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1891 Charles Parnell married Kitty O’Shea on this day in 1891. He had sacrificed his political career to be with O’Shea, who had previously been married to one of Parnell’s political colleagues.
The affair was exposed and many of Parnell’s followers deserted him in fear of his personal life affecting their party’s reputation. Parnell’s downfall took its toll on his health and he suffered a heart attack just a few months after marring O’Shea, dying in her arms.
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1938 Douglas Hyde became the first President of Ireland on this day in 1938. He was a nationalist and had done great work to maintain Irish identity and tradition. He was the founder of the Gaelic League and made moves to protect the Irish language by forming the Irish Literary Society with WB Yeats in 1881. Here are two quotes from Hyde on the importance of preserving the Irish language and tradition:
“It is a most disgraceful shame the way in which Irishmen are brought up. They are ashamed of their language, institutions, and of everything Irish.”
“In order to de-Anglicize ourselves, we must at once arrest the decay of the language. We must teach ourselves not to be ashamed of ourselves.”
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1950 Maurice O’Sullivan tragically drowned off the coast of Connemara on this day in 1950. He was a native of the Blasket Islands and wrote his memoirs to record what life was like in the unchanged traditional Irish culture.
O’Sullivan lived on the Blasket Islands from the age of eight, after his mother died. He learnt the Irish language and lived a happy life in the traditional Irish way. He was persuaded to write about his life by English historian George Thomson, who was fascinated by the Irish language.
Thomson had travelled to Ireland to study the language further, when he encountered O’Sullivan and life on the Blasket Islands. The islands were isolated from the mainland and the residents lived a more ancient lifestyle, with farming and fishing being daily tasks for men in order to feed their families.
Thomson saw this as a keyhole into Irish history and translated O’Sullivan’s memoirs into English. The book, Twenty Years-A-Growing, was very popular and is still available to buy online today.
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1957 Elizabeth O’Farrell (nurse and member of Cumann na mBan) died.
She delivered the surrender notice in the Easter Rising when the leaders accepted their position was hopeless and decided to end the rebellion to prevent further casualties.
Discover more about this brave woman, and see video of O’Farrell’s great grand-niece, Donna Cooney reflect on Elizabeth’s role in the Rising and the role she played in enabling the surrender and laying down of arms to proceed as smoothly as possible.
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1971 Happy birthday to Neil Lennon, born on this day in 1971 in County Armagh. Lennon is a big name in Irish sport, he was one of Martin O’Neill’s most trustworthy players in the 1990s and 2000s. Lennon won the League Cup in 1997 and 2000 under O’Neill’s management at Leicester.
O’Neill then signed Lennon for Celtic and made him captain. Lennon won five Scottish titles and four Scottish Cups during his seven year stay as a player. He then returned to Parkhead (Celtic’s home ground) as manager in 2010, and won a further three titles and two cups.
Lennon bravely stayed on as Celtic manager in 2011, despite receiving death threats which included bullets sent to him in the post by extremist Protestant groups. Lennon had been made a hate figure by some because he was a Catholic and played international football for Northern Ireland.
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1984 Happy birthday to Killian Donnelly, born in County Meath on this day in 1984. He is one of Ireland’s most successful musical theatre performers. Donnelly has had lead roles in productions of Aladdin, West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain and Sweeney Todd plus several others.
Donnelly is now based in London’s West End where he has performed in productions of Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Billy Elliot at venues such as the O2 Arena and the National Concert Hall.
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1990 Ireland progressed through to the last eight of the World Cup on this day in 1990. In their first ever appearance at a major finals, the Irish team continued their good run by beating Romania in a penalty shootout in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa.
A tense game had ended 0-0 and the tie had to be settled from 12 yards. Successful spot-kicks from Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, Tonty Cascarino and David O’Leary were enough to seal a nail-biting 5-4 victory and keep Ireland in the competition.