seamus dubhghaill

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

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Death of War Correspondent William Howard Russell

william-howard-russellSir William Howard Russell, an Irish reporter with The Times and considered to be one of the first modern war correspondents, dies in London, England on February 11, 1907.

Russell is born in Tallaght, County Dublin on March 28, 1820. As a young reporter, he reports on the First Schleswig War, a brief military conflict between Prussian and Danish troops in Denmark in 1850.

Initially sent by editor John Delane to Malta to cover British support for the Ottoman Empire against Russia in 1854, Russell despises the term “war correspondent” but his coverage of the conflict brings him international renown, and Florence Nightingale later credits her entry into wartime nursing to his reports. The Crimean medical care, shelter and protection of all ranks by Mary Seacole is also publicised by Russell and by other contemporary journalists, rescuing her from bankruptcy.

His dispatches are hugely significant as for the first time the public can read about the reality of warfare. Shocked and outraged, the public’s backlash from his reports leads the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and leads to Florence Nightingale’s involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment.

On September 20, 1854, Russell covers the battle above the Alma River, writing his missive the following day in an account book seized from a Russian corpse. The story, written in the form of a letter to Delane, is supportive of the British troops and pays particular attention to the battlefield surgeons’ “humane barbarity” and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. He later covers the Siege of Sevastopol where he coins the phrase “thin red line” in referring to British troops at Balaclava.

Following Russell’s reports of the appalling conditions suffered by the Allied troops conducting the siege, including an outbreak of cholera, Samuel Morton Peto and his partners build the Grand Crimean Central Railway, which is a major factor leading to the success of the siege.

Russell spends December 1854 in Constantinople on holiday, returning in early 1855. He leaves Crimea in December 1855 to be replaced by the Constantinople correspondent of The Times.

In 1856 Russell is sent to Moscow to describe the coronation of Tsar Alexander II and in the following year is sent to India where he witnesses the final re-capture of Lucknow.

In 1861 Russell goes to Washington, D.C., returning to England in 1863. In July 1865 he sails on the SS Great Eastern to document the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable and writes a book about the voyage with color illustrations by Robert Dudley. He publishes diaries of his time in India, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, where he describes the warm welcome given him by English-speaking Prussian generals such as Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal.

Russell retires as a battlefield correspondent in 1882 and founds the Army and Navy Gazette. He is knighted in May 1895 and is appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by King Edward VII on August 11, 1902.

Sir William Howard Russell dies on Februry 11, 1907 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.


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Lord Killanin Becomes President of the International Olympic Committee

Michael Morris, 3rd Baron Killanin, journalist, author, and sports official, becomes the first Irish president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on August 23, 1972.

Morris is born in London on July 30, 1914, the son of Irish Catholic Lt. Col. George Henry Morris who is from Spiddal in County Galway. The Morrises are one of the fourteen families making up the “Tribes of Galway.”

Morris is educated at Summerfields, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Eton College, the Sorbonne in Paris and then Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he is President of the renowned Footlights dramatic club. He succeeds his uncle as Baron Killanin in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1927, which allows him to sit in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster as Lord Killanin upon turning 21. In the mid-1930s, he begins his career as a journalist on Fleet Street, working for the Daily Express, the Daily Sketch and subsequently the Daily Mail.

In November 1938, Lord Killanin is commissioned into the Queen’s Westminsters, a territorial regiment of the British Army, where he is responsible for recruiting fellow journalists, including future The Daily Telegraph editor Bill Deedes, and friends who are musicians and actors. He reaches the rank of major and takes part in the planning of D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, acting as brigade major for the 30th Armoured Brigade, part of the 79th Armoured Division. He is appointed, due to the course of operations, a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). After being demobilised, he goes to Ireland. He resigna his TA commission in 1951.

In 1950, Lord Killanin becomes the head of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), and becomes his country’s representative in the IOC in 1952. He becomes senior vice-president in 1968, and succeeds Avery Brundage, becoming President-elect at the 73rd IOC Session (August 21–24) held in Munich prior to the 1972 Summer Olympics. He takes office soon after the Games.

During Lord Killanin’s presidency, the Olympic movement experiences a difficult period, dealing with the financial flop of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the boycotts of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Denver, originally selected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, withdraws and has to be replaced by Innsbruck. The cities of Lake Placid, New York and Los Angeles are chosen for 1980 Winter Olympics and 1984 Summer Olympics by default due to a lack of competing bids. He resigns just before the Moscow Olympics in 1980, and his position is taken over by Juan Antonio Samaranch. He is later unanimously elected Honorary Life President.

