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Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Edward Blake - The Irish Canadian Politican

While many Irishmen have travelled the globe to take up State roles, one politician has travelled in the opposite direction. Edward Blake’s father was from County Wicklow and Edward was born in 1833 in what is now Ontario, Canada. In 1858 he married the daughter of an Anglican Bishop, Margaret Cronyn.

Edward joined the legal profession and began to practice in what became one of Canada’s biggest law firms. He entered politics and was elected as a Provincial MP for the Blake South Constituency in the Ontario Parliament. His Irish background was an important factor as two thirds of Irish immigrants at the time lived in the province of Ontario.

By 1868, Blake had become leader of the Ontario Liberal Party then in opposition. On December 20th 1871 he was appointed Premier of Ontario and under a dual mandate rule whereby he served in both the provincial and the Federal parliament he helped bring down the scandal ridden government of Sir John McDonald and while he was offered the Premiership of Canada he turned it down due to ill health. Following the 1874 General Election, Blake was appointed Minister for Justice in the Government of Liberal Party Leader Alexander McKensie. Following the party’s electoral defeat in 1878, McKensie resigned and Blake became the leader of the Liberal Party now in opposition. They lost the subsequent election of 1882 and 1887 to the Conservative Party.

Ill health was again playing a factor in his life and he decided to quit Canada and found himself in London. He was then recruited by the Irish nationalist party to stand in the July 1892 General Election in the South Longford constituency in Ireland. He officially represented the Irish National Federation that emerged during the split in the Irish home rule movement following Charles Stewart Parnell’s affair with the married Kitty O’Shea. He was elected a Home Rule MP defeating Liberal Unionist candidate George Miller garnering 88% of the vote with strong local clerical support. An estimated crowd of 8000-10000 gathered in a field outside Longford to hear a victorious speech from their new MP Edward Blake. The gathering was described by the Toronto World newspaper as ‘the greatest demonstration ever seen in Ireland
Many described it as similar to the great meetings of Daniel O’Connell and his speech was described as in the mould of the great orator.

At meeting in London attended by Prime Minister William Gladstone in August 1892
‘All of Canada’s experience with home rule justified Ireland in seeking the same measure of self government’ declared Blake. He was returned unopposed in 1895,  1900 and 1906 as an Irish Nationalist as the split was healed after the tumult of Parnell’s departure. Blake raised thousands of dollars in Canada to save the Irish Parliamentary Party from financial ruin
Blake’s political foresight led him to write in the early years of the twentieth century
‘If home rule were not granted, Irelands discontent will increase perhaps to the point where nothing sort of complete separation will satisfy her’

Following a stroke he retired 1907 as an MP on health grounds and returned to Canada. In 1912 he died in Toronto.


Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                    This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Nine - Natal


Sir Albert Hime was born at Ballydonerea House near Kilcoole County Wicklow in August 1842 and received a third level education at Trinity College as an engineer. Soon after marrying Josephine Searle he found himself in Bermuda working on a major engineering project constructing a causeway. He travelled again in 1875 across the Atlantic but this time he found himself in South Africa and the Colony of Natal, a British colony created after the born war and the short lived Natalia Republic. In 1878 Hime designed and built the Natal Mounted Police Headquarters.


On June 9th 1899 Hime was appointed the Premier of Natal replacing Sir Henry Binnes. In his role he attended the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and visited Dublin to receive a hononary degree from UCD before returning to Natal. Hime remained Premier until August 17th 1903. The post of Prime Minister of the Colony of Natal also became extinct on 31 May 1910, when it joined the Union of South Africa. He remained in Natal until his death in 1919. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How Ballinlough Co. Roscommon Changed Irish Pubs History

Between Ballyhaunis and Castlerea is the small Roscommon village of Ballinlough that has played a huge part in creating the landscape of the present day Irish public-house business. The licensed trade in the latter part of the nineteenth century was changing rapidly, a century of famine and revolutions but had also seen an increase in the numbers of pubs, alcohol abuse and the often associated violence with the excesses in consumption. Licenses had increased due to the ease in obtaining one only necessitating an application to the Quarter Sessions of the local courts, the support of two local magistrates, £10 (in Dublin £30) and the licence was yours even if you or your dwelling was unfit to sell alcohol to the public. The strange anomaly of the laws was that the fine for serving diluted beer in your £10 licensed pub was fifty pounds.

By the turn of the century changed came with a 1901 Act of Parliament outlawed the sale of alcohol to under-fourteens. A change in the method by which publicans were charged rates saw 557 pubs in 1899 Dublin close their doors. Especially in rural Ireland, the pub doubled as the grocery, the hardware or even the undertakers.

