seamus dubhghaill

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


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Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston, Acquitted of Murder

Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston, an Anglo-Irish peer, is acquitted of the murder of his brother-in-law, Colonel Henry Gerald FitzGerald, on May 18, 1798.

King is the eldest surviving son of Edward King, 1st Earl of Kingston, and Jane Caulfeild. From 1767 to 1768 he is educated at Eton College. He is styled Viscount Kingsborough between 1768 and 1797. He marries Caroline FitzGerald, daughter of Richard FitzGerald and Margaret King, on December 5, 1769, from whom he later separates. Together they have nine children.

King sits in the Irish House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Boyle from 1776 to 1783, and for Cork County between 1783 and 1797, and serves as a Governor of County Cork in 1789. In 1797 he succeeds to his father’s titles and assumes his seat in the Irish House of Lords. Between 1797 and his death he is Custos Rotulorum of Roscommon.

On May 18, 1798, King is tried by his peers in the Irish House of Lords after allegedly murdering Colonel Henry FitzGerald. FitzGerald is a married man who elopes with King’s daughter. With public sympathy on King’s side and with considerable publicity he is tried by his peers. An executioner stands beside King with an immense axe, painted black except for two inches of polished steel, and holds at the level of the defendant’s neck. King is acquitted as after three summonses no witnesses come forward. After a short conferee the Lords Temporal returns to the House of Commons and delivers the verdict ‘not guilty.’ The Lord Chancellor of Ireland, John FitzGibbon, 1st Earl of Clare, pronounces the verdict, breaks his wand and dismisses the assembly.

The Directory of the United Irishmen had planned to use the occasion to kill the entire government and all the lords, but one vote cast against this scheme by the informer Francis Magan causes it to be abandoned.

King dies on April 17, 1799 in Rockingham, County Roscommon.

(Pictured: “Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston,” pastel by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, RHA (Dublin 1739-1808))


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Birth of John Mitchel, Nationalist Activist & Journalist

John Mitchel, Irish nationalist activist, author, and political journalist, is born in Camnish, near Dungiven, County Derry on November 3, 1815.

Mitchel is the son of a Presbyterian minister. At the age of four, he is sent to a classical school, run by an old minister named Moor, nicknamed “Gospel Moor” by the students. He reads books from a very early age. When a little over five years old, he is introduced to Latin grammar by his teacher and makes quick progress. In 1830, not yet 15 years old, he enters Trinity College, Dublin and obtains a law degree in 1834.

In the spring of 1836 Mitchel meets Jane Verner, the only daughter of Captain James Verner. Though both families are opposed to the relationship, they become engaged in the autumn and are married on February 3, 1837 by the Rev. David Babington in Drumcree Church, the parish church of Drumcree.

Mitchel works in a law office in Banbridge, County Down, where he eventually comes into conflict with the local Orange Order. He meets Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy during visits to Dublin. He joins the Young Ireland movement and begins to write for The Nation. Deeply affected by the misery and death caused by the Great Famine, he becomes convinced that nothing will ever come of the constitutional efforts to gain Irish freedom. He then forms his own paper, United Irishmen, to advocate passive resistance by Ireland’s starving masses.

In May 1848, the British tire of Mitchel’s open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invent a crime especially for the Young Irelanders – felony-treason. They arrest him for violating this new law and close down his paper. A rigged jury convicts him, and he is deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. However, in June 1853, he escapes to the United States.

Mitchel works as a journalist in New York City and then moves to the South. When the American Civil War erupts, he is a strong supporter of the Southern cause, seeing parallels with the position of the Irish. His family fully backs his commitment to the Southern cause. He loses two sons in the war, one at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 and another at the Battle of Fort Sumter in 1864, and another son loses an arm. His outspoken support of the Confederacy causes him to be jailed for a time at Fort Monroe, where one of his fellow prisoners is Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In 1874, the British allow Mitchel to return to Ireland and in 1875 he is elected in a by-election to be a member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom representing the Tipperary constituency. However his election is invalidated on the grounds that he is a convicted felon. He contests the seat again in the resulting by-election and is again elected, this time with an increased vote.

