seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Birth of Dermot Healy, Novelist, Playwright, Poet & Short Story Writer

Dermot Healy, Irish novelist, playwright, poet and short story writer, is born in Finnea, County Westmeath, on November 9, 1947. A member of Aosdána, he is also part of its governing body, the Toscaireacht. He is described variously as a “master,” a “Celtic Hemingway” and as “Ireland’s finest living novelist.”

Healy is the son of a Guard. As a child the family moves to Cavan, where he attends the local secondary school. In his late teens he moves to London and works in a succession of jobs, including barman, security man and as a labourer. He later returns to Ireland, settling in Ballyconnell, County Sligo, a small settlement on the Atlantic coast.

Often overlooked due to his relatively low public profile, Healy’s work is admired by his Irish literary predecessors, peers and successors alike, many of whom idolise him. Among the writers to have spoken highly of him are Seamus Heaney, Eugene McCabe, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Anne Enright.

Healy’s work is influenced by an eclectic range of writers from around the world, including Anna Akhmatova, John Arden, Isaac Babel, Matsuo Bashō, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Angela Carter, J. M. Coetzee, Emily Dickinson, Maria Edgeworth, T. S. Eliot, Hermann Hesse, Nâzım Hikmet, Aidan Higgins, Miroslav Holub, Eugène Ionesco, Franz Kafka, Mary Lavin, Federico García Lorca, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, William Shakespeare and Robert Louis Stevenson. Healy writes in a shed and is fascinated by etymology. However, on being a writer, he is quoted as saying, “I know writing is what I do but I still don’t see myself as one.”

Healy is longlisted for the Booker Prize with his novel A Goats Song. He wins the Hennessy Literary Award (1974 and 1976), the Tom-Gallon Trust Award (1983), and the Encore Award (1995). In 2011, he is shortlisted for the Poetry Now Award for his 2010 poetry collection, A Fool’s Errand. Long Time, No See is nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable literary award for a single work in the English language, by libraries in Russia and Norway.

Healy dies at his home in Ballyconnell on June 29, 2014, while awaiting an ambulance after suddenly being taken ill. He is laid to rest at Carrigans Cemetery following funeral mass by Fr. Michael Donnelly at St. Patrick’s Church in Maugherow.


Leave a comment

Birth of Mariga Guinness, Co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society

Mariga Guinness, architectural conservationist and socialite, and co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society, is born in London on September 21, 1932.

Guinness is born Hermione Maria-Gabrielle von Urach, the only child of the marriage of Albrecht von Urach, from Lichtenstein Castle, a member of the royal house of Wurtemberg, and Rosemary Blackadder (1901–1975) from Berwickshire in Scotland, a journalist and artist, who are married in Oslo, Norway in 1931. For the first few months of her life she is very ill. In 1934, her parents, both working as journalists, move the family to Venice. They later move again, to Japan. Her mother develops depression, and in 1937 tries to gain uninvited access to Emperor Hirohito‘s palace with her daughter. This results in her mother being arrested, sedated, and deported, which is the beginning of a decline in her mental health which culminates in a lobotomy in 1941 and spending the rest of her life in private mental institutions. Urach is returned to Europe, where she is raised by her godmother, Hermione Ramsden, in Surrey and Norway. She is educated by as many as seventeen governesses, with brief spells in boarding schools. Until the age of eighteen she is known as Gabrielle.

Urach meets Desmond Guinness in 1951, when she is nineteen, and they are married in Oxford in 1954. They have two children, Patrick (born 1956) and Marina (born 1957).

The couple moves to Ireland in 1955 where they rent Carton House, County Kildare. They share a love of Georgian architecture which results in them buying Leixlip Castle in 1958, and establishing the Irish Georgian Society on February 21 of the same year. Through the society they campaign for the restoration and protection of architectural sites such as Mountjoy Square, the gateway to the Dromana estate in County Waterford, the Tailors’ Hall in Dublin, and Conolly’s Folly in County Kildare. In 1967 they purchase Castletown House, also in County Kildare, with a plan to restore it, and make it a base for the Irish Georgian Society.

