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


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Death of Leslie Montgomery, Playwright & Writer

lynn-doyle-ballygullionLeslie Alexander Montgomery, playwright, humorist, and writer who writes under the pen name “Lynn Doyle,” dies in Dublin on August 18, 1961. He adopts the pseudonym for his writing, using a homophone of “linseed oil.” Supposedly, he chooses the name after seeing a large tin of linseed oil in a paint shop, initially signing “Lynn C. Doyle” but later dropping the “C.”

Born in Downpatrick, County Down on October, 5 1873, Montgomery is educated at Dundalk in County Louth. He commences work as a bank clerk at the age of 16, and remains with the Northern Banking Company, working in locations such as Keady and Cushendall before a transfer to the quaint seaside town of Skerries in County Armagh. There he becomes branch manager until his retirement in 1934.

Aside from this rather straight-laced, white collar career, however, Montgomery fosters a life-time passion for writing in various forms and genres, and his contribution to Ulster literature in the early part of the 20th century should not be underestimated.

Montgomery is part of the Ulster Literary Theatre movement founded by Bulmer Hobson and David Parkhill in 1902, and early works include Love and Land, a play that is produced at the Little Theatre in London and represents Montgomery’s first critical success.

Other works during this decade include The Summons and The Lilac Ribbon. By the beginning of the 1920s, Montgomery is a leading northern playwright. He is best known, however for the Ballygullion series, twenty books which fondly caricature Northern Irish village life. The first in the series is published in 1908 and the last in 1957.

Montgomery writes the first book, which would lend its title to the rest of the series, in Dublin. This is followed by other works every few years such as Mr. Wildridge of the Bank, Lobster Salad, Dear Ducks, Me and Mr. Murphy and Rosabelle and Other Stories.

Written in the dialect of the east Ulster region, the stories celebrate an imaginary townland area in the Slieve Gullion region of County Down. They reflect Montgomery’s early years there and in Dundalk. The books also reveal a lot about contemporary Ulster life.

The versatile writer also produces poetry during the 1930s. Ballygullion Ballads, published in 1936 is illustrated by the famous Belfast artist William Conor, as are several of the later editions of his books.

In 1936, Montgomery has the somewhat dubious honour of being the first Irish writer to be appointed to the Censorship Board. He resigns within two years of accepting the job, however, claiming that it is “so terribly easy to read only the marked passages, so hard to wade through the whole book afterwards.”

Following his retirement from the Northern Banking Company, he gains further notoriety as a lecturer, and also regularly broadcasts his stories for the fledgling BBC in Belfast. Indeed his most productive period as a writer is in his 1960s, during which time he writes his autobiography, An Ulster Childhood, in 1954.

Montgomery dies in Dublin on August 18, 1961, but his legacy is preserved in the Lynn Doyle Collection at Belfast Central Library, which consists of a series of archival boxes which were purchased by the library. The collection is extensive, and includes broadcasts and lecture transcripts, manuscripts, essays, short stories, poetry, personal correspondence, photographs, land leases and legal documents.

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Birth of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, Republican & Nationalist

Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, Irish republican and nationalist known as The O’Rahilly, is born in Ballylongford, County Kerry, on April 22, 1875.

O’Rahilly is educated in Clongowes Wood College. As an adult, he becomes a republican and a language enthusiast. He joins the Gaelic League and becomes a member of An Coiste Gnotha, its governing body. He is well travelled, spending at least a decade in the United States and in Europe before settling in Dublin.

O’Rahilly is a founding member of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, which is organized to work for Irish independence and resist the proposed Home Rule. He serves as the IV Director of Arms. He personally directs the first major arming of the Irish Volunteers, the landing of 900 Mausers at the Howth gun-running on July 26, 1914.

O’Rahilly is not party to the plans for the Easter Rising, nor is he a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), but he is one of the main people who train the Irish Volunteers for the coming fight. The planners of the Rising go to great lengths to prevent those leaders of the Volunteers who are opposed to unprovoked, unilateral action from learning that a rising is imminent, including its Chief-of-Staff Eoin MacNeill, Bulmer Hobson, and O’Rahilly. When Hobson discovers that an insurrection is planned, he is kidnapped by the Military Council leadership.

Learning this, O’Rahilly goes to Patrick Pearse‘s school, Scoil Éanna, on Good Friday. He barges into Pearse’s study, brandishing his revolver as he announces “Whoever kidnaps me will have to be a quicker shot!” Pearse calms O’Rahilly, assuring him that Hobson is unharmed, and will be released after the rising begins.

