1879 Sir Hamilton Harty was born in County Down on this day in 1879. He was leading pianist and composer, who was well-known by opera singers in London as the best piano accompanier.
He was also recognised as a brilliant composer. Harty had a successful career as a conductor for the best orchestras in London. He was one of Ireland’s most gifted composers, and thankfully some of today’s top performers are still being made aware of his vast catalogue of work.
Here is a video of In Ireland by Harty being performed by musicians Mary Kay Wilson and Fred Kim.
Click here to read about more top Irish musicians
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1887 Winnie Carney was born in County Down on this day in 1887. She was an Irish nationalist and was one of the few women to take an active part in the Easter Rising rebellion of 1916.
Carney was employed by James Connolly and was by his side at the General Post Office in Dublin at the Easter Rising.
She was imprisoned for her part in the uprising but released without charge. During the Irish Civil War Carney supported the anti-treaty rebels, although she took no part in the conflicts. She went on to work for the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union.
Click here to read more about the Easter Rising
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1947 Happy birthday to Moosajee Bhamjee, born in South Africa on this day in 1947. He was the first Muslim TD in Irish politics. Bhamjee was the son of an Indian immigrant in South Africa.
He moved to Dublin to study medicine before returning to South Africa to become a general practitioner.
Bhamjee then returned to Ireland to marry his college sweetheart. He studied psychiatry and set up his own practice. In 1991 he joined the Labour party and was voted into the Dáil in 1992 as the representative for County Clare. This made him the first ever Muslim to take a seat in the Irish parliament.
Bhamjee didn’t stand again in 1997, instead opting to concentrate on his medical career. In 2011, he issued a statement recommending that a small quantity of Lithium be added to the country’s drinking water, believing it would help to reduce depression and suicides.
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1959 Paul McGrath was born in London on this day in 1959. He is considered as possibly the best footballer Ireland has ever had, he was certainly a key player in the most successful period in the side’s history.
McGrath was the son of an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. His mother travelled to London to give birth as she was afraid of telling her father that she had got pregnant outside of marriage. Baby McGrath was given up for fostering and spent much of his childhood in orphanages in Dublin. He did, however, remain in regular contact with his mother.
He grew up to become a professional footballer, playing for English giants Manchester United and Aston Villa. McGrath won the PFA Player of the Year Award in 1993, meaning his fellow professionals voted him as the best player in the league.
McGrath’s defining moment for Ireland came in the 1994 World Cup Finals in America. He put in a momentous defensive performance in the side’s shock 1-0 win over Italy, including blocking a Roberto Baggio shot with his face.
Click here to read about more top Irish sports stars
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1971 Fifteen people were killed and another eighteen injured in a bomb attack on McGurk’s Bar in Belfast on this day in 1971. The Ulster Volunteer Force claimed responsibility for the attack. Three men were ordered to plant a bomb in a nearby pub called The Gem, which was a known to be frequented by members of the IRA.
The men could apparently not gain access to the Gem, so planted the bomb in the nearest Catholic pub they could find. Amongst the dead were the landlord Patrick McGurk’s wife Philomena, and 12-year-old daughter Maria. He appeared on television shortly after the attack and pleaded with the IRA not to respond in kind and kill any more innocent people:
“It doesn’t matter who planted the bomb. What’s done can’t be undone. I’ve been trying to keep bitterness out of it.”
The incident was one of the most horrific acts of indiscriminate violence of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and produced the highest death toll of any single attack.
Click here for an overall summary of The Troubles in Northern Ireland
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2009 Liam Clancy died on this day in 2009. He was a member of the legendary Irish folk band the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
He was born in Tipperary as the youngest of all the Clancy family. He showed a flair for performing from a young age. Clancy had directed, produced and starred in a production of John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World by the time he was 20.
He began singing with his brothers and they started to make a name for themselves in America. Their trademark look of white cardigans is supposedly because their mother sent them over from Ireland through fear that her boys would get cold in the harsh New York climate.
The brothers and Tommy Makem became stars of the Irish folk scene in America. They were the role models and inspiration for many young musicians, including a fresh-faced guitar playing songwriter named Bob Dylan. Dylan has since written about his admiration for the Clancys, and how they were a huge influence on him in the early part of his career.
Click here to read more about Liam Clancy
Click here to read more about the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
Click here to read about other legends of Irish music