seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

The Hyde Park and Regent’s Park Bombings

The Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings occur on July 20, 1982 in London. Members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonate two bombs during British military ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, both in Central London.

At 10:40 AM, a nail bomb explodes in the boot of a blue Morris Marina parked on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park. The bomb comprises 25 lbs. of gelignite and 30 lbs. of nails. It explodes as soldiers of the Household Cavalry, Queen Elizabeth II‘s official bodyguard regiment, are passing. They are taking part in their daily Changing of the Guard procession from their barracks in Knightsbridge to Horse Guards Parade. Three soldiers of the Blues & Royals are killed outright, and another, their standard-bearer, dies from his wounds three days later. The other soldiers in the procession are badly wounded, and a number of civilians were injured. Seven of the regiment’s horses are also killed or had to be euthanised because of their injuries. Explosives experts believe that the Hyde Park bomb is triggered by remote by an IRA member inside the park.

The second attack happens at about 12:55 PM, when a bomb explodes underneath a bandstand in Regent’s Park. Thirty Military bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets are on the stand performing music from Oliver! to a crowd of 120 people. It is the first in a series of advertised lunchtime concerts there. Six of the bandsmen are killed outright and the rest are wounded. A seventh dies of his wounds on August 1. At least eight civilians are also injured. The bomb had been hidden under the stand some time before and triggered by a timer. Unlike the Hyde Park bomb, it contains no nails and seems to be designed to cause minimal harm to bystanders.

A total of 22 people are detained in hospital as a result of the blasts. The IRA claims responsibility for the attacks by deliberately mirroring Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher‘s words a few months before when Britain entered the Falklands War. They proclaimed that “The Irish people have sovereign and national rights which no task or occupational force can put down.” Reacting to the bombing, Thatcher states, “These callous and cowardly crimes have been committed by evil, brutal men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice.” The bombings have a negative impact on public support in the United States for the Irish republican cause.

In October 1987, 27-year-old Gilbert “Danny” McNamee, from County Armagh, is sentenced at the Old Bailey to 25 years in prison for his role in the Hyde Park bombing and others, despite his plea that he is not guilty. He is released from HM Prison Maze in late 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement.

On May 19, 2013, 61-year-old John Anthony Downey, from County Donegal, is charged with murder in relation to the Hyde Park bomb and intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. He appears at the Old Bailey on January 24, 2014 for the beginning of his trial and enters a not guilty plea. On February 25, 2014, it is revealed that Downey’s trial has collapsed after the presiding judge has ruled upon a letter sent by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to Downey in 2007, assuring him that he would not face criminal charges over the attack. Although the assurance is made in error and the police realise the mistake, it is never withdrawn, and the judge rules that therefore the defendant has been misled and prosecuting him would be an abuse of executive power. Downey is one of 187 IRA suspects who receive secret on-the-run letters guaranteeing them unofficial immunity from prosecution.

A memorial marks the spot of the Hyde Park bombing and the troop honours it daily with an eyes-left and salute with drawn swords. A plaque commemorating the victims of the second attack also stands in Regent’s Park.


Leave a comment

Birth of Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues

shane-macgowanShane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan, Anglo-Irish musician and singer, best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Celtic trad punk band The Pogues, is born to Irish parents in Pembury, Kent, England, on December 25, 1957.

MacGowan spends his early childhood in County Tipperary, before his family moves back to England when he is six years old. He lives in many parts of the southeast of England, including Brighton and London.

MacGowan’s father, Maurice, works for a department store. MacGowan’s mother, Therese, is a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and has worked as a model in Dublin. In 1971, after attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, MacGowan earns a literature scholarship and is accepted into Westminster School. He is found in possession of drugs and is expelled in his second year.

MacGowan gets his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe is damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photographer snaps a picture of him covered in blood and it makes the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig.” Shortly after this, he forms his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed The Nips.

MacGowan draws upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues and changes his early “punk” voice for a more authentic sound with tutoring from his extended family. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

Between 1985 and 1987, he co-writes “Fairytale of New York,” which he performs with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues release several albums.

