1897 Kate O’Brien was born in Limerick on this day in 1897. She was one of the leading female Irish writers of the 20th century and was renowned for her feminist and liberal views. Many of her novels are still read today.
She was educated in Dublin and moved to England to work as a teacher. She also wrote plays in her spare time. She then moved to work as a tutor and nanny for a family in Spain.
O’Brien returned to England and briefly worked at the Manchester Guardian Newspaper before turning to her writing career full time. Her play Distinguished Villa was a great success, as were the following novels The Ante-Room, The Land of the Spices and That Lady.
O‘Brien was a feminist writer and believed in equality. She was also very liberal with her views. She explored female sexuality and portrayed gay or lesbian characters as the heroes of some of her novels. This was far from the norm at the time and it resulted in many of her works being censored.
However, O’Brien became a role model to many young women in the early 20th century. Her independence and fearless attitudes made her a popular figure, with many male writers also praising her work. Her name is even quoted in the classic 1945 romantic film Brief Encounters, with Celia Johnson saying she has “reserved the latest Kate O’Brien at her local library”.
O’Brien also wrote about the fascist regime in Spain. She had a soft spot for the country because of her time working there as a young woman. Her left-wing attitude led some to suspect her of being involved in anarchism.
She fell out of favour in the years after the Second World War and lived the remainder of her life outside of the public eye. Her novels became popular again in the 1980s following her death in 1974.
Click here to read about more great Irish writers
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1916 Seán Ó Ríordáin was born in Cork on this day in 1916. He was one of the leading Irish poets of the 20th century.
He wrote in Irish and is considered to be a major force in the preservation of the language.
Two of his poems, Cúl an Tí (The Back of the House), and Oíche Nollag na mBan (The Night Of Women’s Christmas), were voted inside Ireland’s 100 favourite poems in a poll held by the Irish Times newspaper.
Click here to read the poem Cúl an Tí, and the English translation
Click here to read the poem Oíche Nollag na mBan, and the English translation
Click here to read any of Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
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1959 Happy birthday to Eamonn Holmes, born in Belfast on this day in 1959. He is a veteran journalist and television presenter who is one of the most recognisable faces in the British media. Holmes was the long-time presenter of GMTV on ITV in the 1990s and 2000s.
He has also hosted numerous other television and radio shows throughout his career.
Holmes is famously a huge fan of Manchester United and opened the eulogies at the funeral of legendary player, and fellow Northern Irishman, George Best.
Click here to read some of the best George Best quotes
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1970 Brendan Kehoe was born in Dublin on this day in 1970. He was raised in Maine, America and developed an interest in computers as a child after he was given a Commodore 64.
Kehoe wrote Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner’s Guide in 1992. He made a deal with the publishers that the book be available for free on the internet so that everyone could have access to it.
In 2001, PC Magazine named Zen as one of the “top sci-fi/tech non-fiction books of the past twenty years”.
Kehoe died in 2011 after contracted leukaemia. He was described by Eric S Raymond, one of the world’s leading computer programmers, as a “true hacker and a gentleman”.
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2000 Hiúdai was voted the nation’s favourite TV personality at the Irish Film and Television Awards on this day in 2000. The Irish cartoon character fended off competition from broadcasting veterans Anne Doyle and Gerry Kelly and young stars like Patrick Kielty and Amanda Byram to land the prize.
Here is a video of Hiúdi and Mrs Brown’s Boys star Brendan O’Carroll performing their 1998 Christmas song.
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2002 Glenn Quinn was found dead in his apartment in California on this day in 2002. The Dublin-born actor is remembered fondly by many as Mark Healy in the 1990s comedy Roseanne.
He spent his childhood living between Ireland and America, and began a career in acting in the early 1990s. Quinn also starred in the supernatural series Angel, as Doyle, the confused half man half demon trying to find his true identity.
A police report after his death revealed he had died from a heroin overdose.
Click here to read about more Irish actors