United Irishmen

Wolfe Tone’s Irish rebellion of 1798, I discover courtesy Tom MacMaster, had a echo in Newfoundland. From Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador:

In 1798, many people in Ireland, strongly influenced by the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity exhibited in the French and American revolutions, decided to rise up against British rule. They formed the Society of United Irishmen, an oath-bound, non-sectarian, secret society dedicated to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland. Leading members included Theobald Wolfe Tone, and Lord Edward FitzGerald married to Pamela Simms, reputedly of Fogo, Newfoundland. Armed only with wooden staves topped with iron pikes against the more deadly British guns, the United Irishmen marched out to meet the British army. The United Irishmen were defeated but echoes of 1798 reverberated down through the next 200 years of Irish history. Today in Ireland, the United Irish Uprising is regarded as the first occasion in Irish history when Protestants and Catholics joined together in a common nationalist project.

Outside Ireland, no Irish community other than Newfoundland had the social and demographic characteristics in which a similar rising might take place. In southeast Ireland, much of the action was concentrated in County Wexford, where some 5000 people lost their lives, and Wexford was a major source of Irish migrants to Newfoundland throughout the 1700s. By 1798, two-thirds of the population of St. John’s was Irish, as were most of the soldiers in the British garrison stationed at Fort Townshend…

In April 1800, rumours flew through St. John’s that up to 400 men had taken the secret oath of the United Irishmen, including some soldiers stationed at Signal Hill, Fort William, and Fort Townshend. It is believed that some 80 or more soldiers planned to meet and mutiny at the powder shed behind Fort Townshend, which stood near what is now the juncture of Belvedere Street, Barnes Road, and Bonaventure Avenue. According to the British officers’ reports, their plan, allegedly, was to kill their officers and the leading inhabitants in the town assembled for worship in the Church of England on Sunday, April 20th.

Find out what happened at the link.

Orangemen’s Day

From Waterford Whispers News, a tongue-in-cheek story for this year’s Orangemen’s Day (July 12):

The Untold History Of The Orange Order Parades

WITH July twelfth officially upon us, we look back now at the very little known history of the Orange Order parades, and how they originally came about.

The Loyal Orange Institution, more commonly known as the Orange Order, is a Protestant organisation based primarily in Northern Ireland. The Order was founded in 1795 in a bid to bring some sort of order to the way fruit was being displayed in many fruit stalls across the six counties.

The problem was that the poorer Catholic street traders would throw every different variety of fruit into the same stall, with no separation between items, making it difficult for buyers to search through. Not only was the jumbled up fruit unsightly, it also encouraged mould and rot to fester quite quickly, ruining the produce.

The Protestants, or “protesting ants” as they were originally called, began feuding with the Catholics about their idiotic shelving, insisting the fruit to be separated.

On July 12th, 1803, the Orange Order decided to finally take a stand, organising a march right through the heart of Belfast city on the Shankhill Road, where dozens of Catholic fruit sellers were based. Historians state that over 300 Orange Order members marched down through the stalls, carefully separating apples from pears, bananas from oranges, and even aligning the fruit in order of ripeness. This upset the Catholics and violence soon broke out on the street, and several people on both sides were tragically killed.

More at the link.

Eoin O’Duffy

From History Ireland, via my friend Tom MacMaster:

Despite a growing body of historical writing on the life of General Eoin O’Duffy, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of this enigmatic figure. His various roles as organiser par excellence in the GAA, Irish Volunteers, Garda Síochána and, of course, as head of the Irish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, are well known. Often derided as a hysterical, grandiloquent, and even absurd personality, O’Duffy nevertheless manages to capture the imagination and curiosity of those interested in Irish politics during the inter-war period. It is probably fair to say that his role as head of the 700-strong Irish Brigade on the side of General Franco’s Nationalists stands out as O’Duffy’s best known politico-military achievement. But it is due to this very fact that the General’s reputation in Irish folk-memory is held with a mix of retrospective embarrassment and scorn after the tragi-comic performance of his brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

One fact that tends to be forgotten, for example, is that O’Duffy’s ideological support for Franco had not come out of the blue—the Irishman had, after all, been rubbing elbows with international fascist leaders from as early as 1934.

