Remembering Napper Tandy
James Napper Tandy was born in Dublin the son of an ironmonger on February 16th 1739. He went to the famous Quaker boarding school in Ballitore Co Kildare.
He became a small tradesman in Dublin's South Inner City but soon turned his attention to politics becoming an elected member of Dublin Corporation.
His condemnation of municipal corruption and his proposal of a boycott of English goods, in retaliation for the restrictions imposed by the government on Irish commerce, made him popular. He was also part of the Volunteer movement that wrested first commercial and then political concessions from an English government fighting desperately to hold on to its American colonies.
He became a member of Whig party and also helped form the Dublin Branch of the United Irishmen and became their secretary. To try and gain more cooperation with the Defenders he took their oath which meant he was now a marked man by the Government.
Tandy was forced to flee to America where he made contact with the citizen Adet, minister plenipotentiary of the French Republic but then joined Wolfe Tone in Paris 1797 to persuade the French to send another invasion force to Ireland.
Tandy was commissioned a brigadier-general in the French army and given control of the Corvette Anacréon, one of the fastest ships in the French navy. It set sail from Dunkirk in early September 1798, a month behind General Humbert.
Two weeks later having sailed past the British naval blockade he boldly sailed into Rutland Harbour Co Donegal, containing arms for several thousand men, a pack of artillery and other useful equipment, but only 270 French troops and six Irish exiles.
They took the town of Rutland but having learned that the rebellion in Connacht was over they decided to head back to France via the north of Scotland to avoid the English fleet and reached Bergen safely. From there Tandy and three companions made their way to Hamburg en route to Paris.
But after a demand from the English government for their arrest and extradition, and despite a counter-threat from the French Directory, the Hamburg authorities, after long deliberations, allowed them to be taken to London in the autumn of 1799.
On 12 February 1800, Tandy was put on trial at Dublin and was acquitted. He remained in prison in Lifford Jail in County Donegal until April 1801, when he was tried for the treasonable landing on Rutland Island. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death but he was reprieved and allowed to go to France.
He returned to France a hero, was given a military parade and Napoleon awarded him a full pension of General as its rumoured he insisted on his release as one of the terms of the signing of the treaty of Amiens.
He began working on another French invasion of Ireland but he died in Bordeaux on August 24th 1803 and his funeral was attended by the whole army in the district and thousands of citizens.
Tandy is immortalised in the ballad 'The Wearing Of The Green', with one of the verses.
"I met with Napper Tandy
And he took me by the hand,
And he said, "How's poor old Ireland
And how does she stand?"