1600 Sir Henry Docwra was sent to Ulster by Queen Elizabeth I on this day in 1600. The queen was concerned about a potential attack on the British by the local clans as they grew in strength. Docwra had previously been in Co Mayo to try and taken control of the region but had been fought off by the Burke clan.
However, he was granted significantly more military resources, 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 horse soldiers, for his campaign in Ulster and succeeded in taking control of the territory. Docwra is often referred to as the founder of Derry, as once he had taken control of the land, the British began to settle creating the city.
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1808 Michael William Balfe was born in Dublin on this day in 1808. He was a music composer and showed a flair from a young age. Balfe’s father was a skilled violinist and dance teacher, and Balfe would play during his lessons. He had composed his first piece of music by the age of seven.
Balfe’s father died while he was a teenager and he moved to London to pursue a career in music. He played in an orchestra but couldn’t launch his career as he wished so moved to Italy. There he composed several pieces and became a leading figure of the music industry.
He held several prestigious positions as conductor and master of many of the best orchestras in Europe. In total, Balfe composed hundreds of songs, many of which are still well played today, his most famous work probably being his opera, The Bohemian Girl.
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Here is the “The Bohemian Girl” (1843) Overture by Michael W. Balfe.
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1847 Daniel O’Connell died in Genoa on this day in 1847. He is one of the most significant figures in Irish history. He was a politician who campaigned for the rights of Catholics, during the period when Ireland was ruled by Protestants.
He was known as The Champion of Liberty.
O’Connell campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, which was in effect improved rights for Catholics regarding politics, education and land ownership. During O’Connell’s lifetime, it was illegal for a Catholic to own any land in Ireland, and they were not allowed to gain an education or hold influential positions in societies.
After O’Connell died, his heart was buried in Rome as had been his wish, and the rest of his body was returned to Ireland and buried at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. He is one of many great Irish people from history to be buried there, and the cemetery is now a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Dublin.
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1961 Larry Holden was born in Belfast on this day in 1961. He was an actor who made appearances in numerous British and American television programmes including Cracker and Charmed. Holden also had roles in major Hollywood films such as Batman Begins, Memento and Insomnia. In 2010, Holden was diagnosed with cancer and tragically died aged just 49 less than a year later.
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2003 On this day in 2003, expert historians at the National Museum of Ireland announce that a body found in Co Offaly could be anything up to 2,000 years old.
The remains of this Iron Age bog body were found in Croghan Hill, and the body is called the Old Croghan Man. The body was well preserved and after the experts had carried out their studies it was put on display at the National Museum for any visitors who wanted to see a 2,000 year old body.
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2010 Thomas Caffrey died on this day in 2010. He was the founder of Caffrey’s Confectionary, which produces the chocolate snowball, the macaroon bar and many more favourites in Ireland. Caffrey set up the company after spending much of his youth working in a chocolate factory ran by his brother.
Caffrey’s now ships chocolate products all around the world, including to the USA and Australia. Caffrey was often referred to as the ‘Irish Willy Wonka’ and ate his chocolate products on a daily basis, with his personal favourite being the chocolate snowball.