seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Austin Stack, Irish Republican & Politician

Augustine Mary Moore Stack, Irish republican and politician who serves as Minister for Home Affairs from 1921 to 1922, is born on December 7, 1879, in Ballymullen, Tralee, County Kerry. He is a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1927.

Stack is born to William Stack, an attorney’s clerk, and Nanette O’Neill. He is educated at the Christian Brothers School in Tralee. At the age of fourteen, he leaves school and becomes a clerk in a solicitor‘s office. A gifted Gaelic footballer, he captains the Kerry team to All-Ireland victory in 1904. He also serves as President of the Kerry Gaelic Athletic Association County Board.

Stack becomes politically active in 1908 when he joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1916, as commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, he makes preparations for the landing of arms by Roger Casement. He is made aware that Casement was arrested on Easter Saturday and was being held in Tralee. He makes no attempt to rescue him from Ballymullen Barracks.

Stack is arrested and sentenced to death for his involvement in the Easter Rising, however, this is later commuted to penal servitude for life. He is released under general amnesty in June 1917 and is elected as an abstentionist Sinn Féin MP for West Kerry at the 1918 Irish general election, becoming a member of the First Dáil. He is elected unopposed as an abstentionist member of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and a member of the Second Dáil as a Sinn Féin TD for Kerry–Limerick West at the 1921 Irish elections.

Stack, as part of his role as Minister for Home Affairs, is widely credited with the creation and administration of the Dáil Courts. These are courts run by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in parallel and opposition to the judicial system being run by the British government. The IRA and Sinn Féin are highly successful in both getting the civilian population of Ireland to use the courts and accept their rulings. The success of this initiative gives Sinn Féin a large boost in legitimacy and supports their goals in creating a “counter-state” within Ireland as part of their overarching goals in the Irish War of Independence.

Stack opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and takes part in the subsequent Irish Civil War. He is captured in 1923 and goes on hunger strike for forty-one days before being released in July 1924.

Stack is elected to the Third Dáil at the 1922 Irish general election and subsequent elections as an Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin TD for the Kerry constituency. When Éamon de Valera founds Fianna Fáil in 1926, Stack remains with Sinn Féin, being re-elected to the Dáil at the June 1927 Irish general election. He does not contest the September 1927 Irish general election.

In 1925, Stack marries Winifred (Una) Gordon, (née Cassidy), the widow of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) district inspector, Patrick Gordon.

Stack’s health never recovers following his hunger strike and he dies at the age of 49 in a Dublin hospital on April 27, 1929.

Austin Stack Park in his hometown of Tralee, one of the Gaelic Athletic Association’s stadiums, is named in his honour, as is the Austin Stacks GAA hurling and Gaelic football club.


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The Battle of Lisnagarvey

The Battle of Lisnagarvey is fought on December 6, 1649, near Lisnagarvey, County Antrim, during the Irish Confederate Wars, an associated conflict of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1638-51). Forces loyal to the Commonwealth of England defeat an army supporting Charles II of England, composed of Royalists and Scots Covenanters.

The Irish Confederate Wars, sparked by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, are initially fought between the predominantly Catholic Confederation, and a largely Protestant government army led by James FitzThomas Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. Both claims to be loyal to Charles I, while there is a three-sided war in Ulster. The latter involves Royalists, Gaelic Catholic leader Eoghan Ó Néill, and Presbyterian militia known as the Laggan Army, supported by Scots Covenanters under Robert Monro.

In September 1643, Ormond agrees to a truce, or ‘Cessation’, with the Confederation, freeing his troops for use in England against Parliament in the First English Civil War. Some Irish Protestants object, and switch sides, including Sir Charles Coote, who becomes Parliamentarian commander in Connacht. Charles surrenders in 1646, while a Covenanter/Royalist uprising is quickly suppressed in the 1648 Second English Civil War. On January 17, 1649, the Confederation allies with Ormond’s Royalists. Following the execution of Charles on January 30, they are joined by the Laggan Army, and remaining Scots troops in Ulster.

There are various reasons for this. The Covenanter government, who provides support for Scottish settlers in Ulster, considers Oliver Cromwell and other leaders of the new Commonwealth of England dangerous political and religious radicals. As Scots, they object to the execution of their king by the English; as Presbyterians, they view monarchy as divinely ordained, making it also sacrilegious, and transfer their allegiance to his son, Charles II of England.

