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


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Birth of Geraldine Cummins, Spiritualist Medium, Novelist & Playwright

Geraldine Dorothy Cummins, spiritualist medium, novelist and playwright, is born in Cork, County Cork, on January 24, 1890. She began her career as a creative writer, but increasingly concentrates on mediumship and “channelled” writings, mostly about the lives of Jesus and Saint Paul, though she also publishes on a range of other topics. Her novels and plays typically document Irish life in a naturalist manner, often exploring the pathos of everyday life.

Cummins is the daughter of the physician Ashley Cummins, professor of medicine at the National University of Ireland and sister to Mary Hearn and Iris Cummins. In her youth she is an athlete, becoming a member of the Irish Women’s International Hockey Team. She is also active as a suffragette. Her desire to follow her father in a medical career is vetoed by her mother, so she begins a literary career as a journalist and creative writer. From 1913 to 1917 she writes three plays for the Abbey Theatre in collaboration with Suzanne R. Day, the most successful of which is the comedy Fox and Geese (1917). She publishes the novel The Land they Loved in 1919, a naturalistic study of working class Irish life.

As she concentrates on mediumship, Cummins’s literary work tails off. However, she continues to publish creative literature in her later years. Her solo-written play, Till Yesterday Comes Again, is produced by the Chanticleer Theatre, London, in 1938. She also publishes another novel, Fires of Beltane (1936) and a short-story collection Variety Show (1959).

Literary critic Alexander G. Gonzalez says that Cummins work tries to encompass the full range of Irish social life, from the aristocracy to the lower classes. In this respect she is influenced by Somerville and Ross. Gonzalez considers her short story The Tragedy of Eight Pence to be the “finest” of her writings, the tale of a “happily married woman trying to shield her ill husband from the knowledge that his death will leave her penniless.”

Cummins begins to work as a medium following prompting from Hester Dowden and E. B. Gibbes. She receives alleged messages from her spirit-guide “Astor” and is an exponent of automatic writing. Her books are based on these communications. In 1928 she publishes The Scripts of Cleophas, which provides channelled material on early Christian history complementing Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s writings, supposed to have been communicated by the spirit of Cleophas, one of Paul’s followers. This is later supplemented by Paul in Athens (1930) and The Great Days of Ephesus (1933).

Cummins’s next work describes human progress through spiritual enlightenment. The Road to Immortality (1932) provides a glowing vision of the afterlife. Its contents are purportedly communicated from the “other side” by the psychologist and psychic researcher Frederic W. H. Myers. Unseen Adventures (1951) is a spiritual autobiography. She also publishes several books of spiritually-derived knowledge about details of the life of Jesus.

During World War II Cummins allegedly works as a British agent, using her personal contacts to identify pro-Nazi factions within the Irish Republican movement. She also employs her psychic activities to support the Allied cause, sending channelled messages from sympathetic spirits to Allied leaders to support the war effort. This includes information from Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur Balfour and Sara Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s mother.

In the 1940s and 50s Cummins works with psychiatrists to develop a model for using spiritualism to treat mental illness, ideas she explores in Perceptive Healing (1945) and Healing the Mind (1957). She collaborates with a psychiatrist who uses the pseudonym R. Connell on both books. Their method is for her to “read” an object associated with the patient and thus identify either childhood traumas or experiences of ancestors which have created the problem. This includes treating a patient who is concerned about his homosexual desires by discovering that this derives from the fact that his Huguenot ancestors were humiliated by Catholics in the 18th century.

Cummins’s biography of writer and spiritualist Edith Somerville is published in 1952. She also writes The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955) which offers her psychic insights into the disappearance of the explorer Percy Fawcett in Brazil in 1925. She claims she had received psychic messages from Fawcett in 1936. He was still alive at that time, informing her that he had found relics of Atlantis in the jungle, but was ill. In 1948 she has a message from Fawcett’s spirit reporting his death. Her last book is an account of her conversations with the spirit of Winifred Coombe Tennant, Swan on a Black Sea; a Study in Automatic Writing; the Cummins-Willett Scripts (1965).

The automatic writing and alleged channeled material from Cummins have been examined and have been described by some psychical researchers to be the product of her own subconscious. For example, Harry Price, who studies various mental mediums including Cummins, writes that “there is no question that most of the automatic writing which has been published is the product of the subconscious.” Paranormal researcher Hilary Evans notes that unlike most spiritualists, Cummins does not accept the phenomena at face value and questions the source of the material.

According to the psychical researcher Eric Dingwall information published in Cummins’ scripts allegedly from Winifred Coombe Tennant are discovered to be erroneous. Biographer Rodger Anderson writes that although spiritualists consider Cummins completely honest “some suspected that she occasionally augmented her store of knowledge about deceased persons by normal means if by doing so she could bring comfort to the bereaved.”

