seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of William Massey, New Zealand Prime Minister

william-ferguson-masseyWilliam Ferguson Massey, New Zealand statesman, Prime Minister from 1912 to 1925, and founder of the Reform Party, is born in Limavady, County Derry in what is now Northern Ireland on March 26, 1856. He is a lifelong spokesman for agrarian interests and opponent of left-wing movements. His Reform Party ministries include leadership of the country during World War I.

The Massey family arrives in New Zealand on October 21, 1862 on board the Indian Empire as Nonconformist settlers, although William remains in Ireland for an additional eight years to complete his education. After arriving on December 10, 1870 on the City of Auckland, he works as a farmhand for some years before acquiring his own farm in Mangere, south Auckland, in 1876.

While managing his own farm, Massey assumes leadership in farmers’ organizations. He enters Parliament in 1894 as a conservative and from 1894 to 1912 is a leader of the conservative opposition to the Liberal ministries. He becomes prime minister in 1912 and promptly signs legislation enabling freeholders to buy their land at its original value. The first years of his ministry see labour strikes by miners in Waihi in 1912 and wharf workers in Wellington in 1913. His harsh repression of them give impetus to the formation of the Labour Party in 1916. He also improves federal administration by putting civil service positions under a nonpolitical commission.

A coalition with the Liberal Party led by Sir Joseph Ward enables Massey to continue his ministry in 1915. He participates in the Imperial War Cabinet (1917–18) and signs the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, making New Zealand a founding member of the League of Nations. He opposes separate sovereign status for dominions within the British Commonwealth.

Following the war, farmers are troubled by depressed prices resulting from the sharply reduced British demand for their products, and they also face inflation in land prices, aggravated by increased demand for land by returning servicemen. Massey responds to these problems by establishing the Meat Control Board (1922) and the Dairy Export Control Board (1923), but rural and urban unrest resulting from rising prices continue to mount in the final years of his ministry.

In 1924 cancer forced Massey to relinquish many of his official duties, and he dies on May 10, 1925 at Wellington, New Zealand. The Massey Memorial is erected as his mausoleum in Wellington, paid for mostly by public subscription. Massey University is named after him, the name chosen because the university had a focus on agricultural science, matching Massey’s own farming background.


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Birth of Herbert Brenon, Director, Actor & Screenwriter

herbert-brenonHerbert Brenon, Irish film director, actor and screenwriter during the era of silent movies through the 1930s, is born Alexander Herbert Reginald St. John Brenon on January 13, 1880.

Brenon is born at 25 Crosthwaite Park, in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin) to journalist, poet, and politician Edward St. John Brenon and Francis Harries.

In 1882, the family moves to London, where Brenon is educated at St. Paul’s School and at King’s College London. He starts out as a stagehand in New York City and by 1909 he operates a small picture theatre in Pennsylvania. Before becoming a director, he performs in vaudeville acts with his wife, Helen Oberg.

In 1911 Brenon is hired as a writer by Carl Laemmle, directing his first short the following year. Signed by William Fox in 1915, he graduates to feature films. With Paramount Pictures from 1923, he directs several spectacular productions with British themes, including the silent version of Beau Geste (1926). He regards sound pictures with a measure of apprehension.

Some of his more noteworthy films are the first movie adaptations of Peter Pan (1924) and the aforementioned Beau Geste (1926), Sorrell and Son (1927) for which he is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director in the 1st Academy Awards, Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) with Lon Chaney, and The Flying Squad (1940), his last.

Brenon returns to Great Britain in 1934, but his career is well on the decline and he retires in 1940.

Herbert Brenon dies in Los Angeles, California on June 21, 1958 and is interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.