seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Political Economist John Elliott Cairnes

John Elliott Cairnes, Irish-born political economist, is born on December 26, 1823, at Castlebellingham, County Louth. He has been described as the “last of the classical economists.”

Cairnes is the son of William Elliott Cairnes (1787–1863) of Stameen, near Drogheda, and Marianne Woolsey, whose mother is the sister of Sir William Bellingham, 1st Baronet of Castlebellingham. William decides upon a business career, against the wishes of his mother, Catherine Moore of Moore Hall, Killinchy, and becomes a partner in the Woolsey Brewery at Castlebellingham. In 1825, he starts on his own account in Drogheda, making the Drogheda Brewery an unqualified success. He is remembered for his great business capacity and for the deep interest he takes in charity.

After leaving school, Cairnes spends some years in the counting house of his father at Drogheda. His tastes, however, lay altogether in the direction of study, and he is permitted to enter Trinity College Dublin, where he takes the degree of BA in 1848, and six years later that of MA. After passing through the curriculum of Arts, he engages in the study of Law, and is called to the Irish bar. But he lacks a desire to pursue the legal profession, and over some ensuing years, he devotes himself to writing in various publications about social and economic questions and treatises that relate to Ireland. He focuses mostly on political economy, which he studies thoroughly.

While residing in Dublin, Cairnes makes the acquaintance of the Archbishop of Dublin Richard Whately, who conceives a very high respect for Cairnes’ character and abilities. In 1856, a vacancy occurs in the chair of political economy at Dublin, founded by Whately, and Cairnes receives the appointment. In accordance with the regulations of the foundation, the lectures of his first year’s course are published. The book appears in 1857 with the title Character and Logical Method of Political Economy. It follows up on and expands John Stuart Mill‘s treatment in the Essays on some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy, and forms an admirable introduction to the study of economics as a science. In it the author’s peculiar powers of thought and expression are displayed to the best advantage. Logical exactness, precision of language, and firm grasp of the true nature of economic facts, are the qualities characteristic of this as of all his other works. If the book had done nothing more, it would still have conferred inestimable benefit on political economists by its clear exposition of the true nature and meaning of the ambiguous term law. To the view of the province and method of political economy expounded in this early work the author always remains true, and several of his later essays, such as those on Political Economy and Land, Political Economy and Laissez-Faire, are but reiterations of the same doctrine. His next contribution to economical science is a series of articles on the gold question, published partly in Fraser’s Magazine, in which the probable consequences of the increased supply of gold attendant on the Australian and Californian gold discoveries are analysed with great skill and ability. And a critical article on Michel Chevalier‘s work, On the Probable Fall in the Value of Gold, appears in the Edinburgh Review for July 1860.

In 1861, Cairnes is appointed to the professorship of jurisprudence and political economy in Queens College Galway, and in the following year he publishes his admirable work The Slave Power, one of the finest specimens of applied economical philosophy. The inherent disadvantages of the employment of slave labour are exposed with great fullness and ability, and the conclusions arrived at have taken their place among the recognised doctrines of political economy. The opinions expressed by Cairnes as to the probable issue of American Civil War are largely verified by the actual course of events, and the appearance of the book has a marked influence on the attitude taken by serious political thinkers in England towards the Confederate States of America.

During the remainder of his residence at Galway, Cairnes publishes nothing beyond some fragments and pamphlets, mainly upon Irish questions. The most valuable of these papers are the series devoted to the consideration of university education. His health, at no time very good, is still further weakened in 1865 by a fall from his horse. He is ever afterwards incapacitated from active exertion and is constantly liable to have his work interfered with by attacks of illness.

In 1866 Cairnes is appointed professor of political economy in University College, London. He is compelled to spend the session 1868–1869 in Italy, but on his return continues to lecture until 1872. During his last session he conducts a mixed class, ladies being admitted to his lectures. His health soon renders it impossible for him to discharge his public duties. He resigns his post in 1872, and retires with the honorary title of professor emeritus of political economy. In 1873 his own university confers on him the degree of LL.D.

Cairnes dies at the age of 51 at Blackheath, London, England, on July 8, 1875.


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Birth of Alice Curtayne, Writer & Lecturer

Alice Curtayne, Irish writer and lecturer, is born on November 6, 1898, in Upper Castle Street, Tralee, County Kerry.

