10 May-William Russell Grace

The village of Arles, County Laois, Ireland lies about six kilometres northwest of Carlow town. The Grace family mausoleum is a conspicuous building in the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church in Arles village. The Grace family farmed 100 hectares (250 acres) in nearby Ballylinan County Laois. They were a prominent family who were also involved in quarrying and other local industries. A member of the Grace family, William Russell, was mayor of New York when the Statue of Liberty arrived as a gift from the people of France to the United States of America on June 19th 1885.

William Russell Grace was born in Cobh Co Cork, when his family was there on holidays, in 1832. William was educated locally. He wanted to join the Royal Navy but his father, James, persuaded him to take a position with a ships chandler company in Liverpool. At the age of 16 in 1848 William left Liverpool and moved to New York where he worked at various jobs before returning to Ireland in 1848.

A few years later in 1851 he accompanied his father to Callao in Peru where his father intended to establish an Irish agricultural community farming on sugar plantations. His father returned to Ireland a short time later, but before he did he helped William find a job, again as a ships chandler. William was joined a short time later by his brother James. The brothers eventually took over the company and established Grace Brothers & Co in 1865.

The Grace Brothers became very wealthy supplying ships which were transporting natural fertiliser from the Guano Islands off the coast of Peru to destinations all over the world. In 1865 William, who had married in 1859, moved back to New York for health reasons. He established the head office of his company in the city.

In 1879, having lost the war with Chile, Peru owed $250 million. The debt was taken over by Grace and another Irishman John Hely-Hutchinson, 5th Earl of Donoughmore. The debt was taken over in return for many concessions, including silver mines. W. R. Grace and Co is today one of the biggest chemical and fertiliser companies in the world. It employs over 6,000 people in over 30 countries around the world.

William Grace was elected Mayor of New York on two occasions. He introduced several reforms, reduced the tax rate and fought against corruption. He became a renowned philanthropist, contributing large amounts of humanitarian aid to Ireland during the famine of 1879

With his brother Michael, William established the Grace Institute for the tuition-free education of women, especially emigrants. The Grace Institute still provides non-sectarian, tuition-free education for immigrant women at its school in New York City. William Grace visited Ireland on several occasions. He continued to work in his business until shortly before he died on March 21st 1904 at the age of 71.

William Russell Grace from Ballylinan Co Laois, Ireland, former Mayor of New York and founder of W R Grace and Company was born in the year 1832 On This Day.

W.R. Grace Building, NYC by PhotoHenning on 2013-10-02 19:27:11


Grace family mausoleum, Sacred Heart Church, Arles, Co Laois, Ireland


04 May-Cardinal Spellman

Spellman Park in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains in the south of County Carlow, Ireland is the location of Kildavin/Clonegal GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) Club. It is a most picturesque location and is often referred to as the Switzerland of Ireland. The villages of Kildavin and Clonegal are just 4km apart. Clonegal has several tourist attractions including Huntington Castle. The South Leinster Walking Trail begins in Kildavin. The name Spellman became associated with Kildavin/Clonegal through the area’s connection with Cardinal Spellman of New York.

Francis Joseph Spellman was Cardinal Archbishop of New York from 1939 to 1967. His grandmother Ellen Kehoe was a native of Kilbride, Clonegal, Co Carlow. Cardinal Spellman was born in Whitman, Massachusetts, USA in 1889. Following graduation from Fordham University in New York in 1911 he decided to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Rome on May 4th 1916. Having served in numerous posts he was appointed Archbishop of New York in 1939. He was created Cardinal in 1946.

Cardinal Spellman visited Clonegal in 1953, met with local people and visited local schools. He also visited Ireland in 1954. He later contributed $2,000 towards the cost of the Kildavin GAA pitch and the local community hall which were subsequently named in his honour. Cardinal Spellman died on December 2nd 1967 at the age of 78.

Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman was born in the year 1889 On This Day.

Cardinal Spellman 1956




04 May-A P McCoy

A P McCoy is a former horse racing jockey who is a native of Northern Ireland. During his career he was ‘Champion Jockey’ a record 20 consecutive times. McCoy became the first jockey to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010. In 2013 he was named RTÉ Sports Person of the Year. He was knighted in 2016 for his services to horse racing.

