New Year’s Eve or Old Year’s Night on the Gregorian Calendar.
1602 – The O’Sullivan Beara’s are driven out of West Cork by the English who had defeated the combined Spanish and Irish forces at the Battle of Kinsale. Dónal Cam O’Sullivan, chieftain of the clan, begins the long march to Leitrim on this date, where he hopes to gain sanctuary with the O’Rourke’s of Breffni. Accompanying him are 1,000 men, women and children representing the first large-scale exodus of people from the Castletownbere region.
1691 – Death of philosopher, chemist, physicist and inventor, Robert Boyle. Born in Lismore, Co Waterford, Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle’s law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system.
1728 – Sylvester O’Halloran, surgeon, founder of Limerick Infirmary, and antiquary, is born in Limerick.
1744 – Birth of Edward Hand in Co Offaly. Hand was a soldier, physician, and politician who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of general, and later was a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.
1759 – Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.
1775 – Death of Irish-born Major General Richard Montgomery. Montgomery was born in Swords, Co. Dublin in 1738. His father, Thomas Montgomery, was a former British Army Officer and a member of the Irish Parliament.
1804 – Francis Mahony, ‘Father Prout, priest and humorist, is born in Cork.
1815 – Death of engraver and painter, Thomas Burke, in London. Born in Dublin, he was a leading artist of the 19th century, with most of his work being done using the mezzotint technique. Burke preferred to work for publishers and seldom issued prints himself. His engravings typically featured subject pictures.
1820 – Novelist Mary Anne Sadlier, née Madden, is born in Cootehill, Co Cavan.
1909 – In Hillsborough, Co Down, Harry Ferguson’s plane made out of spruce wood and linen made the first flight in Ireland.
1930 – The appointment of Letitia Dunbar-Harrison as Mayo County Librarian leads to controversy, for reasons related to her lack of Irish-language skill, her disregard of local patronage, and the fact that she’s a Protestant; Mayo County Council is dissolved by ministerial order on this date.
1951 – Birth of traditional Irish fiddler, Mickey Finn in Callan, Co Kilkenny. He was a fixture in Galway’s traditional music scene during the 1970s and 1980s, playing with artists such as Mary Coughlan, Mick Lally, and Christy Moore.
1961 – Radio Éireann’s television service begins transmission on this date. The first person to address the new television audience was President Éamon de Valera, who said in his speech: “Never before was there in the hands of men an instrument so powerful to influence the thoughts and actions of the multitude.”
1975 – The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act establishes the right to equal pay for equal or like work and provides a system whereby this right may be attained and enforced.
1999 – Thousands of people gather at celebrations in towns and cities throughout Ireland to ring in the new millennium.
2003 – Death of Bridget Dirrane who died at the age of 109. She was Ireland’s second oldest person. She was a woman with a colourful history and a successful career in nursing at home and abroad. Having lived through two world wars, the founding of the Irish State, seven popes and the introduction of cars and the aeroplane, she penned a biography when she was 103, entitled A Woman of Aran.
2009 – Death of philosopher, theologian, writer and international speaker, Cahal Daly. Daly served as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from late 1990 to 1996, the oldest man to take up this role for nearly 200 years. He was later created a Cardinal-Priest of S. Patrizio by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 28 June 1991. His death in 2009 brought to an end a two-year period during which Ireland had, for the first times in its history, three living Cardinals.
2009 – Death of Labour Party politician, broadcaster, journalist, lecturer and veterinary surgeon, Justin Keating. Keating was twice elected to Dáil Éireann and served in Liam Cosgrave’s cabinet as Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1973 to 1977. He also gained election to Seanad Éireann and was a Member of the European Parliament. He was considered part of a “new wave” of politicians at the time of his entry to the Dáil.
2012 – Ireland’s oldest woman passes away. Mary-Kate Byrne, from Grange, Maganey in Co Laois was 108. Also known as Polly, Mary-Kate was born on 14 August 1904. Predeceased by her husband William, son Joe and daughter Lilly, she was survived by her sons, Liam and Michael, daughters-in-law, Nellie and Theresa, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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