seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Bill Graham, Rock Journalist & Author

Bill Graham, Irish rock journalist and author, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on August 29, 1951. He attends Blackrock College and Trinity College, Dublin. In addition to authoring several books, he writes for Hot Press magazine from its founding.

Graham’s long time colleague and Hot Press editor Niall Stokes describes him, “In many ways, he was a founding father of modern Irish music. He inspired a whole generation of Irish fans and musicians to look at the world in a different and broader light. And he was good on more than music too. He felt a kinship with Northern Ireland and the people on both sides of the sectarian and political divide there that was unusual in those who were brought up within the narrow confines of the culture of Ireland in the ‘60s and ‘70s – and his political writing reflected this. And he was also ahead of the game in terms of his appreciation of the importance of the politics of food and the position of the developing world in the new era.”

Graham is instrumental in the formation of Irish rock band U2, having brought them to the attention of their manager Paul McGuinness. At an exhibition of early group photos, McGuinness remembers the role Graham played by introducing him to the band. Despite being widely known as the man who “discovered” U2, it is a title he disavowed. He writes enthusiastically about the band, giving them their first exposure. Both guitarist The Edge and Bono have explained Graham’s role in the band’s development.

John Waters observes that “It is often said that Bill ‘discovered’ U2. This is untrue. Bill created U2, through his enthusiasm for them. He gave them a reflection of their own possibilities and they only looked back that once.” Graham has a deep knowledge of virtually every form of popular and roots music. Waters goes on to credit him as “the first Irish writer to write about the connection between Irish political culture and Irish rock ‘n’ roll.”

A number of music critics/journalists have cited Graham as a primary influence, in some cases suggesting they got into the field as a direct result of his writing.

Graham dies of a heart attack at the age of 44 at his home in Howth, County Dublin, on May 11, 1996. His funeral draws many of the biggest bands from the world of Irish music including Clannad, Altan, U2, and Hothouse Flowers, along with singers Simon Carmody and Gavin Friday.


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Death of Author Muiris Ó Súilleabháin

Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, anglicised as Maurice O’Sullivan, Irish author famous for his Irish language memoir of growing up on the Great Blasket Island and in Dingle, County Kerry, off the western coast of Ireland, drowns on June 25, 1950, while swimming at Knocknacarra off the Connemara coast.

Ó Súilleabháin is born on the Great Blasket Island on February 19, 1904. Following the death of his mother when he is six months old, he is raised in an institution in Dingle, County Kerry. At the age of eight, he returns to the Great Blasket Island to live with his father, grandfather and the rest of his siblings, and learns the native language.

Ó Súilleabháin is persuaded to write his memoirs by George Derwent Thomson, a linguist and professor of Greek who had come to the island to hear and learn the Irish language. It is Thomson who encourages him to join Garda Síochána in Dublin in 1927 rather than emigrate to the United States as do most of the young people. He is stationed in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara, where he maintains contact with Thomson.

Fiche Blian ag Fás is published in Irish and English in 1933. As one of the last areas of Ireland in which the old Irish language and culture has continued unchanged, the Great Blasket Island is a place of enormous interest to those seeking traditional Irish narratives. Thomson edits and assembles the memoir, and arranges for its translation into English with the help of Moya Llewelyn Davies.

While Fiche Blian ag Fás is received with tremendous enthusiasm by critics, including E. M. Forster, their praise at times has a condescending tone. Forster describes the book as a document of a surviving “Neolithic” culture. Such interest is tied up with romantic notions of the Irish primitive, and thus when Ó Súilleabháin tries to find a publisher for his second book, Fiche Bliain faoi Bhláth (in English, Twenty Years a-Flowering), there is little interest, as this narrative necessarily departs from the romantic realm of turf fires and pipe-smoking wise-women.

In 1934, Ó Súilleabháin leaves the Guards and settles in Connemara. He marries Cáit ní Chatháin of Carraroe on July 10, 1934. They have one daughter, Máirín, and one son, Eoin, a dramatist and writer.

Ó Súilleabháin drowns on June 25, 1950, while swimming off the Connemara coast. He is buried at Barr an Doire near Carraroe. Dylan Thomas commences, but does not finish, a film script of Twenty Years a-Growing. The partially completed film script is published in 1964.


