29 April-Royal Hospital Dublin

James Butler of Kilkenny Castle, the 1st Duke of Ormonde, founded the Royal Hospital in Dublin. Field Marshall Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley of the Wolseley family of Mount Wolseley in Tullow County Carlow was one of the last masters of the hospital. The Royal Hospital is located in Kilmainham on the western side of Dublin City.

In 1679 Arthur Forbes, 1st Earl of Granard and Marshal of the Garrisons of Ireland, had visited Paris. While he was there he had seen the newly-completed Hotel des Invalides. He proposed that a similar military hospital should be built in Dublin. King Charles II of Engalnd granted Ormonde, his Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, a charter to build the hospital on a 64 acre site which was then part of the Phoenix Park. Ormonde was Viceroy to King Charles II and had been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on November 4th 1661.

The State Surveyor General William Robinson was appointed as architect and building began in 1680. Robinson was also the architect for Marsh’s Library in Dublin and Charles Fort in Kinsale, County Cork. The building is constructed around a central courtyard. Around the courtyard are arcaded walks which correspond to corridors above. The building, which predates the Royal Hospital, Clelsea, London by two years, was completed in 1684. It remained in use as an old soldiers’ home for almost 250 years until 1927.

The Royal Hospital accommodated around 250 people and its primary role was as a residence for the care of invalid soldiers and veterans. However by 1850 the Master of the Royal Hospital was also the Commander-in Chief of the Army in Ireland. Queen Victoria visited the Hospital on two occasions.

The Royal Hospital was used as Garda headquarters from 1930 to 1950 and then for several years as a place of storage by the National Museum. The building fell into decline but was restored by the Government and reopened on its 300th anniversary in 1984. Today it is the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and is a popular location for concerts. It is also the location for the National Commemoration Day which is held each year on the Sunday nearest to July 11th.

The foundation stone for the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham in Dublin was laid by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde in the year 1680 On This Day.

Royal Hospital Kilmainham – Dublin (Ireland)

Royal Hospital Kilmainham – Dublin (Ireland)





28 April-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 and executed by the Italian resistance while trying to escape in April 1945.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, Forlì in north central Italy on July 29th 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 northwards in 1945, Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland. He was captured and executed by Italian partisans in Mezzegra on the shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy.

Benito Mussolini was executed in the year 1945 On This Day.


Mussolini’s body hanging upside down in Milan


28 April-HMS Bounty

Michael Byrne was born in Kilkenny in 1761. He was an able seaman who was hired by Captain Bligh to play the fiddle on board HMS Bounty. Byrne had gone to sea first at the age of 19 and by the time he was 26 years old he had served on five naval ships.

When he was hired by Bligh in 1787 to sail on the Bounty, Byrne was described as being two thirds blind. Captain Bligh wrote: ‘I had great difficulty before I left England to get a man to play the violin and I preferred at last to take one two-thirds blind than come without one’. He went on to describe Byrne as being ‘5 feet 6 inches high. Fair complexion and is almost blind. Plays the fiddle’. The sailors would be at sea for long periods and someone was needed to entertain them because according to Bligh ‘after four o’clock the evening is laid aside for their amusement and dancing’

The Bounty set sail from Spithead in England on December 23rd 1787. It was bound for Tahiti to collect a cargo of breadfruit. The breadfruit was to be transported to the West Indies. The ship arrived in Tahiti on October 24th 1788. Having harvested and loaded the cargo the Bounty left Tahiti just over five months later on April 5th 1789.

Three weeks into the voyage several members of the crew led by Fletcher Christian revolted. They seized command of the ship and took Bligh and the other officers prisoner. Byrne, though loyal to Bligh, was kept aboard the Bounty when Bligh and those loyal to him were put aboard a launch with some supplies. The Bounty returned to Tahiti where Byrne was put ashore. The mutineers having taken on several Tahitian women set sail for Pitcairn Island where their descendants still live today.

Bligh and his crew survived and made the return journey to England. When a ship called the Pandora arrived in Tahiti in 1791 Byrne gave himself up and despite a shipwreck was returned to England where he faced court-martial. He was however acquitted of mutiny at his trial in 1792. He later went on to serve on board H.M.S. La Prompte with Bligh’s nephew Francis Godolphin Bond.

The mutiny on board HMS Bounty occurred near the Friendly Islands in the Pacific Ocean in the year 1789 On This Day.

HMS Bounty




27 April-Walter Lantz

Walter Lantz was the creator of the cartoon, Woody Woodpecker. The cartoon which was produced for over thirty years was the most popular cartoon produced by Lantz. He created several other cartoon characters including Snuffy Skunk and Jock and Jill.

Walter Benjamin Lantz was born in New Rochelle, New York, USA. At the age of 16 in 1915 he began working as a newspaper cartoonist. He also began to study art at the Art Students League of New York where, at the time, Dublin born Cedric Gibbons, the designer of the Oscar statuette was also a student. Lantz later worked for Bray Studios where he directed his first cartoon, ‘Dinky Doodle’.

Having moved to Hollywood in 1927 Lantz established his own studio in 1935. While on honeymoon he and his wife Grace were constantly disturbed by a woodpecker pecking on the roof of their lodge at Lake June, California. His wife suggested that he should create a cartoon character based on a woodpecker. The Woody Woodpecker cartoon made its first appearance in 1941. In later years Woody’s voice was provided by Lantz’s wife Grace.

Lantz continued to produce cartoons until he closed his studio and retired in 1972. In 1979 he was awarded a Special Academy Award. Woody Woodpecker was given a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1990. Lantz died on March 22nd 1994 at the age of 94.

Walter Lantz was born in the year 1899 On This Day.

Walter Lantz

Walter Lantz painting

27 April-Con Leahy

There is a memorial to Irish Olympic Medal winner Con Leahy on Thomas Street, Limerick City, Ireland. Leahy won a Gold Medal in Athens in 1906 and a Silver Medal in London in 1908. The memorial was unveiled in 2006 on the anniversary of his first medal success at the Olympic Games in Athens.

Cornelius (Con) Leahy was a native of Cregane, Charleville, Co Limerick. He and his six brothers were all sportsmen. His brother Patrick Leahy won a Silver Medal in the high jump and a Bronze Medal in the long jump at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900.

Together with other Irish born athletes Con Leahy was entered, to represent Ireland in the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens, by the Irish Amateur Athletic Association (IAAA) and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). However under the International Olympic Committee rules they were designated as representing Great Britain and Ireland.

Leahy won the Gold Medal in the high jump with 1.775 meters and the Silver Medal in the triple jump coming second to fellow Irishman Peter O’Connor. Con Leahy then went on to compete in the London Olympics of 1908 where he won a Silver Medal in the high jump with 1.88 meters.

After his Olympic success Con Leahy returned to Ireland. A year later in 1909 he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. He died in Manhattan at the age of 45 on December 18th 1921.

Con Leahy was born in Cregane, Charleville Co Limerick in the year 1876 On This Day.

1908 London Olympics photo

Medals Board of 1908 Olympics

Photo by R/DV/RS