When The Wild Geese left Ireland in 1691, they were actively taking control of their own destiny. Making their way to foreign lands, unsure if they could ever return to Ireland, they were faced with the unimaginable challenge of settling into new communities.
Their impact and influence is felt to this day.
Bernardo O’Higgins is testament to this. He was the son of Ambrose O’Higgins, an ambitious Irishman employed in the Spanish colonial service. Upon his Father’s death, Bernardo inherited Ambrose’s properties and started a life as a gentleman farmer, but quickly became involved in chilean politics, campaigning for Chile’s Independence for Spanish Rule. Following Napoleon’s successful invasion of Spain, which weakened the Spanish hold over Chile, O’Higgins met with Chile’s government to discuss Independence. A limited self-governement was agreed until the Spanish throne could be restored, however, this wasn’t enough for O’Higgins.
Pursuing his dream of a complete Chilean Independence, O’Higgins invested in two calvary companies made up of peasants who worked on his estates and received essential military training from Colonel Juan Machenna.
Bernardo O’Higgins took steps to change his own destiny and fought for a familiar dream – Freedom For Everyone. Bernardo’s famous words on the battlefield – ‘¡O vivir con honor o morir con gloria!, ¡El que sea valiente que me siga!’ (‘We can live with honour or die with glory! If you have the courage, follow me!‘) – inspired a new era in Chile.
Like Patrick Sarsfield and his followers, O’Higgins was relentless, continuing his campaign through victory and defeat. In 1817, O’Higgins’ persistence helped to see in a new era for Chile, as royalist forces were driven from the South American country. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Chile and became Director Supremo de Chile forming a new government and laid the ground for peace and order. As Director Supremo de Chile, he established the country’s first modern navy, helping to secure Chile’s continuing Independence. He also beckoned in a new age of Chilean culture by establishing colleges, libraries and hospitals.