Poet Francis Ledwidge – The Irish in Boer War – The Catalpa Rescue at Today in Irish History

August 19: TODAY in Irish History:

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Poet Francis Ledwidge

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

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1876: The Catalpa Rescue

The whaler Catalpa arrives in the United States, four months after it helped six Irish rebels escape from life imprisonment in Freemantle Prison. Eight years previously, an English convict ship the Hougoumont arrived in Fremantle carrying almost three hundred prisoners including six former British soldiers arrested and convicted of treason. The six Irishmen  James Wilson, Robert Cranston, Thomas Hassatt, Martin Hogan, Thomas Darragh, and Michael Harrington were Fenians and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1873, James Wilson, one of the “Fremantle Six” prisoners, wrote a letter to John Devoy, who had recruited him to join the Fenians pleading for help. Devoy put in motion a successful plan that became legendary in Irish Nationalist circles. He recruited George Anthony, captain of  the American whaler Catalpa, embarks on a secret mission to rescue the Fremantle Six..

The  Catalpa arrived at Rockingham beach near Fremantle to rendezvous with the escaped prisoners. The ship was not allowed escape without a fight. After a after a fierce confrontation with an armed British steamer, Anthony raised the American flag after which the British did not fire on the Catalpa. It would take four months for the six ex-prisoners to land in America to a thunderous reception.

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RTE DOCUMENTARY on the CATALPA RESCUE

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The Wolf Tones sing The Catalpa Rescue  (It’s really catchy)

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1887: Poet Francis Ledwidge is born.

Ledwidge’s collection of fifty poems, Songs of the Fieldswas published in 1915. Three months after his death in 1917 his second volume of poems appeared, Songs of Peace, and thirty three more poems under the title, Last Songs, were published in 1918.

Ledwidge  was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I.

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FREE Download: Songs of the Field at Archive.org

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1907: Boer War Memorial

A memorial arch is dedicated at St. Stephens Green Dublin in honor of the Irish soldiers who died fighting for “King and country” in the Boer war. Thousands of Irish fought in the Boer War for the British Army. And as always with the Irish, Irish fought against Irish thousands of miles from home. The executed 1916 leader John McBride mustered an Irish Brigade on the Boer side which engaged the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Battle of Colenso and other incidents.

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Memorial Arch Stephen's Green Dublin
Memorial Arch Stephen’s Green Dublin

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Dedicating the arch which still overlooks bustling Grafton Street, The Earl of Meath, in requesting his Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught to open the gates of the archway, said:—”Your Royal Highness, we meet to-day for the purpose of honouring the memory of the gallant men belonging to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who sacrificed their lives for King and country in the late South African war. ……. Wherever British arms have penetrated, there the record of Irish valour need not be sought in brass or stone, but in the soil itself, which has been made  sacred to Erin’s sons by the knowledge that it holds the mortal remains of hearts which have been faithful to duty and to high ideals of Irish valour even to the gates of death. But, sir, it may safely be said that not in the Peninsula, nor in India—where this regiment under its old title, in a hundred fights never knew the meaning of the word defeat—did Irish soldiers ever cover themselves with greater glory than did the Dublin Fusiliers in the battles of South Africa—Talana, Colenso, Tugela Heights, Hart’s Hill, Ladysmith, and Laing’s Nek. These glorious contests are commemorated on the memorial arch which your Royal Highness will shortly declare open. Situated in the centre of the Irish capital this memorial, recording the gallant deeds of brave men, will be an ever-present reminder to coming generations of the citizens of Dublin of the obligations of loyalty, of faithfulness to duty and to honour which Ireland demands of all her sons. I have the honour, sir, on behalf of the Dublin Fusilier Memorial Committee, to ask your Royal Highness to declare the gates of the archway to be open.”

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Thousands of Irish fought in the Boer War for the British Army. And as always with the Irish, Irish fought against Irish thousands of miles from home. The executed 1916 leader John MacBride mustered an Irish Brigade on the Boer side which engaged the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Battle of Colenso and other incidents.

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John MacBride
John MacBride 1916 Leader and Boer War Veteran

 

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WATCH: A Short History of Ireland

Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish

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This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)

   

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