Today in Irish History – 21 July:

1688 – Death of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde PC, an Anglo-Irish statesman and soldier. He was the second of the Kilcash branch of the family to inherit the earldom. He was the friend of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, who appointeed him commander of the Cavalier forces in Ireland. From 1641 to 1647, he lead the fighting against the Irish Catholic Confederation. From 1649 to 1650 he was top commander of the Royalist forces fighting against the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. In the 1650s he lived in exile in Europe with Charles II of England. Upon the restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, Ormonde became a major figure in English and Irish politics, holding many high government offices.

1750 – Under-Secretary Waite reports to Chief Secretary Weston that ‘This morning I am informed that Lord Allen and Captain Eustace of Irvine’s have slit if not cut off a great part of a gentleman’s nose in a fray which happened a day or two ago in the road between Dublin and Naas. The occasion of it was very trifling, such as the gentleman returning the salutation of a fellow which they gave him and which they thought proper to deem an affront upon persons of their rank and in red coats.’ The victim, a Mr. Butler from Co. Tipperary, indicts Allen and Eustace in the courts; Waite writes on 11 August that Allen ‘will have three or four Butlers to fight after they have harassed him by due course of law’.

1858 – Stage actor, songwriter and singer Chancellor “Chauncey” Olcott is born in Buffalo, New York to parents of Irish extraction. In collaboration with Ernest Ball, he would write lyrics for numerous “Irish” songs including, My Wild Irish Rose and When Irish Eyes are Smiling. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

1861 – The Irish Brigade fights at the First Battle of Bull Run under Generall Michael Corcoran from County Sligo. Corcoran was wounded and captured by the Confederate forces, but released some time later.

1887 – Thomas Bodkin, lawyer and professor, is born in Dublin. Director of the National Gallery from 1927-35, he wrote several books on Irish art and artists.

1903 – Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visit Ireland.

1920 – 12 people die in Belfast riots which take place from 21-24 July. The conflict began in Belfast in July 1920. On 21 July 1920, rioting broke out in the city, starting in the shipyards and alter spreading to residential areas. The violence was partly in response to the IRA killing of a northern RIC police officer Gerald Smyth, in Cork, and partly because of competition over jobs due to the high unemployment rate. loyalists marched on the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast and forced over 7,000 Catholic and left-wing Protestant workers from their jobs. Sectarian rioting broke out in response in Belfast resulting in about 20 deaths in just three days. Both Catholics and Protestants were also expelled from their homes in the trouble. The IRA assassination of an RIC Detective, Swanzy, in nearby Lisburn on August 22 prompted another round of clashes, in which 33 people died in the city over the following 10 days. The violence led to the reviving of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a unionist militia first formed in 1912. Thereafter there were recurring cycles of violence until the summer of 1922. In response to this violence, southern nationalists imposed a boycott on goods produced in Belfast. In Northern Ireland, an auxiliary police force, the Ulster Special Constabulary was recruited for counter-insurgency purposes.

1920 – Sectarian violence continues in Derry.

1920 – Catholics are forced out of Dromore, Co. Down following the funeral of an RIC man.

1928 – John B. Keane, playwright, novelist and poet, is born in Listowel, Co. Kerry.

1964 – Steve Collins, World Middleweight Boxing Champion, is born in Dublin.

1972 – Bloody Friday – Devastating IRA Bombing of Belfast. Fourteen year old Glynn Stephen Parker is the youngest of nine people to die as nineteen IRA bombs rip through Belfast in an indiscriminate act of carnage that has become known as Bloody Friday. Speaking to the House of Commons, William Whitelaw, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland reported, “Seven civilians and two soldiers were killed and at least 130 civilians injured-many gravely. I hardly need point out that all sections of the community are indiscriminately affected by these outrages. Of the dead two were Roman Catholics. Of the 130 injured at least 40 were Roman Catholics. 53 were men and boys, 77 women and children.” A Mirror Group newspaper stated “Complete carnage. A fireman with a shovel, shoveling up what was left of a woman shopper.”

The Provisional IRA claimed that the Samaritans, the Public Protection Agency and the press “were informed of bomb positions at least 30 minutes to one hour before each explosion”. While some warnings were received, with more than twenty bombs planted, many people simply ran from one explosion into another one. In 2002, the IRA issued a statement apologizing for the bombing, something that was received with extraordinary equanimity by Colin Parry, whose son was killed by the IRA, said: “In truth it offers no comfort. My hurt is absolute and my loss is absolute and no word from the IRA can mitigate for the loss of my son. “That said, I am as active in the peace process as a private individual can be, and from that perspective I appreciate what they are doing. BBC Documentary on Bloody Friday: http://youtu.be/3s1iH3z8EhY

1975 – Birth of Cara Dillon (in Dungiven, County Derry), an Irish folk singer. In 1995 she joined folk group Equation and signed a record deal with Warners Music Group. She collaborated with Sam Lakeman under the name Polar Star. In 2001, she released her first solo album titled Cara Dillon. The album contained traditional songs and original Dillon/Lakeman songs “Blue Mountain River” and “I Wish I Was”. The opening track of the album is “Black is the Colour”.

1976 – Christopher Ewart Biggs (the British Ambassador to Ireland) and his secretary Judith Cook were assassinated by a bomb planted in Mr Biggs’ car in Dublin.

2002 – Approval is granted to open a €30m marine research centre in Galway.

Photo: Beara Peninsula, Co Cork

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