During the 1960s Leixlip Castle is a hub for those interested in architecture and conservation, and the Guinnesses work hands-on on a range of projects. By 1969, their marriage is in difficulties and Guinness moves to London. She later moves to Glenarm, County Antrim to live with Hugh O’Neill, and when that relationship ends, she returns to Leixlip Castle, but a divorce is finalised in 1981. Having lived in Dublin for a time, she rents Tullynisk House, the dower house of Birr Castle in County Offaly in 1983. Guinness becomes isolated and develops a problem with alcohol. While returning to Ireland from Wales on a car ferry on May 8, 1989 she has a massive heart attack which is compounded by a reaction to an injection of penicillin. She is buried at Conolly’s Folly.

Through Patrick, Guiness becomes grandmother of the fashion model Jasmine Guinness. Her daughter Marina is a patron of the arts and of Irish musicians including Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, and the band Kíla. Marina has three children of her own: Patrick (by Stewart Copeland of The Police), Violet (by photographer Perry Ogden), and Finbar (by record producer Denny Cordell).

In 2020, a new film on Guinness’s life and work, entitled Memory of Mariga, receives its United States premiere as part of the Elizabethtown Film Festival on Saturday, September 19, at the Crowne Pointe Theatre in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. In 2021, the same film receives its Irish premiere at the Fastnet Film Festival.


Leave a comment

Birth of Johnny Logan, Two-time Eurovision Song Contest Winner

Seán Patrick Michael Sherrard, Irish singer and composer better known by his stage name Johnny Logan, is born in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston, Victoria, Australia on May 13, 1954. He is known as being the only performer to have won the Eurovision Song Contest twice, in 1980 and 1987. He also composes the winning song in 1992.

Logan is born while his father, Charles Alphonsus Sherrard, is a Derry-born Irish tenor known by the artistic name Patrick O’Hagan, is touring Australia. The family moves back to Ireland when he is three years old. He learns the guitar and begins composing his own songs by the age of thirteen. On leaving school he apprentices as an electrician, while performing in pubs and cabaret. His earliest claim to fame is starring as “Adam” in the 1977 Irish musical Adam and Eve and “Joseph” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Logan adopts the stage name Johnny Logan after the main character of the film Johnny Guitar and releases his first single in 1978. He first attempts to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1979, when he places third in the Irish National Final with the song “Angie.” Readers of The Connaught Telegraph in Ireland vote him as “Best New Male Artist.”

In 1980, Logan again enters the Irish National selection for the Eurovision Song Contest with the Shay Healy song “What’s Another Year,” winning the Irish final on March 9 in Dublin. Representing Ireland in the Netherlands, he wins the Eurovision Song Contest on April 19. The song becomes a hit all over Europe and reaches number one in the UK.

In 1987, Logan makes another attempt at Eurovision and with his self-penned song, “Hold Me Now,” representing Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Belgium. The song wins the contest and he becomes the first person to win the contest twice.

Having composed the Irish Eurovision Song Contest 1984 entry for Linda Martin, “Terminal 3” (which finishes in second place), Logan repeats the collaboration in 1992 when he gives Martin another of his songs, “Why Me?” The song becomes the Irish entry at the finals in Sweden. The song takes the title and cements Logan as the most successful artist in Eurovision history with three wins.

Logan continues to perform and write songs. He is sometimes referred to as “Mister Eurovision” by fans of the contest and the media at large. He has continued his love of participating in musical theatre, having toured Norway with Which Witch, an opera-musical originating in that country. He continues to have success, particularly in the Scandinavian countries. His 2007 album, The Irish Connection, goes platinum in Denmark, twice platinum in Norway and gold in Sweden. He performs in the Celtic rock opera Excalibur from 2009 to 2011.

On May 16, 2020, Logan appears in Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light which is commissioned to replace the 65th Eurovison Song Contest due to its postponement until 2021 as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, singing his 1980 winning song “What’s Another Year.”

