The outbreak of the United Irish rebellion in Leinster on May 23 had prompted calls from Ulster United Irishmen to take to the field in support of their southern comrades. However, the organisation in Ulster had been severely damaged in a brutal disarmament campaign the previous year, and the new leadership are less radical and are not willing take to the field without French assistance, which is expected daily.
After waiting for two weeks while the rebellion rages in the south, the grassroots United Irish membership in Antrim decides to hold a number of meetings independent of their leaders. The outcome is the election of Henry Joy McCracken as their adjutant general and the decision to rise immediately. McCracken, together with James Hope, quickly formulate a plan to attack and seize all government outposts in County Antrim and then for the main attack to fall on Antrim town. Then using artillery seized at Antrim, the rebels are to march on Belfast in conjunction with the United Irish rebels in County Down.
McCracken has high hopes that many members of the militia will desert and join him, as disaffection is believed to be widespread, evidenced by the execution of four of the Monaghan militia for treason in Belfast in May.
On 6 June, McCracken and James Hope issue a proclamation calling for the United army of Ulster to rise. The initial plan meets with success, as the towns of Larne, Ballymena, Portaferry and Randalstown are taken and the bridge at Toome damaged to prevent the government from rushing reinforcements into Antrim from west of the River Bann. The rebels then assemble at Donegore Hill in preparation for the march and attack on Antrim town, where an emergency meeting of the county’s magistrates called by the county governor, Lord O’Neill, is due to take place.
Although almost 10,000 rebels assemble at Donegore, many display reluctance for the coming fight and stay on the hill in reserve or desert later so that probably fewer than 4,000 actually take part in the attack. The United Irishmen in Ulster are mostly Presbyterian, but are joined with CatholicDefenders and the tension between the two groups on the march likely causes some desertions. These difficulties lead to a loss of momentum, and the attack is delayed. McCracken is forced to make adjustments to his plan of attack, which had envisaged a simultaneous overwhelming assault on the town from four separate points.
The town is garrisoned by a small force of about 200 yeomen, cavalry under Lt. Col. William Lumley and armed volunteers but they also have four artillery pieces and the delay in the rebel attack allows them to send requests for assistance to Belfast and Lisburn from where reinforcements are already on the way. The garrison forms themselves at the base of the demesne wall of Antrim Castle, with artillery to the front and cavalry to the rear with their flanks anchored by the Market House and Presbyterian Meeting House. A part of the Scottish Quarter in the town is also burned by the garrison as it is perceived to be a stronghold of rebel sympathisers.
The attack finally begins shortly before 3:00 p.m. when the rebels begin a cautious march through the town. As rebel front ranks arrive to face the garrison’s defensive line, artillery opens fire on the rebels, causing them to pull back out of range. Large clouds of dust and smoke are thrown up which, together with the fires from the Scottish Quarter, obscure the garrison’s view of events.
The rebel withdrawal is mistaken for a full retreat and the cavalry moves out to pursue and rout the supposed fleeing rebels. The cavalry effectively runs into a gauntlet of rebels who are protected by a long churchyard wall and stationed in houses along the main street, suffering heavy losses to the gunfire and pikes of the rebels.
After routing the cavalry, the rebels attack the remainder of the garrison, which then begins to pull back to the safety of the castle wall. This is mistaken by a newly arrived rebel column as an attack on them, causing them to flee in panic. In the confusion, the county commander, Lord O’Neill, trapped with his magistrates, is fatally wounded by James Clements who avoids trial by joining the army. A rebel attempt to seize the artillery is only narrowly beaten off by troops stationed behind the demesne wall.
At this critical juncture, British reinforcements from Belfast arrive outside the town and, assuming it to be held by the rebels, begin to shell it with their artillery. This prompts more desertions and the rebel army begins to disintegrate, but their withdrawal is protected by a small band under James Hope which fights a successful rearguard action from the church grounds along the main street. This allows the bulk of the rebels to withdraw safely.
When the military enters the town, they begin a spree of looting, burning and murder, of which the most enthusiastic perpetrators are reported to be the Monaghan militiamen, who are anxious to prove their loyalty and expunge the shame of the recent executions of their comrades for sedition. The town of Templepatrick is burned to the ground and Old Stone Castle is razed to the ground. McCracken, Hope and their remaining supporters withdraw northward, establishing camps of ever dwindling size along the route of their retreat until news of the defeat at Ballynahinch causes their final dispersion. McCracken is arrested by yeomen on July 7 and is hanged in Belfast on July 17, having refused an offer of clemency in return for informing on his comrades.
Commemoration of the centenary of the battle, marked by a nationalist parade in Belfast on June 6, 1898, provokes loyalist riots.
Described as having an “ardent and self-confident manner,” Hughes is first heard of in an Irish musical capacity (beyond being honorary organist at St. Peter’s Church on Antrim Road at the age of fourteen) collecting traditional airs and transcribing folksongs in North Donegal in August 1903 with his brother Fred, Francis Joseph Bigger, and John Patrick Campbell. Dedicated to seeking out and recording such ancient melodies as are yet to be found in the more remote glens and valleys of Ulster, he produces Songs of Uladh (1904) with Joseph Campbell, illustrated by his brother John and paid for by Bigger. Throughout his career, he collects and arranges hundreds of traditional melodies and publishes many of them in his own unique arrangements. Three of his best-known works are the celebrated songs, My Lagan Love, She Moved Through the Fair, and Down by the Salley Gardens, which are published as part of his four collections of Irish Country Songs, his key achievement. These are written in collaborations with the poets Joseph Campbell and Padraic Colum, and W. B. Yeats himself. A dispute with Hamilton Harty over copyright on My Lagan Love is pursued on Bigger’s advice, but fails.
Hughes has a unique approach to arranging Irish traditional music. He calls upon the influence of the French impressionistClaude Debussy in his approach to harmony: “Musical art is gradually releasing itself from the tyranny of the tempered scale. […] and if we examine the work of the modern French school, notably that of M. Claude Debussy, it will be seen that the tendency is to break the bonds of this old slave-driver and return to the freedom of primitive scales.” He regards arrangements as an independent art form on an equal level with original composition: “[…] under his [i.e. the arranger’s] hands it is definitively transmuted into an art-song, an art-song of its own generation.” His folksong arrangements have been sung all across the English-speaking world. John McCormack and Kathleen Ferrier are the first to record them on gramophone records.
