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


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Death of John Holland, Irish Engineer

john-philip-hollandJohn Philip Holland, Irish engineer who develops the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, HMS Holland 1, dies in Newark, New Jersey on August 12, 1914.

Holland, the second of four siblings, all boys, is born on February 24, 1841 in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, where his father, John Philip Holland, Sr., is a member of the British Coastguard Service. His mother, a native Irish speaker from Liscannor, Máire Ní Scannláin, is John Holland’s second wife. His first wife, Anne Foley Holland, believed to be a native of Kilkee, dies in 1835. The area is heavily Irish-speaking and Holland learns English properly only when he attends the local English-speaking St. Macreehy’s National School, and from 1858, in the Christian Brothers in Ennistymon.

Holland joins the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and teaches in CBS Sexton Street in Limerick and many other centres in the country, including North Monastery CBS in Cork, St. Joseph’s CBS in Drogheda, and as the first Mathematics teacher in Coláiste Rís in Dundalk. Due to ill health, he leaves the Christian Brothers in 1873 and emigrates to the United States. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returns to teaching again for an additional six years in St. John’s Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey.

While a teacher in Cork, Holland reads an account of the battle between the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Merrimack in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War. He realizes that the best way to attack such ships would be through an attack beneath the waterline. He draws a design, but when he attempts to obtain funding, he is turned away. After his arrival in the United States, Holland slips and falls on an icy Boston street and breaks a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he uses his time to refine his submarine designs and is encouraged by a priest, Isaac Whelan.

In 1875, his first submarine designs are submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but are turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, however, continue to fund Holland’s research and development expenses at a level that allows him to resign from his teaching post. In 1881, Fenian Ram is launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians part company on bad terms over the issue of payment within the Fenian organization, and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum in New Jersey.

Holland continues to improve his designs and works on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on May 17, 1897. This is the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. The submarine is purchased by the U.S. Navy on April 11, 1900, after rigorous tests and is commissioned on October 12, 1900 as USS Holland (SS-1). Six more of her type are ordered and built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The company that emerges from under these developments is called The Electric Boat Company, founded on February 7, 1899. Isaac Leopold Rice becomes the company’s first President with Elihu B. Frost acting as vice president and chief financial officer. The company eventually evolves into the major defense contractor General Dynamics.

The USS Holland design is also adopted by others, including the Royal Navy in developing the Holland-class submarine. The Imperial Japanese Navy employs a modified version of the basic design for their first five submarines, although these submarines are at least 10 feet longer at about 63 feet. These submarines are also developed at the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Holland also designs the Holland II and Holland III prototypes. The Royal Navy ‘Holland 1’ is on display at the Submarine Museum in Gosport, England.

After spending 56 of his 73 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland dies on August 12, 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He is interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.

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Birth of Novelist Mickey Spillane

mickey-spillaneFrank Morrison Spillane, better known as Mickey Spillane, American crime novelist whose stories often feature his signature detective character Mike Hammer, is born in Brooklyn, New York City, on March 9, 1918. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally. Spillane is also an occasional actor, once even playing Hammer himself.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Spillane is the only child of his Irish bartender father, John Joseph Spillane, and his Scottish mother, Catherine Anne. Spillane attends Erasmus Hall High School, graduating in 1935. He starts writing while in high school, briefly attends Fort Hays State College in Kansas, and works a variety of jobs, including summers as a lifeguard at Breezy Point, Queens, and a period as a trampoline artist for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Spillane starts as a writer for comic books. While working as a salesman in Gimbels department store basement in 1940, he meets tie salesman Joe Gill, who later finds a lifetime career in scripting for Charlton Comics. Gill tells Spillane to meet his brother, Ray Gill, who writes for Funnies Inc., an outfit that packages comic books for different publishers. Spillane soon begins writing an eight-page story every day.

Spillane joins the United States Army Air Forces on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming a fighter pilot and a flight instructor. While flying over Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, he says, “That is where I want to live.” Later, he uses his celebrity status to publicize the Grand Strand on television, but when it becomes a popular resort area and traffic becomes a problem, Spillane says, “I shouldn’t have told people about it.”

