seamus dubhghaill

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


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Leo Varadkar Elected Taoiseach

On June 2, 2017, Leo Varadkar, son of Indian immigrants, wins the leadership contest against his only rival, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Simon Coveney, with 60% of the votes to lead Fine Gael, the biggest party in the coalition government. He is set to become the first openly gay Taoiseach (prime minister) of the Republic of Ireland and the youngest leader in the European Union. His election is seen as a change in political generations and social outlook in Ireland.

The current Taoiseach, 66-year-old Enda Kenny, announced his resignation the previous month after six years at the head of the centrist party, setting off a battle to lead the ruling Fine Gael.

“If somebody of my age, of my mixed-race background and of all the things that make up my character can potentially become leader of our country, then I think that sends out a message to every child born today that there is no office in Ireland that they can’t aspire to,” Varadkar tells Newstalk radio.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party votes overwhelmingly (70 percent) in favor of Varadkar while 65 percent of members favor Coveney. As Varadkar is backed by most lawmakers and local representatives, he gains victory under the center-right party’s electoral college system.

Varadkar’s position is confirmed later in the month after parliament resumes following a break.

Varadkar’s father, Ashok, a doctor, moves to Ireland in the 1970s and his youngest son is born in Dublin in 1979. He studies medicine at Trinity College Dublin and spends several years as a junior doctor before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010.

Varadkar is first elected in local elections in 2003 and in 2007 to the lower house of Ireland’s assembly, the Dáil Éireann. He comes to public prominence in 2015 when Ireland votes in favor of same-sex marriage.

Varadkar is on the right wing of the centrist Fine Gael party and has held three cabinet posts since 2011 – Minister for Social Protection, Minister for Health and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. More recently, in the time leading up to his election as Taoiseach, he heads a publicity campaign highlighting social welfare fraud.

Varadkar’s most pressing first international task is negotiating Ireland’s new arrangement with the United Kingdom after it leaves the European Union.

In a radio interview in 2015, Varadkar speaks for the first time about being gay, “It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am. It doesn’t define me. It is part of my character I suppose.”

Varadkar’s partner is also a doctor in Dublin.

(From: “Ireland’s ruling party elects Varadkar new leader” by Jane Mcintosh, Deutsche Welle (DW), http://www.dw.com, June 2, 2017)


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Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall Visit Ireland

Britain‘s Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at Shannon Airport in Ireland on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, to start their historic four-day visit to Ireland. The Prince of Wales says he is excited by the prospect of his first visit to the Republic of Ireland in 13 years.

The couple are welcomed at NUI Galway by the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton, among the guests are Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.The highlight of Tuesday’s engagements is the historic handshake between the Prince and Gerry Adams. This is the first time a member of the British royal family and the Sinn Féin President have formerly engaged. They shake hands and speak briefly at a reception in NUI Galway, where the Prince makes the first of two scheduled speeches.

Charles and Camilla then go on to visit the Burren in County Clare, fulfilling one of Charles’ life-long goals, by exploring the karst landscape for almost an hour.

They conclude their first day by dining with the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his wife Sabina, at Lough Cutra Castle in south County Galway. They dine on blanched Highgrove asparagus to start, followed by pan-seared halibut, with panna cotta and poached Highgrove rhubarb for dessert.

Their packed itinerary for Wednesday begins with a trip to Lissadell House with a civic reception and a viewing of the Niland Collection at The Model contemporary arts centre in Sligo. Mayor of Sligo, Seán MacManus, formerly of Sinn Féin, attends the reception. MacManus’ son was killed in a gun battle with security forces in Northern Ireland in 1992.

The Prince then visits the Institute of Technology, Sligo, and the couple has lunch at Lissadell. They then visit the grave of W. B. Yeats and attend a service at St. Columba’s Church, in Drumcliff. The royal couple takes part in a tree-planting and unveil a plaque. The theme of this service and the tree-planting is peace and reconciliation.

The Prince then visits Mullaghmore Harbour on Wednesday afternoon. On August 27, 1979, his great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, is killed in a bomb attack executed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Mountbatten holidayed every summer at Classiebawn Castle near the harbor. He had, along with family and friends, embarked on a lobster-potting and angling expedition when a bomb on board was detonated just a few hundred yards from the harbor. He died of his injuries, along with his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull (14), Paul Maxwell (15), from County Fermanagh, and Lady Brabourne (83), his eldest daughter’s mother-in-law.

Charles and Camilla conclude their Wednesday itinerary with a trip to the Sligo races.

On Thursday and Friday, Charles and Camilla travel to Northern Ireland. Their engagements include a reception and a concert featuring a selection of local performers at Hillsborough Castle. They make a trip to Mount Stewart House and gardens to mark the completion of a three-year restoration programme. They also visit the Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation centre, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.

(From: “History is made as Prince Charles fulfills life-long dream in Ireland” by Cathy Hayes, IrishCentral, http://www.irishcentral.com, May 20, 2015 | Pictured: The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Mullaghmore pier on May 20, 2015)


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Birth of Kian Egan, Pop Singer, Songwriter & Musician

Kian John Francis Egan, Irish pop singer, songwriter and musician, best known as a member of pop group Westlife, is born on April 29, 1980, in Sligo, County Sligo. Westlife has released twelve albums, embarked on thirteen world tours, and won numerous awards, becoming one of the most successful musical groups of all time.

