Archive for June, 2015


June 20, 2015

A couple of weeks ago Prince Charles visited Mullaghmore in County Sligo, where his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered, along with several other people in his boat, by the IRA in 1979.

The first Liberal Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, Featured imagewas a large landowner in Co. Sligo and started building a house in Mullaghmore called Classiebawn. He died before it was finished, but it was inherited by his stepson, Lord Mount-Temple and eventually through his family, by Edwina Ashley, who married Louis Mountbatten. After the war, and their time in India, the Mountbattens made Classiebawn usable again and started spending their summers there. Mullaghmore is built on peninsula which sticks out northwards from the south shore of Donegal Bay. The village, harbour and strand are on the east, or lee, side of the peninsula and are reached by a branch road from the main trunk road. On the hillside above the village were a number of crofts, some abandoned and some used as holiday cottages. Classiebawn stands at the top of the peninsula exposed to the Atlantic winds – the next land to the west is Labrador. No buildings were to the west of Classiebawn. The land slopes down to the rocky shore. Due to its exposed position, Classiebawn was the first house I ever saw with double-glazing!

When I was at school in Enniskillen, Mullaghmore was one of three favoured seaside resorts for a day at the seaside. Bundoran was a proper town – but the town wasn’t very close to the shore. There was a strand, an outdoor pool and amusements. Also a large golf course encircling a railway hotel, where Charlie Chaplin holidayed once. Rosnowlagh was harder to define; the strand was more spectacular and open to the Atlantic. The churches, houses and other building were very scattered.

It was possible to drive to one of these three resorts after a Saturday or Sunday morning spent in Enniskillen. Of course, it was an international journey, and in those days you had to have car documents stamped each way by the Eire customs. Our family favoured Mullaghmore, with its safe strand backed by sandhills for changing and picnicking in.

Some Enniskillen people moved their whole family to the seaside for the summer, to a caravan at Rosnowlagh or a cottage in Mullaghmore. One summer, gales wrecked several Enniskilleners’ caravans at Rosnowlagh. For my first two scout summer camps, we went to a site on the Classiebawn estate. On the second of these camps the then patrol leader was to become the uncle of one the victims of the bomb.

We heard the news of the bomb on holiday in Norway (after staying in Haderslev – see ‘1864’). The reports came through NRT radio and through the Oslo paper ‘Aftenposten’. Doing some clearing out on Friday, I found that copy of Aftenposten – see picture.


‘1864’ – background

June 15, 2015

I was out of the country on the 6th June, so I couldn’t watch the last two episodes of the Danmarks Radio 8-part series television series ‘1864’ on BBC4. It actually spanned the period from 1851-1866 in Danish history, which resolved, until 1920, the ‘Schleswig-Holstein Question’. So I made it my business to watch it on BBC iPlayer before it left that medium after a week. It didn’t quite go right – it was not possible to work out which episode was which in the listings, so I saw Episode 8 before Episode 7, but no matter.

I first became aware of this issue in the 1970s. We had been having a camping holiday, which started from the ferry to the Hook of Holland, followed by several days in a camp site near Bremen. We then proceeded toward Denmark. However, our small daughter was then taken ill, and we took the emergency decision to spend the next night in a motel in Hadeslev, the first sizeable town in Denmark we came to. A morning walk in the local park revealed a war memorial of the First World War and I puzzled out that the soldiers had died in places such as France and Russia. This didn’t at first make sense – Denmark was neutral in World War I – so why were Danes dying in it? Then I worked out that Hadeslev was in what to Germans is North Schleswig and to Danes is South Jutland. From 1866 to 1920 it was part of Prussia, and became Danish after a plebiscite in 1920. Later I read the board outside the Lutheran Cathedral where it became clear that they held services then in both Danish and German.

The series started at the conclusion in 1851 of the First Schleswig War – perhaps as the Danes won that, I should say the First Slesvig War! For a long time up to 1863, the King of Denmark was also Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. Such personal unions were not unusual. From 1714 to 1837, the King of Great Britain (later United Kingdom) was also Elector or King of Hanover. And from the treaty that established Belgium in 1839 until 1890, the King of the Netherlands was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The complicating factor in all three cases was that each of the two realms had different rules of how the succession was passed on and when a King or Grand Duke died this could lead to the splitting of the personal union, as happened when Victoria became Queen here in 1837 and Wilhelmina became Queen in the Netherlands in 1890.

Something similar happened when Frederik VII of Denmark died in 1863. Schleswig-Holstein counted as a German state, in spite of the fact that the people in the northern part were ethnic Danes. After 1848, Danish nationalism and liberalism wanted to integrate the whole Duchy with Denmark and give the whole realm a liberal constitution, whereas German states at the time had a more authoritarian bias. The First Slesvig war was won by Denmark, over the troops of the Duchy, but different men would inherit the thrones of Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, leading to the crisis of 1864.