Curtayne is the youngest child of John Curtayne, founder and proprietor of the Tralee Carriage Works, and his wife Bridget Curtayne (née O’Dwyer). She receives her initial education at local convents before attending La Sainte Union College in Southampton, England. Having taken a typing course, she is engaged as a secretary in Milan, where she remains for four and a half years. This proves to be a formative period in her life. She comes to regard Italy as a second home and is greatly influenced by the work of the Italian Catholic philosopher, Giovanni Papini.

On leaving Italy Curtayne works for a time in Liverpool. She joins the Liverpool Catholic Evidence Guild, from where she receives her diploma as a diocesan catechist. While in England she also develops an interest in public speaking. Her first book, Catherine of Siena (1929), is followed by numerous publications on religious and historical subjects, including Lough Derg (1933), Patrick Sarsfield (1934), The Trial of Oliver Plunkett (1953), Twenty Tales of Irish Saints for children (1955), and The Irish Story (1962).

Curtayne’s enthusiasm for Italy is reflected in her many publications of Italian interest, including a scholarly work on Dante, and a novel House of Cards (1940), which centres on the experiences of a young Irish woman living in Italy. In 1972 she produces Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet, her well regarded biography of the poet Francis Ledwidge, and in 1974 it is followed by an edition of his complete poems, The Complete Works of Francis Ledwidge. Throughout her journalistic career she is a contributor to various magazines and papers, among them The Irish Times, Irish Independent, The Irish Press, Books on Trial, The Spectator, and The Standard.

During the 1950s and early 1960s Curtayne makes five lecture tours in the United States, speaking on Irish life, history, and literature. In 1959 she receives an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, where she briefly teaches. She is presented with the Key to Worcester City by Mayor James D. O’Brien. She also gives a course of lectures on Dante at Craiglockhart College, Edinburgh, in 1956, and in 1965 she again speaks on Dante in a Radio Éireann Thomas Davis lecture.

In December 1954 The Irish Press sends Curtayne to Rome to write daily reports on the close of the Marian year. She goes to Rome again for the final session of the Second Vatican Council. She is commissioned to send weekly reports to local newspapers, The Nationalist (Carlow) and The Kerryman. She also sends a series of profiles of outstanding personages of this Vatican Council to The Universe and an article for Hibernia journal.

In 1935, Curtayne marries the English-born writer and broadcaster Stephen Rynne, with whom she has two sons and two daughters. They run a farm at Prosperous, County Kildare, and are well known advocates of the values of rural living. One son, Andrew Rynne, becomes a medical practitioner and well known for his liberal views on birth control. Daughter Brigid Rynne later illustrates some of her mother’s books.

Curtayne dies on August 9, 1981, in the Hazel Hall Nursing Home in Clane, County Kildare, and is buried at Killybegs Cemetery.


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Birth of Maeve Kyle, Olympic Athlete & Hockey Player

Maeve Esther Enid Kyle, OBE, Irish Olympic athlete and hockey player, is born Maeve Esther Enid Shankey in County Kilkenny on October 6, 1928.

Kyle briefly attends Kilkenny College where her father C.G. Shankey is headmaster, before attending Alexandra College and finally, Trinity College, Dublin. She is the granddaughter of William Thrift.

Kyle competes in the 100m and 200m in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and subsequently in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, and the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, where she reaches the semi-finals of both the 400m and 800m. She takes the bronze medal in the 400m at the 1966 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Dortmund, Germany. She wins four gold medals in W45 Category at the 1977 World Masters Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the 100m, 400m, high jump and long jump. She holds World Masters records at W40 for the 100m (12:00 secs) and 400m (55.30 secs) and W45 100m (12.50 secs) and W50 long jump at 5.04m.

In field hockey, Kyle gains 58 Irish caps as well as representing three of the four Irish provinces (Leinster, Munster and Ulster) at different stages of her career. She is named in the World All Star team in 1953 and 1959. She is also a competitor in tennis, swimming, sailing and cricket and works as a coach. She is chair of Coaching NI. In 2006, she is awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) from the University of Ulster.

Kyle is awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 Coaching Awards in London in recognition of her work with athletes at the Ballymena and Antrim Athletics Club. Earlier in 2006 she is one of 10 players who are initially installed into Irish hockey’s Hall of Fame. She is appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.


