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


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The Rineen Ambush

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rineen_Monument.JPGThe Rineen ambush is carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on September 22, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It takes place at Drummin Hill in the townland of Drummin, near the hamlet of Rineen, County Clare.

The Volunteers in County Clare have been active since 1917 and by late 1920 have forced the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) to abandon most of its small rural barracks in the county. This gives the IRA greater freedom to move in the countryside. In August 1920, the RIC are reinforced by the British deployment of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries to the county. Five RIC men, eleven IRA volunteers and four civilians have been killed in County Clare during the two years before the ambush.

The Rineen Ambush is ordered by the leadership of the IRA’s Mid-Clare Brigade, who had noticed that a RIC lorry travels every week on the Ennistymon to Milltown Malbay road. John Joe Neylon, leader of the local IRA battalion, is put in charge, although the actual attack is led by Ignatius O’Neill, the Officer Commanding. He is a veteran of World War I who had formerly fought with the Irish Guards. The ambush party has only nine rifles and some grenades, the remainder being armed with shotguns or handguns. They prepare to attack the lorry from a railway bridge that overlooks the road at Rineen.

As the IRA party is lying in wait, Alan Lendrum, the local resident magistrate, drives unwittingly into a roadblock of the IRA’s West Clare Brigade, in an unrelated action. He is stopped at a railway crossing at Caherfeenick near Doonbeg. When the IRA demand he surrender his car, he draws an automatic pistol and the IRA men shoot him twice in the head, fatally wounding him. The IRA weights his body with stones and dumps it in a nearby lake. Even though the British Military inquest establishes that Lendrum had died of gunshot wounds, members of the RIC in Clare spread a false version of events and claim that Lendrum had died of drowning.

Although in strict military sense not related to the ambush, it has serious consequences for the ambush. It is quite quickly noticed that the magistrate is missing and the military in Ennistymon decide to send out a search party of ten lorries of soldiers.

The RIC lorry passes safely through the ambush position, travelling from Ennistymon to Milltown Malbay, due to some confusion among the IRA over the numbers they face. However when they learn that there is only one lorry, it is attacked on its return journey from Milltown Malbay. The lorry is hit by a grenade and blasted at close range by rifle and shotgun fire. The shooting is over in seconds, with five out of the six RIC men being killed outright. The sixth man manages to run about 300 yards before being shot dead. Five of the dead are Irish RIC officers and one is an English Black and Tan. The IRA take their weapons and burn the lorry.

Not long after the lorry has been set ablaze, the ten-lorry search party arrives on the scene. A running fight develops, as four IRA riflemen keep the troops at bay while the other volunteers make their escape. Two IRA volunteers and several British soldiers are wounded in the firing. Padraic O’Farrell lists the casualties as three British soldiers killed, but this is not confirmed by the other sources.

The British forces, enraged by the ambush and the escape of the IRA force, take out reprisals on civilians in the surrounding area. Immediately after the action ends, they burn the house and farm of the O’Gorman family and shoot a local farmer, Sean Keane, who later dies of his wounds.

That night, a mixed force of police and soldiers raid the Lahinch home of Dan Lehane, whose two sons had taken part in the ambush. They shoot him dead and burn his house. Patrick Lehane, who is hiding in the attic, perishes in the blaze. Several other houses are burned in Lahinch and a further eight are razed in Milltown Malbay. A separate RIC raid takes place in Ennistymon, in which several homes and businesses are burned.

In what may have been a belated reprisal for the ambush, four IRA men are arrested by the Auxiliaries at Killaloe on November 16, beaten, interrogated and then shot dead. Another two are summarily executed in the same manner on December 22 at Kilkee.

The reprisals are condemned in the British, Irish and international press. In the House of Commons, the British Labour Party tables a resolution condemning the reprisals and calling for an investigation. This is defeated by 346 votes to 79. Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, defends the State Forces’ actions, saying that the houses destroyed were those of “notorious Sinn Féiners…I am convinced that the people of those two villages knew of this ambush.”

In Clare itself, according to IRA man Anthony Malone, the ambush has two effects. One is that the RIC becomes careful to travel in convoys of no less than three lorries. The other is that, as a result of the reprisals, the civilian population becomes embittered against the British and adopt a more defiant attitude to the British military and Black and Tans.

The death of Resident Magistrate Alan Lendrum, however, according to pro-republican Catholic priest Sean Gaynor, “was not to our credit.” On October 1, the local IRA remove Lendrum’s body from the lake, put it in a roughly constructed coffin and leave it on the railway tracks at Craggaknock railway station for British forces to find.

