seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael Politician & Taoiseach

Leo Eric Varadkar, Irish Fine Gael politician who is serving since June 2020 as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is born on January 18, 1979, in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

Varadkar is the third child and only son of Ashok and Miriam (née Howell) Varadkar. His father was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s to work as a doctor. His mother, born in Dungarvan, County Waterford, meets her future husband while working as a nurse in Slough, Berkshire, England. He is educated at the St. Francis Xavier national school in Blanchardstown, Dublin, and then The King’s Hospital, a Church of Ireland secondary school in Palmerstown. During his secondary schooling, he joins Young Fine Gael. He is admitted to Trinity College Dublin (TCD), where he briefly reads law before switching to its School of Medicine. At TCD, he is active in the university’s Young Fine Gael branch and serves as Vice-President of the Youth of the European People’s Party, the youth wing of the European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member. He is selected for the Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership (WIP), a half-year personal and professional development program in Washington, D.C., for students from Ireland.

Varadkar graduates in 2003, after completing his internship at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. He then spends several years working as a non-consultant hospital doctor in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, before specialising as a general practitioner in 2010.

In 2004, Varadkar joins Fine Gael and becomes a member of Fingal County Council and later serves as Deputy Mayor of Fingal. He is elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time in 2007. During the campaign for the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, he comes out as gay, becoming the first serving Irish minister to do so.

Varadkar is elected a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency in 2007. He serves under Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport from 2011 to 2014, Minister for Health from 2014 to 2016, and Minister for Social Protection from 2016 to 2017.

In May 2017, Kenny announces that he is planning to resign as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader. Varadkar stands in the leadership election to replace him. Although more party members vote for his opponent, Simon Coveney, he wins by a significant margin among Fine Gael members of the Oireachtas, and is elected leader on June 2. Twelve days later, he is appointed Taoiseach, and at 38 years of age becomes the youngest person to hold the office. He is Ireland’s first, and the world’s fourth, openly gay head of government and the first Taoiseach of Indian heritage.

In 2020, Varadkar calls a general election to be held in February. While polls in 2019 have suggested a favourable result for Fine Gael, they ultimately come in third in terms of seats and votes, behind Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with 35 seats, a loss of 15 seats for the party from the previous general election, when it had finished in first position. He resigns and is succeeded by Micheál Martin as Taoiseach. He is subsequently appointed Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment as part of a three-party coalition composed of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.


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Birth of Arthur Armstrong, Landscape & Still Life Painter

Arthur Armstrong, landscape and still life painter who often works in a Cubist style, is born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on January 12, 1924. A prolific painter, completing up to 300 paintings a year, in oils, watercolour and mixed media, he regards himself first and foremost as an abstract artist.

Armstrong is the son of a house painter and attends Strandtown Primary School. Later he studies architecture at Queen’s University Belfast, but after two years he moves to study art at Belfast School of Art. The influence of Cubism and the School of Paris can be clearly seen in his work, which takes him to England, France and Spain. He also travels and paints in the west of Ireland and Connemara inspires some of his best work. In 1950 his work is exhibited in the Grafton Gallery in Dublin, and subsequent exhibitions take place in England, Spain and the United States, as well as in Belfast and Dublin. In 1957 he is awarded a travelling scholarship from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), a forerunner of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and goes to Spain. He eventually settles in Dublin in 1962 and begins showing work at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

In 1968 Armstrong is awarded the Douglas Hyde Gold Medal at the Oireachtas Exhibition. In 1969 he designs sets, with George Campbell and Gerard Dillon, for the Seán O’Casey play, Juno and the Paycock, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He becomes a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1972 and in 1973 he is awarded the Art in Context prize from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He becomes a member of Aosdána in 1981, the same year that a retrospective exhibition of his work from 1950 to 1980 is held by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

From 1971 Armstrong lives at 28 Chelmsford Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin, in a house he shares with Gerard Dillon. A bachelor, Armstrong dies in a Dublin hospital on January 13, 1996. The contents of his studio are sold February 3, 1998.

(Pictured: “Glendalough” by Arthur Armstrong, oil on board)


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Death of Hannah Lynch, Feminist, Novelist, Journalist & Translator

Hannah Lynch, Irish feminist, novelist, journalist and translator, dies in Paris, France on January 9, 1904, where she spends much of her working life.

