President’s Message Feb. 2012

The division installations are over for another year. I would like to thank all the divisions who invited me to attend their installations this year. I had the honor to install 3 of my cousins as division presidents, 2 cousins as division officers and my son, Emmett, as a division sentinel.

Now St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. This means many parades and celebrations. I ask all Brothers to remember we are paying homage to OUR Patron Saint. PLEASE be respectful in all you do during this season.

I would like to invite any Brother and his family who would like to join the NYS Board as we march up 5th Avenue on March 17th. There is a dress code. No jeans, tennis shoes (sneakers) or sweat shirts.

Our Spring NYS Board Meeting will be held in East Durham on May 5, 2012. I am expecting a multitude of candidates for national office to be in attendance. This will be a great chance for our members to meet these candidates in a non convention pressured atmosphere.

As I mentioned in the previous ESH, The National Convention will be held at Turning Stone July 9th – 13th 2012. Delegates should make their room reservations ASAP. I am expecting our State to have a FULL Delegation.

Have a safe and Happy St. Patrick’s Day and a Holy Easter.

Your in our Motto,

Michael J. McNabb
IBTGOG

Michael O’Hanrahan

March 17 is known the world over as St. Patrick’s Day, but there are many other things that March 17th should be remembered for beside being the day that our patron saint died. For example, it is the date in 1776 that the Brits evacuated Boston during the American Revolution. Also, on that date in 1858, James Stephens and Thomas Luby founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood; in 1897, Bob Fitzsimmons defeated Jim Corbett to become Heavyweight Champion; in 1899, the first issue of An Claidheamh Soluis (Sword of Light), the nationalist newspaper edited by Padraic Pearse, was published; in 1900, the Montreal Shamrocks won the Stanley Cup; and in 1963, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was beatified. Most people are familiar with those events, but as much as any of them, there is one that also deserves to be remembered: March 17, 1877 was the birth date of Michael O’Hanrahan – probably the least known of all the 1916 Martyrs.

He was born in New Ross, Co. Wexford, to Mary and Richard O’Hanrahan, a veteran of the 1867 Fenian Rising. The family moved to Carlow where Michael was educated at Carlow Christian Brothers’ School and Carlow College Academy. On leaving school he worked alongside his father in a cork-cutting business where he received a nationalist slant to his education. Immensely proud of his heritage, he joined the Gaelic League in 1898 and within a year founded the League’s first branch in Carlow and became its secretary. He also taught Irish at the Catholic Institute and began to use the Irish form of his name – Micheál Ó hAnnracháin. By 1903 he was working in Dublin as a proof-reader for a Gaelic League publisher. He wrote articles in several nationalist newspapers, including Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteer. Politically aware from his early youth, O’Hanrahan became involved in some of the more radical nationalist campaigns of the day.

His writings brought him to the attention of Maude Gonne and Arthur Griffith and in 1903 he became involved with them in their campaign against the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland. His friendship with Griffith led him to join the newly-formed Sinn Féin political party founded by Griffith in 1905 to provide a focus for Irish nationalism. He also became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In November 1913 he was among the first to join the new Irish Volunteers, a military organization established by Irish nationalists. It included members of the Gaelic League, Ancient Order of Hibernians and Sinn Féin, and, secretly, the IRB who had organized the formation meeting. The Volunteers would be the main force to fight for Irish independence in the 1916 Easter Rising and, with the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Éireann, they formed the Irish Republican Army. The Volunteers were formed on 25 November, with their first public meeting and enrollment rally at the Rotunda in Dublin and O’Hanrahan was there. The stewards, who handed out application blanks, wore in their lapel a small silken bow the center of which was white, while on one side was green and on the other side orange and had long been recognized as the colors which the Irish Republican Brotherhood had adopted as the Irish national banner. Speaking at the rally was IRB member Patrick Pearse.

While expanding his nationalist activities and writings, O’Hanrahan authored two novels A Swordsman of the Brigade (1914) and When the Normans Came (published posthumously in 1918). He became an administrator on the Volunteers headquarters staff, was made quartermaster general of the Volunteers’ 2nd Battalion where he and the 2nd Battalion Commandant, Thomas MacDonagh became close friends. It was as second in command of Dublin’s 2nd battalion under Commandant MacDonagh and later third in command under Major John MacBride, that he fought at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory throughout Easter week. Unfortunately, O’Hanrahan had a nasty accident in Jacobs when he tumbled down a flight of stone steps and received a concussion. Fearing that MacDonagh might send him to hospital, he played the incident down. His brother Henry O’Hanrahan also fought in Jacobs.