(Pictured: Monument for the attack at Rineen during the Irish War of Independence, designed by Walter Kiernan)

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Birth of John Blaquiere, 1st Baron de Blaquiere

john-blaquiereJohn Blaquiere, 1st Baron de Blaquiere, British soldier, diplomat and politician of French descent, is born on May 15, 1732. He serves as Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1772 and 1776. He is the fifth son of Jean de Blaquiere, a French merchant who had emigrated to England in 1685, and his wife Marie Elizabeth de Varennes.

Blaquiere at first serves in the Army, in the 18th Dragoons, later renumbered the 17th Dragoons, where he achieves the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1771 he is appointed Secretary of Legation at the British Embassy in Paris, a post he holds until 1772. The latter year Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt, the British Ambassador in Paris, is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Blaquiere joins him as Chief Secretary for Ireland. He is admitted to the Privy Council of Ireland the same year and made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath two years later.

Blaquiere is to remain Chief Secretary until December 6, 1776. He is elected to the Irish House of Commons for Old Leighlin in 1773, a seat he holds until 1783. After representing Enniskillen for a few months in 1783, he sits then for Carlingford from 1783 to 1790, for Charleville from 1790 to 1798 and for Newtownards from 1798 until the Act of Union comes into force in 1801. He is created a Baronet, of Ardkill in County Londonderry, in 1784, and is raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron de Blaquiere, of Ardkill in the County of Londonderry, in 1800, for his support for the Act of Union. Lord de Blaquiere also sits as a Member of the British House of Commons for Rye from 1801 to 1802 and for Downton from 1802 to 1806. He is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1803.

Lord de Blaquiere marries Eleanor, daughter of Robert Dobson, in 1775. They have four sons, including Peter de Blaquière, and three daughters. Lord de Blaquiere dies at the age of 80 in Bray, County Wicklow, on August 27, 1812. He is succeeded in his titles by his eldest son, John. Lady de Blaquiere dies at Regent’s Park, Marylebone, London, in December 1833.


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Joshua Dawson Sells the Mansion House

mansion-house-dublinOn December 25, 1715, Joshua Dawson, Irish public servant, land developer and politician, sells the Mansion House with its gardens and park to Dublin Corporation for £3,500 plus 40 shillings per annum and a “loaf of double refined sugar of six pounds weight” which is to be paid to the Dawsons every Christmas.

Dawson is born in 1660 at the family seat, which becomes Castledawson, County Londonderry, the son of Thomas Dawson, Commissary of the Musters of the Army in Ireland. He resides in County Londonderry and Dublin. His ancestral family had owned land and lived in the area where, in 1710, he founds Dawson’s Bridge, named after the bridge over the River Moyola, which becomes present-day Castledawson. In his estate he builds Moyola House in 1713.

Dawson is appointed clerk to the Chief Secretary of Ireland, Matthew Prior, in 1697. In that role he petitions for the establishment of a Paper & Patent Office. He becomes the Collector of Dublin in 1703, and holds the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland to the Lords Justices from 1710 under Queen Anne. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish House of Commons for Wicklow Borough from 1705 to 1714.

Dawson develops an area of Dublin in 1705-1710 which includes the setting out and construction of the streets of Dawson Street, Anne Street, Grafton Street and Harry Street. These streets are named after, respectively, himself, Queen Anne (widow of William III), and Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, the son of Charles II and cousin of Queen Anne. This development includes the construction of the Mansion House in Dawson Street in 1710 which is purchased in 1715 to be the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, which it has remained for 300 years.

(Pictured: Mansion House, official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin)


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The Battle of Ballynahinch

The Battle of Ballynahinch is fought outside Ballynahinch, County Down, on June 12, 1798, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 between British forces led by Major-General George Nugent and the local United Irishmen led by Henry Munro.

Munro is a Lisburn linen merchant and Presbyterian United Irishman who has no military experience but has taken over command of the Down organisation following the arrest on June 5 of the designated leader, Rev. William Steel Dickson. Upon hearing of the victory at Saintfield on June 9, Munro joins the rebel camp there and then moves to Ednavady Hill, Ballynahinch to join the thousands who have gathered in support of the rebellion. The response of the British garrisons is to converge on Ballynahinch from Belfast and Downpatrick in two columns accompanied by several pieces of cannon.

The battle begins on the night of June 12 when two hills to the left and right of Ballynahinch are occupied by the British who pound the town with their cannon. During a pause when night falls, some rebel officers are said to have pressed Munro for a night attack but he refuses on the grounds that it is unchivalrous. As a consequence many disillusioned rebels slip away during the night.

As dawn breaks the battle recommences with the rebels attacked from two sides and although achieving some initial success, confusion in the rebel army sees the United Irishmen retreat in chaos, pursued by regrouping British forces who quickly take advantage by turning retreat into massacre. Initial reports claim four hundred rebels are killed, while British losses are around forty.