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The Irish Brigade of France Fight in the Battle of Marsaglia

Units of the Irish Brigade of France fight in Italy at the Battle of Marsaglia, a battle in the Nine Years’ War, on October 4, 1693. The battle involves the French army of Marshal Nicolas Catinat against the army of the Grand Alliance, allies of William of Orange, under the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia.

Catinat, advancing from Fenestrelle and Susa to the relief Pinerolo, defended by René de Froulay, Comte de Tessé, and which the Duke of Savoy is besieging, takes up a position in formal order of battle north of the village of Marsaglia, near Orbassano. Here, on October 4, the Duke of Savoy attacks him with his entire army, front to front, but the greatly superior regimental efficiency of the French, and Catinat’s minute attention to details in arraying them, gives the new marshal a victory that is a worthy pendant to Neerwinden.

During the battle, Irish dragoons are reported to have “overthrown squadrons, sword in hand,” but elsewhere on the battlefield, Prince Eugene of Savoy overruns a French line and advances to the second line, held by Irish regiments. There Eugene’s advance is broken, and his troops are soon put to rout. The impetuous Irish then pursue without orders. Seeing this development, the French commander orders a general advance and the allied army breaks and runs. Official French reports speak of the “extreme valor” of the Irish that day.

The Piedmontese and their allies lose approximately 12,000 killed, wounded and prisoners, as against Catinat’s 1,800. Among the Irish killed in this great victory are Brigadier Francis O’Carroll of the dragoons and Colonel Daniel O’Brien, 4th Viscount Clare. One very young officer of the Irish Brigade who survives the fight is Lieutenant Peter Lacy.

Marsaglia is, if not the first, at any rate, one of the first, instances of a bayonet charge by a long deployed line of infantry. Hussars figure here for the first time in Western Europe. A regiment of them had been raised in 1692 from deserters from the Austrian service. It is also notable as one of the first major battles to see the new Irish Brigade in action for the French army.

(Pictured: Marshal Nicholas Catinat at the Battle of Marsaglia, October 4, 1693, painting by Eugène Devéria, 1837, Museum of the History of France)


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Death of Charles Bianconi, Italo-Irish Entrepreneur

Charles Bianconi, Italo-Irish passenger car entrepreneur, dies on September 22, 1875 at Longfield House, Boherlahan, County Tipperary. Sometimes described as the “man who put Ireland on wheels,” he develops a network of horse-drawn coaches that become Ireland’s “first regular public transport” system.

Bianconi is born Carlo Bianconi in Tregolo, Costa Masnaga, Italy on September 24, 1786. He moves from an area poised to fall to Napoleon and travels to Ireland in 1802, by way of England, just four years after the Irish Rebellion of 1798. At the time, British fear of continental invasion results in an acute sense of insecurity and additional restrictions on the admission of foreigners. He is christened Carlo but anglicises his name to Charles when he arrives in Ireland.

Bianconi works as an engraver and printseller in Dublin, near Essex Street, under his sponsor, Andrea Faroni, when he is sixteen. In 1806 he sets up an engraving and print shop in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, moving to Clonmel in 1815.

Bianconi eventually becomes famous for his innovations in transport and is twice elected mayor of Clonmel.

Bianconi is the founder of public transportation in Ireland, at a time preceding railways. He establishes regular horse-drawn carriage services on various routes from about 1815 onward. These are known as “Bianconi coaches” and the first service, Clonmel to Cahir, takes five to eight hours by boat but only two hours by Bianconi’s carriage. Travel on one of his carriages cost one penny farthing a mile.

Bianconi also establishes a series of inns, the Bianconi Inns, some of which still exist in Piltown, County Kilkenny and Killorglin, County Kerry.

In 1832 Bianconi marries Eliza Hayes, the daughter of a wealthy Dublin stockbroker. They have three children – Charles Thomas Bianconi, Catherine Henrietta Bianconi and Mary Anne Bianconi, who marries Morgan John O’Connell and is the mother of his grandson John O’Connell Bianconi.

