This song is a constant reminder to me of my childhood, running around singing lines from it with my childhood friends, not knowing or not caring why we were singing it, or indeed who Napper Tandy was. Historical events were not seared into our minds. Only Religion took that place

The Wearing of the Green?  what is the verdict? 

The Wearing of the Green

The Wolfe Tones

O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more Saint Patrick's Day we'll keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a cruel law ag'in the Wearin' o' the Green."

I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand
And he said, "How's poor old Ireland, and how does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for the Wearin' o' the Green."

"So if the color we must wear be England's cruel red
Let it remind us of the blood that Irishmen have shed
And pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod
But never fear, 'twill take…

James Napper Tandy was born in the Cornmarket area of Dublin and was baptized in St. Audoen’s Church on February 16th, 1739.  His mother was Anne Jones, a woman from a very wealthy background. They belonged to the Church of St Audoens and this is where Tandy was baptized.  His father was an ironmonger, whose family held lands in County Meath, Napper Tandy, and his brothers were educated at the famous Quaker school in Ballitore, Co. Kildare, like a majority of Protestant descendants in Dublin in that ere. He then followed his father into the merchant classes of Dublin serving apprenticeship alongside his five brothers...

As the descendant of Protestant Merchant classes and a member of Dublin Corporation, the expectation on him was to follow the pattern of behavior and tradition by securing a suitable marriage, which was, in fact, a prerequisite to a successful career for the Protestant ascendancy in this ere, in whichever profession he went into. So he married Anne Jones, Feb 28th, 1765, a woman of great wealth, and importantly she was a very well respected agreeable woman who had all the necessary connection to Dublin and London Society..... With his wife’s wealth, behind him and showing a great aptitude for business and work ethic, after serving an apprenticeship with his father, he went on to establish a flourishing merchant business, based at 16 Dorset Street. 

Before he went into politics, Tandy proves to not be suited to his father’s line of work and left to become a land agent and rent collector.  Proving that he was not suited. to that line of work either, and realized that his interest lay in politics. he was duly elected as the MP for Kilkenny in 1959, agitating for Catholic Emancipation reform in parliament. Then he was elected as the Dublin Corporation Representative of the Merchant Guilt and served there for 18 years, where he won respect and admiration as an outspoken critic of the systemic corruption he encountered within the Corporation and actively campaigned for its' reform.  he acquired considerable notoriety by his verbal and ranting assaults on municipal corruption.

Combining his family tradition of the established order of Protestantism with politics, he was elected as churchwarden at St. Audoen's in 1765,  the same year that he married Anne Jones, and also at another local church  St Brides,  where he commissioned a new church bell bearing his name, displayed since 1946 on the floor of St Werburghs Church to the present day. Throughout the 1760s/80s he was drawn toward all and any, anti-British establishment organization the more extreme the better he like it. So he joined the Whig Club, founded by Henry Grattan  MP who was also a campaigner for legislative freedom from Britain, for Irish Parliament, this was too moderate for Tandy’s liking. So he left and then joined the Volunteers.

While a member of the Corporation he introduced a resolution of support for the colonists during the American Revolutionary, which did not endear him to the authorities. On the outbreak of the American war in 1775, he declared himself one hundred percent on the side of the colonies, and four years later, when, in consequence of the severe restrictions placed on Irish commerce, the industrial enterprise of the country was paralyzed to such an extent that Dublin swarmed with beggars and bankrupt merchants, he came forward with a proposal pledging Irishmen not to purchase or use goods of English manufacture till the obnoxious restrictions were withdrawn.

By 1779, he had spearheaded another resolution to boycott  English Good in retaliation for the draconian restriction that had been imposed on Irish trade. He organized a march through Dublin, many thousands attended, with many spies in the crowd. With most, the  Irish Soldiers sent abroad to fight, in the colonial wars in America. The government had failed to organize its own militia, so taking advantage of Britain's preoccupation with its rebelling American colonies, the Volunteers were able to pressure Westminster into conceding legislative independence to the Dublin parliament, which was more to Tandy   liking  

In 1780, he was expelled from the Dublin Volunteers, for proposing the expulsion of the Duke of Leinster, who was a moderate, and Tandy was an extremist. Tandys name always figured regularly in the list submitted to the mayor and aldermen from which the sheriffs of the city were annually selected, and was just as regularly passed over by them.

