ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2022), News, Volume 30

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

JANUARY

20/1894

Above: In 1866, after an initial failure, Robert Halpin successfully laid a telegraph cable from Valentia Island (depicted here) to Newfoundland. (Illustrated London News, 28 July 1866)

Robert Halpin (57), master mariner, died. Going to sea at the age of ten, Halpin served his apprenticeship on a coal boat, and afterwards joined a barque sailing in the North Atlantic, reaching the rank of third mate by the age of seventeen. After nine years under sail, he transferred to steam and got his first command during the American Civil War, captaining the first of several ships in the perilous business of dodging the Union blockade to bring supplies to the Confederates and returning with cotton for Europe. Finally, he won international acclaim for his work in laying sea telegraph cables, which earned him the moniker ‘Mr Cable’. He was appointed first officer of Brunel’s Great Eastern, then the world’s largest steamship, but the first attempt to lay a transatlantic cable, over a distance of 2,600 miles from Valentia to Newfoundland, failed when the cable snapped in mid-Atlantic. The second, however, was successful and was completed in 1866. Then, thanks to Halpin’s exceptional navigational skills, the exact spot where the first cable had disappeared was located; the cable was retrieved and attached to a new cable in the hold to form a second transatlantic cable. Thereafter, in command of various ships, Halpin laid over 26,000 miles of cables, a distance equivalent to the circumference of the world, linking four continents, including France to Newfoundland, Australia to Indonesia and Bombay to Suez (1869). No crew member ever suffered serious injury under his command. Having made a considerable fortune, he retired to his native Wickow, married and built himself an elaborately decorated mansion on 400 acres overlooking the sea. His premature passing was caused by gangrene, occasioned by cutting himself while trimming his toenails.

05/1922

Sir Ernest Shackleton (47), explorer, died suddenly in South Georgia as he prepared to lead a fourth expedition to the Antarctic.

07/1922

Dáil Éireann approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty (64–57).

10/1922

Arthur Griffith was elected president of Dáil Éireann.

11/1972

Pádraic Colum (90), poet, novelist, dramatist and leading figure of the Irish Literary Revival, died in Enfield, Connecticut.

14/1922

At a meeting of members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, attended by 60 pro-Treaty TDs and four Unionist MPs (Dublin University) but boycotted by anti-Treaty MPs, resolutions were passed approving the Treaty and setting up a Provisional Government under the chairmanship of Michael Collins.

15/1872

John King (33), Tyrone-born soldier and the only survivor of the four men of the Burke and Wills expedition (1860–1), the first to cross Australia from south to north, died of tuberculosis.

16/1822

Thomas Clarke Luby, revolutionary, author, journalist and founding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (1858), born in Dublin, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman.

16/1922

Michael Collins, as chairman of the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland, formally accepted the transfer of power from the British authorities at Dublin Castle.

26/1942

Six weeks after the US entered the Second World War, the first US soldiers came ashore at Belfast’s Dufferin Quay. By May 1942 some 37,000 US servicemen were stationed in Northern Ireland.

 

FEBRUARY

06/1840

Above: Dubliner Frederick Edward Maning—sat as a judge in New Zealand’s Native Land Court, where his considerable knowledge of the Maori language, customs, traditions and prejudices served him well.

The Treaty of Waitangi proclaimed British sovereignty over New Zealand. Designed to safeguard the interests of the Empire and to appease sections of the native Maori population who sought Crown protection, the treaty was negotiated by the recently appointed lieutenant-governor, Captain William Hobson from Waterford. It was considerably flawed, however, not least because of differences in wording between the English and Maori versions. In any case, the pressures of the post broke Hobson’s health, sending him to an early grave two years later. Prominent amongst opponents of the treaty on the Maori side at the time was Dubliner F.E. Maning. A big man with considerable outback skills and a colourful personality, he had been adopted by the Maori as a ‘Pakeha Maori’—a European turned native—and had purchased a 200-acre farm and taken a Maori wife. Though he argued that the Maori would never willingly accept European domination, his opposition mellowed with time. When tensions over disputed land purchases eventually led to the New Zealand Wars (1845–72), he gave his support to the chief Hone Heke, one of the principal antagonists opposing the government, while at the same time using his influence with the Maori to intercede on behalf of settlers. By the end of the war he was firmly on the government side and sat as a judge in the Native Land Court, where his considerable knowledge of the Maori language, customs, traditions and prejudices served him well. His A history of the war in the north of New Zealand against the chief Heke (1862) and Old New Zealand (1863), partly a lament for the lost freedom enjoyed before European rule, are regarded as classics of New Zealand literature.

01/1982

Corporal punishment was banned in schools in the Republic of Ireland.

02/1922

Ulysses by James Joyce was published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on the writer’s 40th birthday.

03/1922

John Butler Yeats (83), painter and father of W.B. Yeats and Jack B. Yeats, died.

04/1992

President Mary Robinson became the first Irish president to visit Belfast.

05/1992

Five Catholics were killed when UFF gunmen attacked a betting shop on the Ormeau Road, Belfast. Seven others were wounded.

07/1992

The Maastricht Treaty, the foundation treaty of the European Union (EU), was signed by the then twelve member states of the European Communities. It was ratified by referendum in the Republic of Ireland in June by 69.1% to 30.9%.

11/1922

At Clones railway station, Co. Monaghan, the IRA attacked a group of Ulster Special Constables travelling from Newtownards to Enniskillen. Four Specials and an IRA commander were shot dead. News of the incident sparked off fresh sectarian violence in Belfast, including the killing of six Catholic children in a loyalist bomb attack in Weaver Street.

11/1992

Albert Reynolds was elected leader of Fianna Fáil.

21/1922

Enlistment began into the police service of the Provisional Government, initially known as the Civic Guard. The first member was Patrick Joseph Kerrigan from County Mayo.

21/1972

President Richard Nixon arrived in China on a week-long visit, the first US president to set foot on Chinese soil.

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