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


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Birth of Michael Kelly Lawler, United States Army Officer

Michael Kelly Lawler, a volunteer militia soldier in the Black Hawk War (1831–32), an officer in the United States Army in both the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War, is born on November 16, 1814, in Monasterevin, County Kildare. As a brigadier general in the American Civil War, he commands a brigade of infantry in the Western Theater and serves in several battles.

Born to John Lawler and Elizabeth Kelly, they move to the United States four years later and settle initially in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1819, they move to rural Gallatin County, Illinois. On December 20, 1837 Lawler marries Elizabeth Crenshaw. He receives an appointment as a captain in the Mexican-American War and commands two companies in separate deployments to Mexico. He first leads a company from Shawneetown, Illinois that guards the supply route from Veracruz to General Winfield Scott‘s army. After the fall of Veracruz his company is discharged. He makes a visit to Washington after which he is asked by Illinois Governor Thomas Ford to organize a company of riflemen. He serves in the campaign to take Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Lawler then returns to his farm in Illinois, where he is residing at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He establishes a thriving mercantile business, dealing in hardware, dry goods, and shoes. He studies law, passes his bar exam, and uses his legal license to help the claims of Mexican War veterans.

In May 1861 Lawler recruits the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and is appointed as its first colonel. His time in command of the regiment in Kentucky and Tennessee is controversial and an “ordeal.” He is wounded during the Battle of Fort Donelson. In November 1862 he is commissioned as a brigadier general, and commands a brigade in the Second Division of the XIII Corps. He fights with distinction in the Vicksburg campaign in 1863. He leads his men in the battles of Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Big Black River Bridge, and the May 22, 1863 general assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi, where troops under his command are the only Union forces to enter the Confederate works at the Railroad Redoubt where they plant the United States flag.

Following the surrender of Jackson, Mississippi, the XIII Corps is split up and divided among other operations in the Western Theater. For the rest of the war, Lawler serves as commander of the 1st Division, XIII Corps in Louisiana in the Department of the Gulf, taking command of the division during the disastrous Red River campaign and leading it on an expedition in June 1864 to secure a crossing of the Atchafalaya River used by Confederate forces.

In the omnibus promotions at the end of the American Civil War, Lawler receives a promotion for distinguished service to major general in the Union army backdated from March 13, 1865. After mustering out of the army in 1866, he returns home and resumes his legal practice and farming near Shawneetown, Illinois.

Lawler dies in Shawneetown on July 22, 1882 and is buried in the Lawler Family Cemetery near Equality, Illinois, at the rear of the Old Slave House property.

A memorial to Lawler stands in Equality, Illinois. He also is honored with a marble bust in Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Chicago renames a street to Lawler Avenue in his memory.


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Kidnapping of Tiede Herrema by the IRA

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiede_Herrema_(1975).jpgDr. Tiede Herrema, chief executive of the Dutch-owned Ferenka factory in Ballyvarra, County Limerick, is kidnapped by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on October 3, 1975. He is a Dutch businessman, born in Zuilen on April 21, 1921.

On the morning of October 3, Herrema is driving from his home in Castletroy, County Limerick, to an early-morning meeting at the Ferenka steel plant when he is abducted by two republicans, Marion Coyle and Eddie Gallagher.

Herrema, invariably referred to thereafter as “the Dutch industrialist,” had been dispatched by the parent company in his native Netherlands to troubleshoot the strike-ridden factory, which employs 1,200 at a time when the Irish economy is reeling from the oil crisis and six years of Northern Ireland troubles.

The kidnappers, banking that Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave’s government will quietly cave in, so as not to scare off other foreign investors, threatens to execute Herrema in 48 hours unless it releases republican prisoners Rose Dugdale, Kevin Mallon (a friend of Coyle’s) and James Hyland. It is the start of a 36-day ordeal for Herrema and his family, sparking the biggest manhunt in the State’s history.

