Last year we celebrated the Centenary of the Easter Rising. The Rising was not only a result of British injustice but also the Potato Famine several decades earlier. The famine was actually a blithe on the potato crops that prevented the poor Irish farmers living under British rule from paying their rent. During the years 1845 -1849 record crops were sent to England from Ireland. The poor in Ireland who depended on the potato had to choose to eat or pay their rent. A million plus people could do neither which resulted in their starving to death. Some families resorted to stealing food to feed their starving children. Those who were caught with even a single loaf of bread were given up to 20 years of hard labor in an Australian penal colony. Many who chose to stay, lost their homes and were sent to work houses that were almost as bad as the English prisons. The starving peasants are remembered by statues located on the Quay of the Liffey River in Dublin. Forced to leave their homeland a million Irish people emigrated to Europe, Australia or America to escape the death spiral. Even so thousands of these emigrants died on these black ships sometimes called 'death ships'. One restored Death Ship the Jeanie Johnson is pictured below. The famine finally ended but excessive taxation and ill treatment did not. The result was the Rising of 1916. Though the Rising failed, the execution of the leaders and murder of many innocent people kept a guerilla movement growing. Finally in 1922 A.D. the English had enough. Twenty-Six of the Irish Counties were granted independence. The six colonies in the North (Northern Ireland) remained under British control until 2005 A.D. when the last of the British troops were finally removed. The north and the south are still separated and each is an independent country today. In spite of over 800 years of brutal treatment by the British government and their landlords the Irish people have chosen to be forgiving of the English. Forgiveness however, does not mean forgotten. We should always remember the sacrifices that were made and the hardships of our ancestors. These brave people sacrificed, fought and died that future generations can now live in peace and freedom. Almost every city around the beautiful this island has statues and monuments remembering the brave men and women of the Easter Rising. If you would like to learn more about these heroes, read the historical novel by Morgan Llewellyn entitled "1916." This is a work of fiction with many real people and historical facts. Miss Llewellyn has written several other historical novels that makes learning the history of Ireland fun. I have read them all and each one was enlightening.
In 1915 Joseph Mary Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and quickly rose in rank to become a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916. Joseph had contracted Tuberculosis at an early age and struggled with poor health all of his life. Joseph was well educated and even wrote a book of poetry. One of his poems was incorporated into a song about his relationship with his wife, Grace. In 1916 shortly before the Rising, Joseph was taken to the hospital to undergo surgery to the glands in his neck. He practically crawled from his hospital bed with bandages still on his neck to join the other leaders in the General Post Office. Several days later after heavy shelling and running low on ammunition the GPO was surrendered. Joseph was taken and held at the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin to be court martial. His poor health was never an issue to the British who quickly sentenced him to execution by firing squad. Seven days before the execution was to be carried out he was allowed to marry his long time sweetheart Grace Gifford. They were allowed one kiss and 10 minutes to talk with guards all around them in a small room. On May 04, 1916 Joseph Mary Plunkett was shot in the court yard of the Kilmainham Gaol. So ended the life of one of Ireland's bravest patriots. Grace Gifford Plunkett died in Dublin on December 13, 1955. Grace had never remarried. Please listen to this moving story in song by Wolftones:Click here to hear - Wolf Tones - Grace
The Easter Rising (also known as The Easter Rebellion) began on April 24, 1916 and has remained a controversial part of Irish history for the last century. The politics behind it are complicated, and emotions still run high among the Irish and the British. The Easter Rising is one of the most important and bloodiest parts of Irish history. What of the aftermath? The British, while caught by surprise at the uprising, quickly rallied their troops and began to gain control of the situation. By Wednesday that week the British had landed more troops in Ireland, after hundreds of casualties on both sides, the Irish, realizing they were out gunned, backed down. The fifteen leaders of the rising were imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, just outside Dublin. All fifteen were sentenced to death for treason. At the time, many Irish people were resentful of the rebels for causing so much death and destruction, as they did not fully support the cause for Irish independence. Approximately three thousand people believed to be involved in the rising either directly or indirectly were arrested, and eighteen hundred of them were sent to prison in England without a trial. These executions and imprisonments, along with months of martial law, turned the hearts of the Irish who had not originally agreed with the rebels. They began to resent anew the British rule, and began to work toward independence. In 1918 the Sinn Fein party ( whose purpose was Irish independence) won a majority of the Irish seats in parliament, then refused to sit in the UK parliament. In 1919 they met and convened an Irish parliament and declared Ireland's independence. Following this the Irish Republican Army began using guerilla tactics to fight against the British rule. In 1921 a cease-fire was called, and a treaty was signed with the British resulting in the establishment of the Irish Free State, a self-governing part of the United Kingdom. Six Northern Irish states remained as part of the UK, and remain still today despite the twenty-six states who officially declared independence on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949. Today in Ireland and England, there are still factions at war with one another. In the one hundred years since the beginning of the fight for independence, Ireland has changed and yet remains the same. Emotions run high on both sides, while some view the original fifteen as heroes, others see them as terrorists and treasonists. It remains to be seen if the two countries can completely come together, and fully lay down arms. For more information on the Easter Rising, check out the following websites: http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/easter-rising http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ireland-1845-to-1922/the-1916-easter-rising/