October 2015

History Selection

Amelia Curran, landscape artist
Amelia Curran
Mildred Anne Butler, landscape artist
Mildred Butler
Rose Barton, landscape artist
Rose Barton
Eva Hamilton, landscape artist
Eva Hamilton
Norah McGuinness, landscape artist
Norah McGuinness
Camille Souter, landscape artist
Camille Souter

Ireland in 1989

January 2nd: Dundalk in County Louth celebrated its 1200 year heritage.

January 16th: The case of the 'Guildford Four' was referred to the Court of Appeal.

January 23rd: The IRA stated that it had 'stood down and disarmed' its West Fermanagh Brigade.

February 12th: Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who had represented republicans including Bobby Sands, was shot dead by loyalists.

February 20th: The IRA bombed Tern Hill barracks in Shropshire.

February 22nd: In the North, the Fair Employment Agency was criticised because Protestants were under-represented in its senior staff.

Pat Finucane

Pat Finucane

Snooker player Alex Higgins

Snooker player Alex Higgins

March 8th: The IRA killed two soldiers in a landmine explosion, and the Emergency Privision Act was renewed in the House of Commons.

March 20th: The PIRA killed RUC police officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.

March 21st: Three Irish soldiers working for the United Nations were killed in a landmine explosion in southern Lebanon.

April 3rd: Alex Higgins, snooker player born in Belfast, beat Stephen Hendry to win the Benson and Hedges snooker championship.

April 11th: Restrictions on Sinn Féin under the 'Broadcasting Ban' were lifted for the local government elections.

April 21st: Three Loyalists were arrested in Paris in the process of giving missile parts to a South African embassy official.

May 11th: Sinn Féin councillor Christopher Neeson was jailed on an arms charge.

May 11th: Taoiseach Charles Haughey met Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at Malahide Castle. Although the US Secretary of State had urged Haughey to take a tough line with Ortega, Haughey promised aid and investment.

May 17th: The UUP won the most votes in local goverment elections in Northern Ireland.

June 15th: Death of Ray McAnally, actor.

June 15th: In Northern Ireland, the DUP got most votes in elections for the European Parliament, followed by the SDLP.

June 29th: The University of Limerick and Dubin City University were founded.

Ray McAnally as an old man

Ray McAnally

Seamus Duffy, 15-year-old killed by plastic bullet

Seamus Duffy, 15-year-old killed by plastic bullet

June 29th: Charles Haughey resigned as Taoiseach, but remained in a caretaker capacity.

July 2nd: The IRA killed a British soldier in Hanover, Germany.

July 12th: Charles Haughey was re-elected Taoiseach.

July 24th: Peter Brooke became the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

August 9th: Fifteen-year-old Seamus Duffy was killed by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC.

August 19th: Ten thousand people marched from Dublin city centre to the British Embassy calling for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

August 29th: The UFF claimed that they had received security force files on IRA suspects.

September 1st: Contemporary music radio station Atlantic 252 went on air for the first time.

September 4th: Independent pop music station Century Radio went on the air of the first time.

September 12th: Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, visited Northern Ireland and described the UDR as 'very, very, very brave men'.

September 22nd: The IRA exploded a bomb in Deal Barracks, killing ten musicians.

October 8th: Twenty-eight members of the UDR were arrested by the RUC as part of the Stevens inquiry into the leaking of security force documents to Loyalist paramilitary groups.

October 19th: Three of the Guildford Four were released in London, but Paul Hill was immediately re-arrested.

Aftermath of the Deal bombing

Aftermath of the Deal bombing

Poster for film My Left Foot

Poster for film My Left Foot

October 26th: A member of the RAF and his baby daughter were killed by the IRA.

November 10th: The film My Left Foot: the story of Christy Brown was released.

November 15th: Unionists protests against the Anglo-Irish Agreement drew very little support.

November 18th: The IRA killed three British soldiers with a landmine in Co. Down.

December 22nd: Death of Samuel Beckett, novelist and playwright.

December 22nd: The European Community announced a £100 million grant for transportation in Northern Ireland.

December 31st: An opinion poll in the Observer estimated that more than half the British population wanted the British army to withdraw from Northern Ireland.

