Irish Ingenuity

Holland submarineFenian-ram-600Who invented the worlds first successful submarine. Some would argue it was the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. They did indeed operate the submarine Hunley and sank a US blockade ship, unfortunately the submarine sank in the same attack. Several inventors attempted to produce a workable submersible but it wasn’t until the Holland boat design was completed that any degree of success was achieved. The Holland class was used extensively during the 1st World war. In fact Canada purchased two through very unusual circumstances. Two Holland boats had been completed for the Chilean Navy but Chile defaulted on payment. The outbreak of war was imminent and the Premier of British Columbia was very concerned about a German battle cruiser off the Canadian coast. He urged the Government to purchase the two boats but they dragged their heels.  Premier of British Columbia Sir Richard McBride bought them and had them sail from Seattle on the eve of the 1st WW.  Later the Canadian Government did take over and they became part of the Royal Canadian Navy. During the 1st WW the capitol ships were the Dreadnoughts, huge heavily armed battleships. By the time the 2nd WW started the battleship was losing prominence to the Aircraft carrier. However, in Germany they were learning the importance and effectiveness of the U Boat. They demonstrated the power of the U Boat by coming very close to winning the battle of the Atlantic. Reaching the 1960’s the nuclear submarine was considered the capitol ship of every major naval service. Today the nuclear missile boats (Boomers) are the world’s most effective deterrent. A missile boat can be parked quietly off an enemy coast line out of sight carrying 16 nuclear missiles. Such a boat can remain at sea until the food runs out. We have indeed come a long way from John Patrick Hollands first submarine,. Nevertheless, the design principle of his pressure hull remains in use to this day. We Irish are a very smart lot Eh!!!!24883alcide_auriga_halifax_63HM/SM Otter

Holland met the Fenians

Holland left Ireland for Boston, USA in 1873 where he was reunited with his family who arrived in Boston some time earlier. He worked as a teacher and an engineer.

His brother Michael had become involved with the Fenians and introduced them to Holland. They liked his submarine plans and wanted to use them against the British navy.

They envisaged a ‘Trojan horse’ style attack where by a submarine could be hidden inside a harmless looking merchant ship which would be able to get close to the British navy ships.

When it was close enough, the submarine would exit through the bottom of the ship underwater and attack the British ships.

Submarine designs submitted to US Navy

Two years after arriving in the United States, he submitted designs he had developed for a submarine to the US Navy. The designs were never put to use by the navy who mocked them as the work of a ‘civilian landsman’.

Despite this setback, Holland continued his research and development. He was able to quit his teaching job and work on it full time thanks to funding from the Fenians.


His relationship with the Fenians was short lived, however, and they went their separate ways six years later after a row over money. This was not before the launch of the Fenian Ram submarine in 1881, which can be seen today at the Paterson Museum in New Jersey.

God Bless and keep reading.

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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