Married to Lillian Florence (known as Meena) Meacham and Suzanne McKernan, Hughes has three children: Patrick, known professionally as Spike Hughes, Angela and Helena. He dies in Brighton, England, at the relatively early age of fifty-four on May 1, 1937.
O’Neill is the son of Niall Roe O’Neill, and grandson of Áed in Macáem Tóinlesc. His wife is Nuala O’Connor (Ní Conchobair), a daughter of Rory O’Connor (Irish: Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair), the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. Therefore, through his mother, he is descended from Brian Boru (Irish: Brian Bóramha).
In 1230, Hugh O’Neill (Irish: Aedh Ó Néill), king of Tyrone, dies and is succeeded by Donnell MacLaughlin. MacLaughlin, however, is removed in 1238 by the Justiciar of Ireland, Maurice FitzGerald, 2nd Lord of Offaly, and Hugh de Lacy, 1st Earl of Ulster, who install “the son of O’Neill”, presumed to have been Brian, and take the hostages of the Cenel Owen and Cenel Connell. However, it may have been Brian’s cousin Donnell, who afterwards is killed by MacLaughlin. After this, O’Neill claims the kingship of the O’Neill dynasty as well as Tyrone, possibly with the aid of Hugh de Lacy, 1st Earl of Ulster.
In revenge, O’Neill with the aid of Melaghlin O’Donnell, king of Tyrconnell, defeat MacLoughlin and ten of his closest kinsmen at the Battle of Camergi, somewhere within Tyrone north of Omagh, in 1241. This ends the long rivalry between the MacLoughlin’s and O’Neill’s, with the MacLoughlin’s afterwards excluded from the kingship of Tyrone and Ailech.
In 1244, Henry III of England sends letters to various Gaelic Irish lords, including O’Neill, requesting their aid in a military campaign against the Kingdom of Scotland. In the end the issue is sorted out diplomatically. Copies of the letter are also distributed to O’Neill’s sub-chiefs including his tánaiste, Hugh Boy O’Neill.
A consequence of this infighting between the rival factions of the Cenél Eoghain allows the Normans to advance deeper into Gaelic Ulster, however, in 1243 de Lacy dies. Thus the Earldom of Ulster reverts to the English Crown and is taken over by royal administrators. John FitzGeoffrey, the king’s chief governor in Ireland, erects a bridge across the River Bann and builds castles at Coleraine and Ballyroney in Iveagh. From here FitzGeoffrey is able to penetrate deeper into Tyrone.
Despite ending MacLoughlin aspirations to the kingship, O’Neill forms a marriage alliance with them, however, this results in a war with the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell. Subsequently in 1248 O’Neill backs the king of Tyrconnell, Rory O’Cannon (Irish: Ruaidri Ua Canannáin), against the claims of O’Donnell. O’Cannon had been set up in the kingship by FitzGerald, however, rather than backing him, enters Tyrconnell and removes him in favour of Gofraid O’Donnell.
O’Cannon, who had been expelled to Tyrone, and O’Neill once again lead their forces into Tyrconnell to confront O’Donnell, however they are defeated and O’Cannon is killed.
That same year, John FitzGeoffrey, who replaced FitzGerald as Justiciar in 1246, enters Tyrone and takes the submission and hostages of O’Neill. A resolution had been adopted at a meeting of the Cenel Owen that “since the power of the Foreigners was over the Gaeidhel of Erinn, to give hostages to the Foreigners, and to make peace with them, for the sake of their country.”
In 1249, the king of Connacht, Felim O’Connor, is given refuge from the Normans by O’Neill. In 1252, O’Neill and his brother give their submissions to the Justiciar of Ireland, who had marched to Armagh with a large force. A Rory O’Neill is given as hostage.
In 1253, as a sign of defiance against his vassal status with the Earldom of Ulster, O’Neill withholds his tribute to it and raids Iveagh, destroying the castle at Ballyroney. He also launches an offensive against the Normans in Leinster. That same year, the son of Maurice FitzGerald leads his forces into Tyrone to attack O’Neill, however he fails to take his submission or hostages and after battle suffers a heavy defeat at the hands of O’Neill.
In 1255, O’Neill makes a pact with Felim O’Connor’s son Hugh, whereby allowing Hugh free rein in the Kingdom of Breifne, he would aid O’Neill against the Normans of the earldom who are eroding his territory.
In 1257, the king of Tyrconnell, Gofraid O’Donnell, is mortally wounded in battle against the FitzGeralds and O’Neill uses this opportunity to try to exact Tyrconnell’s submission. As the Cenel Connell discuss what to do, Gofraid’s youngest brother, Donnell Óg, returns from fosterage and is conferred the chieftainship of Tyrconnell. He refuses to submit O’Neill stating the Scottish proverb “Every man should have his own world.”
FitzGerald in 1252 had built a castle at Caoluisce, on the banks of Lough Erne, near modern day Belleek, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, however, in 1258 it is the site where O’Neill, in the presence of his ally O’Connor, is inaugurated as “King of the Gael of Erin.” While he receives hostages from O’Connor and from O’Brien of Thomond, along with several other minor Kings from Meath and Munster, his claim is not recognised by those of the Irish closest to him including the other O’Neill factions, the O’Donnell’s of Tyrconnell, the MacMahon’s of Airgíalla, and the O’Rourkes of Breifne. The following year O’Donnell leads an attack into Tyrone.
In 1260, O’Neill, along with his O’Connor allies, launch an attack on the Normans of the Earldom of Ulster at Drumderg, near its capital at Downpatrick in modern County Down, Northern Ireland. The Normans levy the town, and with the aid of forces brought by Sir Roger des Auters, O’Neill and his allies are decisively defeated at the subsequent Battle of Down. The Annals of Inisfallen state that the forces recruited by the Normans consist mostly of native Irish and that the Normans play only a minor role.
