This Week in the History of the Irish: October 30 - November 5

DOMNAIGH -- On Oct. 30, 1892, Eoin O'Duffy, revolutionary and organizer of the infamous Blueshirts, was born in Castleblayney, County Monaghan.

(Right: O'Duffy's Blueshirts rally in a Dublin cemetery, 1934)

O'Duffy was apprenticed to an engineer in his youth and then worked as an auctioneer for a time. He joined the IRA in 1917 and was attached to headquarters staff during the War of Independence. O'Duffy supported the Treaty in 1922 and became the commissioner of the Free State police force, the Civic Guard, whose name was later changed to Garda Siochána. He held that post until 1933, when he was dismissed by de Valera. O'Duffy is most remembered for his life from this point. He became head of a veterans group then called the Army Comrades Association. O'Duffy changed its name to 'National Guard' and began to stage fascist-style rallies and adopted a fascist salute. Its members began to wear blue uniform shirts and became known as the Blueshirts. The militantly Catholic O'Duffy began attacking the government and accusing everyone of being communists, including the IRA. When government opposition groups formed Fine Gael in September 1933, he became its first president, reaching the apex of his political power. Subsequently, the government banned his National Guard, as well as the group he created to replace it, the Young Ireland Association, which he in turn replaced with the League of Youth, but their blue shirts indicated its continued fascist ideology. Fine Gael's other leaders soon tired of his inflammatory rhetoric and the frequent violent behavior of the Blueshirts, but were still surprised when their opposition caused him to resign his party leadership in September 1934. He was then ousted as leader of the Blueshirts as well, but did retain a small loyal following. In 1936, O'Duffy led about 600 to 700 of those followers to Spain to fight for Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the leader of an insurrection against Spain's popularly elected left-wing government. O'Duffy 's men saw little action there, returning a year later. O'Duffy's view of the fight against "godless" communism is summed up in the book "Crusade in Spain," which O'Duffy wrote in 1938 about his experience in Spain. He took no further part in Irish politics and died Nov. 30, 1944. In spite of his later politics, he was given a state funeral for his earlier contributions to the Irish government.

MÁIRT -- On the morning of Nov. 1, 1920, two masses were celebrated at an altar that 18-year-old IRA member Kevin Barry had constructed in his jail cell in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. Barry was then led out of his cell by British soldiers and hanged.

(Right: Kevin Barry -- the face of a boy, the courage of a man. His November 1 execution ushered in the worst month of atrocities in the Anglo-Irish War.)

Six weeks earlier, on Sept. 20, Barry had taken part in an IRA raid in Dublin which had gone terribly wrong and resulted in a gunfight with British soldiers in which three soldiers were killed. In the weeks since then he had been tortured in an attempt to get him to name other IRA members, but he never relinquished their names.

Barry's hanging ended another futile and, in reality, counterproductive attempt by the British colonial administration to coerce the people of Ireland. Far from coercing others to obey British law, its leaders helped create thousands more rebels by the inspiration of young Barry's martyrdom. Britain's execution of the baby-faced young medical student also persuaded millions more around the world that the cause of the Irish was just. In England's own Parliament J.H. Thomas denounced the execution, calling Barry, ".... a studious boy, loved by everyone who knew him, brave and educated" and read into the record Barry's own sworn affidavit describing how British soldiers tortured him during his interrogation.

Soon a ballad would be written commemorating Barry's tragedy, though no one knows now exactly who wrote it. It would be sung through the years, even becoming so popular among British soldiers that it was banned by British army commanders. The song is still one of the most requested anywhere in the world where people gather to play or listen to Irish music. Kevin Barry's name will live on forever through this song while those of his torturers and murderers are long forgotten.

James Daley

CÉADAOIN -- On Nov. 2, 1920, James Daley was killed by a British firing squad in India. Daley had been one of the leaders of the so-called "India Mutiny," but had not been among its instigators. The mutiny began May 28, 1920, led by Joseph Hawes at Wellington barracks in Jullundar, India, when 350 Irish members of the famous Connaught Rangers regiment of the British army laid down their arms and refused to keep soldiering as long as British troops remained in Ireland.

As word of more and more British violence against the Irish people spread among the troops, they had begun to question the morality of wearing the uniforms of the same army that was terrorizing families back home. The mutiny soon spread to Ranger detachments in Solon and Jutogh. Daley was stationed at Solon and helped lead the action of the mutineers there. Two would die in Solon during a brief confrontation.

