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


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Birth of Irish Novelist John Banim

John Banim, Irish novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet and essayist, sometimes called the “Scott of Ireland,” is born in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny on April 3, 1798. He also studied art, working as a painter of miniatures and portraits, and as a drawing teacher, before dedicating himself to literature.

At age four, Banim’s parents send him to a local school where he learns the basics of reading and grammar. At age five, he is sent to the English Academy at Kilkenny where his older brother Michael (1796–1874) is a student. After five years at the English Academy, he is sent to a seminary run by a Reverent Magrath, considered to be the finest Roman Catholic school in Ireland. After a year at the seminary, he transfers to another academy run by a teacher named Terence Doyle. Throughout his school years, he reads avidly and writes his own stories and poems. When he is ten, he visits the poet Thomas Moore, bringing along some of his own poetry in manuscript. Moore encourages him to continue writing and gives him a season ticket to his private theatre in Kilkenny.

At the age of 13, Banim enters Kilkenny College and devotes himself specially to drawing and miniature painting. He pursues his artistic education for two years in the schools of the Royal Dublin Society, and afterwards teaches drawing in Kilkenny, where he falls in love with one of his pupils, a 17-year-old girl named Anne. His affection is returned, but her parents disapprove of their relationship and send her out of town. Anne dies two months later of tuberculosis. Her death makes a deep impression on him and his health suffers severely and permanently.

In 1820 Banim goes to Dublin and settles finally to the work of literature. He publishes a poem, The Celt’s Paradise, and his play Damon and Pythias is performed at Covent Garden in 1821. During a short visit to Kilkenny he marries, and in 1822, in conjunction with Michael, plans a series of tales illustrative of Irish life, which should be for Ireland what the Waverley Novels are for Scotland. The influence of his model is distinctly traceable in his writings.

Banim then sets out for London, and supports himself by writing for magazines and for the stage. A volume of miscellaneous essays is published anonymously in 1824, called Revelations of the Dead Alive. The first series of Tales of the O’Hara Family appears in April 1825, which achieves immediate and decided success. One of the most powerful of them, Crohoore of the Bill Hook, is by Michael Banim.

In 1826, a second series is published, containing the Irish novel, The Nowlans. Banim’s health has given way, and the next effort of the “O’Hara family” is almost entirely the production of his brother Michael. The Croppy, a Tale of 1798 (1828), a novel of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, is hardly equal to the earlier tales, though it contains some wonderfully vigorous passages.

The Mayor of Windgap, and The Ghost Hunter (both by Michael Banim), The Denounced (1830) and The Smuggler (1831) follow in quick succession, and are received with considerable favour. Most of these deal with the darker and more painful phases of life, but the feeling shown in his last, Father Connell, is brighter and tenderer. Banim, meanwhile, suffers from illness and consequent poverty. In 1829, he goes to France, and while he is abroad a movement to relieve his wants is set on foot by the English press, headed by John Sterling in The Times. A sufficient sum is obtained to remove him from any danger of actual want.

Banim returns to Ireland in 1835, taking up residence in Dublin. On meeting him again in August, Michael Banim finds his brother’s condition to be that of a complete invalid. He is often in pain and has to use opiates to sleep, but during the short intervals between the attacks of his illness, he is able to enjoy conversation and the company of his brother and friends. In September he returns to Kilkenny and is received with an address from the citizens of Kilkenny showing their appreciation of him, and a subscription from them of £85. After a short stay in his childhood home, he settles in Windgap Cottage, then a short distance from Kilkenny. He passes the remainder of his life there, dying on August 13, 1842.

Michael Banim acquires a considerable fortune which he loses in 1840 through the bankruptcy of a firm with which he had business relations. After this disaster he writes Father Connell (1842), Clough Fionn (1852), and The Town of the Cascades (1862). He dies at Booterstown.

An assessment in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1911) reads:

“The true place of the Banims in literature is to be estimated from the merits of the O’Hara Tales; their later works, though of considerable ability, are sometimes prolix and are marked by too evident an imitation of the Waverley Novels. The Tales, however, are masterpieces of faithful delineation. The strong passions, the lights and shadows of Irish peasant character, have rarely been so ably and truly depicted. The incidents are striking, sometimes even horrible, and the authors have been accused of straining after melodramatic effect. The lighter, more joyous side of Irish character, which appears so strongly in Samuel Lover, receives little attention from the Banims.”


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Birth of Raymond Crotty, Economist, Writer, Academic & Farmer

Raymond Dominick Crotty, economist, writer, academic and farmer who is known for his opposition to Ireland’s membership of the European Union, is born in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny on January 22, 1925.

Crotty grows up in Kilkenny and, while a student at St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, he begins breeding pigs in his spare time. Rather than move on to university, he pursues his interest in agriculture by going to work for a farmer relative in 1942. A year later he undertakes a 12-month course at the Albert Agricultural College in Glasnevin, Dublin. In 1945, he purchases a 204-acre farm in Dunbell, not far from Kilkenny, and spends the next two decades putting into practice his developing knowledge of agricultural production.

In 1956, while still a farmer, Crotty enrolls as a distance-learning student at the University of London, obtaining a BSc (Econ.) degree in 1959. He spends two further years studying for a MSc (Econ.) degree at the London School of Economics. In 1961, he obtains a post as lecturer in Agricultural Economics at University of Wales, Aberystwyth. During the 1960s, he sells his farm and becomes an economic adviser to various development agencies, including the World Bank. His work brings him to various parts of the developing world, including Latin America, India, and Africa. In 1976, he receives a fellowship at the University of Sussex. In 1982, he becomes a lecturer in statistics at Trinity College, Dublin.

Crotty’s knowledge and experience of agricultural economics shapes his attitude to Ireland’s participation in the European Economic Community. His years as a farmer teaches him that Irish agriculture is structured so as to discourage efficient use of the land.

Crotty grows to believe that agricultural efficiency can best be achieved by the imposition of an annual land tax. This would allow taxes on inputs and outputs to be removed or reduced and would encourage only those prepared to maximise the potential of their land to remain in farming. In putting forward this proposal, he is reflecting the influence of American economist Henry George, who held that land owned by private individuals should be subject to a tax on the land because of the advantage bestowed on the owner. He believes that Irish agriculture would be damaged if Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) as, instead of becoming more efficient, farmers would grow to depend on external subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Furthermore, Crotty maintains that Ireland’s status as an ex-colony makes it unsuited for membership of a bloc of nations that include former colonial powers. In 1962, in the early stages of the public debate on whether Ireland should join the EEC, he expresses his concerns about the possible loss of Ireland’s national identity within what he termed a “European super state.”

In 1972, Crotty joins Trinity College academic Anthony Coughlan in opposing Ireland’s accession to the EEC. Over the next twenty years he campaigns against further integration of Ireland into the EEC, most notably during the attempts to ratify the Single European Act in the mid-1980s. He stands for election in the 1989 European Parliament election as a candidate in the Dublin constituency. He receives 25,525 votes (5.69% of the valid votes cast), not enough to elect him. In 1992, he once again allies himself with Coughlan in urging Irish voters to reject the Maastricht Treaty in the referendum held on June 18.

Despite failing to win majority support for his views in elections and referendums, Crotty continues until the end of his life his campaign against Ireland’s membership of the European Union.

Crotty is a prolific writer, producing books, pamphlets, articles, and letters on subjects such as economics, history, and Ireland’s involvement with Europe. His final work, When Histories Collide: The Development and Impact of Individualistic Capitalism, is edited by his son Raymond and published posthumously in 2001. It is an economic history of mankind from the earliest stages of human development to the present day. Reviewing it on behalf of the American Sociological Association, Professor Michael Mann of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) describes it as “an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man” and “a must-read.”

Raymond Crotty dies at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, at the age of 68, on January 1, 1994 and is buried in Tulla Cemetery outside Kilkenny.


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Republican Prisoner Denny Barry Dies on Hunger Strike

Irish Republican prisoner Denis “Denny” Barry dies on hunger strike in Newbridge internment camp on November 20, 1923, shortly after the Irish Civil War.

Barry is born into a farming family in Riverstick, ten miles south of Cork city, on July 15, 1883. He enjoys Gaelic culture and sport and is a prominent member of the Ballymartle hurling club. He later joins the famous Blackrock National Hurling Club where he wins four senior county championships in a row during the years of 1910 to 1913.

In 1913, Barry joins the newly formed Irish Volunteers. He is a member of the first Cork brigade and has been politically active in Sinn Féin. In 1915, he moves to Kilkenny to take up employment there, where he continues his volunteer activities. Shortly after the Easter Rising in 1916, he is arrested in Kilkenny in a British Government crackdown, and sent to Frongoch internment camp in North Wales. In 1917 he becomes election agent for W. T. Cosgrave in the Kilkenny by-election, one in which Cosgrave is successfully elected. However, just six years later he finds himself imprisoned by Cosgrave’s own government.

In 1922 Barry is imprisoned in Newbridge camp in Kildare and takes part in the hunger strike of 1923. On November 20, 1923, after 34 days protesting against the harsh regime and undignified conditions, he dies but even in death he is still refused dignity.

Barry’s body is not released to his family and is instead, on the orders of Minister of Defence, Richard Mulcahy, buried in the grounds of Newbridge internment camp. The Barry family takes legal action against this and eventually receives the body, but this is not the last of their troubles.

Upon their arrival in Cork with Barry’s body, the Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan, instructs his priests not to allow Barry’s funeral in any church. Ironically just a few short years before, Bishop Cohalan had been a strong vocal supporter of Terence MacSwiney, Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork, who died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

Shortly after MacSwiney’s death, Bishop Cohalan’s attitude towards the Irish Republican Army (IRA) changes and he issues a decree condemning the IRA in which he states, “Anyone who shall within the diocese of Cork organise or take part in an ambush or in kidnapping or otherwise, shall be guilty of murder or attempted murder and shall incur by the very fact the censure of excommunication.”

On December 10, 1922, Bishop Cohalan preaches publicly his support for the Anglo-Irish Treaty which establishes the Irish Free State and he urges his flock to do the same. This leads to an even greater wedge between the Catholic Church and many IRA members, yet it is the incident with Barry that seriously taints the Bishop of Cork and the Catholic Church in republican eyes.

Because of Bishop Cohalan’s stern objection to Barry’s body being permitted into a Catholic church, his body has to lay in state in the Cork Sinn Féin headquarters on the Grand Parade in Cork city. He is then taken in a funeral procession to St. Finbarr’s Cemetery where he is buried in the Republican plot next to Terence MacSwiney, whose funeral Bishop Cohalan had presided over three years previously. In place of a priest is David Kent, Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Cork and brother of Thomas Kent, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising. Kent gives an oration, recites the Rosary and sprinkles holy water on the grave.

On November 28, 1923, the day Barry is buried, Bishop Cohalan sends an open letter to The Cork Examiner publicly denying a Christian burial for Barry and urging all men of the cloth to stay away from any such attempts for such a funeral. He goes so far as to write to the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr. Patrick Foley, to enquire about Barry getting the last sacraments. Barry did indeed receive the last rites from a Fr. Doyle who was serving as prison chaplain and this does not impress the Bishop of Cork.

Barry’s funeral precession through Cork City draws massive crowds with people from all walks of Cork’s political, social and sporting life attending to pay their respects to this man who had been at the heart of the revolution in Cork during the last decade of his life. The IRA, Cumann na mBan and Na Fíanna Éireann march in military formations with the funeral party.

Two days after Barry’s death another IRA prisoner, Andrew O’Sullivan, from Cork dies and the strike is called off the following day. Women prisoners are then released while men remain in prison until the following year.

A memorial to Barry is unveiled in Riverstick in 1966.


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Birth of Musicologist Francis Llewellyn Harrison

Francis Llewellyn Harrison, better known as “Frank Harrison” or “Frank Ll. Harrison” and one of the leading musicologists of his time and a pioneering ethnomusicologist, is born in Dublin on September 29, 1905. Initially trained as an organist and composer, he turns to musicology in the early 1950s, first specialising in English and Irish music of the Middle Ages and increasingly turning to ethnomusicological subjects in the course of his career. His Music in Medieval Britain (1958) is still a standard work on the subject, and Time, Place and Music (1973) is a key textbook on ethnomusicology.

Harrison is the second son of Alfred Francis Harrison and Florence May (née Nash). He becomes a chorister at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin in 1912 and is educated at the cathedral grammar school and Mountjoy School. A competent organist, he is deputy organist at St. Patrick’s from 1925 to 1928. In 1920, he also begins musical studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where he studies with John Francis Larchet (composition), George Hewson (organ) and Michele Esposito (piano). In 1926, he graduates Bachelor of Music at Trinity College Dublin and is awarded a doctorate (MusD) in 1929 for a musical setting of Psalm 19. He then works in Kilkenny for one year, serving as organist at St. Canice’s Cathedral and music teacher at Kilkenny College.

In 1930, Harrison emigrates to Canada to become organist at Westminster Presbyterian Church in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In 1933, he studies briefly with Marcel Dupré in France, but returns to Canada in 1934 to become organist at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ottawa. In 1935, he takes a position as organist and choirmaster at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario, as well as taking up the newly created post of “resident musician” at Queen’s University at Kingston. His duties include giving lectures, running a choir and an orchestra, and conducting concerts himself. His course in the history and appreciation of music is the first music course to be given for full credit at Queen’s. He resigns from St. George’s in 1941 to become assistant professor of music at Queen’s in 1942. During his years in Canada he still pursues the idea of remaining a performing musician and composer, winning three national composition competitions: for Winter’s Poem (1931), Baroque Suite (1943) and Night Hymns on Lake Nipigon (1945).

On a year’s leave of absence from Queen’s, Harrison studies composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale University, also taking courses in musicology with Leo Schrade. In 1946, he takes up a position at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and then moves on to Washington University in St. Louis as head of the new Department of Music (1947–1950).

In 1951, Harrison takes the degrees of Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Music (DMus) at Jesus College, Oxford, and becomes lecturer (1952), senior lecturer (1956), and reader in the history of music (1962–1970) there. In 1965, he is elected Fellow the British Academy and Senior Research Fellow at Oxford. From 1970 to 1980, he is Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, retiring to part-time teaching in 1976.

Harrison also holds Visiting Professorships in musicology at Yale University (1958–1959), Princeton University (spring 1961 and 1968–1969), and Dartmouth College (winter 1968 and spring 1972). He also briefly returns to Queen’s University at Kingston as Queen’s Quest Visiting Professor in the fall of 1980 and is Visiting Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh for the calendar year 1981.

Harrison’s honorary titles also include Doctor of Laws at Queen’s University, Kingston (1974), Corresponding Member of the American Musicological Society (1981), and Vice President and Chairman of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society (1985). At Queen’s also, the new Harrison-LeCaine Hall (1974) is partly named in his honour.

Harrison dies in Canterbury, England on December 29, 1987.

In 1989, Harry White appreciates Harrison as “an Irish musicologist of international standing and of seminal influence, whose scholarly achievement, astonishingly, encompassed virtually the complete scope of the discipline which he espoused.” David F. L. Chadd writes of him “He was above all things an explorer, tirelessly curious and boyishly delighted in the pursuit of knowledge, experience and ideas, and totally heedless of artificially imposed constraints and boundaries.”

Since 2004, the Society for Musicology in Ireland (SMI) awards a bi-annual Irish Research Council Harrison Medal in his honour to distinguished international musicologists.


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National Day of Commemoration 2017

national-day-of-commemoration-2017President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lead the ceremony to mark the National Day of Commemoration at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Kilmainham, Dublin on July 9, 2017. The event is a multi-faith service of prayer and a military service honouring all Irish people who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations. Events are also held in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Kilkenny and Waterford.

The National Day of Commemoration is held on the Sunday closest to July 11, the anniversary of the date the truce was signed in 1921 to end the Irish War of Independence.

Leaders from Christian, Coptic Christian, Jewish and Islamic denominations read or sing prayers and readings, and President Higgins lays a laurel wreath. The service is observed by more than 1,000 guests, including Government Ministers, the Council of State, which advises the Taoiseach, members of the judiciary, members of the diplomatic corps, TDs and Senators, representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations and relatives of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The national flag is lowered to half-mast while the “Last Post” and “Reveille” are sounded. After a minute of silence, a gun salute is sounded and the flag is raised again before the national anthem is played with a fly-by by three Pilatus PC-9 aircraft.

The Army band of the 1st Brigade and pipers play music including “Limerick’s Lament” and “A Celtic Lament” as guests arrive at the quadrangle of the former British Army veterans’ hospital, now the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The prayer service begins with Imam Sheikh Hussein Halawa of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, father of Ibrahim Halawa, who is in prison in Cairo, singing verses from the Quran in Arabic and praying in English, “I ask Allah, the Mighty, the Lord, to bless our country, Ireland, and give the people of our country a zeal for justice and strength for forbearance.”

Soloist Sharon Lyons sings hymns between prayers and readings from all denominations, ending with Rabbi Zalman Lent: “May the efforts and sacrifice of those we honour today be transformed into the blessing of people throughout the world.”

Speaking to reporters, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral Mark Mellett says more than 650 personnel are serving in eleven countries and on the Mediterranean Sea. “In the Defence Forces we have over 80 people who have given their lives in the cause of peace internationally, and I think it’s a sign of a State that recognises those who give this service,” he says. “The military of our State serve the political and serve the people. And it’s this loyalty to the State which is actually critical, and I’m delighted that we have a day like this.”

Mellett’s views are echoed by former sergeant Denis Barry, who says 47 Irish soldiers died in Lebanon and it is important to pay respects for that sacrifice. “None of us who served ever thought we would see the day we could travel in Lebanon without weapons, heavy armaments or flak jackets.” That United Nations mission paid off, he says.

Former British soldier Ron Hammond says the event reflects positive developments, such as the creation of the veterans’ Union of British and Irish Forces. He served from 1960 to 1980 in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Irish Rangers, spending time in Germany, Canada, Yemen and north and south Africa. He joined the British rather than the Irish forces because at the time “a home posting in the Defence Forces was Collins Barracks and an overseas posting was the Curragh encampment.”

(From: “Irish military dead honoured in National Day of Commemoration” by Marie O’Halloran, The Irish Times, July 9, 2017)


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The Siege of Kilkenny Ends

map-of-kilkennyThe Siege of Kilkenny ends on March 28, 1650 with the city and residents surrendering to Oliver Cromwell.

The Siege of Kilkenny takes place in what historian Patrick Little considers to be the most controversial period of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The English ParliamentariansNew Model Army, commanded by Oliver Cromwell, takes the city of Kilkenny from the Irish Confederates but suffers more losses than they had in the Siege of Drogheda in September 1649.

After taking Cashel and setting his headquarters there, Cromwell marches to Kilkenny to issue a summons of surrender to the Irish Confederates holding the town. The envoy he sends there is captured and kept as a hostage. Upon this happening, Cromwell, absent siege weapons, has to return to Cashel to acquire them after being met with hostility. Cromwell is relying on an officer by the name of Tickle to betray the townspeople and relay the locations of the wall’s weakest points. Tickle’s treachery is uncovered by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond and owner of Kilkenny Castle. Bulter intercepts the letters sent between Cromwell and Tickle which lead to Tickle’s execution.

Butler, learning of Cromwell’s intent, establishes 700 men and 100 horsemen to repel the puritan army. Facing this formidable force Cromwell decides to retreat to Cashel. In the space of time it takes Cromwell to acquire siege weapons and return to Kilkenny, a plague has struck. The plague is believed to have originated in Galway on a Spanish ship. Lord Castlehaven appoints James Walsh as Governor of the Castle and Sir Walter Butler as Governor of Kilkenny. In addition to this he provides 1,200 men to the Kilkenny cause. By the time Cromwell returns, the plague has decimated Kilkenny city. About 300 out of the original Garrison of 1,200 men remain to watch their posts.

On March 22, Cromwell arrives and stands a mile before Kilkenny with his men. Guns are set up on the adjacent hill and from the Black quarry, Cromwell issues a summons of surrender to Butler, Walsh and the Aldermen of Kilkenny. While the letters are traded back and fort, Cromwell sends a detachment to take Irishtown and they are defeated. A refusal letter is issued to Cromwell shortly thereafter. The artillery battery located on the adjacent hill begins to pound the south wall. A breach is made around noon and Cromwell gives orders to assault using the recently destroyed entry point, but after two attempts his men disobey as they have suffered heavy losses in the last battle. Soon after, Cromwell receives invitation from the mayor and townsmen of Irishtown asking him to stay in the town and in return he will allow his troops safe entry. Instead of replying, Cromwell sends a detachment of men led by Colonel Ewer to capture Irishtown, which is guarded by the townsmen. The townsmen flee their posts at the first sight of Colonel Ewer and his men. This results in the capturing of St. Canice’s Cathedral and parts of Irishtown. The Governor of Irishtown, Sir James Butler, surrenders not long after admitting that there is nothing he can do.

On March 27, the troops continue to attack Kilkenny to no success other than managing to breach the walls of the Franciscan abbey, causing more people to desert their posts. Governor Walsh arrives on horseback to drive Cromwell’s men from the wall. At the same time, small groups of Cromwell’s men attempt to cross St. Johns bridge to set fire to the front gates but they are killed by the garrison guards. It is at this point when reinforcements of 1,500 men from Henry Ireton arrive. Finally, Walsh calls for surrender under orders from Lord Castlehaven that were given previously. The orders are not to allow the townspeople to be exposed and massacred.

On March 28, 1650 the town of Kilkenny is handed over to Cromwell. The garrison and its leaders are marched out into the town where they are complimented by Cromwell for the gallantry in battle. Cromwell also admits that if it was not for the townspeople’s treachery, he would have passed Kilkenny and left it alone.


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Birth of Novelist & Broadcaster Francis MacManus

francis-macmanus-gravesiteFrancis MacManus, Irish novelist and broadcaster is born in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny on March 8, 1909.

MacManus is educated in the local Christian Brothers school and later at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin and University College Dublin. After teaching for eighteen years at the Synge Street CBS in Dublin, he joins the staff of Radio Éireann, precursor to the Irish national broadcasting entity RTÉ, in 1948 as Director of Features.

MacManus begins writing while still teaching, first publishing a trilogy set in Penal times and concerning the life of the Gaelic poet Donncha Rua Mac Conmara comprising the novels Stand and Give Challenge (1934), Candle for the Proud (1936) and Men Withering (1939). A second trilogy follows which turns its attention to contemporary Ireland: This House Was Mine (1937), Flow On, Lovely River (1941), and Watergate (1942). The location is the fictional “Dombridge,” based on Kilkenny, and deals with established themes of Irish rural life including obsessions with land, sexual frustration, and the trials of emigration and return. Other major works include the novel The Greatest of These (1943), concerning religious conflict in nineteenth-century Kilkenny, and the biographies Boccaccio (1947) and Saint Columban (1963). In his last two novels, he descends into the depths of theological debate: The Fire in the Dust (1950) is followed by American Son (1959), a remarkable dialogue between conflicting modes of belief which reveals the strong influence of Roman Catholicism on the author.

Francis MacManus dies of a heart attack at the age of 56 in Dublin on November 27, 1965.

The RTÉ Francis MacManus Short Story Award is established in his memory in 1985. The competition is run by RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, and is open to entries written in Irish or English from authors born or resident in Ireland. The total prize fund is €6000, out of which the winning author receives €3,000. Sums of €2,000 and €1,000 are awarded to the second and third prize winners.


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Birth of John Barry, Victoria Cross Recipient

john-barry-vcJohn Barry is born on February 1, 1873 in St. Mary’s Parish, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny. He is by birth an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Little is known of Barry’s early life prior to his enlistment with the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army. Shortly after his enlistment, he finds himself sailing to South Africa for the outbreak of the Second Boer War, a conflict which ultimately leads to the award of the Victoria Cross, albeit tragically posthumously.

During the night attack on Monument Hill on January 7-8, 1901, Private Barry, although surrounded and threatened by the Boers at the time, smashes the breach of the Maxim gun, thus rendering it useless to its captors. It is in doing this splendid act for his country that he meets his death.

Barry dies of wounds received during his VC action at Monument Hill, South Africa. At the time, no posthumous awards of the VC can be made. However, as so often in the history of the Victoria Cross it is an individual, the mother of Alfred Atkinson, that brings about a decisive move to investigate those servicemen who would have been recommended for the award of the VC if they had not died beforehand. The outcome of the War Office investigation results in an announcement being published in The London Gazette on August 8, 1902. In fact, Barry’s family had already received his medal via registered post on April 30, 1902.

Barry is buried in Belfast Cemetery, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. His medals are sold at auction on September 22, 2000 and purchased at a hammer price of £85,000 by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum, London.


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Birth of Ardal O’Hanlon, Comedian & Actor

ardal-o-hanlonArdal O’Hanlon, comedian and actor, is born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan on October 8, 1965. He plays Father Dougal McGuire in Father Ted, George Sunday/Thermoman in My Hero, and DI Jack Mooney in Death in Paradise.

O’Hanlon is the son of politician and doctor Rory O’Hanlon and Teresa Ward. The episode of Who Do You Think You Are? which airs on October 6, 2008 reveals that his paternal grandfather, Michael O’Hanlon, was a medical student at University College Dublin (UCD) who joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence and was a member of Michael Collins‘s squad which assassinated British secret service agents on the morning of Bloody Sunday. Details of his grandfather’s activities survive in UCD Archives, as well as Blackrock College. It also transpires that, on his mother’s side, he is a close relative of Peter Fenelon Collier.

O’Hanlon is schooled in Blackrock College in Dublin and graduates in 1987 from the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin (now Dublin City University) with a degree in Communications Studies.

Together with Kevin Gildea and Barry Murphy, O’Hanlon founds the International Comedy Cellar, upstairs in the International Bar on Dublin’s South Wicklow Street. Dublin has no comedy scene at the time. As a stand up, he wins the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in 1994. For a time he is the presenter of The Stand Up Show.

O’Hanlon is spotted by Graham Linehan, who casts him as Father Dougal McGuire in Father Ted (1995–98). In 1995 he receives the Top TV Comedy Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards for this role. In 1995, he appears as Father Dougal in a Channel 4 ident and during Comic Relief on BBC One. This is followed by the award-winning short comedy film Flying Saucer Rock’n’Roll.

O’Hanlon moves into straight acting alongside Emma Fielding and Beth Goddard in the ITV comedy-drama Big Bad World, which airs for two series in summer 1999 and winter 2001. He also plays a minor role in The Butcher Boy and appears in an episode of the original Whose Line is it Anyway?.

In 2000, O’Hanlon stars in the comedy series My Hero, in which he plays a very naive superhero from the planet Ultron. His character juggles world-saving heroics with life in suburbia. He stays in the role until the first episode of series 6 in July 2006 where he is replaced by James Dreyfus during the same episode.

O’Hanlon also provides the voice of the lead character in the three Christmas television cartoon specials of Robbie the Reindeer. He appears in the 2005 BBC One sitcom Blessed, written by Ben Elton. Towards the end of 2005, he plays an eccentric Scottish character, Coconut Tam, in the family-based film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby. Although more commonly on television, he also appears on radio. In 2015 he appears as incompetent angel Smallbone in the sitcom The Best Laid Plans, also on BBC Radio 4.

In 2006, O’Hanlon writes and presesed an RTÉ television series called Leagues Apart, which sees him investigate the biggest and most passionate football rivalries in a number of European countries. He follows this with another RTÉ show, So You Want To Be Taoiseach? in 2007. It is a political series where he gives tongue-in-cheek advice on how to go about becoming Taoiseach of Ireland.

O’Hanlon appears in the Doctor Who episode “Gridlock“, broadcast on April 14, 2007, in which he plays a cat-like creature named Thomas Kincade Brannigan. He appears in Series 3 of the TV show Skins, playing Naomi Campbell’s Politics teacher named Kieran. He then goes on to form a relationship with Naomi’s mother, played by Olivia Colman. He plays the lead role in Irish comedy television programme Val Falvey, TD on RTÉ One.

In February 2011, O’Hanlon returns to the Gate Theatre, Dublin starring in the Irish premiere of Christopher Hampton‘s translation of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, alongside Maura Tierney. In 2011, he appears in the comedy panel show Argumental.

O’Hanlon has written a novel, The Talk of the Town, which is published in 1998. The novel is about a teenage boy, Patrick Scully, and his friends.

In February 2015 O’Hanlon officially launches the 2015 Sky Cat Laughs Comedy Festival which takes place in Kilkenny from May 28–June 1. In 2015 he plays the role of Peter the Milkman in the Sky One sitcom After Hours.

On February 2, 2017, it is announced O’Hanlon will play the lead role in the BBC crime drama Death in Paradise taking the role of DI Jack Mooney following Kris Marshall‘s departure the same day.


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Birth of Cosslett Quinn, Priest & Linguist

cosslett-o-cuinn-bookThe Rev. Canon Cosslett Quinn (in Irish Cosslett Ó Cuinn), scholar, linguist, and priest of the Church of Ireland who translates the New Testament into Irish, is born in Derriaghy, County Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland on February 27, 1907.

Quinn is born to Charles Edward Quinn, rector of Derriaghy, and Edith Isobel Wadell. He studies at Campbell College in Belfast, and later at Trinity College Dublin, where he receives his Bachelor of Divinity in Theology in 1940.

Quinn is a poet, theologian, critic, biblical scholar, member of the ecumenical movement, and a scholar of the Irish language. During his studies, he develops a strong interest in Ulster Irish, and often visits the Irish-speaking Gola Island and Derrybeg. He also publishes articles in Éigse: A Journal of Irish Studies on the dialects of Irish spoken on Rathlin Island and Kilkenny. He compiles the folklore of native Irish speakers from the islands of Tory and Arranmore off the coast of County Donegal.

While working in Belfast and Inishowen in 1931, Quinn is promoted to the post of deacon. In 1961, he is appointed professor of Biblical Greek at Trinity College, and begins work on a new translation of the New Testament. He also translates the Book of Psalms and the Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland into Irish, as well as several Spanish works. Although it is unusual in his lifetime for Protestants to hold leading positions in the Irish language movement, Quinn is for a time President of Oireachtas na Gaeilge. He is made a canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1966, before retiring from the ministry in 1971.

Cosslett Quinn dies on December 6, 1995.