Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2021), News, Volume 29




Above: Patricia Curran (centre) in March 1952.

The body of Patricia Curran (19), daughter of former Unionist MP for Carrickfergus and high court judge Lancelot Curran, was found in the grounds of the family home in Whiteabbey, overlooking Belfast Lough. She had been stabbed 37 times in a frenzied attack. The investigation and prosecution of ‘the judge’s daughter’ case was irregular, to say the least. Firstly, the judge refused to allow the police to search his home and declared that he, and the other members of his family, his wife Doris and son Desmond, would not make statements to the police but only to their own solicitor. The RUC complied with both demands. Then there was the prosecution of Scottish soldier Iain Hay Gordon (20), whom Desmond, a devout Christian, had befriended in an apparent attempt at religious conversion. After a trial where both prosecuting and defence councils were colleagues—and, indeed, golf partners—of the victim’s father and brother, Gordon was found guilty but insane. In a further irregularity—he surely should have been disbarred—Judge Curran in 1961 presided over the trial of Robert McGladdery, who was convicted and hanged for the murder of another nineteen-year-old girl, Pearl Gamble. By that stage Ian Hay Gordon was a free man, having been released after seven years in a mental institution, where he was treated for a ‘personality disorder’, and in December 2000 his conviction was squashed in the court of appeal. Desmond Curran, the last surviving member of the Curran family, passed away in 2015. Not only had he converted to Catholicism but also he had been ordained a priest in 1964, carrying out ministry in a township in South Africa. The case remains unsolved.


Charles Lucas (58), apothecary and MP for Dublin since 1761 and one of the earliest campaigners against abuses in the sale of drugs, died.


On the recommendation of the Patten Report (1999), the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).


British government figures on internment showed that since its introduction (on 9 August) there had been 882 arrests. Of these, 476 had been released, 278 interned, 112 held under detention orders and sixteen held under Section 10 of the Special Powers Act.


Michael D. Higgins (70) was inaugurated as the ninth president of Ireland.


During the Treaty negotiations, Arthur Griffith signed a document for Lloyd George agreeing that Northern Ireland could stay outside a united Ireland if she agreed to a Boundary Commission. Lloyd George would later confront him with this (5 December).


Revd Robert Bradford (40), Ulster Unionist Party MP for South Belfast, was shot dead by IRA gunmen in a community centre in Finaghy, Belfast. An attendant at the centre was also killed.


Tadhg Barry (c. 41), Sinn Féin councillor, branch secretary to the ITGWU in his native Cork and an internee in Ballykinlar Camp, Co. Down, was shot dead by a sentry.


The GAA voted to abolish its controversial Rule 21, which had prevented members of the British Army and the PSNI from playing their games.


The Northern Ireland government assumed control of the RIC and responsibility for law and order under Minister for Home Affairs Dawson Bates.


In Belfast, 27 people were killed after a week of sectarian fighting. By the end of the year the death-toll in the city for the previous twelve months was 109.


The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin opened with a performance of Goldsmith’s She stoops to conquer.



Above: Ryan O’Neill in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975), based on William Makepiece Thackeray’s The luck of Barry Lyndon (1844).

William Makepiece Thackeray (52), journalist and novelist, died. Thackeray is perhaps best remembered for his panoramic social satire Vanity Fair (1848), a novel which made him as famous as Dickens, and for An Irish sketchbook (1843), an account of an extensive four-month tour that he made from July to October the previous year. Well received by his middle-class English readers, the Sketchbook did, however, upset many of his Irish readers for its perceived anti-Catholic bias and unrelenting descriptions of pre-Famine poverty, the latter contrasting with his extensive accounts of the culinary fare in various establishments. Staying in the Shelbourne, for instance, he enjoyed ‘a copious breakfast of broiled Dublin Bay herrings, a buffet lunch and a plentiful dinner at 6p.m.’ and, in Skibbereen, ‘an exuberant dinner of trout and Kerry mutton’. Staying at the King’s Arms in Dundalk, however, he reported that the best food was reserved for ‘His Grace the Most Reverend the Lord Archbishop of Armagh and of Ireland, and his clergy’, noting that, ‘when their reverences were gone, the laity were served; and I have no doubt, from the leg of a duck which I got that the breast and wings must have been very tender’. Thackeray certainly did enjoy his food and, indeed, it was gluttony that precipitated his premature demise. On a brighter note, his first novel, The luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), about the adventures of an eighteenth-century Irishman, was the inspiration for one of the more unusual films of the 1970s. Written, directed and produced by the legendary Stanley Kubrick and partly filmed in Ireland, Barry Lyndon (1975), despite a dreadful performance by Ryan O’Neal in the title role, won four Oscars, including that for Best Cinematography.


The draft of the Articles of Agreement (Treaty), discussed at the London talks during October and November, was presented to the cabinet in Dublin and rejected.


Fifteen people, including the owner’s wife and fourteen-year-old daughter and a number of pensioners, were killed when a UVF bomb exploded at McGurk’s public house in North Queen Street, Belfast.


The Anglo-Irish Treaty—eighteen Articles of Agreement—was signed in London at 2.10am under threat from Lloyd George of ‘terrible and immediate war’.


Columba/Colmcille, Irish abbot and missionary to Scotland, where he founded the monastery of Iona (AD 563), born in Gartan, Co. Donegal.


Eamon de Valera denounced the Anglo-Irish Treaty as being ‘in violent conflict with the wishes of the majority of this nation as expressed in successive elections during the past three years’.


‘Now is your chance. Now or never. “A Nation once again.” Am very ready to meet you at any time’—secret telegram from Churchill to de Valera a day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.


Two men and two children were killed and nineteen others injured, some seriously, in an IRA no-warning bomb attack on a furniture showroom on the Shankill Road, Belfast.


John Barnhill (65), a Unionist senator in the Stormont parliament and businessman, was shot dead by the Official IRA at his home near Strabane, Co. Tyrone.


Dáil Éireann met to debate the Treaty.


General Richard Mulcahy (85), revolutionary and politician, and founder-member of Fine Gael (1933), died.


Jane Francesca Elgee, Lady Wilde, poet and writer, widely known by her pen-name, Speranza, and mother of Oscar Wilde (1856–1900), born in Dublin.


Radio Teilifís Éireann, the national television service, was launched with an address by President Eamon de Valera.


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