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


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Death of English Actress Ellen Kean

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01Ellen Kean, one of the finest English actresses of her day, dies in Bayswater, City of Westminster, England on August 20, 1880. She is known as Ellen Tree until her marriage in 1842, after which she is known both privately and professionally as Mrs. Charles Kean and always appears in productions together with her husband.

Kean is born Eleanora Tree in Ireland on December 12, 1805, the third of four daughters of Cornelius Tree, an official of the East India Company in London. Her three sisters become actresses, but, unlike Ellen, retire from the stage when they marry. Her professional stage debut is in a musical version of Twelfth Night in London in 1822 as Olivia alongside her sister Maria as Viola. She gains experience touring in the provinces, and from 1826 is a regular member of the companies at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Theatre Royal Haymarket, making a success in The Wonder and The Youthful Queen. At the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden she takes on the roles of William Shakespeare‘s Romeo to the Juliet of Fanny Kemble, Françoise de Foix in Francis I, and Lady Townley in The Provoked Husband.

In 1832, by now established as a leading actress, Tree accepts an engagement in Hamburg, Germany, where a junior member of the company is Charles Kean. He had made an undistinguished debut at Drury Lane in 1827, and he and Tree had acted together in 1828 in a play called Lovers’ Vows and later in Othello. In the German season they fall in love, but are persuaded by family and friends not to marry in haste. Tree returns to London and resumes her successful West End career, including a considerable success in Ion in another breeches role. At the end of 1836, Tree goes to the United States, where she tours in Shakespeare for more than three years, playing heroines such as Rosalind, Viola and Beatrice, among other roles. By the time of her return to England in 1839, she has made a profit of £12,000 on the tour, equivalent to at least £1 million in modern terms.

By 1841 Charles Kean has established himself as a successful actor, and he and Tree appear together in Romeo and Juliet at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. They are married the next year, and she at once switches her professional name from Ellen Tree to Mrs. Charles Kean. For the next nine years they appear together at the Haymarket, making a joint visit to the United States in 1846. In 1850, Kean takes over the management of the Princess’s Theatre in London. The Times called this “the most important period of Mrs. Kean’s career…. Hitherto she had been the Rosalind and the Viola of the stage; henceforward her name was to be associated with characters of a more matronly type” in roles including Lady Macbeth and Gertrude in Hamlet. The same writer also credits her for “the good taste and artistic completeness” of Kean’s productions. Ellen Terry, who makes her first stage appearance as the boy Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale, remembers Kean “as Hermione wearing a Greek wreath round her head and a crinoline with many layers of petticoats.”

Charles Kean dies in 1868, and his widow retires from the stage, living quietly in Bayswater, in the City of Westminster, where she dies at the age of 73 on August 20, 1880. The Times in its obituary says, “Mrs. Kean is not to be numbered with the greatest votaries of the English stage, but her acting was distinguished by considerable power, tenderness and refinement.” She is buried in a vault alongside her husband at Catherington, Hampshire.

(Pictured: “Charles Kean and Wife Ellen Tree” by Mathew Brady Studio (1844-1894), modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

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Enactment of the Intermediate Education Act

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 5.0The Intermediate Education Act, enacted on August 16, 1878, grants female students the right to participate in public competitive examinations, take university degrees and to enter into careers and professions.

From the early 1870s there had been a growing demand in Ireland for a competitive examinations system which would allow Catholics in particular to enter for the newly created jobs in the Civil Service and for careers in the professions. In response to this pressure, the Irish Intermediate Education Bill is introduced to parliament in 1878. It provides an Examining Board with an annual sum of £32,500 per annum which would cover money prizes for pupils and results fees for schools. Students with the highest marks can gain valuable exhibitions worth up to £50. However, these provisions only apply to boys.

The Bill is in its final stages in parliament, when Isabella Tod of the North of Ireland Women’s Suffrage Society, arrives with a small delegation of women backed by a handful of Irish MPs, to demand that girls should also be included in the provisions of the Bill. Fortunately, attitudes among a majority of English MPs are favourable to the inclusion of girls in the Bill. The most influential of these MPs is William Ewart Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Party, who believes the proposal to admit women to the benefits of the Bill is reasonable and fair. Although not in favour of giving women the vote, he is prepared to admit that “we have on the whole done rather less than justice to women as compared to men” when it comes to education.