In the battle, O’Neill is killed along with many other Irish nobles including over a dozen members of the O’Cahans. O’Neill’s head is cut off by the Normans and sent to King Henry III of England, a sign of how dangerous his coalition is believed to be.
After this battle, O’Neill becomes known in Irish as Brian Chatha an Dúna, meaning “Brian of the Battle of Down.”
After O’Neill’s death, the kingship of the Cenel Owen, and with it Tyrone, is taken by his cousin’s son, Hugh Boy O’Neill, ancestor of the Clandeboye O’Neill’s, who also has the support of the earldom of Ulster. Upon Hugh’s death in 1283 O’Neill’s son Donnell seizes the kingship, which until 1295 is highly contested between him and his second-cousin Niall Culanach O’Neill and Hugh Boy’s son Brian, until he wins outright control by killing his opponents.
O’Donnell is born on February 22, 1893, in Meenmore, near Dungloe, County Donegal, youngest among six sons and three daughters of Biddy and James O’Donnell. He is greatly influenced by his upbringing in the Rosses, in northwest Donegal, one of the poorest and most remote parts of Ireland. His father, a popular local fiddler, earns a living through his smallholding, seasonal labouring in Scotland, and winter work in a local corn mill. His mother, who comes from a radical labour and nationalist political background, works in a local cooperative store. He attends Rampart national school and Roshine national school, near Burtonport, where he is a monitor for four years. In 1911 he wins a scholarship to attend St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra, Dublin, and returns in 1913 to the Rosses, where he spends two years teaching on the islands of Inishfree. In 1915 he is appointed head of Derryhenny national school, near Dungloe, and the following year becomes principal of a national school on the island of Arranmore, where he begins to write.
O’Donnell had long been concerned by the poor conditions of the local ‘tatie-hokers’ (potato pickers) who migrate annually to Scotland. In the summer of 1918, he travels there to help organise the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union. While there he is influenced by left-wing radicals such as Willie Gallacher, later a communistMember of Parliament (MP), and Emanuel ‘Manny’ Shinwell, later Baron Shinwell. In September 1918, against a background of rising labour militancy, he leaves teaching to become a full-time organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) in the west Ulster area. The following year he organises one of Ireland’s first “soviets” when the attendants and nurses of the Monaghan District Lunatic Asylum occupy the grounds and appoint O’Donnell as governor until their demands are met.
In early 1919 O’Donnell joins the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Monaghan, resigning from the ITGWU for full-time IRA service in late 1920. He leads the 2nd Battalion, Donegal IRA, from the summer of 1920. In December 1920 he goes “on the run” and leads a flying column in west Donegal until May 1921, when he is wounded. Regarded as insubordinate and militarily inexperienced, he is unpopular among the other senior officers of the 1st Northern Division. He, in turn, is disappointed by the lack of social radicalism among the nationalist leadership. He opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty, is placed in command of the minority anti-treaty 1st Northern Division, and is a member of the IRA executive that occupies the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the provisional government.
Arrested in June 1922, O’Donnell shares a prison cell with Liam Mellows and influences his radical “Notes from Mountjoy,” an important document for subsequent left-wing republicans. He spends the next two years in various prisons and internment camps. His execution is widely expected to follow those of December 8, 1922. In August 1923, he is elected as a Sinn FéinTeachta Dála (TD) for Donegal in the general election called after the end of the Irish Civil War. He goes on hunger strike for forty-one days in late 1923 and succeeds in escaping from the Curragh in March 1924. In June 1924, while on the run, he marries Lile O’Donel, a wealthy Cumann na mBan activist who had smuggled communications for republican prisoners. O’Donel, a radical and member of the Communist Party, is the daughter of Ignatius O’Donel, a prominent landowner from Mayo. They have no children but raise their nephew, Peadar Joe, as their own son after the death in New York of O’Donnell’s brother Joe.
O’Donnell begins writing seriously while in jail and remains a prolific writer, journalist, and editor until the 1960s. His first novel, Storm, set in the Irish War of Independence, is published in 1925. One of his most highly regarded books, Islanders, is published in 1928. Adrigoole, like Islanders a story of poverty and starvation in rural Ireland, is published the following year. The Knife (1930) and On the Edge of the Stream (1934) soon follow. The most significant of his later novels is probably The Big Windows (1954). Foremost among his qualities as a writer is his empathy for the people, life, and landscape of rural Ireland. But his novels have been criticised for their slow pace, excessive detail, and didactic nature. He claims his writing is incidental to his political activism. His trilogy of autobiographical non-fiction, The Gates flew Open (1932), Salud! An Irishman in Spain (1936), and There Will Be Another Day (1963), which respectively concern the Irish Civil War, his activism during the Spanish Civil War, and his role in the land annuities agitation, remain highly regarded. His other important literary achievement is with The Bell, an innovative literary and political magazine which plays a useful dissenting role in an insular and conservative period. He founds The Bell with the writer Seán Ó Faoláin in 1940 and edits it from 1946 until it ceases publication in 1954.
O’Donnell exercises an influential role in the interwar IRA, particularly through his editorship of An Phoblacht (1926–29), which he attempts to divert from militarism to socialist agitation. His ultimate aim is for a thirty-two-county socialist republic. His most successful campaign is organising small farmers against the payment of land annuities to the government in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This campaign is later adopted by Fianna Fáil and contributes to their electoral success in 1932. He is less successful in radicalising the IRA. After the failure of Saor Éire, a left-wing IRA front which provokes clerical and popular hostility against the IRA, increasing tensions between the IRA’s left-wing and the leadership lead O’Donnell, along with Frank Ryan and George Gilmore, to split from the IRA to establish the short-lived Republican Congress in 1934.
