seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Edward Hand, Soldier, Physician & Politician

Edward Hand, Irish soldier, physician, and politician who serves in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, is born in Clyduff, King’s County (now County Offaly) on December 31, 1744. He rises to the rank of general and later is a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.

Hand, the son of John Hand, is baptised in Shinrone. Among his immediate neighbours are the Kearney family, ancestors of United States President Barack Obama. He is a descendant of either the families of Mag Fhlaithimh (of south Ulaidh and Mide) or Ó Flaithimhín (of the Síol Muireadaigh) who, through mistranslation became Lavin or Hand.

Hand earns a medical certificate from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1767, he enlists as a Surgeon’s Mate in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot. On May 20, 1767, he sails with the regiment from Cobh, County Cork, arriving at Philadelphia on July 11, 1767. In 1772, he is commissioned an ensign. He marches with the regiment to Fort Pitt, on the forks of the Ohio River, returning to Philadelphia in 1774, where he resigns his commission.

In 1774, Hand moves to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he practices medicine. On March 13, 1775, he marries Catherine Ewing. Lancaster is the region of some of the earliest Irish and Scotch-Irish settlements in Pennsylvania. As a people, they are well known for their anti-English and revolutionary convictions. He is active in forming the Lancaster County Associators, a colonial militia. He is a 32nd degree Freemason, belonging to the Montgomery Military Lodge number 14.

Hand enters the Continental Army in 1775 as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment under Colonel William Thompson. He is promoted to colonel in 1776 and placed in command of the 1st Continental, then designated the 1st Pennsylvania. Promoted to brigadier general in March 1777, he serves as the commander of Fort Pitt, fighting British loyalists and their Indian allies. He is recalled, after over two years at Fort Pitt, to serve as a brigade commander in Major General La Fayette‘s division.

In 1778, Hand attacks the Lenape, killing Captain Pipe‘s mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign. Failing to distinguish among the Native American groups, he had attacked the neutral Lenape while trying to reduce the Indian threat to settlers in the Ohio Country, because other tribes, such as the Shawnee, had allied with the British.

After a few months, he is appointed Adjutant General of the Continental Army and serves during the Siege of Yorktown in that capacity. In recognition of his long and distinguished service, he is promoted by brevet to major general in September 1783. He resigns from the Army in November 1783.

Hand returns to Lancaster and resumes the practice of medicine. A Federalist, he is also active in civil affairs. Beginning in 1785, he owns and operates Rock Ford plantation, a 177-acre farm on the banks of the Conestoga River, one mile south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Georgian brick mansion remains today and the farm is a historic site open to the public.

Hand dies from typhoid fever, dysentery or pneumonia at Rock Ford on September 3, 1802, although medical records are unclear with some sources stating he died of cholera. There is no evidence Lancaster County suffered from a cholera epidemic in 1802. He is buried in St. James’s Episcopal Cemetery in Lancaster, the same church where he had served as a deacon.


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Birth of John Todhunter, Poet & Playwright

John Todhunter, Irish poet and playwright who wrote seven volumes of poetry and several plays, is born in Dublin on December 30, 1839.

Todhunter is the eldest son of Thomas Harvey Todhunter, a Quaker merchant of English origin. He is educated at Quaker schools, including Bootham School in York and in Mountmellick, County Laois. He starts work at his father’s offices in Dublin and London before continuing on to attend Trinity College, Dublin, where he studies medicine. While at Trinity, he wins the Vice-Chancellor’s prize for English Verse 1864, 1865 and 1866, and the Gold Medal of the Philosophical Society 1866 for an essay. He also clerks for William Stokes while studying. He receives his Bachelor of Medicine in 1867 and his Doctorate of Medicine degree in 1871.

