ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2018), News, Volume 26

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

 

MAY

10/1863

Above: Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (39), Confederate general in the American Civil War (1860–5), died from wounds inflicted by his own troops when they mistakenly shot him during a reconnaissance mission near Chancellorsville eight days previously. Formerly a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson earned his sobriquet for his dogged stand against a fierce Union assault at Bull Run in July 1861. Regarded as one of the most gifted tactical commanders in US history, he subsequently outmanoeuvred his Union counterparts in the Shenandoah campaign (1862), saved Robert E. Lee from disaster at the Battle of Antietam (9/1862) and further embellished his reputation for gallantry at Fredericksburg (12/1862). Promoters of the virtues of eighteenth-century emigrants to America, mainly Ulster Presbyterians (whom they classify as ‘Ulster Scots’), hold ‘Stonewall’ in high esteem. Yet his Coleraine, Co. Derry-born great-grandfather had little to show in that department when he landed in Maryland in 1747. John Jackson disembarked from a penal ship, having been convicted in the Old Bailey for the theft of £170 and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. On board he struck up a relationship with a Londoner by the name of Elizabeth who had been convicted in an unrelated case for stealing ‘19 pieces of silver, jewelry and fine lace’. An interesting couple, they subsequently married and mended their ways. In matters of religion, ‘Stonewall’ was a classic Ulster Scot. An ardent Presbyterian, he regarded the war as a crusade against the Philistines of the Union and invariably referred to ‘Providence’ in his dispatches. Theology, apparently, was the only subject that he genuinely enjoyed discussing. A dull fellow indeed!

03/1968
The ‘May ’68’ civil unrest in France began with a series of student protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and conservative values.

05/1818
Karl Marx, German philosopher, author notably of the pamphlet The Communist Manifesto (1848) and the three-volume Das Capital (1867), born in Trier, south-west Germany.

09/1918
Sir John French was sworn in as lord lieutenant and supreme commander of the British Army in Ireland.

10/1318
The Battle of Dysert O’Dea, Corofin, Co. Clare. The defeat of Richard de Clare by the combined forces of Murtagh O’Brien and Conor O’Dea ended Anglo-Norman dominance in Thomond (north Munster).

15/1948
The British mandate in Palestine expired. The state of Israel came into being.

17–18/1918
In an effort to discredit the leaders of the anti-conscription campaign in the eyes of the American authorities, 73 prominent Sinn Féiners, including Arthur Griffith, Constance Markievicz and William T. Cosgrave, were arrested in a fictitious ‘German plot’.

23/1618
The Defenestration of Prague marked the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in human history and Europe’s deadliest religious war.

18/1928
Standish James O’Grady (81), historian and novelist, widely regarded as ‘the father of the Irish literary revival’, died.

19/1868
Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, son of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803), brewer and writer who restored St Patrick’s Cathedral (1860), died.

22/1998
Referendum on the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. In Northern Ireland 71% voted in favour, in the Republic 94%.

24/1818
John Henry Foley, the leading sculptor of his day, notably of the O’Connell monument (1864–82) in O’Connell Street, born in 6 Montgomery Street, Dublin.

26/1868
Michael Barrett (27) from County Fermanagh was hanged in Newgate prison, having been convicted on dubious evidence for complicity in the Clerkenwell explosion (13/12/1867). He was the last man to be publicly hanged in Britain.

26/1968
Desmond O’Malley (Fianna Fáil) was elected to Dáil Éireann after winning the East Limerick by-election following the death of his uncle, Donagh O’Malley.

 

JUNE

13/1798

Above: Miniature of Betsy Gray. (C.J. Robb)

The Battle of Ballynahinch, Co. Down, where the legendary Betsy Gray, mounted on a white horse and carrying a green flag, rallied the rebels. Betsy came to an inglorious end. In the pursuit by Crown cavalry of the fleeing rebels, she, her brother George and her lover Willie Boal were overtaken by the notorious Hillsborough Yeomanry in Ballycreen, some two miles from the town, and summarily executed, the beautiful Betsy in particularly cruel fashion. First they severed her gloved hand with a sabre and then shot her in the eye. In subsequent years she was much revered in local memory and featured prominently in poems, ballads and prints. Then, in 1886, her tragic story reached a wider audience with the publication of the hugely popular novel Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down by the journalist and entertainer W.G. Lyttle. In 1896, thanks to the generosity of an American who claimed to be her grand-nephew, a granite stone with railings was erected at her burial place in Ballycreen, but it would not stand for long. While the locals, by then solidly unionist, initially raised no objection, they subsequently became alarmed by the increasing popularity of the monument as a place of pilgrimage for nationalists, and were outraged when plans were announced for a ceremony there as part of the national celebrations marking the centenary of the 1798 Rebellion. On the eve of the ceremony they smashed the monument to pieces with sledgehammers. They meant no disrespect to Betsy’s memory, they declared, but would not tolerate an event there organised by ‘Catholics and other Home Rulers’.

01/1968
Helen Keller (87), deaf-blind American political activist and writer, died.

03/1918
Lord Lieutenant French called for ‘50,000 Irish recruits before October to replenish the Irish Divisions in the field, and to subsequently raise 2,000 to 3,000 recruits per month to maintain those divisions’.

05/1868
James Connolly, socialist and revolutionary, born in Cowgate, Edinburgh, to Irish immigrant parents.

05/1988
Robert Dudley Edwards, professor of modern Irish history at UCD (1945–79) and writer, notably of Church and state in Tudor Ireland (1935), died.

05/1968
Robert Kennedy (42), leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency, was mortally wounded by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. He died the following day.

15/1988
Six British soldiers were killed by an IRA bomb after taking part in a ‘fun run’ in Lisburn, Co. Antrim.

18/1928
Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen (55) and his crew of five disappeared while flying on a rescue mission in the Arctic.

20/1918
Arthur Griffith (Sinn Féin) defeated J.F. O’Hanlon (IPP)—by 3,795 votes to 2,581—in the Cavan East by-election.

20/1968
Austin Currie, Nationalist MP for East Tyrone in Stormont, occupied a house in Caledon, Co. Tyrone, in protest at discrimination by unionists in allocating council houses. The house had been allocated to a nineteen-year-old single woman with unionist connections over 269 other applicants on the waiting list.

22/1968
Captain Patrick J. Saul (74), aviator who navigated the Southern Cross when it made a historic east–west transatlantic flight from Portmarnock to Harbour Grace, Newfoundland (1930), died.

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