However, this is offset by a split within the Confederation, between Catholic landowners who want to preserve the position prevailing in 1641, and those like Ó Néill, whose estates had been confiscated in 1607. As a result, he agrees a truce with Coote, and refuses to join the Alliance, depriving them of their most effective fighting force in the north. Despite this, by late July, Ormond’s combined Royalist/Confederate army controls most of Ireland.

In Ulster, Derry is the only major town still held by forces loyal to the Commonwealth. The garrison is commanded by Coote, who is besieged by the Laggan Army under George Munro, Robert’s nephew. In July, Munro is forced to lift the siege by Ó Néill, an example of the impact of the truce between two unlikely allies.

Ormond’s defeat at Rathmines on August 2 allows Cromwell and an army of 12,000 to land in Dublin unopposed. After capturing Drogheda on September 11, his main force heads south towards Wexford. Colonel Robert Venables is sent north with three regiments, or around 2,500 men, to take control of Ulster. Munro’s garrisons surrender with minimal resistance, and by the end of September, Venables has occupied Dundalk, Carlingford, Newry, and Belfast. These are accompanied by the mass expulsion of Scots settlers, as punishment for their defection. When Coote captures Coleraine on September 15, he massacres the largely Scottish garrison.

At the end of October, Coote joins Venables at Belfast. They spend November reducing remaining Royalist garrisons in the north, and in early December, assemble 3,000 men to attack Carrickfergus. After lifting the siege of Derry, Munro has retreated to Enniskillen with the remainder of the Laggan Army. Since the loss of Carrickfergus would effectively cut communications with Scotland, he is determined to prevent this if at all possible.

He combines forces with Royalist leader Lord Clandeboye, creating an army of around 5,000. However, it comprises remnants from many different regiments, its men are poorly equipped, and demoralised, while most have not been paid for over two years. As they march north, their numbers dwindle due to desertion.

Learning of their advance, Coote and Venables move to intercept Munro, and the two advance guards make contact outside Lisnagarvey, near Lisburn, on December 6. Despite superior numbers, the Royalists cannot hold their ground against their far more experienced opponents. When the main body of the Parliamentarian force appears, the retreat rapidly turns into a rout, the majority fleeing without firing a shot. In the pursuit that follows, they lose 1,500 men, killed or captured, along with their baggage train and supplies. Clandeboye and the remnants of his army surrender shortly afterwards, although Monro escapes to Enniskillen.

Lisnagarvey ends resistance by Scottish forces to the Parliamentarian army. Carrickfergus surrenders on December 13, and as with other towns, its Scottish settlers are expelled. Early in 1650, Monro agrees to evacuate Enniskillen for £500, and returns to Scotland, leaving Ó Néill’s army as the only remaining obstacle to Parliamentarian control of the north. However, his death in November 1649 proves a major blow to its morale and fighting ability. In June 1650, it is destroyed by Coote and Venables at Scarrifholis.

(Pictured: Map of key locations of the 1649 campaign in Ulster)


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Birth of Lady Louisa Conolly

Lady Louisa Conolly, an English-born Irish noblewoman, is born on December 5, 1743, perhaps at Goodwood House in Westhampnett, Chichester, West Sussex, England. She is the third of the famous Lennox sisters and is notable among them for leading a wholly uncontroversial life filled with good works.

Born Lady Louisa Augusta Lennox, she and her sisters are portrayed in Stella Tillyard‘s book Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox and in the BBC television series based on it. The Lennox sisters are the daughters of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, and Lady Sarah Cadogan. The 2nd Duke’s father, Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, is an illegitimate son of King Charles II of England.

Conolly is still a child when her parents die within a year of each other in 1750 and 1751. After this, she is brought up by her much older sister Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster, in Kildare. In 1758, at age 15, she marries Thomas Conolly (1738–1803), grand-nephew of William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Her husband, a wealthy landowner and keen horseman, is also a successful politician who is elected to Parliament as early as 1759. The couple lives in the Palladian mansion Castletown House in County Kildare, the decoration of which she directs throughout the 1760s and 1770s. The Conolly summer residence, Cliff House, on the banks of the River Erne between Belleek, County Fermanagh, and Ballyshannon, County Donegal, is demolished as part of the Erne Hydroelectric scheme, which constructs the Cliff and Cathaleen’s Fall hydroelectric power stations. Cliff hydroelectric power station is constructed on the site of Cliff House and is commissioned in 1950.

