Today in Irish History – 20 December:

1638 – Birth of Narcissus Marsh, provost of Trinity College Dublin and founder of Marsh’s Library – the oldest public library in Ireland.

1645 – Edward Worcester, Earl of Glamorgan, aristocrat and inventor, is sent to Ireland to raise troops for the king; he makes two secret treaties with the confederates – one on the 25 August and the other on this date.

1769 – Sir Martin Shee, portrait painter and president of the Royal Academy, is born in Dublin.

1780 – John Wilson Croker, politician and essayist, is born in Galway.

1799 – Nicholas Callan, priest, physicist, writer, and inventor of the induction coil, is born in Dromiskin, Co. Louth.

1859 – Birth of Kuno Meyer, Irish Celtic scholar.

1862 – In the report penned on this date, Brigadier General Thomas Frances Meagher wrote about the day after the terrible Battle of Fredericksburg. “Two hundred and eighty men only appeared under arms to represent the Irish Brigade. This little band, unswerved and undeterred, still full of heart, inspired by a bright sense of duty, sorrowful for their comrades, but prouder and still more emboldened that such men had fallen bravely as they did, awaited the word that was once again to precipitate them against the batteries and defenses of the enemy.” Over twelve hundred men of the Irish Brigade started that battle.

1865 – Birth in Dublin of Maud Gonne McBride, revolutionary and patriot, who dedicates her life to the attainment of an independent Irish nation.

1891 – Fifteen year old Annie Moore departs Queenstown (now Cobh, Co Cork), becoming the first Ellis Island immigrant.

1902 – The Dunraven land conference, representing landlords and tenants, opens at the Mansion House, Dublin.

1909 – Ireland’s first cinematographic theatre, the Volta, opens in Dublin, under the managership of James Joyce.

1915 – Birth of Noël Christopher Browne. He was an Irish politician and doctor. He holds the distinction of being one of only five Teachtaí Dála (TDs) to be appointed Minister on their first day in the Dáil. His controversial Mother and Child Scheme in effect brought down the First Inter-Party Government of John A. Costello in 1951.

1920 – The Kilkenny IRA unit ambushed an RIC/military patrol at Nine Mile House, County Kilkenny, eight soldiers and one RIC man were killed.

1921 – Bitter Treaty Debate continues.

1922 – Pro-Treaty politician Séamus Dwyer is shot dead at his shop in Rathmines, Dublin by Anti-Treaty fighters.

1922 – An anti-Treaty fighter, T Beehan, is shot dead after capture in Co Kildare by Free State troops

1950 – The Industrial Development Authority is founded in the Republic.

1961 – Robert McGladdery is hanged in Belfast for murder: his is the last judicial execution in Ireland.

1972 – Five civilians (four Catholics, one Protestant) were killed in gun attack on the Top of the Hill Bar in Derry. It is believed the UDA was responsible.

1998 – There is renewed speculation that the IRA will make a token gesture on the issue of decommissioning before 1998 passes into history.

1999 – Another attempt to prevent Wicklow County Council building a controversial dual carriageway through the Glen of the Downs is rejected in the Supreme Court.

2000 – The bomb making capacity of dissident terrorists is severely dented with the seizure of almost 400 sticks of Frangex commercial plastic explosive in Co. Kilkenny.

2000 – A record 653 entries from 2,000 students is received for the Esat Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

2000 – The Guinness Book of World Records confirms that an eight-inch egg laid by “Queen Maeve”, a Belclare duck owned by the Costello family of Galway, is the world’s largest.

2001 – The first casualty of the proposed 250 job cuts at the Irish Times is the Chairman of the Trust, Major Thomas McDowell, who earns close to £500,000 a year.

2004 – A gang of thieves steal £26.5 million worth of currency from the Donegall Square West headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast.

Photo: Belfast City Hall

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