ON THIS DATE (23RD AUGUST) 219 YEARS AGO : FRENCH BATTLECRY ON IRISH SOIL.
Three expeditions to aid the 'United Irishmen' were authorised by the French Directory in July of 1798 ('In 1791, the newly installed French government offered military assistance to any group who wanted to overthrow their own King. This was very worrying for the surrounding monarchies of England, Spain, Germany and Austria..' - from here) and command of the first and smallest of these was given to General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert (pictured, left). His small fleet of three frigates, under the command of Chef de Division André Daniel Savary, landed at Cill Chuimin (on August 22nd, 1798).
They marched by night across the mountains in torrents of rain (a distance of about 18 miles which, it has been estimated, would take maybe six hours to do on foot) and then a surprise attack at dawn ; and a masterly assault by General Jean Sarrazin (who later disgraced himself) on the British 'defenders' left flank gave warning of what was to come : brave Mayo men faced pounding artillery with nothing but pikes hammered out by skilled blacksmiths who had worked night and day for five days.
'Erin's sons be not faint-hearted
Welcome! Sing then Ca ira
From Killala they are marching
To the tune of Viva La!
They come, they come, see myriads come
Of Frenchmen to relieve us ;
Seize, seize the pike, beat, beat the drum
They come, my friends, to save us.'
To confuse the enemy further, General Humbert suddenly changed tactics - he launched his full reserve, and changed from closed formation to open file. Rising up in his saddle, and brandishing his sword, he gave the order , in Irish - "Eirinn go Brach!" The drums sounded the 'pas de charge' and a blue line, now within a few paces of the British troops, regrouped back into closed lines and moved swiftly forward , their bayonets gleaming in the morning sun, a fierce and threatening determination in their countenances. The famed army of the French Revolution was here in the fields of Mayo : veterans of many victorious campaigns on the continent, men who had endured much and who believed passionately in their cause. They had measured their enemy and marked them down as 'the defenders and upholders of tyranny and injustice'. The Sasanaigh and their Irish militias and Yeomen hesitated, and then turned their backs and fled in terror.
In Humbert's footsteps we commemorate today
in 1798 they came our way.
Arriving in three ships, the British flags flew
to conceal a plan that no British man knew.
At Kilcummin they landed, Irish pikemen joined the might,
and together they marched with Killala in sight.
The town was captured, Bishop Stock’s palace was made
the Franco-Irish headquarters where new plans were laid.
On August 23rd Ballina was the next plan,
between Moyne and Rosserk abbeys' the British, they ran.
The British we'll beat them, Érin go Bragh,
as they made their way to Béal an Átha.
They reached Ballina August 24th that morning,
but before the British departed they left a warning.
They captured Patrick Walsh and hung him from a crane,
the British departed, a United Irishman slain.
In Ballina the French marched through Barr na Dearg and Bóthar na Sop
with straw torches and a mattress, their way was lit up.
The people excited, a sight to behold,
as the flames of the night lit up buttons of gold.
From Ballina they left to Castlebar they go,
and marched through the mountains, a route the British didn't know.
Humbert captured Castlebar and the British they flee
in panic leaving behind cannon and artillery.
But at Ballinamuck Humbert faced a tough fight,
General Lake and troops behind him and Lord Cornwallis on his right.
The British overtook them, the battle no more,
many Irish were butchered, the French returned to their shore.
In memory of 1798, Ballina streets renamed,
Walsh, Tone, Teeling and Humbert who came to bring victory to Ireland, make her shores free,
to make her the ruler of her own country.
(Ann Marie Murphy, from here.)
36TH ANNUAL HUNGER STRIKE COMMEMORATION FOR PEACE WITH JUSTICE : SATURDAY 26TH AUGUST 2017, 3PM, EAST END, BUNDORAN.
Unseen Sorrow. (By Bobby Sands.)
Her tears fall in the darkness as the rain falls in the night,
silvery tears like silvery rain, hidden out of sight,
the stars fall from her eyes like floating petals from the sky,
is there no one in all this world who hears this woman cry?
A simple little floating dreamy thought has stired this woman's heart,
the golden sleepy dream of yesterdays before they were apart,
what comfort can there be found for a petal so fair and slim
alone in a forest dark of sorrow she weeps again for him?
Warm silver rolling tears blemish a once complexion fair,
that once shown in the fairest radiance midst a cloak of golden hair,
and the children whimper and cry for a father's care
and love they've never known.
Who sees their little tears of innocent years,
as the winds of time are blown?
What sorrow will you know tonight,
when all the worlds asleep,
when through the darkness comes the wind
that cuts the heart so deep.
