1567 Shane O’Neill, the leader of the O’Neill clan who ruled much of Ulster was killed on this day in 1567. He had been forced to retreat after losing hundreds of men a battle with the O’Donnells, led by Hugh O’Donnell.
The O’Neill clan had been responsible for the murder of Hugh’s brother Brian O’Donnell. Hugh inherited the leadership and swore vengeance against the O’Neills. He led his men into the O’Neill’s territory around Letterkenny and slayed hundreds in battle. O’Neill was unable to gain military support from France as he had hoped, and O’Donnell wasn’t interested in a negotiation.
O’Neill had no choice but to flee. Strangely he travelled to the Antrim coast and requested help from his sworn enemies, the MacDonnells. O’Neill had been fighting the MacDonnells for years, so why he thought they would help him in his hour of need is unknown. He was murdered by the members of the MacDonnell tribe on 2nd June 1567 and so ended a long and prosperous reign of the O’Neill clan in Ulster.
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1705 An accidental fire blazed through the town of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh which was virtually destroyed on this day in 1705, leaving more than 100 families homeless.
From original documents at the time; One hundred and fourteen families and their servants suffer severe losses, and the barracks of her Majesty (Queen Anne) sustains great damage, the total loss being computed at 7,911 pound 13 s. 4d.
The residents appealed to the authorities to arrange a collection across the country to help rebuild their town, with the damage estimated at nearly £8,000. Here is an extract of the request they presented to the Lord Lieutenant:
“We never in the late reign, nor in this, applied to our Majesties for any relief or reward for our services and sufferings (in 1641 and 1688-90) when they had to maintain many thousands of poor stript Protestants who came for protection.
“But now being poor, disconsolate and entirely ruined. We have neither house to go into, beds to lie on, nor wherewithal to buy bread. May it please your grace to grant your petitioners, the benefit of a full collection?”
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1723 Esther Vanhomrigh died on this day in 1723. She was the lover of the famous Irish writer Jonathan Swift, after meeting him as a young woman. The two exchanged several letters as their relationship grew. Swift referred to her as ‘Vanessa’, a name derived from the Dutch prefix Van in her last name, and ‘Esse’, an affectionately shortening of her first name.
After her parents died, Vanessa went to live with Swift as they were already romantically involved. However, she was desperately unhappy in Ireland with no friends or family around her. Swift had also began a relationship with another woman. Vanessa confronted him and told him to stop seeing her. He refused so she left him and returned to England.
Vanessa had a difficult life after she left Swift, struggling financially with large debts she had inherited from her mother. She nursed her sister when she died of tuberculosis, and died herself a short time later.
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1920 Michael O’Hehir was born in Dublin on this day in 1920. He was a legendary sports commentator, prominent on the radio and then the voice of sports in Ireland as televisions became readily available to the public. O’Hehir’s enthusiasm for sport and his quick wit and charm made him a favourite for several generations of viewers in Ireland. He died in 1996, but is still widely regarded as the original ‘voice of Gaelic games’.
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1961 Happy birthday to Liam Cunningham, born in Dublin on this day in 1961. He is an actor who has appeared in several television series and films since the early 1990s. He is most recognisable today as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones, the supporter of d Stannis Baratheon.
Cunningham has also had roles in big Hollywood films such as Clash of the Titans, War Horse and Safe House.
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1986 Happy birthday to Katie Taylor, born in County Wicklow on this day in 1986. She is an amateur boxer, and was Ireland’s flag bearer at the Olympic Games in London 2012. Taylor went on to win a gold medal at the Games in the women’s boxing lightweight division.
Following her Olympic success, Taylor was named as the Sportsperson of the Year for 2012 at the People of the Year Awards. She could have taken a different path in life as she showed great promise as a football player and a Gaelic footballer as well as boxing. However, she said that boxing was always the sport for her:
“I love playing for Ireland, and I love football, but when it comes down to it I would choose boxing as my number one sport as I’d miss it too much if I wasn’t involved.”
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