On August 12, 1969, a group of pro-unionists known as the Apprentice Boys of Derry paraded along a barricade in the largely Catholic and republican Bogside Neighborhood of Derry, Northern Ireland. Tensions between the two sides represented by these groups had been mounting for months as the largely Protestant unionists and the largely Catholic republicans clashed. Today, however, was different. Members of the Derry Citizens’ Defense Association (a republican group) and residents of Bogside hurled insults at the Apprentice Boys, as the unionists returned the same. Into this tense scene came the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the police force of Northern Ireland in 1969. The DCDA and the RUC had a long history of clashes and the appearance of these hated representatives of perceived oppression led to the situation boiling over. Soon after the RUC arrived, the first stones were hurled across the barricade from Bogside towards the police. In response, the RUC crossed the barricade and advanced on the DCDA demonstrators firing tear gas canisters as they went. As a result of these events, a three-day riot broke out on the streets of Derry that resulted in at least several hundred injuries. In the bigger picture, the Battle of the Bogside is seen by many as the first major occurrence of violence during the infamous Troubles of Northern Ireland that would last until the late 1990s.
One hundred fifty years ago, on June 2, 1866, a group of Irish Americans known as the Fenians launched a raid across the Niagara River between New York State and the Canada West (now Ontario). The group of some 1500 men crossed the river into Fort Erie with the intent of capturing Canadian settlements and ransoming them back to the British in exchange for Irish independence. A group of Fenian skirmishers under the command of General John O’Neill met up with several companies of Canadian troops under Lt. Col. Alfred Booker at Ridgeway, a small town outside of Fort Erie. A battle ensued that resulted in the deaths of some 30 combatants and a Fenian victory. Overall, the Fenian Raids, which lasted for about five years, resulted in stalemate.
Featured Image: “Battle of Ridgeway.” By http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/fenians/http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2015/06/02/history-june-2-1866-canada-invaded-again/, Public Domain.
On May 9, 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood, a disgraced Anglo-Irish former landholder attempted a daring heist – trying to steal the Crown Jewels of England. Blood served Cromwell and the Roundheads during the English Civil War and was granted vast lands in Ireland.
Upon the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, Blood, like many other Cromwellians, lost much of his land and wealth. The Colonel was not one to take such disgrace lying down. He was implicated in an attempt to kidnap the royalist Duke of Ormond, but somehow managed to escape an execution for treason that was the fate of some of his co-conspirators.
In 1671, Blood undertook the biggest plot of his life – trying to steal the Crown Jewels. Disguised as a parson, Blood gained the friendship of Talbot Edwards, the keeper of the Jewels, and his family. After gaining Edwards’ trust, Blood and his fellow plotters overpowered the keeper and bound him. They then made off with the Crown, Septre, and Orb, only to be captured as they left the grounds. As with the kidnapping attempt, Blood somehow avoided serious repricussions prompting rumors that he was a double agent for Charles II. This attempt was the last time that anyone successfully gained unauthorized access to the Crown Jewels.
Clare County Library.
Featured Image: “Thomas Blood.” By G. Scott – Images Online, Public Domain.
April 24, 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Rising which marked the first armed uprising of the Irish against British rule in more than a century. While unsuccessful, the Easter Rising was the beginning of the Irish Revolutionary Period which marked a shift away from Home Rule as the dominant political stance among the Irish to the republican Sinn Fein movement.
To learn more about this key event in Irish History, take a listen to these two outstanding podcasts.