seamus dubhghaill

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


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Six Charged in the Birmingham Pub Bombings

On November 24, 1974, British police charge six men in connection with the Birmingham pub bombings three days earlier. Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Robert Hunter, Noel McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker are accused of the murder of the youngest victim of the attacks, Jane Davis, age 17, who is one of 19 people killed when bombs explode on November 21 in the Mulberry Bush at the foot of the Rotunda, and the Tavern in the Town, a basement pub in New Street.

A massive security operation is launched in Birmingham the following day when the six accused men appear in a hearing at the Victoria Law Courts. Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Buck, who is leading the investigation, says the six had been apprehended on the night of the attacks.

Five of the alleged bombers, who are from Northern Ireland but have been resident in England for at least eleven years, are arrested on the Belfast ferry at Heysham. Callaghan is arrested in Birmingham. All of the men had been living in the city, but Buck declines to give their addresses “for security reasons.”

The assistant chief constable tells reporters that the alleged bombers will be charged soon in connection with the deaths of the other 18 victims. “We are satisfied that we have found the men primarily responsible, but our inquiries will continue,” he says.

The so-called Birmingham Six are found guilty in August 1975 of carrying out the bombings and sentenced to life imprisonment. They are released after 16 years in jail when their convictions are quashed by the Court of Appeal in May 1991. One of the six, Paddy Hill states on his release, “The police told us from the start they knew we hadn’t done it. They didn’t care who had done it.” The real bombers have never been prosecuted and no group has ever admitted planting devices.

Three detectives are charged with perjury and conspiracy in connection with the investigation, but their trial is halted in 1993 on the grounds of prejudicial media coverage.

The six men finally agree on undisclosed compensation settlements in June 2002 – more than ten years after they had been freed.

(From: “1974: Six charged over Birmingham pub bombs” by BBC News, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk)


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Birth of Dana Rosemary Scallon, Singer & Former European Parliament Member

Dana Rosemary Scallon, Irish singer, pantomime performer, and a former Member of the European Parliament known as Dana, is born on August 30, 1951 in Islington, London, England, where her Northern Irish family had relocated to find work. She wins the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with “All Kinds of Everything,” a subsequent worldwide million-seller. She resides in Birmingham, Alabama, for much of the 1990s, hosting a Christian music and interview series on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Scallon is born Rosemary Brown, the fifth of seven children of a King’s Cross railway station porter and trumpet player originally from Derry, Northern Ireland. When she is five, the family moves back to Derry where she grows up in the Creggan housing estate and Bogside. She attends St. Eugene’s Primary School and then enrolls at Thornhill College. A singing talent from childhood, she wins several local contests while also participating in local choirs and taking piano, violin and ballet lessons.

In the early 1960s Scallon forms a trio with two of her sisters, often performing at charity concerts organized by their father. When one sister leaves, the remaining duo lands a summer-long booking at the Palladium and a recording contract with Decca Records. Her other sister, however, leaves to join her new husband, a United States airman, in America. Stricken with stage fright, Scallon the solo singer manages to win a folk competition at the Embassy Ballroom with her eyes shut. The contest’s sponsor, teacher and music promoter Tony Johnston, helps her complete her equivalency degree and records a demo that convinces Decca Records to sign her on as a solo artist. She releases a single in 1967 that brings some attention from local TV and radio.

Performing under her school nickname “Dana,” Scallon becomes a fixture in Dublin‘s cabaret and folk clubs. She is crowned “Queen of Cabaret” and feted with a parade and a reception at Clontarf Castle on the Saturday before Easter 1968.

At the suggestion of Decca Record’s local agent, Phil Mitton, Scallon auditions for the Irish National Song Contest, a preliminary for the 1969 Eurovision competition. She reaches the finals in Dublin, but comes in second.

RTÉ Television chief Tom McGrath invites Scallon back to compete the following year. She accepts even though she is preparing to retire from active performing to pursue teaching. The song, “All Kinds of Everything” by Derry Lindsay and Jackie Smith, is picked for her by McGrath and propels her to victory. She goes on to represent Ireland in the 1970 Eurovision contest, held in Amsterdam. She performs perched on a stool on stage and defeats England’s Mary Hopkin and Spain‘s Julio Iglesias to secure Ireland’s victory.

