seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of John McCormack, Renowned Irish Tenor

Papal Count John Francis McCormack, KSG, KSS, KHS, Irish tenor celebrated for his performances of the operatic and popular song repertoires, and renowned for his diction and breath control, dies in Booterstown, Dublin, on September 16, 1945.

McCormack is born on June 14, 1884, in Athlone, County Westmeath, the second son and fifth of the 11 children of Andrew McCormack and his wife Hannah Watson. His parents are both from Galashiels, Scotland, and work at the Athlone Woolen Mills, where his father is a foreman. He is baptised in St. Mary’s Church, Athlone, on June 23, 1884.

McCormack receives his early education from the Marist Brothers in Athlone and later attends Summerhill College, Sligo. He sings in the choir of the old St. Peter’s Church in Athlone under his choirmaster Michael Kilkelly. When the family moves to Dublin, he sings in the choir of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral where he is discovered by Vincent O’Brien. In 1903 he wins the coveted gold medal of the Dublin Feis Ceoil. He marries Lily Foley in 1906 and they have two children, Cyril and Gwen.

In March 1904, McCormack becomes associated with James Joyce, who at the time has singing ambitions himself. He persuades Joyce to enter the Feis Ceoil that year, where the not yet famous writer is awarded the Bronze Medal.

Fundraising activities on his behalf enable McCormack to travel to Italy in 1905 to receive voice training by Vincenzo Sabatini, father of the novelist Rafael Sabatini, in Milan. Sabatini finds McCormack’s voice naturally tuned and concentrates on perfecting his breath control, an element that becomes part of the basis of his renown as a vocalist.

In 1906, McCormack makes his operatic début at the Teatro Chiabrera, Savona. The next year, he begins his first important operatic performance at Covent Garden in Pietro Mascagni‘s Cavalleria rusticana, becoming the theatre’s youngest principal tenor. In 1909, he begins his career in the United States.

In February 1911, McCormack plays Lieutenant Paul Merrill in the world premiere of Victor Herbert‘s opera Natoma with Mary Garden in the title role. Later that year, he tours Australia after Dame Nellie Melba engages him, then at the height of his operatic career, aged 27, as a star tenor for the Melba Grand Opera Season. He returns for concert tours in subsequent years.

By 1912, McCormack is beginning to become involved increasingly with concert performances, where his voice quality and charisma ensures that he becomes the most celebrated lyric tenor of his time. He does not, however, retire from the operatic stage until after his performance of 1923 in Monte Carlo, although by then the top notes of his voice have contracted. Famous for his extraordinary breath control, he can sing 64 notes on one breath in Mozart‘s “Il mio tesoro” from Don Giovanni, and his Handelian singing is just as impressive in this regard.

McCormack makes hundreds of recordings, his best-known and most commercially successful series of records being those for the Victor Talking Machine Company during the 1910s and 1920s. He is Victor’s most popular Red Seal recording artist after tenor Enrico Caruso. In the 1920s, he sings regularly on radio and later appears in two sound films, Song o’ My Heart (1930), playing an Irish tenor, and as himself appearing in a party scene in Wings of the Morning (1937), the first British three-strip Technicolor feature.

McCormack is one of the first artists to record the popular ballad “I Hear You Calling Me” written in 1908 by Harold Harford and Charles Marshall. He records it twice for Odeon Records starting in 1908 and a further four times for Victor between 1910 and 1927, becoming his best seller. He is the first artist to record the famous World War I song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” in 1914. He also records a best-selling version of another popular World War I tune, “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” in 1917. He also sings songs expressive of Irish nationalism and endorses the Irish Nationalist estrangement from the United Kingdom. He is associated particularly with the songs of Thomas Moore, notably “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls,” “The Minstrel Boy,” “Believe Me If All (Those Endearing Young Charms),” and “The Last Rose of Summer.” Between 1914 and 1922, he records almost two dozen songs with violin accompaniment provided by Fritz Kreisler, with whom he also tours. He records songs of Hugo Wolf for the Hugo Wolf Society in German. In 1918, he records the song “Calling Me Home to You.”

In 1917, McCormack becomes a naturalised citizen of the United States. In June 1918, he donates $11,458 toward the U.S. World War I effort. By then, his career is a huge financial success, earning millions in his lifetime from record sales and appearances.

By 1920, Edwin Schneider has become McCormack’s accompanist and the two are “inseparable.” When Schneider retires, Gerald Moore takes over as accompanist from 1939 to 1943.

In 1927, McCormack moves into Moore Abbey, Monasterevin, County Kildare, and adopts a very opulent lifestyle by Irish standards. He also owns apartments in London and New York. He hopes that one of his racehorses, such as Golden Lullaby, would win The Derby, but this never occurs.

