16 January-Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberia, a country on the West coast of Africa, has a population of just over 4.5 million. From about 1820 onwards the country was established by freed American slaves with the help of the American Colonization Society. Liberia was declared a republic in 1847, making it the oldest republic in Africa. Monrovia, the capital city of The Republic of Liberia, is named after US President Monroe who was a strong supporter of the colonization.

Though the colonists were a minority in Liberia, they ruled the country until 1980 when they were overthrown in a military coup. The instability which followed led to two civil wars resulting in the deaths of over a quarter of a million people and the devastation of Liberia’s economy. A peace agreement was signed in 2003. The United Nations sent a mission (which included an Irish battalion) to Liberia to provide security and monitor the peace agreement. An interim government was established. Elections were held in 2005 which led to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf being installed as President of Liberia in January 2006. Ms Sirleaf became the first elected female head of state on the continent of Africa. She was re-elected in 2011 and served as President of Liberia until 2018.

From 2006 onwards the Liberian economy began to improve but Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world. The deadly Ebola virus appeared in the country in March 2014 threatening economic recovery and leading to the deaths of over 3,000 people. However there was a dramatic fall in the number of deaths during the first months of 2015. Though the outbreak was declared officially at an end on May 8th 2015, new cases arose in the following months. The World health organisation declared that Liberia’s Ebola epidemic was over on January 14th 2016.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated as President of Liberia in the year 2006 On This Day.

HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Chatham House, London on 2011-06-13 17:40:50


16 January-Frances Browne

Frances Browne was an author who was a native of Co Donegal, Ireland. Despite being blind from a young age she became a successful poet and novelist during the Victorian era. Her work appeared in several publications during her lifetime. She was awarded a civil pension of £100 by Sir Robert Peel.

Frances Browne was born in Stranorlar Co Donegal, Ireland in 1816. One of a family of twelve children she lost her sight before the age of two due to smallpox. She learned what she heard by heart especially the lessons which her brothers and sisters said aloud each evening.

Her first collection of poems, which included ‘Songs of Our Land’ was published in 1841 in the Irish Penny Journal and the London Athenauem. Her poems and short stories continued to be published and she became known as ‘The Blind Poetess of Ulster’.

Accompanied by her sister who was her reader and amanuensis, Frances Browne moved to Edinburgh in 1847. In Edinburgh she continued her literary work including making contributions to women’s magazines. She moved to London in 1852 where her most famous work, ‘Granny’s Wonderful Chair’ was published. In 1856 she published ‘Pictures and Songs of Home’, a volume of poetry about growing up in Donegal. Her final poem ‘The Children’s Day’ was published shortly before her death at the age of 63 on August 21st 1879.

Frances Browne, poet and novelist, was born in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, Ireland in the year 1816 On This Day.

Frances Browne photo

Image from page 36 of “Granny’s wonderful chair and its tales of fairy times” (1916) by Internet Archive Book Images




15 January-Flight 1549

US Airways Flight 1549 was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey in January 2009 when it suffered complete engine failure due to bird strikes. All passengers and crew were saved in what became known as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’. The ditching of the aircraft is regarded by many as the most famous forced landing of all time

US Airways Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia Airport in New York on a scheduled flight to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. The Pilot was Captain Chesley Sullenberger. The First officer Jeffrey B. Skiles was at the controls. The plane, an Airbus A320 had 150 passengers and 5 crew on board. Just over three minutes into the flight the plane struck a flock of Canada geese. By then it had reached an altitude of almost 900m (3000 feet) and was about 7km (4.5 miles) from the airport. The plane lost power in both engines and Capt. Sullenberger took the controls while First Officer Skiles tried to restart the engines.

The crew quickly decided that they would have to make an emergency landing. When they realised that they would be unable to reach any airfield they turned the aircraft in the direction of the Hudson River. The aircraft was successfully ditched in the river and all 155 persons on board, safely evacuated the airliner. They were quickly rescued by commercial vehicles on the river. Captain Chesley Sullenberger was the last to leave the plane.

