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


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Birth of Thomas Steele, Engineer & Political Activist

Thomas (Tom) Steele, engineer and political activist, is born on November 3, 1788 at Derrymore, County Clare, the son of William Steele, gentleman, and Catherine Steele (née Bridgeman).

In July 1805 Steele enters Trinity College Dublin, graduating BA in the spring of 1810. He then studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he graduates MA in 1820, becoming an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the same year. In 1821 he inherits Cullane House, near Craggaunowen, County Clare, on the death of his uncle. Of an enthusiastic and adventurous nature, in 1823 he decides to support the cause of the liberals in Spain who had rebelled against the autocratic rule of Ferdinand VII in 1820. Mortgaging the house and lands at Cullane, he purchases a large quantity of arms and ships them to Spain on board the ship Iris. Commissioned in the Legion Estrenjera of the liberal army, he distinguishes himself in the Battle of Trocadero and the defence of Madrid. He later publishes an account of his experiences, Notes on the war in Spain (London, 1824).

Returning from Spain with his fortunes ruined, Steele begins experiments with underwater diving apparatus, patenting “Steele’s improved diving-bell” in 1825. In the same year he becomes a partner in the Vigo Bay Co., which attempts to recover gold and silver bullion from Spanish ships which sank in Vigo Bay in 1702. After extensive diving operations using Steele’s diving-bell, the company is wound up at an acrimonious meeting of shareholders in September 1826. Despite claims by some of the shareholders that bullion had been found, the scheme is a total failure.

Steele is involved in the Catholic Association and, a close friend of Daniel O’Connell, is active in the emancipation campaign although himself a protestant. In 1828 he seconds O’Connell’s nomination for Clare in the general election of that year. Appointed by O’Connell as ‘Head Pacificator,’ he tours the country collecting weapons and discouraging the rural population from engaging in faction fighting. There is a certain irony in this appointment, as Steele’s own volatile temper is well known. A noted duelist, he fights an inconclusive duel in 1829 with William Smith O’Brien, who had opposed O’Connell’s second candidature for County Clare. In 1828 he is a founder of the Limerick Independent Club.

An associate of the diving pioneers John and Charles Deane, Steele dives on the wreck of the Intrinsic, off the Clare coast in January 1836, using their new diving helmet. He then begins developing equipment to provide underwater illumination, and in 1840 dives with the Deane brothers off Plymouth on the wreck of Henry VIII‘s ship, the Mary Rose. Yet he is in serious financial difficulties, which are not helped by some of his more eccentric building projects. It is said of him that “he seemed utterly incapable of rationally estimating the value of money in his own case.” He begins renovating, at great expense, a ruined castle that stands on his land at Cullane. He also later has a large standing stone, known as the ‘Umbilicus Hiberniae’ (‘Navel of Ireland’), removed from Birr, King’s County (now County Offaly), and taken to his house. At Cullane it is set up as an altar and used for mass whenever O’Connell or members of the Catholic Association visit. It is not returned to Birr until 1974.

Known as “Honest Tom Steele,” Steele is deeply devoted to O’Connell, and is one of his key lieutenants during the repeal campaigns of the 1830s and 1840s. He takes his title and responsibilities as O’Connell’s “Head Pacificator” so seriously and generally expresses himself with such long-winded pomposity that he becomes something of a figure of fun for opponents of O’Connell and for many of the younger men in the Repeal Association. Tried on conspiracy charges after the prohibition of the Clontarf monster meeting, he is one of the six “traversers” imprisoned with O’Connell in Richmond jail from May to September 1844. Strongly supporting O’Connell’s repudiation of physical force, he chairs and takes a prominent part in the peace resolution debates of July 1846 in which the Young Ireland group walks out of the Repeal Association.

After the death of O’Connell on May 15, 1847, Steele falls into a deep depression and, financially ruined, jumps from Waterloo Bridge in London on April 19, 1848. Pulled from the river by a Thames boatman, he survives for a number of weeks. Former political opponents, including Lord Brougham, offer financial help but he refuses. He dies on June 15, 1848, and his remains are taken to Dublin, where he is waked at Conciliation Hall, the headquarters of the Repeal Association, on Burgh Quay. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, beside O’Connell’s tomb. He appears as one of the figures on the O’Connell memorial in O’Connell Street, Dublin.