Egan is born to Kevin Egan and Patricia Egan (née Moore). He is the fifth of their seven children. He attends Summerhill College secondary school in Sligo, where he meets fellow band members Mark Feehily and Shane Filan. He is the cousin of Filan’s wife, Gillian Walsh. Before Westlife, he works at a jeans store.

In his early musical years, Egan is part of a rock band named Skrod. He can play at least five musical instruments, including guitar, piano, and drums. He is a grade 8 pianist and was taught piano by his brother Gavin Egan, a university music graduate and full-time teacher of music in the UK. Before he is in Westlife, he is part of a pop group called Six as One, which later changes its name to IOYOU, with fellow Westlife members Mark Feehily and Shane Filan, alongside Graham Keighron, Michael “Miggles” Garrett and Derrick Lacey.

After IOUYOU is signed by Louis Walsh, its lineup changes to include Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan and two new members – Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden. The band’s name changes to Westside and later to Westlife. Westlife splits up in 2012 after a Greatest Hits Tour.

During a year long hiatus from Westlife in 2008, Egan launches a new venture with Louis Walsh to put together and co-manage girlband, Wonderland, which includes Jodi Albert, who on May 8, 2009, becomes Egan’s wife. Wonderland’s debut album reaches number 6 on the Irish Albums Chart and number 8 on the UK Albums Chart, however, just four months later, they are dropped by Mercury Records and eventually split up.

In June 2012, Egan announces in an interview with the Sunday Life that he is “looking at doing a TV show with Sky on surfing.” Later reports suggest that the show would be eight episodes long and would broadcast on Sky One later in the year.

In July 2012, Egan presents the British programme This Morning’s Hub on a regular basis, standing in for the regular hosts. Later that year, every Friday morning in October, he begins giving reports on another British programme, This Morning, about the remaining contestants in the ninth series of The X Factor, before the competition’s live shows that weekend.

On October 21, 2012, Egan co-presents the revamped version of Surprise Surprise, but does not return the following year.

In 2013, Egan appears on the thirteenth series of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! He is ultimately crowned King Of The Jungle, which contributes to an invitation to being signed by Rhino Records to create his Home album.

In January 2014, Egan signs with Rhino Records of Warner Music Group and his debut album Home is released on March 14 of that year in Ireland and March 17 in the UK. His debut single “Home“, a cover of a song by the band Daughtry, has its first exclusive play on BBC Radio 2 on lunch time with Terry Wogan‘s show. The album peaks at number 2 on the Irish Albums Chart and number 9 on the UK Albums Chart. In May 2014, he releases the second single from the album, “I’ll Be,” a cover of the track by Edwin McCain.

In October 2018, Westlife announces the group’s reunion as a four-piece. In 2019, the group headlines “The Twenty Tour,” named in honour of Westlife’s 20th anniversary since its formation and the release of its first single, “Swear It Again,” in 1999. In addition to touring, Westlife also releases new music. “Hello My Love,” the first single from the group’s upcoming album, debuts on The Graham Norton Show in January 2019.

Egan is one of four coaches on The Voice of Ireland. However, his dreams of winning the show go to tatters as he throws his lot in with Jim Devine from Northern Ireland. This immediately puts him at a disadvantage to the other contestants as, ahead of the final, viewers in Northern Ireland cannot download his single, the tally of which contributes to his vote. He is left fuming and in need of support from Sharon Corr as he expresses his opinion on the unfairness of it all and has “huge rows” about it but to no avail.

Egan and his wife and three sons live in Strandhill, County Sligo. He is ranked number five on Ireland’s Sexiest Man of 2014. As of 2017, his net worth is 18 million euros.


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Death of Frederick William Hall, Victoria Cross Recipient

Frederick William Hall, VC, Irish Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, dies on April 24, 1915, at Poelcappelle, Belgium.

Hall is born in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, on February 21, 1885. His father is a British Army soldier from London. He emigrates to Canada around 1910, and lives on Pine Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is 30 years old, and a company sergeant major (CSM) in the 8th (Winnipeg Rifles) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I when he performs a deed for which he is awarded the Victoria Cross.

It is on the night of April 23, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium that Hall discovers a number of men are missing. On the ridge above he can hear the moans of the wounded men. Under cover of darkness, he goes to the top of the ridge on two separate occasions and returns each time with a wounded man.

By nine o’clock on the morning of April 24 there are still men missing. In full daylight and under sustained and intense enemy fire, Hall, Cpl. Payne and Pvt. Rogerson crawl out toward the wounded. Payne and Rogerson are both wounded but return to the shelter of the front line. When a wounded man who is lying some 15 yards from the trench calls for help, Company Sergeant-Major Hall endeavors to reach him in the face of very heavy enfilade fire by the enemy. He then makes a second most gallant attempt and is in the act of lifting up the wounded man to bring him in when he falls, mortally wounded in the head. The soldier he is attempting to help is also shot and killed.

