seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Boxing Champion “Rinty” Monaghan

John Joseph “Rinty” Monaghan, world flyweight boxing champion from Belfast, is born on August 21, 1918. He becomes famous in the post-war period, eventually rising to become undisputed world champion and a hero to many people in his home city.

Born in Lancaster Street in north Belfast, Monaghan attends St. Patrick’s Christian Brothers’ School in Donegall Street. A noted fighter at boys’ level, he entereds the paid ranks in his mid-teens. After a short period of wartime service, he resumes his career and his burgeoning reputation draws huge crowds from all parts of Belfast. In particular, bouts at Belfast’s King’s Hall are the highlight with that venue normally packed to the rafters.

In October 1947, the National Boxing Association world crown becomes Monaghan’s after outpointing American Salvador “Dado” Marino at Harringay Stadium for the vacant title. The mantle of undisputed champion of the world rests on his shoulders after he defeats the tough Scottish fighter Jackie Paterson on March 23, 1948. Paterson is to prove one of his major adversaries.

By the time that a long-standing chest complaint forces his retirement as champion in 1950, Monaghan’s trophy cabinet contains the British, European, Commonwealth and World crowns. Of the 66 official bouts he fights during his illustrious career, he wins 51, draws 6 and loses 9. He endears himself to his supporters after his fights by singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to the King’s Hall audience, which joins in the singing.

A part-time cabaret artist, Monaghan tours western Europe during World War II with other notables of the period including Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and George Formby, and later forms his own band.

Monaghan’s nickname “Rinty” comes from his fondness for dogs. According to his daughter Martha, he brought home injured dogs so often that his grandmother called him Rin Tin Tin, after the film dog, and shortened it to Rinty.

Monaghan marries Frances Thompson in 1938 and moves to nearby Sailortown. He has three daughters, Martha, Rosetta and Collette, and one son, Sean. In later life he has a variety of jobs but remains true to his working-class roots and stays in Belfast. He dies at his home in Little Corporation St. on March 3, 1984, at the relatively young age of 65. He is buried in Belfast City Cemetery.

To mark the influence of this “home-town hero”, the Ulster History Circle and Belfast City Council provide a plaque in Monaghan’s honour at the King’s Hall that is unveiled, in the presence of many of his family circle and friends, on May 3, 2007.

Belfast City Council erects a statue to Monaghan at Cathedral Gardens on August 20, 2015. The 10-foot high bronze statue on a granite plinth is designed by Alan Beattie Herriot and features Monaghan holding a microphone and singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”


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Annie’s Bar Massacre

annies-bar-memorialThe Annie’s Bar massacre, a mass shooting incident in Derry‘s Top of the Hill, takes place on December 20, 1972 during the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The bar is located in a small Catholic enclave of the majority Protestant Waterside area of Derry. Five civilians are shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries from a unit of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) which is a part of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The shooting is also known as the “Top of the Hill bar shooting.”

The UDA is formed in September 1971 during one of the most violent phases of The Troubles right after internment without trial is introduced when a number of Loyalist Defense groups combine together. They form a paramilitary wing, the UFF, in 1972 so the organisation can use the UFF name to carry out violent acts and kill people while keeping the UDA name legal by not involving the UDA name with attacks.

The UDA/UFF claim to be combating the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) but approximately 85% of its victims are innocent Catholic civilians. The UDA carries out its first killing on April 20, 1972 when they shoot dead taxi driver Gerard Donnelly in Ardoyne, Belfast. In October, the group is responsible for the deaths of two small girls when they detonate a car bomb outside an Irish nationalist pub in Sailortown, Belfast. The girls killed are Clare Hughes, age 4, and Paula Strong, age 6.

On December 20, 1972 along the Strabane Old Road, Annie’s Bar is packed with customers watching a football match. At about 10:30 PM two men from the UDA burst into the bar, one of them carrying a Sterling submachine gun and the other holding a pistol. Both are wearing hoods to disguise their identities. The men instantly and indiscriminately spray the main room in the bar with bullets. The attack is reported to have lasted less than a minute but it still manages to leave five people dead and four others wounded. Those killed in the attack are all males and include, Charlie McCafferty (31), Frank McCarron (58), Charles Moore (31), Barney Kelly (26) and Michael McGinley (37). At the time this is the largest and most deadly attack carried out by the UDA. They do not carry out another attack of this size until February 1992, when they shoot dead five civilians and injure nine in the Sean Graham bookmakers’ shooting on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.

The year 1972 in Derry begins with the Bloody Sunday shooting which occurs in the Bogside area and ends with the Annie’s Bar shooting. Nobody is ever charged in connection with the Annie’s Bar murders, although in recent years relatives of those murdered have been calling for a fresh investigation to take place.

The attack is carried out by members from the UDA’s “North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade.” Although this is one of the UDA’s smaller brigades it also carries out the October 1993 Greysteel massacre which is the UDA’s worst ever attack, in which eight people are killed and 19 others are injured. The Greysteel shooting happens about 9-10 miles away from Annie’s Bar.

(Pictured: Annie’s Bar Memorial stone located at Strabane Old Road, Top of the Hill, Waterside, Derry, County Derry, Northern Ireland. Annie’s Bar is in the background. Photo taken by Martin Melaugh, November 20, 2008.)