The Manchester Martyrsire

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On the 11th September, 1867, two prominent Fenians Colonel Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy were arrested in the centre of Manchester on a vagrancy charge. News of their arrest was immediately sent to Mr. Disraeli, the Prime Minister, and it was considered quite a capture. Seven days later, the two prisoners were conveyed from the Court House in Manchester to the County Jail on Hyde Road, West Gorton. The Kelly and Deasy were handcuffed and locked in two separate compartments inside the Police van, with twelve mounted policemen to escorting the van.

On 18 September 1867 about 50 Irish Fenians, led by William Allen, attacked a prison van guarded by a large number of unarmed police at Hyde Road in Manchester, England.

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Their aim was to release two important Fenian prisoners, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy. In the course of freeing the men, an unarmed police sergeant, Charles Brett, was shot dead, and 26 men were eventually tried for their part in the attack. Three, William Allen, Michael O’Brien and Michael Larkin, who became known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’, were hanged in front of an estimated 10,000 people on 23 November 1867 for their part in the raid, and the events surrounding the attack became part of Irish nationalist folklore.

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All three executed men were born in Ireland: William Allen came from Bandon, Co. Cork, and was only eighteen years of age when he died. In a defiant address from the dock he declared, ‘I will die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people’. Michael Larkin, 32, came from near Banagher, Co. Offaly, and was a tailor who lived with his wife and family in Manchester. He was ill at the time of the raid and struggled to escape from the scene, and his comrades Larkin and O’Brien were captured while helping to carry him across a nearby railway embankment.

Michael O’Brien, 31, from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, had previously lived in the United States and gained the rank of lieutenant in the US army. An accomplished revolutionary, he lived under the pseudonym William Gould while in England, and contemporary accounts refer to him by his false identity.

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Their deaths made them martyrs but the courage and eloquence of their speeches from the dock after being condemned to death established them as heroes, their cry of “God save Ireland” inspiring TD Sullivan to write a rebel song of that name which became for more than 50 years Ireland’s unofficial national anthem.
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The Holy hijack of Aer Lingus Flight 164

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Today marks the centenary of “the Mircale of the Sun”an event that occurred on 13 October 1917, attended by a large crowd who had gathered near Fátima, Portugal, in response to a prophecy made by three shepherd children that the Virgin Mary, referred to as Our Lady of Fatima, would appear and perform miracles on that date. Newspapers published testimony from reporters and other people who claimed to have witnessed extraordinary solar activity, such as the sun appearing to “dance” or zig-zag in the sky, careen towards the earth, or emit multicolored light and radiant colors. According to these reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes.

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“Hang on there” I hear you say” Back up their Padre, the title mentions a hijack not a divine intervention” Yes you are right, please bear with me

As stated the Miracle of the Sun occurred on October 13 1917, fast forward a little over 6 decades to May 2 1981. Aer Lingus Flight 164 was a scheduled Boeing 737 passenger flight that was hijacked on 2 May 1981, en route from Dublin Airport in Ireland to London Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom. But that is not where the story ends.

Flight EI164 was about five minutes from Heathrow airport when passenger Downey, a 55-year-old Australian but living in Dublin, was said to have gone into the cabin toilet, he doused his hands in gasoline and poured water on his clothes to give the impression that they were flammable ,holding a lighter and making threats unless he was taken to Iran.

When he was told the plane didn’t have the fuel to get to Tehran, he settled for France.

Although the plane was now on foreign soil, Irish Transport Minister – and future Taoiseach(prime minister) – Albert Reynolds flew to France to handle the situation.

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Downey had been a Trappist monk in residence at Tre Fontane Abbey in the 1950s (this was later confirmed by monastery officials),before he was expelled from the order for punching a superior in the face.

He then took a job as a tour guide in central Portugal, at a shrine devoted to Our Lady of Fátima, who is said to have appeared before three children and shared with them three secrets.At the time of the hijacking, the third secret was known only to the Pope and other senior figures in the Catholic Church.

On Flight EI 164, Downey carried a briefcase containing a text he believes may be the third secret. It predicts devil-inspired catastrophes and damnation.

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“The third secret of Fatima is many things,” Downey said. “Basically, it concerns the third millennium and the second coming of Christ.

His text says a “great chastisement” will fall on humanity in the second part of this century the like of which has not been seen since the deluge.

