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 Marguerite Gardiner,Novelist & Journalist

marguerite-power-farmer-gardinerMarguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, Irish novelist, journalist, and literary hostess, is born near Clonmel, County Tipperary on September 1, 1789. She becomes acquainted with Lord Byron in Genoa and writes a book about him.

Born Margaret Power, she is a daughter of Edmund Power and Ellen Sheehy, small landowners. She is “haphazardly educated by her own reading and by her mother’s friend Ann Dwyer.” Her childhood is blighted by her father’s character and poverty, and her early womanhood made wretched by a compulsory marriage at the age of fifteen to Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer, an English officer whose drunken habits finally bring him as a debtor to the King’s Bench Prison, where he dies by falling out of a window in October 1817. She had left him after three months of marriage.

Marguerite later moves to Hampshire, England to live for five years with the family of Thomas Jenkins, a sympathetic and literary sea captain. Jenkins introduces her to the Irishman Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington, a widower with four children and seven years her senior. They marry at St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, Marylebone, on February 16, 1818, only four months after the death of her first husband.

Of rare beauty, charm and wit, Lady Blessington is no less distinguished for her generosity and for the extravagant tastes she shares with her second husband, which results in encumbering his estates with debt. On August 25, 1822 they set out for a continental tour with Marguerite’s youngest sister, the 21-year-old Mary Anne, and servants. On the way they meet Count Alfred D’Orsay, who had first become an intimate of Lady Blessington in London in 1821, in Avignon on November 20, 1822, before settling at Genoa for four months from March 31, 1823. There they meet Lord Byron on several occasions, giving Lady Blessington material for her Conversations with Lord Byron.

After that they settle for the most part in Naples, where she meets the Irish writer Richard Robert Madden, who is to become her biographer. They also spend time in Florence with their friend Walter Savage Landor, author of Imaginary Conversations which she greatly admires.

It is in Italy, on December 1, 1827, that Count D’Orsay marries Harriet Gardiner, Lord Blessington’s only daughter by his former wife. The Blessingtons and the newly-wed couple move to Paris towards the end of 1828, taking up residence in the Hôtel Maréchal Ney, where the Earl suddenly dies at the age of 46 of an apoplectic stroke in 1829. D’Orsay and Harriet then accompanied Lady Blessington to England, but the couple separates soon afterwards amidst much acrimony. D’Orsay continues to live with Lady Blessington until her death. Their home, first at Seymour Place, and afterwards Gore House, Kensington, now the site of the Royal Albert Hall, become a centre of attraction for all that is distinguished in literature, learning, art, science and fashion. Benjamin Disraeli writes Venetia whilst staying there, and it is at her home that Hans Christian Andersen first meets Charles Dickens.

After her husband’s death Lady Blessington supplements her diminished income by contributing to various periodicals as well as by writing novels. She is for some years editor of The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake, popular annuals of the day. In 1834 she publishes her Conversations with Lord Byron. Her Idler in Italy (1839–1840), and Idler in France (1841) are popular for their personal gossip and anecdotes, descriptions of nature and sentiment.

Early in 1849, Count D’Orsay leaves Gore House to escape his creditors. Subsequently the furniture and decorations are sold in a public sale successfully discharging Lady Blessington’s debts. She joins the Count in Paris, where she dies on June 4, 1849 of a burst heart. On examination it is discovered that her heart is three times normal size.

(Pictured: Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1822)


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Death of Thomas “Buck” Whaley

Thomas Whaley, Irish gambler and member of the Irish House of Commons commonly known as Buck Whaley or Jerusalem Whaley, dies on November 2, 1800, in England.

Whaley is born in Dublin on December 15, 1766, the eldest surviving son of the landowner, magistrate and former Member of Parliament Richard Chapell Whaley. At the age of sixteen, he is sent to Europe on the Grand tour, accompanied by a tutor. He settles in Paris for some time, maintaining both a country residence and town house, but is forced to leave Paris when his cheque for the amount of £14,000, to settle gambling debts accrued in one night of gambling, is refused by his bankers. Following his return to Dublin, Whaley, at the age of eighteen, is elected to the Irish House of Commons in 1785 representing the constituency of Newcastle in County Dublin.

While dining with William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster at Leinster House, wagers totaling £15,000 are offered that Whaley cannot travel to Jerusalem and back within two years and provide proof of his success. The reasoning of those offering the bets is based on the belief that, as the region was part of the Ottoman Empire and had a reputation for widespread banditry, it will be too dangerous for travelers and it will be unlikely that Whaley can complete the journey.

Whaley embarks from Dublin on October 8, 1788. He sails first to Deal, Kent, where he is joined by a companion, a Captain Wilson, and then on to Gibraltar. In Gibraltar, his party is joined by another military officer, Captain Hugh Moore. The party sets sail for the port of Smyrna, although Wilson is prevented from travelling any further due to rheumatic fever. The remaining pair make an overland journey from there to Constantinople, arriving in December.

The British ambassador in Constantinople introduces Whaley to the Vizier Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha. Taking a liking to Whaley, Hasan Pasha provides him with permits to visit Jerusalem. Whaley’s party leaves Constantinople on January 21, 1789 by ship and sail to Acre, Israel. He encounters the Wāli of Acre and Galillee, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. Al-Jazzar, notoriously known as “The Butcher” in the region he rules, takes a liking to Whaley and, though he dismisses the documents issued in Constantinople as worthless, he permits Whaley to continue his journey.

Whaley and his companions make their way overland to Jerusalem, arriving on January 28. During his visit, he stays at a Franciscan monastery, the Convent of Terra Sancta. It is a signed certificate from the superior of this institution, along with detailed observations of the buildings of Jerusalem, that provide the proof needed to prove the success of his journey. They stay for little over a month before returning overland to Ireland.

Whaley arrives back in Dublin in the summer of 1789 to great celebrations and collects the winnings of the wager. The trip costs him a total of £8,000, leaving him a profit of £7,000.

Following his Jerusalem exploit, Whaley remains in Dublin for two years and later spends time in London and travelling in Europe, including Paris during the Revolutionary period. Due to mounting debts, he is forced to sell much of his estate in the early 1790s and these financial problems also lead to his departure from Dublin.

Thomas Whaley dies on November 2, 1800 in the Cheshire town of Knutsford, while travelling from Liverpool to London. The cause of death is attributed to rheumatic fever, although a popular story circulated in Ireland is that he is stabbed in a jealous rage by one of two sisters, both of whom are objects of his attentions.