Today in Irish History – 31 May:

1430 – Charges are made against Thomas Foster, Archdeacon of Glendalough, that he has sold the lands of the dignity, has kept concubines, has had offspring, is ignorant of letters and does not know the language of the country: if they are true, he is to be deprived on this date.

1744 – Birth of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, an Anglo-Irish politician, writer, inventor and educationist. He is credited for creating, among other inventions, a machine to measure the size of a plot of land.

1798 – United Irishmen Rebellion: Beauchamp Bagel Harvey is appointed as Commander of the insurgent forces In Wexford town, a civilian government led by four Protestants and four Catholics is established.

1847 – Birth of Alice Stopford Green in Kells, Co Meath. Irish historian and patriot; she is noted for proving the Irish had a rich culture before English rule. A strong supporter of the Treaty of 1921, she is nominated to the first Seanad in December 1922.

1848 – At Grosse Ile, Canada, 40 immigrant vessels wait to unload.

1866 – In the Fenian Invasion of Canada, John O’Neill leads 850 Fenian raiders across the Niagara River at Buffalo, New York/Fort Erie, Ontario, as part of an effort to free Ireland from the English. Canadian militia and British regulars repulse the invaders in over the next three days, at a cost of 9 dead and 38 wounded to the Fenian’s 19 dead and about 17 wounded.

1889 – Helen Waddell, Irish scholar, translator and novelist, is born in Tokyo.

1900 – During the Boer War, Piet de Wet captures the thirteenth battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry at Lindley.

1911 – The hull of the world’s most famous ship, the Titanic, is launched.

1921 – IRA volunteers exploded a remotely detonated mine under a British Military band at Youghal, Co Cork. Seven British soldiers (military bandsmen from Hampshire regiment) were killed, twenty more were wounded in the explosion.

1922 – IRA volunteers shot dead one Special Constable in central Belfast and wounded another. That night, 9 Catholics were killed by loyalists and the Special Constabulary in the city. Two Protestant civilians were also killed.

1937 – Birth of Mary O’Rourke, Fianna Fáil politician.

1941 – German bombs fall on North Strand, Dublin; 34 people are killed and 90 are injured.

1948 – Death of Lily O’Brennan, sister-in-law of Eamonn Ceannt, was one of a number of Cumann na mBan members who joined the garrison at Marrowbone Lane on Easter Monday.

1962 – General Election is held in Northern Ireland; Unionists win 34 of the 51 seats.

1968 – Birth of journalist and author, John Connolly in Dublin. Connolly is best known for his series of novels starring private detective Charlie Parker. He collaborated with fellow Irish author Declan Burke to edit Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels, a nonfiction anthology published in August 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton and in October 2013 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books. Books to Die For was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, won the Agatha Award for Best Non-fiction, and won the Anthony Award for Best Critical Nonfiction Work.

1970 – Death of Arkle, the greatest Irish steeplechaser of all time. Arkle had broken a pedal bone during a race in 1968. Stiffness caused by the injury becomes worse and in spite of his great courage, he can hardly stand. On this date, his vet, James Kavanagh, gives him his final injection; Arkle lies down in his box and goes to sleep forever.

1976 – Birth of actor Colin Farrell in Castleknock, Dublin.

1979 – RTÉ 2 (now 2FM) makes its debut.

1991 – Glenanne barracks bombing: the PIRA launched a large truck bomb attack on a British Army (Ulster Defence Regiment) base in Co Armagh. Three soldiers were killed, whilst ten soldiers and four civilians were wounded. The blast left a deep crater and it could be heard over 30 miles away. Most of the UDR base was destroyed by the blast and the fire that followed. It was one of the largest bombs detonated during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

1998 – The Protestant community in a Wexford village receives an apology from Bishop Brendan Comiskey over a boycott more than 40 years ago. He asks for forgiveness for a controversial incident in Fethard-on-Sea when local Catholics boycott Protestant shops and classes over a six-month period during 1957.

2000 – It is announced by the British Government that Tom Constantine, a former director of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration will oversee policing reforms in Northern Ireland.

2002 – As the Aer Lingus pilots’ dispute enters a second day; pilots and management agree to take their dispute to the Labour Court but all the airline’s flights remain suspended, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

2002 – The people of North Kerry turn out in their thousands to pay their last respects to playwright John B. Keane.

2009 – Death of drag queen performer and singer, Danny La Rue, OBE (born Daniel Patrick Carroll in Co Cork). Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Margaret Thatcher. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for many years, had several subsequent strokes and developed cancer of the throat. He died in his home shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81.

Photo: Minaun Mountain, Co Mayo

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