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


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The Fall of Athlone

siege-of-athloneThe fall of Athlone occurs on June 30, 1691 during the Williamite War in Ireland. Despite the bravery of legendary Sergeant Custume and others, severely outnumbered, the Connacht side of the town falls. The remainder of the Irish garrison retreats to Limerick.

The first assault on Athlone comes in 1690 after the defeat of the Irish at the Battle of the Boyne. General Douglas, leading a substantial force of possibly ten thousand consisting mostly of Ulster regiments, is the Williamite commander. When he arrives at Athlone he is confident that he will quickly conquer the town for King William III. However, he had not reckoned on the spirited defence of Athlone by Colonel Richard Grace. Grace, who is at that time over seventy years of age and a veteran of the Irish Confederate Wars and Governor of Athlone, refuses to surrender. After a week the Williamite army retreats.

In 1691, determined to capture Athlone, the Williamites return with their full army of almost 25,000 men. The army is under the command of a Dutch general, Goderd de Ginkell. The Jacobite forces are under the command of a French general, the Marquis de St. Ruth. The Williamites breach the town wall and capture the Leinster town. The Jacobites, in a desperate attempt to keep the enemy at bay, break down several arches of the bridge and the Williamites quickly attempt to repair them. Sergeant Custume leads his men onto the bridge to dislodge the Williamite repair work. They succeed in doing so before meeting their death at the hands of enemy fire.

Ironically the capture of Athlone comes when the Williamites discover the ford that gave Athlone its name and in a surprise attack dislodge the Jacobites and take the castle by storm resulting in wholesale carnage and slaughter. For his services to King William III, but certainly not to Athlone, Ginkle is given the title Earl of Athlone. The bravery of Sergeant Custume has not been forgotten as the military barracks in Athlone is called Custume Barracks in his honour, the only barracks in Ireland named after a non-commissioned officer. A street adjoining the town bridge is named Custume Place.

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Founding of the Irish Socialist Republican Party

james-connollyThe Irish Socialist Republican Party, a small, but pivotal Irish political party, is founded on May 29, 1896 by James Connolly. Its aim is to establish an Irish workers’ republic. The party splits in 1904 following months of internal political rows.

The party is small throughout its existence. According to the ISRP historian David Lynch, the party never has more than 80 members. Upon its founding one journalist comments that the party has more syllables than members. Nevertheless, the ISRP is regarded by many Irish historians as a party of seminal importance in the early history of Irish socialism and republicanism. It is often described as the first socialist and republican party in Ireland, and the first organisation to espouse the ideology of socialist republicanism on the island. During its lifespan it only has one really active branch, the Dublin branch. There are several attempts to create branches in Cork, Belfast, Limerick, Naas, and even in northern England but they never come to much. The party establishes links with feminist and revolutionary Maud Gonne who approves of the party.

The party produces the first regular socialist paper in Ireland, the Workers’ Republic, runs candidates in local elections, represents Ireland at the Second International, and agitates over issues such as the Boer War and the commemorations of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Politically the ISRP is before its time, putting the call for an independent “Republic” at the centre of its propaganda before Sinn Féin or other political organizations.

A public meeting held by the party is described in Irish socialist playwright Sean O’Casey‘s autobiography Drums under the Window.

Connolly, who is the full-time paid organiser for the party, subsequently leaves Ireland for the United States in 1903 following internal conflict. In fact, it seems that a combination of the petty infighting and his own poverty that causes Connolly to abandon Ireland (he returns in 1910). Connolly clashes with the party’s other leading light, E. W. Stewart, over trade union and electoral strategy. A small number of members around Stewart establish an anti-Connolly micro organisation called the Irish Socialist Labour Party. In 1904, this merges with the remains of the ISRP to form the Socialist Party of Ireland.


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The Munitions Strike

dublin-dock-strike-1920In May 1920, East London dockers refuse to load the SS Jolly George, a ship intended to carry arms to be used against the new Bolshevik state. The Munitions Strike begins in Dublin on May 20, 1920 when dock workers follow suit and refuse to handle war material. They are soon joined by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

When news of the proposed radical action is brought to trade unionist William O’Brien’s desk on May 19, he informs Thomas Foran, General President of the union. The following day, the men standing around waiting to begin work are told that the work is not to start.

On hearing of the political action at the Dublin docks, a second ship was diverted to Dun Laoghaire. There, the military are on hand to unload its cargo, but when the cargo arrives at Westland Row station, workers there refuse to handle the goods. While the dockworkers are casual workers who can be reallocated elsewhere, the railwaymen are permanent employers and members of the separate National Union of Railwaymen.

