On This Day: My Fascination With Historical Anniversaries

On This Day

How an Antarctic explorer began my interest in anniversaries and what I’ve done with this strange fascination.

My fascination with anniversaries started bang on my birthday.

I’ll never forget sitting at the computer in school, trying to act all innocent while surfing the internet. It was too risky to log onto Facebook without the teachers noticing so out of sheer boredom, I went onto the Wikipedia page.

I was on the home page when I noticed a formal picture of a man wearing a Royal Navy uniform. Ironically, this image was under the heading ‘On This Day’. He was standing resolutely, holding a Navy hat in one hand, every inch the proud officer.

Who was this man, you may ask?

My birthday was the 100th anniversary of Robert Falcon Scott’s death

Captain Robert Falcon Scott, British Navy Officer, and Antarctic Explorer. I discovered that my birthday in 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of his death on his return journey from the South Pole. Scott and his comrades had hoped to be the first to reach the Pole, but were ultimately beaten by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team. By 29 March 1912, Scott and his comrades were dead. They were just 11 miles from their One Ton depot camp that could have saved them.

This revelation came as a surprise. I already knew that there was another big 100th anniversary coming up that year (in April as you will see below) but to know that my birthday marked an anniversary such as this, was completely unexpected.

Admittedly at the time, I put this aside for a while and I didn’t think much more about it. I mean, come on, it was my birthday! I had a good excuse! Of course, the following month saw the commemoration of the Titanic’s sinking. I still have my special editions of the Irish Independent that cover this anniversary. I’d later return to the story of Robert Falcon Scott the following year when I studied the poem ‘Antarctica‘ by Derek Mahon for Leaving Cert English. It was one of the better poems that we studied.

Birthdays were a strong connection between Scott and his team. Titus Oates, who Mahon based his poem on, is said to have died on his 32nd birthday, 17 March 1912. I’d later read The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge about events during Terra Nova that happened on each team members’ birthday. It’s my birthday that connects me with Scott and my fascination with amniversaries.

Over the years, I kept up with important historical anniversaries, occasionally recording them in my diary. I remember being in college and deliberately buying another copy of the Irish Independent that included a special paper commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. I also remember sitting in the college library, writing down about the sinking in my diary. I was determined to make sure I marked that anniversary.

As to why, I guess it all came down to my great love of history growing up. I was always looking up various events, inadvertedly recording the dates of when they took place. I really didn’t think I’d do anything with this; that is until I studied for my Master’s in Griffith College.

I’ll always be grateful to this course as it helped me develop skills that I didn’t even know that I had. I studied Radio Production where one of our assignments was to create a radio documentary of our choice. I went down the anniversary route and created a piece covering the 1981 Hunger Strikes in Northern Ireland. I wanted to do something that covered the 40th anniversary. I created my own script, had voiceover work done, I even managed to interview one of the ex-prisoners. We had a great talk about his experiences and I was really proud of my work.

When I took a class in Video-Journalism and Documentary, we were told to create our own short documentary on any topic we wanted. I went down the historical route after an inspiration visit to Glasnevin Cemetery. I focused my documentary on the story of Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, calling it Se Plota. I was really happy with the final result.

Considering that I was just learning the basic skills of radio and video production, these creations turned out really well. My lecturers were also very complimentary, saying that I present very well and should consider doing more of this work.

That was what got me thinking. Maybe I could do more of this work. Over that summer, I did some thinking before finally deciding that I was going to open up a YouTube channel. I was going to use my channel to talk about events in history that happened on a particular day of the year.

That summer, I set to work, creating my first video, deciding the topic to cover, what I would name my channel, how I would go about presenting. After some thought, I decided to call my channel On This Day.

It took some time to get used to working on these videos. I had nothing but my phone, a tripod and my laptop. But gradually, I began to get used to it and started to share content on YouTube relating to events in history. Now please don’t get the wrong impression; I am not looking to become a professional YouTuber or influencer. I create these videos because I enjoy creating them.

When 22nd August 1922 rolled around, I was determined to make sure I covered this anniversary on my channel because it was a very important one for Ireland. It marked 100 years since the assassination of Michael Collins in 1922 and there was a lot of commemoration across Ireland for that event.

