seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Richard Harris, Actor & Singer

richard-harrisRichard St. John Harris, Irish actor and singer, dies in London from complications of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pneumonia on October 25, 2002.

Harris is born to a farming family on October 1, 1930 in Limerick, County Limerick. He is the son of Mildred Josephine (Harty) and Ivan John Harris. He is an excellent rugby player with a strong passion for literature. Unfortunately, a bout of tuberculosis as a teenager ends his aspirations to a rugby career. He becomes fascinated with the theater and skips a local dance one night to attend a performance of Henry IV. He is hooked and goes on to learn his craft at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, followed by several years in stage productions.

Harris makes his film debut in 1959 in the film Alive and Kicking, and plays the lead role in The Ginger Man in the West End in 1959. His second film, Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), quickly scores regular work in films, including The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), The Night Fighters (1960) and a good role as a frustrated Australian bomber pilot in The Guns of Navarone (1961).

Harris’ breakthrough performance is as the quintessential “angry young man” in the sensational drama This Sporting Life (1963), for which he receives an Academy Award nomination. He then appears in the World War II commando tale The Heroes of Telemark (1965) and in the Sam Peckinpah-directed western Major Dundee (1965). He next shows up in Hawaii (1966) and plays King Arthur in Camelot (1967), a lackluster adaptation of the famous Broadway play. Better performances follow, among them a role as a reluctant police informer in The Molly Maguires (1970) alongside Sean Connery. He takes the lead role in the violent western A Man Called Horse (1970), which becomes something of a cult film and spawns two sequels.

As the 1970s progress, Harris continues to appear regularly on screen, however, the quality of the scripts vary from above average to woeful. His credits during this period include directing himself as an aging soccer player in the delightful The Hero (1971), the western The Deadly Trackers (1973), the big-budget “disaster” film Juggernaut (1974), the strangely-titled crime film 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), with Connery again in Robin and Marian (1976), Gulliver’s Travels (1977), a part in the Jaws (1975) ripoff Orca (1977) and a nice turn as an ill-fated mercenary with Richard Burton and Roger Moore in the popular action film The Wild Geese (1978).

The 1980s kick off with Harris appearing in the silly Bo Derek vanity production Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) and the remainder of the decade has him appearing in some very forgettable productions.

However, the luck of the Irish once again shines on Harris’ career and he scores rave reviews and another Oscar nomination for The Field (1990). He then locks horns with Harrison Ford as an Irish Republican Army sympathizer in Patriot Games (1992) and gets one of his best roles as gunfighter English Bob in the Clint Eastwood western Unforgiven (1992). He is firmly back in vogue and rewards his fans with more wonderful performances in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993), Cry, the Beloved Country (1995), The Great Kandinsky (1995) and This Is the Sea (1997). Further fortune comes his way with a strong performance in the blockbuster Gladiator (2000) and he becomes known to an entirely new generation of film fans as Albus Dumbledore in the mega-successful Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). His final screen role is as “Lucius Sulla” in Julius Caesar (2002).

Harris is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2002, reportedly after being hospitalised with pneumonia. He dies at University College Hospital in Fitzrovia, London on October 25, 2002 after spending his final three days in a coma. His body is cremated and his ashes are scattered in the Bahamas, where he had owned a home.


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Pope Gregory XIII Commissions the Gregorian Calendar

pope-gregory-xiiiPope Gregory XIII commissions the new Gregorian calendar on February 24, 1582, replacing the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 45BCE.

The reason for the reform is that the average length of the year in the Julian calendar is too long. It treats each year as 365 days, 6 hours in length, whereas calculations show that the actual mean length of a year is 365 days, 5 hours, and 49 minutes. As a result, the date of the actual vernal equinox, over the course of 13 centuries, has slowly slipped to March 10, while the calculation of the date of Easter still follows the traditional date of March 21.

These calculations are verified by the observations of mathematician and astronomer Christopher Clavius, and the new calendar is instituted when Gregory decrees on February 24, 1582, that the day after Thursday, October 4, 1582 will not be Friday, October 5, but rather Friday, October 15, 1582. The new calendar duly replaces the Julian calendar and has since come into universal use. Because of Gregory’s involvement, the reformed Julian calendar comes to be known as the Gregorian calendar.

The switchover is bitterly opposed by much of the populace, who fear it is an attempt by landlords to cheat them out of a week and a half of rent. However, the Catholic countries of Spain, Portugal, Poland, and Italy comply almost immediately. France, some states of the Dutch Republic, and various Catholic states in Germany and Switzerland follow suit within a year or two, and Hungary follows in 1587.

More than a century passes before Protestant Europe accepts the new calendar. Denmark, the remaining states of the Dutch Republic, and the Protestant states of the Holy Roman Empire and Switzerland adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1700–1701. Ireland and Great Britain, along with its American colonies, reform in 1752, where Wednesday, September 2, 1752 is immediately followed by Thursday, September 14, 1752. They are joined by the last Protestant holdout, Sweden, on March 1, 1753.

The Gregorian calendar is not accepted in eastern Christendom for several hundred years, and then only as the civil calendar. The Gregorian Calendar is instituted in Russia by the Bolsheviks in 1917. Romania accepts it in 1919 and is followed by Turkey in 1923. The last Orthodox country to accept the calendar is Greece, also in 1923.