British

Stories Don't Really Come Better Than This | The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010

This story speaks for itself!

There is a common assumption that Irish artists of the late 19th century transcended the harsh realities of political and economic life either by emigrating and assimilating or by staying put but avoiding subjects that might mirror or create discontent. Mulvany’s The Battle of Aughrim�, however, places visual art at the centre of an emergent nationalism traditionally perceived as the preserve of poets and playwrights, journalists and politicians.

Mulvany chose a propitious moment for the action of the painting, the momentary victory by Jacobite forces over the Williamite army at Urraghry on July 12th, 1691, before their subsequent calamitous defeat on the Hill of Aughrim, in Co Galway. By showing the weakest link in the Jacobite position Mulvany illustrates the bravery of the Irish as they took on the superior forces of William. But when the Jacobite commander Lieut Gen St Ruth was decapitated by a cannonball, near victory became a rout. In a striking prefiguration, the painting depicts a Williamite soldier, in the centre of the picture, staggering backwards as his head is severed from his neck.

The myth of Aughrim is largely built on the randomness of the defeat – the decapitation of St Ruth – as one stray cannonball consigns Ireland to another 200 years of subjugation. As if to emphasise this, the decapitation of the British soldier in the painting signals, in its one-on-one combat, the valour of the Irish by comparison with the contingency of the British victory. From near triumph to resounding defeat, the story of Aughrim was subsequently reclaimed in Irish cultural memory as an enduring symbol of entitlement, a site for future resurgence.

via The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010.

Taoiseach – TV3's new series

I have to say, I didn’t expect this of TV3. I missed the news that it was running and so missed the first episode on one of the most interesting men t hold the office, WT Cosgrave (whom we’ve mentioned here before).

The Independent carries a fine piece by John-Paul McCarthy about the series:

Cosgrave was in many ways an essentially theocratic politician, a deeply devout Catholic who once proposed that an ecclesiastical commission vet parliamentary legislation for theological deviance as soon as the statutes emerged from the Dail print shop.

And yet he held office under a classically liberal constitution, complete with an American-style establishment clause banning preferential treatment for a state church and an essentially British division of competences between an executive, a lower house and an upper house possessed of some interesting delaying powers. The Catholic Gulliver was thus immobilised for 15 years by these delicate constitutional chains. Cosgrave was also mild-mannered, unambitious personally and prone on occasion to diplomatic illnesses which allowed him to avoid contentious cabinet tussles between his headstrong subordinates. (He was formally ill during the Army Mutiny crisis in 1924 and sought to direct events from hospital.) And yet, circumstances forced Cosgrave to become arguably the most ruthless civilian chief executive the Irish State has ever produced.

Looking forward to catching up and watching the rest!
Eoin

Google & General George Monck

Eoin Purcell

Links & the rest
I decided I would search out George Monck information on the web and the results are pretty great. Google has an interesting timeline feature. You can view it here, but I’ve a screen grab below:

Google's Timeline Feature

Google's Timeline Feature



It also drags up the Wikipedia link, the About.com link, the rather excellent British Civil War site and the General George Monck site (which has a lot more than just a biography on hand).

It is all well worth digging into,
Eoin

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy on Colonial New York

Eoin Purcell

Great books deserve better reviewers than I
So I was recently sent a review copy of Thomas M. Truxes’, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York which was published by Yale University Press in 2008. Needless to say I completely failed in my mission to read the book and write a review in any kind of decent timeframe.

But I did read it and it is wonderful. The book covers a fascinating period in Colonial history when the British Empire was fighting a war with the French Empire and American merchants were intent to benefit from the trading opportunities despite the heavy presence of British soldiers and the fact that in name at least they were engaged in treason.

A book that creates and sustains a brilliant portrait of 18th Century New York and brings to life the intriguing political and mercantile world of that city under British rule. Well worth reading, 7 out of 10.
For some more detailed review on the book, try here, here, here or here.
I also decided to try something I have been toying with for a while, a video review. It is my my first such effort and is decidedly patchy, but here, in honour of along delayed review it is.

I hope someone enjoyed that!
Eoin

Dick Mulcahy: An enigma, even now!

Eoin Purcell

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution


John Bowman’s Archive Show
John Bowman covered General Richard Mulcahy on its show today. Their archive link is here, but the show is not yet put up. The show includes some very interesting pieces with contributions from John A Murphy, Brian Farrell, Brian Nolan and several others.