In 1870, one year prior to receiving his Doctorate of Medicine, Todhunter becomes a Professor of English Literature at Alexandra College, Dublin. Four years later, he resigns from that position and travels to Egypt and several places in Europe. He marries Dora L. Digby in 1879. In 1881, he finally settles in London, where his home in Bedford Park, Chiswick is located in a small community of writers and artists, including William Butler Yeats. Informal “symposia” are held at his house about once a fortnight, when friends gather at his fireside to discuss poetry and philosophy. He is involved in the founding of the Irish Literary Society there.

Todhunter’s first volume is a collection of narrative and lyrical poems entitled Laurella (1876). Grace, tenderness, and melody mark these poems. In later years he does much stronger work under the influence of ancient Celtic literature, to the study of which he is led by the memorable rendering of the Cú Chulainn legend published in 1878 by Standish O’Grady. The Banshee and Other Poems (1888) and The Irish Bardic Tales (1896) contain the best of his work in poetry.

Three of Todhunter’s plays have been acted with success. One of them, The Black Cat (1893), produced by the Independent Theatre Society, a private club formed to forestall censorship by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, is a factor in the revival of the literary drama. However, it only receives one performance, on December 8, 1893 at the Opera Comique. His translation of Heinrich Heine‘s Buch der Lieder is perhaps the best complete English version of a work than which none more irresistibly attracts or more cruelly eludes the art of the translator. He is also author of a few brief prose works, including “The Life of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan” and “A Study of Shelley.”

Todhunter dies on October 25, 1916 at his residence in Bedford Park.


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Founding of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language

The Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language (Irish: Cumann Buan-Choimeádta na Gaeilge), a cultural organisation which is part of the Gaelic revival of the period, is formed in Dublin on December 29, 1876.

Present at the initial meeting are Charles Dawson, High Sheriff of Limerick City, Timothy Daniel Sullivan, editor of The Nation, and Bryan O’Looney. Writing in 1937, Douglas Hyde also remembers himself, George Sigerson, Thomas O’Neill Russell, J. J. McSweeney of the Royal Irish Academy, and future MP James O’Connor as being present. Its patron is John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam, its first president is Lord Francis Conyngham and its first vice-presidents include Isaac Butt and Charles Owen O’Conor.

Unlike similar organisations of the time, which are antiquarian in nature, the SPIL aims at protecting the status of the Irish language, which is threatened with extinction at the time. Its mission statement says that it is “possible and desirable to preserve the Irish Language in those parts of the Country where it is spoken, with a view to its further extension and cultivation.” Hyde writes that the formation of the society can truly be said to be the first attempt made to recruit the common people to the cause of the Irish language. The society succeeds in having Irish included on the curriculum of primary and secondary schools and third-level colleges in 1878.

The membership of the SPIL includes Protestant Ascendancy figures such as John Vesey, 4th Viscount de Vesci, and Colonel W. E. A. Macdonnell. Horace Plunkett represents the Society at the 1901 Pan-Celtic Congress in Dublin. It takes a conciliatory approach to the British government and civil service in pursuing its aims, in contrast to the later Gaelic League, which is anti-British in character.


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Birth of Marmaduke Coghill, Member of Parliament

Marmaduke Coghill, member of Parliament for University of Dublin, judge of the prerogative court and Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland, is born in Dublin on December 28, 1673.

Coghill is the son of John Coghill of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, judge of the prerogative court and one of the masters in chancery. His mother is the daughter of Tobias Cramer, of Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny. Two elder sisters and a younger brother, James, survive infancy. He spends his childhood in Dublin.

Coghill occupies a prominent place in the life of Dublin, and is remarkable for his early display of ability. At the age of fourteen he enters the University of Dublin, graduating at the age of eighteen as a Bachelor of Laws. At the age of nineteen he is returned to Parliament and at the age of 26 he becomes judge of the prerogative court.

In Parliament, from 1692 to 1713 Coghill is a representative of the borough of Armagh, and from 1713 until his death in 1739, a representative of the University of Dublin. He is politically close to William Conolly, speaker of the Irish House of Commons, who dies in 1729. Upon Conolly’s death he succeeds him as a commissioner of the revenue. Over the following years he plays a prominent role in parliament, particularly on financial matters. He also builds up a close relationship with John Perceval, the British Prime Minister‘s chief advisor on Irish affairs.