McCormack also purchases Runyon Canyon in Hollywood in 1930 from Carman Runyon. He sees and likes the estate while there filming Song o’ My Heart (1930), an early all-talking, all-singing picture. He uses his salary for this movie to purchase the estate and builds a mansion he calls ‘San Patrizio,’ after Saint Patrick. He and his wife live in the mansion until they return to England in 1938.

McCormack tours often, and in his absence, the mansion is often let to celebrities such as Janet Gaynor and Charles Boyer. The McCormacks make many friends in Hollywood, among them Errol Flynn, Will Rogers, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman, Charles E. Toberman and the Dohenys. After his farewell tour of America in 1937, the McCormacks deed the estate back to Carman Runyon expecting to return to the estate at a later date. World War II intervenes and he does not return.

McCormack originally ends his career at the Royal Albert Hall in London, during 1938. However, one year after that farewell concert, he is back singing for the Red Cross and in support of the war effort. He gives concerts, tours, broadcasts and records in this capacity until 1943 when poor health finally forces him to retire permanently.

Ill with emphysema, McCormack purchases a house near the sea, “Glena,” Booterstown, Dublin. After years of increasingly poor health, and a series of infectious illnesses, including influenza and pneumonia, he dies at his home in Booterstown on September 16, 1945. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery, St. Patrick’s section, plot reference E/120.


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Birth of Frank Ryan, Politician, Journalist & Paramilitary Activist

Frank Ryan, politician, journalist, intelligence agent and paramilitary activist, is born in the townland of Bottomstown, Elton, County Limerick, on September 11, 1902. A fascinating, somewhat mythical figure, he lives during turbulent times when Ireland finally disposes of tyrannical British rule in Ireland and becomes an icon for socialist republicans in Europe during the 1930s and 40s.

Ryan’s parents, Vere Foster Ryan and Annie Slattery, are National School teachers at Bottomstown with a taste for Irish traditional music, and they live in a house full of books. He attends St. Colman’s College, Fermoy. From then on he is devoted to the restoration of the Irish language. He studies Celtic Studies at University College Dublin (UCD), where he is a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) training corps. He serves as a flying column member during the murderous Irish War of Independence (1919-21), thereby interrupting his studies. He leaves UCD before graduating to join the IRA’s East Limerick Brigade in 1922.

Ryan fights on the Anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War (1922-23), and is wounded and interned. In November 1923 he is released and returns to UCD. He secures his degree in Celtic Studies and further secures the editorship of An Phoblacht (The Republic), the newspaper of the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The split in the Irish independence party, Sinn Féin, results in regular fist fights between pro and anti-Treaty forces. Cumann na nGaedhael, the pro-Treaty political party in government, recruits the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts) under former Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy to protect their members from anti-Treaty IRA protesters at annual Armistice Day and Wolfe Tone commemorations. Ryan is a forceful orator at these events and is frequently arrested and beaten up by the Gardai. The fractious politics results in Dáil members Sean Hales and Kevin O’Higgins being shot dead in public.

Ryan resigns from the IRA and founds the Republican Congress with Peadar O’Donnell and George Gilmore. Worker’s strikes unite Northern Protestant and Southern Catholic workers protesting against low wages and long hours.

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) inspires Ryan to lead the first contingent of Irish volunteers to support the Popular Front government of Republican Spain. A brave and inspiring leader, he serves with Italian and German Republican divisions. He is seriously wounded at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937. Following recuperation in Ireland, he is appointed adjutant to republican General José Miaja. During the Aragon Offensive he is captured with 150 of his men in April 1938 and sentenced to death. Irish President, Éamon de Valera, intervenes with General Francisco Franco and Ryan’s sentence is commuted to thirty years. His health suffers severely in Burgos Prison, Spain during his two year incarceration.

Franco refuses to release Ryan because he is considered his most dangerous prisoner. In August 1940 he is transferred to Berlin, where he is re-united with IRA Chief of Staff Seán Russell. An attempt to return both men to Ireland by U-boat ends with Russell dying from a perforated ulcer. Ryan voluntarily returns to Germany where he serves as the unofficial IRA ambassador for German intelligence. Irishman Francis Stuart, son-in-law of Maud Gonne, who writes some of William Joyce’s propaganda, takes good care of Ryan until his untimely death at a hospital in Loschwitz in Dresden on June 10, 1944.

Ryan’s funeral in Dresden is attended by Elizabeth Clissmann, wife of Helmut Clissmann, and Francis Stuart. Clissmann eventually forwards details of Ryan’s fate to Leopold Kerney in Madrid. According to Stuart and Clissmann, the cause of death is pleurisy and pneumonia.

