March 2014

History Selection

Treaty of Mellifont signed
Treaty of Mellifont signed
 March 1603
Beginning of the Williamite War
Beginning of the Williamite War
 March 1689
Ballinglass Eviction
Ballinglass Eviction
 March 1846
Tomás Mac Curtain killed
Tomás Mac Curtain
 March 1920
Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands protest
 March 1981
Killings in Gibraltar
Killings in Gibraltar
 March 1988

Ireland in 1974

January 1st: The Northern Ireland Executive took office.

January 11th - 12th: Record winds were recorded in many parts of Ireland.

February 4th: The IRA killed 12 people in a bus bomb in England.

February 15th: A 600 pound bomb exploded in Dungannon.

February 15th: Death of chess player Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander.

February 28th: A general election was held in the UK. In Northern Ireland it was effectively a referendum on power-sharing and the Council of Ireland as proposed in the Sunningdale Agreement.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander in action
Festival of protest - Carnsore
Festival of protest - Carnsore
March 12th: Murder of former Dáil Éireann member Billy Fox by an undetermined paramilitary group.

March 13th: Liam Cosgrave made a statement in the Dáil in which he said that the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom could not be changed except with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

April 20th: The conflict death toll in the North hit 1,000.

April 24th: The Electricity Supply Board announced that Carnsore Point on the Wexford coast would be the site of its nuclear power station.

May 2nd: The UVF set off a bomb at the Rose and Crown pub on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, killing six civilians.

May 8th: It was revealed that the great hall of University College Dublin would become a 900-seat concert hall and home of the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.

May 14th: The Ulster Workers' Council called a strike following the defeat of the anti-Sunningdale Agreement motion.

May 17th: Thirty-three civilians were killed and almost 300 wounded in four car bomb explosions in Dublin and Monaghan. The UVF were responsible.

May 21st: The Ulster Workers' Council Strike came to an end.

May 28th: The Northern Ireland Executive collapsed.

May: President Erskine Childers paid the first state visit by an Irish head of state to Europe when he visited Belgium.

June 3rd: PIRA hunger striker Michael Gaughan died at Parkhust Prison the Isle of Wight.

June 14th: The first Soviet Ambassador to Ireland, Anatoli Kaplin, visited President Childers at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Ulster Workers Council Strike
Ulster Workers Council Strike
Parliament bomb in 1974
Bombing of parliament
June 17th: The IRA bombed the British parliament.

July 17th: The National Coalition Contraceptive Bill was defeated in a vote in Dáil Éireann. Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave voted against a bill proposed by his own party, Fine Gael.

July 17th: The IRA bombed the Tower of London, killing one person and injuring 41 including children.

August: First Kilkenny Arts Festival held.

August 10th: The body of Patrick Kelly, a Nationalist councillor, was discovered in Loug Eyes. He had disappeared on 24th July.

August 13th: Death of author Kate O'Brien at the age of 76.

September 1st: Transition Year was introduced on a pilot basis in three schools.

September 1st: The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final was held at Croke Park, with Kilkenny beating Limerick.

September 21st: The Leader of the Opposition Jack Lynch said that Fianna Fáil wouldn't support any proposal to repeal Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.

October 4th: Pub bombs planted by the IRA in Guildford, Surrey, killed five people.

October 8th: Former IRA chief of staff and Amnesty International founder Seán MacBride won the Nobel Peace Prize.

October 10th: In the UK generate election, the United Ulster Unionist Council won 10 of the 12 seats in Northern Ireland.

October 15th: Republican prisoners set fire to huts at Long Kesh.

Newspaper report on Guildford Bomb
Newspaper report on Guildford Bomb
Erskine Childers
Wrecked Union Star
November 4th: Powerscourt House in Enniskerry was destroyed by a fire.

November 17th: President Erskine Childers, the fourth President of Ireland, died suddenly aged 69.

November 21st: The IRA bombed two pubs in Birmingham, killing 19 people.

December 10th: Seán MacBride won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

December 19th: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was sworn in as the fifth President of Ireland.

December 22nd: The home of Conservative leader and former Prime Minister Edward Heath was bombed.

