Today in Irish History – 31 October:

Halloween/Samhain Eve/Oíche Shamhna. Samhain is a festival on the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, with aspects of a Festival of the Dead. It is popularly regarded as ‘The Celtic New Year’. The term derives from the name of a month in the ancient Celtic calendar, in particular the first three nights of this month, with the festival marking the end of the summer season and the end of the harvest. The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls’ Day, and appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween. Samhain is also the name of a festival in various currents of Neopaganism inspired by Gaelic tradition. Samhain and an t-Samhain are also the Irish and Scottish Gaelic names of November, respectively.

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the Feast Day of Blessed Dominic Collins. An Irish martyr and Jesuit brother, Dominic joined the Jesuits in Santiago de Compostela and was sent back to Ireland in 1601. But he was captured and put to death in Youghal, Co Cork for his faith. When the Desmond Rebellion was put down in Munster, in 1583, Dominic Collins of Youghal became a professional soldier in the Catholic armies of Europe. Ten years later he joined the Jesuits in Santiago de Compostela. Sent back to Ireland in 1601 as a companion to Fr James Archer SJ with the Spaniards going to Kinsale, he was eventually captured and put to death for his faith.

1641 – The Ulster rebels take Dundalk.

1804 – Morgan O’Connell, soldier and politician, is born in Dublin.

1838 – General Sir William Frances Butler, soldier and author, is born in Suirville, Co Tipperary. He had a remarkable and often controversial military career spanning over 50 years. During the Land War he became a great personal friend of Charles Stewart Parnell and campaigned for tenants’ rights and Home Rule. Late in 1900 Sir William was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank he held until his retirement in 1905. The last five years of his life were spent at Bansha Castle among his own people. He died in Bansha Castle on June 7 1910 and his funeral to Killaldriffe was one of the largest seen in the region.

1845 – A committee is formed to examine the extent of the potato crop failure and suggest remedies.

1864 – Patrick Colbert is awarded Medal of Honor. His citation reads: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 1840, Ireland. For his actions on this day in 1864, Patrick Colbert was awarded the Medal of honor, 31 December 1864. Citation: The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Coxswain Patrick Colbert, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving on board the U.S.S. Commodore Hull at the capture of Plymouth, North Carolina, 31 October 1864. Painfully wounded by a shell which killed the man at his side, Coxswain Colbert, as Captain of the forward pivot gun, remained at his post until the end of the action, braving the heavy enemy fire and appearing as cool as if at mere target practice. Colbert died in 1877 and is buried in Detroit.

1883 – Birth of Sara Allgood, stage and Hollywood actress, in Dublin. Considered one of the greatest character actresses of her time, the crowning point of her career came with her nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “How Green Was My Valley” in which she played Mrs. Morgan. She began her acting career with Dublin’s world famous Abbey Theatre and had a long career on stage before making her film debut in: “Just Peggy”. Film credits include “The World, The Flesh and The Devil”, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” with Spencer Tracy, “The Lodger” with George Sanders, “Jane Eyre” with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, “The Keys of the Kingdom” with Gregory Peck, “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Sierra” – her last film. She moved to the U.S. in the 1940s and became a U.S. citizen in 1945. She died on 15 September 1950 in Woodland Hills, California of a heart attack at age 66.

1890 – Irish-born Patrick Ginley is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twenty-six years after the incident where he showed his courage. Ginley won the award while serving as a Private in Company G, 1st New York Light Artillery. Citation: The command having been driven from the works, he, having been left alone between the opposing lines, crept back into the works, put 3 charges of canister in one of the guns, and fired the piece directly into a body of the enemy about to seize the works; he then rejoined his command, took the colors, and ran toward the enemy, followed by the command, which recaptured the works and guns.

1920 – RIC Detective Kelleher was shot dead by IRA volunteers in a pub in Granard, Co Longford.

1920 – Ten people die in a day and night of violence in Co Kerry. Two RIC constables were shot dead in Abbeydorney by IRA volunteers. Two more RIC men were killed and two more wounded in nearby Ballyduff. Black and Tans burned the creamery in Ballyduff in reprisal and shot and bayoneted a local man, James Houlahan. That night, two Black and Tans were shot dead by IRA volunteers in Killorglin and two more were wounded in Dingle. Black and Tans burned the Sinn Féin hall, the Temperance Hall, a garage and the home of a Sinn Féin activist in Killorglin. A local civilian was shot and seriously wounded; he later died. Two RIC men were kidnapped by IRA volunteers in Tralee, Co Kerry. It is thought that they were shot and killed. This provoked a week of police violence in Tralee (called in several international newspapers “the Siege of Tralee”) as the RIC personnel tried to recover the bodies. Reportedly remains of one of the two missing men was found later.

1922 – A civilian, James Cullinan of Kilnamona, Co Clare, is shot dead by the roadside near his home by unknown gunmen.

1930 – Birth of Michael Collins, an Irish-American born in Rome, and pilot of the command module of the Apollo 10 lunar landing in 1969.

1939 – Comedian Tom O’Connor is born in Merseyside, Liverpool.

1946 – Birth of film and stage actor, Stephen Rea (born Graham Rea) in Belfast. Rea has appeared in high-profile films such as V for Vendetta, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire and Breakfast on Pluto. Rea was nominated for an Academy Award for his lead performance as Fergus in the 1992 film The Crying Game. Stephen was married to former Provisional Irish Republican Army hunger striker and noted critic of Sinn Féin, Dolours Price from 1983 to 2003. They have two children. Dolours Price passed away in January 2013 in Dublin.

1961 – Birth of musician and actor, Larry Mullen Jr., in Artane, Co Dublin. Best known as the drummer of the rock band U2. A member of the group since its inception, he has recorded 13 studio albums with U2. Mullen was born and raised in Dublin, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School, where, in 1976, he co-founded U2 after posting a message on the school’s notice board.

1964 – Birth of musician, Colm Ó Cíosóig in Dublin. Best known as the drummer and a founding member of the alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine.

1973 – Mountjoy Prison Helicopter Escape: Three Provisional Irish Republican Army members escape from Mountjoy Prison, Dublin after a hijacked helicopter landed in the exercise yard.

1996 – TG4, then Telefís na Gaeilge (TnaG), begins programming.

1998 – Dungarvan’s milk processing plant in Co Waterford, operational since the turn of the century, closes with the loss of 135 full-time jobs.

1999 – In Co Wexford, a millennium party catches the imagination of Halloween revellers as the ESB Drum Carnival entertains ghouls and goblins of all ages. The carnival features the largest drum in the world – a staggering 15ft in diameter and part lambeg and bodhran in design.

2001 – Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn, and Julianna Margulies, were on location at Castleknock College, Dublin, for the filming of Evelyn which was produced by Brosnan’s film company.

2002 – Distributors predicted the film The Magdalene Sisters would hit the €1 million mark within five weeks, making it one of the biggest-grossing movies ever screened in Ireland.

2002 – In a meeting with employers and unions in Dublin Castle, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy says the boom is finally over and workers face a pay freeze of up to a year.

2006 – Demolition work finally gets under way at the former high-security Long Kesh Prison, where thousands of republican and loyalist paramilitary inmates were detained during the Troubles. The 360-acre site near Lisburn, Co Antrim will be cleared for housing, a multi-purpose sports arena and what is called a “centre for conflict transformation.”

2009 – U2 play Madison Square Garden for 25th anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert.

Photo: Leap Castle, Coolderry, Co Offaly

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