18 November 2011

Killaloe at centre of national Brian Boru Festival plans

The Clare Champion
Friday, November 18, 2011
Barrack Street, Ennis, County Clare, Ireland.
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Killaloe at centre of national Brian Boru Festival plans

Written by Dan Danaher   

A MARCH of Warriors to the Phoenix Park on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014, is being proposed by a new committee as one of the special events to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of a former High King of Ireland.
      Organised by a nationally recognised charity, “warriors” would depart from several venues around the country and travel to the Phoenix Park, where they would spend the night with the assistance of the army and civil defence. On Easter Monday, April 21, the “warriors” will march from Phoenix Park to Clontarf under their respective banners, including members of the O’Brien clan from around the world, with the help of Machnas, live bands and bodhrans as part of a truly great spectacle, before participating in a full programme of events organised by Clontarf 2014.
      This is one of the plans for a major national Brian Boru festival with international tourism potential, which has been unveiled by a new committee in Killaloe/Ballina. The committee is celebrating the fact the historic figure was born, raised and ruled in Killaloe and while he was High King from 1002 to 1014, Killaloe was capital of Ireland.
      Former Lions rugby captain, Keith Wood and international comedian, Brendan Grace have been selected as the Brian Boru 2014 ambassadors. Lord Inchiquin Conor O’Brien, chief of the O’Brien Clan, has become honorary president and festival ambassador.
      The festival will be officially launched from March 15 to 17, 2014 including music, battle re-enactments and the National Lottery Skyfest Fireworks Display on the evening of March 15.
Three sites are being suggested as suitable venues – Ballycuggeran, from the centre of the lake where it could be viewed from any point on the mountains on either side of Lough Derg; Tountinna from the top of the mountain on the Tipperary side of the lake where it could be seen from five different counties and from each side of the Killaloe Bridge with St Flannan’s Cathedral as a memorable backdrop.
The main event for 2014 is the proposed staging of Killaloe as Honorary Capital of Ireland from April 25 to 27. This would give the committee an opportunity to hold a mass in remembrance of Brian Boru on the Friday, followed by a civic ceremony to possibly unveil a monument or launch a commemorative coin or stamp.
      Celebrations on the lake are planned for Saturday, April 26 with water-based activities and sports and in the evening a salute to Brian Boru on the water with music on a floating stage.
Riverdance, Machnas and re-enactments ending with a phantom longboat sailing up Lough Derg would provide a poignant remembrance, as the ghost of Brian Boru makes his final voyage.
      Sunday, April 27 would be a family day with music, parades, a re-enactment village, sports and lots of fun. The O’Brien Clan, with an estimated 700,000 members spread throughout the world, and members of the Dalcassian Clan will be invited back to Killaloe that weekend to see the birth place and home of their kinsmen.
      The committee are also seeking the heritage re-branding of East Clare and North Tipperary as Brian Boru country.
      Committee chairman, John O’Shea believes the festival will provide a huge tourism spin-off in 2014 and for years afterwards once tourists become award of  “Ireland’s best kept secret”.

   [ http://www.clarechampion.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6199:killaloe-at-centre-of-national-brian-boru-festival-plans&catid=67:human-interest&Itemid=60]

15 November 2011

The Legacy of Jeremiah O'Brien

By Garaidh Ó Briain

     From the shipyard at Philadelphia on 20 July 1914, a new ship was launched and commissioned as (DD-51) USS O’Brien and added to the U.S. Navy on 23 May 1915. The ship name for those citizens of New England was familiar, but to those people west of the Hudson River and in the western United States had no idea who Capt. Jeremiah O’Brien was, the man to whom the ship was named after and immortalized.
    Jeremiah O’Brien was born in Scarborough, Maine, in 1740;[1]  died in Machias, Maine on 5 October 1818. His father, Morris, a native of Cork, Ireland, brought with him from Ireland the O’Brien coat-of-arms which hanged in the living room, settled in Scarborough, was a volunteer in the expedition against Louisburg, and removed in 1765 to Machias, where he was engaged with his six sons in the lumber business when the Revolutionary war began.
     When the news came of the collision at Lexington of Massachusetts citizens and the British army, the people of Machias erected a liberty-pole in the town square. Captain Ichabod Jones, a leading citizen of Machias, was allowed by British Admiral Graves to bring provisions from Boston in his vessel, the Unity, on condition that he return with lumber which was much needed by the British army for the construction of barracks. To ensure the arrangement being carried out, he was accompanied by a small tender, the HMS Margaretta, commanded by Midshipman Moore, which arrived a few days after the liberty-pole incident.
     The town, being in great need of provisions and under the guns of the tender, agreed to the terms but Captain Jones refused to sell provisions to those who had voted against allowing him to carry off the lumber to Boston. Captain Moore, of the HMS Margaretta, ordered the liberty-pole to be taken down, threatening to fire on the town if it was not done. Angered at Jones’ conduct some of the leading patriots sent to the neighboring settlements for assistance.
     Patriotic minded citizens of Machias tried to capture Jones and Moore while attending church on 11 June, but the two saw the mob approaching and escaped to their vessel and dropped anchor down the river. Capt. Jones fled into the forest and several days later captured. The officers of the British ship evaded capture and made it to their ship. Moore then threatened to bombard the town.[2] A company of thirty-one volunteers, which included the O’Brien brothers: Jeremiah, Gideon, John, William, Dennis and Joseph, gave chase on the following morning of 12 June 1775 (five days before the Battle at Bunker Hill), in one of the lumber sloops named Unity.[3] Jeremiah O’Brien was chosen captain.