Unfortunately, Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, dies in Newry on March 20, 1875, and is buried there. Thirty-eight years later, his grandson, John Purroy Mitchel, is elected Mayor of New York City.


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Birth of Theobald Wolfe Tone

theobald-wolfe-toneTheobald Wolfe Tone, posthumously known as Wolfe Tone, a leading Irish revolutionary figure and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen, is born on June 20, 1763, in Dublin. He is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism and leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

The son of a coach maker, Tone studies law and is called to the Irish bar in 1789 but soon gives up his practice. In October 1791 he helps found the Society of United Irishmen, initially a predominantly Protestant organization that works for parliamentary reforms, such as universal suffrage and Roman Catholic emancipation. In Dublin in 1792 he organizes a Roman Catholic convention of elected delegates that force Parliament to pass the Catholic Relief Act of 1793. Tone himself, however, is anticlerical and hopes for a general revolt against religious creeds in Ireland as a sequel to the attainment of Irish political freedom.

By 1794, he and his United Irishmen friends begin to seek armed aid from Revolutionary France to help overthrow English rule. After an initial effort fails, Tone goes to the United States and obtains letters of introduction from the French minister at Philadelphia to the Committee of Public Safety in Paris. In February 1796 Tone arrives in the French capital, presents his plan for a French invasion of Ireland, and is favourably received. The Directory then appoints one of the most brilliant young French generals, Lazare Hoche, to command the expedition and makes Tone an adjutant in the French army.

On December 16, 1796, Tone sails from Brest with 43 ships and nearly 14,000 men. The ships are badly handled and, after reaching the coast of west Cork and Kerry, are dispersed by a storm. Tone again brings an Irish invasion plan to Paris in October 1797, but the principal French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, takes little interest. When insurrection breaks out in Ireland in May 1798, Tone can only obtain enough French forces to make small raids on different parts of the Irish coast. In September he enters Lough Swilly, County Donegal, with 3,000 men and is captured there.

At his trial in Dublin on November 10, 1798, he defiantly proclaims his undying hostility to England and his desire “in fair and open war to produce the separation of the two countries.” He is found guilty and is sentenced to be hanged on November 12. Early in the morning of the day he is to be hanged, Tone cuts his throat with a penknife.

Theobald Wolfe Tone dies of his self-inflicted wound on November 19, 1798 at the age of 35 in Provost’s Prison, Dublin, not far from where he was born. He is buried in Bodenstown, County Kildare, near his birthplace at Sallins, and his grave is in the care of the National Graves Association.


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First Public Unveiling of the Irish Tricolour

irish-flagAt a meeting in his native Waterford on March 7, 1848, the Young Ireland leader Thomas Francis Meagher first publicly unveils the flag from a second-floor window of the Wolfe Tone Club.

Following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which pits the “green” United Irishmen against the Orange Order who are traditionally loyal to the British Crown, the ideal of making peace between both traditions in a self-governed Ireland is first mooted.

The oldest known reference to the use of green, white, and orange as a nationalist emblem dates from September 1830 when the colours are used for rosettes and badges. Since that historical period the use of the tricolour becomes the preferred mark of a republic in national flags. However, widespread recognition is not accorded to the flag until 1848.

Presented to Meagher as a gift in 1848 by a small group of French women symathetic to the Irish cause, the flag flies proudly as Meagher addresses the Waterford crowd gathered on the street below who are celebrating news of the French Revolution. Speeches made at that time by Meagher suggest that it is regarded as an innovation and not as the revival of an older flag.

From March 1848 Irish tricolours appear side-by-side with French “tricolores” at meetings held all over the country. John Mitchel, referring to the provisional Irish banner which Meagher had presented at a meeting in Dublin on April 15, 1848, says, “I hope to see that flag one day waving as our national banner.”

Although the tricolour is not forgotten as a symbol of a free Ireland, it is rarely used between 1848 and 1916. Even up to the eve of the 1916 Easter Rising, the green flag featuring a harp holds undisputed sway. Neither the colours nor the arrangement of the early tricolours are standardised. All of the 1848 tricolours show green, white, and orange, but orange is sometimes put next to the staff and, in at least one flag, the order is orange, green and white.

In 1850, a flag of green for the Roman Catholics, orange for the Protestants of the Established Church, and blue for the Presbyterians is proposed.

In 1883, a Parnellite tricolour of yellow, white, and green, arranged horizontally, is proposed. Down to modern times, yellow has occasionally been used instead of orange but such substitution tarnish’s the tricolour’s fundamental symbolism.

The flag is adopted by the rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising rebels and raised above the General Post Office in Dublin. This marks the first time that the tricolour is regarded as the national flag. It is subsequently adopted by the Irish Republic during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). Its use is continued by the Irish Free State (1922–1937) and is later given constitutional status under the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. The tricolour is used by nationalists on both sides of the border as the national flag of the whole island of Ireland since 1916.


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Birth of Mother Mary Frances Aikenhead

mary-aikenheadMother Mary Frances Aikenhead, founder of the Catholic religious institute, the Religious Sisters of Charity, and of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, is born in Daunt’s Square off Grand Parade, County Cork, on January 19, 1787.

Aikenhead is baptised in the Anglican Communion on April 4, 1787. Since she is quite frail and possibly asthmatic, it was recommended that she be fostered with a nanny named Mary Rourke who lives on higher ground on Eason’s Hill, Shandon, Cork. It is believed that she is secretly baptised a Catholic by Mary Rourke, who is a devout Catholic. Aikenhead’s parents visit every week until 1793 when her father, Dr. David Aikenhead, decides he wants her to rejoin the family in Daunt’s Square.

By the early 1790s, Aikenhead’s father has become imbibed by the principles of the United Irishmen. On one occasion Lord Edward FitzGerald, disguised as a Quaker, seeks refuge in the Aikenhead home. He is enjoying dinner with the family when the house is surrounded by troops. Fitzgerald manages to slip away but the house is searched but no incriminating documents are found.

On June 6, 1802, at age of fifteen, Aikenhead is officially baptised a Roman Catholic. In 1808, she goes to stay with her friend Anne O’Brien in Dublin. Here she witnesses widespread unemployment and poverty and soon begins to accompany her friend in visiting the poor and sick in their homes. After many years in charity work and feeling the call to religious life, she looks in vain for a religious institute devoted to outside charitable work.

Aikenhead is chosen by Archbishop Murray, Bishop Coadjutor of Dublin, to carry out his plan of founding a congregation of the Sisters of Charity in Ireland. From 1812 – 1815 she is a novitiate in the Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin at Micklegate Bar, York. It is there she assumes the name Sister Mary Augustine, which she keeps for the rest of her life.

On September 1, 1815, the initial members of the Convent of the Institute take their vows and Sister Mary Augustine is appointed Superior-General. The following sixteen years are filled with arduous work – organizing the community and extending its sphere of labor to every phase of charity, chiefly hospital and rescue work.

In 1831, overexertion and disease take a toll Sister Mary Augustine’s health, leaving her an invalid. Her activity is unceasing, however, as she directs her sisters in their work during the plague of 1832, places them in charge of new institutions, and sends them on missions to France and Australia. She also founds St. Margaret’s Hospice, which has been known as St. Margaret of Scotland Hospice since 1950.

Sister Mary Augustine dies in Dublin on July 22, 1858 at 71 years of age. She leaves her institute in a flourishing condition, in charge of ten institutions, besides innumerable missions and branches of charitable work. She is buried in the cemetery adjacent to St. Mary Magdalen’s, Donnybrook.