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


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Birth of Tom Clifford, Irish Rugby Union Player

Tom Clifford, Irish rugby union player who plays in the prop position, is born in Phippsboro, County Tipperary, on November 15, 1923. Clifford plays club rugby with Young Munster, represents the Munster Rugby provincial team, is capped fourteen times for Ireland, and is a member of the British and Irish Lions team that tours in 1950.

When Clifford is three years old, his family moves to Limerick. He attends CBS Sexton Street secondary school, where he participates in the school hurling team.

Clifford, at the age of fifteen, makes his senior début for Young Munster at fullback in a friendly match against Constitution. He makes his Munster Senior Cup début in 1943 as a wing forward. During his time at the club, Young Munster wins the Munster Senior League on two occasions, 1944 and 1952 and twice reaches the final of the Munster Senior Cup in 1947 and 1948, but loses both times.

Clifford makes his début for Ireland against France at Landsdowne Road on January 29, 1949 in Ireland’s first game of the 1949 Five Nations Championship. He plays in all four of Ireland’s matches in the 1949 tournament which ends with Ireland being crowned the champions and winning the Triple Crown. He also plays in all of Ireland’s games during the 1950 Five Nations Championship.

Clifford is named in the squad for the 1950 British Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia, the first post-war tour by a British Isles combined team and the first where the team is officially called British Lions. The touring party travels by boat, departing in April and not returning until October. Out of the 29 games played during the tour, Clifford is featured in twenty of them, including all five test matches – three against New Zealand and two against Australia. On his return to Limerick, a crowd of around 8,000 people turn out at Limerick railway station to greet him.

The 1951 Five Nations Championship is again won by Ireland, with Clifford playing in the games against France and England. Clifford’s only appearance at home outside of the Five Nations Championship comes in December 1951, as South Africa plays Ireland as part of their European tour. His final international appearances come during the 1952 Five Nations Championship, with his last game being against Wales on March 8.

Clifford retires from playing rugby in 1957. He dies in Phippsboro on October 1, 1990, at the age of 66. Young Munster’s home group, Tom Clifford Park, is named after him.

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Birth of Engineer John Philip Holland

john-philip-hollandJohn Philip Holland, Irish engineer who develops the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, HMS Holland 1, is born on February 24, 1841.

Holland, the second of four siblings, all boys, is born in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, where his father, John Philip Holland, Sr., is a member of the British Coastguard Service. His mother, a native Irish speaker from Liscannor, Máire Ní Scannláin, is John Holland’s second wife. His first wife, Anne Foley Holland, believed to be a native of Kilkee, dies in 1835. The area is heavily Irish-speaking and Holland learns English properly only when he attends the local English-speaking St. Macreehy’s National School, and from 1858, in the Christian Brothers in Ennistymon.

Holland joins the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and teaches in CBS Sexton Street in Limerick and many other centres in the country, including North Monastery CBS in Cork, St. Joseph’s CBS in Drogheda, and as the first Mathematics teacher in Coláiste Rís in Dundalk. Due to ill health, he leaves the Christian Brothers in 1873 and emigrates to the United States. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returns to teaching again for an additional six years in St. John’s Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey.

While a teacher in Cork, Holland reads an account of the battle between the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Merrimack in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War. He realizes that the best way to attack such ships would be through an attack beneath the waterline. He draws a design, but when he attempts to obtain funding, he is turned away. After his arrival in the United States, Holland slips and falls on an icy Boston street and breaks a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he uses his time to refine his submarine designs and is encouraged by a priest, Isaac Whelan.

In 1875, his first submarine designs are submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but are turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, however, continue to fund Holland’s research and development expenses at a level that allows him to resign from his teaching post. In 1881, Fenian Ram is launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians part company on bad terms over the issue of payment within the Fenian organization, and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum in New Jersey.

Holland continues to improve his designs and works on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on May 17, 1897. This is the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. The submarine is purchased by the U.S. Navy on April 11, 1900, after rigorous tests and is commissioned on October 12, 1900 as USS Holland (SS-1). Six more of her type are ordered and built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The company that emerges from under these developments is called The Electric Boat Company, founded on February 7, 1899. Isaac Leopold Rice becomes the company’s first President with Elihu B. Frost acting as vice president and chief financial officer. The company eventually evolves into the major defense contractor General Dynamics.

The USS Holland design is also adopted by others, including the Royal Navy in developing the Holland-class submarine. The Imperial Japanese Navy employs a modified version of the basic design for their first five submarines, although these submarines are at least 10 feet longer at about 63 feet. These submarines are also developed at the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Holland also designs the Holland II and Holland III prototypes. The Royal Navy ‘Holland 1’ is on display at the Submarine Museum in Gosport, England.

After spending 56 of his 73 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland dies on August 12, 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He is interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.