In 1691, British forces known as Williamites under William of Orange were able to defeat most of the Irish, Scottish and French forces of the Jacobites who followed James II of Scotland. The only group that held out was led by Patrick Sarsfield and they were under siege at Limerick. Both sides wanting to avoid further bloodshed settled for a treaty to end hostilities. The fourteen thousand armed men of Ireland watched as Patrick Sarsfield signed the Treaty of Limerick, witnessed by the Chief Justice of England (a prerequisite of the treaty made by Sarsfield). The Treaty of Limerick called for the Irish in the army:

-to lay down their arms and return to their farms -to join the English army -or to keep their arms and be provided free passage to France

The treaty provided for those that elected to stay (as well as for all other Irish) to be promised security in property, civil, and religious rights. The Irish Army was then organized by units and paraded to a place where they were to turn to the English or French standard. Some members of the Irish Army marched to the English banner and elected to stay. Ninety three percent marched to the French Standard.

After more than four hundred years of dealing with the English in Ireland, most of the Irish troops, about 13,000 men, elected to leave for France. The departure of these men, all at one time and probably forever, left an indelible mark on the Irish people. Seamus MacManus in his book, The Story of the Irish Race, wrote that Erin searched all nature for its most desolate image to remind her of the wailing made in her ears by their last farewell. She called them, na Geana Faidhaine, "The Wild Geese."

Since then the definition of "Wild Geese" has been stretched from its original usage to include any Irish who left Ireland and became famous in the service of or on behalf of another country. The definition has been broadened even further to touch the descendants of immigrating Irish if they made a contribution of note to the history of a land other than Ireland.

Leaving Ireland proved the right decision for the original Wild Geese; within the year, the English repudiated the treaty and began to confiscate the property, civil, and religious rights of the Irish. This was not restricted to the Catholic Irish, the Presbyterian Irish also were victims. This situation among the Catholic and Presbyterian Irish triggered a round of emigration from English control. Thousands fled Ireland. Many of these immigrants went to the new colonies in the Americas. They found the English administration in the Americas only slightly less discriminatory than in Ireland. Hearing of this many of the Catholic Irish chose to follow the Wild Geese to France, or to other Catholic countries on the continent. There they hoped to grow in number and military experience and one day come back to Ireland to wrench it from the grasp of the English. Of those Irish who remained in Ireland, the English "transported" many to British colonies for crimes against the crown which ranged from resisting English authority, to the impertinence of owning a horse. Some Irish were forced into England's army or navy, while others joined British service to escape the shambles of their home with a view to desert on a foreign assignment and begin a new life in a new land. Not a few Irish menstayed in the British service for a military career. Many of these Irishmen, along with those who joined the armies of Europe had very eventful careers.

The Irish in the service of their adopted countries won many an important battle. King Louis the XIV complained to one of the Irish officers that the rambunctious Irish unit caused him more trouble than the rest of his entire army. "Your Majesty," the Irish officer is said to have replied, "your enemies make the same complaint." The greatest number of Irish were in the armies of England, France, and Spain as individuals or in organized Irish units. Each of the countries had at least six regiments that were all Irish. Each country was building colonial empires and fighting to protect territorial gains. This situation gave expanded opportunities to the Irish in their service. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, England, France, and Spain fought so many wars among one another, historians refer to the period as the Second Hundred Years War. The theater of the war spanned the globe. Things were booming in the war business. Generations of Wild Geese passed on the family business to their sons so that the great grandsons of those who left to join the armies of England, France, Spain, or other countries were still in that army more than fifty years later. An example found in the records of just one of the countries the Wild Geese served, France, shows that fifty four years after the Wild Geese left Ireland, 450,000 died - for France!

Despite the many political obstacles to a foreigner being promoted over a native son, many Irishmen rose to positions of importance in their adopted countries.

Examples of "Wild Geese" follow -


In the Battle of Fontenoy, in May of 1745, the Irish Brigade carried the day for the French, and brought victory from near defeat. When all the French forces about them were ready to capitulate, the Irish Brigade charged the combined English and Dutch forces and secured a victory. One of the Irish soldiers at Fontenoy was Richard Hennessey of County Cork. He later settled in Cognac, France and founded the famous Hennessey distillery there.

