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


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Death of John Henry Patterson, Army Officer, Hunter, Author & Zionist

John Henry Patterson, known as J. H. Patterson, Irish officer in the British Army, game hunter, author and Christian Zionist, dies in Bel Air, California, on June 18, 1947.

Patterson is born on November 10, 1867 at Forgney, Ballymahon, County Longford, the son of a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother. He joins the British Army at Dublin in 1885 and is posted with the 3rd Dragoon Guards to India. In 1892 he is seconded to the Indian military works department as a supervisor of civil engineering projects. In 1894 he marries Frances Helena Gray, daughter of William Gray of Cork and Belfast, a building surveyor who founded the free library movement in Belfast. She goes on to earn science and law degrees.

In 1898 Patterson is sent to British East Africa to supervise 3,000 Indian and African labourers who are building a railway bridge spanning the Tsavo River as part of the Mombasa to Lake Victoria line. Construction is interrupted when two man-eating lions repeatedly attack the labourers’ camp at night. He embarks on a lion hunt, but by the time he shoots the two lions they have mauled and mutilated between 130 and 140 labourers.

Patterson volunteers for service in the South African War in 1900. He is mentioned in dispatches by Lord Frederick Roberts and Lord Herbert Kitchener and is awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). In 1902 he is appointed lieutenant colonel commanding the 33rd Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. While on a shooting trip in east Africa in 1906, he discovers a new species of eland, which is named Taurotragus oryx pattersonianus after him. His account of his adventures in Africa, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, is published in 1907 to instant international acclaim. His exploits are twice made the subject of films: Bwana Devil (1952) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). In 1907 he is seconded as chief game warden, British East Africa Protectorate (Kenya), and he combines his work of conducting surveys with escorting private safari parties.

The following year Patterson leads a safari trip in the protectorate accompanied by Audley James Blyth, a son of James Blyth, 1st Baron Blyth, and his wife, Ethel Jane. During the expedition Blyth shoots himself in the head with a revolver and dies. Patterson claims that Blyth was suffering from heat stroke, but there are rumours of a romantic attachment between Patterson and Mrs. Blyth. The colonial secretary Lord Crewe exonerates Patterson in return for his resignation as chief game warden. The incident serves as the plot for Ernest Hemingway‘s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

In 1913 Patterson commands the West Belfast division of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and sees service in Flanders before being sent to Egypt in early 1915. In Alexandria, two Russian Jewish Zionists, the journalist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and veteran of the Russo–Japanese War Joseph Trumpeldor, ask General John Maxwell, commander of the British forces in Egypt, to establish a Jewish legion that will liberate the Holy Land from the Turks. Maxwell refuses, proposing instead that the Jews form a volunteer transport unit to serve in Gallipoli. Patterson, who is imbued with a deep knowledge of the Old Testament, and draws spiritual sustenance from biblical heroes such as Joshua and Gideon, is appointed commander of the Assyrian Jewish refugee mule corps, a colonial corps of the Egyptian expeditionary force. He sails with the Zion Mule Corps, as it is popularly known, to Gallipoli in April 1915, where the corps serves with distinction, carrying water and ammunition to the Allied troops on the peninsula. He falls ill in November 1915, and is sent to convalesce in London. The Zion Mule Corps is evacuated from Gallipoli in December, and disbanded in March 1916.

When manpower and political considerations persuade the British authorities to create the Jewish Legion in 1917, Patterson is appointed its commander. He marches his 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers through the City of London and Whitechapel, cheered by a crowd of several thousand Jews. The Jewish Legion participates in General Edmund Allenby‘s sustained attack, which successfully pushes the Turks out of Palestine. His experiences with his Jewish soldiers turn him into a committed Zionist. In 1916 he writes With the Zionists in Gallipoli, and in 1922 With the Judaeans in the Palestine Campaign, which contain a scathing attack on Britain’s policy towards the Jews during and after World War I.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Patterson increasingly allies himself with the revisionist Zionist agenda espoused by Jabotinsky’s New Zionist Organisation. When World War II breaks out, he travels with Jabotinsky to the United States, moving permanently to La Jolla, California, in 1940. With others, including the Irish Jew and later Lord Mayor of Dublin Robert Briscoe, he agitates for the formation of a large Jewish army that would fight with the Allies against Nazi Germany. After Jabotinsky’s death in 1940, he works with Benzion Netanyahu, the Palestinian Jewish executive director of the American revisionist Zionists. In 1946 he becomes godfather to Netanyahu’s first son, who is named Yonatan (the closest Hebrew name to John) in Patterson’s honour. Yonatan later leads Operation Entebbe, the successful 1976 Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport to free Israeli hostages.

On June 18, 1947, just a year before the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel, for which he had worked so hard, Patterson dies at Bel Air, California. A week later, the United Zionist Revisionists of Great Britain hold a memorial meeting at the Anglo–Palestinian Club near Piccadilly Circus in Patterson’s memory. His documents and personal effects are held at the Jabotinsky Institute and Museum in Tel Aviv. His uniform and other memorabilia are on display in Beit Hagdudim, the Jewish Legions Museum at Netanya, Israel. His two man-eating lions are on display in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where his son Bryan Patterson later serves as curator.

(From: “Patterson, John Henry” by Yanky Fachler, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Death of Robert Briscoe, Fianna Fáil Politician

Robert Emmet Briscoe, Fianna Fáil politician who serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) in the Oireachtas from 1927 to 1965, dies on March 11, 1969.

Briscoe is born in Dublin on September 25, 1894, the son of Abraham William Briscoe and Ida Yoedicke, both of whom are Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. The original family name in Lithuania is believed to have been Cherrick or Chasen. His brother Wolfe Tone Briscoe is named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. His father is the proprietor of Lawlor Briscoe, a furniture factory on Ormond Quay which makes, refurbishes, imports, exports and sells furniture, trading all over Ireland and abroad.

Briscoe is active in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Sinn Féin during the Irish War of Independence and accompanies Éamon de Valera to the United States. He speaks for the Sinn Féin cause at public meetings there and is adamant that being a “Hebrew” does not lessen his Irishness. He is sent by Michael Collins to Germany in 1919 to be the chief agent for procuring arms for the IRA. While in Germany in 1921 he purchases a small tug boat named Frieda to be used in transporting guns and ammunition to Ireland. On October 28, 1921 the Frieda slips out to sea with Charles McGuinness at the helm and a German crew with a cargo of 300 guns and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Some sources cite this shipment as “the largest military shipment ever to reach the IRA” consisting of 1,500 rifles, 2,000 pistols and 1.7 million rounds of ammunition. On November 2, 1921 the Frieda successfully lands its cargo near Waterford Harbour.

In June 1922 during the Irish Civil War, Briscoe is involved in an incident with fellow anti-treaty IRA members who attack pro-treaty politician Darrell Figgis at his home. They enter the house and assault Figgis, cutting off his well-prized beard in the process. This traumatises Figgis’ wife Millie, who had been under the impression Briscoe and his fellow assistants had come to kill Figgis. In November 1924 Millie commits suicide, expressing in a suicide note that she was suffering from depression as a result of the 1922 attack. Figgis himself commits suicide in 1926.

In his biography, Briscoe recalls an incident of being recognised by a pro-Treaty opponent during the Civil War. He merely turns and walks away, confident that his enemy will not shoot him in the back.

Elected to the Dáil in the newly independent Ireland, Briscoe works with Patrick Little to bring through a law limiting the interest that can be charged by moneylenders and also, as he writes, “made it illegal for a married woman to borrow money without the knowledge and consent of her husband, for these foolish ones are always the easiest prey of the moneylenders.”

During World War II, Briscoe, at this time a member of Dáil Éireann, comes under close scrutiny from the Irish security services. His support for Zionism and his lobbying on behalf of refugees is considered potentially damaging to the interests of the state by officials from the Department of Justice. He is an admirer and friend of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his campaign to liberate the Jews. Between 1939 and 1940, he along with John Henry Patterson, a former commander of both the Zion Mule Corps and later the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, are involved in fund raising for the Irgun in the United States. Jabotinsky while head of Irgun visits Dublin to receive training in guerrilla warfare tactics against the British under the instruction of Briscoe. During the period Briscoe describes himself as the “Chair of Subversive Activity against England.” He wishes for Ireland to give asylum to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, but does so discreetly in order not to be accused of compromising the neutrality policy of the Fianna Fáil government.

