Cormac Mac Airt – King of Ireland

Cormac Mac Airt (son of Art), also known as Cormac ua Cuinn (grandson of Conn) and Cormac Ulfada (Long Beard), King of Ireland. He was son of King Art the Lonely and grandson of Conn of the Hundred Battles.

Cormac became king of Ireland in 218 and reigned until 254, when he handed the throne to his son, Cairbre Liffeachair. His abdication was prompted by blindness in one eye, caused by the same poison spear which killed his son Cellach. He retired to Aicill (hill of Screen) and turned his energies to the writing of laws. The Brehon Laws were thought to have been drafted by or under the patronage of the literate Cormac Mac Airt.

It was King Cormac who commissioned to build the first mill in Ireland, but his reign is remembered most because of the career of the legendary warrior Finn MacCumhail and the deeds of the Fianna.

Cormac owned the wonderful gold cup given to him by the sea-god Manannan mac Lir in the Land of the Living. If three lies were spoken over it, it would break in three; three truths made it whole again. Cormac used this cup during his kingship to distinguish falsehood from truth. When Cormac died, the cup vanished, just as Manannan had predicted it would.

Cormac is said to have turned to Christianity some years before his death. One account of his death says he choked on a fish bone, but according to Lebar na h-Uidhre, he was killed by the siabhra, or fairy beings, for abandoning the old religion. Cormac died at Cleaiteach in 260. It is said in ‘Lebar na h-Uidhre’ that he desired to be buried at Ros na righ, but after his death it was decided that he should be interred at Brugh na Boinne, ‘where all the kings of Tara were buried.’ When, however, they proceeded to carry out their purpose, the river Boyne ‘rose against them three times,’ and they had to abandon the attempt, and he was taken to Ros na righ, which was thenceforward the burial-place of the Christian kings. The reign of Cormac is the epoch at which most of the monuments remaining at Tara had their origin.

via Cormac Mac Airt – King of Ireland


The naughty nun – a raunchy engraving from 1555

came over this thrilling little engraving some time ago. After some discussions around this picture I decided to make an image analysis of what we acctually see in this picture and what it represents:


We see a slightly depressed looking nun trying to bribe the housecat with a fish as an exchange for an extremely erected penis the cat is running around with.  In the background we see an amused fool flaunting a pair of male underpants. The quote on the bottom reads “Flaisch macht Flaisch” which translates into either “flesh gives flesh” or “flesh equals flesh”. This depiction is found in the Rijkmuseum in Netherlands, artist unknown and with the description “Nun walks with fish in hand chasing a cat , she wants to trade the fish with a penis that the cat has in its mouth. A jester watches through a window frame”.

Obviously this is a humorous satire with a very naughty message: driven by her carnal desires the nun wants to get her hands on the erected penis and tries to bribe it from the cat. The quote “Flaisch macht Flaisch” can possible be connected to german wordgames: the word “fleisch” can be tied the german word “Fleischeslust”, with the same meaning as “desires of the flesh”, showing that the nun have sexual reasons for hunting the cats prey. Also the german word “Fleisch” could be a slang for, well, the penis. Simply put: the nun wants the bratwurst! But why does she use specifically a fish to bribe the cat? It could either be derived from the catolic medieval practice of eating fish on fridays. Or its simply a clever trick as fish is a wellknown favourite dish for felines.

snusknunnaBut what does the engraving actually mean? Well, when looking at the date of production – 1555 – its quite clear. This is in the middle of the Reformation spreading over Europe. It is obvious that this is a protestant satire – a example of popular protestant criticism of catholic practices. These satires portrayed Catholics in celibacy (cleric, nuns and monks) as secular, perverted and driven by carnal desires. This derives from one of the key pillars of Protestantism: criticism of the celibacy. Protestants claimed that the catholic idea of celibacy was a fraud – celibacy instead resulted in corrupted perverts doing nothing but hunting sexual outlets. The protestant idea was instead that marital intercourse was God given and therefor natural. Celibacy on the other hand was an unnatural concept and not even supported by the bible! Making popular caricatures of Catholics like this woodcut was a weapon in the political war.