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Birth of Máire MacSwiney Brugha, Activist & Author

Máire MacSwiney Brugha, Irish activist who is the daughter of Terence MacSwiney and niece of Mary MacSwiney, is born in Cork, County Cork, on June 23, 1918. In addition to being an activist she is also an author and is now regarded as a person of historical importance.

MacSwiney Brugha is the daughter of the former Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney and his wife Muriel Frances Murphy. Her father dies on hunger strike when she is two years old. Her father is in jail when she is born and does not see her until she is brought to see him when she is three months old. Her family’s republican and political activities leave a strong mark on her life.

Following the death of her father, her mother moves to Dublin. MacSwiney Brugha goes to live with Madame O’Rahilly, widow of The O’Rahilly, and sees her mother intermittently. Although as a child her parents decide she would speak the Irish language, her father’s death and her mother’s health results in her move to Germany in 1923 and there she is moved around a lot. She learns German and speaks no English and little or no Irish. In 1930 she is moved to Grainau in Bavaria, where she attends school. Her aunt, Mary MacSwiney, a legal guardian of hers, eventually comes to collect her and takes her back to Ireland. This causes a court case when it is claimed her aunt had kidnapped her. As a result of the court case her aunt is given custody, and she and her mother became estranged.

MacSwiney Brugha attends Scoil Íte and then St. Louis Secondary School in Monaghan where, in 1936, she completes her Leaving Certificate and gets a scholarship to University College Cork to study arts. In 1937 she plays the lead role in a play, The Revolutionist, published in 1914 and written by her father and produced by her aunt. She returns to Germany in 1938 to keep up her German and graduates with a first-class honours degree. She goes on to get her higher diploma and becomes a teacher. She spends some time teaching in Scoil Íte and then goes to Dublin in 1942 to get a master’s degree. She meets Ruairí Brugha while in Dublin. His father, Cathal Brugha, was killed in the Irish Civil War in 1922. They marry on July 10, 1945. The marriage produces four children: Deirdre, Cathal, Traolach and Ruairí.

MacSwiney Brugha’s husband has a strong political career with her support. He is a senator, a TD, and a member of the European Parliament. She leads her Fianna Fáil cumann and volunteers with the aid agency Gorta. With her husband as Official Opposition Spokesman on Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1977, the couple are very much involved in creating the policy of developing conciliation rather than aimed more at ending partition which they previously have been focused on.

At the age of 85 and after her sight has failed MacSwiney Brugha dictates her story to her daughter-in-law, Catherine Brugha. History’s Daughter: A Memoir from the Only Child of Terence MacSwiney is launched in 2005. Her own story is recorded in Irish Life and Lore. Her story is also the subject of a radio production. She dies unexpectedly at her home in Clonskeagh, County Dublin, at the age of 93 on May 20, 2012. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin describes her as having made a “strong and valued” contribution to the development of Fianna Fáil while Gerry Adams says she “made her mark” on Irish history.

(Pictured: Máire MacSwiney Brugha on her wedding day, July 10, 1945)


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Death of Piaras Béaslaí, Author, Playwright & Politician

Piaras Béaslaí, author, playwright, biographer and translator, who is a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), fights in the Easter Rising and serves as a member of Dáil Éireann, dies on June 22, 1965.

Béaslaí is born Percy Frederick Beazley in Liverpool, England on February 15, 1881 to Irish Catholic parents, Patrick Langford Beazley, originally from Killarney, County Kerry, and Nannie Hickey, from Newcastle West, County Limerick. During his summer holidays in his younger years, he spends time in Ireland (near Kenmare, County Kerry) with his paternal uncle, Father James Beazley, where he begins to learn the Irish language. He is educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College in Liverpool, where he develops his keen interest in Irish. By the time he is aged 17 his Irish proficiency is exceptional.

