seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Shelah Richards, Actress, Manager, Director & Producer

Shelah Geraldine Richards, Irish actress, manager, director and producer, is born in Dublin on May 23, 1903.

Richards is born to John William Richards, a lawyer, and Adelaide Roper, suffragist who had chained herself to the railings in St. Stephen’s Green. She goes to school at Alexandra College, Dublin, and after that she attends a finishing school in Paris. Though her family is not in the arts, her godmother is Beatrice Elvery. Shes attends Elvery’s salons with her parents as a child. She meets W. B. Yeats when she is sixteen. Her niece, Geraldine Fitzgerald, daughter of her sister, Edith Catherine Richards, is also one of Ireland’s pre-eminent actresses.

Richards’s acting career starts while attending the Dublin drama league and she is asked at short notice to replace Eileen Crowe in Juno and the Paycock, playing the role of Mary Boyle in the Abbey Theatre production. Richards gets the role of Nora Clithero in the 1926 production of The Plough and the Stars, Seán O’Casey‘s next production. This role means that she ends up with police protection for the duration of the run due to the disturbances the play engenders. Another important role is to take on playing the lead in The Player Queen by Yeats. Maire O’Neill had previously made the role her own and Yeats had let no one perform the part since then so taking on such a challenge is intimidating. Richards continues to take on leading roles with the Abbey Theatre but in 1926 she also begins to direct.

On December 28, 1928, Richards marries playwright Denis Johnston in St. Anne’s Church in Dublin. She tours the United States with the Abbey players in 1932 and with the Irish Players in the mid 1930s. A role in 1938 in Molly Keane‘s Spring Meeting starring Gladys Cooper and A. E. Matthews takes her to Broadway in New York City. War in Europe breaks out while the run is still going on and Richards is advised to stay in the United States. However, by then she has two children, producer Micheal and novelist Jennifer Johnston, so she returns to Dublin. There she runs her own theater company at the Olympia Theatre with Nigel Heseltine. Her marriage to Johnston, broken in 1938, ends with divorce in February 1945.

Richards next challenge is to take over the Abbey School of Acting. During her time there one of the designers she works with is Louis le Brocquy. With Siobhán McKenna she produces The Playboy of the Western World in Edinburgh to huge success allowing her to stage it in London and Dublin and later in Toronto‘s Library Theater. She brings Marcel Marceau to Dublin for the first time. She continues to act and has some film roles.

In 1961 Ireland launches its first television service, Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Richards is one of the first producers, recommended to the station by Hilton Edwards. She is one of the few women in the new station. The first Irish play produced during the opening week is directed by her and she is nominated for a Best Actress award in another production, Inquiry at Lisieux. She works as producer on a wide number of programs for the station including documentaries, soap operas and religious programming. Both Tolka Row and The Riordans are produced by her as well as Denis Johnston’s The Moon on the Yellow River, George Bernard Shaw‘s Arms and the Man and John Millington Synge‘s Riders to the Sea.

Richards retires from her RTÉ career in the early 1970s though she continues to raise funds for the Gate Theatre through the Edwards–MacLiammóir Playhouse Society. In 1983, for her 80th birthday, the Abbey puts on a party for her which includes a special rendition of “Nora” from The Plough and the Stars. Richards is the last living member of the original 1926 cast. The song is repeated at her funeral in 1985. She died in Ballybrack, County Dublin, on January 19, 1985. Her funeral is held in St. Anne’s Church in Dublin and she is cremated in Glasnevin Cemetery.


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Birth of Evelyn Gleeson, Designer & Co-founder of Dun Emer Press

Evelyn Gleeson, English embroidery, carpet, and tapestry designer, is born on May 15, 1855, in Knutsford, Cheshire, England. Along with Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, she establishes the Dun Emer Press.

Gleeson is the daughter of Irish-born Edward Moloney Gleeson, a medical doctor, and Harriet (née Simpson), from Bolton, Lancashire. Her father has a practice in Knutsford but on a trip to Ireland he is struck by the poverty and unemployment and, with the advice of his brother-in-law, a textile manufacturer in Lancashire, he founds the Athlone Woollen Mills in 1859, investing all his money in the project. The family moves to Athlone in 1863 but Gleeson is educated in England, where she trains as a teacher. She later studies portraiture in London at the Atelier Ludovici from 1890–92. She goes on to study design with Alexander Millar, a follower of William Morris, who believes she has an exceptional aptitude for colour-blending. Many of her designs are bought by the exclusive Templeton Carpets of Glasgow.

