Today in Irish History – 31 January:

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the Feast Day of Saint Máedóc, also known as Mogue (Mo Aodh Óg) and Aidan (Áedan). He was an Irish saint, founder and first bishop of Ferns in Co Wexford and a patron of other churches, such as Rossinver in Co Leitrim and Drumlane in Co Cavan.

1790 – Death of Thomas Lewis. Born in Donegal, he was a surveyor, lawyer, and a pioneer of early Virginia. He was a signatory to the Fairfax Resolves preceding the American War for Independence, and after the conflict, contributed to the settlement of western Virginia in an area that would one day become part of West Virginia.

He was a founding trustee of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University), when it was made into a college in 1776.

1800 – William Pitt, ‘the younger’, Prime Minister of Britain, advocates the union of Britain and Ireland.

1864 – Birth of Matilda Knowles, botanist.

1881 – Anna Parnell, younger sister of Irish Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell, sets up the Committee of the Ladies’ Land League in Dublin.

1913 – The Ulster Volunteer Force is founded by the Unionist Council, posing a threat to the legitimate government.

1919 – Following a meeting of the Executive of the Irish Volunteers, the editorial of An t-Óglach (the official publication of the Irish Volunteers) stated that the formation of Dáil Éireann ‘justifies Irish Volunteers in treating the armed forces of the enemy – whether soldiers or policemen – exactly as a National Army would treat the members of an invading army’.

1920 – Tomás Mac Curtain is elected Sinn Féin Mayor of Cork city. Mac Curtain was an active Republican who had participated in the 1916 Rising. Just two months after his election, he would be shot dead in front of his wife and children by a party of men who were later identified as RIC personnel.

1921 – The Black and Tans kill three rail workers in the Mallow area in retaliation for a botched IRA attack on a British officer which resulted in the death of the officer’s wife.

1922 – The first regiment of the Irish National Army was set up in Dublin.

1950 – Birth of musician, Jimmy Faulkner, in Dublin. He was one of Ireland’s top guitarists, who in a four-decade career played with many of Ireland’s leading rock and roll, blues, folk and jazz musicians.

1953 – The Princess Victoria, a British Railways car ferry steamer, bound for Larne in Northern Ireland, sinks in the Irish Sea in one of the worst gales in living memory, claiming the lives of 128 passengers and crew. Among the passengers who perish are the Northern Ireland Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Major J. M. Sinclair, and Sir Walter Smiles, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.

1971 – Birth of comedian and television personality, Patrick Kielty, in Downpatrick, Co Down. He grew up in the neighbouring village of Dundrum. He is one of three sons born to the businessman John “Jack” Kielty, who was shot dead on 25 January 1988 by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). John Kielty was to have been a key witness in ITV Central’s defence of a libel action brought by Jim Craig, who was suing the television company over a broadcast of The Cook Report which connected him to racketeering, and is said to have ordered John Kielty’s murder.

1972 – Reginald Maudling, British Home Secretary, made a statement to the House of Commons on the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ (30 January 1972): “The Army returned the fire directed at them with aimed shots and inflicted a number of casualties on those who were attacking them with firearms and with bombs”. Maudling then went on to announce an Inquiry into the circumstances of the march.

1973 – Death of character actor, Jack MacGowran. Born in Dublin, he is probably best known for his work with Samuel Beckett. His last film role was as the alcoholic director Burke Dennings in The Exorcist. He also specialised in the work of Seán O’Casey, creating the role of Joxer in the Broadway musical Juno in 1959, based with O’Casey’s 1924 play about the Troubles, Juno and the Paycock. Fittingly, he played O’Casey’s brother Archie in Young Cassidy (1965), one of John Ford’s last films (which the director had to abandon due to ill-health).

1984 – Death of fifteen year old Ann Lovett in Childbirth.

1998 – Two men are arrested as they transfer cannabis resin with an estimated valued of £5 million into a vehicle in a wooded area near Cahir, Co Tipperary.

1999 – The end of an era in maritime history is reached as the high-tech world takes over from the old, manually operated morse code radio services. For over 100 years, the dot-dash-dot system operated by radio officers served shipping well, but is now superseded by a state-of-the-art communications network. Marine Minister Michael Woods marks the historic occasion at Valentia Coast Radio Station, Co Kerry, as the use of Morse ends in this country, Belgium, Denmark and Iceland.

1999 – Irish American business tycoon, Jay Michael Cashman splashes out a reported £250,000 to tie the knot with his film producer sweetheart, Christy Jean Scott, in a glittering ceremony in the 15th-century ruined Franciscan Abbey. It is the first wedding in the abbey in 500 years.

2000 – Seventeen fishermen from a blazing Spanish trawler off the Clare coast are rescued by the Irish Coast Guard.

2000 – President Bill Clinton and Northern Ireland peace envoy George Mitchell are among those nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

2003 – The coast guard remains on standby off the north-west coast for a major pollution incident as damage to the Panamanian-registered Princess Eva tanker, carrying 55,000 tonnes of oil, is assessed.

2008 – MS Riverdance was hit by a wave that caused her cargo to shift and she beached at Blackpool, very close to the boundary with Cleveleys. Attempts to refloat her failed, and she was scrapped on site in 2008.

2016 – Death of Broadcaster, Terry Wogan, aged 77. The Limerick-born radio veteran died after a short cancer illness.

Photo: Inch Abbey, near Downpatrick, Co Down

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