Born in October
Richard Harris, actor
William O'Brien
Edmond Malone, Shakespearian actor
Brian O'Nolan, writer
Niall Quinn, footballer
Margaret Cousins, women's rights activist
Richard Dalton, physician and poet
Nicky Byrne, singer
Father Mathew, temperance reformer
James Barry, painter
Brendan Bowyer, showband singer
Mick Doyle, rugby player
Éamon de Valera, politician
Lord Edward FitzGerald, aristocrat and United Irelander
Oscar Wilde, playwright and wit
Michael Collins, revolutionary
William Smith O'Brien, Young Irelander
Peg Woffington, actress
Charles Edward Kilmaine, Irish soldier in France
Eoin O'Duffy, politician
Patrick Kavanagh, poet
Charles Lynch, pianist
John Claudius Beresford, Mayor of Dublin
Horace Plunkett, agricultural reformer
Catherine Hayes, opera singer
Nathaniel Hone the Younger, painter
Francis Bacon, artist
Sara Allgood, actress
Book Review


Author:   Colm Tóibín

Publisher:   Penguin

Date published: 2010


Ireland of the 1950s had few opportunities for its youth. At home in Enniscorthy, timid Eilis is a shop girl, bullied by a female manager who seems to epitomise the social repressiveness and small town pettiness of the time. When given the chance to start a new life in America, she seizes it. The sea journey is difficult, but once there, Eilis finds employment in a glamorous department store. Her homesickeness is forgotten in new friendships, a course in book-keeping and a romance with the Italian-American Tony. Eilis is so sensible that her landlady gives her the basement flat with an outside entrance. But the shy, drab girl is emerging from her cocoon. Before returning to Ireland in her bright, fashionable clothing and with a new, brash attitude, she marries Tony.

It is her sister's sudden death that brings her back. Home with her mother, Eilis finds a world of opportunities that hadn't been there before. Her sister's old accountancy job is open to her, and wealthy local lad Jim Farrell is showing an interest. Tony's half-literate missives from America, in which he describes his job cleaning basements, go into the drawer unread. It is only when the petty shopkeeper discovers the truth that Eilis is forced to choose: between the bright lights of American and the comfortable familiarity of home.

The Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent

Being Those of S.M. Hussey

Compiled by Home Gordon

Published in 1904

The Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent


An Englishman once asked me, if I could suggest any way by which all Ireland could be made loyal. I inquired if he thought the Irish constabulary a loyal body.

'Most decidedly,' said he, without hesitation.

'Then,' I replied, 'if you will pay every Irishman seventy pounds a year for doing nothing, but look after other people's affairs—a thing by nature congenial to him as it is—you'll have the most loyal race on earth.'

That Englishman went away thoughtful, but I had shown him the solution of one Irish problem which may be stated thus:—

Why do one half of the sons of farmers in Ireland, who have been or are members of the Irish constabulary, represent a body of men unequalled for their respectability, loyalty, and courage, while a large proportion of the other, at least in the eighties, made up the bulk of the ignoble army of moonlighters, cattle maimers, and cowardly assassins crouching behind stone walls to shoot at an unsuspecting victim in the opening?

The answer is £ s. d., not an agreeable one, but truth is not always composed of sweetstuff.

The constabulary are recruited from the sons of peasants and farmers. They are drilled, disciplined, well fed, well clothed, well paid, and show themselves well conducted. During all the bad times, there was not a single case of a disaffected man, though every sort of inducement must have been brought to bear on them. The prevailing characteristic of all ranks has been the high sense of duty, so that they composed the most mobile and the most effective corps in Europe.

As detectives, they have, however, proved quite ineffective, because the peasant has everywhere been too shrewd for them; 'yet the relative position of the police to the people, and the intimate connection with America, marked it out as a force peculiarly adapted to the prevention and detection of crime committed in Ireland, but often inspired from America.' So wrote one of the most experienced resident magistrates, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, afterwards Minister of the Interior in Egypt, and subsequently Lieutenant Governor of the Mauritius and Consul at Erzeroum, where he died at the age of forty-seven.

The constabulary are enlisted without any consideration of creed, but when Sir Duncan MacGregor was at the head of the force he arranged that of the five men in every police barrack, two should be Protestant, and three Roman Catholic, or vice-versa. This check has subsequently been swept away, by no means to the advantage of the service.

Very recently the Inspector General, and the Assistant Inspector General retired, and their places were filled by an Englishman and an Irishman, neither of whom had been in the force, which gave rise to great and well-founded dissatisfaction. One of the pair is a warm friend of my own, but that is no reason why I should approve of the appointment.

