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


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William Conolly Resigns as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons

William Conolly, Irish politician, Commissioner of Revenue, lawyer and landowner also known as Speaker Conolly, resigns as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons on October 13, 1729, on grounds of ill health. Sir Ralph Gore is elected unanimously in his place. His name is spelled Conolly rather than the more familiar Connolly, derived ultimately from the Gaelic surname “Ó Conghalaigh.”

Conolly is born on April 9, 1662, in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, the son of an inn-keeper, Patrick Conolly. His father is a native of County Monaghan, and a descendant of the Ó Conghalaigh clan of Airgíalla, who settles in County Donegal, embraces the Anglican Church, and has children William, Patrick, Hugh, Phelim and Thady. His father sets aside enough money that he is able to send Conolly to Dublin to study law. He qualifies as an attorney in 1685, aged twenty-three.

Conolly practises as a lawyer in Dublin and in 1694 he marries Katherine Conyngham, daughter of General Sir Albert Conyngham. The Conynghams are an Ulster Scots family who are originally from Mountcharles in County Donegal. The family later settles at Slane Castle in County Meath in the 1780s, where the Conynghams still reside. They have no children, and on Katherine’s death in 1752 the estates are inherited by William James Conolly, his nephew by his brother Patrick.

Conolly makes his fortune from land transfers, following the confiscations by the Crown of lands belonging to supporters of King James II, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution and the accession of William III and Mary II in 1688–91, known as the “Williamite War in Ireland.” About 600,000 Irish acres are confiscated to be sold to pay for the costs of the war, nearly 5% of the land area of Ireland. Conolly is the largest individual buyer, in particular buying 3,300 acres in County Meath that had been assigned to the Earl of Albemarle.

Conolly builds the first winged Palladian house in Ireland, Castletown House in Celbridge, County Kildare, starting in 1722, and specifies that every part of it has to be made from Irish materials. His Dublin townhouse is on Capel Street, then the most fashionable part of the city. He also commissions the former Customs House (now the site of the Clarence Hotel) and the Irish Houses of Parliament, the world’s first building specifically designed as a bicameral parliament.

Conolly is the most important of the “Undertakers,” the managers of Government business in the Irish House of Commons, in the early 18th century. He is associated with the moderate faction of Whigs and is opposed by the Brodrick faction from Cork. He is a Member of Parliament for Donegal Borough from 1692 to 1703 and subsequently for Londonderry County until his death in 1729. In 1703 and 1713, he is also elected for Newtown Limavady and in 1727 for Ballyshannon, but chooses each time not to sit.

Conolly is Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and a Commissioner of the Revenue from 1715 to his death in 1729. He is re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons in the first session of George II‘s parliament and continues to serve until he collapses in the Commons on September 26, 1729. He is eventually persuaded to resign the Speaker’s chair on October 13, and he dies at his house in Capel Street, Dublin, on October 30. He is buried in Celbridge following a spectacular public funeral, which sees the beginnings of the custom of mourners wearing linen scarves to promote the Irish linen industry.

On his death, the Archbishop of Armagh, Hugh Boulter, estimates Conolly’s income in 1729 at £17,000 p.a. His widow Katherine continues to live in style at Castletown until her death in 1752. She builds the Wonderful Barn and the Conolly Folly in the 1740s. Then their estates pass briefly to William’s nephew William junior, and then on to his great-nephew Thomas Conolly M.P., known as “Squire Tom,” who is married to Lady Louisa Conolly.

A pub in Celbridge, The Speaker’s Bar, is named in his memory. There is also a pub in Firhouse, Dublin, called The Speaker Conolly named after him.


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Birth of Irish Writer Aidan Higgins

Aidan Higgins, Irish writer of short stories, travel pieces, radio drama and novels, is born on March 3, 1927 in Celbridge, County Kildare. Among his published works are Langrishe, Go Down (1966), Balcony of Europe (1972) and the biographical Dog Days (1998). His writing is characterised by non-conventional foreign settings and a stream of consciousness narrative mode. Most of his early fiction is autobiographical – “like slug trails, all the fiction happened.”

