seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of David Moriarty, Bishop & Pulpit Orator

david-moriartyDavid Moriarty, Irish Roman Catholic bishop and pulpit orator, is born in Ardfert, County Kerry on August 18, 1814.

Moriarty is the son of David Moriarty and Bridget Stokes. He receives his early education in a classical school of his native Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and later is sent to Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France. From there he passes to Maynooth College and, after a distinguished course in theology, is elected to the Dunboyne establishment, where he spends two years.

While yet a young priest Moriarty is chosen by the episcopal management of the Irish College in Paris, as vice-president of that institution, a position he occupies for about four years. So satisfactory is his work that, on the death of Father John Hand, he is appointed President of All Hallows College in Dublin, and for years guides, fashions, and makes effective the discipline and teaching of that well known institution. It is during this time he gives evidence of the noble oratory, so chaste, elevated, various and convincing, that has come to be associated with his name.

In 1854 Moriarty is appointed coadjutor, with the right of succession, to the bishopric of Ardfert and Aghadoe, as titular bishop of the Diocese of Antigonea. Two years later he succeeds to his native see. His work as bishop is testified to by several churches and schools, a diocesan college St. Brendan’s College, Killarney in 1860 and many conventual establishments. He finds time to conduct retreats for priests and his addresses which have come down to us under the title “Allocutions to the Clergy” are characterized by profound thought, expressed in an elevated and oratorical style.

In his political views Moriarty runs counter to much of the popular feeling of the time, and is a notable opponent of the Fenian organization, which he denounces strongly, particularly following the uprising in 1867 in his diocese where in an infamous sermon he attacks the Fenian leadership brandishing them criminals, swindlers and God’s heaviest curse. He also declares that “when we look down into the fathomless depth of this infamy of the heads of the Fenian conspiracy, we must acknowledge that eternity is not long enough, nor hell hot enough to punish such miscreants.” Despite this, however, he claims to admire Daniel O’Connell.

While most republicans attempt to work around the hostility of the high clergy of the Roman Church and the fire and brimstone rhetoric of the likes of Moriarty, out of sensitivity to the religious tendencies of the Irish majority, one Fenian by the name of John O’Neill, dares to fire back. O’Neill retorts, “It is better to be in hell with Fionn than in heaven with pale and flimsy angels.”

Moriarty’s principal works are “Allocutions to the Clergy” and two volumes of sermons.

David Moriarty dies on October 1, 1877.


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The Battle of Ridgeway

battle-of-ridgewayThe Battle of Ridgeway, sometimes called the Battle of Lime Ridge or Limestone Ridge, is fought on June 2, 1866 in the vicinity of the town of Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York between Canadian troops and an irregular army of Irish American invaders, the Fenians.

The Fenian insurgents, led by Brigadier General John O’Neill, a former Union cavalry commander who had specialized in anti-guerrilla warfare in Ohio, secures boats and transfers some 800 men across the Niagara River, landing above Fort Erie, before dawn on June 1, 1866. An additional 200–400 Fenians and supplies cross later in the morning and early afternoon until the U.S. Navy gunboat, the USS Michigan, begins intercepting Fenian barges at 2:20 PM.

O’Neill spends the first day trying to rally the local citizenry to the Fenian cause and to commandeer supplies for his mission, but his force is plagued by desertions almost from the outset. An additional column of 200 Fenians join his group, bringing his total strength at Ridgeway to at least 650 men.

Meanwhile, the British are mobilizing both local Canadian militia and British garrison troops to defend against the impending invasion of Canada. The Fenians night-march north across Black Creek through a cedar swamp, then turn inland on Ridge Road on the morning of June 2, taking up a defensive position on Limestone Ridge near the present Canadian town of Ridgeway. There, they clash with 850 advancing Canadian militia commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Booker of the 13th Battalion.

In the first hour of the battle, the Canadians appear to prevail, driving Fenian skirmishers back across Bertie Road. Then the tide turns and, to this day, it is not clear what causes the impending chaos. O’Neill, observing the chaos breaking out in the Canadian ranks, quickly orders a bayonet charge that completely routs the inexperienced Canadians. The Fenians take and briefly hold the town of Ridgeway. Then, expecting to be overwhelmed by British reinforcements, they quickly turn back to Fort Erie where they fight a second battle, the Battle of Fort Erie, against a small but determined detachment of Canadians holding the town.

The Canadian loss is nine killed on the field, four dying of wounds in the immediate days following the battle, 22 dying of wounds or disease later and 37 are wounded, some severely enough to require amputation of their limbs. O’Neill says that four or five of his men are killed, but Canadians claim to have found six Fenian bodies on the field. The relatively low casualty figures make this an interesting battle for proponents of theories about soldiers’ reluctance to shoot to kill, but might also be accounted for by the fact that the Fenians had deployed only their skirmishers in an attempt to lure the Canadians towards their main force which did not advance until the last minutes of the battle when they launched a bayonet attack that broke Canadian lines.

The battlefield is designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1921 and is the last battle fought in the province of Ontario against a foreign invasion. The action at Ridgeway has the distinction of being the only armed victory for the cause of Irish independence between the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the Irish War of Independence (1919).

(Pictured: An 1869 illustration of the battle: Charge of General O’Neill’s Fenians upon the Canadian troops, causing their rout.)