Cummins’ book The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955), contains her automatist scripts allegedly from the spirit of Colonel Fawcett. Spiritualists claim the scripts are evidence for survival. However, the psychical researcher Simeon Edmunds notes that before his disappearance Fawcett had written articles for The Occult Review. Cummins also contributes articles to the same review and Edmunds suggests it is likely she had read the work of Fawcett. Edmunds concludes the scripts are a case of subliminal memory and unconscious dramatization.

Other researchers such as Mary Rose Barrington have suspected fraud as Cummins had long standing connections with friends and families of the deceased that she claimed to have contacted and could have easily obtained information by natural means. The classical scholar E. R. Dodds writes that Cummins worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and could have taken information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history. Her writings were heavily influenced by literature and religious texts. Dodds also studies her book Swan on a Black Sea which was supposed to be an account of spirit conversation but writes there is evidence suggestive of fraud as Cummins had received some of the information by natural means.

Cummins dies in Cork on August 25, 1969, and is buried in St. Lappan’s churchyard, Little Island.


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The Film Premiere of “Angela’s Ashes”

Despite the controversy over the book, people in Frank McCourt‘s hometown of Limerick turn out in huge numbers to attend the sold-out film premiere of Angela’s Ashes on January 12, 2000. A simultaneous premiere takes place in Dublin.

The 1999 drama film is based on McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, published in 1996. An international co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, it is co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and stars Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge, the latter three playing the young, middle aged, and older Frank McCourt, respectively.

Although set in Limerick, many street scenes are filmed in Cork. For example, the “fleas in the mattress” scene is filmed at Farren Street, Blackpool, and other scenes are shot at Roche’s Buildings, Lower John Street and Barrack Street.

With an estimated $25 million budget, the film grosses only $13,042,112 in the United States, making it a box-office bomb.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52%, based on reviews from 87 critics, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site’s consensus states: “In spite of its attempts to accurately record Frank McCourt’s memoirs, the onscreen adaptation fails to capture any of the drama or humor of his life.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”

Michael Legge is praised for his portrayal of the adolescent Frank. In particular, he is said to excel in his role as an innocent teenager growing up with typical coming of age rites involving sexuality, maturity and peer pressure in a Catholic Irish setting.

Despite the low approval ratings with the critics, the film captures several awards: Best Picture and Best Costume Design at the Irish Film & Television Awards, Best Director at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Best Original Score from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, and Best Actress (Emily Watson) from the London Film Critics’ Circle.

(Pictured: Film poster for Angela’s Ashes, © Paramount Pictures)


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Stephen Moylan Appointed Colonel in the Continental Army

Stephen Moylan, Irish American patriot leader during the American Revolutionary War, is appointed colonel in the Continental Army on January 5, 1777. He has several positions in the Continental Army including Muster-Master General, Secretary and Aide to General George Washington, 2nd Quartermaster General, Commander of The Fourth Continental Light Dragoons and Commander of the Cavalry of the Continental Army.

Moylan is born to a Catholic family in Cork, County Cork, in 1737. His father, John Moylan, is a well-to-do merchant in Shandon, County Cork. His older brother Francis becomes Bishop of Cork. His family sends him to be educated in Paris. He then works in Lisbon for three years in the family shipping firm. He settles in Philadelphia in 1768 to organize his own firm. He is one of the organizers of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, an Irish American fraternal organization, and serves as its first president.

Moylan joins the American Continental Army in 1775 and upon the recommendation of John Dickinson, is appointed Muster-Master General on August 11, 1775. His brother John acts as United States Clothier General during the war. His experience in the shipping industry affords the United States a well qualified ship outfitter, who helps fit out the first ships of the Continental Navy. On March 5, 1776, he becomes secretary to General George Washington with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is appointed Quartermaster General in the American Continental Army on June 5, 1776, succeeding Thomas Mifflin. He resigns from this office on September 28, 1776. However, he continues to serve as a volunteer of General Washington’s staff through December 1776.

In January 1776, Moylan writes a letter using the term “United States of America,” the earliest known use of that phrase.

Moylan then raises a troop of light dragoons, the 4th Continental Light Dragoons, also known as Moylan’s Horse, on January 3, 1777, at Philadelphia. The regiment is be noted for taking the field in captured British red coats. However, they see action in green coats at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777, and end the year by protecting the Cantonment at Valley Forge. He succeeds General Casimir Pulaski as Commander of the Cavalry in March 1778. Moylan’s Horse sees action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778.

In the campaign of 1779 Moylan and the 4th Dragoons are stationed at Pound Ridge, New York, and see action when the British raid Norwalk, Connecticut, on July 11, 1779. He and the 4th Dragoons take part in the Battle of Springfield in New Jersey, on June 23, 1780, and General Anthony Wayne‘s expedition at Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey, on July 20, 1780. He commands his Dragoons at the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781, after which he is to take the cavalry to the Southern Campaign. However, his failing health causes him to leave the field and return to Philadelphia, where he constantly appeals to the Continental Congress to man, equip and maintain the Continental Dragoon Regiments.

