Today in Irish History – 2 June:

1567 – The Ulster chieftain, Shane O’Neill, takes refuge with the MacDonnells, and is murdered by them at Cushendun, Co Antrim. He is succeeded by Turlough Luineach O’Neill.

1705 – The town of Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh is virtually destroyed by an accidental fire. One hundred and fourteen families and their servants suffer severe losses, and the barracks of her Majesty (Queen Anne) sustains great damage, the total loss being computed at 7,911 pound 13 s. 4d. A memorial is presented to the Lord Lieutenant from the Provost and Corporation, asking for the benefit of a full collection from house to house throughout the Kingdom, and in all Cathedrals and Parish Churches. It sets forth that “they never in the late reign nor in this applied to their Majesties for any relief or reward for their services and sufferings (in 1641 and 1688-90) when they had to maintain many thousands of poor stript Protestants who came for protection. But now being poor, disconsolate and entirely ruined, so that they have neither house to go into, beds to lie on, nor wherewithal to buy bread, may it please your Grace to grant your Petitioners the benefit of a full collection.”

1723 – Death of Esther Vanhomrigh (known by the pseudonym Vanessa), an Irish woman of Dutch descent, and longtime lover and correspondent of Jonathan Swift. Swift’s letters to her were published after her death. Her fictional name “Vanessa” was created by Swift by taking Van from her surname, Vanhomrigh, and adding Esse, the pet form of her first name, Esther. A ward in St Patrick’s Hospital is named “Vanessa” in her honor.

1772 – An Act of Parliament allows Catholics to lease bogland.

1774 – An act of the Irish parliament enables Catholics to testify their allegiance to the king.

1833 – Death of Simon Byrne, nicknamed “The Emerald Gem”. He was an Irish bare-knuckle prize fighter. The heavyweight boxing champion of Ireland, he was drawn to England by the larger sums of prize money on offer and his hopes of becoming the heavyweight champion there as well. He became one of only six fighters ever to have been involved in fatal fights as both survivor and deceased since records began in 1741. Byrne fought eight recorded matches, but accounts of his career focus on the last three, against the Scottish champion Alexander McKay, the English champion Jem Ward, and James Burke for the vacant championship of England. The injuries McKay received in his fight with Byrne resulted in his death the following day, and rioting in his home country of Scotland. His final contest in May 1833 was a gruelling 99 rounds against James Burke that lasted for 3 hours and 6 minutes, the longest ever recorded prize fight. Byrne died three days later as the result of damage to his brain caused by the beating he had received. Burke was arrested and tried for manslaughter but was acquitted.

1861 – A lesser know Irish Brigade of the Civil War,The 6th Louisiana Infantry is organised at Camp Moore on 2 June, 1861, and mustered into Confederate service on 4 June, 1861. At a time when an estimated 20,000 Irish lived in New Orleans, it is not surprising that the 6th Louisiana would comprise a high percentage of Irish soldiers. The infantry was commanded by Irish born Colonel Henry B. Strong who was killed at Sharpsburg September 17 1862.

1866 – Fenian raids: The Fenians are victorious over Canadian forces in both the Battle of Ridgeway and the Battle of Fort Erie.

1891 – A proposal for the penalty kick is accepted by the Football Association. It is the brainchild of Armagh’s William McCrum and is championed by his colleague in the Irish Association, Jack Reid.

1920 – Birth of Michael James O’Hehir, also known as Mícheál Ó hEithir, an Irish sports commentator and journalist. He is credited with being the “Voice of the Gaelic Athletic Association”.

1921 – Carrowkennedy Ambush: Michael Kilroy and the IRA’s West Mayo Flying Column ambushed a convoy of RIC and Black and Tans. Seven policemen were killed and six were wounded, two of them fatally. The surviving seventeen police surrendered and the IRA seized a large quantity of arms. Many of the local people went into hiding to avoid the retribution of the Black and Tans. The Irish fighters went on the run throughout the region sheltering in safe houses.

1926 – Birth of character actor, Milo O’Shea in Dublin. He was nominated for the Tony Award for his roles in Staircase and Mass Appeal. He was brought up and educated by the Christian Brothers at Synge Street school, along with his friend Donal Donnelly. His father was a singer and his mother a ballet teacher. Because he was bilingual, O’Shea performed in English-speaking theatres and in Irish in the Abbey Theatre Company. At age 12, he appeared in George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Gate Theatre. He later studied music and drama at the Guildhall School in London and was a skilled pianist,

1949 – The Ireland Act is passed in Westminster, declaring the special relationship of Irish citizens to the United Kingdom and guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s status within the UK.

1954 – Bovine TB Eradication Scheme begins.

1954 – John A. Costello becomes Taoiseach leading a coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour parties. The coalition would remain in power until March 1957.

1956 – Joan Littlewood’s production of Brendan Behan’s play The Quare Fella opens at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, gaining Behan international recognition for the first time.

1961 – Birth of stage and screen actor, Liam Cunningham in East Wall, Dublin. He is best known as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones. He has been nominated for the London Film Critics’ Circle Award, the British Independent Film Award, has won two Irish Film and Television Awards, and shared a BAFTA with Michael Fassbender, for their crime-drama short film Pitch Black Heist.

1986 – Katie Taylor is born in Bray, Co Wicklow. Taylor is a sportswoman who has represented Ireland at both boxing and association football. She is currently the Irish, European, World and Olympic champion in the 60 kg division. Hugely popular in Ireland, she is credited with raising the profile of women’s boxing at home and abroad. Regarded as the outstanding Irish athlete of her generation, she was the flag bearer for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony before going on to win an Olympic gold medal in the lightweight division.

1994 – Twenty-nine people, including ten senior RUC officers, died during the 1994 Scotland RAF Chinook crash at Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. They were travelling from Belfast to a security conference in Inverness.

2001 – A record 75 coastal centres are awarded blue flags, but five top beaches, including Killiney and Tramore, lose the prestigious eco-symbol. Non-compliance with water quality and bathing water requirements also cost Keem beach in Mayo, Bray beach in Wicklow, and Lough Ennell their blue flags.

2002 – It is announced that Progressive Democrats president Michael McDowell is to be appointed justice minister in the coalition cabinet.

2002 – The World Cup football squad is officially welcomed to their new training camp in Chiba city in the coastal surburbs of southern Tokyo with a reception in a specially created Irish Village in the grounds of the team hotel.

2002 – A labour court recommendation to resolve the pilots’ dispute is accepted by Aer Lingus management but the national carrier’s fleet will remain grounded, causing continued disruption for thousands of passengers.

Photo: “The Gaelic Chieftain” at Curlew Pass, Boyle, Co Roscommon, sculpture by Maurice Harron, unveiled in 1999, Gareth Wray Photography

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