Images from Rural Life

A group of country women in 1909

A group of country women in 1909

Rural people outside their houses

Rural people outside their houses

Book Review

The Great Shame

Author:     Thomas Keneally

Publisher: Vintage

Date published: 1999 (2nd edition)

The Great Shame

In this long and eloquent work, Australian Thomas Keneally charts the lives of those Irish who were transported to Australia for reasons ranging from sacrilege and petty theft to armed rebellion. This was the time of rural tensions, the Famine and the Young Ireland revolt; Kenealy relates in detail the biographies of the Young Irelanders, whose various fates included exile to Van Diemens Land. An important thread of the book involves Hugh Larkin, a young Galway cottier sentenced for his minor role in the ongoing conflict between small tenants and large landholders. Torn from his wife and chidren, Larkin was assigned to a sheep farmer. His efforts to bring his family over from Ireland having failed, he rebuilt his life, marrying, gaining his freedom and establishing a business in New South Wales. The story did not end happily, however; as transportation ended and former convicts took on respectable roles in the emerging Australian society, Larkin became a widower and an alcoholic, dying shortly after his arrest for 'excessive intemperance'. Keneally succeeds in bringing Hugh's struggle, and that of many others, vividly alive.

County Antrim, Portrush, the Giant's Causeway etc.

Published by Wardlock & Co, 1914

Giant's Causeway in the 19th century

The Giant's Causeway in the 19th Century

Derry and Antrim, like Donegal, are maritime counties. The sea coast, which is much indented, though less so than that of Donegal, is some ninety miles long. Inland the county is hilly, but the hills are mostly bare, and there is not much to attract the tourist, but the whole of the coast is delightful, in parts unique. Parallel mountain ranges, not very lofty, stretch from the sea-board into the interior, covering about a third of the county. The valleys between, running inland and opening on the sea coast, form the well-known “Glens of Antrim,” whose charms are sung by Moira O'Neill in her beautiful Songs of the Glens of Antrim. Glengariff, opening into Red Bay, is the most beautiful of the glens. The highest hills are Trostan (1,817 ft.) and Slemish (1,437 ft.), - the weathered-out core of a large extinct volcano, and formed of a crystalline rock.


The chief rivers are the Bann, 95 miles long, flowing from Lough Neagh (the largest lake in the British Isles) into the Atlantic Ocean near Coleraine; the Main, running nearly parallel, but in the opposite direction, and the Bush. There are many peat bogs. At the north-east of the county is the fine headland of Benmore, more often called Fair Head; thence along the northern coast almost to Portrush the cliffs are lofty and precipitous, often inaccessible on the sea side. Beyond Portrush they are less steep and high. There are salt mines near Carrickfergus, and in other parts of the country are rich beds of iron ore. Flax, oats, etc., are grown, and the manufacture of linen in the chief industry.

Antrim is rich in romantic associations and stories and has seen much warfare in the past; ruined castles abound, as indeed they do nearly everywhere in Ireland.

It may be noticed that the thatch of the cottages, especially in the neighbourhood of the Giant's Causeway, where the coast is fully exposed to northerly gales, has to be heavily weighted with big stones and covered with a network of straw ropes to withstand the fury of the wind. Portrush no doubt owes it singularly bracing climate to this open situation. The air is pure, for it blows over open sea, and is so brine-laden that trees do not grow at all in the neighbourhood.

The east coast of Antrim, on the other hand, is sheltered from the fiercest winds, the climate is milder and more relaxing, and the vegetation, wherever encouraged, luxuriant.

Neither in Donegal nor Antrim is the cold ever excessive. Lough Neagh was once frozen in an exceptional year, but the average temperature is higher in winter and lower in summer than in England. Both the counties have a rather higher rainfall.

Some of the rivers are dammed in August and September to steep the flax, of which, at certain seasons, bundles may be seen drying in the fields. Great bleaching grounds are also to be seen on which long lengths of linen are spread, looking in the distance like a great snowy covering.

The flax, when in flower, is remarkably pretty, forming waving fields of blue.

The only important island off these coasts in Rathlin, or more correctly, Raghery or Rachre, which is connected with the sad story of Deirdre, as related in the Story of the Sons of Usnach. Briefly the story goes that Deirdre was to marry King Conor, but declared that the man she loved must have hair as black as raven, cheeks as red as blood, and a body as white as snow. This, she was told, Naesi, the son of the Usnach, had. They met in secret, loved each other, and, in fear of King Conor, escaped in the night secretly to Scotland. King Conor begged for the help of the three fine sons of Usnach, so they were tempted back to Ireland and there treacherously surrounded. A spy saw Naesi and Deirdre playing chess, but she was so lovely that the king longed for her still and, to obtain her, killed the sons of Usnach, Deirdre dying in their grave according to one saga; another version says she became the wife of Conor. The longer version is in the Belfast Museum. It has been noticed in connection with these ancient poems that the Celts have often wonderful memories. Dr. Hyde mentions having thirteenth-century poems related to him that had been handed down from generation to generation in an almost unaltered form. One of these old writers speaks naively of his great surprise on visiting England to find food being bought and sold.