Coghill becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1735 and is regarded as an honest and able supporter of Irish interests. Outside parliament he is very active on boards, commissions and trusts, takes a hand in the building of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital and is pro-vice-chancellor of Trinity College Dublin. He lives in Belvedere House, now in the grounds of St. Patrick’s College, Dublin. He suffers from gout for a large part of his life.

From his father, Coghill, who never married, had inherited a lease from the Corporation of lands in Clonturk, where he erects a house which is afterwards known as Drumcondra House. He moves into Drumcondra House and lives there with his unmarried sister Mary until his death in 1738. He is buried in the family vault in St. Andrew’s Church, Dublin.

Upon Coghill’s death Mary is left, for her lifetime, his lands in the barony of Coolock, rents from his properties in Clonturk, all his household goods, and his coach, chariot and horses. In 1743, she erects the parish church of Clonturk, now Drumcondra Church, and places in it a statue of her brother by the Dutch sculptor Peter Scheemakers.


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Death of Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March

Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster, is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. His sudden death leaves the colony without effective leadership and prompts a military crisis.

Mortimer, the son of Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Catherine Grandison, is born on February 1, 1352. An infant at the death of his father, as a ward of the crown he is placed by Edward III of England under the care of William of Wykeham and Richard FitzAlan, 3rd Earl of Arundel. The position of the young earl, powerful on account of his possessions and hereditary influence in the Welsh marches, is rendered still more important by his marriage on August 24, 1369 at the age of 17 to the 14-year-old Philippa, the only child of the late Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, the second son of Edward III.

Lionel’s late wife, Elizabeth, had been daughter and heiress of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, and Lionel had himself been created Earl of Ulster before his marriage. Mortimer inherits the title Earl of Ulster on Lionel’s death. Therefore, the Earl of March not only represents one of the chief Anglo-Norman lordships in Ireland in right of his wife Philippa, but Philippa’s line is also the second most senior line of descent in the succession to the crown, after Edward the Black Prince and his son, King Richard II of England. John of Gaunt, younger brother of Prince Edward, had become the 1st Duke of Lancaster and thus the source of the House of Lancaster‘s claim to the throne.

This marriage has, therefore, far-reaching consequences in English history, ultimately giving rise to the claim of the House of York to the crown of England contested in the Wars of the Roses between the Yorks and the Lancasters; Edward IV being descended from the second adult son of Edward III as great-great-grandson of Philippa, countess of March, and in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and the fourth adult son of Edward III. Mortimer’s son, Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, becomes heir presumptive to the English crown during the reign of Richard II.

Mortimer, now styled Earl of March and Ulster, becomes Earl Marshal of England in 1369, and is employed in various diplomatic missions during the following years. He is a member of the committee appointed by the Peers to confer with the Commons in 1373, the first instance of such a joint conference since the institution of representative parliaments on the question of granting supplies for John of Gaunt’s war in France.

Mortimer participates in the opposition to Edward III and the court party, which grows in strength towards the end of the reign, taking the popular side and being prominent in the Good Parliament of 1376 among the lords who support the Prince of Wales and oppose the Court Party and John of Gaunt. The Speaker of the House of Commons in this parliament is Mortimer’s steward, Peter de la Mare, who firmly withstands John of Gaunt in stating the grievances of the Commons, in supporting the impeachment of several high court officials, and in procuring the banishment of the king’s mistress, Alice Perrers. Mortimer is a member of the administrative council appointed by the same parliament after the death of Edward, the Black Prince, to attend the king and advise him in all public affairs.

Following the end of the Good Parliament its acts are reversed by John of Gaunt, Mortimer’s steward is jailed, and he himself is ordered to inspect Calais and other remote royal castles as part of his duty as Marshal of England. He instead chooses to resign the post.