Hall’s name can be found on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, honouring 56,000 troops from Britain, Australia, Canada and India whose final resting place in the Ypres salient is unknown.

In 1925, Pine Street in Winnipeg is renamed Valour Road because three of Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients resided on the same 700 block of that street: Frederick Hall, Leo Clarke and Robert Shankland. It is believed to be the only street in the British Commonwealth to have three Victoria Cross recipients to live on it, let alone the same block. A bronze plaque is mounted on a street lamp at the corner of Portage Avenue and Valour Road to tell the tale of these three men.


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The 32 County Sovereignty Movement Launches Major Recruitment Campaign

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, often abbreviated to 32CSM or 32csm, an Irish republican group that is founded by Bernadette Sands McKevitt, launches a major recruitment campaign in west Belfast on April 17, 1999.

The objectives of the 32CSM are:

  • The restoration of Irish national sovereignty.
  • To seek to achieve unity among the Irish people on the issue of restoring national sovereignty and to promote the revolutionary ideals of republicanism and to this end involve itself in resisting all forms of colonialism and imperialism.
  • To seek the immediate and unconditional release of all Irish republican prisoners throughout the world.

The 32CSM does not contest elections but acts as a pressure group, with branches, or cumainn, organised throughout the traditional counties of Ireland. It has been described as the “political wing” of the now defunct Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA or RIRA), but this is denied by both organisations. The group originates in a split from Sinn Féin over the Mitchell Principles.

The organisation is founded on December 7, 1997, at a meeting of like-minded Irish republicans in the Dublin suburb of Finglas. Those present are opposed to the direction taken by Sinn Féin and other mainstream republican groups in the Northern Ireland peace process, which eventually leads to the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, the following year. The same division in the republican movement leads to the paramilitary group now known as the Real IRA breaking away from the Provisional Irish Republican Army at around the same time.

Most of the 32CSM’s founders had been members of Sinn Féin, with some having been expelled from the party for challenging the leadership’s direction, while others felt they had not been properly able to air their concerns within Sinn Féin at the direction its leadership had taken. Bernadette Sands McKevitt, wife of Michael McKevitt and a sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands, is a prominent member of the group until a split in the organisation.

The name refers to the 32 counties of Ireland which were created during the Lordship of Ireland and Kingdom of Ireland. With the partition of Ireland in 1920–22, twenty-six of these counties form the Irish Free State which is abolished in 1937 and is now known as Ireland since 1949. The remaining six counties of Northern Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom. Founder Bernadette Sands McKevitt says in a 1998 interview with The Mirror that people did not fight for “peace” – “they fought for independence” – and that the organisation reaffirms to the republican position in the 1919 Irish Declaration of Independence.

Before the referendums on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the 32CSM lodges a legal submission with the United Nations challenging British sovereignty in Ireland. The referendums are opposed by the 32CSM but are supported by 71% of voters in Northern Ireland and by 94% in the Republic of Ireland. It is reported in February 2000 that the group had established a “branch” in Kilburn, London.

In November 2005, the 32CSM launches a political initiative titled Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity.

On May 24, 2014, Gary Donnelly, a member of the 32CSM, is elected to the Derry and Strabane super council. In July 2014, a delegation from the 32CSM travels to Canada to take part in a six-day speaking tour. On arrival the delegation is detained and refused entry into Canada.

The 32CSM has protested against what it calls “internment by remand” in both jurisdictions in Ireland. Other protests include ones against former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley in Cobh, County Cork, against former British Prime Minister John Major being given the Keys to Cork city, against a visit to the Republic of Ireland by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) head Sir Hugh Orde, and against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.

In 2015, the 32CSM organises a demonstration in Dundee, Scotland, in solidarity with the men convicted of shooting Constable Stephen Carroll, the first police officer to be killed in Northern Ireland since the formation of the PSNI. The organisation says the “Craigavon Two” are innocent and are victims of a miscarriage of justice.

The 32CSM also operates outside of the island of Ireland to some extent. The Gaughan/Stagg Cumann covers England, Scotland and Wales, and has an active relationship of mutual promotion with a minority of British left-wing groups and anti-fascist organisations. The James Larkin Republican Flute Band in Liverpool and the West of Scotland Band Alliance, the largest section of which is the Glasgow-based Parkhead Republican Flute Band, are also supporters of the 32CSM. As of 2014, the 32CSM’s alleged paramilitary wing, the Real IRA, is reported to still be involved in attempts to perpetrate bombings in Britain as part of the dissident Irish republican campaign, which has been ongoing since 1998.

The 32CSM is currently considered a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in the United States, because it is considered to be inseparable from the Real IRA, which is designated as an FTO. At a briefing in 2001, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State states that “evidence provided by both the British and Irish governments and open-source materials demonstrate clearly that the individuals who created the Real IRA also established these two entities to serve as the public face of the Real IRA. These alias organizations engage in propaganda and fundraising on behalf of and in collaboration with the Real IRA.” The U.S. Department of State’s designation makes it illegal for Americans to provide material support to the Real IRA, requires U.S. financial institutions to block the group’s assets and denies alleged Real IRA members travel visas into the United States.