     While the HMS Margaretta lay becalmed in the bay, the sloop was towed up by boats, the English commander allowing her to come alongside, although he had sixteen swivel-guns and four-pounders. Some of the Americans had muskets, but only three rounds of ammunition; some were armed merely with pitchforks; yet after a sharp hand-to-hand combat that lasted about an hour they were victorious, having mortally wounded the English captain and killed the helmsman in the first fire. This incident is considered the beginning of the U.S. Navy. This was the first sea-fight of the Revolution, and called the “Battle of Machias.”[4] 
     What followed is thus described in a letter written two days later to the Massachusetts Congress by the Machias committee of correspondence:[5]     “About forty men, armed with guns, swords, axes, & pitch forks, went in Capt. Jones’s sloop [Unity], under the command of Capt. Jeremiah O’Brien; about twenty, armed in the same manner & under the command of Capt. Benjamin Foster, went in a small schooner. During the Chase, our people built them breastworks of pine boards, and anything they could find in the Vessells, that would screen them from the enemy’s fire. The Tender, upon the first appearance of our people, cut her boats from the stern, & made all the sail she could-but being a very dull sailor, they soon came up with her, and a most obstinate engagement ensued, both sides determined to conquer or die; but the tender was obliged to yield, her Captain was wounded in the breast with two balls, of which he died next morning; poor Avery was killed, and one of the marines, and five wounded. Only one of our men was killed and six wounded, one of which is since dead of his wounds.”
     The armament of the HMS Margaretta was transferred to the sloop Unity, which was rechristened the Machias Liberty. O’Brien took command, and captured the HMS Diligence, a British coast-survey vessel, and her tender HMS Tapnaquish, which had been sent out from Halifax to retake the HMS Margaretta. The Liberty, with Jeremiah O’Brien as captain and his brother William as lieutenant, and the HMS Diligence, on which his brother John was lieutenant, were commissioned by the provincial government, and ordered to intercept supplies for the British troops. Captain O’Brien cruised on the coast for a year and a half, taking several prizes. He then assumed command of a privateer called the Hannibal, which his brother John and others had built at Newburyport, but shortly afterward, while cruising off New York, his vessel was chased by two frigates and captured. He was confined for six months in the Jersey guard-ship, and then sent to England and detained in Mill prison, from which, after a few months, he succeeded in escaping. He resided for some time at Brunswick, Maine, and at the time of his death was collector of the port of Machias. His daughter was the mother of John P. Hale. His brother, John, while in command of a privateer called the Hibernia, captured an English armed vessel, the General Pattison, having on board a number of officers of the British army who were returning from New York to England. 

Fort O’Brien

     Fort O’Brien was built in 1775 immediately after the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place offshore, Fort O’Brien was a four-gun battery that guarded the mouth of the Machias River in cooperation with Fort Foster on the eastern side.
     British forces destroyed the fort in the same year. This state historic site is one of few Maine forts active during three wars - the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War. Fort O’Brien’s layout was altered several times over the 90 years it was active on this site. But the fort’s important role in protecting the Machias River and its towns remained unchanged. It was refortified in 1777.
     From 1808 - 1818, this was a four-gun crescent-shaped earthwork fort. In 1814 the British captured the fort and burned the barracks. It was returned in 1818.

