This Week in the History of the Irish: January 15 - January 21

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

MÁIRT -- 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.)

AOINE -- On January 20, 1771, Don Hugo O'Conor was named Commandant Inspector of New Spain (Mexico). O'Conor was born into a Jacobite family in Dublin in December 1734. The family name was most likely originally spelled O'Connor and changed as the result of frequent misspellings by Spanish speakers. One of Hugo's grandfathers had been forced to flee to Spain in 1652 and Hugo's father was also an Irish nationalist. By the time of Hugo O'Conor, Spain had a long tradition of taking in Irish exiles. The O'Conor family was related to two officers in the Spanish army, Colonel Don Domingo O'Reilly and Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly. In 1751, young Hugo followed his two cousins to Spain. He immediately joined the Irish Hibernia Regiment. Hugo served in Spain's war against Portugal in the early 1660s and then was sent to the New World, serving in Cuba under his cousin, Field Marshal O'Reilly. Hugo rose steadily through the ranks and in 1763 was made a Knight of the Order of Calatrava. In 1765 he was transferred to Mexico and served on the staff of Don Juan de Villalba.

DeGolyer Library
The signature of Hugo O'Conor from a report to his successor, July 22, 1777.

Shortly thereafter, O'Conor was sent to temporarily command the northern presidio of San Sabá. He was then assigned to investigate a violent dispute between the governor of Texas and an army officer. The Viceroy of Mexico, Marqués de Cruillas, was so pleased with his handling of this assignment – which ended with the governor's removal – that this eventually led to O'Conor's promotion to the position of Commandant Inspector of New Spain. Utilizing a system of frontier presidios – one he built became the foundation of Tucson, Arizona -- Don Hugo fought a constant battle with numerous Indian tribes while helping reorganize and unify New Spain's northern borders. His most frequent opposition came from a tribe the U.S. Army would one day come to know well -- the Apaches. The Spanish had been fighting the Apaches since 1748 and O'Conor estimated they had killed over 4,000 Spanish subjects. In October 1776, O'Conor returned from the frontier and was appointed governor of the Yucatán. But at his station in Mérida, his health began to fail. On March 8, 1779, Don Hugo O'Conor died at Quinta de Miraflores, just east of Mérida. O'Conor was only 44 years old when he died and had already risen to the rank of brigadier general. Had he lived to old age, Don Hugo O'Conor may well have risen to the highest ranks of Spain's army or government.

Hulton Picture Library
'Big Jim' Larkin in his prime.

SATHAIRN -- On January 21, 1876, James 'Big Jim' Larkin, one of the greatest labor leaders of the 20th century, was born in Liverpool, England, the second son of a poor Irish couple. At 5 he was sent back to Newry, County Down, to live with his grandparents. He returned to Liverpool in 1885 and began to work as a laborer on the docks. After some time as a seaman, he returned to the docks and rose to be a foreman. When Larkin joined a strike by the men under him, he was fired from that position. He had lost a job, but he had found a calling. Larkin became an organizer for the National Union of Dockers Laborers. He was sent to Belfast in 1907 and organized a strike there, managing to get Catholic and Protestant workers to cooperate, rather than let those above them exploit their ancient animosities. So persuasive was Larkin that he even got the police to support his strike. But he was making enemies in high places, including the leadership of NUDL. They transferred him to Dublin, but his militancy caused him to be suspended from the NUDL.

In December 1908, he organized his own union, the Irish Transport, and General Workers' Union, the ITGWU, and through the force of his personality and oratory, the Union grew quickly. Most of the dock and factory workers he organized lived in some of the worst slums in all of Europe. In 1913 Larkin's successful organizing caused Dublin employers to move against him. They demanded that all employees quit Larkin's union. The workers refused, and, in August 1913, employers all over Dublin locked them out of their jobs. When other Unions supported them, over 100,000 workers ended up locked out. The employers ended the lockout at the end of January 1914. Many saw little if any gain for the workers as a result of the bitter fight, but others noted that with 'Big Jim's' leadership the workers had a solidarity not seen before. In August 1914, the British suppressed Larkin's paper, The Irish Worker, and he traveled to America to raise funds. He would not return for nine years, much of that time spent behind bars. Larkin found an America which was even more antagonistic to organized labor than Britain. In New York, in 1920, he was jailed and sentenced to 10 years for criminal syndicalism.' In 1923, Governor Al Smith had him released and he returned to Ireland. The Ireland he returned to had changed – for one, the British were gone from the Free State – and the tempestuous Larkin, still a committed Marxist, had not. He was expelled from the ITGWU after a bitter power struggle with the more moderate leaders who had rebuilt it in his absence. Nevertheless, 'Big Jim' continued to be active in the fight for worker's rights until his death on January 30, 1947. The world has seen many corrupt labor leaders whose only real agenda was lining their own pockets, but when 'Big Jim' Larkin died his estate consisted of a few personal items and £4.50 in cash.


'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.

'I would like to know . . . what Orangeism or Protestantism has got to do with men fighting for their just rights, when the issue lies not in religion but is a question of bread and butter, and shorter hours and better working conditions, which we should have had 20 years ago.'
      -- A Protestant supporter of Jim Larkin's in Belfast, 1906

January - Eanáir


15, 1835 - Patrick Guiney (Soldier, politician – Parkstown, Co. Tipperary.)
15, 1883Helena Molony (Revolutionary and labor leader – Dublin)
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)
19, 1787
 - Mary Aikenhead (Mother Mary Augustine - Founder of Sisters of Charity - Cork City)
20, 1841 - James Armour (Presbyterian minister - Political activist - Ballymoney, Co Antirm)
20, 1902Kevin Barry (Irish Republican) Dublin.
21, 1876James Larkin (Labor leader - Liverpool.)


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.
19, 1918
 – In the first Volunteer actions in Co. Roscommon, arms are secured from Rockingham House, home of Sir Thomas Stafford-King.
19, 1920 - IRA attacks Drombrane barracks, Co. Tipperary.
20, 1772 - Don Hugo O'Conor named Commandant Inspector of New Spain.
20, 1897 - American Irish Historical Society established.
20, 1921 - Irish Volunteers East Clare Brigade ambush at Glenwood kills 3 RIC and 3 Black & Tans. Wide spread reprisals that night destroys over 20 homes.
20, 1961 - John F. Kennedy inaugurated, first Irish Catholic US president.
21, 1919 - First Dáil Eireann meets, de Valera proclaimed Prime Minister though still in Lincoln Jail.
21, 1919 - War of Independence begins, 3rd Tipperary Brigade ambushes RIC patrol at Soloheadbeg.

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Tags: Americas, Gaeilge, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, Labor, On This Day


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