seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of U.S. President William McKinley

william-mckinleyWilliam McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, dies on September 14, 1901, eight days after being shot by anarchist Leon Czolgozc and six months into his second term. McKinley leads the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raises protective tariffs to promote American industry, and maintains the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of free silver.

McKinley is born on January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio, the seventh child of William McKinley Sr. and Nancy (née Allison) McKinley. The McKinleys are of English and Scots-Irish descent and settled in western Pennsylvania in the 18th century, tracing back to a David McKinley who is born in Dervock, County Antrim, in present-day Northern Ireland.

McKinley is the last president to serve in the American Civil War and the only one to start the war as an enlisted soldier, beginning as a private in the Union Army and ending as a brevet major. After the war, he settles in Canton, Ohio, where he practices law and marries Ida Saxton. In 1876, he is elected to the United States Congress, where he becomes the Republican Party‘s expert on the protective tariff, which he promises will bring prosperity. His 1890 McKinley Tariff is highly controversial which, together with a Democratic redistricting aimed at gerrymandering him out of office, leads to his defeat in the Democratic landslide of 1890.

McKinley is elected Ohio’s governor in 1891 and 1893, steering a moderate course between capital and labor interests. With the aid of his close adviser Mark Hanna, he secures the Republican nomination for president in 1896, amid a deep economic depression. He defeats his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan, after a front porch campaign in which he advocates “sound money” and promises that high tariffs will restore prosperity.

Rapid economic growth marks McKinley’s presidency. He promotes the 1897 Dingley Act to protect manufacturers and factory workers from foreign competition, and in 1900, he secures the passage of the Gold Standard Act. He hopes to persuade Spain to grant independence to rebellious Cuba without conflict, but when negotiation fails, he leads the nation into the Spanish–American War of 1898. The U.S. victory is quick and decisive. As part of the Treaty of Paris, Spain turns over to the United States its main overseas colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Cuba is promised independence, but at that time remains under the control of the U.S. Army. The United States annexes the independent Republic of Hawaii in 1898 and it became a U.S. territory.

Historians regard McKinley’s 1896 victory as a realigning election, in which the political stalemate of the post–Civil War era gives way to the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, which begins with the Progressive Era.

McKinley defeats Bryan again in the 1900 presidential election, in a campaign focused on imperialism, protectionism, and free silver. However, his legacy is suddenly cut short when he is shot on September 6, 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Polish American with anarchist leanings. McKinley dies eight days later on September 14, 1901, and is succeeded by his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt. He is buried at the McKinley National Memorial in Canton, Ohio.

As an innovator of American interventionism and pro-business sentiment, McKinley’s presidency is generally considered above average, though his highly positive public perception is soon overshadowed by Roosevelt.

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Death of Confederate General Joseph Finegan

Joseph Finegan, Irish-born American businessman and brigadier general for the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, dies on October 29, 1885, in Rutledge, Florida.

Finegan is born November 17, 1814 at Clones, County Monaghan. He comes to Florida in the 1830s, first establishing a sawmill at Jacksonville and later a law practice at Fernandina Beach. At the latter place, he becomes the business partner of David Levy Yulee and begins construction of the Florida Railroad to speed transportation of goods and people from the new state’s east coast to the Gulf of Mexico.

By the outbreak of the American Civil War, Finegan has built his family a forty-room mansion in Fernandina Beach at the site of the modern Atlantic Elementary School. At Florida’s secession convention, Finegan represents Nassau County alongside James Graham Cooper.

In April 1862, Finegan assumes command of Middle and East Florida from Brigadier General James H. Trapier. Soon thereafter, he suffers some embarrassment surrounding the wreck of the blockade runner Kate at Mosquito Inlet. Her cargo of rifles, ammunition, medical supplies, blankets, and shoes is plundered by civilians. Eventually, most of the rifles are found, but the other supplies are never recovered.

In 1863, Finegan complains of the large quantity of rum making its way from the West Indies into Florida. Smugglers are buying it in Cuba for a mere seventeen cents per gallon, only to sell it in the blockaded state for twenty-five dollars per gallon. He urges Governor John Milton to confiscate the “vile article” and destroy it before it can impact army and civilian morals.

In February 1864, General P.G.T. Beauregard begins rushing reinforcements to Finegan after Confederate officials become aware of a build-up of Federal troops in the occupied city of Jacksonville. As Florida is a vital supply route and source of beef to the other southern states, they can not allow it to fall completely into Union hands.