Gleeson takes a keen interest in Irish affairs and, as a member of the Gaelic League and the Irish Literary Society, mixes with the Yeats family and the Irish artistic circle in London, and is inspired by the Gaelic revival in art and literature. She is also involved in the suffrage movement and is chairwoman of the Pioneer Club, a women’s club in London. In 1900, an opportunity arises to make a practical contribution to the Irish renaissance and the emancipation of Irish women. She is suffering from ill-health but her friend Augustine Henry, botanist and linguist, suggests she move away from the London smog to Ireland and open a craft centre with his financial assistance. She seizes the opportunity and discusses her plans with her friends the Yeats sisters, Elizabeth and Lily, who are talented craftswomen and have direct contact with William Morris and his followers. They have no money to contribute to the venture but are enthusiastic and can offer their skills and provide contacts. She seeks advice from W. B. and Jack Yeats, from Henry, who loans her £500, and from her cousin, T. P. Gill, secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.

During the summer of 1902 Gleeson finds a suitable house in Dundrum, County Dublin, ten minutes from the railway station. The house, originally called Runnymede, is renamed Dun Emer, after the wife of Cú-Chulainn, renowned for her craft skills. The printing press arrives in November 1902, and soon three craft industries are in operation. Lily Yeats runs the embroidery section, since she had trained with Morris’s daughter May. Elizabeth Yeats operates the press, having learned printing at the Women’s Printing Society in London. Gleeson manages the weaving and tapestry, and looks after the financial affairs of the industries. W. B. Yeats acts as literary adviser, an arrangement that often causes friction, and Gleeson’s sister, Constance McCormack, is also involved.

Local girls are employed and trained, and the industries seek to use the best of Irish materials to make beautiful, high-quality, lasting products of original design. Church patronage accounts for most of their orders and, in 1902–03, Loughrea cathedral commissions twenty-four embroidered banners portraying Irish saints. They also make vestments, traditional dresses, drapes, cushions and other items, all beautifully crafted and mostly employing Celtic design. The first book published is In the Seven Woods (1903), by W. B. Yeats, cased in full Irish linen.

Gleeson is in demand as an adjudicator in craft competitions around the country and at Feis na nGleann in 1904 she praises the workmanship of the entries but is critical of the lack of teaching in design. She gives lectures and tries to raise the status of craftwork from household occupation to competitive industry. There are tensions with the Yeats sisters, who complain that she is bad-tempered and arrogant. In truth she had taken on too much of a financial burden, even with the support of grants, and she is anxious to repay her debt to Augustine Henry, which he is prepared to forego. The sisters snub her, and omit her name in an interview about Dun Emer in the magazine House Beautiful. Millar, her design teacher in London, likens the omission to Hamlet without the prince. In 1904, it is decided to split the industries on a cooperative basis: Dun Emer Guild Ltd. under Gleeson and Dun Emer Industries Ltd. under the Yeats sisters.

Work continues, and the guild and industries exhibit separately at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and other craft competitions. In 1907, the National Museum of Ireland commissions a copy of a Flemish tapestry. It takes far longer than anticipated to complete, but the result is beautiful and is exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland in 1910. The guild wins a silver medal at the Milan International exhibition in 1906. The guild and industries both show work at the New York exhibition of 1908. The guild alone shows work in Boston. By now cooperation has turned to rivalry, and there is a final split as the Yeats sisters leave, taking the printing press with them to their house in Churchtown, Dublin. Gleeson writes off a debt of £185 owed to her, on condition that they do not use the name Dun Emer.

The business thrives at Dundrum, with her niece Katherine (Kitty) MacCormack and Augustine Henry’s niece, May Kerley, assisting with design. Later they move the workshops to Hardwicke Street, Dublin. In 1909, Gleeson becomes one of the first members of the Guild of Irish Art Workers and is made master in 1917. The Irish Women Workers’ Union commissions a banner from her about 1919, and, among numerous other notable successes, a Dun Emer carpet is presented to Pope Pius XI in 1932, the year of the Eucharistic Congress of Dublin.

Gleeson dies at the age of 89 at Dun Emer on February 20, 1944, with Kitty carrying on the Guild after her death. The final home of Dun Emer is a shop on Harcourt Street, Dublin, which finally closes in 1964.

(From: “Gleeson, Evelyn” by Ruth Devine, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)


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Birth of F. E. McWilliam, Surrealist Sculptor

Frederick Edward McWilliam CBE RA, Northern Irish surrealist sculptor, is born in Banbridge, County Down, on April 30, 1909. He works chiefly in stone, wood and bronze. His style of work consists of sculptures of the human form contorted into strange positions, often described as modern and surreal.

McWilliam is the son of Dr. William McWilliam, a local general practitioner. Growing up in Banbridge has a great influence on his work. He makes references to furniture makers such as Carson the Cooper and Proctors in his letters to his friend, Marjorie Burnett.

McWilliam attends Campbell College in Belfast and later attends Belfast College of Art from 1926. After 1928, he continues to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He originally intends to become a painter, but influenced by Alfred Horace Gerrard, head of the sculpture department at the Slade, and by Henry Moore whom he meets there, he turns to sculpture. He receives the Robert Ross Leaving Scholarship which enables him and his wife, Beth (née Crowther), to travel to Paris where he visits the studio of Constantin Brâncuși.

During the first year of World War II, he joins the Royal Air Force and is stationed in England for four years where he is engaged in interpreting aerial reconnaissance photographs. He is then posted to India. While there he teaches art in the Hindu Art School in New Delhi.

After his return from India, McWilliam teaches for a year at the Chelsea School of Art. He is then invited by A. H. Gerrard to teach sculpture at the Slade. He continues in this post until 1968.

The 1950s see McWilliam receive many commissions including the Four Seasons Group for the Festival of Britain exhibition in 1951. A major commission in 1957 is Princess Macha for Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Waterside, Derry.

During the Northern Ireland Troubles McWilliam produces a series of bronzes in 1972 and 1973 known as Women of Belfast in response to the bombing at the Abercorn Tea-Rooms.

In 1964 McWilliam is awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Queen’s University Belfast. In 1966 he is appointed CBE and in 1971 he wins the Oireachtas Gold Medal. He is represented in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and Tate Britain in London. In 1984 the National Self-Portrait Gallery purchases a McWilliam self-portrait amongst acquisitions from fellow Northerners Brian Ballard, Brian Ferran and T. P. Flanagan.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland organises a retrospective of his work in 1981 and a second retrospective is shown at the Tate Gallery in 1989 for his 80th birthday.

McWilliam continues carving up to his death. He dies of cancer in London on May 13, 1992.

In September 2009 Banbridge District Council opens a gallery and studio dedicated to the work of and named after McWilliam.


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Birth of J. P. Donleavy, American Irish Novelist & Playwright

James Patrick Donleavy, American Irish novelist, short story writer and playwright, is born to Irish immigrants Margaret and Patrick Donleavy in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on April 23, 1926. His best-known work is the novel The Ginger Man, which is initially banned for obscenity.

Donleavy grows up in the Bronx. His father is a firefighter, and his mother comes from a wealthy background. He has a sister, Mary Rita, and a younger brother. He declares himself to be an atheist at the age of fourteen. He receives his education at various schools in the United States, then serves in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war ends, he moves to Ireland and becomes an Irish citizen. In 1946 he begins studying bacteriology at Trinity College Dublin, but leaves in 1949 before taking a degree.

Donleavy’s first published work is a short story entitled A Party on Saturday Afternoon, which appears in the Dublin literary periodical Envoy, A Review of Literature and Art in 1950. He gains critical acclaim with his first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), which is one of the Modern Library 100 best novels. The novel, of which his friend and fellow writer Brendan Behan is the first person to read the completed manuscript, is banned in Ireland and the United States by reason of obscenity. The lead character, Sebastian Dangerfield, is in part based on Trinity College companion Gainor Crist, an American Navy veteran also studying at Trinity College on the G.I. Bill, whom Donleavy once describes in an interview as a “saint,” though of a Rabelaisian kind.

Correctly or incorrectly, Donleavy’s initial works are sometimes grouped with the kitchen sink artists as well as the “angry young men.” Another novel, A Fairy Tale of New York, provides the title of the song “Fairytale of New York.”

In March 2007, Donleavy is the castaway on BBC Radio 4‘s Desert Island Discs.

In 2015, Donleavy is the recipient of the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. In 2016, Trinity College Dublin awards him with an honorary doctorate.

In 1946, Donleavy marries Valerie Heron. The couple has two children: Philip (born in 1951) and Karen (born in 1955). They divorce in 1969 and he remarries in 1970 to Mary Wilson Price. That union ends in divorce in 1989. In 2011, it is reported that he had not fathered his two children with Price. A DNA test in the early 1990s confirms that Rebecca is the daughter of brewing scion Kieran Guinness, and Rory is the son of Kieran’s older brother Finn, whom Price marries after her divorce from Donleavy. “My interest is only to look after the welfare of the child,” Donleavy tells The Times, “and after a certain stage, you can’t worry about their parentage.”

