seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Richard D’Alton Williams, Physician & Poet

richard-dalton-williamsRichard D’Alton Williams, physician and poet, is born in Dublin on October 8, 1822. He is the son of James and Mary Williams, who come from County Westmeath. He grows up in Grenanstown, a townland near the Devil’s Bit in County Tipperary, where his father farms for Count Dalton. He is educated at Tullabeg Jesuit College and St. Patrick’s, Carlow College.

Williams becomes a member of the Young Ireland movement and contributes poetry to The Nation under the pseudonym “Shamrock.” He is immediately successful. In the January 21, 1843 edition there appears: “Shamrock is a jewel. He cannot write too often. His verses are full of vigour, and as natural as the harp of Tara.”

Later in 1843 Williams goes to Dublin to study medicine at Saint Vincent’s Hospital. In 1848 he brings out a newspaper, the Irish Tribune, to take the place of the suppressed United Irishman, founded by John Mitchel. Before the sixth weekly publication, it is seized by the Government, and proceedings are instituted against the editors, Williams and his friend Kevin Izod O’Doherty. On October 30, 1848, at a third trial, O’Doherty is convicted of treason and transported to Australia while Williams is successfully defended by lawyer and fellow poet Samuel Ferguson two days afterwards on the same charge. He then resumes his medical studies, takes out his degree at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1849 and emigrates to the United States in 1851.

Williams is married to Elizabeth Connolly on September 8, 1856, with whom he has four children of whom the youngest is commemorated in Lines on the Death of his Infant Daughter, Katie.

In the United States Williams practises medicine until he becomes ill and dies of tuberculosis in Thibodaux, Louisiana on July 5, 1862. He is buried there in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. His headstone is later erected that year by Irish members of the 8th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, then encamped in Thibodaux.

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The Last Official Bare-Knuckle Title Fight

sullivan-kilrain-fightHeavyweight boxer John L. Sullivan defeats fellow Irish American Jake Kilrain in a world championship bout which lasts 75 rounds on July 8, 1889, the last official bare knuckle title fight ever held.

Bare-knuckle boxing is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports. It involves two individuals fighting without boxing gloves or other padding on their hands. The difference between a street fight and a bare-knuckle boxing match is an accepted set of rules, such as not striking a downed opponent.

The Sullivan-Kilrain fight is considered to be a turning point in boxing history because it is the last world title bout fought under the London Prize Ring Rules, and therefore the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout. It is one of the first sporting events in the United States to receive national press coverage.

For the first time, newspapers carry extensive pre-fight coverage, reporting on the fighters’ training and speculating on where the bout will take place. The traditional center of bare-knuckle fighting is New Orleans, but the governor of Louisiana has forbidden the fight in that state. Sullivan has trained for months in Belfast, New York under trainer William Muldoon, whose biggest problem has been keeping Sullivan from liquor. A report on Sullivan’s training regimen in Belfast is written by famed reporter Nellie Bly and published in the New York World.

Rochester reporter Arch Merrill comments that occasionally Sullivan would “escape” from his guard. In Belfast village, the cry is heard, “John L. is loose again. Send for Muldoon!” Muldoon would snatch the champ away from the bar and take him back to their training camp.

On July 8, 1889, an estimated 3,000 spectators board special trains for the secret location, which turns out to be Richburg, a town just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The fight begins at 10:30, and it looks as if Sullivan is going to lose, especially after he vomits during the 44th round. But the champion gets his second wind after that, and Kilrain’s manager, Mike Donovan, finally throws in the towel after the 75th round. Kilrain does not want to give up thinking he can outlast Sullivan, but Donovan defends his actions insisting that Kilrain would die if the fight continued. In any case, the Kilrain-Sullivan fight can rightly be listed among the greatest fights of the pre-modern era.