On the accession of Richard II in 1377, Mortimer becomes a member of the standing council of government; though as husband of the heir-presumptive to the crown he wisely refrains from claiming any actual administrative office. The richest and most powerful person in the realm is, however, the king’s uncle John of Gaunt, whose jealousy leads Mortimer to accept the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1379. He succeeds in asserting his authority in eastern Ulster, but fails to subdue the O’Neill dynasty farther west. Proceeding to Munster to put down the turbulent southern chieftains, he is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. He is buried in Wigmore Abbey, of which he had been a benefactor, and where his wife Philippa is also interred.

(Pictured: Coat of Arms of the House of Mortimer)


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Death of James Stephens, Novelist & Poet

James Stephens, Irish novelist and poet, dies in London, England on December 26, 1950, Saint Stephen’s Day.

Stephens’ birth is somewhat shrouded in mystery. He claims to have been born on the same day and same year as James Joyce, February 2, 1882, whereas he is in fact probably the same James Stephens who is on record as being born at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, on February 9 1880, the son of Francis Stephens of 5 Thomas’s Court, Dublin, a vanman and a messenger for a stationer’s office, and his wife, Charlotte Collins. His father dies when he is two years old and, when he was six years old, his mother remarries. He is committed to the Meath Protestant Industrial School for boys in Blackrock for begging on the streets, where he spends much of the rest of his childhood. He attends school with his adoptive brothers Thomas and Richard Collins before graduating as a solicitor‘s clerk. They compete and win several athletic competitions despite James’ tiny 4’10” stature. He is known affectionately as “Tiny Tim.” He is much enthralled by the tales of military valour of his adoptive family and would have become a soldier except for his height.

By the early 1900s Stephens is increasingly inclined to socialism and the Irish language and by 1912 is a dedicated Irish Republican. He is a close friend of the 1916 leader Thomas MacDonagh, who is then editor of The Irish Review and deputy headmaster in St. Enda’s School, the radical bilingual Montessori school run by Patrick Pearse and later manager of the Irish Theatre. He spends much time with MacDonagh in 1911. His growing nationalism brings a schism with his adoptive family, but probably wins him his job as registrar in the National Gallery of Ireland, where he works between 1915 and 1925, having previously had an ill-paid job with the Mecredy firm of solicitors.

Stephens produces many retellings of Irish myths. His retellings are marked by a rare combination of humour and lyricism, with Deirdre and Irish Fairy Tales especially often praised. He also writes several original novels, including The Crock of Gold, Etched in Moonlight and Demi-Gods, based loosely on Irish wonder tales. The Crock of Gold in particular has achieved enduring popularity and has often been reprinted.

Stephens begins his career as a poet under the tutelage of poet and painter Æ (George William Russell). His first book of poems, Insurrections, is published in 1909. His last book, Kings and the Moon (1938), is also a volume of verse. His influential account of the 1916 Easter Rising, Insurrection in Dublin, describes the effect of the deaths by execution of his friend Thomas MacDonagh and others as being “like watching blood oozing from under a door.”

Stephens later lives between Paris, London and Dublin. During the 1930s he is a friend of James Joyce, and they wrongly believe that they share a birthday. Joyce, who is concerned about his ability to finish what later becomes Finnegans Wake, proposes that Stephens assist him, with the authorship credited to JJ & S (for “Jameses Joyce & Stephens”, but also a pun on the popular Jameson Irish Whiskey, made by John Jameson & Sons). The plan is never implemented, as Joyce is able to complete the work on his own.

During the last decade of his life Stephens finds a new audience through a series of broadcasts on the BBC.


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Death of Artist Harry Aaron Kernoff

Harry Aaron Kernoff, Irish artist in oils and woodcuts, dies in Dublin on December 25, 1974. Of London/Russian extraction, he is primarily remembered for his sympathetic interest in Dublin and its people. He depicts street and pub scenes, as well as Dublin landmarks with sympathy and understanding. This is particularly evident in his woodcuts.