Donleavy lives at Levington Park, a country house on 200 acres directly on Lough Owel, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, from 1972. Throughout much of his life, he is known as Mike by close friends, though the origins of this nickname are unclear.

Donleavy dies in Mullingar at the age of 91 on September 11, 2017.


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Death of William Wilde, Surgeon, Author & Father of Oscar Wilde

Sir William Robert Wills Wilde, Irish otoophthalmologic surgeon and the author of significant works on medicine, archaeology and folklore, particularly concerning his native Ireland dies on April 19, 1876. He is the father of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.

Wilde is born in March 1815 at Kilkeevin, near Castlerea, County Roscommon, the youngest of the three sons and two daughters of a prominent local medical practitioner, Thomas Wills Wilde, and his wife, Amelia Flynne. His family are members of the Church of Ireland, and he is descended from a Dutchman, Colonel de Wilde, who came to Ireland with King William of Orange‘s invading army in 1690, and numerous Anglo-Irish ancestors. He receives his initial education at the Elphin Diocesan School in Elphin, County Roscommon. In 1832, he is bound as an apprentice to Abraham Colles, the pre-eminent Irish surgeon of the day, at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin. He is also taught by the surgeons James Cusack and Sir Philip Crampton and the physician Sir Henry Marsh. He also studies at the private and highly respected school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Park Street (later Lincoln Place), Dublin. In 1837, he earns his medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. In the same year, he embarks on an eight-month-cruise to the Holy Land with a recovering patient, visiting various cities and islands throughout the Mediterranean. Porpoises are flung on board the ship, Crusader, and Wilde dissects them. Taking notes, he eventually composes a two-volume book on the nursing habits of the creatures. Among the places he visits on this tour is Egypt. In a tomb he finds the mummified remains of a dwarf and salvages the torso to bring back to Ireland. He also collects embalmed ibises.

Once back in Ireland, Wilde publishes an article in the Dublin University Magazine suggesting that one of the “Cleopatra’s Needles” be transported to England. In 1878, one of the Needles is transported to London, and in 1880 the other one is brought to New York City‘s Central Park. In 1873 he is awarded the Cunningham Gold Medal by the Royal Irish Academy.

Wilde runs his own hospital, St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital for Diseases of the Eye and Ear, in Dublin and is appointed to serve as Oculist-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. At one point, he performs surgery on the father of another famous Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw.

Wilde had a very successful medical practice and is assisted in it by his natural son, Henry Wilson, who had been trained in Dublin, Vienna, Heidelberg, Berlin, and Paris. Wilson’s presence enables him to travel, and he visits Scandinavia, where he receives an honorary degree from Uppsala University, and is welcomed in Stockholm by Anders Retzius, among others. King Charles XV of Sweden confers on him the Nordstjärneorden (Order of the Polar Star). In 1853, he is appointed Surgeon Occulist in Ordinary to the Queen in Ireland, the first position of its kind, probably created for him.

Wilde is awarded a knighthood in a ceremony at Dublin Castle on January 28, 1864, more for his involvement with the Irish census than for his medical contributions, although he had been appointed medical commissioner to the Irish census in 1841. In 1845, he becomes editor of the Dublin Journal of Medical & Chemical Science, to which he contributes many articles.

Wilde marries the poet Jane Francesca Agnes Elgee on November 12, 1851, who writes and publishes under the pen name of Speranza. The couple has two sons, William (Willie) and Oscar, and a daughter, Isola Francesca, who dies in childhood.

In addition to his children with his wife, Wilde is the father of three children born out of wedlock before his marriage: Henry Wilson, born in 1838, and Emily and Mary Wilde, born in 1847 and 1849, respectively, of different parentage to Henry. He acknowledges paternity of his illegitimate children and provides for their education, but they are reared by his relatives rather than with his wife and legitimate children. Emily and Mary both die in 1871 following a Halloween party at which their dresses accidentally catch fire.

From 1855 until his death in 1876, Wilde lives at 1 Merrion Square, now the headquarters of American College Dublin. The building is named Oscar Wilde House after William Wilde’s son, who also lives at the address from 1855 until 1878. There is a plaque at 1 Merrion Square dedicated to him.

