December 2012

History Selection

St Columcille, born December 521
Narcissus Marsh, born December 1638
Lady Jane Wilde, December 1821 Maud Gonne MacBride, born December 1866 Erskine Hamilton Childers, born December 1905
Edna O'Brien, born December 1930

On this Day: December
1st 1494 - Opening of Poynings' Parliament in Drogheda. The Parliament of Ireland was thereafter to be placed under the authority of the Parliament of England.
1848 - The paddle steamer The Londonderry took shelter in Derry harbour. It was found that 72 people had suffocated on board.
1999 - British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the transfer of powers to Stormont as 'one giant step forward'.
2nd 1811 - The Kildare Place Society was formed to promote the education of the poor.
- The Irish government ratified changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution as the Good Friday Agreement came into operation. The IRA appointed a representative to enter into talks with General John de Chastelain on decommissioning.
3rd 1925 - The Boundary Commission recommended no change to the border.
1992 - The IRA bombed Manchester, injuring 65 people.
4th 1967 - The first independent computer in Ireland was introduced at Shannon Airport.
1971 - 15 people died when McGurk's Bar was bombed.
5th 1640 - The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, John Atherton, was executed for immorality.
1921 - David Lloyd George threatened the Irish with 'immediate and terrible war'.
1975 - The Peace People held their final march, along the River Boyne.
6th 1649 - Battle of Lisnagarvey.
1890 - Forty-four members of the Irish Parliamentary Party walked out in protest at Parnell's leadership.
1921 - Treaty signed in London, allowing for the creation of a 'Free State' in a partitioned Ireland.
1922 - Irish Free State officially came into existence.
1976 - Dr Patrick Hillery became the Sixth President of Ireland.
1982 - The INLA killed seventeen people with a bomb attack on the Droppin Well Inn.
7th 1688 - Apprentice boys of Derry locked the gates against James's army.
1979 - Charles Haughey was elected leader of Fianna Fáil.
8th 1757 - Rotunda Hospital opened in Dublin.
1933 - Blueshirts banned by the Irish government.
1980 - Margaret Thatcher became the first British PM to visit Ireland since independence.
9th 1973 - The Sunningdale Agreement was signed.
10th 1649 - First siege of Waterford called off.
1974 - Seán MacBride won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
11th 1920 - British forces set fire to the centre of Cork.
1979 - Charles Haughey became Taoiseach.
2000 - President Clinton arrived in Dublin.
12th 1928 - The first Irish coinage was issued.
1936 - Following the abdication of King Edward VIII, the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act was passed to abolish the crown and role of the king in consitutional law.
1955 - Cork Opera House was destroyed by fire.
13th 1867 - The attempted rescue of Richard O'Sullivan Burke from Clerkenwell Jail resulted in twelve civilian deaths.
1922 - The Oireachtas met for the first time.
1972 - President Éamon de Valera signed documents covering Ireland's entry into the EEC.
14th 1955 - Ireland was admitted to the United Nations.
15th 1338 - Great flood at Kilkenny.
1844 - St. Malachy's Church in Belfast was dedicated.
1993 - Downing Street Declaration issued by Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and British PM John Major.
16th 1653 - Oliver Cromwell declared Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
1921 - The British House of Parliament accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
17th 1803 - Surrender of Michael Dwyer.
1983 - The IRA bombed Harrods in London, killing six people.
18th 1946 - The Irish government announced the release of 24 internees, including Brendan Behan.
1953 - The Censorship Board banned almost 100 publications.
19th 1974 - Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh became the fifth President of Ireland.
1981 - The Dublin-registered Union Star sank on its maiden voyage with sixteen casualties.
20th 1711 - The Occasional Conformity Act was passed, aimed at preventing Nonconformists and Catholics from taking 'occasional' communion in the Church of England in order to become eligible for public office.
1961 - Robert McGladdery became the last man to be legally executed in Northern Ireland.
1916 - Announcement made at the British House of Commons that all prisoners from the Easter Rising would be released.
1948 - President Seán T. O'Kelly signed the Republic of Ireland Bill at a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin.
22nd 1796 - French fleet, with Theobald Wolfe Tone on board, arrived in Bantry Bay, but could not land.
1919 - The 'Better Government of Ireland' bill proposed two Home Rule parliaments.
23rd 1895 - Opening of Grand Opera House in Belfast.
1939 - Ammunition was stolen from the national arsenal at Phoenix Park by the IRA.
24th 1889 - Charles Stewart Parnell publicly accused of adultery.
1895 - Fifteen people dies in the Kingstown Lifeboat Disaster.
25th 1351 - William O' Ceallaigh held a Christmas Feast for the poets of Ireland.
1945 - In his presidential address, Seán T. O'Kelly called on the young to support the Irish language.
26th 1381 - Edmund Mortimor died at Cork, prompting a military crisis.
1997 - St. Stephen's Day hunts sparked major animal welfare protests.
27th 1601 - Red Hugh O'Donnell left Ireland for Spain.
- LVF leader Billy Wright was shot dead in prison by the INLA.
28th 1821 - Four lifeboat men drowned while rescuing the brig of the crew Ellen of Liverpool at Sandycove.
1918 - Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in the Irish general election.
29th 1908 - The Irish Transport Workers' Union was founded with James Larkin as general secretary.
1937 - The Constitution of Ireland came into force.
1967 - A new redundancy payments scheme was announced.
30th 1602 - Exodus of the O'Sllivan Beare clan from West Cork to Leitrim.
1997 - Key files from the Department of Defence, Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General were found to be missing from the State archives.
31st 1909 - Harry Ferguson becamethe first person to fly in Ireland, using his own monoplane.
1961 - Teilifís Éireann went on air.
1998 - The punt was traded for the last time and the Euro was launched.

Irish Christmas

Madonna and Child from the Book of Kells
Madonna and Child from the Book of Kells

Traditional Irish Blessing

The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God's peace to you

Irish Christmas cake
Traditional Christmas Cake

To make this cake, mix the following in a large bowl with half a cup of whiskey or tea: two and a quarter cups of dried currants, two cups of golden raisins, a cup of dark raisins, a quarter cup of candied cherries, a quarter cup of candied fruit peel, one juiced, peeled lemon, half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, one and a half teaspoons of allspice, and two thirds of a cup of chopped almonds. Leave to soak overnight. On the next day, preheat the over to 275°F and grease a nine inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with cooking parchment paper. Cream two sticks of butter and one cup of light brown sugar together until light and fluffy; beat five eggs one at a time, adding flour to each egg (two cups of flour in total). Mix in the soaked fruit. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake until it's firm to the touch, which takes about two hours. Let the cake cool in the pan for thirty minutes. If using whiskey, pour half a cup of whiskey over the top of the cake now. Wrap the cake in a plastic wrap and then foil. Store it away in a cool place for a few weeks to that it can mature. More whiskey can be added later.
Book Review

The God Squad

Author:     Paddy Doyle

Publisher:     Transworld

Date published:  1988

Paddy Doyle, The God Squad

Paddy Doyle was four years old when his parents died. Traumatised by the sight of his dead father, the little boy was packed off to an industrial school, a type of institution designed to care for 'neglected, orphaned and abandoned children'. What followed were years of torment that would leave Paddy permanently disabled. Here, he tells the story of 'a society's abdication of responsibility for a child'.

It was 1955 when the little boy was handed over to an 'evil-looking nun' who threatened him with a 'good flaking' if he didn't do what he was told. He had entered a world of violence and abuse, where he was forbidden to discuss his past. It was only later that he learned he had living relatives, including a younger sister. Although Paddy coped with the routine and became an altar boy, his life was one of harsh conditions and brutal punishments, all within an atmosphere of hellfire religiosity. By the age of seven, he was 'dragging his foot' and not long afterwards he was admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of polio, never to return to the industrial school. Shunted between hospitals, stigmatised by other children, addicted to medication and forced to undergo brain surgery at the age of ten, Paddy experienced terror and loneliness but also friendships with other patients and caring from the nursing staff. Finally, he was placed with a 'wonderful family' and allowed to go to school where, despite his lack of basic education, he settled in well and passed his Leaving Certificate. Later, he defied social prejudice to get married, becoming the father of three boys. Today he shares his story without bitterness, so that what happened to him and countless other children will never be forgotten.

