May 23


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William Drennan1754 Dr. William Drennan was born in Belfast on this day in 1754. He was a doctor and a poet and was a main instigator in the formation of the Society of United Irishmen. Drennan was a nationalist and objected to the poor conditions the Irish had to suffer, given that they were working on the land for the British landowners.

In his professional career, he is noted for being one of the first doctors to recognise the importance of washing hands regularly to avoid the spread of germs. He also was a strong campaigner of inoculations against diseases from a young age, in particularly smallpox.

However, it was a poem Drennan wrote that has made his mark in Irish history more than any of his other achievements. Drennan is credited with being the first person on record to have referred to Ireland as the Emerald Isle. He used the phrase in his poem, When Erin First Rose. However, Drennan didn’t claim to have made up the name himself, but said he had heard it as a song called Erin, to her own Tune.

Click here to read about more great Irish scientists  
Click here to read any of Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
Click here to read the whole poem – When Erin First Rose


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1922 Maureen Pryor was born on this day in Limerick in 1922. She moved to England with her family and became a star of the West End. She worked with renowned writers and directors including Seán O’Casey and Noël Coward.

Pryor then went on to become a regular on British and Irish television and also featured in several films. In 1963, she played Mrs Griggs in BBC production t Madhouse on Castle Street opposite Bob Dylan in what was his first acting role.

Click here to read about more Irish actors

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1949 Martin Cahill was born in Dublin on this day in 1949. He was a prolific criminal, known as ‘The General’ and carried out several ruthless attacks and robberies during his life. Cahill and his gang stole jewels and diamonds worth more than €2.5m in 1983.

He was featured on a news broadcast in 1988, accused of violent crimes. The presenter also questioned how Cahill was able to live in a luxury home and drive expensive cars when he had never been officially employed.

He was then involved in a failed robbery on a bank, when the Gardaí discovered that a supposed kidnap victim turned out to be one of Cahill’s associates. Cahill was assassinated in 1994 In Dublin when a masked man shot him repeatedly from point blank range.

The provisional IRA issued a statement taking responsibility for the murder, although the motive has never been conclusive. Cahill had links with the Ulster Volunteer Force and sold them stolen goods which they used to fund their fight with the IRA. Another theory is that two members of Cahill’s gang wished to break out on their own with a major drug trafficking deal. Cahill found out about the deal and demanded a cut of the profits. The gang members decided to have Cahill killed rather than let him in on the deal, and paid the IRA for his murder.

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1954 Happy birthday to Gerry Armstrong, born in Co Tyrone in 1954. He was a professional footballer and represented Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup, scoring a famous winner over European giants Spain to send his side through to the next round.

Armstrong now works as a pundit and commentator for Sky Sports on their coverage of the Spanish league, La Liga.

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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1955 Happy birthday to Mary Black, born on this day in Dublin in 1955. She is a talented singer who first rose to fame in the 1980s with the family band De Dannan. She has since forged a successful solo career and has had numerous hit albums over the past three decades.

Click here to read more about Mary Black
Click here to read more about De Dannan
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Mary Black performing A Woman’s Heart

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Luka Bloom. Photo Copyright - Changesone CC31955 Luka Bloom was born on this day in 1955 in Co Kildare. He is a popular musician and the younger brother of Christy Moore.

For the early part of his career, he was known as Barry Moore before changing his name to Luka Bloom in 1987.

He is noted for songs from a completely different genre and doing a cover version with an Irish folk sound.

Bloom has covered songs by reggae artist Bob Marley, hip hop star LL Cool J, and pop group Abba amongst others.

Click here to read more about Luka Bloom 
Click here to read about more top Irish instrumentalists

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Roy Keane. Photo Copyright -  Vintagekits CC2-52002 On this day in 2002, the tension got too much between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy and an explosive row saw the national captain sent home in disgrace. Keane, was frustrated at the lack of professionalism in the side’s preparation for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Keane felt the manager, McCarthy, had ignored his earlier pleas for an improvement in the training facilities for the players. The relationship between the two had always been an uneasy one, but on this day it exploded into a huge row, ending Keane’s dream of playing in a second World Cup.

Keane was a winner. A single minded, competitive warrior type figure. He had won everything in his club career with Manchester United and, at the age of 32, this was his final chance to achieve something with his country.

He was infuriated at the fact that the Irish squad didn’t have a suitable pitch to train on in Japan, and that the squad was being fed the wrong types of foods. Keane was facing a World Cup where his side were not going to be the best they could be, an unacceptable proposition to him.

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.

He had requested McCarthy ensure that the facilities would be suitable for a team entering into the World’s biggest sporting competition. The poor preparation led to the two having an explosive row in front of the rest of the squad, and Keane was sent home.

The incident split public opinion in Ireland. Many fans sided with Keane, feeling that he was right in questioning the amateur approach the Irish took. Others could not forgive him for walking out on his team days before the tournament.

Ireland went on to progress to the knock-out stage of the tournament without Keane, before being eliminated on penalties by Spain. Keane later became the assistant coach of the national side, when he joined forces with manager Martin O’Neill in 2013.

Here is a quote from Keane, during the public row he had with McCarthy, but be warned it contains some bad language and is not for the faint hearted:

“Mick, you’re a liar … you’re a fucking wanker. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks.”

Click here to read more about Roy Keane and other top Irish sports stars


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More on Irish history

Did you know?

Christabel Burton was an incredible Anglo-Irish woman who outsmarted Nazi interrogators to help free her husband from a concentration camp prison. Find out more.

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