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1689 The Siege of Derry began on this day in 1689. It came as King James II attempted to regain the throne after being ousted by his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange.
James was a Catholic and had some supporters in Ireland, as he had made several concessions to them when he had been in power. He travelled to France to gain the support of his cousin, King Louis XVI. James gathered an army and set about taking control of every major city in Ireland.
Derry was a predominantly Protestant city. Their Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy, was preparing to surrender to James, believing that he could not raise an army to defend the city. News of his planned surrender caused outrage so he fled to Scotland.
Major Henry Baker, Colonel Adam Murray, and Major George Walker took control of the defence of Derry, with the slogan “No Surrender”. The gates to the city were locked and they refused to give in to James, or to agree to support him in his quest to regain the crown.
Cannon fire and mortar fire kept James’ troops at bay for more than 100 days, before Derry was finally breached by the frigate HMS Swallow up the River Foyle. It is estimated that 8,000 people of a population of 30,000 died in the siege.
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1868 Patrick Eugene Prendergast was born in Ireland on this day in 1868. He lost both his parents at a young age, When he was four, he fell and suffered a severe head injury leaving him unconscious for a long period. After regaining consciousness, he became a ‘peculiar’ child – solitary and irritable, with a poor memory and was very poor academically.
He moved to America, where he worked as a newspaper salesman. He campaigned for improvements to be made to the grade crossings in Chicago, as he felt they put the public in danger.
Prendergast supported Carter Harrison Sr. to be re-elected Mayor of Chicago. However, when Harrison didn’t improve the grade crossings, Prendergast visited his house and shot him.
He immediately handed himself over to the police, and was charged with murder. His lawyer tried to plead insanity, but the court found him guilty of murder and he was sentenced to death. He was hanged in 1894 in Chicago.
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1875 Katherine Cecil Thurston was born in Cork on this day in 1875. She was a successful novelist, and had several books that became best sellers in America, such as John Chilcote, MP, Max and The Gambler.
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1949 Peter Caffrey was born on this day in Dublin in 1949. He was a television actor who in fondly remembered for playing Padraig O’Kelly in the popular BBC drama Ballykissangel. Caffrey also appeared in several other television programmes including Casualty, The Bill and Father Ted.
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1982 Darren Sutherland was born on this day in Co Meath in 1982. He was an amateur middle weight boxer, and won a bronze medal representing Ireland at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Tragically, Sutherland was found dead in his London home just over a year later. He had taken his own life after suffering with depression.
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2013 Gráinne Yeats died on this day in 2013. She was a talented musician and singer, and was regarded as one of the leading Irish harpists in the world. She also studied the history of the Irish harp, and wrote several articles on the subject.
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Brian Boru’ March, an ancient Irish clan march played on the wire strung clarsach, the Irish harp by Grainne Yeats.