1864 William Plunkett was born in Dublin on this day in 1864. His father was William, 4th Lord Plunket, the archbishop of Dublin. He worked as an ambassador for Britain in Rome and then Constantinople. Plunket married while abroad and his wife gave the name to a New Zealand an organisation to help mothers and children.
Plunket inherited his father’s title and became fifth Baron Plunket in 1897. He worked as the secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, before being handed the position of Governor of New Zealand. At the time, the Speaker of the Representatives of New Zealand was Plunket’s cousin, Arthur Guinness, the great-grandson of the founder of the Guinness breweries.
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1877 Michael Davitt was released from prison on this day in 1877. He was an Irish nationalist who had grown up in England. Davitt’s parents had been evicted from their homes in Ireland, and forced to leave to start a new life. This left Davitt with a deep sense of injustice and resentment. He was convinced that the best way for the Irish people to improve their lives, was for them to take ownership of the Irish land, and not work it for British landlords.
Davitt was a member of the Land League, and worked closely with Charles Parnell. He had been arrested after arranging a delivery of weapons to be used by the Irish in an uprising. Davitt was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but after much campaigning from Irish politicians, was released after seven. He immediately got back involved in the Land League to campaign for a better deal for the Irish peasants.
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1928 Eve Bunting was born in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on this day in 1928. She grew up in Northern Ireland and Scotland before deciding to move to America with her husband and children in 1958.
Once settled in America, Bunting started writing about her heritage. Her first published book, The Two Giants, was based the Irish folk tale of Finn McCool, who outsmarted his rival giant from Scotland.
Since then, Bunting has never looked back, she has now had over 250 stories published and been honoured by numerous awards from her peers. She is also considered to be a hugely diverse writer, with readers of all ages able to enjoy her work.
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1922 Eamon Andrews was born in Dublin on this day in 1922. He was a broadcaster and one of the most familiar faces and voices on Irish television of the 20th century.
Andrews began his career as an amateur boxer and reached the level of national junior champion. He then turned to broadcasting and worked as a sports commentator for both the BBC and Radio Éireann.
For the next 30 years, Andrews was a regular on Irish television, presenting various different shows and sporting competitions. Older viewers will remember Andrews fondly for programmes such as World of Sport, This Is Your Life and What’s My Line? He worked right up until his death in 1987 when he died of heart failure.
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1945 Happy birthday to Tommy Sands, born in County Down on this day in 1945. He is a legend of the Irish folk music circuit. Sands has been performing classic Irish songs, plus his own material for more than fifty years to fans around Ireland.
He has performed as part of a band with his siblings in the Sands Family, as a solo artist and also with his two children as Tommy Sands with Moya and Fionán Sands. He has also worked with numerous other Irish musicians throughout his career.
Sands has been praised for his peace campaigning throughout the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He recorded a song called There Were Roses about the mindless killings being carried out in Northern Ireland. The song tells the story of an innocent Protestant man who was killed, and then a Catholic in revenge, when the two men had actually been close friends.
Watch a YouTube video of Sands performing There Were Roses below.
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2008 Phil Lynott was released on this day in 2008. Not the bass guitarist and lead singer of Thin Lizzy, he wasn’t in prison. This Phil Lynott was a rock song by Irish band Jape, describing a fan’s experience of a Thin Lizzy concert.
Lynott was born in England but raised in Ireland after his parents separated. He went on to form rock band Thin Lizzy and develop a cult following both in Ireland and around the world.
Fans of the Jape created an online campaign to try and get Phil Lynott to the Christmas Number One spot in Ireland, but it was topped by a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah by X Factor winner Alexandra Burke.
The Irish Independent did name Phil Lynott as the best Irish song of the year. Watch the YouTube video below. Be warned, it does contain some bad language.