02 February-Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a cultural tradition celebrated annually in the United States and Canada. The largest celebration of the day is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Having been first celebrated there in 1887, it gradually spread throughout the United States and Canada. It is related to Candlemas, one of the oldest Christian feasts.

On Groundhog Day, the emergence of the groundhog from his den supposedly predicts the arrival of spring. If the groundhog emerges and sees his shadow he will return to his den and winter will last for six more weeks. However if the day is cloudy he will remain above ground and spring will soon arrive.

Groundhog Day was first observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the year 1887 On This Day.

Groundhog Day, Gobblers Knob – Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

 

 

21 November-Joseph Plunkett

Joseph Plunkett, who was a native of Dublin, was a signatory of the 1916 Proclamation. He was a poet and journalist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising 1916. During the Rising he was stationed in the General Post Office where his aide de camp was Michael Collins.

Joseph Mary Plunkett was born to wealthy parents at Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin in 1887. His father was a Papal Count. He was educated in Ireland and at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England. Having contracted tuberculosis at an early age, Plunkett lived for a time in Mediterranean countries.

In 1913 Plunkett joined the Irish Volunteers and later the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He travelled to Germany to meet with Roger Casement and to seek weapons. He fought in the Easter Rising despite having surgery a few days before Easter. After the Rising, Plunkett was court-martialled, found guilty and sentenced to death. Prior to his execution he married his fiancée Grace Gifford.

Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising 1916, was born in Dublin in the year 1887 On This Day.

Joseph Plunkett – Easter Rising 1916

 

 

 

 

19 August-Francis Ledwidge

Francis Ledwidge was a poet and soldier who was a native of Co Meath, Ireland. He is often referred to as the ‘Poet of the Blackbirds’. During World War I Ledwidge served in both the Balkans and Western Europe. He was killed by a German shell at the Battle of Passchendaele on July 31st 1917.

Francis Edward Ledwidge was born at Janeville near Slane Co Meath in 1887. When he was five years old his father died. At the age of 13 Francis left school to work in support of his family. He worked at various jobs including farm labourer, road worker, miner and shop assistant. During this time he was writing poetry and his first poems were published in the Drogheda Independent when he was fourteen years old.

Lord Dunsany became his patron and helped Ledwidge publish his first poetry collection, ‘Songs of the Fields’. He also introduced him to poets of the day including Katharine Tynan and W B Yeats. Following the outbreak of World War I, Ledwidge enlisted in the 5th battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was at the time a supporter of the Gaelic League, a nationalist and founder of the local branch of the Irish Volunteers. Despite this and against the advice of Lord Dunsany he decided to enlist. He later said: ‘I joined the British army because England stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilisation, and I would not have had it said that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions.’

Ledwidge first served in The Balkans. He landed at Gallipoli in July 1915 and in August took part in the joint allied attack on Suvla Bay. Following the failure of the attack his regiment was transferred to Serbia where Ledwidge damaged his back and was transferred to Hospital in Manchester, England. Whilst in hospital Ledwidge heard about the 1916 Easter Rising. He was dismayed to learn about the execution of Thomas MacDonagh whom he had known before the war. His poem, ‘Lament for Thomas MacDonagh’ is one his best known compositions.

Ledwidge was given leave to return home. He was badly affected by the events in Dublin of 1916 and was disillusioned with the war. Following his period of leave he failed to report on time for duty and was arrested for being drunk. He was demoted and sent to the western front in France. In the spring of 1917 Ledwidge was involved in the Battle of Arras. He was later sent to Belgium where he was killed while involved in preparation for the battle of Passchendaele near the Belgian city of Ypres.

Francis Ledwidge, poet and soldier, was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I was born in Co Meath in the year 1887 On This Day.

Monument to Irish poet Francis Ledwidge in Flanders

 

 

03 August-Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke was a native of England. He was a poet who is best remembered for his sonnets, such as ‘The Soldier’, about World War I. He was described by W B Yeats as ‘the handsomest young man in England’.

Rupert Chawner Brooke was born Rugby, Warwickshire in 1887. He was educated in Rugby and later attended King’s College, Cambridge. After leaving Cambridge he travelled in Europe and studied in Germany. In 1913 he set out on a world tour. He travelled across North America and went on to tour New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Brooke returned to England just before the beginning of World War I. He served in the Royal Navy and in 1915 set sail for Gallipoli with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. During the voyage he developed septicaemia from a mosquito bite. He died aged 27 on April 23rd 1915 on board a French hospital ship in the Aegean Sea. He is buried on the Greek island of Skyros.

Rupert Brooke, soldier-poet of World War I, was born in the year 1887 On This Day.

Jubilee Gardens, Rugby – statue of Rupert Brooke

The Soldier, Rupert Brooke

 

 

 

17 February-William Dowling VC

William Dowling was a native of Co Kilkenny Ireland. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1857. He won the award, at the age of 32, for bravery shown whilst serving with the British Army in India. 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.

William Dowling was born in Thomastown Co Kilkenny in 1825. He was serving with the British Army in India during the middle of the nineteenth century. His Regiment was under siege at the British base in the city of Lucknow capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.

During the siege Dowling went out under heavy fire to spike the enemy guns. He did this on three occasions, 4th July, 9th July and 27th September 1857, at great danger to himself. The siege, which lasted for over five months, was eventually lifted by the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The defenders and civilians were evacuated and the base was abandoned.

William Dowling was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in November 1859. He was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria of England at Windsor Castle on January 4th 1860. He survived the war and when he left the army he settled in the city of Liverpool where he became a customs officer in the Port of Liverpool. He died at the age of 62 and a monument was erected to his memory in Liverpool Roman Catholic (Ford) Cemetery. The monument was moved to St John’s Road Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool in 1991.

William Dowling VC from Thomastown Co Kilkenny died in Liverpool in the year 1887 On This Day.

Victoria Cross

Thomastown Main street