seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Irish Sports Broadcaster Jimmy Magee

Jimmy Magee, Irish sports broadcaster known as The Memory Man, is born on January 31, 1935, in New York City. He spends over half a century in sports broadcasting, and presents radio and television coverage of the Olympic Games since 1968 and the FIFA World Cup since 1966. By the time of his retirement he is the longest-serving sports commentator in the English-speaking world.

Magee is born to Patrick (Paddy) Magee and his wife Rose (née Mackin). The family returns to Ireland shortly after his birth. He and his three siblings are subsequently raised in Cooley, County Louth. As a child he is influenced by the sports commentary of the legendary Gaelic games broadcaster Michael O’Hehir. He recalls commentating as a seven-year-old for his next-door neighbour on a variety of imaginary games that the young Magee is also playing in. He also speaks of making up his own radio commentary in a field at a young age.

After being educated locally, Magee secures a full-time clerical post with Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway. While still working at the Railway he begins his broadcasting career. He starts out as a reporter for the Radio Éireann programme Junior Sports Magazine. Other contributors on the programme are Jim Tunney and Peter Byrne, former football correspondent with The Irish Times. On leaving his Railway job, he presents a number of sponsored radio programmes before concentrating on sport. He is a producer, presenter and script writer for Radio Éireann’s sponsored programmes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Magee and his wife Marie are married on October 11, 1955, and have five children: Paul, a soccer player with Shamrock Rovers F.C. (winning the League of Ireland Cup in 1977), who died of motor neuron disease, in May 2008, Linda (b. 1959), June (b. 1961), Patricia (b. 1962), and Mark (b. 1970).

Magee joins Raidió Teilifís Éireann in 1956. In 1966 he covers his first World Cup for RTÉ Radio. He does likewise for the 1970 FIFA World Cup before transferring to television for the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals. In all he provides commentary at eleven World Cups – his latest commentary coming at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Magee’s column or quiz appears in every single publication of the Sunday World since the first edition in 1973.

Magee is also a staple of RTÉ’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Beginning at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he attends the eleven subsequent Olympic games as a commentator with RTÉ. In 2012, he commentates on the boxing for RTÉ at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including Katie Taylor‘s gold medal-winning fight. At the 2016 Summer Olympics, he provides commentary on the football.

From 1987 to 1998 Magee hosts Know Your Sport, a sports-themed quiz show, along with George Hamilton. His broadcasting career also sees him provide commentary for over 200 international football games, 30 European Cup finals, multiple Tour de France cycle races, World Athletic Championships and boxing. He also narrates numerous videos on sport in general such as The Purple and Gold, Meath Return to Glory, etc.

A freelancer, Magee works for Channel 4 in 1994 and signs for UTV in 1995 on a three-year contract where a lifetime ambition of commentating on All-Ireland Finals is achieved. He commentates on three finals in both hurling and football.

Magee launches his memoir, Memory Man, in 2012. Some of his one-liners in commentaries have become famous or infamous, what are affectionately known in the broadcasting industry as Colemanballs after the famed commentating clangers of BBC broadcaster David Coleman.

In the emotionally trying year of 1989, Magee’s mother and wife die within months of each other, Marie dying at the young age of 54.

Magee dies on September 20, 2017, after a short illness. Many tributes are made to him including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who says, “His commentaries were legendary and based on a breadth of sporting knowledge that was peerless.” RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent says, “It’s hard to put it into words, the man meant an inordinate amount to so many people, I think he was the soundtrack to many generations.”

In 1972 Magee wins a Jacob’s Award for his radio sports commentaries. In 1989, he is the subject of a special tribute show on The Late Late Show. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Olympic Committee presents him with a replica of its torch.


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Birth of Kitty Kiernan, Fiancée of Michael Collins

Catherine Brigid “Kitty” Kiernan, Irish woman widely known as the fiancée of Irish revolutionary leader and Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, Michael Collins, is born on January 26, 1892, in Granard, County Longford.

Kiernan is born to Peter Kiernan and Bridget (née Dawson). She is educated at Loreto Convent, County Wicklow. Hers is a very comfortably-off merchant family with five sisters and one brother. Her parents enjoy a happy marriage, and life in the Kiernan home is joyous until Kitty reaches her teens. On November 27, 1907, her sister, Elizabeth Mary (a twin), dies at the age of eighteen of pulmonary tuberculosis, while Elizabeth’s twin sister, Rose, apparently dies the same year in Davos, Switzerland, which would also indicate tuberculosis as a cause of death. Her mother dies on November 29, 1908 of apoplexy, while her father dies almost exactly a year later, on November 9, 1909, of pneumonia. The Kiernan family owns the Greville Arms Hotel in the town, as well as a grocery shop, a hardware store, a timber and undertaking business and also a bar. Around the corner from the hotel they operate a bakery which supplies the town and most of the surrounding countryside. All the family works in one capacity or another.

