LUAIN -- On February 22, 1886, Conservative Party politician Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill, gave what many consider one of the single most destructive speeches in Irish history, inciting militant loyalists at Ulster Hall in Belfast. Churchill had shown disdain for Ulster Unionists up until then, in private, at least, telling Lord Salisbury, "these foul Ulster Tories have always ruined our party," but as 1886 began he saw an opportunity to exploit their fears for political gain.
(Right: Belfast Central Library - A drawing of Lord Randolph Churchill from the Illustrated London News. Churchill died at age 46.)
He decided that if Prime Minister William Gladstone "went for Home Rule [for Ireland], the Orange Card would be the one to play. Please, God, may it turn out the ace of trumps and not the two." This quote would lead one to believe he had few real convictions regarding the issue. "Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right," he proclaimed to a crowd before he even arrived at Ulster Hall on February 22. During his speech, he played on Protestant fears of Dublin's "Catholic" rule and encouraged Ulster Protestants to organize, which they did, beginning to form paramilitary drilling units. Churchill achieved a short-term political gain by his playing of the Orange Card; but his most lasting legacy is the unfounded fear of Irish Catholics that he helped to implant in the minds of Ulster Protestants, a tragedy for both traditions on the island. Those fears are still evident in the sectarian hatreds of today.
MÁIRT -- On February 23, 1965, Irish patriot Roger Casement's body was returned to Ireland to be reinterred. Casement was born at Sandycove, County Dublin, in 1864. He joined the British colonial service and was knighted in 1911 for his work on behalf of African and South American native workers who were being exploited by whites. Leaving the colonial service in 1912, he became involved with Irish nationalism, joining the Irish Volunteers. In 1916, Sir Roger traveled to Germany and arranged German assistance for the Easter Rising. He traveled back to Ireland by submarine, convinced by then that the Rising could not succeed but that he must join his comrades. He was captured at McKenna's Fort soon after landing on the southwest coast.
(Left: Roger Casement being led out of Pentonville Prison, where he would later be hanged.)
Casement was later tried in England. To lessen the protests over his expected death-sentence the British circulated small parts of his so-called Black Diaries which purported to reveal his alleged homosexual activity while in colonial service. Recent evidence points to a possibility that these diaries were forged by British intelligence to lessen worldwide condemnation of Casement's execution. Sir Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916. In 1965, Casement's body was returned to Ireland, where he was given a funeral on March 1 that rivaled that of O'Donovan Rossa. Eamon de Valera, 82 years old and feeling poorly, insisted on attending and gave the graveside oration at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Casement had returned to Ireland in 1916 to share his comrades' fate. In 1965, 49 years later, he was finally able to rejoin them one last time.
CÉADAOIN -- On February 24, 1854, Daniel Florence O'Leary a general in Simon Bolivar's South American army, died in Bogota, Colombia. O'Leary was probably born about 1800 in Cork city, the son of a butter merchant. Little is known of his early life. In 1817, he traveled to London to enlist in a regiment being formed by Henry Wilson. Wilson was recruiting officers and NCOs to go to South America and form a Hussar regiment in service to Simon Bolívar, who would go on to liberate much of South America from Spanish rule.
(Right: Colección Hermanas Cantillo O'Leary - Daniel O'Leary, 1818)
O'Leary sailed for Venezuela with Wilson near the end of 1817, arriving in March 1818. O'Leary first met Bolívar away from the front shortly afterward and apparently Bolívar was impressed with the young Irish officer. In March 1819, O'Leary saw his first action and was promoted to captain. In July, after Bolívar's famous crossing through the Casanare Swamps and over the Andes, O'Leary received a saber wound in the battle of Pantano de Vargas but he quickly recovered and took part in the battle of Boyaca on August 9. Shortly after this, O'Leary became aide de camp to Bolivar. Two years later, after much more fighting, Venezuela was freed. During the next few years, as the fight continued to free the rest of South American from Spanish domination, O'Leary would perform many dangerous missions for "The Liberator," rising ever higher in his esteem. O'Leary continued to serve Bolívar well through the political and military intrigues that followed the freeing of South America from the Spanish. After the death of Bolívar in December 1830, the new Venezuelan government exiled O'Leary to Jamaica. There he wrote extensive memoirs that were later edited by O'Leary's son, Simon Bolívar O'Leary, and published in the 1870s and 80s. Simon was the eldest of six children O'Leary had with his South American wife. In 1833, O'Leary was able to return to Venezuela. He held a number of diplomatic posts for the Venezuelan government for the next 20 years, and on at least two occasions was able to visit his boyhood home of Cork. When O'Leary died in Bogota in 1854, he was buried there in Colombia's capital. The Venezuelans named a plaza after him in Caracas. In 1882, they obtained permission to take Daniel O'Leary's body from Bogota to Caracas, where it was laid to rest in the National Pantheon of Venezuela to lie forever in death next to the man had served so faithfully in life, Don Simon Bolívar.
DEARDAOIN -- On February 25, 1891, Edward "Ned" Daly, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, was born in a home on Frederick Street in Limerick city. Edward's family was staunchly republican. His father and uncle were Fenians. His uncle, John, served 12 years in English prisons. Edward's sister, Kathleen, married Thomas Clarke, another leader of the Easter Rising. Edward joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and became captain of one of their companies and then advanced to battalion command.
(Left: National Library of Ireland - Edward Daly, 1916 martyr, in his Irish Volunteers uniform.)
His unit was charged with holding the Four Courts area during the Rising, which took place in April 1916. Though pressed hard and attacked by superior numbers of British troops, Daly's men managed to hold out until the very end, inflicting heavy casualties. After Patrick Pearse ordered the surrender Saturday evening, Daly was held at Kilmainham Jail. He was given the same quick sham court-martial at Richmond Barracks as the other leaders of the Rising. On the morning of May 4, Edward Daly died for Ireland, shot against a cold damp wall at Kilmainham Jail.
Read more about Ned Daly HERE.
SATHAIRN - On February 27, 1735, Thomas Conway, a soldier in French and U.S. armies, was born in Cloghane, County Kerry. Conway was taken to France at the age of six to be educated and, in 1749, he joined the Irish Brigade of France and served in the Clare Regiment. He served in the French army until 1776, seeing combat and rising to the rank of colonel. When the Americans came looking for officers to help their fledgling army against the much better trained and armed British, Conway volunteered. He was made a brigadier general on arrival in America and served well in several battles. But when Washington refused to promote him to major general over several American generals, Conway turned against him. He entered into discussions and intrigues with several other officers with the intent of replacing Washington with General Horatio Gates. This group was later named after him as the "Conway Cabal." It failed, but Conway was promoted to major general and Inspector General of the army over several American brigadiers in spite of Washington's objections.
(Right: Thomas Conway.)
His fortunes in the U.S. Army went downhill from there. He asked to be Lafayette's second in command, but Lafayette refused and Conway had to accept being third. Later, he complained to his friends in Congress who had gotten him the first promotion, threatening to resign, as he had the first time. But his star was on the wane this time and they accepted it. Things went from bad to worse when he fought a duel with a militia general (some say over Conway's attitude toward Washington) and was shot in the mouth.
Conway lived, and during his recovery, he wrote a conciliatory letter to Washington, but he never replied. The ill-starred general returned to France in 1779 and was welcomed back into the French army, shortly earning the rank of major general. He was made governor of all French possessions in India in 1787, but after the Revolution his royalist leaning caused him to be returned to France. There the veteran conspirator returned to that activity, this time in favor of the royalty. Unlike some other Irish Brigade veterans, he escaped with his head and was for a time an officer in an attempted "Irish Brigade" in the British army. He died in 1800.
"Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right".
-- Lord Randolph Churchill at an Orange rally in 1886.
"What a head he has and he's not yet 28!"
-- Simon Bolívar speaking of Daniel O'Leary
'What a glorious reunion we'll have in Heaven, eh? Sure Katie, I'll give Tom* your love. First thing I'll do. As for me, girls, I'm proud of what I did. Next time, we'll win. I'm only sorry I won't be there to do my bit.'
-- Edward Daly, during a visit to his cell by his mother and two sisters the night before he was shot. May 4, 1916. *Tom Clarke was Daly's brother-in-law, who was shot earlier that day.
February - Feabhra
22, 1893 - Peadar O’Donnell (Revolutionary, writer - Meenmore, Co. Donegal.)
24, 1841 - John Holland (Inventor of the submarine - Liscannor, Co. Clare.)
25, 1891 - Edward Daly (Revolutionary - Limerick.)
27, 1735 - Thomas Conway (Soldier in French and U.S. armies, Cloghane, Co. Kerry.)
21, 1945 - For his actions leading his company on Iwo Jima on this day, Marine Capt. Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy is awarded the Medal of Honor
22, 1797 -The last invasion of England: Small French force commanded by Irishman William Tate lands in Wales.
22, 1886 - Lord Randolph Churchill gives a memorable speech inciting militant loyalists at Ulster Hall in Belfast.
23, 1919 - The Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers issues a proclamation ordering all British personnel to leave Tipperary or “forfeit their lives.”
23, 1965 - Roger Casement's body returned from England to be reinterred at Glasnevin in Dublin.
24, 1692 - The Treaty of Limerick is ratified by William of Orange.
24, 1854 - General Daniel Florence O'Leary, officer in Simon Bolivar's South American army, dies in Bogota, Colombia.
24, 1920 - The Mid-Clare Brigade Irish Volunteers ambush RIC at Crowe’s Bridge, Vice Commandant Martin Devitt is killed.
25, 1919 - Cork No. 3 Brigade Irish Volunteers attack RIC barracks in Timoleague and Mount Pleasant.
25, 1921 - Cork No. 1 Brigade Irish Volunteers ambush Auxiliaries at Coolnacahera, Co. Cork.
27, 1830 - John Baron O'Brien, colonel in the Austrian army, dies in Austria.
27, 1945 - Gunnery Sgt. William G. Walsh is killed in action on the island of Iwo Jima. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.