Back to the engraving – this is a caricature meant to show the viewer the catholic hypocricy. Lacking martital sexual outlet the nun is perversely obsessed with sex. All the vows of celibacy are soon forgotten as soon as a chance for “meat” is presented. Please also note the rosary the nun is wearing…. what do we see there, instead of a crucifix?

But why is the fool in the background? Often in medieval and early modern depictions the fool is a symbol for mockery, stupidity or someone being fooled. Maybe he is there to show us this is a satire. But why is he smugly wagging his underpants? Is it to show the nun that he is available for action if she doesn’t get a hold of the cats prey? Or is it perhaps to show us that it is the fools private parts the cat is running around with? This is all just up for guessing unfortunately… What do you think?

via The naughty nun – a raunchy engraving from 1555

#OTD in 1916 – The merchant ship SS Libau left the German port of Lübeck disguised as the Norwegian ship of similar appearance, the SS Aud, for Ireland that were to be collected by Roger Casement with arms for the Irish Republican Brotherhood.


Masquerading as the SS Aud, an existing Norwegian vessel of similar appearance, the Libau set sail from the Baltic port of Lübeck on 9 April 1916, under the Command of Karl Spindler, bound for the south-west coast of Ireland. Under Spindler was a crew of 22 men, all of whom were volunteers. The Libau/Aud, laden with an estimated 20,000 rifles, 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition, 10 machine guns, and explosives (under a camouflage of a timber cargo), evaded patrols of both the British 10th Cruiser Squadron and local Auxiliary patrols.

After surviving violent storms off Rockall, the Libau arrived in Tralee Bay on 20 April. There they were due to meet with Roger Casement, Lieutenant Monteith and Sergeant Daniel Bailey. Casement first boarded the U-20, but it had to turn back with rudder problems and instead was taken on the U-19, commanded by Raimund Weisbach, who had previously served as torpedo officer on the U-20 and had launched the torpedo that sank Lusitania. During his brief command of U-19, Weisbach delivered Roger Casement along with Bailey and Monteith to Ballyheige Bay, Co Kerry. Due to a combination of factors (primarily as the ship carried no radio and was unaware that the date for its arrival off Fenit had been altered from Thursday, 20 April to Sunday, 23 April) the transfer of arms did not take place. The Libau, attempting to escape the area, was trapped by a blockade of British ships. Captain Spindler allowed himself to be escorted towards Cork Harbour, in the company of Acacia class sloop HMS Bluebell. The German crew then scuttled the ship.

Spindler and crew were interned for the duration of the war.

At this point Roger Casement and his companions who had been landed by the submarine U-19 in Kerry had been captured in McKenna’s Fort, between Ardfert and Tralee .

The car-load of Volunteers who were supposed to meet Spindler had crashed, many miles away, near Kenmare so there was no hope of an organised transfer of arms. With Spindler and his crew on a ship with no radio or other means of communicating their plight the poorly organised gun-running plan was nearing an end.


via #OTD in 1916 – The merchant ship SS Libau left the German port of Lübeck disguised as the Norwegian ship of similar appearance, the SS Aud, for Ireland that were to be collected by Roger Casement with arms for the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

Ruins of the O’Davoren Law School, Cahermacnaghten, Co Clare

The Ó Duibhdábhoireann (O’Davoren) family were scholarly clan of Corcomroe, Thomond (modern-day Co Clare), active since medieval times.

Famed for their sponsorship of schools and knowledge of history and Early Irish law, the Uí Dhuibh dá Bhoireann were known throughout Ireland as a literary family and held estates in the Burren down to the mid seventeenth century at the time of the Cromwellian confiscations. Many acted as brehons for the local ruling dynasty of Uí Loughlin from the 14th century or earlier.

The Ó Duibh dá Bhoireann, like the O’Hehirs and some other septs west of the Shannon in Co Clare, belonged to the Eoghanacht stock claiming name and descent from the son of Aengus, King of Cashel, slain 957. The family settled in Burren in mediaeval times. The earliest reference to them in print is in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1364, where the death of Giolla na Naomh Ó Duibh dá Bhoireann, ollamh of Corcomdhruadh (Corcomroe) in Brehon law, is recorded, where for successive generations they maintained a great literary and legal school, of which the celebrated Irish antiquary, Duald MacFirbis, was at one time a pupil. The head of the family resided at Lisdoonvarna.