The Conollys, themselves unhappily childless, at that point take up the welfare of young children from disadvantaged backgrounds as a lifelong project, contributing both money and effort towards initiatives which enable foundlings and vagabonds to acquire productive skills and support themselves. They develop one of the first Industrial Schools where boys learn trades, and she takes active personal interest in mentoring the students. In middle age, she also virtually adopts her niece Emily Napier (1783–1863), the daughter of her sister Lady Sarah Lennox. Emily, who spends long months with her aunt in Kildare, marries Sir Henry Bunbury, 7th Baronet, and moves to Suffolk, although she remains close to her aunt until her death.

Thomas Conolly dies on April 27, 1803. Upon his death, a major part of his estates, which includes Wentworth Castle, passes to a distant relative, Frederick Vernon. Conolly receives the Castletown House and estate, as also certain liquid investments and valuable urban properties, which enable her to live in comfort and continue her activities until her own death on August 6, 1821, of an abscess on her hip. She wills these substantial properties to a great-nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, grandson of Thomas’ sister Harriet, later the MP for Donegal.

In 1999, a 6-part miniseries called Aristocrats, based on the lives of Conolly and her sisters, airs in the UK.

(Pictured: “Lady Louisa Conolly” by George Romney, 1776)


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Death of Paddy O’Byrne, Radio Broadcaster & Actor

Paddy O’Byrne, Irish radio broadcaster and actor who becomes one of the best-known radio personalities in South Africa, dies on December 4, 2013, in Mullingar, County Westmeath.

O’Byrne is born on December 8, 1929, in Killiney, a suburb of Dublin, the son of John O’Byrne, KC, and Marjorie (née McGuire). He attends St. Mary’s College, Dublin, Castleknock College and University College Dublin (UCD), where he earns a degree in Legal and Political Science. In 1952, he is called to the King’s Inns. In 1954, he abandons a legal career in favour of the performing arts, joining the George Mitchell Singers in London but has a “day job” working for an insurance company. During the summer season in Llandudno, Wales, he meets and later marries a singer and dancer from Dublin named Vicky Fitzpatrick. They have three children, Jane, John, and Dominic.

O’Byrne emigrates to the Union of South Africa in 1958. In 1961, he wins a competition called The Voice of South Africa, thereby gaining a contract with the South African Broadcasting Corporation and a new career. As is commonly the case at the time, both among Irish actors abroad as well as many South Africans in the theatre and broadcast media, he uses Received Pronunciation for his professional speaking voice.

In 1980, when the radio station Talk Radio 702 is launched in Johannesburg, O’Byrne is the first announcer heard on it. He also works for Radio Today and Radio Veritas, a Roman Catholic station, in Johannesburg and for Fine Music Radio in Cape Town. He also works for the BBC on Radio 2 and Capital Radio in the United Kingdom, during the 1970s and 1980s.

O’Byrne is also an actor, and narrates five films, while in South Africa. He is one of a series of actors who play the science-fiction character Mark Saxon in the original radio drama No Place to Hide, originally created by South African author Monty Doyle.

O’Byrne and his family move to Mullingar in 2001, but he continues to do broadcasts for Irish classical-music radio station RTÉ lyric fm, and his programmes for Fine Music Radio are recorded there and transmitted to South Africa for broadcast. He retires in 2004.

In 2010, at the MTN Radio Awards Gala, in Johannesburg, O’Byrne is honoured for his contribution to South African broadcasting, being named one of the inaugural inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame.

O’Byrne narrates two movies from The Gods Must Be Crazy film series, as well as Animals Are Beautiful People.

O’Byrne dies in Mullingar at the age of 83 on December 4, 2013.