Although O’Donnell claims he was never a Communist Party member, he plays a central role in forging links between republicans and the revolutionary left both in Ireland and internationally, and invariably supports the communist party line at critical junctures. After the failure of Republican Congress, he takes up the cause of the Spanish republic. His championing of unpopular causes such as communism and Spain entail a good deal of frustration. He is physically attacked at political meetings and in 1932, despite having never visited the Soviet Union, loses a high-profile libel action against the Dominican Irish Rosary, which claim he had studied in Moscow‘s Lenin College. He is banned from entering the United States for several decades, although he maintains: “My relations with all the great powers continue to be friendly.”
O’Donnell continues to support radical campaigns until his death. He is an outspoken advocate of Irish emigrants. He is prominent in the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and serves as its president in the early 1960s. He is a leading protester against the Vietnam War and a supporter of African anti-colonial movements such as that against apartheid. In later years he is involved in the “Save the west” campaign, highlighting the problems of the west of Ireland.
After several months of ill-health following a heart attack, O’Donnell dies in Dublin, aged 93, on May 13, 1986. He leaves instructions that there are to be “no priests, no politicians and no pomp” at his funeral, and those wishes are granted. He is cremated in Glasnevin Cemetery and his ashes are buried at his wife’s home in Swinford, County Mayo. Although he once remarked that every cause he fought for was a failure, he is now regarded as one of the most influential socialist republican theorists and an important voice of dissent in twentieth-century Ireland.
(From: “O’Donnell, Peadar” by Fearghal McGarry, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)
Makem lives in Keady her entire life. Living in the border region of Ulster and in a market town, she is influenced by Irish, Scottish, and English traditions. She learns songs from her mother while she is doing household chores such as cooking. She often picks up these songs while sitting with her mother after just one repetition. She also learns some of her repertoire from songs the children sing in school.
Makem leaves school early to work as a factory weaver as do many of the girls in her town. She works from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. then comes home to have sessions with many of the other musicians living in the same area. She marries Peter Makem in 1919.
Makem does not consider herself a musician; however, she has an extensive musical career. She is a ballad singer who has over five hundred songs in memory. These songs she describes as life stories of murder and love and emigration songs. She records many of her songs, mostly for collection purposes. In the 1950s, one of these songs, her rendition of “As I Roved Out,” is used to open a BBC Radio program named after her ballad and featuring Irish folk music. She does not intend to use this recording as such and is very embarrassed to know her voice will be heard everyday across Ireland.
Makem dies at the age of 82 on April 20, 1983, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. She is buried in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Graveyard in Keady.
Lynch is born on November 9, 1893, in Barnagurraha, Anglesboro, County Limerick, the fifth child among six sons and a daughter of Jeremiah Lynch, farmer, and Mary Lynch (neé Kelly). The family is politically active. His father’s brother, John, had taken part in the Fenian Rising of 1867 and his mother had been joint secretary of the Ballylanders branch of the Ladies’ Land League.
Lynch attends Anglesboro national school (1898–1909). In 1910 he moves to Mitchelstown, County Cork, to take up a three-year apprenticeship in the hardware store of P. O’Neill on Baldwin Street. He remains there until the autumn of 1915. While in Mitchelstown he is a member of the Gaelic League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He also joins the Irish Volunteers. In 1914, when that organisation splits, he does not immediately join the militant rump. He then moves to Fermoy, County Cork, where he works in the store of Messrs J. Barry & Sons Ltd. His move coincides with a period of inactivity as neither Volunteer faction is very active nor is he known. Consequently, he does not take part in the 1916 Easter Rising, but it is a turning point for him. On May 2, 1916, he watches as the Kent family are led through Fermoy, having been captured by British soldiers. Richard Kent dies from a wound sustained that day and Thomas Kent is executed a week later. Lynch becomes a committed Volunteer at this point.
Once committed, Lynch’s enthusiasm and aptitude ensures that he quickly attains positions of responsibility. From early 1917 he is first lieutenant in the small Fermoy company. In September 1917, the Irish Volunteers in east Cork are reorganised. Nine local companies are formed into the Fermoy battalion and he is elected adjutant. In April 1918, at the height of the conscription crisis, he briefly quits his job to concentrate on organising the Volunteers. In May he is lucky to escape arrest during the sweep that accompanies the “German plot.” When the immediate danger ends he returns to Barry & Sons.
In January 1919, at the beginning of the Irish War of Independence, the Volunteer organisation in Cork undergoes a major restructuring. Three brigades are established, and Lynch becomes brigade commandant of Cork No. 2. In April he visits Irish Republican Army GHQ in Dublin to discuss plans and to seek arms. It is a frustrating experience as the GHQ has few guns and are cautious about action. Throughout the summer of 1919 he presses GHQ to authorise attacks on British targets as a method of acquiring arms and to prevent boredom and stagnation setting in among his men. Finally, GHQ sanctions attacks if the primary aim is the capture of arms. In response, on September 7, 1919, twenty-five men from the Fermoy company, led by Lynch, ambush fourteen British soldiers on their way to service in the Wesleyan church in Fermoy. Fifteen rifles are captured, one soldier killed, and three wounded. Lynch is shot in the shoulder, probably by one of his own men. As a result, he has to leave his job and hides out in Waterford for a time. A series of arrests follow, among those is Lynch’s close friend, Michael Fitzgerald, who dies on hunger strike in Cork County Gaol in 1920.
Lynch spends the early months of 1920 at GHQ in Dublin. During this time, he is offered the position of deputy chief of staff, but turns it down, preferring to return to Cork. Although not an articulate speaker, he impresses those he meets. His organisational talents, attention to detail, ability to inspire, and intolerance for those who waste meetings endlessly discussing side issues, are noted. He has a low tolerance for politicians and at all times considers the military wing of the movement to be of primary importance. He is engaged to Bridie Keyes, but marriage is postponed pending a final settlement of hostilities.
On June 26, 1920, Lynch, Seán Moylan, and two colleagues capture Major-GeneralCuthbert Lucas while he is fishing on the Munster Blackwater. He gives a false name when he is arrested on August 12, 1920, at City Hall, Cork, with Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, and ten others. All but MacSwiney are released four days later. He then sets about organising a flying column within the brigade. Ernie O’Malley arrives from headquarters to train the men. This column achieves a major coup on September 28, 1920, when they briefly capture the British Army barracks at Mallow, leaving with a large booty of rifles, ammunition, and two machine guns. The British respond to this increase in activity and the war settles into a pattern of ambush and counter-ambush. The Mallow battalion suffers severe losses in February 1921 and Lynch himself narrowly escapes when four are killed during an encounter at Nadd in March 1921.
