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


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Death of Thomas Dongan, Governor of the Province of New York

Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, a member of the Irish Parliament, Royalist military officer during the English Civil War, and Governor of the Province of New York, dies in London on December 14, 1715. He is noted for having called the first representative legislature in New York and for granting the province’s Charter of Liberties.

Dongan is born in 1634 into an old Gaelic Norman (Irish Catholic) family in Castletown Kildrought (now Celbridge), County Kildare. He is the seventh and youngest son of Sir John Dongan, Baronet, Member of the Irish Parliament, and his wife Mary Talbot, daughter of Sir William Talbot, 1st Baronet and Alison Netterville. As Stuart supporters, following the overthrow of King Charles I, the family goes to King Louis XIV‘s France, although they manage to hold onto at least part of their Irish estates. His family gives their name to the Dongan Dragoons, a premier military regiment.

While in France, Dongan serves in an Irish regiment with Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount of Turenne. He stays in France after the Restoration and achieves the rank of colonel in 1674.

After the Treaty of Nijmegen ends the Franco-Dutch War in 1678, Dongan returns to England in obedience to the order that recalls all English subjects fighting in service to France. Fellow officer James, Duke of York, arranges to have him granted a high-ranking commission in the army designated for service in Flanders and a pension. That same year, he is appointed Lieutenant-Governor of English Tangier, which had been granted to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. He serves as part of the Tangier Garrison which defends the settlement.

In September 1682, James, Lord Proprietor of the Province of New York, appoints Dongan as Vice-admiral in the Navy and provincial governor (1683–1688) to replace Edmund Andros. James also grants him an estate on Staten Island. The estate eventually becomes the town of Castleton. Later, another section of the island is named Dongan Hills in honour of Dongan.

Dongan lands in Boston on August 10, 1683, crosses Long Island Sound, and passes through the small settlements in the eastern part of the island as he makes his way to Fort James, arriving on August 25.

At the time of Dongan’s appointment, the province is bankrupt and in a state of rebellion. He is able to restore order and stability. On October 14, 1683, he convenes the first-ever representative assembly in New York history at Fort James. The New York General Assembly, under the wise supervision of Dongan, passes an act entitled “A Charter of Liberties.” It decrees that the supreme legislative power under the Duke of York shall reside in a governor, council, and the people convened in general assembly; confers upon the members of the assembly rights and privileges making them a body coequal to and independent of the British Parliament; establishes town, county, and general courts of justice; solemnly proclaims the right of religious liberty; and passes acts enunciating certain constitutional liberties; right of suffrage; and no martial law or quartering of the soldiers without the consent of the inhabitants.

Dongan soon incurs the ill will of William Penn who is negotiating with the Iroquois for the purchase of the upper Susquehanna Valley. Dongan goes to Albany, and declares that the sale would be “prejudicial to His Highness’s interests.” The Cayugas sell the property to New York with the consent of the Mohawk. Years later, when back in England and in favor at the Court of James, Penn uses his influence to prejudice the king against Dongan.

On July 22, 1686 Governor Dongan grants Albany a municipal charter. Almost identical in form to the charter awarded to New York City just three months earlier, the Albany charter is the result of negotiations conducted between royal officials and Robert Livingston and Pieter Schuyler. The charter incorporates the city of Albany, establishing a separate municipal entity in the midst of the Van Rensselaer Manor.

Dongan establishes the boundary lines of the province by settling disputes with Connecticut on the east, with the French Governor of Canada on the north, and with Pennsylvania on the south, thus marking out the present limits of New York State.

James later consolidates the colonial governments of New York, New Jersey and the United Colonies of New England into the Dominion of New England and appoints Edmund Andros, the former Governor-General of New York, as Governor-General. Dongan transfers his governorship back to Andros on August 11, 1688.

Dongan executes land grants establishing several towns throughout New York State including the eastern Long Island communities of East Hampton and Southampton. These grants, called the Dongan Patents, set up Town Trustees as the governing bodies with a mission of managing common land for common good. The Dongan Patents still hold force of law and have been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States with the Trustees—rather than town boards, city councils or even the State Legislature—still managing much of the common land in the state.

Dongan lives in London for the last years of his life and dies on December 14, 1715. He is buried in the St. Pancras Old Church churchyard, London.

(Pictured: Portrait of Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, from Castleton Manor, Staten Island licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)


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Birth of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde

James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde, is born at Clerkenwell, London on October 19, 1610. An Anglo-Irish Protestant, he is the leading agent of English royal authority in Ireland during much of the period from the beginning of the English Civil War (1642–1651) to the Glorious Revolution (1688–1689).

