seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of John Alexander, Victoria Cross Recipient

John Alexander VC, British Army soldier and an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to a member of the British and Commonwealth forces, is killed during the Siege of Lucknow in India on September 24, 1857.

Born in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Alexander is a private in the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry, later known as the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), during the Crimean War. He is awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during the war. His citation reads:

“On 18 June 1855 after the attack on the Redan at Sevastopol, Crimea, Alexander went out from the trenches under very heavy fire and brought in several wounded men. On 6 September, when he was with a working party in the most advanced trench, he went out under heavy fire and helped to bring in a captain who was severely wounded.”

Alexander is later killed in action during the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in British India on September 24, 1857.

Private Alexander’s Victoria Cross is displayed at the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

(Pictured: “The Battle of Sebastopol,” after 1856, Jean-Charles Langlois)


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Marriage of John Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley

john-bligh-3rd-earl-of-darnleyJohn Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley and former Member of Parliament (MP) for Athboy, who suffers from the delusion that he is a teapot, marries suddenly and unexpectedly on September 11, 1766 at nearly 50 years of age. Suffering from the delusion that he is a teapot, from the date of his marriage until his death in 1781 he fathers at least seven children “in spite of his initial alarm that his spout would come off in the night.”

Bligh is born on October 1, 1719 near Gravesend, Kent, the son of John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley and Lady Theodosia Hyde, later Baroness Clifton (in her own right). At the age of eight he is sent to Westminster School. He matriculates at Merton College on May 13, 1735 and is created MA on July 13, 1738.

Outwardly, Bligh appears “solid” and “capable,” a man “terribly conscious of his own dignity.” His eccentricities do not stop him becoming MP for Athboy, which he represents from 1739 until 1748, and for Maidstone, Kent, which he serves from 1741 to 1747.

After failing to be elected MP for Tregony, Cornwall, in 1754, Bligh never stands again for parliament, either in England or Ireland. The seat that he gains in the House of Lords, in 1765, gives him the opportunity to return to Ireland more frequently.

In Dublin, on September 11, 1766, the “ageing nobleman” of almost 48-years-old, suddenly marries eighteen-year-old Mary Stoyte, a wealthy heiress and only child of John Stoyte, a leading barrister from Streete, County Westmeath. The unexpected marriage, between a sworn bachelor and a young woman, shocks Dublin society.

The new Countess of Darnley has to cope with the odd private behaviour of her touchy husband. According to a manuscript in the possession of the Tighe family, on the night of his marriage, Bligh “imagined himself to be a fine China tea pot, and was under great fears, lest the spout should be broken off before morning!”

In spite of his nocturnal fears, the earl manages to father at least seven children: John (1767), Mary (1768), Edward (1769), Theodosia (1771), Sarah (1772), Catherine (1774), and William (1775).

Each summer, Bligh takes his family to Weymouth, where the seawater is believed to strengthen weak constitutions and help brace nerves.

Despite every precaution, in 1781 Bligh catches malaria. Attempts to treat him with quinine and peppermint-water purges fail, and on July 31, 1781, he dies at the age of 61, his spout supposedly still intact. Mary lives on until 1803.


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Birth of Brinsley MacNamara, Writer & Playwright

the-valley-of-the-squinting-windowsJohn Weldon, Irish writer and playwright also known as Oliver Blyth, A. E. Weldon and his pen name and stage name Brinsley MacNamara, is born on September 6, 1890 in Hiskinstown, Delvin, County Westmeath.

MacNamara is the author of several novels, the most well-known of which is his first, The Valley of the Squinting Windows (1918). His acting career with the Abbey Theatre begins in September 1910 with a role in R. J. Ryan’s The Casting-out of Martin Whelan. He later works as the registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland.

MacNamara is still best known for his first novel The Valley of the Squinting Windows, which causes a furor in his native Westmeath on its publication. He continues to write for many years after this controversial first work. Among his plays are The Glorious Uncertainty (1923) and Look at the Heffernans! (1926). His work is part of the literature event in the art competition at the 1924 Summer Olympics.

