THE RESCUE OF THE MILITARY FENIANS FROM AUSTRALIA

by ehistoryadmin on January 30, 2016

THE RESCUE OF THE MILITARY FENIANS FROM AUSTRALIA

With a Memoir of John Devoy who planned the rescue and the names and careers of the Rescued and their Rescuers

Memoir   of   John   Devoy with an account of the Fenianism, and the daring exploits, sufferings and amazing adventures of its leaders and their followers, had a great fascination for and appealed in a striking manner to the imagination of the Irish people. It had a remarkable influence in reviving in the breasts of a people crushed by centuries of oppression the spirit of independence and self-reliance that was such a powerful factor in moulding, and bringing to success, the Irish-Ireland movement of our time.

It is a well-established fact that nothing alarmed England more in connection with the revolutionary association known as the Fenian Brotherhood than the knowledge that a very considerable portion of her army had been won over to the Irish National cause by able and indefatigable agents, many of whom wore her own scarlet uniforms.

The brain directing the work of these agents was that of the late John Devoy, who spent sixty years toiling for Irish freedom, and of whom it was said that he was perhaps the most dangerous enemy of England in the entire Fenian Brotherhood, and of whom also it was said that in some respects he was worthy to rank very close to Wolfe Tone.

BIRTH AND EARLY YEARS.

Mr. John Devoy was born at Kill, near Naas, Co. Kildare, on September 3, 1842, and came of a patriotic and athletic family. His father was a fine hurler, an accomplished wrestler, and neat dancer, and his youngest brother, Joseph, was a fine athlete. His sisters were very patriotic girls, and one of them, Mary Devoy, was a great worker in the Young Ireland Society, which met at 41 York Street, Dublin, and taught many of the young people who attended the classes the patriotic literature of Ireland.

While John was still young, the family moved to Dublin, and resided in Cork Street. He attended an Irish class in the late ‘fifties, and on one occasion Eugene O’Curry put his hand upon his head and said: “This will be a leader of the Gael who will speak in the tongue of the Gael.” Irish was spoken round Dublin in his time; people coming into the markets from Meath still had Irish, and with his companions of the Irish class, John Devoy made use of every opportunity of hearing them converse in the native language.

BEGINNING OF PATROTIC WORK.

He took the Oath of the I.R.B. in 1861, and was a worker and leader in the cause until his death in September, 1928. To acquire military experience, young Devoy joined the French Foreign Legion in 1861, and spent one year in Algeria. He returned to Ireland in 1862, and until 1865 he was Centre of the I.R.B in the district in and around Naas.

In October, 1865, he was appointed chief organizer for the I.R.B. of the Irish soldiers in the British Army in Ireland. He operated for the most part in Dublin, and his business was to make as many Fenians in the regiments of the garrison as he possible could. A great number of Irishmen at that time wore the red coat, but their hearts were sound Irish hearts, and Devoy’s success was extraordinary. Almost every regiment evidenced his influence, and Fenianism pervaded some of the crack corps, such as the 10th Hussars and the 5th Dragoon Guards. He participated in the sensational rescue of James Stephens from Richmond Bridewell, Dublin.

ARREST AND SENTENCE.

A warrant was issued for his arrest late in 1865, but he managed to escape apprehension until February, 1866, when he was arrested by a large force of police, military, and detectives in Pislworth’s premises, No. 132 James‘s Street, near Steevens’ Lane, Dublin, then a rendezvous of the soldiers from the Royal, Richmond, and Island Bridge Barracks. Subsequently he was confined in Mountjoy Prison for a year, and in February 1867, was sentenced to fifteen years’ penal servitude, and was confined in Millbank, Portland, and Chatham Prisons until January 1871, when he was released on condition that he would settle in the United States

Devoy arrived in America in the beginning of 1871 with four other Irish political prisoners, released under similar conditions. These were Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Capt. John McClure, Charles Underwood O’Connell, and Harry Mulleda. He worked on the New York “Herald” and “Recorder,” and on Chicago dailies.

THE MILITARY FENIANS.