After finishing his education at St. Francis Xavier’s, Béaslaí is encouraged to begin Irish poetry by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha. He follows his father’s footsteps into journalism, initially working for the local Wallasey News. In 1906 he moves to Dublin, and within a year becomes a freelance writer for the Irish Peasant, Irish Independent, Freeman’s Journal and Express. He is offered a permanent position with Independent Newspapers, as assistant leader writer and special reporter for the Dublin Evening Telegraph. He writes regularly for the Freeman’s Journal, including a daily half-column in Irish.

After his early introduction to Irish poetry Béaslaí becomes involved in staging Irish-language amateur drama at the Oireachtas annual music festival. He begins to write both original works and adaptations from foreign languages. One of these works, Eachtra Pheadair Schlemiel (1909), is translated from German into Irish.

Later Béaslaí continues to write poetry, such as the collection “Bealtaine 1916” agus Dánta Eile (1920), and short stories such as “Earc agus Aine agus Scéalta Eile.” Between 1913 and 1939 he writes many plays, including Cliuche Cartaí (1920), An Sgaothaire agus Cúig Drámaí Eile (1929), An Danar (1929) and An Bhean Chródha (1931). He writes two books about his comrade Michael Collins: Michael Collins and the Making of a New Ireland (2 volumes, 1926) and Michael Collins: Soldier and Statesman (1937).

Béaslaí’s works revolve around the Irish language movement and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), focusing on the independence struggle of Ireland. He writes about these topics in newspapers such as the Standard and The Kerryman. His most notable work in newspapers during his later life includes his contribution to the Irish Independent, which publishes a section called ‘A Veteran Remembers’ five days a week from May 16 to June 1957, as well as a weekly section called ‘Moods and Memories’ on Wednesdays from May 24, 1961 to June 16, 1965.

One of the awards Béaslaí gains during his career is on August 14, 1928, a gold medal at the Tailteann Literary Awards. While in Dublin, he joins the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League, and after he moves to Ireland he begins using the Irish form of his name, Piaras Béaslaí, rather than Percy Beazley.

Béaslaí is a founding member of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. In January 1916 he serves as a courier for political activist and revolutionary leader Seán Mac Diarmada. By the time of the Easter Rising that year, he is deputy commanding officer of the 1st Dublin Battalion. In an audio recording to which he contributes in 1958, he details his experience in the Rising, describing the rebels assembling before noon in Blackhall Street at battalion headquarters. After midday they march out to the Four Courts, erecting barricades as they do so. The Four Courts is his main station.

In the audio, Béaslaí recalls a green flag with a gold harp in the centre. This is the non-Sinn Féin flag at the time. He is in direct charge of the Four Courts area, and at one point during the fight he orders a complete blackout. He recalls, “things were going badly for the English soldiers” and describes the whole event as “a weird experience.” He remembers the streets being lit up with fires in the darkness as if it were bright as day. He speaks of the intensity of the firing line and then how it suddenly ceases on the Friday. He remembers falling asleep and when he awakens being presented with Patrick Pearse‘s order to surrender. The rebels are brought to Richmond Barracks. He then spends fifteen months in English prisons.

Béaslaí serves three years of penal servitude divided between a stringent HM Prison Portland and a more lenient HM Prison Lewes. He is then imprisoned two times within four months during 1919, both terms ending in celebrated escapes. After his final prison release, Michael Collins approaches him about editing An tOglach, the Irish Volunteer newspaper. This sees communication between GHQ and local volunteers drastically improve.

Later, Béaslaí becomes director of publicity for the Irish Republican Army, and at the 1918 Irish general election he is elected to the First Dáil as Sinn Féin MP for East Kerry. Sinn Féin MPs elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refuse to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and instead assemble the following January at the Mansion House in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament, Dáil Éireann. Béaslaí is noted for his translation of the democratic programme of the First Dáil, which he reads aloud at the inaugural sitting.

Béaslaí is a member of the Sinn Féin party for five years. Between 1919 and 1921 he represents the East Kerry constituency in the First Dáil. Then, at the 1921 Irish elections, he is returned unopposed to the Second Dáil as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for Kerry–Limerick West. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, he is re-elected there unopposed at the 1922 Irish general election as a pro-Treaty Sinn Féin candidate, and is thus a member of the Third Dáil, which is Pro-Treaty at this stage. In 1922 he goes to the United States to explain the Treaty to Sinn Féin’s Irish American supporters. He does not contest the 1923 Irish general election.

