Men of Action: George Washington’s St Patrick’s Day

In 1787, reflecting on his travels in North America, George Grieve noted:

‘On more than one imminent occasion, Congress owed their existence, and America possibly her preservation, to the fidelity and firmness of the Irish’

The Irish were already prominent members of American communities by the time the American Revolution started. Sympathising with the plight that America faced, many Irish soldiers flocked to the support of George Washington and his commanders and joined the fight for freedom.

These Wild Geese quickly became the largest immigrant group in the Continental Army. It is thought that they made up one quarter of the fighting force. France sent support as the revolution intensified and the first troops it sent were the regiments Dillon, Walsh and Roche of the Irish Brigade. Irish soldiers were a familiar yet formidable force on the battlefields, and played their parts in forming the new nation of America. As George Grieve noted their contributions were many and they pursued the path to freedom with courage and determination.

The Marquis de Lafayette noted this contribution in 1779, saying:

‘May the kingdom of Ireland merit a stripe in the American Standard’

The Continental Army fighting at the Battle of Long Island, 1776 (image from The National Guard, via Flickr Creative Commons)
The Continental Army fighting at the Battle of Long Island, 1776 (image from The National Guard, via Flickr Creative Commons)

But toward the end of 1779, the soldiers fighting in the revolutionary war faced the bleakest winter yet. General George Washington set up camp in Morristown, New Jersey. Snowstorms were commonplace and in this harsh climate the Continental Army was hungry and cold. Morale was low.

After months of these conditions, General Washington recognised that his troops needed to rest and it was important to reinvigorate moral. The key to this was St. Patrick’s Day.

Many of the soldiers in the camp were Irish or held Irish ancestry, with the regiments from Pennsylvania and Maryland thought to be nearly half Irish. Seven of the eleven brigades were commanded by generals either born in Ireland or with Irish ancestry. So it seemed appropriate to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Washington declared the 17th March 1780 as an r&r day for the camp, awarding the holiday ‘as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence’.

Today it is thought there are over 50 million people of Irish ancestry in the USA and St Patrick’s Day is celebrated throughout the country.

Men of Action: The Last Charge of the ‘Leinster Leviathan’

Image by wynnert, via Flickr Creative Commons
Image by wynnert, via Flickr Creative Commons

Ireland are rocketing into their next 6 Nations Rugby match with two wins behind them. The team’s performances in the annual championship have been exemplary, and it seems like the perfect tournament for Brian O’Driscoll to retire to.

The ‘Leinster leviathan’s’ departure from the game is already being felt throughout the rugby world. He’s often referred to as one of the greatest players ever and has displayed the strong Irish heart of the Wild Geese. His determination on and off the field has shone through.

O’Driscoll will be hoping to capitalise on the 28-6 win against Scotland and the 26-3 win against Wales, to hit a hat-trick of wins against England this weekend, where he will draw with Australia’s George Gregan for the most caps in the game (139).

Although his career glistens with achievements, it is his character and commitment to his team that will be remembered. Camaraderie has also been an important trait to Wild Geese from which strong leaders have emerged. Like Patrick Sarsfield, O’Driscoll has lead his troops abroad.

‘I believe that any team taking the field with Brian involved always fell they have a chance of winning,’ explains Ireland’s captain Paul O’Connell. ‘You see that confidence now spread across the provinces’.

O’Connell has been celebrating the transformation Brian O’Driscoll has brought to the game by spreading ‘confidence across the whole set-up’.

‘He’s the complete player. You have to defend as well as you attack, to be an elite member of the team off the pitch as well as on it. Many of those who come through now are in the mould of brian, in terms of the way he has carried himself. They have modelled themselves on him’

Men of Action: Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream Lives On

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Martin Luther King Day passed this week on Monday 20th January, proving that The Dream still resonates with people far and wide.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who would not accept the world around him. He stood up to be counted and united people under a banner of love to fuel change in his society. He was a Man of Action and Martin Luther King Day has always been a day to reflect on the man and what he stood for. In honour of this, yesterday was billed as ‘a day on, not a day off’, despite being a US Federal holiday.