Scallon is given a hero’s welcome upon her return to Ireland, especially in Northern Ireland. “All Kinds of Everything” shoots to #1 on the Irish Singles Chart, as well as the UK Singles Chart. It is also successful in Australia, Austria, Germany, Israel, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Yugoslavia, on its way to passing 1 million sales. She quickly records an album, with orchestral accompaniment. Her follow-up single, “I Will Follow You,” fails to make much of a splash. Given the choice of giving up, she decides to fight for her recording career, and succeeds with Paul Ryan‘s “Who Put the Lights Out,” which spends eleven weeks on the UK charts.

In 1974 Scallon switches to GTO Records. Her first single on that label, “Please Tell Him That I Said Hello,” returns her to the top 10. Her 1975 holiday single “It’s Gonna be a Cold Cold Christmas” by Roger Greenaway and Geoff Stephens, reaches #4 and remains a classic. Now an established Irish singing star she appears in films and festivals and sells out a week of concerts at the London Palladium. She also maintains her “Queen of the Cabaret” reputation with regular appearances in top London clubs. The BBC gives her two shows of her own: a series called A Day with Dana in 1974 and four-part series of Wake Up Sunday in 1979. BBC Radio follows suit with a series of I Believe in Music in 1977.

Meanwhile, Scallon begins performing stage pantomime in a blockbuster production of Cinderella in Oxford. In September 1976, however, she is hospitalized with a non-malignant growth on her left vocal cord, requiring surgery. The single “Fairytale” is sustained in the charts with the publicity from her dire medical prognosis. The experience strengthens her religious faith. On October 5, 1978 she marries Damien Scallon, a hotel-owner from Newry, at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.

In 1979, recovered from her surgery, Scallon records a new album entitled The Girl is Back, which has modest success. Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Ireland that year inspires her to write a song based on his personal motto, “Totus Tuus,” which tops the Irish charts. Long associated with Christian causes and Sunday-morning programs, she and her husband look for opportunities to reach a broader market for Christian music, and find one in the United States. They attend the National Religious Broadcasters conference in Washington, D.C. in 1980 and secure a contract with Word Records.

Scallon’s first album of Christian songs, Totally Yours, is released on Word Records in 1981. She continues to record pop music, including the 1982 album Magic and the official 1982 FIFA World Cup song for the Northern Ireland team, “Yer Man.” She also continues her stage career, starring in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Hull and later in London’s West End and Wolverhampton. She tours the United States in 1984, including appearances at Billy Graham‘s Boston crusades. She pens an autobiography in 1985. She performs “Totus Tuus” before a packed Superdome crowd during John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans in 1987.

Also in 1987, after one of her husband’s hotels is damaged for the seventh time by a terrorist bomb, he takes a job managing retreats for EWTN and moves the family to Alabama. They rent a house in the Cherokee Bend area of Mountain Brook and enroll their children at Saint Rose Academy. Scallon is welcomed to the network as well, hosting the Say Yes and We Are One Body programs. She leaves Word Records and signs with Heart Beat Records for her later Catholic albums. In 1993 she again performs for the Pope at a World Youth Day event in Denver, Colorado.

Scallon is naturalized as a dual citizen of the United States and Northern Ireland in 1997, and moves back there a year later because she has been drafted as an independent candidate for President of Ireland. She garners 15% of the popular vote, finishing third in the race won by Mary McAleese, ahead of the Labour Party candidate. Most of her votes come from rural districts where conservative values are more strongly held.

In 1999 Scallon wins a seat on the European Parliament, representing Connacht-Ulster on a family values and anti-abortion platform. During her five-year term she opposes the development of a European constitution. She also speaks out against a 2001 proposal to amend the Irish constitution to legalize the “morning-after pill” and intrauterine contraceptive devices. With the support of the mainstream parties, the amendment is put to a popular referendum, which fails in 2002. That same year she is defeated in a campaign to represent Galway West in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament. In 2004 she fails to hold her seat in the European Parliament and also does not secure a nomination for President.

Leaving politics behind, Scallon joins a weight-loss challenge on RTÉ’s The Afternoon Show in 2005. In 2006 she competes with Ronan McCormack on Celebrity Jigs ‘n’ Reels, finishing second on the popular dance contest.

That same year, Scallon and her husband launch their own music label, DS Music Productions, and release a compilation of songs deidcated to John Paul II’s memory. That is followed by Good Morning Jesus: Prayers and Songs for Children of All Ages, which is featured in a special series on EWTN. Heart Beat Records files a lawsuit against DS Music Productions for alleged copyright violations.