Béaslaí and Con Collins share the distinction of having been elected in three Irish general elections unopposed by any other candidates.

During Béaslaí’s time in London, he gives a lot of his time to the Gaelic League. In the Keating branch of the league, in Ireland, he develops an interest in the IRB. Cathal Brugha, a branch member, asks him to join the IRB. The Keating branch is where Béaslaí meets Michael Collins, eventually introducing Collins to his cousin and fellow branch member, Elizabeth Mernin. He is also instrumental in establishing An Fáinne, an Irish-speaking league whose members vow to speak solely Irish among themselves and wear a membership badge of a circle. This coincides with his involvement in the IRB. His love of the Irish language gives him an opportunity to delve into his other hobbies. He writes for Banba, an Irish journal published by the Gaelic League. He is able to express his love for theatre, in the Gaelic League, forming a group of men called “Na hAisteoirí.”

Béaslaí dies, unmarried, at the age of 84 on June 22, 1965, in a nursing home in Dublin. He is buried in a plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, after a Requiem Mass in St. Columba’s Church, Iona Road, Glasnevin.


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Death of John Henry Patterson, Army Officer, Hunter, Author & Zionist

John Henry Patterson, known as J. H. Patterson, Irish officer in the British Army, game hunter, author and Christian Zionist, dies in Bel Air, California, on June 18, 1947.

Patterson is born on November 10, 1867 at Forgney, Ballymahon, County Longford, the son of a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother. He joins the British Army at Dublin in 1885 and is posted with the 3rd Dragoon Guards to India. In 1892 he is seconded to the Indian military works department as a supervisor of civil engineering projects. In 1894 he marries Frances Helena Gray, daughter of William Gray of Cork and Belfast, a building surveyor who founded the free library movement in Belfast. She goes on to earn science and law degrees.

In 1898 Patterson is sent to British East Africa to supervise 3,000 Indian and African labourers who are building a railway bridge spanning the Tsavo River as part of the Mombasa to Lake Victoria line. Construction is interrupted when two man-eating lions repeatedly attack the labourers’ camp at night. He embarks on a lion hunt, but by the time he shoots the two lions they have mauled and mutilated between 130 and 140 labourers.

Patterson volunteers for service in the South African War in 1900. He is mentioned in dispatches by Lord Frederick Roberts and Lord Herbert Kitchener and is awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). In 1902 he is appointed lieutenant colonel commanding the 33rd Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. While on a shooting trip in east Africa in 1906, he discovers a new species of eland, which is named Taurotragus oryx pattersonianus after him. His account of his adventures in Africa, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, is published in 1907 to instant international acclaim. His exploits are twice made the subject of films: Bwana Devil (1952) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). In 1907 he is seconded as chief game warden, British East Africa Protectorate (Kenya), and he combines his work of conducting surveys with escorting private safari parties.

The following year Patterson leads a safari trip in the protectorate accompanied by Audley James Blyth, a son of James Blyth, 1st Baron Blyth, and his wife, Ethel Jane. During the expedition Blyth shoots himself in the head with a revolver and dies. Patterson claims that Blyth was suffering from heat stroke, but there are rumours of a romantic attachment between Patterson and Mrs. Blyth. The colonial secretary Lord Crewe exonerates Patterson in return for his resignation as chief game warden. The incident serves as the plot for Ernest Hemingway‘s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

In 1913 Patterson commands the West Belfast division of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and sees service in Flanders before being sent to Egypt in early 1915. In Alexandria, two Russian Jewish Zionists, the journalist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and veteran of the Russo–Japanese War Joseph Trumpeldor, ask General John Maxwell, commander of the British forces in Egypt, to establish a Jewish legion that will liberate the Holy Land from the Turks. Maxwell refuses, proposing instead that the Jews form a volunteer transport unit to serve in Gallipoli. Patterson, who is imbued with a deep knowledge of the Old Testament, and draws spiritual sustenance from biblical heroes such as Joshua and Gideon, is appointed commander of the Assyrian Jewish refugee mule corps, a colonial corps of the Egyptian expeditionary force. He sails with the Zion Mule Corps, as it is popularly known, to Gallipoli in April 1915, where the corps serves with distinction, carrying water and ammunition to the Allied troops on the peninsula. He falls ill in November 1915, and is sent to convalesce in London. The Zion Mule Corps is evacuated from Gallipoli in December, and disbanded in March 1916.

