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Ireland’s Civil War – when truth was stranger than fiction… | historywithatwist

A new book on the way about the Irish civil war, a brief but bloody affair that followed the signing of the treaty that created the Republic from 26 of the island’s 32 counties.

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Source: Ireland’s Civil War – when truth was stranger than fiction… | historywithatwist

Michael Collins makes for an easy hero – good-looking, vibrant, devil-may-care, intelligent, ruthless, brilliant, passionate, loyal… what’s not to love? But he was petulant, too, and careless, and unpredictable and argumentative and arrogant and single-minded. It’s why he appeals to so many people – he’s loved for his flaws as much as his finer traits.

When Collins was buried in 1922 following his fatal ambush at Beal na mBlath, friend and foe wept. And in his dying – gun in hand and bullets whizzing past – the legend that had mushroomed during the War of Independence, was cemented for eternity.

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Michael Collins

The bane of the British Empire fell in full bloom, which was a tragedy but also a blessing for those who like to wear their spectacles rose-tinted. He died so young that there was little…

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Saturday Sound Off: Double Standards in Foreign Affairs

Am I alone in being cynical about the reaction throughout the West to the chemical attack in Syria earlier this week? In the context of six years of atrocities, of tens of thousands of deaths and many more mutilations, of millions driven from their homes, what makes is this particular act more reprehensible than a thousand others?

We – the Western powers, the ‘good guys’ – maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons which we are prepared to use if threatened. We permit certain other nations to do the same whilst imposing sanctions intended to prevent their acquisition by nations we fear. And we have trade deals worth $billions with Saudi Arabia, including the sale and maintenance of state-of-the-art weapon systems despite what that nation is doing to its neighbour, Yemen.

Is the plight of children starving in Yemen because the Saudis refuse to allow food aid to be delivered any less deplorable than that of the victims of chemical warfare in Syria? Or those being used as human shields in Mosul? Both conflicts now driven from our television screens by this latest Syrian atrocity.

The Middle East is a mess. It has been so for as long as I can remember. Every time one or other of the more powerful nations of the world, including the ‘good guys’, has intervened it has made things worse. Shelling an airfield might make Trump and his supporters feel good. I doubt it will make any difference to the lives of children in any Arab land.

The Ongoing Nightmare

I was contemplating another Saturday Sound Off. Then I found this on fellow blogger Clive’s site. It says what I would have said so without further ado, here it is:

Take It Easy

A year ago today – April Fool’s Day, in case you hadn’t noticed – I wrote a little piece I called ‘Nightmare’. In full, this post read:

Taking liberties with the format, a little piece of 100 word flash ‘fiction,’ especially for today:

“It’s April 1 2020. The news is worrying. The UK General election is coming fast, and the country is veering towards a post-Brexit win for Nigel Farage’s renamed UK National Socialist Party. President Trump has just declared war on Mexico for its continuing refusal to pay for his wall, and has threatened Scotland with armed retaliation for the nationalisation of his golf course. President Putin and Wendy Deng now control her ex-husband’s media empire: their newspaper, Pravda of London, has begun circulating.

Am I dreaming? Is this real? A bad April Fool’s Day joke? Or is the world really stumbling towards oblivion?”

Far-fetched? I hope so…

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EU Cookie Law Banner Timed Appearance…

Remember my post about the EU cookie banner that you are obliged by law to include on your blog? That came via Chris, The Story Reading Ape. Here he is again, with an update. If the person reading your post doesn’t click the ‘Close and Accept’ button, you can set a timer to automatically remove it after a time you specify. I’m not sure of the legal status of such an action, but the fact that it was there for the reader to see must be deemed to be sufficient warning.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

You may remember the my post on 11th January 2017:

EU COOKIE LAW BANNER REQUIRED

which advised about the law and described how to comply with it.

One of my blog followers, Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, asked if the banner can be timed out instead of having the compulsory CLICK AND ACCEPT Option

The answer is YES.

Go into your Admin

Select WIDGETS

Scroll down to find the EU Cookie Law Banner

(which I placed at the bottom of my sidebar)

Once in place, open the Widget using the small right hand triangle

You will find the recommended option is ‘after the user clicks the dismiss button’

Select the ‘after this amount of time’ option instead

Change the default from 30 seconds, to whatever you want to make it

Then SAVE

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Saturday Sound-off: Mixing Politics With Other Work

This recollection is provoked by the news that the MP for Tatton, George Osborne, has been appointed to edit the London Evening Standard whilst maintaining his seat in Parliament and his other highly lucrative, if part-time, jobs.

