Today in Irish History – 13 December:

In the Julian calendar before the Gregorian reform, this was the shortest day and longest night, and widely celebrated as such.

1779 – British goods are boycotted in Ireland; armed Volunteers parade in College Green, Dublin in November and demand ‘a free trade or else’ (i.e. the removal of restrictions on Irish trade with the colonies). This demand is granted on this date.

1862 – One of the bloodiest days in Irish military history as Irish fought Irish at Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg. The Union’s Irish Brigade (the Fighting 69th) is decimated by Confederate forces during multiple efforts to take Marye’s Heights. In his official report Meagher wrote: “Of the one thousand and two hundred I led into action, only two hundred and eighty appeared on parade next morning.”

1867 – An explosion at Clerkenwell gaol in London, intended to aid in the escape of two Fenians, causes several deaths and injuries.

1904 – Sir William McCrea, mathematician and astronomer, is born in Dublin.

1905 – Críostóir Mac Aonghusa, writer and promoter of the Irish language is born in Blackwater, Co Offaly.

1918 – Last all-Ireland general election to the UK House of Commons.

1920 – Two IRA officers, Michael McNamara and William Shanahan, were abducted and shot by British forces in Clare. Their bodies were found near Kilkee on 19 December.

1922 – 100 Republican fighters under Tom Barry take Carrick-on-Suir in a surprise attack, capturing 107 rifles, two Lewis Guns and two armoured cars. They do not attempt to hold the town however.

1922 – An Anti-Treaty column of ten men at Moore’s Bridge, Co Kildare is surprised by a National Army raid and captured. One of the Anti-Treaty men is killed, allegedly due to a beating with rifle butts, though the troops claim he was shot trying to escape. Seven of the others are executed in Dublin on 19 December. They had ambushed a Free State patrol on 25 November and derailed two trains on 11 December.

1955 – Grace Gifford Plunkett, Irish patriot, dies.

1955 – Ireland admitted to UN.

1989 – Attack on Derryard Checkpoint: using machine guns, grenades and a flamethrower, the PIRA launched an assault on a British Army checkpoint near Rosslea, Co Fermanagh. Two British soldiers were killed and two wounded.

1997 – Over a thousand people take to the streets of Dublin in a theatrical spectacle called “Féile Fáilte” to protest racism, particularly against refugees.

1999 – Taoiseach Bertie Aherns addresses the historic inaugural plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh.

2000 – Crowds roaring their approval greet Bill and Hillary Clinton on stage at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, confirming the first couple’s enduring popularity in Northern Ireland.

2001 – Queen’s University honours Manchester United legend, George Best, with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his services to football.

2002 – For the eighth year, the only live Christmas crib in Ireland opens in the forecourt of the Mansion House on Dawson Street in Dublin. The year’s nativity scene features two llamas as well as the usual donkeys, calves, goats and sheep.

2002 – Rugby legend Mick Galwey receives an honorary degree from Trinity College in recognition of his services to Ireland, Munster and Shannon clubs.

2003 – After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured. The commander of the US forces responsible for the capture is Army Col. James Hickey whose parents hail from Co Sligo.

Photo: West Facing Peak Of Benbulben, Co Sligo, David O’Gorman Photography

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