seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Fighter Pilot “Paddy” Finucane

brendan-finucaneWing Commander Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane, World War II Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot and flying ace known as Paddy Finucane amongst his colleagues, dies on July 15, 1942 when he is forced to ditch his aircraft in the English Channel. He is also noted for being the youngest person to ever become wing leader of a fighter wing.

Finucane, born on October 16, 1920 in Rathmines, Dublin, is credited with 28 aerial victories, five probably destroyed, six shared destroyed, one shared probable victory, and eight damaged. Included in his total are twenty-three Messerschmitt Bf 109s, four Focke-Wulf Fw 190s and one Messerschmitt Bf 110. Official records differ over the exact total. After the war, two of Finucane’s victories that had been credited as probables had, in fact, been destroyed, but are not officially included. His total victory count could be as high as 32.

On July 15, Finucane is killed at the age of 21 while leading the Hornchurch Wing in a fighter “Ramrod” operation targeting a German Army camp at Étaples, France. He takes off with his wing at 11:50 AM. The attack is timed to hit the Germans at lunchtime. Crossing the beach at Le Touquet, they target machine gun positions. His plane is hit in the radiator at 12:22 PM. His wingman, Alan Aikman, notifies him of the white plume of smoke and Finucane acknowledges it with a thumbs up. Standard regulations insist the wing carry on the mission even if the leader is in trouble. Radio silence is maintained so the enemy radio-interception services do not become aware that a person of importance has been hit.

Finucane flies slowly out to sea, talking calmly to Aikman as he glides along in his stricken fighter. Finally, some 8 miles off Le Touquet on the French coast, he breaks radio silence and sends his last message. Aikman, flying alongside Finucane, sees him pull back the canopy, and before taking off his helmet, say “This is it Butch.” It is a well–executed landing, but the waves are difficult to predict and the Spitfire‘s nose strikes the water and disappears in a wall of spray. Before he hits the water, witnesses Aikman and Keith Chisholm of 452 Squadron see him release, or perhaps tighten, his parachute release harness and straps. If Finucane did release them, it is possible he could have been thrown forward onto the gun-sight and killed, or knocked unconscious and drowned. The exact circumstances remain unknown.

Over 2,500 people attend his memorial at Westminster Cathedral. A rose is planted in the memorial garden in Baldonnel Aerodrome in Dublin, home of the Irish Air Corps. Finucane’s name is also inscribed on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. The memorial commemorates airmen who were lost in World War II and who have no known grave. The Battle of Britain Monument on London‘s Victoria Embankment also includes his name as one of The Few. His flying logbook can be viewed in the Soldiers and Chief’s exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. The Finucane family donated Brendan Finucane’s uniform to the Royal Air Force Museum London.

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Birth of Fighter Pilot George Edward Henry McElroy

Captain George Edward Henry McElroy, a leading Irish-born fighter pilot of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force during World War I, is born at Donnybrook, County Dublin, on May 14, 1893. He is credited with 47 aerial victories.

McElroy enlists promptly at the start of World War I in August 1914, and is shipped out to France two months later. He is serving as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers when he is first commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 9, 1915. While serving in the Royal Irish Regiment he is severely affected by mustard gas and is sent home to recuperate. He is in Dublin in April 1916, during the Easter Rising, and is ordered to help quell the insurrection. McElroy refuses to fire upon his fellow Irishmen, and is transferred to a southerly garrison away from home.

On June 1, 1916 McElroy relinquishes his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which he graduates on February 28, 1917, and is commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

McElroy is promptly seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, being trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School at Upavon, and is appointed a flying officer on June 28. On July 27 his commission is backdated to February 9, 1916, and he is promoted to lieutenant on August 9. On August 15 he joins No. 40 Squadron RFC, where he benefits from mentoring by Edward “Mick” Mannock. He originally flies a Nieuport 17, but with no success in battle. By the year’s end McElroy is flying Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s and claims his first victory on December 28.

An extremely aggressive dog-fighter who ignores often overwhelming odds, McElroy’s score soon grows rapidly. He shoots down two German aircraft in January 1918, and by February 18 has run his string up to eleven. At that point, he is appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain and transferred to No. 24 Squadron RFC. He continues to steadily accrue victories by ones and twos. By March 26, when he is awarded the Military Cross, he is up to 18 “kills.” On April 1, the Army’s Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) are merged to form the Royal Air Force, and his squadron becomes No. 24 Squadron RAF. McElroy is injured in a landing accident on April 7 when he brushes a treetop while landing. By then he has run his score to 27. While he is sidelined with his injury, on April 22, he is awarded a bar to his Military Cross. Following his convalescence, McElroy returns to No. 40 Squadron in June, scoring three times, on the 26th, 28th, and 30th. The latter two triumphs are observation balloons. That runs his tally to thirty.