This video and my Se Plota documentary are the videos that I am most proud of doing so far. I put a lot of work into my videos and I want to make sure that they are being seen and enjoyed by viewers. As I expanded my list of topics, I decided to expand onto TikTok. I know also on a TikTok account, working under the username @onthisdaywitheidhne. It also has seen a steady rise in views.

Over a decade has passed since my fascination with anniversaries began and it doesn’t show signs of going away any time soon. I’ve managed to take this interest and use it to my advantage with my videos on TikTok and YouTube. As to where this interest will go in the future, I’m not sure yet. But I’ll always remember the day of my birthday when I logged onto a school computer and my fascination began.

The Truth About Allergies and Why They Must Not Be Seen as Burdens

Life Experiences, stories, video

How it took a near-death experience to understand the seriousness of living with allergies

Chocolate that can be eaten by a person with severe egg and nut allergies along with an epi-pen and proscribed medication (credit: Eidhne Gallagher)

This is one of the most difficult things I have ever written about, but at the same time, I think it is important that I tell my story.

Growing up, I hated going out to restaurants. It wasn’t the fact that I hated the places we went or didn’t like dressing up. It was that I hated having to make awkward requests to the servers so they wouldn’t serve me something that I couldn’t eat.

When I was a baby, it was discovered that I was allergic to eggs, nuts and sesame seeds. It was discovered after I was given a Milky Way bar (of all things) and my body began to swell all over. I was rushed to the hospital and soon the results were given.

My first severe reaction happened when I was 22 months old and I was exposed to nuts. It was through that experience that caused my parents to become aware of my allergens. With the help of my family, I felt that I was able to keep away from things I couldn’t eat. Perhaps, because as a result of this caution, I saw my allergies as a problem to others because food could never be simple when it came to me. Until a year ago, I was so fixated on how others saw my ‘problems’, that I didn’t understand how my allergies could seriously affect me.

This meant that I always had to be cautious when it came to food, constantly checking the ingredients to make sure that they were safe for me to eat. Whenever I went out for dinner with friends, we would always have to go somewhere that was alright for me. I hated this because I felt that my problem was a burden to my friends and they couldn’t really enjoy someplace they wanted to because of me.

On the night of 3rd November 2019, my view on my allergies would change forever.

That night, I was meeting up with a few friends from a drama club and we were going out for dinner in a new place. Because I had never been there, I knew that I had to speak to the people about my allergies. I told them what I couldn’t have and they assured me that the food on the menu would be alright for me.

That was a bull-faced lie.

When we finally got our food, I ended up with smoked salmon. I put a piece in my mouth and almost immediately, something was wrong. My mouth began to tingle and my stomach felt funny. I went outside to get some air and ended up getting sick. Fish was off the menu that night; I wasn’t going to be eating any more. In my mind, I thought that now I had gotten it out of my system, I would be alright.

I was wrong.

Suddenly, my chest began to tighten. It was extremely painful, like I was being stabbed multiple times. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I rushed to the bathroom in agony.

For the rest of my life, I will never forget what I saw in the mirror. My skin was pale as a ghost, my eyes were completely bloodshot and I could barely stand.

I looked like a monster.

By this point, my friends knew that they had to get me to the hospital, no arguments. The pain in the chest had gotten so bad, I was in tears. We went straight to the emergency department and I was given an injection. After that, gradually the pain went away and I ultimately recovered. I remember apologising multiple times to my friends that night as I believed that I had ruined everything. But they insisted on staying with me in the hospital, they looked after me and refused to leave me on my own, despite me saying that it was okay. I must have completely horrified them, but for them to stay meant a lot to me.

It took a long time for me to get over what happened that night. There have been many frightening experiences in my life, but none as intense as this.

I actually thought that I was going to die.

A video project showing the true realities of living with allergies. Credit: Eidhne Gallagher

As terrifying as that night was, it was also a wake-up call for me. After that night, I began to realise that I need to be take my allergies more seriously. I could have died because I wasn’t prepared and because I was too embarrassed to speak about my condition.

Doctor Isuelt Sheehan of Allergy Ireland, says that the feeling that allergies are something to be ashamed of, is quite common in young people. As children begin to grow up, they can feel embarrassed and try to hide their allergies from people around them. ‘When it comes to teenagers’ she says ‘it is a particularly difficult time. Coping with an allergy is difficult because they can feel embarrassed about it. They feel they can’t talk to their friends about it but it’s important they do so their friends will know as well, how to manage the situation if it ever comes about.’