In 1963, historian Enno Stephan locates Ryan’s grave in Dresden. Three volunteers of the International Brigades, Frank Edwards, Peter O’Connor and Michael O’Riordan travel to East Germany as a guard of honour to repatriate Ryan’s remains in 1979. On June 21, 1979, his remains arrive in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, his local church when he lived in Dublin. The church is packed with all shades of Republican and left-wing opinion, as well as those from his past such as the Stuarts, the Clissmanns, Peadar O’Donnell, George Gilmore, and ex-comrades and sympathizers from all over the world. The cortège on its way to Glasnevin Cemetery halts at the GPO in memory of the dead of the 1916 Easter Rising. His coffin is borne to the grave in Glasnevin Cemetery by Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Frank Edwards, Peter O’Connor, Michael O’Riordan and Terry Flanagan. Con Lehane delivers the funeral oration while a piper plays “Limerick’s Lamentation.” He is buried next to Éamonn Mac Thomáis.

Ryan leads a vicarious life in pursuit of human rights, socialism and republicanism. His life story remains more colourful than fiction.


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Birth of Elizabeth Dillon, Diarist and Nationalist

Elizabeth Dillon, an Irish diarist and nationalist, is born Elizabeth Mathew in England on March 2, 1865.

Dillon is the eldest of five children of Sir James Charles Mathew and Elizabeth Blackmore Mathew. Her family is related to the Butler family, but she does not visit Ireland until 1886. Living in Queen’s Gate Gardens, Kensington, London, she is educated at home. From a young age she attends the ladies’ gallery of the House of Commons, while mixing a busy social life with charitable works.

Dillon begins keeping a diary in 1879, which she continues to write until her death. Her ancestor, Mary Mathew, is also a diarist and keeps the diary for the discipline of the daily activity. She soon begins to write for the love of it, and some have surmised she wrote with the intention her diaries would be read by others. She attends lectures in Old English and literature at King’s College, London from late 1882 to 1884, and begins to learn Irish in 1893.

Dillon’s father supports land reform in Ireland, chairs the evicted tenants commission in 1892, and is a huge influence on her politics. She makes her first political reference on February 25, 1883 when she notes the arrest of the Invincibles, and she then regularly comments on land reform. She travels to Ireland for the first time in August 1886, staying in Killiney, County Dublin. In October 1886, she meets John Dillon, and begins to follow the Plan of Campaign so that she can discuss it with him during his visits to the Mathew house in London.

During this time, John Dillon is deeply immersed in politics, and is imprisoned on a number of occasions. Being a careful follower of Irish politics, she becomes an anti-Parnellite. She confronts John Dillon in autumn 1895 about their relationship, saying that they can no longer meet as they had become the subject of gossip. He proposes within two weeks, and they are married on November 21, 1895 in Brompton Oratory. They are busy and often apart, with Dillon spending time in a warm climate due to his ill health. She tries to accompany him when she can, but the couple’s large family makes that difficult. They have one daughter and five sons, John Dillon (1896-1970), Anne Elizabeth Dillon (born October 29, 1897), Theobald Wolfe Tone (1898-1946), Myles, James, and Brian.

Finances are strained until John’s uncle Charles bequeaths him his house, 2 North Great George’s Street, Dublin in 1898, and a business in Ballaghaderreen, County Mayo is bequeathed him by a cousin, Anne Deane, in 1905. Dillon runs the business successfully, while also carrying out duties as a politician’s wife such as opening the Belfast ladies’ branch of the United Irish League in June 1905. Her busy life results in her neglecting her diary.

Dillon dies on May 14, 1907 in Dublin, having given birth to a stillborn daughter that morning. Pneumonia is given as the cause of death, but it could have been medical incompetence. She is buried in the family vault in Glasnevin Cemetery. Her husband writes of her death in June 1907, A short narrative of the illness and death of my dearest love. Trinity College Dublin holds her diary and correspondence. Her diaries, edited by Brendan Ó Cathaoir, are published in 2019.


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Birth of Pearse Hutchinson, Poet, Broadcaster & Translator

Pearse Hutchinson, Irish poet, broadcaster and translator, is born in Glasgow, Scotland, on February 16, 1927.

Hutchinson’s father, Harry Hutchinson, a Scottish printer whose own father had left Dublin to find work in Scotland, is Sinn Féin treasurer in Glasgow and is interned in Frongoch internment camp in 1919–21. His mother, Cathleen Sara, is born in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, of emigrant parents from County Donegal. She is a friend of Constance Markievicz. In response to a letter from Cathleen, Éamon de Valera finds work in Dublin for Harry as a clerk in the Labour Exchange, and later he holds a post in Stationery Office.

Hutchinson is five years old when the family moves to Dublin, and is the last to be enrolled in St. Enda’s School before it closes. He then goes to school at Synge Street CBS where he learns Irish and Latin. One of his close friends there is the poet and literary critic John Jordan. In 1948 he attends University College Dublin (UCD) where he spends a year and a half, learning Spanish and Italian.

Having published some poems in The Bell in 1945, Hutchinson’s poetic development is greatly influenced by a 1950 holiday in Spain and Portugal. A short stop en route at Vigo brings him into contact for the first time with the culture of Galicia. Later, in Andalusia, he is entranced by the landscape and by the works of the Spanish poets Federico García Lorca, Emilio Prados and Luis Cernuda.

