seamus dubhghaill

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


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Stephen Roche Wins the World Professional Road Race Championship

Stephen Roche, Irish professional road racing cyclist, wins the World Professional Road Race Championship on September 6, 1987. In a 13-year professional career, he peaks in 1987, becoming the second of only two cyclists to win the Triple Crown of Cycling with victories in the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia general classification, and the World Professional Road Race Championship, with the first being Eddy Merckx. His rise coincides with that of fellow Irishman Sean Kelly.

Although one of the finest cyclists of his generation and admired for his pedalling style, Roche struggles with knee injuries and never contends in the Grand Tours post-1987. He has 58 professional career wins. All of these wins still stand, despite Roche having been accused by an Italian judge of taking erythropoietin (EPO) in the later part of his career.

Roche is born in Dundrum, County Dublin, on November 28, 1959. On completion of his apprenticeship as a machinist in a Dublin dairy and following a successful amateur career in Ireland with the “Orwell Wheelers” club, he joins the Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt amateur team in Paris to prepare for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Soon after his arrival he wins the amateur Paris–Roubaix on the track at Roubaix. However, a knee injury caused by a poorly fitted shoe plate leads to a disappointing 45th place finish in Moscow. However, on return to France, August to October sees him win 19 races. That leads to a contract with the Peugeot professional cycling team for 1981.

Roche scores his first professional victory in 1981 by beating Bernard Hinault in the Tour of Corsica. In total, his debut year yields ten victories. In 1982 his best performance is second in the Amstel Gold Race, but his rise continues in 1983 with victories in the Tour de Romandie, Grand Prix de Wallonie, Étoile des Espoirs and Paris–Bourges. In 1984, riding for La Redoute following contractual wrangles with Peugeot, he repeats his Tour de Romandie win, and wins Nice-Alassio and Subida a Arrate. He finishes 25th in that year’s Tour de France.

In 1985, Roche wins the Critérium International and the Tour Midi-Pyrénées. In the Tour de France he wins Stage 18 to the Col d’Aubisque and finishes on the podium in third position, 4 minutes and 29 seconds behind winner Bernard Hinault. In 1986 at a six-day event with UK professional Tony Doyle at Paris-Bercy, he crashes at speed and damages his right knee. This destroys his 1986 season with little to show other than second in a stage of the Giro d’Italia. He finishes 48th in the 1986 Tour de France.

In 1987, Roche has a tremendous season. In the spring, he wins the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, taking a third victory in the Tour de Romandie and fourth place plus a stage win in Paris–Nice. In the Giro d’Italia, he takes three stage wins en route to overall victory and becomes the first Giro victor from outside Continental Europe. He goes into the 1987 Tour de France as the favorite. On stage 21, crossing the Galibier and Madeleine and finishing at La Plagne, he attacks early but is caught on the last climb. His nearest rival, Pedro Delgado, then attacks. Despite being almost one-and-a-half minutes behind midway up the last climb, he pulls the deficit back to 4 seconds. He then collapses and loses consciousness and is given oxygen.

The yellow jersey, worn by the leader of the general classification, changes hands several times with Charly Mottet, Roche, Jean-François Bernard and Delgado all wearing it before Roche uses the final 35 km time trial to overturn a half-minute gap and win the Tour by 40 seconds, which is at the time the second-narrowest margin. He becomes only the fifth cyclist in history to win the Tour and the Giro in the same year. He is also the only Irishman to win the Tour de France. Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey joins Roche on the podium on the Champs-Élysées.

With victory at the World Professional Road Race Championship on September 6, 1987, in Villach, Austria, Roche becomes only the second to win the Triple Crown of Cycling. He arrives with insufficient training although he works during the 23-lap, 278 km undulating terrain for his teammate Sean Kelly and escapes in the race-winning break only while covering for his countryman. With Moreno Argentin in the following group, Kelly does not chase and as the break slows and jostling for position begins for a sprint, Roche attacked 500 m from the finish and crosses the line with metres to spare.

Victory in the season-long Super Prestige Pernod International competition is assured. Roche is given the Freedom of the City of Dublin in late September 1987. Several days later the 1987 edition of the Nissan Classic begins and he rides strongly to finish second behind Kelly.

The 1988 season begins badly with a recurrence of the knee injury and Roche begins a gradual decline, retiring at the end of an anonymous 1993 which yields a single win, in the post-Tour de France criterium at Château-Chinon.


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Dom Columba Marmion Beatified by Pope John Paul II

Dom Columba Marmion, a Dublin priest who is credited with curing an American woman of cancer, is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.

Marmion is born April 1, 1858, in Dublin, the seventh of nine children of William Marmion and Herminie Marmion (née Cordier). He attends St. Laurence O’Toole’s, a primary school run by the Augustinian Fathers of John’s Lane. On January 11, 1869, he transfers to Belvedere College, where he receives an excellent grounding in Greek and Latin from the Jesuit Fathers. From there, he proceeded in January 1874 to Clonliffe College, where he remains until December 1879, when the new Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Edward MacCabe, selects him for further theological studies in Rome.

Marmion is in Rome at the Pontifical Irish College, studying theology at the Propaganda College, for eighteen months (December 1879 – July 1881). Although invited by the authorities at Propaganda to present himself for the doctorate degree, he turns down the offer for health reasons, on account of the necessary extra year in Rome which this would entail. On returning to Dublin he spends the first year as curate in Dundrum parish. This is followed by four years (1882–86) as professor of philosophy at Clonliffe. On October 25, 1886, he receives from the newly appointed Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. William Walsh, his dimissorial letters, granting him permission to join the Benedictine order. On November 21, 1886, he enters the newly founded Belgian Maredsous Abbey, with which, by virtue of the Benedictine vow of stability, he is to be associated for the rest of his life.

