This Week in the History of the Irish: October 26 - November 1

DOMHNAIGH -- On Oct. 26, 1771, John (Juan) MacKenna (left), who would rise to fame in South America, was born in Clogher, Co. Tyrone. MacKenna was related to Gen. Alexander O'Reilly, of the Spanish army, and O'Reilly helped MacKenna get established in Spain. In 1787, MacKenna was appointed a cadet in the Irish Brigade of the Spanish army and fought with them in Ceuta in northern Africa. After returning to Spain, he met the future liberator of Argentina, José de San Martín. In 1796 he traveled to Chile and served as a military engineer for Ambrose O'Higgins, and MacKenna eventually was appointed governor of Osorno, Chile. He joined the revolutionary party of Carrera in 1810, commanding his artillery, but he had a falling out with Juan Jose Carrera, a rift which would one day cost him his life. MacKenna would eventually ally himself with Carrera's rival, Bernardo O'Higgins, son of John's old friend Ambrose. When Carrera came to power in 1814, he banished MacKenna from Chile. While he was living in exile in Argentina he became embroiled in a dispute with Luis Carrera, brother of the Chilean revolutionary, and was killed in a duel with him in Buenos Aires on Nov. 21, 1814.

Library of Congress
James Lawlor Kiernan, doctor, soldier, diplomat, Galwayman.

DOMHNAIGH -- On October 26, 1837, James Lawlor Kiernan, Union general in America's Civil War, was born in Mount Bellow, County Galway. Son of a retired British navy surgeon, James attended Trinity College, Dublin, then moved to the United States in the 1850s, studying medicine at New York University. He practiced law in New York until 1861. When war broke out, he went South with the 69th New York State Militia as an assistant surgeon, serving through the First Battle of Bull Run. When the 69th returned to Manhattan, he moved west and became the surgeon of the 6th Missouri Cavalry (U.S.) After the Battle of Pea Ridge, Kiernan determined to join the ranks of fighting soldiers and was apparently appointed a major in the 6th. At Port Gibson, Miss., in May 1863, he was wounded in the left lung and left on the field for dead. He was captured, but soon escaped and made his back to the Union lines. It appears that he resigned his commission at that point, but on Aug. 1, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers by Lincoln. Kiernan had not yet recovered from his lung wound, however, and, in fact, he probably never fully recovered from it. He was forced to resign again in February 1864. Right after the war, he was appointed to a consular post in Chinkiang, China, and did manage to make the trip there but his health would not allow him to perform the duties and he returned to New York. Kiernan was appointed an examining physician for the pension bureau and worked at that job until November 26, 1869, when he died of 'congestion of the lungs.' Perhaps he was killed by that Confederate ball that wounded him six years earlier. He was laid to rest in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

O'Duffy's Blueshirts rally in a Dublin cemetery, 1934

DEARDAOIN -- On Oct. 30, 1892, Eoin O'Duffy, revolutionary and organizer of the infamous Blueshirts, was born in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan. O'Duffy was apprenticed to an engineer in his youth and then worked as an auctioneer for a time. He joined the IRA in 1917 and was attached to headquarters staff during the War of Independence. O'Duffy supported the Treaty in 1922 and became the commissioner of the Free State police force, the Civic Guard, whose name was later changed to Garda Siochána. He held that post until 1933, when he was dismissed by de Valera. O'Duffy is most remembered for his life from this point. He became head of a veterans group then called the Army Comrades Assn. O'Duffy changed its name to 'National Guard' and began to stage fascist-style rallies and adopted a fascist salute. Its members began to wear blue uniform shirts and became known as the Blueshirts. The militantly Catholic O'Duffy began attacking the government and accusing everyone of being communists, including the IRA. When government opposition groups formed Fine Gael in September 1933, he became its first president, reaching the apex of his political power. Subsequently, the government banned his National Guard, as well as the group he created to replace it, the Young Ireland Association, which he in turn replaced with the League of Youth, but their blue shirts indicated its continued fascist ideology. Fine Gael's other leaders soon tired of his inflammatory rhetoric and the frequent violent behavior of the Blueshirts, but were still surprised when their opposition caused him to resign his party leadership in September 1934. He was then ousted as leader of the Blueshirts as well, but did retain a small loyal following. In 1936, O'Duffy led about 600 to 700 of those followers to Spain to fight for Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the leader of an insurrection against Spain's popularly elected left-wing government. O'Duffy 's men saw little action there, returning a year later. O'Duffy's view of the fight against "godless" communism is summed up in the book "Crusade in Spain," which O'Duffy wrote in 1938 about his experience in Spain. He took no further part in Irish politics and died Nov. 30, 1944. In spite of his later politics, he was given a state funeral for his earlier contributions to the Irish government.