Logan and his family live in Ashbourne, County Meath. He rarely gives media interviews, claiming to have been frequently misquoted.


Leave a comment

St. Columba Arrives on the Isle of Iona

iona-abbey-isle-of-iona

St. Columba, an Irish monk, and twelve followers arrive on the tiny isle of Iona, barely three miles long by one mile wide, on May 12, 563, establishing a monastic community and building his first Celtic church. Iona has an influence out of all proportion to its size on the establishment of Christianity in Scotland, England and throughout mainland Europe.

Once settled, Columba sets about converting most of pagan Scotland and northern England to the Christian faith. Iona’s fame as a missionary centre and outstanding place of learning eventually spreads throughout Europe, turning it into a place of pilgrimage for several centuries to come. Iona becomes a sacred isle where kings of Scotland, Ireland and Norway are buried.

Columba is born of royal blood in 521 AD in Ireland, or Scotia as it is then called. He is the grandson of the Irish King Niall. He leaves Ireland for Scotland not as a missionary but as an act of self-imposed penance for a bloody mess he had caused at home. He had upset the king of Ireland by refusing to hand over a copy of the Gospel he had illegally copied, leading to a pitched battle in which Columba’s warrior family prevailed. Full of remorse for his actions and the deaths he had ultimately caused, he flees, ultimately settling on Iona as it is the first place he finds from which he is unable to see his native Ireland. One of the features on the island is even called “The Hill with its back to Ireland.”

Columba, however, is not the shy retiring type and sets about building Iona’s original abbey from clay and wood. In this endeavour he displays some strange idiosyncrasies, including banishing women and cows from the island. The abbey builders have to leave their wives and daughters on the nearby Eilean nam Ban (Woman’s Island). Stranger still, he also banishes frogs and snakes from Iona, although how he accomplishes this feat is not well documented.

The strangest claim of all however is that Columba is prevented from completing the building of the original chapel until a living person has been buried in the foundations. His friend Oran volunteers for the job and is duly buried. It is said that Columba later requests that Oran’s face be uncovered so he can bid a final farewell to his friend. Oran’s face is uncovered and he is found to be still alive but utters such blasphemous descriptions of Heaven and Hell that Columba orders that he be covered up immediately.

Over the centuries the monks of Iona produce countless elaborate carvings, manuscripts and Celtic crosses. Perhaps their greatest work is the exquisite Book of Kells, which dates from 800 AD, currently on display in Trinity College, Dublin. Shortly after this, in 806 AD, come the first of the Viking raids and many of the monks are slaughtered and their work destroyed.

The Celtic Church, lacking central control and organisation, diminishes in size and stature over the years to be replaced by the much larger and stronger Roman Church. Even Iona is not exempt from these changes and in 1203 a nunnery for the Order of the Black Nuns is established and the present-day Benedictine abbey, Iona Abbey, is built. The abbey is a victim of the Reformation and lay in ruins until 1899 when restoration is started.

No part of Columba’s original buildings have survived, however on the left hand side of the abbey entrance can be seen a small roofed chamber which is claimed to mark the site of the Columba’s tomb.

(From: “St. Columba and the Isle of Iona” by Ben Johnson, historic-uk.com, pictured is the Iona Abbey and Nunnery)


Leave a comment

Birth of Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne

robert-blair-paddy-mayneRobert Blair “Paddy” Mayne, British Army soldier, solicitor, Ireland rugby union international, amateur boxer, and a founding member of the Special Air Service (SAS), is born in Newtownards, County Down on January 11, 1915.

Mayne attends school at Regent House School, a school for students age 4 to 18. While at Regent he discovers his skill and love for the game of rugby. He also enjoys cricket and golf and becomes a marksman with the rifle club. He goes on to Queen’s University Belfast to study law. At university he takes up boxing and becomes the Irish Universities Heavyweight Champion in August 1936. He also wins the Scrabo Golf Club President’s cup in 1937. He graduates from Queen’s University in 1939.

