This Week in the History of the Irish: June 2 - June 8

DOMHNAIGH -- On June 2, 1567, Shane "the Proud" O'Neill was murdered. The eldest son of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, Shane became chief of the O'Neills in 1559. Shane alternately fought and negotiated with the English through the years. In 1562, Shane went to London to make peace with Queen Elizabeth again (right). Returning home, he destroyed McDonnell settlements in Antrim to consolidate his power. But soon after, he was defeated and driven from his lands by Hugh Dubh (Black Hugh) O'Donnell, and he was forced to seek refuge with those same McDonnells in Cushendon. They feigned friendship and took him in but then murdered him. The head of Shane the Proud was then delivered to the English in Dublin, where it was stuck on a pole and placed on the northwest gate of the city.

LUAIN  -- On June 3, 1836, Dr. Barry O'Meara (left) died in London. Born in Ireland, O'Meara joined the British Navy in 1808 after he had been dismissed from the army for assisting in a duel. In July 1815, he was serving on the HMS Bellerophon when Napoleon surrendered on board. His knowledge of Italian impressed Napoleon, and he requested O'Meara's services on St. Helena. O'Meara remained on St. Helena as Napoleon's personal physician until 1818, when his refusal to spy on the Emperor for the British governor of the island caused him to be dismissed from that post. On his return to London, O'Meara published two books criticizing the treatment of Napoleon on St. Helena. O'Meara also became involved in politics, helping to found the Reform Club. Dr. Barry O'Meara died from complications after catching a cold while attending one of Daniel O'Connell's political rallies in 1836.

CÉADAOIN -- On June 5, 1868, James Connolly was born of Irish immigrant parents in the Cowgate, an Edinburgh, Scotland, slum. He served in the British army but deserted to marry an Irish girl and returned to Edinburgh. Under the influence of Scottish socialist John Leslie, Connolly became active in the labor movement. In 1896, he moved to Dublin, where he founded the first Irish socialist paper, The Workers' Republic. Connolly immigrated to the United States in 1903 and stayed there seven years, working for the American labor movement. When Connolly returned to Ireland in 1910, he helped Jim Larkin lead the Irish Transportation Workers strike in 1913, which turned him toward political action. He organized the Irish Citizens Army and became the leader of the labor movement after Larkin left for the U.S. in 1914. Padraig Pearse enlisted Connolly and his Citizens Army for the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly helped plan the rising and was one of seven signatories of the proclamation. He participated in the fighting at the GPO, where he was severely wounded during the fighting. Connolly was one of 16 executed by the British in the Rising's aftermath. Unable to stand, James Connolly was tied to a chair and shot.

Read more about Connolly HERE.

SATHAIRN -- On June 8, 1853, John Mitchel escaped from Australia, eventually making it to the United States. Mitchel, a member of the Young Ireland Party, was born in Comnish, Co. Derry. John was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He obtained a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1834 and worked in a law office in Banbridge, Co. Down, and came into conflict with the local Orange Order. Mitchel met Thomas Davis and Gavan Duffy during visits to Dublin. He joined Young Ireland and began to write for The Nation. Deeply affected by the misery and death caused by the Great Hunger, Mitchel became convinced that nothing would ever come of the constitutional efforts at Irish freedom. He then formed his own paper, The United Irishmen, to advocate passive resistance by Ireland's starving masses. In May 1848 the British tired of his open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invented a crime especially for the Young Irelanders: Felony-treason.

(Left: John Mitchel as portrayed by Currier and Ives, who made a number of Irish prints to appeal to the Irish-American market.)

They arrested Mitchel for violating this new law and closed down his paper. A packed jury convicted him and he was deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. After his escape to the U.S. Mitchel worked as a journalist in New York and then moved south. When the Civil War broke out he was a strong supporter of the Southern cause, seeing parallels with the position of the Irish. Mitchel's family would back his commitment to the cause fully; he lost two sons, one at Gettysburg in 1863 and another at Ft. Sumter in 1864, and another son lost an arm. Mitchel's outspoken support of the Confederacy caused him to be jailed for a time at Fort Monroe, where one of his fellow prisoners was Jefferson Davis. In 1874 the British allowed him to return to Ireland and he was immediately elected to Parliament from Tipperary. The government removed him but the people of Tipperary voted him in again. But unfortunately, before this could be resolved John Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, died in Newry, and was buried there. In 1913 John Mitchel's grandson, John Purroy Mitchel would be elected mayor of New York.


'If Elizabeth, your mistress, is Queen of England, I am O'Neill, King of Ulster; I never made peace with her without having been previously solicited to it by her. I am not ambitious for the abject title of Earl. . . . I have gained that kingdom by my sword, and by the sword I will preserve it.'
-- The reply of Shane O'Neill (right) to a messenger from Queen Elizabeth offering him an English title.

'Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland . . . I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and attest it with their lives if need be.'
  -- From the last statement of James Connolly, given to daughter Nora Connolly on the eve of his execution by the British.

'The Attorney General is present -- I retract nothing -- these are my well-judged sentiments -- these are my opinions as to the relative position of England and Ireland; and if I have, as you seem to insinuate, violated the law by stating these things, I now deliberately do so again. Let her majesty's attorney-general do his duty to his government, I have done mine to my country.'
      -- John Mitchel addressing the court at his trial for felony-treason in 1848


June -- Meitheamh

5, 1868
 - James Connolly (Revolutionary and Socialist - Edinburgh, Scotland)
6, 1880 
William T. Cosgrave (Politician - Dublin)
7, 1892
 - Kevin Christopher O'Higgins (Revolutionary, politician - Stradbally, Co. Laois.)
7, 1905 - James Braddock (Heavyweight boxing champion - New York City)


2, 1567 - Shane O'Neill (Shane the Proud) murdered by the McDonnells. 
2, 1866 - Fenians defeat Canadian militia at the Battle of Ridgeway, only major battle of their Canadian invasion.
2, 1921 - Michael Kilroy and the West Mayo Flying Column ambush a Crown forces convoy in Carrowkennedy, Co. Mayo.
3, 1798 - Battle of Ballymore.
3, 1836 - Barry Edward O'Meara, surgeon to Napoleon, dies in London.
3, 1933 - William A. Muldoon, professional wrestler & physical trainer dies in Purchase, NY.
4, 1798
 - Lord Edward Fitzgerald dies of wounds at Newgate prison.
4, 1798 - Battle of Tubberneering
4, 1859 - Marshal MacMahon of France defeats the Austrian army at the battle of Magenta in Italy during the Franco-Austrian War.
5, 1646
 - Battle of Benburb
5, 1798 - Reverend William Steel Dickson, a Presbyterian minister, and United Irishmen supporter arrested and imprisoned, without trial.
5, 1798 - Battle of New Ross
5, 1899 - Margaret Anne Cusack (Sister Mary Francis Clare), the 'Nun of Kenmare,' dies in England. 
6, 1690
 - William of Orange enters Dublin following his victory at the Boyne.
6, 1798 - Rebellion breaks out in Ulster: Henry Joy McCracken issues a proclamation calling United Irishmen in Ulster to arms.
6, 1921 - The British government calls off the policy of house burnings as official reprisals.
7, 1798
- Rev James Quigley, United Irishmen, hung.
7, 1798 - Battle of Antrim
8, 1691 - Baron von Ginkel’s Williamite army takes fort at Ballymore.
8, 1815 - Battle of New Orleans won by Andrew Jackson.
8, 1853 - John Mitchel escapes from Australia, eventually makes it to the US.
8, 1886 - Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill defeated in Parliament
8, 1896 - John Bourke, soldier and ethnologist, expert on American Indians, dies.

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


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