17 March-St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day was first placed on the Liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church in about 1620. Waterford born Franciscan priest Luke Wadding who was educated in Waterford and Kilkenny was instrumental in having St Patrick’s Day placed on the Liturgical calendar. Though Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated as far back as the ninth century, this was the first time that March 17th became the official Feast Day of the saint who is regarded as the patron of Ireland.

St Patrick’s Day is now an official feast day of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. Almost 300 years after becoming a liturgical feast day, Saint Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland through the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act of 1903. The bill was introduced by James O’Mara MP for South Kilkenny in the British House of Commons. O’Mara, who was from Limerick, served both as a member of the House of Commons in London and later in Dáil Éireann. As a member of Dáil Éireann O Mara introduced a law in 1922 which led to the closure of Public Houses on St Patrick’s Day. The law remained in place until the 1970’s.

Today Saint Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated around the world and especially in Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. However it is public holiday only in Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Caribbean Island of Montserrat.

Saint Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland in the year 1903 On This Day.

St Patricks Day

St. Patrick’s Day Chicago

St Patrick’s Day in Carlow-Killeshin Pipe Band


06 October-Ernest Walton

Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton was an experimental physicist who was a native of Co Waterford, Ireland. In partnership with English physicist John Cockcroft he became the first person in history to artificially split the atom. The successful experiment was carried out in 1932 when Walton was 29 years old. Walton and Cockcroft were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for their pioneering experiment. To date Walton is the only the only Irish person who has been awarded a Nobel Prize in the field of science.

Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton was born in Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. His father was a minister in the Methodist Church. This meant the family had to move to a new congregation/parish every three years. As a result, Walton as a child moved with his family from Dungarvan to Rathkeale, Co Limerick and later to Co Monagahn. He attended school in Banbridge Co Down, Cookstown Co Tyrone and Wesley College in Dublin. He received his second level education at Methodist College, Belfast from where he was awarded a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin in 1922. He graduated with first class honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1926 and received a M.Sc. in 1927.

Having been awarded a research fellowship he was accepted as a research student at Trinity College Cambridge, England. It was during this time that he collaborated with another research student John Cockcroft to devise an experiment to split the atom. Following several setbacks they were finally successful on April 13th 1932. Walton, who remained as a research student at Cambridge until 1934, was awarded a PhD in 1931.

In 1934 Ernest Walton returned to Ireland to work at Trinity College Dublin. In 1946 he was appointed Erasmus Smith Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at Trinity, a position he held until his retirement in 1974. He continued to be associated with the physics department at Trinity for the rest of his life and presented his Nobel Medal to the College. He died on June 25th 1995 at the age of 91 and is buried at Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.

Apart from his academic activities Ernest Walton was involved in a range of committees involving Government Departments, the church, and institutions such as the Royal City of Dublin Hospital. He served for many years as a member of the Board of Governors of Wesley College Dublin. He regularly attended the annual Young Scientist Exhibition in the RDS. In 2015 a commemorative Ernest Walton coin issued by the Central Bank of Ireland was presented to special award winners at the Young Scientist exhibition in Dublin. Each year the Department of Education and Skills awards the Ernest Walton STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Bursary to selected second level students who intend to complete a third level course in the STEM field.

Ernest Walton was born in the year 1903 On This Day.

Ernest Walton

Ernest Walton photo

Apples and Atoms at Trinity College Dublin by Eilís O’Connell RHA celebrating Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton.


02 July-Gordon Bennett Race 1903

The second circuit of the 1903 Gordon Bennett Motor Cup Race passed through the town of Carlow, Ireland. The race was the forerunner of today’s Grand Prix Racing. It covered a distance of 527km (327.5 miles) over two circuits. The race began near the town of Athy, Co Kildare and attracted thousands of spectators. A grandstand which could accommodate 1,000 people was erected at the starting point and 7,000 police marshalled the event. The police were assisted by the army and racing club stewards.

Automobile racing had begun in France around 1894 and Gordon Bennett, who was the owner of the New York Herald, provided a trophy for the 1900 the Automobile Club de France Race. The competition for the cup was held each year on open roads until 1905. Due to frequent accidents and many fatalities, for both drivers and spectators, the event was staged on a circuit in Le Mans in France in 1905. It was the first Grand Prix motor racing event which eventually evolved into Formula One racing.

In 1901 the race was held from Paris to Bordeaux. In 1902 when the race was held from Paris to Innsbruck it was won by an English man, Selwyn Francis Edge. As a result the race was required to be held in England in 1903. However it was illegal to hold a motor race on the roads in England and the speed limit on Irish roads was 12mph (19.3kmh). In order that the race could be held in Ireland a motoring enthusiast called John Scott Montague who was an MP in the British House of Commons introduced The Light Locomotives (Ireland) Act of 1903. The purpose of the Act was to exempt cars from any statutory speed limit on the day of the race. The Act also provided for extra funding for County Councils where the race was to be held.

The holding of the race in Ireland was enthusiastically supported by politicians, the clergy and the general public. The Most Rev. Patrick Foley, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin wrote to the Auto Mobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland to state: ‘I have much pleasure in declaring myself an ardent advocate of the proposed route for the Gordon-Bennett Cup Race, 1903’.

The 1903 race had twelve international competitors representing England, America, France and Germany. For the race, English cars were painted green. The winner of the race was Camille Jenatzy (known as the Red Devil). He travelled at an average speed of 49.25mph (79.3kmh) and drove a white Mercedes for Germany. The event attracted huge international attention and was attended by thousands of spectators along the various routes.

In June of each year the Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Club stage the International Gordon Bennett Rally in Ireland. The rally often retraces the route of the original race. The annual event attracts approximately 175 cars from Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, America and South Africa.

The Gordon Bennett Race, the forerunner of modern day Grand Prix Racing, took place over circuits in the counties of Kildare Laois and Carlow in the year 1903 On This Day.

1903 Napier “Gordon Bennett” by sv1ambo on 2011-06-07 00:01:52

1903 Napier “Gordon Bennett” by sv1ambo on 2011-06-07 00:01:49

25 June-George Orwell

George Orwell was a novelist, essayist and critic. He once said, ‘The English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad’. Orwell is most famous for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four.

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bengal, India, in 1903. As a young boy Orwell moved with his mother and older sister to England in 1904. His father, who was a civil servant stayed in India visiting his family in England just once in 1908 before retiring to England in 1912. Orwell had one younger sister.

George Orwell won a scholarship to Eton College, Windsor, England. After school his family could not afford to send him to university so he joined the police in India in 1922. Deciding he wanted to be a writer he resigned and returned to England in 1927. His first book ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ was published in 1933.

Orwell married Eileen O’Shaughnessy in 1936 and shortly thereafter went to Spain to fight against Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He was badly injured during the war and returned to England. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1938 and spent several months in a sanatorium.

During the following years, whilst continuing to suffer from the effects of tuberculosis, Orwell wrote several essays and also worked as a producer for the BBC. The novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were published in 1945 and 1949 respectively. He died at the age of 46 in hospital in London on January 21st 1950.

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) was born in the year 1903 On This Day.

George Orwell Complete Collection. by Abee5 on 2013-02-23 12:40:40