This Week in the History of the Irish: August 19 - August 25

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

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

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.

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

CÉADAOIN -- On August 22, 1846 Fenian poet John Keegan Casey (right) 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.

AOINE -- 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.

National Gallery of Ireland
Irish martyr Robert Emmet, from a miniature by John Comerford.

SATHAIRN -- On August 25, 1803, the British captured one of the most famous revolutionaries in Irish history, Robert Emmet, at the home of Mrs. Palmer in Harold's Cross, outside Dublin. Emmet had been on the run since the failure of the rising he had planned a month earlier. Friends had urged him to escape to the Wicklow Mountains and join Michael Dwyer, who had evaded the British since the failed '98 Rising. From there he might have escaped to France or the United States. Emmet said he was ashamed to face Dwyer after the disaster of the rising, but the more likely reason he remained near Dublin was his reluctance to leave the woman he loved, Sarah Curran, daughter of lawyer John Philpot Curran. Some believe Emmet's location was betrayed by tavernkeeper Simon Doyle, who had delivered eggs to Mrs. Palmer's house. On the 25th, Major Sirr burst into the house and captured Robert at the dinner table. Execution awaited Emmet, and an exalted place in Ireland's martyrology.


'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.

'We war not against property, we war against no religious sect, we war not against past opinions or prejudices, we war against English dominion.'
         -- From Robert Emmet's proclamation for 'The Provisional Government to the People of Ireland,' July 1803


August — Lúnasa

22, 1846 - John Keegan Casey (Fenian - writer of "Rising of the Moon"- Milltown, Country Westmeath)
25, 1764 - James Hope (United Irishman - Templepatrick, County Antrim.)
25, 1863 - Father Eugene O'Growney (A leader of the Irish language movement - Ballyfallon, Co. Meath.)


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, 1920 - Royal Irish Constabulary destroy the creamery at Knocklong, County Limerick, one of the biggest in Ireland. 
22 – 31, 1920 - Belfast riots leave 30 people dead. Catholics are expelled from the shipyards and engineering works.
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, 1906 - County Mayo-born Civil War Union officer Robert Horatio George Minty dies in Jerome, Arizona.
24, 1969 - Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marches from Coalisland to Dungannon.
25, 1580 – Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne defeats Lord Grey at Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow.
25, 1798 - Cornwallis takes command of British forces in the field and sends urgent request to England for reinforcements.
25, 1803 - Robert Emmet captured in Harold's Cross, outside Dublin.
25, 1922 - William T. Cosgrave succeeds the deceased Michael Collins as Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.
25, 1943 - Teresa Brayton, poet, died in America.

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Tags: Australia, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day


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