Eventually, 61 Rangers were convicted by courts martial and 14 sentenced to death. All but one of those condemned men had their sentences reduced. James Daly of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath, was the only one shot. The Connaught Rangers would not survive much longer than Daley; in 1922 the regiment was disbanded after the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty that created the Irish Free State.

In 1970, James Daley's body was brought home and buried at Tyrellspass. Among those in the guard of honor at the reinterment were five of Daley's fellow mutineers: Joseph Hawes, James Gorman, Eugene Egan, Patrick Hynes, and William Coote.

John Mitchel as portrayed by Currier and Ives, who made a number of Irish prints to appeal to the Irish-American market.

DEARDAOIN -- On Nov. 3, 1815, John Mitchel, Young Irelander and Irish patriot, was born in Comnish, County Derry. John was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He obtained a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1834, and worked in a law office in Banbridge, County Down, where he eventually came into conflict with the local Orange Order.

Mitchel met Thomas Davis and Gavan Duffy during visits to Dublin. He joined the Young Ireland movement and began to write for The Nation. Deeply affected by the misery and death caused by The Great Hunger, Mitchel became convinced that nothing would ever come of the constitutional efforts to gain Irish freedom. He then formed his own paper, The United Irishmen, to advocate passive resistance by Ireland's starving masses.

In May 1848, the British tired of his open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invented a crime especially for the Young Irelanders: felony-treason. They arrested Mitchel for violating this new law and closed his paper. A rigged jury convicted him, and he was deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. However, in June 1853, he escaped to the United States.

Mitchel worked as a journalist in New York and then moved to the South. When the Civil War erupted, he was a strong supporter of the Southern cause, seeing parallels with the position of the Irish. Mitchel's family would fully back his commitment to the Southern cause; he lost two sons, one at Gettysburg in 1863 and another at Fort Sumter in 1864, and another son lost an arm. Mitchel's outspoken support of the Confederacy caused him to be jailed for a time at Fort Monroe, where one of his fellow prisoners was Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In 1874, the British allowed him to return to Ireland, and he was immediately elected to Parliament from Tipperary. The government removed him, but the people of Tipperary again voted him in. Unfortunately, John Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, died in Newry on March 20, 1875, and was buried there. Thirty-eight years later, John Mitchel's grandson, John Purroy Mitchel, would be elected mayor of New York.

DEARDAOIN -- On Nov. 3, 1717, Henry Luttrell, soldier and suspected betrayer of the Jacobites, was assassinated in Dublin. Luttrell was probably born around the mid-1650s and raised on his family's estate at Luttrellstown, County Dublin. As an adult, he served for a time in the French army before joining the Jacobite army of James II. Luttrell commanded cavalry under Patrick Sarsfield in Ireland during the Williamite War. Sarsfield, a long time friend of Luttrell's, considered him one of his best commanders. At Aughrim in July 1691, Luttrell's troops failed to hold a vital causeway on the Franco-Irish left flank. Though many military historians would say his force was simply not large enough to hold the position and was unsupported by others whom might have come to his aid, Luttrell's later conduct caused his actions at Aughrim to be questioned.

In Limerick on August 2, Sarsfield discovered a letter from a Williamite officer to Luttrell regarding discussions they had had during a truce about possible surrender terms. It is probable that Luttrell entered into these discussions in an innocent manner, but when Irish commander Richard Talbot (the Duke of Tyrconnell, who was no friend of Luttrell's) learned of this letter, he had Luttrell court-martialed. He was found innocent, but after the surrender of Limerick he was one of the few Irish officers who went over to the English side rather than following his old friend Sarsfield into exile in France.

Luttrell received £500 a year and possession of his brother's estate from William of Orange; his brother followed Sarsfield to France. This was ostensibly a reward for his help in bringing about peace in Ireland, but many Irishmen were sure it was blood money for betraying them at Aughrim. It may well be that it was this that led to his death when he was shot in his sedan chair in Dublin. His murderer was never caught. Though few in Ireland today remember his name, he was so reviled in Ireland that 80 years after his death his skull was taken from his grave and smashed.

Linen Hall Library
Portrait of William of Orange by an unknown artist.

