Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

June 20


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1763 Theobald Wolfe Tone was born in Dublin on this day in 1763. He was a politician and Irish nationalist, and one of the most famous figures in Ireland’s history.

He co-founded the United Irishmen, with the principle of Catholics and Protestants all uniting to become a stronger force to take on the British rule.
Theobald Wolfe Tone Image copyright Ireland Calling

He was one of the founding members of the United Irishmen, a nationalist organisation that led the 1798 Rebellion against the British.

Read Theobald Wolfe Tone’s biography here

Click for more memorable quotes from Wolfe Tone

See our BITESIZE articles on the history of the 1798 Rebellion

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1798 The Battle of Foulksmills took place on this day in 1798. The United Irishmen were rebelling against the British rule, and attempting to take control of the major cities in Ireland. The British forces were sent to Wexford to regain full control of the town, following several rebel attacks in the previous weeks.

A British force of about 1,500 men were travelling towards Wexford, when they received news of a rebel troop 5,000 strong were heading towards them. The British held their position at Goff’s Bridge, Foulksmills, and ordered riflemen to the front to ward of the rebel attack. However, the rebels left the main road and attacked from the forested ground on both sides.


The rebels attacked with great numbers, but were poorly armed with few muskets and mostly pikemen. The British were able to withstand the attack with their riflemen and cannons. The rebels were forced backwards until they eventually dispersed. The estimated loss to both sides was 500 United Irishmen and 100 British soldiers.
See our BITESIZE articles on the history of the 1798 Rebellion

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1891 John Aloysius Costello was born on this day in Dublin in 1891. He was the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who oversaw Ireland’s transition to a fully fledged, independent republic in 1948.


Costello’s second stint as Taoiseach was notable for Ireland becoming a member of the United Nations, 1955, and the start of a long-standing tradition of the Taoiseach visiting the White House on St Patrick’s Day. Discover John Costello’s story.

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1951 Happy birthday to Paul Muldoon, born in County Armagh on this day in 1951. He is an award winning poet and has held important posts at prestigious universities Oxford in England and Princeton in America.

Muldoon’s poem Incatata was voted as one of Ireland’s 100 favourite poems in a 1999 poll held by the Irish Times. In the poem, Muldoon expresses the friend’s strength of character in dealing with illness, and his pain and confusion of coming to terms with the death of a close friend.

Click here to read the poem, Incantata
Click here to read any of Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
Click here to read about more Irish writers

Incantata Paul Muldoon. Image Copyright Ireland Calling* * *

Ottilie Patterson2011 Ottilie Patterson died on this day in 2011. She was a popular Blues singer from Northern Ireland, most famous in the 1050s and 60s as part of the Chris Barber Jazz Band. Patterson and Barber worked so closely together as they toured across Britain that they started a relationship and ended up getting married.

Click here to read about more Irish singers
Click here to read about more Irish bands

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Yarrow Midsummer Night June 20 folklore Image Ireland Calling

All single ladies hoping to find their Mr Right should read this very closely. According to ancient Irish tradition this night, 20th June, is midsummer’s night. On midsummer’s night young women would go out and pick flowers from the yarrow plant and say the following poem:

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Yarrow Midsummer's-Night. Image Copyright - Ireland Calling
The woman would then place the yarrow under her pillow and go to sleep dreaming about her beloved. It was believed that this ritual would bring good luck in love for the next year.

For all that are interested in participating in this tradition tonight, here is a picture of a yarrow plant so you know what you are looking for. Good luck.

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