During 1938, Mayne travels to Africa on the 1938 British Lions Tour to South Africa. He plays on a team that tours around Africa playing other local clubs. While traveling, it is discovered that Mayne has a wild side and on various occasions finds himself in trouble. His “go to” is to trash the hotel rooms of his teammates. The team includes some of the best players from around Ireland and Britain.

In 1939, with outbreak of World War II, Mayne joins the Supplementary Reserves in Newtownards and receives a commission in the Royal Artillery. He serves in several units in Ireland and England, generally with light and heavy anti-aircraft units. He volunteers for the No. 11 (Scottish) Commando unit which is sent to the Middle East. There he sees action during the Syria-Lebanon campaign. Specifically during the Battle of the Litani River, he draws attention from Captain David Stirling who is forming the new Special Air Service (SAS). Sterling recruits Mayne for the new SAS while he is in jail for striking his commanding officer.

From November 1941 to the end of 1942, Mayne is involved in several raids behind enemy lines with the SAS. He uses jeeps to go to various Axis bases and begin blowing up planes and fuel dumps. It is claimed that he personally destroyed 100 planes during these missions. In addition to serving in the Middle East, he serves as well in Sicily, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and France. In most of these locations he works with the resistance behind the enemy lines. In France he helps to train the French Resistance.

By the end of the war, Mayne has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and has also received the British Army’s Distinguished Service Order with three bars, which means he received the award four times. After the war he joins the British Antarctic Survey in the Falkland Islands. He returns home to Newtownards when back issues, which started while he was serving in the Middle East, become more difficult for him.

Mayne is initiated into Eklektikos Lodge No. 542 in Newtownards in 1945. He is a very enthusiastic mason and joins a second lodge in Newtownards, Friendship Lodge No. 447. On the evening of December 13, 1955, he attends a meeting of Friendship Lodge and then joins some of his masonic brothers at a local bar. At about 4:00 AM on December 14, he is found dead in his Riley RM roadster in Mill Street, Newtownards, having reportedly collided with a farmer’s vehicle.

At his funeral hundreds of mourners turn out to pay their respects and to see him interred in a family plot in the town’s old Movilla Abbey graveyard. After his death his masonic jewel is preserved for many years by an old school friend before it is presented to Newtownards Borough Council where it is displayed in the Mayoral Chamber of the Council Offices.


Leave a comment

Birth of Ronnie Drew, Singer & Folk Musician

Joseph Ronald “Ronnie” Drew, singer, folk musician and actor who achieves international fame during a fifty-year career recording with The Dubliners, is born in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, on September 16, 1934. He is most recognised for his lead vocals on the single “Seven Drunken Nights” and “The Irish Rover” both charting in the U.K. top 10. He is recognisable for his long beard and his voice, which is once described by Nathan Joseph as being “like the sound of coal being crushed under a door.”

Drew is educated at CBS Eblana. Despite his aversion to education, he is considered the most intelligent in his class by schoolfriend and future Irish film censor, Sheamus Smith. Drew also sings as a boy soprano before his voice breaks.

In the 1950s, Drew moves to Spain to teach English and learn Spanish and flamenco guitar. His interest in folk music begins at the age of nineteen. When he returns to Ireland, he performs in the Gate Theatre with John Molloy and soon goes into the music business full-time, after holding a number of short-term jobs.

In 1962, he founds the Ronnie Drew Group with Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna and Ciarán Bourke. They soon change their name to The Dubliners, with John Sheahan joining shortly afterwards to form the definitive line-up, and quickly become one of the best known Irish folk groups. They play at first in O’Donoghue’s Pub in Merrion Row, Dublin where they are often accompanied by Mary Jordan on the spoons and vocalist Ann Mulqueen, a friend of McKenna’s. Mary Jordan’s mother, Peggy Jordan, introduces them to the Abbey Tavern in Howth, which becomes a regular Monday night venue for the emerging group. They also play across the road in the Royal Hotel, at all-night parties in Peggy’s large house in Kenilworth Square in Rathgar, and in John Molloy’s flat at Ely Place.

