This Week in the History of the Irish: June 19 - June 25

LUAIN -- 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.

CÉADAOIN -- 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 then being 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.

St. Patrick's Old Cathedral Archives
Old St. Patrick's Cathedral, 1860. Armed men protected the church against threats of Nativist violence against the church, the seat of the Archdiocese of New York.


AOINE-- On June 24, 1797, John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York, was born in Annaloghlan, County Tyrone. Hughes emigrated to the United States in 1817 and was ordained in Maryland in 1826. Appointed bishop in New York in 1842 and archbishop in 1850, Hughes was a fierce defender of Catholic civil rights during the worst period of anti-Catholic bigotry in American history. When a Philadelphia mob attacked Catholics and burned two churches there in 1844, and nativists were threatening the same in New York, Hughes placed armed guards on his churches. He then warned Mayor James Harper if he allowed a single Catholic church to be burned "the city would become a Moscow." Apparently, Harper took Hughes threat quite seriously, for in spite of his own anti-Catholic feeling, the mayor took action and the Catholic churches of New York were saved.

SATHAIRN -- On June 25, 1870, Robert Erskine Childers, whose mother was from County Clare, was born in London. Childers was raised at the home of family members at Glendalough, County Wicklow. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After serving in the British army during the Boer War he became an Irish nationalist. In 1914, Childers smuggled German rifles into Ireland on his yacht, Asgard. Though he served as the principal secretary to Collins and Griffith at the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, Childers opposed the treaty, supporting the anti-treaty forces during the Civil War. Childers was captured by Free Staters in November 1922 with a pistol shortly after the Free State had passed legislation making such possession a capital offence. Ironically, the revolver Childers possessed was a gift from a former comrade – Michael Collins, who led the Free State until his death in an ambush three months earlier. Childers was found guilty on November 19 and executed on November 24, during the tragic exchange of atrocities by the two sides. Before they shot him, Childers shook the hand of each member of his firing squad. Childer's son, also called Erskine, would one day be President of Ireland.

VOICES

'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 principlesfor 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

'No sir; but I am afraid some of yours will be burned.' 
       -- Bishop John Hughes (left) answer to New York's nativist Mayor James Harper in 1844 when Harper asked Hughes if he feared some of his churches would be burned by anti-Catholic mobs. 

BIRTHS

June -- Meitheamh

20, 1763 - Theobald Wolfe Tone (Revolutionary - Dublin)
22, 1788 - James Francis Stuart (James III - The Old Pretender - London)
23, 1846 - John Gregory Bourke (Medal of Honor awardee and Native American ethnologist - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents.)
24, 1797 - Most Rev. John Hughes (First Archbishop of New York - Co. Tyrone.)
24, 1895 - Jack Dempsey (Heavyweight boxing champion, Manassa, Colorado. )
25, 1870 - Erskine Childers (Author and Revolutionary - London, England)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

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 hung 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
22, 1798 - Engagement of Scollagh Gap in Co. Carlow.
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.
23, 1695 - Dillon's Regiment of the Irish Brigade of France defends Callela.
23, 1798 - Engagement at Goresbridge, County Kilkenny.
24, 1798 - Capture of Castlecomer, County Kilkenny.
25, 1690 - Waterford surrenders to the Williamites.
25, 1876 - Myles Keogh and over 30 other Irish-born troopers are killed with Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.

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