seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Birth of Terence MacSwiney, Playwright, Author & Lord Mayor of Cork

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is terence-macswiney.jpg

Terence James MacSwiney, Irish playwright, author, politician and Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork during the Irish War of Independence, is born at 23 North Main Street, Cork, County Cork, on March 28, 1879.

MacSwiney is one of eight children of John and Mary MacSwiney. His father had volunteered in 1868 to fight as a papal guard against Giuseppe Garibaldi, had been a schoolteacher in London and later opened a tobacco factory in Cork. Following the failure of this business, John MacSwiney emigrates to Australia in 1885, leaving the children in the care of their mother and his eldest daughter.

MacSwiney is educated by the Christian Brothers at the North Monastery school in Cork, but leaves at fifteen to help support the family. He becomes an accountancy clerk but continues his studies and matriculates successfully. He continues in full-time employment while he studies at the Royal University (now University College Cork), graduating with a degree in Mental and Moral Science in 1907.

In 1901 MacSwiney helps to found the Celtic Literary Society, and in 1908 he founds the Cork Dramatic Society with Daniel Corkery and writes a number of plays for them. His first play, The Last Warriors of Coole, is produced in 1910. His fifth play, The Revolutionist (1915), takes the political stand made by a single man as its theme.

Described as a sensitive poet-intellectual, MacSwiney’s writings in the newspaper Irish Freedom bring him to the attention of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He is one of the founders of the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and is President of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin. He founds a newspaper, Fianna Fáil, in 1914, but it is suppressed after only eleven issues. In April 1916, he is intended to be second in command of the Easter Rising in counties Cork and Kerry, but stands down his forces on the order of Eoin MacNeill.

Following the rising, MacSwiney is imprisoned by the British Government under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 in Reading and Wakefield Gaols until December 1916. In February 1917 he is deported from Ireland and imprisoned in Shrewsbury and Bromyard internment camps until his release in June 1917. It is during his exile in Bromyard that he marries Muriel Murphy of the Cork distillery-owning family. In November 1917, he is arrested in Cork for wearing an Irish Republican Army (IRA) uniform, and, inspired by the example of Thomas Ashe, goes on a hunger strike for three days prior to his release.

In the 1918 Irish general election, MacSwiney is returned unopposed to the first Dáil Éireann as Sinn Féin representative for Mid Cork, succeeding the Nationalist MP D. D. Sheehan. After the murder of his friend Tomás Mac Curtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork, on March 20, 1920, he is elected as Lord Mayor. On August 12, 1920, he is arrested in Cork for possession of “seditous articles and documents,” and also possession of a cipher key. He is summarily tried by a court on August 16 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment at Brixton Prison in England.

In prison MacSwiney immediately starts a hunger strike in protest of his internment and the fact that he was tried by a military court. Eleven other Irish Republican prisoners in Cork Jail go on hunger strike at the same time. On August 26, the British Government states that “the release of the Lord Mayor would have disastrous results in Ireland and would probably lead to a mutiny of both military and police in south of Ireland.”

MacSwiney’s hunger strike gains world attention. The British Government is threatened with a boycott of British goods by Americans, while four countries in South America appeal to Pope Benedict XV to intervene. Protests are held in Germany and France as well. An Australian member of Parliament, Hugh Mahon, is expelled from the Parliament of Australia for “seditious and disloyal utterances at a public meeting,” after protesting against the actions of the British Government. Two weeks later, the Spanish Catalan organization Autonomous Center of Employees of Commerce and Industry (CADCI) sends a petition to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George calling for his release and the newspaper of the organization, Acció (Acción in Spanish), begins a campaign for MacSwiney.

Food is often placed near MacSwiney to persuade him to give up the hunger strike. Attempts at force-feeding are undertaken in the final days of his strike. On October 20, 1920 he slips into a coma and dies in London’s Brixton Prison on October 25, after 73 days on hunger strike. His body lay in St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark in London where 30,000 people file past it. Fearing large-scale demonstrations in Dublin, the authorities divert his coffin directly to Cork, and his funeral in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne on October 31 attracts huge crowds. He is buried in the Republican plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. Arthur Griffith delivers the graveside oration. His death brings him and the Irish Republican campaign to international attention.


Leave a comment

Free State Government Purchases Copyright to “The Soldiers Song”

amhran-na-bhfiannThe Irish Free State government purchases the copyright of Peadar Kearney‘s The Soldiers Song on October 20, 1933, which becomes the Irish national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann. The song has three verses, but only the choral refrain is officially designated the national anthem.

A Soldiers’ Song is composed in 1907, with words by Peadar Kearney and music by Kearney and Patrick Heeney. The text is first published in Irish Freedom by Bulmer Hobson in 1912. It is used as a marching song by the Irish Volunteers and is sung by rebels in the General Post Office (GPO) during the Easter Rising of 1916. Its popularity increases among rebels held in Frongoch internment camp after the Rising, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, a large proportion of the IRA’s men and apparatus become the National Army. The Soldiers’ Song remains popular as an Army tune, and is played at many military functions.