In 1951 Hutchinson leaves Ireland again, determined to live in Spain. Unable to get work in Madrid, as he had hoped, he travels instead to Geneva, where he gets a job as a translator with the International Labour Organization, which brings him into contact with Catalan exiles, speaking a language then largely suppressed in Spain. An invitation by a Dutch friend leads to a visit to the Netherlands, in preparation for which he teaches himself the Dutch language.

Hutchinson returns to Ireland in 1953, and becomes interested in the Irish language poetry of writers such as Piaras Feiritéar and Aonghus Fionn Ó Dálaigh, and publishes a number of poems in Irish in the magazine Comhar in 1954. The same year he travels again to Spain, this time to Barcelona, where he learns the Catalan and Galician languages, and gets to know Catalan poets such as Salvador Espriu and Carles Riba. With the British poet P. J. Kavanagh, he organises a reading of Catalan poetry in the British Institute.

Hutchinson goes home to Ireland in 1957 but returns to Barcelona in 1961, and continues to support Catalan poets. An invitation by the publisher Joan Gili to translate some poems by Josep Carner leads to the publication of his first book, a collection of thirty of Carner’s poems in Catalan and English, in 1962. A project to publish his translation of Espriu’s La Pell de brau (The Bull-skin), falls through some years later. Some of the poems from this project are included in the collection Done into English.

In 1963, Hutchinson’s first collection of original poems in English, Tongue Without Hands, is published by Dolmen Press in Ireland. In 1967, having spent nearly ten years altogether in Spain, he returns to Ireland, making a living as a poet and journalist writing in both Irish and English. In 1968, a collection of poems in Irish, Faoistin Bhacach (A Lame Confession), is published. Expansions, a collection in English, follows in 1969. Friend Songs (1970) is a new collection of translations, this time of medieval poems originally written in Galician-Portuguese. In 1972 Watching the Morning Grow, a new collection of original poems in English, comse out, followed in 1975 by another, The Frost Is All Over.

In October 1971, Hutchinson takes up the Gregory Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Leeds, on the recommendation of Professor A. Norman Jeffares. There is some controversy around the appointment following accusations, later retracted, that Jeffares had been guilty of bias in the selection because of their joint Irish heritage. He holds tenure at the University for three years, and during that time contributes to the University’s influential poetry magazine Poetry & Audience.

From 1977 to 1978 Hutchinsonn compiles and presents Oró Domhnaigh, a weekly radio programme of Irish poetry, music and folklore for Ireland’s national network, RTÉ. He also contributes a weekly column on the Irish language to the station’s magazine RTÉ Guide for over ten years. A collaboration with Melita Cataldi of Old Irish lyrics into Italian is published in 1981. Another collection in English, Climbing the Light (1985), which also includes translations from Irish, Italian and Galician, is followed in 1989 by his last Irish collection, Le Cead na Gréine (By Leave of the Sun). The Soul that Kissed the Body (1990) is a selection of his Irish poems translated into English. His most recent English collection is Barnsley Main Seam (1995). His Collected Poems is published in 2002 to mark his 75th birthday. This is followed in 2003 by Done into English, a selection of many of the translated works he produced over the years.

A co-editor and founder of the literary journal Cyphers, Hutchinson receives the Butler Award for Irish writing in 1969. He is a member of Aosdána, the state-supported association of artists, from which he receives a cnuas (stipend) to allow him to continue writing. He describes this as “a miracle and a godsend” as he is fifty-four when invited to become a member and is at the end of his tether. A two-day symposium of events is held at Trinity College Dublin, to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2007, with readings from his works by writers including Macdara Woods, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan and Sujata Bhatt. His most recent collection, At Least for a While (2008), is shortlisted for the Poetry Now Award.

Hutchinson lives in Rathgar, Dublin, and dies of pneumonia in Dublin on January 14, 2012.

(Pictured: Pearse Hutchinson in 1976, photographed by Eve Holmes, © RTÉ Archives 2032/078)


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Birth of John Morrissey, Irish American Politician & Boxing Champion

John Morrissey, Irish American politician, bare-knuckle boxing champion and criminal also known as ‘Old Smoke,’ is born on February 12, 1831 at Templemore, County Tipperary.

Morrissey is the only son among eight children of Timothy Morrissey, factory worker, and Julia (or Mary) Morrissey. In 1834 the family emigrates to Canada and then the United States, settling at Troy, New York. From the age of ten he works, first in a mill, and then as an iron worker due to his size and strength. He becomes involved in various street gangs, developing a reputation as a pugilist of great strength and resolve. As leader of the Down-Town gang, he defeats six members of the rival Up-Town gang in a single afternoon in 1848. He takes work on a Hudson River steamer and marries Sarah Smith, daughter of the ship’s captain, around 1849. They have one child who dies before reaching adulthood.

