Archive for the ‘History’ Category

1608: An Bliadhna Dochartaigh

1 Bealtaine, 2008
Author: Garid Mac Manus
Issue: 25 – May 2008

1608: An Bliadhna Dochartaigh
The Rebellion of Sir Cathaoir Dochartaigh in the year 1608 was one of the most amazing rebellions and uprisings in Irish history. The bravery of Dochartaigh and the forces of rebels and Ceithearn or Kerne under his command played a vital part in the near success of the rebellion which came close to driving the Sasanach heretics out of Ireland once and for all.

The fact that English and pro-English writers and historians have played down the rebellion should make all true Gaels even more determined to honour it and commemorate those that fought in it. Had the Earls managed to return in time with Spanish aid then the Rebellion of Cathaoir Dochartaigh could well have ignited a war similar to the Nine Years War, but also with a far greater chance of success as England was totally crippled by her endless wars against Ireland, Scotland and Spain.

If anything, this rebellion and near revolution shows that after An Imeact Na nIarla in 1607, that Ireland was a powder keg ready to explode should proper help arrived from abroad.

The Clann Dochartaigh were a deeply Catholic clan that had played a big part in nearly every war, revolt, uprising and rebellion that took place in ire from the time of the Sasanach invasion of 1169. Their Tuath was in Inis Eoghain in modern Tr Chonaill, which is the most Northern part of the island. Cathaoirs father and uncle had led the Dochartaighs into war against the hated Sasanach under Aodh Mac Uidhir, Prince of Fear Manach in the 1580s and 1590s and into open widespread national war from 1593 onwards in the Nine Years War that raged across ire.

After the defeat at Cionn tSaile in 1601-1602, the Sasanach inflicted a terrible scorched earth policy especially in Tr Eoghain, Ard Mhaca, Tr Chonaill and of course Inis Eoghain. This was waged from 1602-1603 and left over 60,000 Ulster Gaels dead.
Inis Eoghain was one of the places worst hit, and with his father and uncle dead, Cathaoir now made peace with the Sasanach in late 1602 in order to save his clan from complete annihilation. After the war ended in late 1603, Dochartaigh was named the Queens Dochartaigh and given mock rank and status so that he would (they hoped) turn and fight the Neills and Domhnaills if and when they ever rose up in arms again.

But after the shock and surprise of An Imeacht Na nIarla on 14 Mean Fomahir 1607, the harsh treatment and utter disrespect which had been ongoing from 1603 became even more vicious and aggressive towards Cathaoir and his clan. The disrespect, dishonour and personal insults had grown so bad that by ibrean 1608, Cathaoir Dochartaigh could take no more and so rose up in arms against the Crown.

He first of all proclaimed himself The Dochartaigh and abandoned his English title of Sir. He then moved on Cl Mr fort in modern Dire which was the main Sasanach arsenal in Ulster. He gathered over 200 men and used the wife of the garrison commander along with the dead body of the Commander-Captain Hart- to lure the soldiers out of the fort before ambushing them. After leaving almost 800 Sasanach dead, the Gaels then moved quickly to take the now undefended fort at Cl Mr. They took it with ease two days later and moved off with over twenty cannon and artillery pieces and hundreds if not thousands of rifles, muskets and pistols along with a huge supply of swords and rapiers. This took place on 17 ibrean 1608.

Dochartaigh then moved fast southwards towards the new Sasanach settlement at Dire. Even though it was considered small by the Sasanach and had no walls, it was very well defended. On the night of 18 ibrean 1608 the Gaels attacked. Dochartaigh attacked from both sides with over 500 Gaels under his command. In what has been called, the First Siege of Dire, the Gaels over-ran the heavy fortifications in a matter of minutes leaving 200 Sasanach soldiers dead at their posts. The Gaels then moved throughout the city killing Sasanach officials and plantation undertakers; putting all to the sword. During the 18 to 20 ibrean, Dochartaigh killed and executed over 2,000 Sasanach males who were of military age and training as he knew that they would be used by England to fight him and kill his people. He personally killed George Paulet, the English appointed Mayor of Dire as he had insulted him the most. Dochartaigh then burnt the city to the ground, destroying the settlement and even burnt the library of the Protestant Bishop Montgomery. The burning of Montgomerys library was carried out because it was known to hold books of a heretic nature, despite the Bishops offer of 100 to keep them. The planters library was said to have held over 20,000 books. But despite all that, the Fall of Dire was a severe blow to the Sasanach and soon the rebellion spread throughout Ulster.

After the great victory at Dire, Dochartaigh now moved to retake Doe Castle. Using an ingenious ploy he got a shepherd to approach the garrison and tell them that there was a huge pack of wolves attacking the cattle and sheep. The garrison came out in mounted cavalry and between 50-60 of them were ambushed and killed by Dochartaighs men. Six of these dead troopers were very high up in the English establishment. Dochartaigh then marched in and retook the castle and restored it to the Mac Suibhne clan. This again was an ingenious move as it brought all of the Mac Suibhnes into the rebel ranks. It is also important to note that throughout the rebellion Dochartaigh openly declared himself to be fighting for the Catholic Faith as much as for Irish freedom.

Further good news arrived when Dochartaighs brother-in-law, Eochaidh g hAonlain, rose up in south Ulster, burning Ard Mhaca and Newry and killing 1,700 Sasanach occupiers in the process. After hearing of this, Dochartaigh marched into the heart of Ulaidh with 400 men in order to link up with Eochaidh g hAonlain with a view to invading the Pale and attacking Dublin. Together they invaded the Pale on 24 Bealtaine 1608 with 700 men.

They did incredible damage to the Sasanach in the Pale by destroying crops and livestock in revenge for the scorched earth policy and famine in Ulster from 1600-1603. It is said that tens of thousands of Sasanach died as a result of this destruction and that the Pale never recovered until the late 1630s. It was a fitting response for the destruction of Ulster from 1600-1603 and especially an Gorta Mr na hUlaidh during which an estimated 60,000 Irish people died.
However as the rebellion was raging in Ireland, the exiled Earls were putting pressure on the Spanish to aid the war in Ireland. Aodh Mr Nill met with the Pope and together they set about getting Spanish aid to the Irish Rebels. After a few weeks, the Spanish agreed and Irish soldiers were to lead the invasion force. The only problem was that the Spanish coffers were empty, which meant that it would take a bit of time before aid would come, but it was on the way. The Irish soldiers gathered at the Port of Corunna and waited for the sea winds to bring them home.

Dochartaigh and hAonlain spent from Bealtaine to Man Fomhair plundering and laying waste to the Pale. In late Man Fomhair news reached them that an enemy force was rampaging through Inis Eoghain and currently laying siege to Burt Castle, where Dochartaighs wife and children were holding out. Dochartaigh then gathered his men and marched back to Tr Chonaill to attack the enemy. Sadly, Cathaoir was too late. Burt Castle had fallen and his entire clan was almost wiped out. Luckily his wife and one of his children managed to escape the massacre. Unaware of this at the time and believing them to be dead, Cathaoir flew into a blind rage attacking Strabane on 1 Samhain 1608 with 350 Galloglaigh and killing 700 Sasanach planters after the town was taken. He then marched east into Tr Eoghain, attacking and burning Cionn Ardaigh or Kinard which was the home of the traitor, Sir Henry Nill, in East Tr Eoghain. Dochartaigh then rampaged throughout East Tr Eoghain attacking traitors and crown forces alike. Dn Geannain was spared only because it was believed that Aodh Mr Nill would not be impressed with the destruction of his hometown and castle.
Dochartaigh then marched back to Tr Chonaill in search of an enemy that would fight him. He surprise attacked and wiped out a force of between 800-900 Sasanach soldiers at Clan Manach that were to be used to attack the Gaels of tIarthar lba. Then on 19 Samhain, Cathaoir Dochartaigh with only 500 men launched an assault against a massive English force of 2,400 at Cill Mhic Ranin.

The enemy had two artillery pieces as well as cavalry and infantry. The Gaels were on the high ground West of Bile Cill Mhic Ranin. While the Sasanach were on low-lying ground with their backs to the bhainn Leanainn. The Gaels had completely surprised the Sasanach by their sudden appearance and savage attack. The battle raged bloodily for half the day and it looked as if victory would be with the Gaels again, until suddenly Dochartaigh was killed by a stray bullet fired by the enemy. After Dochartaighs death, the battle turned in favour of the English. Feidhlimidh Riabhach Mac Dhaibhid, Dochartaighs second-in-command, tried several times to recover the young Chieftains body but was eventually forced to withdraw with the rest of his force.

In the Battle of Cill Mhic Ranin, the Gaels lost maybe 200 while the Sasanach invaders are believed to have suffered 1,000 casualties. Feidhlimidh Riabhach Mac Dhaibhid then became Commander-in-Chief of the Gaelic forces. From late 1608 until 1610, the Sasanach waged a savage and bloodthirsty campaign of genocide and extermination across Tr Chonaill. The Gaels under Mac Dhaibhid now fought a ferocious defensive campaign. It took the enemy two full years to make it from Cill Mhic Ranin to Gaoth Dobhair and ilean Toraidh. This bloody march or invasion of West Tr Chonaill left tens of thousands of Gaels dead.

Elsewhere in Ulster, the war raged on until 1614, as the Sasanach attempted and failed to wipe out the Catholic Gaels. Mac Dhaibhid was caught and killed some time in late 1609 or 1610 while hundreds of rebels were executed in Lifear, Dn Geannain and other places. The extermination was still ongoing at the beginning of the Plantation of Ulster with Sasanach planters and colonists. The reason that the brutal and bloody war that broke out in ibrean 1608 lasted as long as it did until 1614 had as much to do with Sasanach savagery as it had with the Gaels determination to resist the murderous and genocidal campaign that was waged against them by the English.

As Ulster lay broken and bleeding, it must have seemed Gaelic Catholics were broken and crushed forever, yet in 1615 the Ceithearn once again rose in arms against the Crown.

As for Cathaoirs wife and only surviving son, well they took to the mountains after escaping the massacre of Burt Castle. They were viciously hunted by the Sasanach until they escaped to Spain in 1612. Cathaoir g and his mother and aunt were taken in and cared for by the Nills, with Cathaoir g becoming a solider and officer in Eoghain Rua Nills regiment in the Spanish army. Cathaoir g or Cathaoir of the Sword as he became known, landed with Eoghain Rua during the Filleadh Na nIarla on the 6 Iil 1642 at Doe Castle in Tr Chonaill in order to lead and continue the fight for Irelands freedom and independence.


Mitchel: a most conservative of revolutionaries

1 Aibreán, 2008
Author: Cionnaoth Ó Muireagáin
Issue: 24 – April 2008

Mitchel: a most conservative of revolutionaries
In the nomenclature of Irish Nationalist figures John Mitchel stands as a colossus, but what was his contribution.

Any analysis of Mitchel must put him firmly in the political, social and economic context of mid 19th century Ireland. Additionally, it must also take account of his fiery, quixotic temperament. The Act of Union 1801 was in its first half century, O�Connell was basking in the glory of Catholic Emancipation post-1829, the population of Catholic Ireland was expanding rapidly and teetered on the edge of cataclysm whilst the British Empire viewed itself as the Liberal light of the world spreading its economic and political opinions to all parts of the globe. But a small group of Irishmen of incredible talent and vision called Young Ireland were making their dissenting views heard slowly but surely. Young Ireland was a �spectrum of nationalisms� with each aspect receiving varying degrees of emphasis from 1842 through to 1848. At different times the Young Ireland movement was constitutional, revolutionary, cultural and economic; held together by the belt buckle that was Thomas Davis. Mitchel�s career is inextricably linked to the beliefs and fortunes of this small group.

Mitchel�s contribution to the Young Ireland movement started in 1843 when he joined the Repeal Association where he advocated the use of constitutionalism and was bountiful in his praise and respect for O�Connell and his tactics. However this would all change and most notably from 1845 onwards when he was on an increasingly revolutionary path which would lead him to conviction and transportation in 1848. The spectrum of nationalism spoken of already can be seen clearly in Mitchel�s writings in the period 1843�1848; commencing with O�Connell�s constitutional Repeal of the Union and progressing to calls for violent rebellion.

One area in which Mitchel undoubtedly contributed to Irish nationalism was in both the high standard and vitriolic nature of his writing. First Davis and later Duffy felt the need to temper his writing style at �The Nation�. Without such restraints he reached his most volcanic at his own short lived publication �The United Irishman�. Heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Thomas Carlyle, his Biblical, apocalyptic denunciations of the British system and descriptions of the horrors of the Famine still make for striking reading, �Oh! Pity and terror! What a tragedy is here deeper and darker than any bloody tragedy ever yet enacted under the sun, with all its dripping daggers and sceptred palls.�

�what reeking breath of hell is this oppressing the air, heavier and more loathsome than the smell of death arising from the fresh carnage of the battlefield.

The level of invective and vitriol which Mitchel injected into Young Ireland through his writing is a subject on which his reputation has been both added to and suffered from. In his History of Ireland Mitchel cited with relish Tone�s confession that �my object was to secure the independence of my country under any form of government, to which I was led by a hatred of England, so deeply rooted in my nature, that it was rather an instinct than a principle.� Here Mitchel places himself in the apostolic succession of hatred of English oppression, a place which would be applauded by many later nationalists, most notably Pearse. On the other hand his contribution to the movement is demeaned by John Duffy who claimed that while �Davis loved Ireland, Mitchel hated England�. Indeed, Duffy claimed further that hatred of England was all that Mitchel had by way of reasoned argument in favour of his revolutionary appeal, discarding the nurturing, love of culture and history so important to Davis. Mitchel�s biographer, William Dillon wrote that, �from the opening of the year 1848 down to the day of his death, John Mitchel�s mind was dominated by a ruling passion. That ruling passion was hatred of the British Imperial system�hatred of the system in all its workings, but, above all, hatred of the system as it worked in Ireland.� In support of the theory that Mitchel had indeed nothing to offer but hate, he himself wrote, in November 1857, to a close friend that he was driven by a hatred arising out of his shame at the oppression of Ireland rather than by a positive love of his country. However in contrast to this image of the vitriolic prophet of hate one can see in his writings that there existed a deep love of both the people of Ireland and the land itself. During his time in Tasmania in Jail Journal dated 13th September 1848 he writes, �well known to me by day and night are the voices of Ireland�s winds and waters, the faces of her ancient mountains. I see it, hear it all � for by the wondrous powers of imagination, informed by strong love, I do indeed live more truly in Ireland than on these unblessed rocks.�

This constant longing for Ireland breaks out again and again throughout Mitchel�s writings in exile, �An exile in my circumstances is a branch cut from its tree, it is dead and has an affectation of life. Ever since that banishment from my own country and the sudden severing of all the roots that bound me to the soil, cutting off all the moorings that held me to the firm shore, I am conscious of a certain vagabond or even half savage propensity.�
�I wish I were at Tullcairne and could stroll down to the Lagan and wade a little.�

�Paris is a hateful place�after all you know Dublin is my real place of abode. All the world can�t alter that.�

Founder of Sinn Fein, Arthur Griffith, held that Mitchel�s �hatred of England was the legitimate child of the love of Ireland that glowed in the heart of the man who spent his leisure scaling her hills, tramping her ways and communing with her kindly peasantry. Out of the love he bore to all things animate and inanimate in that Ireland was born the fierce hatred of the insolent oppression that struck in his time its deadliest blow against her life.� Perhaps a more justifiable and balanced assessment of Mitchel�s motivation and contribution would be to paraphrase Duffy, �Davis struggled for, whereas Mitchel struggled against.�

A possible explanation for the hatred which is explicit in Mitchel�s writings is the notion of manhood. Mitchel felt acutely that Ireland had been robbed of its manhood through exploitation at the hands of the British Imperial system. He noted more aggressively with the passage of time that Ireland�s manhood had suffered most insidiously by the preaching of the power of moral force as practiced by O�Connell. Mitchel�s analysis of history provided him with countless examples of national emasculation and his famine experiences provided him with living, or more appropriately dying, evidence that the manhood and self respect of the nation could only be regained at the point of a pike. Mitchel�s logic was to lead him from shame through hatred to avowed revolution as the only redemptive option left to a desperate nation. For Mitchel violence had become an act of self respect, demeaned by over whelming power almost suicidal rebellion was a dire but redemptive act. Griffith acknowledged when he wrote of Mitchel, �the manliest man who summoned her (Ireland) to action in generations.� Perhaps an analysis of the psyche of young Palestinians in the face of Israeli might could throw up similar themes.

Mitchel made little sustained contribution to the political philosophy of Young Ireland for a post independence scenario. �On s�engage et puffs on voit (you make your move and see what happens)� was to a large degree Mitchel�s and Young Ireland�s philosophy. Duffy merely wanted the middle and upper classes to be in control so that they might not �meet on a Jacobin scaffold, ordered for execution as enemies of some new Marat or Robespierre, Mr James Lalor or Mr Somebody else.� (i.e. Mitchel) Such was the fire in Mitchel�s pen that it is unsurprising to read such fear in the ink of one of Mitchel�s own colleagues!

Mitchel looked to America in 1776 and France in 1789 and 1848 as shining examples of the assertion of national manhood. His admiration was more of the rhetoric of revolution than the socio-economic systems they aimed to put in place. Painted on the background of the Famine, the Poor Law, Coercion Bill, Disarming Act and Mitchel�s own fateful famine journey to Galway served as a catalyst convincing him that the only way to restore national manhood and erase its shame was through revolution. It is instructive to note that on two occasions Mitchel admits to an almost mental unhingment. Firstly, during his fateful famine journey to Galway and secondly while in exile. Indeed Mitchel even spoke of a personal humiliation at being born in a country that was oppressed by England. For Mitchel, certain death through rebellion as men was a lesser evil than life through degradation as slaves,�Peace indeed is sometimes beautiful but is often ignoble, corrupt, and ignominious. Not peace but war has called forth the grandest, finest, tenderest, most generous qualities of manhood and womanhood.� In Mitchel�s opinion, �ignoble, corrupt, and ignominious� peace was all that O�Connell had to offer and this was fatally illustrated at Clontarf and by the directionless, floundering of the Repeal Association in the face of the Famine and the pathetic, endgame begging of a once thundering, spectacular but ailing O�Connell in his last speech in the House of Commons. Mitchel noted that Ireland was won at Clontarf and was now being lost at Clontarf. And not only was it O�Connell who stood accused of emasculating Ireland but Mitchel spoke against O�Connell�s political and spiritual ally the Catholic clergy whom he considered to teach patience and perseverance even through the depths of the Famine, �die, die in your patience and perseverance, but be well assured of this that the priest who bids you to perish patiently amidst your own golden harvests preaches the gospel of England, insults manhood and commonsense, bears false witness against religion and blasphemes the Providence of God. Oh my countrymen look up, look up! Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.� A close examination of Mitchel reveals certain anomalies. Mitchel looked to the dates of 1776, 1789 and 1848 as examples as he saw it of a people struggling and he wanted the same for Ireland. However his post revolution prescription for rebuilding a society of �liberty, fraternity and equality� does not sit easy with his revolutionary rhetoric. Mitchel would later advocate slavery in the USA which I feel reflects more his innate social conservatism. Mitchel�s experience, as he saw it, of the rapacious British imperial system coloured any socio-economic policies he had. The gospel of this empire being capitalism was of equally little value which merely enslaved free people and filled poor houses, capitalism was �a machine for exploiting nations; an unmixed and unredeemed mischief whose fruits are torture in India, opium in China, famine in Ireland, pauperism in England, disturbance and disorder in Europe and robbery everywhere.� However, Mitchel�s hatred of capitalism did not throw him into the arms of socialism which he also detested, �Socialists are something worse than wild beasts.� He explicitly denied preaching �Socialism or Communism… or any system approaching them.� Instead, Mitchel�s prescriptions were of a most conservative nature, he advocated a system of national self sufficiency which he saw would remove any desire for conquest. He advocated independent artisans in towns and strong yeoman farmers in the country, regulated economic activity and looked with favour on the Catholic guild system of the middle-ages. Indeed Mitchel�s political philosophy was a loathing of both rampant capitalism, beastly socialists combined with a hatred of 19th century liberalism and modernism, not too far one would think from Rome�s position as expressed by Gregory XVI and Pius IX on each of these issues. Such contradictions in language and substance in Mitchel�s writings is not altogether surprising.

Mitchel�s account of government policy is damning and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this famine would not have occurred in any part of England and should never have taken place a hundred odd miles from the richest country in the world. Mitchel proposed that just as the British Imperial system had the ideological certainties of providential Protestantism (this was God�s will) and classical political economy (laissez faire) the Irish peasantry had their own ideological certainties of divine and social justice. Mitchel�s argument is devastatingly logical. Given a choice between economic efficiency and Irish lives, the British government chose economic efficiency. Given a choice between doing God�s will by moralising the Irish poor and, on the other hand, simply keeping the immoral poor alive, the British government chose morality and mortality. Mitchel�s view of the Union as shambolic in the face of naked facts on the issue of the Famine has retained a good degree of historiographic validity. Any society to Mitchel which needed sustaining by force must in justice yield before more basic needs and wishes i.e. survival. To farmers during the Famine, he proclaimed �if it needs allyour crops to keep you alive, you will be justified in refusing and resisting payment of any rent, tribute, rates, or taxes.� Mitchel�s temperament naturally attracted him to the raging Jesus in the temple and he sought to convince the Irish peasantry that their anger in the face of genocide was justified.
Mitchel had great respect for the great Catholic champion Hugh O�Neill. His �Life of Aodh O Neill� appeared after the death of Davis and he dedicated it to him, acknowledging him as the source of his inspiration. The preface contains remarks in which he outlined his vision of Orange and Green blending into a unified nation, �when Irishmen consent to let the past become indeed history, not party politics and begin to learn from it the lessons of mutual respect and tolerance instead of endless bitterness ad enmity, then at last, this distracted land shall see the dawn of hope and peace and begin to renew her youth and rear her head amongst the proudest of nations.�

Mitchel�s individuality and irascibility did not make for a good leader and his self righteousness did not make for political compromise. His temperament allied to apoplectic anger at the death all around him led him to adopt the most revolutionary of language. However closer analysis reveals a different conservative Mitchel. He acknowledged that the Catholic guild system was the ideal socio-economic model and admired the Church�s position on Liberalism and Modernism. Within this body of work there were variations in the quality of analysis with much intemperate language for which he remained unapologetic and he was indeed heavily influenced by among others Shakespeare, Carlyle, Davis and Lalor however the impact of his writing style was always consistently high. Pearse was unambiguous when he wrote of the literary elite in the Nation in �The Spiritual Nation� 1916, �It was not Davis but Mitchel who was Young Ireland�s most powerful prose writer.� Mitchel was only a major political figure in Ireland for three years but in that short space of time he created a body of work which reflected a genuine, honest, fiery and Irish heart.

Josep Trueta

1 Aibreán, 2008
Author: Montse Corregidor
Issue: 24 – April 2008

Josep Trueta
Josep Trueta is one of the greatest patriots in the history of Catalonia.

After Antoni Gaudi and Pau Casals he ranks as one of the most popular and humanitarian Catalans; a man who worked to save many human lives.

I have the great privilege of knowing his eldest daughter, Am�lia Trueta, and I have asked her to write a biography of her father for The Hibernian Magazine. She has done so willingly and I sincerely hope you enjoy the read.

�I have been asked to write a short biographical sketch on my father, Josep Trueta, since I am his eldest daughter and therefore the one who remembers him best. He was born in Barcelona on the 27th of October, 1897 the son, grandson and descendant, as far back as the Napoleonic war, of doctors or chemists. However, when it came to the point of deciding upon his career, he was tempted to break the tradition and become a painter. Dissuaded by his father (luckily for the human race), he studied medicine becoming a graduate in 1921. In 1923 he married Am�lia, his life companion with whom he had one son (who died aged 5) and three daughters. In 1929 he was appointed chief surgeon of a large industrial insurance company, where he began experimenting with his biological approach to the treatment of open fractures treatment which was to make him world famous in the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and is still now the basis for treating these kind of wounds.

When the Civil War ended in 1939, he went into exile, as so many thousands of Catalans and Spaniards, and was invited to London for a short lecture tour – which lasted nearly 30 years. He worked initially as a mere surgeon, then in 1949 became Professor of Orhopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford. The number of lives and limbs saved by his treatment is immense as it became the norm during and after World War II. During the War, he did research on the kidney, discovering the fact that it has two blood circulations. For this, he was proposed for the Nobel Prize- unfortunately the work, although his name came first, was signed by the five of the team �too many for the Nobel Prize which limits the number to three. When the war ended, with the financial support of his friend Lord Nuffield, he brought research laboratories into the now Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre � the first time such research was introduced into the hospital concerned. He and his team did great work on poliomyelitis, osteoporosis, bone growth, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, etc. and he started working to try to prove his theory on the origin of bone. His fame travelled all over the world � and consequently he was constantly invited to lecture. In 1965, he retired from the Chair at Oxford becoming Emeritus Professor of Oxford University and Emeritus Fellow of Worcester College. This was at a time when Franco was still alive, and, although he was very reluctant to come back to his beloved Catalonia with Franco still in power, he decided to return mainly because he had no means of working if he stayed in Oxford. So he and my mother installed themselves in Barcelona, where he was allowed to see private patients (but not given any opportunity to do research , which was what he desperately wanted). His return was not happy � he was distressed by how he found his country – however he had been able to leave his opera magna published: �The Development and Decay of the Human Frame�. As he states in the preface: �this is not a text book but the fascinating story of the development of the human skeleton…. the structure that allows man to stand erect�and the price he pays for this privilege. �It is quite impossible to even grasp the personality of Josep Trueta without taking into account his intense, deep love of his country, Catalonia. It was the reason for his exile � as he said on a memorable occasion: I left my country because I did not want to see the freedom of my country die � and by this he also meant the Catalan language. His hobby was history � and he even wrote a little book which he called �The Spirit of Catalonia� in an attempt to try to make his English-speaking friends understand why he never liked to be referred to as a Spaniard � why his own language was not Spanish. Since Franco died, the book has been translated into the Catalan language and published in Catalonia � and has had some 20 editions. He is considered very much a Catalan hero � for instance, there is hardly a village, town or city in Catalonia that does not have a street, garden, statue � even a large hospital named after him. Not so in Spain. I am sure he would be the first not to mind this. He was once asked whether he was a separatist – and his answer was �I am not a separatist �I have already separated�.

The Spirit of Catalonia is the first book written in English by a Catalan during the Second World War. The Oxford University published it in 1946. Many people wonder how a surgeon could write this kind of book in the middle of the war. The answer is simple: �The love of his country, Catalonia�. He wanted to explain to the English-speaking people the history of a small country: Catalonia, which was his country and his love of it was a source of motivation for him.
It was difficult to find this book in the original English version but now it can be found on the Internet. The Trueta family published this book in on-line version and friends of mine: Mr. Daniel Carles, Mr. Josep Arnau (two Catalan who are living in Dublin) and also Mr. Marc Font and myself (we are living in Catalonia) helped to collect the excellent English version by Internet for everybody.

This book is now available in the following website address:

This book is a homage to a generation of people defeated militarily but never spiritually.

Finally, in January 1977 he died in Barcelona � 15 months after his beloved wife Am�lia. By then he had accumulated all manner of honours and in his curriculum vitae I have counted 66 distinctions from Universities etc. Some 200 papers and 15 books and monographs have been published worldwide. He had a vast number of pupils from all nationalities, all of whom have spoken with great respect and affection for him. As one of them wrote: �The eventfulness of Josep Trueta�s life was not merely the result of the geographical and historical accidents of his birth. He not only responded to history, he contributed to it.�

Beannacht De ort, go deo!!! (God bless you, forever)

The Battle of Clontarf

1 Aibreán, 2008
Author: Gerry McGeough
Issue: 21 – January 2008

The Battle of Clontarf
Fought on Good Friday, April 23rd, 1014 Clontarf has acquired almost legendary status in the annals of Irish history.

In recent centuries, it has been portrayed as the defining moment when the Christian Irish, under their High King Brian Boru, finally defeated the pagan Viking horde that had terrorised Ireland since the late eighth century.

In reality, Viking power had been effectively broken by the mid-990s and the bulk of the ethnically mixed Hiberno-Norse had been at least nominally Christian for generations. Nevertheless, there is an element of truth in the romanticised version given that several pagan chieftains from around the Viking world aspired to re-colonise parts of Ireland and carve out sword-land for themselves just as some of their contemporaries were about to do in England.

Nowadays, it�s popular to view the Vikings as lovable rogues who engaged in the odd bit of plunder when not ploughing the high seas in their long-boats. This image is far removed from reality. Aside from piracy and ruthless slave trading (Dublin, one of their main centres, was a huge slave emporium holding up to a thousand slaves awaiting transportation at any given time) the Vikings were driven by a satanic hatred of Christianity, which led them to focus much of their fury on the rich Christian culture of first millennium Ireland.
So brutal was their impact on this country from the 790s onward that they gave rise to a medical condition that remains with us to this day. The so-called �Celtic gene� first appeared around the eighth century and may have been triggered by the mass stress induced by the heathen onslaught.

Affecting the body�s ability to absorb iron at certain stages, it is most prevalent in Ireland and in those countries around the world where the Irish Diaspora is to be found. It is also common in Denmark and southern Sweden where vast numbers of Irish slaves would have ended up over a thousand years ago.

Despite having sailed large fleets into Lough Neagh, from whence they sacked Monastic centres at Armagh and Ardboe, the Vikings appear to have met stiff, consistent and organised resistance in the North of Ireland from the very beginning, which explains the lack of Norse settlements in that region of the country, a fact that would have long-term historic impact vis-a vis the lack of towns there in later centuries.

Elsewhere, the Vikings succeeded in establishing permanent settlements in Dublin, Waterford and Limerick, thus affecting the local geo-political situations. Limerick is of particular significance in that resistance to the excesses of its Vikings led to the emergence of a minor East Clare dynasty, the Dal Cais, as a force to be reckoned with in north Munster.

Brian mac Cenneidigh was to become the most famous scion of the Dal Cais. Born the youngest of twelve sons around 941 A.D., Brian led a continuous struggle against the Vikings, once executing 3,000 of them in revenge for the enslavement of Irish children.

He succeeded his brother Mahon as provincial king in 976 and began his steady rise to become the overall ruler of Ireland. Along the way Brian dispensed with the customary niceties that prevented tribes like his from being eligible for the High Kingship by simply describing himself as the �Emperor of the Irish�.

Through military victories and shrewd political alliances, Brian had become de facto High King by 1002. He introduced the surname system to Ireland years ahead of other European countries and brought reforms that gave Ireland the potential to become a powerful island nation. A defender of the Catholic Faith and promoter of culture and learning he built up vast libraries for the benefit of Irish scholars. A new Golden Age for Ireland was about to dawn, but the Viking menace remained.

Brian�s success drew the envy of other Irish leaders and aroused a blood lust ambition to depose him among some of the less savoury elements in the Viking world. A combination of these elements led to the famous battle at Clontarf along the beaches just north of Dublin�s River Liffey.

The Icelandic and other Nordic sagas go into considerable detail about Clontarf and reveal a glimpse of the pre-conflict hysteria that erupted across the Viking world. Blood curdling visions and spine chilling dreams were very much the order of the day, with hags in the Orkney Isles conjuring up images of looms weighed with men�s skulls portending, not surprisingly, bad omens.

Viking warriors invoked the great demonic �gods� of Thor and Woden, while their shamans invested their black raven banners and other standards with �magical� qualities.

Things were hardly much jollier on the Irish side where visionaries were working themselves into a state with tales of Bean S� and vampires howling through the deep forests of the night.

No conflict in Ireland would be complete without its traitors. There were Vikings in Brian�s army and more than a few Irishmen aligned with the Norse, while even more elected to stand idly by.
Among these were a significant portion of the Dublin Vikings under Sigtrygg Silkbeard. Sigtrygg�s Irish mother Gormlaith, a problematic individual who also happened to be Brian�s estranged wife, had done much to encourage the battle. She resented Brian Boru�s hegemony over her brother, M�el M�rda mac Murchada, king of Leinster and had invited Sigurd Lodvesson, the Earl of Orkney, to usurp Brian. Brodir from the Isle of Man was also included in the assault.
The Vikings forced the battle on Good Friday, believing that the Catholic Irish would be reluctant to fight on that day. Berserkers, probably high on mead and magic mushrooms, were normally sent out first in order to get the fight started. This done, both sides weighed into each other over the course of the day. Brian, by now an old man, prayed in his tent surrounded by his personal body guard.
The battle ebbed and flowed all day, but by evening the Viking forces began to break and swarms of warriors fled the battlefield and sought to swim to their ships. The change in tide however meant that many of them drowned in the attempt.

Eager to see some action before the end, Brian�s bodyguard broke the shield wall around their King�s tent and chased after fleeing Vikings. Witnessing this Brodir, leader of the Manx Vikings, seized the opportunity and charged the undefended tent. Entering it he found the elderly Brian praying before the altar and slew him where he knelt. Yelling of this accomplishment he ran from the scene but was cut down by Irish warriors before he could reach his ship.
Clontarf was a bitter-sweet victory for the Irish. Viking power in the country had been broken for good, but Brian Boru and most of his sons had fallen in the battle. Had we had two more kings of Brian�s stature to follow after him, Irish history might well have been much different. As it was, without a powerful figure like him to rule, the Irish fell back into the old ways of disunity and, a century and a half later, proved easy prey for the invading Anglo-Normans, whose English crown rule remains a problem to this very day.