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Birth of Ali McMordie, Bass Guitarist of Stiff Little Fingers

Alistair Jardine “Ali” McMordie, bass guitarist best known as a founding member of the punk rock band Stiff Little Fingers, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 31, 1959. He plays with the band from 1977 until they break up in 1983 and joins them on the first few years of reunion tours five years later.

Prior to becoming Stiff Little Fingers, Jake Burns (vocals and guitar), Henry Cluney (guitar), Gordon Blair (bass), and Brian Faloon (drums), are playing in a rock music cover band, Highway Star (named after the Deep Purple song), in Belfast. Upon the departure of Blair, McMordie takes over on bass. Cluney has by this time discovered punk, and introduces the rest of the band to it. They decide that Highway Star is not a punk enough name, and after a brief flirtation with the name “The Fast,” decide to call themselves Stiff Little Fingers, after The Vibrators‘ song, which appears on the album Pure Mania.

Stiff Little Fingers is formed in 1977 at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which informs much of their songwriting. They are the first punk band in Belfast to release a record – the “Suspect Device” single comes out on their own independent label, Rigid Digits. Their album Inflammable Material, released in partnership with Rough Trade Records, becomes the first independent LP to enter the UK top 20.

In the face of low sales and concert attendances, Stiff Little Fingers disbands in 1983. McMordie joins a group of Reading musicians in the newly formed dance-punk band, Friction Groove. They secure a deal with Warner label, Atlantic Records, and go on to record an album, The Black Box, in Berlin and Brussels, from which the first single, “Time Bomb,” charts very briefly.

Around 1986 McMordie provides, along with other Friction Groove members, the core band behind Sinéad O’Connor, who had just arrived in London from Dublin. He is later sacked.

Between 1992 and 1994, McMordie is executive producer for the Peace Together Irish concert events. Since 1994 he has been the tour manager for American artist Richard Hall, AKA Moby, with whose band he has sometimes played bass. He has also been used as the live bassist for Belfast singer-songwriter Dan Donnelly, having played in Dan’s live band at the Beautiful Days music festival in Devon in 2006.

In 2006, it is announced that McMordie is rejoining Stiff Little Fingers for their current tour, and subsequently he rejoins the band on a permanent basis. As of 2021, he is still playing bass with Stiff Little Fingers.

Besides being a live musician, McMordie runs Alistair McMordie Tour Management.


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Birth of Hannah Lynch, Feminist, Novelist & Journalist

Hannah Lynch, Irish feminist, novelist, journalist and translator, is born in Dublin on March 25, 1859.

Lynch’s father, who is a committed, non-violent Fenian, dies when she is young. Her mother, Anna Theresa Calderwood, is married twice. She grows up in a cultivated, literary, very female household with her mother and ten sisters and half-sisters. Her stepfather is James Cantwell, also a Fenian, who runs the Star and Garter Hotel. From her early childhood she is familiar with many leading political agitators and writers in Dublin. Having been educated at a convent school in France, she considers training as a doctor and later as a concert pianist. However, economic circumstances lead to her to work as a sub-editor for a provincial paper and as a governess in Europe.

A nationalist like her father and stepfather, Lynch is an executive member of the Ladies’ Land League and as a result closely associates with Fanny Parnell. She writes extensively, producing short stories and satirical sketches, as well as Land War fiction, travel writing, translations and literary criticism. Her satirical pieces include “A Dublin Literary Coterie Sketched by a Non-Pretentious Observer” (1888) and “My Friend Arcanieva” (1895). She publishes William O’Brien‘s paper United Ireland from France, after it is suppressed in Ireland. She disagrees with William Butler Yeats on the literary merit of Emily Lawless, calling her work “highly polished literary stories.”

Lynch also writes fiction on the subject of political and cultural affairs in Ireland, sometimes meeting controversy. Her first novel, Through Troubled Waters (1885), is a fictionalised version of a real-life incident in Galway in which the daughters of a prosperous landowning family are murdered to make way for the sons to inherit the land. The novel also depicts the rural clergy as complicit, by denouncing the victims from the pulpit. The newspaper United Ireland strongly criticises the novel, claiming it peddles in anti-Irish stereotypes for a British audience. She responds by stating that she had intended the book for an Irish publisher and audience, and that she should not be asked “to prove my patriotism at the expense of truth.”

Lynch publishes across Ireland, the United Kingdom and from Paris. Her political work eventually leads to a breakdown in her health, after which she spends a period recuperating on the Isle of Wight. By 1896, she has settled in Paris, having also lived in both Spain and Greece. She speaks Greek and French. She then returns to lecture in Ireland and is a part of the salons of Paris in the Belle Époque as well as the Irish Literary Revival in Dublin. She is friends with the historian, biographer and literary critic Arvède Barine (pseudonym of Louise-Cécile Vincens), the writers Mabel and Mary Robinson, and the medievalist Gaston Paris. Her work however does not bring significant income and she is forced to apply to the Royal Literary Fund for help on multiple occasions. Eventually it takes a toll on her health. She spends time in hospital in Margate in England in 1903.

