#OnThisDay in Irish History – 17 March:

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the feast day of St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint.

1762 – St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in New York City for the first time (at the Crown and Thistle Tavern).

1776 – General George Washington used the password ‘St Patrick’ as a secret code for his Colonial troops on Evacuation Day, when the British forces were forced to evacuate Boston following Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights.

1777 – Patrick Brontë, originally Brunty; clergyman and father of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, was born in Ballynaskeagh, Co Down.

1794 – Sir Thomas Maclear, astronomer, was born in Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone.

1800 – Charles James Patrick Mahon, high-ranking soldier in Russia, Turkey, South America and France; duelist and politician, was born in Ennis, Co Clare.

1820 – Birth of Union General, Patrick Edward Connor, in Co Kerry.

1852 – Birth of Patrick Sheehan, ‘Canon Sheehan’, priest and writer, in Mallow, Co Cork.

1853 – The Ossianic Society is founded to preserve and publish manuscripts of the Fionn cycle.

1858 – The Irish Republican Brotherhood was co-founded by James Stephens in Dublin. The original IRB oath, as quoted by Thomas Clarke Luby and John O’Leary, and which is among several versions in James Stephens’s own papers, ran: ‘I, AB., do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make [other versions, according to Luby, establish in’] Ireland an independent Democratic Republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God [‘laws of morality’] to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions [‘affairs’] of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Amen.’

1864 – Charlotte Milligan Fox, collector of folk music, is born in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

1877 – Michael O’Hanrahan, author and revolutionary, is born in New Ross, Co Wexford.

1889 – Harry Clarke, artist, known chiefly for stained-glass work, is born in Dublin.

1899 – First issue of Gaelic League’s An Claidheamh Soluis is published.

1903 – Politician James O’Mara is noted for his introduction of the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act 1903, making Saint Patrick’s Day a national holiday. O’Mara later introduced the law which required that pubs be closed on 17 March, a provision which was repealed only in the 1970s. He was one of the few politicians to have served both as member in the House of Commons and in Dáil Éireann.

1920 – The War of Independence takes a new more violent turn as the IRA kill two Royal Irish Constabulary officers as they leave St. Patrick’s Day church ceremonies in Toomevara, Co Tipperary.

1923 – A major boxing match between Mike McTigue and Battling Siki took place in Dublin city centre, despite the Anti-Treaty prohibition of public entertainments. A battalion of Free State troops guarded the fight on Princes street. Anti-Treaty fighters detonated a mine beside the theatre and fire on the spectators after the fight. There was also a bomb attack on the Custom an Eccise office in Dublin. One CID man was killed and another is wounded. A National Army Intelligence Officer, Frank Bolster, was shot and wounded while attending the theatre in Dublin.

1923 – A Free State soldier, John Little, was accidentally shot dead by his comrades in Collins Barracks, Dublin.

1923 – An elderly civilian was shot dead during a Post Office robbery in Monaghan town.

1944 – Birth of rock drummer for Them, Pat McCauley, in Coleraine, Co Derry.

1951 – Birth of guitarist, Scott Gorham, in California. He was the lead guitarist for Thin Lizzy through much of the 1970s and 80s.

1958 – Death of John Pius Boland. Born in Dublin, he was a Nationalist politician, and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for South Kerry 1900–1918. He was also noteworthy as a gold medallist tennis player at the first modern Olympics.

1965 – Birth of hurler, Joe Cooney, near Loughrea, Co Galway.

1973 – Birth of musician, Caroline Corr, in Dundalk, Co Louth. She is a singer and drummer for the Celtic folk rock band The Corrs. In addition to the drums, Corr plays the bodhrán, cajón, percussions and piano. The Corr siblings were appointed honorary MBEs in 2005, in recognition of their music and charitable work which has raised money for the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, victims of the Omagh Bombing and other charities.

1976 – Birth in Dublin of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. Gately was found dead at his hotel room in Majorca in 2009, with the cause of death reportedly being an undiagnosed heart condition.

