January 29-Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz motorcars is one of the largest automobile brands in the world. The motorcars are produced by the German multinational corporation, Daimler AG. The name, Mercedes-Benz is derived from Mercedes, the name of a daughter of Emil Jellinek of Daimler Motors and Karl Benz who designed and built what is considered the first practical motorcar.

Karl Benz was a mechanical engineer who was a native of Germany. Having produced the first practical motorcar he named it the Benz Patent Motorwagen. He was granted a patent for the motorcar in 1886. The automobile was the forerunner of the modern day Mercedes-Benz motorcars. Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl, financed the production of the car. She helped publicised the car by driving it on the first long-distance, 194 km (121 miles), automobile road trip in 1888.

Karl Benz was granted a patent for the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the first successful motorcar and the forerunner of the modern day Mercedes-Benz, in the year 1886 On This Day.

Mercedes-Benz S600

16 May-Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was a poet who was a native of America. She is known for her innovative use of form and syntax. Very few of her poems were published during her lifetime. Following her death in 1886 her younger sister discovered that she had written almost 1,800 poems. Her poetry has been included in the prescribed material for the Leaving Certificate English Examination.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10th 1830. She left school as a teenager and rebelled against the extreme religious zeal which was common at the time. She lived her whole life in Amherst eventually becoming a reclusive. She interacted with the world mostly through correspondence. She is widely regarded as one of the most innovative poets in modern literature.

Emily Dickinson, a poet who was a native of America, died in Amherst, Massachusetts in the year 1886 On This Day.

Photograph of Emily Dickinson, seated, at the age of 16

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, c. early 1847, located in Amherst College Archives

13 July-Boys Town

Monsignor Edward Flanagan was a native of Roscommon, Ireland. He was the founder of Boys Town, an orphanage for boys in Nebraska, USA. Today Boys Town is a national organisation with twelve regional headquarters across the United States.

Edward Joseph Flanagan was born near the village of Ballymoe in the west of Ireland in 1886. He was educated at Summerhill College in Sligo before emigrating to the United States at the age of 18. He studied at Mount St. Mary’s University, Maryland and was awarded an MA in 1908. He studied for the priesthood in the US and Italy and was ordained in Austria in 1912.

Fr Flanagan served as a priest in Nebraska where he founded Boys Town for homeless boys in 1917. Boys Town is located ten miles west of Omaha. Boys Town did not use the reform school model but instead emphasised the social preparation of boys in its care. The model became the standard in several countries.

A film called Boys Town, based on the life of Fr Flanagan was made in 1938. Spencer Tracy playing the part of Fr Flanagan won an Oscar for Best Actor. When Fr Flanagan visited Ireland in 1946 he described institutions caring for children in Ireland as ‘a national disgrace’. His remarks were greeted with outrage by politicians and the media. He left Ireland and travelled to other countries observing child welfare problems. He died in Austria on May 15th 1948.

Fr Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town was born in the year 1886 On This Day.

Boys Town, Omaha, NE

Ballymoe photo

Fr Flanagan statue, Ballymoe


29 January-Val Vousden

Val Vousden was the stage name used by the actor William Francis Maher MacNevin, who was a native of Carlow town Ireland. Having made his stage debut at the age of six, he became one of Ireland’s leading character actors in the first half of the twentieth century. During his career he became best known for his portrayal of priests.

Val Vousden was born at 2 College Street, Carlow in January 1886. At the age of 6, he began his career as an actor playing the part of Tiny Tim in ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the Town Hall Theatre in Carlow in 1891. He received his primary education locally before going on to Mungret College, a Jesuit school near Limerick City. He continued to take part in drama productions as a student.

McNevin joined the East Lancashire Regiment of the British Army in Dublin, as a clerk, on August 26th 1904. He left after a year and returned to Carlow. He began touring with theatre companies in Ireland and England and by about 1910 started to use the stage name Val Vousden. He appears to have chosen his stage name after the Dublin born entertainer Valentine Vousden who was born in Moore Street, Dublin in 1821. Valentine Vousden had become famous not just in Ireland but also in England, New Zealand and the United States. He died in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1906.

The outbreak of World War 1 occurred while Bill McNevin, now known as Val Vousden, was touring with the Carrickford Repertory Company in Cardiff, Wales. Vousden rejoined the army and served in France with the Welsh Regiment rising to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. After the war he returned to Dublin and resumed his career as an actor. He performed at various theatres in Dublin and toured widely both in Ireland and Great Britain.

Val Vousden also became a well-known performer on national radio between 1930 and 1950. He presented the first light entertainment show on Radio Éireann. He appeared in a number of films including ‘Irish Destiny’, ‘Captain Boycott’ and ‘The Odd Man Out’. Val Vousden died at the age of 66 at Clonskeagh Hospital, Dublin on June 6th 1951

Val Vousden, actor and entertainer was born in the year 1886 On This Day.

Plaque to Val Vousden on house in College Street, Carlow town.




28 October-Statue of Liberty

William Russell Grace from Ballylinan, Co Laois, Ireland was mayor of New York when the Statue of Liberty arrived in the city from France in 1885. It was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States of America. The Statue of Liberty is now a national Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist site attracting over 3 million visitors annually and is one of America’s most famous landmarks.

In 1865 the French poet, author and politician Edouard de Laboulaye proposed a monument for the United States to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a suitable sculpture. Following a trip to America and discussions with individuals in America and France the idea of the Statue of Liberty was conceived

It was agreed that the cost of building the statue would be borne by the French and the Americans would build the pedestal. Funds for the project were raised through lotteries, exhibitions and other events in both countries. Construction of the statue began in 1875. The metallic skeleton which supports the copper exterior of the statue was designed by French engineer Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) who later built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City aboard the French ship Isere on June 17th 1885. It took four months to assemble and erect the statue which had been shipped from France as 350 individual pieces. It was erected on the pedestal which had been prepared by the Americans on what is now called Liberty Island in New York harbour.

The site for the Statue of Liberty was originally suggested by Bartholdi having noted during his visit that ships arriving in New York had to sail past it. Ellis Island, the main immigration station in America, opened in 1892. During the following sixty years millions of people, many of them Irish, sailed past the statue on their way to Ellis Island and a new life in America.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated at a ceremony presided over by Grover Cleveland, President of the United states of America, in the year 1886 On This Day.

Statue of Liberty by Sue Waters on 2012-07-06 14:38:57

Building the Statue of Liberty by pbump on 2013-03-16 11:31:43


Grace family mausoleum, Sacred Heart Church, Arles, Co Laois, Ireland