The first thirteen years of his monastic life (1886–99) are spent at Maredsous Abbey itself. After an unsuccessful start in the abbey school as a kind of housemaster to the junior boys, he finds his feet within the community through congenial work, notably the teaching of Thomistic philosophy to the junior monks. He also gradually builds up a reputation as a spiritual guide through the exercise of ministry on a small scale in the surrounding area. The next decade (1899–1909) finds him in Louvain as prior and professor of dogmatic theology at Mont César Abbey, which is founded and staffed by Maredsous. This decade provides a wide outlet for his matured spiritual doctrine through his lectures on dogmatic theology in Mont César, his retreats to priests and religious, and his private correspondence. The third and final phase of his monastic life begins when the chapter of Maredsous elects him as its third abbot in 1909.

An invitation is received from the Belgian government from December 1909 to April 1910 to undertake a Benedictine foundation in Katanga, part of the Belgian Congo. In spite of pressure from government quarters the chapter of Maredsous refuses the offer, and Marmion accepts this negative decision. In 1913 the entire community of Anglican Benedictines of Caldey Island, Wales, transfer their allegiance from Canterbury to Rome. Marmion becomes deeply involved in the spiritual and canonical process of the reception of the community into the Catholic church.

The outbreak of World War I ushers in four years of grave anxiety for Marmion. Belgium is not completely occupied, but retains sovereignty over an area extending inland about twenty miles to the Ypres Salient. This enables the young monks of Maredsous, for whom Marmion had found a temporary home in Edermine, County Wexford, to travel to and from the Western Front, where they are being called up to serve as stretcher bearers in the Belgian army. He does his utmost to maintain the unity of his community between those who had remained in Maredsous and the Edermine group.

The first of Marmion’s great spiritual books, Christ, the Life of the Soul, appears in 1916, and its phenomenal success has been described as a silent plebiscite. This is followed by Christ in His Mysteries (1919), Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922), and Sponsa Verbi (1923). The books are able to appear in rapid succession since they are compiled from his existing conference notes.

One final piece of important monastic and ecclesiastical and even political business absorbs much of Marmion’s energies, although strictly speaking it is not of his remit. His strenuous efforts to install Belgian monks in the Abbey of the Dormition on Mount Zion in Jerusalem following the internment (November 1918) of the original German Benedictine community by the victorious British forces are of no avail, the question being finally settled by the reinstallation of the German (Beuronese) monks in 1921.

Marmion dies at Maredsous on January 30, 1923, following a brief illness which originates in a chill and is aggravated by influenza.

Marmion is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. This is the outcome of a popular reputation for holiness which had increased steadily since his death and the procedures for beatification prompted in 1954 by Mgr. Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. The canonical steps are: diocesan process at Namur (1957–61); examination at Rome of Marmion’s writings (1960–73); a critical biography (1987–94), written by Mark Tierney, OSB, for the Roman process on the ‘heroicity’ of Marmion’s virtues which concluded in June 1999; and finally an inexplicable cure of cancer through Marmion’s intercession, judged as miraculous by Rome on January 25, 2000.

The originality of Marmion’s spiritual doctrine lay in his truly central emphasis on the doctrine of our adoption as the children of God in baptism. Many of his predecessors had also emphasised this doctrine, but few had made it the focus from which everything radiated and to which everything returned. The second characteristic of Marmion’s teaching, a much more personal trait, is the conviction of authenticity communicated by his writings, of the greatness of our sharing in the sonship of the Word. This makes a deep and lasting impression on the reader, and gives an infinitely sacred meaning to the title ‘children of God’ and thereby to the whole of life. The third characteristic of Marmion’s teaching is the simplicity with which the deepest theological truths are presented – truths which preachers often feel their people cannot ‘take,’ and hence are left unsaid. Marmion presents these truths directly from St. John and St. Paul, and not merely in familiar extracts but in the whole sweep of their texts.

(From: “Marmion, Dom Columba” by Placid Murray, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Crash of the “St. Kevin” in Wales

An Aer Lingus aeroplane, the St. Kevin, crashes into Moel Siabod, a 2,860-foot mountain in Wales, during a blinding rainstorm on January 10, 1952 and burns out with the loss of all twenty passengers and a crew of three. It is Aer Lingus’s first fatal crash in fifteen years of service. Tragically the only item to survive intact is a child’s doll, belonging to a four-year-old passenger.

The plane is flying en route from London Northolt to Dublin leaving at 5:25 PM and is due to land at Collinstown at 8:10 PM. The last message received is a report to the Nevin Radio Station, south of Anglesey, which says that the plane is flying normally. The plane is piloted by Captain J. R. Keohane, from Whitehall, Dublin, with W. A. Newman, from Dundrum, Dublin, as First Officer and Deirdre Sutton as air hostess.

The crash is believed to have occurred within the next half-hour during a gale. The first news of the disaster comes from two people who telephone Caernarvon police at 7:10 PM and report that they had heard the sound of an aircraft overhead, then the sound of a crash and saw a big glow in the sky near the mountains. Police and scores of Royal Air Force (RAF) men and soldiers are involved in the tortuous rescue mission in torrential rain.

When the first rescue party has struggled 1,000 feet up the steep slope of the mountain they find the smouldering debris embedded in the earth. Most of the passengers had been buried in the bog by the impact. By midnight about 100 helpers are directed to the desolate mountain top and they work by torch light to extricate the bodies from the wreckage and the bog.

The cause of the crash is never established, although it is believed that the atrocious weather conditions may have led to mechanical failure.

On a lonely hillside in Snowdonia, Wales, a simple stone commemorates the victims of Ireland’s first air disaster.

(From: “Night 23 killed on a Welsh hillside,” Independent.ie, January 8, 2012)