May 21

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1972 Ranger William Best (19), a soldier serving with the Royal Irish Rangers in Germany, was shot dead by the Official IRA whilst home on leave visiting his family in Derry’s Creggan estate. The Official IRA called a ceasefire a week later.
  • 1980 After the first of their two summits that year, Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey issued a joint communiqué with Margaret Thatcher agreeing that ‘any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland’.
  • 1932 Amelia Earhart (34) became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, emulating Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight five years before, having set out from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, some thirteen hours and fifteen minutes earlier. When she landed in Ballyarnett, north of Derry City, Amelia Earhart wasn’t sure what country she was in. The story goes that she asked a local farm labourer, who gave the classic reply, ‘You’re in Gallagher’s field, ma’am, have ye come far?’ Apart from her international celebrity status as an aviator, Earhart was also celebrated for her unorthodox lifestyle, famously posting a letter to her husband, George Putnam, on their wedding day, telling him, ‘I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly’. She spent just one day in the Maiden City, during which she was taken to the main post office to phone the United States to confirm the completion of her record flight. Years later the then postmistress’s only memory of her visit was that she never paid for the call. The cottage in the field where she landed was afterwards named the ‘Amelia Earhart Cottage’.Earhart is also remembered for the mysterious nature of her disappearance, and death, in July 1937. On a mission to fly around the world, with her navigator Fred Noonan, she crashed near the Phoenix Islands, a small group of atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In 1940 the skeleton of a ‘tall white female of northern European ancestry’ was discovered on one of the islands.
  • 1997 Dr Noel Browne, radical politician who was forced to resign as minister for health from the first Inter-Party government in April 1951 over opposition to his ‘Mother and Child’ scheme, died. His autobiography Against the tide (1986) was an instant best-seller.
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