January 5

1826  On this day in 1826, the Irish pound was abolished and the national currency was changed to the British pound sterling.

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1871 On this day in 1871, the British government authorised the release of 30 Fenian prisoners as part of a general amnesty. The men were all Irish nationalists who had been imprisoned for acts of rebellion against the British rule.

Under the terms of their release, the men had to exile themselves from Ireland until their sentences had expired. Five cellmates chose to go to America and boarded the Cuba ship at Liverpool. The Cuba Five, as they became known, were greeted as heroes by the American Irish community.

Irish exiles: "The Cuba five".
Irish exiles: “The Cuba five”.

(From left to right; John Devoy, Charles Underwood O’Connell, Harry Mulleda, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and John McClure).

One member of the Cuba Five was named Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who was great friends with Padraic Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916.

When Rossa died, his body was returned to Ireland for his funeral, Pearse read a eulogy that included a poem he had written named The Fool. See the poem here.
Click here to read more about the Easter Rising of 1916

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Hugh O’Brien

1885 Hugh O’Brien became the 31st Mayor of Boston on this day in 1885. O’Brien was born in Dublin and emigrated to America in the early 1830s.

He was Boston’s first ever Irish mayor and held the post for four years.

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1944 Happy birthday to Louis Stewart, the award winning Irish jazz guitarist, born on this day in Waterford in 1944. Stewart has had a successful career in the music industry and has worked with some of the top names in the business including Spike Robinson, Red Mitchell and Peter King.

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1976 One of the worst acts of brutal violence in the history of Northern Ireland took place on this day in 1976. The Republican Action Force, a splinter group of the IRA, stopped a minibus full of Protestant men in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

The eleven men that had been travelling on the minibus were lined up and shot dead. The Republican Action Force claimed responsibility for the savage attack which became known as the Kingsmill Massacre.

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1978 Joe Holmes died on 5 January, 1978. He was a fiddler, lilter and singer from Antrim, Ireland.

Lilting was common in Gaelic speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland – it is traditional singing with a steady rhythm and tone. It was often used for dancing when no instruments were available. Lilting is also known as mouth music, diddling, jigging and chin music.