In early 1921 Lynch seeks to encourage greater cooperation between the various brigades in the south. Senior brigade officers meet on three occasions to discuss cooperation and a plan to import arms from Italy. The importation project fails, but the First Southern Division is formed on April 26, 1921, bringing eight brigades from Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and west Limerick together. He is elected divisional commandant, making him the most powerful officer outside GHQ. His influence is further increased by his appointment as Southern Divisional Centre and Supreme Council member of the clandestine Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in March 1921.
Lynch is wary when the truce is called in July 1921. He works hard to maintain order in his division and to achieve a state of readiness in case the negotiations fail. For him the Anglo-Irish Treaty is a failure. When the Supreme Council of the IRB meets on December 10, 1921, he is the only voice against the agreement. He is among the officers who insist that an army convention should be called to discuss the treaty, effectively asserting that the army no longer accepts a position subordinate to the Dáil. The army, he believes, is the army of the Republic, and no civilian body can order it to abandon the Republic. The provisional government tries to ban this convention, but it goes ahead on March 26, 1922, and elects an army executive. Lynch is elected Chief of Staff. Between March and June, he works hard to prevent a civil war. He believes unity can be maintained, even under the Treaty, if a republican constitution can be enacted. He also cooperates with Michael Collins in promoting Irish Republican Army (IRA) activity in Ulster. In his adherence to the idea of a republic, the practicalities of politics have little impact on his consciousness and he is dismissive of the popular support for the Treaty. He is horrified at the thought of civil war but fails to see that his position is leading almost inexorably in that direction. Distrusted as too moderate by Liam Mellows and Rory O’Connor, he is locked out of the Four Courts for a time.
When the Four Courts are attacked, Lynch immediately leaves his headquarters at the Clarence Hotel to travel south. He is briefly detained, before reaching Kingsbridge Station, and has a meeting with Eoin O’Duffy. He is disgusted when Free State figures later claim that he was released, having promised not to take arms against the government. The most plausible explanation of the incident appears to be that O’Duffy interpreted Lynch’s comments, merely indicating disappointment that a war had started, as constituting a statement of intent not to involve himself.
Lynch’s initial actions seem designed to avoid full-scale conflict. He does not order an attack on Dublin, nor does he attempt to seize Limerick. He chooses a containment strategy, seeking to hold a line from Limerick to Waterford for the republican forces. This fails, as the government sends troops in from the rear by sea. The republicans have no urban base when Lynch abandons Fermoy on August 11, 1922. He continues to meet individuals who seek a way to end the war, but intransigence has set in and he insists that armed struggle will only end with a republic or absolute defeat. As early as August many republicans believe the war is lost and urge a reassessment of tactics, but Lynch rejects all such calls. Operating from secret headquarters in Santry, he orders the shooting of pro-Treaty politicians in retaliation for the execution of republican prisoners.
Under war conditions it is impossible for the army executive to meet regularly, and this leaves Lynch in almost complete control. As the pro-surrender lobby grows within the republican forces, he delays a meeting of the executive, claiming with some justification that it is too dangerous. He leaves Santry and attends a meeting of the Southern Division Council in the last days of February 1923. Sixteen of the eighteen officers there tell him that the military position is hopeless. This forces the calling of an executive meeting on March 6, 1923. No agreement is reached. He strongly favours fighting on, but a motion from Tom Barry, calling for an immediate end to hostilities, is barely rejected. Another meeting is arranged for April 10. On that morning a group, including Lynch and Frank Aiken, suddenly find themselves in danger of capture in a farmhouse on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Tipperary. They flee and are pursued. During the chase Lynch is shot in the abdomen. It seems clear that he is shot by the pursuing Free State soldiers, although Irish historian Meda Ryan has considered the theory that he may have been shot by one of his own in order to remove the major stumbling block to surrender. His colleagues are forced to abandon him, and he is captured. Initially the Free State troops believe they have caught Éamon de Valera. He is taken first to a public house in Newcastle, County Tipperary, and then to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel, but dies from his wound at 8:45 p.m. that evening. His last request is to be buried beside Michael Fitzgerald in Kilcrumper Cemetery, Fermoy, County Cork. On hearing of Lynch’s death, Ernie O’Malley writes, “You who were a living force are now a battle cry.” O’Malley is wrong, however, as the peace faction within republicanism is strengthened by his death and Aiken orders the suspension of activities on April 27.
In 1935, a massive memorial, consisting of a 60-foot-tall round tower, guarded by four bronze Irish Wolfhounds, is erected at Goatenbridge, County Tipperary, near the site of his capture. It is unveiled on April 7, 1935. Separate annual commemorations are held at Goatenbridge and Kilcrumper. Three biographies have been written and the Liam Lynch memorial pipe band is based in his native Anglesboro. The Lynch family possess a substantial collection of private correspondence.
Rinuccini departs France from Saint-Martin-de-Ré near La Rochelle on October 18, 1645, on the frigate San Pietro and arrives in Kenmare, County Kerry, on October 21, 1645, with a retinue of twenty-six Italians, several Irish officers, and the Confederation’s secretary, Richard Bellings. He proceeds to Kilkenny, the Confederate capital, where Richard Butler, 3rd Viscount Mountgarret, the president of the Confederation, receives him at the castle. He speaks Latin to Montgarret, but all the official business of the Confederates is done in English. He asserts in his discourse that the object of his mission is to sustain the King, but above all to help the Catholic people of Ireland in securing the free and public exercise of their religion, and the restoration of the churches and church property to the Catholic Church.