The Canon

     In the middle of the earthworks of the Civil War era battery is a bronze cannon known as a “Napoleon” or 12-pounder. It fired 12 pound cannonballs, spherical case shot, or canister, the latter being made up of numerous small pieces of iron that tore through infantry formations or a ship’s rigging at close range. This cannon tube weighs 1216 pounds and was made at the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts in 1862. It originally sat on a wooden carriage that weighed an additional 1128 pounds. In optimal conditions, this gun could fire a ball 1600 yards, just enough to reach across the mouth of the Machias River.[6]
     In 1923, the United States Government deeded the site of Fort O’Brien to the State of Maine. First administered as a State Historic Site in 1966, it is now maintained by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
     A bronze tablet, mounted on a stone on the east side of Route 93 between here and Machias, reads:
Near this spot, in June 1775, the men of Machias, confronted by a peremptory demand backed by armed force that they should furnish necessary supplies to their country’s enemies, met in open air council to choose between ignoble peace and all but hopeless war. The question was momentous and the debate was long. After some hours of fruitless discussion, Benjamin Foster, a man of action rather than words, leaped across this brook and called all those to follow him who would, whatever the risk, stand by their countrymen and their country’s cause. Almost to a man the assembly followed and, without further formality, the settlement was committed to the Revolution.”

Naval Honors

     Five ships have been named after Capt. Jeremiah O’Brien in the U.S. Navy.

USS O’Brien (DD-51)

Built at the Philadelphia shipyards beginning 8 September 1913, and launched 20 July 1914. Commissioned 23 May 1915, and decommissioned at Philadelphia 9 June 1922, broken up for scrap 23 August 1935.

Armament: 4x4”/50.8x21’tt. Speed: 29 knots, crew 101.[7]

USS O’Brien (DD-415)

Built at the Boston Navy Yard 31 May 1938. Launched 20 October 1939 & commissioned 2 March 1940.
Displacement 2313 Tons (full), Dimensions: 348’4’ (oa) x 36’x12’ 10’ (Max).
Machinery: 52,000 SHP, Westinghouse Turbines, 2 screws.

Armament: 5x5”/38AA, 4.0.5’ MG 8x21’tt (2x4). Speed: 35 knots, crew 192.

Japanese torpedo hits the USS O'Brien on 15 September 1942.  USS Wasp burns in background left.
Fate: Torpedoed in extreme bow by Japanese submarine on 15 September 1942, off Guadalcanal Campaign, and sank 19 October 1942, en route to Pearl Harbor.[8]

S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien

     Built at New England Shipbuilding Corp. shipyard in South Portland, Maine, in 56 days and launched on 19 June 1943.
     June 1943, the Liberty ship S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien slid down the ways at the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland, Maine. Shortly thereafter she entered service, operated by Grace Line for the War Shipping Administration. Named for the first American to capture a British naval vessel during the Revolutionary War, the O’Brien made seven World War II voyages, ranging from England and Northern Ireland to South America, to India, to Australia. She also made eleven crossings of the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to the Normandy beaches in support of the D-Day invasion. After the war, she was “mothballed” and laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, north of San Francisco.

     Thirty-three years later, skillful maneuvering by a U.S. Maritime Administration official (himself a former Liberty ship sailor) saved the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien from the scrap yard. In 1979, after hundreds of hours of labor by volunteer crew members to remove thick layers of preservatives, the O’Brien headed for San Francisco to be restored. No other ship ever has steamed out of the mothball fleet under her own power.
     Following dry-docking, generous donations of money and supplies by numerous individuals and companies, and thousands of hours of restoration work by her volunteer crew, the old ship entered service on San Francisco Bay in like-new condition. She is a steaming memorial to the seamen of the U.S. Merchant Marine who served on Liberty ships in World War II, to their Navy gun crews, and to the civilian men and women who built the largest single class of ships in history.
     In 1994, the Jeremiah O’Brien steamed through the Golden Gate, down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic to England and France, where the O’Brien and her crew (a remarkable collection of old salts whose average age was 70, and a few cadets from the California Maritime Academy), participated in the 50th Anniversary of Operation Overlord -- the Allied invasion at Normandy that turned the tide of World War II in Europe. Of the more than 5,000 ships that formed the original D-Day armada, the O’Brien was the only ship to return 50 years later

     The S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien is approved by the American Bureau of Shipping, certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, and fully seaworthy -- the only active Liberty Ship in original configuration. Operated as the National Liberty Ship Memorial, she is moored at Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf and open to the public most days. Virtually the entire ship from engine room to flying bridge can be seen by visitors. Boilers are “lit off,” and the 2500-horsepower, triple-expansion reciprocating steam main engine is operated on Steaming Weekends (normally the third Saturday and Sunday of each month) so visitors can see the engine plant in action. Several San Francisco Bay cruises are scheduled each year, with occasional longer voyages to west-coast ports such as Sacramento.
     The ship relies on the work of her hundreds of volunteer crew members, funding from individual and corporate donations, and revenue from the thousands of visitors she hosts each year.[9]

USS O’Brien (DD-725)

     Ship building began on 12 July 1943, at the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. Launched 8 December 1943, commissioned at Boston Naval Shipyard 25 February 1944.