In a New York saloon Morrissey challenges Charley ‘Dutch’ Duane to a prize fight and, when he is not to be found, with typical bravado he extends the challenge to everyone present. This impresses the owner, Isaiah Rynders, the Tammany Hall politician, and he employs Morrissey to help the Democratic Party, which involves intimidating voters at election time. A fistfight with gang rival Tom McCann earns him the nickname ‘Old Smoke.’ Mid-fight he is forced onto a bed of coals, but despite having his flesh burned, refuses to concede defeat. He fights his way back and beats McCann into unconsciousness. Stowing away to California to challenge other fighters, he begins a gambling house to raise money, and embarks on a privateering expedition to the Queen Charlotte Islands in a quixotic attempt to make his fortune.

In his first professional prize fight on August 21, 1852, Morrissey defeats George Thompson at Mare Island, California, in dubious circumstances, and begins calling himself the ‘champion of America.’ However, it is only on October 12, 1853 that he officially earns this title, when he wins the heavyweight championship of America in a bout at Boston Corner, New York, against Yankee Sullivan. The fight lasts thirty-seven rounds, and Morrissey has the worst of most of them, but he is awarded the contest after a free-for-all in the ring.

Increasingly involved in New York politics, Morrissey and his supporters fight street battles against the rival gang of William Poole, known as ‘Bill the Butcher,’ a Know Nothing politician later fictionalised in the film Gangs of New York (2002). On July 26, 1854 the two men fight on the docks, but Morrissey is beaten badly and forced to surrender. This marks the beginning of a bitter feud between the two parties, with heavy casualties on both sides, which climaxes on March 8, 1855 when Poole is murdered. Morrissey is indicted as a conspirator in the crime, but is soon released because of his political connections.

On October 20, 1858 Morrissey fights John C. Heenan (1835–73) in another heavyweight championship bout. Heenan breaks his hand early in the fight and is always at a disadvantage. After taking much punishment Morrissey finally makes his dominance count. There is a rematch on April 4, 1859, which Morrissey again wins, and after this he retires from the ring. Investing his prize money, he runs two saloons and a gambling house in New York. With the huge profits from his gambling empire he invests in real estate in Saratoga Springs, New York, opening the Saratoga Race Course there in 1863 which has endured to become America’s oldest major sports venue.

A political career beckons as a reward for Morrissey’s consistent support for the Democratic Party. He is elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1866 representing New York’s fifth district, is re-elected the following year, and serves until March 3, 1871. He supports President Andrew Johnson against demands for his impeachment and is skeptical about the Radicals’ plans for reconstruction in the south. In his final years he serves in the New York State Senate (1875–78).

After contracting pneumonia, Morrissey dies at the Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga Springs, on May 1, 1878, and is buried at Saint Peter’s Cemetery, Troy. On the day of his funeral, flags at New York City Hall are lowered to half-mast, while the National Police Gazette declares on May 4, 1878 that “few men of our day have arisen from beginnings so discouraging to a place so high in the general esteem of the community.” His name is included in the list of ‘pioneer’ inductees in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, and each year the John Morrissey Stakes are held at Saratoga Race Course in honour of its founder.

(Pictured: John Morrissey, U.S. Representative from New York, circa 1870s, source Library of Congress)


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Death of Patrick Hennessy, Irish Realist Painter

Patrick Anthony Hennessy RHA, Irish realist painter known for his highly finished still lifes, landscapes and trompe-l’œil paintings, dies in London on December 30, 1980. The hallmark of his style is his carefully observed realism and his highly finished surfaces, the result of a virtuoso painting technique.

Hennessy is born in Cork, County Cork, on August 28, 1915. The son of John Hennessy an army sergeant major from County Kerry and Bridget Hennessy from Cork. His father is killed in World War I at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. In 1921, when he is five years old, his mother remarries in Cork. Her second husband is a Scot named John Duncan and shortly afterwards the whole family moves to Arbroath, Scotland, where Duncan has relatives.

Hennessy is educated in Arbroath at St. Thomas RC Primary School followed by secondary education at Arbroath High School, where he begins to show an aptitude for art, leaving in 1933 with the Dux for Art and an accompanying medal. In the autumn of 1933 he enrolls at the Dundee of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, for a four-year Diploma course in Drawing and Painting under James McIntosh Patrick and Edward Baird. Here he meets Harry Robertson Craig who becomes his lifelong companion. He plays a full part in the social activities of the college, winning a fancy dress award at the Christmas revels in 1935 and producing a ballet “Paradise Lost” the following year. He gains a First Class Pass in each year of the course along with winning first prize in 1934 and 1936 for work done during the summer vacation. He graduates with a First Class Distinction in 1937.