It was a MacMahon of Ireland that led Irish troops for France in a critical action that brought about the fall of Sevastopol.

Thomas Conway, of the Conway Cabal, was an Irishman in the service of the French Irish Brigade. He took leave to fight in the American Revolution on the side of the United States. After the American Revolution, he returned to France and became the Governor General of French India.

Thomas Arthur Lally was an Irishman in the French service. He was sent as a Lieutenant Governor to India in 1756. He was made Commander in Chief of all French forces.

Theobold Wolfe Tone's brother, William, was an advisor to the Nizam of Hyderbad.

George Thomas was a Rajah of India, he was from Tipperary.

One of the Irish generals that took part in the French Revolution was General James O'Moran.

Jacques MacDonald was a Marshal of France under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Other Irish in the service of France rose through the ranks to distinction to claim such titles as: Governor of Oran, Governor of Tobago, Governor General of Algiers. General Edmund P. MacMahon, who led the Irish charge at Sevastopol, became in turn: a Marshal of France, Duke of Magenta, and in 1873-1879, he was President of France!

Earlier, in 1848, an Irishman named Kavanaugh received over one and a half million votes to be President of France.

A large portion of the French speaking population of Quebec have Irish origins going back to the period when the Irish Brigade was stationed there beginning in 1690. Church records show at the close of the Seventeenth Century, there were over 100 Irish families in what was called Lower Canada.

The Plains of Abraham upon which the Battle of Quebec during the French and Indian War was fought, and which claimed the life of both the French and English generals (Montcalm and Wolfe), was owned by an Irish sailor by the name of Abraham Martin, and thus its name. A MacCarthy commanded Fort de Chartres for the French during that war. A year after the fall of Montreal, he would not give it up to the English. He did so only on the expressed orders of the King of France.

Arthur Dillon, a commander of the French Irish Regiment which participated in the American Revolution, married a woman who was a lady in waiting to Marie Antionette.


Not all the dissident Irish went into the French service, many went to fight for Spain. There were three Irish regiments in the Spanish Army. The first was established sometime around 1610, and spent 20 years fighting for Spain in the Belgium and Netherlands area.

Church records in Catalonia, Spain revealed Irish were there in numbers as early as 1655.

In 1698, Captain Juan Jordan, an Irishman in the service of Spain, captured Florida.

Texas and Louisiana each had a Spanish Governor; Texas was governed by Hugh O'Connor in 1767 and Louisiana by Alexander O'Reilly in 1769. O'Connor later was Governor of the Yucatán. O'Connor was the first Commandante Inspector of the Interior Provinces with authority over all Governors from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. O'Reilly became Governor of Cuba and still later Commander in Chief of the Spanish Army. O'Reilly personally saved the life of the King of Spain. He was a close personal friend of Viceroy Bucareli of New Spain.

Juan O'Donoju, John O'Donoghue, was a Minister of War in Spain, the last Viceroy of Nueva España, and a Regent of Mexico.

Don Alexander O'Reilly as a soldier in the service of Spain fought in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and America.

Red haired, green eyed and freckled Peter Martin, an Irishman, together with John Brown of Waterford lived in Mexico in 1575. They were on John Hawkin's flagship in 1567-'68 when it was captured by a Spanish ship. They were taken to Mexico.

Conde de Lacy the Spanish Ambassador to Russia, strongly advised the King of Spain to take California before the Russians did. The King listened and did.

The second governor of California under Spain was Irishman Felipe de Barry. He served as Governor in 1771.

An Irishman named Lawless was Governor of Majorca.

An Irish regiment of Spain was sent to Brazil in 1779.

The son of Henry James O'Donnell a Finance Minister of Spain was in 1809 the President of the Spanish Cabinet. He authored the Moret Law of Spain abolishing slavery in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

General G. O'Farrill was, in 1808, the Spanish War Minister and a member of the ruling junta of Spain.

