seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Oscar Wilde

oscar-wildeOscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet, is born on October 16, 1854, at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, now home of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he becomes one of London‘s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is remembered for his epigrams, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

Wilde’s parents are successful Anglo-Irish Dublin intellectuals. Their son becomes fluent in French and German early in life. At university, Wilde read Greats and proves himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Magdalen College, Oxford. He becomes known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moves to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.

As a spokesman for aestheticism, Wilde tries his hand at various literary activities. He publishes a book of poems, lectures in the United States and Canada on the new “English Renaissance in Art,” and then returns to London where he works prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation, Wilde becomes one of the best-known personalities of his day.

At the turn of the 1890s, he refines his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporates themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, draws Wilde to write drama. He writes Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it is refused a licence for England due to the absolute prohibition of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produces four society comedies in the early 1890s, which make him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), is still on stage in London, Wilde has the John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for libel. The Marquess is the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The charge carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearths evidence that causes Wilde to drop his charges and leads to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he is convicted and imprisoned for two years’ penal labour.

In 1897, in prison, he writes De Profundis, which is published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he leaves immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he writes his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

Wilde dies destitute of cerebral meningitis in Paris on November 30, 1900. at the age of 46. He is initially buried in the Cimetière parisien de Bagneux outside Paris. In 1909 his remains are disinterred and transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery, inside the city.


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Death of Poet Laureate Nahum Tate

nahum-tateNahum Tate, Irish poet, hymnist, and lyricist, who becomes Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1692,  dies on July 30, 1715. Tate is best known for The History of King Lear, his 1681 adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s King Lear.

Tate is born in Dublin in 1652 and comes from a family of Puritan clergymen. He is the son of Faithful Teate, an Irish clergyman who was rector of Castleterra, Ballyhaise, until his house is burned and his family attacked after he passes on information to the government about plans for the Irish Rebellion of 1641. After living at the provost’s lodgings in Trinity College, Dublin, Faithful Teate moves to England. He becomes the incumbent at East Greenwich around 1650, and “preacher of the gospel” at Sudbury from 1654 to 1658 before returning to Dublin by 1660. He publishes a poem on the Trinity entitled Ter Tria, as well as some sermons, two of which he dedicates to Oliver and Henry Cromwell.

Nahum Teate follows his father to Trinity College, Dublin in 1668, and graduates BA in 1672. By 1676 he moves to London and is writing for a living. He publishes a volume of poems in London in 1677 and becomes a regular writer for the stage. He also adopts the spelling Tate, which remains until his death.

Tate then turns to make a series of adaptations from Elizabethan dramas. His version of William Shakespeare’s Richard II alters the names of the characters and changes the text so that every scene, to use his own words, is “full of respect to Majesty and the dignity of courts.” In spite of these precautions The Sicilian Usurper (1681), as his rewrite is called, is suppressed on the third performance on account of a possible political interpretation.

In 1682, Tate collaborates with John Dryden to complete the second half of his epic poem Absalom and Achitophel. Tate also writes the libretto for Henry Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas, which is given its first known performance in 1689. Tate’s name is also connected with the famous New Version of the Psalms of David (1696), for which he collaborates with Nicholas Brady.

Nahum Tate dies in Southwark, London, England, on July 30, 1715 and is buried at St. George Southwark on August 1, 1715.


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Birth of Irish Revolutionary Robert Emmet

robert-emmetRobert Emmet, Irish nationalist, Republican, orator, and one of the most famous revolutionaries in Irish history, is born at 109 St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin on March 4, 1778. He is the youngest son of Dr. Robert Emmet, a court physician, and his wife Elizabeth Mason.

Emmet attends Oswald’s school in Dopping’s-court, off Golden-lane. He enters Trinity College, Dublin, in October 1793 at the age of fifteen. In December 1797, he joins the College Historical Society, a debating society. While he is in college, his brother Thomas and some of his friends become involved in political activism. Robert becomes secretary of a secret United Irish Committee in college and is expelled in April 1798 as a result. That same year he flees to France to avoid the many British arrests of nationalists that are taking place in Ireland. While in France, Emmet garners the support of Napoleon, who promises to lend support when the upcoming revolution starts.

After the 1798 rising, Emmet is involved in reorganising the defeated United Irish Society. In April 1799, a warrant is issued for his arrest. He escapes and soon after travels to the continent in the hope of securing French military aid. His efforts are unsuccessful, as Napoleon is concentrating his efforts on invading England. Emmet returns to Ireland in October 1802.

In March of the following year, Emmet begins to prepare a new rebellion, with fellow Anglo-Irish revolutionaries Thomas Russell and James Hope. The revolutionaries conceal their preparations, but a premature explosion at one of Emmet’s arms depots kills a man, forcing Emmet to advance the date of the rising before the authorities’ suspicions are aroused.

