seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Irish Billionaire Tony Ryan

tony-ryanThomas Anthony “Tony” Ryan, Irish billionaire, philanthropist and businessman, is born in Thurles, County Tipperary on February 2, 1936. He works for Aer Lingus, before going on to found their aircraft leasing arm, wet-leasing out their aircraft in the quieter winter months.

In 1975, with Aer Lingus and the Guinness Peat Group, Ryan founds Guinness Peat Aviation (later GPA Group), an aircraft leasing company, with a $50,000 investment. GPA grows to be the world’s biggest aircraft lessor, worth $4 billion at its peak. However its value dramatically collapses in 1992 after the cancellation of its planned IPO.

Ryan makes €55m from the sale of AerFi, the successor to GPA, in 2000. In 2001, he acquires Castleton Farm near Lexington, Kentucky from the Van Lennep Family Trust. He renames it Castleton Lyons and undertakes renovations to the property while returning to its original roots as a thoroughbred operation. He is a tax exile who lives in Monte Carlo, but also owns a stud farm near his home in Dolla, County Tipperary. He is the 7th wealthiest individual from Ireland in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 with over €1.5bn(£1bn).

Ryan is best known in the public mind as the founder of the eponymous Ryanair with Christopher Ryan and Liam Lonergan. Ryanair is believed to be the main source of his wealth in later life. Ryanair is now one of the biggest airlines in Europe and is valued at over 15 billion Euros as of December 2019.

Ryan over the years helps nurture two successful business protégés, Denis O’Brien and Michael O’Leary, both of whom become billionaires.

Ryan holds honorary doctorates from several universities, including Trinity College, Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick.

Ryan is an active and innovative funder of university education in Ireland. He donates a marine science institute to NUI Galway in 1993 which is named the Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute in honour of his father. He shows interest in marine science and aquaculture development in the west of Ireland. He also funds The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the Citywest park, that is run by Dublin City University.

At the time of his death Ryan owns 16% of Tiger Airways, a discount carrier based in Singapore which is founded in December 2003.

Ryan dies on October 3, 2007 at Celbridge, County Kildare following an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. His eldest son, Cathal, dies just three months later, aged 48, after being diagnosed with cancer.


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Groundbreaking for the West Clare Railway

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIE_F502_(17156275240).jpgCharles Stewart Parnell turns the first sod for the construction of the West Clare Railway (WCR) on January 27, 1885, although actual work on the line had begun in November 1884. The line is opened on July 2, 1887.

At the end of the Great Famine there is a new growth in local businesses. The British Government determines that an improved railway system is necessary to aid in the recovery of the West of Ireland. The West Clare Railway and the South Clare Railway are built by separate companies, but in practice the West Clare Railway operates the entire line. The lines meet at Milltown Malbay. In due course the entire line becomes known as the West Clare Railway.

The West Clare Railway originally operates in County Clare between 1887 and 1961. The 3-foot narrow gauge railway runs from the county town of Ennis, via numerous stopping points along the West Clare coast to two termini, at Kilrush and Kilkee, with the routes diverging at Moyasta Junction. The system is the last operating narrow gauge passenger system in Ireland and connects with the mainline rail system at Ennis, where a station still stands today for bus and train services to Limerick and Galway. Intermediate stops include Ennistymon, Lahinch and Milltown Malbay.

On 27 September 27, 1960, CIÉ gives notice of its intending closure with effect from February 1, 1961, despite the dieselisation of passenger services in 1952 and freight in 1953. CIÉ says that the West Clare is losing £23,000 per year, despite the considerable traffic it handles. In December 1960 it is announced that the line would close completely on January 1, 1961 although actual closure does not take place until January 31, 1961. CIÉ begins dismantling the line the following day.

A preservation society maintains a railway museum at Moyasta Junction station, and successfully re-opens a section of the railway as a passenger carrying heritage line with diesel traction in the 1990s, and with steam motive power from 2009.


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The Allihies Copper Mine Museum

engine-house-allihiesOn January 7, 2000, experts underline the important heritage value of a 19th Century relic that stands on the site of a disused copper mine. A conservation appeal is launched to safeguard a unique engine house at a mountain mine in the Beara peninsula. A rare surviving symbol of Cornish type mining technology, the structure is the primary surviving embodiment of a once thriving copper mining industry in Allihies, County Cork.

The industrial mines in Allihies date back to 1812, when they are first opened by John Puxley. Mining activity reaches its peak there in 1845, when the mines employ around 1,600 people, after which the mines suffer with the local area during the Great Famine. The mines are operational until 1962, when they are finally closed. Large Cornish engine houses are constructed around the mining site, ruins of which survive today. These are used to pump out water to allow for deeper mining, and to transport miners and equipment down shafts that go below sea level. The site still contains a number of engine houses, mining shafts and a church. These are constructed by and for the Cornish miners who are brought to the area in the 1800s to mine copper ore. Once the mine becomes unprofitable, many of the miners emigrate to Butte, Montana.

