30 May-Michael Davitt

Michael Davitt was a native of Co Mayo, Ireland. He was an Irish nationalist MP, social reformer and founder of the Irish National Land League. He was also an author and international humanitarian. Davitt was a campaigner for Irish Home Rule and was a close ally of Charles Stuart Parnell.

Michael Davitt was born in Straide, Co Mayo on March 25th 1846. When he was aged four, his family was evicted from their home because of rent arrears. The Davitt’s moved to England where they settled in Haslingden, Lancashire. When he was eleven years old Davitt’s arm was badly damaged in an accident at a cotton mill where he was working. His arm had to be amputated. He later worked in a post office and for a printer while attending classes at the local Mechanics Institute.

In 1865 Davitt joined the Fenians. He was arrested five years later for his involvement in arms smuggling. He was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude. Davitt believed that the solution to Ireland’s agrarian difficulties was the ownership of the land by the people. He was released on a ticket of leave after seven years and returned to Ireland.

On April 20th 1879 Davitt organised a protest at Irishtown in Co Mayo to protest at threatened evictions by Cannon Burke, a priest who was a local landlord. The meeting is reported to have attracted over 15,000 people. The landlord withdrew his threat of eviction and reduced the rents by 25%. Davitt convened a meeting in Daly’s Hotel in Castlebar on August 16th 1879. The meeting, which was supported by Charles Stewart Parnell, inaugurated a body called the National Land League.

The Land League spread rapidly and branches were established in almost every part of the country. Within a few months it was a national organisation eventually becoming the Irish National Land League with Parnell as President and Davitt as one of its secretaries. During the Land War from 1879 to 1882 it pursued three aims for tenants, fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure. It led opposition to evictions and brought about reductions in rents.

Though violence did occur this was denounced by the Land League. Boycotting, which had been used successfully in Mayo in 1880 against Captain Boycott, was widely used by the Land League. The campaign by the Land League would eventually lead to Land Acts being passed which allowed tenants to purchase their land.

Davitt is recognised as an international humanitarian. He travelled widely on lecture tours in Ireland and Great Britain. He also visited Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, The Holy Land, South America, Russia and most of continental Europe. He promoted a policy of non-violent opposition to injustice. The campaign against British rule in India by Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by Michael Davitt.

Michael Davitt died at the age of 60 in the year 1906 On This Day.

Michael Davitt




29 May-President Kennedy

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States of America. His ancestors on his father’s side came from Wexford and on his mother’s side from Limerick. During his time as President he had deal with events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall. He initiated the Apollo Programme which led eventually to the moon landings.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917. He graduated from Harvard with Bachelor of Arts in government in 1940. Kennedy served in the US Navy during World War II and was decorated for heroism. After the war he served as a Democratic Congressman and in 1953 was elected to the US Senate. Following the Presidential election of 1960 Kennedy was inaugurated President of the USA in January 1961 at age 43. He was assassinated while on a visit to Dallas, Texas on November 22nd 1963 On This Day.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in the year 1917 On This Day.

John F. Kennedy, wife Jacqueline and daughter Caroline




28 May-Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy was a novelist, playwright and short story writer who was a native of Dublin. She is widely regarded as Ireland’s best-loved writer. Her novels, about love and romance in Ireland made her an international bestseller. They have been translated into 37 languages and have sold over 40m copies worldwide.

Anne Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey, Dublin in 1939. She was educated locally and at University College Dublin. Following graduation with a BA degree in history she taught at various schools in Dublin, before joining the Irish Times in 1968 as a columnist. She later worked as the first Women’s Page editor at the Irish Times and then the London editor before becoming a full time writer.

Binchy’s first published book is a compilation of her newspaper articles titled My First Book which was published in 1970. She went on to write 17 novels, four short-story collections, a play and a novella. Her most notable works include, Deeply Regretted By, Circle of Friends, Tara Road and Scarlet Feather. The winner of several awards Binchy died in Dublin on July 30th 2012 aged 73.

Maeve Binchy was born in the year 1939 On This Day.

Maeve Binchy



27 May-Dawson Stelfox

Dawson Stelfox was the first person from Ireland to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He completed the climb in 1993, almost fifty years after New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepali Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit on May 29th 1953. At 8,848 metres (29,029 feet) above sea level, Mount Everest is the highest mountain peak in the world.

James Dawson Stelfox was born in Belfast on March 24th 1958. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution before entering the Queen’s University, Belfast. He qualified as an Architect and has worked on several major projects, including restoration works on the Parliament Buildings at Stormont following a fire there in 1995.

The 1993 climb was the first Irish attempt on Everest. It was supported by Mountaineering Ireland and the Sports Councils in both Dublin and Belfast. Irish companies also helped to finance the project. The climbing party was led by Dawson Stelfox. The seven other members were, Frank Nugent, Dermot Somers, Robbie Fenlon, Mike Barry, Richard O’Neill Dean, Mick Murphy and Tony Burke.

Dawson Stelfox became the first Irish person to stand on the summit of Mount Everest in the year 1993 On This Day.

Mount Everest




26 May-John Wayne

John Wayne was an actor and filmmaker who was a native of Iowa, USA. He was one of the most popular film actors for over three decades of the 20th century. Wayne was nominated for an Academy Award on three occasions. He won an Academy Award for best actor in the film True Grit in 1969.

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa in 1907. At the age of seven his family moved to California where Wayne grew up. He was successful both academically and in athletics and was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Southern California. He was forced to leave university due to an injury and began working film studios.

Wayne played minor roles in several films before he was given his first leading role in the film The Big Trail in 1930. He became a star following his performance in the John Ford film The Stagecoach in 1939. During his career, Wayne played starring roles in westerns, war pictures, romantic comedies, police dramas and historical dramas. He starred opposite Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man, which was shot on location in Cong, Co Mayo.

John Wayne was born in the year 1907 On This Day.

John Wayne