29 July-Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini was journalist and socialist politician who founded the Fascist party in Italy in 1919. He was appointed Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and ruled Italy until he was ousted from power in 1943. He was captured the Italian resistance while trying to escape in April 1945 and executed.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, Forlì in north central Italy in 1883. He qualified as an elementary schoolteacher in 1901. Mussolini moved to Switzerland in 1902 where he became involved in socialist politics. He returned to Italy in 1904 to work for the socialist press. Following World War I Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in March 1919.

By 1922 Italy was in political chaos. Mussolini was invited by King Victor Emmanuel to form a government. Mussolini took the title of ‘Il Duce’. He gradually dismantled the institutions of democratic government and appointed himself dictator in 1925. He established a regime which was held together by strong state control. Violet Gibson from Dublin, wounded Mussolini, when she attempted to assassinate him on April 7th 1926.

As part of his efforts to form a new Italian Empire Mussolini invaded Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) in 1935. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) he provided military support for Franco who went on to become dictator of Spain. In 1939 he signed the Pact of Steel which increased cooperation with Nazi Germany. Mussolini declared war on the Allies in June 1940.

The Italian Army suffered several defeats in North Africa and the Allies landed troops in Sicily in July 1943. Mussolini was overthrown by his own Fascist party and imprisoned. He was rescued by German commandos and installed as leader of a puppet government in northern Italy. When the Allies began to advance Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland but was captured and executed by Italian partisans on April 28th 1945.

Benito Mussolini, founder of the Fascist Party and dictator of Italy from 1925 to 1943, was born in the year 1883 On This Day.

Benito Mussolini, 1927 / photographer V. Laviosa, Rome by State Library of New South Wales collection on 1927-01-01 00:00:00

Mussolini, Clara Petacci and other members of the Italian Social Government following their execution by trix2005 on 2008-03-02 16:13:47

29 July-Dr Robert Cane (1807-1858) Kilkenny City

Dr Robert Cane was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland. He studied medicine and established a successful practice in Kilkenny City. Cane became involved in politics and was a supporter of the Repeal Association. Though not involved in the Rebellion of 1848 he was imprisoned for a lengthy period under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Cane was twice elected as Mayor of Kilkenny.

Dr Robert Cane was born in Kilkenny in 1807. He was educated locally and then worked for a time as an assistant to a pharmacist. He later went on to study medicine at Trinity College Dublin and at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. During his time at Trinity Cane became involved in student politics and attended meetings about national issues of the day. He returned to Kilkenny to give medical assistance during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Robert Cane later moved to Edinburgh where he was awarded his MD at Edinburgh Medical School in 1836.

Following graduation from Edinburgh, Cane returned to Kilkenny where he set up a practice in the city. He became involved in national affairs and in local politics in Kilkenny where he was friendly with the writer John Banim. He also joined Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association. In 1840 he hosted a banquet for Daniel O’Connell during a visit by the Liberator to the city. Robert Cane was elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1844.

William Smith O’Brien founded the Irish Confederation in 1847 when he and others withdrew from the Repeal Association. Robert Cane joined the Confederation, however his views, particularly on the use of violence, were at variance with the Confederation and he took no part in the Rising of 1848. Despite this he was arrested and imprisoned. The Rising had led to the suspension of Habeas Corpus and resulted in Cane being imprisoned for a lengthy period. Following his release he was again elected mayor of Kilkenny. On February 19th 1849 he was one of group of people who met to establish an Archaeological Society for the ‘County and City of Kilkenny and surrounding districts’. He was eventually elected chairman of the organisation on April 3rd 1849.

Dr Cane founded the Celtic Union in Kilkenny in 1853. It was a literary society with a strong political bias and intended to publish material relating to Irish history. The Union produced a magazine called ‘The Celt’ and Cane acted as editor. Dr Cane died of consumption on August 16th 1858. In 1859 a series of articles entitled ‘History of the Williamite and Jacobite Wars of Ireland from their origin to the capture of Athlone’, which Cane had written, were published by the Celtic Union.

Dr Robert Cane was arrested and imprisoned following the Young Irelander Rebellion in the year 1848 On This Day.

The Tholsel, Kilkenny by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1870-01-01 00:00:00

Court House, Kilkenny, 1908 by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1908-07-01 00:00:00

High Street Fashion by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1955-01-01 00:00:00


28 July-Shankill Castle

Shankill Castle is situated in the Southeast of Ireland on the Carlow/Kilkenny border about 130km from Dublin. The Castle which is set in parkland is located in the village of Paulstown in Ireland’s Ancient East. Until 1991 it was the home of the Toler-Aylward family. It is now the home of the distinguished artist Elizabeth Cope. As well as being a residence for the artist the estate is also a working farm and a tourist attraction. Visitors to Shankill Castle can enjoy a walk through the gardens and take a guided tour of the Castle

Shankill Castle was originally a medieval tower-house belonging to the Butlers of Ormonde. The tower-house was built near the ruins of an old church. Elizabeth Butler, an heiress to the estate, married Peter Aylward of Waterford around 1700. Aylward purchased the estate from his wife’s family. Between 1708 and 1713 he refurbished and extended the tower-house to look much as it does today. The new building called Shankill Castle was built in the English Baroque architectural style common in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714).

