John Philip Holland


Holland standing in submarine hatch

John Philip Holland, the inventor of the submarine, was born in Liscannor, Co. Clare on the 24th February 1841. He was the son of a British Coastguard member and as a result had an interest in engineering and the ocean.

He joined the Christian Brothers in Limerick and later taught at a number of Christian Brother Schools around Ireland, including Drogheda, where he taught mathematics and music. The old Christian Brother’s school in Drogheda is now occupied by Scholar’s Townhouse Hotel.

During his time with the Christian Brothers he retained his interest in engineering and developed an idea for an underwater vessel capable of attacking ships.


In 1875 he submitted his designs to the U.S.  Navy but was turned down. The Fenians, however, funded Holland’s work and in 1881, the “Fenian Ram” was launched. The Fenian Ram is now on display at the Paterson Museum in New Jersey, U.S.

Holland and the Fenians parted company over the issue of payment and Holland continued to work on his designs privately. He launched a new prototype submarine in May, 1897. A company called “The Electric Boat Company” was founded in 1899 and the prototype plus six more submarines were purchased by the U.S. Navy in 1900. Holland’s design was also adopted by the British Navy and adapted by the Japanese Navy.

John Philip Holland died on 12 August 1914 in Newark, New Jersey, aged 73.

A monument, dedicated to Holland and his work, now stands at the gates of Scholars Townhouse.


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