A major at the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, Hickie serves on the staff of Lieutenant-Colonel P. W. J. Le Gallais, commanding officer of the mounted infantry. On November 6, 1900, he is involved in an attempt to capture General Christiaan De Wet at the Battle of Bothaville, when a force led by Le Gallais and Lieutenant-Colonel Wally Ross storm De Wet’s camp. De Wet escapes, while a rearguard of 100 men engage the British force. In a fierce fight Le Gallais is killed and Wally Ross is badly wounded. Hickie decides to charge the Boer position and leads his small force forward just as reinforcements under Major-General C. E. Knox arrive. The Boers immediately surrender and some are found with explosive bullets. He wants to execute them immediately but Knox insists that they be tried. Exasperated with the whole affair, Hickie gives a highly critical interview after the action which is later published in The TimesHistory of the War in South Africa (7 vols, 1900–09), edited by Leo Amery.
Hickie is professional, politically adept, and popular with his men, and under his leadership the 16th is renowned for its aggressive fighting spirit. He commands the division during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and, while proud of his men’s success in capturing Guillemont and Ginchy (September 1916), is appalled by their losses. When the division is ordered to capture Messines (now Mesen) in June 1917, he gives Major Willie Redmond permission to advance as far as the first objective and, following Redmond’s death, reproaches himself bitterly. After this attack the division is transferred to the fifth army and provides assault troops for future attacks. During the Third Battle of Ypres, and especially during the attack on Langemarck in August 1917, the division suffers horrendous casualties, losing 221 officers and 4,064 men. Among the casualties is Fr. Willie Doyle, who Hickie unsuccessfully recommends for a Victoria Cross. The division’s losses at Langemarck are highlighted by Irish MPs in the House of Commons, and Hickie’s handling of the attack is criticised. By this time, nationalist disillusionment with the war means that few Irish replacements are available, and Hickie is forced to accept increasing numbers of non-Irish conscripts into the division. Worn down by years of command, his health finally breaks and, in February 1918, he is sent home on sick leave, being replaced by Major-General Sir Richard Amyatt Hull.
In 1918, Hickie is created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and is also awarded the French Croix de Guerre. During the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), he is critical of the methods used by Crown forces, denouncing in particular the indiscipline of the Black and Tans. In 1921 he retires from the army and becomes a prominent figure in the Royal British Legion in Ireland, tirelessly campaigning on behalf of ex-servicemen. In the 1920s he is involved with the Irish battlefield memorial committee, which erects memorial crosses at Wytschaete, Guillemont, and Salonika, commemorating the 10th and 16th divisions. He later serves as a senator of the Irish Free State (1925–36). Retiring from public life in 1936 to his residence at Terryglass, County Tipperary, he devotes his last years to gardening and reading.
Hickie dies on November 3, 1950, in Dublin, and is buried at Terryglass. He marries a daughter of the novelist Rev. J. O. Hannay, who predeceases him. There is a small collection of his papers in the National Library of Ireland (NLI).
(From: “Hickie, Sir William Bernard” by David Murphy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)
Archer is the eldest son of Rev. Richard Archer (1796? – 1849), perpetual curate of Maghera hamlet, County Down, and his wife, Jane Matilda (née Campbell). Nothing is known of his education, though his two younger brothers attend Trinity College Dublin (TCD). At some point, he apparently appears to become estranged from his family.
Archer moves to Dublin around 1846, where for many years he pursues a business career. He achieves fame as a naturalist, and in 1849, is one of the twelve founder members of the Dublin Microscopical Club, of which he is the secretary and moving spirit for many years. Between 1858 and 1885 he writes over 230 scientific papers on Irish fauna and flora in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science, the vast majority of which are short notes on desmids collected in Ireland. Sometimes the same article is published in two or more journals.
Archer begins a new career when he becomes librarian of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in January 1877. The bulk of the society’s library is being taken over by the state to form the National Library of Ireland. He becomes the chief librarian of the new institution and has the task of overseeing the changes. Most of the ideas put forward in his pamphlet, Suggestions as to public library buildings . . . with especial reference to the National Library of Ireland (Dublin, 1881), are used by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane in his design for its new building, which opens in August 1890. His adoption of the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the inception of a dictionary catalogue, both novel in the day, are to prove of lasting value to users of the library.