Lynch dies at 60 Rue de Breteuil in Paris on January 9, 1904, where she spends much of her working life.


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Birth of Pat Eddery, Flat Racing Jockey & Trainer

Patrick (Pat) James John Eddery, flat racing jockey and trainer, is born on March 18, 1952, in Newbridge, County Kildare, near the Curragh Racecourse. He is the fifth of twelve children of Jimmy Eddery, a jockey who is Irish Flat Champion in 1954 and 1955, and who rides Panaslipper to win the Irish Derby in 1955. His mother, Josephine, is the daughter of Jack Moylan, also a jockey. His brother Paul goes on to become a successful jockey also. He initially attends the Patrician Brothers’ Primary School in Newbridge, later enrolling in Oatlands Primary School in Stillorgan when the family moves to Blackrock, Dublin.

Devoted from his earliest years to riding horses, Eddery has little interest in school. He begins his career on his fourteenth birthday as an apprentice jockey in Ireland (1966–67) with the stable of Seamus McGrath. In 1967, he moves to England where he is apprenticed to Frenchie Nicholson until 1972. After riding for more than a season without success, he records his first win on April 24, 1969, at Epsom Downs Racecourse on a horse named Alvaro, trained by Major Michael Pope. Alvaro provides Eddery with six wins in succession during the 1969 season.

Eddery finishes the 1971 season as champion apprentice with seventy-one winners, and in 1972 has his first Derby ride, the 50–1 chance Pentland Firth, who finishes third behind Roberto and Rheingold. In 1972 he also has his first victory in a Group 1 race via Erimo Hawk, when awarded the Ascot Gold Cup following the disqualification of Rock Roi for interference.

Eddery rides for the Newmarket trainer Geoffrey Barling in 1972 before becoming the stable jockey for leading trainer, Peter Walwyn, later that year. For Walwyn, he wins his first two English classic races on Polygamy (Oaks) and Grundy (Derby) and is Champion Jockey in four consecutive seasons from 1974 to 1977. While under retainer with Walwyn, he clinches the first of these titles when just twenty-two years old, a record in the post-war era. In 1975, after winning the Irish Derby on Grundy, he rides the horse to a hard-fought victory over Bustino in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in what is described by many at the time as “the race of the century.”

Eddery remains as stable jockey to Walwyn for eight years, before joining the Ballydoyle racehorse training facility of legendary Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien, for whom he rides a string of big-race winners, including the brilliant Golden Fleece, owned by Robert Sangster, in the 1982 Epsom Derby.

The O’Brien–Eddery combination experiences controversial defeat in the 1984 Epsom Derby when Eddery rides then unbeaten 2000 Guineas Stakes-winner El Gran Senor and seems to be cruising to victory in the final furlong, only to be caught on the line and beaten by a short head by Secreto, trained by O’Brien’s son David. He later admits that he should have won the race, but when the horses in front of him fell away early in the straight he was left in front too soon and was unable to repel Secreto’s late challenge. He later wins the Irish Derby on El Gran Senor, beating the subsequent Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Rainbow Quest. During 1984, he also partners the O’Brien-trained and subsequent outstanding stallion, Sadler’s Wells, to two of his three Group 1 successes.

The 1980s represent the pinnacle of Eddery’s career and include victories in the 1983 Arlington Million in Chicago on Tolomeo, the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Aqueduct Racetrack, New York, on Pebbles, and the 1986 Japan Cup on Jupiter Island, the latter two horses being trained by Clive Brittain. He also has four victories in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: on Detroit in 1980, Rainbow Quest in 1985, the great Dancing Brave, on whom he also wins the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1986, and Trempolino in 1987. The field for the 1986 ‘Arc’ is extremely strong and Dancing Brave’s late winning run a thrilling spectacle. The race is voted “the greatest ever horserace” in a poll conducted by the Racing Post in 2022.

Rainbow Quest and Dancing Brave are both owned by the Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah, whose Juddmonte Farms is by then one of the world’s largest racing and breeding organisations. In 1987, Eddery becomes Abdullah’s retained jockey. Highlights of their association, which lasts until 1994, include Quest for Fame winning the 1990 Epsom Derby, and Zafonic, winner of the 1993 2000 Guineas Stakes.

Meanwhile, Eddery continues to win the jockeys’ championships, a task made easier by being retained by Juddmonte in England rather than commuting regularly to Ireland to ride for Vincent O’Brien. His highest seasonal total of wins is 209 in 1990, which is the first time a jockey has exceeded 200 since Sir Gordon Richards in 1952. His epic battle for the championship in 1987 with American Steve Cauthen is particularly intense, with Cauthen securing the title with 197 winners and Eddery coming close at 195. The title would have been shared at 196 winners apiece but for a successful objection by the rider of the third horse to the winner after the last definitive race between Eddery and Cauthen when they finished first and second, respectively. In 1988, Eddery regains the title with 183 winners from just over 480 rides, a remarkable strike rate of over thirty-eight per cent. He wins the championship for the eleventh and final time in 1996. His final classic win is on Silver Patriarch in the St. Leger Stakes of 1997.

