This Week in Irish History - April 20 - April 26

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

LUAIN -- 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.

Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826

CÉADAOIN -- On April 23, 1014, The Battle Of Clontarf, one of the most famous and important battles in Irish history, was fought just north of Dublin. It was a bloody stand-up battle, fought mainly with ax and sword, with Brian's men prevailing. This battle would later enter Irish legend as the place where Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, drove the Vikings from Ireland. This is not completely false, but neither is it completely true. Some Irish fought with the Vikings, and some Vikings fought with the Irish, and in the end Brian's victory didn't drive out all the Vikings, but it did help break their power in Ireland. With the victory won, most of Boru's bodyguards abandoned him to join in the plunder. The Viking chief Brodar and his men, lurking in nearby woods, seized the opportunity to rush out and slay the victorious King. The way was now clear for a strong leader to unite the clans of Ireland, but the one man who could accomplish that unity lay dead on the battlefield. Perhaps, if Brian had lived, the clans may have united and might have defeated foiled England's invasions; we'll never know. Thus was the battle of Clontarf both a great victory and a great tragedy for the people of Ireland.

DEARDAOIN-- April 24, 1916, Easter Monday, was one of the most critical days in the history of Ireland. On that day, Irish Volunteer units and the Irish Citizen Army, led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, began their famous Easter Rising, seizing the General Post Office (GPO) and several other key locations around Dublin. At the GPO, Pearse read the revolutionaries' proclamation in which they pledged, "our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of (Ireland's) freedom." Seven men signed that document. Given Irish Volunteer commander Eoin MacNeill's cancellation of the Volunteers maneuvers the day before, these seven men must have known that their signatures would likely lead to their executions, if they survived the combat they knew would surely come. Those names will forever be associated with the fight for Irish freedom. The seven signers were: Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt and Joseph Plunkett. Ar dheis De go raibh siad.


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

National Museum of Ireland
The Irish Republic flag captured by the British army in 1916. It was returned to the Irish government in 1966.

'In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.'
         -- A portion of "The Proclamation of the Irish Republic" posted on Easter Monday, 1916.

April - Aibreán


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.
23, 1791 - James Buchanan (15th President of the U.S., of an Irish immigrant father - Mercersburg, PA)
23, 1940 - Catherine Ford (Maryknoll sister, martyr, Brooklyn, NY)
25, 1906 - William Brennan (U.S. Supreme Court Justice, born of Irish immigrant parents - Newark, N.J.)


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.
22, 1834 - Daniel O'Connell introduces debate on Repeal of Union bill in Parliament.
22, 1905 - Capt. William O'Shea, politician, accuser of Parnell, dies in Hove.
23, 1014 - Battle of Clontarf. Brian Boru, king of Ireland, killed
23, 1938 - Douglas Hyde, a Protestant, is selected as Ireland's first president.
23, 1953 - Maud Gonne, Irish revolutionary, dies.
24, 1916 - Easter rising. Irish rebels seize General Post Office and other buildings in Dublin.
24, 1800 - United Irishmen in British army in Newfoundland, Canada, stage a brief, abortive mutiny.
24, 1886 - Father Abram J. Ryan, chaplain and poet-priest of the Confederacy, dies in Louisville, KY.
25, 1707 - Irish Brigade of France fights in the battle of Almanza.
25, 1797 - Col. Thomas Barry of Cork, commands a regiment of O'Mahony's Dragoons at Almanza.
25, 1836 - Mathew Flanagan, vice admiral in the Austrian navy, dies in Venice.
25, 1918 - Irish Labour Party declares one-day strike in protest over conscription act.

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


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