In 2007 Scallon appears as a guest judge for Young Star Search, a Belfast CityBeat radio contest. In 2009 she is brought on as a judge for The All Ireland Talent Show. That same year she returns to EWTN as host of Dana and Friends.


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Death of Sister Catherine McAuley, Founder of the Sisters of Mercy

Catherine Elizabeth McAuley, Irish religious sister who founds the Sisters of Mercy in 1831, dies in Dublin on November 11, 1841. The Sisters of Mercy has always been associated with teaching, especially in Ireland, where the sisters teach Catholics, and at times Protestants, at a time when education is mainly reserved for members of the established Church of Ireland.

McAuley is born on September 29, 1778, at Stormestown House in Dublin to James and Elinor (née Conway) McAuley. Her father dies in 1783 when she is five and her mother dies in 1798. She first goes to live with a maternal uncle, Owen Conway, and later joins her brother James and sister Mary at the home of William Armstrong, a Protestant relative on her mother’s side. In 1803, she becomes the household manager and companion of William and Catherine Callaghan, an elderly, childless, and wealthy Protestant couple and friends of the Armstrongs, at their estate in Coolock, a village northeast of Dublin. For 20 years she gives catechetical instruction to the household servants and the poor village children. Catherine Callaghan, who is raised in the Quaker tradition, dies in 1819. When William Callaghan dies in 1822, McAuley becomes the sole residuary legatee of their estate.

McAuley inherits a considerable fortune and chooses to use it to build a house where she and other compassionate women can take in homeless women and children to provide care and education for them. A location is selected at the junction of Lower Baggot Street and Herbert Street in Dublin, and in June 1824, the cornerstone is laid by the Rev. Dr Blake. As it is being refurbished, she studies current educational methods in preparation for her new endeavour. On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, September 24, 1827, the new institution for destitute women, orphans, and schools for the poor is opened and McAuley, with two companions, undertake its management.

For three years, McAuley and her companions continue their work as lay women. She never intends to found a community of religious women. Her initial intention is to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. In 1828 Archbishop of Dublin Daniel Murray permits the staff of the institute to assume a distinctive dress and to publicly visit the sick. The uniform adopted is a black dress and cape of the same material reaching to the belt, a white collar and a lace cap and veil – such a costume as is now worn by the postulants of the congregation. In the same year the archbishop desires McAuley to choose some name by which the little community might be known, and she chooses that of “Sisters of Mercy,” having the design of making the works of mercy the distinctive feature of the institute.

McAuley is desirous that the members should combine with the silence and prayer of the Carmelites, with the active labours of a Sister of Charity. The position of the institute is anomalous, its members are not bound by vows nor are they restrained by rules. The clergy and people of the church of the time, however, are not supportive of groups of laywomen working independently of church structures. The main concern is for the stability and continuity of the works of mercy which the women had taken on. Should any of them get married or lose interest, the poor and the orphans whom they are caring for would then be at a loss.

McAuley’s clerical mentor urges her to form a religious institute. Along with two other women, Mary Ann Doyle and Mary Elizabeth Harley, she enters the novitiate of the Presentation Sisters to formally prepare for life as women religious in September 1830. On December 12, 1831 they profess vows and return to the House of Mercy. The Sisters of Mercy consider December 12, 1831 as the day of their founding as a religious community. Archbishop Murray assists McAuley in founding the Sisters of Mercy, and professes the first three members. He then appoints her Mother Superior.

Between 1831 and 1841 McAuley founds additional Convents in Tullamore, Charleville, Cork, Carlow, Galway, Limerick, Birr, Bermondsey and Birmingham and branch houses in Kingstown and Booterstown. A cholera epidemic hits Dublin in 1832, and she agrees to staff a cholera hospital on Townsend Street.

The rule of the Sisters of Mercy is formally confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI on June 6, 1841. McAuley lives only ten years as a Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Catherine.

McAuley dies of tuberculosis at the age of sixty-three on November 11, 1841 at Baggot Street. She is buried at Baggot Street Cemetery. At the time of her death, there are 100 Sisters of Mercy in ten foundations. Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters leave Ireland to establish new foundations on the east and west coasts of the United States, in Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.

Total worldwide membership consists of about 5,500 Sisters of Mercy, 5,000 Associates, and close to half a million partners in ministry. The Mercy International Centre in Dublin is the international “home” of Mercy worldwide and the mercyworld.org website is the virtual home.

