seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Brendan Kennelly, Poet & Novelist

Brendan Kennelly, Irish poet and novelist, is born in Ballylongford, County Kerry, on April 17, 1936. Now retired from teaching, he serves as Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin until 2005. Since his retirement he has been titled “Professor Emeritus” by Trinity College.

Kennelly is educated at the inter-denominational St. Ita’s College, Tarbert, County Kerry, and at Trinity College, Dublin where he edits the student literary magazine Icarus. He graduates from Trinity and writes his PhD thesis there. He also studies at Leeds University. Brendan is married for 18 years to Margaret (Peggy) O’Brien, a colleague in the English Department at Trinity College. They live together in Sandymount, Dublin, with daughter Doodle for 12 years before separating. Brendan and Peggy remain friends and Peggy is now remarried. Peggy is a published poet and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Kennelly’s poetry can be scabrous, down-to-earth and colloquial. He avoids intellectual pretension and literary posturing, and his attitude to poetic language can be summed up in the title of one of his epic poems, “Poetry my Arse.” A 400-page long epic poem, “The Book of Judas”, published in 1991, tops the Irish best-seller list.

A prolific and fluent writer, he has more than twenty books of poetry to his credit, including My Dark Fathers (1964), Collection One: Getting Up Early (1966), Good Souls to Survive (1967), Dream of a Black Fox (1968), Love Cry (1972), The Voices (1973), Shelley in Dublin (1974), A Kind of Trust (1975), Islandman (1977), A Small Light (1979) and The House That Jack Didn’t Build (1982).

Kennelly has edited several other anthologies, including “Between Innocence and Peace: Favourite Poems of Ireland” (1993), “Ireland’s Women: Writings Past and Present, with Katie Donovan and A. Norman Jeffares” (1994), and “Dublines,” with Katie Donovan (1995).

Kennelly has also written two novels, “The Crooked Cross” (1963) and “The Florentines” (1967), and three plays in a Greek Trilogy, Antigone, Medea and The Trojan Women.

Kennelly is an Irish language speaker, and has translated Irish poems in “A Drinking Cup” (1970) and “Mary” (Dublin 1987). A selection of his collected translations is published as “Love of Ireland: Poems from the Irish” (1989).

Language is important in Kennelly’s work – in particular the vernacular of the small and isolated communities in North Kerry where he grew up, and of the Dublin streets and pubs where he becomes both roamer and raconteur for many years. Kennelly’s language is also grounded in the Irish-language poetic tradition, oral and written, which can be both satirical and salacious in its approach to human follies.

Regarding the oral tradition, Kennelly is a great reciter of verse with tremendous command and the rare ability to recall extended poems by memory, both his own work and others, and recite them on call verbatim.

Kennelly has commented on his own use of language: “Poetry is an attempt to cut through the effects of deadening familiarity and repeated, mechanical usage in order to unleash that profound vitality, to reveal that inner sparkle. In the beginning was the Word. In the end will be the Word…language is a human miracle always in danger of drowning in a sea of familiarity.”


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Birth of Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo

richard-southwell-bourkeRichard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, statesman, Viceroy of India, and prominent member of the British Conservative Party from Dublin, is born in Dublin on February 21, 1822.

Mayo is the eldest son of Robert Bourke, 5th Earl of Mayo, and his wife, Anne Charlotte, daughter of the Hon. John Jocelyn. His younger brother, the Hon. Robert Bourke, is also a successful politician. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin.

After travelling in Russia, Mayo enters parliament for Kildare in 1847, a seat he holds until 1852, and then represents Coleraine from 1852 to 1857 and Cockermouth from 1857 to 1868. He is thrice appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland – in 1852, 1858, and 1866. In 1869 he becomes the fourth Viceroy of India where he is locally often referred to as “Lord Mayo.” He consolidates the frontiers of India and reorganises the country’s finances. He also does much to promote irrigation, railways, forests, and other useful public works. He establishes local boards to solve local problems. During his tenure, the first census takes place in 1872. The European-oriented Mayo College at Ajmer is founded by him for the education of young Indian chiefs, with £70,000 being subscribed by the chiefs themselves.

