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The Bishop’s Curse

On a recent rare rainy day here in South Florida, I read the new historical novel “The Bishop’s Curse” by Orlando-based author Raff Ellis. This fascinating book, based upon real people and events, combines an Irish immigrant’s rags-to-riches saga with a unique history of the early Catholic Church in America’s battle for absolute control of its religious and secular assets. This battle is recollected through the sometimes  vicious conflict between the Irish laity of an upstate New York parish and its unpopular, ambitious and avaricious priest and an archbishop determined to break the authority of state laws governing church property and finances.


In St. James Parish, this conflict  between church and state became unhinged. The year was 1860, and while the nation teetered on the brink of the Civil War, another sort of rebellion had broken out in the little town of Carthage, NY.

For the mid-19th Century Irish Catholic church members of St. James Parish, this rebellion against their priest and bishop was a life-changing event that many believed endangered their immortal souls, and that some believed became mortal victims of the Bishop’s curse.


This unique and engaging book is a must-read for fans of Irish-American history and high drama. Raff Ellis, an accomplished historian and talented storyteller, brings back to life a remarkably colorful slice of Irish-American history. I couldn’t put this book down until I’d read it cover to cover.

Video of The Bishop’s Curse.

About the Author, Raff Ellis.

Buy the book online.




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Watch “The Irish in America”

Click on the photo above to watch the entire video on Youtube

This powerful, moving and insightful documentary tells this story of the Irish immigrant experience in America from the colonial period of 1650 through the turn of the 20th century, including the Irish involvement in the American Revolution, the age of Jackson, the Mexican and Civil Wars, the Calfornia Gold Rush and the taming of the American West. It is a tale of how resilient people turned poverty into prosperity and changed the American continent forever. Contrasted is the suffering of the Irish living at home under British Rule and their fight for freedom and justice.

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Where are the Irish in America?

The US Census Bureau recently released detailed population, demographic and ancestry estimates for the year 2010. According to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey for 2010, there were only 124,457 persons born in Ireland living in the United States, but there were 37,926,777 US residents of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry.

In 2010, the Irish were the fourth largest ethnic group in the United States, representing 12.26% of the total US population.

Persons of Irish ancestry reside in all 50 states, but the percentage of the population of Irish ancestry varies considerably from state to state. Massachusetts has the highest percentage, with nearly one-in-four residents having Irish ancestry, while Hawaii has the lowest percentage, with fewer than one-in-twenty residents having Irish ancestry. One-in-nine Florida residents have Irish or Scotch Irish ancestry.

 Not surprisingly, California, by far the most populous state, also has the largest number of persons of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry (2,820,553). Ten states have over one million persons of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. Florida has the fifth largest population of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry (2,068,006).


Filed under Florida Irish Culture, Florida Irish History, Uncategorized

An Irish passion for Asia

Stuart Rooney combines a passion for Asian culture and art with an old Irish family business name at his shop in downtown Lake Worth. He is the proprietor of John A. Rooney Imports, located at 508 Lake Avenue. The shop’s name is an homage to the family business founded by his great grandfather in Dublin in 1845, “John A. Rooney – Engraver & Die Caster”. The Rooneys have documented their family roots in Dublin back to 1014 AD at the famous Battle of Clontarf, where the Irish decisively defeated the Vikings and ended their control of Dublin. Stuart has been a resident of West Palm Beach for 21 years, and worked as a controller at The Breakers Hotel and then as senior loan officer for a mortgage company until he decided to open his own business. The soft-spoken Rooney, with white hair, crystal blue eyes and precise Anglo-Irish accent, greets visitors to his shop from a front counter surrounded by an exotic mix of Asian merchandise.   

John A. Rooney Imports specializes in hand-picked and hand-crafted imports from around the world. Our selection of hand-carved and hand-painted furniture from India delights the senses and adds exotic and unique appeal to the comforts of home. Our sumptuous fabrics add color, richness, and texture. Clothing is loose, flowing, and cool for ease of wear and comfort. Our jewelry includes silver, bead, and semi-precious stonework from India as well as beautiful beadwork from Central America. Our housewares department includes numerous accessories to complement your dining and living areas. All items are hand-picked by me, Stuart Rooney, on buying trips around the globe. We take great pride in bringing you one-of-a-kind items at reasonable prices.” says his website.

Stuart’s passion for Asian culture and art began as a small child. “I was an army brat”, says Stuart. His father was a soldier, and took his Dutch wife and family along to exotic postings in India, Nepal, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Brunei. Stuart’s father served for decades in the famed Brigade of Gurkhas of the British Army. A childhood spent among the vivid colors and sights of Asia inspired Stuart to open his Asian import shop. He travels to the East three times per year to purchase goods for the shop, primarily from India and Malaysia.


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Filed under Florida Irish Culture, Uncategorized

Irish Santa’s Helper – Florida Irish Heritage Center Store

If you’re an Irish Santa, looking for Irish-themed gifts for all your Irish friends and family, the Florida Irish Heritage Center on-line store is the best place to begin your search:

Florida Irish Heritage Center Store

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My summer in Maine, a great book and an incident in Ireland that changed world history

Like many South Florida Irish-Americans, I spent the summer in Maine, enjoying its soft Ireland-like weather, searching for sea glass on the beach and spending many quiet evenings reading. One of the great books that I read this summer was The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, originally published in 1962 and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction that year. This amazing story of the politics and persons responsible for the outbreak of World War I, and of the first few weeks of battle, so impressed President John F. Kennedy that he gave copies of the book to his friends as Christmas gifts. 

The Guns of August was a revelation to me, surprised me by revealing how little I really knew about “the war to end all wars”, and provided me with a fresh perspective on events that shaped the history of the 20th century. If you haven’t read this book, I strongly recommend it:

The Guns of August [Mass Market Paperback]

The Guns of August [Hardcover]

The Guns of August [Kindle Edition]

Of particular interest to me was a now little-known incident relating to northern Ireland that paralyzed Britain’s military decision-makers in 1914, and which emboldened Germany to launch its invasion of Belgium and France in August of that year. The Guns of August briefly mentions the so-called “Curragh Mutiny” incident that rocked Britain’s military and political structure to its foundations in the months before the start of World War I, and left the mighty British Empire unprepared and indecisive on the precipice of impending war in Europe.