Despite being unable to secure help from Michael Dwyer‘s Wicklow rebels and many rebels from Kildare turning back due to the scarcity of firearms, the rising begins in Dublin on the evening of July 23, 1803. Failing to seize the lightly defended Dublin Castle, the rising amounts to a large-scale disturbance in the Thomas Street area. Emmet witnesses a dragoon being pulled from his horse and piked to death, the sight of which prompts him to call off the rising to avoid further bloodshed. However, sporadic clashes continue into the night until finally quelled by British military forces.

Emmet flees into hiding, moving from Rathfarnam to Harold’s Cross so that he can be near his sweetheart, Sarah Curran. He is captured on August 25 and taken to Dublin Castle, then later removed to Kilmainham Gaol. Vigorous but ineffectual efforts are made to procure his escape.

Emmet is tried for and found guilty of high treason on September 19, 1803. Chief Justice Lord Norbury sentences Emmet to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, as is customary for conviction of treason. The following day, Emmet is executed in Thomas Street near St. Catherine’s. He is hanged and beheaded after his death. Out of fear of being arrested, no one comes forward to claim his remains.

Emmet’s remains are first delivered to Newgate Prison and then returned to Kilmainham Gaol, where the jailer is under instructions to be bury the remains in a nearby hospital’s burial grounds if no one claims them. No remains have been found there and, though not confirmed, it appears that he was secretly removed and reinterred in St. Michan’s Church, a Dublin church with strong United Irish associations. There is also speculation that the reamins are buried secretly in the vault of a Dublin Anglican church. When inspected in the 1950s, a headless corpse is found in the vault but can not be identified. The widely accepted theory is that Emmet’s remains are transferred to St. Peter’s Church in Aungier St. under cover of the burial of his sister in 1804. In the 1980s the church is deconsecrated and all the coffins are removed from the vaults. The church has since been demolished.


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The Founding of Trinity College, Dublin

trinity-collegeOn March 3, 1592, a small group of Dublin citizens obtain a charter by way of letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I incorporating the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, later to become known as Trinity College (Coláiste na Tríonóide). It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest university.

Originally established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows, Trinity College is set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it is seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Although Catholics and Dissenters have been permitted to enter since as early as 1793, certain restrictions on their membership to the college, such as professorships, fellowships, and scholarships, remain until 1873. From 1956 to 1970, the Catholic Church in Ireland forbids its adherents from attending Trinity College without permission from their archbishop. Women are first admitted to the college as full members in January 1904.

Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 47 acres, with many of its buildings arranged around large quadrangles and two playing fields. Academically, it is divided into three faculties comprising 25 schools, offering degree and diploma courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.long-room-trinity-college

In 2015, Trinity College is ranked by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings as the 160th best university in the world. The QS World University Rankings places Trinity as the 78th best. The Academic Ranking of World Universities has it within the 151–200 range. All three publications rank Trinity College as the best university in Ireland. The Library of Trinity College is a legal deposit library for Ireland and the United Kingdom, containing over 4.5 million printed volumes and significant quantities of maps, music, and manuscripts, including the Book of Kells.

On a side note, the organization of the exhibits within the main building of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas was inspired by the famous Long Room in the Old Library at Trinity College, which Bill Clinton first saw when he was a Rhodes Scholar.


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Laying of the Foundation Stone of Nelson Pillar

nelson-pillarConstruction of Nelson Pillar, a large granite pillar topped by a statue of Horatio Nelson in the middle of O’Connell Street (formerly Sackville Street) in Dublin, begins with the laying of the foundation stone on February 15, 1808 by the Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Richmond.

News of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar reaches Dublin on November 8, 1805 and is greeted with boisterous celebrations in the streets, alongside mourning for the death of the hero. Within a month the Lord Mayor of Dublin, James Vance, calls a meeting of nobility, clergy, bankers, merchants, and citizens to plan a monument in Nelson’s memory, which is to be funded by public subscription.

The Duke, dressed in a General’s uniform and accompanied by the Duchess in deep mourning for the dead hero, arrive at the foundation stone laying in a state coach drawn by six horses. The procession from Dublin Castle to the site includes Horse Yeomanry and Foot Yeomanry, sailors, officers of the Army and the Navy, subscribers, the committee, the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, the Lord Mayor, the Common Council, sheriffs, aldermen, and peers according to their degrees.

The pillar is a Doric column that rises 121 feet from the ground and is topped by a 13-foot tall statue of Nelson carved in Portland stone, giving it a total height of 134 feet, some 35 feet shorter than Nelson’s Column in London. The diameter of the column is 13 feet at the bottom and 10 feet at the top. All of the outer and visible parts of the pillar are granite from the quarry of Goldenhill, Manor Kilbride, County Wicklow. The interior is black limestone.

