seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Cavan O’Connor, “The Singing Vagabond”

Clarence Patrick O’Connor, British singer of Irish heritage known professionally as Cavan O’Connor, is born on July 1, 1899 in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, England. He is most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, when he is billed as “The Singing Vagabond” or “The Vagabond Lover.”

O’Connor is born to parents of Irish origin. His father dies when he is young, and he leaves school at an early age to work in the printing trade. He serves in World War I as a gunner and signaler in the Royal Artillery, after first being rejected by the Royal Navy when it is discovered that he had pretended to be three years older than his real age. He is wounded in the war, aged 16, while serving with the Royal Artillery. After the war he returns to Nottingham where he works in a music shop. He starts singing in clubs and at concerts, before deciding to turn professional in the early 1920s.

O’Connor wins a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he meets his wife, Rita Tate (real name Margherita Odoli), a niece of the opera singer Maggie Teyte. He makes his first recordings, as Cavan O’Connor, for the Vocalion label in 1925, including “I’m Only a Strolling Vagabond” from the operetta The Cousin from Nowhere, which becomes his signature song. Noted for his fine tenor voice, well suited for recording, he appears on many British dance band recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, and uses a wide variety of pseudonyms, including Harry Carlton, Terence O’Brien, and Allan O’Sullivan. He also joins Nigel Playfair‘s revue company at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, before moving on to playing lead roles in opera productions at The Old Vic, often performing in French, Italian and Spanish.

O’Connor turns increasingly toward light entertainment, largely for financial reasons. He starts appearing in variety shows around the country, often performing Irish folk songs. Having made his first radio broadcasts for BBC Radio in 1926, he continues to feature occasionally, but makes his breakthrough when he is billed, initially anonymously, as “The Strolling Vagabond” and “The Vagabond Lover” on a series of radio programmes produced by Eric Maschwitz in 1935. This is the first British radio series based around a solo singer, and when it becomes known that he is the performer, makes him a star, “one of Britain’s highest paid radio personalities.” The series continues for over ten years. From 1946, his Sunday lunchtime radio series, The Strolling Vagabond, is heard by up to 14 million listeners.

O’Connor consistently tours and continues to broadcast regularly. During World War II he settles in Bangor, Gwynedd, north Wales, and regularly appears on the Irish Half Hour radio programmes. His most popular songs include “The World Is Mine Tonight,” written for O’Connor by Maschwitz and George Posford, “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen,” an American song widely assumed to be Irish. He records frequently for at least 15 record labels over his career, including Decca Records, at one point recording 40 songs in five days. He makes over 800 recordings in total, both under his own name and pseudonyms, and also appears in two films, Ourselves Alone (1936) and Under New Management (known in the U.S. as Honeymoon Hotel, 1946).

After the war, O’Connor returns to live in London, and tours in Australia and South Africa as well as in Don Ross‘s Thanks for the Memory tours. He retires at one point to set up an electrical goods business, but then resumes his music career in the Avonmore Trio with his wife and son, to give occasional performances and make recordings, the last in 1984.

O’Connor dies at the age of 97 in London on January 11, 1997.


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Death of Irish American Actor Gregory Peck

Actor Gregory Peck dies at his home in Los Angeles, California, from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 on June 12, 2003.

Peck is born in La Jolla, California on April 5, 1916 to Bernice Mary (Ayres) and Gregory Pearl Peck, a chemist and pharmacist in San Diego. Through his Irish-born paternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, Peck is related to Thomas Ashe, who takes part in the Easter Rising fewer than three weeks after Peck’s birth and dies while on hunger strike in 1917.

Peck’s parents divorce when he is five years old. An only child, he is sent to live with his grandmother. He never feels as though he has a stable childhood. His fondest memories are of his grandmother taking him to the movies every week and of his dog, which follows him everywhere.

At the age of ten Peck is sent to a Catholic military school, St. John’s Military Academy in Los Angeles. While he is a student there, his grandmother dies. At 14, he moves back to San Diego to live with his father and attends San Diego High School. After graduating he enrolls for one year at San Diego State Teacher’s College (now known as San Diego State University).

