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1852 The work on the railway line from Dublin to Belfast was completed on this day in 1852. The line that went from Dublin to Drogheda, to Dundalk, to Portadown and finally Belfast, completely revolutionised trade and opportunities for people in Ireland. Until then, people had generally lived out their entire lives within a 15 or 20 mile radius of where they had been born.
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1862 A right-facing image was first used on Guinness labels from 5 April 1862. This right-facing image was officially registered as a trade mark for Guinness in 1876.
The Trinity College harp is the national symbol of Ireland, and is used on national heraldry and Irish currency.
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1900 Spencer Tracy was born on this day in Wisconsin in 1900 to an American mother and an Irish father. He grew up to become a Hollywood star, and one of the first actors in the new ‘talkies’, as sound was starting to be recorded in films. Tracy was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar on nine occasions, and won it twice. He also starred opposite the most glamorous women in Hollywood, including Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor.
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1916 Pádraig Pearse denied any rebellion against the British was being planned to Eoin McNeill on this day in 1916. Pearse was the leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a paramilitary organisation that wanted to gain independence for Ireland.
MacNeill was the leader of the Irish Volunteers, a group that also wanted to achieve a free Republic, but didn’t believe that military action was the best way to achieve it.
Pearse denied the planned rebellion through fear that MacNeill would try and prevent it from going ahead. MacNeill did later hear of the IRB’s plan to take control of Dublin’s key buildings, but had been deceived by a forged letter supposedly from the British authorities ordering his arrest. By this point MacNeill had no choice but to support the rebellion, though he took no part in it.
Click here to read more about the Easter Rising 1916, one of the most significant events in irish history
Click here to read Mise Éire by Pádraig Pearse – number 80 in the most loved Irish poems
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1948 Happy birthday to Les Binks, born in Northern Ireland on this day in 1948. He is a professional drummer and guitar player, most famous for his part in heavy metal band Judas Priest in the 1970s.
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2011 On this day in 2011, Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh become the first gay couple to enter into a civil relationship in Ireland at a ceremony at Dublin Registry Office.
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2012 Barney McKenna, one of the original line-up Irish folk band The Dubliners died on this day in 2012. He was a much loved member of the folk circuit for more than half a century.
He was a singer as well as being a brilliant banjo player, and performed just about every Irish folk song in his career. Tributes for the great man came from musicians and friends from all over the world, including this tweet from Irish football legend Paul McGrath:
“Sad news Barney McKenna has passed away another good Dubliner gone to his resting place. Great session in heaven tonight.”
Here is a video of McKenna performing a superb banjo medley.