29 July-Dr Robert Cane (1807-1858) Kilkenny City

Dr Robert Cane was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland. He studied medicine and established a successful practice in Kilkenny City. Cane became involved in politics and was a supporter of the Repeal Association. Though not involved in the Rebellion of 1848 he was imprisoned for a lengthy period under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Cane was twice elected as Mayor of Kilkenny.

Dr Robert Cane was born in Kilkenny in 1807. He was educated locally and then worked for a time as an assistant to a pharmacist. He later went on to study medicine at Trinity College Dublin and at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. During his time at Trinity College, Cane became involved in student politics and attended meetings about national issues of the day. He returned to Kilkenny to give medical assistance during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Robert Cane later moved to Edinburgh where he was awarded his MD at Edinburgh Medical School in 1836.

Following graduation from Edinburgh, Cane returned to Kilkenny where he set up a practice in the city. He became involved in national affairs and in local politics in Kilkenny where he was friendly with the writer John Banim. He also joined Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association. In 1840 he hosted a banquet for Daniel O’Connell during a visit by the Liberator to the city. Robert Cane was elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1844.

William Smith O’Brien founded the Irish Confederation in 1847 when he and others withdrew from the Repeal Association. Robert Cane joined the Confederation, however his views, particularly on the use of violence, were at variance with the Confederation and he took no part in the Rising of 1848. Despite this he was arrested and imprisoned. The Rising had led to the suspension of Habeas Corpus and resulted in Cane being imprisoned for a lengthy period. Following his release he was again elected mayor of Kilkenny. On February 19th 1849 he was one of group of people who met to establish an Archaeological Society for the ‘County and City of Kilkenny and surrounding districts’. He was eventually elected chairman of the organisation on April 3rd 1849.

Dr Cane founded the Celtic Union in Kilkenny in 1853. It was a literary society with a strong political bias and intended to publish material relating to Irish history. The Union produced a magazine called ‘The Celt’ and Cane acted as editor. Dr Cane died of consumption on August 16th 1858. In 1859 a series of articles entitled ‘History of the Williamite and Jacobite Wars of Ireland from their origin to the capture of Athlone’, which Cane had written, were published by the Celtic Union.

Dr Robert Cane was arrested and imprisoned following the Young Irelander Rebellion in the year 1848 On This Day.

The Tholsel, Kilkenny by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1870-01-01 00:00:00

Court House, Kilkenny, 1908 by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1908-07-01 00:00:00

High Street Fashion by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1955-01-01 00:00:00


28 July-Irish Army service in the Congo

Two Irish Army Infantry Battalions which included soldiers from Carlow and Kilkenny were deployed to the Congo to serve with the United Nations forces in 1960. It was the first large scale overseas mission undertaken by Irish troops since the establishment of the state in 1922. However it was not the first service overseas by Irish Army personnel with the United Nations. The first United Nations mission in which members of the Irish Army were involved began on June 27th 1958. On that occasion Lieutenant Colonel Justin MacCarthy and a group of 50 other officers served with the United Nations Observer Group in the Lebanon.

On June 30th 1960 the Belgian Congo became an independent republic. Independence was quickly followed by civil unrest. Within a week a mutiny broke out in the army and this was followed by the secession of two areas of the country, Katanga and South Kasai. An appeal was made by the Congolese Government to the United Nations to help restore order and preserve the territorial integrity of the country. The appeal was successful and on July 13th Ireland was requested to provide troops for the ONUC (Opération des Nations unies au Congo) mission.

Legislation enabling the mission to take place was passed by Dáil Eireann. As a result Ireland became one of thirty countries from around the world to provide soldiers for the mission. Just over two weeks later the 635-strong 32nd Infantry Battalion departed for the Congo. A month later the Irish contingent was brought to 1,000 troops with the arrival of the 33 Infantry Battalion. The Irish contingent was further boosted when an Armoured Car Group began operations in the Congo on January 15th 1961. They were using armoured cars which had been manufactured by Messers. Thompson & Son Limited, Hanover Works, Carlow.

The ONUC mission in the Congo lasted from 1960 to 1964 during which time 6,000 Irish soldiers served in the Congo. During that time twenty six Irish soldiers lost their lives. In one engagement called the ‘Niemba Ambush’ nine Irish soldiers, including Lt. Kevin Gleeson and Private Michael McGuinn of Carlow, were killed. Since their deployment in the Congo, members of the Irish Defence Forces have continuously served on UN missions in various parts of the world.

Irish Defence Forces began service with the United Nations in the Congo in the year 1960 On This Day.

ONUCsmall1 by Irish Defence Forces on 2009-11-16 17:14:15

ONUCsmall2 by Irish Defence Forces on 2008-06-24 15:41:17

ONUC photo

34th Battalion ONUC

Photo by Irish Defence Forces


24 July-Croppies Grave

The Croppies Grave is located on 98th Street, Griaguecullen, Carlow. The grave is the resting place of over six hundred people who died in the Battle of Carlow which took place on May 25th 1798. Those who died in the battle were buried in a mass grave and covered in quick lime. The Battle of Carlow was part of the United Irishmen Rising of 1798.

One hundred years after the mass burial, a memorial Celtic Cross was erected at the Croppies Grave. The cross, which is over 4.5 metres (15 feet) is carved form local limestone. The inscription on the cross is in both Irish and English. (In memory of the 640 United Irishmen who gave their lives for their country at the Battle of Carlow May 25th 1798). To the right of the cross there is a memorial slab which was donated by Rowan McCoombe, town councillor of Carlow.

In a ceremony marking the centenary of the Rebellion of 1798 a memorial cross to the United Irishmen who died in the Battle of Carlow was unveiled in the year 1898 On This Day.






14 July-Bastille Day, Joseph Kavanagh

One of the leaders of those who stormed the Bastille in Paris in 1789 was Joseph Kavanagh from Carlow. However some records also say that he was from Clare, others that he was a native of Ferns in County Wexford and still others that he was of Irish extraction living in Lille, France. Kavanagh was working as a cobbler in Lille just over 200km north of Paris near the Belgian border. He moved to Paris shortly before the outbreak of the revolution.

By 1787 France had a growing population and had been hit by poor harvests during the previous few years. It had a budget deficit following its involvement in the American war of independence. The bourgeoisie and the peasants felt excluded from the political system and the French monarchy was unable to adapt to the changing circumstances. In 1788 there were crop failures in many parts of France leading to food shortages and further rises in food prices. The finance minister Joseph Necker who had tried to introduce reforms and was generally trusted by the people was dismissed on July 11th 1789. His dismissal combined with reports of troops being assembled outside Paris led to insurrection in the capital.

Groups of militia were organised and Joseph Kavanagh was appointed leader of one of those groups. In order to obtain arms Kavanagh and others led their militia to the Bastille which was regarded as a symbol of royal tyranny. They stormed the bastille and released the six prisoners being held there. Following the victory he was honoured as a hero. He was the subject of a contemporary pamphlet ‘Les Exploits Glorieux du celebre Cavanagh’ which stated: ‘the nation should not leave forgotten this brave patriot who so influenced the course of events on July 14 and surely determined in large part the fate of the Bastille, the taking of which was becoming very difficult, to say the least’. One of those released from the Bastille was Francis Xavier Whyte who was born Dublin in 1730 and had served in the French army. However on the night of his release he stole a horse belonging to a citizen who had given him shelter and he was promptly returned to custody.

Joseph Kavanagh later became an influential police officer. He served during what became known as the Terror. He was one of those involved in the massacre carried out at La Force Prison in 1792 during which some Irish prisoners were murdered. Following the fall of Robespierre on July 27th 1794 and his execution the following day those who had taken part in the Terror were arrested. Joseph Kavanagh seems to have escaped arrest as his name does not appear on any list and he disappeared from circulation.

The storming of the Bastille took place in the year 1789 On This Day.

Bastille Day Celebrations, 1889 by Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections on 2009-08-24 09:31:51

The Bastille photo

Image taken from page 27 of ‘A Franczia rémuralom torténete a legujabb forások felhasználásával

Photo by The British Library


11 July-Big Ben

The Big Ben clock tower is located in the Palace of Westminster in London. The Great Bell in the clock tower has the nickname Big Ben. However Big Ben is usually used to refer to the clock and clock tower.

The clock tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in her Diamond Jubilee year. It is one of London’s most iconic landmarks. It is a major tourist attraction and has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom.

Big Ben, the great bell in the Elizabeth Tower in the Palace of Westminster, chimed for the first time in the year 1859 On This Day.

Big Ben, London