seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Cathal O’Shannon, Journalist & Television Presenter

Cathal O’Shannon, Irish journalist and television presenter, is born in Marino, Dublin, on August 23, 1928. He is a reporter with The Irish Times, and television reporter/presenter and documentary film maker with RTÉ. The Irish radio and television broadcaster Terry Wogan describes O’Shannon as possibly the greatest Irish television journalist of the 20th century.

O’Shannon is the son of Cathal O’Shannon (Sr.), a Socialist and Irish Republican. He receives his formal education at Colaiste Mhuire School, in Parnell Square, Dublin. Despite his father’s politics, as a 16-year-old he volunteeres for war time service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Belfast in 1945 during World War II. He utilizes a forged birth certificate to disguise being underage for enlistment with the British Armed Forces. After air crew training he is posted to the Far East, as a tail gunner in an Avro Lancaster bomber to take part in the Burma campaign, but the war ends with the downfall of the Japanese Empire before he is required to fly combat sorties.

O’Shannon first becomes a journalist with The Irish Times on leaving the RAF in 1947. Later he joins the Irish state broadcasting service Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ).

In July 1972 O’Shannon records a notable television interview with 31-year-old Muhammad Ali, when Ali is in Dublin to compete at Croke Park in a bout with Alvin Lewis.

O’Shannon receives a Jacob’s Award for his 1976 TV documentary, Even the Olives are Bleeding, which details the activities of the “Connolly Column” in the Spanish Civil War. Two years later he is honoured with a second Jacob’s Award for his television biography Emmet Dalton Remembers (1978).

In 1978, O’Shannon leaves RTÉ to join Canadian company Alcan which is setting up an aluminum plant at Aughinish, County Limerick, in 1978. He is head-hunted to become its Director of Public Affairs, an important post at a time when there are environmental concerns about the effects of aluminium production. He admits that he was attracted by the salary, “five times what RTÉ were paying me,” but he also later says that one of the reasons for the move is that he had become unhappy with working at RTÉ, stating in an interview that “The real reason I got out of RTÉ was that they wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do journalistically.” He had submitted proposals to the station’s editors for a television documentary series on the Irish Civil War, and also one on the wartime Emergency period, but they had been rejected. While he enjoys the social life with lavish expenses which his public relations duties involve, his friends believe that he missed the varied life and travel of journalism. He retires early from Aughinish in 1992, and returns to making television documentaries with RTÉ.

In January 2007, O’Shannon’s last documentary, Hidden History: Ireland’s Nazis, is broadcast by RTÉ as a two-part series. It explores how a number of former Nazis and Nazi collaborators from German-occupied Europe go to live in the Republic of Ireland after World War II — the best known of whom is Otto Skorzeny, who lives for a period in County Kildare. Others include such Breton nationalists as Alan Heusaff, Yann Fouéré and Yann Goulet, as well as two Belgians, Albert Folens and Albert Luykx.

O’Shannon announces his retirement at the age of 80 on January 12, 2007.

O’Shannon is awarded lifetime membership in the Irish Film & Television Academy in 2010, to which he says is “particularly gratifying that it occurs before I pop my clogs.”

After weakening health for two years, and spending his last days in hospice at Blackrock, O’Shannon dies at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin on October 22, 2011. His body is reposed at Fanagans Funeral Home in Dublin on October 25, 2011, followed by a funeral the following day at Glasnevin Cemetery Chapel, where it is afterwards cremated.

O’Shannon’s wife, Patsy, whom he met while they were working for The Irish Times office in London, dies in 2006. They are married for more than 50 years. In a 2008 television documentary O’Shannon admits that throughout his marriage he had been a serial womaniser, who had repeatedly engaged in extra-marital affairs unbeknownst to his wife.

Director-General of RTÉ Noel Curran says O’Shannon had brought into being “some of the great moments in the RTÉ documentary and factual schedule over the past five decades.” In tribute, RTÉ One shows the documentary Cathal O’Shannon: Telling Tales on November 10, 2011. It had originally aired in 2008 to mark his 80th birthday.