Ballinlough was described in the UK Parliamentary papers of 1843 as ‘a village with 45 houses, parish church and rectory, a dispensary, police station, a courthouse but no post office.’ In 1898 John Dillon MP attended a meeting in the village with the aim to set up a branch of the United Irish League but it was at a Temperance Movement meeting at the Rotunda, Dublin when Ballinlough was trust into the spotlight. The then chairman of the anti-drink Sir Algenon Covte cited Ballinlough as an example how far Ireland had sunk under the influence of alcohol. He said that
‘in 1901, 200 people live in Ballinlough with 8 licensed premises but in this year (1902) eleven new houses were built with nine of them applying for and being granted licenses including one that has remained unopened as the owner is still in America.’*.
It was Judge O’Connor Morris who granted the new licences including a licence to a local draper John Fitzgibbon who was a teetotaller. Many year later in February 1927, the then Justice Minister, Kevin O’Higgins said: ‘‘We know that the honorary magistrates over a long period of years flocked into the annual licensing quarter session and dealt out licences in the most casual and haphazard fashion without any real advertence to the requirements of the public, without any real advertence to the question of whether or not they were creating within this trade an excess and redundancy which would have evil social reactions within the country.’’

Following the highlighting of the issue by Covte and a growing public outcry, the British Government enacted the 1902 Licensing Act which tightened up the rules by which licenses could be issued to stop abuses of the issuing as had occurred in Ballinlough. The Act was the basis of Licensing in the new Irish Free State and still defines what a public house is and how a new licence can be granted.

According the 1901 Census there were 227 residents, six of them named as publicans Kate Frayne, Margaret Madden, Rose White, John Greene, Michael Madden and John O’Connor, there were four listed shopkeepers and in a town of 227, twelve locals listed themselves as shop assistants and two of the three listed bar staff were women. By the 1911 Census and cognisant of some negative publicity, these new publicans listed themselves as shopkeepers with only two Greene and O’Connor still calling themselves publicans. In 1911 the population had increased to 308 but there were now two publicans and fifteen shopkeepers also licensed to sell alcohol. Fourteen locals also listed themselves as shop assistants with over ten percent of the village now involved in one industry, the serving of alcohol.

But Ballinlough did have a police station and the force was very active in trying to keep this large number of publicans in line. Many found themselves before the same magistrates that had so generously issued their licences charged with various infractions. In January 1901, Kate Frayne was charged by Sergeant James Murray with having sold porter ‘to one Patrick Jennings who was intoxicated’, the case dismissed with a caution. Patrick Winston was charged with selling drink afterhours on January 31st 1901 and fined ten schillings while customer Thomas Heneghan who was not ‘an inmate, a servant, a lodger or a bone fide traveller’ was fined half a crown. Winston got away with just a caution a year later when he was charged with a similar offence. In December 1902, Thomas Tyrell was convicted of selling drink to an intoxicated person on the evidence of acting Sergeant McCabe. The customer Michael Frayne was fined five schillings with an extra one schilling in costs. In an attempt to stop an epidemic of afterhours selling in 1903 magistrates fined Michael Kelly £1 and warned about his future conduct. In September 1903 Roderick Donegan and Michael Madden were both convicted of having unstamped whiskey measures.

During the War of Independence in 1920, three IRA men Michael Glavey, Michael Kane and Pat Glynn, their local commandant, were killed by an RIC ambush as they attempted to burn down what they thought was an abandoned barracks. The village was recaptured by Free State troops in 1922 during the Civil War. Today the village is famously home to the Black Donkey craft beer brewery.  

*(Melbourne Advocate 1/3/1902)

The Irish Statesman Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                    This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Seven - Ontario


While many Irishmen have travelled the globe to take up State roles, one politician has travelled in the opposite direction. Edward Blake’s father was from County Wicklow and Edward was born in 1833 in what is now Ontario, Canada. In 1858 he married the daughter of an Anglican Bishop, Margaret Cronyn.

Edward joined the legal profession and began to practice in what became one of Canada’s biggest law firms. He entered politics and was elected as a Provincial MP for the Blake South Constituency in the Ontario Parliament. His Irish background was an important factor as two thirds of Irish immigrants at the time lived in the province of Ontario.

By 1868, Blake had become leader of the Ontario Liberal Party then in opposition. On December 20th 1871 he was appointed Premier of Ontario and under a dual mandate rule whereby he served in both the provincial and the Federal parliament he helped bring down the scandal ridden government of Sir John McDonald and while he was offered the Premiership of Canada he turned it down due to ill health. Following the 1874 General Election, Blake was appointed Minister for Justice in the Government of Liberal Party Leader Alexander McKensie. Following the party’s electoral defeat in 1878, McKensie resigned and Blake became the leader of the Liberal Party now in opposition. They lost the subsequent election of 1882 and 1887 to the Conservative Party.

Ill health was again playing a factor in his life and he decided to quit Canada and found himself in London. He was then recruited by the Irish nationalist party to stand in the July 1892 General Election in the South Longford constituency in Ireland. He officially represented the Irish National Federation that emerged during the split in the Irish home rule movement following Charles Stewart Parnell’s affair with the married Kitty O’Shea. He was elected a Home Rule MP defeating Liberal Unionist candidate George Miller garnering 88% of the vote with strong local clerical support. An estimated crowd of 8000-10000 gathered in a field outside Longford to hear a victorious speech from their new MP Edward Blake. The gathering was described by the Toronto World newspaper as ‘the greatest demonstration ever seen in Ireland
Many described it as similar to the great meetings of Daniel O’Connell and his speech was described as in the mould of the great orator.