It reveals, he says, that Satan infiltrate the top of the church. The great and the powerful will perish with the little and the weak.

The Catholic Church will split and the corrupt in Rome will fall. Millions and millions will perish by the hour and those still living will envy those who are dead.

Downey further demanded the publication in the Irish press of the nine-page statement which he had the Captain throw from the cockpit window.

After an eight-hour standoff (during which time Downey released 11 of his 112 hostages), French special forces stormed the plane and apprehended Downey. No shots were fired and nobody was injured.

It emerged that Downey was being sought by police in Perth, Australia, in connection with a $70,000 land fraud incident and was also wanted in Shannon, Ireland, for alleged assault.In February 1983, he was sentenced, in Saint-Omer, France, to five years’ imprisonment for air piracy.

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The sack of Wexford -Oct 11 1649

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The Sack of Wexford took place on October 11  1649, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, when the New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell took Wexford town in south-eastern Ireland. The English Parliamentarian troops broke into the town while the commander of the garrison, David Sinnot, was trying to negotiate a surrender – massacring soldiers and civilians alike. Much of the town was burned and its harbour was destroyed. Along with the Siege of Drogheda, the sack of Wexford is still remembered in Ireland as an infamous atrocity.

Oliver Cromwell was the most influential General of the English Civil War, famous for creating the New Model Army and decisively defeating King Charles I at Naseby in 1645.

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However, his fighting career didn’t end with the final defeat of the King. Ireland still held Royalists, who had recently allied with the local Confederate rebels, and the these combined forces were preying on Parliamentary shipping. Cromwell was not a man to sit my and let this happen and in August 1649 he landed in Ireland with a highly trained army of Civil War veterans.

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The town’s garrison initially consisted of 1500 Confederate soldiers under David
Sinnot. However, the morale of the town was low – perhaps as a result of hearing of the fall of Drogheda (below) on September 11 – and many of the civilians in Wexford wanted to surrender. Sinnot however, appears to have strung out surrender negotiations with Cromwell and was steadily reinforced, bringing his garrison strength up to 4,800 men by the 11th of October.

While negotiations continued on the 11th October Cromwell’s troops suddenly stormed the vulnerable town. Cromwell denied giving the order,cromwel6-233x300

but chaos ensued as the Parliamentarian troops flooded into Wexford. The town’s castle was inexplicably surrendered without a fight by its English Royalist captain, Stafford, and after this any notion of a fight was over. Irish troops fled from their stations in panic and were then pursued and often massacred by Cromwell’s men. Many more tried to cross the nearby river Slaney to escape the orgy of violence unfolding in the town, but most, including the governor Sinnot, drowned or were shot as they tried to swim. Violence in the town grew out of hand, spreading to its civilian population and the buildings as well as the survivors of the garrison. By the end of the day 2000 soldiers and 1500 civilians had been killed, at the cost of just 20 of Cromwell’s men.

 

The Bombing of Campile,Co.Wexford-Ireland.

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Ireland remained officially neutral during World War II. However, on 26 August 1940, the German Luftwaffe bombed Campile in broad daylight.

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On August 26 1940 the tiny village of Campile in Co Wexford was bombed by the German Luftwaffe, killing three local women and giving Ireland — until then largely insulated from the terror of World War Two — its first experience of the conflict.

 

Sisters Mary Ellen (30) and Kitty Kent (26) and restaurant worker Kathleen Hurley (27) all perished after the Heinkel bomber dropped four bombs over the Shelburne Co-op and Creamery, demolishing it in a matter of seconds.

Mary Ellen and Kitty were the daughters of Michael and Ellen Kent from Terrerath. Mary Ellen worked as the manageress in the restaurant, while Kitty worked in the drapery. In a cruel twist of fate Kitty had been delayed in going to her dinner that fateful day and would otherwise not have been in the restaurant when the bombs were dropped. Kathleen Hurley, the daughter of William and Catherine Hurley, also worked in the restaurant and had just returned that morning after two weeks’ of summer holidays.

 

 

Four German bombs were dropped on the creamery and restaurant sections of Shelburne Co-op on that day. The railway was also targeted by the bombers. The attack has never been fully explained, although there are numerous theories as to why the bombing occurred.

One was that the German pilots were lost and had mistaken the south-east coast of Wexford for Wales.

