ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2021), News, Volume 29

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

SEPTEMBER

30/1930

Above: F.E. Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, who died on 30 September 1930.

F.E. Smith (58), 1st Earl of Birkenhead, politician, died. Elected Conservative MP for Liverpool—then the stronghold of Orangeism in Britain—in 1906, Birkenhead first appeared in the nationalist narrative during the Home Rule crisis (1912), when he served as Edward Carson’s aide-de-camp, a role which earned him the moniker ‘Galloper Smith’. Four years later he compounded his notoriety by prosecuting the Crown’s case against Sir Roger Casement but absolved himself to some degree during the Treaty negotiations. There he struck up a solid rapport with Michael Collins, each man respecting the other’s patriotism and plain speaking, concluding with a much-quoted exchange on signing the document—Birkenhead telling Collins that he had just signed his ‘political death warrant’, the latter replying that he had signed his ‘actual death warrant’. From a British prospective, ‘FE’—he was always known by his initials—was considered one of the most brilliant intellects of his day. After Oxford, where in his own words he picked up most of ‘the glittering prizes’, he embarked on a lucrative legal career before bringing his charisma and oratorial skills to bear in politics, making the most famous maiden speech in the House of Commons. In 1918, at the age of 46, he became the youngest lord chancellor in 300 years. Thereafter, however, it was all downhill. Already castigated for his extravagant lifestyle and lifelong friendship with Winston Churchill, there were increasing reports about his heavy drinking, and though he remained in politics until 1928, serving in Stanley Baldwin’s government, and continued to publish legal and historical works, he was considered by then as a character from a bygone age. He succumbed to the ravages of alcohol two years later.

03/1821

Having spent ten days on a State visit to Ireland—the first peacetime visit by an English monarch since Richard II in the fourteenth century—George IV departed from Dunleary, renamed Kingstown in his honour.

06/1971

Annette McGavigan (14) was shot dead, apparently by a British soldier, during an exchange of fire between troops and the IRA in Derry’s Bogside. She was the 100th victim of Northern Ireland’s violence since 1969.

11/1971

Nikita Khrushchev (77), Soviet leader (1953–64) who provoked the Cuban Missile Crisis, died.

12/1951

Bartholomew Patrick ‘Bertie’ Ahern, leader of Fianna Fáil (1994–2008), who led three coalition governments, born in Drumcondra, Dublin.

14/1921

Dáil Éireann sanctioned the appointment of five republican delegates to meet British representatives in London.

14/1971

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was founded by Revd Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal, a former member of the Stormont parliament who had been expelled from the Ulster Unionist Party.

16/1941

Sixteen soldiers were killed in an explosion while conducting tests with anti-tank mines in the Glen of Imaal, Co. Wicklow—the worst disaster in the annals of the Irish Defence Forces.

19/1971

Aontacht Éireann (Unity of Ireland), political party, was founded by Kevin Boland and Seán Sherwin after they left Fianna Fáil in protest at the government’s policies on Northern Ireland.

19/1971

Most internees were transferred to Long Kesh, latterly the Maze Prison, near Lisburn, Co. Antrim.

27/1981

Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald announced a ‘constitutional crusade’ to remove ‘sectarian elements’ in the law and constitution of the Republic.

28/2001

Martin O’Hagan (51), an investigative journalist with the Sunday World who specialised in exposing paramilitary drug-dealing gangs, was shot dead by the Loyalist Volunteer Force in Lurgan, Co. Armagh.

29/1971

Two men were killed and 27 injured in an unclaimed IRA bomb attack on the crowded Four Step Inn on Belfast’s Shankill Road.

 

 

OCTOBER

26/1859

Above: A contemporary depiction of the wreck of the Royal Charter on 26 October 1859.

The Royal Charter, a steamship that also carried sail, en route from Melbourne to Liverpool, was wrecked in a violent storm off the northern coast of Anglesey. On board were 450 passengers and crew, including many miners returning from the diggings in Australia with large amounts of gold about their persons, and a consignment of gold as cargo. The ‘Royal Charter storm’, so called because she was the biggest casualty, smashed sea-walls and harbours along the Welsh seaboard in winds reaching hurricane force 12 and sank some 200 ships with the loss of 800 lives. At 11pm the previous evening, with winds at speeds beyond the range of the Beaufort scale, the Royal Charter managed to anchor off the Anglesey coast. A few hours later, however, with her passengers in high spirits and preparing to disembark, her chains snapped and she was driven by a rising tide onto a rocky ledge and pounded to pieces. There were just 40 survivors, amongst whom there were no women and children. Apart from the miners, who were weighed down by their gold, few were drowned but rather were killed by being dashed against the rocks. And, for once, the Irish were lucky: most of those who had boarded her two months earlier had disembarked at Cobh, her last port of call before sailing to her doom. The subsequent tribunal of inquiry brought good news for seafarers. Admiral Robert Fitzroy of the British Navy was commissioned to organise a system of ‘storm warnings’ to be sent to threatened coastal areas over the newly invented electric telegraph. One year later the first gale warning service was established, and in 1867 the first shipping forecast.

01/1971

Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act (1960) was invoked to prevent RTÉ from reporting on the activities of illegal organisations.

02/1871

Sir Thomas Deane (79), builder and architect, notably of the National Library and National Museum in Kildare Street, Dublin, died.

03/1971

Seán Ó Riada (40), musician and composer, notably of the music for George Morrison’s documentary Mise Éire (1956) with his haunting adaptation of the traditional aisling Róisín Dubh, died.

03/1981

After the deaths of ten republicans on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of the Maze Prison, and further intervention by relatives, the IRA called off the hunger strike. Sixty-one lives, including those of 30 members of the security forces, were lost during the campaign.

05/1771

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, arrived in Ireland on a six-week visit.

07/1921

The Anglo-Irish conference (Treaty talks) opened in London.

08/1871

The Great Fire of Chicago broke out, reputedly in Mrs O’Leary’s barn, when a cow upset a lantern. Over three days c. 300 lives were lost and over 100,000 residents left homeless.

12/1981

Oisín Kelly (66), sculptor, notably of ‘The Children of Lir’ in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance and the monument to James Larkin in O’Connell Street, Dublin, died.

15/1171

King Henry II landed in Waterford with 4,000 troops in a mission to underscore his authority and add Ireland to his extensive Anglo-French empire.

17/1971

The Sunday Times alleged that brainwashing techniques were used on internees at Hollywood police barracks, Belfast.

23/1921

John Dunlop (81), Scottish-born veterinary surgeon based in Belfast, who invented the pneumatic tyre (1887) in response to his son’s plea to make his solid-tyred bicycle go faster, died.

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