11 February-Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid campaigner and politician who became the first black President of South Africa. Having been elected in a fully representative democratic election he helped end racial segregation and brought about a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela visited Ireland on three occasions. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1988.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo in Umtata (now called Mthatha), South Africa in July 1918. Mandela, a Xhosa born into the Thembu Royal family, was given the name Nelson at the age of seven by his teacher in the local Methodist school. He was awarded a BA Degree by the University of South Africa in 1943 and shortly thereafter began law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. However he devoted his time to politics and failed his final exams.

Having joined the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela became a member the ANC National Executive in March 1950. An advocate of non-violent resistance to apartheid he became deputy national president of the ANC in 1952. As part of the apartheid regime people were legally obliged to carry a pass at all times. A anti pass campaign was organised in 1960 in which passes were burned. At one such event police fired on demonstrators resulting in the deaths of 69 protestors in what became known as the Sharpeville massacre.

Following the massacre Mandela helped organise a paramilitary campaign against the white minority Government. He was arrested and tried for treason in 1961 and though acquitted he was arrested again in 1962. He was convicted of leaving the country illegally and sentenced to five years in prison on Robben Island. In 1964 he was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. He would spend the next 27 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa.

Frederik Willem de Klerk became President of South Africa in September 1989. He began to dismantle the apartheid system and in February 1990 ordered that Nelson Mandela be released from custody. Mandela was released from custody on February 11th 1990. The ANC with Mandela as leader won the general election in April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa on May 10th 1994. Having served one term as President he retired in 1999. In 1993 the Nobel Prize for Peace was jointly awarded to Mandela and de Klerk. Mandela died at the age of 95 on December 5th 2013.

Nelson Mandela was released from custody on Robben Island in the year 1990 On This Day.

Nelson Mandela photo

Photo by symphony of love


12 January-Bishop Patrick Lennon

Very Rev Patrick Lennon DD served as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin for 20 years from 1967 to 1987. The diocese is located in the southeast of Ireland. It includes the counties of Carlow and Kildare and parts of the nearby counties of Offaly, Laois, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow.

Patrick Lennon was born in Borris Co Carlow, Ireland on June 22nd 1914. One of a family of seven boys and one girl he received his primary education at Borris National School. Following completion of his primary education he moved to Rockwell College Co Tipperary and later to Knockbeg College Co Carlow. He entered Maynooth College in 1931 to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1938.

In 1940 Patrick Lennon was appointed to the teaching staff of Carlow College as Professor of Moral Theology. He remained at the college for the following 26 years serving as President of Carlow College from 1956 to 1966. He was appointed auxiliary Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 1966 and Bishop of that diocese in 1967 following the retirement of Bishop Thomas Keogh. Bishop Lennon performed the opening ceremony of The Holy Family Church at Askea near Carlow town in 1976. The church is of unique architectural design. Bishop Lennon retired in December 1987.

Very Rev Patrick Lennon, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin died in a car accident near Kill in County Kildare in the year 1990 On This Day.

Carlow photo

Carlow Cathedral by Nico Kaiser

Carlow College photo

Knockbeg College by red, white, and black eyes forever



07 January-Leaning Tower of Pisa

The campanile of Pisa Cathedral is known worldwide as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Situated to the rear of the Cathedral it is 55.86m tall on the low side and 56.67m on its high side. The tower is circular in shape and has eight floors. There are seven bells on the eighth floor each representing a musical note on the major scale. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987 and is a major tourist attraction.

Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173. The Tower began to tilt during construction of the first three stories. This was due to inadequate foundations on ground which was too soft on one side. Construction was halted on several occasions due to wars and also to allow for solutions to be found to correct the lean. One solution was to make the top five stories slightly taller on the short side in an effort to compensate for the lean. However the tilt continued to increase.

It took over 200 years to complete the construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa during which time the tower had many additions and modifications. All the modifications failed to stop the tower’s continually increasing tilt. Following a request for help from the Italian Government a meeting of experts was held on the Azores in 1964 to find ways to prevent the tower from falling.

Over 800 years after the foundations were laid the tower was closed to the public for safety reasons. Works were carried out to slightly straighten the tower and prevent its collapse. The modifications took over ten years to complete and the tower was again opened to the public on December 15th 2001. In 2008 it was announced that the Tower had stopped moving for the first time in its history.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed to the public for the first time in history in the year 1990 On This Day.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa with Duomo

03 December-President Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson (née Bourke) from Ballina County Mayo, Ireland served as President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. A barrister by profession, she was the seventh President and the first female President of Ireland. With Douglas Hyde and Dr Patrick Hillary she is one of three presidents who have been born west of the River Shannon.

Mary Therese Winifred Bourke was born in Ballina on May 21st 1944. Following second level education in Dublin she studied law at Trinity College, King’s Inns, Dublin and Harvard Law School in the United States. In 1969 at the age of 25 she returned to Trinity College where she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law.

Mary Robinson was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1969 representing the Trinity College constituency. She served as a member of several parliamentary committees and was to the forefront highlighting major issues of the day. She served in the Senate until 1989. She was also elected to serve as a member of Dublin City Council from 1979 to 1983.

Having been nominated by the Labour Party, Mary Robinson was elected President of Ireland in 1990. During her term of office she proved to be a very popular and is credited with playing a transformative role in the office of President. She became the first Irish President to visit the United Kingdom whilst in office. She met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham palace and later welcomed Charles Prince of Wales to Áras an Uachtaráin. In 1992 she was the first head of state to visit Somalia following its civil war. She was also the first to visit Rwanda after the genocide in 1994. She resigned in September 1997 to take up a position as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mary Robinson was inaugurated President of Ireland in the year 1990 On This Day.

Mary Robinson- President of Ireland 1990 by The Labour Party on 2012-03-27 23:35:04


01 December-Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is a rail tunnel which links Folkestone in England with Calais in northern France. The Channel Tunnel runs beneath the English Channel and is 50.5km (31.4) long. Nicknamed The Chunnel it began operations in 1994

A French engineer, Albert Mathieu, first suggested a tunnel linking England and France in 1802. Despite several initiatives the project did not proceed until The Treaty of Canterbury was signed in February 1986. Two years later tunnelling began on both sides of the English Channel. In December 1990 the service tunnel was completed. The island of Britain was connected to the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.

Tunnels for freight and passenger trains running on either side of the service tunnel were completed during the following years. The Channel Tunnel was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the French President, François Mitterrand on May 6th 1994. Today high-speed passenger trains, freight and automobile shuttles and rail freight trains pass through the Tunnel.

The service tunnel for the Channel Tunnel was completed when British and French workers met under the English Channel in the year 1990 On This Day.

The Channel Tunnel photo

EUROSTAR by UNKIEPAUL / Paul Johnston on 2009-03-27 11:46:29

Chunnel by George Grinsted on 2011-07-14 09:28:12