While the bulk of the officers are Irish gentlemen, educated in Ireland, Englishmen are also to be found among them. Officers enter by nomination after passing an examination designed to show that they are not 'crammed,' but the perversity of the examiners has always thwarted this excellent intention. That is like the admirable purpose of Cabinet Ministers, bent on reforming their different departments, but dexterously 'blocked' by the permanent officials.

Before the reduction commenced by Mr. Wyndham, the Constabulary numbered 10,679, and cost £1,390,917. In my opinion it will be found necessary in the future, not only to keep the force up to its full strength, but to materially increase its number so soon as the Government becomes the sole landlord in Ireland, especially now that they are going to have Volunteers in the country.

The existence of this force merely means that landlords will be shot at half price; so, for the sake of their own skins, the latter had better get clear of the country before the recruits have had much musketry instruction. The badness of the shooting saved many a landlord in the eighties, and if that is remedied, why they will be popped as easily as my grandson knocks over rabbits.

There is a story of an English tourist seeking for information about the distressful country, he being at Tallaght near Dublin.

He asked his carman whether there were many Fenians about.

'A terrible lot, your honour,' replied the fellow.

'I suppose a thousand?' the tourist suggested, somewhat apprehensively.

'That is so, and twenty thousand more,' answered the carman without hesitation.

'Are they armed?' was the next question.

'They are that, and finely into the bargain.'

'And are they prepared to come out?' the tourist being much perturbed, and thinking it would be his duty to write to the Times.

'Prepared to come out in the morning, your honour.'

'And why don't they do so?' with English common sense.

'Begorra, because maybe if they did, the constabulary would put them in jail.'

So the constabulary have some value after all, in spite of the sneers of Home Rule members in the House of Commons.

Half a dozen Kerry priests screeched with laughter when I told them that story in the train, having met them on a journey to Farranfore.

Here is another I also gave them on that occasion.

A couple of policemen were discussing the state of Ireland once upon a time.

Says Dan to Mick:—

'Sure we'll niver get peace and quiet in the blessed country until we fetch Oliver Cromwell up from hell to settle the unruly.'

Replies Mick to Dan:—

'Have done, you fool, isn't he a deal quieter where he is?'

Judge Keagh thought worse of his fellow countrymen than do other men with less than his great experience, and although a Roman Catholic, he had to be escorted by two constables wherever he went.

He was told that he ought to be guarded by four policemen, because the two might be attacked.

But he knew the man that said it wanted to make the protection more conspicuous, so he replied:—

'Sir, I have the most implicit confidence in the invincible cowardice of my fellow countrymen.'

That recalls an observation of my own.

On one occasion, a telegram was sent from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Kerry to the Scotland Yard authorities to say there was to be an attempt to murder me in London, and in consequence a gentleman from the department for providing traffic directors in metropolitan streets called at my house in Elvaston Place, to inquire what police protection I wanted.

'None,' said I, 'for if a man shoots me in London he'll be hung, and every Irish scoundrel is careful of his own neck. It's altogether another matter in Ireland, where Mr. Gladstone has carefully provided that he shall be tried by a jury, the majority of which are certain to be land leaguers.'

I brought out the same idea on a more important occasion.

Once, in Mr. Froude's house, Professor Max Müller—who was a great admirer of Mr. Gladstone—remarked that after all I had not much reason to complain, because I had had plenty of police protection in Ireland.

'I should prefer equal laws,' said I.

'What inequality of law have you to find fault with?' he asked.

'Well,' I replied, 'if a land leaguer shoots me in Ireland, he will be tried by a jury of land leaguers. If I shoot one of them, I would require that I be tried by a jury of landlords, and if that be granted I'll clear the road for myself of all suspicious characters, and ask for no more police protection than you require at Oxford.'

He subsided at that, and Froude laughed at him so heartily, that he had not another word to say on the subject all day.

Did you ever hear the rhyme about moonlighting? It runs as follows:—

'The difference betwixt moonlight and moonshine

The people at last understand,

For moonlight's the law of the League

And moonshine is the law of the land.'

That would have clinched my argument beyond all dispute, but the expressive poem was not written at that time.

Reverting to the topics of this chapter, it is needless to observe that there is a bond of connection between constabulary and dispensary doctors, for the latter are needed on many occasions to attend to the wounds of those just arrested.

The dispensary doctors do not form a satisfactory feature of Irish life, simply because the farmers elect individuals out of friendship.