1981 – Bobby Sands recorded his diary for the first seventeen days of his hunger strike in which he detailed his thoughts and feelings on the momentous task that lay ahead of him. In order to secure his status as Irish political prisoner he was willing to fast til death, an event that would earn him a place in the annals of Irish history and in the hearts and minds of Irish republicans world wide. See Bobby Sands Trust for today’s final entry before his death: http://www.bobbysandstrust.com/writings/prison-diary

1982 – Taoiseach Charles Haughey, paid a visit to the United States as part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations. During the visit he called on the US government to put more pressure on Britain to consider the possibility of Irish unity.

1983 – President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, said that those who supported terrorism were no friends of Ireland. Senator Edward Kennedy proposed a senate motion calling for a united Ireland.

1984 – Dominic McGlinchey, considered leader of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), was recaptured after an exchange of gunfire with the Garda Síochána and immediately extradited to Northern Ireland. He became the first Republican to be extradited to face charges related to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

1986 – Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, was in Washington DC for the St Partick’s Day celebrations and to meet with President Ronald Reagan.

1987 – President Ronald Reagan announced the first payment of $50 million to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI). The IFI was one of the initiatives in the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA).

1990 – Birth of musician, singer and songwriter, Andrew Hozier-Byrne, in Co Wicklow. Known professionally by the mononym Hozier, he released his debut EP, featuring the hit single ‘Take Me to Church’, in 2013 and his second EP, From Eden, in 2014. His debut studio album, Hozier, was released in Ireland in September 2014 and globally in October 2014.

1995 – Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin (SF), attended the St Patrick’s Day reception hosted by President Bill Clinton at the White House. A delegation from the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) also attended the reception. The group also met with Senator Edward Kennedy.

1997 – President Bill Clinton sharply increased the pressure on Northern political leaders to make concessions following a White House declaration that they will throw away a chance in a lifetime if they fail to settle an agreement by May.

1998 – An ‘official’ St Patrick’s day parade took place in Belfast. This was the first time since the establishment of the state that a parade had received backing from Belfast City Council. The organising committee had stated their wish to have a cross-community celebration. Following the parade a number of Unionist councillors, particularly members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) claimed that IRA slogans were shouted by people in the crowd. Unionists also objected to the fact that the ‘tricolour’ was displayed by some spectators. The objections following the parade in 1998 was to result in Belfast City Council withdrawing funds for future parades.

1998 – In the cafeteria of the House of Commons Ken Maginnis, Security Spokesperson of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), took down two ‘tricolour’ flags that were part of a display for St Patrick’s Day and threw them into the Thames River saying he ‘did not think they would pollute the river too much’.

1998 – Frankie Curry, a top loyalist dissident, was gunned down by the UVF in revenge for the killing of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

1999 – From Malin Head to Mizen Head, up to a million people turn out for St Patrick’s Day parades.

2001 – For the first time, Queen Elizabeth II sent a special St Patrick’s Day greeting to President Mary McAleese.

2001 – Publicans in Westport, Co Mayo call time on hen and stag parties. Bar owners in Westport, Co Mayo say the revellers are no longer welcome and will not be served in the town’s 44 pubs.

2001 – Thousands of bargain hunters pack the RDS for the biggest ever Irish International Antiques and Fine Art Fair.

2002 – In Dublin, an estimated 500,000 people line the parade route for the pinnacle of the €2.5 million St. Patrick’s festival weekend.

2003 – Two police officers and a paramedic are injured as sectarian fighting breaks out in flashpoint areas of Belfast.

2003 – Snakes, sea monsters, Vikings and samba bands provide the sparkle in St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the country while the saint himself supplies the weather – warm and sunny in most areas.

2014 – Death of Patrick Joseph ‘Paddy Joe’ McGuigan. He was a musician who played for some years with the folk group The Barleycorn. He has written some Irish rebel songs, including ‘The Men Behind the Wire’, ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘Irish Soldier Laddie’, ‘Freedom Walk’ and ‘Bring Them Home’. McGuigan, a native of Belfast, wrote ‘The Men Behind the Wire’ in the aftermath of internment. The song describes raids by British soldiers, and the ‘men behind the wire’ refers to those held without charge or trial at Long Kesh prison camp, Magilligan prison camp and on board the Maidstone Prison Ship. McGuigan himself was picked up in a later round of internment.

Photo: Burial place of St Patrick, Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Co Down

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