Sullenberger, who had served as a pilot with the US Air Force had been a commercial airline pilot for 29 years. The successful emergency landing made him and instant hero and an international celebrity. The event was described as ‘the most successful ditching in aviation history’ by a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

US Airways Flight 1549 was brought to a safe landing on the Hudson River, New York in the year 2009 On This Day.

US Airways Flight 1549 Plane Crash Hudson in New York taken by Janis Krums on an iPhone by davidwatts1978 on 2009-01-15 14:12:23

Chesley Sullenberger photo

Captain Chesley Sullenberger and Wife Lorrie




14 January-Berkeley

Berkeley, California is named after Bishop George Berkeley who was a native of Thomastown Co Kilkenny, Ireland. Bishop Berkeley made great contributions to the fields of philosophy, mathematics, physics and economics. He developed the argument that, reality exists exclusively as it is perceived by the senses. His writings continue to be the subject of an increasing number of annual publications.

George Berkeley was born at Dysart Castle near Thomastown about 18km south of Kilkenny City on march 12th 1685. He was educated at Kilkenny College and entered Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 1704. He was awarded a Master’s Degree in 1707 and remained at TCD as a tutor and lecturer in Greek until 1724. In 1724 he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity and appointed Dean of Derry. During his time in TCD he visited Britain and made a tour of Europe.

Following his marriage to Anne Foster in August 1728 George Berkeley and his wife moved to America. They settled near Newport, Rhode Island, purchased land and built a house called Whitehall. In 1970 Whitehall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in America. Berkeley intended to establish a seminary in Bermuda for the education of young American Indians. However, having failed to raise enough money for his project, he donated his property and library to Yale and Harvard. He returned to Europe in 1731 and settled London.

In London Berkeley helped establish a home (The Foundling Hospital) for abandoned children. He was consecrated Bishop Cloyne in Ireland in 1734 a post he retained for the rest of his life. In 1753, shortly before he died, Berkeley moved to Oxford in England where his son was a student. Several institutions such as The University of California Berkeley and Berkeley Library at Trinity College, Dublin are named in his honour.

Bishop George Berkeley, in whose honour University of California Berkeley and Berkeley Library at Trinity College are named, died at the age of 67 in the year 1753 On This Day.

 Berkeley, California (1959)

Bishop George Berkeley photo

Bishop George Berkeley by cliff1066™

Thomastown photo

Thomastown Main street by Bernie Goldbach


13 January-Dunmore Cave

Dunmore Cave is located about 11 Km North of Kilkenny City, Ireland, close to the road linking the city to the town of Castlecomer. The cave contains many passages and, at its deepest, is 46m below the surface. It has several calcite formations the most spectacular of which is known as the Market Cross, measuring over 5m high and 1.3m across. The cave is open to the public and was designated as a national monument in 1944.
Reference to the cave, which is a 300 million years old limestone formation, can be found in documents dating back centuries. The Annals, for instance, tell of a Viking massacre which occurred at the cave in 928 AD. Later investigations showed that remains which were discovered, were the bodies of nineteen female adults and twenty five children. Excavations at various times have uncovered bodies, coins, weapons and various artefacts dating back to Viking times. The cave is referred to in many publications including the Dublin Penny Journal. Kilkenny native Bishop George Berkeley wrote an account of a visit he made to the cave in 1706 when he was twenty one years old.
On November 19th 1999 at the end of the tourist season, a tourist guide who was tidying up, discovered a hoard of silver and bronze items which dated back to 970 AD. Among the items found were some coins from the North East of England and others from Baghdad. Officials described the find as “very exciting and of major significance”. The discovery was not announced until January 2000. By then the hoard of coins and jewellery which was over 1,000 years old had been transferred to the National Museum in Dublin. After the discovery the cave was closed to the public so that further archaeological works could be carried out. Following the archaeological works, extensive redevelopment at the cave was undertaken before it was reopened to the public in 2003.
The announcement of the discovery of the hoard of 1,000 year old coins and jewellery in Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny was made in the year 2000 On This Day.

Dunmore Cave photo

Dunmore Cave by Olivier Bruchez