Irish History Bitesize
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December 20


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1891  Annie Moore (thought to be between 15-17 years old) and her brothers, and 145 other steerage passengers boarded the S.S. Nevada and left Queenstown (now Cobh) Co. Cork, heading for a new life in America. They arrived in New York on Thursday, December 31. The three children were travelling to join their parents who were already living in New York. Annie was the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island.

Annie Moore the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island, America Image copyright Ireland Calling

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1893 James Kevin McGuinness was an Irish American screenwriter and film producer. He was born in Ireland, but moved to Los Angeles as a child. He was one of the main film script writers of the first half of the 20th century.

McGuinness produced films with many of the biggest stars of the day. Hollywood legend John Ford directed his screenplay Men Without Women in 1930, with John Wayne appearing in the movie. The Marx brothers, Groucho, Harpo and Chico starred in the 1935 comedy A Night at the Opera.

Click here to read about more great Irish writers

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1922 Séamus Dwyer was killed on this day in 1922. He was a close friend of Michael Collins and fought for the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence. Dwyer was a member of the Irish parliament and voted in favour of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.
Cumann na nGaedheal poster citing Seamus Dwyer died over Oath of Allegiance De Valera called an empty formula Image Ireland Calling
He was shot dead at his shop in Dublin. He was talking to a customer when a young man entered and asked him if he was Mr Dwyer. He said yes and the youth said: “I have a note for you.”

He then pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot Dwyer twice from point-blank range before fleeing. The customer and a shop assistant gave chase but the killer got away. Dwyer was killed instantly by his injuries.

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1952 Happy birthday to Terry George, born in Belfast on this day in 1952. He is a director and writer whose most famous works are based on true stories from the political struggles in Northern Ireland.

12_20_Shankill-troubles-_photo Fribbler_CC3

George grew up in during the Troubles. As a young man, he became involved with the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political branch of the republican movement INLA. He was travelling in car one day with a group of armed INLA members when the vehicle was stopped by the police.

Despite not being in possession of a weapon, George was sentenced to six years in prison. He was released after three for good behaviour.

George then moved to America with his wife and daughter. The family settled in New York. He was under threat of being deported but was eventually allowed to stay following support from various Irish American groups.

George began working as a theatre director and writer. He wrote and produced The Tunnel, based on the real-life prison escape from Long Kesh in 1976. George moved into films making the Oscar nominated In the Name of the Father starring Daniel Day Lewis, about a man falsely accused of carrying out an IRA terrorist attack, and Some Mother’s Son about the IRA prisoners’ hunger strikes.

He has also produced movies about the lives of New York police officers, World War II soldiers and the 1994 atrocities carried out in Rwanda.

Read an overview of The Troubles in Northern Ireland + many related articles

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Robert McGladdery, the last man to be sentenced to death by the Northern Irish justice system1961 Robert McGladdery was hanged on this day in Belfast, the last man to be sentenced to death by the Northern Irish justice system. He had been found guilty of murdering 19-year-old Pearl Gamble. The two met at a local disco, and were seen dancing with one another that night.

Gamble’s body was found, battered, strangled and stabbed to death the following day. The police investigation led them to McGladdery. He was arrested after lying about the clothes he wore that night. Police had to release him due to a lack of evidence but placed him under surveillance.

McGladdery led them to the evidence they needed, when he was watched sneaking into an overgrown area of wasteland. Police searched the area and discovered a blood-stained shirt matching the descriptions of the one McGladdery had been wearing the night of Gamble’s death.

He was arrested for murder and sentenced to death. He admitted his guilt the day before his execution. He was hanged at Crumlin Gaol on 20th December 1961.

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Joe Cooley1973 Joe Cooley died on this day in 1973. He was an accordion player from Galway and was recognised as a leading Irish musician of his generation.

He performed with various bands around Ireland and England in the 1940s and 50s before moving to America.

He spent 20 years touring around New York, Chicago and San Francisco before returning to Ireland due to ill health.

He continued to play in bars and clubs until shortly before his death. None of his recordings were ever released for sale until after he died.

Click here to read about more top Irish musicians

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2009 Joan Brosnan Walsh died on this day in 2009. She was a much-loved actress, familiar to viewers in Ireland for her role as Mags Kelly in the soap-opera Fair City. She also appeared in various other television shows and films such as The Boxer.

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Walsh developed motor neurone disease in 2007. Shortly before her death she appeared on the Late Late Show. She openly discussed her illness in front of the nation with the aim of raising awareness about the disease. She was given a standing ovation by the audience.

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