ; maybe the signs are showing again. Let us watch and be ready when the cycle has made complete revolution, when the heart of the nation throbs with new life, let us be ready.
Let the Republican Movement be there as the spearhead of a nation marching to freedom. When the great upsurge of public opinion will sweep into oblivion the unnatural barrier that divides our country, it will come only by honest endeavour on our part.”
Let us be true to the heritage left us by Tomás MacCurtain, let us follow in his noble footsteps and help to realise what he lived for and what he died for.
(END of ‘Tomás MacCurtain Commemoration’ ; NEXT – ‘The Late Patrick Henry, Sligo’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (30TH NOVEMBER) 187 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A WORDSMITH.
‘On November 30th, 1835 (187 years ago on this date) the small town of Florida in Missouri witnessed the birth of its most famous son.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (pictured) was welcomed into the world as the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens…approximately four years after his birth, in 1839, the Clemens family moved 35 miles east to the town of Hannibal. A growing port city that lay along the banks of the Mississippi, Hannibal was a frequent stop for steam boats arriving by both day and night from St. Louis and New Orleans.
Samuel’s father was a judge, and he built a two-story frame house at 206 Hill Street in 1844. As a youngster, Samuel was kept indoors because of poor health. However, by age nine, he seemed to recover from his ailments and joined the rest of the town’s children outside.
He then attended a private school in Hannibal. When Samuel was 12, his father died of pneumonia and, at 13, Samuel left school to become a printer’s apprentice. After two short years, he joined his brother Orion’s newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant. It was here that young Samuel found he enjoyed writing…’
And, since then, millions of people have enjoyed his writings – “Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
And an Irish connection – ‘Croker (NOT this one!) earned the undying wrath of (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) who in a mock eulogy to the Irish emmigrant got his facts wrong, but maybe not the tone, when he said –
“Yes, farewell to Croker forever, the Baron of Wantage, the last, and I dare say the least desirable, addition to English nobility…an all-round blatherskite and chief pillager of the municipal till…” ‘
This is the wordsmith in question…!
Born : November 30th, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, United States.
Died : April 21st, 1910, in Stormfield, Redding, Connecticut, United States (…and don’t ya just love the descriptive power of the term ‘all-round blatherskite and chief pillager of the municipal till’ ; I’ll be robbin’ that!)
“I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead, and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.”
ON THIS DATE (30TH NOVEMBER) 148 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A BOOZY ‘BULLDOG’.
‘…he had drunk an estimated 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne through his life ; he thought nothing of starting the morning with cold game and a glass of hock and ending it at 3am with the best part of a bottle of cognac..’ (from here) .
‘Sir’ Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, DL, FRS, RA, was born in Oxfordshire, England, on this date, 30th November 1874 – 148 years ago on this date – and evolved from a little pup into a pugnace britannicii, becoming top dog in British politics twice (1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955).
During the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’ discussions it was the then British ‘Colonial Secretary to Ireland’, Winston Churchill, who maneuvered a friend of his, South African Judge Richard Feetham into the position of ‘Chairman’ of said meetings, even though Churchill himself described that particular ‘talking shop’ as a “toothless body”. Still – no harm to have its ‘Chairman’ in your pocket, an old British custom, practiced to this day.
But, drunk or sober, when he was on ’empire business’, he himself was anything but ‘toothless’ ‘..a man who swilled on champagne while 4 million men, women and children in Bengal starved due to his racist colonial policies…a white supremacist whose hatred for Indians led to four million starving to death – “all who resist will be killed without quarter” because the Pashtuns need “recognise the superiority of race” – the man who loathed Irish people so much he conceived different ways to terrorise them, the racist thug who waged war on black people across Africa and in Britain…he found his love for war during the time he spent in Afghanistan (“we proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation…”(from here).
Yes, indeed – men like Churchill made Britain ‘Great’, as in that that country has done (and continues to do) some ‘great’ harm on the world stage.
“We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.” – Winston Churchill. And we Irish have always found the English ruling political class and its ‘royalty’ to be a bit odd. They refuse to be civilised.
‘THE BRITISH STORY…’
Roy Foster (pictured) in the British media.
By Barra Ó Séaghdha.
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
But no, the Professor is probably not referring to Conor Cruise O’Brien’s book ‘Ancestral Voices’. After all, reviewing the book for ‘The Sunday Tribune’, he found it as “stylish, mordant and discomfiting” as anything O’Brien had ever written, and he read “the historical sections of the book (including those dealing with very recent history) with unstinting admiration.”
