Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

December 26


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Ella Young, teacher and lecturer on Irish mythology1867 Ella Young was born in County Antrim on this day in 1867. She was a teacher and lecturer on Irish mythology, who spoke with such passion and love for the Celtic legends that her own mental capacity was occasionally called into question. However, Young was hugely popular with her students and worked in American universities for several years.

Young was a writer and a poet by trade. Her early poems and stories were popular in Ireland and led to her becoming friends with several key figures from Irish history. Maud Gonne was an admirer, and illustrated some of her books.

Young’s real passion though was retelling and sharing Celtic mythology and folklore with others. She was immensely proud of the Irish history and identity. She sympathised with the nationalists in the early 20th century, and helped to smuggle guns in to the country to be used in the Easter Rising.

Young travelled to America in 1925 to visit friends. She was nearly denied entry when she talked about fairies and elves at Ellis Island. At the time, anyone suspected of having a mental illness was denied entry into the USA. Fortunately, officials realised that Young was simply passionate about her job, rather than insane and allowed her in.

She was persuaded to stay when she was offered the position of Celtic studies scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a hugely popular tutor, with her students always keen to hear tales and legends of Celtic mythology form her.

Norm Hammond once described Young’s lectures:

“Wherever she went, she was received enthusiastically, especially by the young people of America. They loved this white-haired lady with the eyes of a seer that appeared to be lighted from within. She spoke with a melodious voice; when she spoke everyone listened. She had a thin, wispy quality that made her appear as the apparition of the very spirits she described. Indeed, her skin had an almost translucent quality.”

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Noel Kelehan 1935 Noel Kelehan was born in Dublin on this day in 1935. He was a skilled musician and orchestra conductor. Kelehan held important positions with Irish broadcaster RTÉ such as director music and conductor.

He also had a long association with the Eurovision Song Contest. Kelehan conducted for several Irish entrants in the music competition, as well as also helping out with other countries on occasions.

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James Stephens Irish author1950 James Stephens died on this day in 1950. He was a writer who wrote several poems and fairy tales of his own, as well as retelling traditional Irish myths and legends.

Stephens was an Irish nationalist and was inspired by stories of military bravery and courage as a child. He would have become a soldier but was unable to do so because of his diminutive stature.

Stephens was a close friend of Easter Rising leader Thomas McDonagh, and wrote numerous Irish nationalist publications during the early part of the 20th century.

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1961 Happy birthday to John Lynch, born in County Armagh on this day in 1961. He is an actor who has appeared in numerous television programmes and films. Some of his more notable roles include Cal, a Catholic member of the IRA who is racked with guilt for his part in a murder, and Best, in which he plays the title role in the biopic of Northern Irish football player George Best.

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1982 Happy birthday to Noel Hunt, born in Waterford on this day in 1982. He is a professional footballer who played in the English Premier League for Reading in the 2012/13 season, scoring in two 2-2 draws with Newcastle and Swansea. Unfortunately, Reading were relegated and Hunt was released from the club.

Hunt also played for the Irish national team three times. His brother, Stephen Hunt, is also a professional footballer.

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Joe Dolan2007 Joe Dolan died on this day in 2009. He was a singer, and entertainer from Mullingar, County Westmeath. Dolan rose to fame in the 1960s with the Irish Showband the Drifters. The band were regulars at the top of the Irish charts during the Showband era.

Dolan and his band frequently toured America, and although they never made much impact in the charts, they had success with concerts and were renowned for putting on a great show. In fact, promotions of the tours carried the tagline: “There’s no show like a Joe show!”

Throughout the late 60s and the whole of the 70s Dolan repeatedly turned down the chance to perform in Las Vegas.
Joe Dolan album

He eventually agreed to appear in Vegas in 1980. Dolan performed his set for six weeks straight in the Continental Lounge of the Silverbird Casino. Almost all the shows were sold out and the casino quickly booked Dolan for the same spot the following year. He returned and was equally successful but vowed that he would not perform in Vegas again. Despite being offered huge amounts of money from several rival casinos, Dolan stuck to his word and only ever returned on holiday.

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He continued to tour Ireland, Britain and America right up until the 2000s when his health began to decline. Dolan holds the impressive record of having a number on in Ireland in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

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