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The 1992 Manchester Bombing

The 1992 Manchester bombing is an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday, December 3, 1992. Two 2 lb. (0.9 kg) bombs explode in the center of Manchester, one close to Kendals department store, which now operates as House of Fraser, the other near Manchester Cathedral, wounding 65 people and damaging several buildings.

The first bomb to explode is inside a car that is parked at Parsonage Gardens in the commercial district of the city. The car bomb is behind a Kendals department store and explodes at 8:31 a.m., injuring six people.

The second bomb explodes on Cateaton Street between a market and Manchester Cathedral at 10:09 a.m., wounding 58 people and damaging many buildings. The impact smashes the face of the cathedral clock and its stained glass windows. The cathedral provides refuge to hundreds of people who move out of Deansgate. The total wounded in the two blasts was sixty-five.

A phone call is made after the bombings, claiming more devices are in the city, forcing the police to evacuate the entire city centre of shoppers and tell others to remain indoors. No other bombs are found. The damage is estimated to have been to the value of £10 million (equivalent to about £19 million in 2017).

The day after the bombing, the Provisional IRA claims responsibility for the act, which is part of their wider bombing campaign throughout the 1990s in England. Four years later, they detonate another, much more powerful bomb in Manchester.


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Birth of Jerome de Bromhead, Composer & Classical Guitarist

Jerome de Bromhead, Irish composer, classical guitarist, and member of Aosdána, is born in Waterford, County Waterford, on December 2, 1945.

De Bromhead studies with A. J. Potter and James Wilson at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, with further studies with Seóirse Bodley in 1975 and Franco Donatoni in 1978. He holds an M.A. in music, art history and English from Trinity College Dublin. As a guitarist, he studies with Elspeth Henry (1967–68) and at the Guitar Centre, London (1969).

De Bromhead’s compositions include works for solo guitar as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music. His Symphony No. 1 (1986) represents Ireland at the International Rostrum of Composers at UNESCO‘s headquarters in Paris. He describes his style as “neither a Postmodernist nor a deaf-as-a-postmodernist. Above all I am suspicious of anything that seems like dogma.”

De Bromhead’s harpsichord piece Flux (1981) is performed at the ISCM World Music Days in Germany in 1987 and is now published by Tonos Verlag of Darmstadt.

According to guitarist John Feeley, de Bromhead’s solo guitar composition Gemini (1970) is “a sophisticated work, both technically and compositionally. It has the dynamism of youth, with a sense of freshness and it projects an attractive, driving energy […] It is an effective concert work, which speaks well on the instrument and is particularly gratifying for the performer.”

De Bromhead works at RTÉ as a television news director and announcer, as well as a senior music producer for radio, until a serious accident forces him to retire in 1996. He currently lives in Dublin.

The Contemporary Music Centre (www.cmc.ie) provides scores and sample recordings of a selection of de Bromhead’s works, available here.


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Death of Patrick O’Callaghan, Olympic Gold Medalist

Patrick “Pat” O’Callaghan, Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, dies on December 1, 1991, in Clonmel, County Tipperary.

O’Callaghan is born on September 15, 1905, at Derrygallon, Kanturk, County Cork. He attends the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin and qualifies as a doctor at the age of 20. He joins the Royal Air Force Medical Services in 1926 on a short-service engagement, before moving to Clonmel in 1931 to work as an assistant medical officer in St. Luke’s Hospital, later setting up as a general practitioner in the town. He continues to practise there until the late 1980s.

While in university, O’Callaghan develops an interest in the hammer, having seen the country’s top hammer-throwers practise at the University College Dublin (UCD) grounds, then at Terenure College. At home in Cork for the summer, he does not have access to a hammer, so he collects an old cannon ball from Macroom Castle which he feels might approximate to the required 16 lb. (7.25 kg) weight, has it drilled at a foundry in Mallow and fitted with a handle and wire, and uses it to train at the family farm. In 1926 he wins the Munster title in the 56 lb. (25.4 kg) shot and follows that with an Irish hammer title in 1927. Victory the following year in that same championship qualifies him for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, which he enters as a complete unknown with a previous best of 166 ft. 11 in. (50.87 m), as against three other contenders who have each thrown well over 170 ft. (51.8 m). The hammer event is staged on July 30, 1928, and, lying third after four rounds, he throws 168 ft. 7 in. (51.38 m) with his penultimate attempt, to defeat the Swedish favourite, Ossian Skiöld, by 4 inches (10 cm), with the American contenders Edmund Black and Frank Conner, still further behind. He becomes the first athlete from the Irish Free State to be crowned Olympic champion. Less than a fortnight later, he wins the Tailteann Games with an Irish record throw of 170 ft. 2 in. (51.87 m).