We must await clarification of the professor’s change of mind, or an explanation of how self-indulgence is to be deplored only in certain writers. Reviewers of Roy Foster’s book do not fall so totally under his charm ; Anne McHardy in ‘The Observer’ newspaper devotes most attention to the Adams/McCourt piece – her many substantial quotations from the essays leave little space for her own reactions.
She shows some awareness, however, of where Roy Foster is writing from – “But he opens himself to the charges he levels against others – of weaving his style of sea-hopping intellectual into the mainstream of Irish identity, and also lack of focus because, however much he obfuscates it with references to ‘here’ of Ireland, he must often have written in Oxford.”
‘The Spectator’ characteristically offers a mixture of stereotyped thinking and candour ; thus Nicholas Harman’s second sentence reads – “His Oxford professorship affirms his credentials as a serious historian, and his biography of the poer WB Yeats confirms that he can employ the accurate if unreadable details…”
ON THIS DATE (30TH NOVEMBER) 139 YEARS AGO : ‘INVINCIBLE’ COURT CASE BEGINS AT THE OLD BAILEY, LONDON.
Pat O’Donnell (pictured) was a member of the ‘The Invincibles’ (‘Irish National Invincibles’), a 19th-century organisation which opposed, in arms, British interference in Ireland. He is best known for having assassinated the informer James Carey (aka ‘James Power’).
When Carey told on ‘Skin the Goat’,
O’Donnell caught him on the boat —
He wished he’d never been afloat,
The dirty skite!
It wasn’t very sensible
To tell on the Invincibles —
They stood up for their principles
Day and night.
And you’ll find them all in Monto, Monto, Monto
Standing up in Monto, lan-ge-roo,
In November 1881, a group was formed in Dublin with the objective of “removing all the principal tyrants from the country” ; they called themselves ‘The Irish National Invincibles’ and, within a few months, they were to make world headlines.
The group, consisting mainly of former Fenians, decided to announce their presence in a dramatic fashion – on May 6th, 1882, they assassinated two of Britains top officials in Ireland : Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish and Under Secretary Thomas F. Burke in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, just yards from the Viceroy Lodge.
The British offered a reward of £1000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible and put their top man in Dublin, Superintendent John Mallon of the ‘G Division’ of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (pictured), on the case. He arrested dozens of ‘suspects’ and repeatedly questioned those who were known to be in the Phoenix Park area that night, but to no avail.
Then, in November 1882, six months after the British lost their men, Superintendent John Mallon arrested a member of the Invincibles, Robert Farrell, and Mallon told him that they knew the identity of those that had carried-out the assassinations and advised Farrell to save himself – this was the same line that those previously arrested had been told but, unfortunately, Robert Farrell fell for it.
Within weeks, twenty-six men were arrested. The ‘G’ man, John Mallon, needed additional witnesses and evidence to build a substantial case against the men and reverted to form – three of the twenty-six men (Michael Kavanagh, James Carey and his brother, Peter) turned informers.
In April 1883, in Green Street Courthouse in Dublin, Judge O’Brien began to hear ‘evidence’ against thirteen of the men. Five of them – Joe Brady, Dan Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Tim Kelly – received the death sentence and the other eight men were sentenced to long periods of imprisonment (nineteen year-old Tim Kelly faced three ‘trials’ before eventually being convicted, the jury at the previous ‘trials’ having failed to agree on a verdict).
Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and young Tim Kelly were hanged in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between May 14th and June 4th, 1883.
One of the informers, James Carey, was shot dead on board ‘The ‘Melrose’ off Cape Town, South Africa, on his way to Natal to ‘begin a new life’ with his wife and children, on July 29th, 1883, by Donegal-man Patrick O Donnell, who was caught and escorted back to Ireland.
His ‘trial’ (all two hours of it) was held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London on the 30th November 1883 – 139 years ago on this date – in front of Judge George Denman, a Liberal politician known to be in favour of public executions.
Pat O’Donnell was found guilty of ‘wilful murder’, despite having the best defence team that money could buy – his supporters had raised and spent about fifty-five thousand dollars on legal representation for him, but then, as now, the British wanted their ‘pound of flesh’.
And they got it on the 17th December 1883 when they executed Patrick O’Donnell.