Wilde’s reputation suffers when Mary Travers, a long-term patient of his and the daughter of a colleague, claims that he had seduced her two years earlier. She writes a pamphlet crudely parodying Wilde and Lady Wilde as Dr. and Mrs. Quilp, and portraying Dr. Quilp as the rapist of a female patient anaesthetised under chloroform. She distributes the pamphlets outside the building where Wilde is about to give a public lecture. Lady Wilde complains to Mary’s father, Robert Travers, which results in Mary bringing a libel case against her. Mary Travers wins her case but is awarded a mere farthing in damages by the jury. Legal costs of £2,000 are awarded against Lady Wilde. The case is the talk of all Dublin, and Wilde’s refusal to enter the witness box during the trial is widely held against him as ungentlemanly behaviour.

From this time onwards, Wilde begins to withdraw from Dublin to the west of Ireland, where he had started in 1864 to build what becomes Moytura, his house overlooking Lough Corrib in Connemara, County Galway. His health deteriorates in 1875. He dies, likely of cancer, at the age of 61 on April 19, 1876. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

(Pictured: Sketch of William Wilde by J.H. Maguire, 1847)


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RMS Carpathia Arrives in New York City with RMS Titanic Survivors

The RMS Carpathia, a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship, arrives in New York City on April 18, 1912, with 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic three days earlier.

As she is making her way from New York to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia), RMS Carpathia receives a distress call from the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic. RMS Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron, later testifies that the distance to RMS Titanic was 58 nautical miles (67 miles) and was expected to take three and a half hours to reach the doomed liner as its top speed, which was about 14.5 knots.

However, braving dangerous ice fields of its own, Rostron orders extra stokers to feed coal and cut off heating and hot water elsewhere in order to supply the ship’s engines with as much steam as possible. These decisions help accelerate the ship to more than 17 knots and the RMS Carpathia arrives on the scene approximately one hour and 40 minutes after RMS Titanic went down. For the next four and a half hours, the ship rescues 705 survivors from RMS Titanic‘s lifeboats.

Slowed by storms and fog since early Tuesday, April 16, RMS Carpathia arrives in New York City on the cold and rainy evening of Thursday, April 18, escorted by the scout cruiser USS Chester. RMS Carpathia first bypasses Pier 54, its Cunard Line pier, and sails up the Hudson River to Pier 59, the berth for White Star Line and where RMS Titanic was supposed to have arrived. Having dropped off the empty lifeboats, RMS Carpathia then sails back toward Pier 54.

A tugboat filled with photographers follows the ship to the pier, and the flashlight of cameras lights up the ship in the night sky to reveal that the decks are crammed with passengers.

Tens of thousands of people gather around Pier 54 to meet them and receive the first physical confirmation of the maritime disaster. On the orders of Rostron, RMS Carpathia‘s passengers disembark first, believing the scene will become tumultuous as soon as RMS Titanic survivors first appear. That moment comes when a teary-eyed woman with makeshift clothes descends a gangway and stumbles away from the boat into the arms of an officer.

The RMS Carpathia is initially a transatlantic passenger ship that makes its maiden voyage in 1903. During World War I, she is used to transfer Canadian and American Expeditionary Forces to Europe.

On July 15, 1918, under the command of Captain William Prothero, RMS Carpathia is a part of a large convoy that is making its way from Liverpool to Boston. Two days later, carrying 57 passengers and 166 crew, she is torpedoed on the port side by a German U-boat off the southwest coast of Ireland.

A second strike follows, which penetrates the engine room, killing three firemen and two trimmers. Prothero gives the order to abandon ship and all passengers and the surviving crew members board the lifeboats.

A third torpedo strike hits the gunner’s rooms, resulting in a large explosion that dooms the ship. The U-boat starts approaching the lifeboats when the HMS Snowdrop arrives on the scene and drives away the submarine with gunfire before picking up survivors.

The wreck of the RMS Carpathia is only discovered in 2000 after an 80 year-long search for the missing ship.

(From: “On This Day: Carpathia arrives in New York with Titanic survivors” by Michael Dorgan, IrishCentral, http://www.irishcentral.com, April 15, 2022)


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Birth of Patrick Ford, Irish American Journalist & Land Reformer

Patrick Ford, Irish American journalist, Georgist land reformer and fund-raiser for Irish causes, is born in Galway, County Galway, on April 12, 1837.

Ford is the son of Edward Ford (1805-1880) and Anne Ford (1815-1893). He emigrates with his parents to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1845, never returning to Ireland. Although he devotes his life to Irish causes, he writes in The Irish World in 1886 that “I might as well have been born in Boston. I know nothing of England. I brought nothing with me from Ireland—nothing tangible to make me what I am. I had consciously at least, only what I found and grew up with in here.”

