St. Patrick's Day in Peru, 1824
By Brian McGinn

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The tension was palpable. Sandes was not only outranked, but was very much an outsider in this Hispanic affair of the heart. Should he risk the wrath of his superior officer, and perhaps his career, for love?

Antonio J. de Sucre (1795-1830)

Before he had time to decide, Sucre broke the silence with an audacious proposal. 'Permit me to suggest', said the general, 'that we trust our destinies to luck. Let's toss a coin to see who will win the hand of the marchioness.'

Recovering quickly, Sandes agreed. 'Who knows,' said the Kerryman, 'if either of us will ever return to Quito, or whether we will die in some distant battle?'

O'Connor, chosen as umpire, pulled a silver peso from his pocket and tossed it in the air. 'Heads' shouted Sucre, as the tumbling coin glittered in the firelight.

When the peso fell flat on the floor, Sandes and Sucre looked down at the head of King Carlos IV. Sucre had won. [19]

On the road to Huamachuco

The Kerryman apparently accepted the result with soldierly stoicism, and kept his feelings to himself. To lighten the loss, O'Connor now pulled from his baggage the two bottles of Irish whiskey that he had carefully preserved to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. 'With the help of these,' wrote O'Connor, 'Sucre, Sandes, Ferguson and myself had an excellent drinking session that night.' [20]

Mariana Carcelén

O'Connor was the only one of those drinking companions to survive into old age, dying on his farm at Tarija, Bolivia in 1871, aged eighty-one. [21] His descendants in Bolivia continued the family tradition of tinkering with their genealogy. Only one child of his 1827 marriage to Francisca Ruyloba -their daughter Hercilia- survived. [22]

If traditional Hispanic naming traditions had been followed, the O'Connor surname should have disappeared within two generations. Hercilia's son Tomás, from her marriage to Adhemar d'Arlach [23], decided not only to retain his matronymic but converted it into a patronymic, thus becoming O'Connor d'Arlach, a composite surname that has endured in the family down to the present. [24]

William Owens Ferguson lived to see the war's end, reaching the rank of Colonel, only to die in September 1828 during a plot against Simon Bolívar. Ferguson, whose physique was said to closely resemble that of the Liberator, was apparently mistaken for Bolívar and shot in the back as he crossed a darkened plaza in Bogotá, Colombia. [25] With honours rarely accorded to a Protestant, the people of Colombia buried the 28-year old Ulsterman in Bogotá's Catholic cathedral. [26]

Sucre also survived to see South America liberated, and to keep his promise to the father of Mariana Carcelén. But the hero's marriage was destined to be unhappy and short. It was not until September 1828, four years after the fateful coin toss, that Sucre was united in marriage with Mariana. [27] In 1830, at the age of thirty-five, he was assassinated by political rivals while riding home from Colombia to Quito. Sucre had spent only eleven months in his wife's company. [28]



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19. Francisco Burdett O'Connor, op. cit., p. 69.

20. O'Connor, op. cit., pp. 69-70

Lambert, 'Arthur Sandes of Kerry', p. 145.

21. James Dunkerley, 'The Third Man: Francisco Burdett O'Connor and the Emancipation of the Americas' (University of London: Institute of Latin American Studies, Occasional Papers N° 20; 1999), pp. 22-23.

22. James Dunkerley, op. cit., p. 2.

23. Monsieur Adhemar d'Arlach of Avignon, France, was secretary of the French Legation in Bolivia. According to Eric Lambert, he later served as an officer in the Bolivian Army; Lambert, 'General Francis Burdett O'Connor' in The Irish Sword, Vol. XIII, N° 51 (Winter 1977), p. 132.

Laurence M. Geary, 'Fraternally Yours: Roderic and Francis Burdett O'Connor' in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol. XCV, N° 254 (January-December 1990), p. 122.

24. Dunkerley, op. cit., pp. 23, 7, 2. See also Eric Lambert, 'General Francis Burdett O'Connor' in The Irish Sword, Vol. XIII, N° 51 (Winter 1977), p. 132.

25. The official and generally-accepted version of Ferguson's death is found (among other sources)

in Michael G. Mulhall, 'The English in South America' (London: E. Stanford, 1878; rpt. New York, Arno Press, 1977), p. 283: 'A sedition broke out in the palace where Bolívar was residing; Colonel Ferguson was the officer on guard; the revolutionary chief approached him with a party of troops, and demanded imperatively an entrance to the palace, which Colonel Ferguson resolutely opposed. The revolutionary leader then drew a revolver and shot Ferguson through the head. The report of the revolver and the tumult of the troops alarmed General Bolívar, who made his escape from a window of the palace.' See also Hasbrouck, op. cit., p. 333; Lambert, 'Irish Soldiers in South America', p. 34.

Some of Ferguson's descendants, however, believe that William, whose physique closely resembled the Liberator's, may have been deliberately sent across a plaza by Bolívar's generals to draw fire and keep the Liberator safe. According to Ferguson's grand-nephew, he 'was mistaken by the plotters for Bolívar and was shot in the back and mortally wounded while walking in the street.' See Ferguson, 'Journal', op. cit., intro., p. 3; correspondence from Susan Wilkinson, Toronto, Canada, 15 December 1992. I am indebted to Susan Wilkinson for sharing a copy of Col. Ferguson's Journal. Francisco Burdett O'Connor's account of Ferguson's assassination lends some support to the family's belief, locating Ferguson on a Bogotá street (rather than at Bolívar's palace door) when he encountered one of the conspirators, who drew a pistol and shot him dead. See Francisco Burdett O'Connor, op. cit, p. 66.

26. Ferguson, 'Journal', intro., p. 3.

27. Martha Gil-Montero, 'The Liberator's Noble Match', p. 16.

28. Dr. L. Villanueva, Vida de Don Antonio Jose de Sucre, Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho (Caracas: Ediciones del Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 1945), p. 479.





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