Island Personalities

Charles Vallancey (c.1725-1812)

general_charles_vallanceyRenowned military engineer Charles Vallancey is responsible for the planning of Fort Westmoreland (later Fort Mitchel). He was born Charles Vallancéy in Westminster in c.1725. Vallancey attended Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, before being commissioned into the 10th Regiment of Foot in 1747. He was attached to the Royal Engineers, became a lieutenant-general in 1798, and a general in 1803. Early in his military engineering career, Vallancey was commissioned to carry out a survey of, and direct repairs to Charles Fort, Kinsale. He later assisted in a military survey of Ireland, and made the country his adopted home around 1770. Vallancey lived on Spike Island and in Cork city between 1790 and 1796. During this time, he commenced the building of an increased defensive installation at Westmoreland Fort (named after the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time) with the noted Cork architect Michael Shanahan. Vallancey died in Dublin on August 8th, 1812.

John Mitchel (1818-1875)

John MitchelJohn Mitchel was an Irish nationalist activist, solicitor and political journalist. Born near Dungiven, County Derry, he became a leading member of both Young Ireland and the Irish Confederation. He was an outspoken critic of British rule and in 1848, he was convicted of sedition and sentenced to transportation to Bermuda for fourteen years. On the 27th May, 1848, Mitchel was sent from Dublin on board HMS ‘Scourge’ to Spike Island where he was incarcerated for three days. On Spike, Mitchel met Edward Walsh (1805 -1849), the noted poet and schoolmaster of the prison on the Island. From Bermuda, Mitchel was sent to the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land – now Tasmania. It was during this journey he wrote his famous ‘Jail Journal’. Mitchel escaped from the colony in 1853 and settled in America. He returned to Ireland and was elected to the British House of Commons, only to be disqualified because he was a convicted felon. He died on the 20th March, 1875 in Newry. The fort on Spike Island was renamed Fort Mitchel in his honour in 1951.

Little Nellie of Holy God (1903-1908)

little-nellieBorn in August 1903. Her father William Organ served in the British Royal Artillery and was transferred to Spike Island in 1905. When her mother died she was placed in care with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Sunday’s Well, where in poor health she died in February 1908. In September 1909, upon opening her grave at the Good Shepherd Convent Cemetery, her remains were found to be incorrupt. An appeal was made to Pope Pius X to canonise Nellie, he replied “Yes, she was a little angel, her patience was admirable, her resignation in suffering perfect. Moreover, she showed a superior intelligence in supernatural matters. As for her innocence, it is beyond a doubt…. She was an angel, living with angels”.

However, Pope Pius X died in August 1914 and the hopes for canonisation were not realised.

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