This Week in the History of the Irish: May 4 - May 10

The National Library of Ireland
Willie Pearse

DOMHNAIGH -- On May 4, 1916, the British executed Patrick Pearse's younger brother, Willie. Willie was not one of the signers of the Proclamation; he was not one of the planners of the revolt, nor was he one of it commanders. Willie was merely one of the soldiers involved with the Dublin actions. No other participant in Dublin whose actions or responsibilities were similar to Willie's was executed in those dark days, save perhaps John MacBride, and MacBride's earlier service with the Boers probably marked him for death. It seems likely that the sole reason William Pearse was executed by the British government was for the crime of being Patrick's brother. It was repugnant British excesses such as this that would soon reverse the Irish people's initially negative opinion of the '16 Rising.

LUAIN -- On May 5, 1981, Bobby Sands (right) died on hunger strike at Long Kesh prison. He had begun the strike on March 1, in protest over the removal of political status for IRA prisoners. Hunger strikes were an old republican strategy going back to Terence MacSwiney's famous hunger strike in 1920, which had helped turn the tide of world opinion against England during the War of Independence. Other prisoners at Long Kesh soon followed Sand's example. On April 9, the republican community in the six counties showed its support of Sands by electing him to the British Parliament for Fermanagh-Tyrone. The "Iron Maiden," British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would remain unmoved by Sand's death, and those of the nine whose deaths followed his extending through mid-August.

Underwood and UnderwoodB
BDean and William Hodges, perished along with their mother and father on the Lusitania.

CÉADAOIN -- On May 7, 1915, the English passenger ship Lusitania was sunk near Old Head, off the southern Irish coast. The liner had left New York bound for Liverpool on May 1. German intelligence believed, and most historians now believe, that the ship was carrying munitions. The German Ambassador had warned Americans against traveling in British ships in wartime. Kapitan-Leutnant Walther Schwieger and his U-20 put only one torpedo into her just after 2 a.m. and the ship sank quickly after a second explosion inside the ship. Among the 1,200 who died were 118 Americans. This incident would cause severe problems for Irish-Americans who supported nationalist movements in Ireland and were courting German help. At the British Admiralty hearing into the incident, British officials would claim two torpedoes hit the Lusitania. They knew this claim was false, having intercepted and decoded a transmission from the U-20, but they lied to cover the fact that their own munitions might have caused the second explosion.

Naval Museum at San Isidro, Argentina
Admiral William Brown from a daguerreotype taken late in his life.

DEARDAOIN -- On May 8, 1857, William Brown, of Foxford, Co. Mayo, an Admiral in the Argentine navy, died in Buenos Aires. Brown first came to the New World as a boy, when his family immigrated to the United States in 1786. He later went to sea on a merchant ship. Pressed into the British navy in 1796, he would eventually rise to command a British merchant ship. Brown settled in Buenos Aires and in 1814 he joined the fledgling navy of the Argentine Republic. Later that year he would win one of the most famous victories in Argentine history, defeating the Spanish navy at the mouth of Uruguay River. In 1825, Brown was in action again, when Brazil declared war on Argentina. The Argentine navy had not been a priority for the new government, and Brown's small force was heavily outnumbered in the struggle with Brazil. At the battle of Los Pozos, fought in view of the people of Buenos Aries, Brown faced 31 enemy ships with four ships and few gunboats. With this small force, Brown turned the Brazilians away. Admiral Brown continued his service in the Argentine navy until 1845 and spent his remaining years at his home near Buenos Aires. He is considered the father of the Argentine navy.

Library of Congress
Brig. Gen. James Shields

SATHAIRN -- On May 10, 1806, James Shields, who would have one of the most remarkable careers in American history, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland. Coming to the United States, he first settled in Illinois. While there, Shields fought in the Black Hawk War and nearly fought a duel with Abraham Lincoln, with whom he was later very friendly. Shields was a brigadier general of volunteers during the Mexican War and fought at Cerro Gordo; he was commended by Winfield Scott, commander of the American invasion force. After the war, he was elected Senator, first from Illinois and later from Minnesota. At the start of the Civil War, his former enemy, Lincoln, appointed him brigadier general. His war record was not outstanding, but he was one of the few Federal commanders to ever defeat "Stonewall" Jackson, at the 1st Battle of Kernstown in March 1862. Of course, Jackson would more than avenge that defeat later. After the war, Shields was appointed Senator from Missouri, making him the only man in U.S. history to represent three states in the Senate. He died June 1, 1879, while on a speaking tour in Ottumwa, Iowa. James Shields is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Carrollton, Missouri.


They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn't want to be broken.
                                    -- Bobby Sands

General Shields was by birth an Irishman, by religion a Catholic. By lifelong and most loyal service,- by the oft offered sacrifice of his blood, he was the American. Never did the Star-spangled Banner look down upon more sincere and braver patriotism than that which fired the heart and electrified the sword of General James Shields.
                       -- Archbishop John Ireland, at the unveiling of a stature of Gen. Shields, October 20, 1914.

May -- Bealtaine


5, 1864 - Mary Jane Cochran (Nellie Bly) (Journalist)
7, 1865 - John MacBride (Soldier, leader in 1916 Rising - Westport, Co. Mayo.)
7, 1945 - Christopher Andrew "Christy" Moore (Musician, Newbridge, County Kildare)
7, 1976 – Michael Murphy (MOH winner in Afghanistan, Smithtown, NY).
10, 1810 -James Shields (Union General - US Senator from three different stat...
10, 1832 - William Grace (First Irish Catholic Mayor of New York - Cobh, Co. Cork.)


4, 1836 - Founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, New York City.
4, 1916 - Edward Daly executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
4, 1916 - Michael O'Hanrahan executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
4, 1916 - William Pearse executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
4, 1916 - Joseph Mary Plunkett executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
5, 1795 - House of Commons rejects Grattan's Catholic relief bill, by 155 to 84.
5, 1844 - Bishop Hughes of New York threatens to burn down the city if his churches are attacked (as were churches in Philadelphia).
5, 1906 - First issue of Sinn Féin.
5, 1916 - John MacBride executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
5, 1981 - Bobby Sands dies on hunger strike at Long Kesh prison.
6, 1882 - Phoenix Park murders of Lord Frederick Cavendish and T.H. Burke by Fenians.
6, 1897 - Count Arthur Nugent, colonel in the Austrian army and son of Field Marshal Count Laval Nugent, dies in Bosiljevo, Croatia.
7, 1915 - The Lusitania is sunk off the southern Irish coast. 8, 1567 - Battle of Farsetmore.
8, 1567 - Battle of Farsetmore
8, 1857 - William Brown, of Co. Mayo, Admiral in the Argentine navy, dies.
8, 1916 - Èamonn Ceannt executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
8, 1916 - Michael Mallin executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
8, 1916 - Seán Heuston executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
8, 1916 - Con Colbert executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
9, 1691 – The Marquis de Ruth and his French army arrive in Limerick.
9, 1766 - Count Lally executed by French for losing India.
9, 1916 - Thomas Kent executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail.
10, 1318 - Battle of Dysert O'Dea.
10, 1795 - United Irishmen of Ulster secretly meet in Belfast and adopt new constitution.

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Tags: American Civil War, Americas, Argentina, Belfast, Bosiljevo, Buenos Aires, Carrollton, Cerro Gordo, Cork, Croatia, More…Dublin, Fermanagh, Iowa, Kernstown, Kildare, Kilmainham, Mayo, Mexico, Military History, Missouri, New York, Newbridge, On This Day, Ottumwa, Smithtown, Tyrone, United States, Virginia, Westport


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