Charles Henry Meldon, MP for Kildare, strongly objects to what he calls “the victory” which the inclusion of girls would give to the advocates of women’s rights, “whose object was not that there should be a limited measure dealing specially with the education of women, but that the same education should be given to girls as given to men.”

Richard O’Shaughnessy, the only Home Rule MP on Isabella Tod’s delegation, assures Meldon that the question at stake is not one of women’s rights but simply of their education and that the object of the amendment “was nothing more nor less than to educate the women of Ireland that they may be better able to discharge their duties as daughters, wives and mothers.”

So, despite the strong objections of most Irish Home Rule MPs, girls are included in the Intermediate Examination Act. Isabella Tod at a meeting in Dublin to promote the extension of the franchise to women thanks O’Shaughnessy and James Stansfield for their support but declares, “We could not help feeling how easy our task would have been if each of these members had owed some votes to women and felt a distinct responsibility to them.”

There is unease felt about public competitive examinations for girls in Ireland. Some believe that the competitive idea should be carefully excluded from the examinations for women. The ladies present at the suffrage meeting are also urged to press the government to avoid publishing the names of girls in order of merit.

This attitude helps explain why it is felt that girls are not ready to compete on an equal basis with boys. In December 1878, the Intermediate Board decides that girls will compete among themselves for the money prizes. A money prize is offered for every ten pupils who pass. These prizes are, therefore, allocated proportionately according to the numbers of boys and of girls who enter for the examinations. During the first twenty years of the Intermediate examinations, three quarters of the entrants are boys and only one quarter are girls. Girls’ schools, especially convent schools, are particularly handicapped because they have few teachers who know Latin or Greek and extra marks are allotted for other traditional boys’ subjects such as mathematics.

The Intermediate examinations have three levels: Junior, Middle and Senior Grades with strict age limits of under 16, 17 and 18 years of age respectively. This represents a problem for girls’ schools since many girls come late to second level schools, being often 14 or 15 years of age.

The fact that public opinion in Ireland is at first generally against such examinations for girls and that many girls have neither the opportunity nor the means to take immediate advantage of the Act, does not alter its crucial importance as a catalyst for changing the role of women in Irish society.

(Pictured: Isabella Tod, Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, content from Discovering Women in Irish History, http://womeninhistory.scoilnet.ie)


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Birth of Irish Footballer Billy Behan

billy-behanWilliam “Billy” Behan, Irish footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Shelbourne F.C., Shamrock Rovers F.C. and Manchester United F.C. during the 1930s, is born on August 8, 1911 in Dublin.

Behan makes his Rovers debut on February 8, 1931 in a 5–1 win over Bray Unknowns F.C. at Glenmalure Park. In his first season, he wins the FAI Cup. He signs with Manchester United in September 1933, along with fellow Irishman David Byrne, becoming the first players from the south of Ireland to play for the club in over a decade.

Behan makes his United debut in a Football League Second Division home game against Bury F.C. on March 3, 1934. The following July, he briefly returns to Shelbourne before again returning to the Rovers. Over the next two seasons, he wins another FAI Cup and a League of Ireland Shield. His last game for the Rovers is on August 23, 1936 in a Shield win over Drumcondra F.C..

After his retirement as a player, Behan becomes a respected referee and is in charge of the 1943 FAI Cup Final. He then manages Drumcondra F.C. in the 1950s where he wins the FAI Cup again.

Behan subsequently becomes United’s chief scout in the Republic of Ireland and is credited with discovering, among others, Johnny Carey, Billy Whelan, Tony Dunne, Don Givens, Kevin Moran and Paul McGrath. He also serves as vice chairman of the Dalkey-based Leinster Senior League team, Dalkey United, and it is through this association that he discovers McGrath.

Behan’s father, William Sr., is one of the founder members of Shamrock Rovers. His brothers John and Paddy also play for the Rovers. His son William junior keeps goal for the Rovers side also for a time. His second cousin is Bob Fullam.

Behan’s grandson, Philip Behan, is the former Head of International Football at the Football Association of Ireland and is now a UEFA and FIFA agent organising friendly international matches and tournaments around the world.

Billy Behan dies on November 12, 1991 at the age of 80.


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Birth of Gay Byrne, Radio & Television Presenter

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90Gabriel Mary “Gay” Byrne, veteran Irish presenter of radio and television for several decades and affectionately known as Uncle Gay, Gaybo or Uncle Gaybo, is born in Rialto, Dublin on August 5, 1934. His most known role is as the first host of The Late Late Show over a 37-year period spanning 1962 until 1999.

