Posts Tagged ‘history’

The poster in a recent post on archives and the burning of the Four Courts reminded me to root out this old punch cartoon upstairs.

Taken from the July 12th 1922 edition of Punch, or the London Charivari, it shows the ‘Spirit of the Law’ in discussion with a menacing looking republican figure, with the smouldering remains of the Four Courts in the background.

Spirit of Law (To Irish Rebel): “You may have destroyed my courts and my records, but you have not destroyed me!”

At least two thirds of Come Here To Me will be at this, feel free to say hello.

Here is that poster one more time, as posted by jaycarax

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I’m not sure if the same situation carries here in Dublin, it probably does up in North County anyways, but the mother said something today that put the notion of it back in my head… When I was younger, much younger, you’d hear tell in the house of “Oh, she has the cure for the croup” or “He has the cure for the shingles, he inherited it from his father.” This mysterious cure, administered in secret in the homes of even more mysterious septuagenarians was spoken of in hushed reverent tones in households and bars all over town, and was seen as a gift or a burden, or in some cases, a bit of both. The “man” or the “woman” was generally a bit… odd, and more often than not would be quite pious, but fond of a drop at the same time, their methods for ridding you of whatever they had the cure for, secret to only them.

Old People: They can cure you.

Old people: They can cure you.

My first memory of hearing something like this was many moons ago and was a story about the Da, who for thirty years had been burdened with a wart on his thumb the size of an old penny. On his rounds, this caused him great discomfort, be he tweaking at cars, fixing a lock, or replacing a door for the woman down the road or whatever job he was doing in his job away from a job, he often came home with his hand covered in blood. Not nice for him, and not nice to hear about either. One day, my brother in law stopped by for a cuppa on his break from work and said “Jaysus Dick, would you ever get that looked after. I know a man down in Caseys who said to write your name on a bit of paper and give it to him; he has the cure for the warts.” So, with that, the Da wrote his name on a bit of paper and gave it to the brother who went back to work that evening and passed it on to “the man.” Now, I’ve absolutely no idea of what the hell happened after he got the bit of paper, but within a week, that wart of thirty years was gone. Sounds mental, I know, but it’s true.

I could dismiss it as myth and superstition, had I not experienced it myself, having had a similar, though much, much worse ailment to the Da. This time, though, it meant a visit out to a whitethorn bush in an ancient, crumbling graveyard around 12 miles outside of Mullingar. Three visits, dipping your hands in a little pot of water in the middle of the bush each time, and the warts would be gone. Now I’m not superstitious in the slightest; but after three visits, the warts shrinking each time, and a week after my last visit, they were gone. I won’t shock you by telling how many there were but, to say losing them was a relief would be the understatement of the century.

I know of an old friend, crippled with shingles so much that he had to be carried into an old ladies house three times in a week, for “the cure.” He went from being crippled, to being up and about, though having shed four stone in the two weeks he was sick, (I jest not; he wasted away,) it took a lot longer to recover fully. But he went from being laid out in a bed in his kitchen, in so much pain it hurt to blink, to walking around again, it was close to a miracle. Now, I never would have thought this lady was one of the religious types of faith healer, she was closer to the mad cat lady type, but this “cure” worked anyways. The Ma had a similar complaint shortly after the Da passed away and went to the same lady and she described to me how it worked. On each visit, the woman would welcome the Ma into her home, take off her wedding ring, bless it, and touch the inflicted part of her body (In my Ma’s case, it was around her ear) with it, while muttering a few words, of prayer or what, I don’t know. She would do this for a few minutes, and then sit you up and talk the head off you apparently. She was a mine of knowledge, and would describe the healing properties of various common garden plants and herbs, lamenting the fact that a lot of the weeds and herbs are much harder to come by these days, and harping onto the Ma about the wonders of apple cider vinegar . I’d love to get an interview with this woman, the Ma says she’s a wonderful lady; sure we might have a look into it in the future.

My nephew, who is now in his eighteenth year, gave us many a sleepless night in the first year of his life, a small little thing but his body was wracked with croup (Think of the cough you hear from auld lads down the pub, forty a day and ten half ones before bed and put that cough in the body of a wee baba. The cough now IS probably from forty a day and ten half ones before bed but thats another story.) This went on for ages though, the medicine given by the doctor not having the slightest bit of effect, nor the nights of boiling kettles in the room, hoping the steam would clear the chest out. So “the man” was called upon to administer “the cure,” which, if I remember correctly involved him laying a hand on his chest and muttering a few words. Within a week, the cough was gone. I know, again with the jiggery pokery but…

Now it’s an odd tradition, I know. And certainly not one with my political persuasion I should have any time for. But whether it’s a psychological thing or whatever I don’t know, and to be honest, care; it’s an interesting one. So whether it’s a cough that ails you, or you have a wart you need rid of, give me a bell. I know a man.

