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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of John Barry, Father of the American Navy

John Barry, an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy, dies on September 13, 1803 in present day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He comes to be widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” a moniker he shares with John Paul Jones and John Adams, and is appointed a captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. He is the first captain placed in command of a U.S. warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag.

After the war, Barry becomes the first commissioned U.S. naval officer, at the rank of commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797.

Barry is born on March 25, 1745, in Tacumshane, County Wexford. When his family is evicted from their home by their British landlord, they move to Rosslare on the coast, where his uncle works a fishing skiff. As a young man, Barry determines upon a life as a seaman and he starts out as a ship’s cabin boy.

Barry receives his first captain’s commission in the Continental Navy on March 14, 1776, signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress. Barry is a religious man and begins each day at sea with a reading from the Bible. He has great regard for his crew and their well being and always makes sure they are properly provisioned while at sea.
During his naval career Barry commands the USS Delaware, USS Lexington, USS Raleigh, and USS Alliance.

On February 22, 1797, he is issued Commission Number 1 by President George Washington, backdated to June 4, 1794. His title is thereafter “commodore.” He is recognized as not only the first American commissioned naval officer but also as its first flag officer.

Appointed senior captain upon the establishment of the U.S. Navy, he commands the frigate USS United States in the Quasi-War with the French Republic. This ship transports commissioners William Richardson Davie and Oliver Ellsworth to France to negotiate a new Franco-American alliance.

Barry’s last day of active duty is March 6, 1801, when he brings USS United States into port, but he remains head of the Navy until his death.

Barry dies of asthma on September 13, 1803, at Strawberry Hill, in present-day Philadelphia, and is buried in the graveyard of Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Center City, Philadelphia.

(Pictured: Portrait of Commodore John Barry, US Navy, by V. Zveg, 1972, from the 1801 portrait by Gilbert Stuart.)

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Birth of Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy Vocalist & Bassist

Philip Parris “Phil” Lynott, Irish musician, singer, songwriter, and a founding member, principal songwriter, lead vocalist, and bassist of Thin Lizzy, is born on August 20, 1949, in Hallam Hospital in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.

Lynott goes to live with his grandmother, Sarah Lynott, in Crumlin, Dublin when he is four years old. He is introduced to music through his uncle Timothy’s record collection and becomes influenced by Tamla Motown and The Mamas and the Papas.

Growing up in Dublin in the 1960s, Lynott fronts several bands as a lead vocalist, most notably teaming up with bassist Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels to form Skid Row in early 1968. It is during this period that Lynott learns to play the bass guitar.

Toward the end of 1969, Lynott, now confident enough to play bass himself in a band, teams with Brian Downey, Eric Bell, and Eric Wrixon to form Thin Lizzy. The band’s first top ten hit comes in 1973 with a rock version of the well-known Irish traditional song “Whiskey in the Jar.” With the release of the Jailbreak album in 1976, Lynott and Thin Lizzy become international superstars on the strength of the album’s biggest hit, “The Boys Are Back in Town.” The song reaches the Top 10 in the United Kingdom, No. 1 in Ireland, and is a hit in the United States and Canada.

Having finally achieved mainstream success, Thin Lizzy embarks on several consecutive world tours. However, the band suffers from personnel changes. By the early 1980s, Thin Lizzy is starting to struggle commercially and Lynott starts showing symptoms of drug abuse, including regular asthma attacks. After the resignation of longtime manager Chris O’Donnell, Lynott decides to disband Thin Lizzy in 1983.

In 1984, Lynott forms a new band, Grand Slam, with Doish Nagle, Laurence Archer, Robbie Brennan, and Mark Stanway. The band tours various clubs but suffers from being labeled a poor version of Thin Lizzy due to the inclusion of two lead guitarists. Grand Slam disbands at the end of the year due to a lack of money and Lynott’s increasing addiction to heroin.

Lynott’s last years are dogged by drug and alcohol dependency leading to his collapse on December 25, 1985, at his home in Kew. He is taken to Salisbury Infirmary where he is diagnosed as suffering from septicemia. His condition worsens by the start of the new year and he is put on a respirator. He dies of pneumonia and heart failure due to septicemia in the hospital’s intensive care unit on January 4, 1986, at the age of 36.

Lynott’s funeral is held at St. Elizabeth of Portugal Church, Richmond, London on January 9, 1986, with most of Thin Lizzy’s ex-members in attendance, followed by a second service at Howth Parish Church on January 11. He is buried in St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, Dublin.