After World War II Briscoe acts as a special advisor to Menachem Begin in the transformation of Irgun from a paramilitary group to a parliamentary political movement in the form of Herut in the new Israeli state. The party later becomes Likud. As he had already been a key figure in the formation in his own Fianna Fáil party out of the Anti-treaty IRA post Irish independence but not before a bitter Civil War, he prompts Begin to make the transition immediately after the Altalena Affair in order to avoid a similar civil conflict.

Briscoe serves in Dáil Éireann for 38 years and is elected 12 times in the Dublin South and from 1948, Dublin South-West constituencies. He retires at the 1965 Irish general election, being succeeded by his son, Ben, who serves for a further 37 years. In 1956, he becomes the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, although he is not the first Jewish Mayor in Ireland. That title belongs to William Annyas, who was elected Mayor of Youghal, County Cork in 1555. He serves a one-year term and is re-elected in 1961. His son Ben is also a Fianna Fáil TD, and he too serves as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1988–1989.

Briscoe’s memoir, For the Life of Me, is published in 1958.


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The Grange Ambush

grange-ambush-memorialAn Irish Republican Army (IRA) column mounts an ambush at Grange, County Limerick on November 8, 1920.

Approximately fifty men of 3rd Battalion East Limerick IRA parade at 5:00 AM on the cold bleak morning of November 8. They are armed with 21 rifles and 21 shotguns, plus a small quantity of explosives. It has been decided to ambush a convoy at Grange Bridge, a point about eight miles from Limerick and about four miles from Bruff. They set out and occupy positions around John O’Neill’s house. The ambush site is about four miles from the big British garrison at Bruff to the south. The IRA expects two British lorries around 9:00 AM, however, in the end eight lorries and two armoured cars arrive at noon.

It is a joint action involving the flying columns of both the 3rd Battalion East Limerick Brigade and the 4th Battalion Mid Limerick Brigade, supported by men from the local companies of Bruff, Grange and Holy Cross in the East Limerick Brigade and from the Fedamore and Ballybricken Companies of the Mid Limerick Brigade. Donnchadha O’Hannigan has overall command of the combined columns and most of the ambushers are placed in houses and behind walls on both sides of the road. Among the IRA men who take part in the action is their chaplain, the Curate at Fedamore, Fr. William Joseph Carroll, who had been awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1918 by the British Army. Also among the attackers is Maurice Meade, who had been a member of Roger Casement‘s Irish Brigade in Germany.

Something makes the British suspicious and they send one lorry ahead as a decoy. It is bombed by the IRA and raked with small arms fire. At this point, a British armoured car appears, with an officer mounted on the running board firing a revolver and its machine gun firing at the IRA at close range. The IRA account names the officer on the running board as Lt. Watling and they believe that they wounded him and he died in the hospital at Bruff that night.

More British reinforcements appear and the IRA realises that they are up against a vastly larger force than they had anticipated, so they retreat. Apart from one minor wounded man, they have no casualties.

The Royal Fusiliers‘ account says while escorting a Royal Air Force convoy from Fermoy to Oranmore, Lieutenant Allan and thirty other ranks are ambushed at Grange, near Bruff. The rebels, however, are speedily dealt with, and a quantity of arms, ammunition and two prisoners are taken. Unfortunately, Flying Officer Watling and Bandsman Bailey are wounded, the latter seriously. The only other casualty is Private French, who is shot at when a sentry at Galbally, and has the back luck of losing his arm.


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Death of Maurice Dease, Victoria Cross Recipient

maurice-deaseMaurice James Dease, British Army officer during World War I, dies in Mons, Belgium on August 23, 1914. He is one of the first British officer battle casualties of the war and the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross in the war.

Dease is born on September 28, 1889 in Gaulstown, Coole, County Westmeath to Edmund Fitzlaurence and Katherine Murray Dease. He is educated at Stonyhurst College and the Army Department of Wimbledon College before attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He is 24 years old, and a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers, and is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium.

Nimy Bridge is being defended by a single company of the 4th Royal Fusiliers and a machine-gun section with Dease in command. The gunfire is intense and the casualties very heavy, but the lieutenant continues to fire in spite of his wounds, until he is hit for the fifth time and is carried away.

Dease wins the first Victoria Cross to be awarded in the Great War and he receives it on the first day of the first significant British encounter in that war.