In July, he adds to his score almost daily, a third balloon busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month. His run of success is threatened on the 20th by a vibrating engine that entails breaking off an attack on a German two seater and a rough emergency landing that leaves him with scratches and bruises. There is a farewell luncheon that day for his friend Gwilym Hugh “Noisy” Lewis. Their mutual friend Edward “Mick” Mannock pulls McElroy aside to warn him about the hazards of following a German victim down within range of ground fire.

On July 26, Mannock is killed by ground fire. Ironically, on that same day, “McIrish” McElroy receives the second Bar to his Military Cross. He is one of only ten airmen to receive the second Bar.

McElroy’s continues apparent disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting can have only one end. On July 31, 1918, he reports destroying a Hannoversche Waggonfabrik C for his 47th victory. He then sets out again. He fails to return from this flight and is posted missing. Later it is learned that McElroy has been killed by ground fire. He is 25 years old. McElroy is interred in Plot I.C.1 at the Laventie Military Cemetery in La Gorgue, northern France.

McElroy receives the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously on August 3, citing his shooting down 35 aeroplanes and three observation balloons. The Bar arrives still later, on September 21, and lauds his low-level attacks. In summary, he shoots down four enemy aircraft in flames and destroys 23 others, one of which he shares with other pilots. He drives down 16 enemy aircraft “out of control” and out of the fight. He also destroys three balloons.


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The Crash of Aer Lingus Flight 712

Aer Lingus Flight 712 crashes enroute from Cork to London on March 24, 1968 killing all 61 passengers and crew. The aircraft, a Vickers Viscount 803 named “St. Phelim,” crashes into the sea off Tuskar Rock, County Wexford. Although the investigation into the crash lasts two years, a cause is never determined. There has long been popular speculation that the aircraft was shot down by a British experimental missile. Aberporth in west Wales is at the time the most advanced British missile testing station.

The flight leaves Cork Airport at 10:32 AM for London. The flight proceeds normally until a call is heard with the probable contents “twelve thousand feet descending spinning rapidly.” There is no further communications with the aircraft and London ATC informs Shannon ATC that they have no radio contact with EI-AOM. London ATC requests Aer Lingus Flight EI 362, flying a Dublin to Bristol route, to search west of Strumble. This search at 500 feet in good visibility turns up nothing. At 11:25 AM a full alert is declared. By 12:36 PM there is a report of wreckage sighted at position 51°57′N, 06°10′W. Searching aircraft, however, find nothing and the report is cancelled. Aircraft and ships from the UK resume the search the following day and wreckage is sighted and bodies are recovered 6 nautical miles northeast of Tuskar Rock with more wreckage scattered an additional 6 nautical miles to the northwest.

Thirteen bodies are recovered over the next few days. Another body is recovered later. The main wreckage is located on the sea bed by trawling 1.72 nautical miles from Tuskar Rock at 39 fathoms.

In the years since the crash several witnesses have come forward with evidence to support the missile theory, including a crew member of the British ship HMS Penelope. He alleges that part of the wreckage was recovered by Penelope and removed to the UK.

An investigation report is produced in 1970, a review is undertaken between 1998 and 2000, and an independent study is commissioned in 2000.

However, in 2002 a review process conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) discloses that Aer Lingus paperwork relating to a routine maintenance inspection carried out on the aircraft in December 1967 is found to be missing in 1968. Moreover, a large body of research is done by the investigators after the accident, regarding the maintenance operating plan used for EI-AOM and defects on the aircraft found during analysis of the maintenance records. This research is not referred to in the 1970 report. A new board of investigation is set up by the Irish Government and finds that the crash is the consequence of a chain of events starting with a failure to the left tail-plane caused by metal fatigue, corrosion, flutter, or a bird strike, with the most likely cause being a flutter-induced fatigue failure of the elevator trim tab operating mechanism.

In March 2007 retired RAF Squadron Leader Eric Evers, who is previously chief flying instructor with the British military in RAF Little Rissington, makes a claim that the accident is in fact caused by a mid-air collision between the Aer Lingus Vickers Viscount and a French-built  Fouga Magister military aircraft which is training with the Irish Air Corps. Evers maintains that both the French and Irish authorities colluded in a subsequent cover-up, and the Magister wreckage may still be on the seabed. Evers claims have been largely disputed.