In the following days, the action taken in Dublin and Dun Laoghaire is replicated elsewhere. To sections of the conservative press, the behaviour of dockers and railwaymen is scandalous. The ever reliable Punch illustrated news produces a sketch in a June 1920 edition showing an IRA gunman hiding behind a rural wall, joined by a railway worker, or “the blameless accomplice.”

The brave stand that began on the docks of Dublin spreads nationwide, largely thanks to the militancy of railway workers. From arms in storage, the strike is widened to include the carrying of men holding arms representing Crown Forces.

The munitions strike is an effective tactic, proven by the infuriated responses to it from the upper-echelons of the British military and political class. In November, the British Government begins closing rail lines, including the Limerick to Waterford and Limerick to Tralee lines,as well as trains into Galway, which instigate a fear among the public that the Irish railway system could be shut down in its entirety.

In the absence of sympathetic strike action in Britain, and with increasingly vicious physical assaults on railwaymen, the Irish leadership feels increasingly vulnerable in the dispute, which eventually winds down in December.


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Birth of Sir Thomas Myles, Home Ruler & Surgeon

thomas-mylesSir Thomas Myles, a prominent Irish Home Ruler and surgeon, is born in Limerick, County Limerick on April 20, 1857. He is involved in the importation of arms for the Irish Volunteers in 1914.

Myles is the third of eleven children born to John Myles (1807-1871), a wealthy corn merchant, and his second wife Prudence, daughter of William Bradshaw of Kylebeg, County Tipperary. The Myles family has been prominent merchants in and around Limerick city since Oliver Cromwell‘s time.

A prominent sportsman from an early age, Myles graduates in medicine at Trinity College Dublin in 1881. One of his duties in his first job as resident surgeon at Dr. Steevens’s Hospital is to render medical assistance to the victims of the Phoenix Park murders on May 6, 1882.

From 1900 until 1902, Myles is President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. After stepping down, he is appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1902 Coronation Honours list published on June 26, 1902, and knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, George Cadogan, 5th Earl Cadogan, at Dublin Castle on August 11, 1902. He also receives the honorary freedom of his native city.

Myles is also an active Home Ruler. He owns a yacht, the Chotah. In 1914, he is recruited by James Creed Meredith to help in the importation of guns for the Irish Volunteers with Erskine Childers, Edward Conor Marshall O’Brien and others. Childers lands his part of the consignment from the Asgard at Howth on July 26, 1914. Myles’s cargo is landed by the Chotah at Kilcoole, County Wicklow a week later. Meredith himself helps out aboard the Chotah during the operation. On August 1, 1914, 600 Mauser rifles and 20,000 rounds of ammunition are landed at the beach in Kilcoole. Once the arms are landed they are taken away by Volunteers on bicycles and in vehicles. The arms are taken to Patrick Pearse‘s St. Enda’s School, in Rathfarnham, County Dublin.

Myles is appointed temporary Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps on November 21, 1914 and also becomes Honorary Surgeon in Ireland to the King. He is appointed to be an Additional Member of the Military Division of the Third Class, or Companion, of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, for services rendered in connection with the war, the appointment to date from January 1, 1917.

Sir Thomas Myles dies at the St. Lawrence’s Hospital in Dublin on July 14, 1937 and is buried at Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin. Every year at the University of Limerick, the Sir Thomas Myles lecture is delivered as part of the Sylvester O’Halloran Surgical Meeting in honour of this remarkable surgeon and son of Limerick.


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Death of Landscape Painter T.P. Flanagan

t-p-flanaganTerence Philip “T.P.” Flanagan, one of the finest landscape painters of his generation, passes away in Belfast on February 23, 2011 at the age of eighty. For more than 60 years he shapes the face of landscape painting in Northern Ireland and is known internationally for his rural scenes of his native County Fermanagh and County Sligo. With his stunning watercolours and intricate brush strokes, he is described as one of the most successful artists of his generation. Poet Seamus Heaney, who dedicates his 1969 poem Bogland to Flanagan, pays tribute saying “he was a teacher and a friend whose work held a deep personal significance.”

Flanagan is born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh in 1929. When he is in his late teens, he learns the art of watercolour painting from the famous local portraitist and landscape artist Kathleen Bridle. Later, he paints her portrait, which now hangs in the Ulster Museum, and interviews her in a film of her life and art, which is produced shortly before her death in 1989.

After his time with Bridle, Flanagan attends Belfast College of Art from 1949-1953. The following year he joins the teaching staff at St. Mary’s College of Education, where he remains for 28 years, eventually becoming Head of the Art Department.