Ford is educated in Boston’s public schools and the Latin school of the parish of St. Mary in the North End. He leaves school at the age of thirteen and two years later is working as a printer’s devil for William Lloyd Garrison‘s abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. He begins writing for Boston newspapers in 1855 and by 1861 is editor and publisher of the Boston Tribune, also known as the Boston Sunday Tribune or Boston Sunday Times. He is an abolitionist and pro-union.

During the American Civil War, Ford serves in the Union Army with his father and brother. He serves in the 9th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and sees action in the Northern Virginia campaign, including the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.

After the Civil War, Ford spends four years in Charleston, South Carolina, editing the South Carolina Leader which promotes the welfare of newly freed slaves. He later edits the Irish American Charleston Gazette. He settles in New York City in 1870 and founds the populist The Irish World, which promotes Irish and Catholic interests and becomes the principal newspaper of Irish America. It promises “more reading material than any other paper in America” and outsells John Boyle O’Reilly‘s Boston Pilot. In 1878, he re-titles his newspaper The Irish World and American Industrial Liberator. During the early 1880s, he promotes the writings of land reformer Henry George in his paper.

The American economic depression of 1873 convinces Ford that the Irish rural poor and the American urban poor share the same plight. He believes that the Homestead Act of 1862 is exploited by big business, especially the railroads, and by speculators who leave the poor without access to the western land meant for settlement. He calls for land reform with the belief that land monopoly is the cause of poverty and that a single tax based on land valuation is the solution. In the mid–1870s he leaves the Democratic Party. Critical of Tammany corruption and attracted to the fiscal policies of the Greenback Party, he is a member of the party’s New York State central committee as early as 1876, and backs the Greenback presidential candidates Peter Cooper and James B. Weaver in 1876 and 1880. Even the Greenbacks fail to offer the land reforms envisaged by Ford, so he forms the short-lived National Cooperative Democracy Party in 1879.

In 1880, Ford begins to solicit donations through The Irish World to support Land League activities in Ireland. Funds received are tabulated weekly under the heading “Land League Fund.” Between January and September 1881 alone, more than $100,000 is collected in donations. British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone later states that without the funds from The Irish World, “there would have been no agitation in Ireland.”

In the 1884 and 1888 elections, Ford turns to the Republican Party, encouraging Irish American voters to abandon their traditional loyalty to the Democrats for the Republican candidate James G. Blaine, whom he promotes in The Irish World as supportive of labour and of Ireland. The Republican patronage of the financially troubled The Irish World is a factor in the endorsement, but he believes Blaine’s promise to introduce high trade tariffs will protect American labour interests.

After the Irish Parliamentary Party split in 1891, Ford supports the Parnellite faction of John Redmond and endorses the terms of the Third Home Rule Bill of 1912.

Ford dies on September 23, 1913, at his home at 350 Clermont Street, Brooklyn. After an impressive funeral, he is buried in Brooklyn’s Holy Cross Cemetery.

In 1863, Ford marries Odele McDonald, who predeceases him. They have eleven children, three daughters and eight sons. At the time of his death, his son Patrick is managing editor of The Irish World and his brother Augustine is business manager and publisher. He appears to have destroyed his personal papers. The files of The Irish World are the best record of his life and work.


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Birth of Joe Burke, Button Accordion Player

Joseph Burke, Irish musician noted for being a pre-eminent button accordion player, is born in Kilnadeema, south of Loughrea, County Galway, on April 11, 1939. He records and performs traditional Irish music for over half a century.

Burke starts playing traditional at age four and purchases his first accordion in the 1950s. He wins the All-Ireland Senior Accordion Championship in Thurles in 1959 and again in Boyle the following year. Together with fiddler Aggie Whyte, he wins the All-Ireland duet championship in 1962 in Gorey, County Wexford.

Burke co-founds the Leitrim Ceili Band with Padden Downey in 1956. Other members of the east Galway-based band, which wins All-Ireland Championships in 1959 and 1962, includes Irish flute players Paddy Carty, Ambrose Moloney and Tony Molloy, button accordionists Mick Darcy and Sean McGlynn, fiddlers Michael Joe Dooley, Paddy Doorhy, Aggie Whyte and Séamus Connolly, drummer Sean Curley and pianist Anne-Marie Courtney. The band tours in England and releases an LP on the New York-based Dublin label.

