17 February-Suez Canal

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. The Canal, which is 123km long, stretches from its northern terminus at Port Said to the city of Suez on the Red Sea. The Canal is used by over 17,000 vessels annually.

Several canals had been constructed in the Suez area dating back to almost 2000 BC. The first survey of the Isthmus of Suez, with a view to building a canal, was carried out by the French who occupied Egypt (1898-1801) under Napoleon. Over 50 year later work began on the construction of the Suez Canal in 1859. The Canal, which was designed by Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, took 10 years to build.

Though the Suez Canal was not officially opened until November 17th 1869, the first ship passed through the canal in the year 1867 On This Day.

Canale di Suez / Suez canal

Suez Canal



07 November-Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a scientist who with her husband Pierre, discovered radium in 1898. Radium, which is a highly radioactive element is found in uranium ore. Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist who was a native of Poland. Pierre Curie was a physicist who was a native of France.

Marie Curie was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. She was educated in Poland and at the age of 24 she moved to Paris to study and conduct scientific work. She studied at the Sorbonne and was awarded a degree in mathematics and physics in 1894.

Marie Skłodowska married Pierre Curie in 1895. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. With her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. When Marie Curie was appointed a professor at the University of Paris in 1906 she became the first woman to hold such a position. In 1911 she won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. She died from exposure to radiation in 1934 at the age of 66.

Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, was born in Warsaw in the year 1867 On This Day.

Marie Curie


20 April-John Lyons VC

John Lyons was a native of Carlow Ireland. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry in 1857. He won the award at the age of 31 for his actions during the Crimean War. The Victoria Cross is awarded for ‘most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy’. The Victoria Cross has been awarded to 168 soldiers from Ireland, two of whom were born in County Carlow.

John Lyons was born in Carlow in 1824. He joined the British Army, and in 1855 was serving as a Private with the 19th Regiment of Foot during the Crimean war. The war in Crimea lasted from 1853 to 1856. The allies laid siege to the city of Sebastopol, the capital of Crimea in October 1854. The city was finally captured on September 9th 1855. On June 10th during the siege a live shell landed amongst the guard of the trenches. Without hesitation Lyons picked up the live shell and threw it over the parapet. His action saved many lives.

An account of the action by Lyons appeared in a Supplement to the London Gazette on February 24th 1857. John Lyons was presented with the Victoria Cross on June 26th 1857. The presentation was made by Queen Victoria at a ceremony in Hyde Park, London. Lyons was promoted to the rank of Corporal and served with the British Army in India during the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858).

John Lyons died at the age of 44 in Naas Co Kildare, Ireland in 1867. Lyons Road in the town of Richmond in Yorkshire, England is named in his honour. The Victoria Cross awarded to John Lyons is held at Green Howards Regiment Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire, England. The cannon on the steps of the Courthouse in Carlow town was captured from the Russian Army during the Crimean War (1853-1856). It commemorates all the Irish soldiers who lost their lives during the Crimean War. It was donated to the town of Carlow by the British Minister of War Lord Panmure in 1858.

John Lyons VC died in the year 1867 On This Day.

Carlow Courthouse (Russian Army cannon gun on left)



07 February-William Dargan

William Dargan, a native of Killeshin near Carlow town, Ireland was an engineer, railway contractor, and entrepreneur during the nineteenth century. Often referred to as the father of the Irish rail network, he was also responsible for building a host of infrastructure projects around Ireland. He funded the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in 1853 and helped establish the National Gallery of Ireland.

William Dargan was born in Killeshin near Carlow on February 28th 1799. He was educated locally and is said to have displayed a talent for mathematics. With the assistance of prominent local people such as John Alexander of Milford, Carlow and Henry Parnell MP for Co Laois, Dargan was employed by Thomas Telford building roads in England. He was involved in building the road from London to Holyhead. Another engineer, John Macneill who was born in Mountpleasant Dundalk County Louth, was working on the same project. Dargan and Macneill would later return to their native country to work on the building of the Irish rail network.

Dargan returned to Ireland to work on the building of the road from Dublin to Howth. In 1831 he was awarded the contract to build the first railway in Ireland from Dublin city to Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire). It was the first suburban and commuter railway line in the world and was built on time and within budget by 1833. Following the successful completion of the Dublin to Dún Laoghaire railway line, Dargan built the Ulster Canal. He later went on to build over 1,300km of Ireland’s railways.

A great exhibition had taken place at Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Dargan offered to fund a similar exhibition in Dublin. What became known as The Great Industrial Exhibition opened on Leinster Lawn in Dublin on May 12th 1853. The Dublin exhibition was the first World Fair to have an exhibition of art. It was given an enthusiastic response by the visitors. The number of visitors exceeded one million, many of whom came on the railways built by Dargan. Among the visitors on August the 29th was Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales. Dargan was offered a baronetcy by Queen Victoria when she visited him at his home in Mount Annville in Dublin in 1853. He declined the offer.

Dargan’s final project was the building of the railway line from Dublin to Wexford. A mural of Dargan hangs in the lobby of Bray railway station. Two modern bridges, one in Belfast and one in Dublin are named in his honour. There is a bronze statue of William Dargan located in the forecourt of the National Gallery of Ireland.

William Dargan died in Dublin at the age of 67 in the year 1867 On This Day.

William Dargan Bridge

William Dargan Bridge