This Week in the History of the Irish: April 15 - April 21

DOMHNAIGH -- On April 15, 1848, in Dublin, Thomas Francis Meagher presented the tricolor national flag of Ireland to the public for the first time at a meeting of the Young Ireland Party. Meagher had recently gone to Paris with an Irish delegation sent to congratulate the French republicans on their successful revolution. Inspired by the tricolor French flag, he came up with similar design for the Irish flag, with orange, white and green stripes. The colors symbolized the uniting of the two traditions in one new nation. Few realize though, that Meagher's original flag had the orange stripe closest to the staff. That flag was nearly forgotten following the Young Irelander's failed rising later in '48. The Fenians, the next Irish revolutionary movement, used the traditional green field and golden harp motif for its flags. But in 1916, Meagher's flag was resurrected by the Irish Volunteers and later by Sinn Fein. With the green stripe closest to the staff, Thomas Francis Meagher's tricolor became the official flag of the 26 counties of the Irish Republic. Until recently, display of the tricolor flag was illegal in the six occupied counties of northern Ireland.

LUAIN -- On April 16, 1746, a battle was fought in Scotland that would have long-term implications for Ireland, as well as Scotland. It ended "Bonnie" Prince Charlie's Jacobite uprising, known in Scotland as simply, "The '45." It was the battle of "Culloden Moor." Elements of the Irish Brigade of France fought well in the losing cause that day. The Irish in France gave Charles all the support they could during "The '45," though some of their efforts were thwarted. Over 400 men from six infantry regiments and a detachment of Fitzjames' cavalry regiment joined "Bonnie" Prince in Scotland in '45, but many hundreds more were turned back by the British Navy. These Irish veterans were fresh off the victory at Fontenoy, where their late charge on the Duke of Cumberland's attacking force had been one of the decisive factors. Though initially successful, by April 1646 "Bonnie" Prince and his army were clearly in trouble. As he confronted the British at Culloden, a large portion of his exhausted, freezing forces had melted away to their homes. Facing about 9,000 veteran British soldiers under the same Duke of Cumberland who had been defeated at Fontenoy less than a year earlier, Prince Charles' army numbered about 4,000. Retreat would seem to have been the best course of action. "Bonnie" Prince Charlie ordered an attack. With moors on both sides, the Jacobites were forced into a narrow front. British artillery and massed musketry did tremendous damage to their formations. The Prince's army was soon in full retreat. Colonel O'Shea, with 60 troopers of Fitzjames' horse stopped 500 British dragoons who came dangerously close to capturing the Prince, and on the left of the line, the men of the combined Irish regiments, under the command of Brigadier Stapleton, were the last off the field, covering the retreat of Prince Charles and the remnants of his army. Stapleton was mortally wounded during that action. The Irish had given their blood to the cause of a Stuart King for the last time. Most of the surviving Irish surrendered at Inverness. The Prince himself eventually managed to make his escape to France.

Read more about the Irish Brigade of France.

Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel

CÉADAOIN -- On April 18, 1690, five regiments of Irishmen set sail from Ireland for France. These soldiers, about 5,400 in all, would form the nucleus of France's famed Irish Brigade. The Irishmen were sent in exchange for about 6,000 of King Louis XIV's well-trained French soldiers. Louis wanted to support James II in his quest to regain the British crown from William of Orange, but he could ill-afford the loss of 6,000 soldiers during his own struggle with William on the continent. Louis demanded Irish replacements, ill trained though they might be, in exchange. The Irish regiments sailed out on the same ships that landed the French troops under Count de Lauzun. Soon after arriving in France, the five regiments would be reorganized into three, commanded by Justin MacCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), Daniel O'Brien, and Arthur Dillon, whose family would continue in command of this regiment for a hundred years. Mountcashel would command this first Irish Brigade. Mountcashel had grown up in France, and became fluent in the French tongue after his father had lost everything due to his participation in the fight against Cromwell and subsequent exile to France. Mountcashel's brigade was joined by Sarsfield's men in late 1691. The Irish Brigade would carry on in French service for 100 years and amass a record equaled by few military organizations in history. Like Sarsfield, Mountcashel did not survive for very long in French service. Very shortly after his arrival in France, on September 11, 1690, he was seriously wounded in the chest fighting in Savoy near Mountiers de Tarentaise. Although he recovered from this wound and continued to command the brigade, the wound continued to hamper McCarthy. In 1694, he left the brigade, seeking relief from his wounds in the baths at Baréges in the Pyrenees. Unfortunately, Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, died there July 1, just short of a year after Patrick Sarsfield was killed at the Battle of Landen.

Read more about the Irish Brigade of France.

