#OTD in Irish History – 17 July:

1221 – Geoffrey de Marisco, justiciar of Ireland, is accused of financial irregularities and resigns: he is replaced by Archbishop Henry of London on this date.

1798 – Death of Henry Joy McCracken. He was a cotton manufacturer and industrialist, Presbyterian, radical Irish republican, and a founding member, along with Theobald Wolfe Tone, James Napper Tandy, and Robert Emmet, of the Society of the United Irishmen. Although offered clemency if he testified against other United Irishmen leaders, McCracken refused to turn on his compatriots. He was court-martialled and hanged at Corn Market, Belfast on 17 July, on land his grandfather had donated to the city 1798. McCracken is buried in Clifton Street Cemetery, Belfast, alongside his sister Mary Ann, herself a political activist and social reformer.

1846 – Birth of Fenian, John McLure. He is one of 30 Fenian prisoners released in a general amnesty by the British government on 5 January 1871. They are released on condition that they exile themselves to the country of their choice and not return until their sentences have expired. Many choose to go to Australia, but John McClure, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, John Devoy, Henry Mulleda and Charles Underwood O’Connell, who had all been imprisoned together, decide to go to America and ship out from Liverpool on board the “Cuba.” The so-called ‘Cuba Five’ arrive in New York to a hero’s welcome and even receive a resolution of welcome from the US House of Representatives.

1871 – Birth in Comber, Co Down, of John Andrews, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1940 to 1943.

1879 – Séamus O’Sullivan (James Sullivan Starkey), writer and editor, is born in Dublin.

1884 – Louise Gavan Duffy, teacher and revolutionary, is born in Nice, France (the daughter of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy).

1901 – Birth of politician, Patrick Smith, in Co Cavan. He served in a number of government positions under Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass. He holds the distinction of being the longest-serving member of Dáil Éireann, having been a member for almost 54 years.

1920 – The IRA executes English Army officer Colonel Gerald Bryce Ferguson Smyth in Cork. While all British Army personnel were deemed legitimate targets, Smyth’s fate was sealed when he spoke in quite brutal fashion about how Irish citizens were to be treated. At a meeting in Listowel on 19 June, Smyth reportedly told RIC officers: “Police and military will patrol the country roads at least five nights a week. They are not to confine themselves to the main roads but make across the country, lie in ambush, take cover behind fences near roads, and when civilians are seen approaching shout: ‘Hands up!’ Should the order be not obeyed, shoot, and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets or are in any way suspicious looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped and you are bound to get the right persons sometimes. The more you shoot the better I will like you; and I assure you that no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man and I will guarantee that your names will not be given at the inquest.” See Tom Barry YouTube video: http://youtu.be/swBcgBwCGYU

1922 – Free State general Eoin O’Duffy arrives in Limerick with 1,500 National Army troops, four armoured cars and one 18-pounder field gun.

1922 – Two Anti-Treaty fighters are killed in two separate ambushes in Co Kildare.

1922 – In Galway, the funeral of a soldier killed on the 15th is fired on by republicans, a battalion commandant, Rooney, is killed.

1935 – Death of George William Russell, who wrote under the pseudonym Æ (sometimes written AE or A.E.), was an Irish nationalist, writer, editor, critic, poet, and painter. He was also a mystical writer, and centre of a group of followers of theosophy in Dublin, for many years.

1938 – Douglas Corrigan takes off to fly the “wrong way” to Ireland and becomes known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. In 1938, after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, even though he was supposed to be returning to Long Beach. He claimed that his unauthorised flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Corrigan, however, was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) and a habitual risk-taking maverick; he had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for a transatlantic flight. Between 1935 and 1937, he applied several times, unsuccessfully, for permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and it is likely that his “navigational error” was a protest against government “red tape”; however, he never publicly acknowledged having flown to Ireland intentionally. http://youtu.be/f9Dd8G50dFQ

1947 – The “Customs Free Airport Act” established Shannon Airport as the world’s first duty-free airport, a move promoted by Brendan O’Regan; although “duty-free” shopping is not applicable any more for flights within the European Union, EU-bound passengers can still buy goods, but have to pay the normal taxes. Shannon became a model for other duty-free facilities worldwide.

1951 – The Abbey Theatre in Dublin burns down, with only the Peacock surviving intact. The play that evening closed with soldiers on stage singing, ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’.

1969 – Samuel Devenny (42) died as a result of injuries he received when he was severely beaten by RUC officers using batons. The attack took place in Devenny’s home in William Street, Bogside, Derry, on 19 April 1969. In some accounts of ‘the Troubles’ this is recorded as the first death

1970 – The National Youth Orchestra of Ireland makes its debut.

1974 – The IRA exploded a bomb at the Tower of London which killed one person and injured a further 41 others.

1974 – The Westminster Parliament passed the Northern Ireland Act 1974 which contained provisions for the election of a Constitutional Convention on the future government of Northern Ireland. The Convention would elect 78 members by Proportional Representation (PR) (using the STV system) from the 12 Westminster constituencies. The election was held on 1 May 1975.

1975 – Four British soldiers were killed by a PIRA remote-controlled bomb near Forkill, Co Armagh. The attack was the first major breach of the February truce.

1979 – Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), interrupted the opening proceedings of the European parliament to protest that the Union flag was flying the wrong way up on the Parliament Buildings.

1981 – The delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross had a meeting with Humphrey Atkins, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to discuss the hunger strike.

1981 – Glasdrumman ambush: the PIRA attacked a British Army post in South Armagh, killing one soldier and injuring another.

1982 – Norman Maxwell (33), a Protestant civilian, was severely beaten and then killed when a car was driven over him several times. The attack was carried out by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ at the rear of Rumford Street Loyalist Club. Maxwell’s body was later dumped in Alliance Parade off the Old Park Road, Belfast.

1986 – Eighteen people, who had been sentenced on the evidence of Republican ‘supergrass’ informer Christopher Black on 5 August 1983, had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal in Belfast. Four others had their convictions confirmed by the court.

1998 – Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks in Wicklow and Donegal threaten the £10 million import industry in eggs from the north of Ireland.

1999 – Acclaimed actor Donal McCann dies in Dublin, after a long illness.

2000 – Guinness announces plans to lay off as many as 200 workers as part of a major cost-cutting strategy.

2002 – New birth figures show that one in three children in Ireland are born out of wedlock.

2005 – Death of actress, Geraldine Fitzgerald. Born in Greystones, Co Wicklow, she studied painting at the Dublin School of Art. Inspired by her aunt, actress Shelagh Richards, Fitzgerald began her acting career in 1932 at Dublin’s famed Gate Theatre. Her great-niece is actress Tara Fitzgerald. Her success led her to New York and the Broadway stage in 1938.

Photo: Aerial view of The Causeway Coast, Co Antrim, Photo by Chris Hill

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