to the History of the World
Though brutally oppressed and occupied by those nasty British for over 800 years, nevertheless we Irish managed to take time out from our own endless struggles to help raise the torch of freedom and learning amongst nations and peoples across the globe. Where ever there was conflict, revolution or famine you can be sure that there was some bright young thing from Ireland’s green shamrock shore doing their best to help bring peace, justice or much needed merriment to troubled lands.
Over the next few weeks in a spirit of global enlightenment, this website will focus in on individual countries and nations to highlight the great debt of gratitude that the world’s population owe to the Celtic Irish & Anglo-Irish. We will view the planet through ‘green-tinted’ glasses.
Countries covered will include Mexico, Romania, India, United States, Israel, Australia, Scotland, Greece, Spain, France and virtually the whole South American continent.
The image of Austria conjures up the beauty of Vienna, the famed ecclesiastical architecture of Salzburg, the economic importance of the city's salt mines, the country’s Catholic heritage, its proud tradition as a centre of learning, its once great military prowess that enabled it to withstand the constant merciless onslaught of the Turkish hordes and other nasty invaders such as Napoleon and build a great Empire that straddled across central Europe.
Well without the Irish, none of these successes might ever have occurred!
The land that is now called Austria was inhabited by Celtic tribes long before the arrival of the Romans circa 2,000 years ago.
The name ‘Vienna’ is Celtic in origin and could possibly have the same roots as ‘Fianna’ a mythological elite band of warriors led by the Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill that gave the name to today’s main Irish political party –‘Fianna Fáil’ (English= ‘warriors of destiny’).
However the subsequent arrivals (Romans & later Germans) could not quite get their tongues around the ‘f’ sound and mispronounced it as a ‘v’.
Hope, happiness and learning only returned to this God-forsaken land in the 7th century with the arrival of a merry band of brave young Irish lads and lassies. Their leader was a highly intelligent and saintly entrepreneur known to history as St. Rupert who had been sent by the Duke of Bavaria to evangelise the region after his successful efforts in Germany. As well as founding the abbey of St. Peter’s in the ruins of the old Roman town of Juvavia along the River Danube, his establishment of a salt mine nearby gave the area its new name of Salzburg.
Though the French claim Rupert as one of their own, the evidence reinforces his Irish ancestry. Rupert took on the dual title of ‘abbot’ and ‘bishop’, a feature of the Irish Celtic Church of the time.
Builder of Salzburg Cathedral was an Irishman
Over 50 yrs after Rupert's death, the city’s bishopric was granted to another Irish man Saint Virgil (trans. ‘Fergal’ in Gaeilge Irish). Fergal O’Neill laid the foundations of Salzburg Cathedral (where his statue and that of St. Rupert still stands at the entrance) and is reputed to have transported the bones of two famous Irish female saints(St. Brigit & St. Samthana) to its hallowed grounds. Just goes to show that few Irishmen, even celibate saints, can survive without their womenfolk (dead or alive)!
Nicknamed ‘the Geometer’, Virgil was a clever lad and renowned scientist who was vehemently condemned by his contemporary St. Boniface (an Englishman of course!) for his statements on the Earth being round and on the existence of other worlds! A man well ahead of this time.
Colman became the patron saint for hanged men.
Sadly the incident didn't improve Austrians' attitudes towards tourists. In the next century the great warrior Richard the Lionheart, after fighting wars in France, Sicily, Cyprus and the Holy Land as well as surviving shipwreck, was kidnapped by Duke Leopold and his troops near Vienna and held until a king's ransom was paid by his mother.
(& probably how to Dance!)(...The Hills were Alive with the Sound of Irish Music...)
The convent that Maria came from was in fact Nonnberg founded by the Irish woman Erintrude in the early 8th century. The chanting of daily evening vespers by Erintrude and her female companions was obviously the beginning of the (Austrian) hills coming alive with the sound of music.
Yes, landlocked Austria once had a large powerful navy whose founder was an Irishman. Up until 1918, Austria controlled a vast empire stretching from the southern Poland to the Adriatic coast along what is now Croatia and Italy.
George Forbes from Granard in Co. Longford was made Vice-Admiral by Emperor Charles VI in 1719 and established the first Austrian Habsburg naval force in the Adriatic waters.
Austrian's Most Decorated War Hero- had Irish ancestry
Known as the ‘Eagle of Trieste’, Gottfried von Banfield was one of World War One’s most famous flying aces. A naval officer and founder of the Austrian air force, he was the last recipient of the Austria-Hungarian Empire’s Order of Maria Theresa. Gottfried was a member of a well-known Irish-Austrian military family, his grandfather being a Banfield from Castle Lyons in Co. Cork.