Higgins attends local schools and Clongowes Wood College, a private boarding school. In the early 1950s he works in Dublin as a copywriter for the Domas Advertising Agency. He then moves to London and works in light industry for about two years. He marries Jill Damaris Anders in London on November 25, 1955. From 1960, he sojourns in southern Spain, South Africa, Berlin and Rhodesia. In 1960 and 1961 he works as scriptwriter for Filmlets, an advertising firm in Johannesburg. These journeys provide material for much of his later work, including his three autobiographies, Donkey’s Years (1996), Dog Days (1998) and The Whole Hog (2000).

His upbringing in a landed Catholic family provides material for Higgins first novel, Langrishe, Go Down (1966). The novel is set in the 1930s in a run-down “big house” in County Kildare, inhabited by the last members of the Langrishe family, three spinster sisters, Catholics, living in not-so-genteel poverty in a once-grand setting. One sister, Imogen, has an affair with a German intellectual, Otto Beck, which transgresses the moral code of the time, bringing her a brief experience of happiness. Otto’s intellectual pursuits contrast with the moribund cultural life of mid-20th century Ireland. The book is awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and is later adapted as a BBC Television film by British playwright Harold Pinter, in association with RTÉ. Langrishe, Go Down also receives the Irish Academy of Letters Award.

Higgins second major novel is Balcony of Europe, taking its name from a feature of the Spanish fishing village, Nerja Andalusia, where it is set. The novel is carefully crafted, and rich in embedded literary references, using Spanish and Irish settings and various languages, including Spanish and some German, in its account of the daily life in the beaches and bars of Nerja of a largely expatriate community. The protagonist, an artist called Dan Ruttle, is obsessed with his friend’s young American wife, Charlotte, and by the contrast between his life among a cosmopolitan artistic community in the Mediterranean, and his Irish origins. The book is re-edited in collaboration with Neil Murphy and published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2010, with the Irish material cut and the affair between Dan Ruttle and Charlotte foregrounded.

Higgins later novels include widely acclaimed Bornholm Night Ferry and Lions of the Grunwald. Various writings have been collected and reprinted by the Dalkey Archive Press, including his three-volume autobiography, A Bestiary, and a collection of fiction, Flotsam and Jetsam, both of which demonstrate his wide erudition and his experience of life and travel in South Africa, Germany and London which gives his writing a largely cosmopolitan feel, utilising a range of European languages in turns of phrase.

Higgins lives in Kinsale, County Cork, from 1986 with the writer and journalist Alannah Hopkin. They are married in Dublin in November 1997. He is a founder member of Irish artists’ association Aosdána. He dies on December 27, 2015 in Kinsale.


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Death of Thomas Dongan, Governor of the Province of New York

Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, a member of the Irish Parliament, Royalist military officer during the English Civil War, and Governor of the Province of New York, dies in London on December 14, 1715. He is noted for having called the first representative legislature in New York and for granting the province’s Charter of Liberties.

Dongan is born in 1634 into an old Gaelic Norman (Irish Catholic) family in Castletown Kildrought (now Celbridge), County Kildare. He is the seventh and youngest son of Sir John Dongan, Baronet, Member of the Irish Parliament, and his wife Mary Talbot, daughter of Sir William Talbot, 1st Baronet and Alison Netterville. As Stuart supporters, following the overthrow of King Charles I, the family goes to King Louis XIV‘s France, although they manage to hold onto at least part of their Irish estates. His family gives their name to the Dongan Dragoons, a premier military regiment.

While in France, Dongan serves in an Irish regiment with Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount of Turenne. He stays in France after the Restoration and achieves the rank of colonel in 1674.

After the Treaty of Nijmegen ends the Franco-Dutch War in 1678, Dongan returns to England in obedience to the order that recalls all English subjects fighting in service to France. Fellow officer James, Duke of York, arranges to have him granted a high-ranking commission in the army designated for service in Flanders and a pension. That same year, he is appointed Lieutenant-Governor of English Tangier, which had been granted to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. He serves as part of the Tangier Garrison which defends the settlement.

In September 1682, James, Lord Proprietor of the Province of New York, appoints Dongan as Vice-admiral in the Navy and provincial governor (1683–1688) to replace Edmund Andros. James also grants him an estate on Staten Island. The estate eventually becomes the town of Castleton. Later, another section of the island is named Dongan Hills in honour of Dongan.

Dongan lands in Boston on August 10, 1683, crosses Long Island Sound, and passes through the small settlements in the eastern part of the island as he makes his way to Fort James, arriving on August 25.

