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


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Birth of Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory

Vice Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC (Ire), Irish soldier and politician, is born on July 8, 1634 at Kilkenny Castle. He is the eldest son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, and Elizabeth Preston. He predeceases his father and therefore never becomes duke.

When Butler is born, his father is then the 12th Earl of Ormond but is raised to marquess and duke. His family, the Butler dynasty, is Old English and descends from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177. His mother is a second cousin once removed of his father as she is a granddaughter of Black Tom, 10th Earl of Ormond. Her father, however, is Scottish, Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond, a favourite of James I. Both parents are Protestants. They married on Christmas Day 1629.

Butler is one of ten siblings, eight brothers and two sisters, but five of the sons die in childhood. As the eldest living son, he is the heir apparent and is styled with the corresponding courtesy title, which at first is Viscount Thurles but changed to Earl of Ossory when his father becomes marquess in 1642. His early years are spent in Ireland until 1647 when he accompanies his father to England. In 1648 his father renews his support for the royalist cause and he and his son have to flee to France, arriving in Caen in February 1648. Lady Ormond also moves to Caen, where she arrives on June 23, 1648 with his siblings.

Butler is an accomplished athlete and a good scholar. Having come to London in 1652 he is rightly suspected of sympathising with the exiled royalists, and in 1655 is jailed by Oliver Cromwell. After his release about a year later he goes into exile to the Netherlands where Charles II has his exile court at the time.

On November 17, 1659, while in exile, Butler marries Emilia van Nassau, the second daughter of Louis of Nassau, Lord of De Lek and Beverweerd. They have eleven children, including two sons: James (1665–1745), who becomes the 2nd Duke of Ormonde in 1688; Charles (1671–1758), who becomes the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde following his elder brother’s attainder in 1715; Elizabeth (died 1717), who marries William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby in 1673; Amelia (died 1760), who inherits the estates of her brother Charles and never marries; and Henrietta (died 1724), who marries Henry de Nassau d’Auverquerque, 1st Earl of Grantham.

Butler accompanies Charles II back to England in 1660. In 1661 he becomes a member of both the English and the Irish houses of commons, representing in the former Bristol and Dublin University in the latter.

In 1662 Butler is called to the Irish House of Lords under a writ of acceleration as the Earl of Ossory. His father holds the title “5th Earl of Ossory” as one of his subsidiary titles. The acceleration makes Thomas Butler the 6th Earl of Ossory. This is the only substantive title he ever holds, as he predeceases his father and therefore never succeeds to his father’s titles. His eldest son, however, would later become the 2nd Duke of Ormond and the 7th Earl of Ossory.

Butler holds several military appointments: lieutenant-general of the army in Ireland (appointed in 1665); created an English peer as Lord Butler (in 1666); Lord of the Bedchamber to Charles II (appointed in 1660), a post he holds until his death.

In 1665 a fortunate accident allows Butler to take part in the Battle of Lowestoft against the Dutch, and in May 1672, being now in command of a ship, he fights against the same enemies in the Battle of Solebay, serving with great distinction on both occasions. He is partly responsible for this latter struggle, as on March 12, 1672, before war is declared, he attacks the Dutch Smyrna fleet, an action which he greatly regrets later in life. While visiting France in 1672 he rejects the liberal offers made by Louis XIV to induce him to enter the service of France, and returning to England he adds to his high reputation by his conduct during the Battle of Texel in August 1673. From 1677 until 1679, he serves alongside his father as a Lord of the Admiralty.

Butler is intimate with William, Prince of Orange, and in 1677 he joins the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British contingent and winning great fame at the siege of Mons in 1678. He acts as deputy for his father, who is Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in parliament he defends Ormond’s Irish administration with great vigour. In 1680 he is appointed governor of English Tangier, but his death prevents him from taking up his new duties.

Butler dies on July 30, 1680 at Arlington House in London. He is buried provisionally in Westminster Abbey on July 31, 1680. The ceremony of burial is performed belatedly on November 13, 1680. Some say Butler’s body is later taken to Ireland and reburied in the family vault in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. James, his eldest son, succeeds him as the 7th Earl of Ossory and in 1688 becomes the 2nd Duke of Ormond.

One of Butler’s most intimate friends is John Evelyn, who eulogises him in his Diary.

(Pictured: “Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory” by Peter Lely, painting, circa 1678, National Portrait Gallery)


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Birth of George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville

George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville, a British soldier and politician who is Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord North‘s cabinet during the American Revolutionary War, is born on January 26, 1716. He is styled The Honourable George Sackville until 1720, Lord George Sackville from 1720 to 1770, and Lord George Germain from 1770 to 1782.