Lynch is born in Dublin on March 25, 1859. Her father, who is a committed, non-violent Fenian, dies when she is young. Her mother, Anna Theresa Calderwood, is married twice. She grows up in a very female house with her mother and ten sisters and half-sisters. Her stepfather is James Cantwell, also a Fenian, who runs the Star and Garter Hotel. After finishing school she works as a sub-editor for a provincial paper and as a governess in Europe.

A nationalist like her father and stepfather, Lynch is an executive member of the Ladies’ Land League and as a result closely associates with Fanny Parnell. She writes extensively, producing short stories and satirical sketches, as well as Land War fiction, travel writing, translations and literary criticism. Her satirical pieces include “A Dublin Literary Coterie Sketched by a Non-Pretentious Observer” (1888) and “My Friend Arcanieva” (1895). She publishes William O’Brien‘s paper United Ireland from France, after it is suppressed in Ireland. She disagrees with William Butler Yeats on the literary merit of Emily Lawless, calling her work “highly polished literary stories.”

Lynch also writes fiction on the subject of political and cultural affairs in Ireland, sometimes meeting controversy. Her first novel, Through Troubled Waters (1885), is a fictionalised version of a real-life incident in Galway in which the daughters of a prosperous landowning family are murdered to make way for the sons to inherit the land. The novel also depicts the rural clergy as complicit, by denouncing the victims from the pulpit. The newspaper United Ireland strongly criticises the novel, claiming it peddles in anti-Irish stereotypes for a British audience. She responds by stating that she had intended the book for an Irish publisher and audience, and that she should not be asked “to prove my patriotism at the expense of truth.”

Lynch publishes across Ireland, the United Kingdom and from Paris. By 1896, she has settled in Paris, having also lived in both Spain and Greece. She speaks Greek and French. She then returns to lecture in Ireland and is a part of the salons of Paris in the Belle Époque as well as the Irish Literary Revival in Dublin. She is friends with the historian, biographer and literary critic Arvède Barine (pseudonym of Louise-Cécile Vincens), the writers Mabel and Mary Robinson, and the medievalist Gaston Paris. Her work however does not bring significant income and she is forced to apply to the Royal Literary Fund for help on multiple occasions. Eventually it takes a toll on her health. She spends time in hospital in Margate in England in 1903.

Lynch dies in Paris on January 9, 1904.


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Birth of Anew McMaster, Anglo-Irish Stage Actor

Anew McMaster, Anglo-Irish stage actor, is born in Birkenhead, England, on December 24, 1891. During his nearly 45 year acting career he tours Ireland, Britain, Australia and the United States. For almost 35 years he tours as actor-manager of his own theatrical company performing the works of Shakespeare and other playwrights.

McMaster is born as Andrew McMaster, the son of Liverpool-born Andrew McMaster (1855–1940), a master stevedore, and Alice Maude née Thompson (1865–1895). A number of sources make the erroneous claims, based on details supplied by McMaster himself, that he is born in 1893 or 1894 or even 1895 in County Monaghan in Ireland but, according to the Birth Register and the 1901 United Kingdom Census, he is actually born in 1891 in Birkenhead, England. Like his future brother-in-law Micheál Mac Liammóir, who is born in London as Alfred Willmore but claims to have been born in Cork to Gaelic-speaking parents, McMaster reinvents himself as Irish and claims for himself the town of Monaghan as his birthplace, and Warrenpoint, County Down, as the scene of his earliest memories.

At the age of nineteen McMaster gives up a career in banking to pursue one on the stage. He moves to Ireland and tours the country with the O’Brien-Ireland theatrical company from 1910 to 1914. Success quickly follows with his appearance as Jack O’Hara in Paddy the Next Best Thing at the Savoy Theatre (1920). From 1921 he tours Australia in this and other plays, and in 1925 forms his own company, the McMaster Intimate Theatre Company, a ‘fit-up‘ company to tour in the works of Shakespeare, mainly in Ireland but also in Britain and Australia, touring with his theatrical company until 1959. One of the last actor-managers “of the old school – and an epitome of the type,” on occasions he persuades a ‘big name’ to act with his company as a draw for audiences. Frank Benson (1928), Sara Allgood (1929) and Mrs. Patrick Campbell appear with him.