O’Rahilly takes instructions from MacNeill and spends the night driving throughout the country, informing Volunteer leaders in Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, and Limerick that they are not to mobilise their forces for planned manoeuvres on Sunday.

Arriving home, O’Rahilly learns that the Rising is about to begin in Dublin on the next day, Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. Despite his efforts to prevent such action which he feels can only lead to defeat, he sets out to Liberty Hall to join Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh, Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Countess Markievicz, Seán Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt and their Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army troops. Arriving in his De Dion-Bouton motorcar, he gives one of the most quoted lines of the rising, “Well, I’ve helped to wind up the clock — I might as well hear it strike!”

O’Rahilly fights with the General Post Office (GPO) garrison during Easter Week. On Friday, April 28, with the GPO on fire, O’Rahilly volunteers to lead a party of men along a route to Williams and Woods, a factory on Great Britain Street, now Parnell Street. A British machine-gun at the intersection of Great Britain and Moore streets cuts him and several of the others down. Wounded and bleeding badly, O’Rahilly slumps into a doorway on Moore Street, but, hearing the English marking his position, makes a dash across the road to find shelter in Sackville Lane, now O’Rahilly Parade. He is wounded diagonally from shoulder to hip by sustained fire from the machine-gunner.

The specific timing of O’Rahilly’s death is very difficult to pin down but understanding can be gained from his final thoughts. Despite his obvious pain, he takes the time to write a message to his wife on the back of a letter he received from his son in the GPO. It is this last message to Nancy that artist Shane Cullen etches into his limestone and bronze sculpture. The text reads:

Written after I was shot. Darling Nancy I was shot leading a rush up Moore Street and took refuge in a doorway. While I was there I heard the men pointing out where I was and made a bolt for the laneway I am in now. I got more [than] one bullet I think. Tons and tons of love dearie to you and the boys and to Nell and Anna. It was a good fight anyhow. Please deliver this to Nannie O’ Rahilly, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin. Goodbye Darling.


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Free State Government Purchases Copyright to “The Soldiers Song”

amhran-na-bhfiannThe Irish Free State government purchases the copyright of Peadar Kearney‘s The Soldiers Song on October 20, 1933, which becomes the Irish national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann. The song has three verses, but only the choral refrain is officially designated the national anthem.

A Soldiers’ Song is composed in 1907, with words by Peadar Kearney and music by Kearney and Patrick Heeney. The text is first published in Irish Freedom by Bulmer Hobson in 1912. It is used as a marching song by the Irish Volunteers and is sung by rebels in the General Post Office (GPO) during the Easter Rising of 1916. Its popularity increases among rebels held in Frongoch internment camp after the Rising, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, a large proportion of the IRA’s men and apparatus become the National Army. The Soldiers’ Song remains popular as an Army tune, and is played at many military functions.

The Free State does not initially adopt any official anthem. The delicate political state in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War provokes a desire to avoid controversy. Ex-Unionists continue to regard God Save the King as the national anthem, as it has been for the rest of the British Empire. W. T. Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State expresses opposition to replacing The Soldiers’ Song, which is provisionally used within the State.

There is concern that the lack of an official anthem is giving Unionists an opportunity to persist with God Save the King. The Soldiers’ Song is widely if unofficially sung by nationalists. On July 12, 1926, the Executive Council of the Irish Free State decides to adopt it as the National Anthem, with Cosgrave the driving force in the decision. However, this decision is not publicised.

In 1928, the Army band establishes the practice of playing only the chorus of the song as the Anthem, because the longer version is discouraging audiences from singing along.

The anthem is played by Radio Éireann at closedown from its inception in 1926. Cinemas and theatres do so from 1932 until 1972. Peadar Kearney, who has received royalties from publishers of the text and music, issues legal proceedings for royalties from those now performing the anthem. He is joined by Michael Heeney, brother of Patrick Heeney, who had died in 1911. In 1934, the Department of Finance acquires the copyright of the song for the sum of £1,200. Copyright law changes in 1959, such that the government has to reacquire copyright in 1965, for £2,500. As per copyright law, the copyright expires in December 2012, following the 70th anniversary of Kearney’s death. In 2016, three Fianna Fáil senators introduce a private member’s bill intended to restore the state’s copyright in the anthem.


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Michael Collins Made President of the IRB

michael-collinsMichael Collins, who is also a leader in the Irish Republican Army, is made president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) on June 28, 1919.

