This Week in the History of the Irish: November 23 - November 29

From a Massachusetts Ancient Order of Hibernians poster commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the hanging of the Manchester Martyrs.

DOMHNAIGH -- On November 23, 1867, Fenians Michael Larkin, William Philip Allen, and Michael O'Brien, the "the Manchester Martyrs," were publicly hanged in Manchester. On Sept. 18, they had helped rescue two prominent Fenians, Thomas Kelly and Timothy Deasy, as they were being transported from court to jail in a police van. The van was surrounded by some 30 Fenians and, in order to get the locked door open, one of them, probably Peter Rice, who later escaped to the United States, had fired a pistol into the lock. The shot entered the van and killed police Sgt. Charles Brett. Eventually the door was opened and the Fenians scattered. Kelly and Deasy avoided the massive dragnet that followed the escape and made their way to safety in America. Five Irishmen were arrested, the three who were later executed, and Edward O'Meagher Condon, all of whom were involved, and Thomas Maguire, who was not a Fenian and was nowhere near the rescue that day. Maguire's only 'crime,' like many Irishmen before and since, was being an Irishman in England. During the trial, one witness against the men had over 43 convictions for drunkenness and another avoided penal servitude by testifying against them, but it probably mattered little, for the convictions were certainly assured from the beginning. However, when given an opportunity to speak, the four Fenians on trial used that stage to shine a light on England's colonial oppression of their people. All five were condemned to death but Condon's sentence, perhaps because of U.S. citizenship, was commuted and eventually even the British government could not deny that Maguire was uninvolved and he was released. While in the dock, though, Condon uttered one of the most famous lines in Irish republican history: "I have nothing to regret or take back. I can only say, GOD SAVE IRELAND!" The London Times reported that the other three Fenians immediately shouted the same words. The "Manchester Martyrs" would later be immortalized by the song "God Save Ireland," which was the anthem of republicanism for 50 years. The executions of the three Fenians and Sullivan's song about it helped swell the ranks of Irish nationalism. The bodies of Larkin, O'Brien, and Allen were returned to Dublin, and over 60,000 people marched in their funeral procession.

Hulton Deutsch
Erskine Childers in his British army uniform, c. 1900

LUAIN -- On November 24, 1922, during the Irish Civil War, Irish republican Erskine Childers was executed by the Free State government. Childers, whose mother was from County Clare, was born in London. He was wounded while serving in the British army during the Boer War, a war in which the Boer side was supported by most Irish nationalists. After the war, Childers became involved in the Irish nationalist movement; he also wrote a book about his exploits in the Boer War called In the Ranks of the CIV (City Imperial Volunteers). In 1914, Childers was involved in one of the most famous incidents of the republican struggle when he smuggled German rifles into Ireland on his yacht, Asgard. Surprisingly, however, Childers was convinced by John Redmond's arguments that an Irish contribution to England's war effort in World War I would yield home rule, and he enlisted in the British Navy and was even awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. Once the war was over, and he saw that Home Rule for the 32 counties was highly unlikely, he became a committed republican. He was elected to the Daíl Éireann from County Wicklow in 1921 and then appointed minister of propaganda in the Republican government. He was secretary to the Irish delegation that negotiated The Anglo-Irish Treaty, but he opposed that treaty and joined the republican side in the Civil War. In November 1922, Childers was captured by Free Staters while in possession of a pistol. Recent Free State legislation had made that a capital offence and Childers was sentenced to death. Ironically the pistol had been a gift from Michael Collins. On the 27th, he was taken from his cell at dawn and shot. Before they shot him, Childers shook the hand of each member of his firing squad and forgave them. In his prison cell the night before he died, Childers made his son promise to forgive those who were about to kill him; 51 years later that son, also Erskine, would be elected president of the Irish Republic.

SATHAIRN -- On November 29, 1895, Denny Lane (right), author and poet, and member of the revolutionary Young Ireland party, died in Cork. Lane was born in Riverstown, near Glanmire in County Cork, in 1818. Denny attended Trinity College, Dublin. While a student there, he met fellow student Thomas Davis, a man who would have a profound effect on his life. After his schooling, Lane passed the Bar, but he soon became involved in the political activities surrounding Daniel O'Connell, joining the Repeal Association. Lane was active in the Association as was his friend Davis. Davis, Lane and small group of their friends soon became known by the name which has survived to this day: the Yound Ireland Party. The young men became increasingly impatient with the slow pace of O'Connell's repeal campaign and soon began to contemplate armed insurrection. Davis, along with John Dillon and Charles Duffy, founded the newspap er of the movement The Nation in 1842. In its pages the idea of total separation from England was soon openly suggested, and Lane became one of the paper's contributors. Lane contributed articles and later poems to the paper, his best known poems being "Carrig Dhoun" and "Kate of Araglen." Finally, in 1846, the issue of physical force split the Young Irelanders from O'Connell's Repeal Association. Lane supported the split. He was among those arrested by the British after the failed '48 Rising, spending four months in prison. After his release, he returned to Cork and does not appear to have had much political involvement from then on. Lane was president of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society, and also had a successful business career in subsequent years before dying at the age of 82.

VOICES

'So yesterday morning the Tories, by the hand of Mr Calcraft, accomplished the final act of separation between England and Ireland'
        -- Frederick Engels, writing to Karl Marx regarding the hanging of the Manchester Martyrs

"I have come back [from the Boer War] finally and immutably a convert to Home Rule...though we both grew up steeped in the most irreconcilable sort of Unionism."
        -- Esrkine Childers in 1908

BIRTHS

November - Samhain

23, 1819 -- Margaret Aylward (Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Faith -- Waterford.)
23, 1859 -- William H. "Billy the Kid " Bonney (Outlaw - New York City)
23, 1841 -- Richard Croker (Boss of Tammany Hall, New York -- Clonakilty, Co. Cork.)
24, 1807
-- Henry Blosse Lynch (Soldier and explorer -- Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo.)
29, 1902 -- Tommy Loughran (Light-Heavyweight boxing champion.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

23, 1867 -- Execution of the Fenian "Manchester Martyrs."
23, 1913 -- Irish Citizen Army founded in Dublin by James Larkin.
24, 1865 -- IRB founder James Stephens escapes from Richmond Gaol
24, 1922 -- Erskine Childers (Irish Republican) executed by Free State.
25, 1783 -- After the British evacuate New York City, George Washington has breakfast with Irish immigrant and American spy Hercules Mulligan, helping to clear his reputation in the city.
25, 1864 -- The 10th Tenn. (Confederate-Irish) fights at the battle of Missionary Ridge, TN.
25, 1913 -- Founding of the Irish Volunteers.
26, 1781 -- Units of Dillon's and Walshes regiments of the Irish Brigade of France help capture the island of St. Eustache.
26, 1791 -- First with convicts only from Ireland arrives in New South Wales, Australia aboard the Queen.
27, 1953 -- Playwright Eugene O'Neill dies.
28, 1864 -- Foundation of Fenian newspaper, "Irish People."
28, 1899 -- Irish units in Boer army fight in the battle of Modder River (Modderspruit).
28, 1920 -- Tom Barry and his Cork Flying Column ambush a convoy in Kilmichael.
29, 1895 -- Denny Lane, Young Irelander, author and poet dies.

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