seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Revolutionary, Physician, Writer & Diplomat

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, writer, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist of Spanish-Irish descent, dies in La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia, on October 9, 1967. After his execution by the Bolivian army, he is regarded as a martyred hero by generations of leftists worldwide, and his image becomes an icon of leftist radicalism and anti-imperialism.

Guevara is born on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a middle-class family of Spanish-Irish descent and leftist leanings. Although suffering from asthma, he excels as an athlete and a scholar, completing his medical studies in 1953. He spends many of his holidays traveling in Latin America, and his observations of the great poverty of the masses contributes to his eventual conclusion that the only solution lay in violent revolution. He comes to look upon Latin America not as a collection of separate nations but as a cultural and economic entity, the liberation of which would require an intercontinental strategy.

In particular, Guevara’s worldview is changed by a nine-month journey he begins in December 1951, while on hiatus from medical school, with his friend Alberto Granado. That trip, which begins on a motorcycle they call “the Powerful” (which breaks down and is abandoned early in the journey), takes them from Argentina through Chile, Peru, Colombia, and on to Venezuela, from which Guevara travels alone on to Miami, returning to Argentina by plane. During the trip he keeps a journal that is posthumously published under his family’s guidance as The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey (2003) and adapted to film as The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).

In 1953 Guevara goes to Guatemala, where Jacobo Árbenz heads a progressive regime that is attempting to bring about a social revolution. It is about this time he acquires his nickname, from a verbal mannerism of Argentines who punctuate their speech with the interjection “che.” The overthrow of the Árbenz regime in 1954 in a coup supported by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) persuades him that the United States will always oppose progressive leftist governments. This becomes the cornerstone of his plans to bring about socialism by means of a worldwide revolution. It is in Guatemala that he becomes a dedicated Marxist.

Guevara leaves Guatemala for Mexico, where he meets the Cuban brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro, political exiles who are preparing an attempt to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. He joins Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, which lands a force of 81 men (including Guevara) in the Cuban Oriente Province on December 2, 1956. Immediately detected by Batista’s army, they are almost wiped out. The few survivors, including the wounded Guevara, reach the Sierra Maestra, where they become the nucleus of a guerrilla army. The rebels slowly gain in strength, seizing weapons from Batista’s forces and winning support and new recruits. Guevara had initially come along as the force’s doctor, but he has also trained in weapons use, and he becomes one of Castro’s most-trusted aides. Indeed, the complex Guevara, though trained as a healer, also, on occasion, acts as the executioner (or orders the execution) of suspected traitors and deserters.

After Castro’s victorious troops enter Havana on January 8, 1959, Guevara serves for several months at La Cabaña prison, where he oversees the executions of individuals deemed to be enemies of the revolution. He becomes a Cuban citizen, as prominent in the newly established Marxist government as he had been in the revolutionary army, representing Cuba on many commercial missions. He also becomes well known in the West for his opposition to all forms of imperialism and neocolonialism and for his attacks on U.S. foreign policy. He serves as chief of the Industrial Department of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, president of the National Bank of Cuba (famously demonstrating his disdain for capitalism by signing currency simply “Che”), and Minister of Industries.

During the early 1960s, Guevara defines Cuba’s policies and his own views in many speeches and writings, notably “El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba” (1965; “Man and Socialism in Cuba,” 1967), an examination of Cuba’s new brand of communism, and a highly influential manual, La guerra de guerrillas (1960; Guerrilla Warfare, 1961). The last book includes his delineation of his foco theory (foquismo), a doctrine of revolution in Latin America drawn from the experience of the Cuban Revolution and predicated on three main tenets: 1) guerrilla forces are capable of defeating the army; 2) all the conditions for making a revolution do not have to be in place to begin a revolution, because the rebellion itself can bring them about; and 3) the countryside of underdeveloped Latin America is suited for armed combat.

Guevara expounds a vision of a new socialist citizen who would work for the good of society rather than for personal profit, a notion he embodies through his own hard work. Often he sleeps in his office, and, in support of the volunteer labour program he had organized, he spends his day off working in a sugarcane field. He grows increasingly disheartened, however, as Cuba becomes a client state of the Soviet Union, and he feels betrayed by the Soviets when they remove their missiles from the island without consulting the Cuban leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He begins looking to the People’s Republic of China and its leader Mao Zedong for support and as an example.