In the meantime the Rising had been a failure, and amongst the bravest and best of those cast into gaol were the soldiers who were convicted by courtsmartial. The military Fenians were especially dear to the heart of Ireland. John Devoy, who had organized them, sworn them in, and plotted and planned with them, could not but regard them as his own favourite children. Consequently all the sympathy of his big heart went out to his brave boys, held behind prison bars, or chained together to labour in the convict gangs of Britain.

The British Government held these gallant military prisoners in especial odium. As ’65 and ’67 receded more and more into history, the prison doors were opened, and captive Fenians once more emerged from durance vile. The leaders had been pardoned. But the English rulers kept the military men fast. They had added to their Fenianism the unforgiveable offence of having joined the organization while they still wore the uniform of England’s monarch, and it seemed as if a special vengeance was decreed against them.

They were tortured by all the means that hate or devilish ingenuity could devise in an English convict prison. Colour-Sergeant McCarthy, after enduring twelve years of terrible suffering, was released practically in a dying condition in January, 1878, and Corporal Chambers, Private J. P. O’Brien and Michael Davitt joined him in a couple of days. A pathetic incident occurred when the four ex-prisoners returned to Dublin to receive the gratitude and love of the patriot citizens of the Capital. They had been invited by Mr. C. S. Parnell to breakfast with him in Morrison’s Hotel, Dawson Street, on the second morning after their arrival. After a few minutes’ conversation, McCarthy was observed to grow deadly pale and totter across the room. He was laid on a sofa, where Chambers and O’Brien supported his head. Davitt and the others did all they could to revive the sinking patriot, and give relief to the dying man. All efforts proved unavailing; in a few moments the noble spirit of the martyred soldier passed away beyond the reach of the British tyrant. Poor McCarthy was no more! Chambers, whose nervous system had been shattered during his twelve years’ imprisonment, broke down and had to be taken away. At the inquest on McCarthy subsequently, his fellow-prisoners testified that he had been most cruelly treated for years in Chatham prison, and the jury gave a verdict that his death had been accelerated by that treatment.

The evidence given at the inquest awakened intense sympathy for the released men and for those who were still enduring the cruel and inhuman treatment. This sad event had the effect of focusing attention on those still in prison, but even the pleading of some of the foremost Englishmen of the day, men more liberally minded than their fellows, was ignored, and all hope was practically abandoned, when John Devoy was inspired to the great adventure of rescuing the men undergoing penal servitude for life in Western Australia.

Amongst the military convicts in the latter colony was that splendid, unconquerable fellow, John Boyle O’Reilly, matchless even amongst the resolute band of the patriots of ‘Sixty-five. O’Reilly was born near Drogheda, and served his apprenticeship as a compositor on the Drogheda “Argus.” Later he was a non-commissioned officer of the Lancashire Rifle Volunteers in Preston, and in May, 1863, he returned to Ireland and enlisted as a trooper in the 10th Hussars, the “Prince of Wales’ Own,” at the age of 20. John Devoy stated that O’Reilly swore in some eighty men of the regiment, had them divided into two prospective troops, obtained possession of the key of an unused postern gate, and had everything ready to take his men, armed and mounted, out of the barracks at a given signal. O’Reilly was arrested, however, tried by courmartial and sentenced to be shot, but was transported to Australia for life. After eight attempts, he finally succeeded in effecting his escape in the barque, “Gazelle,” and was now in America. There were still six soldier Fenians in the Western Australia convict chain gangs, tearing and wearing their hearts out in sheer despair.