On February 20, 1864, Finegan stops a Federal advance from Jacksonville under General Truman Seymour that is intent upon capturing the state capitol at Tallahassee. Their two armies clash at the Battle of Olustee, where Finegan’s men defeat the Union Army and force them to flee back beyond the St. Johns River. Critics have faulted Finegan for failing to exploit his victory by pursuing his retreating enemy, contenting himself by salvaging their arms and ammunition from the battlefield. However, his victory is one rare bright spot in an otherwise gloomy year for the dying Confederacy.

Finegan is relieved of his command over the state troops and replaced by Major General James Patton Anderson. This change in command is necessary as Finegan is ordered to lead the “Florida Brigade” in the Army of Northern Virginia, where he serves effectively until near the end of the war.

Finegan returns to Fernandina Beach after the war to discover his mansion has been seized by the Freedmen’s Bureau for use as an orphanage and school for black children. It took some legal wrangling, but he is eventually able to recover the property. The untimely death of his son Rutledge on April 4, 1871, precipitates a move to Savannah, Georgia. There, Finegan feels at home with the large Irish population and works as a cotton broker.

It is while living in Savannah that Finegan marries his second wife, the widow Lucy C. Alexander, a Tennessee belle. They eventually settle on a large orange grove in Orange County, Florida. Finegan dies on October 29, 1885, at Rutledge, Florida. According to The Florida Times-Union, his death is the result of “severe cold, inducing chills, to which he succumbed after brief illness.” He is buried at the Old City Cemetery in Jacksonville.


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Birth of Richard Robert Madden, Historian & Abolitionist

Richard Robert Madden, Irish doctor, writer, abolitionist and historian of the Society of United Irishmen, is born on August 22, 1798. He takes an active role in trying to impose anti-slavery rules in Jamaica on behalf of the British government.

Madden is born at Wormwood Gate, Dublin to Edward Madden, a silk manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Corey). His father has married twice and fathered twenty-one children. Luckily for young Richard his father is still affluent enough by the time he is reaching adolescence to afford him a top quality education. This means private schools and a medical apprenticeship in Athboy, County Meath. He studies medicine in Paris, Italy, and St. George’s Hospital, London. While in Naples he becomes acquainted with Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington and her circle.

In 1828 Madden marries Harriet Elmslie, herself coincidentally the youngest of twenty one children. Born in Marylebone in 1801 and baptised there into the Church of England, she is the last child of John Elmslie, a Scot who owns hundreds of slaves on his plantations in Jamaica, and his wife Jane Wallace. Both Harriet’s parents are of Quaker stock, but while living in Cuba she converts to Roman Catholicism. On marriage, Madden stops travelling and practises medicine for five years.

Eventually he realises that he needs to contribute to the abolitionist cause. The slave trade has been illegal in the empire since 1807, but slaves still exist. Abolishing slavery is a popular cause and it is obvious that the trading of slaves is still in progress and many are not actively involved but they are complicit with the activity.

Madden is employed in the British civil service from 1833, first as a justice of the peace in Jamaica, where he is one of six Special Magistrates sent to oversee the eventual liberation of Jamaica’s slave population, according to the terms of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. From 1835 he is Superintendent of the freed Africans in Havana. His son, Thomas More Madden, who later becomes a surgeon and writer, is born there. In 1839 he becomes the investigating officer into the slave trade on the west coast of Africa and, in 1847, the secretary for the West Australian colonies. He returns to Dublin and in 1850 is named secretary of the Office for Loan Funds in Dublin.

Richard Madden dies at his home in Booterstown, just south of Dublin, on February 5, 1886 and is interred in Donnybrook Cemetery.


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Death of Singer & Songwriter Kirsty MacColl

kirsty-maccollKirsty Anna MacColl, English singer and songwriter, dies on December 18, 2000, at the age of 41 after being hit by a powerboat while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico.

MacColl records several pop hits between the early 1980s and the 1990s, including “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” and cover versions of Billy Bragg‘s “A New England” and The Kinks‘ “Days.” She also sings on recordings produced by her husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.

Early in her career, MacColl signs a solo deal with Stiff Records. She moves to Polydor Records in 1981 but they drop her just as she has completed recording the songs for a planned second album. She returns to Stiff Records however, following their 1986 bankruptcy, MacColl is left unable to record in her own right, as no record company buys her contract from the Official Receiver. She has regular session work as a backing vocalist, and she frequently sings on records produced or engineered by her husband including tracks for Robert Plant, The Smiths, Alison Moyet, Shriekback, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Big Country, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (of ABBA), and The Wonder Stuff among others.

