Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2022), News, Volume 30



Above: The SS Great Britain as depicted on one of her many voyages to Australia

The luxury liner SS Great Britain, en route on her fifth voyage from Liverpool to New York, ran aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay, Co. Down, when her captain mistook the new St John’s lighthouse for the Calf light on the Isle of Man. Designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched in 1843 to serve the burgeoning transatlantic passenger trade, she was the first liner to be made entirely of iron and powered by a propeller. Stuck in the sands, her 180 passengers, which included a girls’ choir en route to a concert tour in the USA, along with her 130-strong crew, were safely evacuated to shore with local help.

It would be eleven months before a successful salvage operation was mounted to rescue her. Under Brunel’s personal supervision she was stripped of what remained of her engines and everything else of any weight and her hulk towed back to Liverpool. And so began her best years. Sold in order to defray the cost of her salvage, she was refurbished with an extra deck and in 1852 made her first voyage to Melbourne with 630 emigrants after which, over almost a thirty-year period, she conveyed thousands from these islands to those shores.

In recent years, a team from the University of Bristol and the SS Great Britain Trust has identified the exact spot on Tyrella beach where she floundered—close to Ballykinler, where Ireland’s first mass internment camp would be constructed some 75 years later. Today, an upmarket restaurant in nearby Newcastle bears her forty cigars-a-day designer’s name and the old anchor displayed at South Promenade in the town is believed to have come from her.

Malachy the Great (Máel-Sechnaill), High King of Ireland since c. 980, died on Lough Ennell, Co. Westmeath.

Ettie Steinberg (28), who was born in Dublin to Czechoslovakian parents was murdered in Auschwitz along with her husband and young son. She was one of just a few Irish Jews to perish in the Holocaust.

At the Munich Olympics, two members of the Israeli team were killed, and nine others taken hostage by Palestinian Black September gunmen. In a failed rescue attempt, all of the hostages were killed along with five of their eight captors.

Ferdinand Magellan’s ship, the Vittoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, arrived back in Spain, minus Magellan who was killed in the Philippines the previous year, having completed the first circumnavigation of the world.

The Third Dáil Éireann assembled. W.T. Cosgrave was elected President. Anti-Treaty deputies implemented a policy of abstentionism.

William Scawen Blunt (82), English poet, diplomat and anti-imperialist who was imprisoned for two months during the Plan of Campaign (1886-’91) for chairing a banned anti-eviction meeting in County Galway, died.

The Local Government Act (NI) abolished PR, introduced by Westminster three years earlier as a ‘minority safeguard’, for local elections and required a declaration of allegiance from persons elected to or working for local authorities.

President Mary Robinson, approaching the end of her one term in office, resigned to take up the role of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Four Irregulars, including Brian MacNeill, son of Eoin MacNeill, were trapped by Free State forces on Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo, and summarily executed.

NIHE Limerick was officially opened by Taoiseach Jack Lynch.

General Eoin O’Duffy was appointed Garda Commissioner amid government concerns over indiscipline in the newly formed force.


Above: George Blake at the time of escape in 1966, assisted by Limerickman Seán Bourke

George Blake, MI6 spy and double agent for the Soviet Union, escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison. His escape, in the fifth year of an unprecedented 42-year sentence, was famously masterminded by Limerickman Seán Bourke who befriended the spy whilst serving a sentence there himself for sending an explosive devise through the post to a police officer. Communicating with Bourke via a walkie-talkie he had managed to smuggle in, Blake, at the appointed time made his way to the perimeter wall, over which he climbed with a rope ladder provided by Bourke. From there he was smuggled to Berlin by two anti-nuclear campaigners where he met his handlers who brought him to Moscow, where Bourke joined him soon afterwards. Blake passed the rest of his life as a guest of the Soviets meeting occasionally with his compatriots Donald Maclean and Kim Philby and passed away in his dacha just two years ago. Bourke’s passing however, remains somewhat of a mystery. Returning to Ireland a few years later, minus his manuscript about the escape which the Soviets retained, he rewrote his account and had a best-seller with The Springing of George Blake (1970). Thereafter his alcohol abuse led to health problems and penury but by January 1982, living in a caravan in Kilkee, Co. Clare, he had sobered up and was writing a book on his life in Moscow and his conversations with Blake. He died suddenly that month and there was no trace of the manuscript or papers relating to it. Some years later an experienced KGB officer who had defected to the United States claimed in his memoirs that he had been poisoned on the orders of the KGB foreign intelligence division.

HMS Curacoa was accidentally rammed by the Queen Mary c. 40 miles north of Tory Island with the loss of 331 of her crew of 430. She had been escorting the ocean liner, which was carrying 10,000 American troops to join the Allied forces in Europe.

Sinn Féin’s Kevin Street, Dublin, HQ was closed down by gardaí under the Offences Against the State Act.

A Cumann na nGaedheal meeting in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, was attacked by hundreds of republicans who were beaten back by members of the Army Comrades’ Association (Blueshirts).

The Catholic hierarchy issued a joint pastoral condemning Republican resistance to the Free State: ‘A republic without popular recognition behind it is a contradiction in terms’.

‘If I saw Mr Haughey buried at midnight at a cross-roads, with a stake driven through his heart—politically speaking—I should continue to wear a clove of garlic round my neck, just in case’—Conor Cruise O’Brien in the Observer.

Outdoor relief riots. At least three men were killed, and dozens injured during clashes between unemployed Protestant and Catholic workers and the RUC in various parts of Belfast.

Army Emergency Powers came into effect, empowering military courts to impose the death penalty. The first executions of Republicans were carried out the following month.

Prime Minister Lloyd George, in office since late 1916, resigned. Succeeded by Andrew Bonar-Law who was in office for less than seven months.

Igor Sikorsky, Russian-born engineer who developed the first successful helicopter (1939), died in Connecticut, USA.

Savita Halappananavar (31), who was miscarrying her seventeen-week pregnancy, died from septicemia in University College Hospital, Galway, having been refused an abortion due to a foetal heartbeat.

Following the March on Rome, fascist leader Benito Mussolini (39) was appointed prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel III.


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