seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Margaret Hassan, Irish-born Aid Worker in Iraq

Margaret Hassan, Irish-born aid worker also known as “Madam Margaret,” is born Margaret Fitzsimons in Dalkey, County Dublin on April 18, 1945. She works in Iraq for many years until she is abducted and murdered by unidentified kidnappers in Iraq in 2004. Her remains have never been recovered.

Soon after the end of World War II Hassan’s family moves to London, where she spends most of her early life and where her younger siblings are born. At the age of 27, she marries Tahseen Ali Hassan, a 29-year-old Iraqi studying engineering in the United Kingdom. She moves to Iraq with him in 1972, where she begins work with the British Council of Baghdad, teaching English. Eventually she learns Arabic and becomes an Iraqi citizen.

During the early 1980s, Hassan becomes the assistant director of studies at the British Council, later becoming director. Meanwhile, her husband works as an economist. She remains in Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, although the British Council suspends operations in Iraq, and she is left jobless at the end of it.

Hassan joins humanitarian relief organisation CARE International in 1991. Sanitation, health, and nutrition become major concerns in the sanctioned Iraq. She is crucially involved in bringing leukemia medicine to child cancer victims in Iraq in 1998. She becomes a vocal critic of the United Nations restrictions. She is opposed to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, arguing that the Iraqis are already “living through a terrible emergency. They do not have the resources to withstand an additional crisis brought about by military action.”

By 2004, Hassan is head of Iraqi operations for CARE. Well known in many of Baghdad’s slums and other cities, she is especially interested in Iraq’s young people, whom she calls “the lost generation.” Her presence draws large crowds of locals.

Hassan is kidnapped in Baghdad on October 19, 2004, and is killed some weeks later on November 8. In a video released of her in captivity she pleads for help and begs British Prime Minister Tony Blair to remove British troops from Iraq. She adds that she does not “want to die like Mr. Bigley,” a reference to Kenneth Bigley, who had been executed in Iraq only weeks earlier.

Patients of an Iraqi hospital take to the streets in protest against the hostage takers’ actions. On October 25, between 100 and 200 Iraqis protest outside CARE’s offices in Baghdad, demanding her release. Prominent elements of the Iraqi insurgency and Iraqi political figures condemn the kidnapping and call for her release. On November 2, Al Jazeera reports that the kidnappers threatened to hand her over to the group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and who is responsible for the execution of Bigley. On November 6, a statement purportedly from al-Zarqawi appears on an Islamist website calling for the release of Hassan unless the kidnappers have information she is aligned with the invading coalition. The statement cannot be authenticated and Hassan’s whereabouts in the video are unknown.

On 15 November, U.S. Marines in Fallujah uncover the body of an unidentified blonde- or grey-haired woman with her legs and arms cut off and throat slit. The body cannot be immediately identified, but is thought unlikely to be Hassan, who has brown hair. There is one other western woman known missing in Iraq at the time the body is discovered, Teresa Borcz Khalifa, a Polish-born long-time Iraqi resident. Khalifa is released by her hostage takers on November 20.

On November 16, CNN reports that CARE has issued a statement indicating that the organisation is aware of a videotape showing Hassan’s execution. Al-Jazeera reports that it has received a tape showing Hassan’s murder but is unable to confirm its authenticity. The video shows Hassan being shot with a handgun by a masked man. It is not known who is responsible for Hassan’s abduction and murder. The group holding her never identifies itself in the hostage videos.

She remains a Roman Catholic throughout her life and never converts to Islam as is widely reported after her death. A Requiem Mass is held for her, after her death is confirmed, at Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

CARE International suspends operations in Iraq because of Hassan’s kidnapping. At least eight other women kidnapped by insurgents during the conflict are released unharmed by their captors. It is unclear why Hassan, who was opposed to the war, lived in Iraq for many years, held Iraqi citizenship, was married to an Arab Muslim and spoke fluent Arabic was killed.

On May 1, 2005, three men are questioned by Iraqi police in connection with the murder. On June 5, 2006, news reports emerge that an Iraqi man by the name of Mustafa Salman al-Jubouri has been sentenced to life imprisonment for “aiding and abetting the kidnappers” but two other men are acquitted. Al-Jubouri appeals this sentence and is given a shorter imprisonment.