A dispensary doctor had to be appointed at Farranfore, and I was most anxious to get the best man for the position. So I proposed that the candidates' papers should all be submitted to Sir Dominic Corragun, a Roman Catholic physician of high standing in Dublin.

I could not even get a seconder to my motion, which therefore fell stillborn, and I wrote to Lord Kenmare that if Gull or Jenner had been suggested, neither of them would have obtained three votes.

Virtually the appointment of the dispensary doctor is vested in the dispensary Committee, which is a local body, usually consisting of one or more guardians, and four or five specially elected ratepayers. In the same way are chosen all the local sanitary authorities, who are of course under the District Council.

You remember that Punch called the sanitary inspector the insanitary spectre, but the beneficent climate of Ireland fortunately averts all the evils his authority would not be able to arrest if it came to really checking filth.

I remember the occasion of the election of another dispensary doctor, when I was curtly told that only a moonlighter could hope to be appointed.

My reply was:—

'I suppose it is easier for him to poison people when he is drunk than to shoot landlords when in an inebriated condition.'

I do know that a dispensary doctor not thirty miles from Killarney was thrown out of his trap, because he drove the horse through his own front door, when he was under the intoxicated impression he was entering his stable yard.

He broke his leg, and as there was no one to set it, he told his nephew to get a pail of plaster of Paris, and he himself would tell him how to manage the operation.

First they had a glass of whisky to fortify them for the ordeal, and then another, and after that a third to drink good luck to the broken leg.

Finally, when they set about it, the nephew spilt the whole pail of plaster of Paris over the bed in which his uncle lay, and then fell in a drunken stupor into the mess. There they both stayed all night until they were hacked out with a chisel in the morning.

It is strange that the Irish, who are brimful of shrewd sense, use no more discretion about appointing schoolmasters than dispensary doctors.

The petty pedagogues, who are the Baboos of Ireland, are drawn from the small-farmer class. There is great competition among the incompetent to get lucrative posts in my native land: they probably appreciate the Hibernian eccentricity of giving important positions to the men whose claims in any other country would never obtain a moment's consideration.

There was a schoolmaster near Castleisland, who died of sparing the rod but not sparing the potation. His family were anxious his nephew should be appointed.

As he was an utter ne'er-do-weel, the parish priest justly considered him unfit for the situation, and brought from a neighbouring county a schoolmaster highly recommended by the National Convention.

They had a quiet way of expressing their feelings in Kerry in those days, and the moonlighters fired by night through the windows of every one who sent their children to the nominee of the parish priest.

The District Inspector thought he had better look into the matter himself, for it was stated they had always fired high with the sole purpose of intimidating the occupants of the various cabins.

However, when this inspecting authority found a bullet-hole in a window-sill only three feet from the ground, he observed:

'Well, that shot was meant to kill.'

One farmer standing by remarked:—

'It was not right to fire into a house where there were a lot of little children.'

'Begorra,' cried another, in a tone of virtuous indignation, 'the careless fellows might have killed the poor pig!'

That was sworn before me.

Here is another incident, also sworn to in my presence.

I must explain that the first poor rate was in 1848, and half was made up by local subscription, while the rent was added by the presentment of the county, and not paid out of the rates. It was in those days a common practice for dispensary doctors to put down on the list imaginary subscriptions from friends, so as to draw more from the county.

A young fellow, whose name had thus been used, fired into a Protestant doctor's house, and threatened to murder everybody unless he was given some money.

He obtained half a crown, with which he bought a pint of whisky and a mutton pie; but just as he was putting his teeth into the crust of the latter, he paused in horror.

'I was near being lost for ever, body and soul,' says he, 'this being Friday, and me so close on tasting meat.'

The woman in the place where he bought the provisions proposed to keep the mutton pie for him until the following day.

He thanked her civilly, and went away, but had the misfortune to mistake the police barracks for the rival whisky store, and was promptly arrested for threatening with intent to do injury.

The next day he asked to be allowed to eat his pie, which is how the story came out.

The dispensaries are often worked with more attention to the pocket of those on the premises than is compatible with the principles of honesty, as recognised outside the legal and medical professions. At one dispensary in Kerry the Local Government Board was horrified at the consumption of quinine—an expensive medicine. Indeed, so much disappeared that, if it had not been for the chronic aversion of any low-born Irishman to outside applications of liquid, it might have been surmised that the patients were taking quinine baths. The matter was privately put into the hands of the police, who within a week arrested the secretary getting out of a back window with a big bottle of quinine, which he meant to sell.