It is also noteworthy that his idea of leading Irish soldiers abroad to fight on the side of a fascist army was not completely new for him in 1936 either. O’Duffy had pledged Blueshirt volunteers to Benito Mussolini’s forces after Il Duce invaded Abyssinia in the autumn of 1935. This article will examine Eoin O’Duffy’s involvement in international fascism during the mid-1930s before turning to his promise to Mussolini of 1,000 Blueshirts in the Italo-Ethiopian war. It will also investigate how people in Ireland reacted to O’Duffy’s pledge before examining why he never went.

Read the whole thing. Former Reinhardt professor Pat Zander gave a talk on O’Duffy for our Year of Ireland back in 2012.

UPDATE: Ron Good draws this picture to my attention, from Ian S. Wood, Ireland During the Second World War (Caxton Editions, 2002). The Lord Mayor of Dublin “could easily be an organgrinder’s monkey.”

Fenian Raids!

An article in the National Post today revisits a somewhat-forgotten chapter in Canadian history: the Fenian raids of the 1860s and 70s. These were conducted by the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of American-based Irish republicans who attacked Canada (at the time either a British colony or a dominion of the British empire) in the hopes that they could exchange it for Irish independence. (The title, as many commenters point out, is silly. Just because Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen does not mean that Saudi Arabia attacked the United States on 9/11.)

Ireland likes to brag that they’ve never invaded anyone. Too bad they invaded Canada

In 2015, Ireland’s justice minister Frances Fitzgerald attended a Dublin citizenship ceremony and proudly told 73 people that they were now citizens of a country that didn’t invade things.

“Ireland has never invaded any other land, never sought to enslave or occupy,” she told the crowd of newly-minted Irish.

It’s a uniquely Irish boast. On a continent jam-packed with invaders, the Emerald Isle is known to count itself as one of the few that has resisted the urge to charge onto foreign soil and plant a flag or two.

Too bad it’s not true.

Go back 150 years to the frontiers of Canada, and you’ll find no shortage of armed, rowdy, top-hatted militants who would beg to differ that they weren’t an invading army of Irishmen.

“Canada … would serve as an excellent base of operations against the enemy; and its acquisition did not seem too great an undertaking,” wrote Irish nationalist John O’Neill, an architect of what are now known as the Fenian Raids.

The plan was simple: Take a bunch of Irish veterans of the American Civil War, take over Canada and then tell Queen Victoria she could have it back in exchange for an independent Ireland.

That, or the whole thing would just be a good chance to shoot up some relatively undefended British land.

The wildly optimistic planners of the scheme figured they would only need about two weeks to take over Kingston, Toronto and the other major centers of what is now Southern Ontario.

From there, they would commandeer some ships, slap together a navy, sail up the St. Lawrence and demand the surrender of Quebec. Then, once the Atlantic Coast was swarming with Irish privateers, the English would have to deal.

The invasion’s organizers, the Fenian Brotherhood, even began funding the effort by selling bonds that would be promptly repaid by a future Irish Republic.

But like most rebellions throughout Irish history, the “invade Canada” scheme was big on romance but very deficient in strategic planning.

Although the Fenian Brotherhood had envisioned vast columns of battle-hardened Irish-Americans streaming into Canada, their peak showing was only about 1000. Of those, many forgot to bring guns, and many more deserted as soon as they hit Canadian soil.

All told, Fenian conquests added up little more than brief occupations of a customs house, some hills, a few villages and Fort Erie.

More at the link, and at Wikipedia.

Martin McGuinness

I have just discovered that the other chuckle brother died this week:

Martin McGuinness, IRA chief of staff turned Sinn Féin politician

Martin McGuinness, who has died from a rare heart condition aged 66, was with Gerry Adams the dominant figure in Irish Republicanism through four decades of armed struggle and subsequent political manoeuvrings.

He was in turn the IRA’s chief of staff, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, Minister of Education in David Trimble’s short-lived Executive, and Deputy First Minister, initially to Sinn Fein’s arch-enemy Ian Paisley. And on June 27 2012 he shook hands with the Queen.

While Adams could portray himself as a politician, McGuinness had his finger on the pulse – and trigger – of terrorism. Yet Sinn Fein selected him, not Adams, as its senior ministerial nominee when the Good Friday Agreement was implemented. And Unionists found McGuinness less difficult to deal with than the prickly Adams, and even magnanimous.

The Guinness Harp

Guinness, the archetypical Irish beer (and wholly owned subsidiary of Megaglobocorp) has redesigned its harp logo, making it more three dimensional and metallic. Here it is from Brand New:

guinness_logo

And here is the harp’s evolution since 1862. Looks like Guinness wanted to reintroduce some detail.

guinness_harp_evolution

Now, the harp has been a symbol of Ireland since medieval times; King Henry VIII chose it as the main charge in Ireland’s coat of arms when he elevated Ireland to the status of a kingdom in 1541. King James I added it to the arms of the United Kingdom when he acceded in 1603, and it has remained there ever since.

410px-Royal_Arms_of_England_(1603-1707).svg

Wikipedia.

Most of Ireland, of course, is no longer under the control of the British monarch. The Free State, upon its creation in 1922, chose the harp as its state emblem. The specific rendition that they used was that of Brian Boru – somewhat like the Guinness logo. From Wikipedia, here is an image of the seal of the Irish Free State:

IFSGreatSeal

Wikipedia.

And from my own collection, the obverse of an Irish pound coin from 1990:

irishpunt

The flag of the president of Ireland even uses the same color scheme as the royal arms: a blue field, a gold harp, and silver strings.

Flag_President_of_Ireland.svg

Wikipedia.

You’ll notice that the Irish state harp faces to the left – unlike the Guinness harp, which faces to the right. Apparently, the reason for this is that the Brian Boru harp was trademarked by Guinness in 1876, and the Irish State had to distinguish their harp from the Guinness one! An article on Irish Central can tell you more. This resurfaced as an issue in 1983, according to the Irish Times:

The office of the attorney general recommended registering the harp facing in both directions with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to give maximum protection from image theft.

But the government feared Guinness could challenge the decision as it had been using a “right-facing” harp symbol “some fifty years or more before the founding of the state”…

Patent agents Tomkins & Co, employed by the government on the case, informed officials the following month, however, “we do not consider that mirror images of the harp symbol could be notified to WIPO” under existing rules. While the state might be able to register a right-facing harp “it is possible that such notification could debar the registration by Guinness of their trademark in territories where they do not currently trade but may wish to do so in the foreseeable future”.

The government took the agents’ advice and in 1984 registered with WIPO a “generic”, nine-stringed harp facing in just one direction – left.

And here I thought that it was not an issue between Ireland and some commercial concern, but between Ireland and the United Kingdom. By using the same direction (and color scheme) of the harp in the arms of the kingdom of Ireland, surely the Irish State was simply trying to claim Irish symbols for itself – as though to say, “We’ll take it from here, UK!” But I guess that the form of the harp matters too. You can understand why only the Brian Boru harp would be good enough for the Irish State – and certainly more appropriate than a topless female – leading to the aesthetic conflict with the Guinness Co.

Irish Codswallop

From the Irish IndependentI did not know this:

Codswallop about 1916 is our birthright

HOW come we don’t hear more about Prince Joachim? If there’s one guy who gets short-changed in this whole 1916 business, it’s Prince Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia. Had the Easter Rising succeeded in giving the Brits the heave-ho, the name Joachim might be as popular in Ireland today as are Padraig, Eamonn, Sean, Michael and the names of all the other heroes. Instead, we’ve swept the poor sod into the dustbin of history.

Given the day that’s in it, we’ve decided to haul poor Joachim out of that dustbin, brush him down and put him on display. Joachim’s story is at least as interesting as much of the codswallop about the Rising that’s being shovelled at us.

In the GPO, during the fighting, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Desmond FitzGerald had a discussion about the Ireland they would like to see come out of the rebellion. They knew the chances of winning were microscopic, but they had their dreams.

FitzGerald, the only one of the three to survive, recorded that they agreed on an acceptable outcome: “an independent Ireland with a German Prince as King”.

Yes, you guessed – in the GPO, at the heart of the Rising, three of its heroes, including two of its martyrs, agreed that Prince Joachim would make a suitable king of Ireland. Joachim’s dad, Kaiser Wilhelm II, presided over the German empire and was a powerhouse in imperial Europe. Prince Joachim would make a suitable strong man to safeguard the new “republic”.

Had things gone differently, there might today be a Joachim Street in Dublin, a Joachim Station in Kerry, his descendants might be yet on the Irish throne. As it was – in 1918 there was revolutionary fervour in Germany and Prince Joachim’s dad abdicated. By the time Michael Collins’s ruthless campaign brought the British to the conference table, Joachim was two years dead. His political prospects zero, his marriage falling part, Joachim had shot himself at the age of 30.

More at the link – read the whole thing.

(See also Kevin Myers’s contrarian opinions about 1916.)