Galloping Hogan

In 1649, Cromwell’s Puritan army overpowered all resistance in Ireland.  He introduced the Cromwellian Settlement, by which all land belonging to Irish Catholics were forfeit to pay the debts incurred by the war.  The land was sold to loyal Englishmen, and the Irish land owners were told to relocate or die – To Hell or to Connaught – the most  agriculturally poor province in Ireland.  Over 40,000 Irish were relocated beyond the Shannon by the end of 1654.  Those who didn’t were hunted down and press-ganged into the British Navy, or sold as slaves to Barbados.  There was one group however, who refused to relocate.  They eluded capture in the hills and glens near their ancestral homes and raided the new settlers on the lands of their clans.  They led an outlaw existence, and were called Rapparees after their favorite weapon – a half-pike known in Irish as a rapaire.  They were a  concern to the English for many years.

The new owners of the land refused to stoop to menial labor, so some native Irish were allowed back east of the Shannon to provide that labor for the landlords, but the Rapparees continued to strike from hiding.  By the time Parliament invited William of Orange to usurp the throne of King James II, there were many Rapparees in Ireland.  When James promised religious freedom to those who would support him in defending his crown, many Rapparee’s joined him.  After William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne however, James fled to France leaving his Irish supporters in the field.  Patrick Sarsfield eventually took command of the remnants of the Irish forces and withdrew to defend the only remaining Gaelic land in Ireland – the portion to which the Irish had been forced by Cromwell 36 years earlier; in hot pursuit was William’s vastly superior army.  Sarsfield decided to make a stand at the walled city of Limerick, but he needed help, and he turned to the local Rapparrees.  There were at least 5 different bands of Rapparees controlling the glens and mountains around Limerick, but the Rapparee who was to ride into history with Sarsfield was Michael ‘galloping’ Hogan, who controlled the mountains of Tipperary and Clare, southwest of Nenagh.

King William’s forces reached Limerick on August 9, 1690, ahead of his siege artillery.  His demand for surrender was refused, and an assault on the town was repelled.  He bellowed for his artillery which, he was informed, was on its way from Cashel.  Hogan’s riders, who had been scouting the arriving siege train, said it was the biggest collection of artillery ever seen in Ireland – 153 wagons drawn by 400 horses.  Hogan proposed a daring plan.  He would lead Sarsfield and a detachment of 500 men out of Limerick under cover of night, travel north along the Clare side of the Shannon to a point where he knew men could cross with ease and attack William’s siege train from the rear.  Sarsfield agreed, and Hogan led the detachment to a point just north of Killaloe where the Shannon was narrow and shallow.  They crossed and began south toward Ballyneety, where the Siege train was camped for the night, using the Silvermines Mountains as cover.  They covered 90 miles through mountain glens, with burlap covering the horses’ hooves to silence their approach.  One of Hogan’s men, left behind to shoe his horse, met the wife of a Williamite soldier headed for the English camp.  The Rapparee befriended her, and learned the password of the enemy camp.  Ironically, it was Sarsfield.

 

On the night of August 11, Hogan led Sarsfield to the edge of the English camp.  Sentries, who accepted the password when they challenged the approaching shadows, were dead before they hit the ground.  The Irish swarmed into the camp, and dispatched the enemy.  Sarsfield ordered the guns into a circle, muzzles inward.  They were filled with gunpowder and the muzzles driven into the ground.  The remaining shells and supplies were put in the middle of the circle, and a powder trail was laid to the edge of the woods.  The troops were ordered into the wood, and Hogan was given the honor of putting a match to the powder.  The resulting explosion shook the earth with the loudest man made sound ever heard in Ireland and it lit up the sky with a flash that was seen from the walls of Limerick.

Without his artillery, William realized that he could not take Limerick, so he offered terms to the Irish.  Those who had fought in James’ army would have to leave Ireland, but their families who stayed behind would get their lands back and the free practice of their religion.  The terms were accepted and the treaty of Limerick was signed on October 3, 1691.  True to its terms, 14,000 Irish left Ireland and among them Sarsfield and Galloping Hogan.  The Flight of the Wild Geese had begun.  They would distinguish themselves in the Irish Brigades of foreign armies, but they never saw Ireland again.  As for those left behind, they never saw the promises of the Treaty fulfilled.  By 1709, when the threat of Irish retribution was gone, it was broken by the Popery Act which denied Catholics the right to own land.

Today, many memorials exist to that time in Irish history; the most notable of which is the road along both sides of the Shannon from Limerick to Killaloe.  It is called Sarsfield’s Ride, but there are many who think it should be called the Hogan Highway, after that superb horseman and early guerilla fighter – the Galloping Hogan.

James Connolly

On June 5, 1868, a boy was born of Irish parents in the section of Edinburgh, Scotland known as Little Ireland. That boy would become one of the most beloved leaders of his time, and one of Ireland’s greatest patriots; his name was James Connolly.