Joined convoy forces 14 May 1944, en route to Scotland and England, participated in a shore bombardment of Cherbourg, France, and the invasion of Normandy. During mine sweeping operations off shore by the BB-35 Texas, the Texas took fire from German batteries at Cape Levi. O’Brien’s gunfire was so accurate that enemy gunnery positions shifted from the Texas to the O’Brien. Took direct hit just aft bridge, but able to stay on station long enough to lay smoke screen for Texas. Thirteen men killed and nineteen wounded. Returned to Boston as escort in convoy and repaired. Escorted CV-14 Ticonderoga to San Diego via Panama Canal and joined the 3rd Fleet east of the Philippines. In early December the O’Brien joined the 7th Fleet assault forces at Ormoc Bay, Phillippines. The ship was under continuous air attack. Fought fire caused by suicide planes on 15 December 1944, and rescued 198 survivors. Following a brief patrol period of the Mindoro Strait, proceeded to Lingayen Gulf for invasion of Luzon. A suicide aircraft crashed into the port side off the fantail, but caused little damage. Several days of escort duty was involved in bombardment of shore before landing of army troops, later joined the carrier forces on 10 February 1945, for air strikes against Tokyo, Iwo Jima, and Bonin Islands. Off of Kenrama Retto on 27 March was attacked by aircraft which crashed into the water while another carrying a 500 lb bomb crashed into the port side amidships exploding a magazine. Fifty sailors killed and seventy-six wounded. Repaired at Mare Island Naval and training in San Diego. Returned to 3rd Fleet for end of war in August 1945 and was in patrol duty in Japanese water, later patrol duty in eastern Pacific. Decommissioned on 4 October 1947, at San Diego, California.


     Re-commissioned on 5 October 1950, at San Diego, the USS O’Brien was commanded by the Commander Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., and flagship of Destroyer Division 132. Joined the UN blockade and escort force and participated in the siege of Songin. The O’Brien was one of ships that involved in 4.5 hour Battle of the Buzz-saw on 17 July 1951, at Wonsan harbor. Provided covering fire in July and August for LSMR bombardment and coordinated rescue operations which saved three Navy pilots and one Air Force pilot shot down in open waters. Radio Moscow and Peking reported O’Brien sunk by North Korean People’s Army, the ship returned to San Diego for repairs and returned to Korea as part of Task Force 95 and participated in shore bombardment, interdiction and patrol duties near Wonsan Harbor. September 1952, joined mock invasion. In mid Janurary 1953, returned to San Diego. In 1958 was part of four ship squadron that was active off coast of China.
 In 1961 the ship was refitted for specialized antisubmarine warfare and deployed in western Pacific. O’Brien was one of the first ships to successfully refuel a helicopter in flight. Assigned to 7th Fleet in August 1965, and patrolled the waters around Taiwan. While patrolling the Taiwan Strait, she was ordered to rescue a Chinese Nationalist patrol craft under attack by Chinese Communist torpedo boats, only the O’Brien arrived late, the boat had sunk, but she rescued all fifteen survivors and was praised by the Nationalist Chinese Navy Commander-in-Chief.


    A week after the Chinese incident on 22 November 1965, ordered to the aid of outpost Thach Ten, Quan Ngai Province, which had been surrounded by a North Vietnamese regiment. Accurate fire helped turn back the NV army, and in January and early February 1966, supported carried operations, conducted search and rescue missions in the Tonkin Gulf, and provided gunfire support for the amphibious landing near Batangan in Operation “Double Eagle.” The O’Brien returned to operate on the west coast of America for the next eight months. Ordered as the flagship for Operation “Sea Dragon,” whose operation was off the North Vietnam coast, with orders to interdict enemy coastal traffic, which resulted in the O’Brien sinking more than twenty boats carrying war supplies to the Viet Cong. Three direct hits from coastal batteries north of Dong Hoi on 23 December 1966, killed two crewmen and four wounded. Repairs took place at Subic Bay, Philippines, and provided support for air strikes from the Tonkin Gulf guarding five different carriers in January 1967. Returned to Taiwan patrol in February and March, but reassigned as flagship for “Sea Dragon” operations in late March significantly slowing coastal supply traffic. During this time the ship was under fire by shore batteries seven times. In May 1967, the ship returned to San Diego for overhaul, and was assigned on 1 February 1968, to destroyer squadron 29, and put to sea joining 7th Fleet on 30 April 1968. Operating in the Tonkin Gulf, the O’Brien took part in month long bombardment duties of Army and Marine operations, and then returned to Japan, but returned to South Vietnam in August and participated in bombardment of South Vietnam in mid-October. The destroyer returned to San Diego until the late summer of 1969 returning to the Far East in early October. The destroyer served in the waters off South Vietnam, conducting carrier escort duties and naval gunfire in support operations through the end of the year. After brief winter exercises off of Japan, she returned to Long Beach for up-keep and retraining.   
     The DD-725’s last deployment was wrought with material and equipment failures. The worst being a six foot crack in the hull during gunnery operations on 13 January 1971, off South Vietnam coast. The ship sailed to Subic Bay for repairs, and returned to South Vietnam for a seven week search and rescue duty. Returning to Subic Bay for engine repairs, she then sailed South Pacific via Australia, New Zealand, and then to Pearl Harbor. Decommissioned at Long Beach on 18 February 1972, and sunk as target on 13 July 1972, off California coast. The USS O’Brien received six battle stars for World War II service, five battle stars for Korean Conflict, and three battle stars for Vietnam service.[10]