After The Pogues throw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he forms a new band, Shane MacGowan & The Popes, recording two studio albums, a live album, three tracks on The Popes Outlaw Heaven (2010) and a live DVD, and touring internationally. From December 2003 until May 2005, Shane MacGowan & The Popes tour extensively in the UK, Ireland, and Europe.

The Pogues and MacGowan reform for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at GuilFest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Basque Country. In May 2005, he rejoins The Pogues permanently.

The Pogues’ last performance on British soil occurs on July 5, 2014 at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park.

For many years MacGowan suffers from binge drinking and heroin use. In 2001, Sinéad O’Connor reports MacGowan to the police in London for drug possession in what she says is an attempt to discourage him from using heroin. Initially furious, MacGowan later expresses gratitude towards O’Connor and claims that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.

MacGowan has long been known for having very bad teeth. He loses the last of his natural teeth around 2008. In 2015, he has 28 new dentures on a titanium frame fitted in a nine-hour procedure which is the subject of an hour-long television programme. Dr. Darragh Mulrooney, the dental surgeon who carries out the procedure, comments that MacGowan recorded most of his great works while he still had some teeth: “We’ve effectively re-tuned his instrument and that will be an ongoing process.”

In the summer of 2015, MacGowan falls as he is leaving a Dublin studio, fracturing his pelvis. He is seen in public on crutches by December 2015, and continues to experience difficulty with general mobility.


Leave a comment

Death of Irish Dramatist Seán O’Casey

Seán O’Casey, Irish dramatist and memoirist, dies of a heart attack in Torquay, Devon, England on September 18, 1964. A committed socialist, he is the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes.

O’Casey is born John Casey at 85 Upper Dorset Street, in the northern inner-city area of Dublin on March 30, 1880. He is a member of the Church of Ireland, baptised on July 28, 1880 in St. Mary’s parish and confirmed at St. John the Baptist Church in Clontarf. He is an active member of Saint Barnabas until his mid-twenties, when he drifts away from the church.

As O’Casey’s interest in Irish nationalism grows, he joins the Gaelic League in 1906 and learns the Irish language. At this time, he Gaelicises his name from John Casey to Seán Ó Cathasaigh. He also learns to play the Uilleann pipes and is a founder and secretary of the St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band. He joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and becomes involved in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, established by James Larkin to represent the interests of the unskilled labourers who inhabit the Dublin tenements. In March 1914 he becomes General Secretary of Larkin’s Irish Citizen Army. On July 24, 1914 he resigns from the ICA, after his proposal to deny dual membership to both the ICA and the Irish Volunteers is rejected.

In 1917, his friend Thomas Ashe dies in a hunger strike and it inspires him to write. He spends the next five years writing plays. O’Casey’s first accepted play, The Shadow of a Gunman, is performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1923. This is the beginning of a relationship that is to be fruitful for both theatre and dramatist but which ends in some bitterness. It is followed by Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926).

The Plough and the Stars is not well received by the Abbey audience. There is a riot reported on the fourth night of the show. His depiction of sex and religion offends some of the actors who refused to speak their lines. W.B. Yeats intervenes and describes the audience as “shaming themselves.”

In 1928, Yeats rejects O’Casey’s fourth play, The Silver Tassie, for the Abbey. It is an attack on imperialist wars and the suffering they cause. The Abbey refuses to perform it. The plays O’Casey writes after this include the darkly allegorical and highly controversial Within the Gates (1934), which is set within the gates of a busy city park based on London’s Hyde Park. It closes not long after opening and is another box office failure.

Over the next twenty years, O’Casey writes The Star Turns Red (1940), Purple Dust (1943), Red Roses for Me (1943), Oak Leaves and Lavender (1945), Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949), The Bishop’s Bonfire (1955), and The Drums of Father Ned (1958). In 1959, O’Casey gives his blessing to a musical adaptation of Juno and the Paycock by American composer Marc Blitzstein. The musical, retitled Juno, is a commercial failure, closing after only 16 Broadway performances. Also in 1959, George Devine produces Cock-a-Doodle Dandy at the Royal Court Theatre and it is also successful at the Edinburgh International Festival and has a West End run.

On September 18, 1964, at the age of 84, O’Casey dies of a heart attack, in Torquay, Devon. He is cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.