Bianconi’s transport services continue into the 1850s and later, by which time there are a number of railway services in the country. The Bianconi coaches continue to be well-patronised, by offering connections from various termini, one of the first and few examples of an integrated transport system in Ireland. By 1865 Bianconi’s annual income was about £35,000.

Charles Bianconi dies on September 22, 1875 at Longfield House, Boherlahan, County Tipperary. Having donated land to the parish of Boherlahan for the construction of a parish church, he wishes to be buried on the Church grounds. He, and his family, are buried in a side chapel, separate from the parish church in Boherlahan, approximately five miles from Cashel, County Tipperary.


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Death of John McCormack, Renowned Irish Tenor

Papal Count John Francis McCormack, KSG, KSS, KHS, Irish tenor celebrated for his performances of the operatic and popular song repertoires, and renowned for his diction and breath control, dies in Booterstown, Dublin, on September 16, 1945.

McCormack is born on June 14, 1884, in Athlone, County Westmeath, the second son and fifth of the 11 children of Andrew McCormack and his wife Hannah Watson. His parents are both from Galashiels, Scotland, and work at the Athlone Woolen Mills, where his father is a foreman. He is baptised in St. Mary’s Church, Athlone, on June 23, 1884.

McCormack receives his early education from the Marist Brothers in Athlone and later attends Summerhill College, Sligo. He sings in the choir of the old St. Peter’s Church in Athlone under his choirmaster Michael Kilkelly. When the family moves to Dublin, he sings in the choir of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral where he is discovered by Vincent O’Brien. In 1903 he wins the coveted gold medal of the Dublin Feis Ceoil. He marries Lily Foley in 1906 and they have two children, Cyril and Gwen.

In March 1904, McCormack becomes associated with James Joyce, who at the time has singing ambitions himself. He persuades Joyce to enter the Feis Ceoil that year, where the not yet famous writer is awarded the Bronze Medal.

Fundraising activities on his behalf enable McCormack to travel to Italy in 1905 to receive voice training by Vincenzo Sabatini, father of the novelist Rafael Sabatini, in Milan. Sabatini finds McCormack’s voice naturally tuned and concentrates on perfecting his breath control, an element that becomes part of the basis of his renown as a vocalist.

In 1906, McCormack makes his operatic début at the Teatro Chiabrera, Savona. The next year, he begins his first important operatic performance at Covent Garden in Pietro Mascagni‘s Cavalleria rusticana, becoming the theatre’s youngest principal tenor. In 1909, he begins his career in the United States.

In February 1911, McCormack plays Lieutenant Paul Merrill in the world premiere of Victor Herbert‘s opera Natoma with Mary Garden in the title role. Later that year, he tours Australia after Dame Nellie Melba engages him, then at the height of his operatic career, aged 27, as a star tenor for the Melba Grand Opera Season. He returns for concert tours in subsequent years.

By 1912, McCormack is beginning to become involved increasingly with concert performances, where his voice quality and charisma ensures that he becomes the most celebrated lyric tenor of his time. He does not, however, retire from the operatic stage until after his performance of 1923 in Monte Carlo, although by then the top notes of his voice have contracted. Famous for his extraordinary breath control, he can sing 64 notes on one breath in Mozart‘s “Il mio tesoro” from Don Giovanni, and his Handelian singing is just as impressive in this regard.

McCormack makes hundreds of recordings, his best-known and most commercially successful series of records being those for the Victor Talking Machine Company during the 1910s and 1920s. He is Victor’s most popular Red Seal recording artist after tenor Enrico Caruso. In the 1920s, he sings regularly on radio and later appears in two sound films, Song o’ My Heart (1930), playing an Irish tenor, and as himself appearing in a party scene in Wings of the Morning (1937), the first British three-strip Technicolor feature.

McCormack is one of the first artists to record the popular ballad “I Hear You Calling Me” written in 1908 by Harold Harford and Charles Marshall. He records it twice for Odeon Records starting in 1908 and a further four times for Victor between 1910 and 1927, becoming his best seller. He is the first artist to record the famous World War I song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” in 1914. He also records a best-selling version of another popular World War I tune, “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” in 1917. He also sings songs expressive of Irish nationalism and endorses the Irish Nationalist estrangement from the United Kingdom. He is associated particularly with the songs of Thomas Moore, notably “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls,” “The Minstrel Boy,” “Believe Me If All (Those Endearing Young Charms),” and “The Last Rose of Summer.” Between 1914 and 1922, he records almost two dozen songs with violin accompaniment provided by Fritz Kreisler, with whom he also tours. He records songs of Hugo Wolf for the Hugo Wolf Society in German. In 1918, he records the song “Calling Me Home to You.”