Michael Collins, one of the principal founders of the independent Irish state, is introduced to the vivacious Kiernan sisters by his cousin Gearóid O’Sullivan, who is already dating Maud Kiernan. Collins initially falls for the captivating Helen Kiernan, but she is already engaged to someone else. He then turns his interests to Kitty, who has already captured the interest of Collins’ friend Harry Boland. However, it is Collins to whom Kitty becomes engaged, with plans to marry Collins in a November 1922 double ceremony to include the nuptials of Maud and Gearóid. Collins’ assassination four months earlier, on August 22, 1922, near Béal na Bláth, County Cork, results in a single wedding taking place.

On June 10, 1925, Kiernan marries Felix Cronin, who is Quartermaster General in the Irish Army. They have two sons, Felix Jnr. and Michael Collins Cronin. Felix Jnr. and his son Rex are interred with his parents in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Kiernan dies, aged 52, of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 24, 1945, and her grave is close to that of Collins. Felix Cronin dies suddenly on October 22, 1961, while playing golf at Woodbrook Golf Club and is also buried in Glasnevin.

Kiernan and Michael Collins keep up a lengthy correspondence and while Collins is in London during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, he writes to her every day. The bulk of these letters are written between 1919 and 1922, and through their almost daily contact emerges a picture of the dreams and aspirations of the man often called Ireland’s “lost leader” and the woman with whom he wanted to share a “normal” life. These letters are the subject of a book written by Leon Ó Broin entitled In Great Haste. In 2000, some of the 300 letters sent by Kiernan and Collins to each other go on permanent display at the Cork Public Museum. These letters give a great insight into her attitude to life and into the political events of this time.

Former Fine Gael minister Peter Barry donates his collection of historic letters to the Lord Mayor of Cork, on behalf of the municipal museum. The collection, purchased from the Cronin family in 1995, is conserved at the Delmas bindery at Marsh’s Library in Dublin. The letters are also catalogued and then returned to the Cork Public Museum. The Peter Barry collection also contains letters from Harry Boland, a friend of Collins and former suitor of Kiernan.

In the 1996 film Michael Collins, Kiernan is played by American actress Julia Roberts though some reviewers are critical of the character’s development.

A number of Irish pubs are named in memory of Kiernan, such as one in Donnycarney, Dublin, one in Waterford, and one in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn in New York. A similar pub in Linz, Austria is closed in 2009.


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Death of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, Educator & Publisher

Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, known as Lolly, Anglo-Irish educator and publisher, dies on January 16, 1940. She works as an art teacher and publishes several books on art and is a founder of Dun Emer Press which publishes several works by her brother, W. B. Yeats. She is the first commercial printer in Ireland to work exclusively with hand presses.

Yeats is born at 23 Fitzroy Road, London, on March 11, 1868. She is the daughter of the Irish artist John Butler Yeats and Susan Yeats (née Pollexfen). She is sister to W. B., Jack and Susan Mary “Lily” Yeats. From the age of four she lives in Merville, Sligo, at the home of her grandfather William Pollexfen. In November 1874 her family moves to 14 Edith Villas, West Kensington, London. Her governess is Martha Jowitt from 1876 until 1879 before the family moves to Bedford Park, Chiswick, in 1878.

Yeats returns to Howth, County Dublin, in 1881. She enrolls, with her sister Susan, in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in 1883 and takes classes at the Royal Dublin Society.

The family moves to Eardley Crescent, South Kensington, London, in 1886. While there Yeats starts to write fiction and publishes a homemade magazine, The Pleiades, with six friends, contributing “Story without a plot” to the Christmas 1888 issue. In addition, she publishes “Scamp and three friends” in The Vegetarian.

Yeats also attends the Chiswick School of Art with her sister Susan and brother Jack Butler Yeats, learning “Freehand drawing in all its branches, practical Geometry and perspective, pottery and tile painting, design for decorative purposes.”

In the 1890s Yeats lives at 3 Blenheim Road, Bedford Park, London, and trains as a kindergarten teacher at the Froebel College in Bedford, Bedfordshire. She undertakes her teaching practice at the Bedford Park High School. In 1892, when her training is completed, she teaches as a visiting art mistress at the Froebel Society, Chiswick High School and the Central Foundation School.

Yeats earns a good income from lecturing and publication of four popular painting manuals: Brushwork (1896), Brushwork Studies of Flowers, Fruits and Animals (1898), Brushwork Copy Book (1899), and Elementary Brushwork Studies (1900).