Two weeks later a tape of Herrema’s voice is released, accompanied by demands for a £2 million ransom and a flight to the Middle East. After 18 days the kidnappers are traced to a terraced house in Monasterevin, County Kildare.

When Gardaí smashes the front door down the kidnappers retreat to the house’s box room, where they hole up with the hostage in a stand-off that lasts 18 days, with the world’s media camped outside.

After several days without food or water the kidnappers begin to accept supplies, as well as underpants and a chamber pot, hoisted up in a shopping basket. On day 18, Gallagher claims to be getting severe headaches and neck cramps, which Herrema takes as a sign that he is seeking a way out. Soon afterwards the kidnappers throw their guns out of a window and surrender. Herrema leaves Ireland soon thereafter.

Coyle was sentenced to 15 years, of which she serves nine. Gallagher serves 14 years of his 20-year sentence. In 1978 Gallagher and Dugdale become the first convicted prisoners in the State’s history to be married behind bars.

Herrema eventually returns to Ireland to present an episode of Saturday Live. He and his wife Elizabeth are made honorary Irish citizens in 1975, and he is made a Freeman of the city of Limerick. In 2005, he donates his personal papers to the University of Limerick.

(Pictured: Tiede Herrema (1975) by Rob Bogaerts/Anefo, Nationaal Archief, copyright: http://proxy.handle.net/10648/ac768a7c-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84)


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The 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup

gordon-bennett-cup-1903The Gordon Bennett Cup takes place on July 2, 1903, becoming the first international motor race to be held in Ireland. The race is sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald. Under the rules, the races are hosted in the country of the previous year’s winner. Selwyn Edge had won the 1902 event in the ParisVienna race driving a car manufactured by D. Napier & Son.

The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland want the race to be hosted in the British Isles, and their secretary, Claude Johnson, suggests Ireland as the venue because racing is illegal on British public roads. The editor of the Dublin Motor News, Richard J. Mecredy, suggests an area in County Kildare, and letters are sent to 102 Irish MPs, 90 Irish peers, 300 newspapers, 34 chairmen of county and local councils, 34 County secretaries, 26 mayors, 41 railway companies, 460 hoteliers, 13 PPs, plus the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Patrick Foley, who pronounces himself in favour.

Local laws have to be adjusted, ergo the ‘Light Locomotives (Ireland) Bill’ is passed on March 27, 1903. Kildare and other local councils draw attention to their areas, while Queen’s County (now County Laois) declares that every facility will be given and the roads placed at the disposal of motorists during the proposed race. Eventually Kildare is chosen, partly on the grounds that the straightness of the roads will be a safety benefit. As a compliment to Ireland the British team chooses to race in Shamrock green which thus becomes known as British racing green, although the winning Napier of 1902 had been painted Olive green.

There is considerable public concern about safety after the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux Rally, in which at least eight people had been killed, and severe crashes during the May 24, 1903 Paris-Madrid race where more than 200 cars competed over a distance of 800 miles but which had to be halted at Bordeaux because there had been so many fatalities. To allay these fears, the 1903 race is held over a closed course which is carefully prepared for the event, and is marshaled by 7,000 police officers assisted by troops and club stewards, with strict instructions to keep spectators off the roads and away from corners. The route consists of two loops that comprise a figure of eight, the first being a 52-mile loop that includes Kilcullen, the Curragh, Kildare, Monasterevin, Ballydavis (Port Laoise), Stradbally and Athy, followed by a 40-mile loop through Castledermot, Carlow, and Athy again. The race starts at the Ballyshannon cross-roads near Calverstown.

The official timekeeper of the race is T. H. Woolen of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. Ninety one chronographs for timing the race are supplied by the Anglo-Swiss firm Stauffer Son & Co. of La Chaux-de-Fonds and London. Competitors are started at seven-minute intervals and have to follow bicycles through the “control zones” in each town. The 328-mile race is won by the famous Belgian Camille Jenatzy, driving a Mercedes in German colours.