In 1933 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon McMaster appears as Hamlet opposite Esme Church as Gertrude, Coriolanus, Macduff in Macbeth, Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing, Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet, and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. His greatest roles are as Othello and as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, to which he adds King Lear in 1952. Just before World War II he and his company appear at the Chiswick Empire in a Shakespeare season. He tours the United States as James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill‘s Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1956. Having ‘a great organ voice,’ Harold Pinter, who acts in his company in Ireland from 1951 to 1953 and calls him ‘perhaps the greatest actor-manager of his time,’ later describes McMaster as ‘evasive, proud, affectionate, shrewd, merry.’ In his brief biography Mac (1968), Pinter recalls, “Mac gave about a half dozen magnificent performances of Othello while I was with him… At his best he was the finest Othello I have see. [He] stood dead in the centre of the role, and the great sweeping symphonic playing would begin, the rare tension and release within him, the arrest, the swoop, the savagery, the majesty and repose.”

McMaster’s only film role is an uncredited appearance as the Judge in Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960).

In 1924 McMaster marries the actress and designer Marjorie Willmore (1894–1970), the sister of Micheál Mac Liammóir. They have two children, the actors John Christopher McMaster (1925–1995) and Mary-Rose McMaster (1926–2018).

Anew McMaster dies at the age of 70 at his home in Dublin on August 24, 1962. He is buried with his wife in Deans Grange Cemetery in County Dublin.

McMaster trains a generation of actors who tour with his company and go on to achieve success as actors. These include Pauline Flanagan, Milo O’Shea, T. P. McKenna, Kenneth Haigh, Henry Woolf, Harold Pinter, Donal Donnelly and Patrick Magee. It is while they are touring with McMaster’s company that the actor and dramatist Micheál Mac Liammóir and the actor and producer Hilton Edwards first meet and begin their lifelong partnership.

McMaster’s biography, A Life Remembered: A Memoir of Anew McMaster by his daughter Mary-Rose McMaster, is published in 2017. Harold Pinter also publishes a short biography, Mac, in 1968.


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Death of James Bronterre O’Brien, Chartist Leader, Reformer & Journalist

James Bronterre O’Brien, Irish Chartist leader, reformer and journalist, dies of complications from bronchitis on December 23, 1684.

O’Brien is born near Granard, County Longford, in 1804 or 1805. He goes to a local church school, where one of his teachers recognises his intellectual abilities and arranges for him to be educated at the progressive Lovell Edgeworth School. In 1822 he proceeds to Trinity College, Dublin, where he wins several academic prizes including the Science Gold Medal. After studying law at King’s Inns, he moves to England in 1829 with the intention of becoming a lawyer in London.

In London he joins the Radical Reform Association where he meets Henry Hunt, William Cobbett, Henry Hetherington and other leaders of the struggle for universal suffrage. In 1836 he joins the London Working Men’s Association.

O’Brien begins contributing articles to Henry Hetherington’s Poor Man’s Guardian. He signs these articles with the pseudonym ‘Bronterre’ and he eventually adopts it as his middle name. He works very closely with Hetherington and when he is imprisoned for publishing an unstamped newspaper, O’Brien takes over the editorship of Poor Man’s Guardian. He and Hetherington also collaborate on other unstamped newspapers such as The Destructive and the London Dispatch. In 1837 he begins publishing Bronterre’s National Reformer. In an attempt to avoid paying stamp duty, the journal includes essays rather than ‘news items.’ During this period, he and Hetherington lead the struggle against the stamp duty and are consistent in their arguments that working people need cheap newspapers that contain political information.

O’Brien is influenced by the socialist writer François-Noël Babeuf, who had been executed during the French Revolution. In 1836 he begins publishing translations of Babeuf’s work in the Poor Man’s Guardian. He also includes Filippo Buonarroti‘s account of Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals. He becomes fascinated with the history of radicalism and begins work on books on Maximilien Robespierre, the French Revolution and the English Commonwealth. However, the authorities raid his house in 1838 and seize his manuscripts and the projects are never completed.

In 1838 O’Brien adds his support for a more militant approach to winning the vote that is being advocated by Feargus O’Connor and George Julian Harney through the London Democratic Association. However, he, unlike O’Connor, refuses to support the use of violence to achieve universal suffrage. He argues that the Chartists should adopt a policy that is midway between the petitioning supported by William Lovett and the Moral Force Chartists, and the violence being threatened by O’Connor’s Physical Force group.