In poor health, Archer retires in 1895. He dies, unmarried, at his home, 52 Mount Street Lower, Dublin, on August 14, 1897. He is a shy, modest man, who declines professorships at the Royal College of Science for Ireland and at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), and who is nominated for membership of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and the Royal Society without his knowledge.
References to Stephens’s early life, according to one of his biographers, Desmond Ryan, are obscure and limited to Stephens’s own vague autobiographical recollections. He is born at Lilac Cottage, Blackmill Street, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, on January 26, 1825 and spends his childhood there. No birth records have ever been located, but a baptismal record from St. Mary’s Parish is dated July 29, 1825. There is reason to believe that he is born out of wedlock in late July 1825. However, according to Stephens, his exact date of birth is January 26. He is educated at St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, for at least one quarter in 1838. He is later apprenticed to a civil engineer, and from 1844 onwards works for the Waterford–Limerick Railway Company.
When the Young Irelanders split from Daniel O’Connell‘s Repeal Association and found the Irish Confederation in January 1847, Stephens becomes involved in the activities of the Kilkenny Confederate clubs. After the government suspends habeas corpus and issues warrants of arrest against the Confederate leaders, William Smith O’Brien appears in Kilkenny on July 23, 1848, seeking support for a popular insurrection, and two days later Stephens joins him. For four days he follows O’Brien’s wanderings and takes part in all his encounters with government forces, including the affray at the home of Widow McCormack on July 29 when O’Brien’s followers besiege a party of policemen in a house near Ballingarry, County Tipperary. They are finally dispersed by gunfire and the arrival of reinforcements, thus ending O’Brien’s revolutionary efforts. Stephens reportedly receives two bullet wounds, but manages to hide and evade arrest.
Three days later, Stephens proceeds to Ballyneale, near Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, in search of John O’Mahony. He accompanies O’Mahony to meet Michael Doheny, and for six weeks Stephens and Doheny avoid arrest by roaming around the south of Ireland, an adventure that Doheny records in The Felon’s Track (1849). On September 12, Stephens is smuggled out of Ireland by the family of the Skibbereen attorney McCarthy Downing, and four days later manages to reach Paris. O’Mahony and Doheny join him shortly afterwards, although Doheny soon emigrates to the United States.
From their exile Stephens and O’Mahony watch the failure of the ’49 conspiracy of James Fintan Lalor and Philip Gray, and witness the barricades against Louis Napoleon’s coup d’état in 1851. Stephens later claims to have joined the French republican insurgents, but according to O’Mahony this is merely a frustrated intention. Equally without foundation is the rumour that Stephens and O’Mahony at this time join a republican secret society as a training ground for their future Irish enterprise.
Stephens remains in Paris from 1848 to 1855, supporting himself by teaching English. He attends Sorbonne University and has plans to obtain a professorship that never materialises. Towards the close of his exile, he is employed by the Le Moniteur Universel, for which he allegedly translates Charles Dickens‘s Martin Chuzzlewit. Late in 1855 he returns to Ireland and undertakes a series of tours throughout the island. He later magnifies the venture as “the 3,000 miles’ walk” and reformulates it as an attempt to measure the country’s nationalist temperature. However, his primary intention at the time is to collect information for a book he is planning to write. The following autumn he returns to Dublin, becomes tutor of French to the children of several well-to-do families including that of the Young Irelander John Blake Dillon, and joins the nationalist circle of Thomas Clarke Luby, Philip Gray, and other veterans of the ’49 conspiracy.
When Gray dies in January 1857, Stephens asks O’Mahony, then living in New York, to collect funds for a funeral monument. This evidence of nationalist activity, coupled with the prospect of “England’s difficulty” awakened by the recent Crimean War and the insurrection in India, give life to O’Mahony’s and Doheny’s Emmet Monument Association (EMA). That autumn the EMA sends an envoy to Ireland with a proposal for Stephens to prepare the country for the arrival of a military expedition. Stephens offers to organise 10,000 men in three months, provided he is given at least £80 a month and absolute authority over the enterprise. On March 17, 1858, Saint Patrick’s Day, he receives the first installment and his appointment as “chief executive” of the Irish movement. The same day he and his associates take an oath to make Ireland “an independent democratic republic.” The nameless secret society thereby inaugurated eventually becomes known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). It is organised in cells, each led by a “centre” with Stephens being known as the “head centre.”
