#OTD in Irish History – 31 July:

1661 – The Act of Settlement confirms some adventurers’ landowning rights but allows claims from ‘innocents’ and royalist supporters.

1689 – Robert Lundy, Governor of Derry, advises surrender at the approach of James’s army but is overruled and allowed to escape. The city holds out under siege for 105 days and is relieved on this date.

1689 – The Enniskillen Protestants defeat Jacobite forces at Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh.

1737 – Robert Adair, MP for Philipstown, dies on this date, having ‘had one of his legs cut off above the knee for a mortification and died soon after’.

1834 – Inauguration of the first Dublin — Dún Laoghaire horse-drawn “train service”.

1838 – Enactment of the Irish Poor Law.

1858 – Death of Richard Dixon Oldham, an Irish geophysicist and geologist who, in 1906, argued that the Earth must have a core as S waves were not able to travel as quickly through liquids nor through the Earth’s interior as through less dense matter. (The identification of the core as molten is often attributed to Oldham, but that came later.)

1874 – Patrick Francis Healy (1834-1910) becomes President of Georgetown University. Healy was born to a mulatto slave mother in Georgia. His father Michael Healy, was an Irish slave owner. The Healy family biography states the parents lived “faithfully as a married couple” although not legally married. Patrick was sent to school in New York where he adopted a white identity. Healy entered the Jesuit order in 1850. In 1866, as part of his Jesuit duties, he was sent to Georgetown College to teach philosophy. He became acting president in 1873. Within a year, he became president of Georgetown, the largest Catholic institution in the country and Washington, DC’s first college, founded in 1789. Healy transformed Georgetown into a modern university and retired in 1881. According to historian James O’Toole, it was not until the 1960s that Patrick Healy’s racial history was revealed. Since then he has been declared the first African-American Jesuit and the first African-American president of a predominantly white university. Healy is buried in the Jesuit cemetery on the Georgetown University campus.

1875 – Death of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States whose grandfather came from Co Antrim. Johnson took office following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was an interesting, pugnacious character who did not suffer fools gladly. He also had a fondness for alcohol. An article on him at Senate.gov reports he was drunk during his inauguration as Vice-President on the day Lincoln took office for the second time.

1877 – Minority of Home Rulers begin obstruction tactics in Commons.

1893 – Founding of the Gaelic League in order to revive the use of the Irish language and foster appreciation of Ireland’s Celtic heritage.

1917 – Death of poet Francis Ledwidge, a war poet from Slane, Co Meath. Sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds”, he was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I.

1918 – Death of Dublin born Captain George McElroy, one of the most successful and decorated pilots of World War I. Initially McElroy fought in the infantry, fighting with the Royal Irish Regiment at Ypres where he was seriously injured by mustard gas. Recuperating in Dublin at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising, McElroy Refused to fire on fellow Irishman, an action for which he received surprisingly little admonishment. Some months later, he joined the Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) and became an immensely accomplished fighter. He was credited with 47 aerial victories which makes him the most successful Irish fighter pilot of the war. He was killed by ground fire while flying over enemy lines. He is buried in at the Laventie Military Cemetery in northern France.

1920 – Two successful ambushes were carried out by the IRA Southern Tipperary unit led by Dinny Lacey. In the first ambush at Thomastown, 6 British troops were killed. At Glen of Aherlow, four Black and Tans were killed.

1922 – Anti-Treaty activist Harry Boland is shot by Free State troops as he is being arrested in Skerries, near Dublin. He dies on 2 August.

1922 – Free State troops under Paddy O’Connor attack Republican held Tipperary town. Fighting continues for two days, in which four Free State troops are killed and three wounded. Forty-four Republican prisoners are taken.

1922 – Free State general Seán Mac Eoin reports to Michael Collins, “In the Midlands Divisions all posts and positions of military value are in our hands.”

1922 – Anti-Treaty IRA in Dublin ambushes and destroys an armoured train in Inchicore.

1922 – Anti-Treaty IRA in Raheen, Co Limerick ambushes Free State troops – two Colonels killed; 2nd Lt Michael Joe Costello and another officer turn ambush which results in capture of 30 of ambushers. Costello is promoted by Michael Collins to Colonel-Commandant at the age of 18.

1922 – Two Free State troops are killed in an ambush at Sugnagillow, Donegal. Another two are killed near Newport, Co Mayo.

1925 – Birth of entertainer, Carmel Quinn in Dublin. She appeared on Broadway, television and radio after immigrating to the United States in 1954. She began her career in Dublin singing with local bands, the most prominent of which was the Johnny Devlin Orchestra in the Crystal Ballroom, although her singing had been recorded as early as 1942, when she was a teenager. She also sang at Dublin’s Theatre Royal with the house orchestra and Jimmy Campbell. She was noted for one of her first songs, “The Isle of Innisfree”.

1964 – Birth of James Steven Ignatius “Jim” Corr, MBE, an Irish musician, singer and songwriter. He is a member of the Irish folk/rock band The Corrs; the other members are his three younger sisters Andrea, Sharon and Caroline.

1972 – Operation Motorman: prior to the military operation 4,000 extra troops were brought into Northern Ireland to take part in the dismantling of barricades on the boundaries of ‘no-go’ areas. It turned out to be the biggest British military operation since the Suez crisis. Some 12,000 British troops supported by tanks and bulldozers smashed through the barricades. Two people, a Catholic teenager and a member of the IRA, were shot by the British Army during the operation in Derry. The number of house searches and the number of Catholics interned were to increase over the coming months.

1972 – The IRA exploded three car bombs in Claudy, Co Derry, killing six people instantly while a further three people died of their injuries over the next 12 days. Five of those who were killed were Catholic civilians while the other four were Protestant civilians.

1975 – Miami Showband massacre – UVF volunteers (some of whom were also UDR soldiers) shot dead three members of an Irish showband at Buskhill, Co Down. The Miami Showband had been playing at ‘The Castle Ballroom’ in Banbridge, Co Down.

1978 – U2 plays McGonagle’s in Dublin in support of Modern Heirs and Revolver.

1992 – Channel 4 and Box Productions were fined £75,000 in the High Court in London for failing to reveal the source of information for a programme entitled ‘The Committee’ broadcast on 2 October 1991. The programme claimed that there was an ‘inner circle’ in the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) which was colluding with Loyalist paramilitaries in the killing of Catholics. A subsequent book on the controversy, also entitled ‘The Committee’, was not released in the UK by the American publishers who feared libel proceedings.

1998 – Parades Commission rejects a fresh application by Orangemen to parade along the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown on 2 August.

2000 – The British Army begins dismantling the controversial Borucki observation post which has dominated the skyline in Crossmaglen for more than 20 years.

2007 – After 38 years, the occupation of the north of Ireland by the British Army ends at midnight. Operation Banner is the Army’s longest continuous campaign in its history with more than 300,000 personnel serving and 763 directly killed by paramilitaries.

Photo: Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny

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