December 25

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1980 Percival Arland Ussher, writer, philosopher and Irish scholar who published the first translation of Brian Merriman’s The midnight court, died.
  • 1989 The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed after a brief military trial.
  • 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union. The Cold War ended the following day, when the Supreme Soviet met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union.
  • 1066 William of Normandy, latterly known as William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.
  • 1929 The disappearance of postman Larry Griffin. On Christmas morning Griffin, a married man with three children, set out on his mail round from Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, to Stradbally. The following morning his bicycle was found two miles from there on the road back to Kilmacthomas. Despite extensive searches of local mineshafts, bogs and cemeteries his body was never found. The investigating officer, a superintendent from Waterford, took statements from the gardaí in Stradbally and various locals, which gave contradictory versions of the postman’s movements and led him to believe that the gardaí were somehow involved. Then a local labourer came forward and gave what became the accepted version of events. Griffin had been in a local public house where a number of people, including local gardaí, were drinking and was involved in an altercation during which he struck his head on a stove and was mortally wounded. To cover up the fact that they were drinking illegally on Christmas Day, which would have seen the publican losing his licence and the gardaí facing dismissal, it was decided to dispose of the postman’s body and cover up his death. Eventually ten people, including the publican, his wife and two children, a local schoolteacher and two gardaí were charged with murder. But Larry Griffin was denied justice. In court the defendants held firm to their statements, whilst the labourer, the prosecution’s star witness, deviated from his, and in the absence of a body the trial collapsed. All charges were subsequently dropped, and the case officially remains unsolved. Some of the defendants later successfully sued for defamation and false arrest, including the publican and his family, who won substantial damages against two newspapers for implicating them in the case.

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