Burke first tours in the United States in 1961, and lives mainly in New York from 1962 to 1965, during which period he forms a musical partnership with fiddler Andy McGann. With McGann and pianist Felix Dolan, he records an LP, A Tribute to Michael Coleman, first released in 1966 on his own Shaskeen label. He records again with this trio, issuing The Funny Reel LP on the Shanachie Records label in 1979. Other musical collaborators over the years include Belfast fiddle great Sean McGuire, piper Michael Cooney, harpist Máire Ní Chathasaigh, fiddler Kevin Burke, pianist Charlie Lennon and his wife Anne Conroy Burke, whom he marries in 1990, on guitar and button accordion.

Burke’s first solo LP, Galway’s Own, is released in 1971. He also tours extensively for the next two decades, including with groups sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. From 1988 to 1991, he lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he has a musical residency at John D. McGurk’s Pub and hosts radio programmes at two stations, one of them the “Ireland in America” programme on KDHX. He represents Ireland in 1989 and 1992 at the International Accordion Festivals, in Montmagny, Quebec, along with accordion greats who include Cajun accordion player Marc Savoy and jazz accordionist Art Van Damme.

After residing in the United States from 1988 until 1991, Burke returns to Kilnadeema in 1992. There, he carries on teaching and performing music. He dies at the age of 81 on February 20, 2021, at Galway Hospice.

Burke is named RTÉ‘s Traditional Musician of the Year in 1970. He goes on to win both the AIB Traditional Musician of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Irish World in 1997. A Joe Burke Tribute Concert is held in April 1997 at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway, on his reception of the AIB award. Three years later, he receives an award in Musical Mastery from Boston College. He is later conferred Gradam an Chomhaltais in 2003.


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Birth of Gordon Lambert, Businessman, Senator & Art Collector

Charles Gordon Lambert, Irish businessman, senator and art collector, is born on April 9, 1919, in the family home at Highfield Road, Rathmines, Dublin, the youngest of four sons of Robert James Hamilton Lambert, a veterinarian and renowned cricketer, and his wife Nora (née Mitchell). His eldest brother, Noel Hamilton “Ham” Lambert, is a versatile sportsman and noted veterinary practitioner.

Lambert is educated at Sandford Park School, Dublin, and at Rossall School, Lancashire. He is steered by his mother toward a career in accountancy for which he prepares by studying commerce at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Graduating in 1940, he joins the accounting firm Stokes Brothers and Pim, qualifying Associate Chartered Accountant in 1943. In 1944, after auditing biscuit manufacturers W. & R. Jacob and Co. Ltd, one of Ireland’s largest and most prestigious industrial companies, he is offered and accepts a £300 a year job at Jacob’s as assistant accountant.

In 1953, Lambert becomes Jacob’s chief accountant as the management grooms him for an executive career. During 1948–56, Jacob’s suffers from profit and price controls, lack of capital investment and complacency brought about by the absence of competition. The entry of Boland’s Bakery into the Irish biscuit market in 1957 is exploited by Lambert who urges the alarmed board, which has long regarded advertising as vulgar, to market its products more vigorously. This assertiveness yields his advancement to the position of commercial manager in 1958. A year later he becomes the first non-member of the Bewley and Jacob families to be appointed to the board.

Between 1959 and 1970, biscuit consumption in Ireland doubles for which Lambert can claim much credit. Recognising that the advent of self-service stores means that manufacturers can no longer rely on retailers to sell their products, he pioneers advanced promotional techniques in Ireland, particularly the use of marketing surveys and of mass advertising in newspapers, on radio and on the emerging medium of television. To further accord with retailers’ preferences, Jacob’s drives the widespread packaging of biscuits in airtight packets rather than tins, and also introduces a striking red flash logo for its packets. His interest in contemporary art enables him to contribute directly to Jacob’s packaging designs.

Lambert is appointed to the board of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in 1964, a position he holds until 1977, and serves as president of the National Agricultural and Industrial Development Association (NAIDA) in 1964–65, spearheading a “Buy Irish” campaign. His involvement with NAIDA dates to the mid-1950s and leads to his friendship with Jack Lynch, Minister for Industry and Commerce. This relationship and his admiration for Seán Lemass incline him toward Fianna Fáil. He also believes the party is the one most likely to deliver economic growth.