After Bronterre’s National Reformer ceases publication, O’Brien works for O’Connor’s Northern Star. His articles play an important role in increasing the circulation of what had become the most important of the radical newspapers. As well as writing for the Northern Star, he also finds time to publish his own newspaper, The Operative.

O’Brien continues to be active in the Chartist movement and in 1840 he is arrested and charged with making a seditious speech in Manchester. He is convicted of sedition and sentenced to eighteen months in Lancaster Prison. When he is released from prison he finds it difficult to continue working with Feargus O’Connor. The two men disagree over the issue of physical force. Another source of dispute concerns parliamentary elections. O’Brien favours the idea of putting up Chartist candidates whereas O’Connor prefers the tactic of putting pressure on the Whig government by threatening to vote for Tory candidates. He is involved in standing Chartist candidates against Government Ministers in key seats, particularly in standing against Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston in Tiverton.

O’Brien finally breaks with O’Connor when, along with Henry Vincent and Robert George Gammage, he joins the Complete Suffrage Union. He continues to publish newspapers. He joins with his old friend Henry Hetherington to revive the Poor Man’s Guardian in 1843 and this is followed by the National Reformer in 1844. These newspapers are not a financial success and by May 1847, both papers cease publication.

After the failure of these two newspapers, O’Brien concentrates on writing for other publications such as Reynold’s Weekly Newspaper and the Glasgow Sentinel. He also gives public lectures and in 1851 he opens the Eclectic Institute in Denmark Street, Soho, London, where adult education classes are offered in English, French, science and mathematics.

By the 1850s O’Brien’s poverty begins to damage his health. He suffers from bronchitis and his Chartist friends attempt to raise money in recognition of the great sacrifices that he had made in the struggle to win universal suffrage and the freedom of the press. However, the damage to his health is so bad that he spends his last years bed-ridden. He dies on December 23, 1864, and is buried in Abney Park Cemetery.


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Death of Stage & Film Actor Peter Seamus O’Toole

Peter Seamus O’Toole, British stage and film actor of Irish descent, dies on December 14, 2013 at Wellington Hospital in St. John’s Wood, London, at the age of 81.

O’Toole is born on August 2, 1932, in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara, County Galway. Records from the General Register Office in Leeds confirm that O’Toole is born in the north England town in 1932. He is educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He is a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post in his teens and makes his amateur stage debut at Leeds Civic Theatre. After serving two years in the Royal Navy, he acts with the Bristol Old Vic Company from 1955 to 1958 and makes his London debut as Peter Shirley in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara (1956). He appears with the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in 1960 in highly praised performances as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, and he plays the lead in Hamlet for the inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre in London in 1963. A prominent film star by this point in his career, he continues to appear on stages throughout the world to great acclaim. He is named associate director of the Old Vic in 1980.

O’Toole makes his motion picture debut in Kidnapped in 1960 and two years later becomes an international star for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1964 he plays Henry II of England in Becket, and he has the title role in Lord Jim (1965). He appears as Henry II again in The Lion in Winter (1968), a film notable for the witty verbal sparring matches between O’Toole and costar Katharine Hepburn. The Ruling Class (1972), a controversial black comedy that has become a cult classic, casts O’Toole as a schizophrenic English earl with a messiah complex.

Personal problems contribute to a decline in his popularity during the 1970s, but he makes a strong comeback in the early 1980s with three well-received efforts. He portrays a duplicitous and domineering movie director in The Stunt Man (1980), and his performance as the Roman commander Lucius Flavius Silva in the acclaimed television miniseries Masada (1981) is hailed as one of the finest of his career. His most popular vehicle during this period is My Favorite Year (1982), an affectionate satire on the early days of television, in which he plays Alan Swann, a faded Errol Flynn-type swashbuckling screen star with a penchant for tippling and troublemaking.

O’Toole subsequently maintains his status with fine performances in such films as the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor (1987), the cult favourite Wings of Fame (1989), and Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997), in which he portrays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notable screen roles in the 21st century included King Priam in the historical epic Troy (2004), an aging romantic in Venus (2006), the voice of a haughty food critic in the animated Ratatouille (2007), and a priest in the historical drama For Greater Glory (2012). In addition, in 2008 he portrays Pope Paul III in the TV series The Tudors.