Eddery rides major winners outside Europe and the United States, including Jupiter Island in the 1986 Japan Cup, and French Glory in the Canadian International Stakes. He teams up with Lester Piggott, Joe Mercer and French jockeys Freddie Head and Yves Saint-Martin to take part in a series of challenge races under the Ritz Club Challenge Trophy at Singapore and other Asian cities starting in 1983 for several years. His overall total of winners in the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe and overseas, exceeds 6,000. Although fiercely competitive on the racetrack, he is popular with fellow jockeys, trainers, owners and racegoers, who respond to his good-natured personality, courtesy and sense of humour.

Eddery has a distinctive riding style that is not classically elegant but undoubtedly effective and strong in a finish. He rides a number of truly outstanding racehorses including Dancing Brave, El Gran Senor and Pebbles, but maintains that the brilliant and undefeated Derby winner, Golden Fleece, is the greatest of all the horses he partnered throughout his career.

Eddery continues to ride into his fifties, finally retiring in 2003. He is appointed an honorary Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005. He sets up an owners’ syndication business and takes out a training licence but has difficulty adjusting to life out of the saddle and becomes increasingly dependent upon alcohol. His training career meets with limited success, though he does train Hearts of Fire to win the Group 1 Gran Criterium of Italy in 2009.

Eddery marries Carolyn Mercer in November 1978. She is the daughter of flat jockey Manny Mercer, niece of jockey Joe Mercer, and granddaughter of jockey Harry Wragg. They have two daughters, Nichola and Natasha, and a son Harry. He has a son from an extramarital relationship, Toby Atkinson, who also becomes a jockey. The marriage with Carolyn breaks down in 2008 and the couple divorces in 2009.

Shortly after his marriage breaks down, Eddery begins living with Emma Owen, a former stable employee, at his 100-acre Musk Hill stud farm near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. He becomes progressively estranged from his children due to his continued alcoholism.

Eddery dies of a heart attack at the age of 63 on November 10, 2015. He leaves his £1.3 million estate to Emma Owen. His funeral takes place on December 8, 2015, and his remains are cremated at Oxford. Throughout his career, Eddery rode the winners of 4,632 British flat races, a figure exceeded only by Sir Gordon Richards and was UK Champion Jockey on eleven occasions and Irish Champion Jockey once. A plaque in his honour is unveiled by his children Nichola, Natasha and Harry at Ascot Racecourse in 2016, where he had been champion jockey at the Royal meeting on six occasions. He is inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame in 2021, the second jockey after Lester Piggott to be so honoured.

(From: “Eddery, Patrick (Pat) James John” by P. Gerry McKenna, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, September 2022)


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Death of Alfie Byrne, Politician & Lord Mayor of Dublin

Alfred Byrne, Irish politician who serves as a Member of Parliament (MP), as a Teachta Dála (TD) and as Lord Mayor of Dublin, dies in Dublin on March 13, 1956. He is known as the “Shaking Hand of Dublin.” He holds the distinction of being the only person to serve as Councillor, Alderman, Lord Mayor of Dublin, MP, TD and Senator.

Byrne is born on March 17, 1882, the second of seven children born to Thomas Byrne, an engineer, and Fanny Dowman. His childhood home is at 36 Seville Place, a terraced house with five rooms just off the North Strand in Dublin. He drops out of school at the age of thirteen and is soon juggling jobs as a grocer’s assistant and a bicycle mechanic. Eventually he uses his savings to buy a pub on Talbot Street. He marries Elizabeth Heagney in 1910.

Byrne becomes an Alderman on Dublin Corporation in 1914. He is a member of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, a significant position for a politician from the Dublin Harbour constituency. In the records of the Oireachtas his occupation is given as company director. He is elected as MP for Dublin Harbour as a candidate of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) in a by-election on October 1, 1915, following the death of William Abraham. The Easter Rising in 1916 is followed by the rapid decline of the Irish Parliamentary Party and the rise of Sinn Féin. At the 1918 Irish general election he is defeated by a Sinn Féin candidate, Philip Shanahan.

Byrne is elected as an Independent TD supporting the Anglo-Irish Treaty for the Dublin Mid constituency at the general election to the Third Dáil in 1922. From 1923 to 1928 he represents Dublin City North. In 1928 he is elected for a six-year term as a member of Seanad Éireann. He vacates his Dáil seat on December 4, 1928. He resigns from the Seanad on December 10, 1931, and returns to the Dáil in 1932. He remains a TD until his death in 1956, representing Dublin City North (1932–37) and Dublin North-East (1937–56). In several elections he secures more votes than any other politician in the country.

