This Week in the History of the Irish: January 8 - January 14

DOMHNAIGH -- On January 8, 1871, James Craig (right), Viscount Craigavon, Unionist politician, was born in Belfast. Craig was the son of a wealthy distiller. He was educated at private schools. After school, he became a stockbroker in Belfast. He served in the Royal Irish Rifles during the Boer War and rose to the rank of captain. He went into politics after the war and was elected MP from East County Down. Craig rose within the ranks of Unionist politicians and was soon second only to Sir Edward Carson. Carson was a strong orator and carried the message of the Unionist in public, while Craig organized the armed Ulster Volunteers in preparation for a possible armed insurrection against the implementation of Home Rule. Craig entered the British Army again during World War I as quartermaster-general of the 36th (Ulster) Division and served in France. He was knighted in 1918. Craig succeeded Carson as leader of the Unionists in June 1921 and was the 1st Prime Minister of the six counties following partition. In 1929 he abolished the proportional representation voting system in favor of the straight vote system in order to maintain Unionist control of local governments, even in areas where Nationalists were a clear majority. Craig remained PM of the six-county state until his sudden death at Glencarrig, County Down, on November 24, 1940. During his entire time as PM, his policies could be best summed up by his statement in 1934: "We are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state."

Courtesy of
Flag of Berwick's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France, two battalions of which fought with O'Mahony at Alcoy. Get a t-shirt displaying this flag and others HERE.

LUAIN -- On January 9, 1708, elements of the Irish Brigade of France under Daniel O'Mahony helped capture the town of Alcoy in Spain during the War of Spanish Succession. O'Mahony came from a distinguished Munster family. One brother, Dermod, had been a colonel, and another, Daniel, a captain in the Irish army that left Limerick for the continent in 1691. Daniel was also a brother-in-law of another famous officer of the Irish Brigade of France, the Marshal Duke of Berwick. Holding the rank of major, O'Mahony had achieved great fame for his part in the famous defense of Cremona, where the Irish Brigade foiled Prince Eugene's surprise attack on the city in 1702, and he had steadily risen through the ranks. During the War of Spanish Succession, many officers and units of the Irish Brigade served in Spain fighting the Allies' attempt to place Archduke Charles, son of Hapsburg (Austrian) Emperor Leopold I, on the Spanish throne. In the early part of 1707, O'Mahony commanded an unsuccessful attempt to capture the town of Alcoy with a force of about 1,800 men. On January 2, 1708, he arrived at the gates of the city again, but this time he commanded a force of over 6,000, including the Irish battalions of Dillon, Berwick, and Bourke. By the 4th, O'Mahony's six guns had breached the walls of Alcoy, but the Allied garrison fought well and repulsed attempts to take it on the 5th and 7th with much loss of life on the Franco-Spanish side. But with no relief in sight, the garrison's situation was hopeless; O'Mahony accepted the garrison's surrender on the 9th. Daniel O'Mahony was one of the finest commanders of all The Wild Geese. After Alcoy, he served in Sicily and then back in Spain again. He was created a Count of Castile and promoted to lieutenant general. One of the Count's sons, James, would also reach the rank of lieutenant general in the Spanish army and the other, Dermod, would be Spain's ambassador to Austria.

CÉADAOIN -- On January 11, 1775, Louis De Lacy (right), a soldier in the armies of Spain and France, was born in St. Roque, Spain, near Gibraltar, of Irish parents. Louis' father, Patrick, was an officer in the Irish Ultonia regiment of the Spanish army. Louis entered his father's regiment at the age of only 14. While stationed on the Canary Islands, he fought a duel with the governor of the island, severely wounding him. De Lacy was court-martialed and removed from the army. He then traveled to France and was able to gain a commission when French Minister of War Henry Clarke (also of Irish ancestry) introduced De Lacy to Napoleon. Made a captain in the Irish Legion, Louis accompanied the French army of Murat in its invasion of Spain in 1807. Once in Spain, however, De Lacy found his feeling for the land where he was born too strong to allow him to fight against it. Disguising himself in women's clothing, he made his way through the lines and turned himself into the Spanish commander. Surprisingly, he was welcomed warmly and immediately given a Spanish commission as colonel and put in command of the Burgos regiment. De Lacy fought well in numerous battles against the French throughout the rest of the Napoleonic wars. When the exiled monarch Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne, de Lacy became one of the leaders of an anti-royalist conspiracy. The plot was discovered, and Louis was arrested. De Lacy was condemned to death and was shot in July 1816. By 1820, changing political tides in Spain empowered those who had conspired against Ferdinand, and Louis de Lacy's body was exhumed and taken to Barcelona and reburied with military honors. The king himself accompanied the funeral procession as Louis was laid to rest near his uncle, Count Francis de Lacy. The king also honored Louis by conferring on him the posthumous title of Duke of Ultonia (Ulster).

DEARDAOIN -- 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 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.

DEARDAOIN -- On January 13, 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 the 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.


'He has always been not only brave, but indefatigable, and very pains-taking (sic); his life is, as it were, a continued chain of dangerous combats, of bold attacks, of honourable retreats. If he has mounted himself to the first dignities of the army, he has raised himself to them by degrees; he has passed through all the military grades so as to make himself a master of the respective duties.'
        -- Count Daniel O'Mahony as characterized by his friend the Chevalier de Bellerive.

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

January - Eanáir


8, 1736 - Arturo (Arthur) O'Neill (Colonel in the Spanish Army – Dublin)
8, 1871 - James Craig, Viscount Craigavon (Politician - Belfast)

11, 1775
- Louis De Lacy (Soldier - St. Roque, Spain, of Irish parents)
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)


8, 1873 - Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain founded.
9, 1708 
- The Irish Brigade of France under Count O'Mahony helps capture the town of Alcoy in Spain.
9, 1783 
- David Griffith, a Dublin native and general in the army of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, dies in Piacenza, Italy.
10, 1922 
Arthur Griffith elected President of Irish Free State.
11, 1970
- IRA splits into Officials and Provisionals (Provos).
13, 1800
 - Daniel O'Connell makes his first public speech, opposing union with England.

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Tags: Asia, Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day


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