On this Day

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2016), News, Volume 24

May

21/1932

Above: Amelia Earhart in front of her biplane, Friendship, in Newfoundland, 14 June 1928. (Getty Images)

Above: Amelia Earhart in front of her biplane, Friendship, in Newfoundland, 14 June 1928. (Getty Images)

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.

02/1916
‘I am to be shot at dawn. I am glad I am getting a soldier’s death. I feared it might be hanging or imprisonment. I have had enough of jail’—Thomas Clarke, in a letter to his wife, on the eve of his execution.

03/1916
Patrick Pearse (36), Tom Clarke (59) and Thomas MacDonagh (38) executed.
Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary for Ireland since 1907, resigned.

04/1916
Joseph Mary Plunkett (28), Ned Daly (25), Michael O’Hanrahan (39) and Willie Pearse (34) executed.

05/1916
Major John MacBride (47) executed.

05/1966
In Britain the ‘Moors murders’ trial ended with the sentencing of Ian Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley to terms of life imprisonment.

08/1916
Éamonn Ceannt (34), Michael Mallin (36), Con Colbert (25) and Seán Heuston (25) executed.

09/1916
Thomas Kent (50) executed in Cork.

11/1916
‘It is the first rebellion that ever took place in Ireland where you had the majority on your side. It is the fruit of our [the Irish Parliamentary Party’s] life work … now you are washing out our whole life’s work in a sea of blood …’—John Dillon, Irish Parliamentary Party MP for East Mayo, in a speech condemning the executions of the 1916 insurgents to a hostile House of Commons.

12/1916
James Connolly (47) and Seán MacDiarmada (33) executed.
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith arrived in Ireland (until 18th).

16/1916
Britain and France concluded the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement that was to divide the Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War into French and British ‘spheres of influence’.

16/1926
The Fianna Fáil Party was founded by Éamon de Valera.

23/2011
US President Barack Obama made a one-day visit to Ireland during which he visited his ancestral village of Moneygall, Co. Offaly, and addressed a rapturous 50,000-strong crowd in Dublin’s College Green.

31/1916
The two-day Battle of Jutland, the first and only meeting between the German High Seas Fleet and the British Grand Fleet, began.

June

11/1979

Above: John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952).

Above: John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952).

John Wayne, Hollywood actor (72), died. The son of Clyde Robert Morrison (1884–1937), a drunken drugstore proprietor, he weighed in at an amazing 13lbs at birth. Born Marion Mitchell Morrison, Wayne made over 160 films, notably in collaboration with Irish-American director Seán Aloysius O’Feeney, a.k.a. John Ford, and Dublin-born Maureen O’Hara. Wayne himself could trace his ancestry back to a weaver from Randalstown, Co. Antrim. Suspected of involvement in the ’98 Rebellion, Robert Morrison escaped to America as a stowaway and settled in Ohio sometime in 1801. There he joined the American army and had a distinguished military career, reaching the rank of general. Later, in civilian life, he became a judge. While Wayne’s great-great-grandfather might not have been impressed by his draft-dodging during the Second World War and his behaviour during the McCarthy era, he may well have contributed to his descendant’s not-inconsiderable intellectual abilities. Marion Morrison was a very bright student who was set for a legal career before drifting into the world of film. Considerably more cultured than his screen image, his favourite recreation was chess, which he played at almost championship level. He was a connoisseur of western art and a lover of literature, particularly Dickens and Tolkien, and could quote Shakespeare and Milton at his leisure. He always saw himself as a journeyman actor, a man who played a character called John Wayne. As he famously put it, ‘That guy you see on the screen isn’t really me … I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him.’

02/1866
After a three-day incursion into Canada, during which they flew a flag emblazoned with ‘IRA’ and the gold harp of Ireland, a Fenian army under Colonel John O’Neill were arrested by US forces whilst retreating across the Niagara River.

02/1966
Éamon de Valera (83) became president of Ireland for a second term.

05/1916
Kerry-born Horatio Herbert Kitchener, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, secretary of state for war, lost his life, along with over 600 others, when HMS Hampshire struck a German mine and sank west of the Orkney Islands, Scotland.

07/1996
Detective-Garda Jerry McCabe was shot dead in Adare, Co. Limerick, during the attempted robbery of a post office van by the IRA.

12/1916
The Ulster Unionist Council agreed to accept Lloyd George’s offer of the permanent exclusion of six north-eastern counties from Home Rule.

15/1996
A 3,500lb. IRA bomb, the largest in Britain since the Second World War, devastated the centre of Manchester; 200 people were injured and damage was estimated at over £300m.

18/1936
Taoiseach Éamon de Valera declared the IRA to be an illegal organisation.

22/1866
Paul Cullen, archbishop of Dublin, became Ireland’s first cardinal.

23/1916
Nationalist delegates at a convention in Belfast were persuaded by the Irish Parliamentary Party’s leadership to accept, by 475 votes to 265, ‘temporary partition’ as a wartime measure.

26/1966
Peter Ward (18), a Catholic barman, was shot dead by the UVF in Malvern Street, off Belfast’s Shankill Road. Three members of the UVF, including Augustus ‘Gusty’ Spence, were later convicted of his murder.

26/1986
A referendum on making divorce available in the Irish Republic was defeated, with a vote of 63% against and 36% for, in a 62% turnout.

26/1996
Veronica Guerin (35), investigative journalist with the Sunday Independent, was shot dead in Dublin.

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