Byrne is elected as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1930, serving in the post for nine consecutive years. When cycling or walking around the city he dispenses lollipops to children, who are often seen chasing him down the street. With a handshake and a few words for all, his eternal canvassing soon earns him the first of his nicknames: the Shaking Hand of Dublin. Married with eight children, he treats the people of Dublin as his second family. Every morning he finds up to fifty people waiting for him in the Mansion House. None have appointments. All are met. He answers 15,000 letters in his first year as Lord Mayor. Many are from Dubliners looking for a job, a house, some advice or a reference. One morning in 1931 a journalist watches the Lord Mayor attend to his correspondence. Within an hour he accepts “seventeen invitations to public dinners, one invitation to a public entertainment and eight invitations to public functions.” Then he dictates forty-three sympathetic letters to men and women looking for employment.

In 1937, children between the ages of eight and eleven years old are being sentenced to spend up to five years in Industrial Schools. Their crime is stealing a few apples from an orchard. When Byrne says such sentences are “savage,” a judge responds with a defence of the Industrial School system, urging an end to “ridiculous Mansion House mummery.” He stands firm: “For the punishment of trifling offences the home of the children is better than any institution.” In 1938, he is favoured by the press for the presidency of Ireland, a ceremonial role created in the new Constitution, but he is outgunned by the political establishment.

When, in 1935, Byrne becomes the first Lord Mayor of Dublin to visit North America in 40 years, he is granted the freedom of Toronto, and The New York Times hails the arrival of a “champion showman.” He often extends a hand of friendship to Britain. He also improves relations between Dublin, until recently the centre of British authority, and the rest of the country. One night Dublin Fire Brigade gets an urgent call for assistance from Clones, County Monaghan. As Lord Mayor, he feels obliged to join the men on top of the fire engine as they set off on the 85-mile journey in the middle of the night.

In August 1936, Byrne addresses the inaugural meeting of the anti-communist Irish Christian Front, some of whose members later express anti-Semitic views. In 1938, as Lord Mayor, he presents a gift of a replica of the Ardagh Chalice to Italian naval cadets visiting Dublin on board two warships, who had been welcomed by the Irish government despite the protests of Dubliners. A photograph exists of Byrne giving a fascist salute along with Eoin O’Duffy, commander of the Blueshirts, around 1933.

In 1954, Byrne is elected as Lord Mayor for a record tenth time. This time he does not live in the Mansion House, but stays in Rathmines with his family, taking the bus to work each morning. He is just as devoted to the job. When flooding damages 20,000 houses in Fairview and North Strand, he rises from his sick bed to organise a relief fund. His final term as Lord Mayor comes to an end in 1955. Shortly afterwards, Trinity College Dublin awards him an honorary Doctorate of Law, describing him as a “champion of the poor and needy, and a friend of all men.”

Byrne dies on March 13, 1956. His funeral is the largest seen in Dublin for many years. The Evening Herald reports that “Traffic in O’Connell Street was held up for almost 20 minutes to allow the cortege of over 150 motor cars to pass, and at all the junctions along the route to Glasnevin people silently gathered to pay tribute to one of Dublin’s most famous sons.” The members of the Dáil stand and observe a short silence as a mark of respect. A telegram is sent to his widow from the Mayor of New York City, Robert F. Wagner Jr., expressing deepest sympathy, and stating “that Ald. Byrne had attained high office of Lord Mayor many times, but he never lost contact with the poor and the underprivileged, whose champion he was.”

The by-election caused by Byrne’s death, is won by his son, Patrick Byrne. Two other sons, A. P. Byrne and Thomas Byrne, are also TDs for various Dublin constituencies. Alfie Byrne Road in Clontarf is named after him. The Dublin Bay North branch of Young Fine Gael is renamed “Alfie Byrne YFG.”


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The 1973 Old Bailey Bombing

The 1973 Old Bailey bombing, a car bomb attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and dubbed as Bloody Thursday by newspapers in Britain, takes place outside the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey, in London on March 8, 1973. This is the Provisional IRA’s first major attack in England since the Troubles began in the late 1960s. The unit also explodes a second bomb outside the Ministry of Agriculture building near Whitehall at around the same time the bomb at the Old Bailey explodes.

The Troubles had been ongoing in Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent in the Republic of Ireland since the late 1960s. Rioting, protests, gun battles, sniper attacks, bombings and punishment beatings became part of everyday life in many places in Northern Ireland, especially in the poorer working-class areas of Belfast and Derry. These events and others help to heighten sectarianism and boost recruitment into Irish republican and Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups and the security forces, mainly the newly created Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).

England had been relatively untouched by the violence up until the beginning of 1973, but the IRA Army Council draws up plans for a bombing campaign to take place in England some time early in 1973. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, loyalist paramilitaries had bombed Dublin and other parts of the Republic of Ireland a number of times before the IRA began its bombing campaign in England. Following the Dublin bombings in late 1972 and in January 1973 carried out by Loyalists which killed three people and injured over 150, the media attention these bombings received helped the IRA decide to take its campaign to Britain in return. The arrest of top IRA personnel in both the Republic and Northern Ireland like Máire Drumm, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Martin McGuinness in late 1972 help to convince the IRA to bomb England to take the heat off of the IRA in Ireland.