Byrne attends Rialto National School and a number of other schools for short periods. Subsequently, he is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS.

When he is young, Byrne is inspired by the broadcaster Eamonn Andrews, who has a successful career on British television. In 1958 he moves over to broadcasting when he becomes a presenter on Radio Éireann. He also works with Granada Television and the BBC in England. At Granada, Byrne becomes the first person to introduce the Beatles on television when they make their small screen debut on local news programme People and Places. In 1961, Telefís Éireann, later Radio Telefís Éireann and now Raidió Teilifís Éireann, is established. Byrne works exclusively for the new Irish service after 1969. He introduced many popular programmes, with his most popular and successful programme being The Late Late Show.

On July 5, 1962, the first episode of The Late Late Show is aired on Irish television. Originally the show is scheduled as an eight-week summer filler. The programme, which is still broadcast, has become the world’s second longest running chat show. The show has much to do in shaping the new Ireland that emerges from the 1960s. Byrne presents his last edition of The Late Late Show on May 21, 1999, where he is presented with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle by Bono and Larry Mullen, Jr. Pat Kenny succeeds him as presenter in September 1999.

From 1973 until 1998, Byrne also presents The Gay Byrne Hour, later The Gay Byrne Show when it expands to two hours, on RTÉ Radio 1 each weekday morning.

Byrne does not completely retire in 1999 and continues to feature occasionally on radio and television after leaving The Late Late Show and The Gay Byrne Show, presenting several other programmes, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Meaning of Life and For One Night Only on RTÉ One and Sunday Serenade/Sunday with Gay Byrne on RTÉ lyric fm. He launches Joe Duffy‘s autobiography Just Joe in Harry’s Bar in October 2011.

In 1988, Byrne is presented an honorary doctorate in literature from Trinity College, Dublin. In 2006 he is elected Chairman of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, a public body given the task of improving road safety in the Republic of Ireland. Since retiring he has become the “Elder Lemon of Irish broadcasting.”

On a November 21, 2016 live radio broadcast Byrne reveals that he is to begin treatment for prostate cancer and that the cancer may have also spread to his lower back. He tells listeners he will be taking a break of just one week before returning to work, however, he continues to recover from treatment and he has not yet been back on air.


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Birth of Thomas Brodrick, Politician

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 60Thomas Brodrick, Irish politician who sits in the Irish House of Commons between 1692 and 1727 and in the British House of Commons from 1713 to 1727 and leads the inquiry into the “South Sea Bubble,” is born in Midleton, County Cork on August 4, 1654.

Brodrick is the eldest son of Sir St. John Brodrick and his wife Alice Clayton, daughter of Laurence Clayton of Mallow, County Cork. He is brother of Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton. He is admitted at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and also at Middle Temple in 1670. He marries Anne Piggott, daughter of Alexander Piggott of Innishannon and they have one son Laurence, who is appointed Register of Deeds and Conveyances in Ireland in 1735.

Broderick sits in the Irish House of Commons for Midleton from 1692 to 1693, for County Cork from 1695 to 1699 and again from 1703 to 1713, and for Midleton again from 1715 to 1727. He is appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland on May 10, 1695. He is removed on July 17, 1711 but reappointed on September 30, 1714.

Broderick has contacts with Whig politicians in England and is appointed comptroller of the salt in 1706 and joint comptroller of army accounts from 1708 to 1711. He is elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Stockbridge at the 1713 general election and again at the 1715 general election. At the 1722 general election, he is elected as MP for Guildford. He does not stand in the 1727 general election.

Thomas Brodrick dies on October 3, 1730 at Wandsworth where he is buried.


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Muhammad Ali Fights Al Lewis in Dublin

muhammad-ali-and-al-lewisMuhammad Ali fights Al “Blue” Lewis in Dublin on July 19, 1972 and defeats him via a technical knockout (TKO) in the eleventh round.

After losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali goes on something of a world tour, fighting 13 times in six countries before defeating Frazier in a rematch in January 1974.

The promotion is the brainchild of a character from County Kerry named Butty Sugrue, known throughout Ireland as a circus strongman, whose alleged claim to fame is pulling double-decker buses by a rope in his teeth. Dublin journalists laugh at him when he first announces his intentions.

But despite the scepticism, the fight is arranged for July 19, 1972. As soon as he steps off the plane at Dublin Airport, Ali, ever the showman, immediately captures the heart of a nation by announcing that he has Irish roots. In the 1860s, Abe Grady left his native Ennis in County Clare and emigrated to the United States. In Kentucky, he met and married an emancipated slave. A century later Abe Grady’s great grandson Muhammad Ali touches down in Dublin.