When manpower and political considerations persuade the British authorities to create the Jewish Legion in 1917, Patterson is appointed its commander. He marches his 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers through the City of London and Whitechapel, cheered by a crowd of several thousand Jews. The Jewish Legion participates in General Edmund Allenby‘s sustained attack, which successfully pushes the Turks out of Palestine. His experiences with his Jewish soldiers turn him into a committed Zionist. In 1916 he writes With the Zionists in Gallipoli, and in 1922 With the Judaeans in the Palestine Campaign, which contain a scathing attack on Britain’s policy towards the Jews during and after World War I.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Patterson increasingly allies himself with the revisionist Zionist agenda espoused by Jabotinsky’s New Zionist Organisation. When World War II breaks out, he travels with Jabotinsky to the United States, moving permanently to La Jolla, California, in 1940. With others, including the Irish Jew and later Lord Mayor of Dublin Robert Briscoe, he agitates for the formation of a large Jewish army that would fight with the Allies against Nazi Germany. After Jabotinsky’s death in 1940, he works with Benzion Netanyahu, the Palestinian Jewish executive director of the American revisionist Zionists. In 1946 he becomes godfather to Netanyahu’s first son, who is named Yonatan (the closest Hebrew name to John) in Patterson’s honour. Yonatan later leads Operation Entebbe, the successful 1976 Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport to free Israeli hostages.

On June 18, 1947, just a year before the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel, for which he had worked so hard, Patterson dies at Bel Air, California. A week later, the United Zionist Revisionists of Great Britain hold a memorial meeting at the Anglo–Palestinian Club near Piccadilly Circus in Patterson’s memory. His documents and personal effects are held at the Jabotinsky Institute and Museum in Tel Aviv. His uniform and other memorabilia are on display in Beit Hagdudim, the Jewish Legions Museum at Netanya, Israel. His two man-eating lions are on display in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where his son Bryan Patterson later serves as curator.

(From: “Patterson, John Henry” by Yanky Fachler, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Timothy Michael Healy, Politician, Journalist, Author & Barrister

Timothy Michael “Tim” Healy, Irish nationalist politician, journalist, author, barrister, and one of the most controversial Irish Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is born in Bantry, County Cork on May 17, 1855.

Healy is the second son of Maurice Healy, clerk of the Bantry Poor Law Union, and Eliza Healy (née Sullivan). His elder brother, Thomas Healy (1854–1924), is a solicitor and Member of Parliament (MP) for North Wexford and his younger brother, Maurice Healy (1859–1923), with whom he holds a lifelong close relationship, is a solicitor and MP for Cork City.

Healy’s father is transferred in 1862 to a similar position in Lismore, County Waterford. He is educated at the Christian Brothers school in Fermoy, and is otherwise largely self-educated, in 1869, at the age of fourteen, he goes to live with his uncle Timothy Daniel Sullivan in Dublin.

Healy then moves to England in 1871, working first as a railway clerk and then from 1878 in London as parliamentary correspondent of The Nation, writing numerous articles in support of Charles Stewart Parnell, the newly emergent and more militant home rule leader, and his policy of parliamentary obstructionism. Healy takes part in Irish politics and becomes associated with Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party. After being arrested for intimidation in connection with the Irish National Land League, he is promptly elected as member of Parliament for Wexford Borough in 1880.

In Parliament, Healy becomes an authority on the Irish land question. The “Healy Clause” of the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881, which protects tenant farmers’ agrarian improvements from rent increases imposed by landlords, not only makes him popular throughout nationalist Ireland but also wins his cause seats in Protestant Ulster. He breaks with Parnell in 1886 and generally remains at odds with subsequent leaders of the Irish Parliamentary Party, though he is a strong supporter of proposals for Irish Home Rule. Meanwhile, he is called to the Irish bar in 1884 and becomes a queen’s counsel in 1899.

