Capt Clooney background

Patrick Filan Clooney was born in ballybricken on 5th of May 1840 to John Clooney and Catherine Phelan. Ballybricken was a relatively poor area of Waterford city. It lies just outside the city wall and was a busy market area. The old city Gaol was located there the remains of which can still be seen today. Clooney wrote to the local newspapers to tell of his adventures in Italy and seems to be fairly well educated.  Whilst in Italy he penned a letter to the local paper the Citizen and commercial recorder and dated the ” The citadel Spoleto, August 26th” he announced

“despite the English proclamation , the Irish Brigade is an accomplished fact”

The proclamation Clooney refered to was the 1830s Foreign Enlistment Act prohibited the enlistment on British soil of soldiers for duty in foreign land. This act lead to a lot of the volunteers traveling to Italy in small groups posing as pilgrims.

 BallyBricken in the 19th century. Courtesy of the national library

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Thomas Francis Meagher @ the Waterford Meuseum

In preparation for the 1848 tricolour celebration I recently visited the Waterford museum of treasures. Donnacha at the museum was a great help and the team there are excited about our event in March.


Pictured above is Thomas Francis Meagher ornate club 1782 jacket. The 1782 club celebrated the legislative independence achieved by Ireland ( rescinded in 1800). A key proviso of the act was ” That no writ of error or appeal from Ireland shall under any circumstances be again decided in England.”

Meagher and the other young Irelanders believed this period was the closest Ireland had come to independence.

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Clooney memorial

The above image which lists the battles of the Papal wars shows the sad condition of the memorial. There are cracks running through the stone and the inscription is nearly illegible. The main dedication is in even worse condition. Hopefully with people’s generousity we will be able to restore the memorial to its former glory.

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Patrick Clooney in the Italian civil war

In the mid-nineteenth century a unification movement swept across Italy one of its aims was the annexation of the Papal States.  One of the1400 Irish  men that answered the Vatican’s call to arms was Patrick Clooney from Waterford.

In early September 1860 forces of the kingdoms of Piedmont-Sardinia crossed into the Papal States. After a brief skirmish in Perugia the Vatican forces surrendered all except one company led by Clooney. Despite being cornered in a abandoned house and vastly outnumbered the Irish refused to surrender. Due to the volume of fire the Irish retreated upstairs and only when their opponents prepared to burn the house did the Irish eventually surrender.

After the surrender the Irish were disgusted to find out that the rest of the international volunteers had surrendered already and the city had fallen. Only eighteen days after the start of the brief war the remaining Papal forces capitulated.

The international effort to defend the Vatican was doomed to failure. The relief effort was hampered by poor organisation and lack of support. However one group which distinguished themselves were the volunteers from Ireland .

Further reading I.Kenneally Courage and Conflict & R.Doyle The Popes Irish Battalion.

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Thomas Francis Meagher speech from the dock

After the failed uprising of 1848 Thomas Francis Meagher was tried for sedition and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quatered. At his trial Meagher delivered the now famous speech from the dock

My lords, it is my intention to say a few words only. I desire that the last act of a proceeding which has occupied so much of the public time, should be of short duration. Nor have I the indelicate wish to close the dreary ceremony of a state prosecution with a vain display of words.

Did I fear that hereafter, when I shall be no more, the country I tried to serve would speak ill of me, I might indeed avail myself of this solemn moment to vindicate my sentiments and my conduct. But I have no such fear. The country will judge of those sentiments and that conduct in a light far different from that in which the jury by whom I have been convicted have viewed them, and by the country the sentence which you, my lords, are about to pronounce, will be remembered only as the severe and solemn attestation of my rectitude and truth.

 Whatever be the language in which that sentence be spoken, I know that my fate will meet with sympathy, and that my memory will be honoured. In speaking thus, accuse me not, my lords, of an indecorous presumption in the efforts I have made in a just and noble cause. I ascribe no main importance, nor do I claim for those efforts any high reward. But it so happens, and it will ever happen so, that they who have lived to serve their country—no matter how weak their efforts may have been—are sure to receive the thanks and blessings of its people. With my countrymen I leave my memory, my sentiments, my acts, proudly feeling that they require no vindication from me this day. A jury of my countrymen, it is true, have found me guilty of the crime of which I stood indicted. For this I entertain not the slightest feeling of resentment towards them. Influenced as they must have been by the charge of the Lord Chief Justice, they could perhaps have found no other verdict.