The EMA’s failure to send a second installment prompts Stephens to travel to New York in October 1858. While in America he attempts, and fails, to engage the support of the Young Irelanders John Mitchel and Thomas Francis Meagher, but succeeds in establishing a solid partnership with Irish nationalists based in New York. Late in 1858 the surviving members of the EMA reorganise themselves into a modified replica of the IRB, and under John O’Mahony’s inspiration adopt the name of the Fenian Brotherhood (FB). Eventually the label “Fenian” comes to be applied to the members of both organisations. As part of the new arrangements, Stephens obtains a new appointment as head of the movement “at home and abroad.”
Despite Stephens’s success, his labours in America and the secrecy of his own activities in Ireland are almost spoiled in December by the arrest of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and other members of the Phoenix National and Literary Society of Skibbereen, which had been incorporated into the IRB the previous May. On his return from America in March 1859 Stephens takes refuge in Paris and delegates management of the organisation to Luby. He only returns to Dublin in April 1861 when O’Mahony, then on a tour of inspection, suggests establishing an executive council to share Stephens’s power. Stephens succeeds in frustrating this plan, but from the time of O’Mahony’s visit the tension between the two leaders never subsides.
In the autumn of 1861 Stephens takes lodgings on Charlemont Street at the house of John and Rossanna Hopper, owners of a small tailoring establishment, and soon falls in love with their daughter Jane, almost twenty years his junior. The two are married on January 24, 1864, at the church of SS Michael and John, Exchange Street. The marriage produces no children.
The first success for Stephens’s IRB comes on November 10, 1861, when the IRB-dominated National Brotherhood of Saint Patrick stages the funeral for the Young Irelander Terence MacManus after an intense tug-of-war with both the Catholic church and constitutional nationalism. Stephens plays a central role in promoting IRB control of the funeral arrangements and although the event lacks the mythical nationalist significance claimed by Fenian apologists, it serves to boost Fenian self-assertion and hasten the divorce between middle-class nationalist elites and a new militant republican working class which has different interests at stake in an independent Ireland.
Despite the McManus funeral success, the IRB continues to endure financial difficulties throughout 1862. In 1863, Stephens resolves to address these difficulties and consolidate the movement’s position by founding a newspaper. The Irish People is first issued on November 28, 1863. He contributes leading articles to its first three numbers, but finally abandons his literary efforts in favour of Luby, John O’Leary, and Charles J. Kickham, thereafter the paper’s leading writers and guiding spirits.
In the meantime, the relationship between Stephens and O’Mahony continues to deteriorate. In November 1863 O’Mahony has turned the tables and persuaded the FB to acknowledge Stephens merely as “its representative in Europe.” In March 1864 Stephens again travels to the United States in order to stimulate the flow of funds towards the IRB and regain some hold on the FB. As part of his new policies he makes the sensational announcement that 1865, at latest, is to be the movement’s “year of action.” After the end of the American Civil War in April 1865, Fenian activity increases spectacularly, and demobilised soldiers travel to Ireland. However, on September 15, 1865, the government takes action, suppresses The Irish People, and arrests most of Stephens’s closest collaborators, including Luby, O’Leary and O’Donovan Rossa. Stephens himself is arrested on November 11 but, in a daring operation that proves a propaganda coup for the Fenians, is rescued from Richmond Bridewell penitentiary thirteen days later and eventually makes his way to America via Britain and France. By the time he arrives in the United States, the FB has split into two “wings,” the partisans of John O’Mahony and those of William R. Roberts, the president of the Fenian “senate,” who advocate shifting military efforts towards invading Canada. The split ends Stephens’s already slender chances of launching a successful rising before the end of December, and he calls a postponement.
On February 17, 1866, the government suspends habeas corpus in Ireland and arrests multiply. Stephens braves the members’ impatience, calls a new postponement, and in May travels to New York in order to try and solve the American crisis in the IRB’s favour. He accepts O’Mahony’s resignation, takes control of his wing, and starts an intensive campaign of propaganda and fund-raising. Again, he proclaims 1866 as the “year of action,” but by December the movement is weaker than ever, and he tries to call a new postponement. This time his lieutenants, led by Col. Thomas J. Kelly, lose patience, depose him from leadership and prepare to launch the insurrection themselves. The result is the ill-fated Fenian Rising of March 5-6, 1867.
After his deposition, Stephens spends most of his remaining years in France, in dire financial distress, but still hoping against hope to regain his position at the head of the movement. However, the IRB is now under the control of the anti-Stephens supreme council, and the FB is quickly losing its influence to the newly emerged Clan na Gael. His reputation, always tainted by his controversial personality and autocratic management, had been ruined forever by the 1866 events and his repeated failure to order the rising. With the exception of a small core of diehard partisans, the majority of his former associates and followers have grown resentful of his leadership and are vehemently opposed to his return.
