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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of William Francis Butler, Army Officer & Writer

william-francis-butlerWilliam Francis Butler, 19th-century British Army officer, writer, and adventurer, is born on October 31, 1838 at Ballyslatteen, Golden, County Tipperary.

Butler is the son of Richard and Ellen Butler. The great famine of 1847 and scenes of suffering and eviction are amongst his earliest recollections. He is educated chiefly by the Jesuits at Tullabeg College.

Butler enters the army as an ensign of the 69th Regiment of Foot at Fermoy Barracks in 1858, becoming captain in 1872 and major in 1874. He takes part with distinction in the Red River expedition (1870–71) and the Ashanti operations of 1873–1874 under Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley and receives the Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1874.

On June 11, 1877, Butler marries Elizabeth Thompson, an accomplished painter of battle scenes, notably The Roll Call (1874), Quatre Bras (1875), Rorke’s Drift (1881), The Camel Corps (1891), and The Dawn of Waterloo (1895). They have six children. His daughter, Elizabeth Butler, marries Lt.-Col. Randolph Albert Fitzhardinge Kingscote (1867-1940) on July 24, 1903.

Butler again serves with General Wolseley in the Anglo-Zulu War, the Battle of Tell El Kebir (after which he is made an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria) and the Sudan in 1884–1886, being employed as colonel on the staff in 1885 and brigadier general in 1885–1886. In the latter year, he is made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He serves as brigadier general on the staff in Egypt until 1892 when he is promoted to major general and stationed at Aldershot, subsequent to which he is given command of the South-Eastern District in March 1896.

In 1898 Butler succeeds General William Howley Goodenough as commander-in-chief in South Africa, with the local rank of lieutenant general. For a short period (December 1898 – February 1899), during the absence of Sir Alfred Milner in England, he acts as high commissioner, and as such, and subsequently in his military capacity, he expresses views on the subject of the probabilities of war which are not approved by the home government. He is consequently ordered home to command the Western District, and holds this post until 1905. He also holds the Aldershot Command for a brief period from 1900 to 1901. He is promoted to lieutenant general in 1900 and continues to serve, finally leaving the King‘s service in 1905.

In October 1905, having reached the age limit of sixty-seven, Butler is placed on the retired list. The few years of life which remain to him he spends at Bansha Castle in Ireland, devoted chiefly to the cause of education. He is a frequent lecturer both in Dublin and the provinces on historical, social, and economic questions. He is known as a Home Ruler and an admirer of Charles Stewart Parnell. He is a member of the Senate of the National University of Ireland, and a commissioner of the Board of National Education. In June 1906, he is appointed Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and in 1909 he is made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland.

William Butler dies at Bansha Castle in Bansha, County Tipperary, on June 10, 1910 and is buried at the cemetery of Killaldriffe, a few miles distant and not far from his ancestral home.

Butler had long been known as a descriptive writer, since his publication of The Great Lone Land (1872) and other works and he was the biographer (1899) of Sir George Pomeroy Colley. He had started work on his autobiography a few years before his death but died before it was completed. His youngest daughter, Eileen, Viscountess Gormanston, completes the work and has it published in 1911.

(Pictured: William Francis Butler, Source: Archives of Manitoba, Personalities – Butler, W. F. 1, N10492)


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Birth of Sir Richard Quain, Physician to Queen Victoria

richard-quain-1881Sir Richard Quain, physician to Queen Victoria, is born in Mallow, County Cork on October 30, 1816.

Quain is the eldest child of John Quain of Carraig Dhúin (Carrigoon), Cork and Mary, daughter of Michael Burke of Mallow, Cork. He is sent to the Diocesan School at Cloyne for his early education and then, at age 15, apprentices to the surgeon-apothecary Fraser in Limerick for five years. In 1837 he enrolls in medicine at the University College London, where his cousins, Jones Quain (1796–1865), the anatomist, and Richard Quain, FRCS, hold teaching posts. He graduates M.B. with honours in 1840.

