#OTD in Irish History – 23 February:

1317 – Bruce’s army marches south and reaches Castleknock, within sight of Dublin. The mayor of Dublin has imprisoned the Earl of Ulster, who is suspected of being sympathetic to Bruce. The citizens of Dublin destroy some of the northern and western suburbs, to prevent Bruce from using them as a base – to the later inconvenience of the administration, as many of the buildings it uses as law courts etc., are obliterated.

1649 – Giovanni Battista Rinuccini returns to Rome. Originally from Rome, he takes his doctorate in law at the University of Pisa. During the next decade he wins distinction at the ecclesiastical courts in Rome and is made Archbishop of Fermo in 1625. In 1645, Pope Innocent X sends him to Kilkenny – then the capital of Ireland – to support the Catholics with arms, money and diplomacy. His determined support of the militant anti-English faction is doomed to failure, but gains him fame and infamy in Anglo-Irish history.

1713 – Nicola Hamilton, widow of Tristram Beresford MP, dies on her 47th birthday. On the day of her death, she gave a party to celebrate her 48th birthday; one of those present was the priest who had christened her. He pointed out that it was in fact her 47th birthday – she had been born in 1666, not 1665 as she had always supposed. On hearing this she turned deathly pale; she sent for her children, told them the whole story, and died later that day. The Black Mark of Lord Tyrone.

1781 – Death of George Taylor. Born in Ireland (Ulster), he was a Colonial ironmaster and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Pennsylvania. Today, his former home, the George Taylor House in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, is a National Historic Landmark owned by the Borough of Catasauqua.

1847 – Birth of internationally renowned sculptor, Jerome Connor in Coumduff, Annascaul, Co Kerry. The family moved to Holyoake, Massachusetts in the United States in the 1890s. His most notable sculptures are in Washington D.C., statues of Robert Emmet (a cast of which is in Dublin), Bishop John Carroll, and the Nuns of the Battlefield tablet.

1854 – The official independence of the Orange Free State is declared.

1874/1876 – Birth of sculptor, Jerome Connor, in Annascaul, Co Kerry. Connor is a recognised world-class sculptor and his most notable sculptures are in Washington D.C., statues of Robert Emmet (a cast of which is in Dublin), as well as Nuns of the Battlefield. It serves as a tribute to the over six hundreds nuns who nursed soldiers of both armies during the Civil War, and is one of two monuments in the District that represent women’s roles in the American Civil War. (Year of birth is disputed between 1874 and 1876)

1893 – Birth of author and Volunteer, Frank B. Gallagher. A Cork native, initially London correspondent of William O’Brien’s Cork Free Press, subsequently its final editor, though himself a separatist, personally admired O’Brien. The paper suffered closure in 1916 soon after the appointment of Lord Decies as Chief Press Censor for Ireland. Decies warned the press to be careful about what they published. Such warnings had little effect when dealing with such papers as the Cork Free Press. It was suppressed after Gallagher accused the British authorities of lying about the conditions and situation of republican prisoners in the Frongoch internment camp.

1919 – Birth of soccer legend, Johnny Carey, in Dublin.

1921 – IRA volunteers from the Squad attacked RIC men returning from lunch to Dublin Castle on Parliament street. Two Policemen were killed, another was badly wounded and died that night.

1921 – Two soldiers of the Essex Regiment kidnapped and killed.

1923 – Free State troops ambushed by Anti-Treaty fighters at Shramore, Co Mayo. One National Army soldier and a medical orderly are killed.

1923 – An Anti-Treaty column is surprised by National Army troops near Cluid, Co Galway. One republican is killed and eighteen are captured and sentenced to death. Five of the prisoners are later executed.

1935 – Thomas Murphy, a playwright best known for his portrayal of the people in the working class rural town of Tuam, Co Galway, is born.