In 1917, McCormack becomes a naturalised citizen of the United States. In June 1918, he donates $11,458 toward the U.S. World War I effort. By then, his career is a huge financial success, earning millions in his lifetime from record sales and appearances.

By 1920, Edwin Schneider has become McCormack’s accompanist and the two are “inseparable.” When Schneider retires, Gerald Moore takes over as accompanist from 1939 to 1943.

In 1927, McCormack moves into Moore Abbey, Monasterevin, County Kildare, and adopts a very opulent lifestyle by Irish standards. He also owns apartments in London and New York. He hopes that one of his racehorses, such as Golden Lullaby, would win The Derby, but this never occurs.

McCormack also purchases Runyon Canyon in Hollywood in 1930 from Carman Runyon. He sees and likes the estate while there filming Song o’ My Heart (1930), an early all-talking, all-singing picture. He uses his salary for this movie to purchase the estate and builds a mansion he calls ‘San Patrizio,’ after Saint Patrick. He and his wife live in the mansion until they return to England in 1938.

McCormack tours often, and in his absence, the mansion is often let to celebrities such as Janet Gaynor and Charles Boyer. The McCormacks make many friends in Hollywood, among them Errol Flynn, Will Rogers, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman, Charles E. Toberman and the Dohenys. After his farewell tour of America in 1937, the McCormacks deed the estate back to Carman Runyon expecting to return to the estate at a later date. World War II intervenes and he does not return.

McCormack originally ends his career at the Royal Albert Hall in London, during 1938. However, one year after that farewell concert, he is back singing for the Red Cross and in support of the war effort. He gives concerts, tours, broadcasts and records in this capacity until 1943 when poor health finally forces him to retire permanently.

Ill with emphysema, McCormack purchases a house near the sea, “Glena,” Booterstown, Dublin. After years of increasingly poor health, and a series of infectious illnesses, including influenza and pneumonia, he dies at his home in Booterstown on September 16, 1945. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery, St. Patrick’s section, plot reference E/120.


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Birth of John Treacy, Olympian & Former Athlete

John Treacy, Irish Olympian and former athlete, now a sporting administrator, is born in Villierstown, County Waterford, on June 4, 1957.

Treacy attends St. Anne’s Post-Primary School in Cappoquin, County Waterford, running more than seven miles to school every morning. He graduates from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1978 and 1979 he wins the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Glasgow, Scotland and Limerick respectively.

Treacy is known as a tenacious runner who does not have an especially sharp final kick in track races. In the 1978 European Athletics Championships in Prague, he places 11th in the fast 10,000-metre race and fourth in the slow and tactical 5,000-metre race, losing to Italy‘s Venanzio Ortis by just three tenths of a second. In the 5,000-metre final, he lingers behind Great Britain‘s Nick Rose on the final back straight just after Rose drops from the lead group.

In the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Treacy collapses in his 10,000-metre heat with only 200 metres left, a victim of heat paralysis and dehydration. Because he was running in fourth place when he collapses and because only the top four runners qualify directly for the final from the three heats, his collapse allows Finnish four-time Olympic champion Lasse Virén, who had been trailing him, to qualify directly for the final. Having recovered from his heat-induced collapse, Treacy places seventh in the 5,000-metre final of those Olympics.

In the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland, Treacy is eliminated in the 10,000-metre heats.

In the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, Treacy places ninth in the 10,000-metre final before crowning his athletics career with a silver medal in the men’s marathon. Winner Carlos Lopes of Portugal is largely unchallenged for much of the race, with Treacy down the field until entering the top six around the 20-kilometre mark. He continues to work his way up the rankings until entering Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum just behind second-place English athlete Charlie Spedding. He overtakes Spedding with 150m to go, during which the Irish television commentary of Jimmy Magee lists the previous Irish Olympic medal winners up to that time, before culminating, “And for the 13th time, an Olympic medal goes to John Treacy from Villierstown in Waterford, the little man with the big heart.” His silver medal places Ireland 33rd on the medals table.

After the Los Angeles Olympics, Treacy runs competitively until 1995, retiring following a road race held in his honour in Waterford, attended by the other two medalists from the 1984 Olympic marathon, Carlos Lopes and Charlie Spedding. While he does not win any more major international championships medals, he does win the 1992 Los Angeles Marathon. At the 1986 European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart, he places sixth in the 10,000-metre race. In the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome, he places twenty-sixth in the 10,000-metre race and thirteenth in the 5,000-metre final. He fails to finish the marathon at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and places 51st in his final Olympic games, the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. He wins the 1993 Dublin Marathon.

Treacy is currently chief executive of Sport Ireland, a statutory authority that oversees, and partly funds, the development of sport within Ireland . He is married to Fionnuala and they have four children: Caoimhe, Deirdre, Sean, and Conor.


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Birth of Classical Guitarist John Feeley

John Feeley, classical guitarist, and a teacher and editor of guitar music, is born Ballinasloe, County Galway, on May 24, 1955.

Feeley starts playing guitar in popular music, and at age seventeen is recognised as one of Europe‘s best electric guitarists. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, with a first class degree in music, he moves to the United States to study with Oscar Ghiglia, Angel Romero, and David Russell, completing a master’s degree at Queens College, City University of New York. In the following years he teaches at Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee. He now teaches at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin. His past students include all current members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet, along with Redmond O’Toole, Michael O’Toole and Alec O’Leary, director of the Guitar Festival of Ireland. Composers Benjamin Dwyer, Ciarán Farrell, David Fennessy and David Flynn, all of whom have written music for Feeley, are also guitar students of his.

In 2006 Feeley completes a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy in Music [Performance]) at Maynooth University, which involves a major thesis in three volumes with the title Classical Guitar Music by Irish Composers: Performing Editions and Critical Commentary.

Feeley has appeared at such festivals as the Guitar Festival of Ireland, Bath International Music Festival, the Dundee International Guitar Festival, and the Wirral International Guitar Festival. He has won numerous awards including the Special Award for interpretation in the 1984 Mauro Giuliani competition, Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Contempo Quartet. He performs regularly in duet with the flautist William Dowdall.

Feeley is an enthusiastic champion of contemporary Irish music and in this capacity has commissioned works from many of Ireland’s leading composers including Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley, Jerome de Bromhead, Jane O’Leary, Brent Parker and Eric Sweeney. He also has a great interest in traditional Irish and Scottish music and has recorded with The Chieftains and published his own arrangements of traditional melodies.

Feeley has been described by The Washington Post as “Ireland’s leading classical guitarist” and by Michael Dervan in The Irish Times as “a trailblazer … when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing in Ireland.”


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The Battle of Ramillies

The Irish Brigade of France fights at the Battle of Ramillies in the War of the Spanish Succession on May 23, 1706. For one hundred years Irishmen are smuggled from Ireland to France, where their rights are stripped by foreign invaders to fill the ranks of the famous Irish Brigade. During those one hundred years they fight all over Europe, in North America, the Caribbean, and even India. They shed their blood freely on several hundred fields “from Dunkirk to Belgrade,” in the words of Thomas Davis.

For the Grand AllianceAustria, England, and the Dutch Republic – the Battle of Ramillies follows an indecisive campaign against the Bourbon armies of King Louis XIV of France in 1705. Although the Allies capture Barcelona that year, they are forced to abandon their campaign on the Moselle, stall in the Spanish Netherlands and suffer defeat in northern Italy. Yet despite his opponents’ setbacks Louis XIV wants peace, but on reasonable terms. Because of this, as well as to maintain their momentum, the French and their allies take the offensive in 1706.

The campaign begins well for Louis XIV’s generals. In Italy, Marshal of France Louis Joseph, Duke of Vendôme, defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Calcinato in April, while in Alsace Marshal Claude Louis Hector de Villars forces Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden, back across the Rhine. Encouraged by these early gains Louis XIV urges Marshal François de Neufville, Duke of Villeroy, to go over to the offensive in the Spanish Netherlands and, with victory, gain a ‘fair’ peace. Accordingly, the French Marshal sets off from Leuven at the head of 60,000 men and marches toward Tienen, as if to threaten Zoutleeuw. Also determined to fight a major engagement, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, commander-in-chief of Anglo-Dutch forces, assembles his army of some 62,000 men near Maastricht, and marches past Zoutleeuw. With both sides seeking battle, they soon encounter each other on the dry ground between the rivers Mehaigne and Gete, close to the small village of Ramillies, Belgium.

In less than four hours Marlborough’s Dutch, English, and Danish forces overwhelm Villeroi’s and Maximilian II Emanuel‘s Franco-Spanish-Bavarian army. The Duke’s subtle moves and changes in emphasis during the battle, something his opponents fail to realise until it is too late, catches the French in a tactical vice. With their foe broken and routed, the Allies are able to fully exploit their victory. Town after town falls, including Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp. By the end of the campaign Villeroi’s army has been driven from most of the Spanish Netherlands. With Prince Eugene of Savoy‘s subsequent success at the Siege of Turin in northern Italy, the Allies impose the greatest loss of territory and resources that Louis XIV would suffer during the war. Thus, the year 1706 proves, for the Allies, to be an annus mirabilis.

(Pictured: “The Battle of Ramillies between the French and the English, 23 May 1706” by Jan van Huchtenburgh, oil on canvas painted between 1706 and 1710)


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Birth of Composer Siobhán Cleary

Siobhán Cleary, composer, is born in Dublin on May 10, 1970. Her most successful compositions are her orchestral works Alchemy and Cokaygne and her choral piece Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett. Her opera Vampirella is first performed in Dublin in March 2017. She is a member of Aosdána.

Cleary starts to compose from an early age, often writing pieces while she is supposed to be practising at the piano. When she begins to study music at Maynooth University, she is initially inspired by Luciano Berio‘s Sinfonia, and soon afterwards by the works of the Irish composer Gerald Barry, the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen and the Hungarian György Ligeti. She continues her studies at Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin. In addition, she follows courses in composition with the Italian composer Franco Donatoni and the Dutchman Louis Andriessen and receives private tuition from the American Tom Johnson and the South African Kevin Volans. She also studies film scoring with the Italian composer Ennio Morricone and the American Don Brandon Ray.

Inspired by the alchemists’ Opus Alchymicum which describes how cheaper metals are transmuted into gold, Cleary’s orchestral work Alchemy (2001) is, like the stages in the Opus, presented in four parts: it evolves from the slow nigrendo, the moderate albedo, the strong citronatus, and the burning rubedo. The work is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in January 2002.

Cleary’s tone poem Cokaygne (2009), which, like Alchemy, is commissioned by RTÉ for the National Symphony Orchestra, is based on a poem and old sources which evoke a land of extreme luxury and contentment. The elaborately orchestrated piece is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in November 2009, Vladimir Altschuler conducting. It is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra once again in June 2016, this time under the baton of Alan Buribayev.

Cleary’s choral work Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett (2010), commissioned by the Cork International Choral Festival, is first performed in April 2011 by Chamber Choir Ireland directed by Paul Hillier. The work is based on a series of tongue twisters and other strange combinations of words popular in various European languages and dialects, moving from Italy, through Germany and Spain, finishing in Ireland. In 2013, it is performed twice by Chamber Choir Ireland in Dublin and Cork in connection with Ireland’s presidency of the European Union. The journalist and music critic Terry Blain comments on the choir’s “dazzingly virtuosic performance” in Belfast in 2013, qualifying the piece as “a tour de force of 21st century vocal chicanery, a clever and richly entertaining composition.” Theophilus Thistle is also performed the same year in the United States as part of the “Imagine Ireland” festival.

The chamber opera Vampirella with a libretto by Katy Hayes is first performed by students from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre in March 2017. Based on a short story by Angela Carter telling how a young English soldier is seduced by a vampire countess, it is directed by Conor Hanratty and conducted by Andrew Synnott. Michael Dervan of The Irish Times finds the electronic sounds in the score particularly effective, commenting, “Perhaps this is a case of a genuinely electronic opera trying to break out of a more conventional mold.”

In 1996, Cleary receives a young artists award from Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes, followed in 1997 by the first prize in the Arklow Music Festival Composers’ Competition. In 2008, she is invited to become a member of Aosdána, an Irish association of creative artists.