Yeats trains and works as an art teacher and is a member of William Morris‘s circle in London before her family returns to Dublin in 1900. She writes and creates the artwork for Elementary Brush-Work Studies (1900), an educational book that teaches young children the technique of painting flowers and plants using her simple method. At the suggestion of Emery Walker, who works with Morris on the Kelmscott Press, she studies printing with the Women’s Printing Society in London.

In Dublin, Yeats accepts the invitation to join Evelyn Gleeson to form the Dun Emer Guild along with Lily, who is an embroiderer. She manages the Dun Emer Press from 1902 with a printing press acquired from a provincial newspaper. The Press is located at Runnymede, the house of Evelyn Gleeson. This is set up with the intention of training young women in bookbinding and printing as well as embroidery and weaving. In 1903 she starts printing and Dun Emer’s first book is W. B. Yeats’s In the Seven Woods (1903).

Despite being a gifted printer, the costings exceed the quality of work that Yeats produces with the result that the press is often at risk financially. Eleven books, decorated with pastels by George William Russell, appear under the Dun Emer imprint produced from a first-floor room. She has several disagreements with her brother William over his directions as literary editor. She also dislikes Evelyn Gleeson. In October 1906 she travels to New York to advertise her products but publishes Dun Emer’s last book, William’s Discoveries (1907), in late November when she returns to Dublin.

After many years of strained relations between the Yeats sisters and Evelyn Gleeson, their business relationship is finally ended. Subsequently, in 1908, Lolly and her brother William start the Cuala Press, publishing over 70 books including 48 by the poet. Yeats manages the press while her sister Lily controls the embroidery section. Cuala continues to be a family strain. Their father, John Butler Yeats, has to castigate his son William for sending overtly critical letters to his sisters about the press. However, Cuala produces magnificent books: W. B. Yeats’ The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910) and a series of Broadsides (published 1908–15, with illustrations from Jack Yeats).

Yeats works with Cuala Press until just before her death in Dublin on January 16, 1940, after a diagnosis of high blood pressure and heart trouble.

(Pictured: “Elizabeth Corbet Yeats” by Jack Butler Yeats, oil on canvas, circa 1899, National Gallery of Ireland)


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Birth of Clare Marsh, Still Life & Portrait Artist

Clare Marsh, still life and portrait artist, is born Emily Cecil Clare Marsh on January 13, 1875, at New Court, Bray, County Wicklow, the house of her maternal grandfather, Andrew McCullagh, a wine merchant.

Marsh’s parents are Arthur and Rachel Marsh (née McCullagh). She has four siblings. Her family is descended from the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, specifically from Francis Marsh of Edgeworth, Gloucestershire, with his wife the great-aunt of James II‘s first wife. The family later moves to Raheen, Clondalkin, and later to Cappaghmore, Clondalkin. There is little information about her early life although she is involved in the suffrage movement.

Marsh meets Mary Swanzy at Mary Manning‘s art classes, with Swanzy remembering Marsh as being from “a background of impecuniosity, which did not apparently worry them in spite of a more affluent upbringing.” She is influenced artistically by her aunt and John Butler Yeats, with whom she becomes close friends. In the summer of 1898, Yeats paints Marsh’s portrait at Manning’s studio. She is more drawn to the work of Yeats than of his son, Jack, and models her portraits on that of the older Yeats. He mentors her, encouraging her to see other artists’ work as much as possible and saying “to produce a picture will force you to think.” He urges her to paint more industriously. She exhibits with the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) for the first time in 1900 with East wind effect and Roses. Yeats later claims that Marsh helped him with “line drawing or sketching, by putting him on the track of bulk drawing.”

Alongside Manning’s classes, Marsh takes night classes in sculpture with John Hughes and Oliver Sheppard at the Metropolitan School of Art. Aside from a trip to Paris in 1910 or 1911, she is taught exclusively in Dublin throughout her 20s. She takes a course at Norman Garstin‘s studio in Penzance, and stays in North Wales in 1914, painting two Trearddur Bay scenes. She paints still life and portraits, including one of Lily Yeats. It appears that her portraits of children and dogs are popular based on her submitted works to the RHA, exhibiting without a break from 1900 to 1921. The Hugh Lane Gallery holds her portrait of Lord Ashbourne, which demonstrates her painting style of loose brush strokes with an air of informality. Yeats suggests that she spend some time in the United States, where he is living at the time. She spends two months in New York City, staying with cousins at White Plains and then moves into a room neighbouring that of Yeats in Petitpas. Her uncle strongly disproves of this living arrangement, so she leaves and returns to Ireland in January 1912, which upsets Yeats greatly.

