1746 Henry Grattan was born in Dublin on this day in 1746. He was a key figure in Irish politics during the late 18th century. Grattan was a member of the Church of Ireland, but was sympathetic to the Irish Catholics. At the time, almost all senior positions in Irish society were held by Protestants. He pressed the British government to repeal its unfair trade laws on Ireland.
He demanded an independent Irish parliament. The British government lacked the spirit and finance to face another revolution after the American Revolution, and granted Ireland its own parliament in 1782.
Grattan announced the news to thousands of supporters in Dublin with the following speech.
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1853 Aloysius O’Kelly was born in Dublin on this day in 1853. He was a painter and was inspired by the imprisonment of his politician brother James O’Kelly along with Charles Parnell. They were part of the Irish National Party campaigning for Home Rule and were put in prison for publicly criticising the British government. He also painted rural landscapes of Connemara where he lived.
Aloysius O’Kelly later moved to New York, where he lived out the rest of his life painting the city’s skyline and surrounding rural landscapes.
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1891 Bridget Dowling was born in Dublin on this day in 1891. She is noteworthy in history because she married the brother of Adolf Hitler. Alois Hitler met Bridget when she was 19 and impressed her by telling her he was a wealthy hotel owner.
In fact he was working as a waiter in Dublin, but still managed to win Bridget’s heart. Bridget’s father was against the relationship because Alois had no prospects. In 1910, the young couple ran off to London and got married. Bridget’s father threatened to charge Alois with kidnapping, but finally backed down after Bridget pleaded with him to accept her new husband.
The newlyweds settled in Toxteth, Liverpool and had a baby boy, William Patrick Hitler. In 1914, Alois went to Germany to try and become a successful businessman. Bridget refused to travel with him as by now he had become violent towards her and she feared for the safety of her son.
Alois’ business plans were immediately disrupted by the outbreak of World War One. He decided to abandon his young family back in England and stay in Germany. Alois married again and was found guilty of bigamy. He was let off when Bridget intervened and the two were divorced.
Bridget moved to London and raised her son on her own. She opened her house up to lodgers to make enough money to survive.
By the early 1940s, William Hitler was a grown man in his early thirties. He had not seen his father since he was a toddler. However, he saw the potential of cashing in on his surname. His uncle, Adolf Hitler, was becoming one of the world’s leading figures having become the leading politician in Germany.
William and his mother moved to America, where William worked as a public speaker and lecturer on his famous uncle. However, Hitler’s Nazi Germany then started the Second World War, and millions of men were killed at their hands. Bridget and William were now ashamed of their family name and changed it to Stuart-Houston. The mother and son lived out the rest of their lives in America.
Bridget once claimed that Adolf Hitler had lived with her and her husband in Liverpool for a short time in 1912-13. She wrote a book, My Brother-in-Law Adolf that described her relationship with her husband and brother-in-law. Bridget claimed she was the one who advised Hitler to trim the edges of his moustache off, giving him the iconic look we are all familiar with.
However, expert historians have rubbished Bridget’s claims that Hitler had ever stayed in England. There is apparent evidence that he was in Vienna at the time Bridget claims he was staying with her and his brother in Liverpool. They accuse Bridget of making the whole story up, in order to sell copies of her book and cash in on her infamous relative.
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1940 Bernadette Greevy was born in Dublin on this day in 1940. She was a world class opera singer. Greevy first took to the stage as a teenager in Dublin and never looked back. She worked in London, New York and Argentina throughout her career.
However, she was a Dubliner and stayed living in the city for her entire life. Her locality limited her job opportunities, but it was a decision she was happy with, preferring to be close to her husband and son rather than spend weeks and months away from them at a time.
Greevy was highly respected and rated by her peers in opera, and by the critics. The British newspaper, The Times once described Greevy’s performance;
“as a full, glowing voice, rich and firm at the bottom, radiant at the top, and gloriously expressive phrasing”.
The New York Times was equally complimentary about Greevy:
“The voice has the firm, compact resonance of a true contralto. She has endless breath and can move her voice with agility and precision.”
Greevy became ill in the late 2000s and passed away in 2008.
Click here to read about more Irish singers
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1952 Bord Fáilte was founded on this day in 1952. It is the name of the Irish tourism board. Fáilte is the Irish word for welcome. The country was in recovery after the Second World War. When Seán Lemass became Taoiseach in 1959 he placed an importance on gaining foreign investment in Ireland. The country rapidly became industrialised and improved its international trading links.
Next the country worked on its global appeal for visitors. As a country steeped in history, and boasting beautiful countryside and scenery, Ireland has always been a popular tourist attraction for people around the world. Particularly those with Irish ancestry, of which there are millions after the mass emigration in the mid-1800s because of the ‘Great Famine’.
Currently, Ireland gets around 8million visitors each year, considerably more than its own population of just over 6million. Even ‘singing spaceman’ Chris Hadfield has enjoyed visiting the country. Hadfield shot to fame when he sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity while floating around in space, and then posted the video on YouTube.
He now works as Tourism ambassador for Ireland, and made a series of short videos promoting some of the island’s must see attractions. The series is called An Astronaut’s Guide to the island of Ireland.
Out of this world! Singing spaceman is taught Gaelic by Irish schoolchildren and told ‘walking in space was a doddle compared to hurling’ as he takes in the Irish culture. Article + VIDEOS here
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1976 Happy birthday to Shane Lynch, born in Dublin on this day in 1976. He is a member of Irish pop group Boyzone. The band had massive success in the 1990s and 2000s with hits including Love Me For a Reason, Words, No Matter What and Father and Son.
Boyzone are one of the most successful bands ever to come from Ireland with 6 million albums sold worldwide. They were put together in the early 90s by music producer Louis Walsh, now more famous as Simon Cowell’s talent show sidekick.
The band took a temporary break in 2000 so the members could all pursue individual projects. In 2008, they reformed and went on a comeback tour, playing all their old hits to sell-out arenas across Ireland and the UK.
Click here to read about more Irish bands
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