An Iraqi man named Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi, also known as Abu Rasha, an architect from Baghdad, is arrested by Iraqi and U.S. forces in 2008 after contacting the British Embassy in Baghdad and attempting to extort 1 million dollars in return for disclosing the location of Hassan’s body. Though Jassar signs statements confessing to the charges, he pleads not guilty, stating he was forced to sign them after receiving beatings and electrical shocks during questioning.

On June 2, 2009, the Press Association reports that Jassar is given a life sentence by Baghdad’s Central Criminal Court for being involved in Hassan’s abduction and murder, and for attempting to blackmail the British Embassy. Hassan’s family welcomes the court’s decision but pleads with Jassar to tell them where her body is so they can return her to Britain for burial. On July 14, 2010, a day before Jassar is due to appear in court for retrial, it is reported that he could not be located in the prison facility where he was being held. He had been missing for a month.


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Birth of Sir James Comyn, Irish-born English High Court Judge

Sir James Peter Comyn, Irish-born barrister and English High Court judge, is born at Beaufield House, Stillorgan, County Dublin on March 8, 1921. Considered by many to be “the finest all-round advocate at the English bar”, he is appointed to the High Court of Justice in 1978, serving on the bench until his retirement in 1985.

Comyn is the son of Nationalist barrister James Comyn KC and of Mary Comyn. Through his father he is the nephew of the barrister Michael Comyn KC. Both his father and uncle had been political and legal advisers to Éamon de Valera, who at one point uses Beaufield House as a safe house. However, the Comyn brothers have a falling out with de Valera shortly before he comes to power in 1932, and Michael Comyn is passed over as Attorney General of the Irish Free State. As a result, James Comyn, who is then attending Belvedere College in Dublin, is sent by his father to attend The Oratory School in England. He spends six months as a trainee at The Irish Times under the editor R. M. “Bertie” Smyllie, but abandons journalism after a joke he added to an obituary is printed in the paper, leading to his demotion to the racing department.

Comyn then matriculates at New College, Oxford, where he reads law, graduating with Second Class Honours. In 1940, he defeats Roy Jenkins for the presidency of the Oxford Union, winning by four votes. After suffering the first of several breakdowns through his life, he briefly works for the BBC‘s Empire Service during World War II.

Comyn is called to the English bar by the Inner Temple in 1942, the Irish bar in 1947, and the Hong Kong bar in 1969. In 1944, he begins his pupillage with Edward Holroyd Pearce KC, later a law lord, and joins his chambers at Fountain Court. He practises in London and on the Western circuit, supplementing his earnings by teaching banking, a subject of which he knows nothing. On one occasion, he rises in Lambeth County court to cross-examine a female defendant in an eviction case. Just as he begins by saying “Madam,” the defendant opens her bag, takes out a dead cat, and throws it at him. The judge’s reaction is to tell the defendant, “Madam, if you do that again, I’ll commit you.” Comyn wins the case.

Comyn takes silk in 1961, and acquires a large practice as a senior, appearing in many high-profile cases. In 1964, he wins damages for libel for the former safe-breaker Alfred George Hinds against a Scotland Yard inspector by convincing the jury that Hinds is in fact innocent. In 1970, he successfully defends the Labour MP Will Owen, who is accused of providing information to the Czechoslovak intelligence services. In 1975, he defeats the government’s attempt to obtain an injunction against the publication of the diaries of former minister Richard Crossman.

Comyn is Recorder of Andover between 1964 and 1971 (honorary life recorder from 1972), commissioner of assize for the Western Circuit in 1971, and a Recorder of the Crown Court between 1972 and 1977. He is elected a bencher of the Inner Temple in 1968, and serves as chairman of the Bar council from 1973 to 1974.

Having refused a previous invitation by Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St. Marylebone to join the bench, Comyn is again nominated by Elwyn Jones, Baron Elwyn-Jones, in 1977, and is appointed a High Court judge in 1978, receiving the customary knighthood upon his appointment. Initially assigned to the Family Division, he does not take to the work and is reassigned to the Queen’s Bench Division in 1979. He has a reputation for leniency in sentencing, first acquired as Recorder of Andover. In 1980–81, he presides over an unsuccessful libel action by a member of the Unification Church, colloquially known as the Moonies, against the Daily Mail, the longest libel trial in England up to that time. His Irish background makes him the target of Irish Republican Army (IRA) action, and in 1981 the Provisional IRA burns his house in Tara.