Peck studies pre-med at the University of California, Berkeley and while there is bitten by the acting bug and decides to change the focus of his studies. He enrolls in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City and debuts on Broadway after graduation. His debut is in Emlyn Williams‘ play The Morning Star (1942). By 1943, he is in Hollywood, where he debuts in the RKO Pictures film Days of Glory (1944).

Stardom comes with Peck’s next film, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), for which he is nominated for an Academy Award. Peck’s screen presence displays the qualities for which he becomes well known. He is tall, rugged and heroic, with a basic decency that transcends his roles. He appears in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound (1945) as an amnesia victim accused of murder. In The Yearling (1946), he is again nominated for an Academy Award and wins the Golden Globe Award. He is especially effective in westerns and appears in such varied fare as David O. Selznick‘s critically blasted Duel in the Sun (1946), the somewhat better received Yellow Sky (1948) and the acclaimed The Gunfighter (1950). He is nominated again for the Academy Award for his roles in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), which deals with antisemitism, and Twelve O’Clock High (1949), a story of high-level stress in an Air Force bomber unit in World War II.

With a string of hits to his credit, Peck makes the decision to only work in films that interest him. He continues to appear as the heroic, larger-than-life figures in such films as Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) and Moby Dick (1956). He works with Audrey Hepburn in her debut film, Roman Holiday (1953).

Peck finally wins the Oscar, after four nominations, for his performance as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). In the early 1960s, he appears in two darker films than he usually makes, Cape Fear (1962) and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), which deal with the way people live. He also gives a powerful performance as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961), one of the biggest box-office hits of that year.

In the early 1970s, Peck produces two films, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972) and The Dove (1974), when his film career stalled. He makes a comeback playing, somewhat woodenly, Robert Thorn in the horror film The Omen (1976). After that, he returns to the bigger-than-life roles he is best known for, such as MacArthur (1977) and the monstrous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele in the huge hit The Boys from Brazil (1978). In the 1980s, he moves into television with the miniseries The Blue and the Gray (1982) and The Scarlet and the Black (1983). In 1991, he appears in the remake of his 1962 film, playing a different role, in Martin Scorsese‘s Cape Fear (1991). He is also cast as the progressive-thinking owner of a wire and cable business in Other People’s Money (1991).

In 1967, Peck receives the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Always politically progressive, he is active in such causes as anti-war protests, workers’ rights and civil rights. In 2003, Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch is named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.

Peck dies in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles, California from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 on June 12, 2003. He is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles. His eulogy is read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.


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Birth of Tony Award Nominated Actor Milo O’Shea

Milo Donal O’Shea, Irish actor twice nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performances in Staircase (1968) and Mass Appeal (1982), is born in Dublin on June 2, 1926.

O’Shea is raised in Dublin and educated by the Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS, along with his friend Donal Donnelly. His father is a singer and his mother a ballet teacher. Because he is bilingual, he performs in English-speaking theatres and in Irish in the Abbey Theatre Company. At age 12, he appears in George Bernard Shaw‘s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Gate Theatre. He later studies music and drama at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and is a skilled pianist.

O’Shea is discovered in the 1950s by Harry Dillon, who runs the 37 Theatre Club on the top floor of his shop, the Swiss Gem Company, 51 Lower O’Connell Street, Dublin. Early in his career he tours with the theatrical company of Anew McMaster.

O’Shea begins acting on the stage, then moves into film in the 1960s. He becomes popular in the United Kingdom, as a result of starring in the BBC sitcom Me Mammy alongside Yootha Joyce. In 1967–68 he appears in the drama Staircase, co-starring Eli Wallach and directed by Barry Morse, which stands as Broadway‘s first depiction of homosexual men in a serious light. For his role in that drama, he is nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1968.

