seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of C.S. Lewis, Novelist & Poet

Clive Staples Lewis, novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist, dies in Oxford, England, on November 22, 1963.

Lewis is born in Belfast on November 29, 1898. When he is seven, his family moves into “Little Lea,” the family home of his childhood, in the Strandtown area of East Belfast. He was schooled by private tutors until age 9, when his mother dies from cancer. His father then sends him to live and study at Wynyard School in Watford, Hertfordshire. The school closes soon afterwards due to a lack of pupils. He then attends Campbell College in the east of Belfast about a mile from his home, but leaves after a few months due to respiratory problems. He is then sent to the health-resort town of Malvern, Worcestershire, where he attends the preparatory school Cherbourg House. It is during this time that Lewis abandons his childhood Christian faith and becomes an atheist. In September 1913, he enrolls at Malvern College, where he remains until the following June. After leaving Malvern, he studies privately with William T. Kirkpatrick, his father’s old tutor and former headmaster of Lurgan College.

Lewis holds academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J.R.R. Tolkien are close friends. They both serve on the English faculty at Oxford University, and are active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to Lewis’s memoir Surprised by Joy, he is baptised in the Church of Ireland, but fell away from his faith during adolescence. He returns to Anglicanism at the age of 32, owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, and he becomes an “ordinary layman of the Church of England.” His faith profoundly affects his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity bring him wide acclaim.

Lewis writes more than 30 books, which have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema. His philosophical writings are widely cited by Christian apologetics from many denominations.

In early June 1961, Lewis begins suffering from nephritis, which results in blood poisoning. His illness causes him to miss the autumn term at Cambridge, though his health gradually begins improving in 1962 and he returns that April. His health continues to improve and he is fully himself by early 1963. On July 15 of that year he falls ill and is admitted to hospital. At 5:00 PM the following day he suffers a heart attack and lapses into a coma, unexpectedly awaking the following afternoon. After he is discharged from the hospital he is too ill to return to work. As a result, he resigns from his post at Cambridge in August. His condition continues to decline, and in mid-November he is diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. On November 22, exactly one week before his 65th birthday, he collapses in his bedroom at 5:30 PM and dies a few minutes later. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington, Oxford.

Media coverage of Lewis’s death is almost completely overshadowed by news of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, which occurs on the same day approximately 55 minutes following Lewis’s collapse, as does the death of English writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.

In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis is honoured with a memorial in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. His works enter the public domain in 2014 in countries where copyright expires 50 years after the death of the creator, such as Canada.

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The Brighton Hotel Bombing

The Brighton hotel bombing, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassination attempt against the top tier of the British government, takes place on October 12, 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in Brighton, England. A long-delay time bomb is planted in the hotel by IRA member Patrick Magee, with the intent of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who are staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Thatcher narrowly escapes injury, five people are killed including a sitting Conservative MP, and 31 are injured.

Patrick Magee stays in the hotel under the pseudonym Roy Walsh during the weekend of September 14-17, 1984. During his stay, he plants the bomb under the bath in his room, number 629. The device, described as a “small bomb by IRA standards,” is fitted with a long-delay timer made from videocassette recorder components and a Memo Park Timer safety device. The device may have avoided detection by sniffer dogs due to it being wrapped in cling film to mask the smell of the explosive.

The bomb detonates at approximately 2:54 AM (BST) on October 12. The midsection of the building collapses into the basement, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel’s facade. Firemen say that many lives are likely saved because the well-built Victorian hotel remained standing. Margaret Thatcher is still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. The blast badly damages her bathroom, but leaves her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Both she and her husband escape injury. She changes her clothes and is led out through the wreckage along with her husband and her friend and aide Cynthia Crawford, and driven to Brighton police station.

At about 4:00 AM, as Thatcher leaves the police station, she gives an impromptu interview to the BBC‘s John Cole, saying that the conference would go on as scheduled. Alistair McAlpine persuades Marks & Spencer to open early at 8:00 AM so those who have lost their clothes in the bombing can purchase replacements. Thatcher goes from the conference to visit the injured at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Five people are killed, none of whom are government ministers. But a Conservative MP, Sir Anthony Berry, is killed, along with Eric Taylor, North-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lady Jeanne Shattock, wife of Sir Gordon Shattock, Western Area Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lady Muriel Maclean, wife of Sir Donald Maclean, President of the Scottish Conservatives, and Roberta Wakeham, wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham. Donald and Muriel Maclean are in the room in which the bomb explodes, but Mr. Maclean survives.

Several more, including Walter Clegg, whose bedroom is directly above the blast, and Margaret Tebbit, the wife of Norman Tebbit, who is then President of the Board of Trade, are left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people are taken to the hospital and recover from their injuries. When hospital staff asks Norman Tebbit, who is less seriously injured than his wife, whether he is allergic to anything, he is said to answer “bombs.”


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Assassination of Irish American John Fitzgerald Kennedy

kennedy-assassinationJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is assassinated at 12:30 PM CST (18:30 UTC) on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Kennedy is the first Roman Catholic president of the United States and descendant of immigrants from Ireland.

At 12:30 PM CST, as Kennedy’s uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine enters Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally, the First Lady of Texas, turns around to President Kennedy, who is sitting behind her, and comments, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which President Kennedy acknowledges by saying “No, you certainly can’t.” These are the last words ever spoken by John F. Kennedy.

From Houston Street, the presidential limousine makes the planned left turn onto Elm Street, allowing it access to the Stemmons Freeway exit. As it turns onto Elm, the motorcade passes the Texas School Book Depository. Shots are fired at Kennedy as the motorcade continues down Elm Street. About 80% of the witnesses recall hearing three shots.

A minority of the witnesses recognize the first gunshot they hear as weapon fire, but there is hardly any reaction to the first shot from a majority of the people in the crowd or those riding in the motorcade. Many later say they heard what they first thought to be a firecracker, or the backfire of a vehicle, just after the President started waving.

Within one second of each other, Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, all turn abruptly from looking to their left to looking to their right. Connally, like the President a World War II military veteran, testifies that he immediately recognizes the sound of a high-powered rifle. He also testifies that when his head is facing about 20 degrees left of center, he is hit in his upper right back by a bullet he does not hear fired. After Connally is hit he shouts, “Oh, no, no, no. My God. They’re going to kill us all!”

Mrs. Connally testifies that just after hearing a loud, frightening noise that comes from somewhere behind her and to her right, she turns toward President Kennedy and sees him with his arms and elbows raised high, with his hands in front of his face and throat. She then hears another gunshot and then Governor Connally yelling. Mrs. Connally then turns away from Kennedy toward her husband, at which point another gunshot sounds and she and the limousine’s rear interior are covered with fragments of skull, blood, and brain.

According to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, as President Kennedy waves to the crowds on his right with his right arm upraised on the side of the limo, a shot enters his upper back, penetrates his neck, slightly damages a spinal vertebra and the top of his right lung, and exits his throat nearly centerline just beneath his larynx, nicking the left side of his suit tie knot. He raises his elbows and clenches his fists in front of his face and neck, then leans forward and left. Mrs. Kennedy, facing him, then puts her arms around him in concern.

A second shot strikes the President as the presidential limousine is passing in front of the John Neely Bryan north pergola concrete structure. Both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concludes that the second shot to hit the president enters the rear of his head and, passing in fragments through his head, created a large, roughly oval hole on the rear, right side. The president’s blood and fragments of his scalp, brain, and skull land on the interior of the car, the inner and outer surfaces of the front glass windshield and raised sun visors, the front engine hood, the rear trunk lid, the followup Secret Service car and its driver’s left arm, and motorcycle officers riding on both sides of the President behind him.

After the President has been shot in the head, Mrs. Kennedy begins to climb out onto the back of the limousine, though she later has no recollection of doing so. United States Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill, who is riding on the left front running board of the follow-up car, believes she is reaching for something, perhaps a piece of the President’s skull. He jumps onto the back of the limousine while at the same time Mrs. Kennedy returns to her seat. He clings to the car as it exits Dealey Plaza and accelerates, speeding to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

After Mrs. Kennedy crawls back into her limousine seat, both Governor Connally and Mrs. Connally hear her say more than once, “They have killed my husband,” and “I have his brains in my hand.”

The staff at Parkland Hospital’s Trauma Room 1 who treat President Kennedy observe that his condition is “moribund,” meaning that he has no chance of survival upon arriving at the hospital. George Burkley, the President’s personal physician, states that a gunshot wound to the skull is the cause of death. Burkley signs President Kennedy’s death certificate.

At 1:00 PM, CST (19:00 UTC), after all heart activity has ceased and after Father Oscar Huber has administered last rites, the President is pronounced dead.