Sackville is the third son of Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-General Walter Philip Colyear. Between 1730 and 1737 and again from 1750 to 1755, his father holds the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He is educated at Westminster School in London and graduates from Trinity College Dublin in 1737. While in Dublin he befriends the celebrated writer Jonathan Swift. He also encounters John Ligonier, 1sr Earl Ligonier, who later assists his career in the military.

Sackville then enters the army. He is elected Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1751, serving in this post for two years. He marries Diana Sambrooke, daughter of John Sambrooke and Elizabeth Forester, on September 3, 1754. They have two sons and three daughters.

Sackville starts as a captain in the 7th Horse (later the 6th Dragoon Guards). In 1740, he transfers to the Gloucestershire Regiment as a lieutenant colonel. The regiment is sent to Germany to participate in the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1743 he is advanced to brevet colonel. He sees his first battle, leading the charge of the infantry of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, in the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. He is wounded, captured and taken to the tent of Louis XV. When he is released and returned home, it is to duty in Scotland as the Colonel of the 20th Foot Regiment.

In 1747 and 1748, Sackville again joins the Duke of Cumberland. He becomes colonel of the 7th Irish horse and serves in Holland. There is a break in his military career between wars (1750-1755) when he serves as first secretary to his father.

During the Seven Years’ War, Sackville returns to active military service. In 1755, he is promoted to major general and returns to active service to oversee ordnance. In 1758, he is given a fourth regiment and joins Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, as a lieutenant general. He is sworn of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in January 1758.

In June 1758 Sackville is second in command of a British expedition led by Marlborough which attempts an amphibious Raid on St. Malo. While it fails to take the town as instructed, the raid is still considered to be largely successful as a diversion. Follow-up raids are considered against Le Havre, Caen and other targets in Normandy but no further landings are attempted and the force returns home. Later in 1758 they join the allied forces of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick in Germany. When Marlborough dies, Sackville becomes Commander of the British contingent of the army, although still under the overall command of the Duke of Brunswick.

In the Battle of Minden on August 1, 1759, British and Hanoverian infantry of the centre make an advance on the French cavalry and artillery in that sector. As the disrupted French begin to fall back on Minden, Ferdinand calls for a British cavalry charge to complete the victory, but Sackville withholds permission for their advance repeatedly. For this action, he is cashiered and sent home. John Manners, Marquess of Granby, replaces him as commander of the British contingent for the remainder of the war.

Sackville refuses to accept responsibility for refusing to obey orders. Back in England, he demands a court-martial, and makes it a large enough issue that he obtains his demand in 1760. The court finds him guilty, and the verdict not only upholds his discharge, but rules that he is “…unfit to serve His Majesty in any military Capacity whatever.” The king has his name struck from the Privy Council rolls.

Sackville is a Member of Parliament at intervals from 1733. He serves terms in both the Dublin and the Westminster bodies, sometimes simultaneously, but does not take sides in political wrangles. Between 1750 and 1755 he serves as Chief Secretary for Ireland, during his father’s second term as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

On November 10, 1775, Sackville is appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies replacing William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth in the post. He becomes a target for the opposition, and is eventually persuaded to step down in exchange for a peerage, and in February 1782 he is made Baron Bolebrooke, in the County of Sussex, and Viscount Sackville, of Drayton in the County of Northamptonshire. His political career ends with the fall of the North government in March 1782.

The controversy over Sackville’s handling of the war continues. Some members are opposed to his taking a seat in the House of Lords, an almost unprecedented incident. In spite of this he is admitted to the Lords, where he is staunchly defended by Edward Thurlow, 1st Baron Thurlow, and his declining health soon makes the issue irrelevant. He retires to his country home at Stoneland Lodge and dies there on August 26, 1785. He maintains to his dying day that he had not been a coward at Minden. Following his death, a defence of his reputation, The character of the late Viscount Sackville, is written by Richard Cumberland.

(Pictured: “George Germain,” 1766 painting by George Romney (1734-1802))


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Death of Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory

Vice Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC (Ire), Irish soldier and politician, dies in London on July 30, 1680.

Thomas is born on July 8, 1634 at Kilkenny Castle, the eldest son and one of ten siblings of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Preston. His father is then the 12th Earl of Ormond but would be raised to marquess and duke. His family, the Butler dynasty, is Old English and descends from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by Henry II of England in 1177. His mother is a second cousin once removed of his father as she is a granddaughter of Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond. Her father, however, is Scottish, Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond, a favourite of James I. Both parents are Protestants.

As the eldest living son, he is the heir apparent and is styled with the corresponding courtesy title, which at first is Viscount Thurles but changed to Earl of Ossory when his father becomes marquess in 1642. His early years are spent in Ireland until 1647 when he accompanies his father to England. In 1648 his father renews his support for the royalist cause and he and his son have to flee to France, arriving in Caen in February 1648. Lady Ormond also moves to Caen, where she arrives on June 23, 1648 with his siblings.

