Today in Irish History – 20 August:

535 – Death of Mochta of Louth; he was a disciple of St. Patrick. Also known as Maucteus, he was, like Patrick, a native of Britain. The Annals of Ulster date his death to 535, which points to him being considerably younger than Patrick, who had died in 493. He is known to have written at least one letter, apparently in Latin, the beginning of which is quoted in his obituary. However neither this nor any other compositions of his are known to have survived. “Dormitatio Muchti discipuli Patricii .xiii. Kl. Septembris. Sic ipse scripsit in epistola sua: Mauchteus peccator, prespiter, sancti Patrici discipulus, in Domino salutem/The falling alseep of Mochta, disciple of Patrick, on the 13th of the Kalends of September. Thus he himself wrote in his epistle: ‘Mauchteus, a sinner, priest, disciple of St Patrick, sends greetings in the Lord.” However neither the rest of this letter nor any other compositions of his have survived.

1778 – Birth of Bernardo O’Higgins, Chilean independence leader and founding father of Chile in Chillán about 250 miles south of the country’s capital, Santiago. O’Higgins was the illegitimate son of Sligo born Ambrose Bernard O’Higgins, who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru. O’Higgins senior had emigrated initially to Spain before settling in Chile. O’Higgins was of Irish and Basque descent.

1860 – An expedition led by Robert O’Hara Burke, an Irish policeman, leaves Melbourne with the intention of making the first European crossing of Australia. They will make the crossing, but Burke and fellow-explorer, William Wills, will die on the return journey.

1872 – Sectarian rioting in Belfast which began on 15 August continues through this date.

1876 – The Irish Republican Brotherhood Supreme Council withdraws its support from the Home Rule movement.

1880 – Death of Ellen Kean, one of the greatest actresses of her time.

1919 – Motion passed by Dáil that an Oath of Allegiance (to the Republic) should be taken by all members and officials of Dáil Éireann, and all Irish Volunteers. O’Malley (1990) says that with this oath the Irish Volunteers became the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

1922 – A party of seven Free State troops is ambushed in a car heading from Liscarrol to Kanturk, Cork. One National Army officer is killed, two others wounded and the remainder surrendered with their arms.

1922 – A lorry of Free State soldiers is ambushed at Blessington, Wicklow. One soldier is killed and five are wounded.

1927 – The Currency Act establishes a separate currency for the Irish Free State.

1929 – Birth of Kevin Heffernan (Heffo’s Army). Regarded as one of the greatest Gaelic footballers of all-time, Heffernan made his debut during the 1948 championship and was a regular member of the starting fifteen, as a left corner-forward for the Dublin senior team, until his retirement after the 1962 championship. During that time he won one All-Ireland medal, four Leinster medals and three National League medals. An All-Ireland runner-up on one occasion, Heffernan captained the team to the All-Ireland title in 1958. In retirement from playing Heffernan became involved in coaching and team management. As Dublin manager he revived the county team and steered them to three All-Ireland titles between 1974 and 1983.

1949 – Birth of Thin Lizzy lead singer, Phil Lynott.

1979 – Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats reach no. 1 in the British charts with I Don’t Like Mondays.

1981 – Twenty-seven-year-old Michael “Mickey” Devine, from the Creggan in Derry dies on the 60th day of his hunger strike. He was the third INLA Volunteer to join the H-Block hunger strikers and he was the last of the group to give their lives in order to retain their status as political prisoners.

1988 – Ballygawley Bus Bombing: Eight British Army soldiers are killed and 28 wounded when their bus is hit by a Provisional Irish Republican Army roadside bomb in Co Tyrone.

1999 – The main square in Tralee rocks to the Grand Old Man of Soul, James Brown, as the 41st International Rose Ball kicks off in the new Festival Dome.

2000 – Teenage heart-throbs, Westlife, make their first appearance in Tralee. More than ten thousand fans attend the free, open air concert.

2002 – Postal deliveries in small communities across the country are delayed again on the second day of industrial action by members of the Irish Postmasters Union.

Photo: Silver Strand, Malinbeg, Glencolmcille, Co Donegal

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