In 1842, Quain receives the gold medal for achievements in physiology and comparative anatomy, and later he becomes successively house surgeon and house physician at the University College Hospital and commences practice in London, being in particular a protégé of professor Charles James Blasius Williams (1805–1889). He soon has a busy practice, numbering an important clientele, with contacts to the most highly recognised persons.

Quain is chosen in 1846 to be an assistant-physician to the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest. He retains his connection with that institution until his death, first as full physician (1855), and subsequently as consulting physician (1875). He holds the same rank at the Seamen’s Hospital, Greenwich, and the Royal Hospital for Consumption in Ventnor.

Also in 1846, Quain becomes a member of the Royal College of Physicians and a fellow in 1851. In 1850, he vacates the Chair of Anatomy at the University College London and is succeeded by George Viner Ellis. He is an early member of the Pathological Society of London in 1862, being elected its president in 1869. He is also a fellow and vice-president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society and the Medical Society of London, as well as President of the Harveian Society of London (1853) and fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. He is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1871.

In 1881, Quain is asked by Queen Victoria to attend prime minister Benjamin Disraeli during his last few days. In 1890, he becomes physician-extraordinary to the Queen, and is created a baronet of Harley Street in the County of London and of Carrigoon in Mallow in the County of Cork, in the following year.

Quain is the author of several memoirs, dealing for the most part with disorders of the heart, but his name will be best remembered by the Dictionary of Medicine, the preparation of which occupies him from 1875 to 1882 (2nd edition, 1894; 3rd, 1902).

Sir Richard Quain dies at the age of 81 on March 13, 1898.


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Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Clair” Reaches No. 1 in UK Singles Chart

claire-gilbert-o-sullivanIrish-English singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan reaches No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart on October 29, 1972 with “Clair,” one of his biggest selling singles, from the album Back to Front. The song is written by O’Sullivan and produced by Gordon Mills.

“Clair” is the love song of a close family friend who babysits a young girl (actually the artist’s manager’s daughter), though for the first part of the song, the ambiguous text leads one to think that it is from one adult to another. The brief instrumental introduction is the sound of O’Sullivan whistling, before he comes in. The real Clair is the three-year-old daughter of O’Sullivan’s producer-manager, Gordon Mills and his wife, the model Jo Waring. The little girl’s giggling is heard at the end of the song. The “Uncle Ray” mentioned in the song is O’Sullivan himself, a reference to his real name of Raymond O’Sullivan. The instrumental break in the middle section is done half a step up from A to B-Flat, before going back to A.

“Clair” is the number one single in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks and number one in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles chart. In late December, it peaks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, behind both “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul and “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. “Clair” is also O’Sullivan’s second and last number one hit on the United States Easy Listening chart, after “Alone Again (Naturally).”


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Birth of Figurative Painter Francis Bacon

francis-baconFrancis Bacon, Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, emotionally charged and raw imagery, is born in Dublin on October 28, 1909.

Bacon is best known for his depictions of popes, crucifixions and portraits of close friends. His abstracted figures are typically isolated in geometrical cage like spaces, set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon says that he sees images “in series,” and his work typically focuses on a single subject for sustained periods, often in triptych or diptych formats. His output can be broadly described as sequences or variations on a single motif, beginning with the 1930s Pablo Picasso-informed Furies, moving on to the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s screaming popes, and the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures, the 1960s portraits of friends, the nihilistic 1970s self-portraits, and the cooler more technical 1980s late works.

Bacon takes up painting in his late 30s, having drifted as an interior decorator, bon vivant and gambler. He says that his artistic career was delayed because he spent too long looking for subject matter that could sustain his interest. His breakthrough comes with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which seals his reputation as a uniquely bleak chronicler of the human condition. From the mid-1960s he mainly produces portraits of friends and drinking companions, either as single or triptych panels. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover, George Dyer, his art becomes more sombre, inward-looking and preoccupied with the passage of time and death. The climax of this later period is marked by masterpieces, including Study for Self-Portrait (1982) and Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych, 1985–86.

