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

Harry Boland, a Dublin tailor and Sinn Féin leader, left; Michael Collins, who would come to fight forces led by de Valera, center, and Eamon de Valera, right.

LUAIN -- On June 16, 1917, Eamon De Valera, convict #95, was released from London's Pentonville Prison. "Dev" had been jailed by the British ever since his death sentence for his part in the Easter Rising had been reduced to life imprisonment. British prison authorities were surely glad to see de Valera go. Convict #95 had led Irish prisoners in acts of defiance in several different prisons. At Dartmoor Prison he went on hunger strike and got a fellow prisoner off bread and water. When all the Irish prisoners were transferred to Lewes Jail, he organized a work stoppage and got another man off bread and water. The exasperated British then split up the Irish prisoners, sending de Valera to Maidstone Prison, whose governor had a reputation for breaking men. De Valera met him head on, refusing to stand at attention or button his jacket as required in his presence, then piercing his pride by wondering aloud (to the delight of the British prison guards) why a military-age man such as he was not at the front. The governor avoided de Valera after that. Soon after this, de Valera was transferred to Pentonville Prison for early release. Before his release, he said a prayer over the grave of Roger Casement, who had been hanged there. As a free man, Dev would continue to plague Ireland's foreign rulers.

MÁIRT -- On June 17, 1845, author and poet Emily Lawless was born in Lyons Castle, County Kildare. Her family was part of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, but some ancestors had fought with Sarsfield and became 'Wild Geese,' and her grandfather was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his United Irish sympathies. Emily was raised by her mother's family, the Kirwins, in Castlehacket, County Galway. This family history, and Emily's own childhood among the poor of western Ireland, where she learned Irish, affected her writing. Lawless wrote several works of prose, but she is perhaps best remembered for her patriotic poetry. Her 1902 book of poems, 'With the Wild Geese,' celebrates Ireland's exiled soldiers and includes 'After Aughrim' and 'Clare Coast'

From a St. Patrick's Day card published about 1910
Theobald Wolfe Tone

AOINE -- On June 20, 1763, one of the most famous revolutionary leaders in Irish history, Theobald Wolfe Tone, was born at 44 Stafford St., now called Wolfe Tone St., in Dublin. Tone was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and called to the bar, but he never practiced law. Entering politics instead, Tone, along with Napper Tandy and Thomas Russell, was one of the founders of the revolutionary Society of the United Irishmen in 1791. He ran afoul of the law because of his leadership within the United Irishmen, causing him to seek asylum in the United States in 1795. The next year he traveled to France to attempt to obtain French aid for the United Irishmen. Twice Tone arranged for French assistance for planned Irish risings. The first time, in 1796, weather foiled the attempt, and in 1798, transporting Tone, it arrived too little and too late, resulting in Tone's capture. In spite of the fact that he held a commission in the French army and was captured in uniform, Tone was refused a request to be shot as a soldier, rather than hung as a traitor. Determined to deny the government the spectacle of his hanging, Theobald Wolfe Tone took his own life in his prison cell.

VOICES

For the choice is open now, I must either stand or bow
Secure this beckoning sunshine, or else accept the rain
Must be banished with my own, or my race and faith disown?
Share the loss, or snatch the gain?

Shall I pay the needed toll, just the purchase of a soul,
Heart and lips, faith and promises sever?
Six centuries of strain, six centuries of pain,
Six centuries cry, "Never!"
         -- The decision faced by the Wild Geese, from "The Choice" by Emily Lawless

'To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never failing source of our political evils, and to assert independence of my country, these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of the past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter; these were my means.'
         -- Theobald Wolfe Tone describing his political aims 

BIRTHS

June -- Meitheamh

15, 1698 - George Browne (Soldier of fortune - Camas, Co. Limerick.)
17, 1845 - Emily Lawless (Novelist, poet and historian - Celbridge, Co. Kildare.)
17, 1855 - Timothy Healy, (Politician and first Governor-General of the IFS- Bantry, Co. Cork.)
18, 1769 - Robert Stewart, Viscount of Castlereagh (Politician - Dublin)
20, 1763 - Theobald Wolfe Tone (Revolutionary - Dublin)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS


15, 1851 - Bryan Mullandanphy, Judge and Mayor of St. Louis, dies of cholera.
16, 1798 - Engagement of the Wexford and South Wicklow United Irishmen at Mountpleasant, near Tinahely, County Wicklow.
16, 1864 - Nationalist politician William Smith O'Brien dies in Bangor, Wales.
16, 1917 - Eamon de Valera released from prison.
16, 1921 - At an ambush in Drumcondra, the IRA becomes the first military force to use the Thompson Sub-Machine in combat.
18, 1768 - Spain's Ultonia regiment (Irish) arrives in Vera Cruz, Mexico to begin three years of garrison duty.
18, 1798 - Engagement at Kilcavan Hill, near Carnew, County Wicklow.
18, 1798 - Attack on Borris House
18, 1936 - IRA declared illegal.
20, 1798 - Battle of Foulksmills
20, 1810 - Parliament passes Unlawful Acts bill, extending powers against secret societies.
20, 1867 - Clan na Gael formed in New York.
21, 1798 - Battle of Vinegar Hill
21, 1877 - Ten members of the Molly Maguires are hung in Pennsylvania at Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and Pottsville.

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

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