Moylan is rewarded for his service by being breveted to brigadier general on November 3, 1783.

Moylan is married to Mary Ricketts Van Horne on September 12, 1778, and has two daughters, Elizabeth Catherine, and Maria. His two sons die as children. He dies in Philadelphia on April 11, 1811, and is buried there in the churchyard at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.


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Death of Seán Keating, Romantic-Realist Painter

Seán Keating, Irish romantic-realist painter who paints some iconic images of the Irish War of Independence and of the early industrialization of Ireland, dies on December 21, 1977, at the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin.

Keating is born in Limerick, County Limerick on September 28, 1889. He studies drawing at the Limerick Technical School before a scholarship arranged by William Orpen allows him to go study at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin at the age of twenty. Over the next few years, he spends two weeks or so during the late summer on the Aran Islands and his many portraits of island people depict them as rugged heroic figures.

In 1914 he wins the RDS Taylor award with a painting titled The Reconciliation. The prize includes £50.00 which allows him to go to London to work as Orpen’s studio assistant in 1915. In late 1915 or early 1916, he returns to Ireland where he documents the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War. Examples include Men of the South (1921–22) which shows a group of Irish Republican Army (IRA) men ready to ambush a military vehicle and An Allegory (first exhibited in 1924), in which the two opposing sides in the Irish Civil War are seen to bury the tri-colour covered coffin amid the roots of an ancient tree. The painting includes a self-portrait of the artist.

Keating is elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1918, and a full member in 1923. One of the cardinal achievements of the Irish Free State in the 1920s is the building, in partnership with Siemens, of a hydro-electric power generator at Ardnacrusha, near Limerick. Between 1926 and 1927, at his own volition, he produces a considerable number of paintings related to this scheme. He exhibits several examples of the paintings in the RHA exhibitions in 1927 and 1928. Most of the paintings are now in the collection of ESB Group.

In 1936 group of prominent Limerick politicians, artists and patrons establish the first Limerick City Collection of Art from various donations and bequests. Keating is part of this artist-led initiative to form a municipal art gallery in Limerick similar to those already in Dublin and Cork. The collection is formed primarily out of donations and bequests. As a pivotal member of the committee, Keating himself donates many works to the collection which is first exhibited as a municipal collection in the Savoy Cinema, Limerick City on November 23, 1937. It is not until 1948 that an extension to the rear of Limerick Free Library and Museum becomes the home to the City Collection as the Limerick Free Art Gallery. In 1985 the Library and Museum are transferred to larger buildings.

In 1939 Keating is commissioned to paint a mural for the Irish pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. He is President of the RHA from 1950 to 1962 and shows at the annual exhibition for 61 years from 1914. Although he is an intellectual painter in the sense that he consciously sets out to explore the visual identity of the Irish nation, and his paintings show a very idealised realism, he fears that the modern movement will bring back a decline in artistic standards. Throughout his career, he exhibits nearly 300 works at the RHA and also shows at the Oireachtas.

Seán Keating dies on December 21, 1977 at the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin and is buried at Cruagh Cemetery, Rathfarnham. The 1978 RHA Exhibition features a small memorial collection of his work.

Posthumous exhibitions of his work are mounted by The Grafton Gallery, Dublin (1986) and the Electricity Supply Board (1987). Sean Keating – The Pilgrim Soul, a documentary presented and written by his son Justin Keating, airs on RTÉ in 1996.

(Pictured: Photograph of Keating’s “An Allegory” painted between 1922 and 1924. The painting represents Keating’s own disillusionment and loss of idealism resulting from the outbreak of the Irish Civil War. The only figure of the group addressing the observer is a self-portrait of the artist.)


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Birth of John Buckley, Composer & Pedagogue

John Buckley, Irish composer and pedagogue, is born in Templeglantine, County Limerick, on December 19, 1951. He is a co-founder of the Ennis Summer School and a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.

Buckley grows up in a rural environment and is introduced to traditional music learning the button accordion from the local player Liam Moloney when he is 9 years of age. In 1969 he moves to Dublin to study for the Teacher’s Diploma at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. Here he has his first opportunity to hear live classical and modern music including contemporary and avantgarde works by Irish composers including Aloys Fleischmann, Brian Boydell, John Kinsella, and Seóirse Bodley, as well as works by international composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki. He becomes a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin (1969–74), studying the flute with Doris Keogh and composition with A. J. Potter and James Wilson. He continues his musical studies with Alun Hoddinott in Cardiff, Wales (1978–82), Aloys Fleischmann in Cork (M.A. in composition, 1980), and briefly with John Cage during a summer school for composers and choreographers at Guildford, Surrey, in 1981. Initially working as secondary school teacher, from 1982 he is able to work independently as a composer.