Recurring bouts of depression lead to Comyn’s early retirement, on grounds of ill health, in 1985. In retirement, he divides his time between England and Ireland, whose citizenship he has retained. He writes a number of books, including memoirs, light verse, and books on famous trials. He also breeds Friesian cattle. He dies in Navan, County Meath on January 5, 1997 at age 75.


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Birth of Ciarán Bourke, Founding Member of The Dubliners

Ciarán Bourke, Irish musician and one of the founding members of the Irish folk band The Dubliners, is born in Dublin on February 18, 1935.

Although born in Dublin, Bourke lives most of his life in Tibradden, County Dublin. His father, a doctor, is in practice in the city. The children have an Irish-speaking nanny. His early exposure to Irish continues throughout his education, attending Colaiste Mhuire, Parnell Square, Dublin. He later attends University College Dublin for a course in Agricultural Science. He does not take his degree but always retains an interest in farming.

After leaving university Bourke meets two of his future bandmates in The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna, who invite him to join their sessions in O’Donoghue’s Pub where he plays tin whistle, mouth organ and guitar, and sings. Luke Kelly, who had been singing around the clubs in England, returns to Dublin and joins them, with the four gaining local popularity. Taking the name The Dubliners, the group puts together the first folk concert of its kind in Dublin. The concert is a success, then a theatrical production called “A Ballad Tour of Ireland” is staged at the Gate Theatre shortly afterwards. In 1964 fiddle player John Sheahan joins the band and this becomes known as the original Dubliners line-up.

Bourke is responsible for bringing a Gaelic element to The Dubliners’ music with songs such as “Peggy Lettermore” and “Sé Fáth Mo Bhuartha” being performed in the Irish language. He also sings a number of the group’s more lighthearted and humorous numbers such as “Jar of Porter,” “The Dublin Fusiliers,” “The Limerick Rake,” “Mrs. McGrath,” “Darby O’Leary,” “All For Me Grog” and “The Ballad of Ronnie’s Mare,” as well as patriotic songs such as “Roddy McCorley,” “The Enniskillen Dragoons,” “Take It Down From The Mast” and “Henry Joy.”

On April 5, 1974 The Dubliners travel to Eastbourne where they are to appear in concert. Kelly is worried by the way Bourke keeps moving his head about, as if trying to alleviate increasing pain. Four minutes into the second half, it is decided he cannot continue with the show. Kelly insists that a doctor should be phoned and instructs to await their return to the Irish Club at Eaton Square. The roadie for the trip, John Corry, thinks that it is better to drive straight to St. George’s Hospital in London, where the doctors diagnose a brain aneurysm. He is transferred to the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, while doctors wait for his wife to return from a trip to Ghana, to get her signature before operating. She is told that there is danger of further haemorrhaging. He is operated on at the earliest opportunity. The bleeding begins again while he is on the table which means that they cannot repair the damage, only staunch the bleeding. This leaves him paralysed down his left side and confused as to where he is and what has happened.

Bourke receives intensive therapy, attending a clinic in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. He is heartened by his progress and insists on rejoining The Dubliners on their next tour of the Continent in November that year.

Bourke’s continued insistence that he is fit enough to join them on the forthcoming German tour causes them considerable disquiet. They prefer he ease himself back to work, with a few small shows in Ireland. The tour gradually begins to take its toll on him, and it is decided that for the sake of his health he should return home. He flies from Brussels to Dublin.

Bourke makes his last public appearance on Ireland’s RTÉ One during The Late Late Show‘s tribute to The Dubliners in 1987. Despite his lingering paralysis he recites “The Lament for Brendan Behan” after which everyone in the studio, led by Ronnie Drew, sing “The Auld Triangle.”

Bourke dies on May 10, 1988 after a long illness. From 1974 until his death he had continued to be paid by the band. A fifth member of the group is not recruited until after his death.


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Death of Mother Mary Martin

Mother Mary of the Incarnation Martin, foundress of the Catholic religious institute of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, dies in Drogheda, County Louth, on January 27, 1975.