Rinuccini had sent ahead arms and ammunition: 1,000 braces of pistols, 4,000 cartridge belts, 2,000 swords, 500 muskets and 20,000 pounds of gunpowder. He arrives twelve days later with a further two thousand muskets and cartridge-belts, four thousand swords, four hundred braces of pistols, two thousand pike-heads, and twenty thousand pounds of gunpowder, fully equipped soldiers and sailors and 150,658 livres tournois to finance the Irish Catholic war effort. These supplies give him a huge input into the Confederate’s internal politics because he doles out the money and arms for specific military projects, rather than handing them over to the Confederate government, or Supreme Council.
Rinuccini hopes that by doing so he can influence the Confederates’ strategic policy away from making a deal with Charles I and the Royalists in the English Civil War and towards the foundation of an independent Catholic-ruled Ireland. In particular, he wants to ensure that churches and lands taken in the rebellion would remain in Catholic hands. This is consistent with what happened in Catholic-controlled areas during the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. His mission can be seen as part of the Counter-Reformation in Europe. He also has unrealistic hopes of using Ireland as a base to re-establish Catholicism in England. However, apart from some military successes such as the Battle of Benburb on June 5, 1646, the main result of his efforts is to aggravate the infighting between factions within the Confederates.
The Confederates’ Supreme Council is dominated by wealthy landed magnates, predominantly of “Old English” origin, who are anxious to come to a deal with the Stuart monarchy that will guarantee them their land ownership, full civil rights for Catholics, and toleration of Catholicism. They form the moderate faction, which is opposed by those within the Confederation, who want better terms, including self-government for Ireland, a reversal of the land confiscations of the plantations of Ireland and establishment of Catholicism as the state religion. A particularly sore point in the negotiations with the English Royalists is the insistence of some Irish Catholics on keeping in Catholic hands the churches taken in the war. Rinuccini accepts the assurances of the Supreme Council that such concerns will be addressed in the peace treaty negotiated with James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, negotiated in 1646, now known as the First Ormond Peace.
However, when the terms are published, they grant only the private practice of Catholicism. Alleging that he had been deliberately deceived, Rinuccini publicly backs the militant faction, which includes most of the Catholic clergy and some Irish military commanders such as Owen Roe O’Neill. On the other side there are the Franciscans Pierre Marchant, and later Raymond Caron. In 1646, when the Supreme Council tries to get the Ormond Peace ratified, Rinuccini excommunicates them and helps to get the Treaty voted down in the Confederate General Assembly. The Assembly has the members of the Supreme Council arrested for treason and elects a new Supreme Council.
However, the following year, the Confederates’ attempts to drive the remaining English (mainly Parliamentarian) armies from Ireland meets with disaster at the battles of Dungan’s Hill on August 8, 1647 and Knocknanuss on November 13, 1647. As a result, the chastened Confederates hastily conclude a new deal with the English Royalists to try to prevent a Parliamentarian conquest of Ireland in 1648. Although the terms of this second deal are better than those of the first one, Rinuccini again tries to overturn the treaty. However, on this occasion, the Catholic clergy are split on whether to accept the deal, as are the Confederate military commanders and the General Assembly. Ultimately, the treaty is accepted by the Confederacy, which then dissolves itself and joins a Royalist coalition. Rinuccini backs Owen Roe O’Neill, who used his Ulster army to fight against his former comrades who had accepted the deal. He tries in vain to repeat his success of 1646 by excommunicating those who support the peace. However, the Irish bishops are split on the issue and so his authority is diluted. Militarily, Owen Roe O’Neill is unable to reverse the political balance.
Despairing of the Catholic cause in Ireland, Rinnuccini leaves the country on February 23, 1649, embarking at Galway on the ship that had brought him to Ireland, the frigate San Pietro. In the same year, Oliver Cromwell leads a Parliamentarian re-conquest of the country, after which Catholicism is thoroughly repressed. Roman Catholic worship is banned, Irish Catholic-owned land is widely confiscated east of the River Shannon, and captured Catholic clergy are executed.
Rinuccini returns to Rome, where he writes an extensive account of his time in Ireland, the Commentarius Rinuccinanus. His account blames personal vainglory and tribal divisions for the Catholic disunity in Ireland. In particular, he blames the Old English for the eventual Catholic defeat. The Gaelic Irish, he writes, despite being less civilised, are more sincere Catholics.
Rinuccini returns to his diocese in Fermo in June 1650 and dies there on December 13, 1653.
Although Healyism is strong in CatholicUlster, Devlin aligns himself with the faction led by John Dillon and, from 1899, with the United Irish League (UIL), founded by William O’Brien. From the late 1890s this brings Devlin into conflict with the Belfast Catholic Association of Dr. Henry Henry, bishop of Down and Connor (1895–1908). This organisation, though sometimes regarded as Healyite, is essentially based on the view that mass nationalist political mobilisation in Belfast can only bring trouble and ostracism, and that Catholic interests are best represented by allowing a small group of lay and clerical notables to broker concessions from the unionist majority. After a series of local election contests in Catholic wards and controversies between the pro-Devlin weekly Northern Star and the clerically controlled The Irish News, Devlin succeeds in marginalising the politically maladroit Henry by 1905. In the process, however, he takes on some of the qualities of his “Catholic establishment” opponents. At the same time, he moves onto the national political stage.
Returned unopposed for North Kilkenny (1902–06), Devlin is appointed secretary of the United Irish League of Great Britain in 1903, and of the parent body in Dublin in 1904. A speaking tour of the United States in 1902–03 convinces him of the organisational potential of Catholic fraternal organisations, and in 1905 he takes over the presidency of the Board of Erin faction of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a specifically Catholic body which he proceeds to develop as an organisational arm of the Nationalist Party. Under his tutelage the AOH expands from 10,000 members in 1905 to 60,000 in 1909, despite opposition from some Catholic bishops who distrust it because of its close affiliation to Dillonism, its secrecy, and its habit of staging dances and other entertainments without paying what they regard as due deference to local priests. His AOH also faces opposition from a rival separatist body, the Irish-American Alliance AOH. Though far less numerous, this group is able to draw on the support of separatists within the American AOH and hinder Devlin’s attempts to mobilise the American organisation in his support. The AOH expands further after 1910, and is strengthened by becoming an approved society under the National Insurance Act 1911.
