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


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Birth of Irish Republican Army Officer Liam Lynch

Liam Lynch, officer in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and the commanding general of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War, is born in the townland of Barnagurraha, County Limerick, on November 9, 1893.

In 1910, at the age of 17, he starts an apprenticeship in O’Neill’s hardware trade in Mitchelstown, where he joins the Gaelic League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Later he works at Barry’s Timber Merchants in Fermoy. In the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising, he witnesses the shooting and arrest of David, Thomas and Richard Kent of Bawnard House by the Royal Irish Constabulary. After this, he determines to dedicate his life to Irish republicanism. In 1917 he is elected First Lieutenant of the Irish Volunteer Company, which resides in Fermoy.

In Cork in 1919, Lynch re-organises the Irish Volunteers, the paramilitary organisation that becomes the Irish Republican Army (IRA), becoming commandant of the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the IRA during the guerrilla Irish War of Independence. He is captured, along with the other officers of the Cork No. 2 Brigade, in a British raid on Cork City Hall in August 1920. He provides a false name and is released three days later. In September 1920, he and Ernie O’Malley command a force that takes the British Army barracks at Mallow. The arms in the barracks are seized and the building is partially burned. In April 1921, the IRA is re-organised into divisions based on regions. Lynch’s reputation is such that he is made commander of the 1st Southern Division.

The war formally ends with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty between the Irish negotiating team and the British government in December 1921. Lynch is opposed to the Treaty, on the ground that it disestablishes the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 in favour of Dominion status for Ireland within the British Empire. He becomes Chief of Staff of the IRA in March 1922, much of which is also against the Treaty.

Although Lynch opposes the seizure of the Four Courts in Dublin by a group of hardline republicans, he joins its garrison in June 1922 when it is attacked by the newly formed National Army. This marks the beginning of the Irish Civil War. The ‘Munster Republic’ falls in August 1922, when Free State troops land by sea in Cork and Kerry. The Anti-Treaty forces then disperse and pursue guerrilla tactics.

Lynch contributes to the growing bitterness of the war by issuing what are known as the “orders of frightfulness” against the Provisional government on November 30, 1922. This General Order sanctions the killing of Free State Teachta Dála (TDs) and Senators, as well as certain judges and newspaper editors in reprisal for the Free State’s killing of captured republicans. Lynch is heavily criticised by some republicans for his failure to co-ordinate their war effort and for letting the conflict peter out into inconclusive guerrilla warfare. Lynch makes unsuccessful efforts to import mountain artillery from Germany to turn the tide of the war.

In March 1923, the Anti-Treaty IRA Army Executive meets in a remote location in the Nire Valley. Several members of the executive propose ending the civil war. However, Lynch opposes them and narrowly carries a vote to continue the war.

On April 10, 1923, a National Army unit is seen approaching Lynch’s secret headquarters in the Knockmealdown Mountains. Lynch is carrying important papers that could not fall into enemy hands, so he and his six comrades begin a strategic retreat. To their surprise, they run into another unit of 50 soldiers approaching from the opposite side. Lynch is hit by rifle fire from the road at the foot of the hill. Knowing the value of the papers they carry, he orders his men to leave him behind.

When the soldiers finally reach Lynch, they initially believe him to be Éamon de Valera, but he informs them, “I am Liam Lynch, Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army. Get me a priest and doctor, I’m dying.” He is carried on an improvised stretcher manufactured from guns to “Nugents” pub in Newcastle, at the foot of the mountains. He is later brought to the hospital in Clonmel, and dies that evening. He is laid to rest two days later at Kilcrumper Cemetery, near Fermoy, County Cork.

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Death of John Moore Neligan, Physician & Medical Teacher

atlas-of-cutaneous-diseasesJohn Moore Neligan, one of the foremost physicians and medical teachers of his day, dies on July 24, 1863. Neligan, son of a medical practitioner, is born at Clonmel, County Tipperary, in 1815. He graduates M.D. at Edinburgh in 1836, and begins practice in his birthplace. He later moves to Cork, where he lectures on materia medica and medical botany in a private school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Warren’s Place.

In 1840 he takes a house in Dublin, and in 1841 is appointed physician to the Jervis Street Hospital. He also gives lectures on materia medica from 1841 to 1846, and on medicine from 1846 to 1857, in the Dublin school of Peter Street. He publishes in 1844 Medicines, their Uses and Mode of Administration, which gives an account of all the drugs mentioned in the London, Scottish, and Irish pharmacopœias, and of some others. Their sources, medicinal actions, doses, and most useful compounds are clearly stated. The compilation, though containing no original matter, is useful to medical practitioners, and goes through many editions.

Neligan enjoys the friendship of Robert James Graves, the famous lecturer on medicine, and in 1848 edits the second edition of his Clinical Lectures on the Practice of Medicine. In the same year he publishes The Diagnosis and Treatment of Eruptive Diseases of the Scalp, which is printed at the Dublin University Press. He describes as inflammatory diseases herpes, eczema, impetigo, and pityriasis, and as non-inflammatory porrigo, and gives a lucid statement of their characteristics in tabular form. He is unaware, however, of the parasitic nature of herpes capitis, as he calls ringworm, and seems not to have noticed the frequent relation between eczema of the occiput and animal parasites.

From 1849 to 1861 he edits the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, and publishes many medical papers of his own in it. In 1852 he publishes A Practical Treatise on Diseases of the Skin, and, like most men who attain notoriety as dermatologists, issues in 1855 a coloured Atlas of Skin Diseases. His treatise is a compilation from standard authors, with a very small addition from his own experience. The subject is well arranged, and so set forth as to be useful to practitioners. It is much read, and leads to his treating many patients with cutaneous affections.

Neligan suffers from kidney disease in his final years. On July 17, he begins to feel unwell and returns to his country residence, Clonmel House, and goes to bed, from which he never rises again. Over the next few days his kidneys ceased to function altogether and he slips into a coma. John Moore Neligan dies on July 24, 1863.


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The Burgery Ambush in County Waterford

burgery-ambushThe Burgery Ambush takes place during the Irish War of Independence on the night of March 18, 1921 near Dungarvan, County Waterford.

A British military convoy of Black and Tans and including a Royal Irish Constabulary Sergeant named Michael Hickey, sets off from Dungarvan Castle on the night of March 18, heading east for the coastal village of Clonea. Their goal that night is the arrest of Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer John Murphy, who has been involved in gun running between Clonmel, County Tipperary, and Dungarvan.

Irish Republican Army volunteers of the West Waterford flying column have plans that night to demolish Tarr’s Bridge over the Colligan River between Dungarvan and the Abbeyside. However, when they receive word of the British convoy heading east out of Dungarvan, a last-minute action is organized by the Active Service Unit (ASU) to intercept it on its way back to Dungarvan.

The IRA volunteers ambush the convoy at the Burgery, about a mile and a half northeast of Dungarvan. In overall command of the IRA unit is IRA General Headquarters (GHQ) Officer George Plunkett. Also present are West Waterford Brigade Commandant Pax Whelan, Active Service Unit (ASU) leader George Lennon, and Mick Mansfield.

A British Crossley tender is set on fire and prisoners are taken by the IRA, including Sergeant Hickey. Early on the morning of March 19, Hickey is executed by an IRA firing squad with a sign reading “police spy” affixed to his tunic. Hickey is later buried in an unmarked grave. Other prisoners, including Captain DV Thomas, the commander of the British garrison, are released.

After the ambush, a group of volunteers under Plunkett return to search for any armaments left behind by the British forces. Crown forces who are now searching the area engage the IRA party. IRA volunteers Seán Fitzgerald and Pat Keating are shot dead. Constable Sydney R. Redman, a Black and Tan, is shot dead during the return fire.


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Bridget Cleary Burned to Death by Husband

bridget-clearyBridget Cleary is burned to death on March 15, 1895 by her husband who believes her spirit has been taken by bad faeries and replaced with a changeling.

Cleary is born Bridget Boland around 1869 in Ballyvadlea, County Tipperary. Bridget meets Michael Cleary in Clonmel in August 1887, where he works as a cooper and she serves as a dressmaker’s apprentice, and they marry a short time later.

After the marriage, she returns to her townland of Ballyvadlea to live with her parents while Michael continues to work as a cooper in Clonmel. During this period of living apart, Bridget’s independence grows and she begins keeping her own flock of chickens and selling the eggs to neighbours. She is also a professional woman which is somewhat unusual for the era and area. She obtains a Singer sewing machine, which is state-of-the-art at the time, and is variously described as a dressmaker and a milliner.

Despite their eight years of marriage, the couple has no children by the time of Bridget’s death. Following the death of Bridget’s mother, the Clearys find themselves responsible for Bridget’s elderly father, Patrick Boland. His residence with the couple enables them to secure a house reserved for labourers. Neither Bridget nor Michael is entitled to this cottage, but as Patrick had been a labourer in his youth, they are able to acquire the best house in the village. However, there is no widespread interest in the house as it is built on the site of a supposed fairy ringfort.

In early March 1895, Bridget becomes ill although her specific diagnosis is unknown. On March 13, more than a week into her illness, a physician visits her home. Her condition is considered sufficiently grave that a priest soon follows to administer last rites. Several friends and family members attend her over the next two days and a number of home remedies are administered including one ritual that anticipates her later demise. Her father and her husband accuse her of being a fairy sent to take Bridget’s place. Urine is thrown on her and she is carried before the fireplace to cast the fairy out. By March 16, rumours begin to circulate that Bridget is missing and the local police begin searching for her. Michael is quoted as claiming that his wife has been taken by fairies. Witness statements are gathered over the ensuing week and, by the time Bridget’s burned corpse is found in a shallow grave on March 22, nine people have been charged in her disappearance, including her husband. A coroner’s inquest the next day returns a verdict of death by burning.

Legal hearings take place from April 1 to April 6, 1895. The court session begins on July 3. Evidence indicates that Michael attempts to force-feed his wife, throwing her down on the ground before the kitchen fireplace. Bridget’s chemise catches fire and Michael then throws lamp oil on Bridget. Witnesses are unclear as to whether she is already dead by this point. Michael keeps the others away from her body as it burns, insisting that she is a changeling and has been for a week. Michael believes that this will allow him to get his wife back from the fairies.

Michael Cleary is found guilty of manslaughter and spends 15 years in prison.