Today in Irish History – 26 December:

In the Liturgical Calendar, today is the Feast of St. Stephen as well as Wren day in Ireland and the Isle of Man. In Ireland the day is one of nine official public holidays.

1381 – The sudden death of Edmund Mortimer at Cork leaves the colony without effective leadership and prompts a military crisis.

1776 – Battle of Trenton occurs where Continental troops under the command of John Sullivan defeat and capture Hessian troops. For morale reasons alone this was an important victory to a revolutionary army that at the time was in low spirits.

1796 – The French invasion fleet, with Theobald Wolfe Tone, which had hoped to land in Ireland is marooned off Bantry Bay, Co Cork in dreadful weather conditions unable to land.

1820 – Birth of dramatist and actor, Dion Boucicault, in Dublin.

1823 – Birth of economist, John Cairnes, in Castle Bellingham, Co Louth.

1867 – Birth of poet and Celtic mythologist, Ella Young in Co Antrim. Young was an author of poetry and children’s books, active in the Gaelic and Celtic Revival literary movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. She emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1925 as a temporary visitor and lived in California. For five years, she gave speaking tours on Celtic mythology at American universities, and in 1931, she was involved in a publicised immigration controversy when she attempted to become a citizen.

1883 – The Harbour Grace Affray between Irish Catholics and Protestant Orangemen causes five deaths in Newfoundland.

1935 – Birth of musician, Noel Kelehan in Dublin. Former conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and former musical director of Radio Telefís Éireann. As well as being an accomplished jazz pianist, he was most famous for being the conductor of many Irish entries to the Eurovision Song Contest, beginning in 1966 and ending in 1998. He died at the age of 76, in Dublin on 6 February 2012, after a long illness.

1950 – Death of novelist and poet, James Stephens. Stephens’s influential book on the 1916 Easter Rising, Insurrection in Dublin, describes the effect of the deaths by execution of his friend Thomas MacDonagh and others as being ‘like watching blood oozing from under a door’.

1961 – Birth of actor, John Lynch, born in the village of Corrinshego in Co Armagh, near Newry, Co Down. He attended St Colman’s College, Newry, an all-Catholic school. Lynch has said that his family was not political but were ‘affected’ by the Troubles. His mother is Italian, and he is the brother of British-based actress, Susan Lynch.

1997 – St. Stephen’s Day fox hunts are marked by major animal welfare protests with Gardaí forced to separate hunt supporters and animal welfare activists.

1998 – Thousands of homes and businesses in the northern half of the country are without electricity as hurricane-force gales and gusts of over 100 miles per hour send poles crashing to the ground and entangle wires in fallen trees. Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal are the worst affected counties.

1998 – Former IRA Chief of Staff, Cathal Goulding, dies in a Dublin hospital.

1999 – Hundreds of people walk through the Glen of the Downs in a show of solidarity with eco warriors, despite a Government order closing off the nature reserve to the public.

2001 – Politicians from all parties join in mourning the passing of Mark Clinton, who was a major figure in Irish public life over three decades. Mr. Clinton died peacefully at Lucan Lodge Nursing Home, in Lucan, Co Dublin, on December 23, after a lengthy illness.

2004 – Death of Professor James Francis “Frank” Pantridge, MD, CBE (born in Hillsborough, Co Down. He was a physician and cardiologist who transformed emergency medicine and paramedic services with the invention of the portable defibrillator.

2007 – Death of entertainer, recorder and singer, Joe Dolan, of a brain haemorrhage. Born in Co Westmeath, in a career which spanned almost 50 years, iconic Irish singer Joe Dolan was rarely off the stage and rarely out of the charts. From humble beginnings as a music-mad teenager playing a homemade guitar to becoming one of Europe’s biggest stars on his own right, Joe truly lived the dream.

Photo: Benbulbin, Co Sligo

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