Martin is born Marie Helena Martin in Glenageary, County Dublin, on April 24, 1892, the second of twelve children of Thomas Martin and Mary Moore. In 1904, while attending classes for her First Communion, she contracts rheumatic fever, which is to affect her heart permanently. Tragedy hits the family on St. Patrick’s Day 1907, as her father is killed in what is presumed to be an accidental shooting. Later her mother sends her to schools in Scotland, England and Germany, all of which she leaves as quickly as possible.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, Martin joins the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a division of the Red Cross. In October 1915, she is assigned to work in Malta. After learning that her brother had been killed in the campaign of Gallipoli, she returns to Ireland in April 1916. She is called to serve again a month later at Neufchâtel-Hardelot, France, in a field hospital near the front lines of the Battle of the Somme. This assignment lasts until December of that year, followed by a brief stint in Leeds, England. After the war, she is called upon help in nursing victims of the Spanish flu, which had begun to devastate populations around the world.

In 1917 a new curate comes to the parish which Martin attends, the Reverend Thomas Roynane, to whom she turns for guidance. Roynane inspires her with an interest in pursuing missionary work. She goes to England in January 1919 for further medical training. Her mother’s severe illness the following year interrupts her training, however, as she has to return home to care for her.

In April 1920, Roynane arranges for Martin to meet the new bishop, and she volunteers her services as a lay missionary to work in his jurisdiction in southern Nigeria. Agnes Ryan, a local schoolteacher now in her fourth year of medical training, advises her that she wishes to join her in the African mission.

In April 1921, Martin and Ryan leave Ireland for Nigeria. They set sail for Africa from Liverpool on May 25 and arrive in the port of Calabar on June 14. They arrive prepared to provide medical care, only to learn that they are expected to run a school which had been staffed by French Religious Sisters until two years prior. To give the parents and children of the school a sense of continuity, the two women are addressed as “Sisters” by the priests and treated as if they are already members of an established religious institute.

By October, Ryan contracts malaria and develops a heart condition, which require her return to Ireland. Forced to fill in as Acting Headmistress, Martin meets with the bishop in his headquarters at Onitsha and is advised that caution is needed in providing medical care to the people of her mission, so as not to provoke objections by other missionaries in the region. Upon her return to Calabar, she makes a 30-day retreat.

In April 1922 the bishop travels there and holds two weeks of consultations with Martin, Roynane and another missioner, during which the Rule and Constitutions of a new congregation are hammered out, with the understanding that Martin will be the foundress. Martin does not see the bishop again for two years. During this time she learns that the bishop is working to establish the new congregation in Ireland, a direction she feels will focus the congregation on teaching rather than the medical care. An Irish Sister of Charity, Sister Magdalen Walker, is released from her congregation to help in this new work and arrives in Calabar in October 1923.

The following January Martin is directed by the bishop to return to Ireland to make a canonical novitiate. In March she starts her time of postulancy, prior to admission to the novitiate year. After 18 months, however, upon completion of the novitiate year she leaves the community, as the training provided by the Dominican Sisters has not been oriented toward medical care.

In this formal step of forming the new congregation, Martin encounters the prohibition in the new Code of Canon Law of 1917 of the Catholic Church against members of religious orders practicing medicine. Facing this barrier, she still feels a call to consecrated life and considers following the example of the recently canonized Carmelite nun, Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1927 she applies to the community of that Order in Dublin, but her application is declined, solely on the decision of the prioress who feels that Martin is called to a different path in life. She then goes through a new period of confusion until she is requested to consider again serving the missions. She then forms a small group of women to provide the domestic service for the preparatory school run by the Benedictine monks Glenstal Abbey.

In 1933, following a long period of illness, Martin approaches the new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Paschal Robinson. He is supportive of her goals and encourages her continually over the next years. Finally, in February 1936, the Holy See lifts prohibition against Religious Sisters serving as doctors or midwives. She then seeks a diocese which will accept a new congregation, without success. In October of that same year, Antonio Riberi is named Apostolic Delegate in Africa, based in Kenya. He gives his support to having the congregation established in Calabar.

While still negotiating to purchase a house in Ireland as a local base, complicated by the fact that they are not yet a formal congregation, the small community sails for Nigeria at the end of 1936. Upon their arrival Martin suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized at Port Harcourt. It is there that she professes religious vows on April 4, 1937. With that the Medical Missionaries of Mary become established.