Belfast is where Devlin’s political career begins and where it ends. Organisational skill contributes substantially to his hold on the largely working-class seat of Belfast West, which he wins in 1906 on a platform that seeks to transcend religious boundaries by combining labour issues with the home rule demand. A lifelong bachelor, though short in stature, he is apparently highly attractive to women, and takes a special interest in their problems, no doubt mindful of the influence they might have on the political behaviour of their spouses. He founds a holiday home for working-class women. When the scholar Betty Messenger interviews former Belfast linen workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she is startled to discover the extent to which Devlin is remembered as a champion of the workers decades after his death. This image persists among Protestant workers as well as Catholics, and he is generally credited with various ameliorations of workplace conditions even when he had not been responsible for them.
Possessed of great oratorical skills and even greater organisational ability, Devlin effectively becomes the key organiser of the Nationalist Party from the early years of the twentieth century, relieving the party leader, John Redmond, of a great deal of the administrative burden of party affairs, and becoming well known abroad through fund-raising trips, especially in North America. His personal geniality makes him a great favourite at Westminster, and Irish socialists are dismayed at the willingness of British Labour Party MPs to accept him as an authentic Labour representative. Several MPs elected after 1906 can be identified as his protégés, and groups of Hibernian strong-arm men uphold the party leadership in such contests as the 1907 North Leitrimby-election and the 1909 “baton convention” which witnesses the final departure of William O’Brien and his supporters from the UIL. He is the only post-Parnellite MP to be admitted to the tight leadership group around Redmond. In 1913 he is a leading organiser of the National Volunteers.
When William O’Brien embarks on his personal initiative to deal with the Ulster problem through conciliation in the early Edwardian period, he finds a stern critic in Devlin and in turn demonises the “Molly Maguires” as sectarian corruptionists. Personally non-sectarian, Devlin, like other party leaders, endorses the shibboleth that home rule will prove a panacea for Ireland’s problems, including Ulster, and uses his credentials as a labour representative to dismiss popular unionism as a mere product of elite manipulation. In a period when the Vatican‘s Ne Temere decree on religiously mixed marriages is heightening Protestant fears about the “tyranny” of Rome, he seems to be oblivious to how his integration of Hibernianism and nationalism is exacerbating that problem. As the third home rule bill passes through Parliament and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mobilises, he encourages the Irish party leaders in the view that the Ulster unionist campaign is a gigantic bluff, dismissing contrary opinions even when held by other nationalist MPs. During these years the AOH clashes with the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) during the Dublin lock-out, and from late 1913 the AOH spearheads the Redmondite attempt to take over and dominate the Irish Volunteers.
Devlin endorses Redmond’s support for the British war effort and engages in extensive recruiting activity. He seems to be motivated, at least in part, by the belief that after the war nationalist ex-soldiers can be used to overawe the Ulster unionists by the threat of force. According to Stephen Gwynn, Devlin wishes to apply for an officer’s commission but is asked not to do so by Redmond on the grounds that the party needs his organisational skills.
Devlin’s career is decisively shaped by his decision to use his influence to persuade northern nationalists to accept temporary partition, in fulfilment of the flawed agreement arrived at between David Lloyd George, Sir Edward Carson, and Redmond in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. He later claims he has been decisively influenced by the prospect that under this agreement the excluded area would be governed directly from Westminster, rather than by a local, Orange-dominated parliament. He forces the agreement through a Belfast-based convention despite protests from west Ulster nationalists, but the proposal collapses after it transpires that Lloyd George has made incompatible commitments to nationalists and unionists. Northern nationalism immediately splits between west and south Ulster dissidents and Devlin’s loyalists predominant in Belfast and east Ulster, and the next year sees massive secessions of AOH members outside Ulster to Sinn Féin. Although he retains a core of loyal supporters, he is reduced from a national to a sectional leader. As a member of the Irish convention (1917–18) he sides with Bishop Patrick O’Donnell against Redmond on the issue of seeking a compromise settlement with southern unionists on the basis of home rule without fiscal autonomy. He is offered the leadership of the Nationalist Party on Redmond’s death in 1918, but concedes the honour to his long-standing mentor, John Dillon.
Devlin holds Belfast West until 1918, and easily sweeps aside an attempt by Éamon de Valera to displace him from the Falls division of Belfast at the general election of that year, though the electoral decimation of the Nationalist Party elsewhere leaves him leading a rump of only seven MPs. In the ensuing parliament he is an outspoken critic of government policy towards Ireland and highlights sectarian violence against northern nationalists. Clearly discouraged and with boundary changes militating against retention of the Falls seat, he unsuccessfully contests the Liverpool Exchange constituency as an Independent Labour candidate in 1922. Elected for Antrim and Belfast West to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1921, he eventually takes his seat in 1925, holding it until 1929, when he combines representation for Belfast Central with that for Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.
Only after the boundary commission ends the border nationalists’ hopes of speedy incorporation in the Irish Free State is Devlin able to assert leadership of northern nationalism as a whole on the basis of attendance at the northern parliament. Even then he is considerably handicapped by recriminations over the events of 1916–25. He embarks on his last significant political campaign in 1928, when he seeks to unite minority politics through the agency of the National League of the North (NLN). The initiative, emphasising social reform, is unsuccessful. His own political baggage is a hindrance to the unity of the factions that minority politics had thrown up over the previous ten years, while the minority community itself is politically demoralised by the fate that has overtaken it, and the unionist government shows itself unwilling to make concession to him. The project, moreover, coincides with the onset of the gastric illness, exacerbated by heavy smoking, that takes his life on January 18, 1934. For some time before his death he ceases to attend the Northern Ireland parliament.