At meeting in London attended by Prime Minister William Gladstone in August 1892
‘All of Canada’s experience with home rule justified Ireland in seeking the same measure of self government’ declared Blake. He was returned unopposed in 1895,  1900 and 1906 as an Irish Nationalist as the split was healed after the tumult of Parnell’s departure. Blake raised thousands of dollars in Canada to save the Irish Parliamentary Party from financial ruin
Blake’s political foresight led him to write in the early years of the twentieth century
‘If home rule were not granted, Irelands discontent will increase perhaps to the point where nothing sort of complete separation will satisfy her’

Following a stroke he retired 1907 as an MP on health grounds and returned to Canada. In 1912 he died in Toronto.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                    This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Six - The President of Israel

The late President of Israel Chaim Hertzog was born on Cliftonpark Avenue Belfast in September 1918 but would spend much of his early life in Dublin. His father Rabbi Isaac Hertzog was made the Chief Rabbi of Ireland a year after Chaim was born and the family moved to Bloomfield Avenue near Portobello in Dublin. The area had become known as Little Jerusalem.  The young Chaim studied at Wesley College.

As a young boy in Dublin some of his earliest memories was of war and the battles in the South Circular Road area between opposing sides of the Irish Civil War. He wrote once
            ‘I was only three years old but already quite inquisitive and probably too mischievous. As I wandered out into the front garden (of 102 South Circular Road) to watch the battle a man driving a horse and cart went past and shot dead in front of me. I recall the horse wandering aimlessly a dead man lying in the cart in a grotesque manner.’

Despite the fact that Hertzog senior was born in Poland, he became a fluent Irish speaker as was his son Chaim and was a supporter of Sinn Fein and the first Dail Eireann. In 1935 the entire Hertzog family immigrated to what was then Palestine. Within a year of the move Chaim Hertzog had become involved in a Jewish paramilitary movement and took part on the 1936 -39 Arab Revolt.

Chaim Hertzog then studied for a law degree at University College London and qualified as a barrister at the Kings Inn. During World War Two he served with the British Army in a tank crew and was present at the liberation of some concentration camps in Germany including Bergen Belsen during the last days of the war. After the war he returned to Palestine and married Eygptian born Ora Ambache. As the new Jewish state emerged from British rule into independence in 1948 Chaim’s father became the first Chief Rabbi of Israel but their new state was plunged into violence as Arab neighbours objected militarily to the new Jewish state.

He would serve in the Israeli military until 1962 when he retired at the rank of Major General. After leaving his military career he returned to law and created one of the largest legal firms in Israel. In 1975 he was appointed the Israeli representative at the United Nations apposition he held for three years.


In 1981 he won a seat to the Israeli parliament and in 1983 was elected to the position of President of Israel. He served two five year terms. He became the first Israeli President to visit the United States when Ronald Reagan was President and the first to visit Germany. In 1985 he made a state visit to his native Ireland opening the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin during his visit. He visited both Belfast and Dublin where he was born and grew up and reports at the time were laced with witticisms such as ‘the only President of a foreign country who speaks as Gaeilge’ and ‘ the man who achieved the presidency in one generation while it took the Kennedy’s three’.  In 1997 he passed away in Tel Aviv and is buried in Jerusalem. In a New York Times obituary they described Chaim Hertzog as being ‘steeped in the splendours and sorrows of Jewish History’ who had never lost his Irish brogue. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                    This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Five - A Nation Named after an Irishman

Many Irish men have traveled away from the Emerald Isle he be part of democracies around the world but one Irishman went one step further and had a country named after him. Die Republiek van Upingtonia or the Republic of Upingtonia was a Boer republic from 20th October 1885 until 1886 when it was placed under the protection of the Germans in what was then called Damaraland.

What is now part of Nambia, the Republic of Upingtonia was named after Tomas Upington. Upington was born in Rathnee, near Mallow in Cork on 28 October 1844. He was educated at Cloyne Diocesan School, Mallow, and at Trinity College Dublin. 

In 1874 he immigrated to the Cape Colony in South Africa where four years later he was elected to the State legislature. He was immediately appointed Attorney General of the Cape Province a position he held until 1881.

He became the fourth Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1884, after the growing Afrikaner Bond Party compelled the government of Premier Thomas Scanlen, the son of Irish parents to retire. He was appointed to form a government but held office for only two turbulent and strife-torn years, in what subsequently became known as the "Warming-pan" Ministry. During his Premiership other politicians with more pro British leaning described Upington as both a Fenian and a Parnellite. While trying to push the boundaries of the economic success of the Cape Colony he was attacked from all sides of the political divide and internal conflict with Boer mini republics of Goshen and Stellaland brought an end to his Ministry in 1886, citing ill health for his resignation. He died on 10 December 1898 leaving behind a wife Elizabeth Geurin also born in Cork and four children.

In 1885, William Jordan a hunter and trader bought almost fifty thousand square kilometers of land from a local tribal chief Kambonde for three hundred pounds which was paid as twenty-five firearms, one salted horse, and a cask of brandy. Chief Kambonde had hoped to rely on the help of Jordan to defeat his rival for power, Nehale.