At the start of the 20th century, the IRB is a stagnating organisation, concerned more with Dublin municipal politics than the establishment of a republic. A younger generation of Ulster republicans aim to change this and, in 1905, Denis McCullough and Bulmer Hobson found the Dungannon Clubs, whose purpose is to discourage enlistment into the British Army and encourage enlistment into the IRB.

In 1909, Michael Collins is introduced to the brotherhood by Sam Maguire. By 1914, the Supreme Council is largely purged of its older, tired leadership, and is dominated by enthusiastic men such as Hobson, McCullough, Patrick McCartan, John MacBride, Seán Mac Diarmada, and Tom Clarke. The latter two are to become the primary instigators of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Following the Rising some republicans, notably Éamon de Valera and Cathal Brugha, leave the organization as they view it as no longer necessary since the Irish Volunteers now perform its function. The IRB, during the War of Independence (1919-1921), is under the control of Michael Collins, who initially is secretary and subsequently, on June 28, 1919, is made president of the Supreme Council.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed on December 6, 1921, it is debated by the Supreme Council, which votes to accept it by an 11-4 vote. Those who oppose the Treaty include former leader Harry Boland, Austin Stack, and Liam Lynch. Anti-Treaty republicans like Ernie O’Malley, who fought during the Civil War against the Treaty, see the IRB as being used to undermine the Irish Republic.

The IRB becomes quiescent during the Irish Civil War, which ends in May 1923, but it emerges again later that year as a faction within the National Army. It supports Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy against the “Old IRA,” which fights against the recruitment of ex-British Army personnel and the demobilization of old IRA men. This comes to a head with the Army Mutiny of 1924, in the wake of which Mulcahy resigns and other IRB members of the army are dismissed by acting President of the Executive Council Kevin O’Higgins. The IRB subsequently dissolves itself, although it is not known whether a formal decision is made or it simply ceases to function.


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Executions of Seán MacDiarmada & James Connolly

macdiarmada-connollyThe British army executes Seán MacDiarmada and James Connolly, the last of the Easter Rising leaders to be executed in Dublin, in the Stonebreaker’s Yard at Kilmainham Gaol on May 12, 1916.

Seán MacDiarmada is born in 1884 in Leitrim. He emigrates to Glasgow in 1900 and from there to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, he is acquainted with Bulmer Hobson. He joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in 1906 while still in Belfast, transferring to Dublin in 1908 where he assumes managerial responsibility for the IRB newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910. Although MacDiarmada is afflicted with polio in 1912, he is appointed as a member of the provisional committee of Irish Volunteers from 1913, and is subsequently drafted onto the military committee of the IRB in 1915. During the Rising, MacDiarmada serves in the General Post Office (GPO). Following the surrender, MacDiarmada nearly escapes execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners. He is eventually recognised by Daniel Hoey of G Division and faces a court-martial on May 9.

James Connolly is born in Edinburgh in 1868. Connolly is first introduced to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Despite returning to Scotland, the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh stimulates Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid-1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896 where he founds the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He spends much of the first decade of the twentieth century in America. He then returns to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin. A firm believer in the perils of sectarian division, Connolly campaigns tirelessly against religious bigotry. In 1913, Connolly is one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising he is appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leading the group that occupies the General Post Office.

The treatment accorded to Connolly is particularly despicable. Crippled by an infected wound in the ankle, he is carried to Kilmainham Gaol, tied to a chair, and shot. As the men are loading their rifles, Connolly forgives the men of the army firing squad for their actions. Shaken by their distasteful task, a ragged volley of shots resound from their rifles. He is the last of the leaders to be executed.


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Postponement of the Easter Rising

general-post-officeOn Saturday, April 22, 1916, the Easter Rising, originally planned for the following day, Easter Sunday, is postponed for one day.

At dawn a messenger from the Kerry Volunteers arrives in Dublin and informs James Connolly, Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, that Roger Casement had been arrested in County Kerry the previous day during a failed attempt to smuggle arms into Ireland on board the German ship Aud. A meeting of the Military Council is hastily organised, and the decision is made not to inform Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Volunteers, Eoin MacNeill, about Casement’s arrest.

Later in the morning, after attempting to escape the area, Karl Spindler, captain of the Aud, makes the decision to scuttle his ship after it is intercepted by the Royal Navy. Although Spindler and the crew are rescued, the armaments on board the Aud are lost. By early afternoon the Military Council is made aware of the loss of their arms shipment.

