This Week in the History of the Irish: June 16 - June 22

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

(Left: 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.)

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.

LUAIN -- On June 17, 1845, author and poet Emily Lawless (right) 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.'

DEARDAOIN -- 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.

SATHAIRN -- On June 22, 1922, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson was shot and killed by two IRA men in London. Wilson was an Irish native, born in County Longford, and a long-time opponent of Irish home-rule. Wilson joined the British army in 1884 and saw action during the Boer War. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1907. Wilson was assigned to British army headquarters during the infamous "Curragh Incident" and supported the near mutiny of British officers who refused to lead troops against Ulster opponents of home-rule. He served in France during the Great War. When the war ended, Wilson continued his staunch support of the Unionist cause while serving as chief of Imperial General Staff. He was a strong supporter of the coercion tactics of the British in Ireland during the War of Independence, even suggesting that the leaders of Sinn Fein be executed. Wilson left the army when Lloyd George decided not to renew his term as chief of staff and, as a Conservative, was elected MP for North Down in 1922. In Parliament, he urged even stronger coercion methods than those that had been carried out by the Black and Tans. On June 22, returning from unveiling the war memorial at London's Liverpool rail station, he was ambushed by Reginald Dunne and Joseph O'Sullivan and shot dead on the steps of his home on London's posh Eaton Square. Both men were former soldiers in the British army, O'Sullivan having lost a leg at Ypres. Dunne refused to leave O'Sullivan, though his disability hampered the men's escape, and both were caught after being surrounded by angry bystanders. Both Michael Collins and the IRA's anti-Treaty faction denied that they had ordered the killing, and neither man revealed the source of their orders before they were executed. Some speculate that Collins had ordered the killing, enraged by anti-Catholic pogroms in Ulster, but it has never been proven.


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 

'We took our part in supporting the aspirations of our fellow-countrymen in the same way as we took our part in supporting the nations of the world who fought for the rights of small nationalities. ... The same principles for which we shed our blood on the battle-field of Europe led us to commit the act we are charged with.' 
         -- From a speech that Reginald Dunne prepared, but was not allowed to read, after his conviction for the killing of Field Marshal Wilson


June -- Meitheamh

17, 1822 – James Hagan (Captain in US-Mexico War and Col. in Confederate Army in US Civil War.)
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)
20, 1822Father Peter Cooney, CSC (Chaplain of the 35th Ind., US Civil War, County Roscommon, Ireland)

22, 1788
 - James Francis Stuart (James III - The Old Pretender - London)


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 - The newly formed 4th Cork Brigade under “Paddy” O’Brien ambushes an Auxiliary convoy at Rathcoole, Co. Cork

16, 1921 - At an ambush in Drumcondra, the IRA becomes the first military force to use the Thompson Sub-Machine in combat.
17, 1691 - Tipperary sacked by Williamites.

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, 1631
 - Islamic pirates raid the town of Baltimore in west Cork
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 hanged in Pennsylvania at Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and Pottsville.
22, 1798
 - The famed 45-mile route march out of Wexford under Father John Murphy and Miles Byrne to Kiltealy. the Scullogue Gap and the engagement of Killedmond in County Carlow.
22, 1798 - Engagement of Scollagh Gap in Co. Carlow.
22, 1917 - Captain “Dynamite” Johnny O’ Brien dies in Manhattan, NY
22, 1921 - George V opens Northern Ireland Parliament, pleads for peace. 
22, 1922 - Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson shot dead by two IRA men in London.

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


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