Today in Irish History – 22 December:

1691 – Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese sail out of Cork harbour for France. The Flight of the Wild Geese refers to the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term ‘Wild Geese’ is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, or even, poetically, Irish soldiers in British armies as late as the First World War.

1740 – Birth of bishop and author, Joseph Stock, in Dublin.

1799 – Birth of priest and scientist, Nicholas Callan, in Co Louth. He was Professor of Natural Philosophy in Maynooth College in Co Kildare, and is best known for developing/inventing the induction coil (a type of electrical transformer used to produce high-voltage pulses from a low-voltage direct current).

1849 – Án Gorta Mór horror.

1863 – Death of Sligo-born Union General Michael Corcoran.

1882 – Birth of republican activist, Joe Clarke, in Dublin. Clarke worked for the Sinn Féin Bank, and was active in the Easter Rising. When captured, he was shot in the head, but survived, and was instead imprisoned in Liverpool Prison, Wakefield Prison and then Frongoch Internment Camp. Although Clarke had served under Éamon de Valera during the Easter Rising, the two became implacable opponents. Clarke was ejected from an official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the First Dáil for interrupting de Valera’s speech in order to raise the complaints of the Dublin Housing Action Committee. He vowed to outlive de Valera, in which endeavour he succeeded by a year.

1919 – Better Government of Ireland Bill was introduced in the British parliament. It proposed two parliaments in Ireland; one for the six counties of north-east, referred to as Northern Ireland in the bill, and one for the other twenty-six, referred to as Southern Ireland in the bill. Each would be a semi-autonomous region within the United Kingdom.

1920 – Two IRA men were arrested by the auxiliaries at a safe house near Doonbeg, Clare. They are shot dead on the road back to Ennis.

1922 – A CID Assistant Inspector is wounded in an attack at Ellis Quay, Dublin and dies of his wounds on 29 December.

1936 – Birth of broadcaster, science historian, author, and television producer, James Burke in Co Derry. Best known, among other things, for his documentary television series Connections (1978), and for its more philosophically oriented companion series, The Day the Universe Changed (1985), which is about the history of science and technology. The Washington Post called him “one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world”.

1943 – The government announces that henceforth bus-queuing is compulsory throughout Ireland if more than five people are waiting at a bus-stop.

1961 – Birth of retired runner, Marcus O’Sullivan, in Co Cork. He was a top-class middle distance runner and represented Ireland at four Olympic Games. O’Sullivan quickly became a world class runner, and took part in four summer Olympic Games. He won three gold medals at the World Indoor Championships over 1500m. At the 1985 European Athletics Indoor Championships, O’Sullivan won a silver medal in the 1500m. The three World Indoor 1500 metre Championships won by O’Sullivan were in 1987 (Indianapolis), 1989 (Budapest), and 1993 (Toronto).

1965 – The Succession Act secures to widows a third of the estate (half if they have no children) and empowers the court to make provisions for children.

1974 – The IRA observed a ceasefire between midnight on 22 December 1974 to midnight on 2 January 1975. The ceasefire was called to allow the British government to respond to proposals put by the IRA to Protestant clergymen on 10 December 1974. The IRA initially extended this ceasefire, then called it off on 17 January 1975, and then renewed it from 10 February 1975. Government officials also held talks with Sinn Féin until 17 January 1975. Many commentators felt that an announcement of British withdrawal from Northern Ireland was a possibility at this time.

1974 – The IRA carried out a bomb attack on the home of Edward Heath, a former British Prime Minister, in Wilton Street, Belgravia, London. A small bomb with a short fuse was thrown onto the first-floor balcony of Heath’s flat. The bomb caused extensive damage but Heath was not present and there were no injuries. Attacks in London ended for the period of the IRA ceasefire but began again on 19 January 1975.

1975 US authorities foiled an attempt to ship weapons to the IRA.

1989 – The European Community announced a £100 million grant for transportation in Northern Ireland.

1989 – Death of Dublin-born, novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, Samuel Beckett in Paris.

1997 – Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, battles to save the Stormont talks from total collapse as four Ulster Unionist MPs withdraw their support for their party’s continuing participation in the negotiations.

1997 – The funeral of former Minister for Agriculture, Jim Gibbons, takes place in his native Kilkenny.

1998 – Legislation to ensure the compilation of a full record of the country’s important buildings and monuments which should be protected is circulated by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Síle de Valera.

2002 – The Minister for the Marine, Dermot Ahern, warns about the possibility of a ‘war on the seas’ as a result of the failure by the European Union to agree on a policy relating to the Irish Box fishing area.

2012 – Death of Arthur Quinlan. Born in Dublin, he was a raconteur and print journalist with The Irish Times. Known for his interviews with politicians, royalty and film stars in a career spanning more than 50 years, he was widely regarded as a very important figure in his field, and was both the first Irishman to get a jet across the Atlantic Ocean to New York in 1958 and the only western journalist to have interviewed Che Guevara. Considered a ‘master of executing international scoops’, his work was sent across the world.

Photo: Glenariff Forest Park, Co Antrim

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