AOINE -- On April 20, 1772, William Lawless, revolutionary and officer in Napolean's Irish Legion (a soldier of the Irish Legion, left), was born in Dublin. Lawless was educated as a surgeon and later joined the United Irishmen, becoming a close friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. He fled to France in 1798 and served with the French army in Holland. Lawless was appointed a captain when Napoleon formed the Irish Legion in 1803. He was decorated by Napoleon for bravery at the siege of Flushing and promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 1st Battalion of the Legion. In 1812, he was promoted to colonel and commanded the entire Legion. On August 21, 1813, at the battle of Lowenberg, Lawless was severely wounded, losing a leg. He retired to his country house in Tours. When the Bourbons were restored to the throne in 1814 he was placed on half-pay with the rank of Brig. Gen. Lawless died on Dec. 25, 1824, at the age of 52, and was buried at Pere Lachaise. William Lawless honorably served the French army. He was one of the best officers of the last large French unit of The Wild Geese.

SATHAIRN -- On April 21, 1916, Roger Casement's journey on the German submarine U-19 came to an end. About 2 a.m., Robert Monteith, Daniel Bailey (calling himself Beverly), and Casement climbed into a small boat for the trip to shore. Their boat capsized before they reached Banna Strand, near Tralee. Monteith helped an exhausted Casement to safety on shore. Casement was convinced that the Rising could not work without a large number of German troops, and the best he had been able to obtain was one boatload of arms. Leaving Casement at the ruins of McKenna's Fort, Monteith and Bailey headed for Tralee. About 1:30 p.m., Casement was discovered by two Royal Irish Constabulary officers. He nearly talked his way out of being arrested, but a 12-year-old boy at the scene pointed out a piece of paper Casement had tossed away as the police approached. On that paper was a German code list. As the constable patted the smiling boy on the head, Casement must have felt the British noose tightening around his throat.

VOICES

A National Flag is the most sacred thing a nation can possess. 
--Thomas Francis Meagher

Cold winds on the moors blow.
Warm the enemy's fires glow. 
Like the harvest of Culloden,
Pain and fear and death grow.
-- From "Culloden's Harvest" by Alastair McDonald

'Our levies [soldiers] . . . in a short time, with the discipline and order prevailing in France, will be the best in the world.'

         -- Justin MacCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, on the potential of the soldiers of the first Irish Brigade of France

'He was a most agreeable, kind, companionable man possible; highly educated, well versed in almost every branch of science, speaking fluently and well, both French and English; in short, had his country obtained her freedom, he would have shone in her senate as a first-rate orator.'
         -- Miles Byrne, member of the United Irishmen and officer in the Irish Legion, on his friend William Lawless

'I am not endeavoring to shield myself at all. I did go to Germany. All I ask is that you believe I have done nothing treacherous to my country.'
         -- Roger Casement during his interrogation by agents from Scotland Yard, 1916

April - Aibreán

BIRTHS

16, 1871 - John Millington Synge (Author-Dublin)
20, 1772 - William Lawless (General in the French army-Dublin)
20, 1776 - Alexander Dalton (Officer in the French army - Brive, France, of Irish parents)
21, 1871 - John Fitzpatrick (Labor leader, Irish nationalist - Athlone, Co.
Westmeath)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

15, 1840 - Repeal (of Union) Association founded.
15, 1848 - In Dublin, the tricolor national flag of Ireland is presented to the public for the first time by Thomas Francis Meagher and the Young Ireland Party.
15, 1912 - Eleven people from Addergoole, Lahardane, Co. Mayo die on the Titanic.
15, 1912 - Purser Hugh McElroy is lost on the Titanic.
15, 1921 - Irish Volunteers East Clare Brigade ambushed a motor car as it left Ballyturin House near Gort killing two army officers, along with an RIC District Inspector and his wife who were in the car and later kill an RIC Constable was wounded and died later. Lady Gregory’s daughter in law, Margaret Gregory, was in the car and survived unharmed.
15, 1941 - Free State fire brigades are sent to aid Belfast after Nazi raids cause numerous fires.
16, 1746 - Members of the Irish Brigade fight at the Battle of Culloden Moor.
16, 1918 - British Parliament passes a conscription act that will apply to Ireland.
17, 1849 – Irish born Count John Nugent, general in the Austrian army, dies in Austria.
17, 1949 - At midnight 26 Irish counties officially leave the British Commonwealth. A 21-gun salute on O'Connell Bridge, Dublin, ushers in the Republic of Ireland.
18, 1689 - Siege of Derry begins.
18, 1690 -
Five regiments of Irishmen sail for France, form the nucleus of France's Irish Brigade.
18, 1887 -
 The London Times publishes a letter linking Parnell to the "Phoenix Park" murders. Later found to be a forgery.
18, 1914 -
 Irish home rule bill receives royal assent.
18, 1949 -
 Ireland declares itself a full republic, withdrawing from the British Commonwealth.
19-21, 1798 -
 Earl of Clare's visit to Trinity College, Dublin, and purge of United Irishmen; 19 expelled.
19, 1812 -
 Napoleon's Irish Legion and the Irish Hiberinia regiment of Spain face each other at the battle of Badajoz.
19, 1972 -
 Lord Widgery's report exonerating "Bloody Sunday" troops is issued.
21, 1907 - Cumann na nGaedheal and Dungannon clubs become Sinn Fein League
21, 1916 - Roger Casement lands from German submarine and is captured, Banna Strand, Ireland.
21, 1916 - German ship "Aud," carrying arms shipment, captured in Tralee Bay.

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Tags: Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day

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