This Week in the History of the Irish: August 12 - August 18

DOMHNAIGH -- On August 12, 1834, just after midnight, an anti-Catholic mob attacked the Ursuline Convent School in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and burned it to the ground as the nuns hurried the children out the back. Rev. Lyman Beecher had helped to incite the mob hours earlier, giving three anti-Catholic diatribes at three different churches in Boston.

(Left: A period drawing of the burning of the Ursuline Convent School, Aug. 12, 1834.)

Beecher, whose children included educator Catharine and abolitionist and author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' Harriet Beecher Stowe, later expressed regret over the arson; but as is often the case, violent speech led to violent action. Those arrested for the outrage were quickly found not guilty and became heroes in Boston. After failed attempts to get the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pay for the damages, and amid threats of further violence, the nuns eventually moved to Canada, driven from the country by bigotry and hate.

CÉADAOIN -- 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

AOINE -- 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.


Go Ahead! To Arms! To Arms!! Ye brave and free Avenging Sword unshield! Leave not one stone upon another of that cursed Nunnery that prostitutes female virtue and liberty under the garb of holy religion. When Bonaparte opened the Nunnerys of Europe he found cords of infant skulls.'
         -- One of the incendiary placards posted around the Boston area just prior to the burning of the Ursuline Convent School in Charlestown, on August 12, 1834.

'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.


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.)


12, 1652 - "To Hell or Connacht" Act for the Settling of Ireland - Cromwellian land confiscations.
12, 1690- Just past midnight Patrick Sarsfield's cavalry attacks and destroys the Williamite siege train near Ballyneety Castle.
12, 1796 - Kilmainham Gaol opens in Dublin.
12, 1834 - Inspired by Rev. Beecher and other Boston ministers, an anti- Catholic mob burns the Ursuline convent in Charleston, Massachusetts.
12, 1899 - First issue of James Connolly's Workers Republic.
12, 1920 - Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, arrested by British.
12, 1922 - Arthur Griffith dies of a cerebral hemorrhage.
12, 1966 – Former Light-Heavyweight Champion Mike McTigue dies in Queens, NY.
12-14, 1969 - British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland after riots in Derry and Belfast
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.

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