Apart from occasional English tutoring and a ruinous venture as a wine merchant that takes him to the United States from 1871 to 1874, Stephens’s post-Fenian years are mainly spent in poverty while awaiting the next opportunity to resume leadership of the IRB. In 1880, after a last unsuccessful trip to the United States and a crushing defeat by John Devoy and Clan na Gael, he gives up hope, returns to Paris, and settles down to earn a living as an occasional newspaper contributor. In 1885 he is expelled from France under the unfounded suspicion of involvement in dynamiting activities with his cousins Joseph and Patrick Casey and the journalist Eugene Davis. He then takes up residence in Brussels but is able to return to Paris two years later. Finally, through Charles Stewart Parnell‘s intervention in 1891, he is allowed to return to Ireland. He moves into a cottage in Sutton, near Howth, and settles into retirement. After his wife’s death in 1895 he moves to the house of his in-laws in Blackrock, County Dublin, where he dies on March 29, 1901. Two days later he is given a solemn nationalist funeral and is interred in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Stephens’s controversial historical reputation never accords him a comfortable place in the post-independence nationalist pantheon. His egotism and defects as a leader overshadow the credit he is given as a founder and organiser. Yet his notorious personality is arguably the key to his success and ultimate historical significance. His obsessive self-confidence and single-mindedness turn the EMA’s half-matured proposal into a solid partnership that inaugurates an enduring pattern of American involvement in Irish nationalism. At the same time, by impressing the IRB with his own assertiveness he enables it to break the tacit monopoly of the middle classes on Irish political life. By the time of his downfall, Irish republicanism has acquired a definite shape and a marginal but stable position in the Irish political scene.
Stephens’s name has been incorporated into Kilkenny local heritage in institutions as diverse as a swimming pool, a military barracks, and a hurling team. In 1967 a plaque is unveiled at the site of his childhood home on Blackmill Street. The main collections of his documents are the James Stephens papers, MSS 10491–2, in the National Library of Ireland, and the Michael Davitt papers addenda, MS 9659d, in Trinity College Dublin.
(From: “Stephens, James” by Marta Ramón, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, last revised March 2021)
Geraldine Dorothy Cummins, spiritualist medium, novelist and playwright, is born in Cork, County Cork, on January 24, 1890. She began her career as a creative writer, but increasingly concentrates on mediumship and “channelled” writings, mostly about the lives of Jesus and Saint Paul, though she also publishes on a range of other topics. Her novels and plays typically document Irish life in a naturalist manner, often exploring the pathos of everyday life.
Cummins is the daughter of the physician Ashley Cummins, professor of medicine at the National University of Ireland and sister to Mary Hearn and Iris Cummins. In her youth she is an athlete, becoming a member of the Irish Women’s International Hockey Team. She is also active as a suffragette. Her desire to follow her father in a medical career is vetoed by her mother, so she begins a literary career as a journalist and creative writer. From 1913 to 1917 she writes three plays for the Abbey Theatre in collaboration with Suzanne R. Day, the most successful of which is the comedy Fox and Geese (1917). She publishes the novel The Land they Loved in 1919, a naturalistic study of working class Irish life.
As she concentrates on mediumship, Cummins’s literary work tails off. However, she continues to publish creative literature in her later years. Her solo-written play, Till Yesterday Comes Again, is produced by the Chanticleer Theatre, London, in 1938. She also publishes another novel, Fires of Beltane (1936) and a short-story collection Variety Show (1959).
Literary critic Alexander G. Gonzalez says that Cummins work tries to encompass the full range of Irish social life, from the aristocracy to the lower classes. In this respect she is influenced by Somerville and Ross. Gonzalez considers her short story The Tragedy of Eight Pence to be the “finest” of her writings, the tale of a “happily married woman trying to shield her ill husband from the knowledge that his death will leave her penniless.”
Cummins begins to work as a medium following prompting from Hester Dowden and E. B. Gibbes. She receives alleged messages from her spirit-guide “Astor” and is an exponent of automatic writing. Her books are based on these communications. In 1928 she publishes The Scripts of Cleophas, which provides channelled material on early Christian history complementing Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s writings, supposed to have been communicated by the spirit of Cleophas, one of Paul’s followers. This is later supplemented by Paul in Athens (1930) and The Great Days of Ephesus (1933).
Cummins’s next work describes human progress through spiritual enlightenment. The Road to Immortality (1932) provides a glowing vision of the afterlife. Its contents are purportedly communicated from the “other side” by the psychologist and psychic researcher Frederic W. H. Myers. Unseen Adventures (1951) is a spiritual autobiography. She also publishes several books of spiritually-derived knowledge about details of the life of Jesus.
During World War II Cummins allegedly works as a British agent, using her personal contacts to identify pro-Nazi factions within the Irish Republican movement. She also employs her psychic activities to support the Allied cause, sending channelled messages from sympathetic spirits to Allied leaders to support the war effort. This includes information from Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur Balfour and Sara Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s mother.
In the 1940s and 50s Cummins works with psychiatrists to develop a model for using spiritualism to treat mental illness, ideas she explores in Perceptive Healing (1945) and Healing the Mind (1957). She collaborates with a psychiatrist who uses the pseudonym R. Connell on both books. Their method is for her to “read” an object associated with the patient and thus identify either childhood traumas or experiences of ancestors which have created the problem. This includes treating a patient who is concerned about his homosexual desires by discovering that this derives from the fact that his Huguenot ancestors were humiliated by Catholics in the 18th century.
Cummins’s biography of writer and spiritualist Edith Somerville is published in 1952. She also writes The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955) which offers her psychic insights into the disappearance of the explorer Percy Fawcett in Brazil in 1925. She claims she had received psychic messages from Fawcett in 1936. He was still alive at that time, informing her that he had found relics of Atlantis in the jungle, but was ill. In 1948 she has a message from Fawcett’s spirit reporting his death. Her last book is an account of her conversations with the spirit of Winifred Coombe Tennant, Swan on a Black Sea; a Study in Automatic Writing; the Cummins-Willett Scripts (1965).
The automatic writing and alleged channeled material from Cummins have been examined and have been described by some psychical researchers to be the product of her own subconscious. For example, Harry Price, who studies various mental mediums including Cummins, writes that “there is no question that most of the automatic writing which has been published is the product of the subconscious.” Paranormal researcher Hilary Evans notes that unlike most spiritualists, Cummins does not accept the phenomena at face value and questions the source of the material.
According to the psychical researcher Eric Dingwall information published in Cummins’ scripts allegedly from Winifred Coombe Tennant are discovered to be erroneous. Biographer Rodger Anderson writes that although spiritualists consider Cummins completely honest “some suspected that she occasionally augmented her store of knowledge about deceased persons by normal means if by doing so she could bring comfort to the bereaved.”
Cummins’ book The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955), contains her automatist scripts allegedly from the spirit of Colonel Fawcett. Spiritualists claim the scripts are evidence for survival. However, the psychical researcher Simeon Edmunds notes that before his disappearance Fawcett had written articles for The Occult Review. Cummins also contributes articles to the same review and Edmunds suggests it is likely she had read the work of Fawcett. Edmunds concludes the scripts are a case of subliminal memory and unconscious dramatization.
Other researchers such as Mary Rose Barrington have suspected fraud as Cummins had long standing connections with friends and families of the deceased that she claimed to have contacted and could have easily obtained information by natural means. The classical scholar E. R. Dodds writes that Cummins worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and could have taken information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history. Her writings were heavily influenced by literature and religious texts. Dodds also studies her book Swan on a Black Sea which was supposed to be an account of spirit conversation but writes there is evidence suggestive of fraud as Cummins had received some of the information by natural means.
O’Donoghue is born in Rathmore, County Kerry, on July 22, 1894, the son of farmer Patrick O’Donoghue and Margaret Cronin. He moves to Cork in 1910, where he works as an apprentice in the drapery trade.
The 1916 Easter Rising is a watershed in O’Donoghue’s life. In December 1916, he joins the Cork branch of the Irish Volunteers. In early 1917, he is elected unanimously First Lieutenant of the Cyclist Company and as a result devotes all his spare time to Volunteer work. He begins writing weekly for two years for TheIrish World newspaper. By May 1917, he is sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in October, Tomás Mac Curtain appoints him head of communications of the Cork Brigade. He replaces Pat Higgins as Brigade Adjutant in February 1917. He is a key organiser in the sensational jailbreak of Captain Donnchadh Mac Niallghuis on Armistice Day 1918 and takes personal responsibility for his protection. Michael Collins is the last officer from Volunteers General Headquarters to visit Cork shortly after Christmas 1919, until the truce in 1921.