In 1983, Buckley is the co-founder, with James Wilson, of the annual Ennis Summer School for composition, which becomes an influential training ground for aspiring young Irish composers; pupils include Michael Alcorn, Rhona Clarke, and Gráinne Mulvey. He becomes a member of Aosdána in 1984. Since 2001 he has been a lecturer in music at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. From the National University of Ireland at Maynooth (now Maynooth University) he receives a PhD in 2002 and a DMus in 2007.

Apart from membership in Aosdána, Buckley is honoured with the Varming Prize (1976), the Macaulay Fellowship (1978), the Arts Council‘s Composers’ Bursary (1982) and the Marten Toonder Award (1991).

Buckley’s output includes many commissions for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, choirs, bands and orchestra. His music has been widely performed and broadcast in Ireland and in more than fifty countries worldwide. He has represented Ireland at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers on five occasions and at the 1990 Prix Italia. His music has also been performed at five International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) festivals.

Buckley’s music does not adhere to any particular compositional school. He acknowledges the influence of Luciano Berio, Witold Lutoslawski, György Ligeti, and Olivier Messiaen. His harmonic approach is freely atonal. Structurally, there is frequently a gradual build-up from initially very limited pitch material to large formal constructions. Many compositions work towards a climax in the fourth quarter of a piece and then return to initial pitch sequences. In a number of early works he explores the Celtic myths of his native Ireland in orchestral scores such as Taller than Roman Spears (1977) and Fornocht do chonac thú (1980) and in small-scale works such as Oileáin (1979) for piano, Boireann (1983) for flute and piano, or I am Wind on Sea (1987) for mezzo-soprano and percussion. Later this aspect becomes less important for him. Works since the late 1980s display “a textural subtlety in marked contrast to the more robust sonorities explored in Buckley’s earlier keyboard works,” a “French refinement of sound, and an elevation of timbre as central characteristics” and “a concern with achieving a greater degree of formal unity” and “an exploration of analogies between sound and light.” O’Leary (2013) describes his style as “characterised by a broad harmonic idiom, contrasting consonance and dissonance in a non-tonal but strongly coloured soundworld.”

In 2010, Buckley arranges a number of Irish traditional songs for flute, some with harp, viola, percussion and string quartet. These are skilled and tasteful settings in a tonal harmonic language, quite unlike his original compositions.


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Death of Florence O’Donoghue, Historian & Member of the Irish Republican Army

Florence O’Donoghue, historian and head of intelligence of the Cork No. 1 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence, dies on December 18, 1967, in Mercy University Hospital, Cork, County Cork.

O’Donoghue is born in Rathmore, County Kerry, on July 22, 1894, the son of farmer Patrick O’Donoghue and Margaret Cronin. He moves to Cork in 1910, where he works as an apprentice in the drapery trade.

The 1916 Easter Rising is a watershed in O’Donoghue’s life. In December 1916, he joins the Cork branch of the Irish Volunteers. In early 1917, he is elected unanimously First Lieutenant of the Cyclist Company and as a result devotes all his spare time to Volunteer work. He begins writing weekly for two years for The Irish World newspaper. By May 1917, he is sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in October, Tomás Mac Curtain appoints him head of communications of the Cork Brigade. He replaces Pat Higgins as Brigade Adjutant in February 1917. He is a key organiser in the sensational jailbreak of Captain Donnchadh Mac Niallghuis on Armistice Day 1918 and takes personal responsibility for his protection. Michael Collins is the last officer from Volunteers General Headquarters to visit Cork shortly after Christmas 1919, until the truce in 1921.

O’Donoghue builds up an intelligence network and agents which includes his future wife, Josephine Marchment. She is head female clerk at the 6th Division Headquarters at Victoria Barracks, Cork, and passes on secret British Army correspondence to him. He recruits people to open letters, tap phone lines and intercept telegrams. The Irish Republican Army has 2,000 active members in Cork which are also used for intelligence gathering. By March 1920, after killing a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Inspector, he is on the run and serving full-time in the IRA. In November of that year, the Cork Brigade kills six British Army officers and executes five Cork civilians on suspicion of spying.

After two and a half years of fighting, a truce is agreed upon on July 11, 1921. When the Dáil approves the Anglo-Irish Treaty, in January 1922, the IRA splits into pro- and anti-Treaty camps. Over the coming months and after being elected onto the army’s executive as Adjutant General, O’Donoghue warns of the dangers of an Irish Civil War. In June 1922, he resigns from the army’s national executive and a month later, on July 3, 1922, from the army. Civil war does break out on June 28, 1922 between pro- and anti-Treaty factions, much to his dismay.

During the Irish Civil War, O’Donoghue remains neutral and tries to organise a truce to end the fighting. In December 1922, he forms a group called the “Neutral IRA”, along with Seán O’Hegarty, composed of pro-truce IRA men. He claims he has 20,000 members in this group. He campaigns for a month’s truce between the two sides, so that a political compromise could be reached. However, his efforts come to nothing and in March 1923, he winds up the “Neutral IRA,” judging that its objectives cannot be achieved. The Irish Civil War ends on May 24, 1923.

O’Donoghue serves as major in the Irish Army from 1939-1946. He forms a Supplementary Intelligence Service that is to remain behind enemy lines in the event of an invasion. He also teaches guerrilla warfare tactics to new army recruits.

O’Donoghue marries Josephine Brown (née Marchment) in April 1921 and they have four children. The couple also adopts two children from Josephine’s first marriage, including Reggie Brown, whom O’Donoghue kidnaps from his grandparents in Wales in 1920. He becomes a rate collector and remains outside politics.

In later years O’Donoghue becomes a respected historian. While in the army he edits An Cosantóir, the Irish Army’s magazine. He convinces Éamon de Valera to establish the Bureau of Military History to record personal accounts from the Irish War of Independence. He is a recording officer until 1948. His most famous work is his biography on Liam Lynch, entitled No Other Law.

O’Donoghue dies on December 18, 1967, and Tom Barry gives the graveside oration. His papers are in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and his statement to the Bureau of Military History is in the Military Archives.


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Birth of Billy O’Callaghan, Short Fiction Writer & Novelist

Billy O’Callaghan, Irish short fiction writer and novelist, is born in Cork, County Cork, on December 9, 1974. He is best known for his short-story collection The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, which is awarded the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story in 2013 and his widely translated novel My Coney Island Baby, which is shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature‘s Encore Award.

O’Callaghan grows up in the village of Douglas, where he still lives today.

His first collection of short stories, In Exile, is published by Mercier Press in 2008. This is followed a year later by a second collection, In Too Deep, also published by Mercier Press. In 2013, his third collection, The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, is published by New Island Books. His short stories have been published in literary journals around the world and translated into several other languages. His work has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1‘s The Book On One, Sunday Miscellany and the Francis McManus Short Story Award series.

In 2017, the American literary journal Ploughshares publishes O’Callaghan’s story A Death in the Family as a Ploughshares Solo.

O’Callaghan’s first novel, The Dead House, is published in Ireland by Brandon, an imprint of The O’Brien Press, in 2017, and in North America by Arcade Publishing in 2018.

His novel, My Coney Island Baby, is published in 2019, by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Harper (USA), as well as in French by Éditions Grasset as Les amants de Coney Island, translated by Carine Chichereau, Dutch by Ambo Anthos as Mijn lief op Coney Island, translated by Lette Vos, German by btb Verlag as Die Liebenden von Coney Island, translated by Sibylle Schmidt, Czech by Nakladatelství Paseka as Náš Coney Island, translated by Petr Eliáš, Catalan by L’Altra Editorial as Els amants de Coney Island, translated by Ferran Ràfols Gesa, Italian by Guanda Editore as My Coney Island Baby, translated by Ada Arduini, Hungarian by Jelenkor as Szerelmem, Coney Island, translated by Zoltán Pék, and in Turkish by Othello Kitap as Coney Island Bebeğim, translated by Serkan Toy.

A new short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories, is published in January 2020 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Harper Perennial (USA).

A new novel, Life Sentences, is published in 2021 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and in Czech by Nakladatelství Paseka as Doživotí, translated by Petr Eliáš, and in 2022 in the United States by David R. Godine.

In November 2013, The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind wins the inaugural Short Story of the Year Award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award. Down by the River is selected in 2014 as Ireland’s representative in the ongoing UNESCO City of Literature project. The Boatman is a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award. In June 2020, My Coney Island Baby is shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award.


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Death of Patrick O’Callaghan, Olympic Gold Medalist

Patrick “Pat” O’Callaghan, Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, dies on December 1, 1991, in Clonmel, County Tipperary.

O’Callaghan is born on September 15, 1905, at Derrygallon, Kanturk, County Cork. He attends the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin and qualifies as a doctor at the age of 20. He joins the Royal Air Force Medical Services in 1926 on a short-service engagement, before moving to Clonmel in 1931 to work as an assistant medical officer in St. Luke’s Hospital, later setting up as a general practitioner in the town. He continues to practise there until the late 1980s.