The Allihies Copper Mine Museum (ACMM) is housed in a renovated Methodist church dating from 1845. It is officially opened by President Mary McAleese on September 13, 2007, after ten years of work by the Allihies Mines Co-op, a group that is formed to preserve the history of the area and mining heritage in the Allihies area, supported by the Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland.

The exhibitions cover all aspects of the history of copper mining in the area, from prehistoric times all the way up to the nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution. The displays also cover the local geology and the social history of the mining heritage. The collections contain examples of mining equipment and tools from the various eras of activity. The exhibition space is also used to display artworks, with local artists such as Charles Tyrrell, Cormac Boydell, Rachel Parry and Tim Goulding exhibiting there.

(Pictured: Engine House, Allihies by John Gibson, view of the 1862 house for the 36″-cylinder beam engine that powered the man-engine and winder on Mountain Mine)


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Birth of James Graham Fair, Mining Tycoon & U.S. Senator

james-graham-fair

James Graham Fair, banker, mining tycoon, and United States Senator from Nevada, is born in Clogher, County Tyrone on December 3, 1831. He is credited with discovering the Big Bonanza, one of the richest pockets of gold and silver on the Comstock Lode.

Born in what is now Northern Ireland in 1831 to Scotch-Irish parents, Fair immigrates with his family to the United States when he is a boy and grows up on a farm in Illinois. Following the 1849 California Gold Rush, he travels to California. He earns a reputation for understanding ore bodies, inspiring his eventual employment as superintendent of various mines.

The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada provides Fair with new opportunities. In 1865, he becomes superintendent of the prestigious Ophir Mine. Two years later, the Hale and Norcross Mine in Virginia City hire him as assistant superintendent, but the owners dismiss him within a year for unclear reasons.

While at the Hale and Norcross, Fair meets John William Mackay, whose success at the Kentuck Mine made him a millionaire. The two Irish immigrants recognize common interests and form an alliance. Mackay gives Fair the position of superintendent of the Rising Star Mine in Idaho, a property he had recently acquired. The venture proves unsuccessful, but it solidifies a working relationship between the two.

Fair works quietly with Mackay and investors James C. Flood and William S. O’Brien to obtain control of the Hale and Norcross Mine. Fair turns it to profit with better management. He and Mackay combine their expertise to acquire and explore other claims. In 1873, largely through Fair’s persistent search in the Consolidated California and Virginia Mine, the partnership discovers the famed Big Bonanza, one of the richest ore bodies in history. Fair and the others become extremely wealthy. He uses his assets to defeat the incumbent William Sharon for a seat in the United States Senate, which he holds in an undistinguished way from 1881-1887 as a Democrat.

Fair develops real estate in San Francisco and acquires mining property outside Nevada. Theresa Fair, his wife, is respected in Virginia City for donations to causes including those of the Catholic Church and the Daughters of Charity. When she divorces her husband in 1883 for habitual adultery, national public opinion turns against the senator. During his bid for reelection, he finds little support. Even Mackay fails to come to his aid, and he easily loses his seat to William Morris Stewart in 1887. He then moves back to San Francisco.

James Fair dies on December 28, 1894 in San Francisco of diabetes mellitus at the age of 63. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.


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The Munitions Strike

dublin-dock-strike-1920In May 1920, East London dockers refuse to load the SS Jolly George, a ship intended to carry arms to be used against the new Bolshevik state. The Munitions Strike begins in Dublin on May 20, 1920 when dock workers follow suit and refuse to handle war material. They are soon joined by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

When news of the proposed radical action is brought to trade unionist William O’Brien’s desk on May 19, he informs Thomas Foran, General President of the union. The following day, the men standing around waiting to begin work are told that the work is not to start.

On hearing of the political action at the Dublin docks, a second ship was diverted to Dun Laoghaire. There, the military are on hand to unload its cargo, but when the cargo arrives at Westland Row station, workers there refuse to handle the goods. While the dockworkers are casual workers who can be reallocated elsewhere, the railwaymen are permanent employers and members of the separate National Union of Railwaymen.

In the following days, the action taken in Dublin and Dun Laoghaire is replicated elsewhere. To sections of the conservative press, the behaviour of dockers and railwaymen is scandalous. The ever reliable Punch illustrated news produces a sketch in a June 1920 edition showing an IRA gunman hiding behind a rural wall, joined by a railway worker, or “the blameless accomplice.”

The brave stand that began on the docks of Dublin spreads nationwide, largely thanks to the militancy of railway workers. From arms in storage, the strike is widened to include the carrying of men holding arms representing Crown Forces.

The munitions strike is an effective tactic, proven by the infuriated responses to it from the upper-echelons of the British military and political class. In November, the British Government begins closing rail lines, including the Limerick to Waterford and Limerick to Tralee lines,as well as trains into Galway, which instigate a fear among the public that the Irish railway system could be shut down in its entirety.

In the absence of sympathetic strike action in Britain, and with increasingly vicious physical assaults on railwaymen, the Irish leadership feels increasingly vulnerable in the dispute, which eventually winds down in December.


