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


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Birth of Mathematician William McFadden Orr

William McFadden Orr, mathematician, is born May 2, 1866, at Ballystockart, Comber, County Down, in what is now Northern Ireland.

Orr is the eldest son of Fletcher Blakely Orr of Ballystockart, a unitarian farmer and millowner, and Elizabeth Orr, daughter of David Lowry, farmer, of Ballymacashin, County Down. He attends a local national school, spends two years at an intermediate school in Newtownards, and then attends Methodist College Belfast (MCB). He wins a Royal University of Ireland (RIU) scholarship in mathematics in 1883 and graduates in 1885 from Queen’s College Belfast, a constituent college of the RUI. He then matriculates at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he is Senior Wrangler in 1888 and comes in first in part two of the Mathematical Tripos in 1889. Two years later he is elected into a fellowship at St. John’s, and the same year is appointed professor of applied mathematics at the Royal College of Science for Ireland in Dublin. When the Royal College is merged with University College Dublin (UCD) in October 1926, he becomes professor of pure and applied mathematics, a position he holds until his retirement in 1933.

Orr’s 1909 publication Notes on Thermodynamics for Students is seen as epitomising his style of teaching, with its emphasis on logical rigour and clear statement of underlying assumptions. Known for his generosity to staff and students who encounter difficulties, he is nonetheless a strict disciplinarian who abhors idleness and valued stoicism. He is elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1909 and is awarded an honorary degree of D.Sc. from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 1919.

In 1892, Orr marries Elizabeth Campbell of Melbourne, Australia, whose father, Samuel Campbell, is from County Down. They live at 19 Pembroke Road, Dublin, and have three daughters. He dies at Douglas, Isle of Man on August 14, 1934, and is interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. He is survived by his two daughters.

(From: “Orr, William McFadden” contributed by Paul Rouse, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Northern Irish Motorcyclist Joey Dunlop

William Joseph Dunlop OBE, Northern Irish motorcyclist, is born in Armoy, County Antrim, near Ballymoney, on February 25, 1952. His achievements include three hat-tricks at the Isle of Man TT meeting (1985, 1988 and 2000), where he wins a record 26 races in total. A curve at the 26th milestone on the Isle of Man is named in his honour. During his career he won the Ulster Grand Prix 24 times.

Dunlop marries on September 22, 1972 at the Ballymoney register office. He is the proprietor of a pub in Ballymoney and is highly superstitious, always wearing a red T-shirt and his yellow crash helmet when racing. He is presented with the Freedom of the Borough by Ballymoney Council in 1993.

Dunlop helps orphans in the Balkans, driving a van loaded with supplies to orphanages in Romania, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina before the annual racing season begins. In 1996, he receives an OBE for his humanitarian work.

On the night of May 23, 1985, Dunlop is traveling from Northern Ireland to the Isle of Man for the annual TT races by sea, onboard the Tornamona, a former fishing boat. The vessel departs from Strangford, County Down with Dunlop, other riders, racing bikes and equipment onboard. Strong currents into Strangford Lough push the Tornamona onto St. Patrick’s Rock where her rudder breaks off in a crevice. The boat sinks and all 13 passengers and crew are rescued by the Portaferry Lifeboat. The bikes are later recovered by divers.

In 1986, Dunlop wins a fifth consecutive TT Formula One world title. Initially based on one race at the Isle of Man TT after the loss of World Championship status from 1977-onwards and organised by the Auto-Cycle Union, the title is eventually expanded to take in more rounds in other countries.

Dunlop is awarded the MBE in 1986 for his services to the sport. He is featured in three documentary films regarding his career: V Four Victory (1983), Joey – The Man Who Conquered the TT (2013) and Road (2014).

Dunlop wins his third hat trick at the Isle of Man TT in 2000 and sets his fastest lap on the course of 123.87 mph in the Senior race, in which he finishes third.

Dunlop dies in Tallinn, Estonia, on July 2, 2000 while leading a 125cc race on the Pirita-Kose-Kloostrimetsa Circuit. He appears to lose control of his bike in the wet conditions and dies instantly on impact with trees. As a mark of respect, the Estonian government’s official website is replaced with a tribute to Dunlop within hours of his death. Northern Ireland television carries live coverage of his funeral. Fifty thousand mourners, including bikers from all parts of Britain and Ireland and people from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland, attend the funeral procession to Garryduff Presbyterian church and his burial in the adjoining graveyard.

Following Dunlop’s death, the Leisure Centre in his hometown of Ballymoney is renamed from the Riada Centre to the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre. Also, a memorial statue is erected in his hometown. The Joey Dunlop Foundation is initiated, a charity that provides appropriate accommodation for disabled visitors to the Isle of Man. In 2001, the Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden is established in the Dunlop family’s hometown, and in 2010 the tribute is extended to include the Robert Dunlop Memorial Garden to honour Joey’s late brother, Robert Dunlop.

The most successful overall rider at the annual TT races is awarded the “Joey Dunlop Cup.” On the Isle of Man, a statue of Dunlop astride a Honda overlooks the Bungalow Bend at Snaefell and the 26th Milestone area of the TT course is named “Joey’s.” A memorial stone is installed at the crash site in Tallinn as well. Irish publishers the O’Brien Press produces a full-colour pictorial tribute to Dunlop following his death. Northern Ireland band Therapy? records a song in memory of Dunlop called “Joey.” It appears on the album Shameless, released in 2001.

On January 30, 2015, Dunlop is voted Northern Ireland’s greatest sports star by readers of the Belfast Telegraph newspaper. In 2016 he is voted through Motorcycle News as the fifth greatest motorcycling icon ever, behind Valentino Rossi.


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Founding of the Celtic League, American Branch

The Celtic League, American Branch (CLAB) is founded in New York City on October 11, 1974.

The Celtic League is a pan-Celtic organisation, founded in 1961, that aims to promote modern Celtic identity and culture in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man – referred to as the Celtic nations. It places particular emphasis on promoting the Celtic languages of those nations. It also advocates further self-governance in the Celtic nations and ultimately for each nation to be an independent state in its own right. The Celtic League is an accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) with roster consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The present Celtic League grows out of various other pan-Celtic organisations, particularly the Celtic Congress, but with a more political emphasis. Previously, Hugh MacDiarmid and others had suggested something along the same lines.

The Celtic League is started at the 1961 National Eisteddfod of Wales, which is held at Rhosllannerchrugog near Wrexham in northeast Wales. Two of the founding members are Gwynfor Evans and J. E. Jones, who are respectively president and secretary-general of the Welsh nationalist political party Plaid Cymru at the time. Interest is expressed by Scottish parties, and also by Breton nationalists.

There are six main, national branches of the Celtic League in the six Celtic countries, generally known by the Celtic language names of their countries: Ireland is known as Éire, Scotland as Alba, Wales as Cymru, Brittany as Breizh, Cornwall as Kernow and the Isle of Man as Mannin or Mann.

The Celtic League, American Branch (CLAB) is one of various diaspora branches, all of whom play little part in the annual general meetings. American author and linguist Alexei Kondratiev serves as president of the Celtic League, American branch. The CLAB prints its own quarterly newsletter, Six Nations, One Soul, which provides news of branch activities and events within the Celtic communities in the United States, publishes letters from members, and reviews books and recordings of Celtic interest. CLAB publishes at least six issues of a larger semi-annual magazine, Keltoi: A Pan-Celtic Review, from 2006 to 2008. CLAB also produces a wall calendar each year, with art from members, appropriate quotations, and anniversaries. Publication ceases with the 2008 issue.


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First Balloon Crossing of the Irish Sea

william-windham-sadlerWilliam Windham Sadler makes the first balloon crossing of the Irish Sea, from Dublin to Anglesey, on July 22, 1817.

Sadler is born near Dublin on October 17, 1796, the son by a second wife of James Sadler, one of the earliest British balloonists. The elder Sadler makes his first ascent on May 5, 1785, in company with William Windham, the politician, who subsequently consents to stand godfather to his son. In October 1811 he makes a rapid flight from Birmingham to Boston, Lincolnshire, in less than four hours. Less successful is his attempt to cross the Irish Sea on October 1, 1812, when he ascends from the lawn of the Belvedere House, Dublin, receiving his flag from the Duchess of Richmond. In spite of a tear in the balloon fabric, which he partially repairs with his neckcloth, he nearly succeeds in crossing the Channel. However, when over Anglesey a strong southerly current carries him out to sea, and he has a most perilous escape, being rescued by a fishing craft, which ran its bowsprit through the balloon. He is not deterred from making other ascents, and his name is long familiar in connection with ballooning. George III takes a special interest in his ascents.

The younger Sadler is brought up as an engineer, acquires a good practical knowledge of chemistry, and enters the service of the first Liverpool gas company. He gives up his employment there for professional aërostation, with which, upon his marriage in 1819, he combines the management of an extensive bathing establishment at Liverpool.

Sadler’s most notable feat is performed in 1817, when, with a view to carrying his father’s adventure of 1812 to a successful issue, he ascends from the Portobello barracks at Dublin on June 22. He rises to a great height, obtains the proper westerly current, and manages to keep the balloon in it across the St. George’s Channel. In mid-channel he writes, “I enjoyed at a glance the opposite shores of Ireland and Wales, and the entire circumference of Man.” Having started at 1:20 PM, Sadler alights a mile south of Holyhead at 6:45 PM.

On September 29, 1824 Sadler makes his thirty-first ascent at Bolton. He prepares to descend at dusk near Blackburn, but the wind dashes his car against a lofty chimney, and he is hurled to the ground, sustaining injuries of which he dies at 8:00 on the following morning. He is buried at Christchurch in Liverpool, where he was very popular. He well deserves the title of ‘intrepid’ bestowed on his father by Erasmus Darwin, but he did little to advance a scientific knowledge of aërostation by making systematic observations.


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The Battle of Clontarf

battle-of-clontarfThe Battle of Clontarf takes place on Good Friday, April 23, 1014, at Clontarf, near Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland. The battle is the culmination of two centuries of strife, treachery, failed alliances and treaties that pits the forces of Brian Boru, high king of Ireland, against a Norse-Irish alliance comprised of the forces of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and a Viking contingent led by Sigurd of Orkney and Brodir of Mann.

The first Norsemen, also known as Vikings, arrive in Ireland some two centuries earlier, initially plundering the gold, chalices, crosses, and manuscripts of the monasteries and the corn harvests of the settled communities. Gradually they establish Viking settlements around Ireland and engage in trade and commerce.

There is, however, significant opposition to their presence in Ireland, not least in Munster where King Brian Boru has defeated their armies on several occasions. Brian’s aim is to unite all the warring Celtic kingdoms under one rule and one High King.

In 1013, Máel Mórda, the king of Leinster goes into revolt after inter-marriage alliances with Brian have broken down, and joins forces with the Vikings. Together, they initially attack the kingdom of Mael Sechlainn of Meath who summons the help of King Brian. Brian sets off toward Dublin with 4,900 troops. Opposing them are Máel Mórda’s army of 4,000 Leinster men allied to 3,000 Viking warriors.

Although but a small segment of the battle is fought close to the seafront at Clontarf, the historic encounter of Good Friday 1014 enters the annals as the Battle of Clontarf. This is largely because some 2,000 Vikings had landed in longboats at Clontarf by sunrise on the morning of April 23.

As the two opposing armies face one another, the Vikings and the Leinster men are lined across the sloping plains bounded by the sea and the River Tolka, while King Brian’s army occupies the rising ground near Tomar’s Wood in Phibsboro.

The most ferocious part of the battle is fought at the “Battle of the Fishing Weir,” which approximates to the site of the former D.W.D. Whiskey Distillery on Richmond Road. Historic accounts of the battle also refer to the “savage encounters” fought on the “Bloody Fields of Marino” and what is today Phibsboro and Cross Guns.

The result of the bloodiest day in ancient Ireland is a rout for King Brian, although some 4,000 of his troops are killed on the battlefield. In contrast some 6,000 Leinster men and Vikings are slaughtered including every single Viking leader. King Brian’s army drives the fleeing Vikings back towards the sea at Clontarf.

Although Brian has won the greatest victory of his long career, he does not live long to enjoy it. As he kneels praying in his tent near Cross Guns, the Isle of Man Viking Leader, Brodir, who is hiding in the adjacent woods, runs into his tent and kills the 84-year-old Brian with his axe. Brodir is later captured and slaughtered by Ulf the Quarrelsome, the younger brother of King Brian.

The Battle of Clontarf is the watershed of all the hatred, division, and rivalries that have consumed Ireland for centuries. A period of relative peace follows where the Celtic chieftains and the Vikings live together in a spirit of harmony with the emphasis on greater integration, cooperation, and commerce.