1843 - 45 years after the 'United Irishmen' Rising,
5 years before the 'Young Irelanders' were to rise
up in arms against British mis-rule, and 15 years
before the Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded
(on Saint Patricks Day, 1858).
population of Ireland was in decline - 'famine' struck
again and approximately 2 million people were to leave
the island; one million people emigrated and the same
number died. A Mr. Stephen de Vere was an eye-witness
on one of the emigrant ships -
the emigrant has been a week at sea, he is an altered
man. How can it be otherwise? Hundreds of poor people,
men, women and children, of all ages, from the drivelling
idiot of ninty to the babe just born, huddled together,
without light, without air, wallowing in filth and
breathing a foetid atmosphere, sick in body, dispirited
in heart. The fevered patients lying between the
sound in sleeping places so narrow as almost to
deny them a change of position. . . . by their agonised
ravings disturbing those around them.
without food or medicine except as administered
by the hand of casual charity, dying without spiritual
consolation and buried in the deep without the rites
of the Church."
did one million Irish people 'live' on board the emigrant
ships. . . . . . .
1843 - 'famine' and emigration; one million Irish people
put on board emigrant ships - from 90 years of age to
babe's in arms - no food or medicine, no light, no air,
no room. Thrown overboard when death took them. . .
. . . .
was around this time that a Mr. Nicholas Cummins,
a Cork Magistrate, found himself in the village of
Skibbereen, in Cork. The account of what he witnessed
was published in 'The Times' newspaper -
shall state simply what what I saw there. On reaching
the spot I was surprised to find the wretched hamlet
apparently deserted. I entered some of the hovels
to ascertain the cause, and the scenes which presented
themselves were such as no tongue or pen can convey
the slightest idea of. In the first hovel, six famished
and ghastly skeletons, to all appearances dead,
were huddled in a corner on some filthy straw, their
sole covering which seemed a ragged horsecloth,
their wretched legs hanging about, naked above the
approached with horror, and found by a low moaning
they were alive - they were in fever, four children,
a woman and what had once been a man. It is impossible
to go through the detail: suffice it to say that,
in a few minutes, I was surrounded by at least 200
such phantoms, such frightful spectres as no words
can describe, either from famine or from fever.
Their demoniac yells are still ringing in my ears,
and their horrible images are fixed upon my brain.
My heart sickens at the recital, but I must go on.
same morning the police opened a house on the adjoining
lands, which was observed shut for many days, and
two dead corpses were found, lying upon the mud
floor, half devoured by rats. A mother, herself
in a fever, was seen the same day to drag the corpse
of her child, a girl about twelve, perfectly naked,
and leave it half covered with stones. In another
house, within five hundred yards of the cavalry
station at Skibbereen, the dispensary doctor found
seven wretches lying unable to move, under the same
cloak. One had been dead for many hours, but the
others were unable to move either themselves or
the corpse. . . . . . . "
even still, some tried to fight back. . . . . . .
. . . . . . the rats were feasting on dead Irish people,
dying mothers using the last of their strength to try
and bury their children, weak and dying people trapped
under the weight of dead family members who had died
while trying to keep their children warm. But some tried
to organise resistance. . . . . . .
. . the 'Repeal Association', led by Daniel O'Connell
in the early 1840's was one of the largest mass movements
in Europe at the time; it had its 'roots' in the 'Catholic
Association' which, between 1823 and 1829, led by
O'Connell, and supported by the Catholic Hierarchy,
organised the vast majority of the population into
a political body seeking emancipation - for at least
six years (1823-1829) the campaign was relentless;
civil unrest in Ireland and prolonged agitation in
England itself concerning the issue.
British Prime Minster, 'Sir' Robert Peel, relented
in 1829, and Catholic Emancipation was passed at Westminster.
Daniel O 'Connell was a 'God'; to the Irish, he could
do no wrong, and he continued to press the British
for more 'reforms' of the system.
. . but, to the British, O'Connell was becoming more
of a troublesome 'thorn in the side'. . . . . . .
. . . . . in 1829, the British relented on the issue
of Catholic Emancipation following a six-year campaign
led by Daniel O'Connell, amongst others, in the 'Catholic
Association' organisation. To the Irish, O'Connell
was a hero; to the Brits, he was becoming troublesome.
. . . . . .
April 15th, 1840, Daniel O'Connell launched the 'Loyal
National Repeal Association' (as it called itself
from 1841 onwards - at its inception it was simply
known as 'The Repeal Association': O'Connell was back-tracking
with the name-change, all but apologising to the Brits
for asking them to 'tweak' the system a little more
in favour of the Irish.)
