Holland (1840 - 1914)
Phillip Holland was born in Ireland in 1840 in Liscannor, Co. Clare to an Irish speaking mother, Máire Ní Scannláin and John Holland.
He was educated by the Christian Brothers in Ennistymon, where he excelled in science and mathematics. After finishing school he joined the Christian Brothers and taught in numerous locations throughout the country.
During his years in Ireland, he and his brother, Mícheál, were both active in the Fenian Movement. After six years he left the Christian Brothers to pursue his dream of designing and building a submersible vessel that could be used to sink British warships. With no hope of implementing such an audacious undertaking in Ireland, he left for the Unites States in 1873 where he could pursue his dream.
After arriving in the U.S. he worked as a teacher in New Jersey. During this period he submitted a submarine design to the United States Navy, which was rejected. In spite of that, Holland continued to pursue his dream. Eventually, with financial backing from the Fenian Brotherhood and other private sources he designed a vessel equipped with advanced ballast and propulsion systems, his sixth design in 25 years.
Holland's prime purpose in designing the submarine, named the Fenian Ram, was to provide a significant naval advantage to the Fenian Brotherhood in what was hoped would inflict a significant blow to the Royal Navy, which had no defense against an under-water attack.
In the end, it was the U. S. Navy that first added the Fenians design as the world's first under-water vessel equipped with torpedoes -- the U.S.S. Holland (Submarine Torpedo Boat #1). It was built at Elizabethport, NJ, and commissioned in 1900. It was the precursor of today's many nuclear-powered submarines.
Though not a certified engineer nor a professional sailor he was the first submarine designer to successfully build an under-water warship that could (a) dive quickly and (b)-- the elusive element for all those before him -- emerge safely and quickly to the surface when intended. The crews of other "submarines" in war and peace had lost their lives because of the absence of those last crucial elements -- to surface quickly and safely when required.
John Holland died in Newark, NJ on 12 August 1914 two weeks after the outbreak of the First World War Immediately after the war started, "Holland-type" submarines from opposing sides began sinking ships at a greater rate than even John Holland himself could have predicted. His lifelong dream was proved true, perhaps, not as he intended but, nevertheless proven.
When Holland's remains were removed from an obscure grave to be re-interred in 1976, among those present for the ceremony were two flag officers from the U. S. Navy and representatives from the Electric Boat Company, manufacturer of today's U.S. Navy's nuclear submarines.
The Fenian Ram -- the successful design, and its much smaller, one-man prototype -- can be seen today in the Paterson NJ Museum, just yards from the Passaic River bridge where the prototype was rescued from the river in the 1930s.
Tomás Ó Coısdealha
Back to Biographies Posted 11/15/08