They Happened in June
by Mike McCormack, AOH NYS Historian
June is a remarkable month in Irish History as so many things occurred in that month over the centuries. For Example:
On June 1, 1866, a Fenian Army invaded Canada and captured Fort Erie with the intent of seizing all of Canada and trading it back to England for Ireland’s freedom. They went on to beat a British force at Ridgeway before being stopped by the U.S. closing off the border behind them and cutting off their supply lines. A trip to the Ridgeway battlefield might be a good idea during the coming New York State convention.
On June 3, 1974, patriot Michael Gaughan, on hunger strike in Parkhurst Prison for political prisoner status, died after force-feeding. Six guards would restrain him at the top of the bed, stretch his neck over the metal rail, force a block between his teeth and force a feeding tube down his throat through a hole in the block. Michael’s brother described him noting: His throat had been badly cut by force feeding and his teeth loosened. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow and his mouth was gaping open. He weighed about 84 lb. He’d been force-fed 17 times at the end of his 64-day hunger strike. After he died at age 24, his family stated it was from food lodged in a lung punctured by the force-feeding tube.
On June 4, 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, leader of the United Irishmen, died of wounds received during his capture. He was a Lord, brother of Ireland’s leading peer and tremendously popular with the common people. Since a public trial would be embarrassing and might start the rising they feared, the British decided that although his wounds were not serious, they would not be treated. The bullets were left in his shoulder, and the wound infected. Septicaemia spread through his body and tortured his mind. Mad with fever, he shouted, Dear Ireland, I die for you, and My country, you will be free. Then, after 16 days of intense pain, Lord Edward Fitzgerald died of his wounds.
On June 5, 1646, Owen Roe O’Neill, a brilliant strategist who had returned from Spain to fight for Ireland, defeated the British at the Battle of Benburb. It was the first major win for the Irish who lost only 300 men to Gen. Munro’s 3,000.
On June 20, 1764, Theobold Wolfe Tone was born to introduce a new Republican concept to Ireland that has been followed to this day. His idea of joining Catholics, Protestants and dissenters together to oppose the Crown for Ireland’s freedom became the basis for all the Republican movements from the Young Irelanders to Sinn Fein.
On June 21, 1877, a day remembered as Black Thursday, four members of the AOH accused of being members of an imaginary group called the Molly Maguires, were hanged in Mauch Chunk, PA. A special gallows had been constructed so that all four lives would be ended at the exact same time. In 1979, Jack Kehoe, reputed leader of the Mollies was posthumously pardoned and the Governor of PA recognized the group as part of the fledgling mine workers union of that historic period. On June 21, 1997, 120 years later, a memorial Mass was attended by 100 descendants of those hanged and members of the AOH at the jail where they had been hanged.
On June 28, 1920, after hearing of British atrocities in Dublin, Irish soldiers in the British Army in India engaged in the legally prescribed manner of peaceful military protest. They laid down their arms and declared that they would fight for the Crown no more. They were immediately arrested and confined in brutal conditions. Private James Daly, who was declared to be the instigator, was sentenced to death and became the last member of the British Army to be executed by firing squad.
On June 22, 1922, the Provisional government of the Irish Free State bombarded the Four Courts which had been seized by anti-treaty IRA forces. Many count that as the start of the Irish Civil War in which more than 2,000 were killed before it ended in May, 1923 – less than one year later!
On June 29, 1848, leading members of the Young Ireland confederacy, who had been traveling Ireland organizing a rising, were surrounded in Ballingarry, Tipperary. After a lengthy gun-battle they were defeated and the dreams of another rising died. James Stephens and John O’Mahony escaped and fled to France while Michael Doheny fled to America. They would all revisit the dream and later form the Fenian brotherhood.
These are only a few of the historic events we recognize in June. There are also important births like Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers (June 1, 1762); teacher and author Sinead DeValera (June 3, 1878); James Connolly, Irish Citizen Army leader and 1916 commander (June 5, 1868); Wm Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865); tenor John McCormack (June 14, 1884); and Charles Stewart Parnell (June 27, 1846) among others. We also lost some great people like Matt Talbot, servant of God (June 6, 1925); Saint Colmcille (June 9, 597); Tenor Frank Patterson (June 10, 2000); Molly Malone, who died of a fever (June 10, 1886); and Journalist Veronica Guerin who was gunned down on a Dublin street (June 26, 1996). Also, on June 16, 1904, James Joyce had his first date with the love of his live, Nora Barnacle. It is the date he later memorialized as the day everything takes place in his masterpiece Ulysses and is remembered today as BLOOMSDAY!
These dates and many more which happened, not only in June, but on every day of the year are listed on the 2018 Calendar of Mens & Ladies Irish and Irish-American Historical Events available from Pete Durkee (518) 274-8448. The calendars also provide the opportunity to win more than $10,000 in prizes, so give Pete a call.