18 December-Stalin

Joseph Stalin was the dictator of the Soviet Union for more than two decades. He was one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history and millions of his own citizens died during his reign. Stalin modernised the Soviet Union and helped to defeat the Nazi’s during World War II.

Joseph Stalin (Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin) was born in Gori, Georgia in 1879. He was awarded a scholarship to study for the priesthood at the Tiflis Theological Seminary in Tblisi in 1894. Having been introduced to the writings of Karl Marx, Stalin left the seminary in 1899. He became involved in revolutionary and criminal activities. Following the Russian Revolution Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party. When Lenin died in 1924 Stalin successfully outmanoeuvred other leading members to take control of the Communist Party.

Stalin ruled the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1953. He instituted a reign of terror which caused the death and suffering of tens of millions. During his reign the Soviet Union became an industrial and military superpower. In 1939 Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty with Nazi Germany. This allowed the two dictators, Hitler and Stalin, to invade Poland in September 1939 and divide it between them. Hitler, however, later broke the agreement. He began Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, on June 22nd 1941. Stalin aligned the Soviet Union with the Allies to defeat the Nazis.

After the war Stalin was convinced that the Allies were a threat to the Soviet Union. This led him to establish communist regimes in several eastern European countries between 1945 and 1948. His activities in Eastern Europe led to the start of what became known as the Cold War. In 1949 the Soviet Union entered the nuclear age when it successfully exploded its first atomic bomb. In 1950 Stalin assisted the communist North Korean leader Kim il Sung in the invasion of South Korea leading to the Korean War.

In the early 1950’s Stalin’s health began to deteriorate and he became increasingly paranoid. He ordered a new purge of the Communist Party. However he died of a stroke in 1953 at the age of 74, before the purge could be carried out. He had been dictator of the Soviet Union for 24 years.

Joseph Stalin, one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history, was born in the year 1879 On This Day.

16 April-Saint Bernadette

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Southern France attracts over 5 million pilgrims of all denominations from all over the world every year. Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Lourdes has a population of just 15,000. It is the birthplace of Bernadette Soubirous, better known as Saint Bernadette.

Bernadette Soubirous was born on January 7th 1844. Her family lived in Poor circumstances. At the age of 14 Bernadette was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend when she experienced her first vision. She said she saw ‘a small young lady’ in a grotto when she was attempting to cross a stream. Her sister and friend said they saw nothing.

Over the following weeks Bernadette said she experienced a succession of visions. Following frequent requests Bernadette said the vision eventually told her that ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. The water in the stream at the grotto which had always been muddy became clear. Bernadette’s parents were embarrassed by her claims and tried to stop her visiting the grotto. The claims caused a sensation in Lourdes.

Despite many attempts by her parents and church and civil authorities to get her to recant her accounts, Bernadette steadfastly stuck to her story. In order to avoid the constant public attention she became a boarder at a school run by the Sisters of Charity. She became a member of the Sisters of Charity at the age of 22 in 1866. She spent the remainder of her short life in a convent in Nevers 700km to the north of Lourdes.

The Roman Catholic Church was initially sceptical about the claims of Bernadette but after years of investigation her claims were deemed ‘worthy of belief’. The Church has officially recognised 69 healings which have no physical or psychological basis and are deemed miraculous. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes has become a site of pilgrimage for worshippers from around the world. Bernadette Soubirous was canonized by Pope Pius XI on December 8th 1933.

Saint Bernadette died at the age of 35 on April 16th 1879.

Saint Bernadette

Lourdes photo

Lourdes by cocoate.com on 2011-07-11 13:59:12



02 April-William Hamilton VC

William Hamilton was a native of Co Kilkenny Ireland. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1879. He won the award, at the age of 22, for bravery shown whilst serving with the Indian Army in Afghanistan. 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, six of whom were born in Kilkenny.

Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton was born in Inistioge, County Kilkenny on August 18th 1856. In April 1879 he was serving as a lieutenant in the Staff Corps and Corps of Guides of the Indian Army during the Second Afghan War. He was leading the Cavalry against very superior numbers at Futtehabad when the following event took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

‘…at a critical moment when his Commanding Officer (Major Wigram Battye) fell, Lieutenant Hamilton, then the only Officer left with the Regiment, assumed command and cheered on his men to avenge Major Battye’s death. In this charge Lieutenant Hamilton, seeing Sowar Dowlut Ram down, and attacked by three of the enemy, whilst entangled with his horse (which had been killed) rushed to the rescue, and followed by a few of his men cut down all three and saved the life of Sowar Dowlut Ram.

Lieutenant Hamilton continued to serve in Afghanistan. He was killed during the storming of the British embassy in Kabul on September 3rd 1879. There are memorials to Lieutenant Hamilton in Inistioge Church, Kilkenny, Horse Show Hall Ballsbridge, Dublin and at Christ Church, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A statue to him which was located at the National Museum in Dublin is now on display at the national Army Museum in London.

William Hamilton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during an engagement in Afghanistan, which occurred in the year 1879 On This Day.

Victoria Cross



14 March-Einstein

Albert Einstein was a physicist who developed the general theory of relativity. A native of Germany he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Einstein is generally regarded as the most influential physicist of the 20th century.

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1879. His family moved to Munich when he was just six weeks old. Einstein grew and went to school there until he was 16 years of age. He qualified as a teacher of mathematics and physics from Zurich Polytechnic, Switzerland in 1900. Following qualification Einstein failed to find work as a teacher. He was eventually employed by the patent office in Bern, Switzerland.

In 1905 Einstein was awarded a PhD by the University of Zürich. In that same year he deduced the equation E=mc2, the origins of the development of nuclear power, in his paper on matter and energy. He became well known as a physicist and went on to work first at the University of Zurich in 1908, University of Bern 1909, and Prague in 1911. In 1914 he was appointed professor at the University of Berlin where he remained until 1933. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In 1933 Albert Einstein renounced his German citizenship and moved to the United States to avoid persecution by the Nazis. He was appointed to a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey and became a United States citizen. In 1939 he signed a letter to the President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the possibility that the Nazis could be developing a nuclear bomb. It is thought that this letter led the American Government to establish a secret military project to produce the first US nuclear weapon. The project which was established in 1942 was known as the Manhattan Project.

Einstein remained at Princeton until he retired in 1945. He died in Princeton New Jersey at the age of 76 on April 18th 1955. He is credited with many quotes, one being: ‘When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity’.

Albert Einstein was born in the year 1879 On This Day.




04 January-Carlow Fire Brigade

Carlow Fire Brigade has its headquarters in Carlow town, Ireland. The Fire Brigade, which was founded as a volunteer fire service in the 19th century, is under the management of Carlow County Council. The aim of Carlow County Council Fire Authority is ‘to protect the public from fire and to preserve life and property’.

In the past the Fire Brigade division based at Carlow military barracks, and the local police, The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), were the only Fire Brigade service available in County Carlow. This placed Carlow in a much better position than most other counties. The military was able to provide a fire engine and personnel trained in its operation. The service was always made freely available to the authorities in Carlow.

In some other areas of the country, particularly the large cities, insurance companies employed fire services to attend to premises which they had insured. When the Towns Improvement Act was introduced in 1854 it allowed local authorities to provide fire related equipment for towns with a population greater than 1,500 people.

In 1878 the Carlow Town Commissioners decided to establish a volunteer service for Carlow. This was done in cooperation with such bodies as Carlow Rowing Club, The Athletic Club and The Racquet Club. The service was based near the town hall and the fire alarm was the bells of the nearby St Mary’s Church. Fire appliances were horse drawn until 1937 when Carlow got its first Motorised Fire Appliance.

In 1973 the Fire Station for the Carlow urban area moved to the Green Lane. The present fire station was built on the same site in 2002.Today together with the Fire Station in Carlow town there are also fire stations in Muinebheag (Bagenalstown), Tullow and Hacketstown. The County Carlow Fire Service deals with around 500 incidents annually. Over 50% of these incidents are dealt with by the Fire Brigade based in Carlow town. The Fire Service also has responsibility for building control in County Carlow.

The Carlow Volunteer Fire Service was established in the year 1879 On This Day.