Updated on 7.4.12
Brazil+Bresil? In traditional Irish legends, the phantom island of Brâzil was believed to lie off the south-west coast of Connacht in western Ireland. It was named after Bres, the son of Ériu whose father was a Formorian sea god, Elatha. Consequently, according to Michael Dames "Bresil" was a magical realm - neither sea nor land, yet both. According to Dames:
"Brazil, South America, was named after it". (Mythic Ireland (Thames and Hudson, London, UK, 1992).
The Darien Expedition: Scotland's colony in Panama The ships set sail from Leith harbor on 4th July 1698, under the command of Captain Robert Pennecuik. They made landfall at Darien (now the Isthmus of Panama) on 2nd November, having lost only 70 people during the voyage. Full of optimism, they named the peninsula New Caledonia, and set to work building a settlement
Ambrose Bernard O'Higgins was born in Ballinary, County Sligo, (though some sources say County Meath) Ireland, perhaps in 1720.in 1764 he went to Chile and through many accomplishments was titled Don. Don Ambrosio rose equally in military command as in the Spanish colonial service, distinguishing himself in the continuing campaigns against the Araucanians in the southern extreme of the territory, becoming a Cavalry Brigadier and Commander of the Dragoon Corps of Chile, then Governor of Concepción in 1777. In 1795, in addition to being Teniente General de los Reales Ejércitos, Don Ambrosio was named Barón de Ballenary, and the following year became Viceroy of Peru. but his son was to become more famous than he.
The illegitimate son of an Irish colonial administrator and a Chilean criolla rose from obscurity to become the Hero of the Wars of Independence and the Supreme Director of Chile.
Fidel Castro According to Dr. Adelphia Dane Bowen, Jr., who was in charge of Cuban Affairs in the US Department of State during the administration of Jimmy Carter, Fidel is of 100% Galatian Celt descent. Castro's father is from Galacia and was a paymaster in the Spanish Army. He came to Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American war in 1898, resigned at the end of that war and stayed on in Cuba, becoming a large landowner with a sugar plantation. He married and had children. He had an affair with one of his cooks who was also from Galacia, who subsequently became the mother of Fidel, son of two Galatian Celts! Fidel headed the Marxist Revolution against the dictator Batista, winning in 1959 and giving the Communists power in Cuba to the present day.
Venezuela's Irish Battalion Simon Bolivar's Hard-Luck Irish Legion
By the early nineteenth century Cornwall probably possessed the best contemporary European mining technology. Importantly, the region had begun to export its technology and capital that aided the migration of a skilled labour force. By 1815 a group of Cornish industrialists including the Vivians, and Grenfells, were acquiring a position of influence through their capitalisation of mining and smelting in South Wales and recruiting their labour force from Cornwall. But it was the export of high-pressure steam engines pioneered and modified by Trevithick and his contemporaries, to the silver mines of Peru in 1818, that marked the transatlantic migration to Latin America of the industrial revolution (Schwartz, 2002).
One third of the mining companies set up at this time in Latin America had Cornish Directors, including the highly influential Fox and Williams families who recruited their labour needs from among the local mining population. By the mid-1820s Cornish miners were to be found across Latin America, where the whole epic story of Cornish mining migration began. Here the Cornish miner learnt new skills in the mining and milling of gold and silver ores which resulted in the practical domination of the world’s mining industry by ‘Cousin Jacks’ for well over a century (Schwartz, 2001).
The Irish Legion in South America Throughout Venezuela's and South America's liberation history you'll find more records of the Irish than the Brits. One thousand men of the (clearly defined) IRISH LEGION landed on Margarita Island in August 1819. And two thousand one hundred more Irish soldiers reached Venezuela in organized Irish regiments during the next years. Twelve thousand were to follow in their footsteps to secure liberty for South America from brutal Spanish colonialism. It's clear Bolivar was glad to have the fighting Irish on his side; fresh from the bloody battlefields of Europe, survivors of the Napoleonic Wars. Bolivar appointed a Dr. Thomas Foley (from County Kerry) as Inspector General of his Military Hospitals. Another Kerry-man, Arthur Sandes, rose to the rank of Brigadier-General under Bolivar and became a military legend remembered well in Quito, Ecuador.
Bolivar, in fact, may have owed his life to an Irish Lieutenant Colonel, William Ferguson, who died defending The Liberator from his political enemies. Ferguson died during a murder attempt against Bolívar (September 25, 1828) but the Liberator had already left the San Carlos Palace by the time the brave Irishman showed up. Not knowing that Bolivar had already managed to flee, Ferguson bravely decided to attack the rebels and was shot to death.