It was also suggested that butter boxes emblazoned with the Shelburne Co-op name were discovered by the Nazis a few months earlier following the evacuation of Dunkirk and that the bombing was in retaliation for supplying foodstuffs to the Allied armies.

However, Campile historian John Flynn, who has written a new book to mark the 70th anniversary of the disaster, argues that the bombing was a message from Hitler to Taoiseach Eamon de Valera warning him to keep his promise on Ireland’s neutrality.

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After consulting military reports, Mr Flynn said it was clear that Campile was a “definite target” that fateful day.

One theory that has always been battered about is that the co-op was supplying butter to the Allies armies when we were supposed to be neutral.

it was also alleged that the Co-op sold boots to the British Army and these were found by the Germans. Another theory is the RAF were able to put the German bombers, which were targeted by a radar beam, off course and that they were totally reliant on crew judgement in the case of the bombing of Campile.

The 20-minute ordeal terrorised the peaceful village and left behind a trail of devastation, with huge gates ripped off their hinges, slates torn off roofs, railway siding was twisted and sleepers were pulled up.

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On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the bombing, a plaque was erected on the co-op walls in memory of the three women that died during the attack.

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One thing that always puzzled me is why did de Valera  formally offer his condolences to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Adolf Hitler in 1945 ?

Under Hitler’s leadership several dozens of Irish citizens were killed, for Campile wasn’t the only town that was bombed. I know under the guise of the neutrality diplomatic protocol, he may have felt compelled to do so.

But neutrality means  2 things “the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartiality.” and “absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling.”

 

French troops in Co Mayo,Ireland

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One of the most extraordinary episodes in Irish history saw a French naval flotilla sail to the Northern coast of Mayo in 1798 to help Ireland in its long fight to break with Britain.

The 1789 French Revolution had been a huge source of inspiration for Irish nationalists and in the wake of the second annual celebrations of the fall of the Bastille in 1791, The United Irishmen were formed by a group of merchants and intellectuals who sought an end to British interference, parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Its leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, went to seek French support.

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On 22 August, about 1,000 French soldiers under General Humbert landed in the north-west of the country, at Kilcummin in County Mayo.

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Joined by up to 5,000 local rebels, they had some initial success, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the British in Castlebar (also known as the Castlebar races to commemorate the speed of the retreat) and setting up a short-lived “Irish Republic” with John Moore as president of one of its provinces, Connacht. This sparked some supportive risings in Longford and Westmeath which were quickly defeated, and the main force was defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck, in County Longford, on 8 September 1798. The Irish Republic had only lasted twelve days from its declaration of independence to its collapse. The French troops who surrendered were repatriated to France in exchange for British prisoners of war, but hundreds of the captured Irish rebels were executed. This episode of the 1798 Rebellion became a major event in the heritage and collective memory of the West of Ireland and was commonly known in Irish as Bliain na bhFrancach and in English as “The Year of the French”.[

On 12 October 1798, a larger French force consisting of 3,000 men, and including Wolfe Tone himself, attempted to land in County Donegal near Lough Swilly. They were intercepted by a larger Royal Navy squadron, and finally surrendered after a three-hour battle without ever landing in Ireland.

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Wolfe Tone was tried by court-martial in Dublin and found guilty. He asked for death by firing squad, but when this was refused, Wolfe Tone cheated the hangman by slitting his own throat in prison on 12 November, and died a week later

Michael Keogh-The man who saved Hitler.

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There is a saying ” Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

But what if in saving one life you inadvertently plunged the world into the most catastrophic horror of all time? What if you saved the life of Adolf Hitler just as he was taking his first baby steps to becoming the most evil monster in history?

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Michael Keogh was an Irish soldier who served on both sides of World War I, and has become known as “the man who saved Hitler.

Michael Patrick Keogh was born in 1891, the son of a local Royal Irish Constabulary policeman Laurence Keogh, in Tullow, County Carlow. Some of Keogh’s ancestors had been involved in the 1798 Rebellion in County Wexford, and his grandfather Mathew Keogh was the leader of the 1887 resistance against the Coolgreany Evictions also in County Wexford. His great uncle was Myles Keogh, the second in command to Colonel Custer, and who died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

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Keogh lived in Tullow as a child and at age 14 won a County Council scholarship to attend the seminary school, St Patrick’s Monastery, Mountrath, County Laois. He was a member of the O’Growney Branch of the Gaelic League in Tullow from 1903 to 1906, and entered singing and dancing competitions.