It may be interesting here to give short biographies of these six soldiers of Irish freedom:—

  1. MARTIN HARRINGTON was born at Macroom, Co. Cork, and enlisted in the 61st Regiment British Infantry. He fought in the Indian Mutiny and received medals and clasps for his bravery. He left India and landed at Portsmouth in October, 1860. He was arrested in Dublin on the 10th March, 1866, for desertion, and on suspicion of being connected with the insurrectionary movement in Ireland, was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to penal servitude for life. In 1867 he embarked from Portland for the convict settlement of Western Australia, and arrived at Freemantle 10th January, 1868.
  2. THOMAS DARRAGH was born in Broomhall, Co. Wicklow, and enlisted in the 2nd Queen’s Royal Regiment of Infantry in 1852. He fought in the Chinese War and received a medal and two clasps for bravery. He returned to England in May, 1860, was arrested at the School of Musketry at Fleetwood on 22nd September, 1865, was tried by Courtmartial on 21st February, 1866, and found guilty, and was sentenced to be shot—a sentence which was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life. He arrived in Australia on the 10th January 1868, in the transport, “Huguemont.”
  3. JAMES WILSON, whose real name was McNally, was born in Newry. He served seven years in the Bombay Artillery, and was at various times in America, India and Syria. Returning to Ireland, he enlisted in the 5th Dragoon Guards about 1860 or 1861, and became a member of the Fenian Organisation in 1864. He and Martin Hogan deserted together in November, 1865, finding the Regiment too hot for them, after imbuing a large proportion of the men with their own principles. He was arrested in Dublin on 10th February, 1866, and was tried by General Courtmartial on 20th August; he was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Transported to Western Australia, where he landed on 10th January, 1868.
  4. MARTIN JOSEPH HOGAN was born in Limerick, apprenticed to coach painting, and worked at his trade up to 1857, when he enlisted in the 5th Dragoon Guards. He joined the Fenian organization in 1864, and deserted to avoid arrest at the latter end of 1865. He was arrested in February, 1866, and tried for desertion, mutiny, and conspiracy to raise civil war in Ireland. He was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life. He was sent to Australia, and his resolute disposition more than once brought upon him the severity of his taskmasters.
  5. ROBERT CRANSTON was born in Stewartstown, Co. Tyrone, and enlisted in the 61st British Infantry in 1863. He was arrested in Dublin in April, 1866, tried by General Courtmartial on the 18th June, 1866, and found guilty. Sentenced to penal servitude for life. He was sent to Australia, 1868.
  6. THOMAS HENRY HASSETT was born in Doneraile, Co. Cork in 1859, and went out afterwards with the Papal Bridge to Italy, and served through that brief campaign. He enlisted in the 24th Foot in 1861, and joined the Fenian Organisation in 1864. It is said he himself swore in 270 members of the Regiment, and it was he who suggested that the contemplated fight should begin in Dublin by sizing the Pigeon House, which contained 25,000 stand of arms.  When it was considered to be in danger a guard of 90 men was placed on it, and of these 60 were Fenians. Hasset suggested a plan of capture to his superiors in the organisation, but the proposal was rejected on the ground that they were not ready for a general fight. In January, 1866, he deserted, and marched into the Fenian rendezvous in his uniform with his gun upon his shoulder. “Most of the fellows who desert for Ireland’s sake,” said he to John Devoy, “come to you empty-handed, but here am l ready for work.” He was arrested in Dublin on 28th February, 1866, and tried by General Courtmartial, was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life. With the other prisoners he was sent to Australia, and in 1873 he escaped from prison in Western Australia, lived with the Irish farmers for a time, but it being a bad season they could not give him an outfit. Two months having passed he made a dash for the coast, stowed himself away on an outgoing vessel, was captured by the water police, and brought back to the convict establishment, and for two years afterwards he was kept in irons with the chain gang.

JOHN DEVOY INVOKED.

James Wilson (McNally), already mentioned, managed to get an appeal through to John Devoy. In 1876 he was not yet 40 years of age, and had been in penal servitude for a whole decade. He did not appeal to Devoy in vain. The rescue of the military Fenians became almost an obsession with him, and he wholly dedicated himself to the project from the moment he got Wilson’s appeal. A cheery reply brought a ray of hope to the distant convict’s heart, and Devoy at once conferred with John Kenneally and James McCarthy Fennel, who had been prisoners themselves. He then took the matter to the Clan-na-Gael Convention at Baltimore in 1874.