Aer Lingus still uses this flight number for a daily flight from Cork to London’s Heathrow Airport, contrary to airline convention of discontinuing a flight number following a crash. The route is operated with an aircraft from the Airbus A320 family.


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Birth of U2 Bassist Adam Clayton

adam-claytonAdam Charles Clayton, Irish musician best known as the bass guitarist of the rock band U2, is born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England, on March 13, 1960.

Clayton is the oldest child of Brian and Jo Clayton. His father is a pilot with the Royal Air Force, who moves into civil aviation, and his mother is a former airline flight attendant. When he is 4 years old his father works in Kenya as a pilot with East African Airways. Clayton regards this as the happiest period of his childhood. In 1965 the family moves to Malahide, County Dublin, where Clayton’s brother Sebastian is born. The Clayton family becomes friends with the Evans family, including their son, David, who later becomes a fellow U2 band-member with Clayton.

When he is eight years old Clayton is sent to the private junior boarding Castle Park School in Dalkey, Dublin, which he did not enjoy because he is not particularly sports orientated. At age 13 he enters the private St. Columba’s College secondary school in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Here he makes friends with other pupils who are enthusiastic about pop/rock music. It is here in the school band where Clayton plays the bass guitar for the first time.

Clayton later changes school to Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, where he meets future bandmates, Paul Hewson (aka “Bono“) and Larry Mullen Jr., and is reunited with his childhood friend David Evans (aka “The Edge”). In September 1976, Mullen puts an advert onto the school’s bulletin board seeking other musicians to form a band. The original band is a five-piece band known as “Feedback,” consisting of Bono, The Edge, Mullen, Dik Evans, and Clayton. The name is subsequently changed to “The Hype,” but changes to “U2” soon after Dik Evans leaves the band. Clayton stands in as the nearest thing that the band has to a manager in its early life, handing over the duties to Paul McGuinness in May 1978.

In 1981, around the time of U2’s second, spiritually charged October album, a rift is created in the band between Clayton and McGuinness, and the three other band members. Bono, The Edge, and Mullen have joined a Christian group, and are questioning the compatibility of rock music with their spirituality. However, Clayton, with his more ambiguous religious views, is less concerned, and so is more of an outsider, until Bono’s wedding to Alison Hewson (née Stewart), in which Clayton is the best man.

Clayton makes international headlines in August 1989 when he is arrested in Dublin for carrying a small amount of marijuana. He avoids conviction by making a large donation to charity. Clayton also has alcohol problems, which come to a head on November 26, 1993, when he is so hung over that he is unable to play that night’s show in Sydney, the dress rehearsal for their Zoo TV concert film. Bass duties are fulfilled by Clayton’s technician Stuart Morgan. After that incident, however, Clayton gives up alcohol.

In 1995, after the Zoo TV Tour and Zooropa album, Clayton heads to New York City with bandmate Mullen to receive formal training in the bass as until then Clayton has been entirely self-taught. Bono says of Clayton’s early bass playing, “Adam used to pretend he could play bass. He came round and started using words like ‘action’ and ‘fret’ and he had us baffled. He had the only amplifier, so we never argued with him. We thought this guy must be a musician; he knows what he’s talking about. And then one day, we discovered he wasn’t playing the right notes. That’s what’s wrong, y’know?”

In 2011 Clayton becomes an ambassador for the Dublin-based St. Patrick’s Hospital‘s Mental Health Service “Walk in My Shoes” facility.

Clayton and U2 have won numerous awards in their career, including 22 Grammy Awards, including seven times for Best Rock Duo or Group, and twice each for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rock Album.


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Birth of Patrick Michael Clancy

patrick-michael-clancyPatrick Michael Clancy, Irish folk singer best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, is born on March 7, 1922, at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. In addition to singing and storytelling, Clancy plays the harmonica with the group, which is widely credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States and revitalizing it in Ireland. He also starts and runs the folk music label Tradition Records, which records many of the key figures of the American folk music revival.

Clancy is one of eleven children and the eldest of four boys born to Johanna McGrath and Bob Clancy. During World War II he serves as a flight engineer in the Royal Air Force in India. After his demobilization, Clancy works as a baker in London. In 1947 he emigrates to Toronto, Canada with his brother Tom Clancy. The following year, the two brothers move to Cleveland, Ohio to stay with relatives. Later, they attempt to move to California, but their car breaks down and they relocate to the New York City area instead.

