seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Battle of Connor

grave-of-king-edward-de-bruceThe Battle of Connor is fought on September 10, 1315, in the townland of Tannybrake just over a mile north of what is now the modern village of Connor, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is part of the Bruce campaign in Ireland.

Edward Bruce lands in Larne, in modern-day County Antrim, on May 26, 1315. In early June, Donall Ó Néill of Tyrone and some twelve fellow northern Kings and lords meet Bruce at Carrickfergus and swear fealty to him as King of Ireland. Bruce holds the town of Carrickfergus but is unable to take Carrickfergus Castle. His army continues to spread south, through the Moyry Pass to take Dundalk.

Outside the town of Dundalk, Bruce encounters an army led by John FitzThomas FitzGerald, 4th Lord of Offaly, his son-in-law Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick and Maurice FitzGerald, 4th Baron Desmond. The Scottish push them back towards Dundalk and on June 29 lay waste to the town and its inhabitants.

By July 22 Edmund Butler, the Justiciar in Dublin, assembles an army from Munster and Leinster to join Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, to fight Bruce. De Burgh refuses to let the government troops into Ulster, fearing widespread damage to his land. Bruce is able to exploit their dispute and defeat them separately.

Bruce slowly retreats north, drawing de Burgh in pursuit. Bruce and his O’Neill allies sack Coleraine, destroying the bridge over the River Bann to delay pursuit. Edward sends word to Fedlim Ó Conchobair that he will support his position as king in Connacht if he withdraws. He sends the same message to rival claimant Ruaidri mac Cathal Ua Conchobair. Cathal immediately returns home, raises a rebellion and declares himself king. De Burgh’s Connacht allies under Felim then follow as Felim leaves to defend his throne. Bruce’s force then crosses the River Bann in boats and attacks. The Earl of Ulster withdraws to Connor.

The armies meet in Connor on September 10, 1315. The superior force of Bruce and his Irish allies defeat the depleted Ulster forces. The capture of Connor permits Bruce to re-supply his army for the coming winter from the stores the Earl of Ulster had assembled at Connor. Earl’s cousin, William de Burgh, is captured, as well as, other lords and their heirs. Most of his army retreats to Carrickfergus Castle, which the pursuing Scots put under siege. The Earl of Ulster manages to return to Connacht.

The government forces under Butler do not engage Bruce, allowing him to consolidate his hold in Ulster. His occupation of Ulster encourages risings in Meath and Connacht, further weakening de Burgh. Despite this, and another Scottish/Irish victory at the Battle of Skerries, the campaign is to be defeated at the Battle of Faughart.

(Pictured: Grave of King Edward Bruce, Faughart, County Louth)

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The Second Battle of Athenry

athenry-castleThe Second Battle of Athenry takes place on August 10, 1316. The English Colonists defeat the Irish in a very bloody battle. This is one of the most decisive battles of the Bruce campaign in Ireland (1315-1318).

The numbers involved are unknown, and can only be estimated. The royal army is believed to have been as much as a few thousand, while that of Athenry is probably several hundred less. While it is doubtful that there are any more than seven thousand, the list of participants on the Irish side alone indicates that an overall figure of at least three to four thousand are involved. The English claim that they take some 1,100 heads from the Irish on that day.

Unlike the First Battle of Athenry in 1249, no account is given of the battle itself in any surviving account. Even the site of the battle itself is uncertain.

Fedlim Ó Conchobair, the King of Connacht, leads a coalition of the Gaels to stop the return of William Liath de Burgh, the Anglo-Irish Lord of Connacht. He has come back from Scotland to try and regain his lost lands in the western province. He gathers together a large and well equipped army from the colonists of Connacht and Meath. Rickard de Bermingham leads the English of Meath. Ó Conchobair also puts together a formidable army drawn from north Munster, south Connacht, and the kingdoms of Breifne and Meath.

Although details of the battle are very sketchy at best, the Irish certainly  meet with catastrophe. Fedlim Ó Conchobair and Tadhg Ó Cellaigh, King of Uí Maine, are among those who are killed along with numerous other kings and chieftains of the Gaels.

(Pictured: Athenry Castle)


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Birth of Thomas Patrick Ashe

thomas-patrick-asheThomas Patrick Ashe, a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers, is born in Lispole, County Kerry, on January 12, 1885. Ashe enters De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 and begins a teaching career as principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, County Dublin, in 1908.

Ashe plays a major part in the 1916 Easter Rising outside the capital city commanding the Fingal battalion of the Irish Volunteers. Ashe is commandant of the 5th battalion of the Dublin brigade, a force of 60–70 men engaging British forces around north County Dublin during the rising. They are armed only with a few rounds, about a dozen service rifles, a dozen Mausers, and a dozen Martini carbines. Some of Ashe’s men are armed only with a shotgun against the well-equipped army regulars.

Ashe’s battalion wins a major victory in Ashbourne, County Meath, where they engage a much larger force. They capture a significant quantity of arms and up to twenty Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) vehicles. Eleven RIC members, including County Inspector Alexander Gray, and two volunteers are killed during the 5-1/2 hour battle. Twenty-four hours after the rising collapses, Ashe’s battalion surrenders on the orders of Patrick Pearse. On May 8, 1916, Ashe and Éamon de Valera are court-martialled and sentenced to death. The sentences are commuted to penal servitude for life. Ashe is imprisoned in Lewes Prison in Lewes, East Sussex, England.

De Valera, Ashe, and Thomas Hunter lead a prisoner hunger strike on May 28, 1917. With accounts of prison mistreatment appearing in the Irish press and mounting protests in Ireland, Ashe and the remaining prisoners are freed on June 18, 1917 by David Lloyd George as part of a general amnesty.

Upon his release, Ashe returns to Ireland and begins a series of speaking engagements. In August 1917, Ashe is arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he makes in Ballinalee, County Longford, where Michael Collins is also speaking. He is detained at the Curragh but is then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. He is convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including Austin Stack, demand prisoner of war status. On September 20, 1917, Ashe again goes on hunger strike. He dies at the Mater Hospital on September 25, 1917, after being force fed by prison authorities. At the inquest into his death, the jury condemns the staff at the prison for the “inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct.” His body lies in state at Dublin City Hall, and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Ashe is a relative of Catherine Ashe, the paternal grandmother of American actor Gregory Peck, who emigrates to the United States in the 19th century. The Ashe Memorial Hall built in 1928, housing the Kerry County Museum, in Tralee is named after him while Nelson Street, also in Tralee, is renamed Ashe Street.