November 10: TODAY in Irish History:
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Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks
Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.
An insightful, realistic, yet humorous book on the job search process by Today in Irish History Curator Conor Cunneen
1730: Birth of Oliver Goldsmith
Writer, poet and physician Oliver Goldsmith is born in County Longford. Whether Goldsmith was a genius or as Horace Walpole described him “an inspired idiot” has exercised critics and historians for years.
His literary work has been praised and decried. Following his graduation from Trinity College in 1749, he became a kind of wandering minstrel through mainland Europe until he finally settled in London in 1756 where he indulged in a bohemian life of drinking and gambling. His most famous works are probably the poem, The Deserted Village and The Vicar of Wakefield, the work which saved him from debtor’s prison. When his landlady threated to have him arrested for non payment, Goldsmith’s friend Samuel Johnson took the manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefield and sold it to a publishing house on his behalf.
In a short bio of Goldsmith, British historian J.H. Plumb writes:
“Dr. Oliver Goldsmith was a very great man. This his contemporaries agreed on, yet none of them knew quite why. He baffled Dr. Johnson with his absurdities; Horace Walpole dismissed him as “an inspired idiot”; David Garrick immortalized him in the biting lines:
Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
Who wrote like an angel, but talked like poor Poll.
And even Sir Joshua Reynolds, who saw further and deeper into Goldsmith’s character than anyone else, realised that no man could get such a reputation for absurdity without there being reason for it.”
Goldsmith’s he Deserted Village is a beautiful descriptive piece, although not often appreciated as such by young school kids, back in the day as it was being beaten into them by the Christian Brothers.
The Deserted Village (opening lines)
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school;
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
The day’s disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;
Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declared how much he knew;
‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And even the story ran that he could gauge.
In arguing too, the parson owned his skill,
For e’en though vanquished, he could argue still;
While words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around,
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
1798: Wolfe Tone Sentenced to Death
Tone was one of the founders of the United Irishmen. In efforts to free Ireland from English rule, he had encouraged a French invasion of Ireland which due to bad planning and bad luck was never successful. In October 1798, French forces consisting of eight frigates were intercepted by British ships off Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Retreating French ships offered Tone escape but he allegedly said “Shall it be said that I fled, whilst the French were fighting the battles of my country?” He was captured on the ship Hoche.
He appeared before the Court “dressed,” says the Dublin Magazine for November, 1798, “in the French uniform: a large cocked hat, with broad gold lace and the tri-coloured cockade; a blue uniform coat, with gold-embroidered collar and two large gold epaulets; blue pantaloons, with gold-laced garters at the knees; and short boots, bound at the tops with gold lace.”
In his final speech from the dock, Tone said “From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Great Britain and Ireland as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free nor happy. My mind has been confirmed in this opinion by the experience of every succeeding year, and the conclusions which I have drawn from every fact before my eyes.”
Two years previously, Wolfe Tone had attempted to land at Bantry Bay, Co. Cork on another French “invasion.”High winds and storms would mean the planned landing would be aborted some days later. He w wrote in his journal:
“We are now, nine o’clock, at the rendezvous appointed; stood in for the coast till twelve, when we were near enough to toss a biscuit ashore; at twelve tacked and stood out again, so now we have begun our cruise of five days in all its forms, and shall, in obedience to the letter of our instructions, ruin the expedition, and destroy the remnant of the French navy, with a precision and punctuality which will be truly edifying.”
Some days previously, Tone’s brother Matthew Tone was executed having been captured at the Battle of Ballinamuck fighting with French forces.
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1924: Irish American mobster Dean O’Bannion gets whacked.
Mobster Dion (Dean) O’Banion was born to Irish Catholic parents in Maroa Illinois. For a short period, he was a major kingpin in Prohibition Chicago, controlling most of the bootlegging and gambling in the northside of Chicago.
O’Banion’s development through criminal ranks was not unusual. A poverty stricken teenager (with a beautiful tenor voice), he initially ran with The Market Street gang involved in theft and protection rackets.
On the introduction of Prohibition in 1920, he started importing Canadian beer and liquor, soon becoming a major player and working in relative harmony with Johnny Torio and his then lieutenant, Al Capone, a harmony that lasted for about two years. Disagreements over territory and enforcement erupted in gang warfare.
O’Banion was gunned down in his florist shop (where he supplied flowers to many Chicago gangster funerals) on by Torio/Capone gunmen. One gunman greeted him with a handshake and held him while two others shot O’Banion six times. His death exploded the bloody Chicago Gang wars that would culminate in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.
O’Banion was one of a number of Irish-American gangsters who brought misery to Prohibition Chicago in the 1920s.
Documentary on Dean O’Banion from TG4 (Irish Language TV)
READ: Dean O’Banion
1945: “Well, Holy God!” Mick Lally is born
Famous Irish TV and stage actor and co-founder of The Druid Theatre, Mick Lally is born. Lally is best known for his portrayal of Miley who never stopped saying “Well, Holy God!” in the long running RTE series Glenroe. This wonderful clip features Lally and another great actor Joe Lynch who plays his dad (at about 55 seconds).
WATCH: A Short History of Ireland
Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed 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.
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