ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2019), News, Volume 27

BY AODHÁN CREALEY

JANUARY

01/1892

Above: Annie Moore, from Cobh, Co. Cork—the first person processed by the Ellis Island immigrant inspection station when it opened in 1892. (mediadrumworld.com)

Ellis Island, the US government’s busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years, officially opened. One can only speculate as to how Annie Moore (17) from Cobh, Co. Cork, came to be the first person processed. Newly arrived with her two brothers as steerage passengers on board the SS Nevada  (her parents were already settled in New York), she was probably singled out by the authorities from amongst the jostling new arrivals because she was an English-speaking northern European who would present a more acceptable immigrant face for the assembled press corps. And so she was registered with much pomp and presented with a $10 gold piece by the island’s superintendent. It seemed, until recently, that Annie fared very well in the New World. It was believed that she migrated to Indiana and then to Texas, where she married a descendent of Daniel O’Connell and died in 1923 after being knocked down by a streetcar. It now seems, however, that there were two Annie Moores. According to recent genealogical evidence, the Texan Annie Moore—whose descendants regularly attended commemorations on Ellis Island and here in Ireland—was not an immigrant at all. She was born in Illinois. Our Annie had a much more mundane existence. Married to a German baker’s clerk, by whom she had eleven children, it seems that she spent her entire life in the Irish slums of Manhattan. Nevertheless, like her Texan namesake, her passing was somewhat out of the ordinary. Just 50 years of age, she was so obese at the time of her death that firemen had to remove her body through an upstairs window.

01/1919
HMS Iolaire, bringing sailors who had fought in the First World War to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, sank in the Minch strait. Over 200 of the 280 on board perished.

04/1969
A People’s Democracy civil rights march from Belfast to Derry was violently attacked by loyalists and local members of the B Special Constabulary at Burntollet Bridge, near Claudy, Co. Derry, as an RUC force of c. 80 officers looked on. Dozens were injured.

06/1919
Theodore Roosevelt (60), 26th US president (1901–9), whose face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, died.

08/1979
An explosion on Whiddy Island, Bantry Bay, Co. Cork, killed 50 and destroyed the French tanker Betelgeuse.

08/1989
A Boeing 737, en route from Heathrow to Belfast, crashed on the M1 at Kegworth, near East Midlands Airport; 47 lost their lives.

16/1969
A Czech student, Jan Palach (20), burned himself to death in Wenceslas Square, Prague, in protest against the continuing presence of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops in Czechoslovakia.

18/1919
The Paris Peace Conference, better known as the Versailles Peace Conference, at which the victorious Allied Powers set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers, began.

18/1979
Leo Varadkar, TD for Dublin West since 2007 and taoiseach since June 2017, born in Dublin.

19/1919
Sinn Féin members returned in the general election of December 1918 convened in the Mansion House to establish Dáil Éireann, the first parliament in Dublin since 1800. A Declaration of Independence and a ‘Message to the Free World’ were issued and a Constitution adopted.

19/1919
A local IRA unit led by Séamus Robinson, Dan Breen and Seán Treacy ambushed and killed RIC Constables MacDonnell and O’Connell at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary, marking the beginning of the Anglo-Irish War.

FEBRUARY

25/1915

Above: The Wicklow granite memorial to les onze Anglais d’Iron (six of whom were in fact Irish), sponsored by the Munster Fusiliers Association, unveiled in their honour in Iron in 2011. (Irish Times)

Eleven British army soldiers and a French mill-owner were executed by the Germans at the fort of Guise in Aisne, northern France. The soldiers were amongst the many who ‘disappeared’ after becoming detached from their regiments during the British Expeditionary Force’s ‘long march’ southwards, with the Germans in close pursuit, after the Battle of Mons in August 1914. Help came from a patriotic Frenchman. They were discovered in an emaciated state in woods near the village of Iron by a local mill-owner, who, with the support of fellow villagers, sheltered them in his own home for four months. In the meantime, the local German commander warned that Allied soldiers hiding behind enemy lines should surrender and become prisoners of war. If otherwise captured, they, and any civilians who assisted them, would be shot as spies. The soldiers were betrayed by one of the villagers, a Franco-Prussian war veteran. Jealous of the mill-owner’s son, who had won the affections of a local woman whom he had planned to marry, he took his revenge by reporting his rival’s father’s activities to the Germans. Though referred to locally as les onze Anglais d’Iron, ten of the eleven were members of Irish regiments and six were Irish. Ptes Denis Buckley (33) and Daniel Horgan (18) from Cork and Pte John Nash (21) from Kerry were with the Royal Munster Fusiliers. Pte Terence Murphy (29) from Sligo, Pte John Walsh (33) from Offaly and Pte Mathew Wilson (37) from Galway were with the Connaught Rangers. A memorial of Wicklow granite, sponsored by the Munster Fusiliers Association, was unveiled in their honour in Iron in 2011.

01/1969
Charles Bewley, lawyer and diplomat, first Irish minister to the Holy See (1929) and to Berlin (1933–9), from where he was recalled by de Valera, died.

02/1939
Desmond O’Malley, Fianna Fáil TD and government minister in the 1970s and 1980s and first leader of the Progressive Democrats (1985–93), born in Limerick.

02/1969
Boris Karloff (81), stage name of William Henry Pratt, an English actor best known for his roles in horror films (notably playing Frankenstein’s monster), died.

03/1919
Éamon de Valera and two other prisoners escaped from Lincoln prison in a break arranged by Michael Collins and Harry Boland.

11/1929
The Lateran Treaty, recognising Vatican City as an independent state, was signed by the Holy See and the Italian government under Mussolini.

12/2009
Hugh Leonard, pseudonym of John Keyes Byrne, dramatist and writer, notably of Da (1973), died.

15/1989
The Soviet–Afghan War ended after nine years. Over 14,000 Soviet troops lost their lives, along with c. 18,000 of their Afghan allies and c. 90,000 Mujahideen.

16/1919
Mark Sykes (39), diplomat and co-author of the Sykes–Picot Pact, which carved out the post-First World War Ottoman Empire between Britain and France, died in Paris, a victim of the Spanish ’flu pandemic.

20/1979
Eleven members of the UVF ‘Shankill Butchers’ gang were convicted of 112 offences, including nineteen murders, mainly of Catholics, along with attempted murders, kidnappings and bomb explosions.

21/1919
John O’Connor Power, Fenian and MP for County Mayo (1874–80), who was considered a candidate for leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party in succession to Isaac Butt, died.

24/1969
General election in Northern Ireland. Unionists won 36 seats, of which 24 were pro-Terence O’Neill and twelve against. O’Neill himself had a narrow victory over Ian Paisley, standing as a ‘Protestant Unionist’. John Hume defeated Nationalist Party leader Eddie McAteer in the Foyle constituency.

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