seamus dubhghaill

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

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Oscar Traynor Leads Anti-Treaty IRA Occupation of O’Connell Street

On June 29, 1922 during the Irish Civil War, Oscar Traynor leads Anti-Treaty members of the Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) 1st Dublin Brigade to occupy O’Connell Street in order to help the Four Courts garrison. His men also take up positions in York Street, South Circular Road, Capel Street, Parnell Square, and Dolphin’s Barn.

Traynor is an Irish politician and republican born into a strongly nationalist family in Dublin on March 21, 1886. He serves in a number of cabinet positions, most notably as the country’s longest-serving Minister for Defence. He is educated by the Christian Brothers in Dublin. In 1899 he is apprenticed to John Long, a famous wood-carver. As a young man he is a noted footballer and tours Europe as a goalkeeper with Belfast Celtic F.C. whom he plays with from 1910 to 1912.

Traynor joins the Irish Volunteers and takes part in the Easter Rising in 1916, following which he is interned in Wales. During the Irish War of Independence he is brigadier of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. He leads the attack on The Custom House in 1921 and an ambush on the West Kent Regiment at Claude Road, Drumcondra on June 16, 1921 when the Thompson submachine gun is fired for the first time in action. When the Irish Civil War breaks out in June 1922, Traynor takes the republican side.

The Dublin Brigade is split however, with many of its members following Michael Collins in taking the pro-Treaty side. On June 29, 1922, Traynor and his supporters occupy O’Connell Street in an attempt to help the republicans who have occupied the Four Courts but are under attack by Free State forces. Traynor and his men hold out for a week of street fighting before making their escape. He organises guerilla activity in south Dublin and County Wicklow, before being captured by Free State troops in September. He is then imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

On March 11, 1925 Traynor is elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin North constituency, though he does not take his seat due to the abstentionist policy of Sinn Féin. He is re-elected as one of eight members for Dublin North in the June 1927 general election but just one of six Sinn Féin TDs. Once again he does not take his seat. He does not contest the second general election called that year but declares his support for Fianna Fáil. He stands again in the 1932 general election and is elected as a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North.

In 1936 Traynor is first appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. In September 1939 he is appointed Minister for Defence and holds the portfolio until February 1948. In 1948 he becomes President of the Football Association of Ireland, a position he holds until his death. He serves as Minister for Defence in several Fianna Fáil governments and as Minister for Justice, where he is undermined by his junior minister, and later Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, before he retires in 1961.

Oscar Traynor dies on December 15, 1963, in Dublin at the age of seventy-seven. He has a road named in his memory on the Coolock to Santry stretch in North Dublin.

(Pictured: Oscar Traynor in Dublin in July 1922)

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Birth of James Gandon, Influential Irish Architect

james-gandonJames Gandon, possibly the most influential architect in Irish history, is born in New Bond Street, London, on February 20, 1743. His better known works include The Custom House, the Four Courts, King’s Inns in Dublin, and Emo Court in County Laois.

Gandon is the only son of Peter Gandon, a gunmaker, and Jane Burchall. He is educated at Shipley’s Drawing Academy where he studies the classics, mathematics, arts, and architecture. Upon leaving the drawing academy he is articled to study architecture in the office of Sir William Chambers. Chambers’s palladian and neoclassical concepts greatly influence the young Gandon.

In 1765, Gandon leaves William Chambers to begin practice on his own. His practice always remains small but is successful. His first commission is on Sir Samuel Hellier’s estate at The Wodehouse, near Wombourne. Around 1769 he enters an architectural competition to design the new Royal Exchange in Dublin. The plan submitted by Thomas Cooley is eventually chosen but Gandon’s design comes in second and brings him to the attention of the politicians who are overseeing the large-scale redevelopment of Dublin.

During the following years in England, Gandon is responsible for the design of the County Hall in Nottingham. Between 1769 and 1771, he collaborates with John Woolfe on two additional volumes of Vitruvius Britannicus, a book of plans and drawings of Palladian revival buildings by such architects as Inigo Jones and Colen Campbell. During his English career he is awarded the Gold medal for architecture by the Royal Academy, London in 1768.

In 1781, at the age of 38, Gandon accepts an invitation to Ireland from Lord Carlow and John Beresford, the Revenue Commissioner for Ireland, to supervise the construction of the new Custom House in Dublin. The original architect on that project, Thomas Cooley, had died and Gandon is chosen to assume complete control. The Irish people are so opposed to the Custom House and its associated taxes that Beresford has to smuggle Gandon into the country and keeps him hidden in his own home for the first three months. The project is eventually completed at a cost of £200,000, an enormous sum at the time.

This commission proves to be the turning point in Gandon’s career and Dublin is to become Gandon’s home for the remainder of his life. The newly formed Wide Streets Commission employs Gandon to design a new aristocratic enclave in the vicinity of Mountjoy Square and Gardiner Street. Gandon also designs Carlisle Bridge, now O’Connell Bridge, over the River Liffey to join the north and south areas of the city. In 1786, he is charged with completing the Four Courts in 1786, which is also originally a Thomas Cooley project.

The success of Gandon’s designs and commissions are not reflected in personal popularity as he attracts huge criticism from his enemies. The taxation symbolised by the Custom House is to taint the appreciation of his work throughout his lifetime. It is even claimed that Gandon designs buildings to boost his self-esteem.

In 1798, revolution breaks out on the streets of Ireland and Gandon, an unpopular figure, hurriedly flees to London. Upon returning to Dublin he finds a much changed city. James Gandon dies in 1823 at his home in Lucan, County Dublin, having spent forty-two years in the city. He is buried in the church-yard of Drumcondra Church.