MacNamara marries Helena Degidon, a schoolteacher, in 1920. He dies at his home on Gilford Drive in Sandymount, Dublin on February 4, 1963.


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Death of Irish Artist Sarah Henrietta Purser

sarah-purser-by-john-butler-yeatsSarah Henrietta Purser, Irish artist mainly noted for her work with stained glass, dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943.

The Purser family had come to Ireland from Gloucestershire in the eighteenth century. Purser is born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in County Dublin on March 22, 1848. She is raised in Dungarvan, County Waterford, one of the numerous children of Benjamin Purser, a prosperous flour miller and brewer, and his wife Anne Mallet. She is related to Sir Frederic William Burton, RHA (1816-1900), who is a son of Hannah Mallet. Two of her brothers, John and Louis, become professors at Trinity College Dublin. Her niece Olive Purser, daughter of her brother Alfred, is the first woman scholar at Trinity.

At thirteen Purser attends the Moravian school, Institution Evangélique de Montmirail, Switzerland where she learns to speak fluent French and begins painting. In 1873 her father’s business fails and she decides to become a full-time painter. She attends classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and joins the Dublin Sketching Club, where she is later appointed an honorary member. In 1874 she distinguishes herself in the National Competition. In 1878 she again contributes to the Royal Hibernian Academy, and for the next fifty years becomes a regular exhibitor, mainly portraits, and shows an average of three works per show.

In 1878-1879, Purser studies at the Académie Julian in Paris where she meets the German painter Louise Catherine Breslau, with whom she becomes a lifelong friend.

Purser becomes wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness, for which several of her male relatives have worked over the years. She is very active in the art world in Dublin and is involved in the setting up of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House in Parnell Square to house the gallery.

Purser works mostly as a portraitist. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she is very successful in obtaining commissions. When the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland commissions her to portray his children in 1888, his choice reflects her position as the country’s foremost portraitist. Various portraits painted by Purser are held in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser finances An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), a stained glass cooperative, at 24 Upper Pembroke and runs it from its inauguration in 1903 until her retirement in 1940. Michael Healy is the first of a number of distinguished recruit, such as Catherine O’Brien, Evie Hone, Wilhelmina Geddes, Beatrice Elvery and Ethel Rhind. She is determined the stained glass workshop should adhere to true Arts and Crafts philosophy. An Túr Gloine archive is held in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser does not produce many items of stained glass herself. Most of the stained glass works are painted by other members of the co-operative, presumably under her direction. Two early works are St. Ita (1904) for St. Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea and The Good Shepard (1904) for St. Columba’s College, Dublin. Her last stained glass work is believed to be The Good Shepard and the Good Samaritan (1926) for the Church of Ireland at Killucan, County Westmeath.

Until her death Purser lives for many years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. Here she is “at home” every Tuesday afternoon to Dublin’s writers and artists. Her afternoon parties are a fixture of Dublin literary life.

Purser dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943 and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery beside her brothers John and Louis. Mespil House is demolished after her death and developed into apartments.

Purser is the second woman to sit on the Board of Governors and Guardians, National Gallery of Ireland, 1914-1943. She is made an Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1890, becoming the first female Associate Member in 1923 and the first female Member in 1924. Also in 1924 she initiates the movement for the launching of the Friends of the National Collection of Ireland. Archives relating to Sarah Purser are housed in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

(Pictured: Portrait of Sarah Purser by John Butler Yeats, c. 1880–1885)


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Assassination of Sir Arthur Edward Vicars

arthur-vicarsSir Arthur Edward Vicars, genealogist and heraldic expert, is assassinated in Kilmorna, County Kerry by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on April 14, 1921.

Vicars is born on July 27, 1862 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, and is the youngest child of Colonel William Henry Vicars of the 61st Regiment of Foot and his wife Jane (nee Gun-Cunninghame). This is his mother’s second marriage, the first being to Pierce O’Mahony by whom she has two sons. He is very attached to his Irish half-brothers and spends much time at their residences. On completing his education at Magdalen College School, Oxford and Bromsgrove School he moves permanently to Ireland.

