Today in Irish History – 12 January:

1709 – Birth of Benjamin Burton, politician and Revenue Commissioner.

1729 – Edmund Burke, orator, statesman and philosopher, is born in Arran Quay, Dublin.

1765 – The Kinsale by-election caused by the death of John Folliott on this date is contested by Agmondisham Vesey and Richard Meade. Vesey wins by 64 votes to 48, but pays a price for being elected: William Dennis, vintner, receives £80 for Mr Vesey’s entertainment. Three other innkeepers receive a total of £76 3s 6d for providing ‘drink for Mr Vesey’s health’ and a further £14 9s for beer to the populace. His election agent, James Dennis, spends £46 12s 2d to send a coach and post-chaise to Dublin to collect voters. Vesey spends a further £12 7s 10d on ‘a notice to disqualify John O’Grady as a Papist from voting’. Ben Hayes, fiddler, is paid £5 13s 9d. Vesey’s election breakages bill amounts to £7 8s, exclusive of fines for ‘a crowd of broke heads and crakt limbs’. James Kearney (a future MP for Kinsale) spends £16 4s 3d to bring voters to Kinsale on Vesey’s behalf: this includes a post-chaise and hospitality on the four-day journey.

1880 – Birth of teacher, barrister, and politician, Frank Fahy, in Co Galway. He served for nearly 35 years as a Teachta Dála (TD), first for Sinn Féin and later as a member of Fianna Fáil, before becoming Ceann Comhairle (chairman) for over 19 years.

1885 – Birth of patriot and nationalist, Thomas Ashe, in Lispole, Co Kerry.

1887 – Birth of actress, Molly Allgood, (stage name Máire O’Neill) in Dublin. She was the fiancée of playwright John Millington Synge. She appeared in films from 1930-53, including Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of Seán O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock (1930). She made her American debut in New York in 1914 in the play General John Regan at the Hudson Theatre.

1892 – Death of William Reeves. Born in Co Cork, he was an antiquarian and the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore from 1886 until his death. He was the last private keeper of the Book of Armagh and at the time of his death was President of the Royal Irish Academy.

1922 – In Belfast, loyalists threw five grenades at groups of Catholic civilians.

1930 – Birth of novelist, Jennifer Johnston, in Dublin. She has won a number of awards including the Whitbread Book Award for The Old Jest in 1979 and a Lifetime Achievement from the Irish Book Awards (2012). The Old Jest, a novel about the Irish War of Independence, was later made into a film called The Dawning, starring Anthony Hopkins, produced by Sarah Lawson and directed by Robert Knights.

1947 – Birth of Matt Molloy of the Chieftains in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.

1947 – Birth of poet and linguist, Micheal O’Siadhail, in Dublin.

1951 – Birth of Steve Travers, surviving member of the Miami Showband massacre, and managing director of CAT Entertainments.

1976 – Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister, stated that a United Ireland was not a solution which any British political party would wish to impose on the region.

1976 – The trial of members of the ‘Maguire Seven’ began at the Old Bailey in London. They had been arrested on 3 December 1974. They were on trial accused of possession of explosives. The case was linked to that of the ‘Guildford Four’ and the making the bombs used in the explosions in Guildford on 5 October 1974. The ‘Maguire Seven’ were convicted on 3 March 1976 of possession of explosives (although none were found) and some served 10 years in prison before the convictions were overturned.

1990 – Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, held a meeting with Bill Clinton, President of the United States of America, at the White House. Clinton urged Adams to make progress on decommissioning. David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), threatened to resign if the IRA failed to meet a February deadline on decommissioning.

1993 – A Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition government is formed, with Reynolds as Taoiseach.

1998 – Political master strokes by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair breath new life into the Northern peace process with a blueprint for peace which could replace the Anglo-Irish Agreement with a three-stranded government for the North.

2000 – Despite the controversy over the book, Limerick people turnout in huge numbers to attend the sell out film premiere of Angela’s Ashes.

Photo: Trinity Hall, Dublin, Photography by Steve Sheehy

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