Kevin Barry -- the face of a boy, the courage of a man. His November 1 execution ushered in the worst month of atrocities in the Anglo-Irish War.

SATHAIRN-- On the morning of Nov. 1, 1920, two masses were celebrated at an altar that 18-year-old IRA member Kevin Barry had constructed in his jail cell in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. Barry was then led out of his cell by British soldiers and hanged. Six weeks earlier, on Sept. 20, Barry had taken part in an IRA raid in Dublin which had gone terribly wrong and resulted in a gunfight with British soldiers in which six soldiers were killed. In the weeks since then he had been tortured in an attempt to get him to name other IRA members, but he never relinquished their names. Barry's hanging ended another futile and, in reality, counterproductive attempt by the British colonial administration to coerce the people of Ireland. Far from coercing others to obey British law, its leaders helped create thousands more rebels by the inspiration of young Barry's martyrdom. Britain's execution of the baby-faced young medical student also persuaded millions more around the world that the cause of the Irish was just. In England's own Parliament J.H. Thomas denounced the execution, calling Barry, ".... a studious boy, loved by everyone who knew him, brave and educated" and read into the record Barry's own sworn affidavit describing how British soldiers tortured him during his interrogation. Soon a ballad would be written commemorating Barry's tragedy, though no one knows now exactly who wrote it. It would be sung through the years, even becoming so popular among British soldiers that it was banned by British army commanders. The song is still one of the most requested anywhere in the world where people gather to play or listen to Irish music. Kevin Barry's name will live on forever through this song while those of his torturers and murderers are long forgotten.


'When you stick to your notes you're the greatest speaker going, but let someone in the crowd shout "Up Dev!" and you lose your head entirely.'
         -- A friend commenting to Eoin O'Duffy on his speaking style

To hang Barry is to push to its logical extreme the hypocritical pretense that the national movement in Ireland unflinchingly supported by the great mass of the Irish people, is the squalid conspiracy of a ‘murder gang’.That is false; it is a natural uprising: a collision between two Governments, one resting on consent, the other on force. The Irish are struggling against overwhelming odds to defend their own elected institutions against extinction.
-- Erskine Childers on the hanging of Kevin Barry


October - Deireadh Fomhair

26, 1902 - Jack Sharkey (Heavyweight boxing champion.)
30, 1751 - Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Playwright - Dublin)
30, 1892 - General Eoin O'Duffy (Revolutionary, organizer of Blueshirts - Cast...

November - Samhain

?, 1842 - Joseph McCullagh (Journalist, US Civil War- Dublin)
1, 1625 - St. Oliver Plunkett (Archbishop and Martyr - Loughcrew, Co. Meath)


26, 1932 - Margaret "The Unsinkable Molly" Brown, daughter of Irish immigrants, dies in New York.
28, 1546 – James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, is poisoned in London.
28, 1976 - Republican activist Maire Drumm is shot dead in her hospital bed by Loyalist gunmen.
29, 1885 - Confederate Civil War Gen. Joseph Finegan, from Co. Monaghan, dies in Rutledge, Fla.
31 - Samhaine - The beginning of winter on the Celtic calendar - A night when the "Otherworld" was powerful and the dead were able to come back and visit - the origin of Halloween.

November - Samhain

1, Celtic New Year.
1, 1851 - The Adjutant General of the state of New York issues General Order 489, providing for the formation of a militia regiment that would come to be known as the 69th NY.
1, 1920 - Kevin Barry executed.
1, 1884 - Founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

Views: 314

Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, Military History, On This Day

Comment by Robert A Mosher on October 27, 2014 at 11:28am

Bernardo O'Higgins is one of a number of heroes of the Latin American wars for independence remembered today by memorials in Washington DC, his bust standing in front of the Chilean Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW.  IRA veteran Frank Ryan, who also went to Spain to fight in the International Brigade for the Republican government in Madrid, reported that he and his comrades faced O'Duffy's BlueShirts once and were not impressed by them and the latter soon went home.  As to Kevin Barry, one of the reasons he was captured was that his Parabellum automatic pistol had jammed - a reportedly frequent occurrence with the weapon that was nevertheless popular among the Volunteers. 


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