At the time of Dongan’s appointment, the province is bankrupt and in a state of rebellion. He is able to restore order and stability. On October 14, 1683, he convenes the first-ever representative assembly in New York history at Fort James. The New York General Assembly, under the wise supervision of Dongan, passes an act entitled “A Charter of Liberties.” It decrees that the supreme legislative power under the Duke of York shall reside in a governor, council, and the people convened in general assembly; confers upon the members of the assembly rights and privileges making them a body coequal to and independent of the British Parliament; establishes town, county, and general courts of justice; solemnly proclaims the right of religious liberty; and passes acts enunciating certain constitutional liberties; right of suffrage; and no martial law or quartering of the soldiers without the consent of the inhabitants.

Dongan soon incurs the ill will of William Penn who is negotiating with the Iroquois for the purchase of the upper Susquehanna Valley. Dongan goes to Albany, and declares that the sale would be “prejudicial to His Highness’s interests.” The Cayugas sell the property to New York with the consent of the Mohawk. Years later, when back in England and in favor at the Court of James, Penn uses his influence to prejudice the king against Dongan.

On July 22, 1686 Governor Dongan grants Albany a municipal charter. Almost identical in form to the charter awarded to New York City just three months earlier, the Albany charter is the result of negotiations conducted between royal officials and Robert Livingston and Pieter Schuyler. The charter incorporates the city of Albany, establishing a separate municipal entity in the midst of the Van Rensselaer Manor.

Dongan establishes the boundary lines of the province by settling disputes with Connecticut on the east, with the French Governor of Canada on the north, and with Pennsylvania on the south, thus marking out the present limits of New York State.

James later consolidates the colonial governments of New York, New Jersey and the United Colonies of New England into the Dominion of New England and appoints Edmund Andros, the former Governor-General of New York, as Governor-General. Dongan transfers his governorship back to Andros on August 11, 1688.

Dongan executes land grants establishing several towns throughout New York State including the eastern Long Island communities of East Hampton and Southampton. These grants, called the Dongan Patents, set up Town Trustees as the governing bodies with a mission of managing common land for common good. The Dongan Patents still hold force of law and have been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States with the Trustees—rather than town boards, city councils or even the State Legislature—still managing much of the common land in the state.

Dongan lives in London for the last years of his life and dies on December 14, 1715. He is buried in the St. Pancras Old Church churchyard, London.

(Pictured: Portrait of Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, from Castleton Manor, Staten Island licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)


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Birth of Irish Billionaire Tony Ryan

tony-ryanThomas Anthony “Tony” Ryan, Irish billionaire, philanthropist and businessman, is born in Thurles, County Tipperary on February 2, 1936. He works for Aer Lingus, before going on to found their aircraft leasing arm, wet-leasing out their aircraft in the quieter winter months.

In 1975, with Aer Lingus and the Guinness Peat Group, Ryan founds Guinness Peat Aviation (later GPA Group), an aircraft leasing company, with a $50,000 investment. GPA grows to be the world’s biggest aircraft lessor, worth $4 billion at its peak. However its value dramatically collapses in 1992 after the cancellation of its planned IPO.

Ryan makes €55m from the sale of AerFi, the successor to GPA, in 2000. In 2001, he acquires Castleton Farm near Lexington, Kentucky from the Van Lennep Family Trust. He renames it Castleton Lyons and undertakes renovations to the property while returning to its original roots as a thoroughbred operation. He is a tax exile who lives in Monte Carlo, but also owns a stud farm near his home in Dolla, County Tipperary. He is the 7th wealthiest individual from Ireland in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 with over €1.5bn(£1bn).

Ryan is best known in the public mind as the founder of the eponymous Ryanair with Christopher Ryan and Liam Lonergan. Ryanair is believed to be the main source of his wealth in later life. Ryanair is now one of the biggest airlines in Europe and is valued at over 15 billion Euros as of December 2019.

Ryan over the years helps nurture two successful business protégés, Denis O’Brien and Michael O’Leary, both of whom become billionaires.

Ryan holds honorary doctorates from several universities, including Trinity College, Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick.

Ryan is an active and innovative funder of university education in Ireland. He donates a marine science institute to NUI Galway in 1993 which is named the Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute in honour of his father. He shows interest in marine science and aquaculture development in the west of Ireland. He also funds The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the Citywest park, that is run by Dublin City University.