The pillar is completed by August 1809 and the statue of Nelson is hoisted into place. The statue is the work of Thomas Kirk, a young Cork-born sculptor then at the beginning of a successful career. The statue adds £630 to the cost of the pillar, which totals almost £7,000.

The monument is opened to the public on Trafalgar Day, October 21, 1809, the fourth anniversary of the battle. It offers the citizens of Dublin an unprecedented perspective on their city. For the payment of ten pence, they can climb the 168 steps of the inner stone staircase to the viewing platform.

On October 29, 1955, a group of University College Dublin students lock themselves inside the pillar and try to melt the statue with flame throwers. From the top they hang a poster of Kevin Barry, a Dublin Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who is executed by the British during the Irish War of Independence. Gardaí force their way inside with sledgehammers. They take the students’ names and addresses and bring them downstairs. Rather than arrest the students, the Gardaí merely confiscate their equipment and tell everyone to leave quietly. None are ever charged.nelson-pillar-bombing

At 1:32 AM on March 8, 1966, a bomb destroys the upper half of the pillar, throwing the statue of Nelson into the street. The bomb is planted by a group of former Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers in what is believed to mark the commemoration the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Six days after the original damage, on the morning of Monday, March 14, 1966, Irish Army engineers blow up the rest of the pillar after judging the structure to be too unsafe to restore. This planned demolition causes more damage on O’Connell Street than the original blast, breaking many windows.

The rubble from the monument is taken to the East Wall dump and the lettering from the plinth is moved to the gardens of Butler House, Kilkenny.


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Birth of Dr. Douglas Hyde, First President of Ireland

douglas-hydeDr. Douglas Hyde, Gaelic scholar and the first President of Ireland, is born at Longford House in Castlerea, County Roscommon, on January 17, 1860. In 1867, his father is appointed prebendary and rector of Tibohine, and the family moves to neighbouring Frenchpark, in County Roscommon. He is home schooled by his father and his aunt due to a childhood illness. While a young man, he becomes fascinated with hearing the old people in the locality speak the Irish language.

Rejecting family pressure to follow previous generations with a career in the Church, Hyde instead becomes an academic. He enters Trinity College, Dublin, where he gains a great facility for languages, learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and German, but his great passion in life is the preservation of the Irish language.

After spending a year teaching modern languages in Canada, Hyde returns to Ireland. For much of the rest of his life he writes and collects hundreds of stories, poems, and folktales in Irish, and translates others. His work in Irish helps to inspire many other literary writers, such as W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory.

In 1892, Hyde helps establish the Gaelic Journal and in November of that year writes a manifesto called The necessity for de-anglicising the Irish nation, arguing that Ireland should follow her own traditions in language, literature, and even in dress.

In 1893, Hyde founds the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) along with Eoin MacNeill and Fr. Eugene O’Growney and serves as its first president. Many of the new generation of Irish leaders who play a central role in the fight for Irish independence in the early twentieth century, including Patrick Pearse, Éamon de Valera, Michael Collins, and Ernest Blythe first become politicised and passionate about Irish independence through their involvement in the Gaelic League. Hyde does not want the Gaelic League to be a political entity, so when the surge of Irish nationalism that the Gaelic League helps to foster begins to take control of many in the League and politicize it in 1915, Hyde resigns as president.

Hyde takes no active part in the armed upheaval of the 1910s and 1920s, but does serve in Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Irish Free State’s Oireachtas, as a Free State senator in 1925-26. He then returns to academia, as Professor of Irish at University College Dublin, where one of his students is future Attorney General and President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.

In 1938, Hyde is unanimously elected to the newly created position of President of Ireland, a post he holds until 1945. Hyde is inaugurated on June 26, 1938, in the first inaugural ceremony in the nation’s history. Despite being placed in a position to shape the office of the presidency via precedent, Hyde by and large opts for a quiet, conservative interpretation of the office. In April 1940 he suffers a massive stroke and plans are made for his lying-in-state and state funeral, but to the surprise of everyone he survives, albeit paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. One of Hyde’s last presidential acts is a visit to the German ambassador Eduard Hempel on May 3, 1945 to offer his condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler, a visit which remains a secret until 2005.

Hyde leaves office on June 25, 1945, opting not to nominate himself for a second term. He opts not return to his Roscommon home due to his ill-health, but rather moves into the former Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant’s residence in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, where he lived out the remaining four years of his life.

Hyde dies in Dublin on July 12, 1949 at age 89. As a former President of Ireland he is accorded a state funeral which, as a member of the Church of Ireland, takes place in Dublin’s Church of Ireland St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Since contemporary rules of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland at the time prohibit Roman Catholics from attending services in non-Catholic churches, all but one member of the Catholic cabinet remain outside the cathedral grounds while Hyde’s funeral takes place. Hyde is buried in Frenchpark, County Roscommon at Portahard Church.