In 1992 O’Toole publishes a lively memoir, Loitering with Intent: The Child. A second volume, Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice, appears in 1996. He is nominated for an Academy Award eight times — for Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and Venus — but never wins. In 2003 he is awarded an honorary Oscar. He receives an Emmy Award for his performance as Bishop Pierre Cauchon in the television miniseries Joan of Arc (1999).

O’Toole dies on December 14, 2013 at Wellington Hospital in St. John’s Wood, London, at the age of 81. His funeral is held at Golders Green Crematorium in London on December 21, 2013, where his body is cremated in a wicker coffin. His ashes are planned to be taken to Connemara, Ireland. They are kept at the residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, by President Michael D. Higgins, an old friend of O’Toole. His family has stated their intention to fulfill his wishes and take his ashes to the west of Ireland.


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The Derryard Checkpoint Attack

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacks a British Army permanent vehicle checkpoint complex manned by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) near the Northern IrelandRepublic of Ireland border at Derryard, north of Rosslea, County Fermanagh, on December 13, 1989.

According to journalist Ed Moloney, the IRA Army Council, suspecting a great deal of infiltration by double agents at the grassroots level of the IRA, decide to form an experimental flying column (rather than the usual active service unit) to mount a large-scale operation against a permanent vehicle checkpoint along the border. It hopes that this will prevent any information leak that might result in another fiasco like the Loughgall Ambush of 1987.

Moloney maintains that the planning is in the charge of Thomas Murphy, alleged leader of the South Armagh Brigade, and that the raid is to be led by East Tyrone Brigade member Michael “Pete” Ryan. Journalist Ian Bruce instead claims that the IRA unit is led by an Irish citizen who had served in the Parachute Regiment, citing intelligence sources. The column is made up of about 20 experienced IRA volunteers from throughout Northern Ireland, eleven of whom are to carry out the attack itself. Bruce reports that IRA members from County Monaghan, supported by local Fermanagh militants, carry out the raid.

The target is a permanent vehicle checkpoint at Derryard. Described as a “mini base,” it includes an accommodation block and defensive sangars. It is manned by eight soldiers of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers and a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer. The eleven IRA members are driven to the checkpoint in the back of a makeshift Bedford armoured dumper truck. They are armed with 7.62mm AK-47s, 5.56mm ArmaLite AR-18s, two 12.7mm DShK heavy machine-guns, RPG-7s, different kinds of grenades, and a LPO-50 flamethrower. The heavy machine guns and the flamethrower are mounted on a tripod on the lorry bed. To assure widespread destruction, the column plan to detonate a van bomb after the initial assault.

The attack takes place shortly after 4:00 PM. IRA members seal off roads leading to the checkpoint in an attempt to prevent civilians from getting caught up in the attack. The truck is driven from the border and halted at the checkpoint. As Private James Houston begins to check the back of the truck, the IRA open fire with assault rifles and throw grenades into the compound. Two RPG-7s are fired at the observation sangar while the flamethrower stream is directed at the command sangar. Heavy shooting continues as the truck reverses and smashes through the gates of the compound. At least three IRA volunteers dismount inside the checkpoint and spray the portacabins with gunfire and the flamethrower’s fire stream, while throwing grenades and nail bombs. The defenders are forced to seek shelter in sangars, from where they fire into their own base. A farmer some distance away sees an orange ball of flames and hears gunfire ‘raking the fields.’ As the truck drives out of the now wrecked compound, a red transit van loaded with a 400-lb. (182 kg) bomb is driven inside and set to detonate once the IRA unit has made its escape. However, only the booster charge explodes.

The attack is finally repulsed by a four-men Borderers section from the checkpoint that is patrolling nearby, with the support of a Westland Wessex helicopter. The patrol fires more than 100 rounds at the IRA unit. The Wessex receives gunfire and is forced to take evasive action. The IRA column, at risk of being surrounded, flee toward the border in the armoured truck. It is found abandoned at the border with a 460-lb. (210 kg) bomb on board.

Two soldiers are killed in the attack: Private James Houston (22) from England and Lance-Corporal Michael Patterson (21) from Scotland. Corporal Whitelaw is badly wounded by shrapnel and later airlifted for treatment. Another soldier suffers minor injuries.

