1848 On this day in 1848, the Belfast Commercial Chronicle newspaper reported that 72 Irish emigrants had died from suffocation on board the Londonderry steamship. The ship had been travelling from Sligo to Liverpool on a routine cargo trip.
More than a hundred Irish peasants also boarded the ship, with the plan to sail to America from Liverpool and start a new life.
The journey was a rough one, with heavy rain and winds and huge waves crashing against the boat. The decision was made to move the passengers below deck, through fear that someone may be swept overboard by the conditions.
More than one hundred and fifty people were crammed into a cabin below deck. The cabin was roughly 18ft long and 12ft wide and 8ft high. The conditions were horrendous, with only one hole ventilating the cabin.
Tragically, that air vent was blocked by a member of the Londonderry crew, with a sheet of tarpaulin. He was trying to stop any water getting into the cabin and drowning the people inside. However, it blocked the only source of fresh air and 72 people suffocated before the alarm could be raised.
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1896 Jack Henley was born in Ireland on this day in 1896. He moved to America and became a film writer. Henley was one of the star writers of Hollywood in the early 20th century. He worked on 80 films in total, mostly comedies, often with the legendary actor Fatty Arbuckle as the leading man.
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1921 Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty on this day in 1921. This signified the official end of the Irish War of Independence as nationalist soldiers had fought against the British Army.
However, the terms of the treaty were unacceptable to a large number of the IRA members back in Ireland. Collins’ took control of the New Irish Free State government and tried to set about running the country.
He was hampered by his former comrades, the anti-treaty IRA, rebelling against his new government in what became the Irish Civil War.
Collins had anticipated that some members of the IRA would be unwilling to accept the terms of the treaty, but lacked the political skills and experience to negotiate a better deal from the British cabinet.
Collins was a military man more than a politician. He told his sweetheart Kitty Kiernan that in signing the treaty, “I have signed my own death warrant”
Unfortunately Collins was right. He was assassinated by anti-treaty fighters less than a year later.
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1932 Declan Mulholland was born in Belfast on this day in 1932. He was a film and television actor who appeared in several popular British programmes such as Doctor Who, The Bill and To the Manor Born. He died in 1999 of a heart attack.
Mulholland filmed a scene opposite Harrison Ford for the 1977 Star Wars film. Unfortunately the scene, in which Mulholland played Jabba the Hut, was deleted from the final cut. The film was re-released in 1997 to celebrate it 20 year anniversary, and the scene was put back in, but used a computerised Jabba instead.
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1978 Happy birthday to Rigsy, born in Newcastle, Northern Ireland on this day in 1978. He is a radio DJ and has interviewed some of the top music stars in the world throughout his career. Rigsy (real name David O’Reilly) has interviewed legends such as Noel Gallagher, the Killers and Primal Scream.
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2007 Katy French died on this day in 2007. She was a model, writer and television personality. She was born in Basel before moving to Ireland when she was still a baby. She grew up in County Wicklow and then Dublin.
French wrote for various Irish magazines and newspapers. She also modelled for global companies such as Ericsson and Suzuki. She became a regular fixture in the Irish tabloids because of her relationship with celebrity chef Marcus Sweeney.
Some criticised French for courting controversy in order to enhance her media profile. She made statements about abortion and religion on TV talk shows that upset many viewers. She told one interviewer that she would consider having an abortion if she became pregnant at the height of her career. In another interview she admitted to loving fur despite claiming to be an animal lover.
However, French did use her profile for others as well as herself. She worked for Our Lady’s Children Hospital in Dublin and was an ambassador for the children’s charity Goal in Calcutta.
French died on this day in 2007, having being rushed to hospital after collapsing at a friend’s house a few days earlier. The post-mortem revealed that she had suffered brain damage after overdosing on cocaine. She was aged just 24 when she died.