What of that charge? Any strong observations on it I feel sincerely would ill-befit the solemnity of this scene; but I would earnestly beseech of you, my lord—you who preside on that bench—when the passions and the prejudices of this hour have passed away, to appeal to your own conscience, and ask of it, was your charge what it ought to have been, impartial and indifferent between the subject and the crown? My lords, you may deem this language unbecoming in me, and perhaps it may seal my fate, but I am here to speak the truth, whatever it may cost—I am here to regret nothing I have ever done, to retract nothing I have ever said—I am here to crave with no lying lip the life I consecrate to the liberty of my country. Far from it! Even here—here, where the thief, the libertine, the murderer, have left their foot-prints in the dust—here, on this Spot, where the shadows of death surround me, and from which I see my early grave in an un-anointed soil open to receive me—even here encircled by these terrors, that hope which first beckoned me to the perilous sea on which I have been wrecked, still consoles, animates and enraptures me. No; I do not despair of my poor old country—her peace, her liberty, her glory. For that country I can do no more than bid her hope. To lift this island up—make her a benefactor to humanity, instead of being as she is now, the meanest beggar in the world—to restore to her, her native powers and her ancient constitution—this has been my ambition and this ambition has been my crime.

Judged by the law of England, I know this crime entails upon me the penalty of death; but the history of Ireland explains that crime and justifies it. Judged by that history, the treason of which I stand convicted loses all its guilt, has been sanctified as a duty, and will be ennobled as a sacrifice.

With these sentiments I await the sentence of the court. I have done what I felt to be my duty. I have spoken now, as I did on every other occasion during my short life, what I felt to be the truth. I now bid farewell to the country of my birth—of my passions—of my death; a country whose misfortunes have invoked my sympathies—whose factions I sought to quell—whose intelligence I prompted to a lofty aim—whose freedom has been my fatal dream. To that country I now offer as a pledge of the love I bore her, and of the sincerity with which I thought and spoke, and struggled for her freedom, the life of a young heart; and with that life, the hopes, the honours, the endearments of a happy, a prosperous, and honourable home.

Proceed, then my lords, with that sentence which the law directs—I am prepared to hear it—I trust I am prepared to meet its execution. I shall go, I think, with a light heart before a higher tribunal—a tribunal where a Judge of infinite goodness, as well as of infinite justice, will preside, and where, my lords, many, many of the judgements of this world will be reversed.”

Meaghers sentence was later commuted to deportation to Tasmania

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Capt Patrick Clooney memorial

On January 21st 1863 a monument was erected to the memory of Capt Patrick Clooney of the Irish Brigade. The dedication reads This memorial to the memory of Capt Patrick Clooney of Waterford was erected by his friends and fellow citizens Jan 21st 1863.

Capt Clooney must have been held in high regard by the citizens of Waterford as the monument would have been quite impressive for its time.

Other than the dedication there are 3 other inscriptions

  1. He fought in the army of the Potomac at Manasses,Malvern Hills, Gaines Mills and Antietam.
  2. Rome; Castlefredo,Spoleto and Perugia. He fought for a independent pope and an independent church.
  3. To the memory of Captain Patrick l Clooney of the popes Irish brigade and ( soldier of ?) Meaghers Irish American Brigade. Who fell gallantly leading his company at the battle of Antietam September 17th 1862. Aged 27 years,

 Sadly the monument is in urgent need of repair, the stone is cracked in several places and is becoming water logged because of this the inscriptions are also becoming harder to read.

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Thomas Francis Meagher Last Letter in Ireland

On the 9th of July whilst awaiting deportation Thomas Francis Meagher penned a letter to his friend John Leonard. “ As I told you in one of my previous letters, the recollection of the days I spent in Paris, In the eventful year of 1848, will be to me for many a year to come a source of very deep delight. Would to heaven that the hopes that then shone so brilliantly above our paths were still visible in our changeful and mournful sky-were still the objects of the peoples love,faith and adoration. But they have disappered-clouds on clouds have thickened round them, and in the darkness which covers the land we hear but the wail of the dying, and the supplications of the penniless and the breadless. Never, never, was their country so utterly downcast , so debased, so pitiful, so spiritless. In words which are as relevent today as then Meagher continued to write-Yet I do not, could not despair of her regeneration. Nations do not die in a day. Their lives are reckoned by generations and they encompass centuries. ” ” besides I feel that I have done nothing but my plain duty and hence I cannot be otherwise proud and happy at this moment. I would not exchange places this day with the most comfortable and happy slave in the country.

Meagher finished the letter simply with

Orders have come, Yours devotedly Thomas Francis Meagher

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