Today in Irish History – 17 November:

1814 – Joseph Finegan, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, is born in Clones, Co Monaghan.

1852 – Sligo-born Brigadier Michael Corcoran’s Irish Legion is mustered into the Federal service; it is involved in the defense of Washington D.C.

1869 – For nearly 150 years, the Suez Canal has played a vital role in world trade and in giving the nations of the Middle East something else to fight over. It opened today, in 1869, after a ten year construction project overseen by Frenchmen Ferdinand de Lesseps. But that effort wouldn’t have been possible without Francis Chesney from Annalong, Co Down. It was Chesney who, in 1830, compiled and submitted the report that showed the feasibility of the project and when Lesseps greeted him in Paris in 1869, he was gracious enough to recognise his debt, calling Chesney the ‘Father of the Suez Canal’.

1893 – Death of George A. Osborne. He was an Irish composer and pianist. He was born in Limerick and left Ireland at the age of nineteen, thereafter dividing his time between England and France. While in Paris, he studied under Johann Peter Pixis, François-Joseph Fétis and Friedrich Kalkbrenner. In 1843, Osborne settled permanently in London, where he held directorships of the Philharmonic Society and the Royal Academy of Music.

1907 – Death of Admiral Sir Francis Leopold McClintock or Francis Leopold Mcclintock KCB. He was an Irish explorer in the British Royal Navy who is known for his discoveries in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

1920 – RIC sergeant James O’Donoghue was assassinated by IRA volunteers in White Street in Cork city.

1922 – The Irish Free State begins the executions of seventy-seven anti-Treaty republican prisoners.

1922 – Four Anti-Treaty IRA men from Dublin, who were captured with weapons in Co Wicklow, are shot by firing squad.

1922 – An IRA fighter, Phillip Kilgam is killed in an exchange of fire in Manorhamilton, Leitrim.

1930 – The first Irish Hospital Sweepstakes draw takes place; three Belfast men share a prize of £208,792. The Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake was a lottery established in the Irish Free State in 1930 as the Irish Free State Hospitals’ Sweepstake to finance hospitals. The Public Charitable Hospitals (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1930 was the act that established the lottery; as this act expired in 1934, in accordance with its terms, the Public Hospitals Acts were the legislative basis for the scheme thereafter.

1940 – Birth of singer and folk musician, Luke Kelly in Dublin. Kelly was a founding member of the band The Dubliners.

1953 – The remaining human inhabitants of the Blasket Islands, Co Kerry were evacuated to the mainland. Many of the descendants currently live in Springfield, Massachusetts and some former residents still live on the Dingle peninsula, within sight of their former home.

1974 – Erskine Childers, fourth President of Ireland, dies. In a lengthy and distinguished career as a TD, Childers role in cabinet included Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Minister for Transport and Power and Minister for Health. His father Robert Erskine Childers was executed by Irish Government forces in the Civil War.

1994 – Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is forced to resign.

1999 – Christian churches reject idea of elections on the sabbath day as a means of trying to increase voter turnout.

1999 – The owners of the first cars to be called for inspection under the new National Car Test receive notification in the post.

2001 – An £8.5 million annual pay deal for local politicians is to be finalised before Christmas, giving them a salary for the first time.

Photo: St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co Cork, George Karbus Photography

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