Today in Irish History – 29 March:

1613 – A charter incorporates Derry as the city of Londonderry and creates the new county of Londonderry. Despite the official name, the city is more usually known as simply Derry, which is an anglicisation of the old Irish Daire, which in modern Irish is spelt Doire, and translates as “oak-grove/oak-wood”. The name derives from the settlement’s earliest references, Daire Calgaich (“oak-grove of Calgach”). The name was changed from Derry in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster to reflect the establishment of the city by the London guilds.

1713 – Birth of John Ponsonby, styled The Honourable from 1724, an Irish politician. The second son of Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough, in 1739 Ponsonby entered the Irish House of Commons for Newtownards, becoming its speaker in 1756. He also served as First Commissioner of the Revenue and he became a member of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1746. In 1761, Ponsonby was elected for Kilkenny County and Armagh Borough, and sat for the first. In 1768, he stood also for Gowran and Newtownards, and in 1776 for Carlow Borough, but chose each time Kilkenny County, which he represented until 1783. Subsequently Ponsonby was again returned for Newtownards and sat for this constituency until his death in 1787.

1793 – Charlotte Brooke, author of Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry, dies.

1850 – The SS Royal Adelaide sinks in a storm with the loss of 200 lives. The RMS Royal Adelaide was a paddle steamship owned and operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. Its principal route ran between London and Cork. The Royal Adelaide, captained by John Batty, left Cork fully laden with cargo and about 250 passengers on Wednesday, 27th March 1850, touching off at Plymouth on the Thursday evening. By the time the ship left Plymouth for London at 3 a.m. on the Friday morning, there were almost 300 deck passengers. The ship was totally lost at about 11 p.m. on the Saturday night on Tongue Sands north of Margate, with the loss of all on board. News only reached London late on Sunday as the river pilot awaiting the ship happened to meet a Deal pilot (Charles Gillham) who reported seeing a ship of a similar description in distress the previous evening (London Illustrated News 6 and 13 April 1850). The dead included more than 150 deck passengers from Ireland during a time when the Great Famine was at its height.

1859 – The Irish Times is launched at 4 Lower Abbey Street in Dublin. The first appearance of a newspaper using the name The Irish Times occurs in 1823 but it closes in 1825. The title is revived as a thrice weekly publication by Major Lawrence E. Knox. It is originally founded as a moderate Protestant Irish nationalist newspaper, reflecting the politics of Knox, who stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Isaac Butt’s Home Rule League. In its early days, its main competitor is the Dublin Daily Express.

1873 – Peig Sayers, Blasket Island storyteller, is born in Dunquin, Co Kerry.

1880 – Birth of Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne, in Dublin. Moyne served in the Boer and first World War and then entered politics. He was British Minister of State in the Middle East until November 1944, when he was assassinated by Lehi, a militant Jewish Zionist group. Although the Zionist movement distanced themselves initially from the killing, the executed assassins’ bodies were repatriated to Israel in 1975 where they were buried with full military honors.

1898 – The Registration Act allows women and peers to vote in local government elections.

1901 – James Stephens, Fenian leader, dies.

1913 – Birth in Dublin of actor Niall MacGinnis.

1919 – Resident Magistrate, John Milling was shot dead in Westport, Co Mayo because he sent volunteers to prison for unlawful assembly and drilling.

1920 – Better Government of Ireland Bill was passed by 348 votes to 94 in Westminster.

1922 – Representatives of the Free State Provisional government and the Northern Ireland government meet over two days to try and agree to a working relationship and reduce the appalling carnage and sectarian deaths in Northern Ireland. An estimated two hundred civilians were killed in Belfast in sectarian conflict in the first six months of 1922. The meeting (so called Collins-Craig Pact) involved Michael Collins and NI PM Sir James Craig. Efforts to introduce a more balanced police force in nationalist areas and a reduction in IRA activity ultimately proved futile.

1922 – IRA volunteers shot dead two RIC men in Cullaville, Co Armagh.

1922 – Anti-Treaty IRA units in Cork under Sean Hegarty raid the British warship Upnor at sea. They take between 400 and 1,500 rifles, 60 machine guns, 700 handguns and over 25,000 rounds of ammunition, which they then distribute to Anti-Treaty IRA units.

