September 03

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1969 Ho Chi Minh (79), founding Vietnamese leader affectionately known as ‘Uncle Ho’, died.
  • 1998 Bill Clinton arrived on the second of his three visits to Ireland as president of the United States.
  • 1972 Mary Peters of Belfast took the gold medal in the women’s pentathlon at the Olympic Games in Munich with a world record of 4,801 points.
  • 1939 On the first night of World War II the liner Athenia was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the north-west coast of County Donegal, with the loss of 112 lives. Twenty-eight of the dead were American citizens, which led to German fears that the incident would bring the US into the war.
  • 1843 Percy Jocelyn, disgraced bishop of Clogher (1820–2), died. Thanks to his family connections—his father was the first earl of Rodin—Jocelyn rose rapidly in the Church of Ireland despite a total disinterest in pastoral responsibilities such as taking services and preaching. His fellow clerics described him as the ‘most idle of all reverend idlers’. His first major public scandal occurred in 1811, when one James Byrne, a coachman, accused him of propositioning him for sexual favours. In response he successfully sued Byrne for malicious libel on the grounds that homosexuality had not yet reached the shores of Ireland from the ‘godless’ Continent and was praised from the bench for his ‘virtue, piety and devotion’. Byrne was stripped, tied to a cart, dragged through the streets of Dublin and thrown in prison for two years. Then in the summer of 1822, when rumour had it that he was selling off the furnishings of Clogher Palace, he made national headlines when discovered with his trousers down in the company of a young grenadier guardsman in the back parlour of a London public house, an incident that spawned a host of bawdy ballads, cartoons and limericks. Charged with a misdemeanour—sodomy was a capital offence but no sexual act had actually been engaged in prior to his arrest—he was released on bail and fled to France, and was deposed as bishop later that year. James Byrne was vindicated and a sum of £300 was raised for him by public subscription. The former bishop ended his days in Scotland, working as a butler under an assumed name.

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