U.S.S. O’Brien (DD-975)

     The fifth and last ship in the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of Jeremiah O’Brien was the 13th Spruance class destroyer.

Begin of building on 9 May 1975, at Ingalls Shipbuilding, West Bank, Bascagoula, Mississippi. Commissioned: 3 December 1977, and Decommissioned on 24 September 2004, and sunk as target off Hawaii on 9 February 2006.

Displacement: 9,200 tons (full), Length: 564.3 ft (172 meters); Machinery: four General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines, two screws.; Speed: 30+ knots; Crew: 340.
Armament: two MK 45 5”/54 caliber lightweight guns, 1 MK 41 VLS for Tomahawk, ASROC and Standard missiles, MK 46 torpedoes (two triple tube mounts), Harpoon missile launchers, 1 Sea Sparrow launcher, 1 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) System, 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS.
Aircraft: 1 SH-60B Seahawk (LAMPS 3)

About the Ship’s Coat of Arms

     USS O’Brien’s official crest, symbolizes the rich tradition of courage and determination initiated by the ship’s namesake, Captain Jeremiah O’Brien, and continued by those ships that proudly bore his name.    
     The golden pile and its associated elements are resplendent in symbolism. The pile, in conjunction with the wavy bars, represents a ship at sea, symbolic of the grand tradition of the US Navy. Taken by itself, the pile also represents the Roman numeral “V” equaling the total number of ships, including DD 975, to be honored with the name of “O’Brien”. The shamrock centered at the top of the pile alludes to Jeremiah O’Brien’s Irish ancestry and the arms of the previous O’BRIEN (DD 725). The crossed nautical tridents are overlapped by a single cannon dedicates the first naval battle of the American Revolution in which Jeremiah O’Brien and his men defeated the British warship, HMS Margaretta. O’Brien and his men, armed with only limited muskets, axes, and pitchforks (represented on the crest by the crossed tridents) boarded the HMS Margaretta and defeated an enemy armed with muskets, grenades, and cannons.
     The battle took place at Machias, Maine. The state of Maine is symbolized by the pine trees on either side of the cannon. Reflected in the ship’s motto “Loyalty, Unity, Freedom” are the qualitatively describe Captain O’Brien’s contribution to the American Revolution.


