1906 – Michael Davitt dies

Michael Davitt was 60 years old when he died in Elphis Hospital, Dublin. In his six decades of life, he’d been a Fenian revolutionary, served seven years of a fifteen year sentence for treason, was pardoned, and imprisoned again on new charges relating to his activities with various groups agitating for Irish freedom. He was elected as a Member of Parliament, but disqualified due to his confinement. He toured the world, giving speeches to raise awareness of the issues facing Ireland.

Although he did not live to see the struggle for Irish self-determination completed – indeed, some would say that it still has not – he was instrumental in many of the developments that led towards it, notably the Land Act of 1881 and the Ashbourn Act of 1885. After his death, he became an inspiration to others whose struggles resembled his – notably, Mahatma Gandhi attributed the origins of and inspiration for his own peaceful resistance to Davitt’s life and work.

Referenced in:

A Forgotten Hero — Andy Irvine

1971 – Zowie Bowie is born

The child of one of the most famous and creative rock stars of all time, Zowie Bowie was also saddled with one of the world’s most embarassing names. Later on in his childhood, he would known as Joey, but this wasn’t really much of an improvement, and he eventually settled on Duncan as a first name, and Jones (his father’s actual surname – Bowie is a stage name only) as his last name.

Since then, Jones has gone on to direct the films “Moon” and “Source Code” – and is apparently in talks to direct the next Wolverine film. He’s not yet wholly emerged from his father’s shadow, but to be fair, his father’s shadow is a very, very large one.

Referenced in:

Kooks — David Bowie

1431 – Jeanne d’Arc burned at the stake

After a trial lasting from January 9 until May 24, Jeanne d’Arc was convicted of heresy by her somewhat less than unbiased prosecutors. Jeanne (the French original of her name, equivalent to the English Joan) had led the French to several victories over the English, claiming divine inspiration.

Her accusers and judges were, unfortunately for her, strongly influenced by English interests in the matter, and she was found guilty and forced to abjure. Finally, she was executed by being burnt at the stake in Rouen, France. After her death, the coals were raked back in order to expose her charred body – so that no one could claim she had escaped alive – and then her body was burned twice more to reduce it to ashes. Her remains, such as they were, were cast into the Seine to prevent any collection of relics.

Referenced in:

Joan of Arc – Leonard Cohen
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark