seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Doolough Tragedy

doolough-tragedy-memorialThe Doolough Tragedy is an event that took place during the Great Famine close to Doo Lough in southwest County Mayo.

On Friday, March 30, 1849 two officials of the Westport Poor Law Union arrive in Louisburgh to inspect those people in receipt of outdoor relief to verify that they should continue to receive it. The inspection, for some reason, does not take place and the two officials go on to Delphi Lodge, a hunting lodge, 19 kilometres (12 miles) south of Louisburgh where they intend to spend the night. The people who had gathered for the inspection, or later did so, are consequently instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge at 7:00 the following morning if they wish to continue receiving relief. For much of the night and day that follows seemingly hundreds of destitute and starving people have to undertake what for them, given their existing state of debilitation, is an extremely fatiguing journey, in very bad weather.

A letter-writer to The Mayo Constitution reports shortly afterwards that the bodies of seven people, including women and children, are subsequently discovered on the roadside between Delphi and Louisburgh overlooking the shores of Doo Lough and that nine more never reach their homes. Local folklore maintains the total number that perished because of the ordeals they had to endure is far higher.

A cross and an annual Famine Walk between Louisburgh and Doolough commemorates this event. The monument in Doolough valley has an inscription from Mahatma Gandhi: “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?”

(Pictured: The memorial to the victims in Doolough valley, photo by Felix O, June 2009, CC BY-SA 2.0)


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Funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

dana-fitzpatrick-funeralOn Saturday, March 18, 2017, President Michael D. Higgins is among hundreds of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church in Glencullen for the funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died when her Sikorsky S-92 helicopter (call sign Rescue 116) crashed off the County Mayo coast on March 14.

The funeral cortege arrives at the church in Glencullen at 11:00 AM and is met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services. Captain Fitpatrick’s parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompany the coffin into the church.

In addition to President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross are in attendance, as is Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Also present are members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Civil Defence Ireland, mountain rescue and many other groups.

In his homily, Parish Priest Fr. Andrew O’Sullivan says St. Patrick’s church has seen many sad and tragic funerals but few as sad and sorrowful as this one. He pays tribute to the Fitzpatrick family and says they and the community have lost a loved and valued member. He adds that the congregations’ thoughts are with Captain Fitzpatrick’s three crew members who have yet to be found.

Fr. O’Sullivan says the family takes comfort from the fact that Dara had lived life to the fullest. Mourners hear that as well as being a loving mother, Dara was an avid traveller, cook and animal lover.

The funeral Mass is followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Poor weather conditions off the west coast of Ireland hamper the search for the three missing crew members and the wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter R116. On March 22, the wreckage of the main part of the helicopter is detected by underwater cameras about 60 metres off Blackrock Island. The body of co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy is found in the cockpit section of the wreckage. A helmet and lifejacket belonging to one of the two missing crewmen is discovered on a beach on the Mullet Peninsula on September 30, 2017.

(From: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick remembered during funeral service, RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, March 18, 2017)


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Birth of William Vincent Wallace, Composer & Musician

william-vincent-wallaceWilliam Vincent Wallace, Irish composer and musician, is born at Colbeck Street, Waterford, County Waterford on March 11, 1812. In his day, he is famous on three continents as a double virtuoso on violin and piano. Nowadays, he is mainly remembered as an opera composer of note, with key works such as Maritana (1845) and Lurline (1847/60), but he also writes a large amount of piano music that is much in vogue in the 19th century.

Wallace’s father, Spencer Wallace of County Mayo, becomes a regimental bandmaster with the North Mayo Militia based in Ballina. William is born while the regiment is stationed for one year in Waterford. The family returns to Ballina in 1816 and he spends his formative years there, taking an active part in his father’s band and already composing pieces by the age of nine for the band recitals.

Under the tuition of his father and uncle, Wallace writes pieces for the bands and orchestras of his native area. He becomes accomplished in playing various band instruments before the family leaves the Army in 1826, moving from Waterford to Dublin, and becoming active in music in the capital. He learns to play several instruments as a boy, including the violin, clarinet, organ, and piano. In 1830, at the age of 18, he becomes organist of the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Thurles, County Tipperary, and teaches music at the Ursuline Convent there. He falls in love with a pupil, Isabella Kelly, whose father consents to their marriage in 1832 on condition that Wallace become a Roman Catholic. The couple soon moves to Dublin where he is employed as a violinist at the Theatre Royal.

Economic conditions in Dublin deteriorate after the Acts of Union 1800 and the whole Wallace family decides to emigrate to Australia in 1835. Wallace’s party first lands at Hobart, Tasmania in late October, where they stay several months before moving on to Sydney in January 1836. The Wallaces open the first Australian music academy in April. Wallace has already given many celebrity concerts in Sydney, and, being the first virtuoso to visit the Colony, becomes known as the “Australian Paganini.” He is also active in the business of importing pianos from London, but his main activity involves many recitals in and around Sydney under the patronage of the Governor, General Sir Richard Bourke. The most significant musical events of this period are two large oratorio concerts on behalf of the organ fund at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in 1836 and 1838, which he directs, and which utilize all the available musical talent of the Colony, including the recently formed Philharmonic [Choral] Society.

In 1838, Wallace separates from his wife, and begins a roving career that takes him around the globe. In 1841, he conducts a season of Italian opera in Mexico City. Moving on to the United States, he stays in New Orleans for some years, where he is feted as a virtuoso on violin and piano, before reaching New York City, where he is equally celebrated, and publishes his first compositions (1843–44).

Wallace arrives in London in 1845 and makes various appearances as a pianist. In November of that year, his opera Maritana is performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with great success, and is later presented internationally. Maritana is followed by Matilda of Hungary (1847), Lurline (1847/60), The Amber Witch (1861), Love’s Triumph (1862) and The Desert Flower (1863). He also publishes numerous compositions for the piano.

In New York in 1843–1844, Wallace is associated with the early concert seasons of the New York Philharmonic Society, and in 1853 is elected an Honorary (Life) Member of the Society. In 1854, he becomes an American citizen after a marriage in New York to German-born pianist Hélène Stoepel, sister of composer Robert Stoepel. In later years, having returned to Europe for the premieres of his later operas, he develops a heart condition for which he receives treatment in Paris in 1864. He dies in poor circumstances at the Château de Bagen, Sauveterre-de-Comminges, in the Haute Garonne on October 12, 1865. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

(Pictured: William Vincent Wallace. Undated portrait by Mathew Brady, New York City, Library of Congress)


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Irish Neutrality During World War II

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0On February 19, 1939 Taoiseach Éamon de Valera states his intention to preserve Irish neutrality in the event of a second world war.

The policy of Irish neutrality during World War II is adopted by the Oireachtas at the instigation of De Valera upon the outbreak of World War II in Europe. It is maintained throughout the conflict, in spite of several German airstrikes by aircraft that miss their intended British targets and attacks on Ireland’s shipping fleet by Allies and Axis alike. De Valera refrains from joining either the Allies or Axis powers. While the possibilities of not only a German but also a British invasion are discussed in Dáil Éireann, and either eventuality is prepared for, with the most detailed preparations being done in tandem with the Allies under Plan W, De Valera’s ruling party, Fianna Fáil, supports his neutral policy for the duration of the war.

This period is known in the Republic of Ireland as “The Emergency“, owing to the wording of the constitutional article employed to suspend normal government of the country.

Pursuing a policy of neutrality requires attaining a balance between the strict observance of non-alignment and the taking of practical steps to repel or discourage an invasion from either of the two concerned parties.

Ireland maintains a public stance of neutrality to the end, although this policy leads to a considerable delay in Ireland’s membership of the United Nations (UN). Ireland’s applications for membership are vetoed by the Soviet Union, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, from 1946 to December 1955. Seán MacBride considers that the UN boycott of Ireland had been originally agreed upon at the 1945 Yalta Conference by Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Ireland’s acceptance into the UN is finally announced by John A. Costello on December 15, 1955.

Despite the official position of neutrality, there are many unpublicised contraventions of this, such as permitting the use of the Donegal Corridor to Allied military aircraft, and extensive co-operation between Allied and Irish intelligence, including exchanges of information, such as detailed weather reports of the Atlantic Ocean. For example, the decision to go ahead with the Normandy landings is decided by a weather report from Blacksod Bay, County Mayo.

(Pictured: Markings to alert aircraft to neutral Ireland during World War II on Malin Head, County Donegal)


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Mary Robinson Elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, is elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin by the Trinity College Dublin senate on November 19, 1998. The University is the degree awarding body for Trinity College.

Robinson becomes the first woman in the university’s 406-year history to be elected to the position, making her the titular head of the University of Dublin of which Trinity College is the sole constituent, and represents it on ceremonial occasions. She is installed as Chancellor on December 17, 1998, replacing Dr. Francis Joseph Charles O’Reilly.

Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo in 1944, the daughter of two physicians, she is educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King’s Inns in Dublin and Harvard Law School to which she wins a fellowship in 1967. She graduates with a first class TCD law degree in 1967. She is Reid Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law from 1969 to 1975, and lectures in European law from 1972 to 1990. She represents the university in Seanad Éireann from 1969 to 1989. She serves as the seventh (and first female) President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997.

The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from United States President Barack Obama, Robinson is a member of The Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid. She is chair of the GAVI Alliance Board and President of the International Commission of Jurists.

She serves on several boards including the United Nations Global Compact, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.


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Birth of Michael Cusack, Founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association

michael-cusackMichael Cusack, teacher and founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association, is born to Irish speaking parents on September 20, 1847 in the parish of Carran on the eastern fringe of the Burren, County Clare during the Great Famine.

Cusack becomes a national school teacher, and after teaching in various parts of Ireland becomes a professor in 1874 at Blackrock College, then known as the French College. In 1877, he establishes his own Civil Service Academy, Cusack’s Academy, in Dublin which proves successful in preparing pupils for the civil service examinations.

A romantic nationalist, Cusack is also “reputed” to have been associated with the Fenian movement. He is active in the Gaelic revival as a member of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language which is founded in 1876, and later the Conradh na Gaeilge who in 1879 breaks away from the Society. Also in 1879, he meets Pat Nally, who is a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a leading nationalist and athlete. He finds that Nally’s views on the influence of British landlordism on Irish athletics are the same as his. He recalls how both Nally and himself while walking through the Phoenix Park in Dublin seeing only a handful of people playing sports in the park so depressed them that they agreed it was time to “make an effort to preserve the physical strength of [their] race.” Nally organises a National Athletics Sports meeting in County Mayo in September 1879 which is a success, with Cusack organising a similar event which is open to ‘artisans’ in Dublin the following April.

On November 1, 1884, Cusack, together with Maurice Davin of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, call a meeting in Hayes’ Commercial Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary, and found the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Davin is elected president and Cusack becomes its first secretary. Later, Archbishop Thomas William Croke (May 28, 1824 – July 22, 1902), Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell become patrons. Cusack also becomes involved in the Irish language movement, founding The Celtic Times, a weekly newspaper which focuses on “native games” and Irish culture.

Michael Cusack dies in Dublin at the age of 59 on November 27, 1906.


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Birth of Charles Haughey, Taoiseach of Ireland

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Charles James Haughey, Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach of Ireland, is born in Castlebar, County Mayo on September 16, 1925.

Haughey is the third of seven children of Seán Haughey, an officer in the original Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Sarah McWilliams, both natives of Swatragh, County Londonderry. He attends University College Dublin, studying law and accounting. While making a fortune, apparently in real estate, he marries Maureen Lemass, the daughter of future Taoiseach Seán Lemass on September 18, 1951. After several attempts he enters Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament) in 1957 as a member of the Fianna Fáil party for the Dublin North-East constituency. He becomes Minister for Justice in 1961 and later Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Finance.

In 1970 Haughey is twice tried for conspiracy to use government funds to procure arms for the outlawed IRA. The first trial is aborted, and he wins acquittal in the second. Dismissed from the government, he remains in the Dáil and gains strong support among his party’s grass roots. When Fianna Fáil is returned to office in 1977, he is made Minister for Health and Minister for Social Welfare. On the resignation of party leader Jack Lynch in 1979, he is elected party leader and becomes Taoiseach. In June 1981 his government falls, but he returns to power briefly in 1982. He becomes Taoiseach again after elections in February 1987, though his government lacks a majority in the Dáil. When Fianna Fáil forms a government with the Progressive Democrats in July 1989, thereby eschewing the party’s traditional rejection of coalition rule, he is made Taoiseach for a fourth time.

Haughey’s first two terms in office are marked by deteriorating relations with Great Britain, a declining economy, and deep divisions within Fianna Fáil. Despite the controversies that plague his government, the charismatic Haughey remains party leader after losing office for a second time in late 1982. During his later terms, he successfully mounts a fiscal austerity program to address Ireland’s financial crisis. In 1992 he resigns and retires after being implicated in a phone tapping scandal of two journalists. He denies the allegations. He remains out of public life until 1997, when an official tribunal of inquiry determines that he had received large sums of money from a prominent businessman while Taoiseach. The Dáil then establishes another tribunal to investigate his financial affairs, and many other irregularities are uncovered. He eventually agrees to pay €6.5 million in back taxes and penalties.

Haughey dies at the age of 80 from prostate cancer, from which he had suffered for a decade, on June 13, 2006 at his home in Kinsealy, County Dublin. He receives a state funeral on June 16. He is buried in St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton in County Dublin, following mass at Donnycarney. The then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern delivers the graveside oration. The funeral rites are screened live on RTÉ One and watched by a quarter of a million people. The funeral is attended by President Mary McAleese, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, members of the Oireachtas, many from the world of politics, industry and business. The chief celebrant is Haughey’s brother, Father Eoghan Haughey.