Butler is born into the prominent Butler family, the eldest child of Thomas Butler and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. He grows up in England and succeeds to the earldom of Ormonde in 1633. That same year he begins his active career in Ireland by offering his services to Lord Deputy of Ireland Thomas Wentworth, later Earl of Strafford. Upon the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 in Ireland, he is appointed a lieutenant general in the English army. He defeats the rebels of the Catholic confederacy at Kilrush, Munster on April 15, 1642 and at New Ross, Leinster on March 18, 1643. Those triumphs, however, do not prevent the confederates from overrunning most of the country.

Butlers’s attempts to conclude a peace are blocked by a Catholic faction that advocates complete independence for Ireland. The situation deteriorates further and, in July 1647, he departs from Ireland, leaving the Protestant cause in the hands of the parliamentarians, who had defeated King Charles I in the first English Civil War (1642–1646).

Returning to Ireland in September 1648, Butler concludes a peace with the confederacy in January 1649. He then rallies Protestant royalists and Catholic confederates in support of Charles II, son and successor of Charles I. For several months most of Ireland is under his control. But the parliamentarian general Oliver Cromwell lands at Dublin in August 1649 and swiftly conquers the country for Parliament. Butler flees to France and becomes one of Charles II’s closest advisers at his court-in-exile in Paris.

When Charles II returns to England in the Restoration of 1660, Butler, who had urged constitutional rather than military rule, is made commissioner for the treasury and the navy. Appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1662, he makes vigorous attempts to encourage Irish commerce and industry. Nevertheless, his enemies at court persuade Charles to dismiss him in 1669. He is restored to royal favour in 1677 and is again appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Although he is created a duke in the English peerage in 1682, he is recalled from Ireland in 1684 as a result of new intrigues at Charles’s court and because of the determination of James, Duke of York, to strengthen his supporters in Ireland.

Butler dies on July 21, 1688 at Kingston Lacy estate, Dorset. He is buried in Westminster Abbey on August 4, 1688. His eldest son, Thomas, 6th Earl of Ossory, predeceases him, but Ossory’s eldest son James succeeds as 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665–1745).

(Pictured: “James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde,” oil on canvas by William Wissing, National Portrait Gallery)


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The Adventurers’ Act Receives Royal Assent

coat-of-arms-of-the-united-kingdomThe Adventurers’ Act, an Act of the Parliament of England which specifies its aim as “the speedy and effectual reducing of the rebels in His Majesty’s Kingdom of Ireland,” receives Royal assent on March 19, 1642.

The Act is passed by the Long Parliament as a way of raising funds to suppress the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which had broken out five months earlier. It invites members of the public to invest £200 for which they will receive 1,000 acres of lands that are to be confiscated from rebels in Ireland. Two and a half million acres of Irish land are set aside by the English government for this purpose. The entire island of Ireland is about 20.9 million acres.

The enactment is done at the request of King Charles in the House of Lords, joined by the House of Commons, and is unanimously accepted without any debate. The Act had been placed before the Houses for inspection but is not formally read into the record. The title of the Act – “An Act for the speedy and effectual reducing of the Rebels, in His Majesty’s Kingdom of Ireland, to their due Obedience to His Majesty, and the Crown of England” – is read aloud to Parliament, followed by the statement: “Le Roy le veult.”

The “Adventurers” are so called because they are risking their money at a time when the Crown has just had to pay for the Bishops’ Wars in 1639–40. “Reducing” the rebels means leading them back to the legal concept of the “King’s Peace.” King Charles cannot subsequently enforce the Act, but it is realised by his political opponents following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649–1653, and forms the main legal basis for the contentious Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652.

Ironically, in May 1642 the Confederate Irish rebels draft the Confederate Oath of Association that recognises Charles as their monarch.

The Adventurers’ Act is extended and amended by three other acts – Lands of Irish Rebels; Adventurers’ Subscriptions Act 1640 (c. 34), Lands of Irish Rebels; Adventurers’ Subscriptions Act 1640 (c. 35), and Irish Rebels Act 1640 (c. 37). All four receive Royal Assent in the summer of 1642, just before the start of the English Civil War, but are usually referred to as 1640 acts, which is the year the Long Parliament started to sit and the 16th year of Charles I’s reign.

In July 1643, Parliament passes the Doubling Ordinance which doubles the allocation of land to anyone who increases their original investment by 25%. The purpose of the Act is twofold, firstly to raise money for Parliament to help suppress the rebellion in Ireland, and secondly to deprive the King of the lands seized from rebels that would be his by prerogative.

To enforce the Acts the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland is launched in 1649. In 1653, Ireland is declared subdued and the lands are allocated to the subscribers in what becomes known as the Cromwellian Settlement.

