Today in Irish History – 15 May:

In the Liturgical calendar, it is the Feast Day of St Dymphna. According to tradition, she lived in the 7th century and was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and his Christian wife. She was murdered by her father. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, and those who suffer neurological disorders – and, consequently, of psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists. She is also the patron saint of victims of incest.

1395 – Richard II returns to England on this date, confident that Gaelic Irish power has been checked.

1600 – Sent by Queen Elizabeth to quell the rumblings of discontent in Ulster, Sir Henry Docwra lands at Culmore with a force of 4000 foot and 200 horse soldiers; modern Derry is thereby founded.

1621 – Sir Henry Docwra is created Baron Docwra of Culmore.

1732 – Birth of Sir John Blaquiere, Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1772 and 1776.

1753 – Isaac Corry, opposition politician, Volunteer, and Chancellor of the Exchequer is born in Newry, Co Down.

1808 – Michael Balfe, operatic composer, best-remembered for his opera The Bohemian Girl, is born in Dublin.

1829 – Elected to the office of minister of Parliament for Co Clare by recently enfranchised Catholics, O’Connell presents himself at the bar of the House of Commons, but is asked to withdraw for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy.

1847 – Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator,” dies in Genoa. His heart was cut out and sent to the Vatican but the cask which it was encased was stolen years later and never recovered. His body was returned to Dublin and entombed under the O’Connell Memorial Round Tower at Glasnevin cemetery.

1867 – Eoin MacNeill, Gaelic scholar and co-founder of the Gaelic League, is born in Glenarm, Co Antrim.

1915 – Roger Casement in Limburg, Germany makes his major recruiting speech: “You have been told, I daresay, that I am trying to form an Irish Brigade to fight for Germany; that I am a German agent; and that an attempt is being made to suborn you, or tempt you to do something dishonest and insincere for the sake of the German government and not for the welfare of Ireland. Well, you may believe me, or disbelieve me (and nothing I could say would convince you as to my own motives) but I can convince you, and I owe to yourselves as well as to myself to convince you that the effort to form an Irish Brigade is based on Irish interests only, and is a sincere and honest one, so far as my actions with the German Government is concerned and so far as their action in the matter goes. An Irish Brigade, if it be formed today, will rest on a clear and definite agreement wherein the German government is pledged to aid the cause of Irish independence by force of arms, and above all, to aid Irish men to themselves fight for their own freedom. The agreement that is the basis on which an Irish Brigade is one now in my hands, and which I will read to you. It was signed on 28th of December last by the duly authorised representative [under Secretary for State] of the German government and is an honest and sincere offer on the part of a great European government to help Irishmen to fight their own battle for the freedom of their country. It is the first time in history that such an offer has been made and embodied in clear straightforward terms.

1921 – Ballyturin House Ambush. An IRA unit in County Galway ambushed a motor car as it left Ballyturin House near Gort. Two Army officers were shot dead, along with an RIC District Inspector and his wife. Margaret Gregory, daughter-in-law of Augusta, Lady Gregory, survived unharmed. The RIC then came under fire when they arrived at the scene; one constable was wounded and died six days later.

1923 – Anti-Treaty IRA column surrounded at Valleymount, Co Wicklow. Its leader, Ned Plunkett, is killed and the rest surrender.

1940 – Proinsias de Rossa, politician and leader of Democratic Left, is born in Dublin.

1948 – Death of Father Edward Joseph Flanagan (born in Ballymoe, Co Roscommon), a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He was the founder of what is arguably the most famous orphanage-Boys Town. The campus is not just an orphanage, but now a center for troubled youth.

1961 – Birth of Larry Holden in Belfast. He was an actor best known for his roles in several of Christopher Nolan’s films, including Batman Begins as Finch, Memento as Jimmy and Insomnia as Farrell. In 2010, he was diagnosed with cancer; he died on 13 February 2011. He was 49 years old and survived by his wife, Hanne Kristiansen.

1974 – Beginning of the Ulster Workers’ Council strike.

1976 – The UVF launched gun and bomb attacks on two pubs in Charlemont, County Armagh, killing four Catholic civilians and wounding many more. A British Army UDR soldier was later convicted for taking part in the attacks.

1990 – The Church of Ireland votes for women priests.

1998 – The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) declared an “unequivocal ceasefire”. The group hoped this would encourage people to vote against the Belfast Agreement.

2000 – Two international inspectors who have been tasked with examining IRA arms dumps as part of the plans for the restoration of devolved government to the North arrive in Ireland.

2001 – Drivers enjoy a free ride across Dublin’s two toll bridges – a bonus from the booth operators’ strike over pay and working hours.

2003 – Four world records are made at Christie’s annual Irish art sale; the main record breaker is for a mountainous wooded landscape with figures by 18th-century artist George Barret which sells for £320,000.

2003 – The National Museum of Ireland says that a remarkably well-preserved headless body found by a farmer in a Co Offaly bog could be up to 2000 years old.

2007 – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern becomes the first Irish leader to address a joint session of the two chambers of the British parliament. All members of parliament – both the Lords and the Commons are invited. Senior figures from the Irish government and Irish opposition leaders are present at the event, as are prominent Irish community members in Britain. It is very rare for a foreign leader to be invited to address the Joint Houses of Parliament; Mr Ahern follows in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Francois Mitterrand, the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton.

2010 – Death of Thomas Caffrey. Born in Dublin, he was a chocolatier and founder of Caffrey’s Confectionery, which today sells products in Ireland, Europe, Australia and the United States and is the oldest remaining family-owned, family-named chocolate company in Ireland. He was considered “Ireland’s answer to Willy Wonka”, and was referred to as this when alive, having been credited with personally inventing treats such as the Macaroon bar, the Big Time bar and the Chocolate Snowball.

2013 – Death of sportsman, Paddy Buggy. Born in Slieverue, Co Kilkenny, he played hurling with his local club Slieverue and was a member of the Kilkenny senior inter-county team from 1949 until 1960. Buggy later served as the 27th President of the Gaelic Athletic Association from 1982 until 1985.

Photo: Great Blasket Island, Co Kerry

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