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Unsung Irish : Joe Carr February 20, 2008

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.
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Joe Carr, born in Dublin in 1922 was one of Ireland’s best ever amateur golfers and rubbed shoulders with the world’s best, all the while maintaining his amateur status. His adoptive parents – his aunt and uncle – had just returned from India and had been appointed the stewards at Portmarnock Golf Club and this allowed young Joe to take up his interest in the game from a young age.

He was a highly decorated amateur golfer winning the Amateur Championship on three occasions and finished 8th overall in 1960. He was also the first Irishman to compete at the US Masters, when in 1967 he made the halfway cut ! He went on to play in 3 US Masters, 8 British Opens and the US Open of 1967.
He played in a record 11 Walker Cups and went head-to-head with Jack Nicklaus in the 1961 event. He retired from competitive golf in 1971 but his association with the great game didn’t end there. he was named captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St.Andrew’s – the home of golf – in 1991. And to cap it all off, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. That is some achievement.

Sadly Joe died in 2004. His family runs a successful golfing holiday business in Ireland.

Unsung Irish : William Hobson October 11, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.
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William Hobson was born in Lombard Street, Waterford in 1792 and went on to become New Zealand’s first governor and the primary signatory and author of that country’s founding accord – the Treaty of Waitangi.

As was not unusual at the time, Hobson was sent away to sea at the age of 10 (!) and with the rank of volunteer served the British Navy fro 13 years without leave. He was both stationed and at sail all over the world in such places as the North Sea, the West Indies, North America and the Mediterranean. By 1827, now a commander and in his mid thirties, he married a Scotswoman, Eliza Elliot in Nassau and had a daughter with her.

In 1834 he was posted to the frigate Rattlesnake in the East Indies and ended up in New South Wales a few years later. A new colony was being set up there at the time and Hobson was involved in such projects as laying out the street structure of Melbourne. A call for protection from British citizen James Busby of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand saw Hobson and his ship arrive there in 1836. Later in 1838 when the crown saw fit to appoint someone to New Zealand “invested with the character and powers of British Consul” they called upon Hobson for the job. He was charged with the task of setting up a treaty or accord that would see the natives of that land cede sovereignty of all or part of their lands to the British Empire.

In August 1839 Hobson sailed from England with his wife and family on board the HMS Druid. Arriving in the Bay of Islands in 1840, and with the assistance of Busby and some other British subjects, he arranged for the northern Maori chiefs to meet him at Waitangi for the purpose of negotiating a treaty. The discussions began early in February when Hobson explained the terms of the treaty. The next day, after further argument and explanation, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the Maori leaders. To this day there is controversy over the document and some differences exist between the Maori and English versions.

Hobson himself was sworn in as the new colony’s first Governor in 1841. He died in Auckland in 1842, aged 50, from a stroke and is buried in the Symonds Street cemetery.

Unsung Irish : Thomas Francis Meagher August 22, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Thomas Francis Meagher (pr. maa-her) was a 19th century Irish nationalist and revolutionary, known here in his home city of Waterford for, amongst other things, first flying the modern Irish tricolour from a building on the city’s Mall.

Born in 1823 and educated in Co.Tipperary, the young Meagher gained an early reputation for speaking in public, regularly drawing large attendances. Returning from a trip to France in 1843 – wherefrom he brought back what was to become the national Irish flag – the young Meagher fell under the influence of Daniel O’Connell.

In 1845, he became a founder member of the Young Ireland group, intent on repealing the Act of Union with Great Britain. The new group, however, favoured a more militant line of action that the likes of O’Connell.

Following the Young Irelander rebellion of 1848, Meagher and a number of colleagues were arrested and tried for treason against the crown. Following his now infamous speech at his trial where he said :

“My lord, this is our first offense, but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to try to do better next time. And next time —sure we won’t be fools to get caught.”

They were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but later had the sentence commuted to transportation to the penal colonies in Van Diemen’s Land. There, given relative freedom on the island, he continued to meet with his rebel companions, including Smith O’Brien and Terence McManus. In 1852, Meagher escaped the authorities and fled to America where he was to begin a new life. He was also to become well known in his new country.