Born in London on January 10, 1900 to a Russian Jewish father and Spanish mother, Kernoff moves to Dublin in 1914 and becomes a leading figure in Irish modernism. While working as an apprentice in his father’s furniture business, which leads to his woodcuts, he takes night classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. There, in 1923, he wins the Taylor scholarship and goes on to exhibit at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) every year from 1926. He is elected RHA in 1936.

Influenced by Seán Keating, he paints the Irish landscape, genre scenes, and portraits. His work is part of the painting event in the art competition at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. In 1930, he visits the Soviet Union as part of an Irish delegation from the friends of Soviet Russia led by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. While visiting, he is influenced by the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia.

Kernoff is famously associated with Davy Byrne’s pub. His paintings and woodcuts of Davy Byrne’s pub are documents of his friendship with the original owner. While living in his adopted Dublin Jewish community he produces picture illustrations of his local scenes for a neighbourhood writer and friend, Nick Harris, for his book called Dublin’s Little Jerusalem.

Outside Kernoff’s home in Dublin, where he lives with two unmarried sisters, there is a long-standing sign in the front garden which says “Descendants of the Abravanels.” The Abravanel (or Abrabanel) family is one of the most famous Sephardic Jewish families in history, noted for their large quotas of rabbis, scholars, and members of a variety of scientific and artistic fields, dating from about the 13th century in Lisbon. The emergence of the famous philosopher and scholar Don Isaac Abravanel in the middle of the 16th century brings his works to greater universal recognition.

Kernoff spends the vast majority of his life unappreciated and makes little or nothing from his paintings until a few years before his death, when he begins to be appreciated by contemporary critics. He never marries.


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Storm Eva Cuts Power to 6,000

On December 24, 2015 the Electricity Supply Board networks says that around 6,000 customers are without power as a result of Storm Eva. The worst affected areas are Fermoy in County Cork and Kilcoole in County Wicklow. High winds and heavy rain batter the west and northwest as Storm Eva moves across the country.

Storm Eva, also called Chuck, Staffan and other names, is the fifth named storm of the Met Office and Met Éireann‘s Name our Storms project. Heavy rainfall from Eva occur around three weeks after Storm Desmond had brought severe flooding to parts of Northern England, exacerbating the ongoing situation. The low pressure is named Chuck by the Free University of Berlin and Staffan by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.

Eva is the fifth storm to be officially named by Met Éireann on December 22, 2015. An orange wind warning is issued for counties Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal on the same day. Gales are also expected in the northwest of the United Kingdom, with storm force winds over parts of the Outer Hebrides. There are fears that the storm could cause further disruption to Cumbria in England, where areas were already dealing with the aftermath of flooding from Storm Desmond and in some cases had been flooded twice already. The army and Environment Agency staff are called in to be on stand-by to bolster flood defences.

Rain associated with the passage of Eva causes disruption when rivers burst their banks in the Cumbrian towns of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Keswick and Kendal on the December 22. Appleby-in-Westmorland receives three to four feet of flood water. The village of Glenridding is flooded for the third time in the month. Six thousand houses in Ireland are left without power. In London, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Liz Truss convenes a Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) meeting to decide on emergency measures, which include the deployment of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment to the affected areas. On December 24, flood defence gates are closed in Carlisle, Keswick and Cockermouth to limit the damage expected from rainfall and 20 water pumps and two kilometres of temporary flood barriers are transported to northern England. Ferries operating between Dublin and Holyhead are cancelled due to bad weather on the Irish Sea.


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The Hearts of Steel Storm Belfast Barracks

The Hearts of Steel, also known as the Steelboys, an exclusively Protestant movement originating in County Antrim due to grievances about the sharp rise of rent and evictions, is involved in conflict in Ulster on December 23, 1770. Five hundred members of the Hearts of Steel force the release a prisoner in Belfast.

The Hearts of Steel arise in 1769 in opposition to unjust and exorbitant rents, chiefly exacted by middlemen, speculators or “forestallers,” who take lands from absentee landlords at greatly increased rents and make their own profit by doubling the rents on the poor tenants.