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My 1981 election leaflet

In the 1980s I decided that, if I wanted to change the world, it was time to stop moaning and get involved in politics. I joined the Liberal Party and stood for election to the County Council. I didn’t make it at the first attempt but four years later – in May 1985 – I was successful. I became one of four Liberals holding the balance of power between 36 Labour and 35 Conservative councilors.

It was a large county. About a quarter of the population of over 800,000 resided in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull. Grimsby and Cleethorpes formed the next largest centre of population. Scunthorpe was also included within the county boundary as were three other sea-side resorts, the port of Immingham and eight or so medium sized towns.

Back then the County Council had responsibility for Education – schools, colleges and adult education; Social Services, including childrens’ homes and old people’s homes; Economic Development, which included responsibility for a small airport; Libraries, Police and Fire Services, Weights and Measures inspectorate and the maintenance of major roads. The Authority employed in excess of 20,000 people in these important activities.

The four of us decided from the outset that we would not form a coalition with either of the other two parties. Instead we insisted that every decision must have the agreement of a majority of members. It didn’t matter how that majority was constituted so long as two of the three parties were in agreement. Of course, that meant we had to be represented on every committee, sub-committee, and ad-hoc panel or consultative body.

Airport management

To begin with it didn’t look as if the commitment would be too heavy. The council worked on a 3-monthly cycle during which each main committee and the full council met once. So, two committees plus full council would mean twelve meetings a year, one day a month to take off from my job. But the Education Committee had two large sub-committees, one dealing with schools and the other with everything else. And there was a sub-committee of Economic Development to deal with management of the Airport. So that doubled the commitment to two days a month. Still quite doable.

But Schools Sub-Committee members were expected to meet with the governors of the schools in their area. If a school was facing a possible upheaval of some kind there would be meetings to be had with governors, teachers’ representatives and parents. If an employee was accused of some misdemeanor he or she had the right of appeal to a panel including councilors. Recruitment to fill vacancies in senior positions in the Authority was undertaken by a panel including members. And I’ve posted elsewhere about the panel of members, advised by staff, who determined which young people could and which could not receive a grant for their third level education.

Severance

Before long I was taking two, sometimes three, days off every week. My employer was remarkably generous in granting me this much time off for what the contract of employment defined as ‘public service’. The deal was that I continued to receive full pay so long as I returned to the company any allowance I received from the council for carrying out those duties. After a year and a half I was asked if I’d prefer to leave. I was offered a very generous severance package which I am still reaping the benefit of 30 years later.

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Aerial view of Grimsby docks. Image from Cycling Weekly

The council embarked on the full scale reorganisation of the schools in Grimsby which involved closing every existing school and opening a bunch of new schools covering different age ranges. Every teacher in that part of the county had to accept early retirement or apply for a job in one of these new schools. The process began soon after I was elected with a consultation exercise in which the nature of the proposed change and the reasons for it were explained at a series of meetings. Feedback from the consultation was debated and the proposal document amended accordingly. Once the plan was approved by the Department of Education at Westminster it had to be implemented. Councillors sat in a long series of meetings with governors to choose heads and deputy heads for the new schools.

The work of a councilor, in these circumstances, did indeed become almost a full time job, for a while at least. For the first 6 months after leaving my job I worked unpaid for the Party, as election agent for the District Council election and the General Election that followed a month later. My wife and I decided to find a shop – a disastrous venture the details of which have no place in this post. I got a part-time freelance job as a feature writer and advertising sales agent for a regional business magazine.

All of this recollection is provoked by the news that the MP for Tatton, George Osborne, has been appointed to edit the London Evening Standard whilst maintaining his seat in Parliament and his several other highly lucrative, if part-time, jobs. He is the same age as I was when a county councilor. Several former editors of the Evening Standard were interviewed on the BBC last night. At least one suggested that the job could occupy up to 100 hours a week. I dare say the job that Osborne has taken, though described as Editor, is much reduced from what the person with that title formerly had to undertake. Even so, I don’t envy him trying to juggle the demands of both roles. He has to survive until May 2020 unless he decides to resign from one or other post before then.

Will he last three years? I’m not a betting man, but I am inclined to think that he will not. What do you think?

Blue

prompt11One of my earliest memories is of peeling wallpaper from the wall next to my bed. The paper consisted of random patterns of tan squiggles on a pale cream background. A small part had become detached from the underlying surface and it was that which stimulated my enthralled activity. Many years before, someone had painted the wall a deep blue. A blue with the same intensity as the sky or the areas of ocean on a map. And that was what I was doing. By removing sections of wallpaper I was creating a world of islands and seas, a world of my imagination.