Martin’s health is always a source of concern but she lives until 1975. Today the Medical Missionaries of Mary number some 400 women from 16 different nations, who serve in 14 different countries around the world.


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Death of Michael Butler Yeats, Barrister & Politician

Michael Butler Yeats, barrister, Fianna Fáil politician and only son of the poet William Butler Yeats, dies on January 3, 2007 in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. He serves two periods as a member of Seanad Éireann.

Yeats is born on August 22, 1921 in Thame, Oxfordshire, England to W. B. Yeats, who also served in the Seanad, and his mother, Georgie Hyde-Lees. His sister Anne Yeats is a painter and designer, as is his uncle Jack Butler Yeats. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin and is an officer in the College Historical Society. He unsuccessfully stands for election to Dáil Éireann at the 1948 Irish general election and the 1951 Irish general election for the Dublin South-East constituency.

Following the 1951 election, Yeats is nominated to the 7th Seanad by the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera. He stands at the subsequent 1954 Irish general election for the 8th Seanad but is not elected.

From 1961 to 1980 Yeats is a member of Seanad Éireann. In 1961 he is elected to the 10th Seanad by the Labour Panel. In 1965 he is nominated by the Taoiseach Seán Lemass to the 11th Seanad. In 1969 he is elected to the 12th Seanad by the Cultural and Educational Panel where he serves as Cathaoirleach (chair) until 1973. He is re-elected to the 13th Seanad in 1973. In 1977, he is nominated by the Taoiseach Jack Lynch to the 14th Seanad. He resigns from the Seanad on March 12, 1980.

While a senator, Yeats serves as a Member of the European Parliament from 1973 to 1979, being appointed to Ireland’s first, second and third delegations. He stands at the first direct elections in 1979 for the Dublin constituency but is not elected.

Yeats is married to Gráinne Ni hEigeartaigh, a singer and Irish harpist. They have four children: daughters Caitríona (a concert harpist), Siobhán (a patents professional) and Síle (a broadcaster with RTÉ who also dies in 2007), and a son, Pádraig (an engineer).

Yeats dies on January 3, 2007 in St. Michael’s Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. His funeral service takes place in St. Patrick’s Church, Harbour Road, Dalkey, on January 8, 2007, followed by burial in Shanganagh Cemetery.


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Birth of Olympic Medalist Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith, married name Michelle Smith de Bruin, lawyer and retired Irish swimmer who wins four medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, is born in Rathcoole, County Dublin on December 16, 1969. As a result of the medals captured in Atlanta, she becomes the most successful Olympian in Ireland and the country’s first woman to capture a gold medal.

Smith begins swimming competitively at age thirteen. Though she develops into one of Ireland’s premier junior swimmers, she realizes that without more advanced facilities and training techniques, she will never be able to compete at the international level. She goes to the United States to attend school and swim at the University of Houston, where she graduates with a degree in communications. Her times steadily improve and she makes the Irish Olympic teams for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At both of those Games, however, she is eliminated in the preliminary rounds.

In 1994 Smith moves to the Netherlands with her coach and future husband, Erik de Bruin, to prepare for the 1996 Games. The next year she emerges as an elite athlete, winning the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley at the 1995 European Aquatics Championships. She continues to improve in 1996, taking 19 seconds off her best time in the 400-metre freestyle. In response to questions about her sudden turnaround, she credits more sophisticated training techniques and a single-minded focus on swimming. She also points out that she is probably the most tested athlete in Irish history and that she had never tested positive for banned substances.

Prior to the Atlanta Games, Ireland had won only five Olympic gold medals, and no medal — gold, silver, or bronze — had been won by Irish women. In one week, however, Smith rewrites the Irish record books. The 26-year-old swimmer wins the gold in three events — the 200-metre individual medley, the 400-metre individual medley, and the 400-metre freestyle — and captures the bronze medal in the 200-metre butterfly. Her triumph, however, is somewhat tarnished by unsubstantiated rumours that she had used performance-enhancing drugs. Some observers question her dramatic improvements in time and point to her marriage to de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower who had been suspended from international competition for steroid use. Smith passes all the pre- and post-Olympic drug tests, however.

