seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Feargal Quinn, Businessman & Politician

Feargal Quinn, Irish businessman, politician and television personality, dies in Dublin on April 24, 2019. He is the founder of the Superquinn supermarket chain and serves as a Senator in Seanad Éireann representing the National University of Ireland constituency from 1993 to 2016.

Quinn is born in Dublin on November 27, 1936. His father, Eamonn, founds a grocery brand and later the Red Island resort in Skerries, Dublin. He is a first cousin of Labour Party politician Ruairi Quinn and of Lochlann Quinn, former chairman of Allied Irish Banks (AIB). He is educated at Newbridge College and is a commerce graduate of University College Dublin (UCD). He builds a career in business and later takes on a range of public service roles.

Quinn founds the national supermarket chain Superquinn (originally Quinn’s Supermarkets), of which he remains non-executive president for some years after his family sells out their interest in August 2005 for over €400 million. Superquinn is known for its focus on customer service and pioneers a number of innovations, including Ireland’s first supermarket loyalty card in 1993, SuperClub. It also introduces self-scanning of goods by customers in a number of its outlets. Superquinn becomes the first supermarket in the world to guarantee the absolute traceability of all its beef from pasture to plate, using DNA TraceBack, a system developed at Trinity College, Dublin by IdentiGEN.

Quinn becomes the chairman of the Interim Board for Posts and serves as chairman of its successor An Post (the Irish postal administration) until 1989. He also serves on several other public authorities and boards. From 1993 to 1998, he chairs the steering committee which oversees the development of the Leaving Certificate Applied. In 2006, he is appointed an Adjunct Professor in Marketing at National University of Ireland Galway. He is also chairman of Springboard Ireland.

Quinn is a former President of EuroCommerce, the Brussels-based organisation which represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe. He also serves on the board of directors of CIES, the Food Business Forum based in Paris, as well as the American-based Food Marketing Institute.

In 2009, Quinn works with independent shops and helps them to revamp, modernise and stave off stiff competition from multi-national retailers. It airs as RTÉ‘s six-part television series, Feargal Quinn’s Retail Therapy. A second series airs in 2011, and a third series airs in 2012. In 2011, he fronts RTÉ’s Local Heroes campaign in Drogheda, County Louth, which is an assembled team of experts to kick-start the local economy. It airs as RTÉ One‘s six-part television series, Local Heroes – A Town Fights Back.

Quinn is first elected as a senator in 1993 from the National University of Ireland constituency and is re-elected in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2011. He is a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs, the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service and is an Oireachtas member of the National Economic and Social Forum, along with the Joint Committee on Jobs and Innovation.

Quinn is one of the co-founders and is a driving force behind Democracy Matters – a civil society group that is formed to oppose the Government’s plans to abolish Seanad Éireann. In May 2013, with Senators Katherine Zappone and Mary Ann O’Brien, he introduces the Seanad Bill 2013 to reform the system of electing the elected members of Seanad Éireann (as provided for in Article 18.10 of the Constitution of Ireland) through a one-person, one vote franchise. The Seanad Bill 2013 succeeds in being passed at Second Stage in the Seanad. During the Seanad abolition referendum campaign, the Bill demonstrates to the electorate, in a very palpable way, that reform of the Seanad is achievable if they vote for its retention. In a referendum held in October 2013 on the Abolition of Seanad Éireann, the people vote to retain the Seanad by 51.7%.

In 2014, Quinn reveals that since being first elected to Seanad Éireann, he has donated his entire salary to charity and in more recent years he has refused to accept any salary. In March 2015, he opposes the Marriage Equality bill in the Seanad, and votes ‘No’ in the referendum. He serves as Chairman of the Independent Alliance. He does not contest the 2016 Seanad election.

Quinn is the recipient of five honorary doctorates from education institutions, including NUI Galway in 2006, a papal knighthood along with a fellowship and the French Ordre National du Mérite. He shares with Oprah Winfrey the 2006 “Listener of the Year” award of the International Listening Association.

