This Week in the History of the Irish: August 13 - August 19

MÁIRT -- On August 15, 1909, the Ancient Order of Hibernians dedicated a monument to victims of the Great Hunger at Grosse Ile, in Quebec, Canada. More than 60 years had passed since more than 5,000 Irish men, women, and children had perished on the island, which served as a quarantine station on the St. Lawrence River, but the ancestors and relatives of those victims had not forgotten them. Through the hard work of the AOH, thousands of dollars had been collected to erect a fitting memorial to those innocent victims of man's inhumanity to man. The symbol they chose to use was a Celtic cross. Designed by Jeremiah Gallagher, a member of the AOH in Quebec, the cross was carved from granite and stood 48 feet high atop its pedestal. To ensure that no one traveling up or down the St. Lawrence could fail to see the monument , it was placed on Telegraph Hill, the highest point on the island. More than 7,000 attended the dedication ceremony that day, including several hundred French Canadians, some perhaps from families that had adopted one or more of the over 600 Irish orphans whose parents were left behind on Gross Ile. For the last 104 years, that cross has stood as a beacon to those who passed up and down this busy waterway, reminding them not only of the tragedy that once happened on that island, but also of the ultimate triumph of those who survived.

Bernardo O'Higgins

DEARDAOIN -- On August 17, 1778, Bernardo O'Higgins , the father of Chilean independence, was born in Chile. Bernardo's mother was Chilean and his father was Ambrose O'Higgins of County Sligo, a brigadier general of a Chilean army and Viceroy of Peru. Bernardo met supporters of Latin American independence while attending school in England and became active in the movement on his return to Chile in 1802. He led a failed revolt against the Spanish in 1814, being forced to take refuge in Argentina. From there, along with José de San Martín, he helped to organize and lead a successful revolt against Spanish rule in Chile three years later. He next led a rebel force against the Spanish in Peru. O'Higgins ruled Chile for six years, putting many reforms in place, before being ousted by conservative landowners in 1823. He lived the rest of his days in Peru, dying there October 24, 1842.

National Library of Ireland
A galloglas from the 16th century fought with mail shirt and long-handled battle axe.

SATHAIRN -- On August 19, 1504, the battle of Knockdoe was fought northeast of Galway by the forces of Gerald Fitzgerald, 'The Great Earl,' and his Anglo-Irish allies, against those of his son-in-law, Ulick de Burgh, or Burke of Clanrickard, husband of his daughter, Eustacia. Knockdoe would be the first major battle in Ireland in which firearms played a significant part. The main fighting forces on both sides, however, were the 'galloglas,' in Irish gall óglach (foreign warrior). The galloglas were mercenary soldiers who originated in the Highlands and isles of Scotland. Burke's men advanced on Kildare's, who outnumbered them, and in the center of the two lines the galloglas of both sides fought 'terrible and bold' with their great axes. The fight was said to have gone on for hours, though minutes must seem like hours to those who survive such carnage. Eventually Burke's men were overpowered and gave way. The Earl had assured that the Geraldines would rule their family lands, nominally in co-operation with the English, for many more years. It would be the Earl's grandson, 'Silken Thomas,' who would finally renounce this alliance with the English in 1534.

SATHAIRN -- On August 19, 1876, the whaling ship Catalpa was given a tumultuous welcome as it sailed into New York harbor. She had no whales on board, but a far more valuable cargo, six Fenian prisoners from England's Western Australia penal colony. Clan na Gael's John Devoy, with the help of his friend John Boyle O'Reilly, a Fenian who had once escaped from Australia himself, planned the escape. Somehow maintaining the secrecy of the mission, the two arranged to buy and crew a whaler purchased in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the attempt. The Catalpa set out in April 1875 with most of the crew unaware of their actual mission. In March 1876, they reached Australia and soon had the six Fenians -- James Donagh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hasset, Robert Cranston and James Wilson -- safely on board. The British gunboat Georgette overtook the Catalpa the next day and fired a shot across the ship's bow, demanding the prisoners be turned over. Captain George Anthony raised the Stars and Stripes and defied the British to fire on it; they would not. Seeing Anthony would not be intimidated, the Georgette headed back to port. Clan na Gael and the Fenians had achieved one of their greatest victories over the British Empire.

VOICES

'We sail under the protection of the flag of the United States. Fire on us and you fire on the American flag.'
         -- Catalpa Capt. George Anthony's reply to the demand of the captain of the Georgette that he surrender the 6 Fenian prisoners

‘Mr. Casey puts treason in a fascinating and intelligent manner.’
        
-- The London Review commenting on John Keegan Casey’s writing.

BIRTHS

August -- Lúnasa

14, 1814 - Mary O’Connell (Sister Anthony) (American Civil War nurse - Co Limerick.)
17, 1778 - Bernardo O’Higgins (Father of Chilean independence – Chillán, Chile.)
17, 1779 - William Corbet (United Irishman, soldier - Ballythomas, Co Cork.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

13, 1704 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Blenheim.
13, 1881 - First issue of United Ireland, Parnellite weekly.
13, 1887 - Special committee appointed to investigate Parnell's ties to Phoenix Park murders.
14, 1598 - Battle of Yellow Ford.
14, 1828 - Anti-Catholic, evangelical Protestant Brunswick Clubs founded.
15, 1649 - Oliver Cromwell arrives in Dublin.
15, 1702 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Luzzara.
15, 1834 - 15 Irish homes are burned in further rioting in Charleston, Massachusetts.
15, 1909 - The Ancient Order of Hibernians dedicates a monument to victims of the Great Hunger at Grosse Ile, Quebec, Canada.
16, 1705 - Units of the Irish Brigade of France fight at the battle of Cassano.
16, 1921 - The Second Dáil Éireann convenes.
17, 1846 - Russell administration announces they will not interfere with grain market in Ireland.
18, 1535 – “Silken” Thomas surrenders and is sent to England.
18, 1922 - Last major town in Republican hands, Mallow, is captured by Free State forces.
19, 1504 - Battle of Knockdoe
19, 1876 - The Catalpa arrives in New York Harbor with Fenian escapees from Australia.
19, 1920 - Terence MacSwiney begins his hunger strike.

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Tags: Americas, Australia, Canada, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day, United States

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