Spillane decides to boost his bank account by writing a novel. In nineteen days he writes I, the Jury. At the suggestion of Ray Gill, he sends it to E. P. Dutton. With the combined total of the 1947 hardcover and the Signet paperback (December 1948), I, the Jury sells 6-1/2 million copies in the United States alone. I, the Jury introduces Spillane’s most famous character, hard-boiled detective Mike Hammer.

Spillane is an active Jehovah’s Witness. He and Mary Ann Spillane have four children and their marriage ends in 1962. In November 1965, he marries his second wife, nightclub singer Sherri Malinou. After that marriage ends in divorce and a lawsuit in 1983, Spillane shares his waterfront house in Murrells Inlet with his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson, whom he marries in October 1983, and her two daughters.

In the 1960s, Spillane becomes a friend of the novelist Ayn Rand. Despite their apparent differences, Rand admires Spillane’s literary style, and Spillane becomes, as he describes it, a fan of Rand’s work.

He receives an Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award in 1995. Spillane’s novels go out of print, but in 2001, the New American Library begins reissuing them.

Spillane dies July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, of pancreatic cancer. After his death, his friend and literary executor, Max Allan Collins, begins the task of editing and completing Spillane’s unpublished typescripts, beginning with a Mike Hammer novel, The Goliath Bone (2008).

In July 2011, the town of Murrells Inlet names U.S 17 Business the “Mickey Spillane Waterfront 17 Highway.” The proposal first passes the Georgetown County Council in 2006 while Spillane is still alive, but the South Carolina General Assembly rejects the plan at that time.


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Birth of Engineer John Philip Holland

john-philip-hollandJohn Philip Holland, Irish engineer who develops the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, HMS Holland 1, is born on February 24, 1841.

Holland, the second of four siblings, all boys, is born in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, where his father, John Philip Holland, Sr., is a member of the British Coastguard Service. His mother, a native Irish speaker from Liscannor, Máire Ní Scannláin, is John Holland’s second wife. His first wife, Anne Foley Holland, believed to be a native of Kilkee, dies in 1835. The area is heavily Irish-speaking and Holland learns English properly only when he attends the local English-speaking St. Macreehy’s National School, and from 1858, in the Christian Brothers in Ennistymon.

Holland joins the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and teaches in CBS Sexton Street in Limerick and many other centres in the country, including North Monastery CBS in Cork, St. Joseph’s CBS in Drogheda, and as the first Mathematics teacher in Coláiste Rís in Dundalk. Due to ill health, he leaves the Christian Brothers in 1873 and emigrates to the United States. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returns to teaching again for an additional six years in St. John’s Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey.

While a teacher in Cork, Holland reads an account of the battle between the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Merrimack in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War. He realizes that the best way to attack such ships would be through an attack beneath the waterline. He draws a design, but when he attempts to obtain funding, he is turned away. After his arrival in the United States, Holland slips and falls on an icy Boston street and breaks a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he uses his time to refine his submarine designs and is encouraged by a priest, Isaac Whelan.

In 1875, his first submarine designs are submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but are turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, however, continue to fund Holland’s research and development expenses at a level that allows him to resign from his teaching post. In 1881, Fenian Ram is launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians part company on bad terms over the issue of payment within the Fenian organization, and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum in New Jersey.

Holland continues to improve his designs and works on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on May 17, 1897. This is the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. The submarine is purchased by the U.S. Navy on April 11, 1900, after rigorous tests and is commissioned on October 12, 1900 as USS Holland (SS-1). Six more of her type are ordered and built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The company that emerges from under these developments is called The Electric Boat Company, founded on February 7, 1899. Isaac Leopold Rice becomes the company’s first President with Elihu B. Frost acting as vice president and chief financial officer. The company eventually evolves into the major defense contractor General Dynamics.

The USS Holland design is also adopted by others, including the Royal Navy in developing the Holland-class submarine. The Imperial Japanese Navy employs a modified version of the basic design for their first five submarines, although these submarines are at least 10 feet longer at about 63 feet. These submarines are also developed at the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Holland also designs the Holland II and Holland III prototypes. The Royal Navy ‘Holland 1’ is on display at the Submarine Museum in Gosport, England.

After spending 56 of his 73 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland dies on August 12, 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He is interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.