There is outrage in Westminster and among unionists, as a supposedly well-defended border post has been overrun by the IRA and two soldiers killed. On the other hand, according to Moloney, there is also some disappointment among republicans. Despite the positive propaganda effect, the quick and strong reaction from the outpost’s defenders convince some high-ranking IRA members that the Army Council has been infiltrated by a mole.

KOSB officers and security sources believe that the IRA unit involved was not locally recruited, putting the blame instead on IRA members from Clogher, County Tyrone and South Monaghan in the Republic. The same sources say that the attack was executed “in true backside-or-bust Para style.”

After the action of Derryard, the British Army in Northern ireland are issued the French designed Luchaire 40mm rifle grenade, fitted on the muzzle of the SA80 rifle. This gives the troops a lightweight armour piercing capability to deal with the threat imposed by improvised armoured vehicles. Permanent checkpoints along the border are also fitted with general-purpose machine guns. From 1990 until the end of the IRA campaign in 1997, there are a number of further bloodless, small-scale attacks against permanent vehicle checkpoints along this part of the border using automatic weapons, particularly in County Fermanagh and against a military outpost at Aughnacloy, County Tyrone.

Two soldiers, Corporal Robert Duncan and Lance Corporal Ian Harvey, are bestowed the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), while Lance-Corporal Patterson receives a posthumous mention in dispatches for his actions during the attack. The checkpoint is dismantled in March 1991, as part of a major border security re-arrangement codenamed Operation Mutilate.

(Pictured: Republican memorial at Carragunt bridge, on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, often crossed by Provisional IRA forces during the Troubles to attack British targets inside County Fermanagh)


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Birth of Nancy Wynne-Jones, Welsh & Irish Landscape Artist

Nancy Wynne-Jones HRHA, Welsh and Irish artist, is born Mary Esperance Wynne-Jones on December 10, 1922 in Penmaenucha, Dolgellau, Wales.

Wynne-Jones is born to landowner Charles Llewellyn Wynne-Jones and Sybil Mary Gella Scott. The family spends half the year in Wales and half the year in Thornhill, Stalbridge, Dorset, England. She has two brothers, Andrew and Ronald (“Polly”), both of whom die in Africa during World War II.

Wynne-Jones is educated at home. Her skill in art leads to her getting lessons in Sherborne from a children’s book illustrator. Her music is encouraged by the family doctor and she begins to compose and study the violin, receiving lessons in Bournemouth with the first violinist of the symphony orchestra and continues in Aberystwyth after the start of World War II. She goes on to study the violin and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London (1940–43). While in London she also serves as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse until 1943 and later as a draughtswoman at the Ordnance Survey.

After the war Wynne-Jones purchases and manages a bookshop on the King’s Road in Chelsea, but it is not a financial success. She returns to painting, studying at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, London (1951-52) and the Chelsea School of Art (1952–55). She travels extensively through Portugal and Italy painting landscapes. An interest in completing landscapes in an abstract manner leads her to study with Peter Lanyon in St. Ives, Cornwall.

Wynne-Jones begins study in Cornwall in 1957 and remains there for fifteen years. Her first public exhibition is in a group show (1957) at the Pasmore Edwards Gallery, Newlyn. Other group shows are Jefferson Place Gallery, Washington, D.C., (1959), and in Falmouth, Cornwall (1960). Her solo exhibitions are at the New Vision Centre, London (1962 and 1965), Florence (1963) and Dolgellau (1964). From the 1960s through the 1990s she exhibits in Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Holland, South Africa, and the United States.

In 1962 Wynne-Jones purchases Trevaylor House near Penzance and provides accommodation for other artists including renowned Irish painter Tony O’Malley, sculptor Conor Fallon, and English poet and writer W. S. ‘Sydney’ Graham. In the 1970s she exhibits in Ireland at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin (1970) and at the Emmet Gallery, Dublin (1975 and 1977). During the 1980s she exhibits at the Lincoln and Hendricks galleries in Dublin before joining the Taylor Galleries, run by John and Patrick Taylor. She is elected honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1994 and becomes a member of Aosdána in 1996. Originally an abstract artist, her contact with the Irish countryside slowly transforms her work to that of a landscape artist, albeit with an influence of abstraction attached to it. She becomes well known in Irish art circles as an eminent Irish landscape artist.