A Committee was thereupon appointed to go ahead. It consisted of Devoy himself, John W. Goff (afterwards Recorder of New York), and three others, but Devoy was the head, brains, and moving spirit of the whole daring enterprise. Funds were the first necessity, and it was not easy to get enough for even so splendid and noble an undertaking. Only he himself could tell how hard was the toil involved in gathering in £5,000. Spurred on by an ex-prisoner, John King, some New Zealand Miners subscribed £800, and in Ireland £1,000 was collected.

DEVOY FINDS A CAPTAIN.

In seeking a Captain, Devoy naturally sought the advice of John Boyle O’Reilly, and from him received the suggestion that a whaling vessel should be sent on the dangerous errand. O’Reilly, when rescued in the “Gazelle,” had met Henry C. Hathaway, who was third mate, and they became tremendous friends. Hathaway was now Captain of the night police force in New Bedford, and to him O’Reilly sent Devoy. Hathaway, a very daring spirit, entered into Devoy’s plans with zest, and at once pitched on Captain George S. Anthony, a whaleman of infinite courage, great experience, and imperturbable temper. He had recently married and retired from whaling, but still heard the call of the sea. A meeting was arranged through Anthony’s father-in-law, John Richardson. Devoy and Hathaway studied each other—in fact, Devoy had prospected the Captain for some days already.

The Captain was of athletic build, with brilliant, black eyes. Devoy then was a short man with full black whiskers. He told the story of the gallant fellows pleading for rescue and sketched the plans he had matured. His friends would provide a whaleship. Would Anthony take the command? The latter asked for a day to think. Next day he came. He said: “Yes.”

Devoy’s eloquence had captured the Captain, for he knew the great risks—the proffered pay was nothing—his young wife had given him a baby daughter but a few months before; his mother lay ill; he had to select a ship and start at once. It was an immense sacrifice the dashing American sailor made. Probably not a man on earth could have induced that sacrifice except the intrepid and invincible John Devoy. Anthony and Richardson searched out the “Catalpa,” bought her for £1,100, but before she was ready to sail the total cost had mounted to about £3,600. She carried 23 of a crew, the only Irishman on board, Denis Duggan, sailing as carpenter.

For about six months the pretence of her being on a whaling voyage in the North Atlantic was kept up. On the 20th October she was at the Azores, having taken 210 barrels of sperm oil, which were shipped to the States from Fayal, and helped to pay expenses. The “Catalpa” then proceeded to Teneriffe, where fresh water was taken in, after which her course was shipped for the River Plate, proceeding a little way her course was changed to the east, around the Cape of Good Hope, past St Paul’s in the Indian ocean, until at length the stout barque cast anchor at Bunbury, in Australia, there to await instructions from John Breslin, who had arrived at the scene of operations.

THE RESCUERS.

Undoubtedly, the chief actor in the rescue was the famous John J. Breslin, who planned the escape of James Stephens from Richmond Bridewell, and who was selected to go to Australia and establish contact with the prisoners. The following short biographies of himself and brave companions should prove of interest:—

JOHN BRESLIN was born in Drogheda, and was about forty years of age; his father was a Co. Tyrone man. John received a good education, was very studious, and a hard reader. At the time of the escape of James Stephens he was an official in Richmond Prison, but was not suspected of complicity at the time. When at length suspicion began to rest on him he went to the United States, but soon after returned to Ireland as an envoy from the Fenian Brotherhood. He was in America at the time of the Rising in ’67, but it was his proud family boast that his five brothers went forth from their father’s house to take part in it, bearing with them the fervent blessings of their father and mother. Cool-headed, courageous, cautious, and a strict disciplinarian, he always proved himself the right man in the right place whenever there was stern work to be done for Ireland.

CAPTAIN THOMAS DESMOND was born in Cobh, Co. Cork, and was about 35 years of age; he had spent most of his time in the West and California, and was living in Los Angeles when selected to act along with Breslin, with whom he sailed from San Francisco for Australia.

JOHN KING was born in Tallaght, Co. Dublin, was about thirty years old, and had lived for a number of years in New South Wales. He was chosen by the Nationalists there to proceed to Freemantle, taking with him the £800 collected for the rescue project.