Steele never marries, but harbours an unrequited passion for a Miss Eileen Crowe of Ennis, County Clare, and is often to be seen standing on a large rock, which comes to be known as “Steele’s Rock,” on the banks of the River Fergus in Ennis as he tries to catch a glimpse of Miss Crowe, who lives across the river.

(From: “Steele, Thomas (Tom)” by David Murphy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie | Pictured: (L to R) Thomas Steele, Daniel O’Connell and O’Gorman Mahon by Joseph Patrick Haverty)


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Death of Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh

Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, Irish businessman and philanthropist, dies at his London home in Grosvenor Place on October 7, 1927

Guinness is born on November 10, 1847 at St. Anne’s, Clontarf, County Dublin, the youngest of three sons of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, brewer, of Dublin, and Elizabeth, third daughter of Edward Guinness of Dublin. He is not sent to public school but is taught at home by a private tutor before entering Trinity College Dublin, where he takes his degree in 1870. His father dies in 1868, leaving him a share in the brewery, and he takes over management of the business with his brother Arthur, who in 1876 sells his shares, making Edward sole proprietor.

Guinness is also prominent in municipal life, holding the offices of Sheriff of Dublin City in 1876 and High Sheriff of the County of Dublin in 1885, the year in which he is created a baronet. He is a brilliantly effective businessman, with close attention to detail and a focus solely on the brewery, to the extent of remaining independent from the rest of the brewing trade. In 1888 he bluntly tells the Country Brewers’ Association, “I have always declined to identify myself with any trade question, or to take any side in a controversy on the liquor question, and to this I must adhere.” In 1886 Guinness is floated as a public company, a superbly successful venture with applications for shares exceeding £100 million, and Edward remains as chairman until 1890, although his formal retirement in that year brings little reduction in his involvement with the company, and he continues to make the final decision on many minor matters as well as all major questions of policy.

Socially innovative, with a concern for the welfare of employees, from as early as 1870 Guinness establishes a free dispensary for his workforce and makes provisions for pension and other allowances – acts of social reform that are remarkable for the time. To mark his retirement in 1890 he places in trust £250,000 to be expended in the erection of working-class housing in London and Dublin. Both funds are administered from London until 1903, when the Dublin fund is amalgamated by the Iveagh Trust act with other schemes carried out in Dublin by Edward, who had been raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1891 as Baron Iveagh of Iveagh, County Down. The funds, which increase considerably from the original amount, are thereafter managed entirely in Dublin as a separate undertaking under the name of the Iveagh Trust, still in existence in the early twenty-first century.

As one of the pioneers of the voluntary housing movement Guinness is essentially carrying on the tradition of “merchant prince and city father” established by his father and shared by his brother. Wealthy, ambitious, and resolutely unionist, he gives generous financial support to the Irish Unionist Alliance, and is also public-spirited, religious, and devoted to duty. Acknowledging that the Iveagh Trust is essentially ameliorative, he believes that major social change will only be achieved if numerous other wealthy people follow his example. He insists that gifts of money from the fund are permissible only to assist individuals to improve their condition “without placing them in the position of being the recipients of a bounty.” Numerous other philanthropic donations follow, including another £250,000 for slum clearance in the Bull Alley district of Dublin; various contributions to Dublin hospitals, particularly in 1903 and 1911 on the occasion of royal visits; and in 1907 the opening of the Iveagh Markets, situated in the Francis Street and Patrick Street areas of Dublin, are made possible with his financial backing. Generous contributions are also made to Trinity College Dublin, of which he is elected chancellor in 1908, and he donates land in Iveagh Gardens to University College Dublin (UCD).

In 1905 Guinness is raised to a viscountcy and in September 1909 the nationalist corporation of Dublin presents him with an address of thanks for his many gifts, and even discusses the possibility of offering him the lord mayoralty of the city, which he declines owing to his political affiliations. By this time he lives chiefly in England, having bought Elveden Hall in Suffolk, where he frequently entertains royalty. He also purchases Lord Kensington’s London estate and makes many donations to medical research societies in England, and in conjunction with Sir Ernest Cassel he founds the London Radium Institute, as well as donates £250,000 to the Laster Institute of Tropical Medicine for the endowment of bacteriological research.

In 1919 Guinness is elevated to an earldom and in 1925 purchases the remainder of the Kenwood estate to the north of Hampstead Heath and arranges for it to become public property, ensuring the estate will not be sold for building purposes, and also bequeaths to the nation a valuable collection of art for use in the gallery at the same location. As well as being elected a fellow of the Royal Society, he is awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Dublin and the University of Aberdeen.