Over the following week the Rising continued until a general surrender was issued on April 30th. As a result many of the rebels were taken into custody by the Brits. In a memorandum sent by General Sir John Maxwell to British Prime Minister, Herbet Asquith, the following description was provided for Michael O’Hanrahan: This man was employed at the office of the Headquarters of the Irish Volunteers. He was one of the most active members of that body, took part in all their parades and was a constant associate with the leaders of the rebellion. He was arrested in uniform and armed, and there had been heavy fighting and casualties amongst the British troops in the neighborhood of the place where this man with others surrendered. He was an officer in the rebel army.

Michael O’Hanrahan was tried by General Courts Martial on 3 May 1916. To the charge that he ‘did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King,’ the witness, Major J.A. Armstrong, stated: ‘I was present at St. Patrick’s Park on 30 April. The British troops were fired upon and there were several casualties. The fire came from the neighborhood of Jacob’s Factory. The same day a surrender was arranged. I saw the surrender being arranged by Mr. MacDonagh. Over 100 men arrived from Jacob’s Factory as a result of the surrender and another large body arrived from the same direction as a result of the surrender. The accused belonged to one of the parties. He was in uniform and armed. After his removal to Richmond Barracks, he said that he was an officer.’ O’Hanrahan did not call any witnesses in his defense but stated: As a soldier of the Republican army acting under the orders of the Provisional Goverment of that Republic duly constituted, I acted under the orders of my superiors. O’Hanrahan was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The leaders of the Rising were all sentenced to death. Between 4:00 and 4:30 am on 4 May 1916, 39-year old Michael O’Hanrahan was murdered by firing squad in the stonebreaker’s yard at Kilmainham Prison on the same day as Joseph Plunkett, who had married Grace Gifford just hours before; Willy Pearse, brother of Padraic Pearse and Ned Daly, brother-in-law of Tom Clarke. Their remains were buried in Arbour Hill Cemetery. A public outcry against the severity of the sentences for men whose only crime was love of country, turned to revulsion as sixteen of the sentences were hastily and brutally carried out. World opinion weighed in against the executions as well with the result that they were halted and converted to penal servitude for life. Many were sent to concentration camps in both England and Wales. Michael’s brother, Henry, was sentenced to penal servitude for life, but became seriously ill requiring medical care and was let out of prison to die. His sisters Aine (Ciss), Maire and Eily remained involved in Cuman na mBan, the Ladies Auxiliary to the IRA.

The Co. Carlow museum has a section dedicated to their adopted son and in 1919 a Carlow Town based GAA club was founded taking Michael’s name in honour of his role in 1916, while at his birthplace, the Wexford railway station is named in commemoration of O’Hanrahan, as is the road bridge over the River Barrow at New Ross.

St. Patrick’s Escape

Many versions of the life of St. Patrick exist. This includes The Tripartite Life of St. Patrick in the Book of Armagh which is made up of three homilies on St. Patrick by St. Fiacc, former Bard and Bishop of Leinster; Tirechan, a 7th century Bishop in Mayo; and Muirchu, a 7th century monastic historian as well as biographies by St, Evin and many others. However taking facts from his own autobiographical Confessio, more than the writings of those who venerated him in later years and tried to glorify his reputation, we get a more intimate picture of the remarkable man behind the saint.

From reliable sources, we know that our patron Saint was named Succat when raiders of Irish High King Niall of the Nine Hostages kidnaped him, at about age 16, from his home on the west coast of the island of Britain – most likely in Wales. He was sold to a Chieftain named Miluic near Ballymena in County Antrim. As St. Patrick, Succat later wrote that he had worked as a slave, tending flocks on Mount Slemish (from the Irish: Sliabh Mis), sleeping in the cold, and often going hungry. We know that Succat came from a Christian family for his father was a deacon and during his captivity, Succart turned to God, praying night and day. One night, in a dream he heard the voice of God tell him that a ship was ready to take him away and, after six long years of penance, prayer and suffering, he escaped. He wrote that God had humbled him in captivity and under His special guidance was able to return to his own country. The details of his escape are sketchy and there has been a difference of opinion regarding the port from which he made his escape however, in his own later writings, St. Patrick tells us that the port from which he sailed was about 200 (Roman) miles from Slemish.

When writing his Confessio many years later, St. Patrick was well acquainted with distances in Ireland, especially between Antrim and Mayo, which in his mission he had traveled many times. Further, 200 Roman miles is about 185 English miles, and the port of Killala in Mayo happens to be about that distance from Mount Slemish. Wicklow is also that distance but he wouldn’t be likely to head south for that would bring him along the east coast through the most populated part of the country where a runaway slave would almost certainly be re-captured. The Tripartite states that Miliuc pursued Succat to bring him back, but the light-footed youth was able to evade his pursuers.

Another reason to favor Killala is that the Wood of Focluth was there along the shore of the western sea. The Saint tells us more than once that it was from that Wood of Focluth that a youth (angel?) named Victoricus brought him letters calling him back to Ireland and it was the voice of those who dwelt by the Wood of Focluth that invited him, holy youth come once more and walk among us as before. These words imply that he stayed among people who lived by Focluth Wood for a while and that can only have been when he was escaping.

We don’t know how long Succat stayed at Focluth Wood before he found a ship, but he must have lodged a while with those who took him in after his escape. Seemingly, he was received with genuine hospitality – a tradition among the Irish. He was a fugitive, hungry, foot-sore, and friendless, when he came seeking food and shelter. It may have been in return for work performed, but either way it was most likely here that the runaway slave befriended the children whose voices afterwards called him back to Erin. Still full of religious fervor and gratitude to God who was guiding his escape, he was moved by the fact that these children would grow up without knowing the true God and it is likely that here the idea first came to him of one day returning to rescue those young souls from spiritual exile by teaching them about the true God. Gratitude was a striking trait in the character of St. Patrick, and it is most evident here. Ever after, they were on his mind and he never rested until he turned his steps back toward the western sea, to lead them into the light of the Gospel. It is one of the most touching incidents in the whole history of our great Apostle. Focluth Wood is one of the most interesting places referred to in the biographies of St. Patrick and its name is reflected in the modern town land of Foghill, just south of Lackan Bay. In olden times Focluth Wood extended from the head of Lackan Bay to Killala. Killala was, and still is, a great harbor with many quiet coves where the lighter craft of the time could easily glide in and out with the tide. The trees of Focluth Wood surrounded these quiet coves, for as yet there was no Killala until St. Patrick later founded a church there. It was in one of those coves, that the ship was waiting, by Divine providence, to carry the most precious passenger ever to sail from the shores of holy Ireland.

About two miles north, near the point where the Rathfran river enters the bay, there is a low-lying ridge of rocks, still referred to as St. Patrick’s Rocks. Just above these rocks is the small bay where French ships, under General Humbert, landed in 1798 and that may have been where Patrick’s ship was drawn up on the sandy beach. The Most Rev. Dr. Healy, Archbishop of Tuam, in his Life of St Patrick in 1905, wrote that his research led him to believe that the place where the ship docked was in the inner harbor of Killala, close to the spot where St. Patrick long after built a church, a remnant of which still stands. Either way, the coast around Killala seems to fit the bill.

St. Patrick wrote that on the day of his arrival the ship was about to start on her voyage. He asked to be taken on board as a passenger, but the captain angrily rebuffed him. He left to return to the hut where he was staying and on the way, began to pray and before his prayer was finished he heard one of the crew shouting, Come back quickly, they are calling you. St. Patrick later wrote, I immediately returned and they said to me: ‘Come with us, we will take thee in good faith,’ which Archbishop Healy interprets as meaning on credit. In St. Patrick’s writings he refers to an unexplained tradition of servitude which he refused to do but his prayerful plea must have touched them for he wrote, I had some hope that they might come to the faith of Christ; therefore I kept with them, and forthwith we set sail. Much of the account of the incident is obscure for the original text is corrupt.

The Tripartite states that he was bound for the Roman Province of Britain in a 3-day voyage. Any craft of the time could easily make the western coast of Scotland or Wales (then called Britain) in three days. Though we don’t know exactly where they landed, we do know that they had many dogs with them. It is possible they were a hunting party heading for the Scottish highlands and the great Caledonian Forest. We know from the bardic tales of Finn MacCool that Irish warriors often hunted in Caledonia. Another reason for the trip could have been the sale of the Irish wolfhounds which were valued by the Romans in Britain as combat animals in their games.

In his Confessio, St. Patrick wrote, After three days we made land, and then for twenty-eight days traveled through a desert. They had no food, and were sorely pressed with hunger. Then one day the captain said to me ‘Well, now, Christian, you say your God is great and omnipotent. Why can you not then pray for us, for we are in danger of perishing from hunger, and we can hardly see anywhere a single human being’. Thereupon I plainly said to them, ‘Be ye truly converted to the Lord my God, to whom nothing is impossible, that He may send food in your way and you may be filled for He hath abundance everywhere’. And so, through God’s help, it came to pass. A herd of swine appeared on the road before their eyes, and they killed many of them, and remained there for two nights until they were well refreshed. Then they gave great thanks to God, and I was honored in their eyes.

Such is St. Patrick’s account of his journey. The story is consistent with hunters losing their way in a great forest and, seeing neither game nor men, being reduced to the verge of starvation, but St. Patrick called it a desert! There is no great desert anywhere on the west coast from Scotland to Wales. However, in the early fifth century, the Caledonian Forest was not a forest of tall trees as we know a forest, but rather an immense extent of scrub and bush. It was, in truth, a barren land, as the Tripartite calls it: empty and deserted. The question was answered by an ancient description of Scotland found in the Chronicle of the Picts and Scots published by H.M. General Register House in 1867; it mentions the mountains and deserts of Argyle! And Succat was on his way home.