In January 1913, after over 700 years of England’s colonial oppression of Ireland, a Liberal Party-controlled British Parliament voted to grant “Home Rule” to Ireland, including its own independent Irish Parliament.  Conservative pro-British Unionists in the north of Ireland vehemently opposed “Home Rule” and the prospect of being governed by a liberal Irish Parliament in Dublin. The Ulster Unionists threatened armed rebellion to prevent Irish “Home Rule” in the north, formed their own provisional government at Belfast and established their own paramilitary force with an estimated 100,000 volunteers by 1914.  Faced with the threat of armed opposition to the enforcement of the Home Rule Act, the British Government ordered its military to ready weapons and troops to respond to any armed rebellion in Ulster. In March 1914, the largely pro-Unionist British officer corps in Ireland balked at the prospect of fighting against “its own people” in Ulster, in what became known as the “Curragh Mutiny”. Britain’s Parliament and Government were shaken by the resignation of a large number of its senior Army officers and by the threat that its military might not obey the civilian Government.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was contemplating the imminent invasion of France through Belgium. His decision would be based upon the likelihood of Britain’s not honoring its treaty obligation to defend neutral Belgium. The Kaiser’s close cousin was King George V of England and the mighty British Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm was afraid of facing a British military response to any German invasion of Belgium. The political chaos and fractured military authority in England, created in large part by the “Curragh Mutiny”, lead the Kaiser to believe that England would either opt to stay out of any Continental war or, at the very least, delay any British military response long enough for Germany to launch a rapid and overwhelming invasion through Belgium and achieve a quick conquest of France.  Upon this wishful and faulty assumption, the Kaiser plunged the world into the greatest and costliest war in human history to that time. World War I killed much of an entire generation, wasted Western Europe and, in its festering ruin, spawned nearly a century of world conflict.  The “Curragh Mutiny” also resulted in nearly a century of unnecessary conflict and terror in northern Ireland.  The following detailed account of the “Curragh Mutiny” was compiled from public domain sources on-line: 

The “Curragh Mutiny”

Events which culminated in the “Curragh Mutiny” of March 1914 had their beginnings at the end of the 18th century when, by the Act of Union, the islands of Great Britain and Ireland were joined administratively. Thereafter, one Parliament would govern both countries. Under­-Secretary Cooke wrote to Prime Minister Mr. Pitt in 1799: “The Union is the only means of preventing Ireland from becoming too great and too powerful.” Repeal of the Act of Union, otherwise known as “Home Rule”, became the objective of every Nationalist Party at Westminster. In the latter half of the 19th century, Mr. Gladstone became the champion of Home Rule. With reference to the Act of Union, he said in 1886: “There is no blacker or fouler transaction in the history of man. We used the whole civil government of Ireland as an engine of whole­sale corruption . . . We obtained that union against the sense of every class of the com­munity, by wholesale bribery and unblushing intimidation.” Gladstone twice sponsored a Home Rule bill in Parliament and was twice defeated. Home Rule was political dynamite, and would have to await a more favorable opportunity for its reintroduction to the House of Commons.

In 1910, the situation at Westminster favored reintroduction of the question of Home Rule. The December elections of that year saw the return to power of the Liberal Party, but with a majority of only one seat. Prime Minister Asquith formed his government and was maintained in power only by the votes of the 84 Irish National­ists in Parliament led by Mr. Redmond. The Home Rule Bill became the topic of the day, and it was evident from the start that it would have a stormy passage through Parliament. Whatever political opposition to Home Rule existed inside the House of Commons, there were also many outside the House prepared to resist the introduction of the bill, by force of arms if necessary.

Anglo-Irish politics have never been simple, so it is useful to examine the various parties involved and where they stood:

1.      The Liberal Party formed the British government. It was headed by Prime Minister Asquith, who believed that, whatever the opposition be to Home Rule outside the House, in the end, the will of Parliament would prevail.

2.      The Irish Nationalist Party supported Asquith’s government. Mr. Redmond defined the Nationalist position when he said: “Ireland today is full of hope and expec­tation. Beware how you dash that hope to the ground. Rebellion is threatened. Rebellion is justified in high quarters. The rebellion of a portion of the population of four counties, because they disapprove of the act of the im­perial parliament before any wrong has been done, and before any oppression has been attempted, would be a crime and a calamity. Rebellion by over three-fourths of a people of a country distracted, tortured and betrayed, de­prived of the rights of freemen, and condemned to a barren policy of coercism, would be too horrible a thing to contemplate; and it is because this is so that I rejoice with all my heart to believe and to know that the future of this bill is safe, and that the future of Ireland is assured.”

3.      The Conservative Party, headed by Mr. Bonar Law, formed the opposition in Parliament. Bonar Law saw in the issue of Home Rule a means of bringing together a Conservative Party divided by dissension.

4.      The Irish Unionist Party, led by Sir Edward Car­son, whose cry of “Home Rule is Rome Rule,” had set Ulster afire. Speaking on the issue in the Commons, he said: “Ulster looms very large in this controversy because Ulster has a strong right arm . . . It will not be my fault if resistance becomes necessary; but, Mr. Speaker, on my con­science, I shall not refuse to join them.”

5.      The Ulster Volunteers were the militant arm of the Unionists. A well organized and dis­ciplined force, they were estimated to number 100,000 in March, 1914. Its leader Mr. Carson declared: “I am told it will be illegal. Of course it will. Drilling is illegal . . . the volunteers are illegal and the government know they are illegal, and the government dare not interfere with them.  Don’t be afraid of illegalities.”

