Theobald Wolfe Tone - Co-Founder Of Society Of United Irishmen In Belfast In 1791
Wolfe Tone’s name is commemorated in streets, clubs and associations throughout Ireland and this preservation of his memory is a legacy to the great deeds of this Famous Son of Ireland. Dublin born Tone was an adventurous and very popular young man, who became a prominent barrister. At every opportunity he sought unity between Catholics, Protestants and people of all creeds in Ireland.
He co - founded the Society Of United Irishmen with Samuel Neilson and Corkman, Thomas Russell, in Belfast in 1791. Although himself a Protestant, he was made Secretary Of The Catholic Committee which sought repeal of the Penal Laws . Also in 1792 Tone was a member of a delegation to meet King George 3rd, and as a consequence, most of the Penal Laws were abolished in 1793. Tone had a distinct objective that sought to sever Ireland’s union with England, and he forged a long term plan of exile for himself to gain vital experience and mobilise international support for Ireland.
When the French Revolution broke out and France declared war on England, the Society of United Irishmen was suppressed when the authorities feared many Irish may opt to join the French army.
In 1794 Tone left for America to seek support for Ireland’s cause and then headed to France in 1796 and joined the French army. Rapidly promoted to Adjutant General, he began negotiations on behalf of the United Irishmen, now a secret association. The French put forty three ships and 15,000 men at Tone’s availability and they sailed from Brest in 1796. The ship, the ‘Hoche,’ encountered fierce storms over seven days of sailing across the Irish sea. Less than half the convoy reached the harbour of Bantry, and unable to land, they were ordered back to France.
Wolfe Tone again persuaded the French to send another expedition to Ireland in 1798. They successfully landed at Killala Bay, Co. Mayo, but fell in battle at Ballinamuck. Tone did not travel on this ill fated expedition. A third French expedition carrying 3,000 men was also made, again on board the ‘Hoche, with Tone part of the crew.
As the ship entered Lough Swilly waters, a British detachment opened fire, and in a raging sea battle, Theobald Wolfe Tone and his colleagues were forced to surrender.
Tone was very soon recognised as the main plotter of the expedition, and was immediately arrested and brought to Dublin to be tried. The judge’s decision was hanging, and despite Theobald’s plea to be shot like a soldier, he was rebuked without consideration.
On the morning of his planned execution, his jailers discovered, he was dead in his cell, with his throat cut, rather than face the British hangman.
Theobald Wolf Tone’s memory is treasured and will never fade from Ireland’s history.
He is buried at Bodenstown, Co. Kildare and is one of Ireland’s most famous sons.