#OnThisDate in 1920 – Tom Crean, seaman and Antarctic explorer from Annascaul, Co Kerry, retired from the Royal Navy, after almost 27 years of service.

Tom Crean was an Irish seaman and Antarctic explorer from Annascaul, Co Kerry. He was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He joined the Royal Navy at 15 years of age. Served on ‘Discovery’ from 1901–1904 and ‘Terra Nova 1910–1913 under Captain Robert Scott. This saw the race to reach the South Pole lost to Roald Amundsen and ended in the deaths of Scott and his polar party. During this expedition, Crean’s 35 statute miles (56 km) solo walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans led to him receiving the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

While serving aboard the Fox, in April 1919, Crean had suffered a serious fall, causing a bad head injury, which would have lasting effects on his eyesight. Almost a year later, whilst serving on the Hecla, Tom Crean was declared medically unfit to serve, because of his defective vision, and the giant Irishman retired on medical grounds.

Tom Crean lived in Annascaul until his death in 1938, and all those alive today who remember him share one common memory—that he never spoke about his life as an explorer. Never once did Tom Crean give an interview to a journalist or an author. Even his two surviving daughters were told precious little about his adventures.

In 1938 Crean became ill with a burst appendix. He was taken to the nearest hospital in Tralee, but as no surgeon was available to operate, he was transferred to the Bon Secours Hospital in Co Cork where his appendix was removed. Because the operation had been delayed, an infection developed, and after a week in the hospital he died on 27 July 1938, shortly after his sixty-first birthday. He was buried in his family’s tomb at the cemetery in Ballynacourty.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The reasons why history has been unkind to Crean are twofold: first, the politics of post-independence Ireland; and second, what George Bernard Shaw described as the greatest of evils and worst of crimes — poverty.

Tom Crean was an Irish seaman and Antarctic explorer from Annascaul, Co Kerry. He was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He joined the Royal Navy at 15 years of age. Served on ‘Discovery’ from 1901–1904 and ‘Terra Nova 1910–1913 under Captain Robert Scott. This saw the race to reach the South Pole lost to Roald Amundsen and ended in the deaths of Scott and his polar party. During this expedition, Crean’s 35 statute miles (56 km) solo walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans led to him receiving the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

While serving aboard the Fox, in…

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#OnThisDate in 1847 – Choctaw Indians collect money to donate to starving Irish Hunger victims.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Moved by news of starvation in Ireland, a group of Choctaws gathered in Scullyville, Ok, to raise a relief fund. Despite their meager resources, they collected $170 and forwarded it to a U.S. famine relief organisation.

The Choctaw Indians may have seen echoes of their own fate in that of the Irish. Just 16 years before, in 1831, the Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi to what is now known as Oklahoma on a forced march known as the Trail of Tears. Starving, freezing, many died.

Now the Irish were suffering a similar fate. In the fall of 1845, the potato blight in Ireland began. By 1847, there was massive death and starvation. The Irish were only permitted potatoes by the English authorities, and when the potatoes perished, so did they. As many as a quarter of the Irish population either starved or immigrated under…

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What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes

Irish history, folklore and all that

What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes photo

This coming Sunday marks the celebration of the life of St. Patrick, the bishop who brought Christianity to Ireland some time in the early 400s. And if you eat at all on St. Paddy’s day (Guinness doesn’t count), you’re likely to encounter a certain little tuber that’s practically synonymous with the Emerald Isle. Without the potato, there would be no colcannon, no Irish stew, no shepherd’s pie, and certainly no McDonald’s fries to dip in your Shamrock Shake at the shameful end of the night. But the potato, like the Catholic Church, is an import to Eire—potatoes are actually Peruvian, from thousands of years back, and didn’t make their way to Irish soil until the late 1600s.

Which raises the question: What was Irish food like for the 1500 years between Patrick and potatoes?

The short answer is: milky. Every account…

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1916 Easter Rising: Desmond Fitzgerald and the German Prince

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

During the occupation of the GPO during the 1916 Rising, Desmond FitGerald commented “I was bemused by the general attitude of security”. At the height of the battle he was in the midst of the conflagration that shook the GPO garrison. Ever the sceptic, Desmond FitzGerald, who was in charge of rations, mentions in his memoir of the 1916 Rising the sudden and unexpected mobilisation, followed by a description of conditions in the GPO, the rebels’ headquarters. While many accounts describe the Rising as a form of blood sacrifice, FitzGerald discussed its wider rationale with the leader Pádraig Pearse, and with Joseph Plunkett who had travelled to Germany in 1915 for assistance. They expected that Germany would win the First World War and that a rising of at least three days would allow Ireland to take a seat at the peace conference.

The O’Rahilly talked of the Rising as a…

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#OnThisDate in 1922 – The seeds continue to be sown for an Irish civil war.

Rory O’Connor holds what was to become an infamous press conference at the headquarters of the republican party (Cumann na Poblachta) in Suffolk Street, Dublin. He declares that the army is ‘in a dilemma, having the choice of supporting its oath to the Republic or still giving allegiance to the Dáil, which, it considers, has abandoned the Republic’. The contention of the army, he says, ‘is that the Dáil did a thing that it had no right to do.’ When asked if he would obey President Arthur Griffith, he said he would not as he had violated his oath. When asked if the army would forcibly prevent an election being held, O’Connor stated: ‘It will have the power to do so.’ He went on to say that “the holding of the Convention means that we repudiate the Dáil… We will set up an Executive which will issue orders to the IRA all over the country.’ In reply to the question on whether it can be taken that we are going to have a military dictatorship, O’Connor said: ‘You can take it that way if you like. ‘He also explained how the English did not give the Irish any help.

On 8 December 1922, along with three other republicans Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey captured with the fall of the Four Courts, Rory O’Connor was executed by firing squad in reprisal for the anti-treaty IRA’s killing of Free State TD Sean Hales. The execution order was signed by Kevin O’Higgins. Less than a year earlier, O’Connor had been best man at his wedding. The killing remains as a symbol of the bitterness and division of the Civil War. O’Connor, one of 77 republicans executed by the Cumann na nGaedheal government of the Irish Free State, is seen as a martyr by the Republican movement in Ireland.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Rory O’Connor holds what was to become an infamous press conference at the headquarters of the republican party (Cumann na Poblachta) in Suffolk Street, Dublin. He declares that the army is ‘in a dilemma, having the choice of supporting its oath to the Republic or still giving allegiance to the Dáil, which, it considers, has abandoned the Republic’. The contention of the army, he says, ‘is that the Dáil did a thing that it had no right to do.’ When asked if he would obey President Arthur Griffith, he said he would not as he had violated his oath. When asked if the army would forcibly prevent an election being held, O’Connor stated: ‘It will have the power to do so.’ He went on to say that “the holding of the Convention means that we repudiate the Dáil… We will set up an Executive which will issue orders to the…

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Feast Day of Saint Darerca of Ireland, sister of Saint Patrick.

St Darerca is patroness of Valentia Island, the westernmost point of Co Kerry.

Much obscurity is attached to her history, and it is not easy to disentangle the facts of her history from the network of legend which medieval writers interwove with her acts. Her fame, apart from her relationship to Ireland’s national apostle, stands secure as not only a great saint but as the mother of many saints.

When St Patrick visited Bredach, as is found in the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’, he ordained Aengus mac Ailill, the local chieftain of Moville, now a seaside resort for the citizens of Derry. While there he found ‘the three deacons’, his sister’s sons, namely, Saint Reat, Saint Nenn, and Saint Aedh, who are commemorated respectively on 3 March, 25 April, and 31 August.

Darerca was at least twice married. Among her husbands, according to histories in Brittany, she was the second wife of Conan Meriadoc and the mother of his eldest son, Gradlon Mawr who became Gradlon the Great, King of Brittany.

Darerca’s second husband, Chonas the Briton, founded the church of Bothchonais, now Binnion, Parish of Clonmany, in the barony of Inishowen, Co Donegal. She had children by both husbands, some say seventeen sons, all of whom, according to Colgan, became bishops. (According to Breton history at least one became King of Brittany, rather than serve the church as a Bishop). From the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’ it is evident that there were four sons of Darerca by Chonas, namely four bishops, St Mel of Ardagh, St Rioc of Inisboffin, St Muinis of Forgney, Co Longford, and St Maelchu. It is well to note that another St Muinis, son of Gollit, is described as of Tedel in Ara-cliath.

Darerca had two daughters, St Eiche of Kilglass and St Lalloc of Senlis. Her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard, after whose death she married Chonas the Briton. By Restitutus she was mother of St Sechnall of Dunshaughlin; St Nectan of Killunche, and of Fennor (near Slane); of St Auxilius of Killossey (near Naas, Co Kildare); of St Diarmaid of Druimcorcortri (near Navan); of Dabonna, Mogornon, Drioc, Luguat, and Coemed Maccu Baird (the Lombard) of Cloonshaneville, near Frenchpark, Co Roscommon.

Four other sons are assigned her by old Irish writers, namely St Crummin of Lecua, St Miduu, St Carantoc, and St Maceaith. The latter is identical with Liamania, according to Colgan, but must not be confounded with St Monennia, or Darerca, whose feast is on 6 July.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

St Darerca is patroness of Valentia Island, the westernmost point of Co Kerry.

Much obscurity is attached to her history, and it is not easy to disentangle the facts of her history from the network of legend which medieval writers interwove with her acts. Her fame, apart from her relationship to Ireland’s national apostle, stands secure as not only a great saint but as the mother of many saints.

When St Patrick visited Bredach, as is found in the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’, he ordained Aengus mac Ailill, the local chieftain of Moville, now a seaside resort for the citizens of Derry. While there he found ‘the three deacons’, his sister’s sons, namely, Saint Reat, Saint Nenn, and Saint Aedh, who are commemorated respectively on 3 March, 25 April, and 31 August.

Darerca was at least twice married. Among her husbands, according to histories in Brittany, she was the…

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#OTD in 2016 – Kerry County Museum paid €10,600 at auction to buy a Treasure Island-style map drawn by Sir Roger Casement to show where he had buried gold and other valuables after landing at Banna Strand on Good Friday 1916.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The map, and accompanying notes, kept by an agent in Britain’s MI5, went under the hammer at Chorley’s Auctioneers in Cheltenham, England on Tuesday with a top pre-sale estimate of £2,000 (€2,500). But, after what auctioneer Simon Chorley described as ‘frenzied bidding’, the hammer fell at £7,000 to an unnamed telephone bidder.

Kerry County Museum’s curator, Helen O’Carroll, confirmed that she had acquired the map and note for the museum’s collection with financial support from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. When the buyer’s premium is added to the hammer price, the cost, at current exchange rates, will be about €10,600.

She said: ‘It’s a lot of money but this is going to be with us long after the 1916 centenary’.
The map, which Casement drew at the insistence of his interrogators in Scotland Yard, will go on public view in an already-planned exhibition, Casement in Kerry, at…

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