In 1873, Guinness marries his third cousin Adelaide Maud, nicknamed “Dodo.” She is descended from the banking line of Guinnesses, and is the daughter of Richard Samuel Guinness, barrister and MP, and his wife Katherine, a daughter of Sir Charles Jenkinson. They have three sons, the eldest of whom, Rupert Edward Cecil Lee, succeeds his father as 2nd Earl of Iveagh.

Guinness dies at his London home in Grosvenor Place on October 7, 1927, and is buried at Elveden, Suffolk. He leaves an estate valued at £11 million.


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Murder of Vincent Patrick Fovargue

Vincent Patrick Fovargue, a company officer in the Dublin brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence, is shot dead at a golf course near London, England by the IRA on April 2, 1921. The IRA accuses him of being a British spy.

Fovargue is born on August 22, 1900 at 2 Rutland Place, Clontarf, Dublin, to Robert Fovargue, an engineer/fitter, and Elizabeth (Lillie) Larkin.

An intelligence officer with the 4th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA in the Ranelagh area, he is captured by the British Army in Dublin. Under interrogation, he allegedly leaks information that results in the arrest of the other members of his unit a few days later. In return for this information, the Intelligence Corps allegedly allow him to escape during a staged ambush in Dublin’s South Circular Road.

This attempted ruse however does not go unnoticed by Michael Collins‘ informants in the Crown’s security forces. On the night of the escape, Detective Constable David Neligan of the Dublin Metropolitan Police‘s “G” Division is on duty in Dublin Castle when he is passed a telephone message on a police form. The message, issued by the British Military Headquarters, states that a “Sinn Féin” suspect named Fovargue had escaped from three Intelligence Corps officers in a car while en route to prison. It gives a description of his appearance and asks that the British Army be notified in the event of his recapture by the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

Joe Kinsella is the I/O of the 4th Battalion. He is temporarily transferred to take care of munitions under Seán Russell for a few weeks and Fovargue is put in his place. In Kinsella’s statement to the BMH, he writes:

“From the outset I personally did not place a lot of trust in him, because on the morning that he took over from me he appeared to me, to be too inquisitive about the movements of Michael Collins and the GHQ staff generally. He wanted to know where they could be located at any time. He said that he had big things in view, and that it would be to the advantage of the movement generally if he was in a position to get in touch with the principal men with the least possible delay. From his attitude I there and then formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that he was inclined to overstep his position. I did not feel too happy about him and I discussed him with Sean Dowling. It transpired that my impressions of this man were correct. I told him of two meeting places of Intelligence staff, one of Company Intelligence held at Rathmines Road and one of Brigade Intelligence held at Saville Place. A short time after giving him this information both these places were raided…I was now confirmed in my suspicions that Fovargue was giving away information. He was later shot in England by the IRA.”

Neligan is not fooled by this either, as he explains:

“Now if they had said that this man (who was completely unknown to both of us) had escaped from one I.O. it might have sounded reasonable enough. But to tell us that an unarmed man had escaped out of a motor-car in the presence of three presumably armed men was imposing a strain on our credulity. Both of us thought this story too good to be true.”

The two men retype the message and pass it to Collins the following day. Meanwhile, Fovargue has been sent to England where he adopts the alias of Richard Staunton. Fovargue has in fact been sent to England by Intelligence Corps Colonel Ormonde Winter to infiltrate the IRA in Britain.

Sean Kavanagh, a Kilkenny IRA man, claims that Fovargue is put in a cell with him in Kilmainham in 1921 in order to try to extract information from him.

On April 2, 1921, a boy walking on the golf links of the Ashford Manor Golf Club in Ashford, Middlesex discovers the body of Fovargue, who had been shot through the chest. Discovered near the corpse is a small piece of paper on which had been scribbled in blue pencil the words “Let spies and traitors beware – IRA.”

In the Neil Jordan film Michael Collins, Fovargue’s assassination is depicted onscreen. Fovargue is tracked down while working out at the golf course, allowed to say the Act of Contrition, and then fatally shot by Liam Tobin (Brendan Gleeson).