O’Donoghue builds up an intelligence network and agents which includes his future wife, Josephine Marchment. She is head female clerk at the 6th Division Headquarters at Victoria Barracks, Cork, and passes on secret British Army correspondence to him. He recruits people to open letters, tap phone lines and intercept telegrams. The Irish Republican Army has 2,000 active members in Cork which are also used for intelligence gathering. By March 1920, after killing a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Inspector, he is on the run and serving full-time in the IRA. In November of that year, the Cork Brigade kills six British Army officers and executes five Cork civilians on suspicion of spying.
After two and a half years of fighting, a truce is agreed upon on July 11, 1921. When the Dáil approves the Anglo-Irish Treaty, in January 1922, the IRA splits into pro- and anti-Treaty camps. Over the coming months and after being elected onto the army’s executive as Adjutant General, O’Donoghue warns of the dangers of an Irish Civil War. In June 1922, he resigns from the army’s national executive and a month later, on July 3, 1922, from the army. Civil war does break out on June 28, 1922 between pro- and anti-Treaty factions, much to his dismay.
During the Irish Civil War, O’Donoghue remains neutral and tries to organise a truce to end the fighting. In December 1922, he forms a group called the “Neutral IRA”, along with Seán O’Hegarty, composed of pro-truce IRA men. He claims he has 20,000 members in this group. He campaigns for a month’s truce between the two sides, so that a political compromise could be reached. However, his efforts come to nothing and in March 1923, he winds up the “Neutral IRA,” judging that its objectives cannot be achieved. The Irish Civil War ends on May 24, 1923.
O’Donoghue serves as major in the Irish Army from 1939-1946. He forms a Supplementary Intelligence Service that is to remain behind enemy lines in the event of an invasion. He also teaches guerrilla warfare tactics to new army recruits.
O’Donoghue marries Josephine Brown (née Marchment) in April 1921 and they have four children. The couple also adopts two children from Josephine’s first marriage, including Reggie Brown, whom O’Donoghue kidnaps from his grandparents in Wales in 1920. He becomes a rate collector and remains outside politics.
In later years O’Donoghue becomes a respected historian. While in the army he edits An Cosantóir, the Irish Army’s magazine. He convinces Éamon de Valera to establish the Bureau of Military History to record personal accounts from the Irish War of Independence. He is a recording officer until 1948. His most famous work is his biography on Liam Lynch, entitled No Other Law.
O’Donoghue dies on December 18, 1967, and Tom Barry gives the graveside oration. His papers are in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and his statement to the Bureau of Military History is in the Military Archives.
Ledwidge starts writing at an early age, and is first published in a local newspaper at the age of fourteen. Finding work as a labourer and miner, he is also a trade union activist and a keen patriot and nationalist, associated with Sinn Féin. He becomes friendly with a local landowner, the writer Lord Dunsany, who gives him a workspace in the library of Dunsany Castle and introduces him to literary figures including William Butler Yeats and Katharine Tynan, with whom he has a long-term correspondence. He is elected to a local authority post and helps organise the local branch of the Irish Volunteers, while Dunsany edits and helps him secure publication for a first volume of his poetry.
Having sided with the faction of the Irish Volunteers which oppose participation in the war, he enlists in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914, and continues to write poetry on assignment, sending work to Lord Dunsany and to family and other friends. The poems he writes on active service reveal his pride at being a soldier, as he believes, in the service of Ireland. He often wonders whether he would find a soldier’s death.
According to Irish author and lecturer Alice Curtayne, “Ledwidge and his comrades had been toiling since the early morning at road-making. The army’s first need was men; their second, guns; their third roads. These latter consisted mainly of heavy beech planks bolted together, which could be rapidly laid down. No advance could be supported in that sodden land without a sufficiency of these communications tracks, six or seven feet wide. Supplies were conveyed by pack mules over the wooden paths. Survivors concur in placing the road work done by B Company that day one mile northeast of Hellfire Corner, so called because it was very exposed to German shelling. There was a violent rainstorm in the afternoon, shrouding the region in a gray monochrome. Sullenly, the enemy’s long-range guns continued to fling their shells far behind the lines. Road-work could not be suspended, however, as the tracks were in use as fast as they were laid down. Tea was issued to the men and, drenched to the skin, they stopped to swallow it. A shell exploded beside Ledwidge and he was instantly killed.”