THOMAS BRENNAN was born in Dublin, and was aged about 34. He learned the trade of shoe-making, and became one of the most active members of the Fenian Brotherhood. He was engaged in the attack on Stepaside and Glencullen Barracks, and afterwards settled in America.

DENIS DUGGAN was born in Dublin, leaned the trade of coach-making, joined the organisation in 1861, and, being a very active figure in the Movement, was placed in charge of a section of one of the largest circles in Dublin. He was arrested in 1866, and was confined successively in Mountjoy, Belfast, and again in Mountjoy Prisons. Eventually released on bail, he remained in Dublin until the Rising of ’67, and was one of the little band that captured Stepaside and Glencullen Barracks under Patrick Lennon.

THE FLIGHT FROM FREEMANTLE.

John Breslin and Captain Desmond arrived in Freemantle in November, 1875, and engaged a room at an hotel. Desmond went on to Perth, and found immediate employment in a carriage factory. Having learned that one of the Fenian ex-prisoners, William Foley, was at large in Freemantle, Breslin made use of him to convey to James Wilson notice of his arrival and arrange method of communication. About the middle of December he visited the prison, or, as they called it in the Colony, the establishment, and in company with two other gentlemen was shown through the interior by the Superintendent and found it to be very secure and well-guarded. By January, 1876, he had had several interviews with Wilson, and had determined on the plan for escape.

All the prisoners wanted were working outside the prison, and communication with them was comparatively easy. With regard to the method or plan of communication between themselves, it may be well to state that their good conduct and length of imprisonment had enabled them to communicate with each other with greater ease and freedom than the other prisoners.

All this time it may well be imagined that the “Catalpa” was most anxiously looked for. At length the welcome “Catalpa” was most anxiously looked for. At length the welcome news of her arrival at Bunbury came, and Breslin proceeded there, met Captain Anthony ashore, and explained to him what he purposed doing with the ship. The part of the coast he had selected for embarking from was distant from Freemantle about twenty miles south, at a place named Rockingham.

It lay at the head of the sound, and a narrow passage at the end of Garden Island led out to sea. He intended the “Catalpa” should stand well out to sea ten or twelve miles outside Garden Island, and that a whaleboat should put into Rockingham and pull out to the ship, whey they could get on board, which could easily be done under ordinary circumstances in four or five hours. While waiting and to avoid suspicion, Captain Anthony over-hauled his vessel, painted her, and was in no hurry to get his wood and water on board.

By an ingenious preconcerted arrangement telegrams so worded as to deceive all but themselves passed between John Breslin and Captain Anthony, so that each was well posted as to what was going on at Rockingham and Freemantle, respectively. Preparations were made. The six men were kept ready through Wilson, with whom Breslin had an interview, and horses and wagons were engaged to carry off the prisoners, and it was determined to fix the escape for Easter Monday, the 17th April. What followed is best given in Breslin’s own graphic language:—

At 5.30 a.m. on Easter Monday l had the ostler called and valises put in the trap, waked up King and Desmond. Brennan was already awake and dressed—and left for Rockingham at 6 a.m. I told Desmond to get his horses harnessed up and be ready to leave at 7.30 a.m. I drove up High Street as if going to Perth, turning sharp round by the prison.

The men were beginning to assemble for parade. Being ahead of my time, l drove slowly along the Rockingham Road, and Desmond coming up shortly after, drove by me. Coming to a shaded part of the road, we halted, and divided the hats and coats, three of each to each trap; time, five minutes to eight. A few moments later I saw three men in the prison dress wheel round and march down the Rockingham Road.

Driving up to them, l found the men were Wilson, Cranston and Harrington. I directed them to pass on, get into the trap with Desmond, and drive away. Desmond wheeled his horses around, and they were only seated and ready to start when the other three came in sight, and on driving up to them l found one man carrying a spade and another a large tin kerosene can. As soon as l came near enough to be recognized, he who carried the spade flung it from him into the bush and the holder of the kerosene can bestowed a strong kick upon it in good football fashion. I found the men were Darragh, Hogan and Hassett. I now had all the men l wanted and felt glad.