Wynne-Jones is involved with artist Derek Middleton before moving to Cornwall. There she becomes romantically involved with Graham who is in an open marriage, however it is the death of her mentor Peter Lanyon that devastates her. She meets the sculptor Conor Fallon through their mutual friend Tony O’Malley. Fallon had arrived in Cornwall ostensibly to meet Lanyon. They marry in 1966. Their honeymoon in Provence is immortalised in expressionist paintings done by Wynne-Jones. The couple adopts a boy and a girl, siblings, John and Bridget. In 1972 she moves with her family to Kinsale, County Cork. It is in this area that a number of her paintings are created. She moves to Ballard House, near Rathdrum, County Wicklow in 1987. There she paints the mountain visible from her home.

Wynne-Jones dies at the age of 83 on November 9, 2006. She is buried in Ballinatone (Church of Ireland), Rathdrum.

(Pictured: “Klein Constantia with Table Mountain” by Nancy Wynne-Jones, acrylic on paper, 16 1/2″ x 23″)


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The Arrest of Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh

Oliver Plunkett,  Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, is accused of instigating the Popish Plot and arrested on December 6, 1679. He is the last victim of the Popish Plot.

Plunkett is born on November 1, 1625 in Loughcrew, County Meath, to parents of Hiberno-Norman ancestors. Until his sixteenth year, his education is entrusted to his cousin Patrick Plunkett, Abbot of St. Mary’s, Dublin, and brother of Luke Plunkett, 1st Earl of Fingall, who later becomes successively Bishop of Ardagh and of Meath. As an aspirant to the priesthood, he sets out for Rome in 1647.

Plunkett is admitted to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and proves to be an able pupil. He is ordained a priest in 1654, and deputed by the Irish bishops to act as their representative in Rome. Meanwhile, the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–1653) has defeated the Roman Catholic cause in Ireland. As a result, it is impossible for Plunkett to return to Ireland for many years so he petitions to remain in Rome. At the Congregation of Propaganda Fide on July 9, 1669, he is appointed Archbishop of Armagh and is consecrated on November 30 at Ghent. He returns to Ireland on March 7, 1670, as the English Restoration of 1660 has begun on a basis of toleration.

Plunkett sets about reorganising the ravaged Roman Church and builds schools both for the young and for clergy. The Penal Laws have been relaxed in line with the Declaration of Breda in 1660 and he is able to establish a Jesuit College in Drogheda in 1670, which becomes the first Catholic-Protestant integrated school in Ireland.

On the enactment of the Test Act in 1673, to which Plunkett does not agree for doctrinal reasons, the college is closed and demolished. Plunkett goes into hiding, traveling only in disguise, and refuses a government edict to register at a seaport to await passage into exile.

In 1678 the so-called Popish Plot, concocted in England by clergyman Titus Oates, leads to further anti-Roman Catholic action. Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin is arrested, and Plunkett again goes into hiding. Despite being on the run and with a price on his head, he refuses to leave his flock.

Plunkett is arrested in Dublin on December 6, 1679 and imprisoned in Dublin Castle. He is tried at Dundalk for conspiring against the state by allegedly plotting to bring 20,000 French soldiers into the country, and for levying a tax on his clergy to support 70,000 men for rebellion. The trial soon collapses as the prosecution witnesses are themselves wanted men and afraid to appear in court. Plunkett is moved to Newgate Prison in London in order to face trial at Westminster Hall. The first grand jury finds no true bill, but he is not released. The second trial is generally regarded as a serious miscarriage of justice as Plunkett is denied defending counsel.

Archbishop Plunkett is found guilty of high treason in June 1681 “for promoting the Roman faith,” and is condemned to death. Plunkett is hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on July 1, 1681, the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. His body is initially buried in two tin boxes in the courtyard of St. Giles in the Fields church. The remains are exhumed in 1683 and moved to the Benedictine monastery at Lamspringe, near Hildesheim in Germany. His head is brought to Rome, and from there to Armagh, and eventually to Drogheda where it has rested in St. Peter’s Church since June 29, 1921. Most of the body is brought to Downside Abbey, England, where the major part is located today, with some parts remaining at Lamspringe.

Sir Oliver Plunkett is canonised in Rome by Pope Paul VI on October 12, 1975, the first new Irish saint in almost seven hundred years, and the first of the Irish martyrs to be beatified. For the canonisation, the customary second miracle is waived.


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Birth of John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury

John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury PC, KC, Irish lawyer, politician and judge known as The Lord Norbury between 1800 and 1827, is born at Beechwood, Nenagh, County Tipperary, on December 3, 1745. A greatly controversial figure in his time, he is nicknamed the “Hanging Judge” and is considered to be one of the most corrupt legal figures in Irish history. He is Chief Justice of the Common Pleas for Ireland between 1800 and 1827.

Toler is the youngest son of Daniel Toler, MP, and Letitia, daughter of Thomas Otway (1665–1724), of Lissenhall, Nenagh, County Tipperary. His elder brother Daniel Toler is also a politician, serving as High Sheriff for Tipperary and also as MP for Tipperary. The Toler family is originally from Norfolk, East Anglia, England, but settles in County Tipperary in the 17th century. He is educated at Kilkenny College and at Trinity College, Dublin.

After graduating from university Toler enters the legal profession and is called to the Irish Bar in 1770. In 1781 he is appointed a King’s Counsel. He is returned to the Parliament of Ireland for Tralee in 1773, a seat he holds until 1780, and later represents Philipstown between 1783 and 1790 and Gorey from 1790 until the Acts of Union 1800. In 1789 he is appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland, which he remains until 1798 when he is promoted to Attorney-General for Ireland and sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland. In his role as Attorney-General he is responsible for the prosecution of those involved in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. According to the Dictionary of National Biography “his indifference to human suffering … disgusted even those who thought the occasion called for firmness on the part of government.” In 1799, he brings forward a law which gives the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act and to impose martial law.

In 1800 Toler is appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas for Ireland and raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Norbury, of Ballycrenode in the County of Tipperary. His appointment to the bench is controversial and John FitzGibbon, 1st Earl of Clare, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, is said to have quipped, “Make him a bishop, or even an archbishop, but not a chief justice.” His tenure as Chief Justice lasts for 27 years, despite the fact that, the Dictionary of National Biography opines, “his scanty knowledge of the law, his gross partiality, his callousness, and his buffoonery, completely disqualified him for the position. His court was in constant uproar owing to his noisy merriment. He joked even when the life of a human being was hanging in the balance.” This earns him the nickname the “Hanging Judge.” His most famous trial is that of Irish nationalist leader Robert Emmet. He interrupts and abuses Emmet throughout the trial before sentencing him to death. In spite of this, with his strong belief in the Protestant Ascendancy, he is considered to have had great influence over the government in Ireland in the early part of the nineteenth century.

However, Toler’s position eventually becomes untenable even to his strongest supporters, especially with the British government‘s aim of establishing a better relationship with the Catholic majority. His reputation is tainted in 1822, when a letter written to him by William Saurin, the Attorney-General for Ireland, is discovered, in which Saurin urges him to use his influence with the Irish Protestant gentry which makes up local juries against the Catholics. Saurin is dismissed soon afterwards. He finds his greatest adversary in Daniel O’Connell, to whom Toler is “an especial object of abhorrence.” At O’Connell’s instigation the case of Saurin’s letter is brought before the House of Commons of the United Kingdom by Henry Brougham. Toler survives this as well as an 1825 petition drawn up by O’Connell, which calls for his removal on the grounds of him falling asleep during a murder trial and later being unable to present any account of the evidence given. However, it is not until George Canning becomes Prime Minister in 1827 that Toler, then 82, is finally induced to resign. His resignation is sweetened by him being created Viscount Glandine and Earl of Norbury, of Glandine in King’s County, in the Peerage of Ireland. Unlike the barony of Norbury these titles are created with remainder to his second son Hector John. His eldest son Daniel is then considered mentally unsound.

Toler marries Grace, daughter of Hector Graham, in 1778. They have two sons and two daughters. In 1797 Grace is raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baroness Norwood, of Knockalton in the County of Tipperary, in honour of her husband. She dies in 1822 and is succeeded in the barony by her eldest son, Daniel. Toler survives her by nine years and dies at the age of 85 at his Dublin home at 3 Great Denmark Street on July 27, 1831. He is succeeded in the barony of Norbury by his eldest son Daniel and in the viscountcy and earldom according to the special remainder by his second son, Hector. In 1832 the latter also succeeds his elder brother in the baronies of Norwood and Norbury. He is considered to be the father of the astronomer John Brinkley.

(Pictured: John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury, coloured etching by unknown artist, early 19th century, National Portrait Gallery, NPG D9303)