This Week in the History of the Irish: September 30 - October 6

CÉADAOIN -- On Oct. 3, 1691, the Treaty of Limerick was signed, ending the Williamite War in Ireland. It has been said that Irish history is something the Irish should never remember and the English should never forget, but the recollection of this treaty is another example of the opposite being true. That the English wish to forget this event is not surprising, it is one of the most disgraceful moments in their long and dishonorable history of persecution of the Irish nation. Patrick Sarsfield and his army had frustrated William of Orange's plan for a short, decisive campaign in Ireland; William was desperate to end those hostilities and send his forces in Ireland to reinforce his army on the continent.

(Right: The Limerick Treaty Stone near the Thomond Bridge. Though the legend of the signing on this rock is probably false, it stands as a monument to that dishonored treaty.)

The terms Baron van Ginckel negotiated in the name of William of Orange reflected the fact that Sarsfield's army was far from militarily defeated. Sarsfield and his men were to be allowed to march out of the city under arms, retaining banners, and all that wished would be transported to the continent at England's expense. In addition, Irish Catholics were promised near-equality with the English occupiers of their home island.

Photo by Kieron Punch
Part of the walls of King John's Castle in Limerick, where Sarsfield and his men held out. The brickwork in the center tower was done to repair damage from Williamite artillery.

About two weeks after Sarsfield signed the treaty, a French fleet arrived at the mouth of the Shannon. Some urged him to now renounce the treaty and fight on, but he honored his word. It is also quite likely that Ginckel expected his side would honor the word he had pledged in the treaty negotiations, but Ginckel's signature on the treaty would prove worthless. With the Jacobite army safely removed to France, the vindictive Anglo-Irish members of the Irish Parliament felt free to tear up the treaty and pass the infamous Penal Laws in its stead. It was said that this dismayed William of Orange, and perhaps it did, but to his everlasting discredit, he allowed the Penal Laws to stand. These laws ingrained a tradition of religious intolerance in the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy that survives to this day. They forced the native Catholic population of Ireland into well over 100 years of poverty and deprivation, driving most of the best members of every succeeding generation to seek their fortune abroad. They would be known as The Wild Geese and they would prove to be a thorn in England's side. Many thousands of them, including Sarsfield, would find a soldier's grave on hundreds of battlefields across Europe.

DEARDAOIN -- On October 4, 1693, units of the Irish Brigade of France fought in Italy at the battle of Marsaglia. Prince Eugene of Savoy commanded the allies of William of Orange, who opposed them. During the battle Irish dragoons were reported to have … 'overthrown squadrons, sword in hand … ,' but elsewhere on the battlefield, Prince Eugene overran a French line and advanced to the second line, held by Irish regiments.

(Right: From an engraving by Jean Sorieul: Uniforms of the Irish Brigade of France. These red coats were worn throughout the Brigade's history, signifying their support for the Stuart claim to the English crown.)

There Eugene's advance was broken, and his troops were soon put to rout. The impetuous Irish then pursued without orders. Seeing this development, the French commander ordered a general advance and the allied army broke and ran. Official French reports spoke of the "extreme valor" of the Irish that day. Among the Irish killed in this great victory were Brigadier Francis O'Carroll of the dragoons and Colonel Daniel O'Brien (Viscount Clare). One very young officer of the Irish Brigade who survived the fight was Lieutenant Peter Lacy, whose birth we commemorated in last week's issue.

SATHAIRN -- On October 6, 1649 Owen Roe O'Neill (left), nephew of Hugh O'Neill and an officer in the Spanish army, died at Cloughoughter Castle on an island in Lough Oughter in County Cavan. Owen is thought to have been born in 1585, probably near Loughgall in County Armagh. He left Ireland as a young man, going to Catholic Spain. Owen would serve in the Spanish army for 40 years. For many years he unsuccessfully urged the Spanish to invade Ireland. Finally, after the Irish rebelled against English rule in 1641, he was allowed to go to Ireland with 300 veterans. On July 8, 1642 Owen arrived at Lough Swilly and was immediately given command of the Irish army then in revolt. O'Neill had been serving in the Spanish army since 1610 and had made a name for himself during his defense of Arras against the French in 1640. Like the Jacobites later in the century, O'Neill would claim to be fighting for the King and legitimate ruler of England. O'Neill defeated the Scottish Parliamentarians at the battle of Benburb on June 5, 1646, but it would be the only major victory for the Irish forces during the revolt. Cromwell and his battle-hardened veterans landed in Dublin in August 1649. He quickly set into motion his plan for the reconquest of the island. O'Neill began marching south to attempt a junction with Ormond's Royalist army in November when he suddenly died. Some say he was poisoned but no evidence supports that.


National Gallery of Ireland
Patrick Sarsfield

'As low as we now are, change but kings and we will fight it over again with you.'
         -- Patrick Sarsfield to an English officer during the Limerick Treaty discussions, criticizing King James' uninspired performance in Ireland, September 1691

"Let your manhood be seen by the push of your pike. Your word is Sancta Maria, and so in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost advance! And give not fire 'till you are within pike-length!"
         -- Owen Roe O'Neill to his men at the Battle of Benburb


October -- Deireadh Fomhair

1, 1936 - Patrick Henry Brady, (MOH winner in Vietnam, Philip, SD).
2, 1833 - Father William Corby (Chaplain of the Irish Brigade, Detroit, MI.)
5, 1923 - Philip Berrigan (Activist priest, Virginia, Minn.)
5, 1954 - Bob Geldorf (Musician and fundraiser - Nobel Peace Prize nominee.)


September -- Meán Fomhair

30, 1783 - Irish-born Walter Stewart is breveted to Brigadier General in the Continental Army.
30, 1900 - Arthur Griffith forms Cumann na nGaedheal. It later becomes Sinn Féin.

October -- Deireadh Fomhair

1, 1864 - Rose O'Neal Greenhow ("The Confederate Rose"), Confederate spy, drowns in a shipwreck off Wilmington, N.C.
2-5, 1600 - Battle of Moyry Pass
3, 1691 - Surrender of Limerick (Treaty of Limerick signed.)
3, 1750 - Highwayman James MacLaine (McLean) hanged at Tyburn.
3, 1871 - Gen. John O'Neill and small force of Fenians invade Canada at Pembina, Manitoba.
4, 1576 - Granuaile (Grace O’Malley) visits Queen Elizabeth.
4, 1693 - Irish Brigade of France fights in the battle of Marsaglia.
5, 1968 - The first clash between civil rights marchers and RUC in Derry.
6, 1649 - Owen Roe O'Neill, nephew of Hugh O'Neill and an officer in the Spanish army, dies at Cloughoughter Castle on an island in Lough Oughter in County Cavan.
6, 1798 - Grattan removed from Irish Privy Council, falsely charged with being a sworn member of United Irishmen.
6, 1891 - Charles Stewart Parnell dies in Brighton.

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