Thomas Shelly, an Irishman in Spanish service, worked his way up to the rank of General and was later appointed Governor of the Spanish province of Leon.

Don Guillermo Murphy was the Private Secretary to King Alphonso XII of Spain.

Don Ricardo Wall was the Spanish Prime Minister 1754-1767.

Another Irishman to be Prime Minister of Spain was Juan Prim in 1870. Prim was also the President of the Council of Ministers, and later Premier. He was also said to be a kingmaker.

Leopoldo O'Donnell captured Morocco for Spain. He became the Duke of Tetuan, and later in 1856 until 1866, he was the Premier of Spain.

In 1812, Enrique O'Donnell was the Regent of Spain, He proclaimed Spain's first Constitution.

Genoa, Italy to this day has institutions echoing the name of the Ultonia Irish regiment that heroically protected it from Napoleon during a siege in 1808-'09. The regiment's flag is on display in the city.

Fernando Moran was the Spanish ambassador to the United Nations, and then Spain's Foreign Minister.


Still other countries were recipients of the Wild Geese, and as in France and Spain, they grew to levels of distinction impossible for the Irish to attain in Ireland. Fourteen Irishmen attained the rank of Marshal in the Austrian Army. They had names like Plunkett, Maguire, Nugent, and O'Donnell. Nicholas Taafe was one of these. He later served as Chamberlain to Emperor Charles VI in 1769.

Count Edward Taafe was the Provincial Governor of Saltzburg in 1863-1867, and then of Tyrol and Voraberg 1874-1879. In 1879, he was President of the Austrian Council of Ministers.

A father and son team of Walshs commanded the Austrian Army in Turkey.

Thomas Baron Von Brady, a Cavan man, entered the Austrian service at the age of 17; in 1769, he rose to become the Governor of Dalmatia and Albania.

Count James Nugent, of Dublin, was the Austrian ambassador to Berlin in 1764.

Joseph O'Donnell was the Austrian Governor of Siebenburgen in 1768.

John Forbes founded the Austrian Navy in 1720.

Maximillian Ulysses von Browne was Commanding General of Bohemia in 1751, and Commandant of Prague in 1754.

James MacDonald of County Mayo, became an Austrian Count and later a Chamberlain. His son, Francis, succeeded him.

A Fitzjames also once held the post of Chamberlain in Austria.

Russia, Sweden, Poland and Bavaria

In Russia, Irishman Peter Lacy commanded 15,000 men. His father fought for Austria as a Field Marshall and his two brothers were in the Irish Brigade of France. Peter Lacy was later Governor of Livonia (1743).

A Browne in Russian service was Governor of Riga.

An Irishman named David Butler is credited with establishing the Russian Navy.

Peter Delap, an Irishman, was Commander of the Russian Navy under Peter the Great. In 1719, when Czar Peter wanted to invade Sweden he sent Delap to transport Lacy's troops to Sweden. When they landed in Sweden they were repulsed by an Irish general in the service of Sweden named Hugh Hamilton.

Sidney Reilly was a part of Lenin's revolution in Russia in 1917.

A Chamberlain of Poland was Marshall Maurice Kavanaugh, a Chamberlain of Bavaria was a Colonel Harold of Ireland.


The English too have had a healthy share of Irish in their service. In the British Army there were several Irish Brigades; the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Regiment, and the Connaught Rangers to name a few. They were all disbanded in 1920 after the Connaught Rangers on duty in far away India, rebelled at the news from home (Ireland) of what the Black and Tan, an English unit quickly formed using a mixed uniform, was doing in Ireland. The Black and Tans acted brutally against the people, even murdered the Mayor of Cork, Tomas MacCurtain. When the Irish units were disbanded in 1920, they had more decorations for bravery than all the other comparable units in the British Army.

Among the more famous Irish in the military service of England were:

Sir Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington, he was born of English parents in Ireland. He defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, and was later a Prime Minister of England (1828). Wellington once said in a speech delivered in 1829:

It is mainly to our Irish Catholics that we owe our proud pre-eminence in our military career...I feel almost ashamed of the honors which have been lavished on me. I feel that the merit was theirs, what was so freely given to me was unjustly denied to them."

