Tone walks the streets of Belfast


A Belfast walking tour celebrating the birthplaces of Irish democracy in the late 1700s has welcomed a descendant of the family of legendary Irish leader Theobald Wolfe Tone.

American Bill Tone (pictured, left), who has been in Ireland over recent weeks exploring his family’s historic ties with the United Irishmen, joined the tour last weekend, walking in the footsteps of the Presbyterian radicals who sought to secure “an equal representation of all the people” in a free, united Ireland.

According to a report in the Belfast-based Irish News, the Florida man, who is in his eighties, is a direct descendant of Thomas Tone, Theobald Wolfe Tone’s uncle.

The Belfast tour was launched in June by historians Séan Napier and Colm Dore. It covers the streets and alleyways around High Street, under which the Farset River that gives Belfast its name runs.

The pair aim to capture the “fascinating, hidden, history, wherein ideas of democracy in Ireland were first articulated and acted upon”.

Mr Napier (pictured, right) revealed how Mr Tone and his party were the first Americans to join the tour, which has proved very successful since its launch.

“Every week on the tour outside the Assembly Rooms, we ask if there are any Americans present, because at one point we discuss the non-too-complimentary words of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who characterised the USA, alongside the British, as being ‘money grabbers’,” he said.

“On Saturday Bill duly stepped forward on cue to explain his antecedent’s uncle’s less then flattering opinions on America – even though it was political developments in the USA and France that inspired the United Irishmen.”

Mr Napier described the experience as “awesome but rather surreal”.

“There we were in Crown Entry, walking in the very footsteps of these great historic figures in the presence of one of Wolf Tone’s uncle’s descendants. It was a wonderful connection with the past to the modern day,” he said.

The tour was among a number of locations with United Irishmen associations that Mr Tone visited during their stay. Before coming to Belfast, the group travelled to Wolfe Tone’s burial place at Bodenstown in County Kildare and also to the grave of Thomas Russell in Downpatrick.

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