At the time of his death Ryan owns 16% of Tiger Airways, a discount carrier based in Singapore which is founded in December 2003.

Ryan dies on October 3, 2007 at Celbridge, County Kildare following an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. His eldest son, Cathal, dies just three months later, aged 48, after being diagnosed with cancer.


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Birth of Damien Rice, Singer & Songwriter

damien-riceDamien Rice, Irish singer-songwriter, musician and record producer, is born in Dublin on December 7, 1973. He is raised in Celbridge, County Kildare and plays piano, guitar, percussion, and clarinet.

Rice forms the rock band Juniper along with Paul Noonan, Dominic Philips, David Geraghty and Brian Crosby in 1991. They meet while attending Salesian College Celbridge, a secondary school in Celbridge. After touring throughout Ireland, the band releases their debut EP Manna in 1995. They are signed to a six album deal with Polygram Records in 1997.

The band enjoys moderate success with a couple of single releases, but a projected album flounders because of record company politics. After achieving his musical goals with Juniper, Rice becomes frustrated with the artistic compromises required by the record label and he leaves the band in 1998. The remaining members of Juniper go on to become Bell X1.

After leaving the band Rice works as a farmer in Tuscany and busks throughout Europe before returning to Ireland in 2001 and beginning a solo musical career. He gives a demo recording to his second cousin, music producer David Arnold, who then gives Rice a mobile studio. Over the next year he continues to record his album and then embarks on a tour of Ireland with vocalist Lisa Hannigan, New York drummer Tom Osander, cellist Vyvienne Long, guitarist Mark Kelly and Dublin bassist Shane Fitzsimons.

In 2002 Rice’s debut album, O, reachs No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart and remains on the chart for 97 weeks. It also wins the Shortlist Music Prize and generates three top-30 singles in the UK. He releases his second album, 9, in 2006 and his songs have appeared in numerous films and television episodes. After eight years of various collaborations, he releases his third studio album My Favourite Faded Fantasy on October 31, 2014.

Rice’s personal activities include musical contributions to charitable projects such as the Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace, the Enough Project and the Burma Campaign UK and the U.S. Campaign for Burma to free Burmese democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Rice lives in Carlisle, England for many years before advancing on with his music career where he moves abroad.


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Death of Arthur Guinness

arthur-guinnessArthur Guinness, entrepreneur, visionary, philanthropist, brewer, and the founder of the Guinness brewery business, dies at Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 23, 1803.

Arthur Guinness is believed to be born in Celbridge, County Kildare on September 25, 1725 into the Protestant Guinness family, part of the Anglo-Irish aristrocracy. They claim to descend from the Gaelic Magennis clan of County Down. However, recent DNA evidence suggests descent from the McCartans, another County Down clan, whose spiritual home lay in the townland of “Guiness” near Ballynahinch, County Down.

Guinness’s place and date of birth are the subject of speculation. His gravestone in Oughter Ard, County Kildare, reads that he dies on January 23, 1803, at the age of 78, and that he is born some time in 1724 or very early in 1725. This contradicts the date of September 28, 1725 chosen by the Guinness company in 1991, apparently to end speculation about his birthdate. The place of birth is perhaps his mother’s home at Read homestead at Ardclough, County Kildare.

In 2009 it is claimed that Guinness is born in nearby Celbridge where his parents live in 1725 and where his father later becomes land steward for the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr. Arthur Price. In his will, Dr. Price leaves £100 each to “his servant” Arthur and his father in 1752.

Guinness leases a brewery in Leixlip in 1755, brewing ale. Guinness also purchases a long lease of an adjacent site from George Bryan of Philadelphia in 1756 that is developed as investment property. He leaves his younger brother in charge of the Leixlip enterprise in 1759 and moves on to another at St. James’ Gate, Dublin. He signs a 9,000-year lease for the brewery, effective from December 31, 1759. The lease is presently displayed in the floor at St. James’ Gate. By 1767 he is the master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers. His first actual sales of porter are listed on tax data from 1778. From the 1780s his second son, Arthur, works at his side and becomes the senior partner in the brewery in 1803.

Guinness’ major achievement is the expansion of his brewery in 1797–1799. Thereafter he brews only porter and employs members of the Purser family who have brewed porter in London from the 1770s. The Pursers become partners in the brewery for most of the 19th century. By the time of his death in 1803, the annual brewery output is over 20,000 barrels. Subsequently Arthur and/or his beer is nicknamed “Uncle Arthur” in Dublin. Guinness’ florid signature is still copied on every label of bottled Guinness.