O’Shea stars as Leopold Bloom in Joseph Strick‘s 1967 film version of Ulysses. Among his other memorable film roles in the 1960s are the well-intentioned Friar Laurence in Franco Zeffirelli‘s Romeo and Juliet (1968) and the villainous Dr. Durand Durand in Roger Vadim‘s counterculture classic Barbarella (1968). In 1984, he reprises his role as Dr. Durand Durand, credited as Dr. Duran Duran, for the 1985 Duran Duran concert film Arena (An Absurd Notion), since his character inspired the band’s name. He plays Inspector Boot in the 1973 Vincent Price horror/comedy film Theatre of Blood.

O’Shea is active in American films and television, such as his memorable supporting role as the trial judge in the Sidney Lumet-directed movie The Verdict (1982) with Paul Newman, an episode of The Golden Girls in 1987, and portraying Chief Justice of the United States Roy Ashland in the television series The West Wing. In 1992, he guest stars in the season 10 finale of the sitcom Cheers, and, in 1995, in an episode of the show’s spin-off Frasier. He appears in the pilot episode of Early Edition as Sherman.

Other stage appearances include Mass Appeal (1981) in which he originates the role of Father Tim Farley, for which he is nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1982, the musical Dear World in which he plays the Sewer Man opposite Angela Lansbury as Countess Aurelia, Corpse! (1986) and a 1994 Broadway revival of Philadelphia, Here I Come!.

O’Shea receives an honorary degree from Quinnipiac University in 2010.

O’Shea’s first wife is Maureen Toal, an Irish actress, with whom he has two sons, Colm and Steven. They divorce in 1974. His second wife is Irish actress Kitty Sullivan, whom he meets in Italy, where he is filming Barbarella and she is auditioning for Man of La Mancha. The couple occasionally act together, such as in a 1981 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady. O’Shea and Sullivan have no children together. They both adopt United States citizenship and reside in New York City, where they both live from 1976.

O’Shea dies on April 2, 2013, in New York City following a short illness at the age of 86. He is buried at Deans Grange Cemetery.


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Birth of Roma Downey, Actress, Producer & Author

Roma Downey, actress, producer, and author, is born in the Bogside district of Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on May 6, 1960.

Downey attends Thornhill College, a Catholic girls school. Her mother, Maureen O’Reilly Downey, a homemaker with an interest in the performing arts, dies of a heart attack at age 48 when Downey is 10 years old. Her father, Patrick Downey, is a schoolteacher by training but works as a mortgage broker. He dies when Downey is 20. Originally, she plans to be a painter and earns a Bachelor of Arts at Brighton College of Art. She studies BA(Hons) Expressive Arts at Brighton Polytechnic, which later becomes the University of Brighton. Based at the Falmer campus she combines Art and Drama for her degree.

Downey joins the Abbey Players in Dublin and tours the United States in a production of The Playboy of the Western World. She moves to New York after an agent, whom she met during the tour of The Playboy of the Western World, suggests she has potential for success there. She takes a job as a coat checker at an Upper West Side restaurant before getting cast in Broadway shows. The production leads to a nomination during the Broadway run for the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress in 1991. She also stars on Broadway in The Circle with Rex Harrison and also at the Roundabout Theater and The Public Theater in New York City.

For nine seasons Downey plays Monica, the tender-hearted angel and employee of Tess (played by Della Reese), on the CBS television series Touched by an Angel (1994-2003), for which she earns multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Best Actress nominations. She plays the leading role of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the miniseries A Woman Named Jackie for NBC.

Downey stars in and is executive producer for a number of hit television movies for the CBS network. She is an ambassador for Operation Smile, a nonprofit medical service organization. On August 11, 2016 she is honored for her work as an actress and producer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In her acceptance speech, she dedicates her star to the people of Derry and anyone who ever “walked Hollywood Boulevard with a dream in their hearts.”

As President of Lightworkers Media, the family and faith division of MGM, Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, produce the Emmy-nominated miniseries The Bible for History channel, which airs in 2013 and is watched by over 100 million people in the United States. She also stars in the miniseries in the role of Mary, mother of Jesus. They also executive-produce the feature films Son of God (2014), Little Boy (2015), Woodlawn (2015), and Ben-Hur (2016) starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Morgan Freeman.

