The last few years have not been kind to many of my musical idols. To be fair, many were older already and had lived full and wild lives so their passing was not necessarily a surprise but when you lose childhood heroes like David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen it still hurts. This week Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries has joined them, which was shocking. O’Riordan was young and she had three children. She was just starting to record again and get back on her feet. I was looking forward to hearing what she was going to do next, as were many others and this terrible news means that we’ll never know.
When Máirín Cregan was born on this day in 1891, her mother made a very important decision. She insisted that her daughter would grow up learning history and the Irish language. As a young adult, this eventually led Máirín right into the Gaelic League where she developed a sort of nationalist fervor. She was also quite a talented vocalist so she ended up moving to Dublin to study at the Leinster School of Music. When she arrived in the city in 1914, she socialized with the Ryan family, a strong Nationalist clan. Máirín was quickly rubbing shoulders with some of the most prominent Nationalists in Dublin including Min Ryan and her fiance, Seán Mac Diarmada, who was one of the future leaders of the Easter Rising.
Sheena Campbell was an enthusiastic and dedicated woman, who was born on this day in 1962. She was a young Irish Republican whose groundbreaking ideas energized and won an important election for Sinn Fein in 1990. Those same ideas, called the torrent strategy, have shaped the foundations of every Sinn Fein campaign since. Ms. Campbell would probably be very proud of this achievement had she not been killed in 1992, just two years after reorganizing the way Sinn Fein prepared for elections.
On July 5th, 1958 a true fighter was born in Artane, Dublin. Veronica “Ronnie” Guerin was one of four children and she was a strong girl from the moment she was born. She excelled in school and played many sports, competing and working with the best athletes. She played for the Women’s National basketball team, and the Women’s National Football league. Her competitive nature and strength gave her the drive she had as an adult to succeed in whatever profession she chose.
Tomas MacCurtain’s pipes were played yesterday in Cork for the 1st time in about 100 years. I was lucky enough to witness the fellow American play them at Cork’s National monument as they honored MacCurtain’s life and love of music. On this, his birthday and the anniversary of his death, you can too.
Today Bobby Sands would have turned 62 had he lived beyond his hunger strike. Since he did not and I happen to be in Belfast, I decided to visit him (and others) in Milltown Cemetery, bringing flowers that were long overdue.
On this day in 1885, a very brave and unusual woman was born in Ireland. Elizabeth O’Farrell grew up to be a revolutionary in many ways. She had a long term relationship with another woman when that was unheard of, dangerous, and severely frowned upon. She was a great suffragist who championed equality and respect for women during an era when many women couldn’t even get an education at all. She saved many lives but put her own at risk over and over again during the Easter Rising of 1916 – and she rarely gets the credit she deserves for all of her courageous acts. Even now her shoes get more attention than the woman who wore them.