September 16

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1982 The New Ireland Group was founded by Senator John Robb.
  • 1977 Maria Callas (53), internationally acclaimed Greek-American soprano, whom shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis left in favour of Jacqueline Kennedy, died of a heart attack in Paris.
  • 1941 Sixteen Irish soldiers were killed in an explosion whilst conducting tests with anti-tank mines in the Glen of Imaal, Co. Wicklow—the worst disaster in the history of the Irish defence forces.
  • 1937 Ten male seasonal potato-gatherers, aged 13–23 years, from Achill Island perished in a fire in Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow. The group had only arrived in the village the previous evening. The females were lodged in a cottage and the ten males in a nearby bothy, which was basically a cowshed, to sleep there on inverted potato boxes covered with straw. When the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning they found that they had no means of escape, as the door was padlocked and the windows netted with wire. By the time the alarm was raised the bothy was engulfed in flames and the roof had collapsed. Their charred remains were found huddled against a wall. Only one, a lad called John McLoughlin, could be identified. Coming less than two years after nineteen ‘tatie-hokers’, as they were called, from Arranmore Island drowned on their way back from Scotland, the tragedy once again highlighted the plight of the c. 5,000 young Irish seasonal workers who led a nomadic existence in Scotland, toiling for wages that the lowest-paid Scottish labourer wouldn’t accept—and in the most wretched conditions. The fire took a terrible toll on individual Achill families. The Mangan family lost three sons. Mary, from the same family, was amongst the females in the group. Two other families lost two sons. The subsequent inquest concluded that the ten died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by overloading with coal of the stove or hot plate in the bothy as they slept. It also recommended that all accommodation for seasonal workers should be inspected and passed as safe and proper by the appropriate local authorities.

    Above: Front page of the Irish Press of Friday 17 September 1937, reporting the tragedy.

  • 1845 Thomas Davis, poet and Young Ireland leader, died, aged 30.
  • 1810 Mexican independence from Spain was declared (National Day of Mexico).

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