Devlin’s political career is one of great promise only partially fulfilled, its ultimate realisation undermined firstly by the fallout from the Easter Rising that destroyed the vehicle of his political ambitions, and secondly by the sequence of events that led to the creation of a constitutional entity so constructed that all nationalist politicians, regardless of talent, were effectively denied a route to power. Only at his death does the unionist regime adequately acknowledge his political stature. His funeral is attended by at least three Northern Ireland cabinet ministers, together with representatives of the government of the Irish Free State. Northern nationalism never again produces a leader of his ability in the Stormont era. His ability to use Westminster to promote the interests of Ulster nationalists is comparable to John Hume‘s use of Europe for the same purpose from the mid 1970s. After his death the nationalist party in Belfast grows increasingly reliant on middle-class leadership and is eventually displaced by nationalist labour splinter groups, some of whose prominent activists, such as Harry Diamond, had begun their careers as election workers for Devlin.
In September 1643, Ormond agrees to a truce, or ‘Cessation’, with the Confederation, freeing his troops for use in England against Parliament in the First English Civil War. Some Irish Protestants object, and switch sides, including Sir Charles Coote, who becomes Parliamentarian commander in Connacht. Charles surrenders in 1646, while a Covenanter/Royalist uprising is quickly suppressed in the 1648 Second English Civil War. On January 17, 1649, the Confederation allies with Ormond’s Royalists. Following the execution of Charles on January 30, they are joined by the Laggan Army, and remaining Scots troops in Ulster.
There are various reasons for this. The Covenanter government, who provides support for Scottish settlers in Ulster, considers Oliver Cromwell and other leaders of the new Commonwealth of England dangerous political and religious radicals. As Scots, they object to the execution of their king by the English; as Presbyterians, they view monarchy as divinely ordained, making it also sacrilegious, and transfer their allegiance to his son, Charles II of England.
However, this is offset by a split within the Confederation, between Catholic landowners who want to preserve the position prevailing in 1641, and those like Ó Néill, whose estates had been confiscated in 1607. As a result, he agrees a truce with Coote, and refuses to join the Alliance, depriving them of their most effective fighting force in the north. Despite this, by late July, Ormond’s combined Royalist/Confederate army controls most of Ireland.
In Ulster, Derry is the only major town still held by forces loyal to the Commonwealth. The garrison is commanded by Coote, who is besieged by the Laggan Army under George Munro, Robert’s nephew. In July, Munro is forced to lift the siege by Ó Néill, an example of the impact of the truce between two unlikely allies.
Ormond’s defeat at Rathmines on August 2 allows Cromwell and an army of 12,000 to land in Dublin unopposed. After capturing Drogheda on September 11, his main force heads south towards Wexford. Colonel Robert Venables is sent north with three regiments, or around 2,500 men, to take control of Ulster. Munro’s garrisons surrender with minimal resistance, and by the end of September, Venables has occupied Dundalk, Carlingford, Newry, and Belfast. These are accompanied by the mass expulsion of Scots settlers, as punishment for their defection. When Coote captures Coleraine on September 15, he massacres the largely Scottish garrison.
At the end of October, Coote joins Venables at Belfast. They spend November reducing remaining Royalist garrisons in the north, and in early December, assemble 3,000 men to attack Carrickfergus. After lifting the siege of Derry, Munro has retreated to Enniskillen with the remainder of the Laggan Army. Since the loss of Carrickfergus would effectively cut communications with Scotland, he is determined to prevent this if at all possible.
He combines forces with Royalist leader Lord Clandeboye, creating an army of around 5,000. However, it comprises remnants from many different regiments, its men are poorly equipped, and demoralised, while most have not been paid for over two years. As they march north, their numbers dwindle due to desertion.
Learning of their advance, Coote and Venables move to intercept Munro, and the two advance guards make contact outside Lisnagarvey, near Lisburn, on December 6. Despite superior numbers, the Royalists cannot hold their ground against their far more experienced opponents. When the main body of the Parliamentarian force appears, the retreat rapidly turns into a rout, the majority fleeing without firing a shot. In the pursuit that follows, they lose 1,500 men, killed or captured, along with their baggage train and supplies. Clandeboye and the remnants of his army surrender shortly afterwards, although Monro escapes to Enniskillen.
Lisnagarvey ends resistance by Scottish forces to the Parliamentarian army. Carrickfergus surrenders on December 13, and as with other towns, its Scottish settlers are expelled. Early in 1650, Monro agrees to evacuate Enniskillen for £500, and returns to Scotland, leaving Ó Néill’s army as the only remaining obstacle to Parliamentarian control of the north. However, his death in November 1649 proves a major blow to its morale and fighting ability. In June 1650, it is destroyed by Coote and Venables at Scarrifholis.
(Pictured: Map of key locations of the 1649 campaign in Ulster)
Born into an Ulster Scots family, Thomson is the fourth son of Agnes Nesbit and James Thomson, a small farmer, at Annaghmore, near Ballynahinch, County Down, in Ulster. His early education is from his father. At the age of 11 or 12 he finds out for himself the art of dialling. His father sends him to a school at Ballykine, near Ballynahinch, kept by Samuel Edgar, father of John Edgar. Here he soon rises to be an assistant.
Wishing to become a minister of the Presbyterian church, Thomson enters the University of Glasgow in 1810, where he studies for several sessions, supporting himself by teaching in the Ballykine school during the summer. He graduates MA in 1812, and in 1814 he is appointed headmaster of the school of arithmetic, bookkeeping, and geography in the newly established Royal Belfast Academical Institution. In 1815 he is Professor of Mathematics in its collegiate department. Here he proves himself as a teacher. In 1829 the honorary degree of LL.D. is conferred upon him by the University of Glasgow, where in 1832 he is appointed Professor of Mathematics. He holds this post until his death on January 12, 1849.
Thomson is buried with his family on the northern slopes of the Glasgow Necropolis to the east of the main bridge entrance. The grave is notable due to the modern memorial to Lord Kelvin at its side.
Thomson is the author of schoolbooks that have passed through many editions including Arithmetic (1819), Trigonometry, Plane and Spherical (1820), Introduction to Modern Geography (1827), The Phenomena of the Heavens (1827), The Differential and Integral Calculus (1831), and Euclid (1834).
A paper, “Recollections of the Battle of Ballynahinch, by an Eye-witness,” which appears in the Belfast Magazine for February 1825, is from his pen.