My name is Pat O’Donnell I was born in Donegal
I am you know a deadly foe to traitors one and all
For the shooting of James Carey I was tried and guilty found
And now upon the scaffold high my life I must lay down.
I sailed on board the ship Melrose in August 1883
James Carey was on board the ship but still unknown to me
When I found out he was Carey we had angry words and blows
The villain swore my life to take on board the ship Melrose.
I stood a while in self defence to fight before I’d die
My loaded pistol I pulled out at Carey I let fly
I gave to him a second one which pierced him through the heart
I let him have a third volley before he did depart.
Then Mrs Carey came running up to the cabin where he lay
O’Donnell you shot my husband Mrs Carey she did say
O’Donnell you shot my husband Mrs Carey loud did cry
“I only stood in self defence kind madame”, answered I.
The captain had me handcuffed and in strong irons bound
He gave me up as prisoner when we landed in Capetown
They turned me back to London my trial for to stand
And the prosecutors for the crown were Carey’s wife and son.
To all the evidence they swore I said it was a lie
The jury found me guilty and the judge he did reply
“You’ll never more see Erin’s shore, O’Donnell, you must die”
On the 17th of December upon the scaffold high.
If I had been a free man could live another year
All traitors and informers I would make them shake with fear
Saint Patrick drove the serpents from the our holy sainted land
I’d make them run before me like the hare before the hound.
Farewell to dark old Donegal the place where I was born
And likewise to the United States which ne’er was known for scorn
And twice farewell to old Gráinne Mhaol with her fields and valleys green
For never more around Erin’s shore Pat O’Donnell will be seen.
That British show trial against Patrick O’Donnell began on the 30th November 1883 – 139 years ago on this date.
FUNDS AND FINE GAEL’S LEADER…
Michael Lowry has so far been the focus of media attention about Fine Gael fundraising.
But the party’s current leader, Enda Kenny (pictured), hosted a £1,000-a-plate dinner two days before the second mobile phone licence was awarded. And other guests say that one of the bidders for that licence was in attendance.
By Mairead Carey.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, January 2003.
Enda Kenny only last month demanded a signed pledge from past and present TD’s (sic) that they did not receive any money from ESAT or Denis O’Brien.
However, he has so far not stated whether or not he knew the identity of the man who attended the fundraiser held on the 23rd October 1995. The mobile phone licence decision was announced two days later.
Stewart Kenny of Paddy Power Bookmakers, who was also present at the fundraiser, has confirmed to ‘Magill’ magazine that he took a bet on the outcome of the mobile licence competition from a Scandinavian businessman who said he was among those vying for the licence.
Members of a consortium which was bidding for the ‘National Conference Centre’ contract – the competition for which was being run by the State Department of Tourism, where Enda Kenny was minister – were also at the fundraiser…
ON THIS DATE (30TH NOVEMBER) 355 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF THE MAN WHO URGED THE IRISH “TO BURN EVERYTHING ENGLISH EXCEPT THEIR COAL”.
“Burn everything English but their coal” – the ‘Hibernian Patriot’ [from the ‘Drapier’s Letters’ collection], Jonathan Swift (pictured), an Irish author and satirist (perhaps best known for ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and for his position as dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin) was born in Dublin on the 30th November 1667 – 355 years ago on this date.
His father (from whom the ‘Patriot’ got his first name) was an attorney, but he died before the birth of his son. As if that wasn’t misfortune enough, young Jonathan suffered from Meniere’s Disease and, between the bill’s mounting up and her sickly son, his mother, Abigail, found that she was unable to cope and the young boy was put in the charge of her late husband’s brother, Godwin, a wealthy member of the ‘Gray’s Inn’ legal society.
His position in St. Patrick’s Cathedral ensured that he had a ‘pulpit’ and a ready-made audience to listen to him, an opportunity he readily availed of to question English misrule in Ireland – he spoke against ‘Wood’s Halfpence’ and in favour of ‘burning everything English except their coal’ and, satirically, wrote a ‘modest proposal’ in which he suggested that poor children should be fed to the rich (‘a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled..’)!
In 1742, at 75 years of age, Jonathan Swift suffered a stroke, severely affecting his ability to speak, and he died three years later, on the 19th October, 1745. He was buried next to the love of his life, Esther Johnson, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
“It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by providence as an evil to mankind” – Jonathan Swift.
Thanks for the visit, and for reading ; we mightn’t thank ya often enough, but we do appreciate it!
Sharon and the team.