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Death of Valerie Hamilton, Hon. Lady Goulding

Valerie Hamilton, Hon. Lady Goulding, Irish senator and campaigner for disabled people, dies in a Dublin nursing home on July 28, 2003. She, alongside Kathleen O’Rourke, sets up the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in 1951 which is now the largest organisation in Ireland looking after people with physical disabilities. She served as a member of Seanad Éireann from 1977 to 1981.

Born Valerie Hamilton Monckton at Ightham Mote in Ightham, Kent, England on September 12, 1918, she is the only daughter of Mary Adelaide Somes Colyer-Ferguson and Sir Walter Monckton (later 1st Viscount Monckton of Brenchley). Ightham Mote is owned by her maternal grandfather, Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson, until his death in 1951. Her only brother, Gilbert (1915–2006), becomes a major general in the British Army. She is educated at Downe House School, near Newbury. Both she and her brother eventually convert to Roman Catholicism.

Hamilton’s father is a British lawyer and politician, and becomes chief legal adviser to Edward VIII during the Abdication Crisis in 1936. She acts as her father’s secretary and courier during the crisis, carrying letters between the King and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

In World War II, Hamilton joins the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry before switching to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In Dublin for a race meeting in 1939, she meets and soon marries Irish fertiliser manufacturer and art collector Sir Basil Goulding and moves to Ireland. However, her husband moves to England to join the Royal Air Force, ending the war as a wing commander. Meanwhile, she serves as a second lieutenant in the British Army. After the war, the couple returns to Ireland, where Sir Basil and his family manage Goulding Chemicals.

In 1951, Lady Goulding co-founds, with Kathleen O’Rourke, the Central Remedial Clinic located in a couple of rooms in central Dublin to provide non-residential care for disabled people. The Clinic later moves to a purpose building in Clontarf in 1968, where it is located today. The Clinic’s foundation initiates a revolution in the treatment of physical disability and rapidly grows to by far the largest centre dealing with the needs of disabled people. She remains chairman and managing director of the CRC until 1984.

On account of her widespread popularity, Lady Goulding is nominated by Taoiseach Jack Lynch to Seanad Éireann, where she works to raise awareness of disability issues in 1977. She seeks election to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil candidate at the November 1982 Irish general election for the Dún Laoghaire constituency but is unsuccessful. She is mentioned as a possible President of Ireland in 1983, should the president, Patrick Hillery, decline to seek a second term. Hillery ultimately is re-elected.

Lady Goulding dies at the age of 84 in a nursing home in Dublin on July 28, 2003. She is predeceased by her husband in 1982, but is survived by her sons, the eldest of whom, Sir William Goulding, known as Lingard Goulding, serves as Headmaster of Headfort School in County Meath. The other sons are Hamilton and Timothy, who is a founding member of the experimental Irish folk group Dr. Strangely Strange.


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Death of Author Abraham “Bram” Stoker

Abraham “Bram” Stoker, Irish author best known today for his 1897 Gothic fiction novel Dracula, dies in London on April 20, 1912.

is born on November 8, 1847 in Clontarf, Dublin. During his lifetime, he is better known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, London, which Irving owns.

Stoker’s father, Abraham Stoker, is a civil servant and his mother, Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley, is a charity worker and writer. Stoker is a sickly child and is bedridden with an unknown illness until he starts school at the age of seven, when he makes a complete recovery. Growing up his mother tells him a lot of horror stories which may have influence on his later writings.

In 1864 Stoker enters Trinity College, Dublin. While attending college he begins working as an Irish civil servant. He also works part time as a free lance journalist and drama critic. In 1876 he meets Henry Irving, a famous actor, and they soon become friends. Not long after that, Stoker meets and falls in love with an aspiring actress named Florence Balcombe whom he marries on December 4, 1878 at St. Anne’s Parish Church, Dublin. In 1878 he accepts a job working in London as Irving’s personal secretary.

On December 9, Stoker and his new wife move to England to join Irving. His first book The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, though written while he is still in Dublin, is published in 1879. On December 30, 1879 Stoker and his wife have their only child, a son Noel. While in England Stoker also writes several novels and short stories. His first book of fiction, Under the Sunset, is published in 1881.

Stoker visits the English coastal town of Whitby in 1890, a visit that is said to be part of the inspiration for Dracula. Before writing Dracula, he meets Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer and traveler. Dracula likely emerges from Vámbéry’s dark stories of the Carpathian Mountains. Stoker then spends several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.

Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic but completely fictional diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship’s logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which add a level of detailed realism to the story, a skill which Stoker develops as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, Dracula is considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life.

The original 541-page typescript of Dracula is believed to have been lost until it is found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. It consists of typed sheets with many emendations, plus handwritten on the title page is “THE UN-DEAD.” The author’s name is shown at the bottom as Bram Stoker. The typescript is purchased by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

After suffering a number of strokes, Abraham “Bram” Stoker dies at No. 26 St. George’s Square, London on April 20, 1912. Some biographers attribute the cause of death to tertiary syphilis, others to overwork. He is cremated and his ashes are placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium in north London.


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2009 Bank of Ireland Robbery

The 2009 Bank of Ireland robbery is a large robbery of cash from the College Green cash centre of the Bank of Ireland in Dublin on February 27, 2009. It is the largest bank robbery in the Republic of Ireland‘s history. Criminals engage in the tiger kidnapping of a junior bank employee, 24-year-old Shane Travers, and force him to remove €7.6 million (US$9 million) in cash from the bank as his girlfriend and two others are held hostage.

Late on the night of February 26, Travers, whose father is a member of the Garda Síochána based at Clontarf, Dublin, is alone watching television at the home of his girlfriend near Kilteel, County Kildare. The woman and her mother are out shopping together. When they arrive home with the five-year-old nephew of Travers, six heavily built masked men, dressed in black and carrying handguns, jump from the bushes.

The family is held overnight by the armed gang, during which time their mobile phones are confiscated and Travers’ girlfriend is hit across the back of her head with a vase by one of the men. As dawn approaches, the gang orders all but Travers to enter their dark Volkswagen Golf family car. They are then bound together and driven to Ashbourne, County Meath.

The bank employee is given a mobile phone, ordered to collect €20, €50, €100 and €200 bank notes from his workplace, and supplied with a photograph of the rest of the family at gunpoint to convince his colleagues that their lives are under threat. Travers drives to Dublin in his red Toyota Celica, acquires the cash through the assistance of colleagues who viewed the photo, and carries the money out of the building in four laundry bags. He takes it to Clontarf Road railway station, whereupon he surrenders the cash and his sports car to a waiting gang member.

Travers then enters a Garda station, the first point at which Gardaí are notified that the robbery had taken place. One hour after this, the other family members succeed in freeing themselves and walk to a nearby garda station. Travers’ girlfriend requires immediate medical treatment for a head wound she received during a struggle with her captors, and the family are reported to be “traumatised” by their ordeal. Travers’s car is later found burned out in an apartment block near Tolka House Pub in Glasnevin.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern says “proper procedures” were not followed during the course of the robbery, saying that Gardaí should have been contacted before the money had left the bank. He also questions how such a large sum of money could be taken as a result of one man being targeted.

The bank’s chief executive, Richie Boucher, appointed just two days earlier, immediately writes to all his staff to remind them that protocol should be followed in the event of future robberies, saying “Our priority is always for the safety and well-being of all staff. I am sure this incident will raise concerns. Our best defence is to follow tried and tested procedures. I would ask everybody to remind themselves of these procedures, which are there to protect you, your families and the bank.”

€1.8 million of the stolen cash is recovered and seven people are arrested by Gardaí in a number of incidents on February 28. A house in Phibsborough is sealed off and ten more houses are searched. A total of five cars and one van are seized by Gardaí. One of the men is arrested following a chase along the M50 motorway near the Navan road, with two bales of packed cash being discovered in his car. Four other men are arrested in a car in Monk Place and in Great Western Square, Phibsborough, and two more are seized in a house on Great Western Villas, Phibsborough. Cash is also found in a car in Phibsborough.

The six men and one woman are believed to be members of a well-known gang from Dublin’s north inner city and have connections to a major Dublin gangland figure. On March 2, those arrested appear before the High Court to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, viewing the warrants issued by the District Court the day before as invalid. That day, two of those arrested are released.

An unidentified bank employee is arrested on January 28, 2010 based on suspicion that the robbery had been an inside job.


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Gerry Ryan Model Unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s Dublin Museum

Gerard “Gerry” Ryan, presenter of radio and television employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), becomes the latest homegrown celebrity to feature in the Irish version of Madame Tussauds collection when he unveils a life-size model of himself at the Dublin museum on October 29, 2002.