I remember the feel of the paper under my finger nails as I fretted at the edges to free them. I recall the joy when a section peeled away easily, the excitement of seeing how far it would go, what new shape would appear as the tide of blue raced into the parched ‘land’.

I remember the hurt, not the pain of the slap you understand, no, the bitter hurt at my mother’s inability to enter the world of my imagination. I could not see the hurt she must have felt at the destruction of her real world surroundings that my endeavours represented to her.

Perhaps that is the origin of what would become, over the years, a difficult relationship between us: a relationship that probably underlies much of my present day creative activities in which I often feature women, women I hope are portrayed as strong and independent.

The above post suggested by a prompt posted at Endever Publishing

If you’re up for the challenge, write your take of this prompt on your own blog. Be sure to tag Endever by including the above picture and a link to their original post so that they can find and read the creative interpretations you come up with! They will be re-posting their favorites for all to enjoy so give it your best!

(Specifics– Write using 500 words or less. There is no limit to the amount of stories you write per prompt. Copy and paste these writing challenge details when you share with friends so others can join.)

 

Announcing The Poor Law Inspector

Reading about the famine that afflicted Ireland in the years 1845-52 is to discover story after story of the horrors that ensued. The families found naked and dead huddled together in some filthy hovel; the evictions that left other families to seek shelter in ditches and under hedges.

It is also to enter the strange world of statistics. Did a million die, or more? Did a similar number emigrate? We have census figures for 1841 and 1851 which show a fall in population of around two million. Some have tried to interpolate what was the likely increase in population over the 5 years from 1841 to 1846 when starvation really began to bite. It is then that the possibility of up to 3 million reduction in population begins to look possible. And no-one can be certain of the accuracy of the census figures to begin with.

Without in any way wishing to belittle the significance of such a monstrous figure, I want to know more about the 6 million or so who survived. How many of them went through 7 years of suffering, losing parents, siblings, off-spring? How many were sufficiently well endowed with material goods to continue to thrive? How did they respond to the appalling conditions they must have witnessed?

One of the biggest contributors to the number of deaths was not starvation but disease. And infectious diseases like Cholera, Dysentery and Typhus did not confine themselves to the hungry. There is a considerable number recorded deaths among doctors, priests and others tending the sick.

I think it fair to suppose that, faced with such a tragedy today, most ordinary citizens would react in two ways. First they would launch a fund raising effort to help and, second, they would institute a political movement with the aim of forcing the government to take appropriate action. Where, I wonder, was the 19th Century equivalent of the Occupy movement?

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The signal fire on Slievenamon, County Tiperary – Thomas Francis Meagher and Michael Doheny of the Young Ireland movement are said to  have addressed 50,000 people there on 16 July 1848.(Currier and Ives from History Ireland website.

There was one such organisation – the Young Ireland movement. And it did attempt to mount an armed rebellion. This was quickly quashed by the British government. Why did that not galvanise a much larger section of the population, in the way that the internment and execution of the 1916 rebel leaders did 70 years later?

There were, too, many donations of money from many different quarters, including Queen Victoria.

 

Arthur Kennedy

I have concluded that the story that I want to tell is that of those who lived through the horror and survived. One such individual is Captain Arthur Kennedy. You can read a lot about him here on the County Clare Library Service website. In brief, he was appointed as Poor Law Inspector, responsible for ensuring that the Poor Law Union that covered a vast area of County Clare from its base in the Kilrush workhouse, was operating properly.

arthuredwardkennedy

This photograph of Sir Arthur Kennedy from Wikipedia is from his time as Governor of Hong Kong from 1872 to 1877. Thirty years earlier he was the Poor Law Inspector for Kilrush Poor Law Union.

He arrived there with a young family late in 1847 and remained for 2 1/2 years. His reports were published as a Parliamentary Blue Book, from which the Clare Library Service website has many quotations. He seems to have been at loggerheads with the Board of Guardians and its chairman, Colonel Crofton Vandeleur who owned most of the town.

What the published reports, and the material on the Library website, much of which is based on contemporary newspaper articles, does not say is anything about the family’s domestic situation. Where did they live? Assuming the children attended the local school, how did they relate to the other pupils, given their father’s job and the fact they were outsiders? Did the Kennedy’s socialise with Vandeleur and the other Guardians? What, in fact, was life really like for a middle class family thrust into the heart of an unfolding nightmare which they were duty bound to try to alleviate?

I have spent the past year gathering generalised background material to provide a context for what I believe could be an enlightening historical novel based on the life of The Poor Law Inspector. Now I need to start writing. I also need to visit Kilrush in order to glean what information I can about the lives of the 70% of those who resided there in 1845 and survived the next 7 years.

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