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Birth of Walter Gordon Wilson, Co-inventor of the Tank

walter-gordon-wilsonMajor Walter Gordon Wilson, mechanical engineer, inventor and member of the British Royal Naval Air Service, is born in Blackrock, County Dublin, on April 21, 1874. He is credited by the 1919 Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors as the co-inventor of the tank, along with Sir William Tritton.

Wilson is a naval cadet on HMS Britannia. In 1894 he entered King’s College, Cambridge, where he studies the mechanical sciences tripos, graduating with a first-class degree, B.A., in 1897. He acts as ‘mechanic’ for the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls on several occasions while they are undergraduates in Cambridge.

Interested in powered flight, Wilson collaborates with Percy Sinclair Pilcher and the Hon. Adrian Verney-Cave to attempt to make an aero-engine from 1898. The engine is a flat-twin air-cooled and weighs only 40 lbs., but shortly before a demonstration flight planned for September 30, 1899 it suffers a crankshaft failure. Unwilling to let down his backers, Pilcher opts to demonstrate a glider, which crashes and he is fatally injured. The shock of Pilcher’s death ends Wilson’s plans for aero-engines.

Following Pilcher’s death, Wilson switches to building the Wilson–Pilcher motor car, which is launched in 1900. This car is quite remarkable in that it is available with either flat-four or flat-six engines, which are very well balanced, and with a low centre of gravity making good stability. Each water cooled cylinder is separate and identical for either engine. Cylinders are slightly offset with separate crankpins, and the crankshaft has intermediate bearings between each pair of cylinders.

The gearbox of the car is also novel, having dual epicyclic gears and being bolted directly to the engine. This allows four speeds, with direct drive in top gear. All the gears are helical, and enclosed in an oil bath, making for very silent transmission. Reverse gear is built into the rear axle, as is the foot operated brake drum, all of which are housed in a substantial aluminium casing.

After marrying in 1904 Wilson joins Armstrong Whitworth who takes over production of the Wilson-Pilcher car. From 1908 to 1914 he works with J & E Hall of Dartford designing the Hallford lorry which sees extensive service with the army during World War I.

The sole known surviving Wilson-Pilcher car is a four-cylinder version that is retained by the Amstrong Whitworth factory and after restoration in the 1940s is presented to W.G. Wilson in the 1950s. It stays in the Wilson family until 2012 when it is sold at auction to a private collector.

With the outbreak of World War I, Wilson rejoins the navy and the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division, which protects the Royal Naval Air Service in France. When the Admiralty begins investigating armoured fighting vehicles under the Landship Committee in 1915, 20 Squadron is assigned to it and Wilson is placed in charge of the experiments. He works with the agricultural engineer William Tritton resulting in the first British tank called “Little Willie.” At Wilson’s suggestion the tracks are extended right round the vehicle. This second design becomes the prototype for the Mark I tank.

Designing several of the early British tanks, Wilson incorporates epicyclic gearing which is used in the Mark V tank to allow it to be steered by a single driver rather than the four previously needed. In 1937, he provides a new steering design which gives a larger turning radius at higher speeds.

Wilson transfers to the British Army in 1916, becoming a Major in the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps. He is mentioned twice in dispatches and is appointed Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1917.

In 1928, Wilson invents a self-changing gearbox, and forms Improved Gears Ltd. with John Davenport Siddeley to develop the design commercially. Improved Gears later becomes Self-Changing Gears. The self-changing gearboxes are available on most subsequent Armstrong Siddeley automobiles, manufactured up to 1960, as well as on Daimler, Lanchester, Talbot, ERA, AC, Invicta and Riley automobiles as well as buses, railcars and marine launches.

Walter Gordon Wilson dies in Coventry, West Midlands, England on July 1, 1957.


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Barry’s Tea Centennial

barrys-teaOn April 4, 2001, former employees and staff join three generations of the Barry family in a celebration of 100 years in business for Barry’s Tea which has become an Irish institution.

Barry’s Tea is an Irish tea company founded in 1901 by James J. Barry in Cork, County Cork. In 1934, Anthony Barry, son of the founder, is awarded the Empire Cup for Tea Blending, confirming his expertise in the tea trade. Until the 1960s, the tea is only sold from a shop in Prince’s Street, but thereafter the company expands its wholesaling and distribution operations.

In 1960, Peter Barry, Anthony’s son, pioneers the concept of wholesaling tea and begins sourcing tea from East Africa. There is an incredible reaction to these new blends, and they become something of a Barry’s Tea signature.

By the mid-1980s Barry’s Tea has become a national brand. According to their website, www.barrystea.ie, they are currently responsible for 38% of all tea sales in the Irish market, which is worth an estimated €85 million annually. Today, Barry’s Tea is also available in the United Kingdom, Spain, and in some areas of Canada, Australia, France, Luxembourg and the United States where there are significant Irish immigrant communities.

Members of the Barry family have been elected representatives for Fine Gael: the founder’s son Anthony Barry (TD 1954–1957 and 1961–1965), Anthony’s son Peter Barry (TD 1969–1997) and Peter’s daughter Deirdre Clune (TD 1997–2001 and 2007–2011, and MEP since 2014).

In May 2018, it was revealed that many of Barry’s Tea teabags are made with polypropylene and are not compostable.