Ryan is born in Clontarf, County Dublin on June 4, 1956. He describes his father, Vinnie, as a “slightly eccentric” dentist from a Presbyterian background and his mother, Maureen, as “a flamboyant woman” who comes from a theatrical background and works in the theatre. His godfather is broadcaster Eamonn Andrews. He is educated at St. Paul’s College, Raheny.

Ryan hosts several series of television shows, including Secrets, Gerry Ryan Tonight, Ryantown, Gerry Ryan’s Hitlist, Ryan Confidential and the first three series of Operation Transformation. In 1987, he earns notoriety and the moniker “Lambo” after an unpleasant incident in Connemara. He is also noted for co-presenting, with Cynthia Ní Mhurchú, Eurovision Song Contest 1994 and, in 2008, presenting an edition of The Late Late Show, television’s longest-running chat show, in place of the then regular host Pat Kenny.

Ryan presents The Gerry Ryan Show on radio station RTÉ 2fm each weekday morning from 1988 until hours before his sudden death. He is presented with a Jacob’s Award for the show in 1990.

Ryan marries Morah Brennan in 1988 and they have five children: Lottie, Rex, Bonnie, Elliott and Babette. In 1997, Morah famously telephones her husband’s show and, under the name Norah, tells half a million listeners intimate details concerning his personal household habits. Gerry and Morah announce their separation in March 2008, which Ryan calls “a very painful experience.” He soon begins a relationship with the former South African Ambassador to Ireland and the then UNICEF Ireland executive director, Melanie Verwoerd.

Ryan is noted for his love of fine food and wine. He battles a weight problem for several years and takes Reductil (Sibutramine), a “slimming pill,” which he says is effective and safe. Ryan concedes in his autobiography Would the Real Gerry Ryan Please Stand Up, released in October 2008, that he drinks too much for his own good.

Ryan is found dead in the bedroom of his home on Leeson Street, Dublin on April 30, 2010.

Among the dignitaries to send tributes following Ryan’s death are Bono, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and President Mary McAleese. His funeral takes place on May 6, 2010, and is broadcast on 2fm, the home of Ryan’s radio show and a first for the predominantly youthpop-oriented station. His death also comes sixteen years to the day after he hosted Eurovision 1994.

An inquest shows that the cause of Ryan’s death is cardiac arrhythmia and that traces of cocaine found in Ryan’s system are the “likely trigger” of Ryan’s death. A considerable public controversy erupts when Ryan’s long-term use of cocaine comes to light. RTÉ eventually admits to having given insufficient coverage of Ryan’s cocaine habit in the aftermath of the inquest.


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Birth of Maureen Potter, Actor & Comedienne

maureen-potter

Maria Philomena Potter, singer, actor, comedian and performer known as Maureen Potter, is born on January 3, 1925 in Fairview, Dublin.

Potter is educated at St. Mary’s school in Fairview. She has a long career in Irish theatre, mainly as Ireland’s première comedienne, but also as a straight actress. She first appears professionally with Jimmy O’Dea in pantomime and appears frequently on television and in cabaret. She is a regular performer at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin and for many years stars in Christmas pantomime. She becomes the first star to have a bronze cast of her handprints outside the theatre. She marries Jack O’Leary in 1959, an Irish army officer whom she had first met in 1943, and he writes most of her comedic material.

Among Potter’s many dramatic roles in the theatre is that of Maisie Madigan in Juno and the Paycock. While still a teenager, she tours abroad before World War II as a singer and dancer with Jack Hylton and his orchestra. On a tour of Germany, they once perform in front of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis. She plays the role of Dante Riordan in Joseph Strick‘s film, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977). In September 1938, she appears on the BBC Television Service with Jack Hylton and his band. Film of her performance is held by the Alexandra Palace Television Society. In 2001, the Archivist of the Alexandra Palace Television Society gives Potter a copy of her 1938 television appearance.

Potter is conferred with the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1984, and is later awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin. She dies in her sleep at her home in Clontarf on April 7, 2004, at the age of 79. She is survived by her husband Jack O’Leary, and her sons John and Hugh.


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Proclamation Banning O’Connell’s Repeal Meeting Issued

daniel-oconnellOn the night of Saturday, October 7, 1843, a proclamation is issued from Dublin Castle banning a Repeal Association meeting called by Daniel O’Connell north of the city at Clontarf on the following day.