Between 1876 and 1879, many Boers crossed the area, heading for Angola. In 1885 some of these trekkers returned and settled at Grootfontein on farms of land given to them free of charge by Jordan in April 1885. The Republic of Upingtonia was declared on 20 October 1885 under a treaty signed by forty six Boers. At that time, the population of Upingtonia was estimated at five hundred settlers but it was rich in copper deposits. According to the book ‘A drink of Dry Land’ Upingtonia was a ‘complicated place’ and ‘a new world from restless people’.  The state was named after Upington who was by then prime minister of the Cape Colony from whom the new state was hoping for support. However, none was forthcoming. Under the influence of the Boers returning to the Transvaal in 1886 the name of the new State was changed briefly from the Republic of Upington to Lijdensrust. Upingtonia's capital was Grootfontein originally known by the locals as Leopard’s Hill, and appointed a head of State, President George Prinsloo.

The new state fought the nomadic tribesmen of the Herero tribe and according to ‘Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans: Race and Self-determination’
By Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui the new state attempted to align itself with Portugal but in an alliance between the British to the South in the Cape Colony and the Germans to the north in Damaraland Upingtonia became dependent on German protection. Upingtonia had sought the assistance of the British Governor of Natal Sir Arthur Havelock but he declined and so they came under the protection of the Germans who were extending their dominion in South West Africa. In July 1886 Jordan was murdered by members of the Ovambo tribe and Kambone’s brother Nehale and the republic collapsed. The following year the area was incorporated into South-West Africa.

According to Leader newspaper in Melbourne, who took an in depth look at the Republic of Upingtonia in 1887 said that Upingtonians claimed almost an area of 33,000 square miles which was three quarters the size of The Orange Free State.

Corkonian Thomas Upington also has the South Africa town of Upington named after him and according to the town’s tourist website
‘Like Wild West towns, Upington had its share of skirmishes and its share of fortune-seeking scoundrels. One of these was a man called George St Leger Gordon Lenox, alias 'Scotty Smith'. An adventurer born in Scotland, he bought and sold illegal diamonds, stole horses and masterminded highway robberies. His gravestone is one of Upington’s tourist attractions.’

His eldest son Beauclerk who was just one years old when the family moved to the Cape was like his father educated at Trinity College Dublin and created one of the largest legal firms in South Africa and was from 1913 – 1922 President of the South African soccer federation.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world. This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Five - The Irish Premier's of Tasmania

It has been an Australian state since 1901, the island of Tasmania off the south east coast of Australian has a long and proud association with Ireland. The island is roughly the same size as Ireland but with a population of only just over half a million it has been part of Australia since 1856. Through the 1800s more than thirty percent of all migrants to Tasmania were from Ireland. Two Irishmen have risen to the top of Tasmanian Government attaining the position of Premier of Tasmania.

Sir James Wilson Agnew was born on October 2nd 1815 in Ballyclare, County Antrim.  After an education in Ireland, London and Paris be qualified as a medical practicioner and soon after qualification emigrated to Sydney, Australia. By 1846 he had married Louisa Mary Fraser but she passed away in 1868. He married a second time ten years later to Blanche Legge who had been born in County Tipperary. He moved to Melbourne but was unsettled but he was then offered a position in what was then known as Van Diemen’s Land now Tasmania. He would eventually become the colonial surgeon in the General Hospital in the capital Hobart. In 1877 he had left medicine and took up full time politics being elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly. He was appointed to the cabinet as a minister without port folio but in 1881 he returned to Europe.

By 1884 he had returned to Tasmania and was once again elected to the Legislative Assembly. On March 8th 1886 he succeeded Adye Douglas as Tasmanian Premier only to retire from the post and politics just over a year later on March 27th 1887. In November 1901 by now a widower for a second time he died in the state capital of Hobart. In his obituary in the Daily Telegraph in Tasmania Agnew left a lasting legacy in Tasmania when the newspaper reported
‘In 1888 at a cost entirely by himself, he arranged for a shipment of 400,000 salmon ova to be brought to Tasmania under the care of Sir Thomas Brady, then inspector of fisheries for Ireland. The result of the experiment proved entirely satisfactory, and anglers in the future, as they do now, will bless the name of the genial doctor, who was mainly instrumental in introducing these fine fish to Tasmanian waters. Dr. Agnew was knighted by the late Queen Victoria, in 1894’

The name Gray has been synonimous with Irish politics since the days of Daniel O’Connell with Sir John Gray a well known vocal supporter of O’Connell and founder of the Freeman’s Journal newspaper an elected Irish MP for Kilkenny. Sir John’s son was Edmund Dwyer Gray who took over the running of the nationalist newspaper upon the death of his father in 1875. Edmund also served as Lord Mayor of Dublin and was an elected MP to the British House of Commons. His only son Edmund junior would also succeed his father at the newspaper but his political life would take him to the other side of the world.

Edmund John Dwyer Gray was born in Dublin in April 1870. After an education that included Clongowes Wood College he joined the staff of his family’s newspaper but a bout of rheumatism seen him travel to Australia hoping that the better climate would soothe his aches.  He made several trips down under but on one occasion back in married found time to marry Clara. The upheaval of the scandal surrounding his newspapers support of Charles Stewart Parnell’s affair with Kitty O’Shea hastened his permanent relation to Australia. After some travelling to Fiji and New Zealand, the Gray’s found themselves in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. He settled as a farmer but had become involved again with journalism taking over as editor of the Daily Post a newspaper for the Australian Labor Party.