The Irish American writer Brian McGinn, who has written extensively of the Irish that served in foreign armies, gave details of a letter written by Emperor Francis 1 (husband of Maria Theresa) in 1765 which summarised the esteem that they they were held in by the Habsburgs: "The more Irish officers in the Austrian service the better; our troops will always be disciplined; an Irish coward is an uncommon character; and what the natives of Ireland even dislike from principle, they generally will perform through a desire for glory."
First of all the host himself, Ambassador Count Demetrio O’Mahony, was the son of the Irish war-hero Daniel O’Mahony who won international acclaim for his bravery fighting with the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Cremona in 1702.
The guest list included Count Francis Maurice Lacy, President of the Imperial Council of War, along with generals O'Kelly, O'Donnell, Browne, Maguire, McElligott, and Plunkett as well as dozens of other Irish serving as governors, privy counsellors and army.
It must have been one hell of an ex-pats party!
Another Irish Field-Marshal, Andreas von O'Reilly, was Governor of Vienna in 1809 when he was left with no choice but to surrender the city to the more powerful French Army of Napoleon.
However by the middle of the 19th century, the flow of Irish to the armies of Austria had dried up as they emigrated instead to the Americas and parts of the British Empire. This loss of talented Celtic warrior talent may explain why the Austrians were defeated in World War One and their Empire crumbled- Just a theory!
Popular Nationalist Support of Catholic Empress Visits to Ireland Scares British Regime. Leads to Government Banning her from country
Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) was the ‘Princess Diana’ celebrity of her day. Beautiful and stylish, she abhorred court convention, became an international fashion icon, loved equestrian pursuits, travelled continuously and in the process made many of her holiday destinations ‘must see’ tourist locations.
Not surprisingly, she was intensely disliked by her husband's old-fashioned conservative royal family but was adored by many of the ordinary people of the Habsburg empire.
In 1879, she spent a month hunting in Ireland staying at Lord Longford’s residency of Summerhill House in county Meath. In spite of the agrarian unrest caused by bad harvests, the increasing evictions of tenants by a hated Anglo-Irish aristocracy and the beginnings of a Land League campaign for a revolution in land ownership, crowds enthusiastically greeted Elisabeth wherever she travelled in the country. According to historian Tony Canavan, she had a horse called St. Patrick, owned an Irish wolfhound and wore a sprig of shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day.
Empress Elisabeth with her Irish wolfhound 'Shadow'
As the Empress of the greatest Catholic power in the world, the British regime feared that public support for her from a largely downtrodden Catholic, nationalist and angry peasantry could translate into calls for a Habsburg Catholic monarchy in Ireland as a way of ending foreign British Protestant rule. It was well known that Elisabeth was a sympathiser of the Hungarian rebellion that led in 1867 to the loss of sole Austrian hegemony and the establishment of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
Elisabeth returned to Ireland for another month of hunting in 1880 but was prevented from doing so the following year by the British authorities.
Except for Louis XIV, Franz Josef had the longest reign (68 yrs) of any European monarch. But his time on the throne would have been one of the shortest of any Habsburg Emperor where it not for the fact that his life was saved by an Irishman. On 18 February 1853, an Imperial officer Maximilian Karl Lamoral O’Donnell was out walking with the Emperor when he foiled an assassination attempt by a Hungarian nationalist Janos Libenyi.
O'Donnell was a descendent of a distinguished family who had served as high ranking Imperial officers for decades and were part of the Irish soldiery known as the Wild Geese who, throughout the 17th and 18th century, escaped repressive English rule in Ireland in their tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) to serve in the armies of Spain, France, Portugal and Austria.
As a result of his endeavours, Maximilian was made an Imperial Count, conferred with the Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of Leopold, and the O'Donnell coat-of-arms was augmented by the initials and shield of the ducal House of Austria and the double-headed eagle of the Empire. These arms are still emblazoned on the portico of his residency at No. 2 Mirabel Platz in Salzburg.
In a country that is famed for its music composers, Johan Strauss Jr. can rightly claim to be its most popular due to the public appetite across the world for his waltzes that included such classics as The Blue Danube and Tales from the Vienna Woods. It was Johann who made the city of Vienna synonymous with dance music.
But it was an Irishman, Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore from Ballygar in County Galway, who made him an international star by bringing him to the United States of America to take part in the Boston International Music Festival where crowds of up to 120,000 watch performances in an outdoor coliseum. It began the trend that is still with us today of European musicians having to perform and ‘make it’ in the US in order to become global icons.
Gilmore himself was a composer who is recognised as the principal figure in 19th century American music. Among his many achievements was the revamping of US military band music, the writing of the marching song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ (adopted from an old Irish song) , setting up Gilmore's Concert Garden in New York which became the Madison Square Garden and introducing the tradition of seeing in the New Year in Times Square.