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1849 Maria Edgeworth died in Co Longford on this day in 1849. She was born in England but moved to Ireland as a young age to live with her father after her mother died. She was home tutored by her father and as an adult she assisted him in the running of the family estate.
Edgeworth grew to love Ireland and the Irish people. She also mixed with the British nobility and was not always impressed with their attitude to the Irish people. She wrote several novels and portrayed the Irish people accurate to her own experience, which was in stark contrast to the stereotype that appeared in most literature at the time.
Edgeworth and her father actively campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, and did much to improve the lives of the Irish workers they employed. They allowed them time and resources to gain an education for themselves and their families.
She gained support from America to help the Irish people during the ‘Great Famine’, although she insisted only those tenants that had paid their rent in full should be entitled to aid. Edgeworth died of a heart attack in her home in 1849.
Click here to read about more Irish writers
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1943 Betty Williams was born. With Mairead Maguire, she co-founded the Community for Peace People, dedicated to a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. They were bothe awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 17 September 1976.
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1946 George Best was born in Belfast on this day in 1946. He grew up to be the greatest football player of his generation, and is regarded as one of the best players of all time. In 1968, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, in what was the crowning moment of his career.
Best was more than just a footballer though. He was the first celebrity sports star and was dubbed the ‘fifth Beatle’ because of his good looks and playboy lifestyle. He dated a string of beautiful women, including several Miss Worlds, and spent his money on fast cars, gambling and alcohol.
Unfortunately, Best’s extravagant lifestyle caught up with him in the end, and he died of alcohol related illness in 2005. However, despite his shortcomings Best remained open and honest to the end and was a hugely popular figure with all. He was able to laugh at himself, and knew that his choices dictated how his life had panned out.
The Manchester United scout who first saw George Best play football on a park in Belfast could instantly see he was witnessing a special talent. He immediately made a telephone call to his manager, Sir Matt Busby and told him: “I think I’ve found you a genius!”
Best ended his playing career prematurely, after falling out of love with the game. He had won the biggest trophies and made enough money and decided that the pressure and strain of playing was no longer worth it. Many of his fans couldn’t understand this attitude and were devastated to see a great player’ career cut short.
This difference in attitude is illustrated perfectly by a funny story that Best once told. After he had retired from playing, he went to a horse race meeting with his current girlfriend, a Miss World. They won thousands of pounds and went back to their 5 star hotel to celebrate. They laid the money out on the bed to count it and ordered some champagne from room service.
As the waiter delivered the drinks to the room, he saw a semi-naked Best and Miss World on the bed littered with thousands of pounds in notes. Only able to think about the fact that Best was no longer playing football the waiter exclaimed: “George, where did it all go wrong?”
Here are a couple of the best quotes from George Best:
“In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol – it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.”
“It’s a pleasure to be standing here. It’s a pleasure to be standing up.”
Click here to read more quotes from George Best
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Click here to read more about George Best and other top Irish sports stars
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1950 Bill Whelan was born on this day in Limerick in 1950. He is the musician who composed the music for the world famous Riverdance. Initially, Riverdance was only due to be performed as a seven minute interlude during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. However, it was received so well that it grew into the worldwide tour that has lasted more than two decades.
Whelan has also worked with various other music stars from Ireland during his career. He played with the folk band Planxty and has also produced songs for stars such as U2 and Van Morrison.
Click here to read about more great Irish songwriters
Click here to read more about Planxty
Click here to read about the reaction of parents around the world, following a make-up ban on dancers under 16
The performance of Riverdance during the interval of the Eurovision Song Contest, Dublin 1994.
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1968 Happy birthday to Graham Linehan, born in Dublin on this day in 1968. He is a comedy writer who, along with his writing partner Arthur Matthews, has created two hugely popular sit-coms. The duo’s most famous works are Father Ted and The IT Crowd.
Father Ted followed the lives of three Catholic priests who had been exiled by their bishop to Craggy Island, a small isle off the mainland. Father Ted had a long-term desire to lead a more exciting life than that of a Catholic priest. However, he repeatedly found himself in nightmare scenarios caused by the actions of his fellow priests, the idiotic but loveable Father Dougal McGuire and the violent alcoholic Father Jack Hackett.
The IT Crowd followed the lives of two computer experts, Moss and Roy, and their manager, Jen. Moss and Roy longed to fit in with normal society but were more suited to an existence in their geeky underworld. Jen was an ambitious career woman trapped in her role as manager/babysitter of the IT department of a corporate firm.
Linehan and Matthews are regarded as one of the funniest writing teams to come from Ireland over the past 50 years.
Click here to watch the whole episode of the 1996 Christmas special, A Christmassy Ted
Click here to watch a clip from the IT Crowd
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2003 Ger McDonnell reached the summit of Mount Everest on this day in 2003. The Limerick-born climber celebrated the feat by launching a hurling ball off the highest peak on the planet.
Tragically, McDonnell was killed in 2008 when on a climb of the second highest mountain on earth, K2. McDonnell and ten other climbers were killed by an avalanche.