Dissatisfied with both the Liberals and the Irish Nationalists after the Easter Rising in 1916, Healy supports Sinn Féin after 1917. He returns to considerable prominence in 1922 when, on the urging of the soon-to-be Irish Free State‘s Provisional Government of W.T. Cosgrave, the British government recommends to King George V that Healy be appointed the first “Governor-General of the Irish Free State,” a new office of representative of the Crown created in the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and introduced by a combination of the Irish Free State Constitution and Letters Patent from the King.

Healy believes that he has been awarded the Governor-Generalship for life. However, the Executive Council of the Irish Free State decides in 1927 that the term of office of Governors-General will be five years. As a result, he retires from the office and public life in January 1928 and publishes his extensive two volume memoirs later in that year. Throughout his life he is formidable because he is ferociously quick-witted, because he is unworried by social or political convention, and because he knows no party discipline. Towards the end of his life he becomes more mellowed and otherwise more diplomatic.

Healy dies on March 26, 1931, at the age of 75, in Chapelizod, County Dublin. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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Death of Clare Boylan, Author, Journalist & Critic

Clare Boylan, Irish author, journalist and critic for newspapers, magazines and many international broadcast media, dies in Dublin at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, on May 16, 2006.

Boylan is born in Dublin on April 21, 1948, the youngest of three daughters of Patrick Boylan, a clerk, and his wife Evelyn (née Selby). Her mother feels trapped by the limitations that domesticity imposes on women in 1950s Ireland, and had wanted to have a writing career. She encourages her daughter to send off stories and poems to newspapers. The first piece is published when she is 14, and she wins a prize in the national Texaco Children’s Art Competition when she is about 10 years old.

The family lives in the Dublin suburb of Terenure. Boylan goes to school in the Presentation convent, then St. Louis convent in Rathmines, and does her leaving certificate in Rathmines College.

After leaving St. Louis convent, Boylan takes a job as a sales assistant in a bookshop before beginning her career as a journalist at The Irish Press, now defunct. She marries Alan Wilkes, a journalist who is a colleague at The Irish Press, in St. Patrick’s Church in Straffan, County Kildare, on September 18, 1970. In 1974 she wins the Journalist of the Year award when working in the city for the Evening Press. Later in her career she edits the glossy magazine Image, before largely giving up journalism to focus on a career as an author.

Boylan’s novels are Holy Pictures (1983), Last Resorts (1984), Black Baby (1988), Home Rule (1992), Beloved Stranger (1999), Room for a Single Lady (1997), which wins the Spirit of Light Award and is optioned for a film, and Emma Brown (2003). The latter work is a continuation of a 20-page fragment written by Charlotte Brontë before her death.

Boylan’s short stories are collected in A Nail on the Head (1983), Concerning Virgins (1990) and That Bad Woman (1995). The film Making Waves, based on her short story “Some Ladies on a Tour”, is nominated for an Oscar in 1988.

Boylan’s non-fiction includes The Agony and the Ego (1994) and The Literary Companion to Cats (1994). She writes introductions to the novels of Kate O’Brien and Molly Keane and adapts Keane’s novel Good Behaviour as the classic serial for BBC Radio 4 (2004). Her work has been translated as far afield as Russia and Hong Kong.

In later life, Boylan lives in County Wicklow with her husband. When she is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she faces her illness with characteristic strength. She takes up kickboxing and spends time in France, shopping, cooking and entertaining friends. She succumbs to cancer at the age of 58 on May 16, 2006.


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Birth of Mary Ward, Astronomer, Microscopist, Author & Artist

Mary Ward (née King), Irish naturalist, astronomer, microscopist, author, and artist, is born in Ballylin near present-day Ferbane, County Offaly, on April 27, 1827. She is killed in 1869 when she falls under the wheels of an experimental steam car built by her cousins, thereby becoming the first person known to be killed by a motor vehicle.

King is the youngest child of the Reverend Henry King and his wife Harriette. She and her sisters are educated at home, as are most girls at the time. However, her education is slightly different from the norm because she is of a renowned scientific family. She is interested in nature from an early age, and by the time she is three years old she is collecting insects.