People were encourage to work with the passion of Martin Luther King to improve their communities. US President Barack Obama and his family served food in a Washington soup kitchen and throughout the US communities gathered to hear topical speeches and walk in parades.

All this acts a focal point. During tough times, it’s important to remember why Martin Luther King took action. To champion character over colour. Love over hate. Protest over violence. Freedom over oppression. Equality over discrimination.

He was a Man of Action and this week reminds us all to stand up. To be counted. To take action.

Irish Talent: The Enigmatic Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor (image from Hudson Taylor Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/HudsonTaylorMusic )
Hudson Taylor (image from Hudson Taylor Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/HudsonTaylorMusic )

In 1691 Patrick Sarsfield and his followers left Ireland. They took the world by storm and the name ‘Irish’ soon became a sought after in European armies.

Today Irish talents are diverse and two Wild Geese are preparing to have their voices heard in 2014. The duo Hudson Taylor are one of Ireland’s top bands heading into the new year and like the original Wild Geese will be making their talents known beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle.

Hudson Taylor consists of brothers Alfie and Harry. Born in Dublin, they started busking on the streets of the capital at a young age. They were regulars on Grafton Street and belting out covers of the Beach Boys and the Beatles with their own unique twists. In an interview with Digital Spy they explained:

‘They all contributed to us learning to be quite diverse, but we try to keep our songs short, catchy and raw in their production’

They spent most of 2013 supporting UK sensation Jake Bugg on his tour with their folk pop music. During the tour they got the chance to explore their sound and work on their first album. After their debut EP ‘Battles’ shot to number 1 in the iTunes Ireland and number 14 in the iTunes UK charts, the demand for their music is growing.

Those who have already seen Hudson Taylor live champion their interesting songs and strong lyrics. Their live performances gel the band with the audience and there’s no doubt that they will feature on the festival scene this summer. But the duo are still ‘doing a lot of experimenting with vocal techniques’.

‘I think our Irish accents are quite handy in terms of that, making us stand out a little bit more’, Harry explained.

Hudson Taylor are very active on Youtube, which is where a majority of their fanbase has come from. You can check them out in the link below as they take their unique sound abroad.

http://www.youtube.com/user/HudsonTaylorMusic

Men of Action: 4000th Win Rockets McCoy to Sports Personality of the Year

Tony_mccoy
Irish jockey Tony McCoy must be used to winning by now, but when he was announced as RTE’s Irish Sports Personality of the Year at the end of December, there was a great sense of consensus for the decision.

The 18 time champion jockey has been a powerful ambassador for Irish sports and horse racing throughout his 22 year career, but back in November 2013 he rode his 4000th win! Riding Mountain Tunes at Towcester in the UK, the Antrim native took a moment to contemplate his successful career:

‘It really was the first time that I felt really proud and happy for what I’d achieved and felt brave enough to say that I was proud of what I’d achieved’

This 4000th win rocketed him into the public eye and he soon won nominations for the RTE  and BBC Sports Personalities of the Year, awards that recognise the skill and determination of sportsmen. He came third in the BBC contest (won by tennis player Andy Murray), but a week later he won the Irish award.

‘It’s great,’ he said, ‘and a fantastic honour to win such a prestigious award here at home’

But like The Wild Geese® before him, this level of success does not mean an easy ride from here on out. His 4000th win and the Sports Personality Award have exhilarated him and he’s now set his sights on 5000 wins going into 2014! His ambition is unyielding. Just like Wild Geese throughout the centuries.

Men of Action: Wild Geese Create A Christmas Like No Other

 

General Corcoran, ancestor of Patrick Sarsfield (Image from Wikipedia.com)
General Corcoran, ancestor of Patrick Sarsfield (Image from Wikipedia.com)

For hundreds of years Irish soldiers have sought their destiny abroad. Wherever they travelled, whichever side of the battlefield they have stood, the tales of their exploits have never been forgotten.