The drastic class distinction and poverty caused by anti-Irish discrimination in 19th century Scotland was a heavy influence on young James. Working as an apprentice printer at the age of 10, he became an avid reader, and by the time he was 14 had read most of the literature of Michael Davitt’s Land League on its war against the landlords in Ireland. It is no surprise that he grew extremely nationalistic, and citing the Fenian example of enlisting to learn military tactics, he joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was sent to serve in Ireland which was then entering the Gaelic Revival and there was no shortage of historical and nationalist oriented material for Connolly’s hungry young eyes. Stationed in Dublin, he became aware of the close parallel between his Edinburgh environment and the pitiful conditions of the Dublin working class. Taking a note from history, he swore that as the Land League had successfully organized farmers against landlords, he would organize workers against the managers of industry.

After his discharge, he returned to Edinburgh, and began organizing labor. He was eventually blacklisted in Scotland, and was invited to be a labor organizer in Ireland where his knowledge of Irish history made him one of the most popular speakers of the Gaelic Revival. His popularity was so great he was invited on speaking tours of Scotland and England, and in 1902 was invited to America. He toured the U.S. lecturing labor unions and rally’s, and eventually settled in Troy, New York. He started a monthly paper called The Harp to enlist Irish-American support for the labor movement, and filled its pages with news from Ireland. This news brought Connolly closer to Irish affairs, and he realized where his heart had always been. He returned to Ireland, and settled in Belfast in 1910 to help organize the Irish Transport Workers Union.

In August, 1912 Connolly was called to Dublin where one of the greatest labor struggles in the history of western Europe – the Great Dublin Lockout – had begun. Management, in an attempt to break the union, locked the workers out of their jobs. Violence was rampant, and Connolly was instrumental in forming a force to protect the workers from management-controlled police; thus the Irish Citizen Army was born. Though the lockout ended in favor of management, the workers had made it so costly that it would never again be used against organized labor.

Convinced that ties with England were hampering the labor movement, Connolly began to preach open rebellion. Unknown to him, Padraic Pearse and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) were already planning such action. Connolly’s newspaper articles were so militant that IRB leader Tom Clarke was afraid Connolly would unknowingly tip their hand. On Jan 19, Connolly left for lunch and disappeared. For 3 days his kidnapping so infuriated the labor movement that his followers almost started a rebellion without him. On the third day, Connolly returned, and remained silent concerning his whereabouts. It was later said that he had been taken by the IRB to be briefed on the coming rising; Connolly was now a member of the IRB Military Council.

He had pledged the support of the Irish Citizen Army, and was thereafter a leading figure in the march toward rebellion. When the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up, it was Connolly who made the final revision, and it was Connolly who had it printed in the basement of Liberty Hall – his union headquarters. On Easter Monday 1916, Connolly addressed his Citizen Army for the last time. “There is no longer a Citizen Army and a Volunteer Force,” he said, “there is now only the Army of the Irish Republic.”

The date of the Rising was set, and despite several mishaps during the week prior, like the capture of Roger Casement, the loss of an arms shipment, and Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill’s cancellation of mobilization orders, Connolly was determined to prevail. Yet, when William Smith O’Brien asked Connolly, as they left Liberty Hall on that fateful morning, “Is there any chance of success?” Connolly replied, “None whatever.”  At 11:35 AM he led his men into the streets of Dublin, and the pages of history. In one bloody week it was over.

Despite a wounded shoulder and a shattered ankle, Connolly remained (in Pearse’s words) “the guiding brain of our resistance to the end.”  With the Irish surrender, Connolly was taken to Dublin Castle as the executions of the leaders began. Day by day, one by one, the noblest men in Ireland were murdered by an English firing squad. On May 12, after 13 had been killed, Connolly was brought into the stonebreaker’s yard at Kilmainham Jail to face the firing squad. In death Connolly would become an even greater inspiration than he had been in life. Within two months, he and the other leaders would take their place with Tone and Emmet; and the Irish people, their fury finally aroused, would pick up the cause left to them, and carry it through the War of Independence. In her book The Fractured Emerald, author Emily Hahn wrote, “It was probably the manner of Connolly’s death that at last nauseated the public: his wound had been allowed to gangrene and he was in such a bad way that the soldiers had to carry him out on a stretcher and prop him up to receive the bullets.”

The Queen’s Visit

By the mid 1800s, Ireland was in the hands of landlords who took more and more of the fertile land, forcing the Irish to survive on smaller and smaller plots, until they became totally dependent on the crop that could produce the most yield per acre – the potato. It was a difficult life, but at least they weren’t starving, for potatoes are a remarkable source of vitamins and minerals. Then late on August 20, 1845, a potato fungus was discovered at the Dublin Botanical Gardens. The following day, August 21, is a date remembered in Irish history as the first day of An Gorta Mor – the Great Hunger – a tragedy that saw millions lost to emigration, disease, and starvation. Within the week, reports came in from all over Ireland that the potato crop had turned black in the ground. It was the only crop affected, since everything else grew in abundance, but the other crops belonged to the landlord.