In 1978, the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Catherine McAuley is opened by Pope Paul VI. In 1990, upon recognition of her heroic virtues, Pope John Paul II declares her Venerable.


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Birth of Frank Stagg, Provisional IRA Hunger Striker

Frank Stagg, Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger striker, is born in Hollymount, County Mayo on October 4, 1941.

Stagg is the seventh child in a family of thirteen children. His father, Henry, and his uncle had both fought in the Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War. His brother, Emmet Stagg, becomes a Labour Party politician and a Teachta Dála (TD) for Kildare North. He is educated to primary level at Newbrook Primary School and at CBS Ballinrobe to secondary level. After finishing his schooling, he works as an assistant gamekeeper with his uncle prior to emigrating to England in search of work. Once in England, he gains employment as a bus conductor in North London and later becomes a bus driver. While in England he meets and marries fellow Mayo native, Bridie Armstrong from Carnacon in 1970.

In 1972, Stagg joins the Luton cumann of Sinn Féin and soon after becomes a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

In April 1973, Stagg is arrested with six others alleged to comprise an IRA unit planning bombing attacks in Coventry. He is tried at Birmingham Crown Court. The jury finds three of the seven not guilty. The remaining four are all found guilty of criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson. Stagg and English-born priest, Father Patrick Fell, are found to be the unit’s commanding officers. Stagg is given a ten-year sentence and Fell is given twelve years. Thomas Gerald Rush is given seven years and Anthony Roland Lynch, who is also found guilty of possessing articles with intent to destroy property, namely nitric acid, balloons, wax and sodium chlorate, is given ten years.

Stagg is initially sent to the top security Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight. In March 1974, having been moved to Parkhurst Prison, he and fellow Mayo man Michael Gaughan join a hunger strike begun by the sisters Marian Price and Dolours Price, Hugh Feeney and Gerry Kelly.

Following the hunger strike that results in the death of Michael Gaughan, the Price sisters, Feeney and Kelly are granted repatriation to Ireland. Stagg is denied repatriation and is transferred to Long Lartin Prison. During his time there he is subject to solitary confinement for refusing to do prison work and is also subjected, along with his wife and sisters during visits, to humiliating body searches. In protest against this, he begins a second hunger strike that lasts for thirty-four days. This ends when the prison governor agrees to an end of the strip-searches on Stagg and his visitors. He is bed-ridden for the rest of his incarceration in Long Lartin, due to a kidney complaint.

In 1975 Stagg is transferred to Wakefield Prison, where it is demanded that he again do prison work. He refuses and is placed in solitary confinement. On December 14, 1975, he embarks on a hunger strike in Wakefield, along with a number of other republican prisoners, after being refused repatriation to Ireland during the IRA/British truce. His demands are an end to solitary confinement, no prison work and repatriation to prison in Ireland. The British government refuses to meet any of these demands and Stagg dies on February 12, 1976 after 62 days on hunger strike.

Stagg’s burial causes considerable controversy. Republicans and two of his brothers seek to have him buried in the republican plot in Ballina beside the grave of Michael Gaughan, in accordance with his wishes. His widow, his brother Emmet Stagg and the Irish government wish to have him buried in the family plot in the same cemetery and to avoid republican involvement in the funeral.

In order to prevent the body from being disinterred and reburied by republicans, the grave is covered with concrete. Local Gardaí keep an armed guard by the grave for six months. However, unknown to them, the plot beside the grave is available for purchase. Stagg’s brother George purchases the plot and places a headstone over it, with it declaring that the “pro-British Irish government” had stolen Frank’s body. In November 1977, a group of republicans dig down into the plot that George had purchased, then dig sideways and recover Stagg’s coffin from the adjacent plot under cover of darkness, before reburying it in the republican plot beside the body of Michael Gaughan. The Republicans hold their own version of a funeral ceremony before disappearing back into the night.

Following the final burial, an anonymous letter is sent to Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Minister for Justice Patrick Cooney, Minister for Post and Telegraphs Conor Cruise O’Brien and Minister for Foreign Affairs Garret FitzGerald, informing them each that they have been “marked out for assassination” because of their government’s involvement with Stagg’s burials. Stagg’s widow Bridie and his brother Emmett are reported to be intimidated by members of the Provisional IRA due to their opposition to his burial in a Republican plot.

The IRA swears revenge over Stagg’s death, warning the British public it is going to attack indiscriminately. They explode about 13 bombs throughout England within a month after his death.


