In spite of Sunday’s gullywasher, the 42nd Ceremonial Cleaning of the Dick Dowling Statue in Hermann Park took place. That morning, I stupidly made some phone calls to inquire if the event was still on but no one was home. When I showed up at the site wearing boots and a slicker, everyone was already in place and standing at attention. By days’ end, I was reminded that gullywasher or not, there is nothing more fun than spending an afternoon with the Irish!
Dick Dowling, seemingly, was a gutsy guy and also likeable. What Irish person isn’t?
He’s most remembered as the Irish Confederate hero in the Battle of Sabine Pass
(Sept. 8, 1863). What I didn’t know was his strong connection to Houston.
Larry Joe Miggins mixed his own special blend for the occasion. He poured a gallon of water into a brass bucket and added a wee bit of Irish whiskey from a flask. Of course, after the washing, toasting the honoree seemed appropriate.
Born in Milltown, near Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, Dowling, and his family of 10 immigrated to America in 1846 and settled in New Orleans. After losing his parents and all but two siblings to Yellow Fever, he came to Houston and opened several saloons in 1857. One, called, “The Bank,” (Bank of Bacchus) was located just across the street from Houston’s courthouse. Dowling was involved in establishing Houston’s first gaslight company, streetcar company and fire department.
When the Civil War broke out, Dowling joined the Texas unit. Later, as Lieutenant Dowling, he was given an artillery post at Fort Griffin on the Sabine River. Amazingly, because of their artillery skills, Dowling and 44 men (mostly Irish) known as the Jefferson Davis Guards
forced a Union navy flotilla of 5,000 to retreat, thus, “thwarting a Union invasion of Texas.”
Dowling’s monument has moved several times. Dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905, it was originally placed at Houston City Hall on Market Square and, later, was moved to Sam Houston Park. In 1958, it found its final resting place on the southeast edge of Hermann Park (near the intersection of Hermann Park Loop, Holcombe and North MacGregor).
The Larry Miggins family, a Houston family of Irish descent (and all delightful), has been responsible for cleaning the monument since 1963. In 1970, the cleaning became a ceremonial event. Miggins from ages 3 and up participate in every aspect of the event. Having now attended one, I will not want to miss another!
After the laying of the wreath performed by Dowling descendants, the guest speaker, Helen D. Mooty (director of the Galveston County Museum
) told us a story. Dressed in the guise of Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long (known as the Mother of Texas) she talked about “Four Feisty Women of Texas.” Margaret McCormick, Jane Long, ‘Kate’ Dorman and Obedience Smith
. Using an Irish accent, she told the story laced with humor. Apparently, “Obedience wasn’t so obedient,” she said.
Afterwards came the ceremonial washing of the statue. With the gullywasher and all, I figured that the monument was pretty well cleaned. However, Larry Joe Miggins mixed his own special blend for the occasion. He poured a gallon of water into a brass bucket and added a wee bit of Irish whiskey from a flask. Of course, after the washing, toasting the honoree seemed appropriate.
Cups were raised to Dick Dowling and others. Larry Joe explained, “We’re not here to glorify war. We’re here to honor courage, selflessness and to all those who stood up then and to those standing up today.”
Greeting by Larry Joe Miggins
Invocation by Larry Miggins
Presenting Colors by John Bell Hood Color Guard of Galveston
Singing of the National Anthem by Maureen Miggins Swanson
Pledge of Allegiance by the Swanson Boy Scouts
Calling of the Piper
Laying of the Wreath by Dowling Descendants
Introduction of the speaker, “Feisty Women That Made Texas Great”
Helen Mooty, Director of the Galveston County Museum
Ceremonial Washing of the Statue by Pat Miggins
Final Remarks by Kathleen Miggins