Despite his bleak existentialist outlook, solidified in the public mind through his articulate and vivid series of interviews with David Sylvester, Bacon in person is highly engaging and charismatic, articulate, well-read and unapologetically gay. He is a prolific artist, but nonetheless spends many of the evenings of his middle age eating, drinking and gambling in London‘s Soho with like-minded friends such as Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Muriel Belcher, Henrietta Moraes, Daniel Farson, Tom Baker, and Jeffrey Bernard.

After Dyer’s suicide he largely distances himself from this circle, and while his social life is still active and his passion for gambling and drinking continues, he settles into a platonic and somewhat fatherly relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards. The art critic Robert Hughes describes him as “the most implacable, lyric artist in late 20th-century England, perhaps in all the world” and along with Willem de Kooning as “the most important painter of the disquieting human figure in the 50’s of the 20th century.” Bacon is the subject of two Tate retrospectives and a major showing in 1971 at the Grand Palais.

While on holiday in Madrid in 1992, Francis Bacon is admitted to the Handmaids of Maria, a private clinic, where he is cared for by Sister Mercedes. His chronic asthma, which has plagued him all his life, has developed into a respiratory condition and he is unable to talk or breathe very well. He dies of a heart attack on April 28, 1992, after attempts to resuscitate him fail.

Bacon bequeaths his estate, then valued at £11 million, to John Edwards and Brian Clark, executors. In 1998 the director of the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin secures the donation of the contents of Bacon’s chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington. The contents of his studio are moved and reconstructed in the gallery. Most of his works remain in the Hugh Lane in Dublin today.

Since his death his reputation and market value have grown steadily, and his work is among the most acclaimed, expensive and sought-after. In the late 1990s a number of major works, previously assumed destroyed, including early 1950s popes and 1960s portraits, reemerge to set record prices at auction. In 2013 his Three Studies of Lucian Freud sets the world record as the most expensive piece of art sold at auction.


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The End of the Siege of Limerick

king-johns-castle-limerickAn alliance of Irish Confederate Catholics and English Royalists led by Hugh Dubh O’Neill surrender to Henry Ireton on October 27, 1651 after a protracted and bitter siege of Limerick during the Irish Confederate Wars.

By 1650, The Irish Confederates and their English Royalist allies have been driven out of eastern Ireland by the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. They occupy a defensive position behind the River Shannon, of which Limerick is the southern stronghold. Oliver Cromwell himself had left Ireland in May 1650, delegating his command of the English Parliamentarian forces to Henry Ireton. Ireton moves his forces north from Munster to besiege Limerick in October 1650. The weather, however, is increasingly wet and cold and Ireton is forced to abandon the siege before the onset of winter.

Ireton returns the following June with 8,000 men, 28 siege artillery pieces and four mortars. He then summons Hugh Dubh O’Neill, the Irish commander of Limerick, to surrender but is refused. The siege is on.

Limerick in 1651 is split into two sections, English town and Irish town, which are separated by the Abbey River. English town, which contained the citadel of King John’s Castle, is encircled by water and known as King’s Island. Thomond bridge is the only entrance onto the island and is fortified with bastioned earthworks. Irish town is more vulnerable, but is also more heavily fortified. Its medieval walls have been buttressed by 20 feet of earth. In addition, Irish town has a series of bastions along its walls, mounted with cannon covering its approaches. The biggest of these bastions are at St. John’s Gate and Mungret gate.

Due to Limerick’s fortification, Ireton does not risk an assault on its walls. Instead he secures the approaches to the city, cuts off its supplies and builds artillery earthworks to bombard the defenders. His troops take the fort at Thomond bridge, but the Irish destroy the bridge itself, denying the Parliamentarians land access to English town. Ireton then tries an amphibious attack on the city, which is initially successful, but O’Neill’s men counterattack and beat them off. After this failed attack, Ireton resolves to starve the city into submission and builds two forts on nearby Singland Hill. An Irish attempt to relieve the city from the south is routed at the battle of Knocknaclashy. O’Neill’s only hope is to hold out until bad weather and hunger force Ireton to lift the siege. O’Neill tries to send the town’s old men, women and children out of the city so that his supplies will last a little longer. However, Ireton’s men kill 40 of these civilians and send the rest back into Limerick.