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Birth of John Boland, Politician & Olympic Medalist

John Mary Pius Boland, Irish Nationalist politician, is born at 135 Capel Street, Dublin, on September 16, 1870. He serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for South Kerry (1900–1918). He is also noteworthy as a gold medalist tennis player at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

Boland is born to Patrick Boland (1840–1877), businessman, and Mary Donnelly. Following the death of his mother in 1882, he is placed with his six siblings under the guardianship of his uncle Nicholas Donnelly, auxiliary bishop of Dublin.

Boland is educated at two private Catholic schools, one Irish, the second English, and both of whose existence and evolution are influenced by John Henry Newman – the Catholic University School, Dublin, and The Oratory School, Birmingham. His secondary education at the two schools helps give him the foundation and understanding to play an influential role in the politics of Great Britain and Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, when he is a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party which pursues constitutional Home Rule.

In 1892 Boland graduates with a BA from London University. He studies for a semester in Bonn, Germany, where he is a member of Bavaria Bonn, a student fraternity that is member of the Cartellverband. He studies law at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with a BA in 1896 and MA in 1901. Although called to the Bar in 1897, he never practises.

Boland is the first Olympic champion in tennis for Great Britain and Ireland at the first modern Olympics, which takes place in Athens in 1896. He visits his friend Thrasyvoulos Manos in Athens during the Olympics, and Manos, a member of the organising committee, enters Boland in the tennis tournament. Boland promptly wins the singles tournament, defeating Friedrich Traun of Germany in the first round, Evangelos Rallis of Greece in the second, Konstantinos Paspatis of Greece in the semifinals, and Dionysios Kasdaglis of Greece in the final.

Boland then enters the doubles event with Traun, the German runner whom he had defeated in the first round of the singles. Together, they win the doubles event. They defeat Aristidis and Konstantinos Akratopoulos of Greece in the first round, have a bye in the semifinals, and defeat Demetrios Petrokokkinos of Greece and Dimitrios Kasdaglis in the final. When the Union Flag and the German flag are run up the flagpole to honour Boland and Traun’s victory, Boland points out to the man hoisting the flags that he is Irish, adding “It’s a gold harp on a green ground, we hope.” The officials agree to have an Irish flag prepared.

Following a visit to Kerry, Boland becomes concerned about the lack of literacy among the native population, as he also has a keen interest in the Irish language.

In 1908, Boland is appointed a member of the commission for the foundation of the National University of Ireland (NUI). From 1926 to 1947, he is General Secretary of the Catholic Truth Society. He receives a papal knighthood, becoming a Knight of St. Gregory in recognition for his work in education, and in 1950 he is awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws by the NUI.

Boland marries Eileen Moloney (1876–1937), daughter of an Australian Dr. Patrick Moloney, at SS Peter and Edward, Palace-street, Westminster, on October 22, 1902. They have one son and five daughters. His daughter Honor Crowley (née Boland) succeeds her husband, Frederick Crowley, upon his death sitting as Fianna Fáil TD for South Kerry from 1945 until her death in 1966. His daughter Bridget Boland is a playwright who writes The Prisoner.

Boland dies at the age of 87 at his home in London on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1958.


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Birth of Sean Scully, Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor & Photographer

Sean Scully, Irish-born American-based artist working as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and photographer, is born in Dublin on June 30, 1945. His work is held in museum collections worldwide and he has twice been named a Turner Prize nominee.

Four years after his birth, Scully’s family moves to London where they live in a working-class part of South London, moving from lodging to lodging for a number of years. By the age of 9, he knows he wants to become an artist. From the age of 15 until he is 17, he is apprenticed at a commercial printing shop in London as a typesetter, an experience that greatly influences his future artwork.

Scully studies at Croydon School of Art between 1965-67 and at Newcastle University between 1967-71. He is awarded the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship in 1972 to attend Harvard University. It is during this first stay in the United States that he begins to experiment with new techniques such as tape and spray paint. In 1975 he is awarded a Harkness Fellowship and establishes a studio in New York, where he settles, becoming an American citizen in 1983.

Over the years, Scully develops and refines his own recognisable style of geometric abstraction and most notably his characteristic motif of the ‘stripe.’ Although he is predominately known for his monumental paintings, he is also a gifted printmaker who has made a notable body of woodcuts and etchings.

Scully has his first solo exhibition at the Rowan Gallery, London in 1973. He has his first retrospective at the Ikon Gallery in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, in 1981, which travels throughout the United Kingdom. In 1989 his first solo exhibition in a European museum travels from the Whitechapel Gallery in London to Palacio Velázquez in Madrid and Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich. He has further solo exhibitions at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen in Düsseldorf (2001) which travels to Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Valencia; The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. (2005) travels to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas, the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio and finally the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A major retrospective tours multiple venues in China between 2015 and 2017.

Scully’s paintings and prints are held in the collections of Tate in London, the Albertina in Vienna, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Instituto Valencia d’Arte Modern in Valencia, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas, Guangzhou Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China, and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China.

Scully has held teaching positions at Chelsea College of Arts and Goldsmith’s College of Art and Design, both in London, Princeton University in New Jersey, Parsons School of Design in New York, and most recently at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. He is shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989 and in 1993, and is elected a Royal Academician in 2013. He participates for the first time at the Venice Biennale in 2014.

Sean Scully lives and works in New York and in Bavaria, Germany.


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Birth of Shakespearean Actress Harriet Smithson

Harriet Constance Smithson, Anglo-Irish Shakespearean actress of the 19th century and best known as the first wife and muse of Hector Berlioz, is born at Ennis, County Clare on March 18, 1800.

Her father, William Joseph Smithson, is an actor and theatrical manager from Gloucestershire, England, and her mother is an actress whose full name is unknown. She also has a brother, Joseph Smithson, and a sister, name also unknown. In October 1801, she is left in the care of Reverend James Barrett, a priest of the Church of Ireland, parish of Drumcliffe. Barrett becomes her guardian and raises her as though she were his own daughter. He instructs her “in the precepts of religion,” and keeps everything connected with the stage from her view. After his death on February 16, 1808, the Smithsons send Harriet to a boarding school in Waterford.

On May 27, 1814, Smithson makes her first stage appearance at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, as Albina Mandevill in Frederick Reynolds‘s The Will. Her performance is well received. In 1815, she takes her parents’ place in Montague Talbot’s company in Belfast after they return to Dublin. The season opens on January 1, 1816, where she extends her range in roles, performing in multiple comedies. She then travels to Newry, Limerick, Dublin, and Birmingham, where she joins Robert Elliston‘s company. She spends the next two months playing over forty roles in various genres.

Four years later, January 20, 1818, Smithson makes her first London appearance at Drury Lane as Letitia Hardy in The Belle’s Stratagem. Her first performance receives mixed reviews from critics, but she quickly gains some favour of critics and performers as she obtains more experience. She joins the permanent company at the Royal Coburg Theatre later that year. However, she rejoins Drury Lane Company in the autumn of 1820. On February 20, 1821, she takes the lead female role in Thérèse by John Howard Payne, when the cast actress falls ill. Overall, the London public remembers her as The Times put it, “a face and features well adapted to her profession; but [an actress] not likely to make a great impression on a London audience, or to figure among stars of the first magnitude.”

In 1827, Smithson makes her Paris début as Lydia Languish in The Rivals at the Théâtre de l’Impératrice. Though she receives negative reviews for this role, she is highly praised for her beauty and ability in the subsequent performance of She Stoops to Conquer. On September 11, 1827, she is given the small part of Ophelia next to Charles Kemble in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She leaves a long lasting impression on the French through her interpretation of Ophelia’s madness, utilizing pantomime and natural presentation.

The tremendous success of Hamlet leads to the announcement of Romeo and Juliet, for September 15. Smithson is cast as Juliet, where she revolutionizes the women’s role in theatre by becoming as important as her male counterpart. Until this point, women’s lines in theatre are heavily cut and censored to reduce the role for the company’s “restricted talent.” Again, the production is widely well received. On September 18, Shakespeare’s Othello becomes the third Shakespeare tragedy to be performed by The English theatre. Her performance as Desdemona is less effective, but the production is popular enough to be repeated the following week. She is cast as Jane Shore in the renowned tragedy The Tragedy of Jane Shore, a role in which she moves her audience to tears. The production soon becomes the most performed play in the English season. At the end of her time in France, she had acted in several productions with famous actors such as William Charles Macready, Edmund Kean, and Charles Kemble.

As opportunities to continue her work in Paris dwindle, Smithson returns to London to perform Jane Shore again. The production opens at Covent Garden on May 11, 1829 under unfavorable circumstances. Some audience members, who had read her reviews before she went to Paris, feel reluctant to attend the show. However, just seven days after her next performance as Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the press gives her glowing reviews.