6.      The National Volunteers, formed in 1913, were the Nationalist counterpart of the Ulster Volunteers. They lacked arms, organization and training. Could they be relied upon to assist in enforcing Home Rule in Ulster? Padraic Pearse defined the Nationalist attitude on this point when he said: “Let accursed be the soul of any Nationalist who would dream of firing a shot or drawing a sword against the Ulster Volunteers in con­nection with this Bill.”

7.      The Troops of the Irish Com­mand, to whom would fall the task of main­tenance of law and order and the enforcement of Government policy consisted of two infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades under the General Officer Commanding Ireland, Lieut. Gen. Sir Arthur Paget.

Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Paget is important to the story that follows, as his personality was one of the causes of the “Curragh Mutiny”. He had seen service in Ashanti, Burma, The Sudan and South Africa, and was aged 63 years in 1914.  He was considered: “too out of date, too casual, and intellectually too shallow . . . He could be genial and amusing, and was a great ladies man, but his old-fashioned pomposity was a standing joke. He talked as if he were thinking aloud, and his rambling and often highly colored language betrayed the romantic and even melodramatic current of his thoughts, besides a deeply rooted egotism.” When he died in 1928, his obituary notice in The Times included the following: “Had he only devoted to Military Study a fraction of the time which he gave to the obser­vation of trees and shrubs he might have ranked as a learned soldier.”

Paget’s official residence in 1914 was in the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, a short distance from the administrative headquarters of his command at Parkgate, Dublin. An imaginary line joining Sligo and Wexford divided Paget’s command in two. One infantry division and one cavalry brigade were located both north and south of this line.

As subsequent events primarily concerned the units north of this line, it is necessary to consider their com­position and deployment. These were the major units located north of the Sligo-Wexford line:

The 5th Infantry Division consisted of three infantry brigades each of four battalions:

1.      Brigadier General Cuthbert’s 13th Infantry Brigade was located in Dublin.

2.      Brigadier General Rolt’s 14th Infantry Bri­gade was located at the Curragh.

3.      Brigadier General Count Gleichen’s 15th In­fantry Brigade was located in Ulster.

All battalions of the 5th Infantry Division were from England. For example, the 14th Brigade at the Curragh consisted of:

  • 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment, occupying Keane Barracks, now Pearse Barracks.
  • 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, occupying Gough Barracks, now MacDonagh Barracks.
  • 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light In­fantry, occupying Beresford Barracks, now Ceannt Barracks.
  • 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, occu­pying Wellington Barracks, Dublin.

Brigadier General Headlam commanded the Division’s artillery, with his headquarters at New-bridge, where the 27th Brigade RFA was also located. The 15th Brigade RFA was located at Kildare and the 28th Brigade RFA was located in Dundalk.

The General Officer Commanding 5th Infantry Division was Major General Sir Charles Fergus­son, aged 49 years at that time. “He was a big dour Scotsman, always cool and not easily provoked,” was how one acquaintance described him. Fergusson had served with Lord Kitchener in The Sudan, and by all accounts, he was a very strict and professional soldier. He had taken over command of the 5th Infantry Division in 1913, and lived at this time some two miles south of the Curragh Camp, at Ballyfair House.

The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, although located in the area of the 5th Infantry Division, was not part of that division, but came directly under the command of the General Officer Commanding Ire­land. Brigadier General Hubert Gough had com­manded the 3rd Cavalry Brigade since 1911. Gough was 43 years old, and wrote afterwards of himself, “I am Irish by blood and upbringing, though I was born in London.” He came from a famous fighting family. His father, uncle, and brother were all recipients of the Victoria Cross, and he felt he had a personal mission to add to this list. “Tough, fiery, energetic, a skilled and passionate horseman,” Fergusson wrote of Gough, “he possessed in every sense, and perhaps rather too much, ‘the cavalry spirit ‘.” “We ladies of the hunting field could always expect Gough to arrive along when we were halted at a fence… ‘What’s the trouble, ladies?’ Gough would say, ‘that fence is easy’… He would then stand off, take a flyer at it, and usually end up on the broad of his back.” During the South African war, Gough was the first officer of Buller’s relieving force to enter Ladysmith. However, he got there by disregarding orders. Ryan records that on the day in question, Gough, when some few miles from Ladysmith, was ordered ‘to retire at once.’ Gough refused to obey orders and continued on into Ladysmith. Gough lived at Brownstown House in 1914, just one mile south of the Curragh. His brigade was comprised of the following units:

  • 4th Hussars, located at Stewart Barracks, Cur­ragh, now Connolly Barracks.
  • 16th Lancers located at Ponsonby Barracks, Curragh, now Plunkett Barracks.
  • 5th Royal Irish Lancers, located at Marlborough Barracks, Dublin, now McKee Barracks.
  • Also attached to the 3rd Cavalry Brigade were D and E Batteries, Royal Horse Artillery, stationed at Newbridge.

There were, of course, a num­ber of depots and stores in various parts of Ireland apart from the units listed above.

In the spring of 1912, the Liberal coalition British government of H. H. Asquith had introduced the Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland, which proposed the creation of an autonomous Irish Parliament in Dublin. A large section of Unionists had objected to potential rule by the proposed Dublin Parliament and had founded the Ulster Volunteers paramilitary group in 1912 to fight if necessary against the British government and/or against a future Irish Home Rule government proposed by the Bill. The Home Rule Bill was introduced into The Commons and was passed in January, 1913. The House of Lords rejected the bill. However, be­cause of new limitations placed on the House of Lords, they could not delay its coming into operation beyond 1914. Opposition to Home Rule mounted in the interim. The Ulster Unionist Council delegated its powers to a Provisional Government which, it was announced, would be set up in Belfast as soon as the Home Rule Bill became law.

