Today in Irish History – 16 January:

1700 – Richard Levinge, an Irish MP and later a prominent Tory, is committed by the English House of Commons to the Tower of London until 11 April for speaking ill of his fellow Commissioners of Forfeited Estates.

1707 – Robert Allen, a future MP, elopes with the daughter of Robert Johnson MP: Johnson writes to Ormonde on 16 January that Allen ‘has stolen a marriage with my daughter; no consent or acquainting of him with me. I fancy they will find they have two very difficult fathers to persuade to part with anything to either of them.’ In 1730 Allen will be satirized viciously by Jonathan Swift.

1816 – Frances Browne, writer, is born in Stranorlar, Co Donegal. She caught smallpox at eighteen months which caused blindness and was known as The Blind Poetess of Stranorlar.

1822 – Thomas Clark Luby, co-founder of the Fenian Brotherhood, is born.

1900 – Frank Devlin, badminton player, is born in Dublin.

1904 – In reaction to attacks on Jews in Limerick, Michael Davitt, a leader of the Irish Land League, protests ‘as an Irishman and a Catholic against this spirit of barbarous malignity’.

1909 – Kildare-born, Ernest Shackleton’s expedition finds the magnetic South Pole. This expedition were the first to climb Mount Erebus, and they discovered the Beardmore Glacier – named after Shackleton’s patron.

1913 – Home Rule bill passed in the House of Commons. However, on 30 January, the House of Lords rejected it.

1916 – James Connolly met with the Irish Volunteer leadership regarding the rising. (Connolly, unaware that a date had been set, was concluding that the IRB, like earlier generations of Irish, was taking too long to act.) Connolly favoured an immediate insurrection and argued that the seizure of selected buildings in Dublin would ignite the whole country. He insisted that the Irish Citizen Army was prepared to rise alone. Nothing came out of that meeting.

1919 – Prohibition takes effect in the United States. Much of the logic driving prohibition and the temperance movement had latent anti-immigrant, anti-Irish foundations. The Irish and other immigrants were often seen by the movement as part of an alcohol and drunkenness problem and a threat to the well-being of the nation. The introduction of prohibition proved a boon to lawlessness and brought numerous Irish and Irish-American gangsters to the fore including Legs Diamond, Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll and Dion O’Banion.

1920 – Percy French gave his last concert in Glasgow. He died in Liverpool eight days later.

1922 – Michael Collins takes over control of Dublin Castle from the British authorities on behalf of the new Irish Free state.

1923 – Two Republican fighters are killed in a skirmish in Tipperary.

1939 – The IRA begins a bombing and sabotage campaign in England (The S-Plan or Sabotage Campaign or England Campaign).

1949 – Birth of historian and academic, R. F. Foster, in Co Waterford. He is the Carroll Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, Oxford in the UK. He was awarded an M.A. and Ph.D. by Trinity College, where he was taught by T. W. Moody and F.S.L. Lyons, and was elected a scholar in History and Political Science in 1969.

1955 – Gobnait Ní Bhruadair (Albinia Brodrick), Irish republican activist, dies.

1974 – Brian Faulkner, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Executive, travelled to Dublin for a meeting with Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, following a ruling in the Dublin High Court. The ruling implied that the reunification of Ireland did not require the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

1978 – Tomás Ó Fiaich, Catholic Primate of Ireland, was quoted in the Irish Press as saying: “I believe the British should withdraw from Ireland. I think that it is the only thing that will get things moving.” The comments drew a lot of criticism including from Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who called Ó Fiaich “the IRA’s bishop from Crossmaglen”.

1981 – Northern Ireland civil rights campaigner and former Westminster MP, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, is shot by gunmen who burst into her home at Coalisland in Co Tyrone.

1986 – Security forces in Holland raided a flat in Amsterdam and arrested two Republicans, Brendan McFarlane and Gerard Kelly, who had escaped from Long Kesh prison on 25 September 1983.

1989 – The case of the ‘Guildford Four’ was referred to the Court of Appeal.

2000 – For his adaptations of the work of William Shakespeare, Belfast-born actor and director Kenneth Branagh becomes the youngest winner of the Gielgud award.

2001 – Hough’s Pub in Lorrha, Co Tipperary retains the title of “The Cheapest Pint” in Ireland. Earning the respect of drinkers everywhere, Pat Hough won’t be raising the price of a pint of plain above £1.50.

2002 – Richard Haass, US President George Bush’s special adviser on Northern Ireland, urges Sinn Féin to drop its objections to the new Police Board.

2002 – Joe White of Rathmire, Co Kerry becomes one of the oldest people in the country to pass the driving test. He began driving in Ireland more than 60 years ago, went to the USA and returned last year to find his Irish license had long lapsed. It took two attempts, but the sprightly 84-year-old proved age, bad roads or fast drivers need not be a barrier to passing the test.

Photo: Early morning light at Murlough Bay on the Causeway Coast, Co Antrim, Steven Hanna Photography

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