The Ó Duibh dá Bhoireann law school at Cahermacnaghten has been the subject of archaeological and historical interest and its remains are still extant. The law school operated in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with a Giolla na Naomh Óg Ó Duibh dá Bhoireann being recorded as one of its chief owners in the seventeenth century. The Ó Duibh dá Bhoireann’s were recorded as still holding Cahermacnaghten in 1659, along with 13 Irish tenants.

The most important surviving document associated with them is known as Egerton 88 (British Library), being compiled between 1564 and 1569. It contains copies of some important texts of Early Irish law, in addition to a number of Old Irish literary tales.

via Ruins of the O’Davoren Law School, Cahermacnaghten, Co Clare

#OTD in 1914 – Cumann na mBan, Irish women’s Republican movement, was founded.

Ní saoirse go saoirse na mban.

Over 100 women gathered in Dublin to discuss the role of women in the lead-up to revolution. The meeting, at Wynn’s Hotel, was presided over by Agnes O’Farrelly.

The first provisional committee of Cumann na mBan included Agnes MacNeill, Nancy O’Rahilly, Mary Colum, Jenny Wyse Power, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham.

They adopted a constitution which stated their aims were:

– To Advance the cause of Irish liberty
– To organise Irish women in the furtherance of that objective
– To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irish men for the defence of Ireland
– To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.

All had one aim:

‘To establish and maintain a Republic by every means in their power against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’

Other activities they were to engage in training for included first aid, drill and signalling, rifle practice.

The third and fourth objectives caused immediate controversy, particularly in the pages of the suffrage newspaper the Irish Citizen, where members of Cumann na mBan were referred to as ‘slave women’.

There were accusations from feminists that the Cumann na mBan women were ‘handmaidens’ to the Irish Volunteers, which was seen as a retrograde step for the women who had been campaigning for female emancipation. In their defence, Mary Colum said that Cumann na mBan ‘decided to do any national work that came within the scope of our aims’. ‘We would collect money or arms, we would learn ambulance work, learn how to make haversacks and bandolier… we would practise the use of the rifle, we would make speeches, we would do everything that came in our way—for we are not the auxiliaries or the handmaidens or the camp followers of the Volunteers—we are their allies.’

On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Cumann na mBan stated that urging any Irish Volunteers to enlist in the British army was ‘not consistent with the work we have set ourselves to do’. Like the Volunteers, Cumann na mBan split on this issue, with many women backing John Redmond and the National Volunteers.

However, while numbers may have declined post-split, those women who remained were committed to the cause of Irish freedom and dedicated to growing the organisation. They rendered service as couriers (known as ‘basket girls’ or ‘pram women’) delivering dispatches to IRA commanders throughout Ireland. They organised céilís, cultural productions, first aid classes, rifle training and signalling. They had participated in the Howth gun running, having helped raise money for the guns that were smuggled in. Almost all of the women (other than those in the Irish Citizen Army) who participated in the Rising were members of Cumann na mBan.

They were active in all the outposts, except for Boland’s Mill. At the Four Courts they helped to organise the evacuation of buildings at the time of surrender and to destroy incriminating papers. This was exceptional; more typical was the General Post Office (GPO), where Pearse insisted that most of them leave at noon on Friday, 28 April. The building was then coming under sustained shell and machine-gun fire, and heavy casualties were anticipated. The following day the leaders at the GPO decided to negotiate surrender. Pearse asked Cumann na mBan member Elizabeth O’Farrell to act as a go-between. Under British military supervision she brought Pearse’s surrender order to the rebel units still fighting in Dublin. In the Marrowbone Lane Distillery outpost, Rose McNamara, leading the Cumann na mBan women there, presented the surrender of herself and 21 other women. The women of the garrison could have evaded arrest but they marched down four deep in uniform along with the men. Over 70 women, including many of the leading figures in Cumann na mBan, were arrested after the insurrection, and many of the women who had been captured fighting were imprisoned in Kilmainham; all but 12 had been released by 8 May 1916.