Ancient place-names are very interesting and remarkably numerous in Ireland, such as bally (town), kill (church), rath, dun, fort, etc. It has been calculated that there are over 10,000 of these and similar place-names, used either as affixes or prefixes in Irish names.


Antrim is not so good for fishermen as Donegal. Lough Neagh, the Bann (the chief river running into Lough Neagh), and its tributaries are mostly free, as are also the rivers at Ballycastle, the Glenshesk, etc. The Main river has good trout; the Ballinderry, salmon and lake trout. Ballymena is a good centre for fishing in the river Braid and over rivers near. Ballycastle has several fishable rivers and sea-fishing. Salmon fishing is carried on at several places along the northern caost, Portmoond, Carrick-a-rede, etc. See How and Where to Fish in Ireland, by Hi Regan. A salmon licence costs £1 1s. A year, and holds good from March 1 to October 31. The eel fishing at Toome on the Bann is a valuable local industry, and there is considerable fishing on Lough Neagh.

The principal fishing resorts in Co. Antrim and Co. Derry are: -

Antrim, for Sixmilewater and Lough Neagh. The fishing in the former has been greatly improved lately; between Antrim and Lough Neagh it is preserved.

Randalstown (2 miles from Lough Neagh), for trout fishing (good in the Main; salmon fishing (preserved) in the autumn.

Toomebridge, for the river Bann. Large trout, perch and pike in quantities. Boats reasonable.

Castle Dawson for the Moyala river and Draperstown for its lower reaches – small trout.

Maghera for the river Bann, some little way off, good trout and salmon fishing, the latter best in autumn. Also river Claudy close by for trout.

Kellswater for river Main (nearest hotel, Ballymena).

Kilrea for the Bann, close by, excellent salmon and trout fishing, perhaps the best in Ulster. Licences reasonable; hotel, also lodgings by the river.

Garvagh and Aghadowey. River Agivey, plenty of small trout.

Ballymena is one of the best fishing centres. There are several rivers within reach, with good-sized trout, such as the Braid, Main and Clough rivers (Clough station on Parkmore line), also the Kellswater.

Ballymoney for trout streams and the river Bann.

Limavady and Dungiven, for the river Roe. Good-sized trout, white trout and salmon the autumn.

Londonderry is within easy reach of trout and salmon fishing on the rivers Faughan, Finn, Derg, Foyle and Mourne. There is good trout-fishing on the river Bush, but permission must be obtained from the Clerk of Petty Sessions or the agent of the estate.

Ballycastle, as already mentioned, is a good centre for fishing in the rivers Carey, Glenshesk, etc., for white trout, also for salmon and sea fishing. Cars and boats are reasonable.

At Cushendun the river Glendun has fair-sized trout, and Cushendall is also good for trout. The Glenariff may be fished from Parkmore to Waterfoot.

Larne, for the Larne water and the Glenwherry river.

Generally speaking, all this fishing is free. Salmon licences can usually be obtained from the postmasters. The season for both salmon and trout is from March 1 to October 31. A few begin on February 1 and some close on September 30.

In the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal, there is fishing at Buncrana, both salmon and trout, sea and brown, in the Castle and Mill rivers and the Meendoran, Mintiagh and Inch lakes; also sea fishing. The stationmaster at Buncrana will provide boats for Inch lake at 2s. A day.

Clonmany, for the Owenerk River, salmon and trout, free, and for the Meendoran and Mintiagh lakes.

Carndonagh, for several rivers, salmon and trout, free to all; also Loughs Fad and Finn, about 4 miles away, plenty of trout, free.

Culdaff. Culdaff river, salmon and trout. Free to visitors on application to Culdaff House. Deep-sea fishing.

At the other places included in this Guide, there is fishing at Rosapenna, in the Glen Lough, the Lackagh and Owencarrow rivers, for salmon and trout, also in several lakes for white and brown trout, sea trout in Mulroy Bay; and at Portsalon, trout fishing in several lakes (April to June best time) and sea-fishing later on.

There are, of course, many famous fishing resorts in other parts of Co. Donegal, described in our companion Guide to the Donegal Highlands.
Culdaff beach


Antiquarian interests are not wanting, for the north-east of Ireland is rich in prehistoric remains, such as earthworks, cairns, stone circles etc., as well as in those of a later period. Of Pagan remains there are ancient raths or forts, the ramparts enclosing a considerable circular space, and often having underground chambers or souterrains. These were used as places of defence and as hiding-places for treasure by the chiefs and kings of old; some were inhabited even down to comparatively recent times. These souterrains, or underground dwellings (locally called “coves”), are common. They are entered by a long passage, the entrance to which is often carefully concealed. The only two-storied one may be seen near Antrim, others are at Stranocum, Ballycastle, etc. There are several crannogs, or lake dwellings, at Ballymena, the summit of Benmore, etc., nor must the so-called Ossian's grave be forgotten. Pillar stones may also be seen, as well as some twelve cromlechs of remote antiquity in various places in this county; these are the sepulchral monuments of some ancient race, and are found all through southern and western Europe. There are many remains of prehistoric man – not of the earliest age, but of the Neolithic stone period. Flints and stone arrow-heads, sometimes unpolished, have been, and still are, found in the raised beaches of Larne, and also at Portrush, Cushendun and Carnlough. No remains of the older cave mammalia are found in the north of Ireland; teeth of the mammoth have been found, and the great Irish deer once lived here, also the red deer, the native long-legged pig, and other now extinct species. Splendid flints are found in the limestone that crops out below the basalt in many places, probably enough in old times to supply all Ireland with stone weapons; and at Larne, Portrush and Bannmouth, scrapers, arrow-heads and celts have been found.

Of more modern times there are the ruins of sundry castles and abbeys, most of them in picturesque situations, and there is the fine round tower of Antrim. The Irish name for round tower is cloic-theach, or bell-tower. That at Antrim is known to be among the oldest, being built of rough undressed stone, though the circular shape is well kept, and it is still one of the most perfect. The tower inclines inward gradually, being wider at the base than it is higher up. Another may be seen near Ballycastle, and one on an island in Lough Neagh. These round towers are Christian monuments. They served as watch-towers, places of safety for religious and other previous objects, and as belfries. Of the ruined castles, the most picturesque is at Dunluce. Carrickfergus was in its day one of the most important of the many Anglo-Norman fortresses, for Donegal and Antrim were long the centres of great and prolonged, but hopeless, struggles against the English supremacy, the north of Ireland remaining unsubdued for many years longer than the rest of the country.

One point is worth remembering: in this north-eastern tour we lose the pure native Irish for the most part, and the people, in accent, speech and character, are widely different from the Irish of the south and west. They have largely intermarried with Scotch settlers, as may be recognized by their broad Scotch accent, though the glens remain more Celtic. There was no forced settlement here, but the coast is so near to England and Scotland that there has been much natural and peaceful intermixture by marriage and by migration to and fro. In parts of Donegal, Irish is still spoken – with this exception, we are not likely to hear a word of Irish on all this northern tour; while Derry, owing to the Plantation of Ulster, is the least Irish of any county in Ireland. An Irish college has, however, been established near Falcarragh, in Co. Donegal.

The old Irish slipe or slide car, a primitive vehicle once in general use, is still seen at Island Magee and other parts of Antrim and perhaps in Donegal, carrying turf from the mountain bogs, where an ordinary cart would be useless. It is simply a strong willow basket fixed on two shafts. The wheel car, with solid wooden wheels fixed to a revolving axle, is nearly as primitive, and is also still used in the north and west. The curraghs, or canvas boats, in use for hundreds of years, are still common in Donegal. They are wonderfully light and bouyant.

Historical Note

Many references to points of historical interest in connection with the places visited in this tour will be found under the headings of the various towns, especially as regards Londonderry and its famous siege. In this introductory note it is only necessary to say that from the earliest times Antrim was the scene of many battles, as it was also during the Anglo-Irish wars. For some thousand years there was always an Ard Ri, or High King, for 500 years a descendant of Niall of the nine hostages – till Brian Boru's time. This northern part of Ireland was, in old days, the kingdom of Dalriada. The O'Neill family were the kings of Ulster.

All Irish development was arrested by the Norman invasions for three centuries. Armagh was invaded by Danes seventeen times in 200 years. The early Irish were not builders, and there are few remains of buildings of the earliest times. Probably even their palaces were just wattled buildings; but there are stone forts still, especially in the south and south-west. The prehistoric burial-places at Newgrange, near Drogheda, date probably from 800 B.C., and the Grianan of Aileach may be even more ancient, though it has been restored and rebuilt.

For three centuries in early Christian days Ireland was the asylum of the higher learning, which took sanctuary here from the uncultured states of Europe. Armagh, the religious capital of Christian Ireland, was then the metropolis of civilization. “Charlemagne sent his warriors to Ireland to be educated: Greek, elsewhere absolutely vanished, was read and cherished here.... Ireland possessed a literature as rich and cultivated as that of any civilized people, but the Danes and Saxons destroyed all before them.” (English Studies, M. Darmestater).

The Celtic crosses date mostly from about 900 to 1100 A.D. County Donegal is rich in its associations with the rise of Christianity.