April 24

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1951 Enda Kenny, TD for Mayo West (1975–97) and Mayo (1997–2020), leader of Fine Gael (2002–17) and taoiseach (2011–17), born in Derrycoosh, Islandeady, near Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
  • 1945

    Above: The steamship Monmouth Coast—torpedoed by a German U-boat near Tory Island on 24 April 1945. (Paul Johnson Collection)

    During the last week of the Second World War, the Monmouth Coast, an unescorted steamship en route from Sligo to Liverpool with a cargo of barytes ore from the mines of Ben Bulben, was torpedoed by a German U-boat some seven miles north-east of Tory Island. The captain and fifteen crewmen (including two Irishmen) lost their lives, but one managed to survive, thanks to two locals from Arranmore. Two days later, whilst beachcombing on the north-eastern coast of the island, they spotted a life-raft floating in a remote sandy inlet; they rowed out to it and lifted the tarpaulin, to discover a wide-eyed teenager, Derek Cragg (17) from Liverpool, the mess-room boy from the Monmouth Coast. He explained that the ship had gone down very quickly and that those of the crew who managed to leap clear were sucked down after it. He, too, was dragged down but somehow managed to make it back to the surface, where he spotted the life-raft and clambered on board. He was given every assistance by the islanders and safely repatriated, but had the north-easterly wind that drove him 25 miles blown him into the adjoining inlet, his raft would have been smashed to pieces. Over 30,000 Allied merchant seamen, of every nationality, lost their lives during the war. Despite our neutrality, Irish Shipping lost two ships. The Irish Pine was torpedoed off Greenland in November 1942 with the loss of all 33 on board, and the Irish Oak was sunk in the North Atlantic in May 1943, though her entire crew was rescued by a sister-ship, the Irish Plane.

  • 1912 Justin McCarthy (82), Home Rule politician, leader of the anti-Parnellite faction (1891–6), historian and novelist, died.
  • 1916 The Easter Rising began.Sir Ernest Shackleton and five of his crew set out on their epic 720-nautical-mile rescue mission in the James Caird, from Elephant Island to South Georgia.
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