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1873 Thomas Crean was born in Dublin on this day in 1873. He was a top rugby player, and also a medic for the British army. Crean served in the Boer War where he was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery in tending to wounded soldiers despite being under heavy fire.
He also played rugby for and was part of the Ireland team that won the Home Nations Championship (a forerunner of the Six Nations Championship that is contested today) and Triple Crown in 1894. On 1 August 2000, the South African Post Office issued a set of Angels of Mercy stamps, commemorating the Anglo/Boer/African War – Captain Thomas Crean featured on one of them.
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1909 Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born in Cork on this day in 1909. He moved to England with his mother after his father was killed in the Irish War of Independence.
He studied mathematics At Cambridge University and became a teacher. Alexander played chess and was twice the British champion. He had to walk out of a competition in Argentina in 1939, as he and the rest of the British team had to return home because of the outbreak of World War II.
Alexander worked at the Bletchley Park code-breaking facility during the war, and was respected by all. He held a senior position within his team, and was praised by his superiors for his intelligence and professionalism.
He remained working as a code breaker for the British government until his retirement in the 1970s. His position as a code-breaker, and the timing of the Second World War prevented Alexander of achieving Grandmaster status in chess.
He did, however, beat several Grandmasters in individual games, and continued to love the game until his death. He once spoke of his surprise at a move made by the former World Champion Alexander Alekhine during one game:
“In playing through an Alekhine game one suddenly meets a move which simply takes one’s breath away.”
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1958 Happy birthday to Denis O’Brien, born in Cork on this day in 1958. He is one of the richest Irishmen in the world, worth an estimated €3billion.
O’Brien made his fortune in the 1990s, in the electronic and radio industries. He was also key in delivering the 2003 Special Olympic Games to Ireland, being the chairman and figurehead of the bid.
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1972 People of Northern Ireland were outraged on this day in 1972, after Lord Widgery issued his report of the events of Bloody Sunday, which resulted in the death of 14 civilians.
The report said that the British troops had only returned fire after coming under attack themselves. The marchers claimed that no one was armed and the British troops opened fire without cause.
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1975 Happy birthday to Hugh O’Conor, born in Dublin on this day in 1975. He is an actor and played the young Christy Brown in the 1989 film My Left Foot.
O’Conor has also appeared in major films such as The Three Musketeers and Chocolat.
Click here to read about more Irish actors
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2003 On this day in 2003, U2 frontman Bono was named as Europe’s Greatest Hero by Time magazine after an online poll. Bono played a major role in putting together Band Aid in the 1980s, when numerous musicians collaborated on a track to raise money for combat starvation and poverty in Africa.
Bono, and his fellow band members have always used their status and profile to raise money and awareness for several other worthy causes.