A prominent Catholic Irish organization. The society was instituted
originally for the protection of the Catholic priesthood and religion in
Ireland, but it has now as its main object "the advancement of the
principles of Irish nationality." According to some authorities the order
was first instituted in 1642, following the great uprising in the north;
according to others, in 1651, when Cromwell had proclaimed nearly the whole
native population outlawed, and had put a price upon the head of every
priest and made it death to attend a Catholic service. The founder was Rory
Og O'Moo, and the society was at first known as The Defenders. On the
establishment of Catholic emancipation, in 1829, the society was reorganized
under its present name as a beneficial and nationalist organization. It was
soon afterwards extended to England and Scotland and was introduced into the
United States in 1836. Its membership is restricted to persons of Irish
birth or descent and of Catholic faith. Military drill is a prominent
feature in some of the branches. The order is an active supporter of the
present Gaelic movement  (see Gaelic League), having endowed a Celtic chair
at the Catholic University of America, and contributed generously toward the
support of Gaelic organizers in Ireland. The latest report shows that,
including the ladies' auxiliary, the American branch had a membership of
150,000 and disbursed annually nearly $$1,000,000 in benefits. This branch
is closely affiliated with the parent body in Ireland, as well as with those
in England, Scotland, Australia, and other parts of the world.

Source:  The New International Encyclopaedia
Publisher:  Dodd, Mead and Company-New York
Copyright:  1902-1905
Transcribed by Miriam Medina