ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2017), News, Volume 25

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

JULY

16/1923

Above: The Graduate (1967) was drastically cut, including the crucial seduction scene between the Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman characters.

The Censorship of Films Act—‘to protect the citizens of the State from any films considered to be indecent, obscene, or blasphemous … or subversive of public morality’—was passed by Dáil Éireann after a lively debate. Typical of the contributions was that of William Magennis TD, who told the House that the cinema was a place where ‘the loose views and the vile lowering of values that belong to other races’ were being forced upon us. The first censor, James Montgomery, famously stated that he knew nothing about films but knew the Ten Commandments and took them as his code. Over his seventeen years in office he banned over 1,500 films and cut many more. Of the British film Father O’Flynn (1935) he commented: ‘Reel one might be called stage Irish but the girl dancing on the village green shows more leg than I’ve seen on any village green in Ireland. Better amputate them.’ Until the Film Appeals Board (FAB) was set up in the 1960s, Ireland had one of the strictest regimes of film censorship in the world. No distinction was made between films for adults and children; all citizens were treated as children. Thus many of the great classics, including Gone with the Wind (1939), Brief Encounter (1945), Psycho (1960) and The Graduate (1967), were drastically cut, the latter with an X-certificate and eleven cuts, including the crucial seduction scene between the Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman characters. Technological developments have long since overtaken the idea of film censorship. In 2008 the post of film censor was reclassified as ‘Director of Film Classification’.

01/1867
Thomas Francis Meagher (44), Young Irelander, soldier and latterly acting governor of Montana Territory, mysteriously disappeared from a steamer on the Mississippi.

The British North America Act established Canada as a federal dominion.

06/1917
The Battle of Aquaba resulted in the capture of the Red Sea port from the Turks by rebels advised by T.E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’).

09/1917
The battleship HMS Vanguard, anchored in Scapa Flow, sank after a series of internal magazine explosions. Of the 845 men on board only two survived.

10/1917
Éamon de Valera (Sinn Féin) defeated Patrick Lynch KC in the East Clare by-election.

11/1767
John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States (1825–9), born in Massachusetts, the son of John Adams, the second president (1797–1801).

16/1967
A passage and burial chamber were discovered beneath the tumulus at Knowth, Co. Meath, by a team of archaeologists led by Dr George Eogan.

17/1917
With anti-German sentiment reaching fever pitch in Britain, George V issued a proclamation changing the royal surname from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the more patriotic-sounding ‘Windsor’.

18/1817
Jane Austen (41), English novelist, author notably of Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), died.

19/1997
The IRA announced a restoration of its cease-fire, with a complete cessation of military operations.

25/1917
The Irish Convention, an attempt to secure a final settlement to the Home Rule question, met at Trinity College, Dublin, under the chairmanship of Sir Horace Plunkett.

31/1917
The Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres), for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres, began (until 10 November).

Francis Ledwidge (29), labourer and poet, was killed by a stray German shell while building a road in Boezinge, Flanders.

31/2007
‘Operation Banner’, the British Army’s 38-year role in support of the RUC in Northern Ireland, ended. During that period 763 of its personnel had lost their lives.

 

AUGUST

11/1858

Above: The west flank of the Eiger (in sunshine), first climbed by Irishman Charles Barrington in 1858. The infamous North Face is to the left, in the shade.

Charles Barrington from Bray, Co. Wicklow, led the first team to climb the Eiger. The craze for mountaineering in the Alps was pioneered by eccentric Englishmen. Young men of means on the Grand Tour or perhaps on their honeymoon would hire local guides and set off to ‘bag’ an unclaimed mountain—and, having reached the top, would open a bottle of champagne and toast the health of Queen Victoria. Then in 1857 the Alpine Club, the world’s first organised group of mountaineers, was founded. Its initial 281 members included 57 barristers, 34 clergymen, nineteen landed peers and fifteen dons. The first president was Dubliner John Ball, Liberal MP for Carlow. Barrington, then 24 years of age, was not a member and made just one visit to the Alps. Finding himself in the Swiss village of Grindlewald, it appears that he wagered on bagging an unclaimed mountain and chose the nearby Eiger (3,970m). With no previous mountaineering experience, he set out on the west face at 3am with two local guides and was on the summit by noon. Thereafter he returned to Ireland and never climbed seriously again: the nearest he ever came was to organise the first hill-running race up and down the Sugarloaf Mountain, after which he presented a gold watch, at his own expense, to the winner. Indeed, his main claim to fame was as owner, trainer and jockey of ‘Sir Robert Peel’, winner of the inaugural Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April 1870. Thanks to Mountaineering Ireland and others, his achievement in the Alps has been suitably marked in recent years with memorials in Grindlewald and in Bray.

04/1927
John Dillon (75), land agitator and Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) MP (1880–1918) who made a famous speech in the House of Commons in defence of the leaders of the 1916 Rising (11 May 1916), died.

10/1917
Alderman W.T. Cosgrave (Sinn Féin) defeated John Magennis (IPP) in the Kilkenny City by-election.

12/1867
The Public Records (Ireland) Act established the Public Records Office at the Four Courts and regulated the State Paper Office in Dublin Castle.

15/1917
Jack Lynch, outstanding Gaelic footballer and hurler, leader of Fianna Fáil (1966–79) and twice taoiseach (1966–73, 1977–9), born in Shandon, Cork City.

16/1917
The Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, part of the Battle of Passchendaele. In a disastrous attack on the German strongpoint the mostly nationalist 16th (Irish) Division and the unionist 36th (Ulster) Division suffered c. 4,000 casualties.

16/1977
Elvis Presley (42), rock-and-roll singer, actor and descendant of eighteenth-century immigrant William Presley from Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow, died in Memphis, Tennessee.

17/1987
Rudolph Hess (93), German Deputy Führer (1933–41), committed suicide in Spandau Prison, West Berlin.

19/1917
Edward O’Dwyer, bishop of Limerick since 1886, best remembered for his public rebuke of General Maxwell (May 1916), died.

20/1967
Derrynane Abbey, Co. Kerry, home of Daniel O’Connell, opened as a museum.

22/1997
Brendan Smyth (70), notorious priest, died in the Curragh Prison one month into a twelve-year prison sentence for child sexual abuse.

25/1997
The McCracken Tribunal reported that former taoiseach Charles J. Haughey had received £1.3m from supermarket co-owner Ben Dunne and that his evidence, under oath, was either ‘unacceptable’ or ‘unbelievable’ on eleven different points.

31/1767
Henry Joy McCracken, United Irishman, born in High Street, Belfast.

31/1997
Diana, Princess of Wales (36), was killed in a road traffic accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. Her funeral, a week later, attracted a worldwide television audience of over one billion.

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