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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Birth of Maureen Potter, Actor & Comedienne

maureen-potter

Maria Philomena Potter, singer, actor, comedian and performer known as Maureen Potter, is born on January 3, 1925 in Fairview, Dublin.

Potter is educated at St. Mary’s school in Fairview. She has a long career in Irish theatre, mainly as Ireland’s première comedienne, but also as a straight actress. She first appears professionally with Jimmy O’Dea in pantomime and appears frequently on television and in cabaret. She is a regular performer at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin and for many years stars in Christmas pantomime. She becomes the first star to have a bronze cast of her handprints outside the theatre. She marries Jack O’Leary in 1959, an Irish army officer whom she had first met in 1943, and he writes most of her comedic material.

Among Potter’s many dramatic roles in the theatre is that of Maisie Madigan in Juno and the Paycock. While still a teenager, she tours abroad before World War II as a singer and dancer with Jack Hylton and his orchestra. On a tour of Germany, they once perform in front of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis. She plays the role of Dante Riordan in Joseph Strick‘s film, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977). In September 1938, she appears on the BBC Television Service with Jack Hylton and his band. Film of her performance is held by the Alexandra Palace Television Society. In 2001, the Archivist of the Alexandra Palace Television Society gives Potter a copy of her 1938 television appearance.

Potter is conferred with the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1984, and is later awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin. She dies in her sleep at her home in Clontarf on April 7, 2004, at the age of 79. She is survived by her husband Jack O’Leary, and her sons John and Hugh.


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Mikhail Gorbachev Receives Freedom of the City of Dublin

mulcahy-and-gorbachevMikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, becomes the 71st person to receive the Freedom of the City of Dublin at a special meeting in the City Hall on January 9, 2002, following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and members of U2.

“You helped change and enhance the lives of hundreds of millions of people,” the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Michael Mulcahy says as he presents the award. “There are few people in the history of the world of whom that can be stated.”

City councillors in their robes assemble for the occasion and the guests include Cardinal Desmond Connell, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and other members of the diplomatic corps. Gorbachev is also presented with a dove of peace in Waterford Crystal.

In his acceptance speech, the former Communist leader says there have been many events in his life, big and small, joyful and sad. “The event that is happening today in this wonderful hall is very special.”

He says Ireland has taken the right road in emphasising knowledge, education and high technology. He quips that President Mary McAleese had said to him over lunch, “We don’t have any natural resources other than the rain.”

Gorbachev notes that as a Freeman of the City of Dublin he is entitled to graze sheep anywhere in Dublin. He assures his audience he will “buy a flock” to exercise that right. “I have seen some very, very nice places in the Park, near the President’s palace.”

At a news conference in the Mansion House earlier in the day, Gorbachev comes in for sharp questioning from Eoin Ó Murchú, a journalist, who asks “ex-Comrade Gorbachev” if he felt any sense of remorse or guilt when he “stood passively aside” while the Soviet Union was destroyed and ordinary people were reduced to poverty and prostitution. He also queries Gorbachev about his decision to take part in a television commercial for a chain of pizza restaurants.

Ignoring the suggestion that he has demeaned himself by appearing in the television advertisement, Gorbachev replies equally sharply, “My advice to you as a comrade – you used the word ‘comrade’ – is that you too should probably get rid of this kind of ideological straitjacket.”

Gorbachev denies having stood idly by while the USSR was dismantled. Commenting on the Northern Ireland situation he says, “This is one of those processes where people have to make difficult choices. You will see politicians who have a ready-made recipe for everything, in many cases to use force and bombs.”

It was good that, instead of bombing, there was a peace process. Bombing was not a solution and he welcomes the peace efforts being made and the fact that parties are acting “both prudently and responsibly.”

(From The Irish Times, January 10, 2002 | Pictured: Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy and Mikhail Gorbachev, Doheny & Nesbitt’s Public House, January 8, 2002)


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Nelson Mandela Awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin

nelson-mandela-freedom-of-dublinNelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first president of South Africa to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, is awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin on his 70th birthday, July 18, 1988. Mandela is not available to receive his award on the date it is conferred, however, as he is a prisoner in South Africa at the time. On July 1, 1990, after his release from prison, Mandela  finally receives the Freedom of the City of Dublin at a ceremony in the Mansion House Dublin.

The Freedom of the City of Dublin is awarded by Dublin City Council after approving a person nominated by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Eighty people have been honoured under the current process introduced in 1876. Most honourees have made a contribution to the life of the city or of Ireland in general, including politicians, public servants, humanitarians, artists, and entertainers. Others have been distinguished members of the Irish diaspora and foreign leaders, honoured visiting Dublin. Honourees sign the roll of freedmen in a ceremony at City Hall or the Mansion House and are presented with an illuminated scroll by the Lord Mayor.

Mandela is honoured with the Freedom of Dublin city for his contribution to society and commitment to the study and promotion of Human Rights and also his work in the area of development and social inclusion, which has enhanced the lives of local communities in Ireland and fostered global links with institutions and organisations.

Among the notable recipients of this award are American presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill ClintonMikhail Gorbachev, Éamon de Valera, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Aung San Suu Kyi, all four members of U2, Bob Geldof, and Ronnie Delaney.

Holders of this award have some ancient privileges and duties such as the right to bring goods into Dublin through the city gates without paying customs duties, the right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries including College Green and St. Stephen’s Green (this right is exercised as a publicity stunt by U2 members the day after their 2000 conferring), and the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections. Some of the ancient duties are that freemen/women must be ready to defend the city of Dublin from attack and, at short notice, can be called up to join a city militia. Also a law which was passed in 1454 states that freemen/women must own a bow, a coat of mail, a helmet, and a sword.