In 1916 there were three branches in Dublin: central, with headquarters at 25 Parnell Square; Inghinidhe na nÉireann, based at 6 Harcourt Street; and Columcill in Blackhall Place. In contrast with other organisations, the Cumann na mBan preserved its position after the Rising and it is probably because of its existence that the struggle for independence continued. The commitment of women before, during and after the Rising helped to bring the Irish nation to support the separatist movement. The widows of those executed in Kilmainham Gaol after the Rising did more to draw attention to the independence movement than any other group. The widows and female relatives of the executed and captives filled the voids in leadership and ensured that Irish independence did not die with their loved ones.

At its 1918 convention, the members reaffirmed their role in fighting for an Irish Republic, but also insisted that they would ‘follow the policy of the Republican Proclamation by seeing that women take up their proper position in the life of the nation’ – that is, to be full and equal citizens of the new republic.

During the War of Independence, Cumann na mBan played vital and front-line roles against the forces of the British state. They participated in gun running, message carrying and running safe houses. They faced constant raids on their homes by the Black and Tans, and were often violently mistreated.

Lil Conlon, in her memoir, stated that in April—September of 1921, ‘Attention had been focused on the Women very much at this time by the Authorities… they realised fully that Women were playing a major part in the Campaign. The going was tough on the female sex, they were unable to ‘go on the run’, so were constantly subjected to having their homes raided and precious possessions destroyed. To intensify the reign of terror, swoops were made in the night, entries forced into their homes, and the women’s hair cut off in a brutal fashion as well as suffering other indignities and insults.

With members such as Mary and Muriel MacSwiney, Kathleen Clarke, Nora Connolly (daughter of James Connolly), Mabel Fitzgerald (mother of Garrett Fitzgerald) and Countess Markievicz, Cumann na mBan reflected nationalist Ireland and played a crucial role in the politics of the time. Members were invaluable in gathering intelligence, transporting arms, nursing wounded men, providing safe houses, and organising support for IRA men in prison. They also boosted attendance at election rallies, funerals and protest marches. In 1922 the organisation overwhelmingly rejected the Treaty. This resulted in a substantial split and the formation of Cumann na Saoirse (Free State Cumann na mBan) from the minority who were in favour of the Treaty.

The Free State Government’s awareness of Cumann na mBan’s assistance to the IRA after the 1916 Rising resulted in large-scale imprisonment of republican women during the Civil War. But Cumann na mBan had placed equality for women on the political agenda and demonstrated women could be as politically active and capable as men.

The censure of republicans by the Roman Catholic Church did not affect the Roman Catholic member’s commitment to the church of their birth. Their Christian values remained with them to the end.

via #OTD in 1914 – Cumann na mBan, Irish women’s Republican movement, was founded.

#OTD in Irish History – 20 March:

Spring Equinox

1761 – Robert Simms, a founder of the United Irishmen and proprietor of the Northern Star, is born.

1780 – Miles Byrne, United Irishman and officer in Napoleon’s Irish Legion, is born in Monaseed, Co Wexford.

1856 – Birth of Sir John Lavery, an Irish painter best known for his portraits, in Belfast.

1875 – Death of John Mitchel, Irish nationalist activist, solicitor and political journalist. Born in Camnish, near Dungiven, Co Derry.

1884/1920 – Tomás MacCurtain (born in Cork City), revolutionary and Lord Mayor of Cork is both born and assassinated on this date.

1914 – After 60 cavalry officers at the Curragh resign their commissions – an incident known as ‘the Curragh mutiny’ – the War Secretary stated that the army wi not be used to coerce Ulster into Home Rule.

1919 – The birth of Cairbre, the MGM lion, in Dublin Zoo. He wasn’t African or even Californian, he was a genuine Dub and was named after Cú Chulainn’s charioteer, or a High King of Ireland.

1922 – IRA volunteers crossed into Northern territory and attacked the USC barracks in Aughnacloy.

1923 – Birth of footballer, Con Martin in Rush, Co Dublin. Martin initially played football with Dublin before switching codes and embarking on a successful soccer career, playing for, among others, Drumcondra, Glentoran, Leeds United and Aston Villa. Martin was also a dual international and played and captained both Ireland teams – the FAI XI and the IFA XI. In 1949 he was a member of the FAI XI that defeated England 2–0 at Goodison Park, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.

1928 – Birth of Methodist clergyman, William Sydney Callaghan, in Dublin.