Over the following years O’Callaghan wins events across Ireland and Europe and continues to achieve pioneering feats, not least in 1931, when he wins six Irish titles in one afternoon: hammer, shot put, discus, high jump, 56 lbs. without follow, and 56 lbs. over-the-bar. On August 1, 1932, he defends his Olympic title at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With just one throw left in the competition, he trails second behind the Finnish champion, Ville Pörhölä. With his last throw, he claims the event with a distance of 176 ft. 11 in. (53.92 m), becoming the only Irish person in history to win two gold medals at the Olympic games. He seems in prime condition to defend his title for a third time at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, but a dispute in the athletics world brings the suspension of the National Athletic and Cycling Association of Ireland (NACAI) by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). The subsequent decision not to send a team to Berlin by the Irish Olympic Council denies him the opportunity to win a hat-trick of gold medals.

O’Callaghan remains a dominant force in athletic circles, however. In 1934 he sets the record for the hammer on European soil with a throw of 186 ft. 10 in. (56.95 m) at Enniscorthy, County Wexford. He later achieves an unofficial world record in the hammer in 1937 in Fermoy, County Cork, with a remarkable throw of 195 ft. 5 in. (59.55 m), breaking the old record by more than 6 ft. (1.83 m). As the IAAF still refuses to sanction the NACAI, the record is not ratified, ensuring that the then twenty-four-year-old record of his compatriot, Patrick Ryan, who competes for the United States, remains in place. In total, as well as his two Olympic gold medals, he also wins six Irish championships in the hammer, four Irish championships in the 56 lb. shot, three Irish championships throwing the 56 lb. weight over-the-bar, and one Irish championship in the discus. He also wins the American hammer championship in 1933 and the British championship in the same event the following year. Despite his size, he jumps 6 ft. 2 in. (1.88 m) in the high jump and is Irish champion on three consecutive occasions (1929–31).

After an accident in which a child is killed by a flying hammer, O’Callaghan emigrates to the United States just before World War II and takes up professional wrestling. Attempts are made to set up a match with world wrestling champion Dan O’Mahoney, but this never occurs. He has a high profile, however. Samuel Goldwyn offers him the film role of Tarzan and he plays handball with Bing Crosby before returning home to Clonmel, where he becomes a prominent member of Clonmel Commercials Gaelic football club and manages that club’s senior team to three county championships (1965–67). He is later chairman and honorary president of the club. In 1984 he is made a Freeman of Clonmel, a town where he is known as “the doc” or “Dr. Pat” and revered as a humble, charming, jovial man, with a reputation for particular kindness to his poorer patients. At 6 ft. 1 in. (1.855 m) and sixteen stone (101.6 kg), he is a larger-than-life figure and the focal point of innumerable stories confirming his status as a living legend. In 1960 he is the first person voted into the newly conceived Texaco Hall of Fame. He lives for many years at Roseville, Western Road, Clonmel, and dies there on December 1, 1991.

O’Callaghan is survived by three sons and one daughter. His younger brother Con represents Ireland in the decathlon at the 1928 Olympic games and wins that event at the third Tailteann games in 1932.

(From: “O’Callaghan, Patrick (‘Pat’)” by Paul Rouse, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Jonathan Swift, Essayist, Pamphleteer, Poet & Cleric

Jonathan Swift, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is born in Dublin on November 30, 1667.

Swift’s father, an attorney, also named Jonathan Swift, dies just two months before he is born. Without steady income, his mother struggles to provide for her newborn. Moreover, he is a sickly child. It is later discovered that he suffers from Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that leaves the afflicted nauseous and hard of hearing. In an effort to give her son the best upbringing possible, Swift’s mother gives him over to Godwin Swift, her late husband’s brother and a member of the respected professional attorney and judges group Gray’s Inn. Godwin Swift enrolls his nephew with one of his cousins in Kilkenny College, which is perhaps the best school in Ireland at the time. He arrives there at the age of six, where he is expected to have already learned the basic declensions in Latin. He has not, and thus begins his schooling in a lower form. He graduates in 1682, when he is 15. His transition from a life of poverty to a rigorous private school setting proves challenging. He does, however, make a fast friend in William Congreve, the future poet and playwright.

In 1682, Swift commences his undergraduate studies at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1686, he receives a Bachelor of Arts degree and goes on to pursue a master’s degree. Not long into his research, huge unrest breaks out in Ireland. The king of Ireland, England and Scotland is soon to be overthrown. What becomes known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 spurs him to move to England and start anew. For 10 years, Swift works in Surrey‘s Moor Park and acts as an assistant to Sir William Temple, 1st Baronet.

During his Moor Park years, Swift meets the daughter of Temple’s housekeeper, an 8-year-old named Esther Johnson, known as “Stella.” They become lovers for the rest of their lives until Johnson’s death in 1728. It is rumored that they marry in 1716 and that Swift keeps of lock of Johnson’s hair in his possession at all times.

During his decade of work for Temple, Swift returns to Ireland twice. On a trip in 1695, he takes all necessary requirements to become an ordained priest in the Anglican tradition. Under Temple’s influence, he also begins to write, first short essays and then a manuscript for a later book. Temple dies in 1699. Swift completes the task of editing and publishing Temple’s memoirs. He then leans on his priestly qualifications and finds work ministering to a pea-sized congregation just 20 miles outside of Dublin. For the next ten years, he gardens, preaches and works on the house provided to him by the church. He also returns to writing. His first political pamphlet is titled A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome.

In 1704, Swift anonymously releases A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. Tub, although widely popular with the masses, is harshly disapproved of by the Church of England. Ostensibly, it criticizes religion, but Swift means it as a parody of pride. Nonetheless, his writings earn him a reputation in London and when the Tories come into power in 1710, they ask him to become editor of The Examiner, their official paper. After a time, he becomes fully immersed in the political landscape and begins writing some of the most cutting and well-known political pamphlets of the day, including The Conduct of the Allies, an attack on the Whigs. Privy to the inner circle of Tory government, he lays out his private thoughts and feelings in a stream of letters to his beloved Stella. They are later published as The Journal to Stella.

When he sees that the Tories will soon fall from power, Swift returns to Ireland. In 1713, he takes the post of Dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. While leading his congregation at St. Patrick’s, he begins to write what would become his best-known work. In 1726, at last finished with the manuscript, he travels to London and benefits from the help of several friends, who anonymously publish it as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, more simply known as Gulliver’s Travels. The book is an immediate success and has not been out of print since its first run.

Not long after the celebration of this work, Esther Johnson, falls ill. She dies in January 1728. Her death moves Swift to write The Death of Mrs. Johnson.

In 1742, Swift suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. He dies on October 19, 1745. He is laid to rest next to Esther Johnson inside Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


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Death of William Rokeby, Statesman, Cleric & Archbishop of Dublin

William Rokeby, a leading statesman and cleric in early sixteenth-century Ireland, dies at Kirk Sandall, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, on November 29, 1521. He holds the offices of Bishop of Meath, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He is commemorated in the Rokeby Chapels in two Yorkshire churches, St. Oswald’s Church, Kirk Sandall, and Halifax Minster.

Rokeby is born at Kirk Sandall, eldest of the five sons of John Rokeby (died 1506). His younger brother, Sir Richard Rokeby (died 1523), is Comptroller of the Household to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later Treasurer of Ireland. He retains a deep affection for Kirk Sandall and returns there to die. He goes to school at Rotherham, studies at the University of Oxford and becomes a fellow of King’s Hall, later Trinity College, Cambridge. He becomes vicar of his home parish in 1487 and is transferred to Halifax, another town for which he has a deep attachment, in about 1499. In 1507 he is made Bishop of Meath.

On the death of Walter Fitzsimon in 1511, Rokeby becomes Archbishop of Dublin. It has been suggested that his elevation is due at least in part to his English birth, as the Crown is anxious to place Englishmen high up in the Irish hierarchy. No doubt his brother’s close connection to Wolsey also plays a part. He is Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1512 to 1513 and from 1516 to 1522.