     USS O’Brien (DD-975) deployed to the Persian Gulf as a member of the Joint Task Force, Middle East and participated in combat action against naval forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran during Operation Praying Mantis on 18 April 1988. O’Brien along with USS Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) and USS Jack Williams (FFG 24) formed Surface Action Group Delta which engaged and sank the Iranian guided missile frigate SAHAND.
     Again the Chinese rattled sabers at Taiwan announcing missile tests and military live-fire exercises conducted in the waters surrounding the island of Taiwan. The US responded by dispatching naval ships including the USS Independence (CV 62) and other combatants to the area to monitor the situation. Operating in international waters, the USS Independence and other units in its battle group, including the USS O’Brien, were on the scene since the exercises began.
     The USS O’Brien took part in Exercise Valiant Blitz ‘94 in November 1993. During the exercise, sailors and Marines from the United States and the Republic of Korea operated as an integrated force from the Sea of Japan. The week-long exercise successfully demonstrated the bilateral cooperation required to effectively coordinate and conduct a combined amphibious landing and follow-on operations ashore with ground forces.
     As part of a 1995 reorganization of the Pacific Fleet’s surface ships into six core battle groups and eight destroyer squadrons, with the reorganization scheduled to be completed by 1 October, and homeport changes to be completed within the following year, the USS O’Brien was reassigned to Destroyer Squadron 15.
     The destroyer took part from 5-12 November 1998, in a large bilateral maritime exercise in waters around Japan. The routine exercise was designed to improve both navies’ capability for coordinated and bilateral operations in the defense of Japan.
     In 1999, the O’Brien, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, was given diplomatic approval by the Chinese government to make a four-day port call to Hong Kong. The ship arrived in Hong Kong on 31 October and departed on 4 November. The USS O’Brien was the first U.S. Navy warship to visit Hong Kong since the May 1999 Chinese Embassy bombing in Belgrade.
     While on a regularly scheduled two-month deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean, the USS Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing 5, accompanied by the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the USS O’Brien, on 9-23 May took part in Exercise Cobra Gold 2000, which tested the U.S. and Thai military to ensure regional peace. This annual joint exercise was one of the largest military exercises involving U.S. forces in the Pacific Command that year, and it involved units from the Thai and U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. Armed forces from Singapore also participated for the first time that year.
     In February 2002, the last detail of the O’Brien was its participation in an anti-ship missile defense training exercise as part of a Commander Task Force Seven Five - Multi-Sail battle group exercise. It was one of nine ships that participated in the exercise.
     The USS O’Brien (DD-975) was decommissioned on 24 September 2004, and sunk as a target ship off Hawaii on 9 February 2006.[11]
     Currently the U.S. Navy has no ship bearing the name of Jeremiah O’Brien, the first American to capture a British warship in the Revolutionary War.


[1]  Some accounts list his birthplace as Kittery, Maine (Maine at this time was part of Massachusetts). (All data from this source unless otherwise noted.  http://www.famousamericans.net/jeremiahobrien/).
[2]  Coll. Maine Hist. Soc., vi (April, 1895), 124-130.
[3]  The Unity is not considered a Navy vessel, but the U.S. Merchant Marine’s consider the Unity the beginning of their fleet.
[4]  First known incidence where the British colors were stricken and replaced by America’s.
[5]  http://www.state.me.us/doc/parks/programs/history/fortobrien/index.htm
[6]  http://www.state.me.us/cgi bin/doc/parks/find_one_name.pl?park_id=61 &
[7]  http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/051.htm.
[8]  http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/415.htm.
[9]  http://knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Jeremiah_O’Brien/.
[10]  http://www.ussobriendd725.org/page21.htm
[11]  http://navysite.de/dd/dd975.htm.

