ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2019), News, Volume 27

SEPTEMBER

08/1806

Patrick Cotter (46), giant, died. Born in Kinsale, Co. Cork, Cotter was just eighteen when he began exhibiting himself in England as Patrick Cotter O’Brien, ‘a lineal descendant of the old puissant King Brien Boreau’. It was recorded that Cotter ‘had less imbecility of mind than the generality of overgrown persons’ but also had ‘all the weakness of body by which they are characterized. He walked with difficulty, and felt considerable pain when rising up or sitting down.’ He also feared that his remains would be taken by grave-robbers and sold to anatomists. Retiring after some five years on the road, he directed that his casket be encased with lead and interred in a grave secured with iron bars. Thus they remained undisturbed for over a century before being reinterred in a crypt at the Jesuit chapel in Trenchard Street, Bristol, where they still rest. It was established then that he was 8ft. 1in. tall at the time of his death, the first of only seventeen people in medical history to stand at a verified height of 8ft or more.

 
 
03/1969

Ho Chi Minh (79), founding Vietnamese leader affectionately known as ‘Uncle Ho’, died.

12/1969

The Cameron Commission report placed the blame for clashes between loyalists and supporters of NICRA and People’s Democracy over the previous year on the discriminatory policies of the Stormont regime and the RUC.

13/1819

James Hack Tuke, Quaker, best remembered for his philanthropic work in Ireland during the Great Famine, born in York.

13/1919

Detective John Hoey, who identified Seán MacDiarmada for the military in 1916, was shot dead outside police HQ in Brunswick Street, Dublin.

14/1769

Alexander von Humboldt, naturalist and explorer, in his day the most famous man in the world after Napoleon, born in Berlin.

14/1989

The University of Limerick was inaugurated, the first university opened since the foundation of the state.

22/1989

Ten military bandsmen were killed and a further 22 injured when an IRA bomb exploded in the barracks of the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, Kent.

23/1869

Mary Mallon, also known as ‘Typhoid Mary’, who is believed to have infected over 50 people (three of whom died) over the course of her career as a cook in New York, born in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone.

29/1979

‘On my knees, I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace … Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish’—Pope John Paul II in an address at Killineer, Drogheda, Co. Louth.

OCTOBER

04/1936

The Battle of Cable Street, East London. A march led by Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), standing in an open-topped Rolls Royce and with some 5,000 black-shirted supporters, was halted by barricades and prolonged volleys of bricks and bottles from over 100,000 protestors. Though remembered by the left in Britain as an almost mythical moment—‘the moment London’s working class united en masse to reject fascism’s hateful ideology once and for all’—the protestors were in fact mainly Jews, trade unionists and communists. Though they were joined by Irish dock workers, there were also some Irish in the ranks of the BUF. Mosley, of course, was accompanied by his deputy, the notorious mob orator William Joyce, afterwards better known as the Nazi propagandist Lord Haw-Haw. Standing at the barricades that day was Harry Levitas, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who, some twenty years earlier, had fled the virulent anti-Semitism of Tsarist Russia and settled off the South Circular Road in the Portobello area of Dublin, then known colloquially as ‘Little Jerusalem’, before being forced by poverty and by being blacklisted for his union activity to move with his family first to Glasgow and then to London’s East End. Along with him was his son Max, born in Dublin, who was then a tailor, a trade union activist, shop steward and ardent communist. Max Levitas remained a dedicated communist and anti-racist activist for the rest of his long life. Serving on Stepney Borough Council (1945–71), he was a frequent visitor to Dublin and regularly attended Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies. He died at the grand age of 103 just a year ago, proud of the congratulatory card that he received from President Michael D. Higgins on his 100th birthday.

01/1949

Mao Tse Tung proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic of China after his Red Army defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops.

02/1869

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, born in Forbandor, Gujarat.

04/1969

Cathal O’Shannon, journalist, politician and trade unionist who served as one of the workers’ representatives in the Labour Court for 23 years, died.

10/1969

The Hunt report on policing in Northern Ireland recommended that the RUC be disarmed and the ‘B’ Specials disbanded and replaced by a new part-time force—later named the Ulster Defence Regiment.

11/1939

Austin Currie, Nationalist Party Stormont MP (1964–72), prominent member of NICRA, co-founder of the SDLP (1970) and TD (1989–2002), born in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.

11/1969

During clashes between the RUC and a c. 3,000-strong loyalist mob protesting against the Hunt report on the Shankill Road, Belfast, Constable Victor Arbuckle (29) was shot dead by the UVF. He was the first RUC officer to die in the Troubles.

12/1969

Louise Gavan Duffy (85), revolutionary who served in the GPO during the 1916 Rising and pioneering educationist who co-founded Scoil Bhríde (1917), the first Irish-language school for girls in Dublin, died.

15/1919

A government proclamation outlawed Sinn Féin, the IRA, etc. Sinn Féin still held its Ard-Fheis, from midnight to 3am.

23/1969

Samuel Beckett was declared the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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