While in university, O’Callaghan develops an interest in the hammer, having seen the country’s top hammer-throwers practise at the University College Dublin (UCD) grounds, then at Terenure College. At home in Cork for the summer, he does not have access to a hammer, so he collects an old cannon ball from Macroom Castle which he feels might approximate to the required 16 lb. (7.25 kg) weight, has it drilled at a foundry in Mallow and fitted with a handle and wire, and uses it to train at the family farm. In 1926 he wins the Munster title in the 56 lb. (25.4 kg) shot and follows that with an Irish hammer title in 1927. Victory the following year in that same championship qualifies him for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, which he enters as a complete unknown with a previous best of 166 ft. 11 in. (50.87 m), as against three other contenders who have each thrown well over 170 ft. (51.8 m). The hammer event is staged on July 30, 1928, and, lying third after four rounds, he throws 168 ft. 7 in. (51.38 m) with his penultimate attempt, to defeat the Swedish favourite, Ossian Skiöld, by 4 inches (10 cm), with the American contenders Edmund Black and Frank Conner, still further behind. He becomes the first athlete from the Irish Free State to be crowned Olympic champion. Less than a fortnight later, he wins the Tailteann Games with an Irish record throw of 170 ft. 2 in. (51.87 m).

Over the following years O’Callaghan wins events across Ireland and Europe and continues to achieve pioneering feats, not least in 1931, when he wins six Irish titles in one afternoon: hammer, shot put, discus, high jump, 56 lbs. without follow, and 56 lbs. over-the-bar. On August 1, 1932, he defends his Olympic title at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With just one throw left in the competition, he trails second behind the Finnish champion, Ville Pörhölä. With his last throw, he claims the event with a distance of 176 ft. 11 in. (53.92 m), becoming the only Irish person in history to win two gold medals at the Olympic games. He seems in prime condition to defend his title for a third time at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, but a dispute in the athletics world brings the suspension of the National Athletic and Cycling Association of Ireland (NACAI) by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). The subsequent decision not to send a team to Berlin by the Irish Olympic Council denies him the opportunity to win a hat-trick of gold medals.

O’Callaghan remains a dominant force in athletic circles, however. In 1934 he sets the record for the hammer on European soil with a throw of 186 ft. 10 in. (56.95 m) at Enniscorthy, County Wexford. He later achieves an unofficial world record in the hammer in 1937 in Fermoy, County Cork, with a remarkable throw of 195 ft. 5 in. (59.55 m), breaking the old record by more than 6 ft. (1.83 m). As the IAAF still refuses to sanction the NACAI, the record is not ratified, ensuring that the then twenty-four-year-old record of his compatriot, Patrick Ryan, who competes for the United States, remains in place. In total, as well as his two Olympic gold medals, he also wins six Irish championships in the hammer, four Irish championships in the 56 lb. shot, three Irish championships throwing the 56 lb. weight over-the-bar, and one Irish championship in the discus. He also wins the American hammer championship in 1933 and the British championship in the same event the following year. Despite his size, he jumps 6 ft. 2 in. (1.88 m) in the high jump and is Irish champion on three consecutive occasions (1929–31).

After an accident in which a child is killed by a flying hammer, O’Callaghan emigrates to the United States just before World War II and takes up professional wrestling. Attempts are made to set up a match with world wrestling champion Dan O’Mahoney, but this never occurs. He has a high profile, however. Samuel Goldwyn offers him the film role of Tarzan and he plays handball with Bing Crosby before returning home to Clonmel, where he becomes a prominent member of Clonmel Commercials Gaelic football club and manages that club’s senior team to three county championships (1965–67). He is later chairman and honorary president of the club. In 1984 he is made a Freeman of Clonmel, a town where he is known as “the doc” or “Dr. Pat” and revered as a humble, charming, jovial man, with a reputation for particular kindness to his poorer patients. At 6 ft. 1 in. (1.855 m) and sixteen stone (101.6 kg), he is a larger-than-life figure and the focal point of innumerable stories confirming his status as a living legend. In 1960 he is the first person voted into the newly conceived Texaco Hall of Fame. He lives for many years at Roseville, Western Road, Clonmel, and dies there on December 1, 1991.

O’Callaghan is survived by three sons and one daughter. His younger brother Con represents Ireland in the decathlon at the 1928 Olympic games and wins that event at the third Tailteann games in 1932.

(From: “O’Callaghan, Patrick (‘Pat’)” by Paul Rouse, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Justin McCarthy, Historian, Novelist & Politician

Justin McCarthy, Irish nationalist and Liberal historian, novelist and politician, is born in Cork, County Cork on November 22, 1830. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1879 to 1900, taking his seat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

McCarthy is educated in Cork. He begins his career as a journalist at the age of 18 in Cork. From 1853 to 1859 he is in Liverpool, on the staff of the Northern Daily Times. In March 1855, he marries Charlotte Ailman. In 1860 he moves to London, as parliamentary reporter to the Morning Star, of which he becomes editor in 1864. He gives up his post in 1868 and, following a lecturing tour in the United States, joins the staff of The Daily News as leader-writer in 1870. In this capacity he becomes one of the most useful and respected upholders of the liberal politics of the time. He lectures again in America in 1870–71 and in 1886–87.

