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1776 George Washington’s troops used the password ‘St Patrick’ when they forced the British out of Boston.
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1777 Patrick Brunty was born in County Down on this day in 1777. He spent much of his adult life in England where he qualified as a teacher, and changed the spelling of his surname to Bronte. He married and had 6 children, 3 of whom were famous English novelist sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.
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1858 On this day in Dublin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood is co-founded by James Stephens. Stephens had been a member of the Young Irelanders, who had tried and failed to break free from British rule in the 1848 Rebellion.
The population of Ireland had fell by 2m in four years after the series of bad weather caused the potato crops to fail. The British government continued to export meat and grain from the Irish farms, while the people were dying of starvation and disease, or being forced to emigrate to survive.
This created huge resentment against the British, and as so many Irish people had left for America, England and Australia, this feeling could be found all over the world.
Stephens was forced to flee Ireland after the rebellion failed, as had he been arrested he would’ve been either executed or sent to Van Diemen’s Land, a labour camp in Australia.
He lived in France for several years and planned another rebellion before returning to Ireland. He gathered support from other Irish leaders who had avoided capture. Stephens thought he had the support of a strong organisation in America, set up by his friend John O’Mahony.
He sent a message requesting their support and funds to set up an Irish military force, capable of a successful rebellion against the British. However, he received a message that the organisation was little more than a group of associates that sympathised with the Irish struggle.
Stephens went ahead and set up the Irish Republican Brotherhood regardless, with the aim of gaining Irish independence using military force. Stephens and fellow nationalist Thomas Clarke Luby signed each other into the organisation under the following oath:
“I do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make Ireland an independent Democratic Republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Amen.”
He is buried next to fellow Fenian John O’Leary. Written on a panel of the Celtic cross over their graves reads; “A day, an hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage.”
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1889 Harry Clarke was born in Dublin on this day in 1889. He was an esteemed stained glass artist, and made more than 100 windows for religious and commercial properties in Ireland and England. His designs, with superb detail and striking colours, were so popular that they are still being produced today both as collectables and as functioning decorative windows.
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1903 Happy St Patrick’s Day! On this day in 1903 St Patrick’s Day is made into an Irish national holiday after Irish politician James O’Hara forced the Bank Holiday Act through in British parliament. O’Mara later ordered pubs and bars in Ireland to close on 17th March as heavy drinking amongst revellers led to sprees of crime and violence.
The drinking ban was reversed in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the Irish tourism board decided to use the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin as a way to showcase Irish culture to the world. The St Patrick’s Day parade has now grown into a five-day festival that attracts thousands of visitors to Dublin every year.
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1951 Happy birthday to Scott Gorham, born in California on this day in 1951. He was the lead guitarist for Irish band Thin Lizzy through much of the 1970s and 80s. Gorham struggled with heroin addiction in his career, but kicked the habit in the mid 80s and is now married living in London.
Click here to read about more great Irish bands
Thin Lizzy with Whiskey in the Jar.
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1976 Stephen Gately was born in Dublin on this day in 1976. He was a member of Irish boyband Boyzone, who had great success in the 1990s with sits such as Father and Son and No Matter What.
Gately was a closet homosexual and was the subject of much speculation and gossip in the British press. He came out in 1999 and married Andrew Cowles in a London ceremony in 2006.
Gately was found dead at his hotel room in Majorca in 2009, with the cause of death reportedly being an undiagnosed heart condition.