Vicars quickly develops an expertise in genealogical and heraldic matters and makes several attempts to be employed by the Irish heraldic administration of Ulster King of Arms, even offering to work for no pay. In 1891 he is one of the founder members of the County Kildare Archaeological Society and remains its honorary secretary until his death.

Vicars first attempts to find a post in the Office of Arms when in 1892 he applies unsuccessfully for the post of Athlone Pursuivant on the death of the incumbent, Bernard Louis Burke. In a letter dated October 2, 1892 his half-brother Pierce Mahony writes that Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, is dying and urges him to move at once. Burke dies in December 1892, and Vicars is appointed to the office by letters patent dated February 2, 1893. In 1896 he is knighted, in 1900 he is appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) and in 1903 he is elevated to Knight Commander of the Order (KCVO). He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and a trustee of the National Library of Ireland.

In 1897 Vicars publishes An Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536 -1810, a listing of all persons in wills proved in that period. This work becomes very valuable to genealogists after the destruction of the source material for the book in 1922 when the Public Record Office at the Four Courts is destroyed at the start of the Irish Civil War.

Vicars’ career is very distinguished until 1907 when it is hit by the scandal of the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. As Registrar of the Order of St. Patrick, he has custody of the insignia of the order, also known as the “crown jewels.” They are found to be missing on July 6, and a Crown Jewel Commission is established in January 1908 to investigate the disappearance. Vicars and his barrister Tim Healy refuse to attend the commission’s hearings. The commission’s findings are published on January 25, 1908 and he is dismissed as Ulster five days later.

On November 23, 1912, the Daily Mail publishes serious false allegations against Vicars. The substance of the article is that Vicars had allowed a woman reported to be his mistress to obtain a copy of the key to the safe and that she had fled to Paris with the jewels. In July 1913 he successfully sues the paper for libel. The paper admits that the story is completely baseless and that the woman in question does not exist. He is awarded damages of £5,000.

Vicars leaves Dublin and moves to Kilmorna, near Listowel, County Kerry, the former seat of one of his half-brothers. He marries Gertrude Wright in Ballymore, County Westmeath on July 4, 1917. He continues to protest his innocence until his death, even including bitter references to the affair in his will.

In May 1920 up to a hundred armed men break into Kilmorna House and hold Vicars at gunpoint while they attempt to break into the house’s strongroom. On April 14, 1921, he is taken from Kilmorna House, which is set afire, and shot dead in front of his wife. According to the communiqué issued from Dublin Castle, thirty armed men took him from his bed and shot him, leaving a placard around his neck denouncing him as an informer. On April 27, as an official reprisal, four shops are destroyed by British Armed Forces in the town of Listowel. The proclamation given under Martial law and ordering their demolition states:

“For any outrage carried out in future against the lives or property of loyalist officials, reprisals will be taken against selected persons known to have rebel sympathies, although their implication has not been proved.”

Vicars is buried in Leckhampton, Gloucestershire on April 20, 1921. His wife dies in Somerset in 1946.


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Hanging of Peter Barnes & James Richards

peter-barnes-and-james-mccormackIrish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers Peter Barnes and James Richards are hanged in Winston Green Prison in Birmingham, England on February 7, 1940 for their involvement in a bombing in Coventry the previous year which killed five people.

Barnes and Richards (also known as James McCormack) are members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and participate in the August 25, 1939 Coventry bombing which kills five people. Although they both admit to constructing the bomb, which is intended to be used to destroy a power station, they claim not to be involved in planting the bomb.

Seán MacBride, a former Chief of Staff of the IRA and Irish barrister, attempts to secure their release claiming they are being illegally held without a writ of habeas corpus. However, both are charged with murder on December 12 along with Brigid O’Hara and Joseph and Mary Hewitt. All five plead not guilty before the court at Birmingham Assizes.

Brigid O’Hara issues statements between August 28 and September 4 to Scotland Yard and Birmingham City Police denying any knowledge of the bombings and later provides evidence for the prosecution. Found guilty of murder on December 15, Barnes and Richards are hanged at Winston Green Prison in Birmingham on February 7, 1940. Their remains are returned to Dublin in 1969.