The IRA selects the volunteers who constitute the Active Service Unit (ASU) for the England bombing operation, which is scheduled to take place on March 8, 1973, the same day that a border poll, boycotted by Nationalists and Roman Catholics, is being held in Belfast. Volunteers from all three of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade Battalions are selected for the bombing mission. The team includes Gerry Kelly (19), Robert “Roy” Walsh (24), an expert bomb maker from Belfast, Hugh Feeney, a Belfast-born IRA volunteer and explosives expert, and two sisters, Marian (19) and Dolours Price (22) from Belfast and are from a staunchly Republican family, along with five other lesser-known volunteers from Belfast: Martin Brady (22), William Armstrong (29), Paul Holmes (19), William McLarnon (19), and Roisin McNearney (18).

Several days before the bombing, the leaders of the IRA ASU, which includes sisters Marian and Dolours Price, go to London and pick out four targets: the Old Bailey, the Ministry of Agriculture, an army recruitment office near Whitehall and New Scotland Yard. They then report back to their Officer Commanding (OC) in Belfast, and the IRA Army Council gives the go ahead. The bombs are made in Ireland and transported to London via ferry, according to Marian Price.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) warns the British that the ASU is traveling to England, but are unable to provide specifics as to the target.

The drivers and the volunteers who are to prime the bombs wake up at 6:00 a.m. and drive the car bombs to their various targets. Gerry Kelly and Roy Walsh drive their car bomb to the Old Bailey. It is planned that by the time the bombs go off around 3:00 p.m., the ASU will be back in Ireland. The bomb at New Scotland Yard is found at 8:30 a.m. by a policeman who notices a discrepancy in the licence plate. The bomb team starts lifting out 5-pound (2.3 kg) bags of explosives and separates them, so that if the bomb does go off, the force of the explosion will be greatly reduced. The bomb squad eventually finds the detonating cord leads, which run under the front passenger seat of the car. Peter Gurney, a senior member of New Scotland Yard, cuts the detonator cord leads, defusing the bomb.

However, at the Old Bailey the bomb explodes, injuring many and causing extensive damage. Scotland Yard states it had warned the City of London police at 2:01 p.m. to search near the Old Bailey for a green Ford Cortina. The car is not located until 2:35 p.m. and explodes at 2:49 p.m. while police are evacuating the area. Several more people are injured by the car bomb near the Ministry of Agriculture, which brings the total number injured to over two hundred. A British man, Frederick Milton (60), dies of a heart attack. Dolours Price writes in her memoir, “There were warnings phoned in but people had stood about, curious to see… If people ignored the warnings and stood around gawking, they were stupid. The numbers of injured came about through curiosity and stupidity.” The ASU is caught trying to leave the country at Heathrow Airport prior to the explosions, as the police had been forewarned about the bombings and are checking all passengers to Belfast and Dublin. All ten give false names that do not match their documents and they are detained. The IRA Volunteer who gave a warning about the bombs an hour before they exploded is the only one not captured.

The IRA volunteers have to be tried at Winchester Crown court in Winchester Castle as the Old Bailey is wrecked by the car bomb. The trial takes ten weeks and is set amid extremely strict security. William McLarnon pleads guilty to all charges on the first day of the trial. On November 14, 1973, a jury convicts six men and two women of the bombings. The jury acquits Roisin McNearney in exchange for information and she is given a new identity. As her verdict is handed down, the other defendants begin to hum the “Dead March” from Saul, and one throws a coin at her, shouting, “Take your blood money with you” as she leaves the dock in tears. Six of the nine people convicted admit to Provisional IRA membership.

The judge sentences the eight to life imprisonment for the bombings and 20 years for conspiracy, while William McLarnon, whose family was forced out of their home in August 1969, is sentenced to 15 years. When his sentence is read he shouts, “Up The Provisional IRA.” As the eight are led to the cells below the court, several give raised fist salutes to relatives and friends in the public gallery. The Price sisters immediately go on hunger strike, soon followed by Feeney and Kelly, for the right not to do prison work and to be repatriated to a jail in Ireland. The bombers on hunger strike are eventually moved to jails in Ireland as part of the 1975 IRA truce agreed with the British. In 1983, Kelly escapes from Maze Prison and becomes part of an IRA ASU in the Netherlands. He is recaptured three years later by the Dutch authorities and extradited.

The Old Bailey bomb is the beginning of a sustained bombing campaign in England. The next major bombing by the IRA in England is the King’s Cross station and Euston station bombings which injured 13 people and do widespread damage. Another significant attack that year is the 1973 Westminster bombing which injures 60 people. Two more people die in England from IRA bombings in 1973, bringing the total to three for the year in that part of United Kingdom. The next year, 1974, is the bloodiest year of the Troubles outside of Northern Ireland with over 70 people being killed in the Republic of Ireland and England combined. Thirty-four are killed in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, 21 from the Birmingham pub bombings, 12 from the M62 coach bombing, and several people are killed by the IRA’s Balcombe Street Gang.

One of the Old Bailey bombers, Marian Price, explains the IRA’s reasoning for bombing England. “It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Irish people dying.” So if the armed struggle was to succeed then it was necessary to “bring it to the heart of the British Establishment.” Hence symbolic targets such as the Old Bailey “were carefully chosen.”