Quinn dies peacefully at his home in Howth, County Dublin, on April 24, 2019 following a short illness. His funeral Mass takes place at St. Fintan’s Church in Sutton, north County Dublin. In attendance is President Michael D. Higgins, a representative for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Senator Michael McDowell, and a host of other current and former politicians, business figures, and past colleagues of the “Superquinn family.” Fittingly, the coffin is carried from the church to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”


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“The Irish Times” Is Launched In Dublin

The Irish Times is launched at 4 Lower Abbey Street in Dublin on March 29, 1859. The first appearance of a newspaper using the name occurs in 1823 but it closes in 1825. The title is revived as a thrice weekly publication by Major Lawrence E. Knox. It is originally founded as a moderate Protestant newspaper, reflecting the politics of Knox, who stands unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Isaac Butt’s Home Rule League. In its early days, its main competitor is the Dublin Daily Express.

After Knox’s death in 1873, the paper is sold to the widow of Sir John Arnott, MP, a former Lord Mayor of Cork and owner of Arnotts, one of Dublin’s major department stores. The sale, for £35,000, leads to two major changes. Its headquarters is shifted to 31 Westmoreland Street, remaining in buildings on or near that site until 2005. Its politics also shifts dramatically, becoming predominantly Unionist in outlook, and it is closely associated with the Irish Unionist Alliance. The paper, along with the Irish Independent and various regional papers, calls for the execution of the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising.

Though the paper becomes a publicly listed company in 1900, the family continues to hold a majority shareholding until the 1960s. The last member of the Arnott family to sit on the paper’s board is Sir Lauriston Arnott, who dies in 1958.

The editor during the 1930s, R. M. “Bertie” Smyllie, has strong anti-fascist views: he angers the Irish Catholic hierarchy by opposing General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Later, The Irish Times, like other national newspapers, has problems with Irish Government censorship during World War II. The newspaper is largely pro-Allied and is opposed to the Éamon de Valera government’s policy of neutrality.

In 1974, ownership is transferred to a non-charitable trust, The Irish Times Trust. The Trust is set up as “a company limited by guarantee” to purchase The Irish Times Limited and to ensure that The Irish Times will be published as an independent newspaper with specific editorial objectives. The former owner, Major Thomas Bleakley McDowell, is made “president for life” of the trust which runs the paper and is paid a large dividend. However several years later the articles of the Trust are adjusted, giving Major McDowell ten preference shares and one more vote than the combined votes of all the other directors should any move be made to remove him. Major McDowell dies in 2009.

The Trust is regulated by a legal document, the Memorandum and Articles of Association, and controlled by a maximum of eleven Governors under company law. It is not a charity and does not have charitable status. It has no beneficial shareholders and it cannot pay dividends. Any profits made by The Irish Times cannot be distributed to the Trust but must be used to strengthen the newspaper, directly or indirectly.

In 1994, The Irish Times establishes a website called Irish-times.ie, the first newspaper in Ireland and one of the first 30 newspapers in the world to do so. The company acquires the domain name Ireland.com in 1997, and from 1999 to 2008, uses it to publish its online edition. On June 30, 2008, the company relaunches Ireland.com as a separate lifestyle portal and the online edition of the newspaper is now published at irishtimes.com. It is supplied free of charge, but a subscription is charged to view its archives.

On October 15, 2012, John O’Shea, Head of Online, The Irish Times, announces that the ireland.com domain name has been sold to Tourism Ireland, and that the ireland.com email service will end on November 7, 2012, affecting about 15,000 subscribers. The newspaper announces on February 17, 2015 the reintroduction of a paywall for its website, irishtimes.com, beginning on February 23.

In December 2017, it is reported that The Irish Times has reached an agreement to purchase the newspaper, radio and website interests of Landmark Media Investments which include the Irish Examiner. Initially subject to regulatory approval, this sale is completed in July 2018. In September 2018, following the Landmark Media Investments acquisition, The Irish Times starts a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Average print circulation is approximately 100,000 copies per issue in 2011, dropping to approximately 62,000 by 2017. The circulation of the newspaper is no longer audited.


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Death of John Robert Gregg, Inventor of Gregg Shorthand

John Robert Gregg, educator, publisher, humanitarian, and the inventor of the eponymous shorthand system Gregg shorthand, dies in Cannondale, Connecticut on February 23, 1948.

Gregg is born on June 17, 1867 in Shantonagh, County Westmeath, as the youngest child of Robert and Margaret Gregg, where they remain until 1872, when they move to Rockcorry, County Monaghan. He enters the village school in Rockcorry in 1872. On his second day of class, he is caught whispering to a schoolmate, which prompts the schoolmaster to hit the two children’s heads together. This incident profoundly damages his hearing for the rest of his life, rendering him unable to participate fully in school, unable to understand his teacher. This ultimately leads to him being unnecessarily perceived as dull or mentally challenged by his peers, teachers, and family.

In 1877, after seeing a friend use Pitman shorthand to take verbatim notes of a preacher’s sermon, Robert Gregg sees the shorthand skill as a powerful asset, so he makes it mandatory for his children to learn Pitman shorthand, with the exception of John, who is considered by his family too “simple” to learn it. None of the children succeed in fully learning the system. On his own, John learns the shorthand system of Samuel Taylor. He teaches himself the system fully, since he does not require the ability to hear in order to learn from the book.

Gregg says he initially set out to improve the English adaptation by John Matthew Sloan of the French Duployan shorthand, while working with one of Sloan’s sales agents, Thomas Malone. Malone publishes a system called Script Phonography, of which Gregg asserts a share in authorship is owed to him. Angered by Malone, he resigns from working with him and, encouraged by his older brother Samuel, publishes and copyrights his own system of shorthand in 1888. It is put forth in a brochure entitled Light-Line Phonography: The Phonetic Handwriting which he publishes in Liverpool, England.

In 1893, Gregg emigrates to the United States. That year he publishes Gregg shorthand with great success. He settles in Chicago in 1895 and by 1896 dozens of American public schools are teaching Gregg shorthand. The first Gregg Shorthand Association is formed in Chicago that year with 40 members. In 1897 the Gregg Publishing Company is formed to publish shorthand textbooks.

By 1907 Gregg is so successful that he opens an office in New York and then moves there. The popularity of his shorthand system continues to grow with it being taught in 533 school systems by 1912. In 1914 the New York City Board of Education approves the experimental introduction of Gregg shorthand into its high schools, where the Pitman system had long held sway. That same year the system is admitted to Columbia University (New York) and the University of California, Berkeley.

After World War I, Gregg travels extensively throughout Great Britain, hoping to popularize his system there. He is not quite as successful in this endeavor as he had been in America, but he sees Gregg shorthand become wildly popular in France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and especially Latin America, where for years Gregg’s birthday is a national holiday.

Following his wife’s death in 1928 Gregg returns to New York. He throws himself into volunteer work and continues to perfect the Gregg system. Over the next several years he is the recipient of several honorary degrees from American educational institutions. At one such ceremony in June 1930 he renews his acquaintance with Janet Kinley, daughter of the president of the University of Illinois. The two are married in October of that year. They purchase a home in Cannondale, a historic section of Wilton, Connecticut.

In the 1930s Gregg begins writing a history of shorthand, the subject that had been his lifelong obsession. The first chapter is printed in 1933 and successive chapters follow at intervals until 1936. He devotes time to charitable work and institutes scholarships in the arts and in court reporting at his Chicago school. His voluntary work on behalf of Allied soldiers and British civilians during World War II wins recognition from King George VI, who awards him a medal for “Service in the Cause of Freedom” in 1947.

In December 1947 Gregg undergoes surgery from which he seems to recover well. However, on February 23, 1948, he suffers a heart attack and dies in Cannondale, Connecticut at the age of eighty.


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Birth of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, First Honorary Citizen of Ireland

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, mining engineer, philanthropist, art collector, and the first honorary citizen of Ireland (1957), is born in New York, New York, United States on February 7, 1875 on the site of what is now Rockefeller Center. He plays an important role in the development of copper deposits in Central Africa.

Beatty is the youngest of three sons born to Hetty and John Beatty, a banker and stockbroker. After studying engineering at the Columbia School of Mines and Princeton University, he helps to develop porphyry copper ores in the United States, first as a consulting engineer and later as a director on the boards of several copper-mining firms. In 1913 he relinquishes his mining interests in the United States and settles in Great Britain, becoming a naturalized British subject in 1933. In 1921 he forms a prospecting company that initiates the development of the Copperbelt region of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). For this, he becomes known as the “King of Copper.”

An early family anecdote recalls that, as a young boy, Beatty catches the collection bug, bidding at auction for mining samples. In 1931 an announcement in London‘s The Times casts him as a great collector. Between 1939 and 1949 he acquires over 140 nineteenth-century paintings to display in the Picture Gallery of his London home. These are now part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland.

Beatty supports the war effort, contributing a large amount of raw materials to the Allies. He receives a belated knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1954 Birthday Honours list for his contribution to the wartime effort. By the late 1940s, however, he has become disillusioned with Britain. Political deviations from his free-market values, coupled with increased foreign exchange restrictions impacted both his personal and collecting interests in Britain.

In 1950, at the age of 75, Beattys over the reins of Selection Trust to his son Chester Jr. and relocates to Dublin. He purchases a large townhouse for himself on Ailesbury Road, in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin and a site on Shrewsbury Road for the construction of the Chester Beatty Library, which houses the collection, opening on August 8, 1953. The library is moved to its current location at Dublin Castle in 2000.

Beatty spends the remainder of his life between Dublin and the south of France. He is made a Freeman of the City of Dublin in 1954 and is the first person granted honorary citizenship of Ireland in 1957. He continues to collect in the 1950s and 1960s, acquiring important Ethiopian manuscripts and Japanese printed material during that period.

Beatty dies in Monte Carlo in Monaco on January 19, 1968. His Irish estate is valued at £7 million. He is accorded a state funeral by the Irish government, the first private citizen in Irish history to receive such an honour. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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Birth of Gerry Robinson, Businessman & Television Presenter

Sir Gerrard Jude “Gerry” Robinson, Irish-born British business executive and television presenter, is born in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal on October 23, 1948. He is the former non-executive Chairman of Allied Domecq and the ex-Chairman/chief executive of Granada.

The ninth of ten children born to Anthony and Elizabeth Robinson, Robinson moves with his family to England in his early teens. He briefly trains to become a Catholic priest at St. Mary’s Missionary College of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Castlehead, Grange-over-Sands, Lancashire. He begins a career in accounting in 1965 as a clerk with the Matchbox toy company. While with the firm, he progresses through various accounting roles to become Chief Management Accountant in 1974. During that time he also qualifies as an Associate Chartered Management Accountant.

In 1974, Robinson leaves Matchbox to work for Lex Vehicle Leasing as a management accountant. He rises through the company and is ultimately appointed finance director. In 1980, he joins the UK franchise of Coca-Cola, owned at the time by Grand Metropolitan. In 1983 he is appointed managing director of Grand Metropolitan’s international services division. In 1987 he leads the successful £163m management buyout of the loss-making contract services and catering division of Compass Group, known as Compass Caterers. He joins Granada as CEO in 1991 and ousts Granada’s chairman, David Plowright, in 1992, which leads John Cleese to call Robinson “an upstart caterer.”

Robinson steers the company through various mergers, and hostile takeovers including London Weekend Television (1993) and Forte Group (1996). In 1999 he is the subject of a biography, Lord of the Dance, written by business journalist William Kay, and published by Orion Business Books. In 2005 he makes an unsuccessful attempt to oust Doug Flynn as CEO of Rentokil Initial and install himself as Executive chairman for a 5% stake in the company, then valued at £56M.

Robinson’s first foray into broadcasting is a revival of the BBC‘s Troubleshooter series, originally fronted by Sir John Harvey-Jones in the early 1990s. Titled I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss and co-produced by the Open University, in 2004 he goes into struggling businesses to try to turn them round by advice and mentoring.

In January 2007 following a similar format, he presents a three-part series, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? as he attempts to reduce waiting lists at Rotherham General Hospital. He returns a year later for a sequel, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? One Year On. In December 2009, he presents a programme in a similar format entitled Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?.

In June 2009 Robinson presents a special edition of The Money Programme entitled Gerry Robinson’s Car Crash investigating the history and future of the British motor industry. He regularly appears on British TV as a celebrity businessman. In July 2009 he starts a TV series called Gerry’s Big Decision, in which he reviews struggling companies and decides whether it is worth investing his own money to save them. From January 14 through February 18, 2011 he presents BBC Two show Can’t Take It with You, which helps people to write their wills.

Robinson also serves as chairman of the Arts Council England for six years from 1998, in which capacity he is one of the many victims of a spoof by British comedian Ali G. He has divorced and remarried and has four children. He lives in Raphoe, County Donegal and has established a botanical garden with a narrow-gauge railway – the Difflin Lake Railway – which is open to the public. He was knighted in the 2004 New Year Honours list.