A P McCoy was born Anthony Peter McCoy at Moneyglass, County Antrim in 1974. He began his racing apprenticeship at the Jim Bolger stables in Coolcullen on the Carlow/Kilkenny border at the age of 15. He rode his first winner at Thurles racecourse the age of seventeen in 1992. He went on to ride a record 4,358 winners in Ireland and Great Britain during his career. He retired in 2015

A P McCoy, champion horse racing jockey who is a native of Northern Ireland, was born in the year 1974 On This Day.

AP McCoy



30 April-Lyrath Estate

Lyrath Estate Hotel is located on the outskirts of Kilkenny City, Ireland. It is a 5 star hotel set in almost 70 hectares of mature parkland. The hotel consists of the restored 17th century house carefully combined with a modern building. The house and surrounding estate were once the home of the Tobin family. The Tobin family were evicted by Oliver Cromwell following his capture Kilkenny City in 1650.

James Butler Marquess of Ormonde, from the Irish Confederate capital of Kilkenny led the army opposing Cromwell when he arrived to conquer Ireland. Cromwell had been ruling England as a republic since 1649. Butler’s army was forced to retreat from Rathmines following a surprise attack.

Having taken Drogheda Cromwell marched South capturing Wexford and Waterford. When Carlow and New Ross had surrendered to him Cromwell laid siege to Kilkenny and captured the City. In May 1650 Cromwell returned to England to lead an army to conquer Scotland. By 1653 the conquest of Ireland by Cromwell’s army under Ireton was complete.

Many landlords, including the Tobin family, had their lands confiscated. Richard Tobin of Lyrath House like many other landowners was ordered to move to Connaught. The orders gave rise to the expression: ‘To hell or to Connaught’. The Penal Laws already in place in England were imposed on Ireland. Most of the ordinary population, however remained on the estates and many of the estates were restored to their original owners after the English Restoration of 1660.

Though it was put back to March 1st 1655 Richard Tobin of Lyrath had a certificate of ‘Transplantation to Connaught’ signed in the year 1654 On This Day.




30 April-Kilkenny Royal Visit 1904

Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom, and his wife Queen Alexandra visited Kilkenny City, Ireland in 1904. The royal couple and their daughter Princess Victoria had arrived at Dún Laoghaire (then Kingstown) on April 26th 1904. They travelled by rail to Naas and attended the Punchestown Races for the day. As Prince of Wales Edward VII had previously attended the Punchestown Races in 1868. The Royal party later continued their journey, again by rail, through Carlow to Kilkenny City.

King Edward VII was no stranger to Ireland. As Prince of Wales he was stationed at the Curragh in County Kildare when his mother Queen Victoria, her husband prince Albert and three of their nine children came to visit Ireland in 1861. At the time he was undergoing military training with the Grenadier Guards. Queen Victoria and her family spent eight days visiting several part of Ireland including Killarney and the Curragh Camp where she watched he son marching on parade.

Whilst stationed at the Curragh the future Edward VII began a relationship with Nellie Clifton who was described as an actress. His parents were horrified when they heard of the relationship. Queen Victoria blamed the relationship for the early death of her husband. When he became king following the death of Queen Victoria, Edward VII visited Ireland in 1903. However he curtailed his visit due to the death of Pope Leo XIII who died on the day of the king’s arrival in Ireland.

In 1904 The Royal party arrived by train to a bright, colourful Kilkenny city which was festooned with flags and bunting. The route from the railway station to Kilkenny Castle was decorated with tiny fairy lights of every colour together with bunting and streamers. Among all the colour and excitement at the visit however, flags protesting at the visit were hung from some windows along the route. The Royal party was welcomed at the railway station by Kilkenny city authorities and the Marquis of Ormonde.

As the King and his family made their way through the thronged city streets there was chanting and cheering from the crowds. On the first night of the visit a fireworks display was held that lit up the night sky of the entire city. During their two day stay in Kilkenny the Royal family visited the Kilkenny Agricultural Show. The show was being held in St James Park on Saturday, the first day of their visit. On Sunday the family attended service in St Canices Cathedral and attended other events. Princess Victoria planted three trees in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle. Having spent two nights and three days in Kilkenny the Royal family left by train for Waterford. They sailed form Waterford on May 4th. The King and his wife visited Ireland again in 1907.

King Edward VII began his visit Kilkenny city in the year 1904 On This Day.


Photo by National Library of Ireland on The Commons Royal Group, crowds

Royal group in Kilkenny Castle