1909 Irish writer John Millington Synge died in Dublin on this day in 1909. He could be controversial with his works, the first viewing of his play The Playboy of the Western World ended with the audience rioting in protest at the bad language and portrayal of the Irish working classes. He wrote mainly of the lives of peasants in rural Ireland and what he thought of their pagan views of the world.
Synge died aged 37 from from Hodgkin’s disease. He was working on his last play, Deirdre of the Sorrows.
* * *
1920 Tom Crean retired from the Royal Navy, after 26 years.
Tom Crean was one of the bravest and toughest explorers of the early part of the 20th century.
He took part in three polar expeditions, and overcame horrific conditions and energy sapping journeys to not only survive himself, but to save the lives of his colleagues.
Read Tom Crean’s story here;
1958 Dawson Stelfox was the first Irishman to climb Mount Everest. He was born in Belfast on this day in 1953. He achieved the feat in 1993, before being made the president of Mountaineering Ireland.
* * *
1968 61 people were killed as an Aer Lingus plane crashed on this day in 1968. The plane was on a routine trip from Cork to London when the pilot lost control and it crashed at Tuskar Rock off the coast of Wexford, killing all crew and passengers on board.
The cause of the crash has never been discovered, although theories have been put forward that the plane was shot down in error by a British missile. Aberporth in Wales was a major missile testing site for the British military at the time of the crash.
* * *
1970 Happy birthday to Irish musician Sharon Corr, born in Dundalk on this day in 1970. She was a member of the Corrs, along with her sisters and brother. The family band had a successful spell in the music charts all around the world in the 1990s and 2000s with hits including I Never Loved You Anyway and Breathless.
Since the band decided to go their separate ways, Sharon has appeared as a coach on the talent show, The Voice of Ireland and pursued her own solo career in music.
Click here to read more about the Corrs
Breathless by The Corrs
* * *
2002 On this day in 2002, lifeboats and coastguards successfully helped 21 of 40 whales stranded, or nearly stranded, on the beach at Tralee Bay in County Kerry back into the sea. Unfortunately, the rest could not be saved and died. One of the whales that was prevented from beaching, by being led out to deeper water by the lifeboats, gave birth just minutes after returning to the sea.
* * *
2003 Legendary Irish actor Peter O’Toole was honoured at the Oscars on this day in 2003. The Hollywood veteran was given an Academy Honorary Award for his forty year contribution to film.
O’Toole had been nominated for an Oscar eight times in the past without ever being the winner – a record. He initially didn’t want to accept the Honourary Award believing he still had time to win his own Oscar, but was persuaded by his family to attend the ceremony and accept.
Click here to read about more great Irish actors
Read more Peter O’Toole quotes here
Video of Peter O’Toole receiving an Honorary Oscar with his joke “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride my foot.”
* * *
2010 On this day, 24 March 2010, 3400 Irish soldiers who died in the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign were given their first official acknowledgement by President Mary McAleese. She dedicated a foundation stone for a memorial to Irish casualties at a cemetery in the Suvla Bay area. Irish troops played a very significant part in Gallipoli Campaign.
Sydney author Jeff Kildea, who has written about the Gallipoli Campaign, said: “There has been an awakening in recent years in Ireland about the involvement of Irish soldiers in the First World War. It had long been suppressed because it didn’t fit the nationalist narrative. Those who fought in the war, when they came home, were often treated pretty badly. It has taken a few generations for people of Ireland to commemorate those who died in World War I.
“More and more there has been reconciliation and the President has been very much in the forefront of that. She is part of that movement that is trying to put away the bitterness of the past and commemorate Irish soldiers.”
Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the First World War and 50,000 were killed.