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THE CHILEAN TUOHYS


The Tuohy motto, going back thousands of years, is “Everywhere”, so it’s logical a band of Tuohys should find their way to Chile South America. Irish-Chileans, by the way, are known as Irlandés-chileno or Hibernochileno in Chile and in the Irish as Gael-Sileánach. Unlike their North American cousins, Catholics who emigrated mostly from what was once the hard scrapple west of Ireland in the 19th century; the South American Celts, also Catholic, emigrated largely from Northern Ireland in the 18th century.


Generally speaking, these migrants were the very young, non-inheriting sons, and later daughters, of the larger tenant farmers and leaseholders which were typically located in the rural areas of Ballymahon, Abbeyshrule, or Edgesworthtown (Longford), Multyfarnham, Ballinacarrigy, Moyvore, Ballymore, and Drumraney (Westmeath), and Kilmore, Kilrane and other towns in Co. Wexford. The attraction to South America for these young men and women was the real possibility of becoming a large land owner, a powerful appeal to children of tenant farmers in Ireland.



A fair number of these Irish settled in the Magallanes region in the extreme southern realm of the country. (The area extends across two continents, South America and Antarctica and marks Chile’s southern boundary) It also has its coldest climate of Chile, and includes the only natural sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – the Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage.


The Region takes its name from the first European to set foot here, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who was seeking a way across America to establish a shorter route to the Moluccas. When he found it, on November 1, 1520, he called it the Estrecho de Todos los Santos, or the Straits of All Saints.




Although the area did have an indigenous people, who have mostly died off, the Irish were one in a successive wave of immigration from other parts of Chile, Argentina, England, Wales, and Croatia.

Overall, in the Magallanes region, the British/Irish population is about 60,000 people and makes up about 40% of the total population. A bit further north, in the Aisén region, another 30,000 Chileans claim Irish or British descent

A good number of the Irish in the area took up the only work they knew, sheep farming and the city of Punta Arenas still has a large Irish Chilean Irish population dating back to the 18th century.





The Irish have played a substantial role in Chilean history. Bernardo O'Higgins, the son of an Irish immigrant, is called the "Father of Chile". His own father, Ambrose O’Higgins came to South America at the request of another Irishman, John Garland, who had trained the Spanish Corps of Military engineers and was then dispatched to Chile, in 1757, by the Spanish who then ruled Chile, to help design the Pacific port city of Concepcion. By 1764, Clark was military governor of Valdivia and had hired on Ambrose O'Higgins, a young engineer-draftsman from Sligo.



In 1796, Ambrose O'Higgins hired another young Irish engineer named Juan MacKenna of Clogher in County Tyrone. MacKenna had been recommended to O’Higgins by Count Alejandro O'Reilly, an influential Irish officer in Spain who was related to MacKenna's mother Eleanor O'Reilly.

During the war of independence from Spain, MacKenna sided with the pro-independence forces of Bernardo O'Higgins and rose to the rank of general. While the young O’Higgins received most of the credit for the string of military victories his forces won, historians largely agree that it was MacKenna who was the real military brains behind O'Higgins' success on the battlefield.

Before the war, MacKenna built a chain of roads, bridges, schools, factories and mills throughout southern Chile, where he had served as Governor of Osorno.

John MacKenna’s grandson was Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna (1831-1886), and was a Chilean writer, journalist and historian. He was born on August 25, 1831, and was the son of Pedro Félix Vicuña and Carmen Mackenna. John studied in Santiago, Chile and passed the bar in 1849.


In the winter of 1763-64, while on a harrowing journey over the Andes Mountains which separates Argentina and Chile, Ambrose conceived the idea of a chain of weatherproof shelters for mail carriers. The plan was put into effect in 1766 and Chile was one of the first nations in the America’s to enjoy year round, reliable, mail service.


In 1851 he participated in a revolution against the government, was taken prisoner during the attack on the headquarters of the Chacabuco Regiment and was captured. He managed to escape and fled to the US and Europe. He returned to Chile in 1856 and two years later, founded the La Asamblea Constitucional newspaper. Exiled once again, this time for his writings, he lived in Ireland and England, returning to Chile again in 1863.


He served as envoy of the Chilean government in New York, founded La Voz de América newspaper and was eventually elected to the Chilean Senate and in 1872 served as mayor of Santiago. He ran for President in 1875, but was defeated.

The brash MacKenna’s life was cut short when he was killed, in Argentina, in 1814, during a duel with a political opponent of O’Higgins. MacKenna's second during the duel was William Brown, of County Mayo.

Ambrose O'Higgins son, Bernardo, was born in the Chilean city of Chillán in 1778.

His mother was Isabel Riquelme, who hailed from a prominent local family. Her father was Don Simón Riquelme y Goycolea, a member of the Chillán Cabildo, or national council. Bernardo had a distant relationship with Ambrosio, who supported him financially and was concerned with his education, but the two never met in person.

During the Wars of Independence, about 200 doctors from the British Isles, most of whom were Irishmen, served with the freedom forces under Simon Bolivar. Unfortunately, most of their names have been lost in time but two are known today; Dr Michael O'Reilly from Dublin and Dr Stephen MacDavitt, both of whom died in 1822.

Bolivar's chief medical officer Dr Thomas Foley from Killarney survived the war, as did Dr. Charles Moore who served for a time as Bolivar's personal physician and Bolivar's chief surgeon Dr Richard Murphy from Sligo. Murphy was one of those who stayed behind to serve the medical needs of the poor in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, where a monument stands to him today. General San Martín's aide-de-camp in the Battle for Chile was John Thomond O'Brien (1786-1861)

In later years, the Irish continued to dot the Chilean popular and historical landscape. Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat politician, senator, first President of Chile after the end of Augusto Pinochet's regime, was of Irish decent as was Alberto Blest Gana and Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, noted writers. Naval legends Charles (Carlos) Condell Pedro Dartnell and Admiral Patricio Lynch was also of Irish blood as was Pablo Mackenna writer, TV and radio host, and actors Sandra O'Ryan and María José Urzúa O'Ryan.

One of those later immigrants to Chile was 24-year-old Timothy Tuohy who was born in Islandmore, in Waterford, Ireland. Arriving in Peru, he went to work in the silver mines at Cerro de Pasco, in Central Peru. At 13,000 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest cities in the world. Discovered in 1600 by the Spanish, the silver mines at Cerro de Pasco, were still bustling when Tim Tuohy arrived there.




Here, the young man met and married a local girl, Maria Tejeda. After two years, the couple moved to the port city of Mejillones, in Northern Chile. Settling here, they raised six sons, John George, Albert, Thomas, Patrick and Charles and a daughter, Hellen. (Charles, the youngest is alive and well as is Hellen who is 80 years young and living Santiago.


Patrick, the fifth son, had five sons including Dr. Patricio Tuohy. Patrick died in 1991.

John, the oldest son, settled at Caracas Venezuela, and had three children, John, Patricia and Clara. John passed on in 1989. Son Albert, called Bertie, had a son who, like most of the descendents of Timothy Tuohy, live in Antofagasta, a port city about 700 miles north of Santiago.

Son Thomas also had four children, Tommy Jr., who also died an early death, and three daughters, Mary, Judith and Ingrid. At this writing, son Charles is now 84 years old and lives in Viña del Mar with his daughter, Maureen. Sadly, Hellen, Timothy Tuohy’s daughter was schizophrenic since age 25 and lived out her live in at medical institutions.