Butler is an accomplished athlete and a good scholar. Having come to London in 1652 he is rightly suspected of sympathising with the exiled royalists, and in 1655 is jailed by Oliver Cromwell. After his release about a year later he goes into exile to the Netherlands where Charles II has his exile court at the time.

On November 17, 1659, while in exile, Butler marries Emilia van Nassau, the second daughter of Louis of Nassau, Lord of De Lek and Beverweerd. They have eleven children.

Butler accompanies Charles II back to England in 1660. In 1661 he becomes a member of both the English and the Irish houses of commons, representing in the former Bristol and Dublin University in the latter.

In 1662 Butler is called to the Irish House of Lords under a writ of acceleration as the Earl of Ossory. His father holds the title “5th Earl of Ossory” as one of his subsidiary titles. The acceleration makes Thomas Butler the 6th Earl of Ossory. This is the only substantive title he ever holds, as he predeceases his father and therefore never succeeds to his father’s titles.

Butler holds several military appointments including lieutenant-general of the army in Ireland, created an English peer as Lord Butler in 1666, and Lord of the Bedchamber to Charles II (appointed in 1660 and held until his death).

In 1665 a fortunate accident allows Butler to take part in the Battle of Lowestoft against the Dutch, and in May 1672, being now in command of a ship, he fights against the same enemies in the Battle of Solebay, serving with great distinction on both occasions. While visiting France in 1672 he rejects the liberal offers made by Louis XIV to induce him to enter the service of France, and returning to England he adds to his high reputation by his conduct during the Battle of Texel in August 1673. From 1677 until 1679, he serves alongside his father as a Lord of the Admiralty.

Butler is intimate with William II, Prince of Orange, and in 1677 he joins the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British contingent and winning great fame at the siege of Mons in 1678. He acts as deputy for his father, who is Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1680 he is appointed governor of English Tangier, but his death prevents him from taking up his new duties.

Butler dies on July 30, 1680 at Arlington House in London. He is buried provisionally in Westminster Abbey on July 31, 1680. The ceremony of burial is performed belatedly on November 13, 1680. Some say his body is later taken to Ireland and reburied in the family vault in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. James, his eldest son, succeeds him as the 7th Earl of Ossory and becomes the 2nd Duke of Ormond in 1688.

(Pictured: “Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory,” painting by Peter Lely, circa 1678, Source: National Portrait Gallery)


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Death of Pat Gillen, Irish D-Day Survivor

pat-gillenFormer Commando Pat Gillen, one of the last surviving Irish D-Day veterans, dies at the age of 89 at his home in Cork, County Cork on December 27, 2014. He is among the first wave of troops to land on Sword Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

A rifleman in the 6 Commando unit charged with securing the strategically important Pegasus Bridge near Caen, Gillen is never injured despite making a six-mile trek through marshland from the beach to Caen and spending weeks in the trenches at Saulnier. More than half his brigade falls in the face of vicious fire from German forces.

On his return to Ireland, Gillen applies for a job as a male stenographer with Ford Motor Company in Cork, where the company’s first plant outside the United States employs thousands of workers in the 1930s. Having studied Pitman shorthand, typing and bookkeeping at school, he is called for an interview that includes a shorthand test in which the only word “I could just not get right was carburetor.”

Not alone does Gillen land the job with the U.S. car and tractor firm, he also meets Rita, the daughter of his B&B landlady, whom he marries two years later. Blessed with a lively sense of humour, he has a natural flair for getting on with people and is assigned to Ford’s public relations division.

Gillen’s ease when dealing with journalists is an attribute that serves him well during an 11-year spell as Ford’s press officer, especially in the turbulent times leading up to its decision to close the Cork manufacturing plant in 1984, when he also retires after 38 years with the company.

A witty, unassuming man, Gillen’s abiding interests are gardening, his twelve grandchildren, the FCA, and letter-writing to wartime comrades, a practice he keeps up until weeks before his death.

On December 8, 2014, just over two weeks before his death and surrounded by his family in an emotional ceremony at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork, Gillen is presented with the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French ambassador to Ireland, Jean-Pierre Thébault, in recognition of his courage and gallantry in the liberation of France. It is the highest French honour.

With characteristic generosity, Gillen dedicates the medal to fellow countrymen, including two cousins who fought in but did not survive World War II. “This award is as much theirs as mine,” he said. “By the grace of God, I survived to be here today while many of my friends sleep in the fields of France.”

At the time of his passing Gillen is surrounded by his family. Predeceased by Rita, he is survived by their four children, Robin, Mary, Patricia, and Gerard, his sister, Mary, and brothers Michael (“Chick”), Liam and Bobby. His sister Angela Scully also predeceases him.

(From: D-Day veteran who became Ford’s PR man in Cork, The Irish Times, January 17, 2015)