Calumny and obloquy

RobertEmmetArmyGreen

Robert Emmet was born March 4th 1778, when Washington and his troops were wintering and drilling in Valley Forge.  He was 11 years old at the outbreak of the French Revolution.  At age 15 he entered Trinity College Dublin, where he became involved with politics and debating.  Expelled from Trinity at 19 years of age for his political activism he fled to Napoleon’s France.

A rebellion by the Irish under Wolfe-Tone failed in 1796 because a French fleet were denied a landing in Bantry Bay by gales.  A subsequent uprising in 1798 was doomed due to a vigorous counter insurgency program by the British in 1797, by coordination failures and by very limited support from the French, nothing on the scale of the Bantry Bay fleet.

Robert Emmet was a most unlikely rebel leader.  He was no Wolfe-Tone.  His rebellion in 1803 was poorly organised and had to be sparked early because of an explosion in one of his secret arms depots.  The rebellion that took place in Thomas Street, Dublin was described as more of a riot than a rebellion.  The rebels failed to take a weakly defended Dublin Castle.  When the rebels began to pike Dragoons in the streets Emmet was horrified and called off the rebellion.

He could have escaped then, but returned for his sweetheart Sarah Curran.  This endeared him to the “Doomed Romantic” zeitgeist of popular Victorian culture and Emmet was celebrated in verse, on stage and in opera.

To ensure conviction at trial the British bribed Emmet’s Barrister; Leonard McNally who cursed his family for seven generations when he took a traitors pension from the Crown.

For most Irish though, it is his speech from the dock that remains as his greatest legacy.  He may have been a terrible revolutionary but Robert Emmet could write a good speech.  The title of this post is from words in his speech, which have largely fallen out of modern usage.  Though words have changed the structure of speeches has not.  Emmet used his speech to undermine the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland.  His call for his epitaph to be withheld became largely academic, as his body was lost.  His relatives feared to claim it after then hanging in case they were arrested.  It was subsequently misplaced, so now we don’t know where to place his epitaph!

The full text can be read here:  Emmet’s Speech from the dock

When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”

Sprite

Lutine Bell in Lloyd's of London

Lutine Bell in Lloyd’s of London

The french word “lutin” is translated as “imp” in English.  The feminine form is usually translated as a “sprite”. In truth the realm of the faery world is poorly understood by humans and it is difficult to nail down exactly what a sprite is.  Sprites can be fairies, imps, pixies, elves, dryads and so on.

To my mind the correct translation of Lutine should be Nymph, a nubile female spirit who is associated with water.  There were nymphs associated with lakes, pools and rivers, but also nymphs of the sea.  The most famous of these were the Nereids and in particular Thetis, who married Peleus and gave birth to Achilles.

The name Lutine was given to a frigate of the Royal French Navy.  Originally called the “St Jean” she was berthed at Toulon during the siege that made the reputation of Napoleon.  The British under Admiral Hood took the ship and renamed her the HMS Lutine.

In Oct 1799 the Lutine was carrying gold bullion to Germany when she went aground on a sandbank in the West Frisian Islands.  She sank with total loss of crew and cargo with only one survivor from a crew and passengers numbering over 240.  Also lost was the shipment of gold.  Despite many attempts only a fraction of the bullion has been recovered.

Some timbers from the ship were salvaged and made into a chair for the Chairman at Lloyd’s who bore the insurance.  Also salvaged was the Lutine bell, which hangs in Lloyd’s to this day, where it marks especially important occasions.

Originally the Lutine Bell was rung to mark the fate of an overdue vessel to the trading community, so that everyone would get the information at the same time.  It rang once for a loss and twice for a safe return.  The bell now has a crack and the practice of ringing for returned ships has ceased.

During the second world war the German propagandist Lord Haw Haw quipped that the Lutine bell never stopped ringing during the war of the Atlantic.  In actual fact it rang only once during the war, when the Royal Navy sank the Bismarck

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

……………………John Donne

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Republic of Connacht

Flag of Connacht

Flag of Connacht

Little known fact, but the province of Connacht in Ireland, was established as an independent republic on 27th Aug 1798.  It existed, very briefly, 12 days in fact, as a client republic of Revolutionary France.

On this day lets remember the men of the West, and Wolfe Tone, a great revolutionary who came close so many times, but never quite managed to bring it off!

Wolfe Tone

Requiem for the Croppies: by Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.