Writer Roderick J. O’Flanagan believes that Rokeby is a good and diligent Lord Chancellor, although he does not leave behind many written judgments. He is clearly a trusted servant of the Crown; in particular, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, the Lord Deputy, Surrey, with the approval of Henry VIII, choose Rokeby in 1520 as mediator in the feud between Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond, and Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, which has become exceptionally bitter.

As Archbishop Rokeby makes a reputation as a peacemaker, settling a long and bitter dispute between the Dean and Chapter of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He gives permission to Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, for the original foundation of Maynooth College, which is suppressed in 1535. He is frequently at the English Court, so often indeed that he is accused of neglecting his official duties back in Ireland. He participates in the christening of the future Queen Mary I in 1516 and the ceremony by which Wolsey receives his cardinal’s hat.

As Archbishop of Dublin, Rokeby is best remembered for the Synod of 1518. The Synod prohibits the use of any tin chalice at Mass, and the disposal of Church property by laymen; and attempts to regulate the procedure for dealing with intestate estates, the payment of tithes and burial fees and the rules for admission to the clergy. Rather comically, he strictly forbids clergymen to play football.

Rokeby is appointed Archdeacon of Surrey on March 27, 1519. By 1521 his health is failing, and he retires to Kirk Sandall, where he dies on November 29. In his will he leaves £200 to rebuild St. Mary’s Church, Beverley, whose tower had collapsed the previous year.

Rokeby makes elaborate provisions in his will for the disposal of his remains. In accordance with his wishes, his body is buried in St. Oswald’s Church, Kirk Sandall, but his heart and bowels are buried in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Halifax (now known as Halifax Minster). Mortuary chapels are erected at both spots, which still exist today.

O’Flanagan praises Rokeby as a good man, a good bishop and, so far as we can tell from the scanty records, a good judge. Irish author F. Elrington Ball, while acknowledging his good qualities, suggests that he was a failure as Irish Lord Chancellor, due partly to his frequent absences in England.

(Pictured: Halifax Minster, where Rokeby’s heart is buried)


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Birth of Rory O’Connor, Irish Republican Revolutionary

Rory O’Connor (Irish: Ruairí Ó Conchubhair), Irish republican revolutionary, is born in Kildare Street, Dublin, on November 28, 1883.

O’Connor is educated in St. Mary’s College, Dublin, and then in Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, a public school run by the Jesuit order. It is also attended by the man who later condemns O’Connor to death, his close friend Kevin O’Higgins. He studies experimental physics, logic, and metaphysics. He also attends the College of Science, Merrion Street. He takes a BA (1906) and receives a B.Eng (1911). In 1910, he takes his Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Arts degrees at University College Dublin (UCD), then known as the National University. Prominent in the university’s Literary and Historical Society, he advocates militant constitutional nationalism as one of the many society members active in the Young Ireland branch of the United Irish League.

O’Connor goes to work as a railway engineer, then he moves to Canada where he is an engineer in the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway, being responsible for the construction of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of railroad. He returns to Ireland in 1915 at Joseph Plunkett‘s request and works for Dublin Corporation as a civil engineer. He joins the Catholic nationalist organisation the Ancient Order of Hibernians and serves in the Easter Rising in 1916 in the GPO as an intelligence officer. He is wounded by a sniper during reconnaissance at the Royal College of Surgeons.

During the subsequent Irish War of Independence (1919-21) O’Connor is Director of Engineering of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a military organisation descended from the Irish Volunteers. The specialist skills of engineering and signaling are essential to the development of the 5th Battalion, Dublin Brigade. Its men are forbidden frontline duty as their contribution is regarded as vital, their number too small. But units only expand on an incremental local basis, disappointing General Richard Mulcahy.

O’Connor is also involved in the Republican breakout from Strangeways Prison in Manchester, England, on October 25, 1919. Michael Collins takes a particular interest in the escape, and actually visits Austin Stack in the prison under a false name to finalise the arrangements. IRA men hold up traffic while a ladder is propped up against the outside of a prison wall. In all six prisoners escape, among them Piaras Beaslaí.

