Today in Irish History – 17 March:

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the feast day of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint.

1762 – St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in New York City for the first time (at the Crown and Thistle Tavern).

1776 – General George Washington used the password ‘St. Patrick’ as a secret code for his Colonial troops on Evacuation Day, when the British forces are forced to evacuate Boston following Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights.

1777 – Patrick Brontë, originally Brunty; clergyman and father of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, is born in Ballynaskeagh, Co Down.

1794 – Sir Thomas Maclear, astronomer, is born in Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone.

1800 – Charles James Patrick Mahon, high-ranking soldier in Russia, Turkey, South America and France; duelist and politician, is born in Ennis, Co Clare.

1820 – Patrick Edward Connor, Union General, is born in Co Kerry.

1852 – Patrick Sheehan, ‘Canon Sheehan’, priest and writer, is born in Mallow, Co. Cork.

1853 – The Ossianic Society is founded to preserve and publish manuscripts of the Fionn cycle.

1858 – The Irish Republican Brotherhood is co-founded by James Stephens in Dublin. The original IRB oath, as quoted by Thomas Clarke Luby and John O’Leary, and which is among several versions in James Stephens’s own papers, ran: ‘I, AB., do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make [other versions, according to Luby, establish in’] Ireland an independent Democratic Republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God [‘laws of morality’] to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions [‘affairs’] of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Amen.’

1864 – Charlotte Milligan Fox, collector of folk music, is born in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

1877 – Michael O’Hanrahan, author and revolutionary, is born in New Ross, Co Wexford.

1889 – Harry Clarke, artist, known chiefly for stained-glass work, is born in Dublin.

1899 – First issue of Gaelic League’s An Claidheamh Soluis is published.

1903 – St Patrick’s Day becomes a bank holiday.

1920 – The War of Independence takes a new more violent turn as the IRA kill two Royal Irish Constabulary officers as they leave St. Patrick’s Day church ceremonies in Toomevara, Co Tipperary.

1923 – A major boxing match between Mike McTigue and Battling Siki takes place in Dublin city centre, despite the Anti-Treaty prohibition of public entertainments. A battalion of Free State troops guards the fight on Princes street. Anti-Treaty fighters detonate a mine beside the theatre and fire on the spectators after the fight.

1923 – There is also a bomb attack on the Custom an Eccise office in Dublin. One CID man is killed and another is wounded.

1923 – A National Army Intelligence Officer, Frank Bolster, is shot and wounded while attending the theatre in Dublin.

1923 – Another Free State soldier, John Little, is accidentally shot dead by his comrades in Collins Barracks, Dublin.

1923 – An elderly civilian is shot dead during a Post Office robbery in Monaghan town.

1944 – Birth of Pat McCauley in Coleraine, Co Derry, rock drummer for Them.

1951 – Scott Gorham, hard rock guitarist, is born. He was the lead guitarist for Thin Lizzy through much of the 1970s and 80s.

1958 – Death of John Mary Pius Boland. Born in Dublin, he was a Nationalist politician, and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for South Kerry 1900–1918. He was also noteworthy as a gold medallist tennis player at the first modern Olympics.

1965 – Joe Cooney, Galway hurler, is born near Loughrea.

1973 – Birth of Caroline Georgina Corr in Dundalk, Co Louth. She is a singer and drummer for the Celtic folk rock band The Corrs. In addition to the drums, Corr plays the bodhrán, cajón, percussions and piano.

1976 – Birth in Dublin of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. Gately was found dead at his hotel room in Majorca in 2009, with the cause of death reportedly being an undiagnosed heart condition.

1981 – Bobby Sands recorded his diary for the first seventeen days of his hunger strike in which he detailed his thoughts and feelings on the momentous task that lay ahead of him. In order to secure his status as Irish political prisoner he was willing to fast til death, an event that would earn him a place in the annals of Irish history and in the hearts and minds of Irish republicans world wide. See Bobby Sands Trust for today’s final entry before his death:

1997 – President Bill Clinton sharply increases the pressure on Northern political leaders to make concessions following a White House declaration that they will throw away a chance in a lifetime if they fail to settle an agreement by May.

1998 – Frankie Curry, a top loyalist dissident, is gunned down by the UVF in revenge for the killing of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

1999 – From Malin Head to Mizen Head, up to a million people turn out for St Patrick’s Day parades.

2001 – For the first time, Queen Elizabeth II sends a special St. Patrick’s Day greeting to President Mary McAleese.

2001 – Publicans in Westport, Co Mayo call time on hen and stag parties. Bar owners in Westport, Co Mayo say the revellers are no longer welcome and will not be served in the town’s 44 pubs.

2001 – Thousands of bargain hunters pack the RDS for the biggest ever Irish International Antiques and Fine Art Fair.

2002 – In Dublin, an estimated 500,000 people line the parade route for the pinnacle of the €2.5 million St. Patrick’s festival weekend.

2003 – Two police officers and a paramedic are injured as sectarian fighting breaks out in flashpoint areas of Belfast.

2003 – Snakes, sea monsters, Vikings and samba bands provide the sparkle in St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the country while the saint himself supplies the weather – warm and sunny in most areas.

2014 – Death of Patrick Joseph ‘Paddy Joe’ McGuigan. He was a musician who played for some years with the folk group The Barleycorn. He has written some Irish rebel songs, including ‘The Men Behind the Wire’, ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘Irish Soldier Laddie’, ‘Freedom Walk’ and ‘Bring Them Home’. McGuigan, a native of Belfast, wrote ‘The Men Behind the Wire’ in the aftermath of internment. The song describes raids by British soldiers, and the ‘men behind the wire’ refers to those held without charge or trial at Long Kesh prison camp, Magilligan prison camp and on board the Maidstone Prison Ship. McGuigan himself was picked up in a later round of internment.

Photo: Burial place of St Patrick, Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Co Down

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