15 October 2011

Battle of Dysert O’Dea: a family affair

Upon the death of the King of Thomond, Conor Ó Briain, slain in Suidane Woods in the Burren in the year 1268, his eldest son Tiege predeceased his father and the northern kingdom of Munster found itself with a problem as to who would sit on the late king’s throne. Tiege’s son, Turlough, was too young so the crown was placed upon the head of Tiege’s younger brother Brian Ruadh.  
     For nine years Brian Ruadh Ó Briain’s kingdom was at peace, but when Turlough was old enough he voiced his objection and declared that the crown belonged to him, and many of the Ó Briain Clan backed his claim, forgetting the pledge of allegiance they had given at Magh Adhair at the inauguration of Brian Ruadh. This situation pitted one half of the Ó Briain Clan against the other half and civil war broke out in Thomond. [These factions shall be called Clan Turlough and Clan Brian for this article.]
     Dál gCais chiefs that supported Turlough were Macnamara, O’Connor of Corcomroe, O’Dea, O’Hehir, and O’Kelly from Connacht. To maintain his throne Brian sought assistance from the Anglo-Norman knight Thomas de Clare.
     Seeing an opportunity to better engrain himself in Thomond, de Clare was more than willing to support Brian who had promised de Clare the lands between Quin and Limerick for settlement. Thomond was considered by the English as a sovereign kingdom and kept their distance from the land not that they hadn’t tried to obtain control since English king John had given the area to John de Muscregos in 1177,  he died in 1275 and Bunratty was given to Thomas de Clare. The Ó Briain Clan kept the English influence out of the kingdom until King Henry VIII in 1543.
     For a while Clan Brian ravage the settlements and in 1270, King Brian captured and burned Clare Castle, which was never rebuilt. Six years later Clan Turlough attacked Clonroad Castle and expelled Brian Ruadh in 1276. Taking advantage of the clan feud, King John granted all of Thomond to de Clare.
     Brian and his de Clare ally recaptured Clonroad and expelled Turlough in 1276. Turlough sought refuge in Galway and elicited support from Anglo-Norman cousin William de Burgh; with de Burgh’s assistance and that of O’Dea and Macnamara defeated Brian and his de Clare faction in 1277.
      This did not sit well with de Clare for he lost several English knights in the fray. Ousted again from Clonroad, King Brian Ruadh sought refuge at Bunratty Castle. Men of de Clare grabbed the king of Thomond bound him in ropes and tied the ends to two war horses then drove them in opposite directions. The throne of Thomond was now vacant and Turlough ascended without opposition for a time.
      Normally this action would demand revenge by the descendants of King Brian Ruadh, but his sons continued the relationship with de Clare and his retina. The conflict between the factions of Turlough and Brian’s sons continued and the inner clan feud was not over.
     A second battle took place between the two Ó Briain factions in some woods in County Clare with the same results as the first.
     Picking up the torch of his assassinated father and late king of Thomond, Donough MacBrian contended the feud with his cousin.  Support for Turlough continued from de Burgh, and de Clare reconciled himself to Donogh. In 1280 de Clare attempted to colonize in Thomond, with Donogh ruling east Thomond and Turlough the west. This plan did not satisfy Turlough to rule half a kingdom. Donogh attended a part on the Island Magrath which sits in the Fergus River near Clare Castle in 1284, where Donogh drowned.
Five years passed and the Ó Briain cousins met on a river bank in 1284 to discuss the situation which ended with Donogh MacBrian Ó Briain being slain.
     A third encounter between the two occurred in 1287, with Turlough’s forces killing Thomas de Clare. In triumph rode Turlough’s army throughout Thomond down to Cashel in celebration under a leopard banner and carrying gold shields. Returning by way of Lough Derg, Turlough turned west and on the road met a fairy lady who congratulated him for not continuing on in the wars in Ireland contending for the throne over all the provinces of the Emerald Isle. Turlough received de Clare who reconciled himself but he soon died in 1287, leaving two sons, Richard and Gilbert, in their minority, thus the Anglo-Norman presence became a non factor in the affairs of Thomond.
     For the next twenty years there was peace and Turlough passed away in 1306 and was succeeded by his son Donogh. The feud erupted once more between Clan Turlough and Clan Brian’s descendants. Donogh reigned from 1306-1311, was killed fleeing from a battle at Bunratty by one of Clan Brian at Corcomroe.
Finally in 1311, a descendant of Clan Brian, Dermot Ó Briain, was crowned at Magh Adhair with the backing of de Clare. The act de Burgh objected to and placed Murrough, brother of the late King Donogh, in control. To counter this move, de Clare and allies expelled Murrough. Suddenly King Dermot died in 1313, and was replaced by his cousin Donogh Ó Briain. Still Murrough and his ally de Burgh, continued to oppose Clan Brian.
     Ireland’s political arena became more complicated in 1315 with the invasion of Edward Bruce accompanied by his brother Robert, King of Scots. Both factions of the Ó Briain Clan elected to support Edward Bruce and oppose the English establishment. With Clan Brian in support of Edward Bruce, they were now enemies of de Clare, and without his support King Donogh fled to Connacht and later joined the forces of Bruce. This open the way for Murrough to regain the throne of Thomond.
     The former King Donogh persuaded the Bruce brothers to invade Munster and remove the English and his usurping cousin Murrough Ó Briain. In the mean time, Murrough joined de Clare, de Burgh, and other Anglo-Normans at Cashel to meet the invading army. Having reached Castleconnell, the Bruce army retreated towards Dublin, leaving King Donogh and his forces behind. Murrough travelled to Dublin to attend a parliament, at which time his brother Dermot decided to destroy Clan Brian in which he nearly succeeded in 1317 at the battle of Corcomroe where Donogh and almost all of Clan Brian were slain. Donogh’s son, Brian Bane escaped and sought refuge in Tipparary. Upon Murrough’s return to Thomond almost all of Clare rallied around him except de Clare and his protégé Mahon Ó Briain and the Ó Briains of Clan Brian. Once again the proposal to divide Thomond was presented by de Clare, and Murrough would have no part of it nor accept any authority from de Clare. Only conflict would settle the problem.
     In May 1318, Richard de Clare led an expedition into the west of Thomond against Conor O’Dea and his clan headquartered at Dyset O’Dea. O’Dea appealed to neighboring clans of O’Connor and O’Hehir to assist him. Supported by Irish troops of the sons of Mahon Ó Briain and Brian Bane Ó Briain [descendants of King Brian Ruadh Ó Briain], along with his own Normans, Richard de Clare camped at Ruan, which is north of Quin and north of Ennis. These troops were comprised of bowmen and spearmen on foot, light horsemen, and some knights, a force of about a thousand men. Although de Clare knew that there was a hostile force under Conor O'Dea somewhere in front of him, he was confident enough of his ability to deal with it that he divided his men. They marched in three companies, spread out north and south so that they might plunder the country. One body commanded by de Clare’s son, moved to the right towards Tully to cut off any support troops, another to the left towards Magowna. Richard de Clare himself advanced in the center with the main force towards Dysert on 10 May 1318, where O'Dea's chief castle was, bent on its destruction.
     O’Dea was at a disadvantage for he had a smaller force, he decided on the ancient mode of Irish battle strategy of ambush.

      Near Lough Ballycullinan, north-east of Dysert, de Clare's advance came on a party of Conor O'Dea's men-the Irish account describes it as “a well ordered detachment of horse and foot” -driving a herd of cattle across a stream. The Anglo-Normans pressed on by Dromcavan, hoping to seize such promising spoil. At first the Irish seemed full of fight. They faced round and began skirmishing, assailing the Anglo-Normans with the usual showers of darts, sling-stones and hand-stones. Soon, however, they began to retire slowly, hurrying off their cattle behind them. In this way pursuers and pursued reached a place where a second stream was fordable, probably in marshy land near the present-day Macken bridge. Here the Irish made a more stubborn stand.

      Richard de Clare’s main column raced across the ford to capture the small band of men. The Normans won the ford and crossed over. The Irish fell back. The head of the Norman column reached the wood and out streamed the ambushers, splitting at once into two parties. One party reinforced the skirmishers and attacked de Clare in front; the other rushed towards the ford and fell upon the tail of the column, which was still crossing and was badly placed to defend itself.
      From out of the woods came Conor O’Dea and his troops to cut off the retreat of de Clare and his men. Conor O’Dea encountered de Clare himself and with his battle-axe felled the Anglo-Norman knight. O’Dea clansmen then hacked to pieces de Clare’s body while de Clare’s main force looked helplessly on from the opposite bank of the stream.  Enraged the Anglo-Normans fought their way across the stream and surrounded the O’Dea’s.
     The O'Dea’s counted on the assistance of two other forces, one under O'Connor of Corcomroe and Lochlann O'Hehir, who were close by. Conor O'Dea hoped to delay de Clare sufficiently to give time for these to come up to help him. He also hoped to lead de Clare into an ambush. The skirmishers were only a small part of his strength. His main body was concealed on the margin of a wood a little further back, somewhere south of the lake.
      Suddenly, Feilim O’Connor’s and Lochlann O’Hehir’s clansmen charged down the hill of Scamhall, west of Dysert, and cut a path through the Anglo-Normans and joined O’Dea and his men in the fray. Young Thomas de Clare and his troops arrived next to the site and he and Feilim O’Connor sought each other out on the battlefield and matched steel, O’Connor was the victor. Father and son had now been removed from the scene. The united O’Dea forces formed in the strongest position they could find and the battle became a melee. The Irish were engulfed in a surging, hacking mass as the Anglo-Normans redoubled their efforts to overrun them, now that the fight could be waged away from the shelter of the trees. “Both parties;” says the Irish chronicler, “the Gall (Anglo-Normans) and the Gael (Irish), mowed down and mishandled each other, so that of either set many gentlemen and fine warriors were destroyed.”  
     How long this continued is unknown. The struggle was severe, the casualties heavy. O'Dea and his allies were out-numbered, and as their ranks thinned they must have drawn closer together, gathering into a hard knot of combat on the little ridge or hill, or wherever it was that they made their stand. They were driven “to form themselves into a fast, impenetrable phalanx that their enemies should not break through them.” Individual fighters stood out from the mass, and here the new armor of the Irish must have served them well. The Anglo-Normans, still fighting with the utmost ferocity, were pounded between the O'Brien’s and the O'Dea’s and completely overthrown; “so dour the hand-to-hand work was, that neither noble nor commander of them left the ground, but the far greater part fell where they stood.
     Not until late in the day did Murrough Ó Briain unexpectedly arrive at the battle and routed de Clare’s remaining troops which fled to Bunratty with O’Dea’s men pursuing them. The Norman presence in Thomond and attempt for power came to an abrupt end. The widow of Richard de Clare set fire to Bunratty Castle and fled to England with son Thomas, a minor, in tow. Bunratty  and Quin castles were destroyed and Murrough Ó Briain ruled Thomond without opposition until his death in 1343.
     As for Clan Brian, they were banished to the east across the Shannon River where they took over the lands of Ara and Owney, owing allegiance to no one, becoming a law unto themselves: they became known as Mac-I-Brien Ara, and later returned to the surname of Ó Briain.