Keogh emigrated to New York City in 1907 to live with his aunt Mary Keogh, and once there he joined the National Guard. He became a member of Clan na Gael in New York, through which he developed a friendship with Roger Casement.

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In 1909 Keogh claims to have obtained an engineering degree from Columbia University, though this remains unsubstantiated. Keogh spent 10 months fighting against Mexican guerrillas on the Texan frontier in 1910, but was forced to retire from the army due to an abdominal gunshot wound. He worked on the Panama Canal, possibly as an engineer, until 1913 when he returned to Ireland. Once there, he joined the Royal Irish Regiment, although he later claimed to have done this to enlist fellow Irish soldiers to the Republican Army. Private Keogh was convicted of sedition in 1914, following an incident at the Curragh Camp involving British officers refusing to fight against Ulster Unionists, and served 28 days in the cells.

In 1913 he joined the Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army.

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A lowly private, he lectured his officers and spent a month behind bars after a court martial for voicing his strong republican views.

Despite these views, a fight was a fight, so he fought in the trenches until he landed in a German POW camp. Keogh had befriended Roger Casement in the US years earlier, and Casement now sought him out to head an Irish Brigade of prisoners willing to switch sides.

Privately the Germans treated Casement’s Brigade as an Irish joke, but they were happy to play him along for the nuisance value he could deliver back in Ireland.

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But Casement’s career as a gun runner was short-lived and after his execution in 1916 the Irish Brigade was effectively shelved by the Germans.

Keogh joined the German Army proper, where he rose to the rank of Field Lieutenant. In his regiment he met a fiery Lance Corporal called Adolf Hitler.

After the war, Germany descended into chaos as rival factions vied to fill the void left by the collapse of the old order. Keogh joined the proto-fascist Freikorps, who were sworn to smash Communism.

When Marxists attempted to set up a Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich, the Friekorps wiped them out with shocking brutality. Peace had no sooner been restored than it was shattered by the noisiest man in Germany.

Keogh was duty officer at a Munich barracks when he was called to quell a riot that had erupted in a gym. What he saw was not exactly a fair fight.

A crowd of some 200 soldiers was kicking the living daylights out of just two. Some of the attackers were brandishing bayonets. The two victims were about to die.

Keogh ordered his men to fire a salvo over the heads of the mob. It did the trick. He dragged the two victims out of the gym “cut, bleeding and in need of the doctor”.

It was a measure of Hitler’s madness that he had entered the hall to provoke a reaction from 200 troops, by hectoring them with views that were already openly hateful.

As Keogh dragged him off to the guardroom for his own safety, the future fuhrer continued to spew angry comments.

Once there, Keogh recalled: “The fellow with the moustache gave his name as Adolf Hitler. It was the Lance Corporal of Ligny. I would not have recognised him. He was thin and emaciated from his wounds.”

Keogh arrived back in Ireland in late 1919 as the War of Independence was coming to a boil. He linked with Michael Collins, trafficking guns from Germany.

After a decade here he moved back to Germany to work as an engineer. He attended one of the infamous Nuremberg Rallies, but after The Night Of The Long Knives in 1934 where Hitler killed former allies, Keogh began to fear for the safety of his German wife and children.

He moved back to Ireland on foot of a letter from De Valera promising him a job, but the promise went unkept.

Upon his return to Ireland, Keogh was employed at the Poolbeg Generating Station in Dublin and the sugar-beet factory in Carlow. Keogh died in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown in September 1964, survived by his wife.

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Dr Aidan McCarthy-Rescued from Dunkirk -Survived the Nagasaki bomb.

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“Aidan MacCarthy was one of a handful of people who survived the two events that mark the beginning and end of the Second World War,” said Jackson, a lecturer in creative media at the Institute of Technology, Tralee.

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Air Commodore Joseph Aidan MacCarthy OBE, GM (1914–1995) was an Irish doctor of the Royal Air Force who showed great courage, resourcefulness and humanity during his capture by the Japanese during the Second World War.

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MacCarthy was born in 1914 in the town of Castletownbere, Beara Peninsula County Cork, Ireland. His parents owned land and businesses in the area.