Prime Minister Asquith sought vainly for a compromise. “We will not close the Avenue—however unpromising for the moment entrance upon it may appear— which directly or indirectly may hold out the hope of leading to concord and to settlement.” Redmond reached the limit of compromise when he agreed to “County option with a time limit of six years”, but reminded the Government that if these terms were rejected then it was their duty to employ “all the resources at its command to suppress any movement that might arise to over­awe Parliament or subvert the law by menace of force.”  Carson replied to this offer, in the House of Commons on Monday, March 9th: “We do not want sentence of death with a stay of execution for six years.” Also early in March 1914, intelligence reports reaching London suggested that “evil-disposed persons” were plotting to raid stores of arms and ammunition in Ireland, particular reference being made to Armagh, Omagh, Enniskillen and Car­rickfergus. A number of senior officers such as Lord French and Henry H. Wilson had expressed their concerns to the government that the British Army would find it difficult to act against the Volunteers, given that they shared the same basic aim of preserving and defending the British Empire and believed Home Rule would threaten it.

As a result, Asquith set up a special committee to deal with the matter. It was com­prised of: the Marquis of Crewe; Mr. Birrell, Chief Secretary for Ireland; Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Mr. Seely, Secretary for War.  On Saturday, March 14th, Churchill, a great believer in Home Rule, delivered a speech at Bradford which caused a sensation throughout England. He declared that there were “worse things than bloodshed even on an extended scale”, described the Ulster Provisional Government as “a self-elected body, composed of persons who, to put it plainly, are engaged in a treasonable con­spiracy.” Was the parliamentary system to break down in the face of this challenge? He ended with these words: “I can only say to you, let us go forward together and put these matters to the proof.” On this day also, Paget received instructions from the War Office, instructing him to take special precautions for safeguarding depots and stores, special reference being made to Armagh, Omagh, Carrickfergus and Enniskillen. On Monday, 16th March, Secretary for War Seely wired Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Paget, asking what steps had been taken by him regard­ing security.

Paget replied on the 17th to state that he was satisfied with the strength of the garrison at Enniskillen, was about to increase the garrison at Carrickfergus, and was taking steps to remove arms and ammunition from Armagh and Omagh. He was reluctant to move troops into Ulster, least it precipitate a crisis. Paget, as requested, then crossed to England that evening and reported to the War Office on Wed­nesday, 18th March. Those present included: Prime Minister Asquith; the members of the special committee referred to earlier; Paget; Field-Marshal Sir John French, Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Sir Spencer Ewart, Adjutant General; and Major General Sir Nevil Macready.  Supposedly, Paget was instructed to move 800 men into Ulster to reinforce depots and arms stores there; preparations for a possible rebellion in the province were discussed; and it was also rumored that Unionist leaders were to be arrested; however, no written record was kept of the discussions which took place at the War Office. From the instructions transmitted by Paget to his headquarters in Dublin, it appears that the following specific decisions were made:

  • A Battalion of the 14th Infantry Brigade would be moved to Newry and Dundalk.
  • Carrickfergus would be reinforced by troops from Dublin.
  • Enniskillen, Omagh and Armagh would be reinforced by troops from Mullingar.
  • The Dorsets Battalion, located in Belfast, would be moved to Holywood, to prevent their being blockaded in their city garrison.
  • General Macready would go to Belfast to take over as military governor when he considered it necessary.

Despite the fact that all these meas­ures were to take place “with all secrecy”, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, Mr. Bonar Law, was kept fully informed of the happening at the war office by Major General Henry Wil­son, Director of Military Operations. The conference resumed on Thursday, March 19th, but without PM Asquith who had an audience with the King. Paget expressed anxiety on three points:

1.      He still felt that the movement of troops into Ulster would excite a disturbance which might take the form of active resistance. On this point he was overruled. He was reminded that as Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, he had “full dis­cretionary powers” to deploy his forces as he saw fit to meet any contingency. Seely told him “You can have as many more men as necessary when you find they are necessary, even to the last man.”

2.      Paget’s second anxiety concerned the trans­portation of troops to Ulster. What if the em­ployees of the Great Northern Railway refused to move them? To obviate such a possibility Churc­hill promised Royal Navy support.

3.      The last of Paget’s anxieties related to the possible behavior of his officers, and that was discussed on Thursday afternoon between Paget, French and Seely. Seely laid down the following prin­ciples for his guidance.

    • That officers ordered to act in support of the civil power should not be permitted to resign their commissions, but must, if they refused to obey orders, be dismissed from the Army.
    • That indulgence might be shown, in cases where it was asked for, to officers who were domi­ciled in Ulster.

On all these matters, Paget received no written orders. He returned to Dublin that night, but not before he wired instructions for his unit commanders to meet him on Friday at his head­quarters at Parkgate. The Cabinet members, who had attended the con­ference at the War Office, hurried to the Com­mons to attend a most important session. Mr. Bonar Law had tabled a vote of censure on the Government and in concluding his address he stated: “What about the army? If it is only a question of disorder, the army will and ought to obey, but if it is a question of civil war, the soldiers are citizens like the rest of the people. The army will be divided, and that force be de­stroyed on which we depend for our national safety.” The vote of censure was rejected by a vote of 345 to 252.

At 0930 hours on Friday, March 20th, seven officers assembled in Paget’s office at Parkgate, Dublin. They were Fergusson, Rolt, Cuthbert, Gough and three officers of the General Staff. Paget forbade the taking of notes early in the conference. There are three accounts available of the happenings. Paget himself wrote the shortest account for the King, five days after the event. Gough made notes immediately after the con­ference, but did not assemble them until much later. Ferguson’s narrative is the fullest and was written seven days after the event. When the officers were seated, Paget strode in, according to Gough, looking “stern and pompous and smoking a cigar.” What thoughts were running through Paget’s mind at this time we shall never know. He may have been carried away by the visions of a vast armada of warships off the coast of Scotland, or of a vast army under his control, all deduced from Seely’s guarantee of support. By all accounts, Paget became very excited and rambled on about “the whole place being ablaze by tomorrow.” “He did not say one word about law and order” said Gough, “and our duty to maintain it when necessary.”