1964 – Death of Brendan Behan, an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was also a committed Irish Republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. He died in Meath hospital after reportedly telling a nun looking after him: ‘Ah, bless you, Sister, may all your sons be bishops’.

1961 – Birth of Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer of the Irish airline Ryanair. He is one of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen.

1971 – Brian Faulkner succeeds James Chichester-Clark as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

1972 – Donegall Street Bombing: the PIRA detonated its first car bomb, on Donegall Street in Belfast. Allegedly due to inadequate warnings, four civilians, two RUC officers and a UDR soldier were killed while 148 people were wounded.

1973 – A government White Paper entitled ‘Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals‘ was published which proposed a devolved power-sharing 78 member assembly in Northern Ireland and a Council of Ireland. The election would take place under Proportional Representation (PR) and Westminster would retain the powers relating to law and order matters. These proposals followed on from a discussion paper that had been issued on 30 October 1972 entitled ‘The Future of Northern Ireland’.

1974 – Two British soldiers were shot dead by mistake by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) at Mowhan, near Markethill, Co Armagh. The soldiers were believed to be part of an undercover operation but this was denied by Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees.

1981 – A Catholic civilian, Patrick McNally (20), was shot dead by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), while he was ‘joy riding’ in a stolen car on the Ross Road in the Lower Falls Road area of Belfast.

1989 – Senior RUC men, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, negotiating cross-border security co-operation in south Armagh, are ambushed and shot dead by the IRA.

1992 – Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume, and President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, took part in a debate on BBC radio.

1993 – Ireland beat England 17-3 in the final game of the Five Nations Championships at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

1993 – Warrington Bomb Attacks: after a telephoned warning, the PIRA exploded two bombs in Warrington, Cheshire, England. Two children were killed and fifty-six people were wounded. There were widespread protests in Britain and Ireland following the deaths.

1994 – The IRA fired a mortar at a British Army base in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, causing an army helicopter to crash.

1996 – Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dick Spring, had a briefing with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Patrick Mayhew, on plans for elections in Northern Ireland. Dick Spring refused to publicly support the plans.

1997 – It was announced on behalf of Roisín McAliskey, then being held in prison awaiting a decision about extradition, that she would stand as a ‘unity candidate’ in Mid-Ulster in the general election. On 23 March 1997 McAliskey’s name was withdrawn as neither Sinn Féin nor the Social Democratic and Labour Party were prepared to stand down.

1998 – The centre of Derry was cleared for four hours while the British Army defused a bomb. It was claimed that a Republican challenged two Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) members as they planted the bomb in the Northern Bank in Guildhall Square, Derry. It was also claimed that one of the CIRA men pulled out a gun to stop anyone interfering with them. The centre of Derry was cleared for four hours while the British Army defused a bomb.

1998 – The film Resurrection Man went on general release in Northern Ireland. The film was based on the killings carried out by of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) ‘Shankill Butchers’ gang. There was a mixed response to the film, some people accused the film-makers of dredging up painful memories for the relatives of those killed while others felt that the events were a legitimate subject for the cinema.

1999 – A 13 year-old boy was badly injured in a Loyalist paramilitary ‘punishment’ attack by a gang of masked men in Newtownards, Co Down. The boy who received a broken arm and broken fingers was ordered to leave the area by the gang. The boy was one of the youngest people to be the subject of a ‘punishment’ attack.

1999 – In a speech to the Annual General Meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, assured delegates that there would be IRA decommissioning. Trimble was heckled during his speech.

2001 – Thousands of second level students across the country take to the picket lines to protest the nationwide strike by teachers.

2003 – Hundreds of anti-war protesters gather outside the Dáil to protest the use of Shannon Airport by the US military.

2006 – Eczema gene identified in study led by Irish doctors. The findings are regarded as tremendously significant as the first steps towards finding a cure. The study was led by Dr Alan Irvine, a consultant paediatric dermatologist at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, and Prof Irwin McLean, a geneticist at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Dr Irvine is from Enniskillen and Prof McLean is originally from Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

2010 – Triple Crown dream dies. Ireland saw their dream of a fifth Triple Crown in seven years dashed following a woeful performance which saw them slump to a 23-20 defeat to Scotland.

2015 – A Solar eclipse, equinox, and a Supermoon all occur on the same day.

via #OTD in Irish History – 20 March: