Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

May 29

May

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1798 The Gibbet Rath Massacre took place on this day in Curragh, Kildare on this day in 1798. It was one of the worst conflicts of the rebellion for the United Irishmen. More than 300 rebels were killed by the British soldiers.

St Brigid statue in Kildare Market Square

The rebels were actually set to surrender to the British, in return for certain concessions such as their freedom and the right to land ownership. A surrender of this nature had been peacefully achieved just days earlier with another fleet of the United Irishmen.

The Gibbet Rath was a large plain with no shelter. About 1,000-2,000 rebels assembled, and laid down their weapons in surrender. However, the 700 British soldiers, led by Major-General Sir James Duff, opened fire on the unarmed rebels. They tried to flee but because of the vast flat ground of the Gibbet Rath, there was nowhere to escape. Nearly half of the rebels were slaughtered.

There are differing accounts as to why the British forces attacked the unarmed rebels. One surviving United Irishman claimed that Duff gave the order to attack once the rebels were unarmed and surrounded. However, Duff denied that was what happened. Here is an extract from his official report which he sent to his superiors in Dublin:

Major-General Sir James Duff report on May 29 battle

“We found the rebels retiring from this town on our arrival armed. We followed them with Dragoons. I sent on some of the Yeomen to tell them, on laying down their arms, they should not be hurt. Unfortunately some of them fired on the troops. From that moment they were attacked on all sides, nothing could stop the rage of the troops. I believe two to three hundred of the rebels were killed. We have 3 men killed & several wounded. I am too fatigued to enlarge.”

Discover more about the history of 1798 Rebellion

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1827 Timothy Daniel Sullivan was born in Cork on this day in 1827. He was a politician, and also held the position of Mayor of Dublin. He was an Irish nationalist and a campaigner for Home Rule.

Sullivan was one of Charles Parnell’s supporters in the British House of Commons, but turned on him when he was publicly disgraced for an affair with the wife of a colleague.

Sullivan worked as a publisher, and owned several major newspapers and magazines. He often made contributions to Irish paper, The Nation and also Young Ireland. In 1887 he printed notes from a meeting of the National League, for which he was briefly imprisoned.

Timothy Daniel Sullivan wrote 'God Save Ireland' Image copyright Ireland Calling

Sullivan is most notable though, as the man who wrote God Save Ireland. The song was used as an unofficial anthem by Irish nationalists in the early 20th century. The strikers sang it to James Larkin during the Dublin Lock-Out in 1913, and Cathal Brugha reportedly sang it as he lay after being riddled with bullets during the Easter Rising.

The song is less commonly heard now, but has been kept alive with performances from a few folk legends.

Click here to watch videos of God Save Ireland from the Wolfe Tones and the Dubliners 
Click here to get the lyrics and chords for God Save Ireland 
Click here to read about more great Irish songwriters

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Oscar Wilde and his wife Constance Lloyd1884 Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd on this day in 1884. The two had two sons within the first couple of years of their marriage but from then on their sex life was reportedly non-existent. The two remained on good terms though, although after the birth of their second son, Wilde was frequently staying in hotels rather than returning to his marital home.

Wilde was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1895. This was because his homosexual relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas had been uncovered. It was a national scandal and Wilde was imprisoned. Lloyd changed her and her son’s name to Holland to disassociate themselves with Wilde. She did, however, visit him in prison to inform him of his mother’s death. She also made him waive all his parental rights of their children, and refused to help him financially until he ended all contact with Douglas.

Despite his homosexual affair creating a national scandal, Wilde and Lloyd did seem to love each other in their own way. Their relationship was more of a friendship than a romance, but the two did care for one another. He gave her two children and supported her. And she looked after his family and lived in a nice home in London. Here are a few quotes from Oscar Wilde about love and marriage:

“Women are made to be loved, not understood.”

“The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

“Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.”

Click here to read some of Oscar Wilde’s quotes on love and marriage  
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Oscar-Wilde-The-Book-of-Life Image copyright Ireland Calling

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John F Kennedy1917 John F. Kennedy was born on this day in Massachusetts in 1917. He was the first Irish American Catholic to become President of the United States of America. He was of Irish descent and is a hugely popular figure in both countries.

Kennedy won the hearts of American for his bravery in the Second World War, when he led his men to survival after their boat was destroyed. He swam to the safety of an island in the Atlantic Ocean, dragging an injured comrade by gripping a strap from his lifejacket between his teeth.

He was elected President in 1961. He grew in popularity in America for committing to the space exploration project, and also the calm way he handled a potential military threat from Russia.

Tragically, his life was cut short when he was at the peak of his powers. President Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for his murder, although he always denied the charge. Oswald was killed while being relocated by the police before he stood trial.

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1936 Jackie Lee was born on this day in 1936 in Dublin. She was a big star as a child singer, and later represented Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. She also worked as a backing singer on major songs including Tom Jones’ The Green Green Grass of Home and Release Me by Englebert Humperdink.

Click here to read about more great Irish singers

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Noel Gallagher. Photo Copyright Alterna2 CC21967 Noel Gallagher was born in Manchester to Irish parents on this day in 1967. He and his younger brother Liam went on to form Oasis, who were the one of the biggest bands in Britain throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

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They had massive success with songs such as Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Stand By Me and All Around the World. Oasis also sold millions of copies of all of their albums. They are considered as one of the best bands of their generation.

Click here to read about some of the top Irish musicians

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