In December 1964 Guevara travels to New York City, where he condemns U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs and incursions into Cuban airspace in an address to the United Nations General Assembly. Back in Cuba, increasingly disillusioned with the direction of the Cuban social experiment and its reliance on the Soviets, he begins focusing his attention on fostering revolution elsewhere. After April 1965 he drops out of public life. His movements and whereabouts for the next two years remain secret. It is later learned that he had traveled to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo with other Cuban guerrilla fighters in what proved to be a futile attempt to help the Patrice Lumumba battalion, which was fighting a civil war there. During that period he resigns his ministerial position in the Cuban government and renounces his Cuban citizenship. After the failure of his efforts in the Congo, he flees first to Tanzania and then to a safe house in a village near Prague.

In the autumn of 1966 Guevara goes to Bolivia, incognito (beardless and bald), to create and lead a guerrilla group in the region of Santa Cruz. After some initial combat successes, he and his guerrilla band find themselves constantly on the run from the Bolivian army. On October 9, 1967, the group is almost annihilated by a special detachment of the Bolivian army aided by CIA advisers. Guevara, who is wounded in the attack, is captured and shot. Before his body disappears to be secretly buried, his hands are cut off. They are preserved in formaldehyde so that his fingerprints can be used to confirm his identity.

In 1995 one of Guevara’s biographers, Jon Lee Anderson, announces that he had learned that Guevara and several of his comrades had been buried in a mass grave near the town of Vallegrande in central Bolivia. In 1997 a skeleton that is believed be that of the revolutionary and the remains of his six comrades are disinterred and transported to Cuba to be interred in a massive memorial and monument in Santa Clara on the 30th anniversary of Guevara’s death. In 2007 a French and a Spanish journalist make a case that the body brought to Cuba is not actually Guevara’s. The Cuban government refutes the claim, citing scientific evidence from 1997 that, it says, proves that the remains are those of Guevara.

Guevara would live on as a powerful symbol, bigger in some ways in death than in life. He is almost always referenced simply as Che — like Elvis Presley, so popular an icon that his first name alone is identifier enough. Many on the political right condemn him as brutal, cruel, murderous, and all too willing to employ violence to reach revolutionary ends. On the other hand, his romanticized image as a revolutionary looms especially large for the generation of young leftist radicals in Western Europe and North America in the turbulent 1960s. Almost from the time of his death, his whiskered face adorns T-shirts and posters. Framed by a red-star-studded beret and long hair, his face frozen in a resolute expression, the iconic image is derived from a photo taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, at a ceremony for those killed when a ship that had brought arms to Havana exploded. At first the image of Che is worn as a statement of rebellion, then as the epitome of radical chic, and, with the passage of time, as a kind of abstract logo whose original significance may even have been lost on its wearer, though for some he remains an enduring inspiration for revolutionary action.


Leave a comment

Birth of John Treacy, Olympian & Former Athlete

John Treacy, Irish Olympian and former athlete, now a sporting administrator, is born in Villierstown, County Waterford, on June 4, 1957.

Treacy attends St. Anne’s Post-Primary School in Cappoquin, County Waterford, running more than seven miles to school every morning. He graduates from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1978 and 1979 he wins the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Glasgow, Scotland and Limerick respectively.

Treacy is known as a tenacious runner who does not have an especially sharp final kick in track races. In the 1978 European Athletics Championships in Prague, he places 11th in the fast 10,000-metre race and fourth in the slow and tactical 5,000-metre race, losing to Italy‘s Venanzio Ortis by just three tenths of a second. In the 5,000-metre final, he lingers behind Great Britain‘s Nick Rose on the final back straight just after Rose drops from the lead group.

In the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Treacy collapses in his 10,000-metre heat with only 200 metres left, a victim of heat paralysis and dehydration. Because he was running in fourth place when he collapses and because only the top four runners qualify directly for the final from the three heats, his collapse allows Finnish four-time Olympic champion Lasse Virén, who had been trailing him, to qualify directly for the final. Having recovered from his heat-induced collapse, Treacy places seventh in the 5,000-metre final of those Olympics.

In the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland, Treacy is eliminated in the 10,000-metre heats.

In the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, Treacy places ninth in the 10,000-metre final before crowning his athletics career with a silver medal in the men’s marathon. Winner Carlos Lopes of Portugal is largely unchallenged for much of the race, with Treacy down the field until entering the top six around the 20-kilometre mark. He continues to work his way up the rankings until entering Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum just behind second-place English athlete Charlie Spedding. He overtakes Spedding with 150m to go, during which the Irish television commentary of Jimmy Magee lists the previous Irish Olympic medal winners up to that time, before culminating, “And for the 13th time, an Olympic medal goes to John Treacy from Villierstown in Waterford, the little man with the big heart.” His silver medal places Ireland 33rd on the medals table.