In 1915 he unsuccessfully ran in the state elections but in 1928 with a stroke of the pen when he hyphenated his name to Dwyer-Gray he found himself at the top of the ballot paper and won a seat representing the area of Denison. He rose to the rank of Deputy Premier under Albert Ogilvie and when Ogilvie died of a heart attack on June 10th 1939, Dublin born Edmund Dwyer-Gray became Premier of Tasmania. He only held the position until December 18th 1939 but was Premier at the outbreak of World War Two. He died in Hobart in December 1945. 

In Dublin’s O’Connell Street opposite a statue of grandfather John Gray stands the statue of William Smith O’Brien who was one of the leader of the failed 1848 rebellion and who in the aftermath found himself transported to Van Diemen’s Land for his crime of rebellion. Smith O’Brien was the brother of Lucius O’Brien, the Lord of Inchiquin who ancestoral home was Dromoland Castle. Beatrice, the grand daughter of Lucius married Gugliemo Marconi the inventor of wireless telegraphy and radio.


Perhaps one of the most successful of the Irish convicts in Tasmania was Richard Dry, convicted in Dublin in 1787, and sentenced to life for political activity and sedition. One of his sons Richard became the 7th Premier of Tasmania in 1866 and would eventually became the first Australian to be knighted. Richard Dry Senior was given a grant of 500 acres in 1818, as a reward for working as a commissariat clerk. Dry and his tenants were working 300 acres of land, and had almost 4,000 cattle and 7,000 sheep. By 1827 he had 12,000 acres of land. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

  The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                    This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Four - The Premier's of the Australian State of Victoria

Born in Ballinahow, County Tipperary John O’Shanassy would become the Australian state of Victoria’s second Premier. He initially held the post for a month March – April 1857 but his Government fell and he was replaced as Premier by the man he himself had replaced William Haines. On March 10th 1858 he once again became Premier of Victoria and a powerful Irish Catholic alliance dominated a mainly protestant Victoria with O’Shanassy’s Deputy Premier Charles Gavin Duffy. This led to sectarian tensions in the state but relations between the two men deteriorated as Irish politics came between the two politicians, the two men on opposite sides of the 1848 Irish Rebellion.


Their Government fell in October 1859 but O’Shanassy was back in the Premier’s seat one final time from14th November 1861 to 27 June 1863. In 1866 he returned briefly to Ireland where he was presented with a banquet ‘fit for a king’ in his native Tipperary. He was asked by the Cork Examiner if he had seen any change in Ireland since he had departed the newspaper reported,
'When a man returned to Ireland after a long absence, a natural question was, do you see any great change in the country? He answered at once 'I do.' He saw the agricultural position of the country was better than when he left it. He saw an improved price for labour, making a very considerable difference in the condition of the labouring population. He saw railways opened, and an excellent system of roads, which, were a great improvement upon what existed when he was there before. And he saw, what was peculiarly pleasing that Ireland had been complimented by politicians on every side because in the matter of ordinary crime her calendar was almost a blank. He had also noticed a marked development in ecclesiastical architecture in this country — the united zeal of the people and their pastors building magnificent churches, that were strong proofs of the sincerity of religion conviction of those who worshipped in them. In social matters, too, he saw marked progress, for now men of every shade of opinion, religious and political, could come together to promote a common object. ‘

He retired from the Victoria State Parliament in February 1883, shortly before his death in May of that year in Boroondara, Victoria, Australia.

Having served as Deputy Premier under O’Shanassy, Gavin Duffy would go on to be the 8th Premier of Victoria with a history of rebellion left behind in Ireland before his departure to Australia.  Duffy was born on Dublin Street, Monaghan Town, and the son of a shopkeeper. Both his parents died while he was still a child and his uncle, Fr James Duffy, who was the parish priest of Castleblaney became his guardian for a number of years with an education achieved in Belfast. Gavan Duffy was one of the founders of The Nation and became its first editor; the two others were Thomas Davis and John Dillon, who would later become Young Irelanders. All three were members of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal campaign. The paper, under Gavan Duffy, transformed from a literary voice into a "rebellious organisation"

As a result of The Nation's support for Repeal, Gavan Duffy, as owner, was arrested and convicted of seditious conspiracy as the result of a Monster political Meeting that was planned for Clontarf in North Dublin city. This was also a period of rebellion with the Young Irelanders 1848 rising that centered on County Tipperary, more familiarly known today as the ‘Cabbage Patch rebellion’.

In 1852 he was elected an MP to the British House of Commons for the constituency of New Ross, retaining his seat until his resignation in November 1855. Tiring of the malaise that was Irish politics, Gavin Duffy decided to cross the world to Australia and arrived in Victoria State. He was feted when he arrived and a public campaign changed the rules for those who could be elected to the state legislature. In 1856 Gavin Duffy entered Victorian politics being elected for the constituency of Villiers and Heytesbury
 .
In 1871 Duffy led the opposition in parliament to Premier James McCullough’s plan to introduce a property tax on the grounds that it unfairly penalised small farmers. When McCulloch's government was defeated on this issue, Duffy became Premier and Chief Secretary (June 1871 to June 1872). Victoria's finances were in a poor state and he was forced to introduce a tariff act to provide government revenue, despite his adherence to the then British principles of free trade.

