John Philip Holland

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John Philip Holland

John Philip Holland (Irish : Seán Pilib Ó hUallacháin/Ó Maolchalann) (24 February 1841 [1]  12 August 1914 [2] ) was an Irish engineer who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the US Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, Holland 1 . [3]

Irish language Gaelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic and Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of habitual but non-traditional speakers across the country. A non-traditional speaker is known as a Gaeilgeoir.

Submarine Watercraft capable of independent operation underwater

A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. It is also sometimes used historically or colloquially to refer to remotely operated vehicles and robots, as well as medium-sized or smaller vessels, such as the midget submarine and the wet sub. Submarines are referred to as "boats" rather than "ships" irrespective of their size.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.


Early life

Holland, the second of four siblings, all boys, was born in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland [4] where his father, John, Sr., was a member of the coastguard service. His mother, a native Irish speaker from Liscannor, Máire Ní Scannláin (aka Mary Scanlon), was John Holland's second wife, his first, Anne Foley Holland, believed to be a native of Kilkee, died in 1835. The area was heavily Irish-speaking and Holland learned English properly only when he attended the local English-speaking St Macreehy's National School, and from 1858, Irish Christian Brothers school in Ennistymon. [5]

Liscannor Village in Munster, Ireland

Liscannor is a coastal village in County Clare, Ireland.

Her Majestys Coastguard section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Her Majesty's Coastguard (HMCG) is a section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency responsible for the initiation and co-ordination of all maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the UK Maritime Search and Rescue Region. This includes the mobilisation, organisation and tasking of adequate resources to respond to persons either in distress at sea, or to persons at risk of injury or death on the cliffs or shoreline of the United Kingdom. It is also responsible for land based search and rescue helicopter operations from 2015.

Kilkee Town in Munster, Ireland

Kilkee is a small coastal town in County Clare, Ireland. It is in the parish of Kilkee, formerly Kilfearagh. Kilkee is midway between Kilrush and Doonbeg on the N67 road. The town is popular as a seaside resort. The horseshoe bay is protected from the Atlantic Ocean by the Duggerna Reef.

Holland joined the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and taught in Limerick (CBS Sexton Street) and many other centres in the country including North Monastery CBS in Cork City, St. Mary's CBS, Portlaoise, St Joseph's CBS (Drogheda) and as the first Mathematics teacher in Colaiste Ris (also Dundalk). Due to ill health, he left the Christian Brothers in 1873. [6] Holland emigrated to the United States in 1873. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returned to teaching again for a further six years in St. John's Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey.

Limerick City in Munster, Ireland

Limerick is a city in County Limerick, Ireland. It is located in the Mid-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. Limerick City and County Council is the local authority for the city. The city lies on the River Shannon, with the historic core of the city located on King's Island, which is bounded by the Shannon and Abbey Rivers. Limerick is also located at the head of the Shannon Estuary, where the river widens before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 94,192, Limerick is the third-most populous urban area in the state, and the fourth-most populous city on the island of Ireland.

Drogheda Town in Leinster, Ireland

Drogheda is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It is located on the Dublin–Belfast corridor on the east coast of Ireland, mostly in County Louth but with the south fringes of the town in County Meath, 49 km or 30 miles north of Dublin. Drogheda has a population of approximately 41,000 inhabitants (2016), making it the third largest town by population in all of Ireland. It is the last bridging point on the River Boyne before it enters the Irish Sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Newgrange is located 8 km west of the town.

Dundalk Town in Leinster, Ireland

Dundalk is the county town of County Louth, Ireland. It is on the Castletown River, which flows into Dundalk Bay, and is near the border with Northern Ireland, halfway between Dublin and Belfast. It has associations with the mythical warrior hero Cú Chulainn.

Development of submarine designs

While a teac, he was turned away. [7] After his arrival in the United States, Holland slipped and fell on an icy Boston street and broke a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he used his time to refine his submarine designs and was encouraged by Isaac Whelan, a priest. [7]

Boston State capital of Massachusetts, U.S.

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States, as well as the 21st most populous city in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.

In 1875, his submarine designs were submitted for consideration by the US Navy, but turned down as unworkable. The Fenians (Irish revolutionaries), however, continued to fund Holland's research and development expenses at a level that allowed him to resign from his teaching post. In 1878 he demonstrated the Holland I prototype. In 1881, Fenian Ram was launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians parted company on bad terms over the issue of payment within the Fenian organisation, and between the Fenians and Holland. [8] The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum, New Jersey.

Holland I

Holland Boat No. I was a prototype submarine designed and operated by John Philip Holland.

<i>Fenian Ram</i>

Fenian Ram is a submarine designed by John Philip Holland for use by the Fenian Brotherhood, the American counterpart to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, against the British. The Ram's construction and launching in 1881 by the Delamater Iron Company in New York was funded by the Fenians' Skirmishing Fund. Officially Holland Boat No. II, the role of the Fenians in its funding led the New York Sun newspaper to name the vessel the Fenian Ram.