It must also be questioned whether public places really understand the serious nature of food allergies. By law, all restaurants menus must display information in relation to allergens in their choices. They must all be aware with how to manage a case if a customer ever suffers from an allergic reaction. All food packets must now display allergen warnings and information in relation to their ingredients. ‘Restaurants are a lot more aware about allergies than they were in the past.’ says Dr. Sheehan. ‘It’s extremely important that for any allergic reaction, restaurant staff undergo the necessary training. It is rare, thankfully, that we get reports of public reactions in restaurants.’

Any allergic reaction is frightening, not just for the sufferer, but for those around them. ‘There are no words to describe the experience of watching your child having an allergic reaction.’ one parent said. ‘Eventually as a parent, you learn to recognize trigger-points but this is gradual because you have neither prior knowledge of what makes up most foods, nor prior experience in dealing with this.  You learn to study ingredients before you buy, you learn to prepare foods that don’t contain triggers, you learn to recognize signs of a reaction in your child and most of all, you learn to ignore those who tell you ‘sure they’ll grow out of it’ or those who consider you to be ‘fussy’ or ‘awkward’ when it comes to your child’s diet.’

Research has shown that in Ireland, approximately 5% of children and 3% of adults suffer from some form of food allergy. The rate of severe allergic reactions which result in a visit to A&E have trebled over the last twenty years. The most common food allergies in Ireland are to cow’s milk, eggs, nuts, fish, wheat, soya and peanuts. These account for about 90% of all allergic reactions. Dr. Sheehan says that the rate of allergies has increased by 50%. Because of this increase, she also says that ‘it’s important that we are all aware of them, not just the sufferers, but the whole world.’

All allergies, whether mild or severe, must be taken seriously both by the sufferer and all those who work in the food and hospitality industry. Sufferers need to see allergies as a nuisance rather than a burden. The burdens of allergies must be looked past. Sufferers and relatives must know how to deal with them if there ever comes a time when you get a reaction. As Dr. Sheehan says ‘Reassuring and advising sufferers and families can help with coping with allergies.’ She also touches on the importance of an epi-pen. ‘It’s wonderful that we have them available. As an allergist, we talk through them with patients and their families, show them how to use them and reassure them, that they can help.’

For anyone who suffers from allergies, being aware, being able to talk about your allergies and carrying an epi-pen wherever you go, can simply save your life.

It only took a piece of fish and an emergency visit to the hospital for me to realise this.

What It Means To Write

Life Experiences, stories
Diaries and Journals that were kept between 2009 and 2016 (Credit: Eidhne Gallagher)

Everybody receives their calling in life. It doesn’t matter if they receive their calling when their eight months or eighteen years old, one day, they will receive their calling of what to do with their life. For myself, it was a little bit different.

I received my calling when I was seven, but I didn’t realise it at the time. It started when I found an old accounts book, and started writing a random story. To this day, I still don’t know what inspired the story: it was a fantasy of a young girl sent on a quest to save her hypnotized friends from an evil wizard. Maybe it was because I was a big Harry Potter fan at the time, I don’t know.

On my thirteenth birthday, I began a diary. At the time, I was copying the famous diarist, Anne Frank. My initial plan was to start writing at thirteen, finish at fifteen and see how I’d changed. Instead, I continued my diary when I was sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, all the way through into my twenties. My diary became my escape through the ups and downs of school, university and family. It also helped me look back on happy and sad memories throughout my life.

Even back then, I didn’t just confine myself to my diary. Throughout my teenage years, I wrote my own poems (abysmal ones, I will admit) and started stories. Started stories – I never managed to finish one! As I grew older, the urge to actually finish a story became stronger. It was only then, that I realised what my true calling really was: to be a writer.

Paper Has More Patience Than People.

Anne Frank, 20 June 1942

To write means to express yourself. I found it a lot easier to express how I felt to a piece of paper, rather than a real life person. I found myself being able to let out my emotions on paper, channel my real life problems and experiences and turn them into stories and poems. Particularly during the coronavirus lockdowns, I had time to fill notebook after notebook with my ideas.

Now, I have actually finished not one but two story drafts. I’m not saying that they are ready for publication yet, but one day I hope they will.

What it means to write to me, means being able to change emotions into stories that people will enjoy. Maybe one day, I’ll see my name on the cover of a book on sale in the shops.