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He attended Clongowes Wood School and University College Cork. He graduated with a medical degree in 1938. Lacking family connections, he was unable to obtain employment as a doctor in Ireland so he moved to the United Kingdom, working first in Wales, then in London. There, he met two former classmates from his medical school and, after a night of drinking with them, decided to join the British armed forces as a medical officer. Which service (the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force) was decided for him by a coin toss made by a nightclub hostess in the early hours of the morning.

In 1940 he was posted to France and was evacuated from Dunkirk where he attended wounded Allied soldiers while under fire from German aircraft.

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In September 1940, he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

The following year he was awarded the George Medal for his part in the rescue of the crew of a crashed and burning Wellington bomber at RAF Honington.The aircraft had crash landed after its undercarriage had failed to lower and it came to rest on the airfields bomb dump, where it caught fire. Together with Group Captain (later, Air-Vice Marshal) John Astley Gray, MacCarthy entered the burning wreck and rescued two crewmen, but were unable to save the pilot.Gray was badly burned during the rescue; MacCarthy was also burned, but less seriously.

Posted to the Far East in 1941, MacCarthy was captured by the Japanese in Sumatra. The prison ship transporting Allied prisoners to Japan was sunk by US bombers. MacCarthy had to do the best he could for his patients whilst splashing around in the South China Sea. A Japanese fishing boat pulled him out of the ocean and transported him to Japan. There, he cared for Allied prisoners of war who were forced to work in horrific conditions. To the Japanese ear ‘MacCarthy’ and ‘MacArthur’ were indistinguishable. The Japanese assumed that MacCarthy must be a close blood relative of the American commander. Therefore, whenever MacCarthy answered his name, he was struck on the forehead. This may have contributed to his developing a brain clot in later life.

He spent the final year of the Second World War working as a slave for the Mitsubishi Corporation. After the war, he was never bitter towards the Japanese but refused to allow a Mitsubishi car in his driveway.

(A photo of the POW officers at Keisen, August 1945, with Aidan MacCarthy seated, second from right, )

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The Mitsubishi Steel & Arms Works, the Nagasaki factory, where he was imprisoned and where he sought refuge from the atomic bomb, was in fact the target of the bomb on August 9, 1945.

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He put his medical training to good use in the camp while treating his fellow prisoners, including making a protein-rich maggot soup for those who were ill, smuggling yeast in balls of rice to other camps, and treating eye infections with shaving cream.

Dr MacCarthy was the first non-Japanese doctor to assist civilians in the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki.

On August 15, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered, he was gifted an ancestral Japanese sword by his camp commandant, whose life he saved from POWs intent on revenge.

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He was one of the few people who survived the two events which bookend the Second World War — Dunkirk and Nagasaki.

The Japanese ship on which he was being transported to Nagasaki was sunk by an American submarine. Out of the 1,000 POWs on the ship, just 35 survived.

Before the war, he had weighed 14 stone. When he returned home at the end of the war, following years of starvation and malnutrition, his body weight had halved to just seven stone.

On Thursday 20th July 2017 Prince Harry will name the medical facility in RAF Honington after this Irish WWII hero Dr Aidan MacCarthy.

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Jane Austen & Limerick,Ireland.

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I never got the whole Jane Austen hype. I find her stories boring and there is nothing I can identify with.

However the fact that there is a Limerick connection to her I do find intriguing. And I believe if she had lived in Limerick her stories may have been a lot more exiting, but that is my personal opinion.

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When she was a young girl, her father, rector of Steventon in Hampshire, let her scribble in the parish register the names of imaginary husbands. But Jane never married.

However, in 1795 her life might have turned out differently. Thomas Langlois Lefroy of Limerick had recently graduated with distinction and four gold medals in oratory from Trinity College, Dublin.

He was born at 108 George’s Street (O’Connell Street) in the heart of the newly developed Newtownpery in Limerick city.(now the address of the AIB Bank)

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Suffering from overwork, he was spending Christmas with his uncle and aunt at Ashe near Steventon. Jane Austen, with her bright hazel eyes and rosy complexion, was a great favourite of his aunt who introduced her to Tom at a local ball.

His fair hair and deep blue eyes enchanted Jane; he was “a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man”.

