Today in Irish History – 27 December:

1601 – Red Hugh O’Donnell leaves Ireland for Spain; Hugh O’Neill withdraws to Ulster.

1727 – Arthur Murphy, actor and playwright, is born in Cloonyquin, Co Roscommon.

1791 – 68 conservative members secede from the Catholic Committee, which thereby becomes more militant.

1804 – Death of pickpocket and later a policeman, George Barrington, Parramatta, New South Wales. Born in Maynooth, Co Kildare, in 1771 he robbed his schoolmaster at Dublin and ran away from school, becoming a member of a touring theatrical company under the assumed name of Barrington. One account states that on a voyage out to Botany Bay (after being forced to leave England) a conspiracy was hatched by the convicts on board to seize the ship. Barrington disclosed the plot to the captain, and the latter, on reaching New South Wales, reported him favourably to the authorities, with the result that in 1792 Barrington obtained a warrant of emancipation (the first issued), becoming subsequently superintendent of convicts and later high constable of Parramatta.

1821 – Lady Jane Francesca Wilde is born in Co Wexford. Author, poet and the mother of Oscar Wilde, she is also known as Speranza.

1849 – Death of Young Irelander, James Fintan Lalor. He was an Irish revolutionary, journalist, and ‘one of the most powerful writers of his day.’ A leading member of the Irish Confederation (Young Ireland), he was to play an active part in both the Rebellion in July 1848 and the attempted Rising in September of that same year. Lalor’s writings were to exerted a seminal influence on later Irish leaders such as Michael Davitt, James Connolly, Pádraig Pearse, and Arthur Griffith.

1904 – Séamus Byrne, lawyer and playwright, is born in Dublin. Educated at UCD, he practised law before becoming a political activist, which led to a two-year prison sentence in 1940 for IRA membership. His Design for a Headstone (1950), a controversial Abbey production on hunger-strikers, set in Mountjoy Prison, was followed by Innocent Bystander (1951).

1904 – The Abbey Theatre opens with productions of Yeat’s “On Baile’s Strand” and “Cathleen ni Houlihan”, as well as Lady Gregory’s “Spreading the News”.

1904 – George Bernard Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island is performed in London.

1920 – Republicans took over the unoccupied mansion at Caherguillamore, Co Limerick, for a fund-raising dance. However British troops and RIC police surrounded them and in the ensuing gun battle five IRA volunteers and one Black and Tan were killed.

1921 – In Belfast there was a shootout between an RIC patrol and an IRA unit, one RIC constable and one IRA volunteer were killed.

1960 – Death of Elizabeth Crotty, Irish traditional musician and activist for Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann.

1969 – Death of Politician and IRA leader during the War of Independence and Civil War, Dan Breen.

1997 – Loyalist Leader Billy Wright Murdered in Prison. In custody in Long Kesh Prison, Loyalist para-military Billy Wright is murdered by three members of the Republican Irish National Liberation Army who managed to smuggle a gun into the prison. The INLA issued a statement justifying their action. ‘Billy Wright was executed for one reason and one reason only, and that was for directing and waging his campaign of terror against the nationalist people from his prison cell.’ Northern Ireland security forces believe Wright was involved in as many as twenty sectarian killings. He was never charged with any of them. The LVF launched a number of revenge attacks over the following weeks. Wright’s killers, Christopher McWilliams, John Glennon and John Kennaway were jailed for life but later released under the Good Friday Agreement.

1999 – After a five-year delay, the construction of the £204 million Dublin Port tunnel is finally approved.

2000 – A White Christmas arrives late in many parts of the country. The post-Christmas whiteout leaves the west and north-west blanketed in snow with even offshore islands, where snow rarely lies, covered to a depth of several inches.

2001 – Sales fever drives bargain hunters from their beds to join pre-dawn queues as the nation goes on a record £1bn consumer splurge.

2002 – A young man is “executed” in north Belfast as the simmering feud among loyalist paramilitaries erupts.

2002 – Leopardstown loses up to €500,000 in revenue. Day two of the big Dublin race meeting is cancelled because of water-logging.

Photo: Molly Malone Statue, Grafton St, Dublin (The statue is temporarily placed outside the Dublin Tourist Office on Suffolk Street. It is expected to be returned to its original location in late 2017.)

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