1815 John Gray was born in Co Mayo on this day in 1815. He was an Irish nationalist, and worked as a physicist, politician and journalist.
Gray was extremely mindful and generous to the people in his community. He worked as a doctor in Dublin but was also interested in politics and what was happening in Ireland.
He was a regular writer for various national newspapers, and eventually became the owner of the Freeman’s Journal. To make the paper more accessible to people, Gray reduced its price and increased its circulation.
He got involved in politics and was a supporter of Daniel O’Connell and his movement for repeal of the Act of Union. Gray sympathised with the Young Irelanders, and their bid to gain Irish independence, but was not an active member or contributor as he didn’t not agree with their use of violence.
Gray continued to work hard to improve the lives and opportunities for people in Ireland. He was the driving force behind the development of the Vartry Reservoir scheme, which involved building a complex structure of pipes and filters in order to deliver clean safe drinking water to the people of Dublin. When the project was complete, diseases related to unclean water reduced immediately.
Gray was knighted for his contributions to Ireland, and was nominated to become Mayor of Dublin but declined the role. He died in 1873 and his body is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. A statue of Gray was erected in O’Connell Street in Dublin as a tribute to the work he had done for Ireland.
Both the statue and Gray’s gravestone in Glasnevin Cemetery are key parts of Irish history, and are popular attractions for visitors to Dublin.
Read about more things to see when visiting Dublin
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1827 Hugh O’Brien was born in Ireland on this day in 1827. He moved to America as a child and grew up to become the first Irish-born Mayor of Boston, serving from 1885 to 1889.
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1886 Father Edward Flanagan was born in Co Roscommon on this day in 1886. He studied for the priesthood and settled in America where he worked as an assistant pastor in Nebraska.
Fr Flanagan founded an orphanage for homeless boys in Omaha, but soon realised that the town’s facilities were not sufficient to offer the boys a fair opportunity in life. Soon, he had founded Boys Town which was a community in itself with schools, churches and homes. Boys aged 10 to 16 could go there and would be given the education and training they needed to gain employment when they grew up.
A film was made about Father Flanagan and Boys Town in 1938, with Spencer Tracey winning an Oscar for his part in the lead role.
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1949 Happy birthday to Bryan Murray, born in Dublin on this day in 1949. He is an actor of both stage and television and has played some memorable characters throughout his career. One of Murray’s most notable roles, was as Trevor Jordache in the British soap opera Brookside.
Although the character only appeared in a handful of episodes, the storyline is one of the soap’s most famous and successful. Murray played an abusive and violent husband and father, who was murdered by his wife and daughter and then buried under the patio.
Murray has also appeared in numerous other television dramas in Ireland and the UK. He has played Bob Charles in the Irish soap Fair City since 2005.
Click here to read about more great Irish actors
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1985 The first Live Aid concerts took place on this day in 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. They were organised by two of the most popular musicians of the day, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. The concerts were intended to highlight to the world the issue of starvation and suffering in Ethiopia.
Almost all of the world’s biggest music stars performed at one of the two concerts. At the time it was estimated that the event raised around £50m in donations from the public. However, experts now say that figure is likely to be as much as three time more.
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1998 On this day in 1998, the world’s best cyclists rode from Enniscorthy to Cork in the final leg of the Irish start to the Tour de France. It was the first time Ireland had hosted the initial stages, which are moved around Europe to a different country each year.
Led by stage winner Ján Svorada of the Czech Republic, the cyclists travelled the 200+km to the Cork coast before boarding a ferry to Roscoff in France to continue the race. Thousands of Irish sports fans lined the streets to cheer on the athletes throughout their two-day stay.