1943 – The Cavan Orphanage fire: An electrical fault caused the fire at St Joseph’s Orphanage in Co Cavan, and the nuns running the orphanage were not aware of it until late in the night. Thirty-five children and one adult employee died as a result. Much of the attention after the fire surrounded the role of the Poor Clares, the order of nuns who ran the orphanage and the local fire service. The children ranged in age from four to eighteen years old. The cook aged 80 years also lost her life.

1944 – Children’s allowances are introduced in the Free State.

1948 – Death of John Robert Gregg. Born in Co Monaghan, he was the inventor of the Gregg shorthand system.

1950 – Birth of radio disc-jockey and producer; actor, journalist, and singer, Maxi, in Dublin. Her real name is Irene McCoubrey and was nicknamed Maxi in school because of the McC letters in her name. She came to fame as part of the popular girl band, Maxi, Dick and Twink, in Ireland in the late 1960s.

1959 – Birth of singer, Linda Nolan, in Dublin. She attained fame as a member of the girl group The Nolans in the 1970s and early 1980s, along with her sisters Anne, Denise, Maureen, Bernie and Coleen. As a member of the Nolans, she toured with Frank Sinatra in 1975, had seven UK top 20 hits (1979–82) and won the Tokyo Music Festival in 1981.

1964 – Birth of novelist and non-fiction writer, Joseph O’Neill, in Co Cork. O’Neill’s novel ‘Netherland’ was awarded the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. O’Neill is of half-Irish and half-Turkish ancestry.

1965 – Roger Casement’s body is returned from England to be re-interred at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

1974 – In the Shankill Road area of Belfast, taxi drivers hijacked buses and sealed off roads in a protest against alleged army harassment.

1982 – The IRA sank a British coal boat, the St Bedan, in Lough Foyle.

1987 – Belfast City Council became the latest in a line of Northern Ireland councils to be fined for failing to conduct normal business. Many Unionist controlled councils had been refusing to conduct council business as part of a protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). The Department of the Environment appointed a commissioner to set a rate in those councils which have refused to do so.

1998 – A Republican paramilitary group exploded a large car bomb, estimated at 300 lbs, in the centre of Portadown, Co Armagh. Many business premises in the centre of the town were severely damaged by the explosion and two buildings were completely demolished by the blast. There were no injuries in the explosion. It was thought that the bomb had been planted by the ‘Continuity’ Irish Republican Army (CIRA).

1998 – The Sinn Féin leadership takes to the stage at a Belfast hotel rally as fears grow that the party may not return to the peace talks.

1999 – President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, was confronted by the family of a victim of the IRA as he continued his eight-day visit to Australia. Roy Melrose, father of Stephen Melrose, a Brisbane lawyer who was mistaken by gunmen for an off-duty British soldier in the Netherlands on 27 May 1990, criticised the way Adams was being feted at a civic champagne reception.

2000 – According to a report released by the National Roads Authority, nearly half of Irish motorists never wear a seatbelt. Men are the worst offenders, with two-thirds admitting they do not strap themselves in.

2001 – Measures to prevent livestock with foot and mouth disease entering Ireland are tightened as Britain halts all internal livestock movements amid fears that the outbreak there is spreading.

2001 – A major recruitment drive for the Police Service of Northern Ireland goes ahead despite the refusal of the SDLP and Sinn Féin to support the new force.

2002 – It is announced that Guinness is testing a new system that will slash the waiting time for a pint of the black stuff to 30 seconds. In an effort to combat declining sales in recent years, Guinness is hoping to appeal to people not prepared to wait the 1 minute 59 seconds for the traditional pint to be poured.

2003 – Daniel Day-Lewis is named Best Actor for his role in Martin Scorsese’s epic ‘Gangs of New York’, the only prize which the film takes at the British version of the Oscars.

Photo: O’Briens Castle, Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, Co Galway, Photo credit: National Geographic

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Castle O'Brian and ancient stone walls on the island of Inisheer.

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