The proclamation is written by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Robert Peel, who calls the proposed meeting for the restoration of the Parliament of Ireland, abolished in 1801, “an attempt to overthrow the constitution of the British Empire as by law established.”

Two warships, the Rhathemus and the Dee, steam into Dublin Harbour, carrying around 3,000 British troops to ensure the mass rally in favour of Repeal of the Union does not take place. The nationalist newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, alleges that the troops have been summoned to “cut the people down” and “run riot in the blood of the innocent.”

O’Connell, the charismatic leader of the Repeal Association, has always insisted that his movement is non-violent. On the banning of the meeting and the arrival of troops, he frantically moves to call it off and to prevent “the slaughter of the people.”

Handbills are posted around the streets of Dublin advising his supporters of the meeting’s cancellation. A prominent Dublin builder and O’Connell supporter, Peter Martin, is sent to Clontarf to dismantle the platform erected there. Other activists are sent on horseback to the roads leading into the city to send back the thousands converging on Clontarf for the meeting.

The following day passes without incident. The Freeman’s Journal rages against the “corrupt and impotent Government that has perverted the form of law for the purpose of robbing the people.”

The Warder, a Dublin unionist newspaper, had been urging the suppression of the “plainly illegal under common law” O’Connellite mass meetings for months. The newspaper stops short of calling for civil war in the run–up to the meeting. Now it declares itself satisfied. It congratulates the Conservative government for belatedly seeing sense.

By contrast, the Repeal camp is deeply split. Many, particularly those Young Irelanders grouped around The Nation, blame O’Connell for capitulation to the threat of force and for his unwillingness to confront the British government. They break from him acrimoniously the following year.

With the cancellation of the Clontarf meeting, O’Connell’s strategy of mass mobilisation in pursuit of Irish self government is over. He himself is arrested on charges of “seditious conspiracy” three days later.

(From: “Today in Irish History, The Repeal Meeting at Clontarf is Banned, 8 October 1843, John Dorney, The Irish Story (theirishstory.com), October 8, 2011)


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Death of Writer John McGahern

john-mcgahern

John McGahern, regarded as one of the most important Irish writers of the latter half of the twentieth century, dies in Dublin on March 30, 2006. Known for the detailed dissection of Irish life found in works such as The Barracks, The Dark and Amongst Women, The Observer hails him as “the greatest living Irish novelist” before his death and in its obituary The Guardian describes him as “arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett.”

Born in Knockanroe about half a mile from Ballinamore, County Leitrim, McGahern is the eldest child of seven. Raised alongside his six young siblings on a small farm in Knockanroe, his mother runs the farm (with some local help) while maintaining a job as a primary school teacher in the local school. His father, a Garda sergeant, lives in the Garda barracks at Cootehall in County Roscommon, a somewhat sizeable distant away from his family at the time. His mother subsequently dies of cancer in 1944, when the young McGahern is ten years old resulting in the unrooting of the McGahern children to their new home with their father in the aforementioned Garda barracks, Cootehall.

In the years following his mother’s death, McGahern completes his primary schooling in the local primary school, and ultimately wins a scholarship to the Presentation Brothers secondary school in Carrick-on-Shannon. Having traveled daily to complete his second level education, he continues to accumulate academic accolades by winning the county scholarship in his Leaving Certificate enabling him to continue his education to third level.

Following on from his second level success, McGahern is offered a place at St. Patrick’s College of Education in Drumcondra where he trains to be a teacher. Upon graduation from third level education, he begins his career as a primary schoolteacher at Scoil Eoin Báiste (Belgrove) primary school in Clontarf where, for a period, he teaches the eminent academic Declan Kiberd. He is dismissed from Scoil Eoin Báiste on the order of the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. He is first published by the London literary and arts review, X magazine, which publishes in 1961 an extract from his abandoned first novel, The End or Beginning of Love.

McGahern marries his first wife, Finnish-born Annikki Laaksi, in 1965 and in the same year publishes his second novel, The Dark, which is banned by the Censorship of Publications Board for its alleged pornographic content along with its implied sexual abuse by the protagonist’s father. Due to the controversy which is stirred by the book’s publication McGahern is dismissed from his teaching post and forced to move to England where he works in a variety of jobs before returning to Ireland to live and work on a small farm near Fenagh in County Leitrim.

John McGahern dies from cancer in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin on March 30, 2006, at the age of 71. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Church, Aughawillan alongside his mother.