SATHAIRN -- On the morning of Nov. 5, 1688, William of Orange, King of the Netherlands and son-in-law of King James II of England, arrived in Brixham, England, with a large Dutch army. He had been invited by the Protestant noblemen of the country to come and usurp the English throne. Led by Lord Monmouth, a group of Protestant nobles had unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the Catholic James from ascending to the throne on the death of Charles II in 1685. Since then James had been disturbing the Protestant noblemen who had remained loyal to him in '85 by giving Catholics more and more freedoms in both England and Ireland; on May 7, 1688, he issued a 'Declaration of Indulgence' pledging religious toleration.

Still, the Protestant nobles had been comforted by the fact that all the possible heirs to James were Protestant; thus the country would be safely returned to a Protestant monarch in time and many of James' reforms would be reversed. All that changed on June 10 when the Queen gave birth to a male heir, one who would be raised as a Catholic. Very shortly thereafter, an invitation was sent across to William, who was married to James' sister Mary, to come and save England for Protestantism. This, William was more than happy to do, for Louis XIV of France was threatening to invade the Netherlands and what better way to ensure the support of England in that coming war than to become the King of that country.

The "Glorious Revolution," as the British would come to call it, was now underway. In less than two months, James II would have to flee for his life, never to return. For the native population of Ireland, the eventual results of this revolution would be far from 'glorious.' The results would be death, destruction, poverty, hundreds of years of second-class citizenship in their own land, and a legacy of hatred between Protestant and Catholic in the north of Ireland.


'When you stick to your notes you're the greatest speaker going, but let someone in the crowd shout "Up Dev!" and you lose your head entirely.'
         -- A friend commenting to Eoin O'Duffy on his speaking style 

This lad Barry was doing precisely what Englishmen would be doing under the same circumstances and with the same bitter and intolerable provocation — the suppression by military force of their country's liberty. ... it is a natural uprising: a collision between two Governments, one resting on consent, the other on force. The Irish are struggling against overwhelming odds to defend their own elected institutions against extinction.
        -- Erskine Childers on the hanging of Kevin Barry

"If heav'n be pleas'd, when mortals cease to sin --
And hell be pleased, when villains enter in --
If earth be pleas'd, when it entombs a knave --
All must be pleas'd -- Now Luttrell's in his grave.'

        -- From a poem written about Henry Luttrell in 1809

The Attorney General is present -- I retract nothing -- these are my well-judged sentiments -- these are my opinions as to the relative position of England and Ireland; and if I have, as you seem to insinuate, violated the law by stating these things, I now deliberately do so again. Let her majesty's attorney-general do his duty to his government, I have done mine to my country.'
        -- John Mitchel addressing the court at his trial for felony-treason in 1848


October - Deireadh Fomhair

30, 1751 - Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Playwright - Dublin)
30, 1892 - General Eoin O'Duffy (Revolutionary, organizer of Blueshirts - Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan.)

November - Samhain

?, 1842 - Joseph McCullagh (Journalist, US Civil War- Dublin)
1, 1625 - Oliver Plunkett (Archbishop and Martyr - Loughcrew, Co. Meath)
3, 1741 – William Irvine (General in the Continental Army – Co. Fermanagh)
3, 1777 – Count Laval Nugent (Field Marshal in the Austrian army, and son of Field Marshal James Nugent – Ballynacor, Co. Westmeath)
3, 1815 - John Mitchel (Revolutionary - Camnish, Co. Derry)
4, 1884 - Harry Ferguson (Inventor - Hillsborough, Co. Down)
4, 1918 - Art Carney (actor and WWII veteran - Mt. Vernon, NY)


31 - Samhaine - The beginning of winter on the Celtic calendar - A night when the "Otherworld" was powerful and the dead were able to come back and visit - the origin of Halloween

November - Samhain

1, Celtic New Year.
1, 1851 - The Adjutant General of the state of New York issues General Order 489, providing for the formation of a militia regiment that would come to be known as the 69th New York.
1, 1920 - Kevin Barry executed.
1, 1884 - Founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
2, 1920 - James Daley of Cannaught Rangers executed for mutiny in India.
3, 1717
 - Henry Luttrell, soldier, suspected betrayer of Jacobites, assassinated in Dublin.
3, 1798 - Wolfe Tone arrested after arriving in Lough Swilly with French.
3, 1854 - Catholic University opened in Dublin.
4, 1791 - Irish-born Revolutionary War General Richard Butler is killed in battle against the Miamis.
4, 1873 - General William Ryan of the Cuban rebel forces executed in Santiago, Cuba.
5, 1688 - William of Orange arrives in England.

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


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