1821 had seen the decisive battle on the plains of Carabobo where many Irish lives were slaughtered for Venezuela's liberation. The misnomered "British" Battalion took the initiative to rout the royalists (who had pinned down Bolivar's cavalry), themselves with tremendously bloody losses.In supreme sacrifice for Venezuela, the Legion lost all of its officers before, led by an Irish Sergeant Farrier, they could enter Carabobo with the patriot forces. Honoring the dead and wounded, Simon Bolivar re-named the Legion "The Carabobo Battalion" and conceded the exclusive and perpetual privilege to parade with mounted bayonets
General O'Connor General O'Connor, son of Roger O'Connor and godson of Sir Francis Burdett, was one of the most distinguished soldiers of the Independence and played an important part in the final victory of Ayacucho which secured the independence of South America. General O'Connor came to South America as an ensign in the Irish Legion under General Devereux; was made a lieutenant of the Albion regiment and fought all through the campaign of Venezuela and Colombia, between 1819 to 1824, winning a grade on every battle field until his regiment was reduced to a handful of men. He then raised a regiment at his own expense and arrived in Peru in command of it, with the rank of Colonel accompanying Bolivar. For his gallantry on the Battle of Ayacucho he was promoted to the rank of General. After the war of Independence, General O'Connor became Minister of War in Bolivia, under General Santa Cruz's presidency and later became Governor of Tarija, post which he held for many years. He was a man of aristocratic tastes and traditions, distinguished manners and inflexible integrity. He claimed direct descent from Roderic O'Conor, last King of Ireland, 1180 A.D. General O'Connor never returned to Ireland, dying at his estancia in 1870.
Captain George Young came in command of one of Lord Cochran's vessels that conveyed General San Martin's army to Peru. He was made capitaine de fregate in the Peruvian navy, on September 14, 1822 and two month later appointed Commander of Callao arsenal, which post he held until named Captain of the Congress, in March 1823. He captured the Spanish war-vessel Vigie at Arica in 1824. At Guayaquil he succeeded Admiral Guise in command of the frigate Protector. Retiring from active service in 1825, he was named Port-captain of Callao but was again ordered to sea in 1834 as commander of the Arequipeño, from which he was transferred to the corvette Confederacion. Retiring in 1837, he ran a merchant vessel for some years along the coast of Peru.
Bolivar's British Legion To most students of military history the Napoleonic Wars ended with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his subsequent banishment to the island of St. Helena. It could be argued, however, that a conflict that took place at the same time thousands of miles away from Europe was an extension of those wars, namely the South American Wars of Liberation that raged bitterly from 1808 to 1826. Of the leaders of the Patriotic armies that fought to end Spanish rule in South America the most famous is undoubtedly Simon Bolivar and the British troops that fought under him and whom he came to rely on heavily during his campaigns, troops later referred to by him as Salvadores de mi Patria!, saviours of my country.
In the two years that followed the battle of Waterloo the British army saw a drastic reduction in its strength, so much so that in April, 1817, the London Times reckoned that the population of Britain, some 25,000,000 people, would somehow have to absorb about 500,000 ex-soldiers. Naturally, these men, used to years of fighting against France and her allies, were faced with poverty and an uncertain future at best. The wars of liberation in South America, therefore, provided many of them with an opportunity to continue their military careers and escape from the prospect of inactivity at home. As one of Wellington’s former officers put it after being retired upon half-pay, it was ‘......South America, flags, banners, glory, and riches!’
Admiral William Brown Upon request by the Argentinian government Brown founded of the Argentinian navy in 1813. Over the following years he helped Argentina break away from Spanish rule and kept the threat of neighbour Brazil at bay. Admiral Brown
Michael D Jones, a Welsh non-conformist minister and ardent nationalist recognized this pattern of the Welsh losing their identity amongst immigrants to the United States and decided to do something about it. Initially, he organized societies to help the Welsh retain their identity, but rapidly realized that the forces for assimilation were too strong and proposed that only a unified Welsh colony could preserve the Welsh language and culture. The first choice for the new colony was Vancouver Island, in Canada, but gradually an alternative destination began to be considered which seemed to have everything the colonists might need - Patagonia, Argentina.
The first group of settlers, about 150 people gathered from all over Wales, sailed from Liverpool to Patagonia aboard the tea-clipper, Mimosa, landing in New Bay (Port Madryn) on 28th July 1865. Unfortunately, they found that Patagonia was not the friendly and inviting land they had been led to believe it was (they had been told that it was much like lowland Wales). There was no water, very little food and no available shelter. Allegedly, the settlers' first homes were shelters cut out of the soft rock of the cliffs in the bay. They struggled to reach the proposed site for the colony in the River Chubut valley about 40 miles away, and eventually the first permanent settlement was established at Rawson at the end of 1865. Patagonia-Welsh in South America with a passenger list of the Mimosa which sailed in 1875 Patagonia Wales It was 1865, long before Argentina began to show serious intentions of conquering and colonizing the south, when a group of Welsh settled in the lands that today belong to the Province of Chubut. Patagonia, Argentina's official websites
Henry Swayne (1800 -1877), a Scotsman born in Dysart, Fife, emigrated to Peru in 1824 representing the firm Swayne Reid & Co. of Liverpool. He was the youngest son of David Swayne and Cristina Wallace of Dysart. He was a resident in Peru for over 50 years during which he owned and operated several cane sugar and cotton plantations along the Peruvian coast. In 1851, Mr. Swayne married a Peruvian lady and established a distinguished family in Peru which has always been identified with the best interest of that country and which exist up to the present time.
See Brian McGinn's The Irish In South America for THE bibliography of the South American Irish experience...from the Irish Diaspora Studies.
The Southern Cross Pipe Band was founded in Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay in South America, in the early 1990s, by a handful of friends that shared their passion for the Great Highland Bagpipe.
In the beginning just a wishful dream, the project evolved throughout the years to become an amazing well-knit group of more than 30 members, including pipers, drummers and highland dancers, performing in almost all English-speaking community events and beyond.
Celts in South America!!!