While visiting the convict settlement at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands in 1872 for the purpose of inspection, he is assassinated by Sher Ali Afridi, an Afridi Pathan convict who uses a knife. His murderer appears to be motivated only by a sense of injustice at his own imprisonment, and has resolved to kill a high-ranking colonial official. Mayo’s body is brought home to Ireland and buried at the medieval ruined church in Johnstown, County Kildare, near his home at Palmerstown House. Afridi is hanged.

In 1873, the newly discovered swallowtail butterfly Papilio mayo from the Andaman Islands is named in his honour. The traditional Irish march Lord Mayo (Tiagharna Mhaighe-eo) is named after him. According to tradition, it is composed by his harper David Murphy to appease Mayo after Murphy angered him.

lord-mayo-statueOn August 19, 1875 a statue of Lord Mayo is unveiled in the town of Cockermouth in the centre of the main street. The 800-guinea cost of the statue is raised by public subscription. The statue, carved in Sicilian marble, depicts Lord Mayo in his viceregal garb, and still stands today.

In 2007, a statue of Lord Mayo is unearthed in Jaipur, India, after being buried for six decades. The statue had previously been installed in the premises of Mayo Hospital, currently known as the Mahilya Chikatsalya, Jaipur. The 9-foot-tall cast-iron statue, weighing around 3 tons, was ordered sculpted by the Maharaja Ram Singh ji of Jaipur, as a tribute to Lord Mayo after his assassination. To prevent it from vandalism, the statue is buried in the premises of the Albert Hall Museum of Jaipur at the time of the independence of India. After six decades, the statue is unearthed by the Jaipur Mayo Alumni Chapter on May 29, 2007, and sent to Mayo College, in Ajmer, India, where it is installed. Mayo College in Ajmer already has a full life-size statue of Lord Mayo sculpted in white marble installed in front of its famous Main Building since inception and a marble sculpted bust of him in its School Museum.


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Death of Vergilius of Salzburg, Churchman & Astronomer

virgilius-of-salzburgVergilius of Salzburg, also known as Virgilius, Feirgil or Fergal, Irish churchman and early astronomer, dies on November 27, 784, in Salzburg, Austria. He serves as abbot of Aghaboe, bishop of Ossory and bishop of Salzburg. He is called “the Apostle of Carinthia” and “the geometer.”

He originates from a noble family of Ireland, where his name is Feirgil, and is said to have been a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Feirgil is likely educated at the Iona monastery.

In the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster he is mentioned as Abbot of Aghaboe, in County Laois, where he is known as “the Geometer” because of his knowledge of mathematics.

Around 745 Vergilius leaves Ireland, intending to visit the Holy land but, like many of his countrymen who seem to have adopted this practice as a work of piety, he settles down in France, where he is received with great favour by Pepin the Short, who is then Mayor of the Palace under Childeric III of Franconia. He serves as an adviser to Pepin. He probably uses a copy of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis, an Irish collection of canon law, to advise him to receive royal unction in 751, to assist his recognition as king Pippin III after the deposition of Childeric. After spending two years at Cressy, near Compiègne, he goes to Bavaria, at the invitation of Duke Odilo, where he founds the monastery of Chiemsee, and within a year or two is made Abbot of St. Peter’s at Salzburg. Among his notable accomplishments is the conversion of the Alpine Slavs and the dispatching of missionaries to Hungary.

