Today in Irish History – 31 December:

New Year’s Eve or Old Year’s Night on the Gregorian Calendar.

1602 – The O’Sullivan Beara’s are driven out of West Cork by the English who had defeated the combined Spanish and Irish forces at the Battle of Kinsale. Dónal Cam O’Sullivan, chieftain of the clan, begins the long march to Leitrim on this date, where he hopes to gain sanctuary with the O’Rourke’s of Breffni. Accompanying him are 1,000 men, women and children representing the first large-scale exodus of people from the Castletownbere region.

1728 – Sylvester O’Halloran, surgeon, founder of Limerick Infirmary, and antiquary, is born in Limerick.

1744 – Edward Hand is born in Co Offaly. Hand was a soldier, physician, and politician who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of general, and later was a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.

1775 – Death of Irish-born Major General Richard Montgomery. Montgomery was born in Swords, Co. Dublin in 1738. His father, Thomas Montgomery, was a former British Army Officer and a member of the Irish Parliament.

1759 – Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

1804 – Francis Mahony, ‘Father Prout, priest and humorist, is born in Cork.

1820 – Novelist Mary Anne Sadlier, née Madden, is born in Cootehill, Co Cavan.

1909 – In Hillsborough, Co Down. Harry Ferguson’s plane made out of spruce wood and linen made the first flight in Ireland.

1930 – The appointment of Letitia Dunbar-Harrison as Mayo County Librarian leads to controversy, for reasons related to her lack of Irish-language skill, her disregard of local patronage, and the fact that she’s a Protestant; Mayo County Council is dissolved by ministerial order on this date.

1961 – Radio Éireann’s television service begins transmission on this date.

1975 – The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act establishes the right to equal pay for equal or like work and provides a system whereby this right may be attained and enforced.

1999 – Thousands of people gather at celebrations in towns and cities throughout Ireland to ring in the new millennium.

2012 – Ireland’s oldest woman passes away. Mary-Kate Byrne, from Grange, Maganey in Co Laois was 108. Also known as Polly, Mary-Kate was born on 14 August 1904. Predeceased by her husband William, son Joe and daughter Lilly, she is survived by her sons Liam and Michael, daughters-in-law Nellie and Theresa, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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