For many Irish soldiers abroad, Christmas was a difficult time. Far from home and often in harsh conditions, many Wild Geese have spent Christmas fighting for causes close to their hearts.

During the first year of the American Civil War, the brutality of battle quickly became commonplace. But for the Union Army’s Irish Brigade, a bleak Christmas was not acceptable, even on the battlefield.

The Brigade was made up of mostly Irish Americans, who were familiar with the Christmas traditions of Ireland: time with family and friends, gift giving and feasting. It was lead by Brigadier-General Michael Corcoran, an ancestor of Patrick Sarsfield. And like his ancestor, Corcoran was determined to bring a sense of camaraderie  and resourcefulness to the battlefield, especially during Christmas.

To contrast the misery of battle, the Irish Brigade transformed their camp into a winter wonderland. On Christmas Eve the drill was suspended so that the troops could decorate the camp. Soldiers from neighbouring camps visited to appreciate the resourcefulness of the Irish Brigade and enjoy some Christmas spirit. One eyewitnesses recorded:

‘All the men were working like so many beavers decorating the camp with evergreens. There were arches of evergreens, some as high as thirty feet and stars made out of the time-honoured holly’

Another stated: ‘Without any exaggeration I believe such a camp and such a fairytale-like scene were never seen before and may never be again’

The soldiers gathered at midnight to think of family and friends. They sang songs and General Corcoran offered his staff and guests a glass of Irish whiskey each.

The following morning brought with it a glorious day. The soldiers sang more carols and played games. Officers from four Navy ships moored nearby were invited to join in the festivities and the evening brought with it a large meal, followed by General Corcoran toasting to the Irish Brigade. Like many Wild Geese before them, the Irish Brigade had brought optimism to an adverse situation.

The Civil War, however, was on the horizon. A month later the Irish Brigade were in the midst of battle. Many of them, including General Corcoran, would not see another Christmas, but the celebrations of 1862 will be remembered as one where the generosity, determination and resourcefulness of Wild Geese shone through. It was a Christmas like no other.

The Irish Brigade marching into battle (Image from racontours.com)
The Irish Brigade marching into battle (Image from racontours.com)

Men of Action: Irish Gold Medalist Nominated For Sports Personality of the Year

Martyn_Irvine_2012Eleven of Ireland’s top sports stars have been nominated for the RTE Sports Personality Award, celebrating a fantastic year for Irish sports.

One of the nominees is professional cyclist Martyn Irvine who has had a roller-coaster year. In February he won the Scratch World title at the UCI World Track Championships in Minsk, only an hour after winning a silver medal in the individual pursuit discipline. A huge achievement and highlight in his career, making him the first Irish male rider to win a World Championship in 117 years.

This turned into an uncompromising race:

‘I rode smart for the first half of the race. I didn’t want to race too much, but then I started to use my head’

‘I looked around and other guys were grimacing more than me. I rolled off the front and got in the groove. It was a all or nothing’

From this point it seemed as though anything was possible, but a month after winning the Scratch World title he fractured his femur during the Tour of Taiwan. But like Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese® , Irvine was bolstered by this would be tragedy. Just seven months later, Irvine cycled and won the men’s points race at the Cycling World Cup in Manchester, UK.

‘I must have done something right in the rehab, looks like i need to break a leg to get good results!’, Irvine exclaimed after winning, maintaining the ‘can do’ attitude of The Wild Geese® .

It’s good to see both Irvine’s achievements and determination rewarded with a recognition at this year’s Sports Personality of The Year. See the full list of nominees here: http://www.rte.ie/sport/darts/2013/1129/489989-rte-sports-awards/

Men of Action: Tributes Paid To Nelson Mandela

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‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear’
Nelson Mandel 1918 – 2013

 

Nelson Mandela’s name has ‘become synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe’. That was the tribute paid by the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, whose words ring true.

It’s difficult to quantify the impact Nelson Mandela had on today’s world. Perhaps a good place to start is with the tributes that have been shared throughout the world. Each person will have their own memories of this great man, but for us his courage shone through and made the world a much better place.