After moving to Greenwich Village in 1951, both Patrick and Tom devote themselves primarily to careers in the theater. In addition to appearing in various Off-Broadway productions and television shows, they produce and star in plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village and at a playhouse in Martha’s Vineyard. After losing money on some unsuccessful plays, the brothers begin singing concerts of folk songs after their evening acting jobs are over. They soon dub these concerts “Midnight Specials” and the “Swapping Song Fair.” Patrick and Tom are often joined by other prominent folk singers of the day, including Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.

In 1956 their younger brother, Liam Clancy, immigrates to New York, where he teams up with Tommy Makem, whom he had met while collecting folk songs in Ireland. The two begin singing together at Gerde’s Folk City, a club in Greenwich Village. Patrick and Tom sing with them on occasion, usually in informal folk “sing-songs” in the Village. Around the same time, Patrick founds Tradition Records with folk-song collector and heiress Diane Hamilton, and in 1956 the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem release their first album, The Rising of the Moon, with only Patrick’s harmonica as musical accompaniment. However, the Clancys and Makem do not become a permanent singing group until 1959.

In the late 1950s, Clancy with his brothers and Makem begin to take singing more seriously as a permanent career, and soon they record their second album, Come Fill Your Glass with Us. This album proves to be more successful than their debut album, and they begin receiving job offers as singers at important nightclubs, including the Gate of Horn in Chicago and the Blue Angel in New York City. The group garners nationwide fame in the United States after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which leads to a contract with Columbia Records in 1961. Over the course of the 1960s, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem record approximately two albums a year for Columbia. By 1964, Billboard magazine reports that the group was outselling Elvis Presley in Ireland.

The group performs together on stage, recordings, and television to great acclaim in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia until Tommy Makem leaves to pursue a solo career in 1969. They continue performing first with Bobby Clancy and then with Louis Killen until Liam leaves in 1976 also to pursue a solo career. In 1977 after a short hiatus, the group reforms with Patrick, Tom, and Bobby Clancy and their nephew Robbie O’Connell. Liam returns in 1990 after the death of Tom Clancy.

In 1968, after two decades in North America, Clancy returns to live in Carrick-on-Suir, where he purchases a dairy farm and breeds exotic cattle. When not on tour or working on his farm, he spends much of his time fishing, reading, and doing crossword puzzles. In the late 1990s, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor is successfully removed, but he is also stricken with terminal lung cancer around the same time. He continues performing until his failing health prevents him from doing so any longer.

Patrick Clancy dies at home of lung cancer on November 11, 1998 at the age of 76. He is buried, wearing his trademark white cap, in the tiny village of Faugheen, near Carrick-on-Suir.


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The M62 Coach Bombing

m62-coach-bombingThe M62 coach bombing occurs on February 4, 1974 on the M62 motorway in Northern England, when a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb explodes in a coach carrying off-duty British Armed Forces personnel and their family members. Twelve people, nine soldiers and three civilians, are killed by the bomb, which consists of 25 pounds of high explosive hidden in a luggage locker on the coach.

The coach has been specially commissioned to carry British Army and Royal Air Force personnel on leave with their families from and to the bases at Catterick and Darlington during a period of railway strike action. The vehicle departs from Manchester and is making good progress along the motorway. Shortly after midnight, when the bus is between junction 26 and 27, near Oakwell Hall, there is a large explosion on board. Most of those aboard are sleeping at the time. The blast, which can be heard several miles away, reduces the coach to a “tangle of twisted metal” and throws body parts up to 250 yards.

The explosion kills eleven people outright and wounds over fifty others, one of whom dies four days later. Amongst the dead are nine soldiers – two from the Royal Artillery, three from the Royal Corps of Signals, and four from the 2nd battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. One of the latter is Corporal Clifford Haughton, whose entire family, consisting of his wife Linda and his sons Lee (5) and Robert (2), also die. Numerous others suffer severe injuries, including a six-year-old boy, who is badly burned.

The driver of the coach, Roland Handley, is injured by flying glass, but is hailed as a hero for bringing the coach safely to a halt. Handley dies at the age of 76 after a short illness in January 2011.

Suspicions immediately fall upon the IRA, which is in the midst of an armed campaign in Britain involving numerous operations, later including the Guildford pub bombing and the Birmingham pub bombings.

Reactions in Britain are furious, with senior politicians from all parties calling for immediate action against the perpetrators and the IRA in general. The British media are equally condemnatory. According to The Guardian, it is “the worst IRA outrage on the British mainland” at that time, whilst the BBC describes it as “one of the IRA’s worst mainland terror attacks.” The Irish newspaper The Sunday Business Post later describes it as the “worst” of the “awful atrocities perpetrated by the IRA” during this period.