MacColl re-emerges in the British charts in December 1987, reaching Number 2 with The Pogues on “Fairytale of New York,” a duet with Shane MacGowan. This leads to her accompanying The Pogues on their British and European tour in 1988.

After the contract issue is resolved, MacColl returns to recording as a solo artist and receives critical acclaim upon the release of Kite in 1989. While continuing to write and record, she is also featured on the British sketch comedy French and Saunders.

In 2000, following her participation in the presentation of a radio programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation in Cuba, MacColl takes a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, with her sons and her partner, musician James Knight. On December 18, she and her sons go diving at the Chankanaab reef, part of the National Marine Park of Cozumel, in a designated diving area that watercraft are restricted from entering. With the group is a local veteran divemaster, Iván Díaz. As the group is surfacing from a dive, a powerboat moving at high speed enters the restricted area. MacColl sees the boat coming before her sons. Louis, then 13, is not in its path, but 15-year-old Jamie is. She is able to push him out of the way but in doing so she is struck by the boat and dies instantly. MacColl’s body is repatriated to the United Kingdom and is cremated after a humanist funeral at Mortlake Crematorium in South-West London.

empty-bench-in-soho-squareIn 2001, a bench is placed by the southern entrance to London’s Soho Square as a memorial to MacColl, after a lyric from one of her most poignant songs: “One day I’ll be waiting there / No empty bench in Soho Square.” Every year on the Sunday nearest her October 10 birthday, fans from all over the world hold a gathering at the bench to pay tribute to her and sing her songs.

MacColl’s collaboration with the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York,” remains a perennial Christmas favourite. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, it is voted favourite Christmas song in a poll by music video channel VH1. The song is re-released in the United Kingdom in December 2005, with proceeds being split between the Justice for Kirsty Campaign and charities for the homeless. The re-release reaches number 3 on the U.K. charts, and spends five weeks in the top 75 over the Christmas and New Year period. It reaches the top 10 for the third time in its history in 2006, peaking at number 6, and charts yet again in December 2007. The song also makes the Top 20 in subsequent years, and has spent more time in the top 20 than any other song.


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Don Hugo O’Conor Named Commandant Inspector of New Spain

don-hugo-oconorDon Hugo O’Conor is named Commandant Inspector of New Spain on January 20, 1773. O’Conor, a descendant of king of Ireland Turlough Mor O’Conor, is born in 1732 in Ireland but is raised in Spain. The O’Conor family is also related to two officers in the Spanish army, Colonel Don Domingo O’Reilly and Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly. Originally, it is believed that the family name is most likely spelled “O’Connor” but is changed as the result of frequent misspellings by Spanish speakers.

In 1751, O’Conor follows his two cousins to Spain where they are already serving as officers in the Spanish Royal Army. He immediately joins the Regiment of Hibernia.

O’Conor serves in Spain’s war against Portugal in the early 1760’s and is then sent to the New World, serving in Cuba under his cousin, Field Marshal O’Reilly. O’Conor rises steadily through the ranks and in 1763 is made a knight of the Order of Calatrava.

In 1765, O’Conor is transferred to Mexico and serves on the staff of Don Juan de Villalba and shortly thereafter, to temporarily command the northern presidio of San Sabá. He goes to Texas to investigate a dispute around San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio between Governor Ángel de Martos y Navarrete and Rafael Martínez Pacheco, a future governor of Texas. During this time he obtains the title of inspector general of the Provincias Internas. In 1767, he is appointed governor of Texas, replacing Martos y Navarrete. When he takes office, he finds that one of its major cities, San Antonio, is shattered by frequent attacks of several Indian tribes. As a result, the new governor set up a garrison at Los Adaes to protect the city.

In 1771, O’Conor becomes the commander of the Chihuahua frontier and on January 20, 1773 is appointed Commandant Inspector of New Spain. Utilizing a system of frontier presidios, O’Conor fights a constant battle with numerous Indian tribes, primarily the Apaches, while helping reorganize and unify New Spain’s northern borders. He becomes the founding father of the city of Tucson, Arizona when he authorizes the construction of a military fort in that location in 1775.

In October 1776, O’Conor returns from the frontier and is appointed governor of the Yucatán, however at his station in Mérida his health begins to fail. On March 8, 1779, Don Hugo O’Conor dies at Quinta de Miraflores, just east of Mérida. O’Conor is only 44-years-old when he dies but has already risen to the rank of brigadier general. Had he lived to old age, Don Hugo O’Conor may well have risen to the highest ranks of Spain’s army or government.