Christian Brother Sinks Ships

April 14, 2009

Blessed Edmund Rice had many things in mind when he founded the Christian Brothers order but it is unlikely that the sinking of ships was one of them.

Nevertheless, Submarine Man, a new play by Aidan Harney, which will be performed at Íontas Theatre, Castleblayney on Thursday 23rd April at 8.30pm tells the true story of a noviciate Christian Brother from Dundalk who invented the modern submarine.

In 1873, John Philip Holland was captivated by the allure of the sea and intrigued by underwater exploration and the mysteries of the deep.  He became obsessed with his design for a bizarre, submergible craft.  Unfortunately, his other obsession happened to be his house-keeper, Maggie B. Farrell. 

When Holland casts aside his cassock and follows his sweetheart to America, he finds himself caught up in the frantic, international race to tame “the Mistress of the Sea”. He is fiercely courted by the fractured Fenian movement, hoping to turn his ingenious submarine on the British.  The U.S. Naval department also sees the potential to gain a powerful upper hand in warfare.  

Holland, a dreamer and a pacifist, bobs and weaves his way through duplicity and threats on his life in 1890s New York, but ultimately this humble Irish school-teacher faces a terrible choice: integrity versus intellectual sell-out.  Infused with the inventiveness of the eccentric genius, this true-story drama tells the hilarious and moving little-known tale of one of Ireland’s greatest, unsung naval heroes. 

The reviews so far have been wonderful – The Irish Times said of Upstate Theatre’s production “Aidan Harney’s charmingly playful bio-drama of the father of the modern submarine… imaginative stagecraft, entertainingly nimble physicality” while Irish Theatre Magazine thought the play “genuinely gripping… there is no doubting that Harney is a real talent.”

Tickets are available online at or at the theatre box office on 042 9753400/1.