As an Irish Catholic Premier he was very deeply unpopular with the Protestant majority in the state and Duffy was accused of favouring Catholics in government appointment. In June 1872 his government was defeated in the Assembly on a confidence motion allegedly motivated by sectarianism. He was succeeded as premier by the conservative James Francis and later resigned the leadership of the liberal party.

In 1874 he returned briefly to Ireland and was offered a seat by the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons but he declined returning to Victoria. In 1880 he left Australia for good and moved to the south of France. He died in 1903 having outlived three wives. His body was returned to Ireland for a large funeral through the streets of Dublin. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Irish Statesman Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world. This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Three - New Zealand

Much has often been written about the ancestral connections of US Presidents with Ireland but Irish citizens have travelled the world becoming much loved and treasured statesmen in other nations. Ireland has produced three Irish born Prime Ministers of New Zealand. These are their stories.

DANIEL POLLEN

On July 8th 1875 Daniel Pollen became the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Daniel was the son of Hugh Pollen, a dock master at the mouth of the newly opened Grand Canal as it entered the River Liffey and Elizabeth O’Neill. Daniel was born on June 2nd 1813 when the family lived in what later became known as Pollen Cottage in Ringsend. Hugh Pollen received both the house and an annual salary of £100 per annum for his role as dock master.

Little is known about the early part of his life, but it is supposed that he grew up in Ringsend before emigrating to New Zealand in 1840, shortly after his father died in 1837 and the role of dock master and use of the house was taken over by Thomas Pollen, brother of the late Hugh. He arrived at the Bay of Islands settling in a town called Parnell near Auckland which probably made him feel right at home. He practiced as the local doctor but Daniel also became actively involved in politics with the formation of the Auckland Province in 1852 and was well regarded as a great debater and famous for his wit.

Two years after he was appointed the local coroner in 1846 he had married Jane Henderson a daughter of a Royal Naval officer and they went onto to have four sons and four daughters. Pollen entered politics first serving on the local provincial council representing Auckland East and then became a member of the New Zealand Parliament on May 12th 1873.  He rose through the political ranks and served in the Government of Julius Vogel as Colonial Secretary but when that Prime Minister left New Zealand to travel to Great Britain, Daniel Pollen from Ringsend in Dublin was appointed July 6th 1875 as Prime Minister of New Zealand. He held the position until the return of Vogel on February 15th 1876 when he returned to the position of Colonial Secretary and continued in that position under the following Prime Minister Harry Atkinson before he retired from politics.

Pollen died at his residence ‘The Whau’ in Avondale in 1896.

JOHN BALANCE

The 14th Prime Minister John Balance was born in Ballypitmave near Lisburn in County Antrim in March 1839. Born into a farming community to father Samuel, John Balance was the eldest of eleven children. As an eighteen year old he headed for Belfast City before crossing the Irish Sea to live in Birmingham. While there in 1863 he married a butcher’s daughter Fanny Taylor. His new bride became ill and the decision was taken in 1866 to immigrate to New Zealand where Fanny’s brother lived.

Once in New Zealand after a brief period as salesman he studied to become a journalist and from journalism he found his way into local politics. The move for the Balance couple down under proved futile as two years after their arrival down under Balance’s wife passed away. Two years later he married Ellen Anderson and the couple adopted a daughter Kathleen.

He was first elected to parliament in 1879 only to loose his seat in the subsequent election by just four votes when a horse drawn coach shed a wheel and seven of his supporters inside failed to register their vote. He won the seat back in 1884 and joined the Julius Vogel cabinet as Minister for Native Affairs. Out of Government, Balance accepted the role as leader of the then opposition Liberal Party. When the Government of Prime Minister Atkinson resigned, Balance became the Prime Minister in January 1891.

As Prime Minister he attempted to turn his Liberal party into a nationwide party rather than just regionally based. He was not known as a charismatic leader or a good public speaker, he was described as honest, courteous and displayed great patience and integrity. His wife became a leading figure in the fledgling feminist movement in New Zealand. His success as a Prime Minister was short lived as he developed cancer and passed away on April 27th 1893 receiving a state funeral in his home town of Wanganui. His wife Ellen outlived her husband by forty two years. 

WILLIAM MASSEY

The 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand was William Massey who was born in Limavady, Derry in March 1856. He was a member of the Reform Party, a political force he helped to found, when he became PM in 1912. Born into a farming Presbyterian family, the family moved to New Zealand in October 1862 without young William who remained in Ireland to complete his education. He followed the family over to the far side of the world in December 1870.

He became involved in local politics through the local school board before being elected in an 1894 by election for the constituency of Waitemata before contesting the 1896 General Election for the neighbouring constituency of Franklin which he represented until his death in 1925.

