22 December-Nicholas Callan

Nicholas Callan was a priest and physicist who was a native of Co Louth, Ireland. In 1836 he invented the first induction coil. At the time he was professor of Natural Philosophy (Physics) in Maynooth College, Co Kildare. In 1838 he developed an electric motor which Siemens in Germany used as a basis for the production of a generator in 1886. Callan also built new batteries which later went into commercial production in London.

Nicholas Joseph Callan was born Darver near Ardee, Co Louth in 1799. He was educated locally and began training for the priesthood at Navan Seminary. He later trained at Maynooth College (Royal College of St. Patrick) and was ordained in 1823. Callan then moved to Rome where he learned of the work of Alessandro Volta. He studied at Sapienza University where he was awarded a doctorate in divinity. In 1826 Callan returned to Ireland and was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at Maynooth.

Father Nicholas Joseph Callan, one of the pioneers in the development of electricity during the 19th century was born in the year 1799 On This Day.


Rev Nicholas Callan



20 December-Narcissus Marsh

Narcissus Marsh, who served as Archbishop of Dublin from 1694 to 1703, established Marsh’s Library in Dublin in 1707. Located adjacent to St Patricks Cathedral it was Ireland’s first public library. Today Marsh’s Library continues to operate as a library in its original building. Almost 20,000 people from Ireland and across the globe visit Marsh’s Library every year.

Narcissus Marsh was born at Hannington, Wiltshire, England in 1638. He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford and ordained in 1662. He was sent to Ireland as Provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1679. At Trinity he was responsible for several major developments and actively promoted the Irish language. Marsh later served as Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, Archbishop of Cashel and Archbishop of Dublin. He died on November 2nd 1713 aged 74.

Narcissus Marsh, who established Marsh’s Library in Dublin in 1707, was born in the year 1638 On This Day.

Abp Narcissus Marsh.png

Narcissus Marsh


Marsh’s Library




19 December-Contraception

The Irish government led by Éamon de Valera of the Fianna Fáil party passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1935. The Act translated the Catholic Church’s doctrine regarding contraception into the law of the land. The sale of contraceptives in Ireland was legal up until the passing of the Act. The law, with some alterations in 1979, remained in place for fifty years.

Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical (Casti connubii) in 1930. The encyclical prohibited people of the Roman Catholic faith from using any form of artificial birth control. The Irish Government made it illegal to import or sell contraceptives in Ireland when it passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1935. Section 17 (I) of the act stated: ‘It shall not be lawful for any person to sell, or expose, offer, advertise, or keep for sale or to import or attempt to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale, any contraceptive’.

In later years attempts were made to liberalise the law on contraception but without success. There were several protests, the most famous of which occurred on May 22nd 1971. On that occasion a group of 49 women took the train to Belfast. They purchased contraceptives and when they returned to Dublin refused to hand them over to the authorities. The event generated a lot of controversy and publicity.

A decision was made by the Supreme Court in 1973 that married couples were entitled to privacy under the constitution and as such could import contraceptives for personal use. This meant a change in the legislation was necessary. After several failed attempts the law was eventually changed when The Health (Family Planning) Act of 1979 became law. Under the new legislation contraceptives were made available on prescription from a doctor for bona fide family planning purposes. Six years later the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act 1985 allowed for the sale of contraceptives without a prescription to people aged 18 and over.

The Irish Supreme Court decided that a ban on contraceptives was unconstitutional in the year 1973 On This Day.

Contraception Day





17 December-Pope Francis

Pope Francis was elected to the Papacy on March 13th 2013. He is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. He is also the first Pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit to become Pontiff. Highly popular, Pope Francis is followed by almost 16 million people on Twitter.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 13th 1969 and served as archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013. He was created as cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church of Argentina in 2001. He served as Cardinal until he was elected to the Papacy in 2013.

Pope Francis was born in Buenos Argentina in the year 1936 On This Day.

Pope Francis




16 December-Dublin Fire Brigade

Thomas Purcell was an engineer and firefighter who was a native of Co Kilkenny, Ireland. He served as Chief Fire Officer of Dublin Fire Brigade during a time of great change and unrest from 1892 to 1917. Purcell is credited with having built the Brigade into a well-trained and efficient organisation

Thomas Purcell was born in Johnswell, Co Kilkenny in 1850. As a young man he was a member of the Kilkenny City Volunteer Fire Brigade. Purcell was awarded the medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire in July 1876. He was given the award for rescuing a woman during a fire at a drapery store in Kilkenny City.

In March 1892 Purcell was appointed Chief Fire Officer (Superintendent) of Dublin Fire Brigade. During his time in charge of the Brigade he was responsible for many innovations in training and equipment. He designed the first emergency ambulance for the fire brigade and oversaw its introduction in January 1898. Purcell was also responsible for the design of the brigade’s first motorised pump. It had a 50hp engine and a rear mounted turbine pump capable of delivering 350 gallons per minute. This was a big advance on the existing horse drawn equipment.

The first Dublin Fire Brigade motor pump designed by Thomas Purcell and built by Leyland arrived in Dublin in the year 1909 On This Day.

Dublin Fire Brigade