Smith’s success continues at the 1997 European Aquatic Championships, where she wins gold medals in the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley. In 1998, however, she receives a four-year ban for tampering with a urine sample during a drug test. She maintains her innocence, but her appeal of the ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) fails. She is 28 at the time, and the ban effectively ends her competitive swimming career. She is not stripped of her Olympic medals, as she has never tested positive for any banned substances.

Smith’s experiences at the CAS has an effect beyond her swimming career. It is there that she develops an interest in the law. After officially announcing her retirement from swimming in 1999, she returns to university, graduating from University College Dublin with a degree in law. In July 2005 she is conferred with the degree of Barrister at Law of King’s Inns, Dublin. While a student at the King’s Inns she wins the highly prestigious internal Brian Walsh Moot Court competition. Her book, Transnational Litigation: Jurisdiction and Procedure is published in 2008 by Thomson Round Hall.

In 1996, Smith releases her autobiography, Gold, co-written with Cathal Dervan. She lives in Kells, County Kilkenny with her husband and their two children.


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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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Opening of Ireland’s First Passenger Railway

Ireland’s first passenger railway, the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR), opens on October 9, 1834. It links Westland Row in Dublin with Kingstown Harbour (Dún Laoghaire) in County Dublin. The D&KR is also notable for a number of other achievements besides being Ireland’s first passenger railway. It operates an atmospheric railway for ten years, claims the first use of a passenger tank engine and is the first railway company to build its own locomotives.

Construction begins on a new harbour at Dunleary village in 1817 that soon begins to attract traffic due to silting problems elsewhere around Dublin Bay. Proposals for canal or rail infrastructure links to Dublin are variously proposed through to the 1830s. James Pim takes the initiative and commissions a plan by Alexander Nimmo which is presented as a petition to the House of Commons on February 28, 1831 for a rail line from near Trinity College Dublin to the west pier at the Royal Harbour of Kingstown under a company to be known as the D&KR. A bill is presented and is progressing but is scuppered by a prorogation of parliament and an election. A fresh bill receives Royal assent on September 6, 1831.

A meeting of D&KR subscribers on November 25, 1831 at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce includes the submission of a long report which indicates that Westland Row is to be the Dublin terminus and that the enterprise is initially to focus on passenger traffic with a high train frequency.

The construction contract is awarded to William Dargan, with Charles Blacker Vignoles as engineer. The construction contract is signed on May 7, 1833 and is completed in about 18 months. The railway proves expensive to build with the final cost being a little under £60,000 per mile. Thomas Grierson, the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway (DW&WR) chief engineer comments in a presentation to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland in 1887 that speed of construction is remarkably short and leads to “many failures in masonry, bridges, etc.”

On October 4, 1834 the first recorded train with invited passengers is hauled by the engine Vauxhall and runs as far as the Williamstown Martello Tower at what is now Blackrock Park before returning. The engine Hibernia on October 9, 1834 hauls another train of invited passengers composed of eight carriages the entire length of the line and back. Plans are made to introduce a service on October 22, 1834 but storms and flooding damage the line including wrecking the bridge over the River Dodder and this leads to delays for repairs. A timetabled regular service is introduced from January 1835.

On June 30, 1856 the Dublin and Wicklow Railway (D&WR) takes over operation of the line from the D&KR with the D&KR continuing to lease out the line. The D&WR had formerly been known as the Waterford, Wicklow, Wexford and Dublin Railway (WWW&DR or 3WS). It changes its name to the Dublin Wicklow and Wexford Railway (DW&WR) in May 1860 and is ultimately renamed the Dublin and South Eastern Railway (D&SER) in 1907, a name which is retained until the amalgamation of the D&KR and D&SER with the Great Southern Railways on January 1, 1925. As of 1974, its independent existence of over 90 years by a railway company is only exceeded in the British Isles by the Great Western Railway and the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway.

(Pictured: Sketch of Second Class Carriage on the Dublin and Kingstown Railway by E. Heyden, with Patent Spiral spring Buffer, as invented by T.F. Bergin)


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The Sack of Balbriggan

The tragic events of the sack of Balbriggan, County Dublin by Black And Tans on September 20, 1920 have left an unforgettable memory on the town.

