On this Day

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2016), News, Volume 24




Above: Albert, the last of three Pierrepoint hangmen. (PA)

Above: Albert, the last of three Pierrepoint hangmen. (PA)

Albert Pierrepoint (87), hangman, died.During much of the last century Pierrepoint was a household name on these islands. In fact, there were three Pierrepoints. First there was Henry Pierrepoint, who dispatched over 100 souls between 1901 and 1910 before being sacked for drunkenness. Then came his brother, Tom, followed by Albert, Henry’s son, who assisted his uncle from 1932 and succeeded him in 1946. Tom Pierrepoint did the business for the Irish Free State—on a fee-per-hanging basis—26 times from the 1920s to the 1940s.His expenses claim, written in spidery black ink, for the rare double execution of Annie Walsh (31)—the only woman ever hanged by the Irish state—and her nephew Michael Talbot (24) for the murder of Annie’s husband, Edward Walsh (61), in August 1925, recently came up for auction.Waiving his standard fee of £10 per hanging, he charged not £20 but, in a ‘buy one, get the second half-price’ fashion, a mere £15. As for travel expenses from his home in Bradford, pre-War English class rules were strictly observed.Tom travelled first class ‘by rail and saloon’, while his assistant was holed up in third class.And there were no fancy hotel bills. Both men stayed overnight in Mountjoy Jail and claimed ‘10 shillings’ apiece for ‘refreshments’ of the non-alcoholic variety. All of which, no doubt, would have come as a relief to the cash-strapped Department of Finance. Over a 24-year career Albert dispatched well over 400 men and women, including the last four hangings carried out in the state, the last being that of Limerickman Michael Manning (25) in 1954.

The Battle of the Somme began. Inthe bloodiest single day in the history of the British Army, 19,240 British soldiers were killed, including c.2,000 Irishmen.

George W.(Walker) Bush, 43rd president of the United States (2001–9), born, eldest son of Barbara and George H.W. (Herbert Walker) Bush, 41st president (1989–93).

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, theatre manager and playwright, notably ofThe rivals (1775) and The school for scandal (1777), died.

Sir Edward Heath, British Conservative prime minister (1970–4) whose government imposed direct rule on Northern Ireland in March 1972, born.

The Battle of Aughrim, the most decisive battle of the Jacobite wars in Ireland, was won by the forces of William III under General Godert de Ginkel.


The Spanish Civil War began with an attemptedcoup d’état by General Franco’s colonial army of Africa.

Corporal Patrick ‘Bob’ Gallagher (22) from Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, serving with the US Marines in Vietnam, saved the lives of three companions during a Viet Cong attack, for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour.

The Battle of Fromelles, in which a British and Australian offensive was crushed by the Germans. Over 2,000 Australians were killed or injured, making it the worst day in that country’s military history.

Hugh O’Neill,earl of Tyrone, died in exile in Rome.

The King David Hotel in Jerusalem, British administrative headquarters for Palestine, was bombed by the militant Zionist group Irgun; 91 people of various nationalities were killed.

Mary Anne McCracken, revolutionary, philanthropist and sister of Henry Joy McCracken (1767–98), died.

Egyptian leader Gamel Nasser announced the immediate nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

The SS Great Eastern completed the laying of a transatlantic telegraph cable between Valentia Island, Co. Kerry, and Heart’s Content, Newfoundland.

England won the World Cup, beating West Germany 4–2 in Wembley.



Above: One of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s $20 gold coins, featuring Donegal woman Mary Cunningham as Liberty.

Above: One of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s $20 gold coins, featuring Donegal woman Mary Cunningham as Liberty.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (59), the dominant figure in nineteenth-century American public art, died.Whilst Chicago-born Lady Hazel Lavery (1880–1935) adorned Irish banknotes from 1928 until the 1970s,it is less well known that a Donegal woman made her début on US currency over two decades earlier. In 1904 the recently re-elected Theodore Roosevelt decided to redesign the existing $10 and $20 gold pieces and gave the job to Saint-Gaudens. The artist, however, seeking inspiration from the coinage of ancient Greece, soon hit a problem: he couldn’t visualise the face he required—that is, the story goes, until he stepped out to lunch one day to an inn near his studio in Cornish, New Hampshire.As the waitress approached him, he realised at once that he had found his model, none other than Mary Cunningham (24) from Carrick, Co. Donegal, who had emigrated to the US with six of her brothers and one sister. Her face, with its straight classical nose and strong chin, was precisely what he required for his ‘Miss Liberty’, which appeared on the back of the coins.Although there were some loud objections to the fact that the model for Liberty was Irish, little attention was drawn to the fact that Saint-Gaudens himself was Irish. His coins are regarded today as amongst the most exquisite of all American coinage.Saint-Gaudens is better known on this side of the pond for his Parnell monument on O’Connell Street, Dublin, unveiled in October 1911, four years after his death.

The 11th Olympic Games were officially opened in Berlin by Führer Adolf Hitler. There was no Irish team present,owing to a dispute over whether all-Ireland sporting bodies had jurisdiction over Northern Ireland.

Sir Roger Casement (51), humanitarian and militant nationalist, was hanged in Pentonville prison.

Peter Robinson MP, latterly first minister for Northern Ireland, was arrested in Clontibret, Co. Monaghan, after invading the village at the head of a 500-strong loyalist mob in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The Chinese Communist Party central committee endorsed Chairman Mao Zedong’s ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, which was to claim the lives of between 1.5m and 2m people.

In West Belfast, three children were killed and their mother seriously injured when a car, driven by an IRA man who was shot dead by a British soldier, careered into them. The incident led to theformation of the Peace People movement.

H.G. Wells (79), English writer known as the father of science-fiction, died.

Lady Nairne, Scottish songwriter and song-collector and one-time resident of Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, born in Perthshire.

The MorrisTribunal report, on a range of allegations against the Garda Síochána in County Donegal (1993–9), was published. It was to bring about the biggest overhaul in policing in the history of the Irish state.

Federico Garcia Lorca (38), Spanish poet and playwright, was executed by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States (1993–2001), born in Hope, Arkansas.

The remains of William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw Haw’, Nazi propagandist executed for treason in 1946, were reinterred in Galway’s Bohermore cemetery.

Hurricane Charley, one of the century’s worst storms, caused extensive damage, particularly in the east of the country.


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