Upon her return from New York, Marsh starts holding classes at her studio at South Anne Street which Swanzy recalls are “well liked and always full,” with Susan Yeats becoming a pupil. She becomes the Professor of Fine Arts at Alexandra College in 1916. In the same year, she paints the fires and destruction of the 1916 Easter Rising. She paints a portrait of Jack Butler Yeats in 1918, which is now held by the Highlanes Gallery. John Butler Yeats later sympathises with her in a letter that she and other women are not elected members of the RHA. Knowing that Yeats is in financial difficulty, she sells some of his drawings and sends the money to him. It appears that over time, she works more with colour, as demonstrated in her portrait of Susan Yeats. Her final paintings are night studies, some of which show a possible influence from Swanzy with whom she shares a studio in the autumn of 1920. She is also believed to be one of the founding members of the Society of Dublin Painters.

Marsh dies on May 5, 1923. A posthumous exhibition of her work is held in October 1923. Due to her early death, she largely falls into obscurity until one of her works is included in the 1987 “Irish Women Artists from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day” exhibition and publication from the National Gallery of Ireland. The National Gallery of Ireland holds a selection of sketches and paintings by Marsh, and a sketch of her by Swanzy. She is included in an exhibition of art by women artists at the Highlanes Gallery in 2012.

(Pictured: “Self-Portrait” by Clare Marsh, oil on canvas, circa 1900, National Gallery of Ireland)


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Birth of Jim Norton, Film & Television Character Actor

Jim Norton, Irish stage, film and television character actor, is born in Dublin on January 4, 1938. He is known for his work in the theatre, most notably in Conor McPherson‘s The Seafarer, and on television as Bishop Brennan in the sitcom Father Ted.

Norton is educated at Synge Street CBS. From an early age he wants to be an actor, and regularly attends performances at the Abbey Theatre. His mother, Frances, plays the violin and his father, Eugene, is a baritone singer and works as a bakery manager. He has one sibling, the late acting teacher Betty Ann Norton.

Norton has been acting for over forty years in theatre, television, and film, and frequently plays clergymen, most notably Bishop Brennan in the sitcom Father Ted, as well as roles in The Sweeney (1975), Peak Practice (1993), Sunset Heights (1997), A Love Divided (1999), Rebus: Black and Blue (2000), Mad About Mambo (2000), Boxed (2003) and Jimmy’s Hall (2014). He stars as Finian McLonergan in the critically acclaimed New York City Center‘s 2009 production of Finian’s Rainbow, and in October 2009 reprises the role in the Broadway revival at the St. James Theatre. His co-stars are Cheyenne Jackson (Woody) and Kate Baldwin (Sharon).

As well as Bishop Brennan in Father Ted, Norton also plays Albert Einstein in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (namely “The Nth Degree” and “Descent“); the librarian Lieutenant James Porteous in the highly acclaimed 1970s British television drama series Colditz; Phil Harrister, a criminal involved in an intricate bank robbery, in The Sweeney episode “Contact Breaker”; O’Brady in the Minder episode “National Pelmet“; and Rory, a roguish but genteel Irishman who is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, in The Royal episode “Beggars and Choosers.”

Norton has appeared in two episodes of Van der Valk. On Babylon 5 he appears in a number of roles, including that of Ombuds Wellington in the 1994 episodes “Grail” and “The Quality of Mercy“; a Narn in “Dust to Dust” (1996); and Dr. Lazarenn, a Markab doctor, in “Confessions and Lamentations” (1995). In Fall of Eagles he plays Alexander Kerensky.

Other television work includes: 1990, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Waking the Dead, Cheers, Frasier, Midsomer Murders, Maigret and Rumpole of the Bailey as Fig Newton, Stan Laurel in the BBC drama Stan (2006), Larry Joyce in the 2013 television drama Deception, and as the timid Gardener in the first series of the long-running CITV children’s series T-Bag: “Wonders in Letterland” (1985).

Norton makee his film debut with a small role in the 1965 thriller The Face of Fu Manchu starring Christopher Lee, and later appears in the 1969 epic film Alfred the Great as Thanet. He plays the part of Pongo in the screen version of Spike Milligan‘s war-time memoir Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall. In 1971 he plays Chris Cawsey (aka “The Rat Man”), one of several villains in the controversial Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman. His character has a deviously infectious, deliberately irritating laugh that helps build tension throughout the film.

Norton appears in the movie Memoirs of an Invisible Man alongside Chevy Chase in 1992. In the same year he also appears in the Irish-made film Into the West. He appears in the comedy On the Nose as Patrick Cassidy, along with Dan Aykroyd and Robbie Coltrane, in 2001. He appears in a cameo in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002 as Mr. Mason. He plays an Irish immigrant in the 2005 Australian/UK co-production, The Oyster Farmer. He plays Herr Liszt in the 2008 holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

In 2011 Norton appears as the character Old Mr. Black in the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close directed by Stephen Daldry. He appears in the 2011 film Water for Elephants, in which he portrays a circus worker called “Camel” who befriends a character played by Robert Pattinson. In 2012 he appears as the character Tommy in the short film Homemade written by Matthew Roche and directed by Luke McManus. He is in the Ken Loach film Jimmy’s Hall which is released in 2014. He plays the role of Mr. Heelshire in the 2016 film The Boy. In 2018 he plays the role of Mr. Binnacle in Mary Poppins Returns.