King is a keen amateur astronomer, sharing this interest with her cousin, William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, who builds the Leviathan of Parsonstown, a reflecting telescope with a six-foot mirror which remains the world’s largest until 1917. She is a frequent visitor to Birr Castle, producing sketches of each stage of the process. Along with photographs made by Parson’s wife, Mary Rosse, her sketches are used to aid in the restoration of the telescope.

King also draws insects, and the astronomer James South observes her doing so one day. She is using a magnifying glass to see the tiny details, and her drawing so impresses him that he immediately persuades her father to buy her a microscope. A compound microscope made by Andrew Ross is purchased for £48 12s 8d. This is the beginning of a lifelong passion. She begins to read everything she can find about microscopy, and teaches herself until she has an expert knowledge. She makes her own slides from slivers of ivory, as glass is difficult to obtain, and prepares her own specimens. The physicist David Brewster asks her to make his microscope specimens, and uses her drawings in many of his books and articles.

Universities and most societies do not accept women at the time, but King obtains information any way she can. She writes frequently to scientists, asking them about papers they had published. During 1848, Parsons is made president of the Royal Society, and visits to his London home allows her to meet many scientists.

King is one of only three women on the mailing list for the Royal Astronomical Society. The others are Queen Victoria and Mary Somerville, a scientist for whom Somerville College at the University of Oxford is named.

On December 6, 1854, King marries Henry Ward of Castle Ward, County Down, who in 1881 succeeds to the title of Viscount Bangor. They have three sons and five daughters, including Maxwell Ward, 6th Viscount Bangor. Her best-known descendants are her grandson, Edward Ward, the foreign correspondent and seventh viscount, and his daughter, the Doctor Who actress Lalla Ward.

When Ward writes her first book, Sketches with the microscope (privately printed in 1857), she apparently believes that no one will print it because of her gender or lack of academic credentials. She publishes 250 copies of it privately, and several hundred handbills are distributed to advertise it. The printing sells during the next few weeks, which prompts a London publisher to take the risk and contract for future publication. The book is reprinted eight times between 1858 and 1880 as A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope. A new full-colour facsimile edition at €20 is published in September 2019 by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, with accompanying essays.

Her books are A Windfall for the Microscope (1856), A World of Wonders, Revealed by the Microscope (1857), Entomology in Sport, and Entomology in Earnest (1857, with Lady Jane Mahon), Microscope Teachings (1864), Telescope Teachings (1859). She illustrates her books and articles herself, as well as many books and papers by other scientists.

Ward is the first known automobile fatality. William Parsons’ sons had built a steam-powered car and on August 31, 1869, she and her husband are traveling in it with the Parsons boys, Richard Clere Parsons and the future steam turbine pioneer Charles Algernon Parsons, and their tutor, Richard Biggs. She is thrown from the car on a bend in the road at Parsonstown (present-day Birr, County Offaly). She falls under its wheel and dies almost instantly. A doctor who lives near the scene arrives within moments, and finds her cut, bruised, and bleeding from the ears. The fatal injury is a broken neck. It is believed that the grieving family destroys the car after the crash.

Ward’s microscope, accessories, slides and books are on display in her husband’s home, Castle Ward, County Down. William Parsons’ home at Birr Castle, County Offaly, is also open to the public.


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Birth of Miriam Gallagher, Playwright & Author

Miriam Gallagher, Irish playwright and author whose works have been performed globally and translated into numerous languages, is born in Waterford, County Waterford, on February 11, 1940.

Born Miriam O’Connor to Michael O’Connor, a bank manager with five children including Valerie, Michael and Fidelma, she goes to school in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roscrea, County Tipperary, and in Bregenz, Austria. She goes to college at both the University of London and University College Dublin (UCD). After college she works initially as a speech and language therapist, an occupation which leads to the publication of one of her non-fiction books. She also studies drama in London, at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) under Frieda Hodgson.

Gallagher is commissioned to write essays for The Irish Times, the Irish Medical Times and various journals. She takes up writing screenplays and stage plays. The result is a prolific list of productions which have been staged around the world as well as broadcast by RTÉ and the BBC.