Munro escapes the field of battle but is betrayed by a farmer who he has paid to conceal him and is hanged in front of his own house in Lisburn on June 16. Ballynahinch is sacked by the victorious military after the battle with sixty-three houses being burned down. Cavalry scours the surrounding countryside for rebels, raiding homes and killing indiscriminately, the 22nd Dragoons being guilty of some of the worst atrocities. The most famous victim is Betsy Gray, a young female rebel who, with her two brothers, is slaughtered in the post-battle massacre, ensuring her place in legend to this day.

Because of his family’s involvement in this event, Robert Stewart, the future Lord Castlereagh, is made Chief Secretary for Ireland.


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Birth of Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo

richard-southwell-bourkeRichard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, statesman, Viceroy of India, and prominent member of the British Conservative Party from Dublin, is born in Dublin on February 21, 1822.

Mayo is the eldest son of Robert Bourke, 5th Earl of Mayo, and his wife, Anne Charlotte, daughter of the Hon. John Jocelyn. His younger brother, the Hon. Robert Bourke, is also a successful politician. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin.

After travelling in Russia, Mayo enters parliament for Kildare in 1847, a seat he holds until 1852, and then represents Coleraine from 1852 to 1857 and Cockermouth from 1857 to 1868. He is thrice appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland – in 1852, 1858, and 1866. In 1869 he becomes the fourth Viceroy of India where he is locally often referred to as “Lord Mayo.” He consolidates the frontiers of India and reorganises the country’s finances. He also does much to promote irrigation, railways, forests, and other useful public works. He establishes local boards to solve local problems. During his tenure, the first census takes place in 1872. The European-oriented Mayo College at Ajmer is founded by him for the education of young Indian chiefs, with £70,000 being subscribed by the chiefs themselves.

While visiting the convict settlement at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands in 1872 for the purpose of inspection, he is assassinated by Sher Ali Afridi, an Afridi Pathan convict who uses a knife. His murderer appears to be motivated only by a sense of injustice at his own imprisonment, and has resolved to kill a high-ranking colonial official. Mayo’s body is brought home to Ireland and buried at the medieval ruined church in Johnstown, County Kildare, near his home at Palmerstown House. Afridi is hanged.

In 1873, the newly discovered swallowtail butterfly Papilio mayo from the Andaman Islands is named in his honour. The traditional Irish march Lord Mayo (Tiagharna Mhaighe-eo) is named after him. According to tradition, it is composed by his harper David Murphy to appease Mayo after Murphy angered him.

lord-mayo-statueOn August 19, 1875 a statue of Lord Mayo is unveiled in the town of Cockermouth in the centre of the main street. The 800-guinea cost of the statue is raised by public subscription. The statue, carved in Sicilian marble, depicts Lord Mayo in his viceregal garb, and still stands today.

In 2007, a statue of Lord Mayo is unearthed in Jaipur, India, after being buried for six decades. The statue had previously been installed in the premises of Mayo Hospital, currently known as the Mahilya Chikatsalya, Jaipur. The 9-foot-tall cast-iron statue, weighing around 3 tons, was ordered sculpted by the Maharaja Ram Singh ji of Jaipur, as a tribute to Lord Mayo after his assassination. To prevent it from vandalism, the statue is buried in the premises of the Albert Hall Museum of Jaipur at the time of the independence of India. After six decades, the statue is unearthed by the Jaipur Mayo Alumni Chapter on May 29, 2007, and sent to Mayo College, in Ajmer, India, where it is installed. Mayo College in Ajmer already has a full life-size statue of Lord Mayo sculpted in white marble installed in front of its famous Main Building since inception and a marble sculpted bust of him in its School Museum.


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The Phoenix Park Murders

phoenix-park-murdersLord Frederick Cavendish, newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Thomas Henry Burke, the Permanent Undersecretary, are fatally stabbed in Phoenix Park, Dublin, on May 6, 1882 in what becomes known as the Phoenix Park Murders.

Cavendish, who is married to Lucy Cavendish, the niece of British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, and has worked as Gladstone’s personal secretary, arrives in Ireland on the day he is murdered. Cavendish and Burke are attacked as they walk to the Viceregal Lodge, which is the out-of-season residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Thomas Myles, resident surgeon at nearby Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, is summoned to render medical assistance to the victims. The then Lord Lieutenant, Lord Spencer, describes suddenly hearing screams, before witnessing a man running to the Lodge grounds shouting “Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke are killed.” Responsibility for the assassinations is claimed by a small hitherto unheard-of Republican organisation called the Irish National Invincibles.

The hunt for the perpetrators is led by Superintendent John Mallon, a Catholic man from Armagh. Mallon has a pretty shrewd idea of who has committed the crime and suspects a number of former Fenian activists. A large number of suspects are arrested and kept in prison by claiming they are connected with other crimes. By playing one suspect against another, Mallon gets several of them to reveal what they know.