Variety recognizes Downey and Burnett as “Trailblazers” and lists Downey as one of Variety’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Hollywood.” The Hollywood Reporter includes the couple in their “Most Influential People of 2013” and Downey as one of the “100 Women in Entertainment Power” in 2014. She is honored on Variety‘s “Women of Impact in 2014.” Downey and Burnett also produce The Dovekeepers (2015) based on the best selling book by Alice Hoffman for CBS and A.D. The Bible Continues (2015) for NBC, Women of the Bible for Lifetime, and Answered Prayers (2015) for TLC. Downey is the executive producer of the documentary “Faithkeepers” about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

Downey is the author of two books, Love Is a Family (2001) and Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessing All Around Us (2018).


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Birth of Jimmy O’Dea, Actor & Comedian

Jimmy O’Dea, Irish actor and comedian, is born at 11 Lower Bridge Street, Dublin, on April 26, 1899.

O’Dea, born James Augustine O’Dea, is one of eleven children of James O’Dea, an ironmonger, and Martha O’Gorman, who keeps a small toy shop. His father has a shop in Capel Street. He is educated at the Irish Christian Brothers O’Connell School in North Richmond Street, Dublin, where a classmate is future Taoiseach Seán Lemass, by the Holy Ghost Fathers at Blackrock College, and by the Jesuits at Belvedere College. From a young age he is interested in taking to the stage. He co-founds an amateur acting group, the Kilronan Players, in 1917, but his father will not hear of it. He is apprenticed to an optician in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he qualifies as an optician.

O’Dea returns to Dublin where, at age 21, he sets up his own business which he eventually gives to his sister, Rita. In his spare time he takes part in amateur productions of Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. From 1920 he is in the Irish theatre in Hardwicke Street working with actor-producer John MacDonagh. In 1922 he makes a series of comedy films for Norman Whitten. After working in plays by George Bernard Shaw for a few years he rejoins MacDonagh in revues, the first of which, Dublin To-Night, is produced at the Queen’s Theatre, Dublin in 1924. In 1927 he takes to the stage full-time. In 1928, the company’s first production Here We Are wins international acclaim, and in December of the same year it produces its first Christmas Pantomime, Sinbad the Sailor.

O’Dea forms a partnership with Harry O’Donovan whom he first meets in a production of You Never Can Tell in 1924. Their first show is Look Who’s Here at Queen’s Theatre. For more than two decades beginning in 1929 the duo produces two shows a year in Dublin, first in the Olympia Theatre, then in the Gaiety Theatre. They create O’Dea’s most famous character, Mrs. Biddy Mulligan. The role draws on O’Dea’s previous manifestations as “Dames” in Variety performances and pantomimes. Biddy Mulligan is the representation (caricature, parody and stereotype) of a Dublin street-seller, with all the working-class repartee, wisdom and failings implicit. He makes a number of recordings of sketches starring Mrs. Mulligan. Biddy Mulligan is referenced in many Dublin music hall songs such as “Biddy Mulligan the Pride of the Coombe,” “Daffy the Belle of the Coombe” and “The Charladies’ Ball.”

O’Dea makes some film appearances, such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) in which he plays King Brian of the little people and Johnny Nobody (1961). He also has a successful career in pantomime and tours Ireland and England many times, and is much associated with actress Maureen Potter, with whom he often partners.

O’Dea is also a prolific songwriter in his day. Many of his songs are still well known to this day, some of them having been sung and recorded by Dublin singer Frank Harte.

O’Dea marries Ursula Doyle, a theatrical impresario, in September 1959 with Seán Lemass standing in as best man and Maureen Potter as the bridesmaid. O’Dea had been best man at Lemass’s wedding in 1924.

Jimmy O’Dea dies at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, at age 65, on January 7, 1965. Seán Lemass, at the time Taoiseach, gives the valedictory oration at his funeral. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


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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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Birth of Irish Entertainer Adèle King

Adèle King, Irish entertainer better known as Twink, is born on April 4, 1951 in Dublin. She is the mother of singer Chloë Agnew from the group Celtic Woman.