Patrick tells us no more in his Confessio about his friends from Killala. We don’t know what became of them although it is significant that he did return, not only to walk among them once more, but to build them a church.

A Great Day For The Irish

Welcome to the month of Saint Patrick, a time of joyous celebration among the Irish around the world. And why do we celebrate? Because we’re Irish. It’s been said that the Irish passion for their heritage gets stronger, the further they are from the Emerald Isle, and that may partially explain the popularity of this day, for whether or not they were poor in material possessions, the Irish always managed to carry with them, their unique culture, traditions, and religion. And Saint Patrick is part of all three. As a result of the diaspora of the Irish throughout the world, no one in the entire litany of saints is better known, more loved, or greater celebrated than our patron.

It should be no surprise then that the tradition of parading in St Patrick’s honor started thousands of miles from the Emerald Isle, among Irish soldiers serving in the British army right here in America. St Patrick’s Day had previously been celebrated with a dinner, like the one recorded in 1737 hosted by the Charitable Irish Societies of Boston, or in 1762 hosted by John Marshall near St Peter’s Church in New York City. However, when local Irish regiments were invited to attend, they marched in military manner to the banquet. The first march we’ve found reference to was held in 1766, with fifes and drums and all, and a
tradition was born. Years later, when many Irish marched away under Washington’s banner to help establish this new nation, civilians still paraded in the cities on March 17. General Washington even observed the feast in the field by making the password on March 17: St Patrick. As a result, it can be said that honoring the memory of our patron saint became
one of America’s first traditions.

In the years that followed, this Irish American tradition was ex-ported around the world with the result that today, there are at least 250 annual parades in honor of our patron saint across 44 states, in addition to countless parades in Ire-land, Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Buenos Ai-res, and every country to which the children of Erin have
been scattered. But it all started in New York when the informal parades became formal right after the American Revolution. In 1784, the Friendly Sons of St Patrick were formed, and soon took over organizing the parade in lower Manhattan. In 1790, a Brooklyn parade was organized, and another – organized by a convention of Irish Societies – soon followed.

By 1843, and for some years thereafter, there were two major parades in Manhattan as well as the one in Brooklyn with the parade organized by the Convention of Irish Societies gradually emerging as the main one. In 1853, the Ancient Order of Hibernians first marched, and thus began an association that led to their assuming responsibility for that event. Today the
Parade Committee is a separate corporation though the committee are AOH members who still plan, organize, and manage the largest ethnic demonstration in the world.

In the early days, the route of the parade required a great deal of stamina to complete. As the city grew, the parades got longer. The 1899 parade started at Washington Square and marched to Brommans Union Park for the traditional banquet. Brommans was located at 133 St and Willis Ave in the Bronx – a distance of about six miles from the starting point. It was
the only time the parade entered that borough, although the Bronx was not the only borough to have been visited by the Manhattan parade, for the Brooklyn Hibernians took the parade over the Brooklyn Bridge to march in their streets several times. In 1909, another borough entered the picture as the Queens AOH – 1,000 strong – were given the honor of becoming the
first to cross the recently completed, but as yet unopened, Queens borough Bridge. That honor was accorded in recognition of the Irish laborers who constructed the span. After parading through Queens, they proudly marched over the new bridge to join the New York parade, led by a unit of Silver Greys – AOH members over 70 years in age – in horse-drawn carriages. The record for the longest parade however, was established in 1904 when the annual march started at 26th street and Fifth Ave, marched to 126 St, turned west to Seventh Ave, then north again to 155th St, and proceeded west again to the Manhattan Casino at 155th St and Eighth Ave – a distance of 8 miles.

Today, there are parades in many local communities on dates surrounding March 17. As in the beginning, there is still a common link between them all. On the one hand, that link is the common reverence for St Patrick which all true Irishmen cherish.

On the opposite extreme they are all subject to the terrible Paddy-bashing of the media prompted by misbehaving Amadans* in green plastic derbies, drinking green beer! Each year on March 17th, there are those who drag our heritage through the streets, and those who parade it. St. Patrick’s Day is not an excuse for a party, but a reason for pride – pride in an Irish Christian heritage that is second to none. Those who debase themselves on that day are either not Irish or are Irish in name only, and their condition at the end of the day is a direct reflection of their appreciation for, or ignorance of, their own heritage. Further, those who respect that heritage don’t call their patron saint by a nickname; the difference between Paddy’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day is the difference between the office Christmas party and Midnight Mass – the only thing they have in common is the date. *Amadan – Village Idiot