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Writing to her older sister Cassandra, she said they behaved in a most “profligate” and “shocking” manner by dancing several times together without changing partners and breaking more rules by sitting down, joking, and discussing books. All very scandalous.

They were dance partners at three more balls, and appeared so close that a family friend presented Austen with a portrait of Lefroy.

At 20, Jane had reached the age when Cassandra had become engaged. She joked that if Lefroy proposed marriage she would only accept if he got rid of his white morning coat.

But four weeks after they met, Austen and her ‘Irish friend’ were forced to part: he had to travel to London to study at the Bar. Jane wrote: “At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy … My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.’

But theirs was more than a whirlwind romance. In August 1796, on her way to Kent, Jane and two of her brothers stayed with Lefroy and his great-uncle Benjamin in London. A rich bachelor, he had seen Tom through college, and was about to finance his law studies. He wanted him to marry a girl with money and family influence.

Jane’s father was heavily in debt, had to sell the family carriage, and resort to taking pupils into the rectory. Lefroy needed someone who would bring a large dowry, and could not risk entangling himself with a girl who depended on her parents’ small allowance.

Jane waited for Tom but he did not come. When he visited Hampshire in autumn 1798, his aunt sent him packing to London, so as not to give Jane false hopes. The next time she saw his aunt, Jane did not dare ask about Tom and never mentions him again in her letters.

Austen had been spared living in an unknown country, with no money of her own, ground down by a life of almost continuous pregnancy. Instead she had time to write three novels before she was 24. Lefroy found a more ‘eligible’ match in Mary Paul from Wexford, sister of a college friend. They were married in Wales where many Wexford families had taken refuge during the 1798 Rebellion, and went to live in Dublin where Tom practised at the Bar.

When her brother suddenly died a year later, Mary became heiress to the Paul estates. Lefroy had indeed made a fortunate match. As the eldest son, his family depended on him “to rise into distinction”: he did not let them down. Daniel O’Connell claimed Lefroy, a Protestant, was promoted above more worthy Catholics.

Lefroy always carried a Bible, and argued that only a proper system of education could improve the morals of the lower classes. He opposed Catholic emancipation, and founded a society to send Protestant missionaries into Catholic areas. Elected Tory MP for Dublin University in 1830, he was against extending the vote to the middle classes.

While his wife and children settled into a Gothic mansion at Carriglas, Co Longford, Lefroy stayed in Dublin, within easy reach of his work as a judge.

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Many of his decisions were harsh: during the Famine he transported leaders of the Young Ireland movement for encouraging tenants not to pay rent.

Lefroy’s hand in the oppression of Catholics, when his Huguenot ancestors had fled oppression in France, is an irony Jane Austen would not have missed.

Lefroy’s ruthless efficiency in dealing with political cases was recognised in 1852 by the Tory government that promoted him to Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, the most senior judge in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

He held the position until he was 90 when, by one account, he was still reading his newspaper without spectacles.

Shortly before he died, aged 93, Lefroy confessed to a nephew that he had once loved Jane Austen; quickly adding that it was only “a boyish kind of love”.

One of Tom’s daughters was called Jane Christmas.Is it a coincidence that he named his daughter after his lover and after the period that had been together? I don’t think so.

The Bombing of Broadgate, 1939- The IRA S-plan

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In the wider perception of European history, the late 1930s is remembered as the time when Nazi Germany began to cast its shadow over Europe leading ultimately to the most destructive conflict in history – World War II. At the same time however, old grievances were bubbling to the surface once more in Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were about to resume their campaign to unify Ireland and expel what they saw as a British military occupation of Northern Ireland.

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ON AUGUST 25, 1939, an IRA bomb killed five innocent people and wounded more than 60 others in Coventry. The dead included a 15-year-old boy and an 82- year-old man. Little over a week later, the bombing was overshadowed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

The first direct talks between the IRA and the Nazis began in 1937, when Tom Barry, the then chief-of-staff, travelled to Germany.

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The legendary leader of the Cork flying columns was accompanied on his travels by a German agent, Jupp Hoven. While posing as a TCD student, Hoven undertook spying work in Belfast, Dublin and Cork. He was a close friend of Helmut Clissmann, who ran the German academic exchange service in Dublin. Both men were from Aachen and had nurtured links with the IRA in the 1930s.
Barry’s 1937 trip to the Continent was aimed at seeking German support for IRA attacks on British military installations in Northern Ireland. But at an IRA convention in April 1938, Barry’s plan was rejected in favour of more grandiose pro-German plans conceived by the new chief-of-staff, Seán Russell. The 1916 veteran had long cherished a Casement-style alliance with Germany.

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In August 1938, Russell called on an old IRA comrade, James(Saemus) O’Donovan, who, since 1930, had been working as a manager at ESB headquarters in Dublin.

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The IRA leader’s visit was to enlist his friend’s help in designing a bombing campaign on English soil, to be launched the following year. Russell and O’Donovan were the only two surviving members of the IRA general headquarters staff who had opposed the Anglo-Irish treaty in January 1922. Despite being on the state payroll and having a young family, O’Donovan did not hesitate to accept Russell’s call to arms. I

O’Donovan’s elder son, Donal, had misgivings about his father’s decision to re-enlist with the IRA in 1938, at the age of 41. But James O’Donovan himself never expressed any regrets about his role in the English bombing campaign, which resulted in the deaths of seven members of the public, scores of serious injuries, and the execution of two IRA volunteers in February 1940.

The S-plan kicked off with polite formality, as might be expected from an ex-pupil of the Jesuits (O’Donovan was born in Roscommon in 1896 and educated at Glasgow’s prestigious St Aloysius College). In mid-January 1939, the British foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, received an IRA letter declaring war, which began ‘Your Excellency . . .’. It was typical of O’Donovan to issue a deadly threat cloaked in formal terms.
The ultimatum gave the British government four days to withdraw troops from Northern Ireland—an impossible deadline to meet. In fact, however, the S-plan had nothing to do with forcing a British withdrawal from the North, and everything to do with attracting the attention of the Germans. Russell saw Hitler as the only European leader capable of destroying Britain. His logic was that with England on her knees, nothing could prevent a German-backed reunification of Ireland.

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The British government refused to adhere to the demand and thus the IRA declared war on the United Kingdom on Sunday 15th January 1939. The next day, five bombs were detonated in London, Warwickshire and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The targets were electricity pylons and power sub-stations in an attempt to specifically harm industrial outputs in those areas. This set the tone for much of the IRA’s campaign and over the following week a significant number of targets were hit but with almost no fatalities since they were aimed at infrastructure, power and gas supplies. This was a key factor in supporting the propaganda war since large numbers of deaths might turn the all-important American support against them.

As a wave of IRA bombs exploded across English cities in  January 1939, it didn’t take the Abwehr long to act. In early February it dispatched one of its agents, Oscar Pfaus, to Dublin to meet the IRA leadership. O’Donovan recalled that on 3 February the German agent ‘met Seán Russell and myself in Pete’s [Kearney] house in Clontarf. He explained that his principals would be glad to meet a representative from us and discuss the possibility of assistance . . .’.
This was an offer the IRA leaders could not refuse.

Throughout 1939 the IRA carried out repeated attacks aimed at further undermining the British industrial complex and the British people’s confidence in their government to protect them. In July 1939, attacks were made on cinemas in London and Birmingham using tear gas bombs which although didn’t kill anyone struck fear in to the wider public that their enemy was on their own streets and walking among them. At the same time, perhaps frustrated by the lack of results thus far, the British government revealed that it had been informed that the attacks on the UK would intensify in the coming months. Not long after this, bombs were detonated at banks across London killing one person while a second was killed in a blast at King’s Cross train station a month later. The British responded with emergency powers that saw large numbers of the Irish community in Britain get deported to Southern Ireland who were themselves introducing legislation to combat the IRA. The British were also increasingly concerned about reported support for the IRA’s campaign coming from Berlin.

Then on August 25th 1939, less than a week before Hitler’s forces crossed in to Poland, a rather inconspicuous-looking bike was placed up against a wall in Broadgate, part of Coventry’s busy city centre.

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The bike had a basket on the front, common for the time, with a bundle inside it. A rather frustrated man had left it there and walked away having found it difficult to take the bike across the tramlines in the area. His name was Joby O’Sullivan who came from Cork and he was the only one who knew that the bundle in the basket was in fact a bomb. He would later state that he intended to take the already armed bomb to a nearby police station but the tramlines had slowed his progress down meaning the bomb was due to detonate soon and not wanting to be a martyr he left it where it was.