After the Los Angeles Olympics, Treacy runs competitively until 1995, retiring following a road race held in his honour in Waterford, attended by the other two medalists from the 1984 Olympic marathon, Carlos Lopes and Charlie Spedding. While he does not win any more major international championships medals, he does win the 1992 Los Angeles Marathon. At the 1986 European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart, he places sixth in the 10,000-metre race. In the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome, he places twenty-sixth in the 10,000-metre race and thirteenth in the 5,000-metre final. He fails to finish the marathon at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and places 51st in his final Olympic games, the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. He wins the 1993 Dublin Marathon.

Treacy is currently chief executive of Sport Ireland, a statutory authority that oversees, and partly funds, the development of sport within Ireland . He is married to Fionnuala and they have four children: Caoimhe, Deirdre, Sean, and Conor.


Leave a comment

Birth of Albert Rosen, Czech/Irish-Naturalized Conductor

Albert Rosen, Austrian-born and Czech/Irish-naturalised conductor associated with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the Wexford Festival Opera, the National Theatre in Prague and J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen), is born in Vienna on February 14, 1924. He has a strong affinity with the works of Czech composers such as Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, and Leoš Janáček.

Rosen’s mother is Czech, while his father’s family is Austrian-Jewish. After Anschluss of Austria in 1938 they move to Bratislava, and after the Slovak version of Nuremberg Laws comes to force in September 1941, he escapes discrimination and genocide via the Danube and the sea to Israel (then Mandatory Palestine). There he works in the Shaʽar_HaGolan kibbutz, manually and as an amateur chorus master, until 1945, when he returns to Bratislava.

In 1946–47 Rosen studies piano, composition and conducting at the Vienna Academy of Music with Joseph Marx and Hans Swarowsky, and continues to study conducting at the Prague Conservatory under Pavel Dědeček and Alois Klíma (1947–48). He starts his career in J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen) as a correpetiteur, assistant conductor and chorus master (1949–52) and conductor (1953–59), participating on the production of 11 operas, 19 ballets and, as the composer of stage music, 17 dramas. In 1960 he is engaged by National Theatre in Prague, to be appointed in 1964 the chief conductor of Smetana Theatre, the National Theatre’s opera stage. He holds this position until 1971, conducting 11 ballets and 9 opera productions.

In 1965 Rosen comes to Ireland for the first time to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra (under its former name, the Radio Telefís Éireann Symphony Orchestra) at the Wexford Festival. This leads to regular appearances at the festival until 1994, conducting 18 Wexford productions, more than anyone else. In 1969 he becomes the orchestra’s chief conductor, until he becomes principal guest conductor in 1981. In 1994 he is honoured with the title Conductor Laureate of the orchestra.

Rosen’s operatic repertoire includes standard works such as Carmen (Bizet), Tosca and Madama Butterfly (Puccini), Il trovatore and Don Carlos (Verdi), Lohengrin (Wagner), Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti), Otello and L’italiana in Algeri (Rossini), Káťa Kabanová (Janáček), La Wally (Catalani), The Bartered Bride (Smetana), and Salome (Richard Strauss). He also conducted unusual works such as Smetana’s The Two Widows and The Kiss, and Dvořák’s Rusalka, The Devil and Kate and The Jacobin.

In October 1978, in Dublin and Cork, Rosen conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in only the second and third performances of André Tchaikowsky‘s 2nd Piano Concerto, Op. 4, which are the first performances with the composer as soloist. He is to record the work in 1982, again with Tchaikowsky at the piano, but the composer becomes ill and the recording is cancelled. His other work with the NSO includes standard orchestral repertoire as well as major pieces such as Olivier Messiaen‘s Turangalîla-Symphonie and Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand). In 1992, the orchestra tours ten cities in Germany, having a major success with Die Fledermaus in Stuttgart.

Rosen makes his American debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1980, in Janáček’s Jenůfa. In Australia, he is chief conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra from 1983 until 1985, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 1986. He conducts the British premiere of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov‘s opera Christmas Eve with English National Opera in 1988. He becomes music director of the Irish National Opera in 1993.

Rosen often conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland during the 1990s, in challenging works such as the tone poems and An Alpine Symphony of Richard Strauss. Other opera orchestras he conducts included those of the Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Vancouver Opera, San Diego Opera, and the Dublin Grand Opera Society.

Rosen becomes an Irish citizen by naturalisation. His own conducting students include John Finucane.