Having gained a scholarship, Hennessy continues his studies at the Dundee of Jordanstone College of Art & Design for a further year by doing a Post-Graduate Diploma course in Drawing and Painting. Within a month of gaining his Post-Graduate Diploma he holds his first joint exhibition at the Art Galleries in Arbroath. In June 1938 he is awarded the Annual Travelling Scholarship for further studies in Paris and Italy. In Paris he meets up with the artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, whom he had met the previous year, the three travelling south together to Marseilles towards the end of that year. On his return to Scotland he is selected for the residential summer school course at Hospitalfield House near Arbroath under James Cowie. Two of his paintings, a still life and a self-portrait, are accepted that year by the Royal Scottish Academy for their Annual Exhibition. However, by the autumn of 1939 with war looming and feeling somewhat disenchanted on his return to Scotland, he decides to return to Ireland.

On arrival in Dublin Hennessy is offered an exhibition in December 1939 at the Country Shop on St. Stephen’s Green which is opened by Mainie Jellett. This attracts favourable attention. During the early 1940s he lives at various addresses in and around Dublin with frequent trips to Cork. In 1940 he is invited to join the Society of Dublin Painters and holds regular annual exhibitions of his work there during the 1940s and early 1950s. These exhibitions are supplemented by an eclectic mix of commissions, mostly portraits which he undertakes during this period. In 1941 he has three of his paintings accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) for their annual exhibition. This is the beginning of a long relationship with the RHA. He exhibits there virtually every year from 1941 until 1979, the year before his death.

From the early 1940s onwards, Hennessey’s work sometimes incorporates a homosexual visual subtext. He re-unites with Harry Robertson Craig in 1946 and soon after they move to Crosshaven, County Cork, and later to Cobh. In 1947, Time magazine selects him as one of Ireland’s outstanding painters, in recognition of the important position he has then attained in the art world. In 1948 he has an exhibition at the Victor Waddington Gallery, Dublin, and that same year is elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy and a full member the following year. In 1950 his painting De Profundis is selected for the Contemporary Irish Painting exhibition that tours North America. As a result of this tour, the American public and critics begin to take notice of his work. In 1951 he visits Italy, taking in Venice and Sicily and returning to Dublin with many of his canvases painted abroad. One of these paintings, Bronze Horses of St. Marks, is exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1954.

In 1956, a friend of Hennessy, David Hendriks, opens the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin and it is this gallery that is to be the main outlet for his work over the following 22 years. In October 1956 the Thomas Agnew Gallery in London holds an exhibition of his work comprising 38 of his paintings. However, during the winter of 1959 he becomes seriously ill with pneumonia. As a consequence of this, in the autumn of that year he and Craig decide to winter in Morocco. This is the beginning of a new era in both their lives. They would never again spend a full year in Ireland. His exhibitions at the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery had for many years enjoyed favourable reviews from the art critics but in the 1960s this changes with critics claiming his paintings to be dull, repetitive and suggest he needs to explore new areas. Despite the barrage of criticism, in 1965 the Guildhall Gallery in Chicago offers him a major exhibition. Shortly after this exhibition takes place in 1966 he becomes one of the artists on permanent display at the gallery with an annual exhibition. The North American market is extremely lucrative for him and by the end of the decade he is selling more of his work in the United States than in Ireland. In 1968 he finally moves to Tangier, Morocco on a permanent basis and in 1970 sells his studio on Raglan Lane, Dublin.

In Morocco, Hennessy paints prolifically for nine years to keep up with demand from the Hendriks Gallery and Guildhall Gallery along with the RHA. In 1975 the Guildhall Gallery mounts a highly successful Retrospective of his work. In 1978 he has his last exhibition in Dublin at the Hendriks Gallery. By this time he has moved to the Algarve, Portugal and is beginning to have health problems.

In November 1980, with his health deteriorating, Craig brings Hennessy to a hospital in London for treatment. However, on December 30, 1980 he dies from cancer. Following cremation his ashes are buried in nearby Golders Green Crematorium. He leaves his entire estate to Harry Robertson Craig with the proviso that on Craig’s death the Royal Hibernian Academy should be the beneficiary. This legacy has been used to set up the annual Hennessy Craig Scholarship for aspiring artists.

Hennessy falls into the category of painter who develops a distinctive personal style, labelled at various times in his life as a Traditional Realist, Romantic, Photo Realist, Illusionary and Surrealist. However, he always remains intrinsically himself. His subjects range from still life and interiors to landscapes and portraits.

Examples of Hennessy’s work can be found in the public collections of the Crawford Art Gallery, the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), the Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland (NSPCI) at the University of Limerick (UL), and in the collections of University College Cork (UCC) and University College Dublin (UCD).


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Death of Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, Irish-born senior British Army officer and colonial administrator, drowns in the sinking of the HMS Hampshire west of Orkney, Scotland, on June 5, 1916. He wins notoriety for his imperial campaigns, especially his scorched earth policy against the Boers, his expansion of Lord Robertsinternment camps during the Second Boer War and his central role in the early part of World War I.