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Ireland Awarded the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games

On March 31, 1999, Ireland is selected as the location for the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. It is the first time the event has been staged outside the United States. The organising committee, which is formed in 1999 following the success of the bid, is chaired by entrepreneur Denis O’Brien. The chief executive is Mary Davis.

The Games are hosted in Dublin, with participants staying in 177 towns, cities and villages and the Aran Islands in the lead up to the Games before moving to Dublin for the events. Events are held from June 21-29, 2003 at many venues including Morton Stadium, the Royal Dublin Society, the National Basketball Arena, all in Dublin. Croke Park serves as the central stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, even though no competitions take place there. Belfast is the venue for roller skating events at the King’s Hall, as well as the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium held on June 19-20.

Approximately 7,000 athletes from 150 countries compete in the Games in 18 official disciplines and three exhibition sports. The participants from Kosovo are the region’s first team at an international sporting event. A 12-member team from Iraq receives special permission to attend the games, despite ongoing war in their home nation. This is the largest sporting event held in 2003.

The opening ceremony is held in Croke Park and features an array of stars and is hosted by Patrick Kielty. The ceremony is officially opened by President of Ireland Mary McAleese and attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Performances include U2, The Corrs and the largest Riverdance troupe ever assembled on one stage. There are 75,000 athletes and spectators in attendance at the opening ceremonies. Irish and international celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jon Bon Jovi walk with the athletes, with Muhammad Ali as a special guest and Manchester United and Republic of Ireland football player Roy Keane taking the athletes oath with one of the Special Olympians. Nelson Mandela officially opens the Games.

The Games Flame is lit at the culmination of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, in which more than 2,000 members of the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland participate. This is a series of relays carrying the Special Olympics Torch, the “Flame of Hope,” from Europe to the Games’ official opening.

The 2003 Games are the first to have their opening and closing schemes broadcast on live television, and Raidió Teilifís Éireann provides extensive coverage of the events through their ‘Voice of the Games’ radio station which replaces RTÉ Radio 1 on medium wave for the duration of the event. There is also a nightly television highlight programme. A daily newspaper, the Games Gazette, was published for each day of the Games.

Among the activities carried out during the Games are thorough medical checks on the athletes, some of whom have previously undiagnosed conditions uncovered, as some of the athletes come from countries with limited medical facilities or have difficulty communicating their symptoms.

Among the contributors to the Games is the Irish Prison Service. Prisoners from Mountjoy Prison, Midlands Prison, Wheatfield Prison and Arbour Hill Prison construct podiums and make flags, towels, signs, benches and other equipment.


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Muhammad Ali Fights Al Lewis in Dublin

muhammad-ali-and-al-lewisMuhammad Ali fights Al “Blue” Lewis in Dublin on July 19, 1972 and defeats him via a technical knockout (TKO) in the eleventh round.

After losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali goes on something of a world tour, fighting 13 times in six countries before defeating Frazier in a rematch in January 1974.

The promotion is the brainchild of a character from County Kerry named Butty Sugrue, known throughout Ireland as a circus strongman, whose alleged claim to fame is pulling double-decker buses by a rope in his teeth. Dublin journalists laugh at him when he first announces his intentions.

But despite the scepticism, the fight is arranged for July 19, 1972. As soon as he steps off the plane at Dublin Airport, Ali, ever the showman, immediately captures the heart of a nation by announcing that he has Irish roots. In the 1860s, Abe Grady left his native Ennis in County Clare and emigrated to the United States. In Kentucky, he met and married an emancipated slave. A century later Abe Grady’s great grandson Muhammad Ali touches down in Dublin.

In the week leading up to the fight Ali meets people from all walks of life in Dublin. He spends time with celebrities, including actor Peter O’Toole, and playfully spars with director John Huston, whose boxing movie, Fat City, is screened with both Ali and Lewis in attendance.