Rosen dies at the age of 73 in Dublin on May 23, 1997, of lung cancer.

(Pictured: Albert Rosen conducts the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra in St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1972)


Leave a comment

Death of Maximilian Ulysses Browne, Austrian Military Officer

Maximilian Ulysses, Reichsgraf von Browne, Baron de Camus and Mountany, an Irish refugee, scion of the Wild Geese and an Austrian military officer, dies in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia on June 26, 1757. He is one of the highest ranking officers serving the Hapsburg Emperor during the middle of the 18th century and one of the most prominent Irish soldiers never to fight for Ireland.

Browne is born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Count Ulysses von Browne (b. Limerick 1659) and his wife Annabella Fitzgerald, a daughter of the House of Desmond. Both families had been exiled from Ireland in the aftermath of the Nine Years’ War.

Browne’s early career is helped by family and marital connections. His father and his father’s brother, George (b. Limerick 1657), are created Counts of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Charles VI in 1716 after serving with distinction in the service of the Holy Roman Emperors. The brothers enjoy a lengthy, close friendship with John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who is primarily responsible for their establishment in the Imperial Service of Austria. On his father’s death he becomes third Earl of Browne in the Jacobite peerage. His wife, Countess Marie Philippine von Martinitz, has valuable connections at court and his sister, Barbara (b. Limerick 1700), is married to Freiherr Francis Patrick O’Neillan, a Major General in the Austrian Service. So, by the age of 29 Browne is already colonel of an Austrian infantry regiment.

Browne justifies his early promotion in the field, and in the Italian campaign of 1734 he greatly distinguishes himself. In the Tirolese fighting of 1735, and in the Turkish war, he wins further distinction as a general officer.

Browne is a lieutenant field marshal in command of the Silesian garrisons when in 1740 Frederick II and the Prussian army overruns the province. His careful employment of such resources as he possesses materially hinders the king in his conquest and allows time for Austria to collect a field army. He is present at Mollwitz, where he receives a severe wound. His vehement opposition to all half-hearted measures brings him frequently into conflict with his superiors, but contributes materially to the unusual energy displayed by the Austrian armies in 1742 and 1743.

In the following campaigns Browne exhibits the same qualities of generalship and the same impatience of control. In 1745 he serves under Count Traun, and is promoted to the rank of Feldzeugmeister. In 1746 he is present in the Italian campaign and the battles of Piacenza and Rottofreddo. He and an advanced guard force their way across the Apennine Mountains and enter Genoa. He is thereafter placed in command of the invasion of France mounted in winter 1746-47, leading to the Siege of Antibes, but he is obliged to break off the invasion and return to Italy in February 1747 after Genoa rises in rebellion against the Austrian garrison he had left behind. In early 1747 he is appointed commander of all imperial forces in Italy, replacing Antoniotto Botta Adorno. At the end of the war, he is engaged in the negotiations on troop withdrawals from Italy, which leads to the convention of Nice on January 21, 1749. He becomes commander-in-chief in Bohemia in 1751, and field marshal two years later.

Browne is still in Bohemia when the Seven Years’ War opens with Frederick’s invasion of Saxony in 1756. His army, advancing to the relief of Pirna, is met, and, after a hard struggle, defeated by the king at the Battle of Lobositz, but he draws off in excellent order, and soon makes another attempt with a picked force to reach Pirna, by wild mountain tracks. He never spares himself, bivouacking in the snow with his men, and Thomas Carlyle records that private soldiers made rough shelters over him as he slept.

Brown actually reaches the Elbe at Bad Schandau, but as the Saxons are unable to break out, he retires, having succeeded, however, in delaying the development of Frederick’s operations for a whole campaign. In the campaign of 1757, he voluntarily serves under Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine who is made commander-in-chief. On May 6 of that year, while leading a bayonet charge at the Battle of Prague, Browne, like Kurt Christoph, Graf von Schwerin, on the same day, meets his death. He is carried mortally wounded into Prague, and there dies on June 26, 1757.


Leave a comment

Death of William James MacNeven, Physician & Writer

william-james-macneven-1William James MacNeven, Irish American physician and writer, dies in New York City on July 12, 1841.

MacNeven is born on March 21, 1763 at Ballinahown, Aughrim, County Galway. The eldest of four sons, at the age of 12 MacNeven is sent by his uncle Baron MacNeven to receive his education abroad as the Penal Laws render education impossible for Catholics in Ireland. He makes his collegiate studies in Prague. His medical studies are made in Vienna where he is a pupil of Pestel and takes his degree in 1784. He returns to Dublin in the same year to practise.