Mandela went from tribesman to political activist to prisoner to President. He fought against institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, playing an intricate role in the transgression to democracy in South Africa. In doing so he inspired generations. From the highest levels of government to the humblest of citizens, he lit a fire throughout society that championed courage and reconciliation.

He practiced what he preached and worked tirelessly to build a better world, as his predecessor, former president F. W. de Klerk explained:

‘Mandela’s biggest legacy… was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen’

World leaders agree and for a generation Mandela embodied a world of courage, freedom and forgiveness.

‘A man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life’ – Bill Clinton

The African National Congress, the political party long associated with Mandela, likened him to one of Africa’s largest and sturdiest trees, a sentiment the world can appreciate today:

‘The large African Baobab, who loved Africa as much as he loved South Africa, has fallen. Its trunk and seeds will nourish the earth for decades to come’

Finally, U. S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to the global impact Mandela made:

‘We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages’

We honour his courage. We admire his commitment. We celebrate his life.

 

Men of Action: McDowell Takes The Rough With The Smooth

The Heritage Pro-Am April 20, 2011 Hilton Head, SC
The Heritage Pro-Am April 20, 2011 Hilton Head, SC

Wild Geese have always been on new frontiers, taking courageous first steps, so it came as no surprise this week that golfer Graeme McDowell has been chosen for the European team at a new tournament next year.

March 2014 will see the first EurAsia tournament in Malaysia, which aims to bring Europe and Asia closer together. This joint venture could see the start of a new major tournament for golf and McDowell will be on the front lines, having been selected by European team captain Miguel Angel Jimenez, and will help to see this initiative grow.

‘I am really looking forward to playing the EurAsia,’ McDowell explained.

‘It’s a great concept to bring Asia and Europe together and I think it has a lot of potential to become a very big event’

Being at the first tournament will be exciting, but will also bring a set of fresh challenges.

‘Everyone knows that standards in Asian golf are continually rising, and I have no doubt it will be a tough job to go away from home and win’

Like The Wild Geese® of 1691, McDowell will be battling alongside players from France and Spain, proving that there is still a demand for the skill that Wild Geese bring to their profession. He will join Victor Dubuisson (France), Gonzalo Fernades-Castano (Spain) and Jamie Donaldson (Wales) in the 10-man team. The other players will be selected from the top positions of the Official World Golf Ranking in February next year, and one place will go to the team captain’s choice.

This announcement tops off a great year for McDowell, one which has seen him really flourish as a player and establish himself as one of the world’s best. We’re sure his winning attitude, reminiscent of that shown by The Wild Geese® in 1691, will see him prosper even more in 2014.

‘You take the rough with the smooth,’ he outlines. ‘There’s been some nice smooth this year and a bit of rough. You take it, you learn from it and you move on’

Irish Talent: Global Design Channels Irish Beauty

Irish designer Don O’Neill (photo from Theia Facebook page)
Irish designer Don O’Neill (photo from Theia Facebook page)

Don O’Neill has become a highly sought after name in the fashion industry. Originally coming from Co. Kerry, Ireland, he is now regularly chosen to dress a-list stars.

Don O’Neill’s speciality is gowns. He is creative director at Theia, a couture wedding dress  design company, and he counts A-list stars among his fans. He dressed Carrie Underwood at the 2013 Grammys and Oprah Winfrey wore his designs at the premiere of her film The Butler.

‘The drama, the long lines of flowing skirts, they are the most transformative of dresses,’ he explained to thefashionspot.com. ‘They allow women to step into a dream, an alter ego, to feel like a goddess, with rich, beautiful fabric swirling around her legs, yards of luscious printed silk chiffon’

His natural Ireland, particularly the dramatic scenery, has been an important influence over his work.

‘My Irish background hugely influences my work. I grew up in an enchanted picture postcard perfect seaside village on the west coast of Ireland, called Ballyheigue.