Kitchener is born in Ballylongford near Listowel, County Kerry, son of army officer Henry Horatio Kitchener and Frances Anne Chevallier, daughter of John Chevallier, a priest, of Aspall Hall, and his third wife, Elizabeth. The family moves to Switzerland when he is young, where he is educated at Montreux, then at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He joins a French field ambulance unit in the Franco-Prussian War but is returned to England after he comes down with pneumonia.

Kitchener is credited in 1898 for winning the Battle of Omdurman and securing control of the Sudan for which he is made Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. As Chief of Staff (1900–1902) in the Second Boer War he plays a key role in Lord Roberts’ conquest of the Boer Republics, then succeeds Roberts as commander-in-chief, by which time Boer forces have taken to guerrilla warfare and British forces imprison Boer civilians in concentration camps. His term as Commander-in-Chief (1902–09) of the Army in India sees him quarrel with another eminent proconsul, the Viceroy Lord Curzon, who eventually resigns. He then returns to Egypt as British Agent and Consul General.

In 1914, at the start of World War I, Kitchener becomes Secretary of State for War, a Cabinet Minister. One of the few to foresee a long war, lasting for at least three years, and with the authority to act effectively on that perception, he organises the largest volunteer army that Britain had ever seen, and oversees a significant expansion of materials production to fight on the Western Front. Despite having warned of the difficulty of provisioning for a long war, he is blamed for the shortage of shells in the spring of 1915, one of the events leading to the formation of a coalition government, and is stripped of his control over munitions and strategy.

On June 5, 1916, Kitchener is making his way to Russia on HMS Hampshire to attend negotiations with Tsar Nicholas II. At the last minute, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe changes the HMS Hampshire‘s route on the basis of a misreading of the weather forecast and ignoring (or not being aware of) recent intelligence and sightings of German U-boat activity in the vicinity of the amended route. Shortly before 7:30 PM the same day, steaming for the Russian port of Arkhangelsk during a Force 9 gale, HMS Hampshire strikes a mine laid by the newly launched German U-boat U-75 and sinks 1.5 miles west of the Orkney. Only twelve men survive. Amongst the dead are Kitchener and all ten members of his entourage. He is seen standing on the quarterdeck during the approximately twenty minutes that it takes the ship to sink. His body is never recovered.


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Birth of Edward Hand, Soldier, Physician & Politician

Edward Hand, Irish soldier, physician, and politician who serves in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, is born in Clyduff, King’s County (now County Offaly) on December 31, 1744. He rises to the rank of general and later is a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.

Hand, the son of John Hand, is baptised in Shinrone. Among his immediate neighbours are the Kearney family, ancestors of United States President Barack Obama. He is a descendant of either the families of Mag Fhlaithimh (of south Ulaidh and Mide) or Ó Flaithimhín (of the Síol Muireadaigh) who, through mistranslation became Lavin or Hand.

Hand earns a medical certificate from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1767, he enlists as a Surgeon’s Mate in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot. On May 20, 1767, he sails with the regiment from Cobh, County Cork, arriving at Philadelphia on July 11, 1767. In 1772, he is commissioned an ensign. He marches with the regiment to Fort Pitt, on the forks of the Ohio River, returning to Philadelphia in 1774, where he resigns his commission.

In 1774, Hand moves to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he practices medicine. On March 13, 1775, he marries Catherine Ewing. Lancaster is the region of some of the earliest Irish and Scotch-Irish settlements in Pennsylvania. As a people, they are well known for their anti-English and revolutionary convictions. He is active in forming the Lancaster County Associators, a colonial militia. He is a 32nd degree Freemason, belonging to the Montgomery Military Lodge number 14.

Hand enters the Continental Army in 1775 as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment under Colonel William Thompson. He is promoted to colonel in 1776 and placed in command of the 1st Continental, then designated the 1st Pennsylvania. Promoted to brigadier general in March 1777, he serves as the commander of Fort Pitt, fighting British loyalists and their Indian allies. He is recalled, after over two years at Fort Pitt, to serve as a brigade commander in Major General La Fayette‘s division.

In 1778, Hand attacks the Lenape, killing Captain Pipe‘s mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign. Failing to distinguish among the Native American groups, he had attacked the neutral Lenape while trying to reduce the Indian threat to settlers in the Ohio Country, because other tribes, such as the Shawnee, had allied with the British.

After a few months, he is appointed Adjutant General of the Continental Army and serves during the Siege of Yorktown in that capacity. In recognition of his long and distinguished service, he is promoted by brevet to major general in September 1783. He resigns from the Army in November 1783.

Hand returns to Lancaster and resumes the practice of medicine. A Federalist, he is also active in civil affairs. Beginning in 1785, he owns and operates Rock Ford plantation, a 177-acre farm on the banks of the Conestoga River, one mile south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Georgian brick mansion remains today and the farm is a historic site open to the public.