The Castle was set in a formal landscape some of which still survives today. The gardens, which are described as an oasis of tranquillity, include 18th century lime alles and 19th century laurel lawns. Gigantic sequoias from the Victorian era can be seen in the grounds. Three trees in the gardens of Shankill Castle are listed in the Tree Registry of Ireland. When Mary Aylward of Shankill Castle married Reverened Peter Toler from Roscommon in 1835 the family name became Toler-Aylward. The couple had two children Merial Elizabeth Toler-Aylward and Hector James Charles Toler-Aylward

Hector James Charles Toler-Aylward who served a Justice of the Peace for Kilkenny died in the year 1918 On This Day

Shankill Walk by Bernie Goldbach on 2005-04-24 13:46:58

28 July-Irish Army service in the Congo

Two Irish Army Infantry Battalions which included soldiers from Carlow and Kilkenny were deployed to the Congo to serve with the United Nations forces in 1960. It was the first large scale overseas mission undertaken by Irish troops since the establishment of the state in 1922. However it was not the first service overseas by Irish Army personnel with the United Nations. The first United Nations mission in which members of the Irish Army were involved began on June 27th 1958. On that occasion Lieutenant Colonel Justin MacCarthy and a group of 50 other officers served with the United Nations Observer Group in the Lebanon.

On June 30th 1960 the Belgian Congo became an independent republic. Independence was quickly followed by civil unrest. Within a week a mutiny broke out in the army and this was followed by the secession of two areas of the country, Katanga and South Kasai. An appeal was made by the Congolese Government to the United Nations to help restore order and preserve the territorial integrity of the country. The appeal was successful and on July 13th Ireland was requested to provide troops for the ONUC (Opération des Nations unies au Congo) mission.

Legislation enabling the mission to take place was passed by Dáil Eireann. As a result Ireland became one of thirty countries from around the world to provide soldiers for the mission. Just over two weeks later the 635-strong 32nd Infantry Battalion departed for the Congo. A month later the Irish contingent was brought to 1,000 troops with the arrival of the 33 Infantry Battalion. The Irish contingent was further boosted when an Armoured Car Group began operations in the Congo on January 15th 1961. They were using armoured cars which had been manufactured by Messers. Thompson & Son Limited, Hanover Works, Carlow.

The ONUC mission in the Congo lasted from 1960 to 1964 during which time 6,000 Irish soldiers served in the Congo. During that time twenty six Irish soldiers lost their lives. In one engagement called the ‘Niemba Ambush’ nine Irish soldiers, including Lt. Kevin Gleeson and Private Michael McGuinn of Carlow, were killed. Since their deployment in the Congo, members of the Irish Defence Forces have continuously served on UN missions in various parts of the world.

Irish Defence Forces began service with the United Nations in the Congo in the year 1960 On This Day.

ONUCsmall1 by Irish Defence Forces on 2009-11-16 17:14:15

ONUCsmall2 by Irish Defence Forces on 2008-06-24 15:41:17

ONUC photo

34th Battalion ONUC

Photo by Irish Defence Forces


27 July-Ethel Lilian Voynich

Ethel lilian Voynich (née Boole) was an Irish born novelist and musician. She was the daughter of George Boole (Boolean Logic) the first Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork. Her mother, Mary Everest, was a feminist philosopher and niece of George Everest after whom Mount Everest is named.

Ethel Lilian Voynich was born at Lichfield Cottage, Ballintemple, Cork on May 11th 1864. Following the death of her father George, her mother Mary moved with her children to England where she worked as librarian at Queen’s College, London. Ethel Lilian studied piano and music composition in Berlin between 1882 and 1885.

While studying in Berlin Ethel Lilian became involved in revolutionary politics. She learned Russian and worked as a governess in St Petersburg from 1887 to 1889. She continued her revolutionary activities there, before returning to England. She published her most famous and successful book, ‘The Gadfly’ in 1897. She met Wilfrid Michael Voynich, a Russian revolutionary who had escaped from Siberia. He was working England as an antiquarian book dealer. They married in 1902. In 1920 the Voynich’s moved to New York where Wilfrid continued his business.

‘The Gadfly’ became an international success. It sold millions of copies but it was until 1955 that Voynich heard that the book had sold over 2,500,000 in the Soviet Union alone. The book was also made into a movie on two occasions in the Soviet Union. In New York Ethel concentrated on music and composed a number of cantatas.

Ethel Lilian Voynich novelist, musician and native of Cork, Ireland died in New York City at the age of 96 in the year 1960 On This Day.

Voynich by Ben Woosley on 2010-06-02 21:46:52

Cork photo

Queen’s College, Cork (now UCC)

Photo by National Library of Ireland on The Commons