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1848 Paul Boyton was born on this day in County Kildare in 1848. He was a world famous adventurer and showman, known as ‘The Fearless Frogman’ for his daring stunts and challenges across water.
His swimming feats were so remarkable that he became a global celebrity and was greeted by thousands of fans when he visited a new town.
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1915 Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa died in New York on this day in 1915. He was an Irish nationalist who had been exiled from his home country by the British authorities. Rossa was born Jeremiah O’Donovan in County Cork in 1831. His name Rossa was a reference to the town of his birth Rosscarbery. It was the name he was known by most.
Phoenix National and Literary Society
Rossa grew up in the midst of the ‘Great Famine’ of the 1800s. He saw the British government export the corn that had been grown on Irish land, and the people starving to death as their potato crops repeatedly failed. Rossa founded the Phoenix National and Literary Society, which had the aim of liberating Ireland with military action. The society soon merged with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
In 1958, Rossa was arrested on suspicion of planning an uprising in Ireland. He was put in prison for more than six months without facing trial. He reacted by throwing the contents of his chamber pot at the prison chief, an act that saw him spend 35 straight days in shackles.
In the 1869 bi-elections, Rossa stood for the seat of MP for Tipperary and was voted in by the public. He wasn’t allowed to take his seat though as an imprisoned man, and the vote was annulled.
Fenian Amnesty of 1870
He was released from prison as part of the Fenian Amnesty of 1870, on the condition that he would not return to Ireland. He was put on a boat to America and settled in new York. He continued to do what he could for the Irish cause and began writing the United Irishman newspaper. The proceeds were sent to Ireland to contribute to the IRB’s fund for arms.
Rossa arranged the bombings of several English cities in the 1880s by Irish Republicans. This made him a hero to many of the Irish people, but a wanted man in Britain. The government tried to have him extradited back to Britain to face trial for murder, but were unsuccessful.
Body returned to Ireland for state funeral
Rossa died in New York in 1915, at the age of 83. His body was returned to Ireland at the insistence of the Irish nationalists and a state funeral was held.
This was just a year before Irish nationalists tried to take control of Dublin in the Easter Rising. Pádraig Pearse, the man who read the Proclamation of Independence at the General Post Office just a year later, read a moving eulogy at Rossa’s funeral.
Extract of Pearse’s eulogy for Rossa
“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
Click here to read about more key figures from Irish history
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1916 Sir Roger Casement was sentenced to death for taking part in the Easter Rising. He was the son of a British army officer but a committed Irish nationalist.
The Wolfe Tones with Banna Strand
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1924 Joss Lynam was born in London on this day in 1925. Both his parents were from Connemara and the family would regularly return for holidays. It was there, that Lynam fell in love with mountaineering and hill-walking. He grew up to become one of the most influential figures in outdoor sports in Ireland. Lynam spent most of his adult life climbing mountains and leading expeditions all around the world.
He was part of a team that climbed to the top of Mount Changtse in 1987, one of the neighbouring peaks of Mount Everest. This climb was key to the first ever Irish ascent of the world’s highest mountain which was completed by a team led by Dawson Stelfox six years later. The experience and knowledge acquired by Lynam was a major contributor to the successful climb completed by Stelfox.
Lynam founded and worked with numerous outdoor sports and extreme adventurer organisations in Ireland throughout his life, including Mountaineering Ireland, Outdoor Education Ireland and the Association for Adventure Sports.
Lynam died in January 2011. Mountaineering Ireland have since paid tribute to him with the Joss Lynam Lecture and the Joss Lynam medal both now regular features in their calendar.
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1938 Joan Brosnan Walsh was born in County Wicklow on this day in 1938. She was a familiar face to the Irish public, after playing Mags Kelly in the long-running TV drama Fair City for more than 20 years. Walsh was one of Ireland’s best-loved actresses. She starred opposite Daniel Day Lewis in The Boxer, which tells the story of a released IRA prisoner struggling to leave his past behind and ‘go straight’.
Walsh contracted motor neurone disease in late 2007 and saw her health decline. She said that the biggest pain it caused her was the loss of her singing voice. Walsh appeared on The Late Late Show in January 2009, with her husband Willie Walsh. She openly discussed her condition with the nation watching, and tried to raise awareness about the disease. The studio audience gave her a standing ovation after her interview.
A month after her interview on The Late Late Show, Walsh launched Rare Diseases Week in Ireland, to help educate the public about lesser known conditions, and to make them aware of the hardship that comes with them. Walsh died in December 2009.
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1986 Happy birthday to David Toner, born in Dublin on this day in 1986. He is a professional rugby player who made his debut for the Irish national team in 2010. He was part of the Leinster team that won the Heineken Cup in 2011 and 2012, playing alongside Irish sporting legend Brian O’Driscoll.
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2000 On this day in 2000, the Irish Health Board launched a campaign to make it illegal to smoke in public places. Initially, it was though that such an extreme change would be near impossible to enforce, but to the surprise of many, restaurant and bar owner across the country threw their weight behind the campaign and the ban became lawful in 2004.