Hand dies from typhoid fever, dysentery or pneumonia at Rock Ford on September 3, 1802, although medical records are unclear with some sources stating he died of cholera. There is no evidence Lancaster County suffered from a cholera epidemic in 1802. He is buried in St. James’s Episcopal Cemetery in Lancaster, the same church where he had served as a deacon.


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Death of Mary McShain, Landowner & Benefactor

Mary McShain, Irish American landowner and benefactor, dies at Killarney House in Killarney, County Kerry on December 2, 1998.

McShain is born Mary Horstmann in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 27, 1907. Her parents are Ignatius J. Horstmann and his wife Pauline. She is the fifth of six children. She attends St. Leonard’s Academy in Philadelphia and Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. In 1927 she marries John McShain, building contractor who works on the reconstruction of the White House and the building of the Jefferson Memorial, the Pentagon, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. They are both interested in horse breeding and racing, establishing a stable of racehorses in 1952. They expand this stable to Ireland in 1955, hiring first Vincent O’Brien and then John Oxx as trainers. Their greatest success is the horse Ballymoss.

The McShains move to Ireland in 1960, buying Killarney House in County Kerry and a large portion of the Kenmare estate, which had been owned by the Earls of Kenmare since the 16th century. They gift Innisfallen Island and the ruins of an abbey to the Irish state in 1973, bestowing guardianship of Ross Island and its castle to the state. For a nominal fee, they turn over the entire estate to the state in 1979, stipulating a life tenancy of the house and some land, with the rest of the land being incorporated into Killarney National Park.

McShain is a Dame of Malta and a Lady of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre. She receives the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice cross in 1976. She is awarded two honorary doctorates in 1977, one from La Salle University in Philadelphia and one from her alma mater, Rosemont College.

McShain dies at Killarney House on December 2, 1998. She is buried beside her husband in Holy Cross Cemetery, Philadelphia. Her daughter, Pauline McShain, is a sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and dies on March 8, 2019 due to complications of pneumonia.

(Pictured: John and Mary McShain with Lakes of Killarney in the background sometime in the late 1950s)


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Death of Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, Snooker World Champion

alex-hurricane-higginsAlexander Gordon “Alex” Higgins, Northern Irish professional snooker player, who is remembered as one of the most iconic figures in the game, dies in Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 24, 2010. He is nicknamed “Hurricane Higgins” because of his fast play.

Higgins is born in Belfast on March 18, 1949.  He starts playing snooker at the age of eleven, often in the Jampot club in his native Sandy Row area of south Belfast and later in the YMCA in the nearby city centre. At age fourteen and weighing seven and a half stone (47.6 kg), he leaves for England and a career as a jockey. However, he never makes the grade because, in his youth, he drinks a lot of Guinness and eats a lot of chocolate, making him too heavy to ride competitively. He returns to Belfast and by 1965, at the age of sixteen, he has compiled his first maximum break. In 1968 he wins the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland Amateur Championships.

Higgins turns professional at the age of 22, winning the World Snooker Championship at his first attempt in 1972, against John Spencer winning 37–32. Higgins is then the youngest ever winner of the title, a record retained until Stephen Hendry‘s 1990 victory at the age of 21. In April 1976, Higgins reaches the final again and faces Ray Reardon. Higgins leads 11–9, but Reardon makes four centuries and seven breaks over 60 to pull away and win the title for the fifth time with the score of 27–16. Higgins is also the runner-up to Cliff Thorburn in 1980, losing 18–16, after being 9–5 up. Higgins wins the world title for a second time in 1982 after beating Reardon 18–15 (with a 135 total clearance in the final frame). It was an emotional as well as professional victory for him. Higgins would have been ranked No. 1 in the world rankings for the 1982-1983 season had he not forfeited ranking points following disciplinary action.

Throughout his career, Higgins wins 20 other titles, one of the most notable being the 1983 UK Championship. In the final he trails Steve Davis 0–7 before producing a famous comeback to win 16–15. He also wins the Masters twice, in 1978 and in 1981, beating Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths in the finals respectively. Another notable victory is his final professional triumph in the 1989 Irish Masters at the age of 40 when he defeats a young Stephen Hendry, which becomes known as “The Hurricane’s Last Hurrah.”

Higgins comes to be known as the “People’s Champion” because of his popularity, and is often credited with having brought the game of snooker to a wider audience, contributing to its peak in popularity in the 1980s. He has a reputation as an unpredictable and difficult character. He is a heavy smoker, struggles with drinking and gambling, and admits to using cocaine and marijuana.

First diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, Higgins is found dead in bed in his flat on July 24, 2010. The cause of death is a combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, and a bronchial condition. Higgins’ funeral service is held in Belfast on August 2, 2010. He is cremated and his ashes are interred in Carnmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.