At two minutes after half past two on a busy Friday afternoon, the 5lbs of explosive was detonated by an alarm clock timer. The blast shattered glass which shot out like bullets that cut down people walking by at the time.

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A young shop assistant, 21-year old Elsie Answell, was killed instantly having been standing by a window near where the bomb detonated. She was due to be married in early September but ended up getting buried in the same church her service was to take place.She was only identifiable by her engagement ring.[2

In the W.H. Smiths store, 30-year old Rex Gentle who came to Coventry from North Wales for holiday work and 15-year old local boy John Arnott were also killed in the initial blast. 50-year old Gwilym Rowlands was killed while sweeping the roads for the council while the oldest victim, 82-year old James Clay, was struck down as he walked home from his regular café which he had left earlier than usual because he was feeling unwell. Another 70 people were injured many of them with severe lacerations caused by the flying glass.

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The British public were outraged and the attack served to further diminish confidence in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his government who seemed impotent to stop both the IRA at home and Hitler in Eastern Europe.

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Roger Casement-Irish Hero and the Congo

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Roger Casement was born in Sandycove, County Dublin in September 1864 and raised in Ballycastle County Antrim following the death of his parents..

between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours, was an Irish-born civil servant who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat, and later became a humanitarian activist, Irish nationalist, and poet. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru. He then made efforts during World War I to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.

On this day in 1916 he was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising.

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However I will not go in to his involvement in the Easter Rising in this blog, my focus will be on his Congo report known as the Casement report.

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The Casement Report was a 1904 document written  detailing abuses in the Congo Free State

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which was under the private ownership of King Leopold II of Belgium.

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This report was instrumental in Leopold finally relinquishing his private holdings in Africa. Leopold had had ownership of the Congolese state since 1885, granted to him by the Berlin Conference, in which he exploited its natural resources (mostly rubber) for his own private wealth.

For many years prior to the Casement Report there were reports from the Congo alleging widespread abuses and exploitation of the native population. In 1895, the situation was reported to Dr Henry Grattan Guinness (1861–1915), a missionary doctor. He had established the Congo-Balolo Mission in 1889, and was promised action by King Leopold later in 1895, but nothing changed. H. R. Fox-Bourne of the Aborigines’ Protection Society had published Civilisation in Congoland in 1903, and the journalist E. D. Morel also wrote several articles about the Leopoldian government’s behaviour in the Congo Free State.

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On 20 May 1903 a motion by the Liberal Herbert Samuel was debated in the British House of Commons, resulting in this resolution: “.. That the Government of the Congo Free State having, at its inception, guaranteed to the Powers that its Native subjects should be governed with humanity, and that no trading monopoly or privilege should be permitted within its dominions, this House requests His Majesty’s Government to confer with the other Powers, signatories of the Berlin General Act by virtue of which the Congo Free State exists, in order that measures may be adopted to abate the evils prevalent in that State.

Subsequently, the British consul at Boma in the Congo, the Irishman Roger Casement was instructed by Balfour’s government to investigate. His report was published in 1904, confirmed Morel’s accusations, and had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Casement met and became friends with Morel just before the publication of his report in 1904 and realized that he had found the ally he had sought. Casement convinced Morel to establish an organization for dealing specifically with the Congo question. With Casement’s and Dr. Guinness’s assistance, he set up and ran the Congo Reform Association, which worked to end Leopold’s control of the Congo Free State. Branches of the association were established as far away as the United States.

The Casement Report comprises forty pages of the Parliamentary Papers, to which is appended another twenty pages of individual statements gathered by Casement as Consul, including several detailing grim tales of killings, mutilations, kidnappings and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Copies of the Report were sent by the British government to the Belgian government as well as to nations who were signatories to the Berlin Agreement in 1885, under which much of Africa had been partitioned. The British Parliament demanded a meeting of the fourteen signatory powers to review the 1885 Berlin Agreement. The Belgian Parliament, pushed by socialist leader Emile Vandervelde 

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and other critics of the King’s Congolese policy, forced a reluctant Leopold to set up an independent commission of enquiry.

 

Its findings confirmed Casement’s report in every detail. This led to the arrest and punishment of officials who had been responsible for murders during a rubber-collection expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national who was given a five-year sentence for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives).