This Week in the History of the Irish: July 26 - August 1

DOMHNAIGH -- On July 26, 1739, George Clinton (right), soldier, first governor of New York, and vice president of the United States, was born in Little Britain, N.Y., of Irish Protestant parents. Clinton served in his father's New York state militia unit during the French and Indian War before being elected to the New York provincial assembly in 1768. Clinton became one of the leaders of the American colony's revolutionary movement when he served in the Second Continental Congress. Washington appointed him to command the defenses of the Hudson River highlands before the Declaration of Independence was signed; thus Clinton lost his opportunity to be one of the signers. Clinton did not display any great skill in command of large bodies of troops -- his real skill would prove to be in the political arena, though he would attain a brevet rank of major general in Washington's army . In April 1777, Clinton was elected the first governor of New York State, thus gaining the sobriquet "The Father of New York State." Historians widely praise him for his skill in maintaining support for the revolution in that key state through the several difficult years that followed. Clinton served six consecutive terms as governor, through 1795, and then returned for a seventh term in 1800. In 1804, he was elected vice president under Thomas Jefferson and then served in the post again under James Madison. George Clinton died while still holding that office on April 20, 1812. He is buried in Old Dutch Churchyard in Kingston, N.Y.

Mrs. Erskine Childers and Mary Spring-Rice on the Asgard, July 1914.

DOMHNAIGH -- On July 26, 1914, Erskine Childers sailed his yacht, the Asgard, into the port of Howth, in Dublin with 900 German rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition on board. Planned by Childers and the leaders of the Irish Volunteers, the shipment was in response to the Larne gun running of the Ulster Volunteers in the north three months earlier. Later that day the Volunteers were confronted by a British regiment on the Bachelors Walk in Dublin. While Irish Volunteer leaders held negotiations with the assistant police commissioner, the guns were dispersed by the Volunteers. Shortly after this the soldiers -- claiming they were provoked -- fired a volley into the gathered crowds, killing three. This incident was another step in radicalizing many Irish nationalists, especially since those responsible for the much larger Larne operation (35,000 guns, 5 million rounds) had not been bothered by the government. Through its tacit approval of the arming of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteers, the British government had put the gun firmly into the politics of Ireland, a decision its leaders must regret to this day.

The National Gallery of Ireland
Patrick Sarsfield, by William Mossop

CÉADAOIN -- On July 29, 1693, units of the Irish Brigade of France fought at the battle of Landen (also known as Neerwinden) against the forces of William of Orange, their nemesis from the Battle of the Boyne. William had some 50,000 English, Dutch, German and Spanish troops against about 80,000 French troops under the Duke of Luxembourg. William's army had a strong defensive position to compensate for its numerical inferiority. The French attacked William's center first, and then both flanks, breaking his line and winning the victory. On the French left flank, the Duke of Berwick and Patrick Sarsfield (Earl of Lucan) commanded in the assault on the village of Neerwinden, which they captured and lost twice before finally holding it. During this back and forth fighting, the Duke of Berwick was cut off from his troops and captured. He was exchanged shortly after the battle to resume his career in the French army. The Irish had won a measure of revenge against the victor of the Boyne, but it came at a heavy price. Sarsfield, the defender of Limerick two years earlier, beloved by the Irish soldiers, was wounded and died with the words, "Would it were for Ireland."

National Library of Ireland
Patrick Pearse -- circled -- after his oration at O'Donovan Rossa's grave side.

SATHAIRN -- On Aug. 1, 1915, the funeral of Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was held before a huge crowd at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Rossa's body had been returned from New York where he died June 30. He had been exiled by the British for his Fenian activities in 1871. While in exile, Rossa had managed to alienate many of his former Fenian colleagues, including his good friend John Devoy, with his uncompromising advocacy of violence to end British rule in Ireland. Perhaps his attitude was due in part to the harsh treatment he received in British prisons as well as scenes he witnessed while helping to distribute relief in his native County Cork during the Great Hunger . In the late 1870s, he organized the 'Skirmishing Fund,' which financed the infamous dynamite campaign in England. When he died in New York on June 30, 1915, he was estranged from most in the Irish republican movement, but his funeral would be one of the seminal events in the revival of the movement in Ireland. Patrick Pearse gave an address at the graveside that day which has resounded with republicans down through the years; the final words of his oration provided them with one of their most enduring slogans: "Ireland unfree will never be at peace." [Editor's note: Interestingly, the world slogan derives from the Gaelic sluagh ghairm, or army cry, according to The Random House Dictionary.]


 ... men rushed to the quay-side reaching for the cases and were in danger of being pushed into the water by the press of those behind. Only the severest of the [Volunteer] officers succeeded in holding their companies in place.' '
         -- Erskine Childers on the confused scene at Howth, July 26, 1914

'I am dying the most glorious of deaths; we have seen the backs of the tyrants of our race. May you ,Gerald, live to behold other such days; but let Ireland be always uppermost in your thoughts.' 
         -- From a letter dictated by the dying Patrick Sarsfield to his friend and aide, Gerald O'Connor, July 29, 1693

Patrick Pearse

'Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations.'
         -- From Patrick Pearse's oration at the grave side of O'Donovan Rossa, Aug. 1, 1915


July -- Iúil

26, 1856 - Church of Ireland (Anglican) disestablished as state religion by Irish Church Act.
26, 1914 - Erskine Childer's yacht, Asgard, successully lands arms at Howth, County Dublin.
27, 1830 - John O'Leary (Fenian - Tipperary.)
30, 1863
 - Henry Ford (Automobile manufacturer - Dearborn, Michigan.)


26, 1739 - George Clinton, ("Father of New York State" - Little Britain, New York)
26, 1856 - George Bernard Shaw (Author/Playwright - Dublin)
28, 1846 - O'Connell and Young Ireland party split over attitudes toward physical force.
29, 1588 - Spanish Armarda defeated by England off the coast of Plymouth, some Spanish ships later wreck in the west of Ireland.
29, 1693 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Landen in Flanders, helping to rout the army of William of Orange.
29, 1693 - Patrick Sarsfield mortally wounded at Landen.
29, 1848 - Young Irelander uprising in Ballingarry, County Tipperary. William Smith O'Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher later sentenced to death; commuted to transportation to Australia.
31, 1689 - Siege of Derry lifted.
31, 1893 - Founding of the Gaelic League.
31, 1922 - Harry Boland shot by Free Staters in Skerries, he would die three days later.

August -- Lúnasa

1, 1166 - Rory O'Connor defeats Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster force him to flee from Ireland.
1, 1800 - Act of Union uniting Ireland to England passed by Parliament.
1, 1822 - Irish Constabulary Act sets up county police forces.
1, 1915 - Nationalist Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa buried in Glasnevin cemetery, ...
1, 1981 - Kevin Lynch dies on hunger strike.

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


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