A General Kavanaugh, who was Irish, commanded Queen Victoria's Army in India.

Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, the WW II English Field Marshal who led the fight at El Alamein, North Africa, and then Sicily was Irish. He came from Ulster.

The Irish also contributed to the government service of England.

Lord Palmerston the Prime Minister was Anglo-Irish.

James Ramsey MacDonald was the first Labour Party Prime Minister (1924).

Harold McMillan was Prime Minister 1957-1963, he was of Scottish ancestry.

As the British empire stretched around the world, we find Irish in high places in all the far flung places. Examples are:

Turkey - Sir Arthur Henry MacMahon was High Commander in 1914-1916.

Egypt - Horatio Herbert Kitchner, who was born in Kerry, was

Commander of British forces in Egypt, earlier he

attempted to rescue Gordon in the Sudan. Later

Kitchner was Governor of Suakin in Zanzibar.

Hong Kong - For twenty years the men in charge of Hong Kong had names like MacDonnell,Kennedy, and Hennessy. An important Irish place name in Hong Kong is Connaught Way.

India - In 1756 the Commander in Chief of British Forces in

India was Irishman Eyre Coote. The first Viceroy of

India was Irishman Charles J. Canning, another

Irish Viceroy was Richard Bourke.

In 1918, Michael O'Dwyer ruled Punjab.

Natal - The Governor of Natal in 1901 was Sir Henry McCallum.

Burma - The Commanders in Chief of Burma from 1889 - 1892

were Anthony Patrick MacDonnell and Alex MacKenzie respectively.

Malta - John Vereker Gord was an Irishman and Governor.

Palestine - John Vereker Gord was High Commissioner.

Gibraltar - John Vereker Gord was Governor.

South Africa - John McBride led an Irish unit in the British Army in the Boer War.

Artic Area - Francis L. McClintock and Robert J. McClure were early Arctic explorers.

Australia - Australia had many Irish leaders. Peter Lalor was at the Eureka Stockade fight at Ballarat, he later became Postmaster General, then Speaker of the House, 1880-1888. Governor General and Prime Minister. William McMahon was an Irishman.

New Zealand - William Ferguson Massey and John Ballance were both Prime Ministers who were of an Irish heritage.

In 1984, Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister.

Iraq - The Provost Marshal of Bagdad, in 1916, was Victor McLaglen.

Sierra Leone - Thomas Babington Macauley, father of the writer Zachary Macauley was Governor in 1813.

Saudia Arabia - T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, was born in Ireland. He secured independence for this area.

Bermuda - Francis Hincks was Governor.

Bahamas - Milo Butler was Governor in 1973.

Grenada - George Macartney was Governor in 1779.

Montserrat- Alexander Brisket was Governor in 1637.

Leeward Islands - Irish born William Stapleton was Governor in 1671. He was an Irish Catholic Soldier of Fortune previous to his appointment.

Canada - Like Australia, there have been many. Recent Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is representative. Another is Edmund James Flynn in 1896. MacDonalds, MacKenzies, and Kings have been in high office though out Canada, throughout the years. Examples are - the first Premier of Ontario, John Sandfield Macdonald. He was also Prime Minister of Canada 1862-1864. Sir John Alexander MacDonald was the first Premier of Canada (1867-1873). William Lyon MacKenzie led a rebellion to rid Canada of the British in 1837. Andrew L. McNaughton was Commander of Canadian Forces in Great Britain in WW II.

Mexico - The President of Mexico in 2000 was Vicente Fox whose father was of Irish heritage.


There are other Irish who left home to adopt other countries and become a part of their history. Examples are:

Philippines - The Governor General of the Philippines for the

United States from 1933-1937 was Frank Murphy.

Israel - The longtime President of Israel during the 1980s, Chiam Herzog, was born in Ireland.

Germany - A leader of the Green Party is appropriately Petra Kelly. She is not Irish, but carries the name of her step-father.

Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe, the country's first Prime Minister is not Irish, but credits an Irish priest, Father John O'Hara, for his revolutionary zeal that helped him declare his country independent.

Japan - Douglas MacArthur, who had both Irish and Scottish blood, effectively ruled Japan and wrote its constitution after WWII.

Greece - Richard Strong was a Commanding General of the Greek Army when Greece successfully separated from Turkey.

Cuba - Che Gueverra, was one of the leader's of the Cuban Revolution, he is a decended from a as a Lynch family.

Africa - Hugh Francis Flynn rode with Shaka the Zulu chief in 1827.

Vatican - Pope Pius IX organized the Irish Battalion of Saint Patrick to defend the Papal States against Girabaldi in the early 1800s. The unit was led by Miles Keogh of County Carlow. Keogh was awarded a Papal medal for his valor. Keogh was killed as a member of the Seventh Cavalry serving as an officer under General George Armstrong Custer. Many years later when the victor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull, died, they found him wearing Keogh's medal.

Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty helped conceal thousands of escaped Allied POWs during WWII.

Father John Magee was the Private Secretary to Pope John Paul in 1978.

South America

In South America many Irish were associated with Simon Bolivar who liberated Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru from Spain during the years 1810-1826. His chief Aide de Camp was General Daniel Florence O'Leary who later became Foreign Minister for first Columbia and then Venezuela. General Thomas Charles James Wright was an Irishman who became an official in Columbia, then Ecuador, and finally Venezuela. Arthur O'Connor was Chief of Staff to Jose San Martin.

John D'Evereaux raised the Irish Legion for Bolivar. About 2,000 Irish served in the Unit.

The Spanish Viceroy to Peru was Ambrose O'Higgins. His son, Bernado O'Higgins, like Bolivar helped to free parts of South America with Irish help. A province of Chile is named O'Higgins.

Thomas Cochrane organized the Chilean Navy for O'Higgins.

Eduardo Casey was the son of 19th Century Irish immigrants. He became the founding father of the present-day city of Venado Tuerto, in Argentina's Santa Fe Province.

William Brown, of Ireland, organized the Argentine Navy, he was later Governor of Buenos Aires.

Eiza Lynch was born in Cork, Ireland in 1835. Her family moved to France in 1847. When she was 21 she met General Francisco Solano Lopez, the heir of Paraguay's leadership. She beccame preganant by him and followed him to Paraguay. Though Lopez never married her, Lynch learnt to take political and financial advantage of her status, despite the unofficial nature of her position and antipathy on the part of López family. By 1858 she was a social leader in the community, despite frequently becoming pregnant and being not fully accepted by the Paraguayan elite. Between 1855 and 1861 she gave birth to five more sons, all of whom publicly bore the López name. She rose high in the world in a material sense, recipient of gift after gift from her admiring general. She styled herself as "Madame Lynch" and was popularly known as "La Lynch". She became a lady to be emulated if not to have affection for, and her social reputation placed her on an equal footing with some foreign diplomats, for she did her part to modernise Paraguay. Thus began a cultural transfer of French, rather than English or Irish, customs to replace the native ones. She set the tone
with her home and her lover's house, as well as clothing, cuisine, champagne, cosmetics, sewing machines, de rigeur music, formal dances, lithographs and other objects d'art.

She became the world's largest female landowner. By 1865 she owned several large ranches and at least twenty-six urban properties. During Paraguay's Triple Alliance War against Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, Solano López transferred vast properties into Lynch's name perhaps in order to protect some of his wealth in case he lost the war or had to abdicate. Solano López ordered the sale to Eliza Lynch of over 800,000 acres of state lands and forests located in the Chaco region. In addition, she acquired 12,000,000 acres in eastern Paraguay and another 9,000,000 acres
of yerbales and forests in the contested area north of the river Apa. All of Lynch's landed property was confiscated in 1869 by the Triple Alliance. Madam Lynch was allowed to return to Paris with $500,00 in assets where she died in obscurity in 1886.

