#OTD in Irish History – 20 June:

Today is the summer solstice. At approximately 3.00 am Irish time the sun reaches the most northerly point of its oscillation and the longest day in Ireland results — just over 17 hours.

77 AD – Roman General, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, became governor of Britainnia. While there, he completed the conquest of what is now Wales and northern England, and led his army to the far north of Scotland, establishing forts across much of the Lowlands. In 81, Agricola “crossed in the first ship” and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then. Tacitus, in Chapter 24 of Agricola, does not tell us what body of water he crossed, although most scholars believe it was the Clyde or Forth, and some translators even add the name of their preferred river to the text; however, the rest of the chapter exclusively concerns Ireland, so southwest Scotland is perhaps to be preferred. The text of the Agricola has been amended here to record the Romans “crossing into trackless wastes”, referring to the wilds of the Galloway peninsula. Agricola fortified the coast facing Ireland, and Tacitus recalls that his father-in-law often claimed the island could be conquered with a single legion and auxiliaries. He had given refuge to an exiled Irish king whom he hoped he might use as the excuse for conquest. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland, though no Roman camps have been identified to confirm such a suggestion. Irish legend provides a striking parallel. Tuathal Teachtmhar, a legendary High King, is said to have been exiled from Ireland as a boy, and to have returned from Britain at the head of an army to claim the throne. The traditional date of his return is 76–80, and archaeology has found Roman or Romano-British artefacts in several sites associated with Tuathal.

1210 – King John lands at Waterford. He campaigns in Leinster – many of the de Lacys’ followers go over to his side; he then captures Carrickfergus, where the de Lacys have made a stand, after a short siege. On 28 July, he captures William de Braose and confiscates his lands.

1631 – The Sack of Baltimore took place on 20 June 1631, when the village of Baltimore, West Cork, was attacked by Algerian pirates from the North African Barbary Coast, led by a Dutch captain turned pirate, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also known as Murat Reis the Younger.

1715 – There is a general election. The first session of the Irish parliament of George I commences on 12 November, and will continue till 20 June 1716. There will be six sessions of this parliament.

1763 – Birth of one of the founding members of the United Irishmen, Theobald Wolfe Tone, in Dublin. He is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism and leader of the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

1798 – United Irishmen Rebellion: 1798 The Battle of Foulksmills, known locally as the Battle of Hometown and also known as the Battle of Goff’s Bridge; it was a battle between advancing British forces seeking to stamp out the rebellion in Co Wexford and a rebel army assembled to oppose them.

1810 – Parliament passes Unlawful Acts Bill, extending powers against secret societies.

1849 – Death of poet, James Clarence Mangan.

1867 – Clan Na Gael, Irish revolutionary organisation and the counterpart of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is formed by John Devoy, Daniel Cohalan and Joseph McGarrity in the USA. The objectives of the organisation are to secure an independent Ireland.

1891 – Birth of John Aloysius Costello, Ireland’s third Taoiseach, in Dublin.

1901 – Death of Co Down-born General Robert Nugent, who served in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. He served with the Irish Brigade’s 69th Infantry Regiment, from its days as a National Guard unit and into its incorporation into the Union Army at the start of the war, and was one of its senior officers at the First Battle of Bull Run.

1922 – Three Catholic carters on their way to work in Belfast were shot dead by loyalists.

1924 – Audie Murphy is born in Texas to share-cropping parents of Irish descent. He would become the most decorated US soldier of World War II.

1951 – Birth of poet, Paul Muldoon in Co Armagh. He has published over thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004. At Princeton University he is both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 Professor in the Humanities and chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He is also the president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.

1955 – Birth of RTÉ presenter and broadcaster, Aonghus McAnally, in Dublin.

1968 – Austin Currie, then Nationalist Member of Parliament (MP) at Stormant, and a number of other people, began a protest about discrimination in the allocation of housing by ‘squatting’ in a house in Caledon, Co Tyrone.

1972 – There was a secret meeting between representatives of the Provisonal Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and officials from Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw’s office. The meeting took place at 3.00pm in a country house in Ballyarnet, close to the Derry/Donegal border. The PIRA representatives were David O’Connell and Gerry (Gerard) Adams. The officials acting on behalf of William Whitelaw were P.J. Woodfield and Frank Steele (who, at the time, was actually an MI6 Intelligence Officer). “There is no doubt whatever that these two at least [O’Connell and Adams] genuinely want a ceasefire and a permanent end to violence. Whatever pressures in Northern Ireland have brought them to this frame of mind there is also little doubt that now that the prospect of peace is there they have a strong personal incentive to try and get it. … Their appearance and manner were respectable and respectful. … Their behaviour and attitude appeared to bear no relation to the indiscriminate campaigns of bombing and shooting in which they have both been prominent leaders”. Public Records 1972 – Released 1 January 2003: Note of the discussions that took place during a secret meeting between officials from William Whitelaw’s office and representatives of the Provisonal Irish Republican Army (PIRA). The meeting laid the groundwork for a PIRA ceasefire and a direct (secret) meeting between the PIRA and the British government on 7 July 1972.

1986 – Chief Constable of the RUC, John Hermon, threatened to take libel action against those in the media who accused him of being involved in the decision to remove John Stalker, Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police, from the ‘shoot to kill’ investigation.

1992 – U2 takes part in a Greenpeace protest at the Sellafield nuclear power plant in northwest England. Wearing radiation suits, the band travels in rubber dingy with Irish dirt allegedly contaminated by the power plant, depositing the drums back on Sellafield grounds.

1995 – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Patrick Mayhew, said that Sinn Féin (SF) could not join full political talks unless the decommissioning of IRA weapons began to happen first. Martin McGuinness, Vice-President of SF, said that: “in reality there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of any weapons being decommissioned this side of a negotiated settlement.”

1996 – An IRA ‘bomb factory’ was found by Gardí near Clonasee, Co Laois. In response the Irish Government ended all contacts with Sinn Féin.

1997 – Patrick Kane, then serving a life sentence for the murders of corporals Derek Wood and David Howes on 19 March 1988, was cleared of the killings by the Court of Appeal in Belfast. Mickey Timmons and John Kelly, the other members of the ‘Casement Three’, continued to insist that they were also innocent of the killings.

1997 – British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, paid a visit to the United States. During the visit he said: “a moment of decision is coming for Sinn Féin and the IRA as to whether they want to be any part of a forward process that is going to lead to a lasting settlement for peace”.

2001 – The Catholic Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School in Ardoyne north Belfast was forced to close when Loyalists from the Glenbryn estate blockaded the entrance to the school. RUC officers advised children and parents not to attempt to enter the school. During the evening there were serious disturbances in the area around the Holy Cross school as hundreds of Loyalists and Nationalists were involved in riots with the RUC. Shots were also fired at the police during the evening. During the riots the RUC fired a number of the new ‘L21 A1’ plastic baton rounds. This was the first time the new rounds had been used.

2011 – Death of blues singer, Ottilie Patterson. Born in Comber, Co Down, she is best known for her performances and recordings with the Chris Barber Jazz Band in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She was the youngest child of four. Her father, Joseph Patterson, was from the north of Ireland, and her mother, Jūlija Jēgers, was from Latvia. They had met in southern Russia. Ottilie’s name is an Anglicised form of the Latvian name “Ottilja”. Both sides of the family were musical, and Ottilie trained as a classical pianist from the age of eleven, but never received any formal training as a singer.

Image | Skellig Islands, Co Kerry

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