Paterson Museum Industry museum in Paterson, NJ

Paterson Museum is a museum in Paterson, in Passaic County, New Jersey, in the United States. Founded in 1925, it is owned and run by the city of Paterson and its mission is to preserve and display the industrial history of Paterson. It is located in the Old Great Falls Historic District.

Holland stands in the hatch of a submarine. JohnPhilipHolland.jpg
Holland stands in the hatch of a submarine.

Holland continued to improve his designs and worked on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on 17 May 1897. This was the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. She was purchased by the US Navy, on 11 April 1900, after rigorous tests and was commissioned on 12 October 1900 as USS Holland. Seven more of her type were ordered with five built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey and two built at Union Iron Works in California. The company that emerged from under these developments was called The Electric Boat Company, founded on 7 February 1899. Isaac Leopold Rice became the company's first president, with Elihu B. Frost acting as vice-president and chief financial officer. This company eventually evolved into the major defence contractor General Dynamics.

USS <i>Holland</i> (SS-1) submarine

USS Holland (SS-1) was the United States Navy's first modern commissioned submarine, although not the first military submarine of the United States, which was the 1775 submersible Turtle. The boat was originally laid down as Holland VI at the Crescent Shipyard of Elizabeth, New Jersey for John Holland's Holland Torpedo Boat Company, and launched on 17 May 1897. She was acquired by the USN on 11 April 1900 and commissioned on 12 October 1900, Lieutenant H. H. Caldwell commanding.

Crescent Shipyard

Crescent Shipyard, located in Elizabeth, New Jersey, built a number of ships for the United States Navy and allied nations as well during their production run, which lasted about ten years while under the Crescent name and banner. Production of these ships began before the Spanish–American War and occurred far before the outbreak of World War I. Arthur Leopold Busch, a recent emigre from Great Britain, started the yard with former Navy Lt. Lewis Nixon in January 1895. Both men previously worked for William Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia. Both Nixon and Busch were regarded to be amongst the best in their respected fields - and what they did at this time - as designers and builders of the latest, most advanced types of ships.

Elizabeth, New Jersey City in Union County, New Jersey, U.S.

Elizabeth is both the largest city and the county seat of Union County, in New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth most populous city, behind Paterson. The population increased by 4,401 (3.7%) from the 120,568 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 10,566 (+9.6%) from the 110,002 counted in the 1990 Census. For 2018, the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program calculated a population of 128,885, an increase of 3.1% from the 2010 enumeration, ranking the city the 215th-most-populous in the nation.

The USS Holland design was also adopted by others, including the Royal Navy in developing the Holland-class submarine. The first five submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy used a modified version of the basic design, although these boats were at least 10 feet longer at about 63 feet. These submarines were also developed at the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Holland also designed the Holland II and Holland III prototypes. The Royal Navy 'Holland 1' is on display at the Submarine Museum, Gosport, England. [9] [ citation needed ]


After spending 56 of his 73 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland died on 12 August 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He is interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.


A monument stands at the gates of Scholars Townhouse Hotel, Drogheda (the former building of the Christian Brothers school where Holland taught) in commemoration of his work. [10] It was unveiled in a ceremony on 14 June 2014 as part of the Irish Maritime Festival. The ceremony was attended by Drogheda Town Council as well as representatives of the US, British and Japanese governments. [11] [12] St. John's Catholic School, where Mr. Holland once taught, has been renamed and operates as John P. Holland Charter School in Paterson, New Jersey. [13]

Submarines designed by John P. Holland


See also

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  1. Holland's daughter Marguerite claims her father was born on 29 February, a leap year, which would make the year of birth 1840, not 1841, but this is not universally accepted, as the Christian Brothers' register in Limerick contains the notation "J.P. Holland ... entered June 15, 1858, aged 17."
  2. "John Philip Holland". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. Profile Archived 6 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine , United States Navy. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  4. John P. Holland (1841–1914) – Inventor of the Modern Submarine by Richard K. Morris, United States Naval Institute (publisher), Annapolis, MD: © 1966, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 66-20239, pp. 13–14.
  5. Holland's background and childhood in Clare and Limerick, Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  6. Profile,, 9 August 1996.
  7. 1 2 "John P. Holland: An Appreciation," Daily Alaska Empire. 3 September 1914. p. 5. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  8. Davies, R. Nautilus: The Story of Man Under the Sea. Naval Institute Press (1995); ISBN   1-55750-615-9.
  9. "Royal Navy Submarine Museum". National Museum of the Royal Navy. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  10. "John Philip Holland". Retrieved 20 September 2015.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  11. "Submarine inventor honoured at ceremony". The Irish Independent. 30 August 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  12. "Drogheda's ties with inventor of the submarine to be commemorated". Retrieved 20 September 2015.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)[ permanent dead link ]
  13. <


Further reading