Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

May 6


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Robert O'Hara Burke 1820  Robert O’Hara Burke was born in County Galway on this day in 1880. He served as a soldier in the British and then Austrian army before returning to Ireland and joining the police force. In 1860 Burke led an expedition across Australia, to explore the mostly unknown lands. He took with him 19 men, 26 camels and 23 horses on a 2,000 mile journey from Melbourne on the south coast to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north.

Unfortunately, the men were ill equipped and naïve about the extreme weather conditions they would face during the Australian wet season. A series of poor leadership decisions led to the group being split and sent in different directions on several occasions. The various groups encountered horrific difficulties and struggles, with disease and in-fighting leading to the death of Burke and six other men that were part of the original expedition.

Robert Burke led the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition across Australia Image copyright Ireland Calling

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1882 Two British officials, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke were fatally stabbed in Dublin on this day in 1882, their deaths were known as the Phoenix Park murders. The murders were carried out by the Irish Invincibles, a team of Irish Republican Brotherhood assassins.

Charles Parnell, who was an Irish politician popular in both Britain and Ireland, publicly condemned the killings. However, he was implicated in the murders by a letter published in the Times newspaper, allegedly written by him. The letter expressed sympathies with the killers and suggested his public condemnation of them had been insincere.

Richard Pigott, a journalist, tried to implicate Charles Parnell  Image copyright Ireland Calling

Parnell denied he had written the letters and they were subsequently proven to be forgeries, by Richard Pigott, journalist who had a long-standing grudge against Parnell. After he had cleared his name, Parnell received a standing ovation from his fellow MPs on his first return to the House of Commons.

Click here to read the love story of Charles Parnell and Kitty O’Shea

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1967  On this day in 1967, the Dubliners hit the UK top ten with the folk classic, Seven Drunken Nights. It is just one of countless traditional Irish songs that the Dubliners have performed over the years.

They have become legends of Irish music and now semi-retired, but still occasionally put on shows.

Click here to watch videos of the Dubliners and other Irish bands performing Seven Drunken Nights 
Click here to read more about the Dubliners 
Click here to read about more great Irish bands  
Click here to read about more great Irish songs

Seven Drunken Nights by The Dubliners


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1969 Happy birthday to Jim Magilton, born in Belfast on this day in 1969. He was a professional footballer and played in the English Premier League for Southampton and Ipswich. Magilton also played for Northern Ireland 52 times, and in 2013 he became their elite performance director.

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1970 Happy birthday to Alan Monaghan, born in Dublin on this day in 1970. He is a writer and novelist and in 2002 he won the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award and the Award for Emerging Fiction for his short story The Soldier’s Song.

Click here to read about more Irish writers

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1998 Sybil Connolly died in Dublin on this day in 1998. She was a noted fashion designer and during her career she worked for several prominent fashion houses such as F. Schumacher & Co and Tiffany’s.

Connolly was born in Swansea, Wales but moved to Ireland at a young age and was raised in Co Waterford. She moved to London to pursue a career in fashion and studied dressmaking with Bradley and Co.

Her designs were in high demand from prestigious figures around the world including the wife of JFK. Jacqueline Kennedy wore a Sybil Connolly dress when posing for her official portrait as the First Lady.

Connolly lived in Merrion Square, Dublin until her death in 1998. A famous residency in Ireland that has been home to several other major figures from Irish history such as the noted writers WB Yeats and Oscar Wilde.

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Connolly was also named on the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1965.

Click here to read some of the best Oscar Wilde quotes
Click here to read about the life and career of WB Yeats

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