My horses got restive and refused to wheel around. Darragh caught one by the head, but he jibbed and kicked, so l was afraid he would break the harness. I told Darragh to let him go, and whipping both of them up smartly, they started fairly together, and when l got them on a wider part of the road they wheeled around nicely. I now drove back and took up my men. Desmond was already well out of sight, and King shortly after rode up and told me all was quiet when he left. At 1.30 a.m. we made the beach and got aboard the whale boat. The men had been instructed to stow themselves in smallest possible space, so as not to interfere with the men at the oars, and in a few moments all was ready, and the word was given: “Shove off! Shove off!”

THE PURSUIT.

   It was between nine and ten o’clock on the same morning that Hogan was missed from his work at the Comptroller’s residence, and could not be found. Suspicion was aroused, and soon the officials learned, to their consternation, that six Fenian prisoners had escaped!

In an hour and a half after leaving Freemantle the mounted police arrived in hot haste at Rockingham, only to find that the fugitives had slipped from their grasp, and were on the open sea. The horses and carriages used by the escaped prisoners and their friends were found where they had been left. To add to the discomfiture of the authorities, it was found that the wily Fenians had cut the telegraph wires between Perth and Albany, where a gunboat was stationed.

The government officials, however, were determined to make an effort to recapture the prisoners, and a steamer, the “Georgette,” was sent in pursuit. She was fully equipped, and armed for any possible encounter. After twenty anxious hours in open whale-boat, with a liberal allowance of rain and seawater, with the glorious uncertainty as to whether they should gain freedom or the “chain gang,” the prisoners and their rescuers scrambled on board the “Catalpa” in double quick time, and once more enjoyed their well-earned freedom.

UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES.

At daylight next morning those on board the “Catalpa” observed they were being pursued by the “Georgette”; and at about eight o’clock the latter steamed ahead and fired a round shot across the bows of the “Catalpa.” Captain Anthony stepped on to the weather rail and raised his speaking trumpet. As he did so, the “Georgette” hailed. “Barque ahoy!” and the answer went back: “What do you want?” ”Heave to!” came back from the “Georgette.” “What for?” shouted the American captain through his trumpet. No reply, and the question was repeated still louder: “What am l to heave to for?” After a pause, the “Georgette” hailed: “Have you any convict prisoners on board? Answer: “No prisoners here—no prisoners that I know of.” The “Georgette” then hailed: “You have six convict prisoners on board. I give you fifteen minutes to consider, and you must take the consequences. I have the means to do it, and if you don’t heave to I’II blow the masts out of you!” Captain Anthony then shouted through his speaking trumpet: “That’s the American Flag; I’m on the High Seas; my Flag protects me; if you fire on this ship you fire on the American Flag.” The fifteen minutes’ grace and several other minutes had expired, but the “Georgette” did not fire, and as she ranged alongside again, Captain Anthony felt that the game of bluff was played out. After ten minutes’ sailing side by side, the “Georgette” hailed: “Can I come on board?” To this Captain Anthony replied: “No, sir, I’m bound for sea and can’t stop.” The “Georgette” hailed: “Can I come on board?” To this Captain Anthony replied: No, sir, I’m bound for sea and can’t stop.” The “Georgette” still kept the “Catalpa” company till 9.30 a.m., when she slowly swung off, and, without having the courtesy to bid bon voyage, steamed back to Freemantle. The remaining incidents of the voyage are written in the log of the good ship “Catalpa.”

For four months nothing was heard of the “Catalpa” until at length she cast anchor in New York Bay at one o’clock on the morning of Saturday, 18th August, 1876. At daybreak John Breslin proceeded to O’Donovan Rossa’s hotel, and a party went aboard to give the men a cordial greeting, and to see to their comforts after so long a voyage.

CONCLUSION.

The rescue was one of the greatest sensations of the time. It was accomplished under such adventurous and thrilling conditions that it sent a glow of pride and admiration through the Irish world, and spread alarm amongst the enemies of the Irish National cause.

