April 6

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1879

    Above: Lord George Hill c. 1867. (Columbia University)

    Lord George Hill (77), landlord, whose estates covered some 23,000 acres in north-west Donegal, died. Hill is perhaps best remembered for Facts from Gweedore (1845), his account of the conditions of his tenants in the biggest parish of his estate and how he had improved their lives by abolishing the rundale system, introducing manufacturing and constructing a network of roads through what was a hitherto inaccessible region. His tenants, however, thoroughly disagreed. The abolition of rundale they regarded as a disaster. His clampdown on illicit distillation had denied them a critical source of ready cash, and other changes, such as his withdrawal of access to summer grazing on the mountains, further impoverished them. Indeed, if other landlords sought to imitate his methods, the House of Commons select committee on Irish poverty were less impressed and went so far as to investigate his methods. On the other hand, Hill is remembered as the landlord who studied Irish history and learned the language, the better to communicate with his tenants, and who worked tirelessly on their behalf during the Famine. He is remembered, too, for his connection with the sisters Cassandra (Cass), Louisa (Lou) and Marianne (May) Knight, nieces and favorites in their childhood of the novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817). Hill married the youngest, Cass, in 1834, making their home at Ballyare House, near Ramelton. When Cass died eight years later after giving birth to their fourth child, Lou joined the household to mind the children and ended up marrying Hill five years later; in 1884 May moved in to care for Lou. Hill was interred with Cass in Conwal Cemetery, Letterkenny, while Lou and May were buried in the graveyard of Tully, adjacent to Ballyare.

  • 1972 The Scarman report, on violence and civil disturbances in Northern Ireland in 1969, described the riots as communal disturbances arising from a complex political, social and economic situation.
  • 1959

    Above: Seán T. O’Kelly, the first president of Ireland to be officially welcomed on British soil

    Seán T. O’Kelly became the first president of Ireland to be officially welcomed on British soil. In the spring of 1959 President O’Kelly made a ten-day state visit to the United States, during which he addressed Congress and visited the Irish diaspora in eight states. Anglo-Irish relations at the time were poor, to say the least. The previous month Taoiseach Éamon de Valera had clashed with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, and during his visit O’Kelly had taken every opportunity to denounce partition. This particularly irked the British because Macmillan was in the country at the same time for talks with President Eisenhower. With his liner docking at Plymouth, on his return journey—there were no government jets in those days—he and his party planned to transfer quietly from there by car to Exeter airport to catch a flight to Dublin. But the British were sticklers for protocol. As soon as he set foot on the quayside he was greeted by the lord mayor of Plymouth and the lord lieutenant of Devon, who was the queen’s personal representative in that county. Both were appropriately attired in full regalia. In reply, the bemused O’Kelly thanked them and politely requested that his gratitude be conveyed to ‘her majesty’. And then there was a little drama. Coinciding with his arrival, the Devon police received an anonymous phone call threatening O’Kelly’s safety. He and his party were consequently accorded a police escort to Exeter, where officers stood guard until his plane arrived and safely departed for Ireland.

  • 1972 The Scarman Tribunal report on acts of violence and civil disturbances in Northern Ireland between March and August 1969 found that there was no plot to overthrow the government or to mount an armed insurrection. The riots were ‘communal disturbances arising from a complex political, social and economic situation’.

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