The reinterment in Mullingar, County Westmeath is attended by an estimated 15,000 people. Mass is said in Irish in the Cathedral before the funeral to Ballyglass Cemetery. Among those attending are three brothers of Peter Barnes and a sister and brother of McCormack.

The trial and execution results in a public outcry in Ireland against Neville Chamberlain and the British Government as Peadar O’Donnell and other prominent Irish writers sign a petition campaigning for leniency towards the condemned men.


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Birth of Anthony Malone, Lawyer & Politician

anthony-maloneAnthony Malone, Irish lawyer and politician, is born on December 5, 1700, the eldest son of Richard Malone of Baronston, County Westmeath, and Marcella, daughter of Redmond Molady. Edmund Malone is his nephew, and a younger brother, Richard Malone (1706–1759), is MP for Fore from 1741.

Malone is educated at Mr. Young’s school in Abbey Street, Dublin, and on April 6, 1720 is admitted a gentleman-commoner of Christ Church, Oxford. After two years at university he enters the Middle Temple and is called to the Irish bar in May 1726. In 1737 he is created LL.D. of Trinity College, Dublin.

In 1733, Malone marries Rose, daughter of Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Baronet, speaker of the Irish House of Commons. The marriage results in no children.

Malone makes a successful career as a lawyer. From 1727 to 1760, and again from 1769 to 1776, he represents the county of Westmeath, and from 1761 to 1768 the borough of Castlemartyr, in the Irish parliament. In 1740 he is appointed Serjeant-at-law, but is dismissed from office in 1754 for opposing the claim of the crown to dispose of unappropriated revenue. In 1757 he is made Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland, but his attitude in council in regard to the Money Bill of 1761 leads to his again being removed from office. His treatment is regarded as too severe by William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, and Malone, who draws a distinction between advice offered in council and his conduct in parliament, introduces the measure as chairman of the committee of supply. He is shortly afterwards granted a patent of precedence at the bar, but is charged with having sold his political principles for money.

Malone supports John Monck Mason‘s bill for enabling Roman Catholics to invest money in mortgages on land. In 1762 he is appointed, with Sir Richard Aston, to try the Whiteboys of Munster. They agree in ascribing the rural violence to local and individual grievances.

Malone dies at the age of 75 on May 8, 1776. At one time, a marble bust of him adorned Baronston House. By his will, made in July 1774, he leaves all his estates in the counties of Westmeath, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan, and Dublin to his nephew, Richard Malone, 1st Baron Sunderlin as he became, eldest son of his brother Edmund. On his death in 1816 the right of succession is disputed.


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The Rochfort-Hampson Duel

pollard-rochfort-duelIn a duel at Mullingar on October 17, 1738, Arthur Rochfort, Member of Parliament (MP) for County Westmeath, shoots Dillon Pollard Hampson in the stomach. Hampson, a former Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Irish Freemasons, recovers.

In 18th century Ireland if one considers himself to be a gentleman and is insulted by someone of similar status, one doesn’t take it lying down or file a lawsuit in court. The preferred method to avenge the insult is to challenge the insulter to a duel and attempt to shoot or stab him to death.

One of the more quarrelsome gentlemen of the first half of the 18th century is Arthur Rochfort, a Westmeath grandee whose family had occupied land around Mullingar since the 13th century. The town of Rochfortbridge is named after them.

Rochfort is a justice of the peace, a man who exercises considerable power over the lesser orders from the bench. In 1737 he is challenged to a duel by one Thomas Nugent. Nugent’s beef is that Rochfort had (properly) jailed one of his servants for poaching and carrying arms. Nothing comes of the challenge because the authorities get wind of it and prosecute Nugent before he can do any damage. They were not going to accept having one of their magistrates shot up by an argumentative aristocrat.

Rochfort has another quarrel the following year on October 17, this one with an influential member of the Freemasons, Dillon Hampson Pollard. In the shootout that follows Rochfort hits his opponent in the stomach. Fortunately, Pollard recovers although he dies of natural causes two years later.