After Covent Garden closes for the summer in 1832, Smithson tours England to minor theatres performing almost exclusively in tragedies. In June 1832, she joins the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where she has limited success and receives criticism about her weight.

In 1830, Smithson goes back to Paris to set up an English theatre under her own management. She obtains permission to perform at the Theatre-Italien where she performs several unsuccessful plays. A year later, she breaks her leg and is forced to put her career on hold until her leg heals, leaving her in great debt. She gives her last performance, as Ophelia, on December 15, 1836, before her health deteriorates.

Toward the end of her life, Smithson suffers from paralysis, which leaves her barely able to move or speak. She dies on March 3, 1854, at her home on the rue Saint-Vincent, and is buried at the Cimetière Saint-Vincent. Berlioz has her body is later reinterred at the Montmartre Cemetery when Cimetière Saint-Vincent undergoes redevelopment.

(Pictured: Oil on canvas portrait of Harriet Smithson by Claude-Marie-Paul Dubufe, located at the Musee Magnin, Dijon, France)


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The Clerkenwell Explosion

The Clerkenwell explosion, also known as the Clerkenwell Outrage, is a bombing that takes place in London on December 13, 1867. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), nicknamed the “Fenians“, explode a bomb to try to free one of their members being held on remand at Clerkenwell Prison. The explosion damages nearby houses, kills 12 people and causes 120 injuries. None of the prisoners escape.

The whole of Ireland has been under British rule since the end of the Nine Years’ War in 1603. The Irish Republican Brotherhood is founded on March 17, 1858 with the aim of establishing an independent democratic republic in Ireland, and the Fenian Brotherhood, ostensibly the American wing of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is founded in New York City in 1859.

On November 20, 1867, Ricard O’Sullivan Burke and his companion Joseph Casey are arrested in Woburn Square in London. Burke had purchased weapons for the Fenians in Birmingham. Burke is charged with treason and Casey with assaulting a constable. They are remanded in custody pending trial, and imprisoned at the Middlesex House of Detention, also known as Clerkenwell Prison.

Burke’s IRB colleagues try to free him on Thursday, December 12, without success. They try to blow a hole in the prison wall while the prisoners are exercising in the prison yard but their bomb fails to explode. They try again at about 3:45 PM the following day, December 13, using a barrel of gunpowder concealed on a costermonger‘s barrow. The explosion demolishes a 60-foot section of the wall, but no one escapes. The prison authorities had been forewarned and the prisoners were exercised earlier in the day, so they are locked in their cells when the bomb explodes. The blast also damages several nearby tenement houses on Corporation Lane on the opposite side of the road, killing 12 people and causing many injuries, with estimates ranging from around 30 to over 120.

Charges are laid against eight, but two turn Queen’s evidence. Michael Barrett and five others are tried at the Old Bailey in April 1868. Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn and Baron George Bramwell preside with a jury. The prosecution is led by the Attorney General Sir John Karslake and the Solicitor General Sir William Baliol Brett supported by Hardinge Giffard QC and two junior counsel. Defence barristers included Montagu Williams and Edward Clarke.

Barrett, a native of County Fermanagh, protests his innocence, and some witnesses testify that he was in Scotland on December 13, but another identifies him as being present at the scene. Two defendants are acquitted on the instructions of the presiding judges in the course of the trial, leaving four before the jury. Following deliberations, three of the defendants are acquitted, but Barrett is convicted of murder on April 27 and sentenced to death. Barrett is hanged by William Calcraft on the morning of Tuesday, May 26, 1868 outside Newgate Prison. He is the last man to be publicly hanged in England, with the practice being ended from May 29, 1868 by the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868.

The trial of Burke and Casey, and a third defendant, Henry Shaw, begains on April 28, all charged with treason. The prosecution claims that Burke had been involved in finding arms for the Fenians in Birmingham in late 1865 and early 1866, where he was using the name “Edward C Winslow.” The case against Casey is ultimately withdrawn, but Burke and Shaw are found guilty of treason on April 30 and sentenced to 15 years and 7 years of penal servitude respectively.

The bombing enrages the British public, souring relations between England and Ireland and causing a panic over the Fenian threat. The radical, Charles Bradlaugh, condemns the incident in his newspaper, the National Reformer, as an act “calculated to destroy all sympathy, and to evoke the opposition of all classes.” The Metropolitan Police form a Special Irish Branch at Scotland Yard in March 1883, initially as a small section of the Criminal Investigation Department, to monitor Fenian activity.