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I’ve been wandering the steets of Dublin quite a bit in the last few days, and on Thursday found myself in the Castle itself. Looking up at the gates of the inner courtyard, I was reminded about a short but interesting titbit of local history. Atop the gates sits a statue of Iustitia, or Lady Justice to you and me.

Iustitia (Lady Justice,) Dublin Castle.

Now the interesting thing about this statue, erected by British Authorities in 1751, is that it betrays many of the characteristics statues of this type are supposed to adhere to. Iustitia, in representing Justice, is supposed to be blindfolded- Blind to discrimination. Here, her eyes are unbound. Her scales, are always to be in working order and perfectly level; Innocent until proven guilty- Here, they always tilt in one way; Funnily enough, they lean to the side of the gate that Revenue, and Dublin’s Tax Office is situated. Her sword, meant to be pointing downwards is held provocatively upright and she looks at it with a smile on her face.

What really got to people when she was erected however, is the direction she is faced; You will find statues of lady justice in Government buildings all over the world, and you will find her looking out over the city. Only in Dublin, does she face into the courtyard, turning her back on the people of Dublin. Just a thought; How could the tribunals held regularly in the Castle ever come out with a fair and honest representation of Justice when Lady Justice herself presides over them with her back to the people and a smile on her face?

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Dublin City has had it’s fair share of hell-raisers in the last century or so, mostly a product of purveyors of Arthur Guinness’ finest. But the history of hell- raising goes back well before the birth of the black stuff; most infamously in Irish history in the half-century before the good man himself poured his first pint and let it settle when Dublin was host to it’s own Hellfire Club.

The first Hellfire Club was founded by the Duke of Wharton in London in 1719 and was and was an exclusive club, mainly populated by a class of rich, landed Gentry called “Bucks” who chose to pursue a certain type of enjoyment which generally involved a pious mix of gambling, blaspheming, whoring, drinking, violence and even the odd touch of Satanism. (Though there is little evidence of this, it is something that is seen to go hand in hand with the original Hellfire Club and seems to stem from them calling each other “Devils.”) Their behaviour was seen as an affront to the ideals of the church and the sacred principles of religion; corrupting to the minds and morals of young people. Wharton’s club came to an end in 1721 when George I put forward a bill “against ‘horrid impieties'” (or immorality), aimed specifically at the Hellfire Club. (1)

Medmenham Abbey, reputed home of the first ever Hellfire Club

From their ashes, The Dublin Hell-Fire Club was founded by Richard Parsons (1st Earl of Rosse and founder of the first Irish Lodge of Freemasons,) and Colonel Jack St Leger (The son of a rich landowner from Kildare, notorious for gambling large amounts of money on ridiculous wagers.) The Club motto was “Fais ce que tu voudras,” or “Do as thou wilt,” a nod to Rabelais’ Theatre of the Absurd. Meetings started with all members sitting around a circular table upon which was placed a huge punch bowl of scaltheen, a rancid mixture of Irish whiskey and melted butter. After toasting the Devil and drinking to the ‘damnation of the Church and its prelates’ the bucks would pour scaltheen over a cat, obtained for the occasion, and set fire to the poor feline. After this, the decadence could begin in earnest.

The club had various headquarters around Dublin such as the now demolished Eagle Tavern on Cork Hill, founded by Parsons sometime around 1735. The Eagle Tavern and Cork Hill are now no more, lost in the regeneration of Temple Bar. We do know that the Tavern was situated close to the IFI and the Quakers Hall in Temple Bar. (2) Another favorite meeting place was Daly’s Club, College Green. Here, shutters were kept closed in the morning so that members with hangovers could gamble and drink by candlelight. One notorious incident occurred here when a member, Buck Sheely was caught cheating at cards. A ‘court’ was convened presided over by Buck English; His verdict was that Sheely was to be hurled through the window of the third floor gaming room- he died in the fall, impaled on the railings below.

The Hellfire Club, Montpellier Hill

Perhaps the most famous of the meeting places of the Hellfire Club was on Montpellier Hill, in the Dublin mountains, not far from Rathfarnham. It was built around 1725 on land purchased from the Duke of Wharton (founder of the first ever Hellfire Club) by William Connolly, a speaker in the Irish House of Commons. According to local legend, an ancient Cairn erected to the old pagan gods of Ireland had been demolished to make way for the lodge. Many of the stones from the Cairn were used in the construction of the house. Shortly after its completion, a powerful storm blew the slated roof away. It was replaced by a stone roof which remains intact today. For at least 20 years Mountpelier House flourished until the Bucks ruined it sometime around 1740. The story of the disaster is well known. As with the roof blowing off during its construction; local myth held that its destruction was a punishment for the desecration of the Cairn it was built upon.

At this time the ‘Principal’ of the Hellfire Club was a man of huge wealth called Richard Chappell Whaley. His nickname was ‘Burn-Chapel’ Whaley because of his hatred of religion and in particular, the Roman Catholic church. He would amuse himself on Sundays by riding around Dublin setting fire to the thatched roofs of Catholic chapels. It was he who caused the downfall of Mountpelier House. “After an unfrocked clergyman had performed a Black Mass in one of the two upstairs rooms in Mountpelier House, the ceremony ending in the usual drunken revelry, a footman picking his way through the sprawling bodies spilt some drink on Richard Whaley’s coat. Whaley reacted by pouring brandy over the footman and setting him alight. The man fled downstairs clutching at a tapestry hanging by the hall door, trying to douse the flames. Within minutes the whole house was ablaze.” (3) Many Bucks died in the fire, but Whaley managed to survive by leaping out of a window. At the age of 59, he married a woman 40 years his junior. Their son, Thomas ‘Buck’ Whaley was to become the most famous Buck of all. “Born in 1766, it was Buck Whaley who rallied the Hell-Fire club from the low ebb to which it had sunk after the burning of Mountpelier House declaring his intention of ‘defying God and man in nightly revels’.” (4)

Bucks of the Limerick Hellfire Club

Before I go into the Buck Whaley himself, here’s a piece of poetry about the Limerick Hellfire Club pictured above and it tells us a little about what shenanigans they, and the other Hellfire clubs around the country got up to:

‘But if in endless drinking you delight,

Croker will ply you till you sink outright.

Croker for swilling floods of wine renowned,

Whose matchless Board with various plenty crowned.

Eternal scenes of Riot, Mirth and noise,

With all the thunder of the Nenagh boys;

We laugh, we roar, the ceaseless bumpers fly,

Till the sun purples o’er the morning sky.

And if unruly Passions chance to rise,

A willing Wench the Firgrove still supplies’. (5)

Buck Whaley inherited a huge fortune after the death of his father, being granted a yearly allowance of £900 at the age of 16. He had an eventful upbringing, jumping between tutors in England and France before returning home having spent some time in jail. Obviously having inherited some of his fathers hatred of the church, he was thrown into jail in Marseilles, having “insulted, violently assaulted and raising his sacrilegious hands against a Priest.” He escaped a long sentence by being secreted out of the country by friends of his lawyer. While his inheritence at the time was huge, arguably, he won an even greater fortune at the gaming tables as well as partaking in some bizarre wagers. In one wager he won £25,000 from the Duke of Leinster by riding to Jerusalem and back within a year. While seeing the sights, this was not a pious pilgrimage and he later boasted of playing handball against the Walls of Jerusalem and having drunk his way there. On another occasion, for a bet of £12,000, he rode a beautiful white Arab stallion in a death-defying leap from the drawing room on the second floor of his father’s house on Stephen’s Green, over a carriage parked outside the door, and onto the street, 30-odd feet below. He won his wager, surviving with a broken leg, but killed the horse.

Remorse, however, befell Buck Whaley as his life went on and so he resolved to seek absolution for his sins. Whilst praying in St Audoen’s Church, just off modern day Thomas’ Street, he had a vision of the Devil creeping down the aisle towards him. Seized with terror, he ran from the church and fled Ireland forever.

He lived the last few years of his life, with his mistress, now his wife, in a mansion he built on the Isle of Man, where he wrote his memoirs. Repentant in his sickness and misery, he wrote “I thought that a faithful picture of my youthful eccentricities, drawn with justice and impartiality, would not be unacceptable to my country- men, and particularly to my younger friends, who will find some few examples which they may follow with advantage, but many more which they ought to avoid.” (6)

He died at the age of 34 of sclerosis of the liver. With his death the Dublin Hell-Fire Club ceased to exist.


1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellfire_Club

2: http://homepage.eircom.net/%257Eseanjmurphy/dublin/templebar.htm

3: Taken from Setanta Orienteers by Robert Whaley, page 1

4: http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924028518730/cu31924028518730_djvu.txt (Whaley’s memoirs)

5: http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/big-houses-of-ireland/glin-castle-co.-limerick/the-four-brothers/edmond-fitzgerald-20th-kn/

6: http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924028518730/cu31924028518730_djvu.txt

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Image taken from the British Pathé site.

I’ve recently been introduced to a great site that I’m sure will be of interest to some CHTM followers. British Pathé have archived over 3,500 hours of footage filmed from 1910 onwards on their site;  The historian in me loves the old newsreels, the football fan in me goes directly for the likes of this video, a rare clip from 1936 of a team representing Nazi Germany playing, and losing, 5-2, to an Irish team at my beloved Dalymount Park, true home of Irish football…

Another highlight is this clip of “Glasgow Celtic Vs. The Irish Free State” filmed in 1924, again in Dalymount Park. Notice the fans on the roof of the stand; If only people were as eager to get into League of Ireland grounds these days…

The freeview videos aren’t of any great length, they generally weigh in close to two minutes long but some of the scenes are just fantastic.

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