Flanagan spends the majority of his painting career in Ireland, but his landscapes have received wide attention and his work has been recognised both in Ireland and abroad. His first solo exhibition is held at the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), Belfast in 1961. He also shows regularly at the Hendriks Gallery in Dublin and at the Tom Caldwell Gallery in Belfast during the 1970s and 1980s. He participates in many group exhibitions, including “Four Ulster Painters” at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol (1965), “Two Irish Painters” (with Colin Middleton) at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, (1968) and is represented in “The Gordon Lambert Collection Exhibitions” held at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (1972) and the Ulster Museum (1976). In addition, he exhibits at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin and at the Royal Ulster Academy Of Arts (RUA) in Belfast.

Abroad, Flanagan’s works are exhibited at the Armstrong Gallery, New York (1986) and the Concept Gallery, Pittsburgh. A retrospective of his painting from the period 1967-1977 is held at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1977. In 1995, the Ulster Museum stages a major retrospective of his paintings (1945-1995). Other retrospectives are held at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Stadsmusueum, Gothenberg, Sweden. His paintings are also included in the show “A Century of Irish Painting” organized by the Hugh Lane Gallery which tours Japanese museums in 1995.

As an artist, Flanagan works in oils as well as his preferred watercolours, although by rapid application of the paint with minimal overworking, even his oils manage to retain the luminous colouring of the watercolourist. He specializes in landscape painting within his native County Fermanagh and the adjoining County Sligo, his methods being ideally suited to capturing the soft atmospheric light of Ireland’s northwest.

Flanagan is elected associate of the RUA in 1960, a full member in 1964, and President 1978-82. During his long career, he receives numerous commissions and other awards for his works, which are represented in the collections of The Arts Councils of Ireland & Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, and the National Self-Portrait Collection, Limerick.

Flanagan dies suddenly on February 23, 2011. His funeral takes place at St. Brigid’s Church in south Belfast and is buried at St. Michaels’ Church in Enniskillen.

The auction record for a work by T.P. Flanagan is set in 2009, when his landscape painting, entitled Castlecoole From Lough Coole, is sold at Christie’s, London, for £20,000.

(From Encyclopedia of Visual Artists In Ireland, visual-arts-cork.com)


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Birth of Edmund Ignatius Hogan, Jesuit Scholar

edmund-ignatius-hoganJesuit scholar Edmund Ignatius Hogan S.J. is born in Cork, County Cork on January 25, 1831.

Hogan joins the Society of Jesus and studies for the priesthood in Belgium and France. He returns to Ireland where he teaches German for a year at Clongowes Wood College and then languages and music in the Sacred Heart College, Limerick.

After extensive research in Rome Hogan publishes a history of the Jesuits in Ireland and a life of Saint Patrick. He lectures on Irish language and history at University College Dublin and is Todd Professor (Celtic) at the Royal Irish Academy.

Hogan’s works include Distinguished Irishmen of the 16th Century (1894), the Irish Phrase Book (1899) and Onomasticon Goedelicum: An Index to Irish Names of Places and Tribes (1910), a standard reference based on the research of John O’Donovan, The Irish Wolfhound, A Description of Ireland in 1598 and Chronological list of the Irish members of the Society of Jesus, 1550-1814. He also contributes to the editing and compilation of other works in his field.

Edmund Ignatius Hogan dies on November 26, 1917.


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Burning of the Sligo Railway Station

sligo-railway-stationForty Republicans burn the railway station in Sligo, County Sligo on January 11, 1923 during the Irish Civil War, destroying it and badly damaging seven engines and forty carriages. Seven engines are sent down the line to the quay and one crashes through a concrete wall into the harbour.

The Great Southern and Western Railway Company releases a report detailing the damage Anti-Treaty forces have caused to their property over the previous six months – 375 lines damaged, 42 engines derailed, 51 over-bridges and 207 under-bridges destroyed, 83 signal cabins, and 13 other buildings destroyed. In the same month, Republicans destroy the railway stations at Ballybunion and Listowel.

The Sligo station opens on December 3, 1862 when Sligo acquires rail links to Dublin. The Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway link to Enniskillen to the north in 1881. A link to Limerick and the south follows in 1895. The line to Enniskillen closes in 1957 and passenger services to Limerick close in 1963. For many years CIÉ keeps the latter line open for freight traffic, and although it is now disused, it forms part of the Western Rail Corridor redevelopment project.

In 1966 Sligo railway station is renamed Sligo Mac Diarmada Station after Irish rebel Seán Mac Diarmada from County Leitrim.

Today, Sligo Mac Diarmada station is a mainline railway station which serves the town of Sligo. It is a terminal station, with two platforms. There is a passing loop at the approach to the station. Iarnród Éireann, Ireland’s national railway operator, runs inter-city rail services between Sligo and Dublin on the Dublin-Sligo railway line.