That man, for the rest of his life, inveighed against the petty and mischievous interference with private industry tyrannically waged by public bodies.

I should like to claim for Kerry the honour of being the land where the following hoary chestnut originally was perpetrated, the exact locality being Castleisland.

A landlord, who had returned in a fit of absent-mindedness to his property after a sojourn in England, was condoling with a woman on the death of her husband, and asked:—

'What did he die of?'

'Wishna, then, did he not die a natural death, your honour, for there was no doctor attending him?'

A not dissimilar story is that which concerns a Scotch laird who had fallen very sick, so a specialist came from Edinburgh to assist the local murderer in diagnosing the symptoms.

The canny patient felt sure he would not be told what was the matter, so he bade his servant conceal himself behind the curtains in the room where the doctors talked it over, and to repeat to him what they said.

This is what the faithful retainer brought as tidings of comfort to the alarmed invalid:—

'Weel, sir, the two were very gloomy, one saying one thing and the other another; but after a while they cheered up and grew quite pleasant when they had decided that they would know all about it at the post-mortem.'

That recalls to my mind Sidney Smith's definition of a doctor as an individual who put drugs of which he knew very little into a body of which he knew considerably less.

There is a rare lot of truth in some witticisms.

For some illogical reason only known to my own brain—perhaps with the desire of keeping up the fashion for inconsecutive and rambling observations common to all books of reminiscences—the foregoing stories suggest to my mind the excuse made to me by a wary scoundrel for not paying his rent.

'I had an illegant little heifer as ever your honour cast an eye over, and who is a better judge than yourself, God bless you? But the Lord was pleased to take her to Himself, and it would be flat heresy for me not to say He is not as good a judge as your honour's self.'

There was an action brought against a veterinary surgeon for killing a man's horse.

Lord Morris knew something of medicine, as he did of most things, and asked if the dose given would not have killed the devil himself.

The vet. drew himself up pompously, and said:—

'I never had the honour of attending that gentleman.'

'That's a pity, doctor,' replied Morris, 'for he's alive still.'

The Government introduced into the House of Lords an additional bill for the complication and confiscation of landed property in Ireland.

Lord Morris said it reminded him of the bill a veterinary surgeon sent in to a friend of his, the last item of which ran:—

'To curing your grey mare till she died, 10s. 6d.'

Never was the Irish question more happily expressed than in his famous reply to a lady who asked him if he could account for disaffection in Ireland towards the English.

'What else can you expect, ma'am, when a quick-witted race is governed by an intensely stupid one?'

Lord Morris told many stories, but for a change, here is one told of him.

A Belfast tourist was riding past Spiddal, and asked a countryman who lived there.

'One Judge Morris, your honour; but he lives the best part of his time in Dublin.'

'Oh yes,' says the other, 'that's Lord Chief Justice Morris.'

'The very dead spit of him, your honour; and I was told he draws a thousand a year salary.'

'He has five thousand five hundred a year.'

'Ah, your honour, it's very hard to make me believe that.'

'Why don't you believe it?'

'Because when he's down here he passes my gate five days in the week, and I never saw the sign of liquor on him.'

Evidently the bigger salary the bigger profit to the whisky distiller was the rustic's theory.

I have forgotten how the story came to my ears, but I told it to Lord Morris, who much appreciated it.

Another Kerry story, not unlike one narrated earlier in this chapter, runs thiswise:—

Two men came to order a coffin for a mutual friend called Tim O'Shaughnessy.

Said the undertaker:—

'I am sorry to hear poor Tim is gone. He had a famous way with him of drinking whisky. What did he die of?'

Replied one of the men:—

'He is not dead yet at all; but the doctor says he will be before the morning; and sure he should know, for he knows what he gave him.'

Sometimes, however, the patient is quite as clever as the doctor.

A physician in Dublin had a telephone put in his bedroom, and when he was rung up about half-past one on a freezing wintry night, he told his wife to answer it.

She complied, and informed him:—

'It is Mr. Shamus O'Brien, and he wants you to come round at once.'

The physician knew this to be purely an imaginary case of illness, so not wishing to be disturbed, said to her:—

'Tell him the doctor is out, and will not be home till morning.'

Unfortunately he spoke so near the telephone that his remark was audible to the patient. So when the wife had duly delivered the message, the answer came back:—

'If the man in your bed is a doctor, send him here.'