O'Connell made it clear that it was his desire that
Ireland should remain under the British 'Monarchy'
- saying, if you like, '. . . stay if you want, just
treat us better. ' The only force to be used, he stated,
was "moral force"; but even this was too
much of a demand for Westminster - 'Sir' Robert Peel
(Brit PM) replied that to 'grant' O'Connell his way
"would not merely mean the repeal of an Act of
(British) Parliament, but dismemberment of a great
Empire. Deprecating as I do all war but above all,
civil war, yet there is no alternative which I do
not think preferable to the dismemberment of Empire."
group within the 'Repeal Association' (or 'The Loyal
National Repeal Association', as O'Connell insisted
it be known as) supported Daniel O'Connell in his
endeavours but were not convinced that "moral
force" alone would win the day; they were the
'Young Irelanders', and they viewed their leader "with
a mixture of affection and impatience. . . . . . .
. . . . . . 'The Young Irelanders', a group within
the Daniel O'Connell - led 'Loyal National Repeal
Association', were not convinced that " moral
force" alone would win the day against the Brits.
. . . . . .
1842, 'The Young Irelanders' established a newspaper
called 'The Nation', in which they supported
the objectives of the 'Repeal' Movement. The newspaper,
under the control of 26 years-young Charles Gavan
Duffy, supported Daniel O'Connell in his quest to
publicise the 'Repeal' Movement, and helped to organise
and promote outdoor meetings (known as 'Monster Meetings')
at which the objectives of the 'Repeal' Movement could
year 1843 was promoted as 'The Year of Repeal', and
Daniel O'Connell took his message to the people; in
Mullingar, County Westmeath, he addressed a crowd
of approximately 150,000 people. The British 'authorities'
were watching these developments with interest and,
while no doubt regarding the 'Loyal' Daniel O'Connell
as no more than a 'rebel pet', were presumably more
worried by the fact that the huge crowds he drew would
be susceptible to the less 'loyal' message coming
from 'The Young Irelanders'.
the Mullingar 'Monster Meeting', which was viewed
as a tremendous success by the organisers, 'The Nation'
newspaper helped to publicise another such meeting
- this time in Mallow, County Cork: 400,000 people
turned up - the Brits were uneasy. . . . . . .
. . . . . . huge outdoor meetings, known as 'Monster
Meetings', were held throughout the country to promote
Daniel O'Connell and the 'Loyal National Repeal Association';
150,000 people in Mullingar, County Westmeath, 400,000
people in Mallow in County Cork - the Brits were getting
worried with the level of support. . . . . . .
third 'Monster Meeting' was held in Lismore, County
Waterford - again, a crowd estimated at 400,000 people
attended. At each meeting, the 'Young Irelanders'
were recruiting, having made their position clear
in the pages of their newspaper, 'The Nation',
in leaflets, and by word of mouth - ie ' we get back
whatever we can by O'Connell's methods, but will not
confine ourselves to those methods alone. . . '
British were perplexed at what to do regarding the
'Monster Meetings' - were they a 'safety valve' at
which the 'agitators/rebels' could let off steam in
a more-or-less harmless fashion, or were they a possible
recruiting exercise at which the more militant element
could 'plot and plan'?
after the 15th August 1843, the Brits decided to take
action; for it was on that date that between 800,000
and one million people gathered on the Hill of Tara
in County Meath for a 'Monster Meeting'. . . . . .
. . . . . . on 15th August 1843, another one of the
'Repeal' Movements' 'Monster Meetings' was held -
this time on the Hill of Tara, in County Meath; the
Brits, already worried at the level of support for
these meetings, made their move. . . . . . .
'Young Irelanders' newspaper, 'The Nation',
put the figure for those in attendance at the Hill
of Tara 'Monster Meeting' at three-quarters of a million
people "without fear of exaggeration"; Daniel
O'Connell himself claimed it was at least one-and-a-half
million people, while another newspaper of the day
('The Times'?) reported -
whole district was covered with men. The population
within a days march began to arrive on foot shortly
after daybreak and continued to arrive, on all sides
and by every available approach, 'till noon. It
was impossible from any one point to see the entire
meeting. The number is supposed to have reached
between 500,000 and 700,000 persons."
reports stated that O'Connell's marshals were on horseback,
that the crowds arrived on foot and in carriages,
banners were present, as were bands and groups in
"historic fancy dress". Indeed, archaeologists
have found human bones on the site, some of which
are said to be 4,000 years old, and traces of wooden
platforms, bits of clay pipes and, of course (!),
whiskey bottles, dating back to the mid-19th Century.
. . . . . .
. . . . . . the 'Monster Meeting' held on 15th August
1843 (161 years ago, almost to the date) on the Hill
of Tara was the biggest since they began; approximately
one million people attended. . . . . . .
. . . On that day in Irish history, Daniel O'Connell
addressed a sea of people -
are at Tara of the Kings - the spot from which emanated
the social power, the legal authority, the right
to dominion over the furthest extremes of the land.
. . . the strength and majority of the National
Movement was never exhibited so imposingly as at
this great meeting. The numbers exceed any that
ever before congregated in Ireland in peace or war.
It is a sight not grand alone but appalling - not
exciting merely pride, but fear. Step by step, we
are approaching the great goal of Repeal of the
Union, but it is at length with the strides of a
it must be stressed that Daniel O'Connell would use
only "moral force" to achieve what he termed
". . . Repeal of the Union " and, even then,
favoured the island of Ireland remaining as a unit
governed by the British 'Monarchy' - a 'new' coat
of varnish on rotten timber. O'Connell could 'talk
the talk. . . ' but. . . . . . .
- the 'Monster Meetings' were a great success; even
if the Brits did'nt think so. . . . . . .
. . . . . . Daniel O'Connell's speech on the 15th August
1843 on the Hill of Tara in County Meath was heard by
approximately one million people. The British 'authorities'
were listening, too, but they didn't like it. . . .
. . .
'Monster Meetings' were a great success - despite
all the "misfortunes" (as the Brits would
have it) that the Irish people were suffering in their
daily lives; the desire, the demand, for a British
withdrawal had not gone away. And, as stated here
a few paragraphs back, after the Tara 'Monster Meeting'
(15th August 1843) the Brits decided it just wasn't
cricket: enough was enough.
'Monster Meeting' planned for Clontarf, in Dublin,
which was to take place on Sunday, 8th October, 1843,
was banned by the Brits on Saturday, 7th October 1843
- the day before the event was due to take place;
Daniel O'Connell and others in the leadership of 'The
Loyal National Repeal Association' quickly lodged
a complaint. . . . . . .
. . . . . . the British 'authorities' were worried about
the level of support for the 'Monster Meetings'; on
Saturday, 7th October 1843, they banned one such meeting
which was due to take place the following day in Clontarf,
Dublin. . . . . .
O'Connell protested at the banning, as did his colleagues
in the leadership of the 'Loyal National Repeal Association'
- they were later to be arrested by the Brits and
sentenced to a year in prison for 'conspiracy', but
this judgement was then reversed in the British House
on that Saturday, the 7th of October 1843, O'Connell
noticed that posters were being put-up in Dublin by
the British 'authorities' stating that the following
days meeting had been banned, he backed down; in this
scribblers opinion he should have 'stuck to his guns'
and ignored the British 'writ' - he should have went
ahead with the Clontarf 'Monster Meeting' therby 'putting
it up' to the Brits.
. . "moral force only" won the day; O'Connell
issued his own poster that same day (ie Saturday 7th
October 1843) as well as spreading the word through
the 'grapevine' that the meeting was cancelled. That
poster makes for interesting reading. . . . . . .
. . . . . . with only 24 hours notice, the British had
banned the 'Monster Meeting' planned for Sunday 8th
October 1843, in Clontarf, Dublin. Daniel O'Connell
backed down, and issued the following poster in reply
to the British banning. . . . . . .
there has appeared, under the Signatures of "
E. B. SUGDEN, C. DONOUGHMORE, ELIOT F BLACKBURN,
E. BLAKENEY, FRED SHAW, T. B. C. SMITH, " a
paper being, or purporting to be, a PROCLAMATION,
drawn up in very loose and inaccurate terms, and
manifestly misrepresenting known facts; the objects
of which appear to be, to prevent the PUBLIC MEETING,
intended to be held TO-MORROW, the 8th instant,
at CLONTARF, TO PETITION PARLIAMENT for the REPEAL
of the baleful and destructive measure of the LEGISLATIVE
WHEREAS, such Proclamation has not appeared until
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OF THIS SATURDAY, THE 7th,
so that it is utterly impossible that the knowledge
of its existence could be communicated in the usual
Official Channels, or by the Post, in time to have
its contents known to the Persons intending to meet
at CLONTARF, for the purpose of Petitioning, as
aforesaid, whereby ill-disposed Persons may have
an opportunity, under cover of said Proclamation,
to provoke Breaches of the Peace, or to commit Violence
on Persons intending to proceed peaceably and legally
to the said Meeting.
therefore, the COMMITTEE of the LOYAL NATIONAL REPEAL
ASSOCIATION, do most earnestly request and entreat,
that all well-disposed persons will, IMMEDIATELY
on receiving this intimation, repair to their own
dwellings, and not place themselves in peril of
any collision, or of receiving any ill-treatment
whatsoever. And we do further inform all such persons,
that without yielding in any thing to the unfounded
allegations in said alleged Proclamation, we deem
it prudent and wise, and above all things humane,
to declare that said
MEETING IS ABANDONED, AND IS NOT TO BE HELD.
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE.
M. RAY, Secretary.
7 th OCTOBER, 1843.
3 O 'CLOCK P. M.
- That the above Cautionary Notice be immediately
transmitted by Express to the Very Reverend and
Reverend Gentlemen who signed the Requisition for
the CLONTARF MEETING, and to all adjacent Districts,
SO AS TO PREVENT the influx of Persons coming to
the intended Meeting.
SAVE THE QUEEN.
Printer, 36 Nassau Street.
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