The rescue had, indeed, an interest and effect far more than personal. It occurred when the national cause was battling against tremendous odds, and its stimulating and bracing influence on the Irish at home in the unhappy Motherland and in America could scarcely be exaggerated.

The voyage of the rescuing ship became a popular theme in two hemispheres, and her captain became a hero, and his name a toast wherever Irishmen assembled together. Poets sang the perils and victory of the gallant ship and her dashing captain, and story-tellers spun the yarn of her colossal impudence in the very teeth of England’s might.

Twenty years later John Devoy sat on the platform at Philadelphia, and saw the gallant Anthony present to the Clan-na-Gael the flag which flew over the “Catalpa.” On that memorable day the duty of accepting the flag most naturally fell to John Devoy. But he was ill and could not stand the stain of speech. But he had prepared a spirited and eloquent address, which was read to a delighted and enthusiastic assemblage.

John Devoy was an ardent and powerful supporter of every progressive movement in Ireland which did not set a limit to Ireland’s national aspirations. When the Irish Volunteers were organised, he lent all his influence and influence of his paper, “The Gaelic American,” to the project to raise funds to aid the organisation, and helped more than any other man of the Irish race in America to supply the “sinews of war” to the men of Eastern Week, 1916, whose plans were communicated to him two months before the Insurrection. He looked upon the Free State arrangement as a concession wrung from England, and not as a final settlement of the Irish demand.

Since his release from prison in 1871, John Devoy visited Ireland twice—first on a secret mission in 1879, and again in the summer of 1924.

When he disembarked at Cobh in the latter year, he was received by the Minister for External Affairs, and welcomed to Ireland on behalf of the Government. It was a historic scene when the tender from the American liner, “President Harding,” touched the quayside, and a few moments later the veteran Fenian, who was the first to come ashore, stood again on Irish soil, the cheers of his countrymen ringing in his ears, the military guard of honour presenting arms, and the bells of St. Colman’s Cathedral crashing out their joyous peals into the summer air. Bareheaded, in the sunshine, the exile stood in his acknowledgment of the reception.

When he arrived in Dublin, military honours were again accorded him on arrival at Kingsbridge, and he was warmly greeted by his relatives and the public.

Had he but elected to accept the unique invitation of the Government to be the guest of the State, instead of deciding to be a sort of private visitor, there would be nothing to measure the enthusiasm of the Gael at his return after forty years. It was little short of marvelous to note that, even by those who differed with his attitude on the national question, he was regarded with respect amounting almost to affection. All sides recognized in him the embodiment of the resolute Irishman who always placed his country in the front of the picture, and never wavered in his steadfastness and devotion to Eire.

At the opening of the Tailteann Games the ground shook with the thunderous applause which spoke the nation’s welcome. Later he presented prizes to the winners in the athletic events of the Tailteann Games, and in doing so urged the importance of Gaelic pastimes in reviving the old standard of physique. He hoped the old brawn and muscle would be restored as well at the old prestige of vitality and vigour.

During his sojourn, he looked up all the surviving friends of his boyhood, and visited the graves of his companions-in-arms in Glasnevin. During a visit to the scenes of his boyhood in Kildare he showed a thorough knowledge of every inch of the locality, though sixty years had elapsed since he had seen it.

Before his departure, John Devoy was entertained to a farewell banquet in the Dolphin Hotel, Dublin, where many tributes were paid by distinguished men to his labour in the cause of Irish freedom. In response, he made an earnest appeal to Irishmen to combine for a common object, without losing their identity or sacrificing their ideals.

To-day, in accordance with the life-long desire of the veteran patriot, his body returns to his native land. His remains will rest alongside the Fenian dead in Glasnevin Cemetery, and all that is mortal of John Devoy will mingle with the dust of those who dared and died for Ireland.

(The publishers desire to acknowledge their indebtedness to Mr. John J. Whelan, Liberian, Public Library, Kevin Street, Dublin, for his courtesy and assistance in obtaining many of the particulars contained in this biography).

Dublin: Nugent and Company, 45 Middle Abbey Street. 1929.

Re-typed by Hannah Mustapha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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