A Roman Catholicmilitary chaplain, Father Devas, is the first on the scene. That night, Father Devas writes in his diary, “Crowds at Holy Communion. Arranged for service but washed out by rain and fatigues. Walk in rain with dogs. Ledwidge killed, blown to bits; at Confession yesterday and Mass and Holy Communion this morning. R.I.P.”
Dunsany arranges for the publication of more of Ledwidge’s poems, and a collected edition in 1919. Further poems, from the archives at Dunsany Castle and some material held by family, are later published by Ledwdige’s biographer, Alice Curtayne, and by one of the Ledwidge memorial societies. Ledwidge is selected as one of twelve prominent war poets for the exhibition Anthem for Doomed Youth at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2002, and memorialised at an event in Inchicore, Dublin, in 2017, with his work set to music by Anúna. A museum of his life and work is opened in his birthplace cottage in 1982. Some of his manuscripts are held in the National Library of Ireland and more in the archives of Dunsany Castle.
The letter is written after Collins returns to Dublin from a meeting in London with Churchill and Craig. He states in the letter that Craig’s stance on partition is seen as “an unreasonable one and not ours.”
“All the British statesmen are agreed that it was most disastrous on Craig’s part to talk about agreeing to nothing less than the six county area,” Collins writes.
Collins expresses his belief that ties would increase between leaders in the north and south, leading to a united Ireland in the long term. He tells Walsh that he is “no lover of partition, no matter what form it appears,” and that any form of partition is “distasteful” to him. “It would be far better to fix our minds for a time on a united Ireland, for this course will not leave minorities which would be impossible to govern,” he writes. He also says he hopes that one day a multi-denominational party might be formed in the north east, developing links with the Free State and destabilising the northern administration.
Gill is a friend and political ally of Charles Stewart Parnell. After the death of Parnell he remains with the Irish Parliamentary Party. He works with Horace Plunkett in developing the Irish co-operative movement. He is member and honorary secretary to the 1895 Recess Committee which leads to the formation of both the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (DATI), forerunner of the Irish Department of Agriculture, and the Vocational Education Committee (VEC). His key work for the Recess Committee is research into the state aid to agriculture in France and Denmark. In February 1900, he is appointed Secretary of the new Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland. In 1907, he is appointed Chairman of the Departmental Committee on Irish Forestry. He also serves on a number of governmental committees concerning agriculture and agricultural production. He is President of the Irish Technical Instruction Association from 1925 to 1929.
A raconteur with, in the words of R. A. Anderson, ‘a queer charm about him,’ Gill moves in Dublin literary circles, and in his retirement he makes a translation of Louis Paul-Dubois’ Le drame irlandais et l’Irlande nouvelle (1927), published posthumously as The Irish struggle and its results (1934).
León Ó Broin, senior civil servant, historian, and author, is born Leo Byrne on November 10, 1902 at 21 Aungier Street, Dublin, the second of four sons of James P. Byrne, a potato factor’s bookkeeper, and Mary Byrne (née Killeen), daughter of a seaman who abandoned his family.
After early education in convent school, Ó Broin attends Synge Street CBS, where he is especially adept at languages. After working in several minor clerical employments, he becomes a clerk in the Kingsbridge headquarters of the Great Southern Railway. Joining a local Sinn Féin club, he canvasses for the party in the College Green ward during the 1918 Irish general election. Sent from an early age to Irish language classes by his father, he attends the Irish summer college in Spiddal, County Galway, and joins the Gaelic League, becoming by early 1921 secretary of central branch. He writes articles for the league’s successive weekly organs, each in its turn suppressed by the authorities. Despite regarding such writing as practice work within a language he is yet learning, he is selected best writer of Irish at the 1920 Dublin feis.
Called to the bar in 1924, Ó Broin enters the civil service. Assigned to the Department of Education (1925–27), he was involved in launching the Irish language publishing imprint An Gúm, intended to redress the paucity of reading material, apart from school texts, in the language. Transferred to the Department of Finance (1927), he serves as estimates officer and parliamentary clerk, and is assistant secretary of the economy committee established by the Cumann na nGaedheal government to make recommendations on reductions in current expenditure. Appointed private secretary to the Minister for Finance (1931–32), he serves both Ernest Blythe and the first Fianna Fáil minister, Seán MacEntee. Promoted to assistant principal (1932), and to principal officer (1939), he represents the department on the Irish Folklore Commission, and serves on the interdepartmental committee that, after the disastrous Kirkintilloch bothy fire in 1937, investigates seasonal migration to Scotland. During the emergency he is regional commissioner for Galway and Mayo (1940–45), one of eight such officers charged with organising contingency preparations for dealing with the likely collapse of central administration in the event of invasion by any of the wartime belligerents.
