Theobald Wolfe Tone is one of the most commemorated Irish patriots. He was born 20 June 1763. Although his family were Protestants, influenced by the ideals of the American and French Revolutions, he became an ardent advocate of Irish emancipation from British rule. He was one of the founders and leaders of the Society of the United Irishmen, an organisation which, as it’s name implied, included both Catholics and Protestants amongst it’s members. There are numerous statues of him in Ireland, including one by Edward Delaney in Stephens Green, in Dublin, just outside the gate at the north east corner of the park (pictured above).
In 1798, anticipating support from Revolutionary France, the United Irishmen organised an uprising against British rule. The first action took place in Clane where I’ve been staying this week.
The uprising was a failure and Tone was captured. He was sentenced to be be hanged on 12 November 1798 but before the sentence was carried out he attempted suicide by slitting his throat. He died on 19 November 1798 in Provost’s Prison, Dublin.
While I was in Clane I discovered that he was buried at Bodenstown cemetry, in the grounds of the now disused and derelict Parish Church, which is only a couple of miles from where I’m staying, just off the road from Clane to Salins and Naas. His family had originated from the area and he lived at Blackhall, a short distance from the cemetery, for a while. So one evening after work I drove over to the cemetery to visit his grave and monument.
Every summer, Irish Republicans from various political and paramilitary groupings hold commemorations at his grave side.
Tone was a patriotic Irishman who wanted to free his nation from foreign rule, but who opposed the sectarianism which was used to divide the Irish people and which still haunts that divided island today.
"To unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of Irishmen in order break the connection with England, the never failing source of all our political evils, that was my aim".
There’s a ballad, Bodenstown churchyard, about Wolfe Tone. Here’s a version sung by the group named in his honour.