This weekend’s Irish Maritime Festival in Drogheda saw the launch onto the River Boyne of a large scale replica of “The Fenian Ram” which was built by Clare man John Philip Holland in 1881.
Drogheda’s new Mayor, Councillor Paul Bell was present for the event which took place adjacent to the Coastguard Station.
The fully operational submarine will later go on display as the centrepiece of a special exhibition on Drogheda’s quayside organised by the Louth County Museum as part of this weekend’s festival.
Acknowledged as the father of the modern submarine, Holland – who, in the 1860s was a teacher and Christian Brother – resided in the Brothers’ monastery in Drogheda, now a hotel. In 1873, Holland left both the Christian Brothers and Ireland for America to pursue turning his submarine design into an actual vessel.
“While teaching in Drogheda, he first became interested in the problems of flight and submarine navigation, so it is entirely appropriate that we should honour him here,” said Martin McGowan, Proprietor of the Scholars Townhouse Hotel who sponsored the construction of the replica submarine, and previously, a memorial to Holland in the grounds of the hotel.
Construction of what became known as “The Fenian Ram” began in New York in early 1881. Testing the vessel took place in June and by July, it had managed to remain submerged for three hours. The original submarine is on permanent display at the Paterson Museum in New Jersey.
Years later, Holland supplied both the US Navy and Royal Navy with their first submarines, named USS Holland and HMS Holland in his honour. Holland died in August 1914, probably unaware of just how significant his invention would become, starting with World War 1 – the first conflict in which submarines played a major role.
“Holland’s passion for engineering and applying mathematical solutions to engineering problems never ceases to amaze me. For that reason, I have been very proud to commemorate the genius of John Philip Holland and his contribution to Naval and Maritime History,” concluded Martin McGowan.