ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2017), News, Volume 25

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

SEPTEMBER

21/1832

Above: Sir Walter Scott, 1771–1832. Novelist and poet, by Sir William Allan. (Scottish National Gallery)

Sir Walter Scott (61), historical novelist, playwright, poet and antiquary, died from cholera. When Scott made his first and only visit to Ireland, a month-long stay in the summer of 1825, he was an internationally acclaimed poet and author of a hugely popular series of novels with a Scottish historical setting, which began with Waverley (1814). Though published anonymously—he didn’t acknowledge his authorship until 1827—it was an open secret that he was the author. He stayed in Dublin for a fortnight. The Dublin Penny Journal reported that he ‘lingered long’ before the Swift monument in St Patrick’s Cathedral, visited the recently widowed spouse of his long-time correspondent, the author Revd Charles Maturin, and ‘endeavoured to mitigate her sorrows by an act of munificent generosity’, delighted Mr Milliken, bookseller in Grafton Street, by purchasing £60 worth of books on history and antiquities, and dined with the lord lieutenant in Malahide Castle. Everywhere he went, reported the Journal, he was greeted with ‘unequivocal demonstrations of public estimation and favour’. Thereafter he spent an entire day in Glendalough, where, despite his lameness—the consequence of childhood polio—he made the ascent to St Kevin’s Bed. He went on to the Lakes of Killarney in the company of novelist Maria Edgeworth, before returning to the capital via Cork, where he was accorded the freedom of the city, and Cashel. He was not over-impressed with Killarney, the Journal reporting that it ‘failed to draw forth those expressions of enthusiastic pleasure excited by the antiquities of Glendalough and Cashel’. Finally, before his departure from Howth, he held a large dinner party for his friends to celebrate his 54th birthday.

01/1967
Siegfried Sassoon (80), novelist, biographer and one of the leading poets of the First World War, died.

06/1987
Stephen Roche, who became the first Irish rider to win the Tour de France in July that year, became the first Irish rider to win the World Professional Road Race Championship, in Villich, Austria.

12/1867
The Irish Constabulary was granted the prefix ‘Royal’—Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC)—in recognition of its role in suppressing the Fenian Rising in March of that year.

14/1967
Rupert Guinness, 2nd earl of Iveagh (93), brewer and philanthropist who presented his Dublin residence, Iveagh House (80 St Stephen’s Green, now the Department of Foreign Affairs), to the government in 1939, died.

16/1977
Maria Callas (53), internationally acclaimed Greek-American soprano, whom shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis left in favour of Jacqueline Kennedy, died of a heart attack in Paris.

18/1867
Col. Thomas J. Kelly (Head Centre of the IRB) and Capt. Timothy Deasy were rescued by Fenians from a prison van in Manchester. Police Sergeant Charles Brett was killed by the bullet that broke the lock on the door of the van.

18/1967
Sir John Cockcroft (70), British physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atom with Irishman Ernest Walton (1903–95), died.

19/1977
Minister for Health and Social Welfare Charles J. Haughey announced a new social welfare system, based on a simple pay-related contribution—Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).

23/1937
Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, disaster. Ten ‘tattie-hokers’ (potato-pickers) from Achill Island, Co. Mayo, were burned to death when their bothy (farm building) caught fire as they slept.

25/1917
Thomas Ashe (32) died in Mountjoy Prison after being forcibly fed whilst on hunger strike.

27/1917
Edgar Degas (83), French painter regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, over half of whose works depict dancers, died.

OCTOBER

21/1805

Above: The death of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Ship’s surgeon William Beatty, from Limavady, Co. Derry, couldn’t save him. (Getty Images)

The Royal Navy, under Admiral Horatio Nelson, heavily defeated a combined Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, off the south-west coast of Spain. On board Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory that day were 94 Irishmen, both officers and men. Ship’s surgeon William Beatty, from Limavady, Co. Derry, had a busy day below deck. He amputated nine arms and two legs—without anaesthetic, of course—and treated over 140 wounded men. But he couldn’t save Nelson, felled by a sniper’s bullet from the mizzen top of the French vessel Redoutable. He was at Nelson’s side when the great man expired, with considerable panache, some three hours later. Captain Henry Blackwood, from Clandeboye, Co. Down, a favourite of the admiral, was in command of HMS Euryalus. On board Victory earlier that day to receive final instructions, he was called upon to witness Nelson’s late addition to his will recognising his illegitimate daughter Horatia and asking the state to provide for his mistress, Lady Hamilton. Beatty and Blackwood were to die in their beds many years later, but not so Captain Charles Adair from Donegore, Antrim town. A great admirer of Nelson—he named his daughter Anne Nelson Adair—he commanded the Royal Marines on board Victory and was killed early in battle. It is not known what happened to his body. At best he was sewn into a hammock with cannon-balls at his feet and buried at sea, or simply thrown overboard. Still, his widow was given a generous pension of £60 per annum, twice the norm for widows of marine captains. There was no such largesse for Lady Hamilton. The second part of Nelson’s codicil was, of course, officially ignored.

04/1917
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).

04/1957
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.

05/1977
Seamus Costello (38), leader of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), was shot dead in Dublin, the first Irish party leader to be assassinated.

08/1967
Clement Attlee (84), Labour prime minister of the United Kingdom (1945–51) and leader of the Labour Party (1935–55), the longest-ever serving leader of that party, died.

09/1967
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (39), Argentine Marxist revolutionary, was captured and summarily executed by CIA-backed Bolivian forces.

10/1957
Fire broke out at the Windscale (now Sellafield) facility in Cumbria, the worst nuclear accident in British history.

14/1817
John Philpot Curran (67), lawyer and nationalist, whose daughter, Sarah, was engaged to Robert Emmet, died.

14/1917
Nathaniel Hone (86), artist, best remembered for his landscapes and seascapes, died.

15/1917
Margaretha MacLeod (41), Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan, better known by the stage name Mata Hari, was executed by firing squad in France after being convicted of spying for Germany.

20/1917
W.B. Yeats, poet and dramatist (52), married Georgie Hyde-Lees (25).

28/1868
Margaret Noble, ‘Sister Nivedita’, social worker, teacher and writer in India and advocate of Indian Home Rule, born in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.

31/1517
Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar and university teacher, affixed 95 theses attacking various practices in the Catholic Church to the door of the main church in Wittenberg, a town between Berlin and Leipzig.

31/1867
William Parsons (67), 3rd earl of Rosse, astronomer, landlord and politician, died.

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