When Lieutenant Dease has been mortally wounded, Private Sidney Godley offers to defend the Railway Bridge while the rest of the section retreats and is also awarded the Victoria Cross. He is taken prisoner of war.

Dease is buried at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery, 2 kilometres east of Mons, Belgium. He is remembered with a plaque under the Nimy Railway Bridge, Mons and in Westminster Cathedral. His name is on the wayside cross in Woodchester, Stroud, Gloucestershire, on a cross at Exton, Rutland and on a plaque installed in St. Martin’s Church, Culmullen, County Meath. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London. Victoria Cross holders are being honoured with commemorative paving stones. Dease’s is the first to be unveiled on August 23, 2014 at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Dease is portrayed in the BBC Three series Our World War (2014) by Dominic Thorburn.


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Birth of Explorer Robert O’Hara Burke

robert-o'hara-burkeRobert O’Hara Burke, Irish soldier and police officer who achieves fame as an Australian explorer, is born in St. Clerens, County Galway on May 6, 1821. He is the leader of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition which is the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north.

Burke is the second of three sons of James Hardiman Burke, an officer in the British army 7th Royal Fusiliers, and Anne Louisa Burke (nee O’Hara).

Burke enters the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in May 1835. In December 1836 he fails his probationary exam and goes to Belgium to further his education. In 1841, he enters the Austrian army and spends most of his time posted to northern Italy. Towards the end of 1847 he suffers health problems and ultimately resigns from the Austrian army in June 1848.

After returning to Ireland in 1848, he joins the Irish Constabulary (later the Royal Irish Constabulary). He does his cadet training at Phoenix Park Depot in Dublin between November 1849 and January 1850. At the end of 1850 he transfers to the Mounted Police in Dublin.

Burke emigrates to Australia, arriving in Hobart, Tasmania on February 12, 1853 and promptly sails for Melbourne. On April 1, 1853 he joins the recently established Victoria Police force.

After the South Australian explorer John McDouall Stuart reaches the centre of Australia, the South Australian parliament offers a reward of £2,000 for the promotion of an expedition to cross the continent from south to north, generally following Stuart’s route. In June 1860, Burke is appointed to lead the Victorian Exploring Expedition with William John Wills, his third-in-command, as surveyor and astronomical observer.

The expedition leaves Melbourne on August 20, 1860 with a total of 19 men, 27 camels and 23 horses. They reach Menindee on September 23, 1860 where several people resign.

Cooper Creek, 400 miles further on, is reached on November 11, 1860 by the advance group, the remainder being intended to catch up. After a break, Burke decides to make a dash to the Gulf of Carpentaria, leaving on December 16, 1860. William Brahe is left in charge of the remaining party. The small team of Burke, William Wills, John King and Charley Gray reach the mangroves on the estuary of the Flinders River, near where the town of Normanton now stands, on February 9, 1861. They never see open ocean due to flooding rains and swamps.

Already weakened by starvation and exposure, progress on the return journey is slow and hampered by the tropical monsoon downpours of the wet season. Gray dies four days before they reach the rendezvous at Cooper Creek. The other three rest for a day when they bury him. They eventually reach the rendezvous point on April 21, 1861, nine hours after the rest of the party had given up waiting and left, leaving a note and some food, as they have not been relieved by the party supposed to be returning from Menindee.

Burke’s party attempts to reach Mount Hopeless, the furthest outpost of pastoral settlement in South Australia, which is closer than Menindee, but fail and return to Cooper Creek. While waiting for rescue Wills dies of exhaustion and starvation. Soon after, Burke also dies, at a place now called Burke’s Waterhole on Cooper Creek in South Australia. The exact date of Burke’s death is uncertain, but has generally been accepted to be June 28, 1861.

King survives with the help of Aborigines until he is rescued in September by Alfred William Howitt. Howitt buries Burke and Wills before returning to Melbourne. In 1862 Howitt returns to Cooper Creek and disinters Burke and Wills, taking them first to Adelaide and then by steamer to Melbourne where they are laid in state for two weeks. On January 23, 1863 Burke and Wills receive a State Funeral and are buried in Melbourne General Cemetery. Ironically, on that same day John McDouall Stuart and his companions, having successfully completed the south-north crossing, are received back at a large ceremony in Adelaide.