John W. de Courcy (1911-2006)


; b. 19 Oct. 1911, Lucknow [(Lakhnau], Uttar Pradesh in northern India; b. to Irish Catholic mother and Church of Ireland father from Co. Kildare, an army officer who died of typhoid in China on the eve of the First World War; educ. Marlborough High School, London; spent much of his childhood with his grandparents in Galway; awarded history scholarship to New College, Oxford, but opted to travel to Brittany and France, working a Dutch merchant ship headed for Argentina and visited Spain, Brazil and Uruguay; entered Oxford; m. Beatrice [“Betty’] Haigh from Dún Laoghaire;
moved to Manchester; joined the Labour Party; moved to Ireland, 1938; stayed on the Aran Islands and learnt Irish there and in Donegal; taught at St. Patrick's Cathedral School, 1942; joined the Maritime Institute of Ireland, 1943; later appointed Honorary Research Officer to his death; worked with Vocational Education Committee; considered emigrating to Argentina, 1949-50; grad. PhD with research on Irish maritime history, (TCD), 1950; co-founded National Maritime Museum, Dún Laoghaire, 1959; issued The Sea and the Easter Rising (1966); taught at Newpark Comprehensive School, Blackrock, 1968-86;
stood for European Parliament as a Democratic Socialist, 1984; took 5,350 votes; served as voluntary secretary of the Dún Laoghaire lifeboat station for over twenty-five years; founding member of the Campaign against Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Ireland; member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement; fostered Irish links with China and was appointed honorary ambassador to China in Ireland; issued Ireland and the Irish in Maritime History (1986) includes a life of Admiral Patricio Lynch of Chile; published a biography of William Brown from Foxford, Co. Mayo, founder of the Argentine navy (The Admiral from Mayo, 1995);
named member of the Instituto Browniano in Buenos Aires; issued The Liffey in Dublin (Gill & Macmillan 1996), 468pp.; dedicated himself to making successive Irish governments ‘realise that they lived on an island and needed the sea’; suffered the death of his wife Betty, 1999; d. at Clonskeagh Hospital, Dublin, 4 April 2006, after a long illness; survived by three children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; there was an obituary in the Irish Times (8 April 2006, p.14).

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  • ‘Irish Soldiers and Seamen in Latin America’ in The Irish Sword, 1, 4 (1952-53), pp.296-303.‘Admiral William Brown’ in The Irish Sword, 6, 23 (Winter 1962), pp.119-21.
  • ‘Thomas Charles Wright: Soldier of Bolivar; Founder of the Ecuadorian Navy’ in The Irish Sword, 6, 25 (Winter 1964), pp.271-75.
  • Ireland and the Irish in Maritime History (Dublin: Glendale Press 1986).
  • The Admiral from Mayo (Dublin: Edmund Burke 1995).
  • The Liffey in Dublin (Gill & Macmillan 1996), 468pp.

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See Desmond Branigan, ‘Message from the President' in Iris na Mara - Journal of the Sea. Journal of the Maritime Institute of Ireland. 1:1, Winter 2002, p. 3).

There is a compendious life of John de Courcy Wheeler by Claire Healy in the Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography on the Society for Irish Latin American Studies website [online at - online] - from which the above is largely abstracted. Healy also cites:

—‘Report on “The Sea,” talk given by John de Courcy Ireland to the Irish Humanists' (1 Dec. 2002) - available at [accessed 15 April 2006; unavailable at 26.06.2011].
— McCabe, Aiden. ‘A Tribute to Dr. John de Courcy Ireland (1911-2006)' (2006) - available online at [accessed 15 April 2006; unavailable at 26.06.2011].

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