Today in Irish History – 24 December:

Christmas Eve (Christianity) and related observances.

1601 – The Battle of Kinsale: Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell are heavily defeated by Mountjoy.

1701 – Captain Thomas Bellew fights a duel with Major-General William Stewart on Christmas Eve – both men’s right hands are disabled as a result of war wounds, and Bellew has served under Stewart. Stewart fires from two yards and blows Bellew’s hat off, whereupon Bellew throws his pistol away, saying he does not wish to kill Stewart.

1709 – Alan Brodrick, Speaker of the House of Commons, is appointed Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

1713 – The second Irish parliament of Queen Anne sits from 25 November to this date. The Whig Alan Brodrick is elected Speaker for the second time (having served 21 September 1703 to 19 May 1710), in place of John Forster, after a stormy contest with the government’s Tory nominee, Sir Richard Levinge.

1809 – American frontiersman and Indian fighter (some would use harsher terms), Christopher ‘Kit’ Carson is born in Kentucky. Carson’s father was of Scotch-Irish descent.

1810 – Birth of politician, John O’Connell, in Dublin. He was one of seven children (the third of four sons) of the Irish Nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell and his wife Mary. He followed his father as a member of parliament and leader of the Repeal Association.

1889 – Captain William O’Shea files for divorce, citing Parnell as his wife, Kitty’s lover, thus causing moral outrage and the subsequent loss of Parnell’s political power.

1895 – The Kingstown lifeboat disaster: The Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) lifeboat was capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken SS Palme. The crew of fifteen were lost in a gale off Blackrock. This tragic event is commemorated annually at Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

1918 – Birth of uilleann piper, Willie Clancy. Clancy was born into a musical family in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. His parents both sang and played concertina, and his father also played the flute. Clancy’s father had been heavily influenced by local blind piper Garret Barry.

1921 – Birth of prolific composer, Gerard Victory, in Dublin. He wrote over two hundred works across many genres and styles, including tonal, serial, aleatoric and electroacoustic music.

1922 – A priest in Curragheen, Co Kerry, alerts the local Free State garrison to the presence of the local Anti-Treaty guerrilla column at Midnight Mass. Twenty-two of them are captured when National Army troops raid the church.

1939 – Birth of folk musician, Robin Morton, in Portadown, Co Armagh. He has been a dynamic presence on the folk scene man and “Boy”. As a founder member and player-manager of Boys of the Lough, he established an international touring network that earned the group world renown.

1942 – Birth of Psychiatrist and broadcaster, Dr. Anthony Clare, in Dublin. Author of several popular books on psychiatry, Clare held the positions of Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin and Medical Director of St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin. He was due to retire from his current post as Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist at St. Edmundsbury Hospital in Lucan, County Dublin when he died suddenly of a heart attack in Paris at the age of 64.

1963 – Idle Wild Airport is rededicated as JFK Airport on this date in 1963 in memory of John F. Kennedy.

1984 – The Court of Appeal in Belfast quashed the convictions of 14 men who had been sentenced on the evidence of an Ulster Volunteer Force ‘supergrass’ informer Joseph Bennett.

1995 – The British government paid £38,700 to cover the legal costs of the families of the three unarmed IRA members killed in Gibraltar by undercover members of the SAS on 6 March 1988 (Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell). The British government was ordered to pay the costs following a decision on 27 September 1995 by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

1997 – In one of the worst storms in living memory, seven people die and many others are injured as hurricane-force winds wreak havoc across the country.

1998 – After 26 years, an exceptional era in broadcasting comes to a close on this date when Gay Byrne does his final morning radio show on RTÉ Radio One.

2002 – President Mary McAleese breaks her ankle in a skiing accident in Austria.

2002 – Death of publisher, book collector, and dealer, Alan Clodd. He was a collector of literature and had almost every publication by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, as well as books by James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney. Many of the books were inscribed.

2012 – Death of poet, essayist, critic and editor, Dennis O’Driscoll. Regarded as one of the best European poets of his time, Eileen Battersby considers him ‘the lyric equivalent of William Trevor’ and a better poet ‘by far’ than Raymond Carver. Gerard Smyth regards him as ‘one of poetry’s true champions and certainly its most prodigious archivist’. His book on Seamus Heaney is regarded as the definitive biography of the Nobel laureate.

Photo: ‘Big Sister, Little Sister’, Mount Errigal and her little sister Mackoght (also known as ‘Little Errigal’), Gerry Judge Photography

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