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“GOD SAVE IRELAND”: MANCHESTER-MARTYR DEMONSTRATIONS IN DUBLIN, 1867–1916 OWEN MCGEE on 23 November 1867 three Irishmen—William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien—were executed in Manchester, England. They had been found guilty of murdering a policeman during a successful attempt to rescue two Fenian prisoners from a police van in Manchester. Although the policeman had been killed with just one shot, allegedly by accident, five men were sentenced to death for the killing. Shortly afterward , one of them, Thomas Maguire, was pardoned, and another, Edward O’Meagher Condon, an Irish-American, was reprieved owing to insufficient evidence. As all five men had been tried together on the one indictment and convicted on the same verdict, many observers expected that the case against the other three men would also be dropped. When they were executed, many Irish nationalists believed that the government had refused to exercise mercy not because the men were unquestionably guilty, but in order to satisfy English public opinion, which expected that somebody would be punished for the crime. Much sympathy was also aroused among the Catholic community in Ireland because the three men, who were believed to be devout Catholics, did not receive a proper Christian burial, their bodies having been covered with quicklime in Salford jail.1 The executions had an immediate impact on public opinion in Ireland. The Irish nationalist press expressed feelings of outrage. Many mock funerMANCHESTER -MARTYR DEMONSTRATIONS IN DUBLIN, 1867–1916 39 1 For more information on the trial and execution of the Manchester martyrs, see Paul Rose, The Manchester Martyrs (London, 1970); Anthony Glynn, High upon the Gallows Tree (Tralee, 1967). According to John Devoy, the man who actually fired the shot was Peter Rice, a Dubliner who later escaped to the United States. See John Devoy, Recollections of an Irish Rebel (New York, 1929), 245. MANCHESTER-MARTYR DEMONSTRATIONS IN DUBLIN, 1867–1916 40 On 11 September 1867, six months after the abortive Fenian Rising in Ireland, the police in Manchester apprehended the acting Fenian leader Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and his associate Captain Timothy Deasy. Exactly one week later, as Kelly and Deasy were being transported in a prison van from court back to jail, they were rescued by a body of armed Fenians. During the rescue, depicted in this sketch, an English police sergeant named Charles Brett was killed when one of the rescuers fired a shot through the ventilator of the locked back door of the van. The shot fatally wounded Brett, though the intention was probably not to kill him but to frighten him into opening the door or to break open the lock. A woman prisoner inside the van then took the keys from the dying Brett and passed them out to the rescuers through the ventilator. Kelly and Deasy quickly ran off and were never recaptured (Illustrated London News, 28 September 1867). Within a month after the rescue of Kelly and Deasy, five men were placed on trial for the murder of Sergeant Brett in the assize courthouse at Manchester, as shown in this sketch. All of them were capitally convicted. Although none of the five had fired the shot that had killed Brett, four of them had taken active parts in the rescue that led to his death. After the trial, amid much popular speculation over the justice of the sentences passed, authorities pardoned one of the prisoners and reprieved another. But on 23 November 1867 the other three men—William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien—were executed at Salford jail. The hangings stimulated a strong adverse reaction among Irish nationalists, many of whom honored the memory of the three executed men for decades afterward (Illustrated London News, 9 November 1867). MANCHESTER-MARTYR DEMONSTRATIONS IN DUBLIN, 1867–1916 41 al processions were held across Ireland within days of the executions to commemorate the three men.2 These men became popularly known as the “Manchester martyrs.” For over fifty years demonstrations were held to mark the anniversary of their execution. Thus far, however, little attention has been paid by historians to the Manchester-martyr commemorative demonstrations that were held after 1867.3 These demonstrations were popular not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 39-66
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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