Welcome to August a significant month in Irish history. Here are a few examples, August 1 is the ancient feast of Lugnasad – the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest. Begun by the De Danann god, Lugh, in honor of his foster-mother Tailtiu, it included religious ceremonies, athletic contests, feasting and matchmaking. The rites include offering the 'first fruits' of the harvest in a feast, a custom that survived in modern times from the old Lammas Fair in Antrim to Puck Fair in Kerry. Today August in Gaelic is Lunasad.
(Left: Lugh's bloodthirsty magical spear, described in Charles Squire's popular book (1905). —illustration by H. R. Millar)
On 1 August, 2007, legendary folk singer, songwriter, musician, historian and entertainer, Tommy Makem, passed away. He now belongs to history and history is treating him well. On 3 August, 1823, Thomas Francis Meagher, a hero in three lands, journalist, lecturer, brigadier-general in the Union Army’s Irish Brigade and acting Governor of Montana, was born in Waterford. He also introduced the tricolor as Ireland’s national flag.
Another great Civil War general associated with August is Co. Cavan-born Phil Sheridan who passed away on 5 August, 1888 in Nonquit, Massachusetts. On 6 August in 1775, the Great Liberator, Daniel O'Connell, was born in Cahirciveen, County Kerry. He began the disassembly of the vicious anti-Catholic Penal Laws. On 8 August 1588, the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English. Some of those who survived the wrecks were slain by the Brits upon reaching the shores of Ireland and those rescued were returned to Spain by The O’Neill, Chieftain of Tyrone and his allies. Ten years later on 14 August 1598, O’Neill defeated the British army at the Battle of Yellow Ford. August 11, 1894 is the birthday of Dan Breen, revolutionary and politician, who was born near Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. Dan and Sean Tracey are credited with the first action in Ireland’s War of Independence.
August 15 1649 Oliver Cromwell arrived in Ireland. August 15 is also the Feast of the Assumption and is celebrated with parades by the AOH Board of Erin as Lady’s Day. On August 15, 1995, the American AOH National Board paraded in Derry with them and officers of AOH delegations from Scotland, Wales and England who had come to celebrate the day and we held the first ever international meeting of the AOH national Boards. The next day we dedicated the very first memorial in Ireland to the victims of An Gorta Mor outside Ennistymon, County Clare. It was funded by the combined AOHs and the Clare County Council.
On 19 August 1876, The ship Catalpa arrived in the U.S. with six Fenian prisoners rescued from the British prison at Freemantle, Australia. A few years ago, a Fenian Memorial Committee was formed to locate and mark the graves of those men. They have successfully placed markers at 4 of the 6. The last two have been found in Calvary cemetery in Queens, NY and they are scheduled to dedicate new gravestones and markers at those graves in October 2022. On 20 August 1919, the IRA was officially established as the Army of the Irish Republic by the first Dáil Eireann. It was made up of Republican patriots from the former Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Hibernian Rifles of the American Alliance intent on pursuing the goals of the patriots of Easter, 1916.
On 21 August 1845, it was first reported that a blight was found on a portion of the potato crop. August 21 would be remembered in Irish history as the first day of An Gorta Mor – the Great Hunger. It grew in intensity killing millions and forcing millions into exile.
On 13 August 1849, Queen Victoria ended her 11-day visit to Ireland and propaganda headlines screamed out that the famine is over as the Queen visits Ireland. However it wasn’t over for another 30 years until the founding of the Land League on August 16 1879 finally began to end it. Coincidentally, on 21 August 1879, that old propaganda headline finally came true: The Great Hunger was finally over and the only Queen the Irish ever recognized did visit Ireland. On that day, a Vision of the Virgin Mary was reported at Knock in Co. Mayo and stood in silent prayer for the generation that had been lost to An Gorta Mor.
On 20 August 1922, during Ireland’s Civil War, Michael Collins, Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State set out from Cork in a convoy that passed through Bandon on its way to Skibbereen. He was seeking dissident IRA leaders who opposed the established Irish Free State, in order to end hostilities and bring them into the legitimate government. He stopped at Woodfield and in the Four Walls Pub, across the road from the house where his mother had been born, he stood his family and escort to the local brew: Clonakilty Wrastler. On the return trip at about 8PM, on 22 August his convoy was ambushed at a place called Beal na mBláith (the mouth of flowers). After a brief fire-fight, only one man was killed – Michael Collins! The only thing worse in Irish history occurred on 23 August 1170 as the Normans first arrived in Ireland.
On August 31, 1994 the IRA announced a cease-fire to allow the peace process to begin. It hasn’t been fully implemented yet! August 27, 2000 a former member of British military intelligence reveals that weapons used by loyalist gangs who rampaged through Belfast's Shankill district the previous week were provided by British intelligence as part of a plan to defeat the IRA . . . It was one helluva month.
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