In the week leading up to the fight Ali meets people from all walks of life in Dublin. He spends time with celebrities, including actor Peter O’Toole, and playfully spars with director John Huston, whose boxing movie, Fat City, is screened with both Ali and Lewis in attendance.

Ali also meets politicians, including Taoiseach Jack Lynch in Leinster House and political activist Bernadette Devlin. The Cork Examiner comments on how popular Ali has proven with politicians in Ireland. “Not since the late President John F. Kennedy was in Dublin in 1963 has a visitor from abroad been given as big a welcome at Leinster House as that accorded to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali is always about so much more than boxing, and that week in Dublin is another case in point, as the fight itself is not a classic. He has a cold and is wary of Lewis, who is a dangerous fighter and a man who had previously served time in prison for manslaughter. Ali who, prior to the bout predicts that his opponent’s chances of victory lay somewhere between “slim and none,” eventually wins with a TKO in the eleventh round.

In 2009, Ali returns to Ireland to visit Ennis in County Clare, the home town of his ancestor Abe Grady, where he is granted the freedom of the town. The huge crowds who come out to meet him are testament to his enduring appeal. But the magic of Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible impact on Ireland after his 1972 visit as the late Budd Schulberg, a legendary boxing writer, said, “Ali was like the Pied Piper. It was really kind of magical. He had enormous influence over there. He was a fellow Irishman.”

(From: “When Ali thrilled Ireland: How ‘the Greatest’ shook up Dublin” by Peter Crutchley, BBC NI Digital & Learning, June 6, 2016)


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Birth of Author Violet Florence Martin

violet-florence-martinViolet Florence Martin, Irish author, is born at Ross House in Connemara, County Galway on June 11, 1862. She is the co-author of a series of novels with cousin Edith Somerville under the pen name of Martin Ross in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Martin is the youngest of sixteen children of James Martin of Ross (1804–1872). The Martin family, a branch of the Martyn family – one of the Tribes of Galway – had settled at Ross by the early seventeenth century, having previously inhabited the town of Galway for some three hundred years. Her father is a Protestant, his grandfather having converted from the Catholic faith in order to retain the family estates under the Penal Laws. Nevertheless, each child of the family is secretly ‘baptised’ by the family servants.

Martin is a kinswoman of Richard Martin and her contemporary, Edward Martyn, two other notable members of the tribe. Her older brother, Robert Jasper Martin, is a noted songwriter and a well-regarded member of the Tory party in London. She shares a great-grandmother with the writer Maria Edgeworth, whose use of Irish vernacular speech she follows in her work.

Martin’s father manages to save both his estate and his tenants during the Great Famine boasting that not one of his people died during the disaster, but at the cost of bankruptcy. Following his death in 1872, the family moves to Dublin and only returns to Ross in 1888 following revelations of financial fraud of the estate by their agent.

Martin and Edith Somerville are second cousins. They originally meet on January 17, 1886 at Castletownshend, after which they become lifelong companions and literary partners. They come to share a home in Drishane, County Cork. In 1889, Violet adopts the pseudonym Martin Ross, which comprises her surname and the name of her ancestral home. Thus the authors are called Somerville and Ross. Their works include The Real Charlotte (1889), Some Reminiscences of an Irish R.M. and In The Vine Country.

Martin is a convinced Irish Unionist, in opposition to Somerville’s open nationalism. Both she and her brother Robert are well-regarded members of the literary circle in Irish unionism. However, unlike her brother, Martin is a convinced suffragette, becoming vice-president of the Munster Women’s Franchise League. While on friendly terms with the leading members of the Gaelic literary revival such as W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, she objects to their romantic version of Irish peasantry. She is on good terms with Edward Martyn, partner of Gregory and Yeats – and her kinsman – and shares his love of the Irish language and culture.

Martin is seriously injured in a riding accident in November 1898, from which she never fully recovers. This is a contributing factor to her death in Drishane, County Cork, on December 21, 1915. Edith Somerville continues to write under their joint literary names, claiming that they are still in contact. The two women leave thousands of letters and 116 volumes of diaries, detailing their lives, much of them yet unpublished. Edith dies at Castletownshend in October 1949, aged 91, and is buried alongside Violet Florence Martin at Saint Barrahane’s Church, Castletownsend, County Cork.