August 15

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1769 Napoleon Bonaparte, statesman and military leader, born in Ajaccio, Corsica, the son of a lawyer.
  • 1969 After three days of intense violence in Belfast, during which seven lives were lost and c. 1,800 families were forced to leave their homes, British troops were deployed.
  • 1969 The Woodstock music festival, featuring over 30 acts, including Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Jimi Hendrix, opened before an audience of over 400,000 in Bethal Woods, New York.
  • 1998 Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when a Real IRA car bomb exploded in Omagh, Co. Tyrone.
  • 1969 The third day of serious violence in Belfast. Overnight disturbances on the Falls Road/Shankill Road divide and in Ardoyne led to six deaths. Over 100 houses, mainly Catholic-owned, were destroyed. Huge barricades sprang up, particularly in the Falls. That afternoon British troops moved into the city, to be welcomed by residents of the Falls Road  with cups of tea.
  • 1917 Jack Lynch, outstanding Gaelic footballer and hurler, leader of Fianna Fáil (1966–79) and twice taoiseach (1966–73, 1977–9), born in Shandon, Cork City.
  • 1914 The 48-mile-long Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic Ocean, via the Caribbean Sea, with the Pacific Ocean, was officially opened.
  • 1868 A teachers’ conference in Dublin led to the foundation of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO).
  • 1808 Irish Christian Brothers founded in Waterford by Edmund Ignatius Rice.
  • 1843 The biggest of Daniel O’Connell’s ‘monster meetings’, as the London Times described them, in support of Repeal of the Act of Union took place on the Hill of Tara. From the middle of March over 30 such gatherings, attended by hundreds of thousands, took place usually at historic sites in the three southern provinces—gatherings not seen again until the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. The day-long—sometimes two-day—proceedings would begin with a huge procession of bands in uniform, floats, carriages and carts, followed by thousands on horseback or on foot, which would proceed to a makeshift platform. Here would sit newspaper reporters, local dignitaries or anyone else prepared to pay a shilling to hear O’Connell at close quarters. The Liberator would then deliver his trademark bellicose speech on the virtues of Repeal, backed up by threats such as parliamentary secession and the setting up of an alternative courts system. Afterwards an evening banquet for O’Connell and a few hundred paying guests would take place in a large hall or specially built pavilion. An estimated 900,000 attended Tara, as described by Lecky:

    ‘O’Connell, standing by the stone where the Kings of Ireland were once crowned, sketched the coming glories of his country. Beneath him, like a mighty sea, extended the throng of listeners. They were so numerous that thousands were unable to catch the faintest echo of the voice they loved so well; yet all remained passive, tranquil and decorous. In no instance did these meetings degenerate into mobs. They were assembled, and they were dispersed, without disorder or tumult; they were disgraced by no drunkenness, by no crime, by no excess …’

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