Archive for Henry Joy McCracken

The Tree of Liberty Stone

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , , , on February 10, 2019 by telescoper

I had to come into the office today to do a few things ahead of what will be another busy week, but when I stepped out I found the weather to be much more pleasant than it has been of late, so went for a short stroll around the town of Maynooth. I’m also house-hunting, so I took the opportunity to have a look at the locations of a few properties I’d seen on the market before deciding whether to check them out in more detail.

Anyway, at the opposite end of the Main Street from the Maynooth University campus, I found the above monument, the Tree of Liberty Stone, which commemorates the (failed) Irish Rebellion of 1798 which had sought to emulate the French Revolution (which began in 1789) in overthrowing British rule in Ireland. This rebellion was launched by the Society of United Irishmen.

Incidentally, one of the founders and leading lights of the Society of United Irishmen was a character from Belfast by the name of Henry Joy McCracken. That name will be familiar to many astronomers, and especially to people involved in the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, as there is an astronomer with exactly the same name who did his PhD in Durham and who now works in Paris. Whether the present Henry Joy McCracken is directly related I don’t know.

The historical Henry Joy McCracken was executed by public hanging on 17th July 1798 after the failure of the 1798 rebellion. He was just 30 years old. Another thing worth mentioning is that he was a Protestant republican. There were more of those than people tend to think.