This Week in the History of the Irish: August 18-24

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


LUAIN -- 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.

National Museum of Ireland
This American flag flew over the Catalpa and persuaded the British not to fire on the ship.


LUAIN -- 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.

SATHAIRN-- On August 24, 1968, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marched from Coalisland to Dungannon in County Tyrone in one of the first large-scale marches of the six-county civil rights movement.

(Left: An ad for a commemorative march held in 2008.)

The march was uneventful until the 2,500 mixed Catholic and Protestant marchers reached the outskirts of Dungannon. There they found 400 RUC officers barring their path. Behind the RUC line were 1,500 Loyalists armed with cudgels and staves. The anti-civil rights countermarch had been organized by the Ulster Protestant Volunteers with the help of the Rev. Ian Paisley. Confronted with this massive force, the civil rights marchers merely sat down and listened to a number of speeches, while Paisley and his followers sang sectarian songs and shouted abuse from behind the RUC barricades. On this day, the civil-rights marchers would escape harm but very soon all that would change. Ian Paisley was rapidly making a name for himself among hard-line Loyalist groups; he would later even help form a Loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association. In the near future, his followers would be using their cudgels and staves in the streets of the six counties in an attempt to physically beat back the rising tide of the civil rights movement. The cycle of violence in the six counties was rapidly spinning out of control, and Ian Paisley was one of the individuals with his hand on the crank.

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

BIRTHS

August -- Lúnasa

22, 1846 - John Keegan Casey (Fenian - writer of "Rising of the Moon"- Milltown, Country Westmeath)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS


19, 1504 - Battle of Knockdoe.
19, 1876 - The Catalpa arrives in New York Harbor with Fenian escapees from Au...
19, 1920 - Terence MacSwiney begins his hunger strike.
20, 1710 - Irish regiments in service of Spain fight at the battle of Saragosa.
20, 1919 - Irish Republican Army established by the Dail Eireann.
20, 1981 - Michael Devine dies on hunger strike.
21, 1813 - Napoleon's Irish Legion fights at the battle of Lowenberg.
21, 1862 - Irish born Count Laval Nugent, Field Marshal in the Austrian army, and son of Field Marshal James Nugent, dies in Austria.
22, 1791 - Theobald Wolfe Tone publishes "An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland."
22, 1798 - General Humbert lands at Cill Chuimín, County Mayo, and captures Killala. Irish rebels rally to his forces.
22, 1850 - First Catholic Synod in Ireland since the Middle Ages in Thurles, County Tipperary.
22, 1918 - Dublin born WWI ace Dennis Latimer shot down and killed.
22, 1922 - Michael Collins killed in ambush near Béal na Bláth, County Cork.
23, 1887 - Land Act gives courts power to revise and fix rents.
24, 1706 - Irish Brigade of France officer Count O'Mahoney forced to surrender the town of Alicante.
24, 1969 - Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marches from Coalisland t....

 

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Tags: Australia, Battle of Knockdoe, Catalpa, Civil Rights Association, Fenians, Galloglas, Gerald Fitzgerald, History of Ireland, Ian Paisley, Irish Freedom Struggle, More…John Boyle O'Reilly, John Devoy, Loyalist, Military History, On This Day, RUC

Comment by Séamus Ó Dubsláine on August 20, 2013 at 7:54pm
Comment by Gerry Regan on August 21, 2013 at 12:39pm

Seamus, I wonder how Michael Jr. is faring now, 33 years out! He's 40 years old or thereabouts.

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