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

DOMHNAIGH -- On January 12, 1729, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest political writers and orators in history, was born in Arran Quay, Dublin. Burke was the son of a mixed marriage -- his mother was Catholic and his father Protestant. Burke himself would later marry an Irish Catholic woman. Perhaps it was these two factors that led him to advocate a lenient policy toward Ireland for most of his life. Burke graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1748 and studied law at Middle Temple in London; however, he failed to secure a call to the bar and instead began a literary career. He wrote several books and was editor of the Annual Register before entering politics.

(Left: Edmund Burke c. 1767/69, by Joshua Reynolds)

In 1765, Earl Verney brought him into the House of Commons as a member for Wendover and within a short time, his great speaking ability had transformed him into one of Parliament's most influential members. Burke was one of the leading advocates of compromise with the American colonies. His advice was not followed then, but after the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown, he was one of the members who helped convince George III to end the conflict. Burke's view of the revolution in France was a much different story. He published Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, attacking the revolution's motives and principles. Many writers opposed his views, the most famous being Thomas Paine in his Rights of Man. Burke was a consistent advocate of Catholic emancipation, which politically damaged him, but he was never an advocate of self-rule for the Irish. Edmund Burke died in London on July 9, 1797. Many quotes from his writings and orations have come down through the years; perhaps one is most applicable to the situation in Ireland today: "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."

Read more about Edmund Burke HERE.

CÉADAOIN -- On January 15, 1702 Thomas Arthur Lally, a renowned but tragic officer in the Irish Brigade in the service of France, was born in Romans, France. Lally was the son of Sir Gerard Lally of Tullynadala, County Galway, one of the original "Wild Geese" of 1691. Though King Louis XV offered to make Lally a colonel in the Irish Brigade at the age of 18, his father insisted he earn his advancement.

(Right: Thomas Arthur Comte de Lally, as depicted on a nineteenth-century promotional card by French chocolate manufacturer Chocolat Poulain.)

Thomas pursued his studies and finally joined the Brigade as a captain in Dillon's regiment in 1732. He would prove to be an excellent soldier. His first campaign came in 1733, during the War of Polish Succession. At the end of that war, he traveled secretly to England, Scotland, and Ireland in the late 1730s to gauge the depth of Jacobite sympathies. Lally was then sent on another covert mission to Russia, in an unsuccessful attempt to change its alliance from Britain to France. He returned to the army and at Dettingen in 1743, during the War of Austrian Succession, he saved his father's life and helped conduct a retreat that saved the army. He was personally responsible for the placing of a battery of artillery at Fontenoy that was a key to that most famous triumph of the Irish Brigade. He assisted in the planning of "The '45" of Bonnie Prince Charlie and remained loyal to the Prince after the failure of that enterprise. By now he held an esteemed place in the French military. In 1756, he was given command of an ill-fated French military expedition to India. He was initially successful against the British colonial forces there, but he received little support from the French government and was soon defeated. He was taken to England as a prisoner but then released and allowed to return to France to defend himself against charges of misconduct in India. Lally was found guilty and beheaded on May 9, 1766. His conviction would later be reversed by Louis XVI.

Read more about the Irish Brigade of France HERE.

CÉADAOIN -- On January 15, 1861, Young Irelander Terence Bellew MacManus died in San Francisco. MacManus was born in County Fermanagh in 1811. He later moved to Liverpool, England, where he began a successful shipping agency. In 1843 he returned to Ireland and joined the Repeal Association and the Young Ireland party.

(Left: Currier & Ives - Thomas Francis Meagher, Terence B. MacManus and Patrick O'Donoghue standing in the dock at their trial in Clonmel, October 22, 1848.)

During the Young Irelanders' brief uprising in 1848, MacManus joined Smith O'Brien and John Blake Dillon at Ballingarry, County Tipperary, where the only substantial armed action occurred. After the rising's suppression, MacManus was captured by the British and put on trial. Like most of the other Young Ireland leaders, he was sentenced to death, which was then commuted to transportation for life to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania). He arrived there in autumn 1849, but in 1852 he managed to escape to the United States, along with Thomas Francis Meagher. While Meagher settled on the East Coast, MacManus settled in San Francisco and decided to try his luck at his former business, working as a shipping agent. But MacManus fell into poverty when his business failed, and his health rapidly failed as well. It was after his death, however, that he perhaps performed his most valuable service to the cause of Irish freedom. On learning of his death, American Fenian leaders decided to return his body to Ireland for burial. This would foreshadow the treatment given to Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa at his famous funeral in 1915 -- Irish Republicans rallying around the grave of a fallen comrade. Crowds of Irish gathered in New York as Archbishop John Hughes, like MacManus born in Ulster, blessed MacManus' body. Thousands greeted his body in Cork also, and crowds gathered at rail stations all the way to Dublin. But the church, in the person of Archbishop Cullen, refused permission for his body to lie in state at any church in Dublin. Thus, for a week MacManus' body lay in the Mechanics' Institute, while thousands passed by paying their respects. But Father Patrick Lavelle, a Fenian supporter, defied Cullen and performed the funeral ceremony on November 10, 1861. A crowd estimated at 50,000 followed the casket to Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, and hundreds of thousands lined the streets. The MacManus funeral was a seminal moment for the Fenian movement -- it invigorated the nationalist movement in Ireland, just as Rossa's would 54 years later.

AOINE -- On January 17, 1860, Dr. Douglas Hyde, Gaelic scholar and first President of Ireland, was born at Castlerea, County Roscommon. Hyde was the son of a Protestant minister and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He had a great facility for languages, learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and German, but his great passion in life would be the preservation of the Irish language. After spending a year teaching modern languages in Canada, he returned to Ireland. For much of the rest of his life, he would write and collect hundreds of stories, poems, and folktales in Irish, and translate others. His work in Irish helped to inspire many other literary lights, such as W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. In 1892, he delivered a paper to the National Literary Society, which he and Yeats founded earlier that year, titled 'The Necessity for de-Anglicizing the Irish people.' In 1893, Hyde founded the Gaelic League along with Eoin MacNeill and Fr. Eugene O'Growney; Hyde was its first president, holding the post until 1915. Under Hyde, the League flourished, spreading across the island and revived not only the language, which was perilously close to disappearing but also encouraged a rebirth of Irish dance and other aspects of Irish culture. With this rebirth of Gaelic pride came a rebirth in Irish nationalism. Hyde was also a professor of Modern Irish at the National University from 1908 to 1932 and was the driving force behind the regulation-making Irish a compulsory subject. Hyde did not want the Gaelic League to be a political entity, so when the surge of Irish nationalism that the Gaelic League helped to foster began to take control of many in the League and politicize it, Hyde resigned as president. Hyde took no active part in the armed upheaval of the 1910s and 1920s, but did serve as a Free State senator in 1925-26. In 1938 he was unanimously elected to the newly created position of President of Ireland, a post he held until 1945. Hyde died in Dublin on July 12, 1949. A common language is perhaps the most important bond any culture can possess, and more than any other person, Dr. Douglas Hyde was responsible for saving the language of the Irish people. And for that, all lovers of Irish culture must say, 'Ar dheis De go raibh sé.' (May he be at the right hand of God.)


'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' 
        -- Edmund Burke

'I think it no exaggeration to say that the funeral seems to me to be something in its kind unparalleled, or, at least, only to be compared with the second burial of the great Napoleon. But, in the last named pageant the power and resources of a great nation were called into action, while the MacManus funeral was the unaided effort of a populace trampled on or expatriated.'
        -- Fenian Thomas Clarke Luby describing the funeral of Terence Bellow MacManus (right), on November 10, 1861

'The narrative of the destruction, robberies, deaths and other types of damage that I then reported would seem at first glance too exaggerated either as the result of fear or of special purposes of the informants, but besides being based on their reality, they are all evident in very trustworthy documents that I have left in the Archive of Chihuahua.'
        -- From the report of Hugo O'Conor to Teodoro de Criox, his successor in northern New Spain, dated July 22, 1777.

January - Eanáir


12, 1729 - Edmund Burke (Political writer and orator - Arran Quay, Dublin)
12, 1792 - Robert Patterson (Union General - Co. Tyrone)
12, 1885 - Thomas Ashe, (Revolutionary - Lispole, Co. Kerry.)
13, 1702 - Count Thomas Lally (Soldier in the Irish Brigade of France - Romans, France, of Irish parents.)
13, 1931 - Mary Clarke (Maryknoll nun, martyr, of Irish parents, New York City)
15, 1835 - Patrick Guiney (Soldier, politician – Parkstown, Co. Tipperary.)
16, 1822 - Thomas Clarke Luby (Irish revolutionary – Dublin.)
17, 1927 - Thomas Dooley (Doctor, author - St. Louis, MO.)
17, 1860 - Douglas Hyde (First President of Ireland - Castlerea, Co. Roscommon)


13, 1800 - Daniel O'Connell makes his first public speech, opposing union with England.
15, 1861 - Young Irelander Terence MacManus dies in San Francisco, CA.
15, 1896 - Civil War photographer Mathew Brady dies in New York.
16-17, 1871 - La Compagnie Irlandaise of the French "Regiment Etranger" fights with the French army at the Battle of Belfort in the Franco-Prussian War.
16, 1913 - Home Rule bill passes in Commons, defeated in House of Lords (Jan. 30)
16, 1922 - Dublin Castle is surrendered to the Provisional Government.
16, 1939 - IRA bombing campaign begins in England.
17, 1815 - Marie-Louise O'Morphi, famous courtesan, dies in Paris.
17, 1861 - Lola Montez (Marie Gilbert), dancer and courtesan, dies in New York.

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Tags: Asia, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day, United States


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