Drew leaves the Dubliners in 1974, goes to Norway in 1978 and records two songs with the Norwegian group Bergeners. He rejoins The Dubliners in 1979 and leaves for good in 1995, though he does reunite with the group in 2002 for a 40th anniversary celebration. He makes several television appearances with the group between 2002 and 2005.

From 1995 onwards, Drew pursues a solo career. He records with many artists, including Christy Moore, The Pogues, Antonio Breschi, Dropkick Murphys, Eleanor Shanley and others. He does a number of “one-man shows” consisting of stories about people such as Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and Seán O’Casey, as well as Drew singing their songs.

He fronts a campaign to encourage the use of Dublin’s light-rail infrastructure and, before that, the “My Dublin” ads for radio stations 98FM and FM104. He narrates a retelling of the great Irish Myths and Legends over a six CD set in 2006. He also narrates the stories of Oscar Wilde in his distinctive voice for a series released on CD by the News of the World newspaper. Both were re-released as CD box sets in 2010.

On August 22, 2006, Drew is honoured in a ceremony where his hand prints are added to the “Walk of Fame” outside Dublin‘s Gaiety Theatre.

In September 2006, Drew is reported to be in ill-health after being admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, to undergo tests for suspected throat cancer. On October 25, 2007, Drew, now bald and beardless, appears on Ryan Confidential on RTÉ 1 to give an interview about his role in The Dubliners, his life since leaving the band and being diagnosed with throat cancer. Later in 2007, he appears on The Late Late Show, where he speaks about the death of his wife and his ongoing treatment for cancer.

Ronnie Drew dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, on August 16, 2008, following his long illness. He is buried three days later in Redford Cemetery in Greystones.


Leave a comment

Hurricane Debbie Strikes Ireland

hurricane-debbieHurricane Debbie, the most powerful cyclone on record to strike Ireland in September and possibly the only tropical cyclone on record to ever strike the British Isles while still tropical, makes landfall in Ireland on September 16, 1961.

The fourth named storm of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, Debbie originates from a well-defined tropical disturbance that is first identified in late August over Central Africa. Tracking generally westward, the system moves off the coast of Senegal on September 5 into the Atlantic Ocean. By this time, it is estimated to have become a tropical storm, but forecasters do not issue advisories on the system until two days later. Late on September 6, Debbie passes through the southern Cape Verde Islands as a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane, resulting in a plane crash that kills 60 people in the islands. Once clear of the islands, data on the storm becomes sparse and the status of Debbie is uncertain over the following several days as it tracks west-northwestward and later northward. It is not until a commercial airliner intercepts the storm on September 10 that its location becomes certain. The following day, Debbie intensifies and reaches its peak intensity as a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, with maximum winds of 120 mph.

Maintaining its peak intensity for over a day, the hurricane gradually slows its forward motion and weakens. By September 13, Debbie’s motion becomes influenced by the Westerlies, causing the system to accelerate east-northeastward. The system passes over the western Azores as a minimal hurricane on September 15. At this point, there is uncertainty as to the structure of Debbie, whether it transitions into an extratropical cyclone or maintains its identity as a tropical system. Regardless of which takes place, the system deepens as it nears the British Isles, skirting the coast of Western Ireland on September 16. Shortly thereafter, the system is confirmed to have become extratropical as it continues towards the northeast.

Striking Ireland as a powerful storm, Debbie brings record winds to much of the island, with a peak gust of 114 mph measured just offshore. These winds cause widespread damage and disruption, downing tens of thousands of trees and power lines. Countless structures sustain varying degrees of damage, with many smaller buildings destroyed. Agriculture experiences extensive losses to barley, corn, and wheat crops. Throughout Ireland, Debbie kills 18 people, twelve in the Republic of Ireland and six in Northern Ireland. It causes $40–50 million in damage in the Republic and at least $4 million in Northern Ireland. The storm also batters parts of Great Britain with winds in excess of 100 mph.

The remnants of the storm later turned eastward, striking Norway and Russia, before dissipating on September 19.