Rochfort’s own end was quite ignominious. As it happens he is the proud owner of two irascible, litigious and obnoxious brothers, Robert and George. Robert goes on to become the 1st Earl of Belvedere and builds Belvedere House outside Mullingar.

(From: On This Day – Drivetime – 17 October 1738 – Arthur Rochfort, duellist and the Jealous Wall, Myles Dungan, October 17, 2014, https://mylesdungan.com/2014/10/17/on-this-day-drivetime-17-october-1738-arthur-rochfort-duellist-and-the-jealous-wall/)


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Execution of James Joseph Daly

james-joseph-dalyJames Joseph Daly, a member of a mutiny of the Connaught Rangers in India in 1920, is executed by a British firing squad in India on November 2, 1920. He is the last British solider to be executed for mutiny.

On June 28, 1920, Joseph Hawes leads a company of the Connaught Rangers stationed at Jalandhar on the plains of the Punjab lay down their arms and refuse to perform their military duties as a protest against the activities of the Black and Tans, officially the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve in Ireland. On the following day, the mutineers send two emissaries to a company of Connaught Rangers stationed at Salon, about twenty miles away in the foothills of the Himalayas. The soldiers there take up the protest as well and, like their counterparts at Jalandhar, fly the Irish tricolour, wear Sinn Féin rosettes on their British Army uniforms and sing rebel songs.

The protests are initially peaceful, but on the evening of July 1 around thirty members of the company at Salon, armed with bayonets, attempt to recapture their rifles from the company magazine. The soldiers on guard open fire, killing two men and wounding another. The incident effectively brings the mutiny to an end and the mutineers at both Jalandhar and Salon are placed under armed guard.

Sixty-one men are convicted by court-martial for their role in the mutiny. Fourteen are sentenced to death by firing squad, but the only soldier whose capital sentence is carried out is Private James Joseph Daly of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath. Daly is considered the leader of the mutiny at Salon and the man responsible for the failed attack on the magazine. On the morning of November 2, 1920, at the age of 22, he is executed in Dagshai prison in northern India.

The Connaught Rangers do not survive much longer than Daly. In 1922 the regiment is disbanded after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that creates the Irish Free State. In 1970, James Daly’s body is brought home and buried at Tyrellspass. Among those in the guard of honor at the reinterment ceremony are five of Daley’s fellow mutineers – Joseph Hawes, James Gorman, Eugene Egan, Patrick Hynes, and William Coote.


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Birth of Richard D’Alton Williams, Physician & Poet

richard-dalton-williamsRichard D’Alton Williams, physician and poet, is born in Dublin on October 8, 1822. He is the son of James and Mary Williams, who come from County Westmeath. He grows up in Grenanstown, a townland near the Devil’s Bit in County Tipperary, where his father farms for Count Dalton. He is educated at Tullabeg Jesuit College and St. Patrick’s, Carlow College.

Williams becomes a member of the Young Ireland movement and contributes poetry to The Nation under the pseudonym “Shamrock.” He is immediately successful. In the January 21, 1843 edition there appears: “Shamrock is a jewel. He cannot write too often. His verses are full of vigour, and as natural as the harp of Tara.”

Later in 1843 Williams goes to Dublin to study medicine at Saint Vincent’s Hospital. In 1848 he brings out a newspaper, the Irish Tribune, to take the place of the suppressed United Irishman, founded by John Mitchel. Before the sixth weekly publication, it is seized by the Government, and proceedings are instituted against the editors, Williams and his friend Kevin Izod O’Doherty. On October 30, 1848, at a third trial, O’Doherty is convicted of treason and transported to Australia while Williams is successfully defended by lawyer and fellow poet Samuel Ferguson two days afterwards on the same charge. He then resumes his medical studies, takes out his degree at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1849 and emigrates to the United States in 1851.

Williams is married to Elizabeth Connolly on September 8, 1856, with whom he has four children of whom the youngest is commemorated in Lines on the Death of his Infant Daughter, Katie.

In the United States Williams practises medicine until he becomes ill and dies of tuberculosis in Thibodaux, Louisiana on July 5, 1862. He is buried there in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. His headstone is later erected that year by Irish members of the 8th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, then encamped in Thibodaux.