07 August-Mata Hari

Mata Hari was a native of the Netherlands. She was a professional dancer who also worked as a spy for the French government during World War I. However she was suspected by the French, of being a double agent. She was arrested and tried for being a German spy and executed by firing squad.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands in 1876. She studied at a teachers college in Leiden. She later married Dutch army Captain Rudolph MacLeod and the couple lived in Java and Sumatra until 1902. They returned to Europe and following their separation Margaretha began to dance professionally in Paris under the name Mata Hari.

Mata Hari began to work as a spy for France in 1917. She agreed to use her meetings with Germans to glean information for the French authorities. She was however suspected of passing information to the Germans. She was arrested for being a double agent and found guilty by a military court in July 1917. Mata Hari was executed by firing squad on October 15th 1917.

Mata Hari, a professional dancer who worked as a spy during World War I, was born in the year 1876 On This Day.

Mata Hari

Mata Hari in 1916


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



31 August-Violet Gibson Mussolini Assassin

Violet Gibson from Dublin, shot and injured the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, when she tried to assassinate him in Rome on April 7th 1926. Benito Mussolini was journalist and socialist politician who founded the Fascist party in Italy in 1919. By 1922 Italy was in political chaos and 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.

The Honourable Violet Albina Gibson was born in Dublin in August 1876. She was the daughter of Edward Gibson (Lord Ashbourne) who was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland for lengthy periods from 1885 to 1906. She had four brothers and three sisters and grew up in privileged circumstances. Her eldest brother Willie who succeeded his father as Lord Ashbourne was a member of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) and insisted on speaking in Irish even in the House of Lords.

Violet was described as frail and had suffered several serious illnesses, including pleurisy, by the time she reached the age of 20. When she was 26, like her brother Willie, she converted to catholicism. A few years later moved to London. Following the death of several members of her family, and her fiancé, Gibson moved to Paris at the age of 33. There she became involved in the pacifist movement. She continued to suffer from ill-health and was hospitalised with a nervous breakdown in 1922 at the age of 46. During her recovery she moved with a nurse to Rome where they lived in a convent.

Mussolini at this time was at the height of his power. On the day Gibson attempted to assassinate him, he had delivered a speech to the International Congress of Surgeons at their meeting in Rome. He was walking from the building when Gibson fired at him from a few feet. However, at the moment Gibson pulled the trigger, Mussolini moved his head to acknowledge the cheering crowds and the bullet grazed his nose. He staggered backwards with blood streaming down his face. The crowd attacked Gibson but she was rescued by the police. She was deported to England where she spent the remainder of her life in St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton.

Violet Gibson from Dublin, who wounded Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, when she attempted to assassinate him, was born in the year 1876 On This Day.

Mussolini by Oldmaison on 2008-02-12 22:56:32

25 June-Myles Keogh, Battle of the Little Bighorn

IMG_0073[1]In Saint Joseph’s Church, Tinryland, Co Carlow, Ireland there is a stained glass window which commemorates Captain Myles Keogh of the US 7th Cavalry and other deceased members of the Keogh family. Myles Keogh served in the Papal Army before joining the Union Army in America. He died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn at the age of 36 in 1876.

Myles Walter Keogh was born in Orchard House near the village of Leighlinbridge County Carlow on March 25th 1840. His father John was a farmer. His uncle was one of those executed in Carlow town following the Rising of 1798. Myles was educated locally and in Carlow town.

In 1860 Catholic clergy in Ireland called for volunteers to join the Papal Army to stop the Papal States being absorbed into a united Italy by Garibaldi. Keogh then aged 20 volunteered, along with over a thousand of his countrymen. The Papal forces were defeated in September 1860 and Keogh was imprisoned at Genoa. Following his release Keogh went to Rome where he joined the Company of St. Patrick in the Vatican.

In 1862 Keogh was recruited with other experienced officers by John Hughes, Archbishop of New York to join the Union Army during the American Civil War. Captain Myles Keogh served with great distinction throughout the American Civil War in places such as the Shenandoah Valley and Gettysburg. He received many commendations for his bravery and by the end of the war he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After the war, Keogh obtained a commission as a Captain in the U.S. 7th Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer. He was given command of I Company during the Indian Wars. He was involved in several campaigns but matters came to a tragic end when Keogh was killed in action in what has become known as Custer’s last stand. Custer’s Battalion of 268 was wiped out by the Native American Indian Army lead by Chief Sitting Bull at the battle of the Little Bighorn near the modern day town of Billings Montana in June 1876.

Keogh’s horse, Commanche, survived the Battle. He lived a long and apparently enjoyable life often leading military parades. When he died on November 7th 1891 he was believed to be 29 years old. He was just one of only two horses in US history to be given a funeral with full military honours. Commanche was preserved and the taxidermy horse can be seen in the Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas.

Myles Keogh of Orchard, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn whilst serving as Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army in the year 1876 On This Day.


Image from page 354 of “The blue and the gray, or, The Civil War as seen by a boy : a story of patriotism and adventure in our war for the Union” (1898) by Internet Archive Book Images on 1898-01-01 00:00:00