In 1770 in Templepatrick, County Antrim, a local landlord evicts tenants and replaces them with speculators who can outbid the locals for the land. At some point a local is arrested and charged with maiming cattle belonging to a merchant from Belfast, which spurs the farmers of Templepatrick to take up arms and march on Belfast to demand his release. The protestors surround the barracks and threaten to burn the house of Waddell Cunningham, who is one of the new speculators in Templepatrick. The soldiers in the barracks fire upon the protestors killing several and wounding others. The protestors eventually set fire to Cunningham’s house and as the fire threatens to spread and destroy the town of Belfast itself, the mayor decides to free the prisoner.

Further consternation is caused by the sharp increase of rents throughout Ulster. At the same time the leases expire for Lord Donegall‘s south County Antrim estate. While he keeps his rent at the old prices, he greatly increases their renewal fee. These coincide with several years of severe harvest failures which result in high bread prices. The result of this is that people are unable to support themselves or their families, being left in the utmost state of deprivation and destitution, with many evicted from their land for failure to pay.

The Hearts of Steel protests and uprisings quickly spread throughout the county and into counties Armagh, Down, and Londonderry, which are also subject to the Hearts of Oak protest movement with which it merges. One tactic of the protestors is the “houghing” of cattle, which involves laming cattle by cutting the leg tendons. They also force farmers to sell food at prices they set, and demand anyone letting out land to do so at the cost of 12 shillings per acre. Landlords are threatened that if they try to collect the cess from anyone that their houses will be destroyed.

The disturbances are so widespread in the affected counties that the Irish government passes legislation to severely punish the “wicked and disorderly persons.” By the later half of 1772 they send the army into Ulster to crush them. Men are hanged while many others are said to have drowned trying to flee across the sea to Scotland. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Townshend, privately blames the landlords and their actions for the disturbances and so issues a general pardon in November 1772.

(Pictured: The Hearts of Steel storming the barracks at Belfast, December 1770 | Linen Hall Library)


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Home of British PM Edward Heath Damaged by Bomb

The London home of the Conservative leader and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Edward Heath is damaged from the impact of a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on December 22, 1974. The attack comes just hours before a Christmas ceasefire is due to come into effect. Heath is not at home at the time of the blast but arrives ten minutes later. His housekeeper, Mrs. Crawford, and her daughter are both in the house at the time but are not injured.

The 21-pound bomb breaks glass, smashes the front door and damages the front room. The only damage to anything valuable is to a painting done in the south of France by Sir Winston Churchill. No one initially admits carrying out the attack but the IRA is immediately suspected.

Witnesses describe seeing a man emerging from a Ford Cortina and throwing what is believed to have been the bomb onto the first floor balcony of the house. Two policemen and a patrol car chase the vehicle as it drives off. The Cortina crashes a few minutes later in Chelsea and several men flee from the vehicle.

The police are fearful that the explosion is a “come‐on” tactic where an initial smaller bomb is followed by a larger one after the first has attracted crowds. They seal off all streets around the house for several hours. Heath’s home is about half a mile from Harrods, in Knightsbridge, where a more powerful bomb had gone off the previous night as Christmas shoppers were being evacuated.

Heath tells waiting reporters that Prime Minister Harold Wilson had sent him a message which was “very much appreciated.” Addressed “Dear Ted,” Wilson says, “This attack will only strengthen our united resolve to bring these things to justice.”

Heath, who had been conducting a carol service at his hometown of Broadstairs, Kent, carrying an overnight bag is driven off by police to an undisclosed location after his arrival at home. He returns later to inspect the damage with bomb squad chief, Commander Robert Huntley.

Heath says the attack will not deter him from traveling to Ulster the following day for talks with security forces and Ulster political leaders as previously scheduled. As Leader of the Opposition, Heath has a Special Branch police bodyguard with him at all times. The house is under “short” police patrol which means there are extra cars and foot patrols in the area but not directly outside the building.