MacNeven becomes involved in the Society of United Irishmen with such men as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Thomas Addis Emmet, and his brother Robert Emmet. He is arrested in March 1798 and confined in Kilmainham Gaol, and afterwards in Fort George, Scotland, until 1802, when he is liberated and exiled. In 1803, he is in Paris seeking an interview with Napoleon Bonaparte in order to obtain French troops for Ireland. Disappointed in his mission, MacNeven comes to the United States, landing at New York City on July 4, 1805.

In 1807, he delivers a course of lectures on clinical medicine in the recently established College of Physicians and Surgeons. Here in 1808, he receives the appointment of professor of midwifery. In 1810, at the reorganization of the school, he becomes the professor of chemistry, and in 1816 is appointed to the chair of materia medica. In 1826 with six of his colleagues, he resigns his professorship because of a misunderstanding with the New York Board of Regents, and accepts the chair of materia medica at Rutgers Medical College, a branch of the New Jersey institution of that name, established in New York as a rival to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The school at once becomes popular because of its faculty, but after four years is closed by legislative enactment on account of interstate difficulties. The attempt to create a school independent of the regents results in a reorganization of the University of the State of New York.

MacNeven, affectionately known as “The Father of American Chemistry,” dies in New York City on July 12, 1841. He is buried on the Riker Farm in the Astoria section of Queens, New York.

One of the oldest obelisks in New York City is dedicated to him in the Trinity Church, located between Wall Street and Broadway, New York. The obelisk is opposite to another commemorated for his friend Thomas Emmet. MacNeven’s monument features a lengthy inscription in Irish, one of the oldest existent dedications of this kind in the Americas.


Leave a comment

Birth of Physician & Writer William James MacNeven

William James MacNeven, Irish American physician and writer, is born on March 21, 1763, at Ballynahowna, near Aughrim, County Galway. One of the oldest obelisks in New York City is dedicated to him at St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway while a second obelisk is dedicated to Thomas Emmet, a fellow United Irishman and Attorney General of New York. MacNeven’s monument features a lengthy inscription in Irish, one of the oldest existent dedications of this kind in the Americas.

The eldest of four sons, at the age of 12 MacNeven is sent by his uncle Baron MacNeven to receive his education abroad, for the penal laws render education impossible for Catholics in Ireland. This Baron MacNeven is William O’Kelly MacNeven, an Irish exile physician, who for his medical skill in her service has been created an Austrian noble by the Empress Maria Theresa. Young MacNeven makes his collegiate studies at Prague. His medical studies are made at Vienna where he is a pupil of Pestel and takes his degree in 1784. The same year he returns to Dublin to practise.

MacNeven becomes involved in the United Irishmen of the time, with such men as Lord Edward FitzGerald, Thomas Addis Emmet, and his brother Robert Emmet. He is arrested in March 1798, and confined in Kilmainham Gaol, and afterwards in Fort George, Scotland, until 1802, when he is liberated and exiled. In 1803, he is in Paris seeking an interview with Napoleon Bonaparte in order to obtain French troops for Ireland. Disappointed in his mission, MacNeven comes to America, landing at New York on July 4, 1805.

In 1807, MacNeven delivers a course of lectures on clinical medicine in the recently established College of Physicians and Surgeons. Here in 1808, he receives the appointment of professor of midwifery. In 1810, at the reorganization of the school, he becomes the professor of chemistry, and in 1816 is appointed in addition to the chair of materia medica. In 1826 with six of his colleagues, he resigns his professorship because of a misunderstanding with the New York Board of Regents, and accepts the chair of materia medica in Rutgers Medical College, a branch of the New Jersey institution of that name, established in New York as a rival to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The school at once becomes popular because of its faculty, but after four years is closed by legislative enactment on account of interstate difficulties. The attempt to create a school independent of the regents results in a reorganization of the University of the State of New York.

MacNeven’s best known contribution to science is his “Exposition of the Atomic Theory” (New York, 1820), which is reprinted in the French Annales de Chimie. In 1821 he publishes with emendations an edition of Brande’s “Chemistry” (New York, 1829). Some of his purely literary works, his “Rambles through Switzerland” (Dublin, 1803), his “Pieces of Irish History” (New York, 1807), and his numerous political tracts attract wide attention. He is co-editor for many years of the “New York Medical and Philosophical Journal.”

William James MacNeven dies on July 13, 1841, at the age of 78 in New York City.