1747 John O’Keeffe was born in Dublin on this day in 1747. He was a prolific writer in the second half of the 18th century.
His play Tony Lumpkin in Town was written as a sequel to Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. It was commissioned to be performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London’s West End and was a great success. From then on, O’Keeffe became a regular writer for the Haymarket and his plays were some of the most watched in Britain.
Click here to read about more Irish writers
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1830 Bernard Irwin was born in Roscommon on this day in 1830. He emigrated to New York with his family and studied medicine. He became a US Army medic in 1856. Irwin is a notable figure in American and Irish history because his action in 1861 during the Apache Wars, when he helped rescue a young boy being held by Cochise, the chief of the native American Chiricahua tribe.
The boy had been kidnapped along with a small number of US soldiers by the Chiricahua in response to the US army kidnapping some of Cochise’s brothers. A peaceful prisoner exchange couldn’t be negotiated and all hostages were killed by both parties except the young boy.
US soldier George Bascom attempted a rescue mission of the boy but he and his men ended up under siege by the Chiricahua. Irwin led a small unit of men to save Bascom’s troops and also the boy. He strategically place his men around Cochise, to give the impression he had a larger unit than he did.
Cochise believed the US Army had sent significant forces to recue Bascom, and ordered the Chiricahua to flee into the mountains. Bascom and his men joined with Irwin’s unit to pursue the Chiricahua and managed to rescue the boy.
Irwin’s rescue mission earned him a Medal of Honour, the most prestigious US military award. The award didn’t exist at the time of Irwin’s rescue, and he didn’t receive it until just before his retirement in 1894. So Irwin wasn’t the actual first recipient of the Medal of Honour, but his mission took place before that of any other soldier who has been given the award.
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1905 On this day in 1905, Michael Scott was born in Drogheda. He was a talented artist but was convinced by his father that a career in architecture would be a more lucrative career. Scott followed his father’s advice, and was responsible for several key buildings that are still standing in Dublin today, such as the Busaras, Store Street, Dublin. Scott also designed the Irish Pavilion in New York World’s Fair.
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1910 Margaret Kelly Leibovici was born on this day in Dublin in 1910. She never knew her parents but was raised by an Irish nurse, Mary Murphy, who moved her to Liverpool after the Easter Rising in 1916. There, a doctor told her to enrol in a dance class to strengthen her frail legs.
She had beautiful blue eyes that earned her the petname Bluebell.
That advice set her on a road to stardom. She excelled in her dance class and by the age of 14 she had left school and was dancing professionally. She danced for various groups in Berlin and Paris before setting up her own group named The Bluebell Girls, who are still in existence today. She was often called ‘Miss Bluebell’.
Kelly married a Romanian musician named Marcel Leibovici and they had two sons. However, her husband was Jewish and was under threat of execution at the hands of Nazi Germany, who by now had invaded Poland to mark the start of World War II.
Kelly risked her own life to hide her husband in Paris, and even managed to keep his location secret when she was interrogated by the Gestapo.
The two became business partners after the war had ended, with Marcel composing the music and Margaret choreographing and training the dancers for Bluebell Girls shows. It became the most sought after dance act in the world. The addition of American choreographer Donn Arden resulted in a worldwide franchise, with numerous Bluebell Girls dance troupes being based everywhere from Las Vegas, Europe and Asia.
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1987 U2 performed at King’s Hall, Belfast as part of their Joshua Tree Tour on this day in 1987. It was the Irish rockers first gig in the Northern capital for five years. The ‘Beautiful Day’ singers are probably Ireland’s most successful rock band of all time, and have used their profile and influence to campaign for numerous good causes over the years.
Click here to read about Bono busking in Dublin on Christmas Eve
Click here to read about Adam Clayton and the ‘funky shoe’ mental health campaign
Click here to read about more great Irish bands
Here’s U2 with Beautiful Day.
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2012 Eugene Moloney was found dead in the early hours of this day in Dublin in 2012. He was a journalist and writer and had reported on the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s. He then moved to Dublin and spent around twenty years writing for the Irish Independent. He was a well-respected journalist both by his peers and the general public.
He was travelling home in the early hours of 24th June in 2012 through Dublin when he was struck on the side of the head by an unknown man. Moloney had his wallet taken and was left lying in the street until he was found at around 4.30am. He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. According to the coroner, he died of internal bleeding to the brain.
Gary Burch, a 21-year-old trainee mechanic was arrested and admitted to striking Moloney on the head. He was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison. Burch was a former amateur boxer and had consumed ten bottles of beer plus numerous shots of spirits on the night he attacked Moloney. Burch admitted he was “too drunk” to remember his actions.
Moloney’s brother Sean spoke out about the short prison sentence Burch had received, saying: “Irish society needed to look at the much too lenient sentences given for unprovoked street attacks, while parents needed to check their attitude to children’s behaviour.”