McCarthy is first elected to Parliament at a by-election on April 4, 1879, when he is returned unopposed as a Home Rule League MP for Longford. He is re-elected unopposed as a Parnellite Home Ruler in 1880, and when the two-seat Longford constituency is split into two divisions under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he is elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party member for the new single-seat North Longford constituency. His sole opponent, James Mackay Wilson of the Irish Conservative Party, wins only 6% of the votes.

At the 1886 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy is returned unopposed in North Longford, but also stands in Londonderry City, where he is declared the loser to the Irish Unionist Alliance candidate by the narrow margin of 1778 votes to 1781. However, the result is later overturned on petition and McCarthy opts to sit for Londonderry City. During the divorce controversy surrounding Charles Stewart Parnell in November 1890, the British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone expresses a warning, given to McCarthy as intermediary, that if Parnell retains leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, it will mean the loss of the next election, the end of their alliance and Home Rule. When the annual party leadership election meeting is called later that month, the threat is somehow not conveyed to the members, who re-elect Parnell leader of the Party.

After a further historical meeting of the Irish Party MPs in early December, Parnell refuses to retire and the Party divides. McCarthy becomes chairman of the Anti-Parnellite group, the Irish National Federation, for a year in 1891–92. His nationalism is of a temperate and orderly kind, and though his personal distinction singles him out for the chairmanship during the party dissensions of this period, he is in no active sense the political leader.

At the 1892 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy again stands both in North Longford and in Londonderry City. In each seat there is a two-way contest between the Anti-Parnellite McCarthy and a Unionist candidate, but the narrow Unionist victory in Londonderry is not overturned, and McCarthy sits for North Longford, where he wins over 93% of the votes. He is returned unopposed for North Longford in 1895 United Kingdom general election and stands down from Parliament at the 1900 United Kingdom general election.

It is claimed that McCarthy’s true vocation is literature. His earliest publications are novels, some of which, such as A Fair Saxon (1873), Dear Lady Disdain (1875), Miss Misanthrope (1878), and Donna Quixote (1879), attain considerable popularity. His most important work is his History of Our Own Times, which treats of the period between Queen Victoria‘s accession and her Diamond Jubilee. He begins a History of the Four Georges (1884–1901) and the latter half is written by his son, Justin Huntly McCarthy.

Justin McCarthy dies at the age of 81 in Folkestone, Kent, England on April 24, 1912.

(Pictured: Portrait style photograph of Irish politician Justin McCarthy, taken in 1891 by Herbert Rose Barraud)


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Birth of Michael O’Riordan, Founder of the Communist Party of Ireland

Michael O’Riordan, the founder of the Communist Party of Ireland who also fights with the Connolly Column in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, is born at 37 Pope’s Quay, Cork, County Cork, on November 12, 1917.

O’Riordan is the youngest of five children. His parents come from the West Cork Gaeltacht of BallingearyGougane Barra. Despite his parents being native speakers of the Irish language, it is not until he is interned in the Curragh Camp during World War II that he learns Irish, being taught by fellow internee Máirtín Ó Cadhain, who goes on to lecture at Trinity College, Dublin.

As a teenager, O’Riordan joins the Irish nationalist youth movement, Fianna Éireann, and then the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA at the time is inclined toward left-wing politics and socialism. Much of its activity concerns street fighting with the quasi-fascist Blueshirt movement and he fights Blueshirt fascism on the streets of Cork in 1933–34. He is friends with left-wing inclined republicans such as Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan, and in 1934, he follows them into the Republican Congress, a short-lived socialist republican party.

O’Riordan joins the Communist Party of Ireland in 1935 while still in the IRA and works on the communist newspaper The Irish Workers’ Voice. In 1937, following the urgings of Peadar O’Donnell, several hundred Irishmen, mostly IRA or ex-IRA men, go to fight for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War with the XVth International Brigade. They are motivated in part by enmity towards the 800 or so Blueshirts, led by Eoin O’Duffy who go to Spain to fight on the “nationalist” side in the Irish Brigade. He accompanies a party led by Frank Ryan. In the Republic’s final offensive of July 25, 1938, he carries the flag of Catalonia across the River Ebro. On August 1, he is severely injured by shrapnel on the Ebro front. He is repatriated to Ireland the following month, after the International Brigades are disbanded.

In 1938 O’Riordan is offered an Irish Army commission by the Irish Free State but chooses instead to train IRA units in Cork. As a result of his IRA activities during World War II, or the Emergency as it is known in neutral Ireland, he is interned in the Curragh internment camp from 1939 until 1943 where he is Officer Commanding of the Cork Hut and partakes in Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Gaelic League classes as well as publishing Splannc (Irish for “Spark,” named after Vladimir Lenin‘s newspaper).