Norton has a longtime partnership with playwright Conor McPherson, having originated roles in six of his plays in Dublin, London and New York, and for which he has won both the Tony and Olivier Award. Norton plays Jack in The Weir (1997), Joe in Port Authority (2001), Matthew in Come On Over (2001), Richard in The Seafarer (2006–7), Reverend Berkeley in The Veil (2011), and Maurice in The Night Alive (2013).


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Death of Michael Corcoran, General in the Union Army

Michael Corcoran, Irish American general in the Union Army during the American Civil War and a close confidant of President Abraham Lincoln, dies on December 22, 1863, of a fractured skull after being thrown from a runaway horse.

Corcoran is born in Carrowkeel, near Ballymote, County Sligo, on September 21, 1827. As its colonel, he leads the 69th Infantry Regiment (New York) to Washington, D.C. and is one of the first to serve in the defense of Washington by building Fort Corcoran. He then leads the 69th into action at the First Battle of Bull Run. After promotion to brigadier general, he leaves the 69th and forms the Corcoran Legion, consisting of at least five other New York regiments.

Corcoran is the only child of Thomas Corcoran, an officer in the British Army, and Mary McDonagh. Through his mother, he claims descent from Patrick Sarsfield, hero of the Williamite War in Ireland and leader of the Wild Geese. In 1846 he takes an appointment to the Revenue Police, enforcing the laws and searching for illicit stills and distilling activities in Creeslough, County Donegal. He also joins a guerrilla group called the Ribbonmen.

On August 30, 1849, Corcoran emigrates from Sligo to the United States and settles in New York City where he finds work as a clerk in the tavern owned by John Heaney, whose niece, Elizabeth, he marries in 1854.

Corcoran enlists as a Private in the 69th New York Militia. By 1859 he is appointed colonel of the regiment. The regiment is a state militia unit at the time composed of citizens, not soldiers, and is involved in the maintenance of public order. On October 11, 1860, he refuses to march the regiment on parade for the 19-year-old Prince of Wales, who is visiting New York City at the time, protesting the British imposition of the Irish Famine. He is removed from command and a court martial is pending over that matter when the Civil War begins.

Corcoran also becomes involved in Democratic politics at Tammany Hall. He becomes district leader, a member of the judicial nominations committee, an elected school inspector for his ward, and a member of the Fourteenth Ward General Committee. He is one of the founders of the Fenian Brotherhood in America.

With the outbreak of war, the court martial is dropped and Corcoran is restored to his command because he had been instrumental in bringing other Irish immigrants to the Union cause. He leads the 69th to Washington, D.C. and serves for a while in the Washington defenses building, Fort Corcoran. In July 1861 he leads the regiment into action at the First Battle of Bull Run and is taken prisoner.

While Corcoran is imprisoned, the United States makes threats to execute captured Confederate privateers. Corcoran and several other Union prisoners are selected by lot for execution if the United States carries out its threats against the privateers. This event is known as the Enchantress Affair, but no executions are ever carried out by either side. Corcoran is then offered a parole under the conditions that he does not take up arms against the Confederacy. Intending to resume his place in the Union army upon his release he refuses the offer of parole. He is appointed Brigadier General of volunteers in July and exchanged in August 1862. His role in the Enchantress Affair and his refusal for parole gains him some attention and upon his release he is invited to dinner with President Abraham Lincoln.

In April 1863 Corcoran is involved in an incident that ends with Corcoran shooting and killing Edgar A. Kimball, commander of the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Corcoran attempts to pass through the 9th New York’s area without giving the required password after receiving the challenge from a sentry. When Kimball intervenes on the side of the sentry, Corcoran shoots him. Corcoran is not charged with a crime or reprimanded and continues to serve.

Corcoran returns to the army and sets about recruiting more Irish volunteers. He raises and takes command of what becomes known as the Corcoran Legion. Placed in command of the 1st Division, VII Corps he is engaged in the Battle of Deserted House and takes part in the Battle of Suffolk. In late 1863 he is placed in command of a division in the XXII Corps and returns to serve in the Washington defenses. While riding alone in Fairfax, Virginia he is thrown from a runaway horse and suffers a fractured skull. He dies at the age of 36 at the William Gunnell House on December 22, 1863.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveils Ireland’s national monument to the Fighting 69th in Ballymote on August 22, 2006. The monument is sculpted by Philip Flanagan. The inscription around the top of the monument reads “Michael Corcoran 1827–1863” Around the base is inscribed “New York Ballymote Creeslough Bull Run.” Underneath the monument is a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, donated by the family of Michael Lynch, who died in the tower on September 11, 2001. Lynch’s family are also from County Sligo.


