Irish History Bitesize
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December 24


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1895 Fifteen men lost their lives on this day in 1895 in a failed rescue attempt that became known as the Kingstown Lifeboat Disaster. It took place of the coast of Dublin, when a lifeboat crew battled torrential weather to try and rescue the crew of the SS Palme.

The ship was travelling from Liverpool to South America to import timber, when it got caught it a violent storm shortly after setting off. The captain tried to shelter the boat in Dublin Bay but it was carried away from the shore.


The waves were so big they were crashing over the top of the lighthouse on the East Pier of Dún Laoghaire. The SS Palme was unable to control itself and was in danger of being destroyed against the rocks.

A lifeboat crew of 15 men entered the Irish Sea to try and rescue those on board. Unfortunately, their boat was no match for the waves and was capsized knocking the rescuers into the freezing water. The crew of the SS Palme tried to launch a small rescue boat to help their would-be-rescuers but that was also knocked over. Its members did manage to right the boat and climb back aboard but were forced to head for shore before the waves struck again.

Memorial_Kingstown-photo Hohenloh_CC3Two more rescue boats were sent from land to try and save the 15 men of the lifeboat. Both were unable to battle through the storm and returned to land.

The SS Palme drifted perilously for the next two days before the conditions relented enough for the crew to be rescued. All 20 members of the crew survived the storm.

The bodies of the 15 lifeboat men were recovered over the next few days. The owners of the SS Palme raised a support fund for the families of the men who had died. Their ages ranged from 22 to 60, and they left 33 children behind.

There is a yearly service held at the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire to honour the men who died.

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Willie Clancy, musician Uilleann pipes1918 Willie Clancy was born in County Clare on this day in 1918. He was a talented musician who played the Uilleann pipes. Clancy learnt to play as a child after watching his father and other local musicians play.

He struggled to make a living from his music and moved to London where he worked as a carpenter. He did later become well known for his music, and made several recordings.

The Willie Clancy Summer School was founded in 1973 in his honour after he passed away earlier in the year. More than a thousand students still visit the school each summer to be tutored and trained by some of the finest musicians in Ireland.

Click here to read about more top Irish musicians

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Gerard Victory1921 Gerard Victory was born in Dublin on this day in 1921. He was a music composer and wrote an incredible 200 different pieces throughout his life, with his work crossing into numerous genres.

Victory studied music in Dublin, and briefly in Germany. He worked for the television and radio station RTÉ where he composed numerous musical shorts for broadcast.

He was once asked which one of his works would he most like to see survive the other. Victory answered his Symphony No 3, which can be listened to as a YouTube video below.

Click here to read about more Irish songwriters

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2002 Alan Clodd died on this day in 2002. He was a collector of literature, and at the time of his death, he had works by major Irish writers such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney in his collection, many of them with personal inscriptions.

Clodd was born in Dublin during the First World War. He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War and worked with the Friends Ambulance Unit in Egypt.

He moved to London when the war had finished and worked in a bookshop and as a librarian. It was from the 1950s onwards that Clodd began collecting literature. He also had various poems and letters written by soldiers in the First World War.

Click here to read about some of the top Irish writers

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2007 Anthony Ward Clare was born in Dublin on this day in 1942. He was a well-known psychiatrist in Ireland and Britain and was a regular guest and presenter on several television and radio programmes on mental health issues.

Clare was respected by the general public but also by his colleagues as a professional and skilled psychiatrist. He held several important posts in the profession throughout his career.

Clare was most well-known for his radio programme called Psychiatrist’s Chair, in which he would talk to famous people about their issues and help them come to a resolution. Some of the famous people Dr Clare helped include Stephen Fry, Lord Lawson and Ann Widdecombe.

Click here to visit the BBC’s website and listen to some of Dr Clare’s radio broadcasts

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2012 Dennis O’Driscoll died in Naas on this day in 2012. He was a writer, poet and editor who had a long and successful career. O’Driscoll was born in Tipperary in 1954. He studied law at Dublin University before entering into a 30 year career at revenue and customs.

Throughout this time, O’Driscoll was writing poetry reviews and poetry of his own in his spare time. After receiving praise for his work, he considered giving up his full-time job to dedicate himself fully to his writing.

However, O’Driscoll was advised against this by a friend who warned him that as soon as he lost the security and comfort of a regular job and income, he would be unable to get into the correct mind-set to write his poems. O’Driscoll heeded his friend’s advice and remained in full-time work with his poetry being a side-line.

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In his memoirs, Sing for the Taxman, O’Driscoll wrote: “I have always regarded myself as a civil servant rather than a ‘poet’ or ‘artist’ – words I would find embarrassing and presumptuous to ascribe to myself.”

Click here to read about more great Irish writers


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