IRA Army Council member Dáithí Ó Conaill is challenged over the bombing and the death of civilians during an interview, and replies that the coach had been bombed because IRA intelligence indicated that it was carrying military personnel only.

Following the explosion, the British public and politicians from all three major parties call for “swift justice.” The ensuing police investigation led by Detective Chief Superintendent George Oldfield is rushed, careless, and ultimately forged, resulting in the arrest of the mentally ill Judith Ward who claims to have conducted a string of bombings in Britain in 1973 and 1974 and to have married and had a baby with two separate IRA members. Despite her retraction of these claims, the lack of any corroborating evidence against her, and serious gaps in her testimony – which is frequently rambling, incoherent, and “improbable” – she is wrongfully convicted in November 1974.

The case against Ward is almost completely based on inaccurate scientific evidence using the Griess test and deliberate manipulation of her confession by some members of the investigating team. The case is similar to those of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, and the Maguire Seven, which occur at the same time and involve similar forged confessions and inaccurate scientific analysis. Ward is finally released in 1992, when three Appeal Court judges hold unanimously that her conviction was “a grave miscarriage of justice,” and that it had been “secured by ambush.”


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The Death of Bobby Clancy of The Clancy Brothers

bobby-clancyRobert Joseph “Bobby” Clancy, Jr., singer and musician best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers, one of the most successful and influential Irish folk groups, dies on September 6, 2002, in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. He plays the five-string banjo, guitar, bodhrán, and harmonica.

Bobby Clancy is born on May 11, 1927, in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. Clancy leaves home in the late 1940s to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) where he travels all over Europe, including Greece and Egypt where he learns many folk songs. He later joins his older brothers Paddy Clancy and Tom Clancy in New York City, where they work as actors. The trio sometimes sing, informally beginning the group later known as The Clancy Brothers.

In 1955, Bobby returns to Ireland to settle down and run his father’s insurance business. His youngest brother Liam Clancy takes his place in America and officially forms The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem with Paddy, Tom Clancy, and friend Tommy Makem. Bobby forges his own solo career, as well as performing the other half of two duos with sister Peg Clancy and an American folk singer named Sharon Collen. As a solo artist, Bobby brings his show to the small screen with his own TV series, When Bobby Clancy Sings, on Irish television.

When Tommy Makem leaves in 1969, Bobby takes his place and becomes a member of The Clancy Brothers. The four brothers, Paddy, Tom, Bobby, and Liam release three studio albums, Clancy Brothers Christmas, Flowers in the Valley, and Welcome to Our House.

Bobby’s initial tenure with The Clancy Brothers was short-lived. Bobby resumes his solo work, releasing a solo album Good Times When Bobby Clancy Sings and appearing live on a compilation album from a 1974 German Folk Festival, both in 1974.

In 1976, The Clancy Brothers disband for a few months. Liam Clancy and Louis Killen leave the group and remaining brothers Paddy and Tom decide to go on a hiatus. In 1977, plans are set into motion to regroup and Paddy and Tom ask Bobby to join. The three brothers recruit their nephew, singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell.

The quartet tours part-time, performing three-month-long tours each year in March, August, and November only in the United States. They release two live albums, one in 1982 and the other in 1988. During the remaining part of the year, Bobby continues running the insurance business in Carrick-on-Suir and continues his solo career in Ireland.

Youngest brother Liam Clancy rejoins Bobby, Paddy, and Robbie in 1990 when brother Tom is diagnosed with stomach cancer and dies in November 1990. The Clancy Brothers now perform more frequently than they had in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on numerous TV shows in America and Ireland. The quartet releases the group’s first studio album in over 20 years, Older But No Wiser, in late 1995, an title coined by Bobby’s wife Moira. Soon after the album’s release, Liam Clancy and Robbie O’Connell leave the group. Bobby and Paddy continue performing with Bobby’s son Finbarr Clancy and friend Eddie Dillon from Boston. This new line-up tours until November 1998 when Paddy dies from lung cancer. Now as a trio, the Clancys and Eddie Dillon record two live albums and Bobby Clancy releases an additional two solo albums.

In 1999 Bobby is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and by 2000 he is unable to perform on his feet and the trio performs while sitting down. By March 2002, Bobby is unable to perform and has to quit a scheduled tour. On September 6, 2002, Bobby Clancy dies at the age of 75. At the time of his death he is back home in Ireland, long since living at the home of his parents on William Street in Carrick-on-Suir, the home where he was born.