11 January-Breathalyser

Tom Parry Jones invented the first handheld electronic Breathalyser in 1967. A breathalyser is a device which estimates a person’s blood alcohol level from a breath sample. The presence of alcohol in expired breath was first observed by Dr Francis Anstie in 1874. Several instruments were developed during the following year to measure blood alcohol level.

Tom Parry Jones was born in Anglesey, North Wales on March 27th 1935. While working at the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology he developed, with Bill Ducie, the handheld electronic Breathalyser. Its development coincided with the introduction of maximum blood alcohol level for drivers. The Breathalyser has been developed further during the following years.

Tom Parry Jones, inventor of the first handheld electronic Breathalyser, died aged 77 in the year 2013 On This Day.


30 August-Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was a renowned Irish poet, playwright and professor. He was the recipient of several prizes during his lifetime, including the Nobel Prize in Literature. When he died in 2013 he was described in the British newspaper, The Independent as ‘probably the best-known poet in the world’.

Seamus Justin Heaney was born in Mossbawn near Toomebridge Co Derry on the shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland on April 13th 1939. He attended Anahorish Primary school and was awarded a scholarship to St Columb’s College in the city of Derry. When Heaney completed his secondary education he went on to study at Queen’s University in Belfast. He graduated with an Honours Degree in English Language and Literature in 1961.

Following graduation Seamus Heaney worked for time as a school teacher before becoming a college lecturer at St Joseph’s Teacher Training College in Belfast. In 1966 he was appointed lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen’s University Belfast. Heaney published his first book ‘Eleven Poems’ in 1965. In 1966 the publication of ‘Death of a Naturalist’ won several awards and received immense acclamation. During his lifetime Seamus Heaney went on to publish several acclaimed books of poetry including ‘North’ (1974), ‘Station Island’ (1984), ‘The Spirit Level’ (1996) and ‘District and Circle’ (2006).

Heaney continued with his career as a university lecturer and in 1970 he was a guest lecturer at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. In 1972 he was appointed lecturer at Carysfort College, Blackrock, Co Dublin. He was appointed first as visiting Professor at Harvard in 1981 and from 1985 until 1997 as Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. He later became ‘Poet in Residence’. He was also elected as professor of Poetry at Oxford between 1989 and 1994.

Seamus Heaney was elected a Saoi of Aosdána (the Irish academy of artists and writers), in 1997 and was the recipient of numerous awards. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland. Whilst he was attending St Columb’s his brother was killed in a road accident and in ‘Mid-Term Break’ in 1966 he wrote:

“Wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple,

He lay in the four foot box as in a cot.

No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.”

Seamus Heaney, renowned Irish poet, playwright, professor and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature died in Dublin at the age of 74 in the year 2013 On This Day.

Seamus Heaney



29 December-Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is a retired racing driver who is a native of Germany. Regarded as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time he won the World Championship on seven occasions. He retired from Formula 1 racing in 2012.

Michael Schumacher was born in Hürth, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on January 3rd 1969. He began his driving career in karting and was winner of the German Junior Kart Championship in 1983. Having had one race with the Jordan Formula team Schumacher signed with the Benetton Formula One team in 1991. He won two titles with Benetton before moving to Ferrari in1996.

Schumacher remained with Ferrari until he retired in 2006. He later drove with Mercedes team before retiring for a second time in 2012. A year later while skiing off-piste in the French Alps he sustained a head injury when he fell and hit his head on a rock. We hope he makes a complete recovery.

Michael Schumacher sustained a head injury in a skiing accident in the year 2013 On This Day.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher photo

Photo by Formula1streaming


19 October-Titanic

It is said that as the Titanic was sinking, the band on board played ‘Nearer my God to Thee’. 1,517 people including the band leader Wallace Hartley, and all members of the band, died when the ship went down. The violin which Hartley was playing was sold at auction for £900,000 in 2013.

The Titanic was a luxury passenger liner which was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the time of its launch it was it was the largest ship afloat. The maiden voyage of the Titanic began at Southampton on April 10th 1912. The ship called at Cherbourg in France and at Cobh (then Queenstown) Co Cork on its voyage to New York. When it left Cobh the ship was carrying 2,224 passengers and crew. Just four days into its voyage the ship hit an iceberg on April 14th 1912. The Titanic began to sink and mayday messages were transmitted.

It quickly became clear that passengers and crew would have to be disembarked. The Titanic however, was only equipped with enough lifeboats to accommodate just over half the number of people on board. In an effort to keep passengers calm as they were being loaded onto the lifeboats Hartley and his fellow band members were asked to play music. Reports from survivors say that the band continued to play until the end. Less than three hours after hitting the iceberg the Titanic sank with over one thousand people still on board.

The body of Wallace Hartley was one of those recovered by the ship Mackay–Bennett. His body was fully clothed and his music case was strapped to his body. His violin was given to his fiancée. It was given to the Salvation Army when she died. The violin was found in the attic of a British man’s house in 2004. During the following nine years the violin went through a process of verification before being put up for auction.

The violin which band leader Wallace Hartley was playing as the Titanic was sinking was sold at auction for £900,000 in the year 2013 On This Day.

Memorial to Wallace Hartley, the bandleader of the Titanic by Tim Green aka atoach on 2011-07-09 12:39:15

07 October-Frederick Douglass visit to Waterford

Frederick Douglass was an escaped African-American slave who visited Waterford City in 1845. In 2013 a plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Waterford Councillor John Cummins to commemorate the visit. Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in the state of Maryland. Following his escape Douglass became a leader of the abolitionist movement in America.

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery on September 3rd 1838. He travelled first to New York and later settled in Massachusetts. In the years following his escape he travelled the northern states to speak at rallies demanding the abolition of slavery.

In 1845 Douglass visited Ireland, where he met Daniel O Connell. He gave lectures, which were very popular, in several locations across Ireland. In a letter to the abolitionist William Garrison, Douglass wrote: I have travelled almost from the hill of Howth to the Giant’s Causeway and from the Giant’s Causeway to Cape Clear.

During his travels Douglass spoke at meetings in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Wexford and Waterford. He described the great sense of freedom which he felt while visiting Ireland. “I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! The chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult”.

A plaque commemorating the visit of Frederick Douglass to Waterford City in 1845 was unveiled at the entrance to City Hall in the year 2013 On This Day.

Waterford City Hall photo

Frederick Douglas

Photo by Marion Doss

Statue of Frederick Douglass.] by New York Public Library on 2009-10-07 09:57:05


Lord Lieutenant & Corporation by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 1914-11-17 09:14:04