While Abbot of St. Peter’s, Vergilius comes into collision with Saint Boniface. A priest, through ignorance, confers the Sacrament of Baptism using, in place of the correct formula, the words “Baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritu sancta.” Vergilius holds that the sacrament has been validly conferred, but Boniface complains to Pope Zachary. The latter, however, decides in favour of Vergilius. Later on, Boniface accuses Vergilius of spreading discord between himself and Duke Odilo of Bavaria and of teaching a doctrine in regard to the rotundity of the earth, which is “contrary to the Scriptures.” Pope Zachary’s decision in this case is that “if it shall be clearly established that he professes belief in another world and other people existing beneath the earth, or in another sun and moon there, thou art to hold a council, and deprive him of his sacerdotal rank, and expel him from the church.”

Unfortunately we no longer possess the treatise in which Vergilius expounds his doctrine. Two things, however, are certain: first, that there is involved the problem of original sin and the universality of redemption; secondly, that Vergilius succeeds in freeing himself from the charge of teaching a doctrine contrary to Scripture. It is likely that Boniface, already biased against Vergilius because of the preceding case, misunderstands him, taking it for granted, perhaps, that if there are antipodes, the “other race of men” are not descendants of Adam and are not redeemed by Christ.

After the martyrdom of Boniface, Vergilius is made Bishop of Salzburg in 766 or 767. Until his death in 784, he labours successfully for the upbuilding of his diocese as well as for the spread of Christianity in neighbouring heathen countries, especially in Carinthia.

Vergilius is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1233 he is formally canonized by Pope Gregory IX. Aside from being personally associated with Abbey of Aghaboe and Salzburg Cathedral, a number of parishes around the world are dedicated to him, mostly being founded by small populations of far-flung Irish Catholics, like himself. There is a church still bearing his name dedicated to him in Broad Channel, Queens, New York. A parish in Morris Plains, New Jersey is also dedicated to him.


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Birth of Catholic Teetotalist Reformer Theobald Mathew

theobald-mathewTheobald Mathew, Irish Catholic teetotalist reformer popularly known as Father Mathew and “The Apostle of Temperance,” is born at Thomastown, near Golden, County Tipperary, on October 10, 1790.

Mathew receives his schooling in Kilkenny, then moves for a short time to Maynooth. From 1808 to 1814 he studies in Dublin, where in the latter year he is ordained to the priesthood. Having entered the Capuchin order, after a brief period of service at Kilkenny, he joins the mission in Cork.

The movement with which his name is associated begins on April 10, 1838 with the establishment of the Cork Total Abstinence Society, which in less than nine months enrolls no fewer than 150,000 names. It rapidly spreads to Limerick and elsewhere, and some idea of its popularity may be formed from the fact that at Nenagh 20,000 persons are said to take the pledge in one day, 100,000 at Galway in two days, and 70,000 in Dublin in five days. At its height, just before the Great Famine, his movement enrolls some 3 million people, or more than half of the adult population of Ireland. In 1844 he visits Liverpool, Manchester, and London with almost equal success.

His work has a remarkable impact on the condition of the people in Ireland. The number committed to jail falls from 12,049 in 1839 to 9,875 by 1845. Sentences of death fall from 66 in 1839 to 14 in 1846, and transportations fall from 916 to 504 over the same period.

Mathew visits the United States in 1849, returning in 1851. While there, he finds himself at the center of the Abolitionist debate. Many of his hosts are pro-slavery, and want assurances that their influential guest will not stray outside his remit of battling alcohol consumption. But Mathew has signed a petition encouraging the Irish in the U.S. to not partake in slavery in 1841 during Charles Lenox Remond‘s tour of Ireland. Now however, in order to avoid upsetting his slave-owning friends in the U.S., he snubs an invitation to publicly condemn chattel slavery, sacrificing his friendship with that movement. He defends his position by pointing out that there is nothing in the scripture that prohibits slavery. He is condemned by many on the abolitionist side, including the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass who had received the pledge from Mathew in Cork in 1845.

Mathew dies on December 8, 1856 in Queenstown, County Cork, after suffering a stroke. He is buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cork City, which he had established himself.

