John Philip Holland spelt Seán Pilib Ó hUallacháin, in Irish, was an Irish engineer from Co Clare, who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first ever Royal Navy submarine, the Holland 1.
Holland was born in 1841 to John and Mary Scanlon Holland in Liscannor, Co. Clare. His mother was an Irish speaker, so John and his four brothers learned English only after they were old enough to attend school.
Holland joined the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and taught in Limerick and many other centers in the country including North Monastery CBS in Cork City.
At a Christian Brothers Congregation on Saturday, the Irish Examiner reports that 'The conference at the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy heard Mr Holland was chastised on occasions for his teaching skills arising out of his preoccupation with invention. He was encouraged in Cork by a like-minded Christian Brother but other schools complained that his creative mind distracted from his obligations as a teacher.'
This being our clue from his early years, of the contribution he would make not only to his native Ireland but to the navies of some of the world's most powerful countries.
After teaching in a number of schools in Ireland, including the North Monastery School in Cork, he emigrated with his family to America in 1872, where he began working on his submarine design.
His move to the US was also influenced by the fact that his brother Michael had become involved in the Fenian fight and had emigrated Stateside to avoid arrest by the British authorities, as read in the Irish Examiner.
He initially worked as an engineer in the U.S, before returning to a teaching post for a further six years in St. John’s Catholic School in Paterson, New Jersey. He continued to improve his submarine designs and eventually the Holland 1 was purchased by the United States Navy on April 11, 1900.
This was the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface.
John Philip Holland also designed the Holland II and Holland III prototypes which are on display in the Paterson Museum in New Jersey.