Cathal Brugha – Irish revolutionary and politician

Cathal Brugha was an Irish nationalist and a  key figure in the Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. He also held positions in the Irish parliament, and was the first Chairman of Dáil Éireann. He took the anti-treaty side in the Irish Civil War and bled to death on 7 July in 1922 after being shot in the leg by the Irish Free State Army. Continue reading “Cathal Brugha – Irish revolutionary and politician”

Arthur Vicars and the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels

Arthur Vicars was an English heraldic expert who has gone down in history as the man who had the Irish Crown jewels stolen from under his nose. He was cleared of any involvement in the theft but he never recovered his reputation. He was shot dead during the Irish War of Independence by the IRA who alleged that he was an informer. Continue reading “Arthur Vicars and the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels”

The Wexford Martyrs – rebels against the English Crown

The Wexford Martyrs  were a small group of Catholic rebels who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, which declared Elizabeth I of England to be the head of the Church. They were found guilty of treason for aiding the escape of James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, who had supported the Desmond Rebellion against the British. They were hanged, drawn and quartered in 1581, and were beatified by Pope John Paul II more than 400 years later. Continue reading “The Wexford Martyrs – rebels against the English Crown”

Frederick Maning – Irish founding father of New Zealand

Frederick Edward Maning was born in Ireland but rose to prominence as one of the early settlers in New Zealand. He won the trust of the native Maori people and helped them negotiate with the British, who were colonising the country in the mid-19th century.

He published two books,  Old New Zealand and History of the War in the North of New Zealand against the Chief Heke, which have become part of the country’s classic literature. Continue reading “Frederick Maning – Irish founding father of New Zealand”

Thomas Barnardo – Irish founder of Barnardo’s charity

Thomas John Barnardo was an Irish doctor who set up the world famous Barnardo’s charity providing help and care for homeless children across the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. He began the charity in 1866 and it has since grown into a multi-million pound project providing more than 900 services for vulnerable young people in Britain. Continue reading “Thomas Barnardo – Irish founder of Barnardo’s charity”

Oliver Plunkett – executed after a plot and later named a saint

Oliver Plunkett was  Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland in the years after Oliver Cromwell had ravaged the country and the public practice of the Catholic  faith was outlawed. He was executed in 1681 due to the ‘Popish Plot’ that had nothing to do with him.

His execution has gone down as one of the most tragic miscarriages of justice in Irish and British history. He was a deeply religious man and was canonised a saint in 1975, making him the first Irish saint for nearly 700 years. Continue reading “Oliver Plunkett – executed after a plot and later named a saint”

Thomas Meagher – Young Irelander in the American Civil War

Thomas Meagher was a leading Irish nationalist who took part in the 1848 Young Irelander Rebellion and brought the tricolour flag of greeen, white and orange to Ireland from France. He was sentenced to penal servitude for his part in the rebellion but escaped to the United States where he became a prominent figure in Irish American politics. He fought in the American Civil War and went on to become the Governor of Montana Territory. Continue reading “Thomas Meagher – Young Irelander in the American Civil War”

Paul Boyton – Fearless Frogman from Co Kildare

Paul Boyton was a world famous adventurer and showman, known as ‘The Fearless Frogman’. He specialised in daring stunts and challenges across water  and set up the United States Life-Saving Service, a forerunner of today’s Coastguards. He also developed a water sports park that became the forerunner of the Luna Park centres.

Boyton was born on 29 June in Co  Kildare in 1848. He moved to America after spending much of his teen years serving in the US, French and Mexican navies. He came across a rubber suit, similar to today’s wetsuits while in Atlantic City. It was to change his life.

Captain-Paul-Boyton-Fearless Frogman Image Ireland Calling

Paul Boyton rubber flotation suitThe suit was designed as a flotation device as it could be inflated to allow the wearer to float to the surface. Boyton was extremely impressed, and realised its potential as a piece of life-saving  equipment.

Global celebrity
He toured the world showcasing the suit and its potential to save lives. Boyton was a shrewd commercial operator. He began swimming across many of the world’s major waterways, using only his suit for buoyancy.

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.

Captain Boyton – so relxed – smoking a cigar!

Some of his extravagant swimming feats included crossing the English Channel in 24 hours, travelling 430 miles along the River Rhine, and floating down the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois to St Louis.

Tragic death of his friend Odlum
Robert Emmet Odlum jumps from Brooklyn BridgeBoyton was involved in the tragic death of his friend and fellow swimmer Robert Emmet Odlum. Odlum had decided he would jump from Brooklyn Bridge into the water below, to prove to people that falling from a great height would not kill you if done correctly. His motive was to save lives of people unwilling to jump from burning buildings into nets below, through fear of dying as they fell.

Odlum also hoped the stunt would make him a celebrity and offer him and his mother some financial security. The jump took place on 19 May 1885, but ended in tragedy. Odlum’s body was slightly turned by a strong wind as he fell.

Instead of hitting the water with his feet and his body in a vertical line, Odlum landed on his side which caused him terrible injuries. Boyton swam out to bring his friend to safety, but he died from severe internal bleeding after rupturing several major organs.

Odlum’s mother blamed Boyton for her son’s death, accusing him of being the one who persuaded him to do the stunt. Boyton denied this and sent her a letter disclaiming responsibility, which was also published in the New York Times.

Mrs Odlum claimed Boyton had destroyed letters he had sent to her son, convincing him to go ahead with the dangerous jump. Boyton denied this and had a lawyer and a judge warned Mrs Boyton that she had to stop her public accusations or face a slander charge.

Paul Boyton’s Water Chutes
Boyton continued his career as a celebrity and entertainer. He opened a water circus and toured the country.

Next, he opened an amusement park, called Paul Boyton’s Water Chutes. It was the first park of its kind and the first to charge an admission fee. A sea lion park soon followed, with the animals and trainers performing shows.

Boyton sold his sea lion park in 1902, and it was re-branded as the first of what would be the successful franchise of Luna Parks. Boyton was also forced to close his Water Chutes Park after major amusement parks were beginning to steal his customers, and he lacked the finances to compete.

Paul Boyton’s Water Chute


Paul Boyton died on 19 April, 1924. His legacy was to have inspired public interest in swimming and water sports. He is remembered in the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and was one of the first people to see the potential of water activities as a source of entertainment.

James Daley – Connaught Rangers mutiny against British Army

Irish soldiers were a key part of the British Army for hundreds of years up to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. They helped Britain win numerous battles, most famously perhaps, the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Their bravery and loyalty were unquestioned and Britain had no hesitation in recruiting in Ireland when help was needed. That loyalty became strained, however, in 1920 at the height of the Irish War of Independence, which saw British troops fighting against Irish nationalists trying to end British rule. Continue reading “James Daley – Connaught Rangers mutiny against British Army”

President Kennedy’s speech to the Irish government in 1963

President Kennedy visited Ireland in June 1963 to see the home of his ancestors in Co Wexford. He was proud of his Irish heritage and received a warm and enthusiastic welcome as he toured the country meeting a range of people including relatives, leading Irish policitians, businessmen and thousands of well-wishers.

On June 28 he gave a speech to the Irish government at Leinster House, Dublin. It was the President’s second day of his four-day trip. This is an extract from the speech he made: Continue reading “President Kennedy’s speech to the Irish government in 1963”