Peter (Pedro) Campbell was a Tipperary born soldier who arrived in Argentina as a member of a British invasion force. He deserted to join Jose Artigas' army fighting for the liberation of what was to become Uruguay, and is honored as the father of that nation's Navy.

In the 1970s, under the influence of nationalist and revisionist historians, Eliza Lynch was proclaimed a Paraguayan national heroine and her remains were removed from her grave in Paris to her adopted country in Asuncion, Paraguay, South America. A central street in Asunción was named 'Madame Lynch' in her honour. The life of Eliza Lynch has fascinated modern writers of fiction and biography in English and Spanish.

Just prior to the ascendancy of Juan Peron, the President of Argentina in 1944-1946 was Admirilo J. Farrell.

The President of Peru in 1983 was named Terry. He offered a Peace Plan to end the Malvinas/Falkland dispute of that year to the leaders of England and Argentina that was accepted. Two of the other major players in that drama was the Foreign Minister of England, a man named Callahan; and the President of the United States, who was a Reagan.

In Mexico during the war with the United States in 1846 there was in its army a battalion known as the San Patricio's, it was made up of many Irishmen.

There were three Irish Brigades in South Africa during the Boer War.

Irish born "Mad" Mike Hoare of South Africa, a derring do mercenary who led a band called the "Wild Geese" in the Katanga revolt in the Belgian Congo of the 1960's, attempted in 1981 to take over the Seychelles Islands.

Her Serene Highness Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, was an Irish girl from Philadelphia who went to Hollywood and became a star, before marrying the Prince of Monaco. Her children Prince Albert, Princess Caroline (who has a carnation named for her), and Princess Stephanie, are of course as Irish as Monacoan.

One hundred years before actress Grace Kelly married a crowned head of a small european municipality, a Texas lassie by the name of Adelaide McCord (who had changed her name to Adah Isaacs Menken) was the morganatic wife (wherein a commoner or person without rank marries a person of royalty without being entitled to share in the rank of the royal partner, nor do children of the marriage have any rights to inherit titles or property belonging to the royal parent) of Charles, King of Württemburg. She, however, was known as the Queen of Württemburg and wielded the power of the throne in the king's absence.

And then there was His Majesty O'Keefe, who ruled Yap Island in the South Pacific as his personal kingdom for thirty years (1871-1901).

There was another less known king of a Pacific island. Irishman John Davis Murray was King of the Christmas Islands in 1891.

United States

There is not enough room to give the many examples of men and women with an Irish heritage who played a part in the history of the United States of America. Suffice to say they include twelve U.S. presidents who were Irish on the paternal side: President Buchanan's father was born in County Donegal and both President Jackson's parents were born there, Polk, Arthur, McKinley, Wilson, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton; and nine United States presidents: Adams, hisson John Quincy; Madison; Johnson (Andrew); Grant; Cleveland; Harrison; Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson who were Irish in the maternal side. Twenty-one U. S. Presidents had an Irish connection.

Expanding that to include other Celtic connectons, we can add Jefferson who was of Welsh descent, and Monroe and Hayes of Scottish descent. President Garfield stated he believed he was of Welsh descent. Genealogical records show him to be of Scottish descent. That brings the total number of U. S. Presidents with a Celtic connection to twenty four. More than half of the U. S. Presidents had a Celtic connection. Two other presidents who may have had a Celtic connection were George Washington and Zachary Taylor. George Washington had very close ties to a McCarthy family (cousins). George Washington is descended in the paternal line from families in the west of England (North Lancashire), Celtic country. Taylor is another President whose ancestors are from the west of England in country that still has many Celtic families. Many historians list Lincoln as Irish through his maternal line (Moore). President McKinley in a St. Patrick' Day speech included Lincoln in his list. My research has not been able to substantiate that claim.

The legacy of the Wild Geese has been felt world over. President Ronald Reagan in a Saint Patrick's Day speech made the point well when he said:

Like the seeds of the shamrock, Ireland has scattered its sons and daughters to the four winds, and everywhere they have taken root they've made a unique contribution to their adopted country.

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