Transferred out of Finance, Ó Broin becomes assistant secretary (1945–48) and secretary (1948–67) of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, administering both the postal service and telecommunications. He works closely with Fianna Fáil minister Patrick Little to improve the range and quality of music offered by the broadcasting service, playing a large part in the decision to form and adequately staff a full Radio Éireann symphony orchestra. He represents Ireland in several post-war conferences in Europe and America that reorganise the international regulation of broadcasting activities. He is elected to the European Broadcasting Union‘s administrative council (1953). He establishes and serves on a departmental committee in 1953 that studies all facets of launching a television service.
A devout but liberal Catholic, Ó Broin is prominent for many years in the Legion of Mary, founded by his close friend and civil-service colleague Frank Duff. President of a legion presidium of writers, actors, and artists, he is first editor (1937–47) of the quarterly organ Maria Legionis. Sharing Duff’s ecumenism, he belongs to the Mercier Society, the Pillar of Fire Society, and Common Ground, groups organised by Duff in the early 1940s to facilitate discussion between Catholics and, respectively, protestants, Jews, and secular intellectuals. The first two are suspended amid disapproval by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.
On retirement from the civil service in 1967, Ó Broin concentrates on the parallel career of research and writing that he had cultivated over many years. Having begun writing articles and short stories in Irish from his earliest years in the Gaelic League, he publishes his first collection of short stories, Árus na ngábhad, in 1923. With the establishment of An Gúm, he publishes three more collections of original short stories and translations of such masters of the genre as Alexander Pushkin, Prosper Mérimée, Guy de Maupassant, and Jerome K. Jerome. He translates several popular modern novels, including Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Kidnapped and H. G. Wells‘s The War of the Worlds. Active as secretary, actor, and writer with the state-subsidised Gaelic Drama League (An Comhar Drámaíochta), which produces Irish language plays, he publishes many plays in Irish, both original and translated. His best-selling book in Irish is Miss Crookshank agus coirp eile (1951), about the mummified corpses in the vaults of St. Michan’s Church, Dublin.
Ó Broin writes prolifically on modern Irish history and biography. His Irish language biography of Charles Stewart Parnell (1937), the first full-scale study of its kind in Irish since the commencement of the language revival, is a landmark publication, praised for the quality of its prose by such critics as Frank O’Connor and Seán Ó Faoláin. His biography of Robert Emmet, published in Irish in 1954, and awarded the Douglas Hyde prize, pioneers the scholarly subversion of the romantic myth surrounding its subject, and includes consideration of the political and social context. The subjects of subsequent biographies include Richard Robert Madden, Charles Gavan Duffy, Joseph Brenan, Michael Collins, and Frank Duff.
Ó Broin takes a largely biographical approach to historical writing, researching neglected aspects of pivotal historical events, and basing his studies on previously unexploited primary sources, often the papers of a single individual, whose career serves as the linchpin of his narrative, filtering events through the perspective of that person. Another vein of his scholarship is his primary research into the history of Irish separatism, especially with sources in the Irish State Paper Office.
Ó Broin receives an honorary LL.D from the National University of Ireland (NUI) in 1967. Elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) in 1971, he is a council member (1974–76) and senior vice-president (1976–77), and chairs the group whose recommendations results in the academy’s establishment of the National Committee on International Affairs. He is president of the Irish Historical Society (1973–74), and a member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
In 1925 Ó Broin marries Cait Ní Raghallaigh, an office assistant reared in Baltinglass, County Wicklow, whom he met in the Gaelic League. They have two sons and three daughters. After residing in the south city suburbs, they move to Booterstown, County Dublin in the 1930s, and from there to the Stillorgan Road in the 1950s.
Ó Broin dies February 26, 1990 in Dublin, and is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery. His papers are in the National Library of Ireland (NLI). His eldest son, Eimear Ó Broin, is an accomplished musicologist and assistant conductor of the several Radio Éireann orchestras (1953–89).
(From: “Ó Broin, León” by Lawrence William White, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)
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