James Carey, leader of The Invincibles, Michael Kavanagh, and Joe Hanlon agree to testify against the others. Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley, and Tim Kelly are convicted of the murders and all are hanged by William Marwood in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between May 14 and June 9, 1883. Others, convicted as accessories to the crime, are sentenced to long prison terms. The getaway driver, James Fitzharris, is acquitted of murder but is retried as an accessory and convicted.

Only the case of Tim Kelly gives any real difficulty as he is only nineteen and generally said to look much younger. By referring to him as “a child” his defence counsel creates enough unease for two juries to disagree. He is found guilty only after an unprecedented third trial.

Charles Stewart Parnell makes a speech condemning the murders in 1882, which increases his already huge popularity in both Britain and Ireland. He has just enabled some reforms under the Kilmainham Treaty four days prior to the murders. Parnell’s reputation increases in Ireland, being seen as a more moderate reformer who would never excuse such tactics.

However, Parnell’s policy of allying his party to Gladstone’s Liberal Party in 1886 to enable Home Rule is also ultimately defeated by the murders. Gladstone’s Minister, Lord Hartington, is the elder brother of Lord Frederick Cavendish. Infuriated by the manner of his brother’s early death, Hartington splits with Gladstone on the Home Rule bills of 1886 and 1893 and leads the breakaway Liberal Unionist Association which allies itself to Lord Salisbury‘s conservative governments. In the ensuing 1886 general election, the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists sweep the board. This delays Home Rule by twenty-eight years, when the Third Irish Home Rule Bill is passed in 1914 but never effected.

In March 1887, The Times prints letters purportedly from Parnell claiming sympathy with the murderers and that his public denunciation of them was insincere. It emerges that the letters are forgeries written by journalist Richard Pigott. Parnell is personally vindicated by the Parnell Commission in 1888–89.


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The Kilmainham Treaty Signed by Parnell and Gladstone

land-league-posterThe Kilmainham Treaty, an informal agreement between Liberal British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and the Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell, is signed on April 25, 1882.

The agreement extends the terms of the Second Land Act of 1881, with which Gladstone intends to make broad concessions to Irish tenant farmers. But the Act has many weaknesses and fails to satisfy Parnell and the Irish Land League because it does not provide a regulation for rent-arrears or rent-adjustments in the case of poor harvests or deteriorated economic conditions.

After the Second Land Act becomes law on August 22, 1881, Parnell, in a series of speeches in September and October, launches violent attacks on Chief Secretary for Ireland William Forster and even on Gladstone. Gladstone warns him not to frustrate the Act, but Parnell repeats his contempt for the Prime Minister. On October 12, the Cabinet, fully convinced that Parnell is bent on ruining the Act, takes action to have him arrested in Dublin the next day.

Parnell is conveyed to Kilmainham Gaol, where he joins several other prominent members of the Land League who have also protested against the Act and been jailed. There, together with William O’Brien, he enacts the No Rent Manifesto campaign. He is well aware that some in the Liberal Cabinet, in particular Joseph Chamberlain, are opposed to the mass internment of suspects then taking place across Ireland under the Protection of Person and Property Act 1881. The repressions do not have the desired effect, with the result that Forster becomes isolated within the Cabinet, and coercion becomes increasingly unpopular with the Liberal Party.

In gaol Parnell begins to turn over in his mind the possibility of coming to an arrangement with the Government. He has been corresponding with Katharine O’Shea who engages her husband, Captain William O’Shea, in April 1882 to act as a go-between for negotiations on behalf of Parnell. O’Shea contacts Gladstone on May 5 having been informed by Parnell that should the Government settle the rent-arrears problem on the terms he proposes, he is confident that he can curtail outrages. He further urges for the quick release of the League’s organizers in the West who will then work for pacification. This shocks Forster but impresses Gladstone.

Accordingly on May 2, Gladstone informs the House of Commons of the release of Parnell and the resignation of Forster. Gladstone always denies there has been a “Kilmainham Treaty,” merely accepting that he “had received informations.” He keeps his side of the arrangement by subsequently having the Arrears of Rent Act 1882 enacted. The government pays the landlords £800,000 in back rent owed by 130,000 tenant farmers.

Calling the agreement a “treaty” shows how Parnell manages to place a spin on the agreement in a way that strengthens Irish nationalism, since he manages to force concessions from the British while in gaol. Since real treaties are usually signed between two states, it leads to the idea that Ireland could become independent from Britain. After the “treaty” is agreed, those imprisoned with Parnell are released from gaol. This transforms Parnell from a respected leader to a national hero.

The Phoenix Park Murders, in which two top British officials in Ireland are assassinated, take place four days later and undo much of the goodwill generated by it in Britain. Though strongly condemned by Parnell, the murders show that he cannot control nationalist “outrages” as he has undertaken to do.