October 04

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1969 Cathal O’Shannon, journalist, politician and trade unionist who served as one of the workers’ representatives in the Labour Court for 23 years, died.
  • 1936 The Battle of Cable Street, East London. A march led by Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), standing in an open-topped Rolls Royce and with some 5,000 black-shirted supporters, was halted by barricades and prolonged volleys of bricks and bottles from over 100,000 protestors. Though remembered by the left in Britain as an almost mythical moment—‘the moment London’s working class united en masse to reject fascism’s hateful ideology once and for all’—the protestors were in fact mainly Jews, trade unionists and communists. Though they were joined by Irish dock workers, there were also some Irish in the ranks of the BUF. Mosley, of course, was accompanied by his deputy, the notorious mob orator William Joyce, afterwards better known as the Nazi propagandist Lord Haw-Haw. Standing at the barricades that day was Harry Levitas, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who, some twenty years earlier, had fled the virulent anti-Semitism of Tsarist Russia and settled off the South Circular Road in the Portobello area of Dublin, then known colloquially as ‘Little Jerusalem’, before being forced by poverty and by being blacklisted for his union activity to move with his family first to Glasgow and then to London’s East End. Along with him was his son Max, born in Dublin, who was then a tailor, a trade union activist, shop steward and ardent communist. Max Levitas remained a dedicated communist and anti-racist activist for the rest of his long life. Serving on Stepney Borough Council (1945–71), he was a frequent visitor to Dublin and regularly attended Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies. He died at the grand age of 103 just a year ago, proud of the congratulatory card that he received from President Michael D. Higgins on his 100th birthday.
  • 2002 After a police raid on the Sinn Féin offices in Stormont, three men, including Sinn Féin’s Assembly group administrator Denis Donaldson, were arrested for intelligence-gathering. Ten days later devolution was suspended and direct rule for Northern Ireland was restored.
  • 1957 The USSR launched Sputnik 1, a 23in.-diameter metal sphere with four external radio antennas, which completed 1,440 orbits of the earth over the following three months.
  • 1917 Dave Gallaher (43), Donegal-born captain of the Original All Blacks, the first New Zealand team to tour Britain and Ireland (1905–6), was killed in an attack on Gravenstafel Spur during the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele).
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