seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Thomas Russell, Founding Member of the Society of United Irishmen

Thomas Paliser Russell, founding member and leading organiser of the Society of United Irishmen, is born in Dromahane, County Cork, on November 21, 1767.

Born into an Anglican family with a military tradition. Russell is intended for an ecclesiastical career in the Church of Ireland, but in 1783 sails with his brother’s regiment to India and fights at the battle of Cannanore. He is, however, disgusted by what he regards as “the unjust and rapacious conduct pursued by the authorities in the case of two native women,” and returns disaffected to Ireland in 1786. After briefly studying for the church ministry, he spends the next four years as a half-pay officer in Dublin pursuing studies of science, philosophy and politics.

In 1790, Russell meets Theobald Wolfe Tone in the visitors’ gallery of the Irish House of Commons and a lifelong friendship begins. At the end of the year, he is commissioned to Belfast as an ensign in the 64th infantry regiment of foot. Being convivial, good looking, charismatic and charming, he fits quickly into Belfast society. He is deeply religious and holds strong millennialist beliefs. On the other hand, he is also of a restless nature, drinks heavily, and is highly promiscuous.

Russell becomes a founder member of the first Society of United Irishmen in Belfast in 1791, writes for the Northern Star, and acts as secretary for the Dublin United Irishmen. He is the most socially radical of all United Irish leaders, an outspoken opponent of slavery and industrial exploitation.

Russell posts bail for a friend in order to secure his release from a debtor’s prison. When the friend defaults, Russell has to sell his ensigncy in July 1791. After several months, and to avoid further debt, he accepts the offer of Thomas Knox, 1st Viscount Northland, the father of an old army friend, to become seneschal (a kind of stipendiary magistrate) to the Northlands’ manor court at Dungannon. However, he resigns within a year, apparently disgusted by the sectarian animosities there. His financial situation worsens until he becomes librarian at the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge (the later Linen Hall Library) in 1794.

Russell is arrested on September 16, 1796, is charged with treason, and detained without trial in Newgate Prison, Dublin, until March 1799. He is then sent to Fort George in the north of Scotland. The longest serving United Irish prisoner, he is released in June 1802 on condition of exile to Hamburg. However, he soon makes his way to Paris where he meets Robert Emmet who, with William Putnam McCabe are advancing the plans for insurrection pending the French renewal of the war against England. Having little confidence in the French, however, he returns to Ireland in March 1803 to organise the North in conjunction with the veteran of the Battle of Antrim, James Hope. However he meets with little success as much of the North is subdued following the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

In 1803 Russell joins a general insurrection that is to take place throughout Ireland with blows being struck simultaneously at Dublin, Belfast, and Downpatrick. Unknown to him, Robert Emmet is unable to secure help and promised firearms. In Dublin after a brief street battle on the evening of July 23, 1803, Emmett calls off the rising.

Russell manages to hide for a number of weeks in Dublin but is caught in the authorities’ dragnet on September 9. He is sent under heavy escort to Downpatrick Gaol. There, convicted of high treason, he is hung and beheaded on October 12, 1803. His remains are buried in the graveyard of the parish church, Down Cathedral, in a grave paid for by his friend Mary Ann McCracken.


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Birth of Robert Lloyd Praeger, Writer & Librarian

Robert Lloyd Praeger, Irish naturalist, writer and librarian, is born on August 25, 1865 in Holywood, County Down, in what is now Northern Ireland.

From a Unitarian background, Praeger is raised in Holywood and attends the school of the Reverend McAlister and then the nearby Sullivan Upper School.

Praeger works in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin from 1893 to 1923. He co-founds and edits The Irish Naturalist, and writes papers on the flora and other aspects of the natural history of Ireland. He organises the Lambay Survey in 1905-06 and, from 1909 to 1915, the wider Clare Island Survey. He is an engineer by qualification, a librarian by profession and a naturalist by inclination.

Praeger is awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1921. He becomes the first President of both An Taisce and the Irish Mountaineering Club in 1948, and serves as President of the Royal Irish Academy for 1931–34.

Praeger is instrumental in developing advanced methodologies in Irish botany by inviting Knud Jessen, the acclaimed Danish expert in Glacial and Post-Glacial flora, to undertake research and teaching in Ireland. This leads to the establishment of ‘paleoecology‘ as a distinct field of study in Ireland.

A vice-county system is adopted by Praeger dividing Ireland into forty vice-counties based on the counties. However, the boundaries between them does not always correspond to the administrative boundaries and there are doubts as to the correct interpretation of them.

Praeger dies on May 5, 1953 and is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery, Dublin, together with his wife Hedwig. His younger sister Rosamond Praeger is a sculptor and botanical artist.

(Pictured: Portrait of Robert Lloyd Praeger by Sarah Cecilia Harrison, National Museums Northern Ireland)


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Birth of David James O’Donoghue, Biographer & Editor

David James O’Donoghue, Irish biographer, editor, and bookseller, is born in Chelsea, London, England on July 22, 1866.

O’Donoghue is born to Irish parents and grows up in the Hans Town area of Chelsea. He is the son of John O’Donoghue, a bricklayer from Kilworth, County Cork, and Bridget Griffin, who is from County Tipperary. He is the third of nine children, and has four brothers, Thomas, John, James, and Edmund, and four sisters, Mary, Ellen, Katherine, and Agnes. He is first an upholsterer‘s apprentice from the age of sixteen before becoming a journalist and author.

O’Donoghue attends a Catholic school and furthers his education at the British Museum. He begins his journalistic work by writing for the Dublin papers upon subjects relating to Irish music, art, and literature. A founder-member of the Irish Literary Society in London, he is also vice president of the National Literary Society, Dublin, and the compiler of a biographical dictionary, The Poets of Ireland (1891–93; revised edition, 1912), with entries on 2,000 authors. His published works also include Irish Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (1894), Humor of Ireland (1894), List of 1300 Irish Artists (1894), The Life and Writings of James Clarence Mangan (1897), Bibliographical Catalogue of Collections of Irish Music (1899), and Geographical Distribution of Irish Ability (1906).

O’Donoghue publishes an edition of James Fintan Lalor‘s writings (1895) and an edition of William Carleton‘s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (four volumes, 1896–97). He edits the works of Samuel Lover (six volumes, 1898–99) and the prose works (1903) and poems (1904) of James Clarence Mangan. He writes biographies on William Carleton (1896), Richard Pockrich (1899), and Robert Emmet (1902).

In 1896 O’Donoghue moves to Dublin. In 1909 he becomes librarian of University College Dublin. He is co-editor of Catalogue of the Gilbert Library (in Dublin; 1918). William Butler Yeats writes of him in his Autobiographies of William Butler Yeats (1938).

O’Donoghue dies suddenly on June 27, 1917 at his home on Auburn Avenue, Donnybrook, Dublin. He is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.