After founding his reform Party in 1909, they became the largest party after the 1911 General Election but the incumbent Liberal Party remained in power with the support of Independents. The Liberals lost a vote of confidence in Parliament and Massey was invited to form a new administration and officially became Prime Minister on July 12th 1912. His first years in power were a period of great industrial unrest and his use of force to break strikes did not endear him to either his electorate or party colleagues but like many other politicians across the world the intervention of the First World War diverted attention from domestic matters. In the 1914 General Election no party won enough seats to be effective as a Government and Massey invited the leader of Liberal Party Joseph Ward to be party of a national unity Government in time of war.

Massey signed the Versailles Peace treaty on behalf of New Zealand at the end of the war. With war at an end the unity coalition fractured and in the 1919 General Election despite the rise of the new Labour Party, Massey and his Reform Party won a majority. He governed a troubled New Zealand both socially and economically until the 1922 General Election where he failed to win his majority winning just 37 of the 80 available seats but clung to power with the support of Independents.

His health deteriorated in 1924 and he passed away in 1925. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series


  The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small 
island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                       This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Two - The U.S.A.
There have been six US Presidential visits to Ireland, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Bush but the only US President to have direct connections with Ireland was Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States of America. His father Andrew senior was born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim and his mother Elizabeth was also born in Northern Ireland both of Presbyterian Scots origin. In 1765 Andrew, Elizabeth and two older sons Hugh and Robert immigrated to the United States arriving in Philadelphia. The future President Jackson was born on March 15th 1767 just fourteen days after the death of his father in a logging accident. His now widowed mother raised the three boys in Waxhaws, South Carolina. He was elected President in 1829 serving two terms and he is considered as the founder of the present day Democratic Party. He died in Nashville, Tennessee in June 1845.

Before the thirteen colonies of the original United States of America gathered together under one President, George Washington many of these colonies had their own Presidents and some of them were Irish born.

GEORGE BRYAN

George Bryan was born in Henry Street, Dublin in August 1731 to Samuel and Elizabeth Bryan. George was a middle child of five, two older sisters Elizabeth and Amy, two younger brothers Arthur and Samuel. Samuel Bryan was a well known merchant in Dublin whose trade also included exports to continental America. Young George who would eventually earn the nickname ‘The Dublin Boy’ attended Trinity College before accepting an offer in 1752 from a partner of his father to cross the Atlantic to learn business management in Philadelphia. He quickly settled into life in Pennsylvania becoming a well known and wealthy merchant and in 1757 he married Elizabeth Smith with the couple going on to have ten children. With the onset of the American war of Independence he became quickly involved in the politics of the day especially in the colony of Pennsylvania. When the first President of Pennsylvania Thomas Wharton died in office he was replaced by George Byran who served as President from May 23rd 1778 to December 1st 1778. When the Pennsylvania Assembly head a formal meeting to replace their first President Byran lost the vote to Joseph Reed but was appointed Vice President, a position he held for two years. During his tenure as President one of his achievements was on June 28th 1778 the Assembly returned from exile in Lancaster to the colony capital Philadelphia, the exile had been forced on this by the British occupation of Philadelphia.

JOHN McKINLEY
Another Irish born colony President was John McKinly who was President of Delaware from February 12th 1777 to September 22nd 1779. He was born in Northern Ireland in February 1721 and moved to Wilmington Delaware in 1742. He became involved in the local militia and was a Lieutenant during the French and Indian war. Described as Federalist he married Jane Richardson. In 1776 he was involved in some of the battles as the new colonies sought independence from Britain. He was elected to the Delaware Assembly in 1776 and the following year was elected President of Delaware. The colony due to the on going was in turmoil politically, militarily an economically. The British raided the President home and arrested him imprisoning his on board a warship. He was replaced in September 1777 by Thomas McKean. He was freed in August 1778 but left politics to concentrate on his medical profession founding the Delaware Medical Society in 1779. He died in August 1796. 

CHARLES THOMSON

In 1776, the United States continental congress signed the declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress was the then rebel Government of the United States’ then thirteen colonies. On October 28th 1777, the President of the then United States John Hancock unexpectedly resigned as being denied permission to take a leave of absence. As the Congress debated his successor in these turbulent revolutionary times the position was temporary taken by Charles Thomson who served as President from October 29th to November 1st 1777 when Henry Laurens was elected President.

Thomson was born near Maghera, Derry in November 1729. Following the death of his mother in 1739, his father decided to emigrate with Thomson’s younger brothers to America. Their father died as they crossed the Atlantic and the penniless brothers were separated upon their landing. He married the sister of Benjamin Harrison whose son and grandson both became Presidents of the United States of America.
He became secretary of the Continental Congress and his name appears on the first published edition of the Declaration of Independence. His diligence of recording all the debates is now a valuable historical resource as the United States struggled militarily to free themselves from British dominance.

He is also credited with designing the Great Seal of the United States along with William Barton. He resigned his position as the new constitution gave life to the present United States and the election of George Washington in 1789. In his retirement he worked on a translation of the bible and developed a passion for beekeeping. He died in Pennsylvania in 1824 at the ripe old age of ninety four.  


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world. This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode One - Great Britain

Two Irish born men have served as Prime Minister of Great Britain since the role was created in 1721. At the time when they were in office their title included Ireland.

LORD SHELBOURNE

Born William Fitzmaurice in the Fingal area of North County Dublin, on the death of his maternal uncle Sir William Petty, the family inherited the title of The Earl of Shelbourne and later William took the Petty family surname replacing Fitzmaurice. He spent many of his early years living near Ardfert in County Kerry. He joined the army and served with distinction in Germany during the Seven Years War. When his military career ended he assumed the family’s seat in the House of Commons for the constituency of Chipping Wycombe. Following the death of his father he entered the House of Lords.

In Westminster although seen as a shrewd politician with lofty ambitions, he found himself on the opposition benches and at the time advocated the controversial policies religious tolerance and free trade. He led the opposite for over a decade and was an outspoken opponent of the war with the future United States of America.

In March 1782, Shelbourne was appointed Home Secretary in the administration of Prime Minister Charles Watson Wentworth, The 2nd Marques of Rockingham but following the sudden death in July of the same year, he was appointed as a Prime Minister. During his tenure in the office he secured peace with the U.S., France and Spain. As part of the peace agreement with the U.S., the Treaty of Paris was rejected by Parliament and in April 1783, he resigned from office.

Shelbourne married twice, first in 1765 to Lady Sophia Carteret who died in 1771 and then to Lady Louisa Fitzpatrick in 1779. He was created a marquis in 1784, assuming the title of 1st Marquis of Lansdowne. He died in 1805 and was succeeded by his son John, 2nd Marquis of Lansdowne. The Dublin Four roads of Shelbourne Road and the adjacent Lansdowne Road home of the Aviva Stadium are named as the first Irish born Prime Minister of Great Britain.

DUKE OF WELLINGTON
  
Arthur Wellesley was born at 24 Merrion Square part of the Merrion Hotel today and opposite Government Buildings. The second tallest obelisk in the world after the Washington Memorial in DC located in Dublin’s Phoenix Park commemorates his death after a stellar military and political career better known as the Duke of Wellington.

Wellesley was born on May 1st 1769. After a schooling that included a stint at Eton for three years from 1781, Wellesley returned to Dublin having joined the army in 1787 working as an aide de camp in Dublin Castle. He was a socialite and lost a lot of money gambling. In 1790 he was elected  as an MP to the Irish House of Commons for Trim in County Meath close to the family home of Dangan Castle.

His contributions in Parliament were few and far between, making him the perfect candidate for today’s Dail Eireann. In 1796 just before revolution engulfed Ireland, Wellesley departed to fight in India. Throughout his military career he fought in over sixty battles across various continents. In 1806 after returning from India he was elected to Westminster as MP for Rye. In 1807 he was back in Ireland having been appointed Chief Secretary, the British political leader in Ireland under the Viceroy of the day the Duke of Richmond and he also had married Catherine Pakenham with whom he had two sons but the marriage regarded as loveless and the couple spent most of the lives living separately. 

His global fame would arrive in 1815 when he led the British army to success over Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Wellesley commanded a multi national force as they took on Napoleon who had regained power after escaping from Elba. The British/Dutch/Belgian/Germany/Prussian force numbered 110,000, 26,000 of whom were British, one third of them were Irish born soldiers. The cost in lives on both sides was sixty five thousand dead.

A year later the newest pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey was named the Wellington Bridge in his honour, the once tolled bridge it is now colloquilly known as the Halfpenny Bridge. And of course the wellington boot which were specially made for him was named after him now a stable part of the fashion of rural Ireland, the ‘wellie’.

He first assumed the mantle of Prime Minister as a member of the Tory Party from January 22nd 1828 to November 16th 1830.   He oversaw the introduction of Catholic Emancipation in Ireland dismantling the hated Penal Laws. His second tenure began on November 14th 1834 only holding office on a temporary basis as a replacement for Robert Peel for a month. He also served as Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Minister for War and Leader of the House of Lords.
He died on September 14th 1852 and given a state funeral in London.
acres of land. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Irish Refugee Crisis




The military history of any other race does not provide a parallel for the constant use of this death defying method of equipping a fighting force in time of war.

Historians often simply look at dates, facts and figures but the scale of the fight for Irish independence during the 1919-21 period is brilliantly summed up in this paragraph from the book 'Rebel Cork's Fighting Story'. This is the story that our children should learn and be aware of and respect where we have come from and those who got us there.

Every time an IRA unit, large or small attacked a police barrack or a military post, a military or police convoy, the primary purpose was that of obtaining arms and ammunition with which to continue and intensify the fight for national freedom. The resistance groups on the continent during the last war (WW1) received their military supplies from allied aircraft which dropped weapons, ammunition, radio receivers, transmitters and other equipment at prearranged places. But in Ireland of 1919, 1920 and 1921, the weapons and ammunition used against the invaders had first to be taken from them in a roadside ambush or in a raid on a barb wired encircled, steel- shuttered RIC or military post. The great bulk of the arms used against the British during the Irish War of Independence were captured British weapons taken from the field of battle. The military history of any other race does not provide a parallel for the constant use of this death defying method of equipping a fighting force in time of war.