King begins singing and acting at the age of five. She is a Gaiety Kiddie and works in pantomime with performers such as Jimmy O’Dea, Milo O’Shea and Maureen Potter. She is also a Young Dublin Singer, from which is formed the trio Maxi, Dick and Twink.

King spends more than 30 years in Dublin’s theatres, 26 years in the Gaiety Theatre, two years in the Point Theatre and five years in the Olympia Theatre. At the Olympia Theatre she co-produces and co-writes much of the shows. She has been described as Ireland’s “Panto Queen.” She has roles in a number of theatrical productions in Ireland, including Dirty Dusting at the Gaiety Theatre and Menopause: The Musical.

King appears on Irish television regularly since the late 1960s. She stars in her own series Twink on RTÉ. She spends ten years on Play the Game, and makes many appearances as a guest on a wide range of programmes, including RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, being the subject of a tribute on that show in 2005. She also is the subject of a weekend visit by the television programme Livin’ with Lucy with Lucy Kennedy.

In 1993 King is the guest act at a Christmas concert by Perry Como at Dublin’s Point Theatre, televised to a worldwide audience of 880 million. In 2003 she takes part in RTÉ’s Celebrity Farm and in 2011 she wins TV3‘s Celebrity Head Chef, receiving €10,000 for charity as a result.

King has written an agony aunt page for the Irish magazine TV Now. In 2011, she is given an agony aunt programme on TV3 called Give Adele a Bell. However, after a delay, the programme is cancelled in June 2012 without an episode being made. She wins a Jacob’s Award for her performance in her 1981 Christmas Light Entertainment Special on RTÉ2.

King establishes a performance school in the summer of 2002, the Adèle King Theatre School in Castleknock and Greenhills. Pupils of the school have appeared on television, in films, and in commercials in Ireland and abroad. The school does not re-open for the 2008 autumn term.

King marries oboist David Agnew in 1983 and has two children, Chloë in 1989, who sings with the group Celtic Woman, and Naomi in 1993. The marriage ends after 21 years, in October 2004.

King describes the Irish singer Linda Martin as a “cunt” during a tirade in May 2010. The two had been friends for 30 years but afterwards both say they have no plans to speak to each other again.

King has pet dogs, cats, birds, and a donkey. She lives with her daughters in Knocklyon, Dublin. In April 2015 it is reported that she and her ex-husband face a bid by the Bank of Scotland to repossess a house which is mortgaged in both their names. The application for possession against King had already previously been adjourned by the court.

In September 2014 it is widely reported across major Irish media outlets that King’s dog, Teddy Bear, had been kidnapped. Commenting on the events, she is quoted describing Linda Martin as being “a very powerful woman in the dog world” and that the kidnapping marked her own personal “Erin Brockovich moment.” On September 24 she is reunited with her dog after a public tip-off leads to the police arrest of a man in Dublin.

(Photo credit to Crispin Rodwell, The Sun Dublin)


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Launch of Irish Language Radio Station RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, abbreviated RnaG, an Irish language radio station owned and operated by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), goes on the air for the first time on April 2, 1972, launched by President Éamon de Valera. The station is available on FM in Ireland and via satellite and on the Internet. The station’s main-headquarters are in Casla, County Galway with major studios also in Gweedore, County Donegal and Dingle, County Kerry.

After the Irish Free State is formed and the Irish Civil War is concluded, the new state sets up a single radio channel named 2RN in 1926, launched by Douglas Hyde. The channel, operating out of Dublin, largely serves the Anglosphere population and at best reaches as far as County Tipperary, a situation that does not change until more powerful transmitters are adopted in the 1930s at Athlone.

In 1943, de Valera, at the time serving as Taoiseach and whose wife Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin is a keen Conradh na Gaeilge activist, promotes the idea of a Gaeltacht station, but there is no breakthrough. By this time, 2RN has become Radio Éireann and still only has one channel, with limited broadcasting hours, often in competition for listeners with BBC Radio and Radio Luxembourg.

In the 1950s, a general liberalisation and commercialisation, indeed Americanisation begins to occur in Ireland, as a push is made to move Ireland from a rural-agrarian society with a protectionist cultural policy towards a market economy basis, with supply and demand the primarily basis of public communications. In 1960, RTÉ is established and direct control of communications moves from a government ministry position to a non-governmental RTÉ Director-General position, first filled by Edward Roth

In the late 1960s, a civil rights movement in the Gaeltacht emerges, seeking development and services for Irish speakers, including a radio service. Out of the Gluaiseacht Chearta Siabhialta na Gaeltachta‘s advocacy comes the pirate radio station Saor Raidió Chonamara in 1970. This sets the subsequent discourse for Irish language and Gaeltacht issues as a civil rights and minority rights imperative.

Gerry Collins, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, announces in Dáil Éireann in February 1971 that a new radio station for the Gaeltacht will be created. Raidió na Gaeltachta begins broadcasting at 3:00 PM on April 2, 1972 as part of an Easter Sunday programming. During the very first broadcast, the main station at Casla, County Galway is not yet finished and the studios in County Kerry and County Donegal are still under construction, so the broadcast originates from Galway. The first Ceannaire (Controller) Pádraic Ó Raghallaigh opens the show, which is followed by a recording from President Éamon de Valera. A recording of Seán Ó Riada‘s Irish language Mass, Ceol an Aifrinn, from the Seipéal Mhic Dara at Carraroe is also played.

At foundation, the station begins with a staff of seven, including six former teachers and a businessman, and broadcasts for only two hours a day and is only available in or near the three largest Gaeltacht districts. The local studio at Derrybeg in Gweedore, County Donegal aids the native Irish music scene there. In the 1970s, Raidió na Gaeltachta gives early coverage to Clannad and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, later the singer for Altan. These groups gain popularity not only in Ireland, but on the international stage, selling millions of records during the 1980s especially. The station is dedicated to bringing the listener general news, both national and international, as well as Gaelic sports coverage and more localised affairs of significance to the community in the Gaeltacht.

For many years RnaG is the only Irish language broadcaster in the country. In recent years it has been joined by a television service, Telefís na Gaeilge (TG4), and by regional community radio stations Raidió na Life in Dublin, Raidió Fáilte in Belfast, and Raidió Rí-Rá.


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Birth of Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Horse Racing Commentator

Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Irish-British horse racing commentator for the BBC, and a correspondent for the Press Association, the Daily Express, and Today, is born Newcastle, County Down on March 3, 1918. He is the BBC’s leading horse racing commentator from 1947 to 1997, during which time he describes some of the greatest moments in the history of the Grand National.

O’Sullevan is the son of Colonel John Joseph O’Sullevan DSO, resident magistrate at Killarney, and Vera (née Henry). As an infant, the family returns to his parents’ home at Kenmare, County Kerry and he is raised in Surrey, England. He is educated at Hawtreys Preparatory School, Charterhouse School, and later at Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil in Switzerland.

In the late 1940s O’Sullevan is involved in some of the earliest television commentaries on any sport, and makes many radio commentaries in his earlier years (including the Grand National before it is televised for the first time in 1960). On television, he commentates on many of the major events of the racing year, including the Cheltenham Festival until 1994, The Derby until 1979, and the Grand National, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood until he retires in 1997. During his career, he commentates on around 30 runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris and racing from the United States and Ireland as well as trotting from Rome during the 1960s.

During his 50 years of commentating on the Grand National, O’Sullevan commentates on numerous historic victories. These include Bob Champion‘s run on Aldaniti in 1981 after recovering from cancer, 100/1 outsider Foinavon‘s win in 1967, and the three-times winner Red Rum in 1973, 1974 and 1977. He also commentates on the 1993 Grand National, which is declared void after 30 of the 39 runners fail to realise there had been a false start, and seven go on to complete the course. As the runners approach the second-last fence in the so-called “race that never was,” O’Sullevan declares it “the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National.”

O’Sullevan becomes known as the “Voice of Racing.” In a television interview before his 50th and last Grand National in 1997, he reveals that his commentary binoculars came from a German submarine. He is knighted the same year – the only sports broadcaster at the time to have been bestowed that honour. He is also a racehorse owner, including of Be Friendly, who wins the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot, and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. He is twice successful in the Haydock Sprint Cup (then Vernons Sprint) in 1966 and 1967. Another horse he owns is Attivo, whose victory in the 1974 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is described by O’Sullevan as the most difficult race to call.

Attivo also wins the Chester Cup and the Northumberland Plate during the 1970s. O’Sullevan’s final race commentary comes at Newbury Racecourse for the 1997 Hennessy Gold Cup, and he visits the winners’ enclosure as a winning owner in the race which follows courtesy of Sounds Fyne’s victory in the Fulke Walwyn Chase. He is succeeded as the BBC’s lead commentator by Jim McGrath.

After his retirement, O’Sullevan is actively involved in charity work, fundraising for causes which revolve around the protection of horses and farm animals, including the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre and Compassion in World Farming. The National Hunt Challenge Chase Cup (run at the Cheltenham Festival) is named after him in 2008 to celebrate his 90th birthday. In 2010, Aintree Racecourse names O’Sullevan as one of the eight inaugural “Grand National Legends.” His name is inscribed on a commemorative plaque at the course, alongside the likes of Ginger McCain and Captain Martin Becher.

O’Sullevan meets his wife Patricia, daughter of Frank Duckworth of Manitoba, Canada, at a ball in Manchester in 1947. She dies of Alzheimer’s disease in 2010.

O’Sullevan dies of cancer at his home in London on July 29, 2015.


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Death of Author Benedict “Ben” Kiely

Benedict “Ben” Kiely, Irish writer and broadcaster, dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.

Kiely is born in Dromore, County Tyrone on August 15, 1919, the youngest of six children. In 1920, the family moves from Dromore to Omagh. After living for a short time in Castle Street and Drumragh, the family finally settles in St. Patrick’s Terrace in the Gallows Hill area of Omagh. This area is to be a lasting inspiration for Kiely.

Kiely begins to feel the urge to become a writer during his teenage years. He has a keen interest in the work of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Jonathan Swift. In 1936, after completing his education at Mount St. Columba Christian Brothers School in Omagh, he goes to work as a sorting clerk in the Omagh Post Office.

However, Kiely soon realises that the post office will not provide him with the life of the scholar which he so desires. In the spring of 1937, he leaves Omagh and begins a new life in Emo Park, Portarlington, County Laois, where he decides to train as a Jesuit priest. His life as a Jesuit is not meant to be for, exactly a year later, in the spring of 1938, he suffers a serious spinal injury, which results in a lengthy stay in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas, Dublin. During his hospitalisation, he is given plenty of time to think about the course his life has already taken, and about a course it might take. He also realises that he lacks a vocation to the priesthood and abandons his training as a Jesuit.

When Kiely gets out of hospital in 1939, he returns to Omagh to recover from his back problem. The following year, he begins working as a part-time journalist in the weekly Catholic Standard newspaper. In 1943, he graduates from National University of Ireland with a B.A. in History and Letters.

In 1945, Kiely begins working for the Irish Independent, where he is employed as a journalist and critic. In 1950, he joins The Irish Press as a literary editor. In 1964, he moves to the United States where, over a period of four years, he is a Writer-in-Residence at Emory University, visiting professor at the University of Oregon, and Writer-in-Residence at Hollins College (Virginia). In 1968, he returns to Ireland. In the spring of 1976, he is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware. He continues to receive acclaim for his writing and journalism, a career which spans over six decades, receiving the Award for Literature from the Irish Academy of Letters. By now, he is one of Ireland’s best known writers. In 1996, he is named Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour given by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Kiely visits Omagh in 2001 which is marked by the unveiling of a plaque outside his childhood home on Gallows Hill by Omagh’s Plain Speaking Community Arts group. Every September an event is held in Omagh called The Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend to celebrate his many achievements.

Benedict Kiely dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.