O’Connor refuses to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which establishes the Irish Free State. It is ratified by a narrow vote in Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament. He and many like him feel that the Treaty copper-fastens the partition of the six counties of Northern Ireland and undermines the Irish Republic declared in 1916.

On January 10, a meeting is held at O’Connor’s home in Monkstown, Dublin. In attendance are all senior anti-Treaty IRA officers except Liam Mellows. O’Connor is appointed to chair this grouping, known as the Republican Military Council. It is agreed that an IRA convention should be called without delay; failing this, a separate GHQ will be formed. At a further meeting in O’Connor’s office on March 20, a temporary IRA GHQ staff is elected under Liam Lynch as chief of staff. O’Connor remains in charge of engineering.

On March 26, 1922, the anti-Treaty officers of the IRA hold a convention in Dublin, in which they reject the Treaty and repudiate the authority of the Dáil. However, they are prepared to discuss a way forward. The convention meets again on April 9. It creates a new army constitution and places the army under a newly elected executive of 16 men, including O’Connor, that are to choose an army council and headquarters staff. Asked by a journalist if this development means the anti-Treatyites ware proposing a “military dictatorship” in Ireland, O’Connor replies, “You can take it that way if you want.”

On April 14, 1922, O’Connor is one of a number of IRA leaders in a 200-strong force that occupies the Four Courts building in the centre of Dublin in defiance of the Provisional Government. They intend to provoke the British troops, who are still in the country, into attacking them, which they believe will restart the war with Britain and re-unite the IRA against their common enemy. They also occupy other smaller buildings regarded as being associated with the former British administration, such as the Ballast Office and the Freemasons‘ Hall in Molesworth Street, but the Four Courts remains the focus of interest. On June 15, O’Connor sends out men to collect the rifles that belong to the mutineers of the Civic Guards.

Michael Collins tries desperately to persuade the IRA men to leave the Four Courts. At the Third IRA Convention on June 18, the Executive is split over whether the Irish Government should demand that all British troops leave within 72 hours. A motion to this effect, opposed by Lynch, is narrowly defeated, whereupon O’Connor and others leave the meeting to set up a separate GHQ. The IRA effectively splits into two factions opposed to the government.

On June 22, 1922, Sir Henry Wilson is assassinated in London by two IRA men, Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, each a former British soldier. Some now argue that this was done on the orders of Michael Collins, who had been a close friend of Dunne’s in the London Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). Prime Minister David Lloyd George writes an angry letter to Collins, which includes the line “…still less can Mr. Rory O’Connor be permitted to remain his followers and his arsenal in open rebellion in the heart of Dublin… organizing and sending out from this centre enterprises of murder not only in the area of your Government…”

On June 28, 1922, after the Four Courts garrison has kidnapped J. J. “Ginger” O’Connell, a general in the National Army, Collins gives orders for the shelling of the Four Courts with borrowed artillery lent by Winston Churchill. The shelling leads to the Four Courts catching fire, damaging parts of the building in addition to destroying numerous government documents. O’Connor is one of 130 men that surrender on June 30, some of whom are arrested and imprisoned in Mountjoy Prison. This incident marks the official start of the Irish Civil War, as fighting breaks out openly around the country between pro- and anti-Treaty factions.

On December 8, 1922, along with three other republicans, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey, captured with the fall of the Four Courts, O’Connor is executed by firing squad in reprisal for the anti-Treaty IRA’s killing of Free State Teachta Dála (TD) Sean Hales. The execution order is signed by Kevin O’Higgins. O’Connor had been best man at O’Higgins’s wedding on October 27, 1921. Their deaths remain a symbol of the bitterness and division of the Irish Civil War. O’Connor, one of 77 republicans executed by the Provisional Government, is seen as a martyr by the Republican movement in Ireland.

On O’Connor’s execution, the equestrienne Joan de Sales La Terriere, a close friend of his, names her son in his honour. “Rory O’Connor Place” in Arklow is named in his honour. There is also a pub in Crumlin, Dublin, named after him and a housing estate near Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, called “Rory O’Connor Park.” A Sinn Féin cumann (UCD) is named after him.

(Pictured: Rory O’Connor addressing members of the IRA’s Dublin City Brigade at Smithfield, April 1922)