Lord Killanin serves as Honorary Consul-General of Monaco in Ireland from 1961 to 1984 and as Chairman of the Race Committee for Galway Racecourse from 1970 to 1985. A keen horse racing enthusiast, he also serves as a steward of the Irish Turf Club on two occasions and on the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee. In his business life Lord Killanin is a director of many companies including Irish Shell, Ulster Bank, Beamish & Crawford and Chubb Ireland. He is a founder member of An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) and is chairman of the National Monuments Advisory Council until his death.

Lord Killanin dies at his home in Dublin on April 25, 1999 at the age of 84 and, following a bilingual funeral Mass at St. Enda’s Church in Spiddal, County Galway, he is buried in the family vault in the New Cemetery, Galway.

(Pictured: Lord Killanin by Bert Verhoeff / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Birth of John Field, Pianist & Composer

John Field, pianist, composer, and teacher, is born in Dublin into a musical family on July 26, 1782. He is the eldest son of Irish parents who are members of the Church of Ireland. His father, Robert Field, earns his living by playing the violin in Dublin theatres.

Field first studies the piano under his grandfather, who is a professional organist, and later under Tommaso Giordani. He makes his debut at the age of nine, a performance that is well-received, on March 24, 1792 in Dublin. By late 1793, the Fields have settled in London, where the young pianist starts studying with Muzio Clementi.

Field continues giving public performances and soon becomes famous in London, attracting favourable comments from the press and the local musicians. Around 1795 his performance of a Jan Ladislav Dussek piano concerto is praised by Joseph Haydn. Field continues his studies with Clementi, also helping the Italian with the making and selling of instruments. He also takes up the violin, which he studies under Johann Peter Solomon. His first published compositions are issued by Clementi in 1795. The first historically important work, the Piano Concerto No. 1, H 27, is premiered by the composer in London on February 7, 1799, when he is 16 years old. Field’s first official opus is a set of three piano sonatas published by Clementi in 1801.

In summer 1802 Field and Clementi leave London and go to Paris on business. They soon travel to Vienna, where Field takes a brief course in counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and in early winter arrive in Saint Petersburg. Field is inclined to stay, impressed by the artistic life of the city. Clementi leaves in June 1803, but not before securing Field a teaching post in Narva. After Clementi’s departure, Field has a busy concert season, eventually performing at the newly founded Saint Petersburg Philharmonia. In 1805 Field embarks on a concert tour of the Baltic states, staying in Saint Petersburg during the summer. The following year he gives his first concert in Moscow. He returns to Moscow in April 1807 and apparently does not revisit Saint Petersburg until 1811. In 1810 he marries Adelaide Percheron, a French pianist and former pupil.

In 1811 Field returns to Saint Petersburg where he spends the next decade of his life, more productive than ever before, publishing numerous new pieces and producing corrected editions of old ones. He is successful in establishing a fruitful collaboration with both H.J. Dalmas, the most prominent Russian publisher of the time, and Breitkopf & Härtel, one of the most important music publishing houses of Europe. By 1819 Field is sufficiently wealthy to be able to refuse the position of court pianist that is offered to him. His lifestyle and social behaviour are becoming more and more extravagant.

In 1818 Field revisits Moscow on business, prompted by his collaboration with the publisher Wenzel. He and his wife give a series of concerts in the city in 1821, the last of which marks their last appearance in public together. Adelaide leaves Field soon afterward and attempts a solo career, which is not particularly successful. Field stays in Moscow and continues performing and publishing his music. In 1822 he meets Johann Nepomuk Hummel and the two collaborate on a performance of Hummel’s Sonata for Piano 4-Hands, Op. 92.

Partly as a result of his extravagant lifestyle, Field’s health begins to deteriorate by the mid-1820s. From about 1823 his concert appearances started decreasing. By the late 1820s he is suffering from colorectal cancer. Field leaves for London to seek medical attention. He arrives in September 1831 and, after an operation, gives concerts there and in Manchester. He stays in England for some time, meeting distinguished figures such as Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles. After a series of concerts in various European cities, Field spends nine months in a Naples hospital. His Russian patrons rescue him. He briefly stays with Carl Czerny in Vienna, where he gives three recitals, and then returns to Moscow. He gives his last concert in March 1836 and dies in Moscow almost a year later, on January 23, 1837, from pneumonia. He is buried in the Vvedenskoye Cemetery.

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The Deal Barracks Bombing

deal-barracks-bombingThe Deal barracks bombing, an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on the Royal Marines School of Music building at the Royal Marine Depot in Deal, England, takes place on September 22, 1989. The building collapses, killing eleven marines from the Royal Marines Band Service and wounds 21 others.

Throughout the 1980s, the IRA has been waging a paramilitary campaign against targets in Britain and Northern Ireland with the stated aim of achieving the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. These operations have included an attempt to kill British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and a similar attack on a military band in London in 1982.

At 8:22 AM on September 22, 1989, a 15 lb. time bomb detonates in the recreational centre changing room at the Royal Marines School of Music. The blast destroys the recreational centre, levels the three-story accommodation building next to it, and causes extensive damage to the rest of the base and nearby civilian homes. The blast is heard several kilometres away, shaking windows in the centre of Deal, and creating a large pall of smoke over the town. Most of the personnel who use the building as a barracks have already risen and are practising marching on the parade ground when the blast occurs. These marines witness the buildings collapse and many of the personnel are in a state of shock for days afterwards.

Some marines remain behind in the building and thus receive the full force of the explosion. Many are trapped in the rubble for hours and military heavy lifting equipment is needed to clear much of it. Kent Ambulance Service voluntarily agrees to end its industrial strike action to aid those wounded by the blast. Ten marines die at the scene with most trapped in the collapsed building, although one body is later found on the roof of a nearby house. Another 21 are seriously injured and receive treatment at hospitals in Dover, Deal, and Canterbury. One of these men, 21-year-old Christopher Nolan, dies of his wounds on October 18, 1989. Three of those killed are buried nearby at the Hamilton Road Cemetery in Deal.

The IRA claims responsibility for the bombing, saying it is a continuation of their campaign to rid Northern Ireland of all British troops who have been deployed there since 1969. Many British people are shocked at the attack, carried out on a ceremonial military band whose only military training is geared towards saving lives.

The British Government also condemns the IRA’s attack. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher makes a statement from Moscow, where she is on an official visit, saying that she is “shocked and extremely sad.” Leader of the Official Opposition, Neil Kinnock, describes the attack as an “awful atrocity” and says, “Even the people who say they support what the IRA calls its cause must be sickened by the way in which such death and injury is mercilessly inflicted.”

One week after the bombing, the staff and students of the School of Music march through the town of Deal, watched and applauded by thousands of spectators. They maintain gaps in their ranks to mark the positions of those unable to march through death or serious injury.

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Barry McGuigan Wins the World Featherweight Boxing Title

barry-mcguiganFinbar Patrick McGuigan, known as Barry McGuigan and nicknamed The Clones Cyclone, wins the World Boxing Association featherweight title on June 8, 1985, defeating Eusebio Pedroza in a unanimous 15-round decision at Loftus Road soccer stadium in London.

Barry McGuigan, the son of singer Pat McGuigan, is born in Clones, County Monaghan. He represents Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games at Edmonton in 1978 and represents Ireland at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

After a successful juvenile boxing career, McGuigan begins his professional boxing career on May 10, 1981, beating Selwyn Bell by knockout in two rounds in Dublin. He wins four out of five additional bouts in 1981. In 1982, McGuigan wins eight fights, seven by knockout, although one of these almost destroys his career and his life. Opposed by Young Ali, on June 14, 1982, McGuigan wins by a knockout in six rounds. Ali falls into a coma and dies five months later.

In 1985, McGuigan meets former world featherweight champion Juan Laporte and wins a 10-round decision. Following one more win, he finally gets his world title attempt when the long reigning WBA featherweight champion, Eusebio Pedroza of Panama, comes to London to put his title on the line at Loftus Road soccer stadium. McGuigan becomes the champion by dropping Pedroza in the seventh round and winning a unanimous fifteen-round decision in a fight refereed by hall of fame referee Stanley Christodoulou. McGuigan and his wife are feted in a public reception through the streets of Belfast that attracts several hundred thousand spectators. Later that year, he is named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, becoming the first person not born in the United Kingdom to win the award.

McGuigan twice successfully defends his title, first against American Bernard Taylor, who is stopped in nine  rounds, and then against Dominican Danilo Cabrera in a controversial knock out in fourteen rounds. The fight is stopped after Cabrera bends over to pick up his mouthpiece after losing it, a practice that is allowed in many countries but not in Ireland. Cabrera is not aware of this, and the fight is stopped.

McGuigan’s next defence takes place in Las Vegas in June 1986, where he faces the relatively unknown Steve Cruz of Texas, in a gruelling 15-round title bout under a blazing sun. McGuigan holds a lead halfway through, but suffers dehydration due to the extreme heat and wilts near the end, being dropped in the tenth and fifteenth rounds. He eventually loses the world title, which he never reclaims, in a close decision. After the fight McGuigan requires hospitalisation because of his dehydrated state.

McGuigan retires after the fight but returns to the ring between 1988 and 1989, beating former world title challengers Nicky Perez and Francisco Tomas da Cruz, as well as contender Julio César Miranda, before losing to former EBU featherweight champ and future WBC and WBA super featherweight challenger Jim McDonnell by a technical knockout. After the McDonnell fight he permanently retires from boxing. His record is 32 wins and 3 losses, with 28 knockouts. In January 2005, McGuigan is elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

McGuigan founds and is the current President of the Professional Boxing Association (PBA). He is also the CEO and founder of Cyclone Promotions.