Statues of Mathew stand on St. Patrick’s Street, Cork by John Henry Foley (1864), and on O’Connell Street, Dublin by Mary Redmond (1893). There is also a Fr. Mathew Bridge in Limerick City which is named after the temperance reformer when it is rebuilt in 1844-1846.


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Founding of the Dublin Society for Improving Husbandry

royal-dublin-society-logoThe Dublin Society for Improving Husbandry (Cumann Ríoga Bhaile Átha Cliath) is founded on June 25, 1731 “to promote and develop agriculture, arts, industry, and science in Ireland.” On June 25, 1820, the name is changed to Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and is commonly known as the “Dublin Society.”

The society is originally founded by members of the Dublin Philosophical Society, chiefly Thomas Prior and Samuel Madden, as the “Dublin Society for improving Husbandry, Manufactures and other Useful Arts.” On July 8, 1731, a couple of weeks after initial foundation, the designation “and Sciences” is added to the end of its name.

The stated aim of the “Dublin Society” is therefore to promote the development of arts, agriculture, industry, and science in Ireland. In 1792 the Society purchases the Leskean Cabinet to further this ambition. The “Royal” prefix is adopted in 1820 when George IV becomes Society patron.

The society purchases Leinster House, home of the Duke of Leinster, in 1815 and founds a natural history museum there. The society acquires its current premises at Ballsbridge in 1879, and has since increased from the original fifteen acre site to forty acres. The premises consist of a number of exhibition halls, a stadium, meeting rooms, bars, restaurants, and a multi purpose venue named RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion.

The RDS Main Hall is a major centre for exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events in Dublin. It hosts, for example, the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition each January.

The Simmonscourt Pavilion has a capacity of approximately 7,000, and hosted the Meteor Music Awards in February 2008, as well as a number of concerts including The Smashing Pumpkins and My Chemical Romance, and two Eurovision Song Contests, in 1981 and 1988. Simmonscourt is where the show jumping horses are stabled during Dublin Horse Show week.


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Birth of Christy Brown, Author of “My Left Foot”

christy-brownChristy Brown, writer and painter who has cerebral palsy and is able to write or type only with the toes of one foot, is born into a working-class Irish family at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on June 5, 1932. His most recognized work is his autobiography, My Left Foot, which is later made into a 1989 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, starring Daniel-Day Lewis as Brown.

After his birth, doctors discovered that he has severe cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which leaves him almost entirely spastic in his limbs. Though urged to commit him to a hospital, Brown’s parents are unswayed and subsequently determined to raise him at home with their other children. During Brown’s adolescence, social worker Katriona Delahunt becomes aware of his story and begins to visit the Brown family regularly. She brings Christy books and painting materials as, over the years, he has shown a keen interest in the arts and literature. He has also demonstrated extremely impressive physical dexterity since, soon after discovering several household books, Christy learns to both write and draw himself using his left leg, the only limb over which he had unequivocal control.

Brown quickly matures into a serious artist. Although Brown famously receives almost no formal schooling during his youth, he does attend St. Brendan’s School-Clinic in Sandymount intermittently. At St. Brendan’s he comes in contact with Dr. Robert Collis, a noted author. Collis discovers that Brown is also a natural novelist and later uses his own connections to publish My Left Foot, by then a long-gestating autobiographical account of Brown’s struggle with everyday life amidst the vibrant culture of Dublin.

In 1965, after My Left Foot has become a literary sensation, Brown meets and begins corresponding with Beth Moore, a married American woman, and they begin an affair. She helps push Brown to complete his book Down All the Days, which is published in 1970 and includes a dedication to Moore.

During this time, Brown’s fame continues to spread internationally and he becomes a prominent celebrity. Upon his return to Ireland, he is able to use proceeds from the sales of his books to design and move into a specially constructed home outside Dublin with his sister’s family. It is around this time that Brown begins an affair with Englishwoman Mary Carr, whom he marries in 1972 at the Registry Office in Dublin. He continues to paint, write novels, poetry, and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, is based on his relationship with Moore, whom he still considers a friend.

