Today in Irish History – 4 December:

1831 – Birth of Robert Horatio George Minty. Westport born Minty would become a Civil War Brevet Major General in the Union army. His campaigns included Chickamauga and Atlanta. Minty was in command of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry that captured fleeing Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis at Irwinsville, Georgia on 9 May 1865.

1879 – Sir Hamilton Harty, musician and composer, is born in Hillsborough, Co Down.

1882 – John Curran, Dublin magistrate, opens a special inquiry into the Phoenix Park murders, in which Parnell is falsely implicated.

1887 – Birth of trade unionist and revolutionary, Winifred Carney, in Bangor, Co Down.

1893 – Death of prominent 19th century physicist, John Tyndall. Born in Co Carlow, his initial scientific fame arose in the 1850s from his study of diamagnetism. Later he studied thermal radiation, and produced a number of discoveries about processes in the atmosphere. Tyndall published seventeen books, which brought state-of-the-art 19th century experimental physics to a wider audience. From 1853 to 1887 he was professor of physics at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, where he became the successor to positions held by Michael Faraday.

1914 – Roger Casement visits Limburg when only the first few hundred Irish POWs are there. The main contingent of some 1500 arrived from Sennelager on 17 December. Casement forms the impression that the men would volunteer for his proposed Irish Brigade. Quinlisk records that it was a beautiful clear, cold day. All the NCOs were marched to an empty hut, and after a wait, Roger Casement entered with two German officers, one of whom was Marshall von Biberstein. He spoke to the men for about half an hour, after which Quinlisk and a Sergeant (McMurrough, who later changed his mind) stepped forward. Quinlisk volunteered to Casement that he would open a notebook recording the names of any Irish POWs willing to join the proposed Irish Brigade.

1918 – Death of Richard Bagwell, a noted historian of the Stuart and Tudor periods in Ireland, and a political commentator with strong Unionist convictions.

1921 – Treaty Negotiations: Arthur Griffith in London writes to De Valera updating him on the difficult negotiations.

1922 – A party of sixty Republican fighters ambush a Free State convoy of two lorries on Drimoleague Road, near Dunmanway in West Cork. One National Army sergeant is killed. The National Army troops call for air support and an aeroplane bombs and machine guns the Anti-Treaty fighters before they disperse. Press reports say they suffered, ‘many casualties’.

1922 – Captured by Republicans on 9 September, Kenmare, Co Kerry is re-taken by Free State troops under General Murphy.

1928 – Death of ‘Irish Godfather’, ‘Dapper’ Dan Hogan. He was a charismatic underworld figure and boss of Saint Paul, Minnesota’s Irish Mob during Prohibition. Due to his close relationships with the officers of the deeply corrupt St. Paul Police Department, Hogan was able to act as a go between, overseeing the notorious O’Connor System. Dapper Dan got behind the wheel of his Paige coupe and turned on the ignition. A bomb located beneath the floorboards detonated and blew off his right leg. He slipped into a coma at the hospital and died nine hours after the blast.

1947 – Birth of folk musician, singer and songwriter, Terry Woods in Dublin. He is noted for playing the mandolin and cittern, but also plays acoustic and electric guitar, mandola and concertina. He is known for his membership in such folk and folk-rock groups as The Pogues, Steeleye Span, Sweeney’s Men, The Bucks and, briefly, Dr. Strangely Strange and Dublin rock band Orphanage, with Phil Lynott, as well as in a duo/band with his then wife, Gay, billed initially as The Woods Band and later as Gay and Terry Woods.

1959 – Birth of Paul McGrath in Ealing, London to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. He is a former footballer for St Patrick’s Athletic, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Derby County, Sheffield United and the Republic of Ireland. McGrath is widely recognised as one of the greatest players to have ever come out of Ireland.

1971 – McGurk’s Bar bombing: The UVF exploded a bomb at a Catholic-owned pub in Belfast, killing fifteen Catholic civilians (including two children) and wounding seventeen others. This was the highest death toll from a single incident in Belfast during the Troubles.

1976 – Death of William Frederick McCoy (generally known by his initials). Born in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, he was an Ulster Unionist member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland for South Tyrone who went on to become an early supporter of Ulster nationalism, despite having an Irish surname.

1983 – SAS soldiers involved in an undercover operation in the north of Ireland shoot and kill two IRA gunmen and injure a third man who escapes.

1983 – It’s fair to say that snooker was a solemn sport before Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins roared onto the scene. Chain-smoking, often pissed, always entertaining, people came just to see what he would do next. As a young lad from Belfast, he failed in his first career as a jockey because he drank too much Guinness, but that was no impediment to life on the green baize. Flying around the table, he played shots so audacious that even other pros were speechless. Higgins became the youngest winner of the World Championship in his first attempt in 1972, and won 20 other titles, including a legendary victory from 7-0 down against Steve Davis to win the UK Championship on this date.

1992 – John May (Sir), previously a Court of Appeal judge, published a report into the wrongful convictions of the Maguire family (‘Maguire seven’). The May Report called for the establishment of a review tribunal to look into cases of alleged miscarriages of justice.

2000 – Ireland reluctantly agrees to a six months European Union wide ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to all farm animals, including pigs and poultry.

2001 – U2 frontman Bono and politician Pat Cox scoop two European of the Year awards at the first-ever such event in Brussels.

2001 – It was disclosed that Peter Mandelson, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, had written an article for the January 2001 issue of ‘GQ’ magazine in which he stated that the British government had ‘no stomach’ to fight the IRA. He also said that Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, would see a United Ireland in his lifetime.

2002 – Award-winning Cork-born author, William Trevor, receives an honorary knighthood in London in recognition of his services to literature.

2006 – Staff at an equestrian centre in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, return to the workplace prior to a planned Christmas party – and discover Gus, a newly arrived camel from Morocco, had munched through 200 mince pies and cans of Guinness.

2009 – Death of actor and folk singer, Liam Clancy, from Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary. He was the youngest and last surviving member of the influential folk group the Clancy Brothers, who are regarded as Ireland’s first pop stars.

Photo: Front gates of Birr Castle, Co Offaly, Stair na hÉireann Photography

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