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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

The Fenian Ram - The World’s First Military Submarine

Irish America has always looked for new and novel means to support the struggle for Irish independence and freedom. That support took many strange turns and including the commissioning and construction of the world’s first military-purpose submarine that became known as The Fenian Ram

Commissioned by the Fenian Brotherhood, Clare man John Philip Holland designed the craft that was built by the Delamater Iron Company in New York.

John Holland aboard the Fenian Ram
John Holland aboard the Fenian Ram

The Fenian Ram was armed with a nine-inch pneumatic gun some eleven feet long, mounted along the boat's center-line and firing forward out of her bow.

Launched in 1881, Holland made numerous dives and test-fired the gun using dummy projectiles. There was a dispute over payments and the Brotherhood took the posession of the Fenian Ram and moved it to New Haven, Connecticut. The dispute deepened with Holland, who refuse to demonstrate how it was operated. The Fenian Ram never saw military action, however, its design was used by the US to build their own submarine fleet. John Holland became accredited as the father of the modern submarine.

The Fenian Ram today in the Paterson Museum.
The Fenian Ram today in the Paterson Museum.

The Fenian Ram was put to use to raise funds in 1916 when it was exhibited in Madison Square Garden. It still survives and can be seen at the Paterson Museum.

John Philip Holland Jr was born in Liscannor, County Clare, today February 24, 1841.

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