The life of Thomas Addis Emmet, United Irishman in Ireland and America, a talk by Philip Emmet, Rosary Pastoral Centre, Wednesday 15 May at 7pm

Residents of Harold’s Cross are very familiar with the story of Robert Emmet, but less is known of his beloved brother Thomas Addis Emmet, who being 14 years older was such an influence on him. We are delighted to welcome one of Thomas’ direct descendants, Philip Emmet, to Harold’s Cross this year. Philip will deliver a talk from the very personal perspective of the Emmet family on the history of  Thomas’ life, and what motivated him to devote himself to the Irish cause for freedom. Philip will also touch on Thomas’ descendants both here and abroad, especially in the US. One of those descendants was French human rights lawyer Valentin Ribet, who sadly died aged 26 in the terrorist attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in 2015.

Thomas was a barrister who was devoted to the cause to end discrimination against Catholics. He became legal adviser to the United Irishmen, and its non-sectarian manifesto was largely drawn up by him. By 1797 he was one of its leaders. Thomas was arrested in 1798, and imprisoned for four years. Following his release he travelled to France to attempt to enlist French aid for a further uprising. While in Paris he was given the news of the failure of the 1803 uprising, and Robert’s execution. Heartbroken over his brother’s death and the failed rebellions of 1798 and 1803, Thomas emigrated to the US where he ultimately became New York State Attorney General. He died in exile in 1827.

Descendants of Thomas’ returned to Ireland in the 1920s, initially buying a farm in Co. Wexford for use in the summer months before buying Altidore Castle in Kilpeddar, Co. Wicklow in 1944 as a permanent residence. It is run today as an organic farm. The house and gardens, including an Emmet Museum, are open to the public on designated dates during the year. Further information on Altidore and the opening times of its Emmet Museum can be obtained on the link set out below to the Historic Houses of Ireland website:

The Museum holds a treasure trove of historic Emmet papers, portraits and possessions. These include precious mementos of Robert Emmet such as his college books; seals designed by him; the spinette which his fiancée Sarah Curran used to play and the very last letter he wrote (to William Wickham, the UK’s Chief Secretary for Ireland) before he was executed. Professor Patrick Geogheghan described the impact this letter had on Wickham in his talk at the 2015 HX Festival.  It caused Wickham to resign from office shortly afterwards, and he remained obsessed with Robert Emmet’s letter until his own death, saying: ‘For the long space of thirty-two years, it has been my constant companion……Had I been an Irishman, I should most unquestionably have joined him’.

Altidore Castle