Paget had apparently forgotten that all he had been told to do was to move two Battalions and one company of infantry. The plan was to occupy government buildings and to repel any assaults by the Ulster Volunteers, putting the latter on the wrong foot. Paget misinterpreted his orders for precautionary deployments as an immediate order to march against the Ulstermen. Paget then went on to outline the conditions pertaining to officers, as laid down by Seely in London the previous day. Acting on his own initiative, he offered the officers under his command the choice of resignation rather than fighting against the Ulster Volunteers. This was later to be­come known as “The Ultimatum.” Brigadiers were to go at once and place the alternatives before their officers and notify him forthwith of the out­come. The meeting adjourned. Fergusson, Rolt, Cuthbert and Gough were all agitated. “Come along” said Fergusson, “Let us talk over this. The Army must hold together.” Cough declared bluntly that he would not go. The party broke up.

Fergusson was required to remain in Dublin to attend an afternoon conference, and took the opportunity to put “The Ultimatum” on paper and then send it by his aide-dc-camp to the Curragh, to be placed before the combat, support and service elements of his division. This document is of prime importance, for it is the earliest written document of what Paget had said. Fergusson reproduced the document in full in his book. It stated, in part: “In view of the possibility of active operations in Ulster, the War Office has authorized the fol­lowing communication to officers:

1.      Officers whose homes are actually in the province of Ulster who wish to do so may apply for permission to be absent from duty during the period of operations, and will be allowed to ‘disappear’ from Ireland. Such officers will, subsequently, be reinstated, and will suffer no loss in their career.

2.      Any other officer who from conscientious or other motives is not prepared to carry out his duty as ordered, should say so at once. Such officers will at once be dismissed from the service.”

Cough walked the short distance from Parkgate to Marlborough Barracks and placed the ulti­matum before the assembled officers of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. All were prepared to accept dismissal in preference to the possibility of taking part in active operations in Ulster.

Rolt arrived by motor car at the Curragh at 11.30 a.m., and outlined the ultimatum to his battalion commanders. The colonels dispersed and each summoned his officers to their mess and put the ultimatum before them. One officer wrote later “Everyone objects to going and nine out of ten refuse under any conditions to go.”

A subaltern, in Dublin, wrote his father: “Can you imagine a subaltern of 22-26 making up his mind in an hour as to whether he should shoot down Loyalists in Ulster or try to start a civil job without a bob? . . . Imagine anything more criminal than making us decide a matter which might affect our whole careers, without giving us time to think or get advice from any­one.”

Cough did not reach the Curragh until about 3.30 p.m., and immediately ordered all officers of the 16th Lancers, 4th Hussars, and Royal Horse Artillery to meet at the Officers’ Mess at Ponsonby Barracks. Cough laid the ultimatum before the assembled officers. “Each must decide for himself;” however, he did tell them that he had chosen the option of dismissal. He requested their decisions by 5.30 p.m., and at that time, all except two opted for dismissal.

The first indication to reach London that all was not well in the Irish Command was a tele­gram from Paget to the War Office at 7 p.m. Word also broke on Fleet Street about the same time. Un­aware of these happenings in the military, some cabinet members were, at this time, assuring the people of the Government’s resolve. Mr. John Burns, President of the Local Government Board, in an address in the National Liberal Club, said: “Home Rule is a question mainly for Ireland itself. Three-fourths of the people there have demanded it persistently for years, and we have no right to listen to the demand for more con­cessions or yield to clamor.” Thomas McKinnon, Secretary of State for Scot­land, also voiced this resolve when he said “We will carry Home Rule by agreement if we possibly can, but without it if we must.”

Fergusson returned to the Curragh at 9 p.m. and went directly to his home. He did not learn of the serious situation within his division until the following morning, when he met Headlam and Rolt at his headquarters, and they made him aware of it. Fergusson was not prepared to leave his officers, least of all the young ones, to face a per­plexing problem by themselves. “It is,” he used to say “the duty of leaders to lead.” Fergusson ordered the Manchesters and Suffolks to parade to the gymnasium at the Curragh, where he addressed them. Then he journeyed to Kildare, Newbridge and Dublin, and in each place, he addressed the assembled units. The contents of his address were the same in each place: the need for discipline and loyalty to King and Govern­ment. One officer of the East Surrey Battalion wrote later: “He reminded us that although we must natur­ally hold private political views, officially we should not be on the side of any one political party. It was our duty to obey orders, to go wherever we were sent and to comply with instructions of any political party that happened to be in power. There was no sloppy sentiment; it was good stuff straight from the shoulder and just what we wanted.”

Matters were far from satisfactory in the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Word arrived from the War Office on Saturday, directing Cough and the Offi­cers Commanding the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to report to London. Paget determined to put an end to any misunderstanding by travelling to the Curragh and speaking to the cavalry officers. Paget’s address turned out to be a most bizarre episode. The old war horse rambled on in his usual manner, and told the assembled officers that “he was their friend and that they should trust him.” He had no intention of urging war on Ulster, and to prove it, he would divulge some of his plans. To such an extent was he prepared to avoid fighting that he had given orders that if any battalion met with opposition in its march, it was to turn around and go back to barracks. And if fighting took place against Ulster forces, he would order all his men to lie down and not return the fire, and he and his generals would advance alone and parley with the men of Ulster. As far as the Cavalry were concerned, he would put them on a flank, and if they met opposition and cleared it, he would be pleased, but if they took no active part, he would also be content. Paget concluded his address and, prior to de­parting for Dublin, told his audience to make their decision and convey it to Fergusson.

On his return to the Curragh, Fergusson learned of the decision of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, to the effect that only the officers of the 4th Hussars and Royal Horse Artillery had relented. Out of the 70 British Army officers based at the Curragh Camp, 57, led by Brigadier General Herbert Gough, who, like many of them, had Irish family connections,  accepted Paget’s offer to resign their commissions in the British Army, or to accept being dismissed from it, rather than enforce the Home Rule Act in Ulster. Paget then sent a telegram to the War Office in London:


The 57 officers were not actually guilty of “mutiny”. They had not disobeyed direct orders of any kind. Nonetheless, news of their resignations caused government alarm. Cough, Lieutenant Colonel MacEwen, O.C. 16th Lancers, and Lieu­tenant Colonel Parker, O.C. 5th Royal Irish Lancers, were instructed to report to the War Office in London forthwith.