1922 – The Provisional Government’s newly formed National Army takes over the British barracks at Beggar’s Bush in Dublin.

1923 – Anti-Treaty fighter Bobby Bondfield is arrested on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin by W. T. Cosgrave’s CID bodyguards. He is shot dead and dumped in Clondalkin.

1923 – Republicans attempt to burn and lay a land mine in Burton Hall, the home of the Guinness family, one of whom is a senator. The fire fails to ignite and the mine is defused by Free State troops.

1923 – Press reports that Free State troops have arrested 16 republican fighters around the country.

1923 – An Anti-Treaty fighter named Murphy is captured near Tralee, Co Kerry, and then shot dead by Free State troops, his body is found in Knocknagoshel.

1924 – Charles Villiers Stanford, composer/writer, dies.

1933 – Birth in Belfast of singer Ruby Murray. In the early part of 1955 Murray has five singles in the Top 20 at the same time, an extraordinary record that lasts until the emergence of Madonna in the 1980s. A few of Murray’s many hits include ‘Let Me Go Lover’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye’ and ‘You Are My First Love’.

1955 – Birth of actor Brendan Gleeson. His best-known films include Braveheart, Gangs of New York, In Bruges, 28 Days Later, the Harry Potter films, and the role of Michael Collins in The Treaty. He won an Emmy award in 2009 for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the film Into the Storm.

1995 – Death of Jimmy McShane, Born in Derry, he was a singer, known as the front-man of Italian band Baltimora. McShane was diagnosed with AIDS in Milan during 1994. A few months later he returned to Derry to spend his final year, and died at the age of 37. A family spokesman issued the following statement after his death: “He faced his illness with courage and died with great dignity.” In the centre of Derry, a commemorative plaque was bestowed upon the grave of McShane and his father, who had died three years prior.

1998 – Provisional IRA chiefs meet to discuss their ceasefire which has been rocked by the defections of up to a dozen Provo volunteers who quit the organisation to join the hard-line Continuity IRA.

1998 – A fresh debate on film censorship is set to erupt with the new edition of Lolita being submitted to the censor, Séamus Smith.

1999 -The IRA agrees to identify the graves of nine of the 20 disappeared persons, murdered and buried in secret since 1970; but their leadership holds out on decommissioning.

1999 – Fishing skippers sign contracts for 17 new ultra modern fishing vessels valued at almost £30 million under the Government’s whitefish fleet renewal programme.

2000 – A live grenade, dating back to either the First World War or the War of Independence, is found in a ditch just yards from the entrance gate to a secondary school in Cork. The Mills 36 grenade is rendered harmless in a controlled explosion by army bomb disposal experts from Collins Barracks.

2001 – Members of Louth County Council bring in goats for burial after being shot by Irish Rangers in the Cooley Mountains to help contain the spread of foot and mouth disease.

2001 – Many major tourist attractions reopen to the public with the easing of restrictions due to the foot and mouth disease scare.

2001 – A new survey, carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that out of 22 Western countries, Ireland lies third behind the US and Poland for illiteracy rates.

2002 – During a simple, poignant service in Dublin’s Unitarian Church, 3,600 victims of the Northern Ireland conflict are remembered.

2004 – The Republic of Ireland becomes the first country in the world to ban smoking in all work places, including bars and restaurants.

2007 – U2 frontman Bono accepts an honorary knighthood from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with one condition — “don’t call me Sir”. The award is in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music and humanitarian work. The front man believes his new title — Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) — will help him secure talks with world politicians to advance the battle against Third World debt. “An award like this actually really helps me get through a few doors I wouldn’t get through and that’s the truth, that’s the way the world is,” he says.

2012 – Death of Montjeu, an Irish-bred, French-trained thoroughbred horse racing racehorse and sire. In a racing career which lasted from September 1998 to November 2000 he ran sixteen times and won eleven races. After winning twice as a juvenile, he was the outstanding European racehorse of 1999, winning the Prix du Jockey Club, the Irish Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Four more victories in 2000 included the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He was then retired to stud where he proved to be an outstanding sire of winners.

Photo: Classiebawn Castle, Co Sligo

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