The Adventurers Act and the other three statutes are repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1950.


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The Battle of Dungan’s Hill

battle-of-dungans-hillThe Battle of Dungan’s Hill takes place in County Meath on August 8, 1647. It is fought between the armies of Confederate Ireland and the Parliament of England during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The battle takes place near the modern village of Summerhill and along the present main road between Trim and Kilcock.

By 1647, The Irish Catholic Confederation controls all of Ireland except for Parliamentarian enclaves around Dublin and Cork and a Scottish outpost in Ulster. The previous year they had rejected a treaty with the English Royalists in favour of eliminating the remaining British forces in Ireland.

In August 1647, the Confederate Leinster army under Thomas Preston is attempting to take Dublin from the English Parliamentarian garrison under Michael Jones, when it is intercepted by the Roundheads and forced to give battle. Jones had marched to Trim to relieve the Parliamentarian outpost there at Trim Castle. Preston, who had been shadowing Jones’ movements, attempts to march on Dublin before Jones’ army returns there, but covers only 12 of the 40 miles before being caught at Dungan’s Hill, where the Confederate forces have to form up for battle.

From a Parliamentarian point of view, victory in this battle is presented to them by the incompetence of the Irish commander. Preston is a veteran of the Thirty Years’ War, where he had been a commander of the Spanish garrison at Leuven, but has no experience in open warfare or handling cavalry. Jones, by contrast, had been a cavalry officer in the English Civil War. As a result, Preston tries to move his cavalry along a narrow covered lane where they are trapped and subjected to enemy fire without being able to respond. Even worse, Preston has placed a large number of his troops in wheat fields over seven feet tall. As a result these troops are unable to see the Parliamentarians until it is too late. With the Confederate army spread out and in confusion, Jones’ troops fall in amongst them causing the demoralised Irish cavalry to flee the field, leaving the remainder of Preston’s infantry unsupported.

The Confederate army’s infantry are primarily equipped with pikes and heavy muskets and trained to stand in tercios in the Spanish manner. This means they are difficult to break, but also highly immobile, without cavalry to cover their cumbersome formation when it moves. What is worse, Preston has positioned them in a large walled field, so that when their cavalry has run away, the Parliamentarians can surround and trap them. Some of the Irish infantry, Scottish Highlanders brought to Ireland by Alasdair Mac Colla, manage to charge and break through Jones’ men and escape into a nearby bog, where the English cavalry could not follow. Preston and 2,000 to 3,000 of his regular infantry manage to follow the Highlanders to safety, but the remainder are trapped.

What happens next is disputed. The Irish infantry manages to hold off several assaults on their position, before trying to follow their comrades into the safety of the bog. This makes them lose their formation and the Parliamentarians get in amongst them and then surround them in the bogland. Parliamentarian accounts simply say that the Irish force is then destroyed. Irish accounts, however, claim that the Confederate troops surrender and are then massacred. One account, by a Catholic friar named O Meallain, says that the corpses of the Irish foot soldiers are found with their hands tied. A recent study suggests that the Irishmen probably tried to surrender, but that, according to the conventions of 17th century warfare, this had to be accepted before it entitled them to safety. In this case, it was not accepted and the infantrymen were butchered.

Around 3,000 Confederate troops and a small number of Parliamentarians die at Dungan’s Hill. One of the English regimental commanders, Colonel Anthony Hungerford, is shot in the mouth, a wound that invalids him out of the English Army. Most of the dead are Irish infantrymen killed in the last stage of the battle. Those prisoners who are taken are mainly officers, whom the Parliamentarians can either ransom or exchange for prisoners of their own. Richard Talbot, a junior cavalry officer but later Earl of Tyrconnell and Lord Deputy of Ireland, is among the Confederate prisoners.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Owen Roe O’Neill‘s Ulster Army marches through the pass of Portlester Mill to mount an effective rearguard action, routing Jones’ advanced brigade and enabling the survivors of the Leinster army to escape. Jones, fearing O’Neills army, does not continue the pursuit and returns to Dublin. O’Neill and his Ulstermen return four months later to bury the dead Confederates.


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The Siege of Derry Begins

siege-of-derryThe Siege of Derry, the first major event in the Williamite War in Ireland, begins on April 18, 1689. The siege lasts nearly three and a half months, ending on July 30, 1689 when relief ships bringing the English Army sail down Lough Foyle.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 is a relatively bloodless revolution in which James II, King of England, Ireland and Scotland and a Roman Catholic convert, is ousted from power by the Parliament of England. The English throne is then offered to his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William III of England, also known as William of Orange. In Scotland, the privy council asks William III to assume responsibility for the government in January 1689, and he and Mary are formally offered the Scottish throne in March. The situation is different in Ireland where most of the population are Catholics. Irish Catholics are hoping that James will re-grant them lands, which had been seized from them after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53). James thus looks to Ireland to muster support in regaining his kingdoms just as his father, Charles I, had done in the English Civil War of the 1640s.