In London, the weekend of the 2lst-22nd of March was one of considerable political activity and intrigue. The whole question had now be­come a national issue, with the press on one side calling the events “a sinister plot to coerce Ulster” and the Government pleading that only the maintenance of law and order was involved. The Daily Chronicle reported: “For the first time in modern English history a military cabal seeks to dictate to Government the Bills it should carry or not carry into law. We are confronted with a desperate rally of reactionaries to defeat the democratic movement and repeal the Parliamentary Act. This move by a few aristocratic officers is the last throw in the game.” The Daily Express announced in black type that “The Home Rule Bill Is Dead,” and The Daily News queried, “It is a question whether we govern ourselves or are governed by General Cough.”

Speaking on the Irish question, at a meet­ing held at Huddersfield on March 21st, Mr. Lloyd George said: “We are confronted with the greatest issue raised in this country since the days of the Stuarts. Representative government in this land is at stake. In those days our forefathers had to face a claim of the Divine Right of Kings to do what they pleased. Today it is the Divine Right of the aristocracy to do what it pleases. We are not fighting about Ulster. We are not fighting about Home Rule. We are fighting for all that is essential to civil liberty in this land.”

All the forces of “the establishment” were brought to bear on the Government, at this time, with such success that, when Gough reported to the War Office on March 23rd, they were seeking a way out of the impasse. Cough, made aware of the Government’s predicament by Wilson, was interviewed by French, Ewart and Seely. He was told that there had been a misunderstanding and was requested to accept reinstatement. This, Gough was prepared to agree to, provided that the Army Council would furnish certain assurances in writ­ing.

The Cabinet approved a letter acknowledg­ing a misunderstanding, but pointing out that it was the duty of soldiers to support the civil power in the maintenance of law and order. Cough was instructed to return later in the day to collect the document. He consulted Wilson, who pointed out a difficulty that might yet arise, namely that, in the event of Home Rule becoming Law, could not the Army be called upon to enforce it on Ulster under the expression of maintaining law and order. Gough sought clarification on this point in a letter, which he dispatched to Ewart at the War Office. However, this letter did not reach Ewart until the Cabinet had approved the initial document and adjourned. Seely felt licensed to tamper with the Cabinet paper, for he added: “His Majesty’s Government must retain their right to use all the forces of the Crown in Ire­land, or elsewhere, to maintain law and order and to support the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty. But they have no intention whatever of taking advantage of this right to crush political opposition to the policy or principles of the Home Rule Bill.” To this document, Seely, French, and Ewart appended their initials and it was handed to Cough when he returned to the War Office.

Cough retired and consulted with Wilson, Parker, MacEwen, and his brother. They were worried about the words “crush political opposition” in the final paragraph of the document. Cough wrote, on a sheet of War Office paper, the following: “I understand the reading of the last para­graph to be that troops under our command will not be called upon to enforce the present Home Rule Bill on Ulster, and that we can so assure our officers. Cough handed this paper to French, who, having studied the paper for some minutes, wrote at the foot of the page: “This is how I read it.” The documents, later to be known as “The Guarantee,” were returned to Cough, who im­mediately departed for Ireland.

The events already related were to be the subject of many weeks of heated debate and dis­cussion in both the press and Parliament. The Govern­ment rejected “The Guarantee” on the grounds that the parties, who amended the Cabinet docu­ment, had no authority to tamper with it. Efforts were even made to recover it from Cough, but to no avail. Seely, French and Ewart all resigned because “The Guarantee” was repudiated. There were charges of a Government plot to coerce Ulster and that the reports of possible seizure of arms depots were fabrications. Countercharges of mutiny and subversion of democratic Govern­ment followed. Russian radical Vladimir Lenin cited the incident as an example of the “determined resistance of the British landlords and capitalists in Ireland to the introduction of Home Rule.”

Cough was hailed as a hero: “The plot has been defeated by the courageous stand made by the officers of the Cavalry Brigade . . . We con­gratulate General Cough, whose fearless and honorable conduct has added luster to the laurels of a great Irish family.” Fergusson was denounced as “ a cur.” Even the King was to take him to task for having used his name in addressing the troops on Saturday, March 21. However, he was fixed in his views, for he later wrote “if my conscience were as clear about everything in my life as it is about that incident, I should he very pleased.”

What were the results of the preceding events, which became known collectively as the “Curragh Mutiny”? They were both long and short-term, effecting both Ireland and England:

The most immediate result was the reading, by Prime Minister Asquith in the House of Commons on March 28th, of a New Army Order concerning discipline. The opening paragraph read: “No officer or soldier should, in future, be questioned by his superior officer as to the attitude he will adopt in the event of his being required to obey orders dependent on future or hypothetical contingencies.”

At the highest levels of the Army, the adverse effects of the “Mutiny” were great. It left a legacy of suspicion between Britain’s military and political leaders that would last for years, during the entire long course of World War I. This mutual distrust was to hamper decision-making and operations throughout the War.

In Ireland, the “Mutiny” had major effects upon the course of Anglo-Irish relations. The Home Rule Bill, passed in the Commons on May 25th, found its way into the Statute Books on September 18th, with the proviso that it not come into effect until after the end of the War. Parliament had dodged facing the issue, for it knew that it could not depend upon the Army to implement a Home Rule Bill for the whole of Ireland. As far as the Irish Nationalists were concerned, the damage was done. With all confidence now lost in Parliamentary procedure, it followed that their resorting to arms was unavoidable. On April 24th, the Northern Irish Ulster Volunteers covertly landed about 24,000 rifles at night in the “Larne gun-running” incident, without any of those involved being discovered or arrested. The growing fear of civil war in Ireland led on to the government considering some form of partition of Ireland in July 1914 by an amending bill, and further discussions at the Buckingham Palace Conference, but both it and the main act were suspended soon after the start of World War I in August. On Easter Monday, 1916, under a banner which said “We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland”, the Irish rose in armed rebellion.

What impact did the “Mutiny” have on the Army’s rank and file to fight, when called upon to do so? The answer became clear five months later. The 5th Infantry Division and the 3rd Cavalry Brigade were amongst the first British units ordered to France at the outbreak of World War I. At 11.15 am, on Saturday, the 22nd of August, 1914, “E” Battery, Royal Horse Artil­lery fired the first British shots of World War I. In the ensuing engagement, these units, which figured so prominently in the events at the Curragh, bore the brunt of the German attack and covered the retreat of the British Forces from Mons. They fought with great courage and endurance.

Significant lessons can be learned from the “Curragh Mutiny” pertaining to the ethics and the behavior of the military in relation to a civil government. Paget, when at the War Office on March 19, sought guidance as to his actions in certain eventualities. This guidance was furnished to him by way of “The Ultimatum.” It was unnecessary, injudicious and improper to place that choice before the officer corps. The blame for the effects that followed lay not with those officers forced to make the choice, but with those who caused it to be offered. To term the results of this folly a “mutiny” is a misnomer. There was no mutiny. In fact, all “orders” given at the time were punctually and implicitly obeyed. The reactions of Fergusson and Cough to “The Ultimatum” provide an excellent case study in leadership. The background of both officers was similar: Royalist, Protestant, exper­ienced and of the same age, and yet they reacted in quite different ways. Which was cor­rect? It is evident that both cannot be so.

  • Fergusson wrote later: “Needless to say what my inclinations were. All personal considerations invited me to do what Cough did; and if anything could strengthen those feelings, it was the “ultimatum” put to me on Friday last.” However, he goes on to say: “we officers have all the responsibility of being able to influence, in a greater or lesser degree, according to rank and position, those serving under us. . . I may be willing to accept dismissal from the service myself, but I am not prepared to draw others into the risk of losing everything because of their loyalty to me . . . Logically, if we officers refuse to fight against our friends, are we prepared to accept the same argument from our men when they are called on to fight their friends in labor disputes, etc?  If the Army break up, and discipline is allowed to become dependent on personal con­siderations, what is there between the country and revolution? . . . Therefore, I will do nothing that will in any way weaken the dis­cipline of the Army, which I hold to be the paramount consideration. Democracies always have exhibited concern over their military establishments because military organizations have the ability, as holders of the instruments and science of violence, to short-circuit the democratic process.”
  • Of Cough, one can understand how he reacted to “The Ultimatum”, and on technical grounds he could never be accused of mutiny. Guided entirely by his emotions, he exercised his pre­rogative when Paget presented the alternatives to him. Of “The Guarantee,” which he later sought and obtained in London, his actions are suspect.

Prime Minister Asquith summed up the whole question of the “Ultimatum” and “Guarantee” when he wrote: “In the view of the Cabinet, it was wrong to demand from the officers any assurance as to what their conduct might be in a contingency which might never arise, and it is at least equally wrong for an officer to demand any such assurance from the Government.” If orders had existed for the repression of the Ulster Unionists and the arrest of their leaders, they were at once withdrawn. Asquith claimed publicly that no such action had been contemplated and that the whole episode had resulted from an “honest misunderstanding”, and the affected officers were reinstated. The War Office in London declared that ministers had no future intention of using the Army to enforce submission to the Home Rule Bill. This assurance may have been given without Cabinet authority, as those responsible for issuing it were subsequently obliged to resign.

Overall, the “Curragh Mutiny” incident greatly increased the confidence of Ulster Unionists. They firmly believed that the government had intended to crush them, but its plan had failed for lack of military support. Thereafter British government ministers were convinced that they could not trust the Army to quell opposition to home rule in the province. For Irish nationalists, the events merely confirmed their increasing doubts about Asquith’s real commitment to granting Irish self-government and about his willingness to ever grapple with Unionist militancy.


Listen to audio clip about the “Curragh Mutiny”.

General Officer Commanding Ireland: Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Henry Fitzroy Paget.

The “Curragh Mutiny”.

The Curragh Camp at Curragh, County Kildare, Ireland.

The Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland.

The Home Rule Act 1914 in Ulster.

The story of the British Army in the Great War of 1914–1918: Field-Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson.

Unionism in Ireland.


1.      The Ulster Crisis by ATQ Stewart; Faber & Faber, London – 1967.

2.      The Green Flag by Kee, Robert; Weidenfeld and Nicolson – 1972.

3.      The Army and the Curragh Incident 1914 by Beckett, Ian F. W.; Bodley Head for the ARS – 1986.

4.      The Curragh Incident by Fergusson, Sir James; London – 1964.

5.      Mutiny at the Curragh by Ryan, A.P.; London – 1956.

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Irish Latin Americans

Latin Americans are a large part of the population and culture of South Florida. According to the 2010 US Census, 41.3% of South Florida residents identified themselves as “Hispanic”:

2010 US Census








 Broward County



25.1 %  

 Miami-Dade County 



65.0 % 

 Monroe County



20.6 % 

 Palm Beach County



19.0 % 




41.3 % 

Many South Florida residents of Latin American ancestry share an additional and unexpected ancestry with Irish-Americans. Beginning in the early 1700’s, many thousands of Irish immigrants settled throughout Latin America. In Argentina alone, over 50,000 Irish immigrants settled there. Today, millions of Latin Americans share common Irish ancestors with Irish-Americans.

Many of the Irish immigrants to Latin America became famous:

  • Thomas St. George Armstrong (1797-1875), born at Garrycastle, County Offaly, became a leading banker and railroad builder in Argentina.
  • William Brown (1777-1857), born at Foxford, County Mayo, became the founder of the Argentine Navy and Governor of Buenos Aires.
  • Peter Campbell (1780-c.1832), born in Ireland, became the founder of the Uruguayan Navy.
  • James Towers English (1782-1819), born near Dublin, was a member of Simon Bolivar’s personal staff and was the Commander of the British Legion in the South American wars of independence.
  • Edelmiro Julián Farrell (1887-1980), grandson of Matthew Farrell of County Longford and Mónica Ibañez of Argentina, became a general in the Argentine Army and President of the Argentine Republic (1944-1946).
  • William Lamport (1610-1659), known in Mexico by his Spanish alias “Don Guillén Lombardo de Guzmán”, born at Wexford Town, County Wexford, was the author of the first declaration of independence for Mexico and was the self-proclaimed “King of New Spain”. Recently, some speculation has emerged that William’s life could be the source of the “Zorro” myth.
  • Eliza Lynch (1835-1886), popularly known in Paraguay as “La Lynch”, born in County Cork, Ireland, was the mother of Paraguay leader General Francisco Solano López’s many illegitimate children and became the unofficial and notorious “First Lady” of Paraguay. She also became the world’s largest female landowner. By 1865, she owned several huge ranches and at least twenty-six urban properties, over 800,000 acres of state lands and forests, 12,000,000 acres in eastern Paraguay and another 9,000,000 acres in the contested area north of the River Apa.
  • Cecilia McPartland (b. 1882), born at Lisnadaragh, Ireland, was the mother of Cuban War of Independence hero, Julio Antonio Mella. Mella gained notoriety because of his actions against the Machado government in Cuba. And at the young age of 26, he was gunned down on the streets of Mexico City where he had gone into exile to gain support for Cuban independence
  • Tomás Antonio O’Horan (1776-1848), son of John O’Horan of Aughane, County Cork and María Gertrudis de Argüello y Monte of Campeche, became a noted public official in Mexico and Guatemala. In 1823-1824, Tomás A. O’Horan was a member of the triumvirate that governed the United Provinces of Central America. In 1835, he served in the Mexican Senate, representing Yucatán, and later as magistrate in Mérida.
  • Ambrose O’Higgins (c. 1721-1801), born at Ballinary, County Sligo, became the 18th Century Irish immigrant who attained the highest position in the Spanish America’s. He was Governor and Captain-General of Chile and then Viceroy of Peru. He was granted the Spanish titles of Baron of Ballinary and Marquis of Osorno by the King of Spain. His son, Bernardo O’Higgins, born in Chile, became the leading figure in the Chilean war of independence and is remembered as the emancipator of Chile.
  • James Rooke (1770-1819), born at Dublin, became Commander of the British Legion and hero of the battle of Pantano de Vargas during Simon Bolivar’s South American wars of independence. There is a bronze statue of Colonel Rooke at Boyacá Bridge, Colombia and another at the monastery where he died In the nearby city of Paipa, there is a Parque Jaime Rooke, and at the main entrance to the Colombian capital, a sober but moving marble tablet reads: Colombia, a los Próceres y a la Legión Británica.
  • Thomas Charles James Wright (1799-1868), born at Drogheda, County Louth, was an officer in Simón Bolívar’s army and became the founder of the Ecuadorian Naval School. After Ecuador achieved independence in 1830, Wright became one of the new republic’s leading citizens. He married María de los Angeles Victoria Rico (niece of Vicente Rocafuerte, President of Ecuador in 1835-1839 and 1843-1845). Wright also became Commander of the Ecuadorian Navy and Governor of Guayaquil.

…and the list of famous Irish Latin Americans goes on and on.

Probably the most recognizable and famous (most people in South Florida would say “infamous”) Irish Latin American of them all was the man immortalized in the iconic image below:

Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967), son of Ernesto Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna, was a member of the prominent Lynch family of Argentina. The Latin American Lynch’s were an influential family with branches in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Among their many members were soldiers, wealthy businessmen and landowners, politicians and intellectuals, like the Chilean Rear Admiral Patricio Lynch Zaldívar (1824-1886) and distinguished Argentine writers Benito Lynch (1882-1951) and Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999). Patrick Lynch of Lydican Castle, near Galway, left Ireland and immigrated to Buenos Aires in 1749. He succeeded in business and married Rosa de Galaya de la Camera, a wealthy heiress. It was from this marriage that the many Lynch’s in South America descended.

Ernesto Guevara was born on June 14, 1928 in the city of Rosario, Argentina. He was a sickly child and would suffer from acute asthma his entire life. He studied medicine and became a doctor in 1953.  After graduation, Guevara travelled to Guatemala and became acquainted with Antonio Ñico López Fernández and other revolutionaries who worked for Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. When a CIA-sponsored military coup toppled President Arbenz, Guevara relocated to Mexico in 1954. In Mexico City, Guevara was working as a reporter when he became friends with Fidel and Raul Castro and other exiled Cuban revolutionaries. In 1955, he accompanied Fidel Castro’s Granma expedition from Mexico to Cuba. Upon landing in Cuba, most of the 81 men on the yacht were caught or killed, and only 16 escaped into the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where peasants and farmers aided them until their forces grew into the revolutionary army that eventually toppled Cuban President Batista. During the Cuban revolution, Guevara served as a doctor, strategist and military commander. It was his Cuban comrades who gave him the nickname “Che”, because Guevara constantly used the Argentine expression “che” (slang for “Man” or the current “Dude”, as in “Hey, Man”). By the time he entered Havana on January 2, 1959, “Che” Guevara was internationally famous.  He was awarded Cuban citizenship, and was appointed President of the National Bank.


Between 1960 and 1965, Guevara served as Minister of Industry and directed the Cuban economy. He also travelled extensively on missions to Europe, Asia, and Latin America to increase Cuban international trade and to promote military and political alliances against the United States. He also represented Cuba before international conferences and bodies such as the United Nations. In 1965, Guevara resigned his offices and left Cuba, secretly leading an unsuccessful leftist uprising in the Congo. He then went to Bolivia to organize a multi-national leftist revolution in South America. On October 3, 1965, he arrived in Bolivia with a Uruguayan passport under the name of Adolfo Mena González. He joined local and Cuban guerrilla fighters at a remote base near the borders with Peru and Argentina. During an encounter with army troops at Quebrada del Yuro, he was seriously injured. On October 9, 1965, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was executed by CIA operatives at Higuera, together with six other rebel guerillas. His body was discovered in 1997, and his remains are now buried in Cuba.

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