The landlords protected those crops from the hungry Irish until they were harvested, and exported to England for profit. Parliament did little to help, quoting the economic doctrine of Laissez Faire saying that the country was to be left to the effect of natural forces. Many died in ‘45 awaiting a better harvest in ‘46, but it didn’t come. The potato crop in ‘46 was almost totally destroyed. People were forced to eat what little seed potato they had to survive, many fell victim to the diseases which attend starvation and when the sick and starving Irish couldn’t pay their rent, they were evicted. The blight did not return in 1847, but that year saw the largest death toll in the 5-year period since those who had eaten their seed potatoes had nothing to plant, those who had been evicted had nowhere to plant, and those who had fallen victim to disease were unable to plant. To make matters worse, the blight returned in 1848 and 1849 and neither landlord nor Parliament provided adequate assistance. Millions died of starvation and hunger-related disease on the roads, alongside prosperous farms. A limited amount of aid was provided but it was too little and there were some soup kitchens, but in some, the cost of receiving food, was the surrender of their faith and conversion to the Church of England. It was a price too high for many, and they turned their backs on the food, rather than turn their backs on God.

Parliament was denounced for not intervening in the Irish tragedy, and they reacted by declaring the crisis officially over in 1847. Their evidence was the few acres of potatoes had been produced that year with no sign of the blight. But they made no mention of the fact that it returned in 1849 and 49. After 1849, the potato blight slowly abated, but the blight on the Irish continued. Most historians estimate that the effects of the great hunger were not over for another 30 years as the lack of land or living wage, food shortage, and disease continued. Emigrants sent money back to loved ones they were forced to leave behind and it helped them climb back to a stable life, but it would be a generation before many of the emigrants could establish themselves in the lands to which they fled. In the end, most of those who suffered the Great Hunger, were gone before its effects were. The benchmark event that marked that turn in history was the formation of the Land League in 1879.

A meeting convened in Daly’s Hotel, Castlebar on August 16th 1879 inaugurated a body called the Mayo Land League. Founder Michael Davitt convinced MP Charles Stewart Parnell to join the land agitation and the Mayo Land League became the National Land League with Parnell as President and Davitt, as Secretary. Branches were formed in almost every parish in the country and by the end of 1879 there was a formidable organization in place to plan what became known as the Land War. It was only then that it could be truly said that the Great Hunger was over and the Irish began to take back their land.

One of the most insensitive incidents to come out of the Great Hunger was the British government’s premature declaration of the end of the blight and in order to show that all was well, a massive publicity campaign was mounted, the highlight of which was a visit by Queen Victoria at harvest time in 1849. As the Irish starved and died in the workhouses and on the roads, hundreds of thousands of Pounds were spent to beautify the roads on which she would travel. Crowds of curious and angry onlookers were kept in check by British soldiers as reports were sent to the world that wherever she went, the Queen was cheered by her adoring subjects, and headlines proclaimed that “THE FAMINE IS OVER AS THE QUEEN VISITS IRELAND.” Ironically, that report – although propaganda in its time – would eventually come true.

The truth of that statement lies in a most remarkable incident that occurred on the exact anniversary of the first day of the hunger, exactly 30 years after the blight had begun to fade! The date was August 21, 1879, and the place was the Church of St. John the Baptist in the Irish village of Knock in Co. Mayo. On that evening, a small group witnessed an astonishing vision as three figures, surrounded by a mysterious glowing light, suddenly appeared, beside an altar on which rested a cross and a lamb surrounded by adoring angels. The witnesses knew that they were in the presence of St. Joseph, St. John and Mary, the mother of God. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Word spread, and shortly, others from the area arrived and saw it too. No such heavenly visitation had ever before been reported in Ireland, and the people fell to their knees and prayed, oblivious of a soaking rain. The figures remained, silent for nearly two hours, and then vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. In 1939, after many years of intense investigation, the apparition at Knock was granted canonical sanction by the Church. Of the hundreds of visions reported, it is one of only ten to have received such recognition, and it ranks with Lourdes and Fatima as a holy site of pilgrimage, yet it is the only appearance of the Virgin during which She remained silent.

Many have questioned why Mary said nothing, and only stood praying. Praying for what, for whom? Any student of Irish history should know the answer for there are clues in the date of the apparition. Consider that the Great Hunger wasn’t really over for 30 years after 1849; Mary appeared in 1879 – exactly 30 years later! And She appeared on August 21, the exact anniversary of the first day of the Great Hunger! Is it possible that, since the Irish had suffered so much for their faith, that the Lord, in appreciation, sent His beloved mother; and that She, as any mourner would, stood in silent prayer for the generation which had just passed away. Think of it, the timing is incredible. Not only is August 21 significant, but the year 1879 was truly the end of the great hunger, for the Irish began taking their land back from the landlords. While the dates have an uncanny significance, there is yet another irony. Since August 1879 marked both the historic end of the Great Hunger and the year in which Our Lady visited Knock, a 30-year old headline had at finally come true: THE FAMINE WAS OVER AND THE QUEEN HAD VISITED IRELAND – but it wasn’t Victoria; it was the only Queen that the Irish ever recognized !

Millions have visited Knock since 1879 and numerous miracles have been reported at the shrine. The Catholic people of Ireland, who struggled so hard to keep their faith alive had received a visit from heaven, and the Virgin had received a new title – Our Lady of Knock.