The idea was to give a sense of this somewhat enigmatic figure from Irish history. He was after all an interesting figure in the 1916 Rising when he fought with the men of Fingal at Ashbourne (there is a good summary of that fighting here on the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour site) and he went on to hold the Rank of Commander in Chief of the Free State Army, not to mention a significant of not always successful career in politics. The General’s son. Risteard is publishing a new book (with Liberties Press) on his father’s life and career:

My Father, The General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution by Risteárd Mulcahy is an in-depth biography of the often controversial and hitherto neglected figure and Free State leader. Featuring rare and unseen material from the family archive, this book is a marvellous insight into the man behind the uniform who played a major role in running the War of Independence.

The Executions
Even the Liberties site and the book description manages to reference the remaining core controversy of Mulcahy’s story and the one which overshadows his entire career (which is an impressive on):

His order to execute anti-Treaty activists found carrying guns made him a figure of controversy during the Civil War when a total of 77 anti-Treaty prisoners were executed by the Provisional Government. Despite the Free State government’s mandate being renewed in the following election, Mulcahy’s perceived severity during the Civil War was later to prove a stumbling block to his elevation as Taoiseach of the first Inter-Party government in 1948. Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside to allow John A. Costello to become Taoiseach of a coalition which, as leader of Fine Gael, Mulcahy had skilfully organised

What is remarkable about this is that Bowman’s archive show generally skirted over those executions that Mulcahy and the Free State government oversaw. In fact the only reference I heard was also by far the most chilling section of the piece in which Ernest Blythe defended mulcahy as an arch-realist who in the aftermath of Sean Hales’ killing had already selected the four Anti-Treaty Free State Men that were to be executed.

Thoughts
I’ve yet to read the book and right now I’ve got to say it is only moderately high on my list, but two points seem to come clearly out of the discussion today and the book description. One is the need for a rigourous, unquestionable account of Mulcahy’s life. Something both he and many of the other early Free State leaders lack. Secondly that Mercier’s forthcoming series on the military history of the Civil War will be enormously valuable in bringing that period back into the public thoughts so that we can finally lay to rest some of the lasting myths and resentments that remain alive in some minds, even now (though admittedly to an enormously lesser extent that in the 1950s and 1960s when active participants in the conflict remained in positions of authority).

A good radio day Sunday,
Eoin

A day for battles: Warsaw & Blenheim

Eoin Purcell

Warsaw
I’ve written before about the completely fascinating Polish-Soviet War of 1920 and Adam Zamoyski’s excellent book on the topic: Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe. The key battle in that war The Battle of Warsaw began on this day 89 years ago. The initial stages of the battle were not that promising for the Poles as an extract makes clear:

On 13 August Sollohub attacked the outer perimeter in force, and the Polish 11th Division abandoned its positions and fled. Sollohub’s 27th Omsk Division pursued it and was joined unexpectedly by the 21st Rifle Division of Lazarevich’s army, which had strayed into the wrong sector. Together they overran the little town of Radzymin, twenty kilometres from Warsaw, but happily for the Poles the two units became so entangled that they were unable to pursue their advantage.*

Blenheim
John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough , was one the most exceptional military leaders of British history. His most celebrated victory is Blenheim when he prevented the armies of France from advancing towards Vienna in a crushing defeat made possible by his rapid and secretive march from the Low Countries to the Danube. You can a description of the battle in The Fifteen Decisive Battles of The World by Edward Shepherd Creasy. There is a version here in Google Books, sadly you cannot download a copy because although the text itself is well out of copyright and firmly in the public domain, the only copy that seems to be available on GBS is a Forgotten Books version (thus there is IP in the setting and it is not a public domain version)

Below is a great video on Marlborough as a Great Commander.

Quite the day for climactic battles is it not?
Eoin

*Page 84, Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s failed Conquest of Europe, Adam Zamoyski

A great Review for Petticoat Rebellion

Eoin Purcell

The Herald today has a smashing review of one of Mercier’s new books: Petticoat Rebellion: The Anna Parnell Story:

During the reign of Queen Victoria, women wore corsets to thrust breasts upwards and nip in waists, and crinoline hoops to make their buttocks and hips wider. They had problems walking freely, and often fainted.

Patricia Groves’ new book, Petticoat Rebellion; The Anna Parnell Story (Mercier Press, E14.99), offers a fascinating insight into the social restrictions and mores that threatened to hamper a radical female activist in the 19th century.

You can read the rest of Anna Coogan’s review here and you buy the book from Mercier here.

I have to say that I am biased as this was a book I commissioned early enough after arriving at Mercier Press, but the story is a wonderful forgotten episode in Irish history and well worth reading. The author is Patricia Groves and you can read her profile here. The Parnells were a truly international family, Anna’s grandfather was an American
Eoin