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Birth of John Russell Young, Journalist, Author & Diplomat

John Russell Young, Irish American journalist, author, diplomat, and the seventh Librarian of the United States Congress from 1897 to 1899, is born on November 20, 1840, in County Tyrone. He is invited by Ulysses S. Grant to accompany him on a world tour for purposes of recording the two-year journey, which he publishes in a two-volume work.

Young is born in County Tyrone but as a young child his family emigrates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enters the newspaper business as a proofreader at age fifteen. As a reporter for The Philadelphia Press, he distinguishes himself with his coverage of the First Battle of Bull Run. By 1862 he is managing editor of the Press and another newspaper.

In 1865 Young moves to New York City, where he becomes a close friend of Henry George and helps to distribute his book, Progress and Poverty. He begins writing for Horace Greeley‘s New York Tribune and becomes managing editor of that paper. He also begins working for the government, undertaking missions to Europe for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 1872, he joins the New York Herald and reports for them from Europe.

Young is invited to accompany President Ulysses S. Grant on Grant’s famous 1877-79 world tour, chronicled in Young’s book Around the World with General Grant. He impresses Grant, especially in China where he strikes up a friendship with Li Hongzhang. Grant persuades President Chester A. Arthur to appoint Young minister to China in 1882. In this position he distinguishes himself by mediating and settling disputes between the United States and China and France and China. Unlike many other diplomats, he opposes the policy of removing Korea from Chinese suzerainty.

In 1885 Young resumes working for the New York Herald in Europe. In 1890 he returns to Philadelphia. In 1897 President William McKinley appoints him Librarian of Congress, the first librarian confirmed by Congress. During his tenure, the library begins moving from its original home in the United States Capitol building to its own structure, an accomplishment largely the responsibility of his predecessor, Ainsworth Rand Spofford. Spofford serves as Chief Assistant Librarian under Young. Young holds the post of librarian until his death.

Young dies in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1899, and is interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Young’s brother is Congressman James Rankin Young. His son is Brigadier General Gordon Russell Young, who is Engineer Commission of the District of Columbia from 1945-51 and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.


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The Wreck of the “Stephen Whitney”

The passenger-carrying sailing ship Stephen Whitney is wrecked on West Calf Island off the southern coast of Ireland on November 10, 1847 with the loss of 92 of the 110 passengers and crew aboard.

The Stephen Whitney is a packet ship in Robert Kermit‘s Red Star Line. The ship is named after a Kermit investor, New York City merchant Stephen Whitney.

The 1,034-ton ship leaves New York City on October 18 for Liverpool, England, carrying passengers and a cargo which includes corn, raw cotton, cheese, resin, and twenty boxes of clocks. On November 10 in thick fog, the captain, C.W. Popham, mistakes the Crookhaven lighthouse for the one at the Old Head of Kinsale and the lighthouse on Cape Clear Island is obscured by fog compounding the error in navigation. At around 10:00 p.m., the ship strikes the western tip of West Calf Island, completely breaking up within about ten minutes. Conditions in the area are distressing as it is the height of the Great Famine.

The loss of the ship triggers the decision to replace the Cape Clear Island lighthouse with one on Fastnet Rock. This decision is also because the lighthouse on Cape Clear is often shrouded in fog or low level clouds, which make it hard or at times impossible to see.

(Pictured: West Calf Island, the most westerly of the three Calf Islands that lie at the heart of Roaring Water Bay, West Cork)


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Birth of Thomas MacGreevy, Poet & Former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland

Thomas MacGreevy, a pivotal figure in the history of Irish literary modernism, is born on October 26, 1893, in Tarbert, County Kerry. A poet, he is also director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1950 to 1963 and serves on the first Irish Arts Council (An Chomhairle Ealaíon).

MacGreevy is the son of a policeman and a primary school teacher. At age 16, he joins the British Civil Service as a boy clerk.

At the outbreak of World War I, MacGreevy is promoted to an intelligence post with the Admiralty. He enlists in 1916, and sees active service at the Ypres Salient and the Somme, being wounded twice. After the war, he studies at Trinity College, Dublin, in whose library his papers are now held. He then becomes involved in various library organisations, begins publishing articles in Irish periodicals, and writes his first poems.

In 1924, MacGreevy is first introduced to James Joyce in Paris. The following year he moves to London, where he meets T. S. Eliot and begins writing for The Criterion and other magazines. He also begins publishing his poetry.

In 1927, MacGreevy moves to Paris to teach English at the École normale supérieure. Here he meets Samuel Beckett and resumes his friendship with Joyce. His essay The Catholic Element in Work In Progress is published in 1929 in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work In Progress, a book intended to help promote Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Along with Beckett, he is one of those who signs the Poetry is Vertical manifesto which appears in issue 21 of transition. In 1931, he produces critical studies of both Eliot and Richard Aldington.

In 1934, Poems is published in London and New York City. The work shows that MacGreevy has absorbed the lessons of Imagism and of The Waste Land, but also demonstrates that he has brought something of his own to these influences. The book is admired by Wallace Stevens and the two poets become regular correspondents.

Unfortunately, although MacGreevy continues to write poetry, this is the only collection published in his lifetime. Since his death there have been two Collected Poems issued, one in 1971 and an edited edition collecting his published and unpublished poetry published twenty years later.

In 1929 MacGreevy begins working at Formes, a journal of the fine arts. He also publishes a translation of Paul Valéry‘s Introduction à la méthode de Léonard de Vinci as Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci. In the mid-1930s, he moves back to London and earns his living lecturing at the National Gallery there.

From 1938 to 1940 MacGreevy is the chief art critic for The Studio. He publishes several books on art and artists, including Jack B. Yeats: An Appreciation and an Interpretation and Pictures in the Irish National Gallery (both 1945), and Nicolas Poussin (1960).

MacGreevy is a lifelong Roman Catholic. His faith informs both his poetry and his professional life. On returning to Dublin during World War II, he writes for both the Father Mathew Record and the Capuchin Annual and joins the editorial board of the latter.

MacGreevy is director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1950–63. Although to many he seems a surprising choice, his latent talents as an administrator are brought to the fore. He is instrumental in bringing to the gallery such ideas as a lecture series and in-house restoration, which are commonplace abroad. It is through his persistent requests to the government that an extension to the gallery is approved. Unfortunately, the demands of the position take its toll. He has two heart attacks in 1956 and 1957 and ill health forces him to retire in 1963.

During his last years MacGreevy begins writing poetry again. He also begins his memoirs, which he never completes. He is admitted to the Portobello Nursing Home in Dublin for what is to be a minor operation in March 1967. He dies from heart failure on Saint Patrick’s Day eve, March 16, 1967.


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Death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Revolutionary, Physician, Writer & Diplomat

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, writer, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist of Spanish-Irish descent, dies in La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia, on October 9, 1967. After his execution by the Bolivian army, he is regarded as a martyred hero by generations of leftists worldwide, and his image becomes an icon of leftist radicalism and anti-imperialism.

Guevara is born on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a middle-class family of Spanish-Irish descent and leftist leanings. Although suffering from asthma, he excels as an athlete and a scholar, completing his medical studies in 1953. He spends many of his holidays traveling in Latin America, and his observations of the great poverty of the masses contributes to his eventual conclusion that the only solution lay in violent revolution. He comes to look upon Latin America not as a collection of separate nations but as a cultural and economic entity, the liberation of which would require an intercontinental strategy.

In particular, Guevara’s worldview is changed by a nine-month journey he begins in December 1951, while on hiatus from medical school, with his friend Alberto Granado. That trip, which begins on a motorcycle they call “the Powerful” (which breaks down and is abandoned early in the journey), takes them from Argentina through Chile, Peru, Colombia, and on to Venezuela, from which Guevara travels alone on to Miami, returning to Argentina by plane. During the trip he keeps a journal that is posthumously published under his family’s guidance as The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey (2003) and adapted to film as The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).

In 1953 Guevara goes to Guatemala, where Jacobo Árbenz heads a progressive regime that is attempting to bring about a social revolution. It is about this time he acquires his nickname, from a verbal mannerism of Argentines who punctuate their speech with the interjection “che.” The overthrow of the Árbenz regime in 1954 in a coup supported by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) persuades him that the United States will always oppose progressive leftist governments. This becomes the cornerstone of his plans to bring about socialism by means of a worldwide revolution. It is in Guatemala that he becomes a dedicated Marxist.

Guevara leaves Guatemala for Mexico, where he meets the Cuban brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro, political exiles who are preparing an attempt to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. He joins Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, which lands a force of 81 men (including Guevara) in the Cuban Oriente Province on December 2, 1956. Immediately detected by Batista’s army, they are almost wiped out. The few survivors, including the wounded Guevara, reach the Sierra Maestra, where they become the nucleus of a guerrilla army. The rebels slowly gain in strength, seizing weapons from Batista’s forces and winning support and new recruits. Guevara had initially come along as the force’s doctor, but he has also trained in weapons use, and he becomes one of Castro’s most-trusted aides. Indeed, the complex Guevara, though trained as a healer, also, on occasion, acts as the executioner (or orders the execution) of suspected traitors and deserters.

After Castro’s victorious troops enter Havana on January 8, 1959, Guevara serves for several months at La Cabaña prison, where he oversees the executions of individuals deemed to be enemies of the revolution. He becomes a Cuban citizen, as prominent in the newly established Marxist government as he had been in the revolutionary army, representing Cuba on many commercial missions. He also becomes well known in the West for his opposition to all forms of imperialism and neocolonialism and for his attacks on U.S. foreign policy. He serves as chief of the Industrial Department of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, president of the National Bank of Cuba (famously demonstrating his disdain for capitalism by signing currency simply “Che”), and Minister of Industries.

During the early 1960s, Guevara defines Cuba’s policies and his own views in many speeches and writings, notably “El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba” (1965; “Man and Socialism in Cuba,” 1967), an examination of Cuba’s new brand of communism, and a highly influential manual, La guerra de guerrillas (1960; Guerrilla Warfare, 1961). The last book includes his delineation of his foco theory (foquismo), a doctrine of revolution in Latin America drawn from the experience of the Cuban Revolution and predicated on three main tenets: 1) guerrilla forces are capable of defeating the army; 2) all the conditions for making a revolution do not have to be in place to begin a revolution, because the rebellion itself can bring them about; and 3) the countryside of underdeveloped Latin America is suited for armed combat.

Guevara expounds a vision of a new socialist citizen who would work for the good of society rather than for personal profit, a notion he embodies through his own hard work. Often he sleeps in his office, and, in support of the volunteer labour program he had organized, he spends his day off working in a sugarcane field. He grows increasingly disheartened, however, as Cuba becomes a client state of the Soviet Union, and he feels betrayed by the Soviets when they remove their missiles from the island without consulting the Cuban leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He begins looking to the People’s Republic of China and its leader Mao Zedong for support and as an example.

In December 1964 Guevara travels to New York City, where he condemns U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs and incursions into Cuban airspace in an address to the United Nations General Assembly. Back in Cuba, increasingly disillusioned with the direction of the Cuban social experiment and its reliance on the Soviets, he begins focusing his attention on fostering revolution elsewhere. After April 1965 he drops out of public life. His movements and whereabouts for the next two years remain secret. It is later learned that he had traveled to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo with other Cuban guerrilla fighters in what proved to be a futile attempt to help the Patrice Lumumba battalion, which was fighting a civil war there. During that period he resigns his ministerial position in the Cuban government and renounces his Cuban citizenship. After the failure of his efforts in the Congo, he flees first to Tanzania and then to a safe house in a village near Prague.

In the autumn of 1966 Guevara goes to Bolivia, incognito (beardless and bald), to create and lead a guerrilla group in the region of Santa Cruz. After some initial combat successes, he and his guerrilla band find themselves constantly on the run from the Bolivian army. On October 9, 1967, the group is almost annihilated by a special detachment of the Bolivian army aided by CIA advisers. Guevara, who is wounded in the attack, is captured and shot. Before his body disappears to be secretly buried, his hands are cut off. They are preserved in formaldehyde so that his fingerprints can be used to confirm his identity.

In 1995 one of Guevara’s biographers, Jon Lee Anderson, announces that he had learned that Guevara and several of his comrades had been buried in a mass grave near the town of Vallegrande in central Bolivia. In 1997 a skeleton that is believed be that of the revolutionary and the remains of his six comrades are disinterred and transported to Cuba to be interred in a massive memorial and monument in Santa Clara on the 30th anniversary of Guevara’s death. In 2007 a French and a Spanish journalist make a case that the body brought to Cuba is not actually Guevara’s. The Cuban government refutes the claim, citing scientific evidence from 1997 that, it says, proves that the remains are those of Guevara.

Guevara would live on as a powerful symbol, bigger in some ways in death than in life. He is almost always referenced simply as Che — like Elvis Presley, so popular an icon that his first name alone is identifier enough. Many on the political right condemn him as brutal, cruel, murderous, and all too willing to employ violence to reach revolutionary ends. On the other hand, his romanticized image as a revolutionary looms especially large for the generation of young leftist radicals in Western Europe and North America in the turbulent 1960s. Almost from the time of his death, his whiskered face adorns T-shirts and posters. Framed by a red-star-studded beret and long hair, his face frozen in a resolute expression, the iconic image is derived from a photo taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, at a ceremony for those killed when a ship that had brought arms to Havana exploded. At first the image of Che is worn as a statement of rebellion, then as the epitome of radical chic, and, with the passage of time, as a kind of abstract logo whose original significance may even have been lost on its wearer, though for some he remains an enduring inspiration for revolutionary action.