By Seán Ua Cearnaigh
The Dublin street ballad, ‘The Wearing of the Green’, with its’ rousing martial air, was composed, it is believed, in the early years of the eighteenth century. It has always been popular and particularly so on Saint Patrick’s Day, wherever Irish people foregather. Although Dion Boucicault was, at one time, erroneously credited with its’ authorship, nobody knows who wrote it.
Napper Tandy is mentioned in the second verse. But who was this man?
He was a true Irish patriot. Although now largely forgotten, even in his native city of Dublin, he played an important role in the affairs of the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rising.
He was born into a Protestant, unionist family in 1740, but he himself, as he grew to manhood, was no unionist.
Although he started his working life as a land agent – an occupation not likely to endear him to the Irish public – he abandoned this career in favour of politics. He went on to become a member of the Anglo Irish Parliament in College Green, where he soon became known as an ardent champion of Catholic rights.
Joining the Volunteers on their formation and closely associated as he was, with Henry Grattan and Henry Flood, he commanded the approaches to the Houses of Parliament, when legislative independence was announced on May 27th, 1892.
Tandy, described by an unfriendly critic, as the ugliest-looking man in Dublin, if not indeed, in Ireland, was hated by the ascendancy clique of the city.
Often in danger of arrest and persecution by his enemies, he found refuge by continually changing his places of residence. He is believed to have resided in no less than ten houses in Dublin, in the years between 1779 and 1795, in which latter year, he went to America.
He championed the rights of Catholics, time and again, in Parliament, but sadly, to no avail. In 1791, following a difference of opinion with the infamous John Toler, afterwards, Lord Norbury, the hanging judge who sentenced Robert Emmet to death, he suffered much persecution and harassment, at the hands of the ascendancy chiefs in College Green.
But his days as a member of parliament were numbered.