‘My home was perched on a cliff top against which ferocious winter storms hurled seaweed against our bedroom windows. The ruins of a centuries old haunted castle was on the other side of our house. The mast of a 17th century Spanish Galleon shipwrecked on the beach where it sunk into the sands. Fantastically flaming sunsets lit the skies every night in a mind-blowing show of kaleidoscopic colour and magical waves crested in the bay above a submerged church from a millennia ago’

Wild Geese throughout the centuries have depended on their skills to survive and prosper in new environments. For The Wild Geese® of 1691 this was their camaraderie and determination on the battlefield. Today Wild Geese are shining in all industries, but keep Ireland close to their hearts.

Men of Action: Remembering JFK

KN-C29366  27 June 1963  President Kennedy in motorcade in Ireland. Photograph by Robert Knudsen, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
KN-C29366 27 June 1963 President Kennedy in motorcade in Ireland. Photograph by Robert Knudsen, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

50 years on and the legend of JFK still endures.

The assassination of the 35th President of the United States on the 22nd November 1963 shocked the world and soon became an event to define a generation. Fifty years on and this week the world is still pausing to remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

JFK was an embodiment of the Legend of The Wild Geese® . His great grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, left Co. Wexford, Ireland in 1848, bound for Boston MA, where he would establish one of America’s most prominent and influential families.

During is campaign for the presidency, JFK took part in the first televised presidential debate in US history opposite Richard Nixon. It was here where he put a face to politics. And not just any fce. A charming and friendly face, who delivered answers in a relaxed and confident manner. The battle for the presidency was tough, but in 1961 JFK was sworn in.

His personality continued to shine through and he and his wife Jacquline soon became celebrity figures and helped to raise the status of the arts in America. Kennedy also embraced the rise of television and used it to address the nation live, reaching millions to announce to discuss important issues.

Although he rose to one of the world’s most powerful positions, JFK kept Ireland close to his heart. Five months before his assassination, the president visited Ireland where he met cousins and explored his ancestral home. Ireland remained in his thoughts and he was planning a private family trip, away from the photography and publicity of his State visit, which would give him time to learn about his ancestry and engage in the Irish experience.

It was in Ireland that he witnessed the Irish Army cadets’ drill, which he described as a highlight of the trip and ‘the finest honour guard’ he’d ever seen. So impressed and moved was Kennedy that his wife arranged for them to perform at his funeral.

Ireland continues to remember JFK fondly. His charm and friendly manner shone through during his trip. He still serves as an example of the success Wild Geese in the world can achieve and that anything is possible.

This week Barack Obama paid tribute to JFK:

‘This is a legacy of a man who could have retreated to a life of luxury and ease, but he chose to live a life in the arena, sailing sometimes against the wind, sometimes with it’

Like Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese® , his legend echoes through the ages. The flame of ambition and hope JFK lit is still burning bright.

Wild Geese Stories: Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese® Pt 2

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When The Wild Geese® landed in France in 1691, they joined a new Jacobite army forming in France, under Louis XIV. By the following year, this army numbered 15,000 with Patrick Sarsfield commanding it’s second unit.

Louis XIV planned an invasion of England using this Jacobite army, to put James II back on the throne. An additional 7,000 troops and a train of artillery joined the invasion force.

For Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese® this was their ticket home. They held high hopes of returning to their beloved Ireland.

 

The Battle of Barfleur and La Hogue

 

In preparation for the invasion, Louis XIV decided to strike a preempted blow against the English navy, but was unaware that the English and Dutch had struck an alliance. The french ships sailed out to meet a fleet that outnumbered them two to one.

Stood on the Cotentin Peninsular were the Irish Exiles, who watched the navies pound each other until the French fleet was crippled. Losing control of the channel, Louis called off the invasion and the hopes of The Wild Geese® returning home quickly faded.

Although a bitter defeat, The Wild Geese® held their heads high, still determined lead a successful career as Irish soldiers abroad. Irish soldiers were welcomed into armies throughout Europe, their ferocity and determination a key characteristic recognised across the continent.

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Patrick Sarsfield took this opportunity to serve in the French army, where he was given the rank Marechal de camp, the French equivalent of a major general. For Sarsfield, the fight continued and Ireland remained close to his heart.