The Midnight Mass

An extract from William Carleton's Irish Peasantry

Fourth edition, 1854

Sketch of William Carleton

William Carleton

At the time in which the incidents contained in this sketch took place, the peasantry of Ireland, being less encumbered with heavy rents, and more buoyant in spirits than the decay of national prosperity has of late permitted them to be, indulged more frequently, and to a greater stretch, in those rural sports and festivities so suitable to their natural love of humour and amusement. Dances, wakes, and weddings, were then held according to the most extravagant forms of ancient usage; the people were easier in their circumstances, and consequently indulged in them with lighter hearts, and a stronger relish for enjoyment. When any of the great festivals of their religion approached, the popular mind, unrepressed by poverty and national dissension, gradually elevated itself to a species of a wild and reckless mirth, productive of incidents irresistibly ludicrous, and remarkably characteristic of Irish manners. It is not, however, to be expected, that a people whose love of fighting is so innate a principle in their disposition, should celebrate these festive seasons without an occasional crime, which threw its deep shadow over the mirthful character of their customs. Many such occurred; but they were looked upon then with a degree of horror and detestation of which we can form but a very inadequate idea at present.
A dance scene from the Midnight Mass

A dance scene from the Midnight Mass

It was upon the advent of one of those festivals – Christmas – which the family of M’Kenna, like every other family in the neighbourhood, were making preparations to celebrate with the usual hilarity. They cleared out their barn in order to have a dance on Christmas-eve; and for this purpose, the two sons and the servant-man wrought with that kind of industry produced by the cheerful prospect of some happy event. For a week or fortnight before the evening on which the dance was appointed to be held, due notice of it had been given to the neighbours, and, of course, there was no doubt but that it would be numerously attended.

Christmas-eve, as the day preceding Christmas is called, has been always a day of great preparation and bustle. Indeed the whole week previous to it is also remarkable, as exhibiting the importance attached by the people to those occasions on which they can give a loose to their love for fun and floric. The farm-house undergoes a thorough cleansing. Father and sons are, or rather used to be, all engaged in repairing the outhouses, patching them with thatch where it was wanted, mending mangers, paving stable floors, fixing cow-stakes, making boraghs[1], removing nuisances, and cleaning streets.

On the other hand, the mother, daughters, and maids, were also engaged in their several departments; the latter scouring the furniture with sand; the mother making culinary preparations, baking bread, killing fowls, or salting meat; whilst the daughters were unusually intent upon the decoration of their own dress, and the making up of the family linen. All, however, was performed with an air of gaiety and pleasure; the ivy and holly were disposed about the dressers and collar beams with great glee; the chimneys were swept amidst songs and laughter; many bad voices, and some good ones, were put in requisition; whilst several who had never been known to chaunt a stave, alarmed the listeners by the grotesque and incomprehensible nature of their melody. Those who were inclined to devotion – and there is no lack of it in Ireland – took to carols and hymns, which they sang, for want of better airs, to tunes highly comic. We have ourselves often heard the Doxology sung in Irish verse to the facetious air of “Paudeen O’Rafferty;” and other hymns to the tune of “Peas upon a Trencher,” and “Cruskeen Lawn.” Sometimes, on the contrary, many of them, from the very fullness of jollity, would become pathetic, and indulge in those touching old airs of their country, which may be truly called songs of sorrow, from the exquisite and simple pathos with which they abound. This, though it may seem anomalous, is but natural; for there is nothing so apt to recall to the heart those friends, whether absent or dead, with whom it has been connected, as a stated festival. Affection is then awakened, and summons to the hearth where it presides those on whose faces it loves to look; if they be living, it places them in the circle of happiness which surrounds it; and if they be removed for ever from such scenes, their memory, which, amidst the din of ordinary life, has almost passed away, is now restored, and their loss felt as if it had been only just then sustained.