O’Neill comes under pressure from the town’s mayor and civilian population to surrender. The town’s garrison and civilians suffer terribly from hunger and disease. Ireton finds a weak point in the defenses of Irish town and knocks a breach in them, opening the prospect of an all out assault. Eventually, in October 1651, six months after the siege had started, part of Limerick’s garrison mutiny and turn some cannon inwards, threatening to fire on O’Neill’s men unless they surrender. Hugh Dubh O’Neill surrenders Limerick on October 27. The inhabitants lives and property are respected, but they are warned that they could be evicted in the future.

The garrison is allowed to march to Galway, which is still holding out, but has to leave their weapons behind. However, the lives of the civilian and military leaders of Limerick are excepted from the terms of surrender. Catholic Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien, an Alderman and the English Royalist officer Colonel Fennell are hanged. O’Neill is also sentenced to death, but is reprieved by the Parliamentarian commander Edmund Ludlow and imprisoned instead in London. Former mayor Dominic Fanning is drawn, quartered, and decapitated, with his head mounted over St. John’s Gate.

(Pictured: King John’s Castle on King John’s Island, Limerick)


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Death of Margaret Brown, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”

margaret-brownMargaret Brown (née Tobin), an American socialite and philanthropist posthumously known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, dies in New York City on October 26, 1932. She is best remembered for unsuccessfully encouraging the crew in Lifeboat No. 6 to return to the debris field of the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic to look for survivors. During her lifetime, her friends called her “Maggie”, but even by her death, obituaries refer to her as the “Unsinkable Mrs. Brown.” The reference is further reinforced by a 1960 Broadway musical based on her life and its 1964 film adaptation which are both entitled The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Tobin is born in a hospital near the Mississippi River in Hannibal, Missouri, on what is now known as Denkler’s alley. Her parents are Irish Catholic immigrants. At age 18, she relocates to Leadville, Colorado, with her siblings Daniel Tobin, Mary Ann Collins Landrigan and Mary Ann’s husband John Landrigan. Margaret and her brother Daniel share a two-room log cabin and she finds a job in a department store.

In Leadville, she meets and marries James Joseph “J.J.” Brown (1854–1922), an enterprising, self-educated man, in Leadville’s Annunciation Church on September 1, 1886. They have two children.

The Brown family acquires great wealth when in 1893 J.J.’s mining engineering efforts prove instrumental in the production of a substantial ore seam at the Little Jonny Mine of his employers, Ibex Mining Company, and he is awarded 12,500 shares of stock and a seat on the board. In Leadville, Margaret helps by working in soup kitchens to assist miners’ families.

In 1894, the Browns purchase a $30,000 Victorian mansion in Denver and in 1897 they build a summer house, Avoca Lodge in Southwest Denver near Bear Creek, which gives the family more social opportunities. Margaret becomes a charter member of the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission is the improvement of women’s lives by continuing education and philanthropy. After 23 years of marriage, Margaret and J.J. privately sign a separation agreement in 1909. Although they never reconcile, they continue to communicate and care for each other throughout their lives.

Brown spends the first months of 1912 traveling in Egypt as part of the John Jacob Astor IV party, until she receives word from Denver that her eldest grandchild, Lawrence Palmer Brown Jr., is seriously ill. She immediately books passage on the first available liner leaving for New York, the RMS Titanic. Originally her daughter Helen is supposed to accompany her, but she decides to stay on in Paris, where she is studying at the Sorbonne.

The RMS Titanic sinks in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg. Brown helps others board the lifeboats but is finally persuaded to leave the ship in Lifeboat No. 6. Brown is later called “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” by authors because she helps in the ship’s evacuation, taking an oar herself in her lifeboat and urging that the lifeboat go back and save more people. After several attempts to urge Quartermaster Robert Hichens to turn back, she threatens to throw him overboard. Sources vary as to whether the boat goes back and if they find anyone alive. Brown’s efforts seal her place in history, regardless.

Upon being rescued by the RMS Carpathia, Brown proceeds to organize a survivors’ committee with other first-class survivors. The committee works to secure basic necessities for the second and third class survivors and even provides informal counseling.

