Today in Irish History – 23 February:

1317 – Bruce’s army marches south and reaches Castleknock, within sight of Dublin. The mayor of Dublin has imprisoned the Earl of Ulster, who is suspected of being sympathetic to Bruce. The citizens of Dublin destroy some of the northern and western suburbs, to prevent Bruce from using them as a base – to the later inconvenience of the administration, as many of the buildings it uses as law courts etc. are obliterated.

1649 – Giovanni Battista Rinuccini returns to Rome. Originally from Rome, he takes his doctorate in law at the University of Pisa. During the next decade he wins distinction at the ecclesiastical courts in Rome and is made Archbishop of Fermo in 1625. In 1645, Pope Innocent X sends him to Kilkenny – then the capital of Ireland – to support the Catholics with arms, money and diplomacy. His determined support of the militant anti-English faction is doomed to failure, but gains him fame and infamy in Anglo-Irish history.

1713 – Nicola Hamilton, widow of Tristram Beresford MP, dies on her 47th birthday. On the day of her death, she gave a party to celebrate her 48th birthday; one of those present was the priest who had christened her. He pointed out that it was in fact her 47th birthday – she had been born in 1666, not 1665 as she had always supposed. On hearing this she turned deathly pale; she sent for her children, told them the whole story, and died later that day. The Black Mark of Lord Tyrone.

1847 – Birth of internationally renowned sculptor, Jerome Connor in Coumduff, Annascaul, Co Kerry. The family moved to Holyoake, Massachussets in the United States in the 1890s. His most notable sculptures are in Washington D.C., statues of Robert Emmet (a cast of which is in Dublin), Bishop John Carroll, and the Nuns of the Battlefield tablet.

1854 – The official independence of the Orange Free State is declared.

1893 – Birth of Frank B. Gallagher, an Irish author and Volunteer. A Cork native, initially London correspondent of William O’Brien’s Cork Free Press, subsequently its final editor, though himself a separatist, personally admired O’Brien. The paper suffered closure in 1916 soon after the appointment of Lord Decies as Chief Press Censor for Ireland. Decies warned the press to be careful about what they published. Such warnings had little effect when dealing with such papers as the Cork Free Press. It was suppressed after Gallagher accused the British authorities of lying about the conditions and situation of republican prisoners in the Frongoch internment camp.

1919 – Irish soccer legend, Johnny Carey (d. 1995) is born in Dublin.

1921 – IRA volunteers from the Squad attacked RIC men returning from lunch to Dublin Castle on Parliament street. Two Policemen were killed, another was badly wounded and died that night.

1921 – Two soldiers of the Essex Regiment kidnapped and killed.

1923 – Free State troops ambushed by Anti-Treaty fighters at Shramore, County Mayo. One National Army soldier and a medical orderly are killed.

1923 – An Anti-Treaty column is surprised by National Army troops near Cluid, County Galway. One republican is killed and eighteen are captured and sentenced to death. Five of the prisoners are later executed.

1935 – Thomas Murphy, a playwright best known for his portrayal of the people in the working class rural town of Tuam, is born.

1943 – Thirty-six people die in a fire at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Co Cavan.

1944 – Children’s allowances are introduced in the Free State.

1948 – Death of John Robert Gregg, Irish inventor of the Gregg shorthand system.

1950 – Birth of Maxi, an Irish radio disc-jockey and producer; actor, journalist, and singer. Her real name is Irene McCoubrey. She was nicknamed Maxi in school because of the McC letters in her name. She came to fame as part of the popular girl band, Maxi, Dick and Twink, in Ireland in the late 1960s.

1959 – Birth of Linda Nolan in Dublin. She is a singer based in Blackpool. She attained fame as a member of the girl group The Nolans in the 1970s and early 1980s, along with her sisters Anne, Denise, Maureen, Bernie and Coleen. As a member of the Nolans, she toured with Frank Sinatra in 1975, had seven UK top 20 hits (1979–82) and won the Tokyo Music Festival in 1981.

1964 – Birth of Joseph O’Neill in Co Cork. He is a novelist and non-fiction writer. O’Neill’s novel ‘Netherland’ was awarded the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. O’Neill is of half-Irish and half-Turkish ancestry.

1965 – Roger Casement’s body is returned from England to be re-interred at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

1998 – The Sinn Féin leadership takes to the stage at a Belfast hotel rally as fears grow that the party may not re-turn to the peace talks.

2000 – According to a report released by the National Roads Authority, nearly half of Irish motorists never wear a seatbelt. Men are the worst offenders, with two-thirds admitting they do not strap themselves in.

2001 – Measures to prevent livestock with foot and mouth disease entering Ireland are tightened as Britain halts all internal livestock movements amid fears that the outbreak there is spreading.

2001 – A major recruitment drive for the Police Service of Northern Ireland goes ahead despite the refusal of the SDLP and Sinn Féin to support the new force.

2002 – It is announced that Guinness is testing a new system that will slash the waiting time for a pint of the black stuff to 30 seconds. In an effort to combat declining sales in recent years, Guinness is hoping to appeal to people not prepared to wait the 1 minute 59 seconds for the traditional pint to be poured.

2003 – Daniel Day-Lewis is named Best Actor for his role in Martin Scorsese’s epic Gangs of New York, the only prize which the film takes at the British version of the Oscars.

Photo: Eagle Island Lighthouse, Erris, Co Mayo, photographed by Chris Rainier

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