Ali also meets politicians, including Taoiseach Jack Lynch in Leinster House and political activist Bernadette Devlin. The Cork Examiner comments on how popular Ali has proven with politicians in Ireland. “Not since the late President John F. Kennedy was in Dublin in 1963 has a visitor from abroad been given as big a welcome at Leinster House as that accorded to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali is always about so much more than boxing, and that week in Dublin is another case in point, as the fight itself is not a classic. He has a cold and is wary of Lewis, who is a dangerous fighter and a man who had previously served time in prison for manslaughter. Ali who, prior to the bout predicts that his opponent’s chances of victory lay somewhere between “slim and none,” eventually wins with a TKO in the eleventh round.

In 2009, Ali returns to Ireland to visit Ennis in County Clare, the home town of his ancestor Abe Grady, where he is granted the freedom of the town. The huge crowds who come out to meet him are testament to his enduring appeal. But the magic of Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible impact on Ireland after his 1972 visit as the late Budd Schulberg, a legendary boxing writer, said, “Ali was like the Pied Piper. It was really kind of magical. He had enormous influence over there. He was a fellow Irishman.”

(From: “When Ali thrilled Ireland: How ‘the Greatest’ shook up Dublin” by Peter Crutchley, BBC NI Digital & Learning, June 6, 2016)


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Death of Boxer Jerry “Irish” Quarry

jerry-quarryJerry Quarry, American heavyweight boxer nicknamed “Irish” or “The Bellflower Bomber,” dies on January 3, 1999, in Templeton, California. He is the most visible member of a significant Irish American boxing family, which includes three other pro boxers, his father and two brothers.

Quarry is born on May 15, 1945, in Bakersfield, California and first puts on a pair of boxing gloves when he is three years old. By the time he is eight, he has won the Junior Golden Gloves at the 45 lb. class. He continues to fight as an amateur until 1964 when he culminates a great amateur career by winning the National Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship and is the tournament’s most outstanding fighter. He sets a record that is still standing today. He wins the title by knocking out all five opponents over a three day span.

Under the watchful eyes of his co-managers, his dad and veteran fight manager Johnnie Flores, Quarry turns professional in May 1965. He runs off twelve wins in a row before running into Tony Doyle and is held to his first draw. He also has two draws with Tony Alongi. His first loss comes in his 21st pro bout, against the tough veteran Eddie Machen. His loss is attributed to poor conditioning and at the time Jerry promises that poor conditioning will never cost him another bout. He defeats Joey Orbillo, Alex Miteff, Billy Daniels, Floyd Patterson, Buster Mathis, Brian London, Jack Bodell, Mac Foster, Ron Lyle, and Thad Spencer just to name a few.

Quarry loses a disputed 15-round decision to Jimmy Ellis for the World Boxing Association version of the Heavyweight title that had been stripped away from Muhammad Ali.

Boxing Illustrated names Quarry the most popular professional boxer in the world in 1968, 1969 and in 1970 is tied with Muhammad Ali to share the honor. He fights Muhammad Ali in what is billed as the return of the champ. Quarry gets cut early in the fight and receives eighteen stitches as a result of the loss.

Quarry comes along in a boxing era that many consider to be the best of all time. In the middle 1970’s he manages himself and is trained by Gil Clancy. He continues to fight on occassion until 1992. His record over his 28-year career is 53-9-4 with 32 knockouts. He is inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Within a few years of his final bout, Quarry is diagnosed with dementia and is soon unable to feed or dress himself and has to be cared for by relatives, primarily his brother James, the only one of the four Quarry brothers not to box professionally. He is hospitalized with pneumonia on December 28, 1998 and then suffers cardiac arrest. He never regains consciousness and dies on January 3, 1999. He is interred at Shafter Cemetery in Shafter, California. A foundation is established in his honor to battle boxing-related dementia, a condition that has afflicted many boxers and brought Quarry’s life to an early end.