This Week in the History of the Irish: March 25 - March 31

DOMHNAIGH -- On March 25, 1846, Michael Davitt (right), revolutionary and agrarian agitator, was born in Straide, County Mayo. Davitt's family was evicted from their small farm when he was just a boy. After they emigrated to England, Davitt lost his right arm while working in a cotton mill at the age of 11. He joined the Fenians in the 1860s and served a typically brutal jail sentence. Released after seven years, he began what would be his life's work: agrarian agitation. Using funds raised by John Devoy and Clan na Gael in the United States, and allied with Charles Stewart Parnell, Davitt formed the Land League in 1879. This organization forced many reforms in the corrupt Irish landlord system. Davitt was a member of Parliament for a time in the 1890s, but resigned in protest against the Boer War. Michael Davitt died in Dublin on May 31, 1906.

MÁIRT -- On March 27, 1872, Mary MacSwiney (Maire Nic Shuibhne), republican activist, was born in Surrey, England, of an Irish father and an English mother.

(Left: National Library of Ireland: Mary MacSwiney, in her later years.)

Mary grew up in Cork and was educated as a teacher, like her mother and father. Influenced by her revolutionary brother, Terence, she became involved with the Irish nationalist movement. She was arrested in her classroom during the 1916 Easter Rising. After her brother's death on hunger strike, she toured the United States in support of the republican cause. She opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, calling it, "the grossest act of betrayal that Ireland ever endured." When de Valera compromised in 1926 in order to enter the Dáil, MacSwiney, much like her brother before her, held fast to her strict republican ideals, refusing to take the required oath to the Crown. Mary MacSwiney died at her home in Cork on March 8, 1942.

CÉADAOIN -- On March 28, 1820William Howard Russell, (right) among the best known journalists of his day and a pioneering war correspondent, was born at Lily Vale, Tallaght, County Dublin.

Educated as a lawyer, Russell instead joined The Times of London as a reporter. He went to the Crimea in 1854, sending back many reports critical of the army's logistical planning there. A phrase used by him to describe the English army there became part of the English vernacular as The Thin Red Line. Russell reported from India during the India Mutiny and then went to the United States to report on the American Civil War in 1861. His frankness in reporting the Federal Army's rout at 1st Bull Run earned him the lasting resentment of the Army and the Northern populus, along with the sobriquet "Bull Run" Russell. The tide of hostility made it nearly impossible for him to report from the North, inspiring him to return to England. He covered the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and the Zulu War in 1879. Russell died in Kensington, England, in 1907.

CÉADAOIN -- On March 28, 1895, James McCudden (left), World War I ace with 57 enemy planes shot down, was born in Kent, England, of an Irish father and an English mother.

McCudden's father was a warrant officer in the Royal Engineers and at the age of 14 young James joined them as a bugler. In 1913 James transferred to the fledgling Royal Flying Corps as a mechanic. Moving to France with No. 3 squadron in 1914, McCudden became an observer and soon went back to England and trained as a pilot. He returned to France with No. 29 squadron in 1916 and gained a reputation as a skilled tactician and marksman in the air. "Old Mac," as his men called him, later proved an excellent squadron leader, losing only 4 planes compared to 70 destroyed by his command. By 1918, McCudden had shot down 57 enemy planes and won the Victoria Cross. On July 9, 1918, while returning from England, the engine of his SE-5 cut out. Major James McCudden, the fifth-highest scoring allied pilot of the war, was killed as his plane spun into the earth.

AOINE -- On March 30, 1873, Richard Church (right), of County Cork, soldier, sometimes called the "liberator of Greece," died in Athens. Church was born in Cork in 1784. As a young man he ran off to join the British army. As ensign in the 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry he served in Egypt then in Italy, where he met many exiled Greek leaders. After the Napoleonic wars, he became a champion for the cause of Greek independence, unsuccessfully arguing their cause before the allied leaders at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. He would join those Greek leaders in the revolution in 1821 and became commander-in-chief of their western army. In 1829, Church resigned his command because he opposed the government of Count Kapodístrias. After the success of the revolt, Church remained in Greece, becoming a member of the Council of State and inspector general. Richard Church lived out the rest of his days in his adopted land.He was given a public funeral and a public monument was later erected to him.

VOICES

National Museum of Ireland
Michael Davitt, one of the founders of the Irish National Land League.

'If the nationalists want me [the Irish farmer] to believe in and labor a little for independence, they must first show themselves willing and strong enough to stand between me and the power which a single Englishman, a landlord, wields over me.'
        -- Michael Davitt, giving voice to the attitude of the small Irish farmer toward Irish independence, December 1878

'If [England] exterminates the men, the women will take their places, and if she exterminates the women, the children are rising fast.'
         -- The indomitable Mary MacSwiney

'The miserable parent of a luckless tribe.'
         -- William Russell's thoughts on being known as 'the first and greatest' war correspondent.

"This officer is considered, by the record he has made, by his fearlessness, and by the great service which he has rendered to his country, deserving of the very highest honor."
           -- The London Gazette on McCudden's Victoria Cross award.

"Richard Church, General, who, having given himself and all that he had to rescue a Christian race from oppression and to make Greece a nation, lived for her service and died amongst her people, rests here in peace and faith.”
          -- From the tombstone of Richard Church in Athens.

March - Márta

BIRTHS

25, 1840 - Myles Keogh (Capt. US 7th Cav., later killed at Little Big Horn - Orchard, Co Carlow.)
25, 1846 - Michael Davitt (Revolutionary - Straide, Co. Mayo)
26, 1838 - William Edward Hartpole Lecky (Historian - Newtown Park, Co. Dublin.)
26, 1856 - William Ferguson Massey (Prime Minister of New Zealand - Limavady, Co. Derry.)
27, 1872 - Mary MacSwiney (Maire Nic Shuibhne) (Republican - Surry, England.)
28, 1820 - William Howard Russell (London Times correspondent in American Civil War.)
28, 1836 - Patrick Henry O'Rorke (Union colonel killed at Gettysburg - Drumbess, Cornafean, Co. Cavan.)
28, 1895 - James McCudden, (WWI ace with 57 enemy plane shot down - Kent, England – Irish father.)
30, 1880 - Sean O'Casey (Author - Dublin)
31, 1840 - John H. Kelly (Confederate Gen - Pineapple, Pickens County, Alabama)
31, 1871 - Arthur Griffith (Politician - Dublin)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

25, 1634 - First Catholic Mass in English North American colonies celebrated in Maryland.
25, 1738 - Famous Irish Harper, Turlogh O'Carolan, dies in Alderford, Co. Roscommon.
26, 1920 - Infamous Black and Tans, special constables, arrive in Ireland.
26, 1922 - An IRA anti-treaty army convention announces it will no longer accept the authority of Free State Minister for Defense Richard Mulcahy.
29, 1784 - Irish born Count James Robert Nugent, Field Marshal in the Austrian army, dies in Prague.
30, 1798
 - Privy Council proclaims declaring Ireland in state of rebellion and imposes martial law.
30, 1873 - Richard Church, of Co. Cork, soldier,"liberator of Greece" dies in Athens.
30, 1921-Tom Barry and the Cork Flying Column destroy the RIC barracks at Rosscarbery, Co. Cork during the Irish War of Independence.
31, 1914 - Timothy D Sullivan of Bantry Co Cork, who wrote "God Save Ireland," dies.

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Tags: Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day

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