At 6:00 PM, Sean Fitzgibbon, Colm O’Loughlin, and Michael Joseph O’Rahilly arrive at Woodtown Park and inform MacNeill of the arrests and the loss of the Aud. After confronting Patrick Pearse at St. Enda’s School, a bilingual school for boys founded by Pearse, MacNeill and others, including O’Rahilly and Bulmer Hobson, gather at the house of Seumas O’Kelly on Rathgar Road and a decision is made to issue countermanding orders cancelling the Rising planned for Easter Sunday. To make sure that the countermanding order is received and understood, James Ryan is sent overnight to Cork, Colm O’Loughlin to Dundalk and Coalisland, Sean Fitzgibbon to Waterford, and Min Ryan to Wexford. O’Rahilly travels to Limerick, Kerry, Cork, and Tipperary. This succeeds in delaying the rising for only one day, although it greatly reduces the number of Volunteers who turn out.

During the evening, Major-General Sir Lovick Friend, General Officer Commanding of British forces in Ireland, travels to London on leave in wake of the capture of the Aud believing that any potential insurgency has been stopped. Chief Secretary Augustine Birrell is also in London having attended a Cabinet meeting. Both men remain in London through Easter, leaving Under Secretary Matthew Nathan as the most senior British official remaining in Dublin. Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Ivor Churchill Guest, 1st Viscount Wimborne, urges Nathan to order the arrest of a large number of rebel leaders however he is unwilling to do so without the authorisation of Chief Secretary Birrell.


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Birth of Thomas James Clarke, Irish Revolutionary Leader

thomas-james-clarkeThomas James “Tom” Clarke, Irish republican revolutionary leader and arguably the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising, is born to Irish parents on March 11, 1858 at Hurst Castle, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, England opposite the Isle of Wight. Clarke’s father, a sergeant in the British Army, is transferred to Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1865 and it is there that Tom grows up.

In 1878, following the visit to Dungannon of John Daly, Clarke joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and soon becomes head of the local IRB circle. In August, in retaliation to the killing of a man by a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), Clarke and other IRB members attack some RIC men in Irish Street but are driven back. Fearing arrest, Clarke flees to the United States.

In 1883, Clarke is sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the Fenian dynamite campaign advocated by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. He is arrested along with three others and tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life on May 28, 1883 at London’s Old Bailey. He subsequently serves 15 years in Pentonville and other British prisons. In 1896, a series of public meetings in Ireland call for the release of Clarke and the other four remaining Fenian prisoners.

Following his release in 1898, Clarke moves to Brooklyn, New York where he marries Kathleen Daly, 21 years his junior and niece of John Daly. Clarke works for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1906, the couple moves to a 30-acre farm in Manorville, New York and purchases another 30 acres in 1907 shortly before returning to Ireland.

In Ireland, Clarke opens a tobacconist shop in Dublin and immerses himself in the IRB which is undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough.

Clarke takes a keen interest when the Irish Volunteers are formed in 1913 but takes no part in the organisation feeling that his criminal record would lend discredit to the Volunteers. With several IRB members taking important roles in the Volunteers, it becomes clear that the IRB will have substantial to total control of the Volunteers. This proves largely to be the case until John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, demands the Provisional Committee accept 25 additional members of the Party’s choosing, giving IPP loyalists a majority stake. Though most of the hard-liners stand against this, Redmond’s decree is accepted, partially due to the support given by Bulmer Hobson. Clarke never forgives him for what he considers a treasonous act.

Following Clarke’s falling out with Hobson, Sean MacDermott and Clarke become almost inseparable. In 1915, Clarke and MacDermott establish the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later becomes the Easter Rising. The members are Patrick PearseÉamonn Ceannt, and Joseph Plunkett, with Clarke and MacDermott adding themselves shortly thereafter. When Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa dies in 1915, Clarke uses his funeral to mobilise the Volunteers and heighten expectation of imminent action. When an agreement was reached with James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in January 1916, Connolly is added to the committee. Thomas MacDonagh is added at the last minute in April. These seven men are the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, with Clarke as the first signatory.

Clarke is stationed at headquarters in the General Post Office during the events of Easter Week of 1916, where rebel forces are largely composed of Irish Citizen Army members under the command of Connolly. Though he holds no formal military rank, Clarke is recognised by the garrison as one of the commanders and is active throughout the week in the direction of the fight. Following their surrender on April 29, Clarke is held in Kilmainham Gaol until his execution by firing squad on May 3 at the age of 59. He is the second person to be executed following Patrick Pearse.

Before his execution, Clarke asks his wife to give this message to the Irish People:

“I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief, we die happy.”