1798 John Kelly was hanged outside Wexford on this day in 1798. He had been a leader of the United Irishmen rebels, who had been fighting with the British army in and around Wexford for weeks. Thousands of men had died in the conflicts, which were part of the United Irishmen rebellion that was taking part across the country.
Kelly had survived several battles, but was captured by the British army as he lay in his bed recovering from his injuries. He was tried with treason and sentenced to death. Kelly was hanged on Wexford Bridge along with seven other United Irishmen leaders.
After he had died, the British forces decapitated him, and kicked his head around the town of Wexford before displaying it on a spike to serve as a warning to other rebels.
Kelly’s death was the inspiration for PJ McCall’s classic Irish song, Kelly the Boy from Killane. Although McCall wrote the song more than a hundred years after the 1798 Rebellion, John Kelly’s story is clearly the one being told in the song.
It has now become a regular on the set of folk bands, and has been recorded by Irish legends including Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners.
Click here to read more about the song, Kelly the Boy from Killane
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1866 Paul Cullen of County Kildare was made a Cardinal of the Catholic Church on this day in 1866. He was the first Irishman to rise to that level in the Catholic Church, second only to the Pope. Cullen is a figure that divides opinion in Irish history.
He was instrumental in bringing the Catholic Church in Ireland in line with its counterparts in Europe, for example the introduction of priests wearing a collar, and being addressed as ‘Father’ rather than ‘Mister’.
However, he was strongly opposed to any revolutionary groups, such as the United Irishmen, and also actively worked to prevent any educational institutes allowing both Catholics and Protestants to attend.
Discover more of Paul Cullen, who turned the Catholic Church into the dominant force in Ireland for a hundred years
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1958 Bill Shipsey was born in Waterford on this day in 1958. He was the founder of Art for Amnesty, which is a strand of the global human rights organisation Amnesty International.
Shipsey has co-ordinated several major events such as music concerts to raise awareness and publicity for Arts for Amnesty and its work. In 2010, he arranged for a song to be written to mark the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, the following year. Nearly 50 singers from around the world came together to form the Amnesty Band and perform the anniversary song, Toast For Freedom. Watch the YouTube video of the song below.
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1973 Hilton Edwards and his partner Micheál MacLiammóir were granted the freedom of Dublin on this day in 1973. They were both actors and writers, and are most noteworthy for founding the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
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2002 Happy wedding anniversary to the Edge and Morleigh Steinberg, who tied the knot on top of a mountain in the South of France on this day in 2002. The U2 guitarist and American choreographer had been together for nearly a decade since becoming close in the early 1990s.
The Edge was born in England before moving with his family as a child to Dublin. He grew up to become a member of one of the biggest rock bands in the world, U2. The Edge is widely regarded as one of the best guitarists in music. Bono was the Edge’s best man.
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2013 Andrea Begley of Northern Ireland was announced as winner of the BBC singing contest, The Voice on this day in 2013. She had been coached by Dubliner and lead singer of The Script, Danny O’Donoghue, and managed to see off the competition to launch her own music career. Begley’s debut album, The Message, was released in October 2013, and peaked at number seven in the British charts.