This Week in the History of the Irish: October 14 - October 20

DOMHNAIGH -- On Oct. 14, 1814, Thomas Osborne Davis, the poet laureate of the Young Ireland party and one of its founders, was born in Mallow, Co. Cork. Like many other revolutionary Irish leaders, Davis was of an Anglo-Irish family; his father was a British army surgeon. He graduated from Trinity College and was called to the bar in 1838, but he never practiced.

(Right: Thomas Davis from an illustration in Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, c. 1903.)

Davis joined Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Association in 1839; the rest of his short life would be dedicated to the cause of Irish freedom. In 1840, along with John Blake Dillon and Gavan Duffy, he founded the The Nation, the paper which gave voice to the Young Irelanders. The poetry and prose in the paper, especially Davis', but also those of many other Irish nationalists, was an inspiration to people of Ireland, helping to reawaken the spirit of Irish nationalism. Many of his poems focused on past glories, such as, Fontenoy, Battle Eve of the Brigade ,and Death of Owen Roe O'Neill, and others, such as his most famous verse, A Nation Once Again contained a hopeful vision of the future. The latter, The West's Asleep and many other of Davis' poems have been put to music, and are very popular to this day. The movement Davis helped found would be short lived, but it would still outlive him. On Sept. 16, 1845, 28 days before his 31st birthday, Davis died of a fever at his mother's house at 67 Baggot St., Dublin.

National Library of Ireland
Mary Spring-Rice, right, next to Molly Childers aboard the Asgard, July 1914.

DOMHNAIGH -- On Oct. 14, 1880, nationalist and Gaelic League activist Mary Ellen Spring-Rice was born in Foynes, Co. Limerick. Her family had Jacobite roots but by the time Mary Ellen was a child, it was very much a part of the Anglo-Irish ruling class. Her father was the 2nd Baron of Monteagle, with estates in Kerry and Limerick, her cousin was the British ambassador to the U.S. Mary grew up around many Irish speakers in the Foynes, Co. Limerick, area and became a fluent Irish speaker. This was to influence her entire life. She met Dr. Douglas Hyde early in her life and later joined his Gaelic League. Mary organized many Irish language festivals in Limerick and hired an Irish teacher for a local school. She helped her cousin Nellie O'Brien organize an Irish-language summer school, even getting many of her establishment relatives to contribute money. Like many others before and since, Mary Ellen's study of the native language of Ireland influenced her politics and she was soon an ardent nationalist. It is said that it was she who first proposed to Erskine Childers the idea of transporting German arms to Ireland aboard private yachts, such as the one Childers owned. She then helped plan the famous Asgard gun-running affair into Howth on July 26, 1914, and accompanied Childers and his wife, Molly, on the ship during the actual operation. Mary's health began to fail while she was working as a nurse during the War of Independence. When she died in 1924, she was buried in Loghill, Co. Limerick, near her childhood home. Local republicans carried her coffin to the cemetery in honor of her contributions to the fight for Ireland's freedom and the preservation of its language.

LUAIN -- On Oct. 15, 1763, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, military leader of the United Irishmen, was born in Carton House, Co. Kildare. Like Wolfe Tone and Emmet, Lord Edward was from a prominent family. His father was the 1st Duke of Leinster and his mother was the daughter of the Duke of Richmond. But there were rebels in his family tree also -- he was a descendant of 'Silken Thomas' Fitzgerald, who was executed by the English in 1537. Lord Edward served in the British army with the Sussex Militia against the American colonists and was severely wounded at the battle of Eutaw Springs in '81. He spent time in Paris after the war, where one of his companions was Thomas Paine. There he acquired his republican ideals. One night at a dinner of British residents of Paris he toasted to the abolition of hereditary titles, which caused his discharge from the British army.

Right: Lord Edward Fitzgerald by Horace Hone - 1797

He returned to Ireland and in the mid-1790s he joined the United Irishmen . With his military experience, he was one of the main planners of the '98 Rising. In March '98, when many of the United Irish leaders were arrested, he barely escaped capture. He managed to hide out in Dublin for a time, but a spy betrayed his hiding place on Thomas Street. Lord Edward was arrested there on May 19; he resisted fiercely, stabbing one of his opponents to death, but another shot him and he died of his wounds on June 4. His loss was a terrible blow to the cause of the United Irishmen but his name lives on as another in a long line of Irish rebels who made a conscious choice of principle over power and money.

CÉADAOIN -- On Oct. 17, 1803, nationalist politician and Young Irelander William Smith O'Brien was born in Dromoland, County Clare. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania. After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.

AOINE -- On October 19, 1751, Charles Edward (Jennings) Kilmaine, general in the French army, was born at Saul's Court, Dublin. His father was a physician from County Galway. Though the family name was Jennings, Charles became known as Kilmaine in France after the area of County Mayo which had been the ancient patrimony of the family. Other members of the Jennings family had been officers in the Irish Brigade of France. Kilmaine was sent to France in 1762 and educated there, becoming very proficient in the French language. In 1774, he joined the French army, but he joined the Royal Dragoons (uniform, right), not the Irish Brigade. In 1780, he accompanied General Armand-Louis Lauzun's expeditionary force to America. Kilmaine returned to France with the rank of captain. When the revolution in France began, Kilmaine was among a minority of Irish officers who supported the new government. At the outbreak of war with the Prussians, Kilmaine as put in command of a number of French cavalry squadrons and performed brilliantly throughout the campaign. But when the tide turned against the French and the Reign of Terror began, he was dismissed from the army and jailed for a few months. When he was released, he returned to the army. Kilmaine's excellent performance as Bonaparte's cavalry commander during his Italian campaign greatly impressed the future emperor. Kilmaine was appointed commander-in-chief of the planned invasion force of England. He became great friends with Theobald Wolfe Tone while Tone was in France and was greatly saddened when the French Directory canceled plans for the invasion he hoped would free Ireland. Kilmaine's health had been seriously affected by his service in Italy and in 1799 it forced him to resign from the army. On December 11, 1799, Kilmaine, who had come to be known in the French army as, "The Brave" Kilmaine, died in Paris. He had surely been one of the greatest officers of all The Wild Geese.

Read more about General Kilmaine HERE.

National Library of Ireland
A common scene in 19th century Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary helping to evict a tenant family from their home. Scenes such as this led to the founding of the Land League.

SATHAIRN -- On October 20, 1881, the Irish National Land League was outlawed by the government. From the start (see below) the League had been a thorn in the side of government of British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone. The passage of the second Land Act in 1818 failed to mollify many of the leaders of the Land League, mainly due to the fact that close to 300,000 tenants behind in their rents were excluded from its benefits. Charles Stewart Parnell continually attacked the bill until Gladstone had him arrested October 13, 1881. On the 13th, from his prison cell, Parnell signed the No Rent Manifesto, which called on supporters of the Land League to withhold rent payments. Many other leaders of the League, including Michael Davitt, whose name was added to the bottom of the document by others, and other moderate elements in Ireland opposed this move. Perhaps sensing weakness in the League organization, the government outlawed the League the next day; but the work of the League was then continued by the Ladies Land League, which had been founded earlier by Parnell's sister Anna. In 1882, Parnell was released from jail after reaching a written compact with the government, which extended the benefits of the Land Act to those excluded earlier, while Parnell pledged to help end land-agitation violence in Ireland and cooperate with Gladstone's Liberal party. In October 1882, Parnell would form the Irish National League, replacing the Land League. The Land League passed into history, but it had helped show Irish peasants that if they all stood together there was strength in numbers.

VOICES

'The prophet I followed throughout my life, the man whose words and teachings I tried to translate into practice in politics.'
        -- Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffin on his respect for Young Irelander Thomas Osborne Davis

'You're the greatest soldier, ma'am, indeed, y'are.'
        -- Michael O'Rahilly (The O'Rahilly) to Mary Rice's companion on the Asgard, Molly Childers, at the quay in Howth. A sentiment he no doubt would have applied to Mary Ellen Spring-Rice as well.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald, from an early 20th century postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons.

''What a noble fellow. Of the first family of Ireland, with an easy fortune, a beautiful wife, a family of lovely children, the certainty of a splendid appointment under the government, if he would condescend to support their measures; he has devoted himself wholly to the emancipation of his country.'
        -- Theobald Wolfe Tone on Edward Fitzgerald from Tone's diary.

'I had firmly resolved not to say or write or do anything which could be interpreted as a confession on my part that I consider myself a criminal in regard to the transactions of 1848.'

        -- William Smith O'Brien writing to his wife in 1854 after learning of his conditional pardon.

'He was the only officer in whom Napoleon ever placed complete confidence. He was capable of the greatest things. His military genius was more profound than even that great Commander-in-Chief, but he did not possess the latter's vivacity. …'
         -- Captain Landrieux, aide de camp to General Charles Kilmaine, left.

'Pay no rent under any pretext. Stand passively, firmly, fearlessly by while the armies on England may be engaged in their hopeless struggle against a spirit which their weapons cannot touch. ...'
         -- From the text of the No Rent Manifesto, October 18, 1881

BIRTHS

October -- Deireadh Fomhair

14, 1814 - Thomas Davis (Author and Patriot - Mallow, Co. Cork)
14, 1880 - Mary Rice (Nationalist and Gaelic Leaguer - Foynes, Co. Limerick.)
14, 1882 - Eamon de Valera (Politician and Revolutionary - New York)
15, 1763 - Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Revolutionary - Carton House, Co. Kildare)
15, 1881 - William Pearse (Revolutionary, brother of Patrick - Dublin.)
16, 1854 - Oscar Wilde (Author - Dublin)
16, 1890 - Michael Collins (Revolutionary - Clonakilty, Co. Cork)
17, 1765 - Henry Clarke (Duke of Feltre, soldier and diplomat, Landrecies, France, of Irish parents)
17, 1803 - William Smith O'Brien (Young Irelander - Dromoland, Co. Clare)
18, 1718 - Peg Woffington (Actress - Dublin)
19, 1696 - Duke of Liria, (colonel in the Spanish army, son of the Duke of Berwick and Honora Burke, Sarsfield’s widow, St. Germain-en-Laye, France)
19, 1751 - Charles Edward Kilmaine, (Gen. in the French army, Dublin)
20, 1674 - James Logan (Colonial statesman, scholar - Lurgan, Co. Armagh)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

14, 1702 - Irish Brigade of France fights in the battle of Friedlingen.
14, 1791 - United Irishmen (Irish revolutionary group) formed in Belfast.
14, 1797 - William Orr, United Irishman, executed by the British.
14, 1920 - Sean Treacy killed in Dublin.
15, 1842 - First issue of "The Nation."
16, 1827 - Cavan born Thomas Baron von Brady, general in the Austrian army, dies in Vienna.
16, 1865 - The third Fenian convention, in Philadelphia, approves a plan to invade Canada.
17, 1796 - Grattan's motion in House of Commons in favor of admitting Catholics to parliament defeated.
17, 1882 - Irish National League founded by Parnell, replacing the Outlawed Land League.
18, 1649 - New Ross surrenders to Cromwell's Parliamentary Army.
18, 1881 - Parnell issues "No rent manifesto" from prison.
19, 1580 - Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne burns Rathcoole, Co. Dublin.
19, 1745 - Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish poet, wit and satirist, dies.
19, 1989 - In Britain, the murder convictions against the "Guildford Four," jailed since 1975 for IRA attacks on public houses at Guildford and Woolwich in 1974, quashed.
20, 1881 - Land League is outlawed.

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

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