The Free State does not initially adopt any official anthem. The delicate political state in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War provokes a desire to avoid controversy. Ex-Unionists continue to regard God Save the King as the national anthem, as it has been for the rest of the British Empire. W. T. Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State expresses opposition to replacing The Soldiers’ Song, which is provisionally used within the State.

There is concern that the lack of an official anthem is giving Unionists an opportunity to persist with God Save the King. The Soldiers’ Song is widely if unofficially sung by nationalists. On July 12, 1926, the Executive Council of the Irish Free State decides to adopt it as the National Anthem, with Cosgrave the driving force in the decision. However, this decision is not publicised.

In 1928, the Army band establishes the practice of playing only the chorus of the song as the Anthem, because the longer version is discouraging audiences from singing along.

The anthem is played by Radio Éireann at closedown from its inception in 1926. Cinemas and theatres do so from 1932 until 1972. Peadar Kearney, who has received royalties from publishers of the text and music, issues legal proceedings for royalties from those now performing the anthem. He is joined by Michael Heeney, brother of Patrick Heeney, who had died in 1911. In 1934, the Department of Finance acquires the copyright of the song for the sum of £1,200. Copyright law changes in 1959, such that the government has to reacquire copyright in 1965, for £2,500. As per copyright law, the copyright expires in December 2012, following the 70th anniversary of Kearney’s death. In 2016, three Fianna Fáil senators introduce a private member’s bill intended to restore the state’s copyright in the anthem.


Leave a comment

Executions of Seán MacDiarmada & James Connolly

macdiarmada-connollyThe British army executes Seán MacDiarmada and James Connolly, the last of the Easter Rising leaders to be executed in Dublin, in the Stonebreaker’s Yard at Kilmainham Gaol on May 12, 1916.

Seán MacDiarmada is born in 1884 in Leitrim. He emigrates to Glasgow in 1900 and from there to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, he is acquainted with Bulmer Hobson. He joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in 1906 while still in Belfast, transferring to Dublin in 1908 where he assumes managerial responsibility for the IRB newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910. Although MacDiarmada is afflicted with polio in 1912, he is appointed as a member of the provisional committee of Irish Volunteers from 1913, and is subsequently drafted onto the military committee of the IRB in 1915. During the Rising, MacDiarmada serves in the General Post Office (GPO). Following the surrender, MacDiarmada nearly escapes execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners. He is eventually recognised by Daniel Hoey of G Division and faces a court-martial on May 9.

James Connolly is born in Edinburgh in 1868. Connolly is first introduced to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Despite returning to Scotland, the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh stimulates Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid-1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896 where he founds the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He spends much of the first decade of the twentieth century in America. He then returns to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin. A firm believer in the perils of sectarian division, Connolly campaigns tirelessly against religious bigotry. In 1913, Connolly is one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising he is appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leading the group that occupies the General Post Office.

The treatment accorded to Connolly is particularly despicable. Crippled by an infected wound in the ankle, he is carried to Kilmainham Gaol, tied to a chair, and shot. As the men are loading their rifles, Connolly forgives the men of the army firing squad for their actions. Shaken by their distasteful task, a ragged volley of shots resound from their rifles. He is the last of the leaders to be executed.


Leave a comment

Birth of Irish Revolutionary Leader Seán Mac Diarmada

sean-mac-diarmadaSeán Mac Diarmada, Irish political activist and revolutionary leader also known as Seán MacDermott, is born in Corranmore, near Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim on February 28, 1883. He is one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Mac Diarmada is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. He moves to Dublin in 1908, by which time he already has a long involvement in several Irish separatist and cultural organisations, including Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Gaelic League. He is soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and is eventually elected secretary.

In 1910, he becomes manager of the radical newspaper Irish Freedom, which he founds along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also becomes a national organiser for the IRB and is taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke and the two become nearly inseparable. Shortly afterward, Mac Diarmada is stricken with polio and is forced to walk with a cane.

In November 1913, Mac Diarmada is one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers and continues to work to bring the organisation under IRB control. Mac Diarmada is arrested in Tuam, County Galway, in May 1915 under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army.

Following his release in September 1915, Mac Diarmada joins the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which is responsible for planning the rising.

Due to his disability, Mac Diarmada has little participation in the fighting of Easter week, but is stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office (GPO), as one of the Provisional Republican Government. Following the surrender on April 29, 1916, he nearly escapes execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners but is eventually identified by Daniel Hoey of G Division. Following a May 9 court-martial, Mac Diarmada, at the age of 33, is executed by firing squad. Before his execution, Mac Diarmada writes, “I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”

In September 1919, Hoey is shot dead by Michael Collins’s Squad. Likewise, the British Officer who ordered Mac Diarmada to be shot rather than imprisoned, is also killed in Cork on Collins’s order during the Irish War of Independence.

Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin, Mac Diarmada rail station in Sligo, and Páirc Sheáin Mhic Dhiarmada, the Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Carrick-on-Shannon are named in his honour. Sean MacDermott tower in Ballymun, demolished in 2005, was also named after him. In his hometown of Kiltyclogher a statue enscribed with his final written words is erected in the village centre and his childhood home has become a National Monument.

Mac Diarmada will be portrayed by actor Colin Morgan in the 2016 Irish historical biopic drama film, The Rising, written by Kevin McCann and Colin Broderick.