For this reason, at such times, it is not all unusual to see the elders of Irish families touched by pathos as well as humour. The Irish are a people whose affections are as strong as their imaginations are vivid; and, in illustration of this, we may add, that many a time have we seen them raised to mirth and melted into tears almost at the same time, by a song of the most comic character. The mirth, however, was for the song, and the sorrow for the memory of some beloved relation who had been remarkable for singing it, or with whom it had been a favourite.
We do not affirm that in the family of the M’Kennas there were upon the occasion which we are describing, any tears shed. The enjoyments of the season, and the humours of the expected dance, both combined to give them a more than usual degree of mirth and floric. At an early hour all that was necessary for the due celebration of that night and the succeeding day, had been arranged and completed. The whiskey had been laid in, the Christmas candles bought, the barn cleared out, the seats laid; in short, every thing in its place, and a place for every thing. About one o’clock, however, the young members of the family began to betray some symptoms of uneasiness; nor was M’Kenna himself, though the farithee or man of the house, altogether so exempt from what they felt, as might, if the cause of it were known to our readers, be expected from a man of his years and experience.
The midnight scene from the Midnight Mass

The midnight scene from the Midnight Mass
From time to time one of the girls tripped out as far as the stile before the door, where she stood looking in a particular direction until her sight was fatigued.

“Och, och,” her mother exclaimed during her absence, “but that colleen’s sick about Barny! – musha, but it would be the’ beautiful joke, all out, if he’d disappoint the whole of yez. Faix, it wouldn’t be unlike the same man, to go to wherever he can make most money; and sure small blame to him for that; what’s one place to him more than another?”

“Hut,” M’Kenna replied, rising, however, to go out himself, “the girsha’s makin’ a bauliore[2] of herself.”

“An’ where’s yourself slippin’ out to?” rejoined his wife, with a wink of shrewd humour at the rest. “I say, Frank, are you goin’ to look for him too? Mavrone, but that’s sinsible! Why, thin, you snakin’ ould rogue, is that the way wid you? Throth I have often hard it said, that ‘one fool makes many;’ but sure enough, ‘an ould fool’s worse nor any.’ Come in here this minute, I say – walk back – you to have your horn up! – Faix, indeed!”

“Why, I am only goin’ to get the small phaties boiled for the pigs, poor crathurs, for their Christmas dinner. Sure we oughtn’t to neglect thim no more than ourselves, the crathurs, that can’t spake their wants, except by gruntin’.”

“Saints above! – the Lord forgive me for bringin’ down their names upon a Christmas eve! – but it’s beside himself the man is! – an’ him knows that the phaties were boiled an’ made up into balls for them airly this mornin’!”

In the meantime, the wife’s good-natured attack upon her husband produced considerable mirth in the family. In consequence of what she said, he hesitated; but ultimately was proceeding towards the door, when the daughter returned, her brow flushed, and her eye sparkling with mirth and delight.

“Ha!” said the father, with a complacent smile, “All’s right, Peggy; you seen him, a lanna. The music’s in your eye, a chushla; an’ the feet of you can’t keep themselves off o’ the ground; an’ all the bekase you seen Barny Dhal[3] pokin’ across the fields, wid his head up, an’ his skirt stickin’ out behind him wid Granua Waile.”[4]

The father had conjectured properly, for the joy which animated the girl’s countenance could not be misunderstood.

“Barny’s comin’,” she exclaimed, clapping her hands with great glee, “an’ our Frank wid him; they’re at the river, and Frank has him on his back, and Granua Waile undher his arm! Come out, come out! You’ll die for good, lookin’ at them staggerin’ across. I knew he’d come! I knew it! God be good to thim that invinted Christmas; it’s a brave time, faix!”

In a moment the inmates were grouped before the door, all anxious to catch a glimpse of Barny and Granua Waile.

“Faix ay! Sure enough. Sarra doubt about it! Whethen, I’d never mistrust Barny!” might be heard in distinct exclamations from each.

“Faith he’s a Trojan,” said the farithee, “an’ must get lashins of the best we have. Come in, childher, an’ red the hob for him.

“ ‘Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An’ Christmas comes but wanst a year;
An’ the divil a mouth
Shall be friends wid drouth,
While I have whiskey, ale or beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An’ Christmas comes but wanst a year;
Wid han’ in han’
An’ can to can,
Then Hi for the whiskey, ale, and beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An’ Christmas comes but wanst a year;
Then the high and the low
Shall shake their toe,
When primed wid whiskey, ale an’ beer.’”

[1] The rope with which a cow is tied in the cow-house.
[2] A laughing-stock
[3] Barny Dhal – blind Barny.
[4] The name of his fiddle.