On December 10, James flees London. He is caught but flees a second time on December 23 and makes his way to France. On March 12, James I lands in Kinsale with 6,000 French soldiers. He takes Dublin and marches north with an army of Irish and French Catholics.

In April 1689 reinforcements from England arrive under the command of Colonel John Cunningham, who is a native of the city. He is under instructions to take his orders from the Derry City Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy. Lundy advises Colonel Cunningham to leave as arrangements have been made for the city to be surrendered. Lundy calls a meeting with several of his most loyal supporters to discuss surrender. News of the meeting spread, angering many of the citizens. That night, Lundy and many others leave the city and board a ship to Scotland. The city’s defence is overseen by Major Henry Baker, Colonel Adam Murray, and Major George Walker, also an Anglican priest. Their slogan is “No Surrender.”

As the Jacobite army nears, all the buildings outside the city walls are set alight by the defenders to prevent them being used as cover by the besiegers.

The Jacobite army reaches Derry on April 18. James and his retinue ride to within 300 yards of Bishop’s Gate and demand the surrender of the city. He is rebuffed with shouts of “No surrender!” and some of the city’s defenders fire at him. James asks for surrender three more times but is refused each time. This marks the beginning of the siege. Cannon and mortar fire are exchanged and disease takes hold within the city. James returns to Dublin and leaves his forces under the command of Richard Hamilton.

Royal Navy warships under Admiral George Rooke arrive in Lough Foyle on June 11, but initially decline to ram through the heavily defended defensive boom across the River Foyle at Culmore.

On July 28, two armed merchant ships, Mountjoy and Phoenix, sail toward the boom, protected by the frigate HMS Dartmouth under Captain John Leake. Mountjoy rams and breaches the boom, and the ships move in, unloading many tons of food to relieve the siege. The city had endured 105 days of siege during which some 4,000 Protestants of a population of 8,000 are said to have died.

The siege is commemorated yearly by the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry who stage the week-long Maiden City Festival culminating in a parade around the walls of the city by local members, followed by a parade of the city by the full Association. Although violence has attended these parades in the past, those in recent years have been largely peaceful.

The song “Derry’s Walls” is written to commemorate the siege.


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Birth of Actor Richard Harris

richard-harrisRichard St. John Harris, actor, singer, songwriter, producer, director, and writer, is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on October 1, 1930. He is brought up in a middle class and staunchly Roman Catholic family.

Harris is schooled by the Jesuits at Crescent College. He is a talented rugby player, however his athletic career is cut short when he comes down with tuberculosis in his teens. After recovering from tuberculosis, Harris moves to Britain, wanting to become a director. Unable to find any suitable training courses, he enrolls in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to learn acting.

Harris makes his film debut in 1958 in the film Alive and Kicking, and plays the lead role in The Ginger Man in the West End in 1959. Harris’ first starring role is in the film This Sporting Life (1963), as a bitter young coal miner, Frank Machin, who becomes an acclaimed rugby league football player. For his role, Harris wins Best Actor in 1963 at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination. He also wins notice for his role in Sam Peckinpah‘s Major Dundee (1965), as an Irish immigrant who becomes a Confederate cavalryman during the American Civil War.

Harris performs the role of King Arthur in the film adaptation of the musical play Camelot (1967). He continues to appear on stage in this role for many years, including a successful Broadway run in 1981–1982. In 1970 British exhibitors vote him the 9th most popular star at the UK box office.

Other film performances follow, among them a role as a reluctant police informant in the coal-mining tale The Molly Maguires (1970), also starring Sean Connery. Harris stars in Cromwell (1970), a film based on the life of Oliver Cromwell who leads the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War and, as Lord Protector, ruled Great Britain and Ireland in the 1650s.

Harris’ film career collapses after the late 1970s and in the next decade he is rarely seen on screen, although he continues to act on stage. During his career Harris appears in two films which win the Academy Award for Best Picture. First, as the gunfighter “English Bob” in the Western Unforgiven (1992); second, as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator (2000).

Harris is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in August 2002, reportedly after being hospitalised with pneumonia. He dies at University College Hospital in Fitzrovia, London on October 25, 2002, at the age of 72. He was in a coma in his final three days. Harris’ body is cremated and his ashes are scattered in the Bahamas, where he had owned a home.