Arriving in New York in 1852, Meagher studied law and journalism and began to be a popular lecturer, regularly giving talks along with his fellow escapee, John Mitchel. Later as a US citizen, Meagher served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

He led the Irish Brigade and took part in the horrific battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg – his reports of those battles can be seen here and here, respectively. After some disagreements about reinforcements, he resigned from the army and server out the remainder of the war on the quieter Western front.

After the war, he was appointed secretary of the newly formed territory of Montana and soon after become acting governor. While trying to import supplies and weapons into Montana to fight the native Indian skirmishers, he fell into the Missouri river from the steamship G.A. Thompson and drowned. At the time, he was reported as having been drinking and as of having had mental problems.

A gallant looking statue now stands, complete with horse, tricolour and drawn sword, at the entrance of The Mall in his native city of Waterford.

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Unsung Irish : Brother Columbanus Deegan July 31, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Brother Columbanus Deegan was a Franciscan friar well known around these parts who sadly passed away last week. Born in 1925 and raised in Dublin, he led a long, brave and interesting life and was very involved in community work and helping the poor.

Following the outbreak of World War II, and having lost family in action, he joined the RAF as a salvager and took part in the D-Day landings. He landed at Sword beach as part of the Allied campaign. His job involved rescuing survivors and stripping downed planes of useful parts. Later, at the end of the war, he would be among the first Allied personnel to enter the Belsen concentration camp and is quoted with saying “I couldn’t shake off the smell of death I experienced that day. I sometimes get flashbacks and the smell returns as if it was yesterday.” The experience was to stay with him the rest of his life.

When he returned to Ireland, he joined the Franciscan order in 1958 and was posted to Waterford in 1981, following spells in Drogheda and Rome. He did great work with the poor of the city and always had a moment to stop and talk. Other groups and organisations such as the Special Olympics and homeless services also benefitted from his involvement.

I remember the well known Blessing of the Animals which was held in the friary garden every year. We attended on at least two occasions and it was always an interesting event for young and old. What a strange scene it must have made to see a robe clad monk surrounded by adults, kids, dogs, cats and all sorts of other pets … tourists must’ve thought it crazy …

Franciscan Friar Brother Seán Columbanus Deegan. RIP.

Unsung Irish : Ernest Walton July 10, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Ernest Thomas Walton was born in Dungarvan, Co.Waterford in 1903 and remains the only Irishman to have won the Nobel prize for Science. Walton, along with colleague John Cockcroft won the coveted prize in 1953 for (wait for it) “work on the transmutation of the atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles” otherwise known as splitting the atom. I won’t even pretend to understand what that means but there you go.

Having been educated in Northern Ireland, Walton entered Trinity College Dublin in 1922 where he excelled in the fields of mathmatics and physics. To put the era into context, it was at around this time that Einstein was working on the theory of relativity and the field of quantum mechanics was just being born.

One of the most important areas Walton and his colleagues worked on was the area of atom splitting. In 1932 they did the first experiment that proved Einstein’s theory of E=MC² using a particle accelerator.

Walton later returned to Ireland and married. He died in 1995. Readers might look out for his poster and biography the next time travelling through Dublin airport departures. It adorns the wall, along with several other scientists, on the way to Gate A !

Unsung Irish : Annie Moore May 19, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Annie Moore from west Cork, was the first emigrant to pass through the then newly constructed Ellis Island landing facility in New York in the year 1892. Annie, born in 1877, turned 15 the day she arrived and with her brothers Phillip and Anthony, travelled to meet with her parents who had already settled in Manhattan.

Having made the arduous 12 day journey from Cobh (then named Queenstown) in Co.Cork on a steamship called the SS Nevada, she became the first emigrant to be registered at the centre. She was presented with a $10 gold coin to mark the occasion. I can’t help wondering what she made of it all at such a young age.

Moore married and had some 11 children before dying at the early age of 46. The fact that the girl was the first emigrant through the gates of Ellis Island, which served as a monument to freedom for so many refugees and emigrants seeking a new life, ended up as her legacy. Two statues stand in her memory at the start and end points of her historic but oft repeated journey (Ellis Island and Cobh harbour) – a girl picked out among so many and remembered.

Her story is fictionalised for children by author Eithne Loughrey, who wrote a trilogy of books about her.