Brown runs for the United States Senate in 1914 but ends her campaign to return to France to work with the American Committee for Devastated France during World War I.

During the last years of her life, Brown is an actress. She dies in her sleep on October 26, 1932, at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, New York. Subsequent autopsy reveals a brain tumor. She is buried on October 31 alongside her husband in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, New York, following a small ceremony attended only by family members. There is no eulogy.


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Birth of Micheál Mac Liammóir, Actor, Writer & Poet

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 80Micheál Mac Liammóir, British-born Irish actor, playwright, impresario, writer, poet and painter, is born Alfred Willmore on October 25, 1899. He is born to a Protestant family living in the Kensal Green district of London. He co-founds the Gate Theatre with his partner Hilton Edwards and is one of the most recognizable figures in the arts in twentieth-century Ireland.

As Alfred Willmore, he is one of the leading child actors on the English stage, in the company of Noël Coward. He appears for several seasons in Peter Pan. He studies painting at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, continuing to paint throughout his lifetime. In the 1920s he travels all over Europe. He is captivated by Irish culture and learns the Irish language which he speaks and writes fluently. He changes his name to an Irish version, presenting himself in Ireland as a descendant of Irish Catholics from Cork. Later in his life, he writes three autobiographies in Irish and translates them into English.

While acting in Ireland with the touring company of his brother-in-law Anew MacMaster, Mac Liammóir meets the man who becomes his partner and lover, Hilton Edwards. Their first meeting takes place in the Athenaeum, Enniscorthy, County Wexford. Deciding to remain in Dublin, where they live at Harcourt Terrace, the pair assists with the inaugural production of Galway‘s Irish language theatre, An Taibhdhearc. The play is Mac Liammóir’s version of the mythical story Diarmuid agus Gráinne, in which Mac Liammóir plays the lead role as Diarmuid.

Mac Liammóir and Edwards then throw themselves into their own venture, co-founding the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1928. The Gate becomes a showcase for modern plays and design. Mac Liammóir’s set and costume designs are key elements of the Gate’s success. His many notable acting roles include Robert Emmet/The Speaker in Denis Johnston‘s The Old Lady Says “No!” and the title role in Hamlet.

In 1948, Mac Liammóir appears in the NBC television production of Great Catherine with Gertrude Lawrence. In 1951, during a break in the making of Othello, he produces Orson Welles‘s ghost-story Return to Glennascaul which is directed by Hilton Edwards. He plays Iago in Welles’s film version of Othello (1951). The following year, he goes on to play ‘Poor Tom’ in another Welles project, the TV film of King Lear (1953) for CBS.

Mac Liammóir writes and performs a one-man show, The Importance of Being Oscar, based on the life and work of Oscar Wilde. The Telefís Éireann production wins him a Jacob’s Award in December 1964. It is later filmed by the BBC with Mac Liammóir reprising the role.

Mac Liammóir narrates the 1963 film Tom Jones and is the Irish storyteller in 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968) which stars Dudley Moore.

In 1969 Mac Liammóir has a supporting role in John Huston‘s The Kremlin Letter. In 1970 he performs the role of narrator on the cult album Peace on Earth by the Northern Irish showband, The Freshmen and in 1971 he plays an elocution teacher in Curtis Harrington‘s What’s the Matter with Helen?.

Mac Liammóir claims when talking to Irish playwright Mary Manning, to have had a homosexual relationship with General Eoin O’Duffy, former Garda Síochána Commissioner and head of the paramilitary Blueshirts in Ireland, during the 1930s. The claim is revealed publicly by RTÉ in a documentary, The Odd Couple, broadcast in 1999. However, Mac Liammóir’s claims have not been substantiated.

Mac Liammóir’s life and artistic development are the subject of a major study by Tom Madden, The Making of an Artist. Edwards and Mac Liammóir are the subject of a biography, titled The Boys by Christopher Fitz-Simon.

Micheál Mac Liammóir dies at the age of 78 on March 6, 1978. Edwards and Mac Liammóir are buried alongside each other at St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, Dublin.