16 December-Dublin Fire Brigade

Thomas Purcell was an engineer and firefighter who was a native of Co Kilkenny, Ireland. He served as Chief Fire Officer of Dublin Fire Brigade during a time of great change and unrest from 1892 to 1917. Purcell is credited with having built the Brigade into a well-trained and efficient organisation

Thomas Purcell was born in Johnswell, Co Kilkenny in 1850. As a young man he was a member of the Kilkenny City Volunteer Fire Brigade. Purcell was awarded the medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire in July 1876. He was given the award for rescuing a woman during a fire at a drapery store in Kilkenny City.

In March 1892 Purcell was appointed Chief Fire Officer (Superintendent) of Dublin Fire Brigade. During his time in charge of the Brigade he was responsible for many innovations in training and equipment. He designed the first emergency ambulance for the fire brigade and oversaw its introduction in January 1898. Purcell was also responsible for the design of the brigade’s first motorised pump. It had a 50hp engine and a rear mounted turbine pump capable of delivering 350 gallons per minute. This was a big advance on the existing horse drawn equipment.

The first Dublin Fire Brigade motor pump designed by Thomas Purcell and built by Leyland arrived in Dublin in the year 1909 On This Day.

Dublin Fire Brigade





24 March-John Millington Synge

John Millington Synge was a playwright, dramatist and poet who was a native of Dublin, Ireland. Though born in Dublin his most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World, is based on his travels in the west of Ireland. Synge was also a travel writer and collector of Irish folklore. He was one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Edmund John Millington Synge was born in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland on April 16th 1871. At the age of 19 he entered Trinity College Dublin (TCD). He graduated from TCD with BA in Irish and Hebrew in 1892. He was a talented musician and studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Following graduation he moved to Germany to study music. However by 1895 he had abandoned his plan to become a musician. He moved to Paris to study literature and languages at the Sorbonne.

In 1896 W. B. Yeats was in Paris to establish a branch of the Irish League. He met with Synge and encouraged him to move to The Arran Islands to ‘express a life that has never found expression’. He returned to Ireland and with Yeats and others formed the Irish National Theatre Society, which later established the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The following year in 1897 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and underwent surgery.

Synge first arrived on the Arran Islands, off the coast of Galway in 1898, settling eventually on Inishmaan (Inish Meáin). He lived on the Islands during the summer of each year from 1898 to 1902. Plays such as Riders to the Sea and The Well of the Saints were based on his observations while living there. Synge also travelled to other parts of the West coast and his most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World is said to be set in County Mayo close to Achill Island. The main character in the play, Christy Mahon is said to be based on Achill man James Lynchehaun.

When the Playboy of the Western World was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1907 it caused riots. Riots also occurred when the play opened in New York in 1911. The writings of Synge brought things like the language and life of the people of the West of Ireland to the stage. It had a huge impact on the Irish literary scene.

John Millington Synge, playwright and poet, died in Dublin at the age of 37 in the year 1909 On This Day.

Image from page 9 of “The works of John M. Synge ..” (1912)

Image from page 21 of “The works of John M. Synge ..” (1912)



08 March-Francis MacManus

Francis MacManus was a novelist, broadcaster and teacher who was a native of Kilkenny Ireland. He wrote several novels and short stories during his lifetime. The Francis MacManus Short Story Award is named in his honour.

Francis MacManus was born in Kilkenny in 1909. He was educated at Kilkenny CBS, St Patricks College Dublin and UCD (University College Dublin). Following graduation MacManus worked as a teacher at Synge Street CBS for 18 years. He was appointed Director of Features at Radio Éireann (now RTE) in 1948. MacManus worked there until he died at the age of 56 on November 27th 1965. In 1985 The RTÉ Francis MacManus Short Story Award was established in his memory. The winner is awarded a prize of €3,000.

Francis MacManus was born in the year 1909 On This Day.

Francis MacManus Short Story Award photo

Mobile RTE by topgold


01 January-Old Age Pension

The Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 provided for a non-contributory pension for men and women over the age of 70. Only those with good character and earning less than £31. 10s per annum were eligible to receive payment. The weekly payment amounted to five shillings per week.

In order to qualify for the pension documentary proof of age was required. Proof of age could be a baptismal record or by reference to the national census returns of 1841 and 1851. For those without documentary proof pensions could be awarded if they could recall the Night of the Big Wind in January 1839. In England and Wales 1.09% of the population qualified for the pension. In Scotland 1.5% of the qualified, whilst in Ireland 5.3% qualified.

The Old Age Pension was due to be paid for the first time in the year 1909 On This Day.

Old Age Pension photo

Photo by brizzle born and bred

20 December-Ireland’s First Cinema

The first cinema in Ireland was opened in Dublin by the author James Joyce. The cinema was opened in 1909 but films had been screened in Dublin prior to it being opened. The Lumière (Auguste and Louis) from Lyons in France held the first public showing of a film in Dublin in April 1896. The Lumière brothers made what is regarded as the first motion picture in 1895. It was made in Lyon and was entitled ‘Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory’.

Joyce had been living in Trieste and had witnessed the popularity of cinemas in Europe. With financial assistance from Italy he returned to Dublin and opened a cinema at 45 Mary Street. The cinema, which was called the Volta Electric Theatre featured five films on its opening night. Less than a year after the opening night Joyce returned to Trieste and the cinema was sold. In 1948 the cinema was closed dwn. The building was later demolished and is now the site of a department store.

Ireland’s first cinema, the Volta Electric Theatre opened in Dublin in the year 1909 On This Day.