Brown’s health deteriorates after marrying Carr. He becomes a recluse in his final years, which is thought to be a direct result of Carr’s influence and perhaps abusive nature. Brown dies in Parbrook, Somerset, England on September 7, 1981, at the age of 49 after choking during a lamb chop dinner. His body is found to have significant bruising, which lead many to believe that Carr has physically abused him. Further suspicions arise after Georgina Hambleton’s biography, The Life That Inspired My Left Foot, reveals a supposedly more accurate and unhealthy version of their relationship. The book portrays Carr as an abusive alcoholic and habitually unfaithful. Brown is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.


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First Aircraft Lands at Rineanna Airfield (Shannon Airport)

rineanna-airportThe first aircraft, an Irish Air Corps Aero Anson A43, lands at the newly opened Rineanna Airfield, which is later to become known as Shannon International Airport, on May 18, 1939.

Transatlantic aviation in the Shannon Estuary first commences with a seaplane base at Foynes. In October 1935, the Irish Government makes a decision to initiate a survey to find suitable bases for the operation of seaplanes and land planes on a transatlantic service. The Department of Defence, which provides technical advice on aviation to the Civil Aviation Section of the Department of Industry, is given the task.

On November 21, 1935, a survey party sets out and surveys sites as far north as Athlone and south to Askeaton. Among the sites for a seaplane base to be considered are the Shannon just below Limerick, Lough Derg, Lough Corrib, Tralee Bay, Kenmare Bay, Lough Ree, and Valentia. Foynes, near the mouth of the Fergus River, is finally selected due to its sheltered anchorage and its proximity to long open stretches of water.

The first priority is drainage to remove surface water from the site and to construct embankments to prevent flooding of the airfield due to its proximity to the tidal River Shannon. Several hundred men are employed to dig narrow lateral drains for the approximately 135 miles of pipes which are laid in parallel lines 50 feet apart over almost the entire area of the airfield site. They also excavate catchment drains to collect water from the surface of the site.

At this time all indications are that regular aerial travel between Europe and the United States will be initially by flying boat and accordingly, the base at Rineanna is designed to cater to both land planes and flying boats.  Construction work commences to build embankments and a breakwater to provide for a seaplane base and to protect the airfield site from flooding from the River Shannon.

Developments in aviation during World War I ensure land planes and not flying boats are to be the future of aviation, therefore the mooring basin and the east breakwater which are being constructed for flying boats at Rineanna are never quite finished.  Construction of the embankments continue to protect the site from the River Shannon and to form a drainage lagoon for surface water from the western headland of the airport site.

When World War II ends, the airport is ready to be used by the many new post-war commercial airlines of Europe and North America. On September 16, 1945, the first transatlantic proving flight, a Pan Am DC-4, lands at Shannon from New York City. On October 24, the first scheduled commercial flight, an American Overseas Airlines DC-4, passes through Shannon Airport. An accident involving President Airlines on September 10, 1961 results in the loss of 83 lives. The Douglas DC-6 aircraft crashes into the River Shannon while leaving Shannon Airport for Chicago.

The number of international carriers rises sharply in succeeding years as Shannon becomes well known as the gateway between Europe and the Americas as limited aircraft range necessitates refueling stops on many journeys. Shannon becomes the most convenient stopping point before and after a trip across the Atlantic. Additionally, during the Cold War, many transatlantic flights from the Soviet Union stop here for refueling, because Shannon is the westernmost non-NATO airport.

Shannon Airport is one of Ireland’s three primary airports, along with Dublin Airport and Cork Airport, and includes the longest runway in Ireland at 10,495 feet. It is a designated emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle during the U.S. shuttle program. In 2015, 1.715 million passengers pass through the airport, making it the third busiest airport in the country after Dublin and Cork. Shannon Airport is in Shannon, County Clare, and mainly serves Limerick, Ennis, Galway, and the south-west of Ireland.