The Playboy of the Western World – Sean MacBride – Holocaust Memorial at Today in Irish History

January 26: TODAY in Irish History:

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Sean MacBride

Sean MacBride

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

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1904: Sean MacBride is born in Paris

Macbride was the son of executed 1916 leader Major John MacBride and Maud Gonne, the love of William Butler Yeats’ life. Macbride’s illustrious history included fighting in the Irish War of Independence, siding with Anti-Treaty forces in the Irish Civil War before going on to become an acclaimed international jurist and advocate for peace. MacBride was a co-founder of Amnesty International, Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists, and UN Commissioner for Namibia.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.

Sean MacBride

Sean MacBride


READ: Sean MacBride’s Nobel Peace Prize speech


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1907: Playboy of the Western World Opens

actors Sara Allgood ("Widow Quinn") and J. M. Kerrigan ("Shawn Keogh"), in The Playboy of the Western World, Plymouth Theatre, Boston, 1911

actors Sara Allgood (“Widow Quinn”) and J. M. Kerrigan (“Shawn Keogh”), in The Playboy of the Western World, Plymouth Theatre, Boston, 1911

John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World opens at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin to riots, literally! What happened is best described by two telegrams Yeats (a founder of the Abbey) received while he was in Aberdeen from a fellow Abbey supporter Lady Gregory. Telegram one read “Play a great success.” Two acts later, she updated the great poet, “Play broke up in disorder at the word ‘shift’,” (Yes, they rioted over the mention of a piece of lady’s underwear)  riots  which the Irish Independent deemed “a tribute to the good taste and common sense of the audience”.

The offending sentence spoken by Christy, the eponymous Playboy of the Western world was “It’s Pegeen I’m seeking only, and what’d I care if you brought me a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself, maybe, from this place to the Eastern World?”

Many years later, William Butler Yeats would berate Irish society when commenting on another set of riots that occurred after the opening of Sean O’Casey’s  The Plough and the Stars in 1926. “You have disgraced yourselves again. Is this to be an ever-recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius? Synge first and then O’Casey?

Synge died at the tragically young age of thirty-seven from cancer.


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2003: Holocaust Memorial Day – Government Apology

The first Holocaust Memorial Day is held in Ireland. Justice Minister Michael McDowell apologized for an Irish wartime policy that was inspired by “a culture of muted anti-semitism in Ireland.” He said that “at an official level the Irish state was at best coldly polite and behind closed doors antipathetic, hostile and unfeeling toward the Jews”.

The Stephen Roth Institute suggests “only 30 Jews were given asylum before the war, none during it, and only a handful afterwards.”

Although not directly related, one of the less savory incidents in Irish diplomatic history occurred May 2nd 1945, when Taoiseach Eamonn De Valera called on Dr. Hempel, the German minister in Dublin,to express his condolences on the death of Hitler. De Valera justified it stating it was normal diplomatic etiquette for a neutral state, as he stated in a letter to the Irish envoy in Washington: “So long as we retained our diplomatic relations with Germany, to have failed to call upon the German representative would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr Hempel himself.”


READ: Ireland and the Jewish Community


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Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish


This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)


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