For there is no one there to dry your tears,
or your children's tears who cling around your frock,
when there has been another bloody slaughter,
in the dungeons of H Block.
JOKER IN THE PACK...?
Padraig Flynn (left) has been facing the flak since he became Minister for the Environment. But Michael O'Higgins finds that nothing phases him. He retains the same certainty he had when saying quite different things. From 'Magill' magazine, May 1987.
At a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party held the day after the budget, deputies were angry about the abrupt ending of the schemes under which people had entered into legally binding agreements under the impression they were to benefit from grants. It was widely reported that Charles Haughey told his deputies "to cut out the codology and to stay out of the kitchen if they couldn't stand the heat." Padraig Flynn, always convinced and convincing, says he has no recollection of a stormy meeting.
The following weekend, the government announced that anybody with verbal approval of grants or who had entered into contracts with the legitimate expectation that they were entitled to a grant would be paid it. The media described it as a u-turn. Fianna Fáil claimed it was a "clarification".
Padraig Flynn is visibly wounded and upset at any suggestion that the government's position after that cabinet meeting represented anything other than a clarification. He had planned to explain the situation himself during his budget speech in the Dáil (sic - Leinster House) the following week : as far as he was concerned, the army of inspectors going around giving verbal approvals ('Carry on now, mam, you are getting your grant and good luck to you...') were the arm of the minister out on site. He wasn't going to invite 134,000 people awaiting home improvement grants to sue him... (MORE LATER).
Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for 'Northern Ireland', last July in 'The London Evening Standard' newspaper. More august* persons such as CJ Haughey and Garret Fitzgerald have also said the same from their varying points of view. By Cliodna Cussen, from 'Iris' magazine, Easter 1991. ('1169' comment : *'August' as in ' dignified and impressive'? Haughey and Fitzgerald? How so? From what point of view? Certainly not from a republican perspective, anyway...)
For us, our constant lack of belief in our own importance is the main reason for our ability to take racist insults and diplomatic evasions lying down. The Irish take no offence at successive waves of anti-Irish hysteria in the British media because they believe they themselves are not important. They also believe they are powerless to change anything. The country that the Irish intellegentia, media and politicians find themselves inhabiting no longer seems worth defending - for we no longer believe in ourselves, or in our own integrity or importance. And if you no longer believe in yourself you do not take offence.
The weary cynicism so prevalent in 'the Republic' today is part of this malaise. That England has exhibited a special tenacity and savagery in the North of Ireland for the past 20 years is no longer permitted to trouble us. We know that to challenge the British presence would mean a struggle, even if only a political one, and among Irish politicians - even those who were most vociferous 20 years ago - it no longer seems politically desirable to speak from a strong Irish position. This bourgeois consensus extends right through the middle classes... (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (23RD AUGUST) 59 YEARS AGO : IRISH TRICOLOUR + RUC = BEING SHOT DEAD.
the Curragh, with morale being described as 'very low'. A total of 206 internees were detained by the State in that Camp, all of whom had been released by March 1959, as the State administration considered the IRA to be a spent force and the latter's political, military and paramilitary colleagues in the Occupied Six Counties were of the same frame of mind, to the extent that the pro-British 'police force' in that part of Ireland, the RUC, felt secure in declaring that they had a top-level informer in the IRA leadership, whom they codenamed 'Horsecoper', and had it on his/her information that the IRA had 455 members in Dublin and about 500 members in the rest of the Free State.
However, 'demoralised/a spent force' or not, both British-established administrations in Ireland - Leinster House and Stormont - were still attempting to 'put the boot in' on republican activity and continued to operate 'Most Wanted' lists, where those named on same would be seized on sight, or worse. One man that that British 'police force' were particularly interested in was James Crossan, a native of Baunboy in Cavan, and a prominent Sinn Féin organiser (and IRA intelligence officer and active member of the Teeling Flying Column) in the border area.
On Saturday, 23rd August 1958 - 59 years ago on this date - James Crossan and one of his neighbours, Seán Reilly, were in a van on their way to Swanlinbar, in Cavan - only a stones throw from the 'border' with Fermanagh - to collect a flag and finalise details for a demonstration to be held the next day (Sunday August 24th) in Ballyconnell. Having done their business in Swanlinbar, the two men, and a local youth and Sinn Féin member, Ben McHugh, decided to go for a pint ; in the pub they met up with two friends from County Fermanagh. Near the end of the night, the barman, Thomas McCarron, asked James Crossan's friend, Seán Reilly, if he would drop him and the two men from Fermanagh to the border, to collect a van belonging to one of the men, Glover Rooney, a cattle dealer from Kinglass, Macken, in County Fermanagh (the other man was Stanley Moffat, a sergeant in the B-Specials!), and Reilly agreed. He parked his van about 100 yards from the border and about 300 yards from Mullan British customs post in Fermanagh ; James Crossan and the young McHugh got out with the three northerners and all five walked towards where the van was parked, near the border. With the few drinks on him and the time of the day it was - about 3am - Seán Reilly fell asleep in the van.
