June 17


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1845 Emily Lawless was born in County Kildare on this day in 1845. She was a writer and a poet, and drew from her own life for much of her work. Her grandfather had was a member of the United Irishmen and had converted from Catholic to Church of Ireland.Emily Lawless- writer and -poet

Her father was a member of the peerage of Ireland – they were noblemen given their titles and power by the British. Lawless’ brother was a Protestant landowner who disliked Catholics to such an extent that he wouldn’t even hire any to work as staff in his home.

With this background as her inspiration, Lawless wrote several novels and poems about the various sides of life in Ireland, the most famous being the collection of poems named Wild Geese. Lawless’ original papers can be seen at the Marshall’s Library in Dublin.

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Walter Osborne Irish painter1859 Walter Osborne, the impressionist painter, was born in Dublin on this day in 1859. He studied art in Antwerp and then Paris, and won the Taylor prize in both 1881 and 1882, a prestigious award for Irish students.

Osborne gained employment at the Royal Hibernian Academy where he worked as a tutor, and a portraitist. He became the guardian of his niece when his sister died, and his parents also relied on him to support them, so Osborne had pressure on him to keep demand for his work high.

He managed to support his family through sales of his work, and also acquired a studio in St Stephen’s Green. Osborne began to paint more and more landscapes and rural scenes, often featuring women and children.

Unfortunately, Osborne contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 44. Much of his work is now on display at various art galleries around Ireland.

Walter Osbourne. In a Dublin park light and shade

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1899 Denis O’Brien was born on this day in 1899. He fought in the Easter Rising in 1916 as a group of Irish nationalists attempted to take control of Dublin and free Ireland from British rule. Several of the leaders were executed but O’Brien was spared the death penalty because of his young age.

He joined the IRA and fought in the Irish War of Independence right up until the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty ion 1921. O’Brien was against the treaty and fought for Éamon de Valera in the Irish Civil War, as the pro-treaty and anti-treaty sections of the IRA began to fight each other.

When de Valera became President of the Executive Council of the new Irish Free State, he called for IRA veterans to join the Gardaí. Many pro-treaty members of the Irish police had been dismissed and de Valera wanted his former anti-treaty comrades to replace them.

O’Brien answered the call and joined the Gardaí. He worked as a detective during the Second World War, tasked with finding foreign spies, and any IRA members with links to Nazi Germany. De Valera wanted to maintain Ireland’s neutral position in the conflict and saw the IRA links with the Nazis as a threat to that position.

The relationship between the IRA and the Irish Free State was a hostile one. The IRA saw the Irish government as little more than an extension of the British. Given that the Irish government were now in power in Ireland, the IRA saw them as the main enemy. Any former IRA members now working for the Irish Free State government were considered traitors.

On the morning of 9th September 1942, three men on bicycles executed Dennis O’Brien as he got into his car out front of his house.

All three men opened fire on the unarmed O’Brien with sub machine guns, before fleeing the scene. The murder was witnessed by O’Brien’s wife, Anne.

Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan described the event and the effect it in Ireland:
“The shooting greatly increased public feeling against the IRA, particularly as the murder was carried out almost in full view of his wife. As she held her dying husband, she watched his assailants cycling past.”

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1903 On this day in 1903, a Dublin Zoo employee was battered and trampled to death by an elephant named Sita. The animal was receiving medical treatment for an injured foot, but the pain caused it to panic and turn on its helpless keeper. Sita was put down in the following days.

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1974 Happy birthday to Brian Dunphy, born in Dublin on this day in 1974. He has been a member of the Irish folk band, The High Kings since 2008, and has toured around Ireland, the UK and America.

Previously, Dunphy was the lead singer of Riverdance – the Show, which was performed in various theatres across America, including Broadway, New York. Dunphy has also toured with the opera singing act, the Irish Tenors.

High Kings

Interested in discovering more about your Irish roots? This free online genealogy course with Strathclyde University shows you how to trace your family tree and also covers the use of DNA testing in genealogical research.

Click here to read more about the High Kings
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Caitriona Jennings. Photo Copyright Miho CC31980 Happy birthday to Caitriona Jennings, born in Dublin on this day in 1980. She is an athlete who competed in the women’s marathon for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics. Jennings was formerly a triathlete, and only turned to long distance running a year before the games. She ran her first ever competitive marathon in 2011.

In London, Jennings set off in the marathon alongside fellow Irish competitors Linda Byrne and Ava Hutchinson, the first time Ireland had three representatives in an Olympic women’s marathon.

Unfortunately, during the race Jennings became injured with a stress fracture and plantar fasciitis. A stress fracture is the result of repeated strain on a single bone as opposed to one heavy impact. Plantar fasciitis is also the result of repeated strain, this time on the heel and sole of the foot. These injuries left Jennings suffering from a painful swelling and inflammation of her heel and sole of her foot.

Despite her injuries, Jennings was determined to complete the race. She could no longer be competitive but completed the course rather than drop out and leave the race. She finished with a time of 3 hours 22 minutes and 11 seconds.

Interested in discovering more about your Irish roots? This free online genealogy course with Strathclyde University shows you how to trace your family tree and also covers the use of DNA testing in genealogical research.

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More on Irish history

Did you know?

Brian Boru is known as the last High King of Ireland and is even credited with seeing off the Vikings who had terrorised the Irish for over 200 years. Find out more.

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