In 1977, Lambert is appointed to Seanad Éireann by Taoiseach Jack Lynch. He sits as an independent but assures Lynch he will broadly support the government. Dismayed by Ireland’s economic uncompetitiveness, he uses this platform to bemoan the state’s financial profligacy and failure to control inflation, and the indifference of Irish politicians towards the business community, contending that Irish industrialists suffer and need to learn from the expert lobbying of the indigenous agricultural sector and of large multi-national companies based in Ireland. He also articulates his social liberalism, desire for peaceful reconciliation in Northern Ireland and support for cultural and environmental causes. But his commitment to the Seanad wanes as he grasps its irrelevance. When Lynch resigns in December 1979, Lambert joins the Fianna Fáil party in a futile bid to preserve his political influence.

Following Jacob’s takeover of Boland’s Bakery in 1966, Lambert becomes joint managing director of a new entity, Irish Biscuits Ltd, the manufacturing and trading company for the Boland’s and Jacob’s biscuits operations. W. & R. Jacob and Co. Ltd becomes a holding company. In 1968, he becomes the sole managing director. From 1977 he begins withdrawing from the active administration of the company, relinquishing his managing directorship in 1979 to become chairman.

Initially, Lambert views art as a hobby but he comes to see it as a calling, drawing inspiration from Sir William Basil Goulding, his predecessor as Ireland’s leading collector and advocate of modern art. From the late 1970s he serves as head of the Contemporary Irish Art Society (CIAS) and on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the advisory committee of the Dublin Municipal Gallery, the board of the National Gallery of Ireland, the editorial board of the Irish Arts Review and the international council of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) opens in 1991 and receives through the medium of the Gordon Lambert Trust some 212 works, which form the centerpiece of its collection. Thereafter Lambert gifts another 100 works to IMMA. He sits on IMMA’s board from 1991, and the west wing of the museum is named after him in 1999.

Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1988, Lambert remains relatively active and plays golf into his 80s. In 1999 he receives an honorary LLD from TCD. From 1997, he relies increasingly on Anthony Lyons, an acquaintance of longstanding, to care for him. His last years are overshadowed by the collapse in autumn 2002 of his close but complex relationship with his family. Thereafter he shuns his relations and changes his will, granting Lyons a substantial portion of his estate while curtailing the amount to be received by his family. He dies in a Dublin hospital on January 27, 2005. Relatives challenge his final will in the High Court in 2009 but it is upheld.

(Pictured: Photograph of director of Jacob’s Biscuits, Gordon Lambert, speaking from a podium at the first Jacob’s Television Awards. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, James O’Keefe, is sitting behind Lambert. The awards ceremony takes place at the Bishop Street factory, Dublin.)


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Death of William Francis Deegan, Architect & American Legion Organizer

William Francis Deegan, architect, organizer of the American Legion, major in the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Democratic political leader in New York City, dies in Manhattan, New York County, New York, on April 3, 1932.

Deegan is born in the Bronx, Bronx County, New York, on December 28, 1882, to Irish immigrants. He studies architecture at Cooper Union. He marries Violet Secor (1889-1969) and has one son, William Secor Deegan (1909-85). At the age of 35 he serves in World War I as a staff officer in the 105th Field Artillery, rising to the rank of major.

Deegan later joins the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a major, where he supervises the construction of military bases in the New York area under the command of General George Washington Goethals. After the war he helps organize the American Legion in 1919, advancing to State Commander in 1921. In 1922 he is considered a strong candidate to become national commander of the Legion at their convention in New Orleans, but is defeated due to his strong advocacy for admitting Black veterans into the organization. Advocacy for the rights of Black people is a strong theme throughout Deegan’s career, including during his position as Tenement House Commissioner.

Deegan works as an architect at a number of distinguished firms, including McKim, Mead & White, Post, Magnicke and Franke, and Starrett and van Vleck. Later in life he holds a number of political positions, most of them in the Bronx. He is President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce until the chamber grows critical of Mayor Jimmy Walker, at which point he resigns. In 1928, Mayor Walker appoints him Tenement House Commissioner of New York City, a post he holds for the rest of his life, and in 1930, chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Receptions to Distinguished Guests, or “official greeter,” a job in which he is preceded by his friend Rodman Wanamaker and eventually succeeded by Grover Whalen.

Deegan dies of complications following an appendectomy on April 3, 1932. He is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York. After his death, his widow, Violet, marries Albert W. Crouch (1882-1954).

At the time of his death, a new road is being built from the Triborough Bridge (now the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) to the Grand Concourse. This is renamed and expanded in 1956 into the Major Deegan Expressway section of Interstate 87 in the Bronx, which retains his name.