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1793 Dionysius Lardner was born in Dublin on this day in 1793. He was a top mathematician and physicist, well respected by his peers. He lectured at the University College, London and wrote several books.
His most noted work, was his edit of the Cabinet Cyclopædia, which was a vast library of work by other top writers and scientific thinkers. Thomas Moore contributed A History of Ireland and Sir Walter Scott The History of Scotland.
Lardner destroyed his career in England though, when he had an affair with the wife of a Captain of the Dragoon Guards. Lardner fled to France with his lover, Mary Spicer Heaviside, but they were tracked down by her husband. Captain Richard Heaviside subjected Lardner to a flogging, and then sued him for “criminal conversation” (adultery), and Lardner had to pay £8,000 compensation.
After that humiliation, Lardner didn’t return to England again. He settled in France with Mary, making occasional trips to America to earn money as a lecturer.
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1846 Michael Moran, more commonly known as Zozimus, died in Dublin on this day in 1846. Having been blinded by illness as a young child and made his living as a storyteller and poet. Zozimus was described as the blind, bedraggled, busking poet of the Dublin streets. He performed all around Dublin and had hundreds of poems and stories in his repertoire, many of which he had written himself.
“Ye sons and daughters of Erin,
Gather round poor Zozimus, yer friend;
Listen boys, until yez hear
My charming song so dear.“
He got the name Zozimus, after a poem he recited often, about St Mary of Egypt, who was so ashamed of her life of sin that she had gone to live out the remainder of her life alone in the desert. God sent St Zozimus to hear her confession so she could be allowed into heaven. There is now a gallery at Dublin museum dedicated to Zozimus and his storytelling.
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1951 Happy birthday to Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, born on this day in 1951. His father was the Michael Morris, 3rd Baron Killanin, who was president of the International Olympic Committee and Chairman of Galway Racecourse. His mother was a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II.
Morris left school at 15 and began working at a racing stables. He became a successful jockey and the highlight of his career came in 1976 when he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham festival on board Skymas. A fall at South Carolina’s Colonial Cup ended his career as a jockey and he turned his hand to training. He has since trained horses that have won several prestigious races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, when War of Attrition beat the field on St Patrick’s Day in 2006.
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1984 Happy birthday to Bernard Brogan, born on this day in 1984. Brogan is a Gaelic football star. He has followed in his father’s footsteps by winning the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All Stars Footballer of the Year award in his career.
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2001 The Irish government agree to bail out the Jeanie Johnston famine ship project, which is around €2m short of the amount needed to complete the build of a replica of the ship that carried thousands of Irish emigrants to America in the 1800s. The work on the replica ship was completed, and is now used as a museum to show the conditions people faced in order to escape the ‘Great Famine’.
The length of the journey across the Atlantic took about 47 days. On one voyage, from Tralee to Quebec, she was grossly overcrowded carrying 254 passengers. The replica ship is only licensed to carry 40 people including crew.
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2005 James Curran was murdered in a pub in Dublin on this day in 2005. Curran was killed by three shots to his head fired by IRA commander Bernard Dempsey in full view of the pub. Curran had angered Dempsey a few months earlier, by openly accusing him of having a business relationship with the local drug dealers. Curran hated drugs and the damage they had caused to the people in his community.
In a pub one evening, he saw Dempsey receive an envelope of money from a known heroin dealer, presumably as protection money and a levy paid to allow the dealers to continue operating in the area. Curran shouted down the pub to Dempsey, in full view of the customers: “Here, I’ll buy you a pint. This is not drug money. This is clean money.”
This public accusation, and display of fearlessness from Curran angered Dempsey. A short time later he walked into a bar and shot Curran three times in the head, before gesturing with his gun to the terrified onlookers as a warning to keep quiet. However, the victim’s sister and another witness, like Curran, would not be intimidated and gave evidence in court against Dempsey. The jury came to a unanimous guilty verdict, and he was sentenced to life in prison. In court James’ brother, Bernard spoke to Dempsey directly saying: “You’ve put a hole in my mother’s heart. You’ve put a hole in all our hearts, and they have been filled with grief which is everlasting. I hope you can live with that.”