Gallagher varies work from plays to speech therapy, as well as working with prisoners, and this leads her to be a visiting lecturer at universities across the globe. She is deeply involved in the organisations of her craft, leading her to being a member of Irish PEN, both on its committee and as vice president, on the Irish Writers’ Union committee as well as a council member of the Society of Irish Playwrights. Over the years she wins a number of awards including the Arts Council and European Script Fund Awards, the MHA TV Script Award, and the EU Theatre Award.

Gallagher’s husband is Gerhardt Gallagher. They live in Dublin and have three children, Mia, Donnacha, and Etain. In 2012 she is diagnosed with cancer and kidney disease. She dies on January 15, 2018.


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Birth of Thomas Heazle Parke, Physician, British Army Officer & Author

Thomas Heazle Parke FRSGS, Irish physician, British Army officer and author who is known for his work as a doctor on the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, is born at Clogher House in Kilmore, County Roscommon on November 27, 1857.

Parke is brought up in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim. He attends the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin, graduating in 1878. He becomes a registered medical practitioner in February 1879, working as a dispensary medical officer in Ballybay, County Monaghan, and then as a surgeon in Bath, Somerset, England.

Parke joins the British Army Medical Services (AMS) in February 1881 as a surgeon, first serving in Egypt during the final stages of the ʻUrabi revolt in 1882. As a senior medical officer at a field hospital near Cairo, he is responsible for treating battle casualties as well as the deadly cholera epidemic that afflicts 20% of British troops stationed there. In late 1883, he returns to Ireland, where he is stationed at Dundalk with the 16th The Queen’s Lancers. He arrives in Egypt once again in 1884 as a part of the Nile Expedition sent in relief of General Charles Gordon, who is besieged in Khartoum by Mahdists in neighbouring Sudan. The expedition arrives too late and Gordon is killed. Parke later negatively recounts this experience in an 1892 journal article titled How General Gordon Was Really Lost. Following the expedition, he spends the next few years stationed in Alexandria, where he notably introduces fox hunting to Egypt, becoming master of the Alexandria Hunt Club.

In January 1887, while in Alexandria, Parke is invited by Edmund Musgrave Barttelot to accompany him on the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition. The expedition is led by Henry Morton Stanley, and journeys through the African wilderness in relief of Emin Pasha, an Egyptian administrator who had been cut off by Mahdist forces following the Siege of Khartoum. He is initially rejected by Stanley upon his arrival in Alexandria, but is invited by telegram a day later to join the expedition in Cairo. On February 25, 1887, the expedition sets off from Zanzibar for the Congo.

The expedition lasts for three years and faces great difficulty, with the expedition of 812 men suffering from poor logistical planning and leadership. The rainforest is much larger than Stanley expected, leading much of the party to face starvation and disease. The expedition has to resort to looting native villages for food, escalating the conflict between the two groups. Parke, for his part, saves the lives of many in the party, including Stanley, who suffers from acute abdominal pain and a bout of sepsis. Stanley describes Parke’s care as “ever striving, patient, cheerful and gentle…most assiduous in his application to my needs, and gentle as a woman in his ministrations.” Parke also treats Arthur Jephson for fever, and nurses Robert H. Nelson through starvation. Furthermore, after a conflict with the natives, he has to save William Grant Stairs by orally sucking the poison out of an arrow wound.

During the expedition, Parke purchases from an Arab slaver a Mangbetu Pigmy girl, who serves as his nurse and servant for over a year.

After returning to Ireland, Parke receives an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and is awarded gold medals from the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal Geographical Society. He publishes several books, including My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa (1891) and A Guide to Health in Africa.

In August 1893, Parke visits William Beauclerk, 10th Duke of St. Albans in Ardrishaig, Scotland. He dies during that visit on August 11, 1893, presumably due to a seizure. His coffin is brought back to Ireland, where he receives a military funeral as it passes from the Dublin docks to Broadstone railway station. He is buried near his birthplace in Drumsna, County Roscommon.

A bronze statue of Parke stands on Merrion Street in Dublin, outside the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History. He is also commemorated by a bust in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

(Pictured: Photograph of Thomas Heazle Parke by Eglington & Co., Wellcome Collection gallery)