From 1764, Guinness and his wife Olivia, whom he marries in 1761, live at Beaumont House, which Guinness has built on a 51-acre farm which is now a part of Beaumont Convalescent Home, behind the main part of Beaumont Hospital, between Santry and Raheny in north County Dublin. His landlord is Charles GardinerBeaumont, meaning beautiful hill, is named by Arthur and the later Beaumont parish copies the name. From March 1798 he lives at Mountjoy Square in Dublin, which is then in the process of being built in the style of elegant Georgian architecture. Three of his sons are also brewers, and his other descendants eventually include missionaries, politicians, and authors.

Sir Arthur Guinness dies in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 23, 1803 and is buried in his mother’s family plot at Oughter Ard, County Kildare.

To further honour Arthur Guinness’s legacy, in 2009 Guinness & Co. established the Arthur Guinness Fund (AGF). An internal fund set up by the Company, its aim is to enable and empower individuals with skills and opportunities to deliver a measured benefit to their communities. Guinness has donated more than €7 million to the Fund since its inception. Arthur Guinness is also one of a handful of Irish people commemorated twice on stamps, in 1959 and 2009.


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Birth of Arthur Guinness, Founder of the Guinness Brewery

arthur-guinnessArthur Guinness, Irish brewer and the founder of the Guinness brewery, is born in Celbridge, County Kildare, on September 28, 1725. He is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Arthur Guinness is born into the Protestant Guinness family, part of the Anglo-Irish aristrocracy. They claim to descend from the Gaelic Magennis clan of County Down. However, recent DNA evidence suggests descent from the McCartans, another County Down clan, whose spiritual home lay in the townland of “Guiness” near Ballynahinch, County Down.

Guinness’s place and date of birth are the subject of speculation. His gravestone in Oughter Ard, County Kildare, reads that he dies on January 23, 1803, at the age of 78, and that he is born some time in 1724 or very early in 1725. This contradicts the date of September 28, 1725 chosen by the Guinness company in 1991, apparently to end speculation about his birthdate. The place of birth is perhaps his mother’s home at Read homestead at Ardclough, County Kildare.

In 2009 it is claimed that Guinness is born in nearby Celbridge where his parents live in 1725 and where his father later becomes land steward for the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr. Arthur Price. In his will, Dr. Price leaves £100 each to “his servant” Arthur and his father in 1752.

Guinness leases a brewery in Leixlip in 1755, brewing ale. Guinness also purchases a long lease of an adjacent site from George Bryan of Philadelphia in 1756 that is developed as investment property. He leaves his younger brother in charge of the Leixlip enterprise in 1759 and moves on to another at St. James’ Gate, Dublin. He signs a 9,000-year lease for the brewery, effective from December 31, 1759. The lease is presently displayed in the floor at St. James’ Gate. By 1767 he is the master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers. His first actual sales of porter are listed on tax data from 1778. From the 1780s his second son, Arthur, works at his side and becomes the senior partner in the brewery in 1803.

Guinness’ major achievement is the expansion of his brewery in 1797–1799. Thereafter he brews only porter and employs members of the Purser family who have brewed porter in London from the 1770s. The Pursers become partners in the brewery for most of the 19th century. By the time of his death in 1803, the annual brewery output is over 20,000 barrels. Subsequently Arthur and/or his beer is nicknamed “Uncle Arthur” in Dublin. Guinness’ florid signature is still copied on every label of bottled Guinness.

From 1764, Guinness and his wife Olivia, whom he marries in 1761, live at Beaumont House, which Guinness has built on a 51-acre farm which is now a part of Beaumont Convalescent Home, behind the main part of Beaumont Hospital, between Santry and Raheny in north County Dublin. His landlord is Charles Gardiner. Beaumont, meaning beautiful hill, is named by Arthur and the later Beaumont parish copies the name. From March 1798 he lives at Mountjoy Square in Dublin, which is then in the process of being built in the style of elegant Georgian architecture. Three of his sons are also brewers, and his other descendants eventually include missionaries, politicians, and authors.

Sir Arthur Guinness dies in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 23, 1803 and is buried in his mother’s family plot at Oughter Ard, County Kildare.