Today in Irish History – 27 January:

1850 – Edward J. Smith, captain of the ill-fated Titanic is born in Stoke-on-Trent. The Titanic was built at the at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. It’s final point of departure was Queenstown (now Cobh), Co Cork, 11 April 1912.

1873 – Birth of Alexander Young in Co Galway. He was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

1923 – Two Republican prisoners are executed in Portlaoise. The two are Joseph Byrne and Patrick Geraghty, commanders of the IRA Offaly Brigade. The executions, ‘terrorised’ the Offaly Anti-Treatyites, who had killed 5 Free State troops up to that point, but killed only 2 after. A total of 22 people are killed in Offaly during the conflict. Eight Free State troops, 11 Republicans and 3 civilians.

1923 – The Free State executes a total of 34 Republican prisoners during this month, bringing the total number executed so far up to 53.

1923 – Anti-Treaty IRA ambush a party of five National Army soldiers at Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick. A Captain Coyle is killed and three soldiers wounded. Free State troops pursue the IRA column, killing one of them and wounding another two.

1944 – Birth of Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, founder of Northern Ireland Peace Movement, in Belfast.

1951 – Birth of Brian Downey in Dublin. Downey is the drummer and a founder member of the rock band Thin Lizzy. In his youth, he met friend, co-founder and bass guitarist Phil Lynott, who attended the same school. Along with Lynott, Downey was the only constant founder and member of the pioneering hard rock group until their break-up in 1984. Downey also co-wrote several Thin Lizzy songs. Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia has argued that Downey is ‘certainly one of the most underrated rock drummers of his generation.’

1972 – Birth of Keith Wood. He is a former rugby player who played hooker for Ireland, the Lions, Garryowen, Harlequins and Munster. He was nicknamed ‘The Raging Potato’ because of his bald head. He was also known as ‘Uncle Fester’ due to his resemblance to a character in ‘The Addams Family’.

1975 – Mother Mary Martin, founder of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, dies in Drogheda.

1982 – The coalition government of Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party collapsed when independent TDs voted against proposed tax increases on items such as petrol, alcohol, and tobacco.

1989 – Death of writer, Dónall Mac Amhlaigh. A native of County Galway, and raised in Kilkenny, he is best known for his Irish-language works about life as a labourer in the post-Second World War-era, as part of the Irish diaspora in Britain. His first book, Dialann Deoraí, is his most widely known and has been translated into English.

1995 – John Bruton, Taoiseach, and Dick Spring, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, held their first formal meeting with representatives of Sinn Féin.

1997 – Three Irish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) paid a visit to Roisín McAliskey in Holloway prison. McAliskey, who at that time was six months pregnant and was being held prior to a decision about her possible extradition to Germany.

1999 – Former IRA volunteer and supergrass Eamon Collins was found dead near Newry, Co Down. The South Armagh IRA were believed to have been responsible.

2000 – Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams indicates that the IRA will not deliver arms ahead of the Ulster Unionists’ February deadline.

Photo: Galley Head Lighthouse, West Cork, Kieran Hayes Photography

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