May 19

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1935

    Above: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’—his father was in fact Sir Thomas Chapman of South Hill, Delvin, Co. Westmeath.

    T.E.—Thomas Edward—Lawrence (46), the legendary ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, died as a result of a motorcycle accident in Dorset. For much of his adult life Lawrence was a troubled man. Though his key role in the British-inspired Arab revolt (1916) against Ottoman Turkish rule earned him international celebrity, he was torn by guilt over Britain’s post-war betrayal of the Arabs with the implementation at Versailles of the notorious Sykes–Picot Agreement. Then there was the issue of identity. At the tender age of ten he discovered that his parents were not married, meaning that he and his four brothers were illegitimate. Later he was to learn that ‘Mr Lawrence’, his father, was, in fact, Sir Thomas Chapman of South Hill, Delvin, Co. Westmeath, who, though married with four daughters, had fled with their governess, Sarah Lawrence, first to Wales—where ‘Ned’ was born—and finally to London. He was eventually to find himself increasingly drawn to his father’s homeland. A close friend of George Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte—GBS had helped him to edit his major work, Seven pillars of wisdom (1926)—he mentioned his desire in his surviving letters to visit Ireland and often referred to the works of Seán O’Casey, James Joyce and J.M. Synge. Indeed, he hoped to write a biography of Sir Roger Casement. It seems that he never did try to make contact with his half-sisters. In 1954, almost twenty years after his death, some of his old friends visited the two surviving ones, who were living at 39 Northumberland Road, Dublin. They told them that they had followed their half-brother’s career with great interest but likewise had made no attempt to contact him.

  • 1870 The Home Government Association of Ireland was founded by Isaac Butt with the aim of establishing a federal system for the United Kingdom, which would grant Ireland a parliament responsible for national affairs. Succeeded by the Home Rule League (1873).
  • 1868 Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, son of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803), brewer and writer who restored St Patrick’s Cathedral (1860), died.
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