This Week in the History of the Irish: August 16-22

Bernardo O'Higgins

LUAIN -- 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.

CÉADAOIN -- 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.

CÉADAOIN -- 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.

John Keegan Casey's prison photo

SATHAIRNOn August 22, 1846 Fenian poet John Keegan Casey was born at Mount Dalton, Co. Westmeath. While only in his teens Casey began writing poetry for The Nation. After teaching in Cleraun and Keenagh, Casey gave up the profession to work for the Irish Republican Brotherhood (Fenians). He was arrested and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail in 1867. Though he was sentenced to seven years penal servitude, his health was so poor he was released after less than a year. In spite of that ill-health he resumed his writing career; under the pen name “Leo,” Casey had articles published in The Shamrock, The Irish People and The Boston Pilot. He published two collections of verse and is best remembered for two poems: Máire, My Girl and Rising of the Moon, which was turned into one of the best known of rebel songs. Casey died of tuberculosis March 17, 1870, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. It was estimated that 50,000 people followed his casket.


'For the independence of Chile and America I sacrificed my youth, my health and my fortune; I wish nothing further than the satisfaction of recalling services which were not wholly in vain.'
         -- Don Bernardo O'Higgins, written while he was in exile in Peru in 1827

'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

17, 1778 - Bernardo O'Higgins (Father of Chilean independence - Chile.)
17, 1779 - William Corbet (United Irishman, soldier - Ballythomas, Co Cork.)
22, 1846 - John Keegan Casey (Fenian - writer of "Rising of the Moon"- Milltown, Country Westmeath)


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.
19, 1504 - Battle of Knockdoe.
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.
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, Co. Mayo and captures Killala. Irish rebels rally to Hubert’s force.
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.

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Tags: Americas, Diaspora History, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day


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