In 1944 O’Riordan is founding secretary of the Liam Mellows Branch of the Labour Party and in 1945 is a founding secretary of the Cork Socialist Party, whose other notable members include Derry Kelleher, Kevin Neville and Máire Keohane-Sheehan.

O’Riordan subsequently works as a bus conductor in Cork and is active in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). In 1946 he stands as a Cork Socialist Party candidate in the Cork Borough by-election and afterwards moves to Dublin where he lives in Victoria Street with his wife Kay Keohane of Clonakilty, continues to work as a bus conductor and remains active in the ITGWU.

In 1947, O’Riordan is a founding secretary of the Irish Workers’ League and general secretary thereafter, and of its successor organisation the Irish Workers’ Party from 1962–70.

In the 1960s, O’Riordan is a pivotal figure in the Dublin Housing Action Committee which agitates for clearances of Dublin’s slums and for the building of social housing. There, he befriends Fr. Austin Flannery, leading Minister for Finance and future Taoiseach Charles Haughey to dismiss Flannery as “a gullible cleric” while the Minister for Local Government, Kevin Boland, describes him as a “so-called cleric” for sharing a platform with O’Riordan.

In all O’Riordan runs for election five times, campaigning throughout for the establishment of a socialist republic in Ireland but given Ireland’s Catholic conservatism and fear of communism, he does so without success. He does, however, receive playwright Sean O’Casey‘s endorsement in 1951.

O’Riordan’s participation in the Spanish Civil War is always an important part of his political identity. In 1966 he attends the International Brigades’ Reunion in Berlin and is instrumental in having Frank Ryan’s remains repatriated from Germany to Ireland in 1979.

O’Riordan is a member of the Irish Chile Solidarity Committee and attends the 1st Party Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1984. He also campaigns on behalf of the Birmingham Six and attends their Appeal trial in 1990. He serves as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland (1970–83) and as National Chairman of the party (1983–88). He publishes many articles under the auspices of the CPI.

O’Riordan’s last major public outing comes in 2005 at the re-dedication of the memorial outside Dublin’s Liberty Hall to the Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War. He and other veterans are received by President of Ireland Mary McAleese. He is also presented with Cuba’s Medal of Friendship by the Cuban Consul Teresita Trujillo to Ireland on behalf of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In 1969, according to Soviet dissident Vasili Mitrokhin, O’Riordan is approached by IRA leaders Cathal Goulding and Seamus Costello with a view to obtaining guns from the Soviet KGB to defend Irish republican areas of Belfast during the communal violence that marks the outbreak of the Troubles. Mitrokhin alleges that O’Riordan then contacts the Kremlin, but the consignment of arms does not reach Ireland until 1972. The operation is known as Operation Splash. The IRA splits in the meantime between the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA and it is the latter faction who receives the Soviet arms. Mitrokhin’s allegations are repeated in Boris Yeltsin‘s autobiography.

O’Riordan’s book, Connolly Column – The Story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936–1939, is published in 1979 and deals with the Irish volunteers of the International Brigade who fought in support of the Spanish Republic against Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). An updated version of the book is reprinted in 2005 and is launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Michael Conaghan at a book launch at SIPTU headquarters, Liberty Hall. The book is the inspiration for Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore‘s famous song “Viva la Quinta Brigada.”

In 1991, O’Riordan’s wife dies at the age of 81 at their home. He continues to live in their family home before moving to Glasnevin in 2000 to be close to his son Manus who lives nearby. He lives there until falling ill in November 2005 and is taken to the Mater Hospital. His health rapidly deteriorates and he quickly develops Alzheimer’s disease. Soon afterwards he is moved to St. Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park where he spends the final few months of his life, before his death at the age of 88 on May 18, 2006.

O’Riordan’s funeral at Glasnevin Crematorium is attended by over a thousand mourners. Following a wake the previous night at Finglas Road, hundreds turn up outside the house of his son Manus and traffic grounds to a halt as family, friends and comrades – many of whom are waving the red flag of the Communist Party of Ireland – escort O’Riordan to Glasnevin Cemetery. A secular ceremony takes place led by Manus O’Riordan, Head of Research at SIPTU, with contributions from O’Riordan’s family, Communist Party general secretary Eugene McCartan and IBMT representative Pauline Frasier.

The funeral congregation includes politicians such as Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte, his predecessor Ruairi Quinn, party front-bencher Joan Burton, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe and councillor Larry O’Toole, ex-Workers’ Party leader Tomás Mac Giolla and former Fianna Fáil MEP Niall Andrews. Also in attendance are union leaders Jack O’Connor (SIPTU), Mick O’Reilly (ITGWU) and David Begg (ICTU). Actors Patrick Bergin, Jer O’Leary, singer Ronnie Drew, artist Robert Ballagh, and newsreader Anne Doyle are also among the mourners. Tributes are paid by President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Labour Party TDs Ruairi Quinn and Michael D. Higgins.