Tomas MacCurtain’s pipes were played yesterday in Cork for the 1st time in about 100 years. I was lucky enough to witness the fellow American play them at Cork’s National monument as they honored MacCurtain’s life and love of music. On this, his birthday and the anniversary of his death, you can too.
Today Bobby Sands would have turned 62 had he lived beyond his hunger strike. Since he did not and I happen to be in Belfast, I decided to visit him (and others) in Milltown Cemetery, bringing flowers that were long overdue.
Sophie Bryant was born on this day in 1850, into a time when women did not receive much education or have too many professional options. She was lucky enough to be largely home-schooled by her father who was a math professor at the University of London, and by private governesses that he hired. She became fluent in many languages and fell in love with math and science. She was an exceptionally strong student.
Roderick James Connolly took following in his father’s footsteps quite literally. He was born on this day in 1901 and was the only son of Lillie and James Connolly. James was a devout socialist, a revolutionary leader, and one of the men executed for leading Ireland’s Easter Rising in 1916. “Roddy” as he was known, was only fifteen when his father was killed which affected him for the rest of his life. Roderick was driven by the same devotion to socialism that his father had believed in and later in life he went into journalism and politics, just like his dad had before him.
I write a lot about Constance Markievicz, just like anyone else who writes Irish history should. However, she was not the only woman involved in the planning or the execution of the Easter Rising in 1916…and many others never get the credit they are due. That’s not to say that she doesn’t deserve a bit of her own though. After all, one of her more famous quotes is highlighted proudly on my business cards, and she does have her own few pages in my book. Today in honor of her birthday, I give you some of her story from Petticoats, Patriots, and Partition – the book that has stolen most of my time for the last six months or so. Happy birthday Countess.
On this day in 1885, a very brave and unusual woman was born in Ireland. Elizabeth O’Farrell grew up to be a revolutionary in many ways. She had a long term relationship with another woman when that was unheard of, dangerous, and severely frowned upon. She was a great suffragist who championed equality and respect for women during an era when many women couldn’t even get an education at all. She saved many lives but put her own at risk over and over again during the Easter Rising of 1916 – and she rarely gets the credit she deserves for all of her courageous acts. Even now her shoes get more attention than the woman who wore them. Continue reading →
My blogs have had a birthday! I almost missed the notification – but I turn two today…or one of them does. It is hard to believe, considering I didn’t even know I had two years of material in me. This one isn’t quite two yet, but since it is more regular, I’m celebrating it anyway. Earlier this year, I posted my ten favorite Irish posts from my first year of writing. Now I’m publishing a book, looking forward to spending a month in Ireland come March, and already forging ahead. I hope you’ll all join me on these adventures.
On this day in 1948, Brendan “The Dark” Hughes was born. He came from a long line of Republican fighters, and as he grew up, he knew that his own entry into the IRA was inevitable. He was right and he was an effective soldier. Later in life he often talked about peace, reconciliation, tearing down the peace walls, and improving relations in the North of Ireland – but he knew he was being idealistic. That peaceful existence may have been what he ultimately wanted, but his life was filled with violence, prison, hunger, and retribution.
He’s been called a murderer, a terrorist, and an evil ringleader. He’s been banned from travel and speech, and he’s been flown around the world to give speeches. He’s been reviled and celebrated, and has been protected by many even as he is threatened by his own people, in addition to the threats from his enemies. He’s divisive and unifying, a liar and a speaker of truth, a politician and a probable paramilitary leader, although he denies that second part. He’s been labeled as Machiavellian and diabolical, or a man of peace and kindness, depending on who you ask. He’s been a prisoner and now rules as a politician – one who some have compared to Nelson Mandela. Many thought he should have shared the glory of Hume’s Nobel Peace Prize, even as others accuse him (then and now) of atrocities and war crimes. Gerry Adams has been many things to many people and it’s hard to know whose impressions are right, but one thing is apparent to everyone. He is not going away.
If ever there was a man who stuck to his principles from birth to death, no matter what the cost, it was Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. He was born and raised as a hard-line Republican and he died a hard-line Republican as well, a little over eighty years later.