Peter Burke, the Head Constable of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), is accompanied by his brother William, a Sergeant, as they enter Smyth’s pub (now the Millrace Pub) for a drink. There are confusing accounts of what transpires there but shortly afterwards Burke is shot dead and his brother is seriously wounded.

Word quickly reaches Gormanston Camp where the Black and Tans are stationed. A large body of them arrive a short time later in two or three lorries, firing indiscriminately in the streets. They station their vehicles outside the barracks on Bridge Street. They also burn twenty houses and many families spend several nights sleeping outdoors in fear for their lives.

The Black and Tans loot the business of John Derham, a local Town Commissioner, on corner of Bridge Street and Clonard Street and they burn several local businesses and several houses including eight cottages on Clonard Street, known locally as Sinn Féin Alley.

Several licensed premises are also destroyed including Landy’s and the Gladstone Inn, now Harvest Pub and Milestone Inn. The Black and Tans are set on destroying the premises of Smyth and Co. on Railway Street however they burn down another factory, Balbriggan Sea Mills, built by the English company, Deeds Templar. Only the factory chimney remains.

Several locals are dragged into the barracks for questioning and two are murdered, Seamus Lawless, a local barber, and Sean Gibbons, a dairy farmer. A plaque on Bridge Street commemorates them. Both are buried in Balscadden cemetery. Peter Burke is buried in Glenamaddy, County Galway.

Fulham Terrace has been named in honour of the bravery of Dr. Fulham on the night along with the names given to Lawless and Gibbons Terrace in the town.

(From: “The Sack of Balbriggan, 20th September 1920,” http://www.balbriggan.info, February 20, 2020)


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Birth of Molesworth Phillips, Companion of Captain Cook

molesworth-phillipsMolesworth Phillips, sailor and companion of Captain James Cook, is born in Swords, County Dublin on August 15, 1755.

Phillips is the son of John Phillips of Swords. His father is a natural son of Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, whence Phillips acquires his Christian name. He first enters the Royal Navy, but on the advice of his friend Sir Joseph Banks he accepts a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Marines on January 17, 1776. In this capacity he is selected to accompany Captain Cook on his last voyage, extending over nearly three years. He sails with Cook from Plymouth on July 12, 1776, and is with the marines who escort Cook when he lands at Hawaii on February 14, 1779.

In John Webber‘s painting “The Death of Captain Cook” Phillips is represented kneeling and firing at a native who is clubbing Cook. Phillips is himself wounded, but, after swimming back to the boat, he turns back and helps another wounded marine to the boats.

On November 1, 1780 Phillips is promoted to captain. On January 10, 1782 he marries Susanna Elizabeth, third daughter of Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), and sister of Frances Burney and of James Burney, Phillips’s friend, who, like him, had accompanied Cook on his last voyage. He has no further active service, but is promoted brevet major on March 1, 1794, and brevet lieutenant colonel on January 1, 1798. From 1784, for the sake of his wife’s health, he lives for a time at Boulogne, but after the French Revolution he resides chiefly at Mickleham, Surrey, not far from Juniper Hall, where Frances Burney entertains numbers of French emigres. From 1796 to 1799, during the alarm of a French invasion of Ireland, Phillips feels it his duty to reside on the Irish estates at Beleotton, which he had inherited from an uncle. On January 6, 1800 his wife dies.

After the Treaty of Amiens, Phillips visits France in 1802, and he is one of those who are seized by Napoleon on the renewal of the war. He is detained in France until the peace of 1814. During this detention he makes friends with the Prince of Talleyrand and other well-known Frenchmen. After his return to England he becomes acquainted with Robert Southey, Mary and Charles Lamb, who describe him as “the high-minded associate of Cook, the veteran colonel, with his lusty heart still sending cartels of defiance to old Time,” and with John Thomas Smith (1766-1833), whom he supplies with various anecdotes for his Nollekens and his Times.

Phillips dies of cholera at his house in Lambeth on September 11, 1832, and is buried in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where an inscription commemorates him and James and Martin Burney (1788-1852).

(Pictured: Etching of Molesworth Phillips by Andrew Geddes, circa 1825, bequeathed by Frederick Leverton Harris, 1927, National Portrait Gallery, London)