Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

February 8


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Launt Thompson1833   Launt Thompson was born on this day in 1833 in County Laois, Ireland. He moved to America with his mother due to the potato famine, and they settled in New York.

Thompson found work as assistant to sculptor ED Palmer. Before long, Thompson had become a skilled sculptor himself and opened his a studio of his own. He made sculptures of several leading military figures, including Napoleon and John Sedgwick.

Many of Thompson’s sculptures are still on display today all around the East Coat of America.

Launt Thompson sculptures Image copyright Ireland Calling

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1847 On February 8 1847, Daniel O’Connell made his final speech in the House of Commons, appealing for help for the starving in Ireland.

Daniel OConnell Final-speech_of-liberty Image copyright Ireland Calling

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1932 Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll was killed on this day in New York in 1932. He was born in Ireland but moved to America as a baby. He was raised in the Bronx and by the age of 19, he had become a hitman for local gangster, Dutch Schultz.

Coll was ruthless and a great asset to Schultz, who helped him get off a murder charge after one of his hits. However, the two men fell out when Coll demanded an equal partnership after Schultz challenged him over a robbery. Schultz refused to make Coll an equal in in his organisation.

Coll started working for himself and made a habit of kidnapping gangsters for ransom money, knowing that the police would never be informed. He was also accused of being a baby-killer when some children were caught in the crossfire of a robbery and one was killed. The mayor of New York branded him a ‘mad dog’. Coll denied being anywhere near the incident and was found innocent in court.
Vincent Coll Image copyright Ireland Calling

Coll finally met his end when he was shot by two gunmen while making a phone call to another gangster, Owney Madden. Coll was threatening to kidnap one of Madden’s men unless he was received $50,000. Madden kept him on the line until he had traced the call, and sent his own henchmen to finally end Coll’s reign of terror.

Excerpt from the film Mad Dog Coll with Jerry Orbach.

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Shergar1983 On this day in 1983, Shergar was kidnapped from his stud stables in Kildare. The racehorse had won the Epsom Derby by ten lengths and was named European Horse of the Year in 1981. His career earnings were more than £4,000,000 and he was owned by the wealthy Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

Around six gunmen forced their way into the home of Shergar’s groom, James Fitzgerald on the evening of 8th February 1983. They forced him to help them load Shergar into their horsebox, before driving away.

A huge investigation was launched and all sorts of theories surfaced as to who was responsible for the theft. There were short communications from people claiming to be the thieves, with the owners of Shergar, racing journalists and the Garda over demands for a ransom.

No deal was ever made though and the Garda had no leads as to where Shergar was being held. The mystery was never solved, no body was ever found, and no group ever took responsibility for the theft.

The IRA were suspected of being behind it, but they issued a statement, denying any involvement.

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1983 Happy birthday to Susan McFadden, born on this day in 1983. The Dublin born beauty is part of the all-girl Irish band Celtic Woman and is also the younger sister of former Westlife singer Bryan.
Click here to read more about Celtic Woman

Celtic Woman

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Keith_Duffy photo Rach_CC22000 On this day in 2000, Keith Duffy was officially named Ireland’s sexiest man. The Boyzone star beat off competition from James Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan, Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley, as well as his bandmates in Boyzone and fellow Irish boyband Westlife.

Duffy went on to become an actor after the band split. He was a regular on British favourite, Coronation Street during the 2000s.

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2006 On this day in 2006, Irish rock legends U2 stole the show at the 48th Grammy awards.

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They received five Grammys including the Album of the Year for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and the Song of the Year for Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own.
Click here to read more about U2

With or Without You by U2


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