But in the city itself with the masses of people and for friends he was extremely popular and his influence more than once turned the scale in favour of the popular candidate both at municipal and parliamentary elections.   Some sources would suggest that  as  a speaker on these occasions he was forcible, fluent, and pointed, but his language was coarse and often incorrect, notably for being inebriated

Tandy played an equally conspicuous part on 10 Nov. 1783 when the volunteer convention, with the bishop of Derry as the most prominent figure, proceeded through the streets of Dublin to the Rotunda for the purpose of discussing, and it was hoped of settling, the question of parliamentary reform. With all of these happening in Ireland, it is understandable how  Napper  Tandy’s, name became synonymous with ‘Greatness’ alongside Wolfe Tone

Not content with any of the anti -British establishment process’s already in place in 1785, he vigorously opposed the amended commercial propositions put forth by the British government and headed up a set of Corporation resolutions condemning them.

By this time he had become heavily involved with Wolf Tone and gave him his full support in founding the United Irishmen, and he became its first Secretary. In February 1792 the Attorney General John Toler, in a heated debate make allusions to Tandy's personal ugliness, this provoked  Tandy into a fit of rage and challenging Toler to a duel. This however was treated as a breach of privilege and a Speakers warrant was issued for Tandy’s arrest.  With the support of the masses, he managed to elude arrest until parament was prorogued, which meant his arrest would be invalid. In retaliation, Tandy took proceedings against the Lord Lieutenant, for issuing a warrant for his arrest, and while this action failed, it only served to increase his popularity. All his expense was paid by the United Irishman.

Some sources would suggest that his extremism and the violence of his opinions were influenced by his support for the French revolution, and he wanted this to happen in Ireland. These anti -British actions served only to expose him to the contempt of the British establishment, which he cared little about.

Popularity for the French revolution in Ireland at this time was rapidly increasing, and the wave of support spread all around Ireland. When a congratulatory message was sent from Belfast where six thousand had gathered in support of the French Revolution - Tandy sized upon this wave of support by following this up in 1792, he took a leading role in the organization of a new Military association, which they modeled after the French Nation Guards, professing republican principles. Always being the extremist, Tandy too played a role supporting the alteration of the uniform, and on their uniform, the cap of liberty instead of the crown surmounted the Irish harp. No doubt to incense the British establishment even more than they had done already. 

Tandy even went further,  with the sole purpose of combining the United Irishmen and the Defenders, he took the Oath of Allegiance to the Defenders, the Roman Catholic Society, made up of people from the Roman Catholic society and the whose agrarian and political violence had been on the increase for several years. It was this extremism that had lured him to their society in the first place, and then when he took the Oath of Allegiance to the Defenders, this went beyond the pale for the British Establishment. This in effect was his downfall, so that threatened with prosecution for this and for libelous materials he was handing out on behalf of Wolf  Tone and the United Irishman, there was no escape for him only to flee the county and set sail for Hamburg, where he made contact with  French diplomats, and then traveled onto the USA. He ended up in Philadelphia in 1795, where he remained until 1798

By February 1798, he was back in Paris having secured the documents necessary to convince the French hierarchy,  that he was a man of great wealth and influence in Ireland. Wolfe Tone had been asked about Tandy a few months previously by Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French Politician / Diplomat,  and Theologian was a fervent believer in Wolf Tone Rebellion against the British Establishment in Ireland. So at that time, Wolf Tone was to say of him: “that Tandy is a respectable old man whose patriotism has been known for thirty years’”.

His arrival in Paris was not met with the same enthusiasm and warm welcome as Wolf Tones by the Irish refugees, and the French establishment alike. His vanity was wounded to find himself of less account than Tone in the councils of both the  Irish conspirators and the French Authorities at whose appearance 30,000 men would rise in arms. He met with the Irish refugees among them Wolfe Tone, all assembled and were planning a rebellion in Ireland to be supported by the French Authorities, quarreling amongst themselves. None were more quarrelsome than Tandy. He was exceedingly conceited and habitually drunken

However,  when Wole Tone then heard how Tandy had deceived the French Authorities,  "  Wolf Tone, was by now disgusted by the lying braggadocio with which Tandy persuaded the French authorities that he was a personage of great wealth and influence in Ireland”..., but kept his own counsel on Tandy, and continued to plan the rebellion.