The sound of gunfire woke him up and flares lit-up the sky around him; he got out of the van and saw two RUC men about 30 yards in front of him - they were running towards the British customs post. It later transpired that the five men (Crossan, McHugh, the barman and the two Fermanagh men), all unarmed, parted company on the Cavan side of the border at about 3.30am and, as Crossan and McHugh were walking back to the van, Crossan, 26 years of age, was shot dead by a group of RUC men who had positioned themselves on the southern side of the border. Ben McHugh was arrested, and Crossan's body was taken to Enniskillen. The RUC claimed that they had come across an IRA reconnaissance mission of Mullan British customs post, which was a total fabrication ; at the inquest (held in Enniskillen) no witnesses were called and no attempt was made to investigate the circumstances of the shooting. The coroner simply justified Crossan's death as "justifiable homicide". James Crossan was given a republican funeral and was buried in Kilnavert Cemetery, County Cavan, on the 26th August 1958.
a volley rang out without any warning,
a young man fell dead in the cold grey of morning.
God bless you, God rest you, James Crossan from Bawn.
Forget not this young man, so gay and so cheery,
in working for Erin, he never grew weary,
But he'll toil never more round his own loved Clonleary.
God bless you, God rest you, James Crossan from Bawn.
There's no sleep for the Specials, they're tumblin' and tossin'
they are haunted with fear, every man every gossan,
for they'll pay for it yet, those who murdered James Crossan.
God bless you, God bless you, James Crossan of Bawn. (From here.)
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
Every Saturday morning Paddy got his visit and you would think to hear him that that was all he talked about on his weekly visit - "I pulled my ma and she says that there's definitely a chocolate sandwich cake in my parcel today." We listened to this with no shortage of cynicism. "I'm telling you, my ma swore on St Anthony's Prayer that the cake is there..." But St Anthony's prayer or not, we couldn't give him the benefit of the doubt. Two weeks before she had swore on a stack of bibles and we didn't get any cake.
The comrade in charge of the parcels collected them at the gate and brought them into the canteen for distribution. Paddy waited for his parcel, and we sat in the hut waiting for him to bring it in so that we could get the supper on. "The bastards!", Paddy screamed, coming in the door of the hut. "What's the matter?" I asked. "The screws stole my chocolate sandwich cake." The more cynical members of the co-op looked round at one another with that 'Ach, Jesus, not again..'-look on our faces.
Paddy swore on his mother's life that the cake was there, but he could see that we didn't believe him. "Right", said Paddy, "I'm going to see the OC. This is the last straw." So we all trooped off to the OC's cubicle and, on entering, we noticed that he was sitting down with a cup of tea in his hand and a big slice of chocolate cake... (MORE LATER).
THE STAYCATION : WHEN YOU JUST SIMPLY DELAY DOING THE USUAL STUFF!
The news was bad
We'd spent all the money
That we had
We wouldn't travel
We were gonna take
a forced Staycation... (apologies to the author.)
I'd like to write that we're back and tell you all about our break, but...we weren't really anywhere to be 'back' from, but it still wasn't a bad mini-holiday (spoiled by New York, we are, constantly making comparisons, even though we know we shouldn't be!) considering that we stayed more-or-less local, the weather wasn't the best (typical Irish summer...) and there wasn't a roof-top party to be had anywhere!
We never got too far out of Dublin as it was just too awkward to arrange a day-trip anywhere else : myself and my four girlfriends had the best of intentions to take the extended clan of kids (which numbered anywhere between seven and twelve) away for a day or two but then life intervened - transport issues, what time we could get the gang ready to leave at, who had to be home at a certain time, whatshername won't go unless she can bring her fella with us but that fella used to go out with one of the other young girls with us and she wouldn't go if...etc!
We did, however, manage to get to Dublin Zoo, to Bray in Wicklow, for a group picnic on a lovely day to Corkagh Park, which is on our doorstep and, on one occasion (and never again!) eleven of us attempted to get to Stephens Green in the city centre but never made it...our shenanigans were (thankfully!) interrupted by a 650-ticket function for the Cabhair organisation, which took us the best part of a week, from start to finish, but even then we ended up with an extended entourage.
Anyway - we're back, and badly need a holiday to recover. For now, however, that's out of the question. But we're definitely going somewhere else the next time...
Thanks for reading, Sharon.