In April 1867, the supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood condemns the Clerkenwell Outrage as a “dreadful and deplorable event,” but the organisation returns to bombings in Britain in 1881 to 1885, with the Fenian dynamite campaign.

(Pictured: The House of Detention in Clerkenwell after the bombing as seen from within the prison yard)


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Birth of John Rocha, Hong Kong Born Fashion Designer

john-rochaJohn Rocha, fashion designer of Chinese and Portuguese (Macanese) descent, is born in Hong Kong on August 23, 1953. He has been based mainly in Dublin since the late 1970s.

Rocha moves to Ireland after graduating from the Croydon School of Art, London. Known for his hand-crafting, beading and appliqué to garments, he first establishes a name for himself with his Chinatown label in Dublin in the 1980s and later designing clothing for both men and women in the Irish high street stores A Wear and their luxury stores Brown Thomas. He designs a range of cut crystal stemware and vases for Waterford Crystal in collaboration with glass designer Marcus Notley, until that firm’s closure in 2008. The brand relaunches in 2010 and Rocha’s crystal product ranges become available again.

By 1993, Rocha is named Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. He runs his own “John Rocha,” “John Rocha Jeans,” “Rocha John Rocha” and “John Rocha Jewellery” labels alongside a diffusion clothing, homeware and accessories label for the department store Debenhams. He also designs the interiors of the Morrison Hotel in Dublin and the Orion Building in Birmingham. He is awarded the ‘Special Award’ at the Ernst & Young Irish Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2008 which takes place in the City West Hotel in Dublin on October 23, 2008.

Rocha continues to produce a ‘pret-a-porter’ womenswear and menswear range which he showcases twice annually at the British Fashion Council sponsored London Fashion Week (February & September). His John Rocha lifestyle boutique opens on Dover Street, London, in 2006. His design business, operating as Three Moon Design, is located at Dublin’s Ely Place with a turnover of €200 million per year.

In 2014 Rocha showcases another Spring/Summer collection at London Fashion Week and announces his retirement from the event, stating, “At this point in my life I want to live by my calendar and not the Fashion Week calendar. Stopping allows me to do that.”

Rocha is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 for his contributions to the British fashion industry. In April 2015 he is awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Art & Design at The Asian Awards.

In 2010 Rocha is one of six contemporary, internationally renowned Irish fashion designers featured on a set of Irish postage stamps issued by An Post. The other designers featured are Paul Costelloe, Louise Kennedy, Lainey Keogh, Philip Treacy and Orla Kiely.

Rocha resides in Dublin with his wife. The Rocha family keep a second home in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in southern France. His daughter, Simone Rocha, is also a successful designer.


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Hanging of Peter Barnes & James Richards

peter-barnes-and-james-mccormackIrish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers Peter Barnes and James Richards are hanged in Winston Green Prison in Birmingham, England on February 7, 1940 for their involvement in a bombing in Coventry the previous year which killed five people.

Barnes and Richards (also known as James McCormack) are members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and participate in the August 25, 1939 Coventry bombing which kills five people. Although they both admit to constructing the bomb, which is intended to be used to destroy a power station, they claim not to be involved in planting the bomb.

Seán MacBride, a former Chief of Staff of the IRA and Irish barrister, attempts to secure their release claiming they are being illegally held without a writ of habeas corpus. However, both are charged with murder on December 12 along with Brigid O’Hara and Joseph and Mary Hewitt. All five plead not guilty before the court at Birmingham Assizes.

Brigid O’Hara issues statements between August 28 and September 4 to Scotland Yard and Birmingham City Police denying any knowledge of the bombings and later provides evidence for the prosecution. Found guilty of murder on December 15, Barnes and Richards are hanged at Winston Green Prison in Birmingham on February 7, 1940. Their remains are returned to Dublin in 1969.

The reinterment in Mullingar, County Westmeath is attended by an estimated 15,000 people. Mass is said in Irish in the Cathedral before the funeral to Ballyglass Cemetery. Among those attending are three brothers of Peter Barnes and a sister and brother of McCormack.

The trial and execution results in a public outcry in Ireland against Neville Chamberlain and the British Government as Peadar O’Donnell and other prominent Irish writers sign a petition campaigning for leniency towards the condemned men.