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Unsung Irish : Martin Doyle, VC May 1, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Martin Doyle, from Gusserane, New Ross, in my home county of Wexford, was a soldier born in 1891 and at age 26, a recipient of the Victoria Cross military medal. Serving with the Royal Munster Fusiliers, he was awarded this medal for gallantry in the First World War while fighting at Reincourt, France in 1918. Up until last week I had never heard of him, yet he was born and lived not 5 miles from my home-place. It seems people didn’t talk of that time …

As a young man, Doyle enlisted in the Royal Irish Regiment and was soon drafted to India where he attended classes and training in order to better himself. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, he was called home and then with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was dispatched to the French front where he was promoted to sergeant in 1915. After the Battle of Mons, now a Company Sergeant-Major and a military medal winner he transferred to the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

Doyle earned his Victoria Cross at Reincourt in September 1918 by carrying to safety a wounded soldier and helping to free a group of his men pinned down by German forces. He returned to the scene and defended a tank which was under heavy fire, subsequently taking the enemy position.

On his return to Ireland in 1919, Doyle received a warm welcome in his native New Ross. Soon thereafter he retired from the British Army and joined the IRA when the War of Independence was at its most vicious. He spent the next years fighting the crown forces in Ireland and was wounded in the arm during the Civil War – he was at the time serving with the Free State Army in the south east. He had during his military career served in the British Army, the IRA, the Free State Army and later, the regular Irish army.

Having retired from the Irish Army in 1937, he went to work for Guinness’s but died of polio at the young age of 46. He is buried in Grangegorman cemetery in Dublin.

Doyle is one of 159 Irishmen to receive the Victoria Cross and but one of 210,000+ Irish to serve. Approximately 35,000 of them didn’t come home.

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Unsung Irish : Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty March 21, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in Poetry & Humor, The Unsung Irish.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was an Irish priest, born in Caherciveen, Co.Kerry in 1898.  O’Flaherty is credited with saving at least 4,000 allied soldiers and Jews from the hands of the Germans during World War II by ensuring safe passage and lodging for them among his network of friends and parishioners in Rome.

Having visited many POW camps in the early years of Word War II, he was remember by the Allied servicemen, who, when Italy changed sides in the war in 1943, sought his help.  Without the knowledge of his superiors, he created a network of contacts and safe houses around Rome that enabled the safe passage of the servicemen and Jewish people. 

Eventually, O’Flaherty earned the nickname “the Pimpernel of the Vatican” and because of his elusiveness and use of disguise, he became a target for the SS.  The German officer in charge of  Rome, Herbert Kappler issued a decree that O’Flaherty’s network was to be wiped out but an attempt to assassinate him by the SS failed.

Towards the end of the war when Rome fell, the vast majority of the escapees O’Flaherty and his friends had helped, were still alive.  A very compassionate man, O’Flaherty treated all prisoners equally and insisted that the German prisoners in Rome were also treated fairly.  His one time enemy, Herbert Kappler, having been imprisoned after the war was often visited by O’Flaherty and the two eventually became friends.

I was also very interested to find out that the man was an avid golfer (as I am myself), a keen boxer and a skilled diplomat. 

In 1960 and in failing health, O’Flaherty returned to Ireland and continued to lead an active life.  He died in 1963, aged 65, having recently taken part in a “This is Your Life” program on the life of his friend and ally Colonel Sam Derry.  He was to be the original subject of the program but due to illness he couldn’t travel.

To date, the only monument in Ireland to this great man is a grove of Italian trees planted in his honor in Killarney National Park in 1994.  Fittingly, the poet, Brendan Kennelly wrote the following poem to mark the occasion …

Hugh O’Flaherty’s Trees

By Brendan Kennelly

There is a tree called freedom and it grows
Somewhere in the hearts of men,
Rain falls, ice freezes, wind blows,
The tree shivers, steadies itself again,
Steadies itself like Hugh O’Flaherty’s hand,
Guiding trapped and hunted people, day and night,
To what all hearts love and understand,
The tree of freedom upright in the light.

Mediterranean Palm, Italian Cypress, Holm Oak, Stone Pine;
A peaceful grove in honour of that man,
Commemorates all who struggle to be free.
The hurried world is a slave of time,
Wise men are victims of their shrewdest plans.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

Unsung Irish : John Barry February 9, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

John Barry was born in Our Lady’s Island, Wexford in the year 1745. Fifty eight years later, he was the commander in chief of the entire United States navy fleet.

The young John Barry moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1760 and having already begun his seafaring career, moved steadily up in the maritime world. His first command was of a merchant ship, aged 21, and he perfected his navigation skills sailing back and forth between Philadelphia and the West Indies. By 1776, now a captain in the Continental Navy he continued to be a prolific annoyance to the British forces, capturing some dozen British vessels during these years. When the Revolutionary Wars ended in 1783, Barry returned to the merchant service for a period of 11 years before being made a senior captain in the newly established United States Navy. During this peace time he led trade routes to Asia, amongst other areas.

Commodore Barry then commanded the 44 gun frigate ‘United States’ in the war with France from 1798-1801 and upon cessation of hostilities brought the ship to Washington where she was laid up. Barry then ended his active service but remained head of the navy until his death in 1803.

Today, a statue stands in Wexford town to honour this man who came from humble beginnings and went on to become Commodore of the United States Navy.

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Unsung Irish : Tomás Ó Criomhthain January 25, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in Ag foghlaim na Gaeilge, The Unsung Irish.

Tomás Ó Criomhthain (pr. O’Croh’en), was a Blasket Islander, fisherman, native Irish speaker and writer who lived all his life on Great Blasket Island, Co. Kerry from 1856-1937.

He is most famous for his two works of literature which he wrote late in life and which give a great insight into the now extinct way of life of the islanders of the 18 and 1900s. I have just purchased his second and perhaps best known book An tOileánach, meaning “the Islander” and am very much looking forward to reading it.

Once persuaded to write, Ó Criomhthain began recording his day to day life in the form of a diary and sent them to Killarneyman Brian Ó Ceallaigh, who then edited and arranged for them to be published.

If the final few lines of the book are anything to go by, I am glad to have become aware of this book and this man so few have heard about. These people were the true native Irish and had traditions, lives and language etc. that would perhaps seem as foreign to us modern Irish today as French or Japanese.

ocriomhthain.jpg “I have written minutely of much that we did, for it was my wish that somewhere there should be a memorial of it all, and I have done my best to set down the character of the people about me so that some record of us might live after us, for the like of us will never be again.”An tOileánach.


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Unsung Irish : John Pius Boland January 9, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.
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Not everyone knows that at the very first modern Olympiad – held in Athens in 1896 – an Irishman won 2 gold medals ! His name was John Pius Boland and he was born in Dublin on the 16th of September 1870.

Having become interested in tennis at an early age and encouraged by his teachers at the Catholic University School, Leeson St, Dublin, he continued playing from time to time in Oxford, where he had begun studying. After befriending a Greek man called Manaos, Boland arrived in Athens before the 1896 games as a spectator but was persuaded by his friend (who happened to be on the organising committee) to enter the tennis competition.

And so it was that on the 11th of April 1896, John Boland from Dublin won the Olympic tennis title. He also went on to win the doubles event partnering a German called Traun, whom he had earlier beaten in the singles.

As with a lot of Irish achievements at the time (and even some since !) the medals were credited to Great Britain, even though Boland had arrived in Athens simply on holiday. Following the First World War some research by Olympic historians (including Ernest Bland) and thereafter entered in the official history of the Olympic Games, shows Boland as having represented Ireland at the games as he was not part of the British team.

He would go on to become a member of the British parliament for South Kerry from 1900 to 1918, representing the Irish Nationalist party.

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Unsung Irish : James Hoban January 2, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.
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James Hoban from Callan in Co.Kilkenny was the Irish born architect who designed and supervised the building of the White House, in Washington D.C. He also had a hand in supervising the building of the Capitol building on Capitol Hill, amongst other famous landmarks.

Having studied in Dublin he emigrated with his wife and children and lived most of his adult life near the White House. Not many people would know that the design for the presidential residence in Washington was based on Leinster House in Dublin and it was from here and from ideas born in the Royal Dublin Society’s Drawing School that Hoban got his inspiration.

The Kilkenny man was also believed to have been a confidant of George Washington himself (among other presidents) and this is said to have given him an advantage in winning the competition to design the White House.

Hoban died in Washington D.C. on December 8th, 1831. By way of commemoration, Ireland and the USA issued stamps bearning his likeness in 1980.

James Hoban – Desart, Callan, Co.Kilkenny – Designer of the White House.

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