The French Authorities, having already agreed to support Tandy, whatever else may have been said about Tandy, he was not lacking in courage and excepted the charge of a  small force of men and armory so they offered him a corvette name the “Anacreon.” Accompanied by a few leading United Irishmen, and a small force of French men, and a considerable amount of arms to be distributed in Ireland amount. [In contrast, Wolfe Tone was later  given charge of forty-three sailing ships which housed  anywhere between 14, 590 men to 20,000 men and an unquantifiable amount of armory, depending on which research  one is reading ]

So having planned a route from Dunkirk, Tandy set sail for Ireland and landed off the coast on the Isle  Arranmore, Co Donegal. Being a small Island, it was sparsely populated and showed no signs of welcoming these invaders or indeed showed no signs of knowing what this invasion was all about.  Some research would suggest that Tandy was so drunk during the whole expedition that he stumbled into a little village called Rutland, where his braggadocio [boastful and arrogant behavior]  drove him to take the position of the village and hoisted an Irish Flag and issued a bombastic proclamation:

"Let not your friends be butchered unassisted; if they are doomed to fall in this glorious struggle, let their deaths be useful to your cause, and their bodies serve as footsteps to the temple of Irish liberty."....’...

This is when Tandy and the French learned that Connacht, Northern Ireland, and the Aranmore Isles, in particular, had no particular involvement in any invasion and that the French General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert had not only been defeated but arrested and then transported back to France. At that point the French soldiers took charge of the drunken Tandy and put him on board the ship and set sail around the North of Scotland, making haste through the Irish fleet of ships, they reached Bergan safely, having captured one of the British  Vessels. Tandy then met a British officer whom he wanted to hide from the French agents, however, this trust was misplaced as a peremptory demand was already in place by the British Establishment and an arrest warrant had been issued for his capture. Not knowing that his movements had been accurately reported to the English government, and as a  consequence of instructions from Lord Grenville, the British resident, Sir James Crawford, at once applied to the chief magistrate, Klefeker, for a warrant to arrest Tandy and his three companions, Blackwall, Corbet, and Morris.

This demand placed the French Senate in an awkward dilemma, and after hours of anxious deliberations, they conceded .to grant the warrant for Tandy and his companions. So at four 0’clock PM, 24th No 1798  a posse of Police went to arrest them where they were under the protection of the American arms. Tandy was busy writing after spending a jovial evening with his companions. When he was asked for his passport, he immediately took a pistol and put it to the head of the Officer's head

The Officer immediately wrestled Tandy to the ground and took the pistol from him, he and his companions were arrested, putting them in different prisons, closely guarded. No sooner than this was done than the French Minister Marragon demanded their release, particularly Tandy and Blackwell, as he stated that they were French Citizens...... This was opposed by Sir James Crawford ... Not wanting to upset either the British or French authorities the Senate made the decision that it would be best to keep them in prison, but not hackled to irons. More than one attempt was made to rescue Tandy and his companions, but all failed miserably.   

So when the  French Republic Directory fell in 1799, the four prisoners were taken at midnight, not to arouse suspicion, in the event that another attempt to rescue. They were transported by a British Navy's man-of-war to Sittingbourne Kent, through Rochester, on to Blackfriars, and then Newgate, where they were kept until they were tried in Dublin. 

All along these routes many thousands of people gathered to wave and shout support to Tandy and his companions. Tandy was tried before the King's Bench on the 12th Feb 1800, for high treason, for failing to surrender at the appointed time under the act of amnesty. However, this change failed because he was in the custody of the government at that time and could not, therefore, be held or tried for High Treason.

On being acquitted of high treason Tandy left the court, only to be re-arrested, for the part he played in the invasion of Rutland Island and was transported to Lifford Co face trial. So on April 4th, 1800, he pleaded guilty to these charges, he was convicted and sentenced to be executed on May 4th. For the British Establishment, everything appeared to be going their way, they had their man, [his companions as well ] who had pleaded guilty, safe in Jail .... Or so they thought

That was until Napoleon Bonaparte returned from his wars in Europe and immediately set about getting Tandy released. Not withholding his anger at the French Senate for releasing him in the first place to the British Establishment .. Bonaparte threatened to not sign the treaty of Amiens until Tandy was released. A threat the British took seriously. So that combined this Bonaparte demands that Tandy’s be released, Tandy’s son threatened to make public the facts of the case all the  Tandys was released and was offered a residence in Bordeaux. A statement by Lord Pelham for the British establishment insinuated that Tandy’s release was in return for valuable information given by Tandy to Government, stigmatizing Tandy in the public eye. Tandy issued a counter statement  in which he vehemently refuted these as lies

On his release he made haste for France 1782, when he reached Bordeaux, he was received with a public welcome, and a banquet was given in his honour. The irony being that this was what he had expected when he first arrived in France to request support, and it was lost on him or his companions.   He was awarded the rank of  Général de Division by Napoleon Bonaparte and settled into life in the high life in Bordeaux. His wife refused to leave Ireland,  and he wrote every day to his son, telling him of all his financial worries, his son sent him money approx. £160 { £800 thousand in today's money ) as Tandy had started a wine business with his son, import and exporting wine and his son visited him in France as he had done while he was imprisoned in Ireland.

Some historians would suggest he then met a French woman called Marie Barriére, a young girl of twenty-five, while he was 64 years old at the time, who he married in a ceremony at his home in 2 Rue Montreuil, Bordeaux  France and she gave birth to their son the following year.

He was in fact tentatively working on a plan to invade Ireland again with the consent and support  Of the French Authorities, when he succumbed to dysentery, he died, after a short but painful illness, on 24 Aug. 1803.  Clearly, his life on the run and in British captivity on his physical and mental health took a toll on his body, and could not fight off the illness, despite the most knowledgeable of doctors in Bordeaux forever present by his sick bedside. His popularity and status in life were only matched by what was accorded him in death He was accorded a full military funeral in  Bordeaux with national recognition for his attempts to free Ireland from British rule. His funeral was attended by the whole Army in the district, Bonaparte and other military generals, and an immense crowd of thousands. 

Napper Tandy had not seen his wife or family – except on prison visitation in Ireland- since he first left Ireland in 1793, but his son James is known to have visited him in Bordeaux at least twice some historians would suggest

Despite his son James having visited him in Bordeaux at 2 Rue Montreuil, Bordeaux on at least two occasions, when Tandy died his family in Ireland refuted this claim.

Some historians have painted him in a different light below, yet despite all his faults and failings he still remains a legend in France ad Ireland.

PS: Very different are the estimates that have been formed of his character. ‘Homer,’ says Froude, "had drawn Napper's portrait three thousand years before in Thersites’—‘a coward in action, a noisy fool in council."

This is unjust, so says Mr. Lecky. It seems that ‘perhaps the most remarkable fact in his career is his wide and serious influence it for a short time exercised in the affairs of Europe.’ But even more remarkable is the posthumous fame he has acquired as the hero of that mo Napper Tandy had not seen his wife or family – except on prison visitation in Ireland- since he first left Ireland in 1793, but his son James is known to have visited him in Bordeaux at least twice some historians would suggest

Despite his son James having visited him in Bordeaux at 2 Rue Montreuil, Bordeaux on at least two occasions, when Tandy died his family in Ireland refuted this claim.

Some historians have painted him in a different light below, yet  despite all his faults and failings he still remains a legend in France and Ireland thanks to the plaintive and popular ballad, ‘The Wearing of the Green." 

Perhaps the fairest estimate is, after all, that of Sir Jonah Barrington, who knew him personally. ‘His person,’ he says, ‘was ungracious, and his language neither graceful nor impressive; but he was sincere and persevering, and, though in many instances erroneous and violent, he was considered, to be honest. His private character furnished no ground to doubt the integrity of his public one; and, like many of those persons who occasionally spring up in revolutionary periods, he acquired celebrity without being able to account for it, and possessed an influence without rank and capacity’ (Historic Memoirs). An engraved portrait of him from an original by Petrie is in Madden's ‘United Irishmen,’ 2nd ser. ii. 20.

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