Remembering the Fenian Rising in Tipperary
Sunday March 5th marks the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Rising of 1867.
Ormond Historical Society and Borrisoleigh Historical Society have joined forces to mark this important milestone in Irish revolutionary history. Although one more in the list of unsuccessful military uprisings against British rule, the Fenian rising was a significant event, both nationally and in Co Tipperary. The episode was one which would help to shape the future of Ireland. The Irish Republican Brotherhood members, who were the guiding hand in staging the 1916 Rising, which eventually lead to Irish freedom, took their inspiration from the leaders of the Fenian revolt of 1867.
Taking from the successful celebration of the centenary of the 1916 Rising last year, the intention is to engage communities in this commemoration which, as well as the events on the anniversary date of March 5th 2017, will involve subsequent activities and displays on the Fenians in Tipperary. This is a non-party political event marking the historical significance of the Fenian Rising and honouring those men and women who inspired later generations to persist in the struggle for the Irish Republic which we enjoy today. We invite everyone young and old to join us in Borrisoleigh on Sunday afternoon, March 5th, for a celebration and commemoration in word, music and image of this seminal event in our history
On March 6th 1867, readers of the Nenagh Guardian were shocked to read the following: 'Considerable alarm was occasioned in this town yesterday by the report which was currently circulated that a rising of the Fenians was expected to take place last night, and this was increased by the intelligence that a large body of troops had been despatched to the Tipperary Junction from the Curragh. We understand that letters had been also sent to several of the leading families in this neighbourhood, informing them of the state of affairs and suggesting to them the expediency of leaving their houses and going into some of the towns for protection. Acting on this advice, several of the gentry, with their families, immediately left for Limerick, some repaired to Dublin, while more came into this town and took lodgings at the hotels. In the evening it was further rumoured that captain Gleeson, brother of General Gleeson, arrived the previous evening by a late train at Thurles, accompanied by over 100 men who immediately separated, and went into different parts of the country.'
The loyal citizens of Nenagh and North Tipperary might well have been alarmed, but they had ample warning over the previous two years that mischief was afoot. In January 1865 the town was put on notice when soldiers in the Military Barracks at Summerhill were placed under arms due to fear of an impending revolt. In October, Andrew Kennedy of Old Turnpike, Nenagh, was arrested on a charge of swearing in a Fenian. A letter found on Kennedy resulted in Francis Patrick Cleary, a medical student, ‘late of Nenagh’, being arrested in Dublin. Also arrested at this time were Thomas Devane, Thomas Clarke, John Cormack, Matt Noonan, Denis Horan, Thomas Reddan and James Hanley, all of Nenagh, Owen Coffey of Rathfalla, George Ryan and Timothy Brien of Five Alley, Nenagh, and James Hegarthy of Portroe.
Four months later, on February 17th 1866, the focus shifted to Borrisoleigh, with the arrest of two brothers, Gen John Hassett Gleeson and Capt Joseph Gleeson. Both were veterans of the Union Army of the United States and had fought in the American Civil War. The file on the Gleesons states that they were in Thurles on October 10th 1865 'in the company of Maj. O’Shea and two other officers of the Federal Army, along with Kirwan, Carrol and Burke'. The same day they are reported 'energetically engaged' in Borrisoleigh with known Fenians. Constable Ebenezer Ferns reported in December that 'before the Gleesons came to Borrisoleigh there were no Fenians there'. He also stated that they were residing in the house of Edward Finn, 'where Fenians assemble'. A week after the arrest of the Gleesons, Finn was also arrested and remained in custody until May 23rd, when he was released on bail.
Following their arrest, the Gleeson brothers were detained in Nenagh Gaol where Joseph Gleeson remained until he was released in September 1866 on condition he left Ireland immediately for the US. His brother John was transferred to Kilmainham Gaol and then moved to Mountjoy where he remained until July 24th. Upon his release he was put under army escort and conveyed to Queenstown (Cobh) where he was put aboard a ship, bound for America.
Returning to the events of March 1867, the Guardian report went on to detail how Captain Brady and soldiers of the 2nd Regiment were patrolling the suburbs of Nenagh and the town itself was being patrolled by Constabulary under Sub Inspector Reamsbottom. The failure of the mail car to arrive from Templemore at the scheduled time of 5am caused further alarm for the residents. Their anxiety was not eased in any way by its eventual arrival at 9.30am, when the driver conveyed the grim news that he had been delayed by the failure of the mail train to arrive from Cork. Subsequently it turned out that the train had been derailed south of Thurles.
In the same article the aforementioned Captain Gleeson was reported to have marched at the head of 200 men through the streets of Borrisoleigh around nine o’clock the previous night. Clearly he was a rather amazing individual as he was credited as arriving by late train to Thurles also. The Borrisoleigh contingent were reported to be armed and were accompanied by two carts 'laden with arms, pikes, &c'. The Guardian also reported that there had been disturbances in Thurles which left five dead. In addition, it was also stated that large numbers of Fenians were to be seen in the area around Barnane.
The events of March 1867 are well documented in the archives of the local newspapers and in the National Archives where records from the Chief Secretary's Office in Dublin Castle contain a large volume of documents relating to the Fenian rising. We find John Bayly, chairman of the Nenagh district magistrates, writing to the Chief Secretary on March 6th requesting additional troops be sent to Nenagh in order to contain the situation. He writes again the following day, obviously on foot of a refusal, emphasising that he is speaking on behalf of sixteen magistrates and pressing 'the necessity that exists of forthwith increasing that force in consequence of the very alarming state of the surrounding districts'.
In Roscrea a similar situation existed with Sandford Palmer writing on behalf of his fellow magistrates, James S Birch, Frederick A Jackson and James Hollister. Again the plea was for the Chief Secretary, Thomas Larcom, to send additional troops to the local barrack. Meanwhile, in Thurles John Gore Jones RM had sprung into action on receipt of a communication from Wm Carden of Barnane, which stated that a large force of Fenians had been observed heading towards the Devil’s Bit. Jones’ letter to Dublin Castle stated that he had gone in pursuit of this band accompanied by Inspector O’Connor of Templemore along with a troop of constabulary and a detachment of the 31st Foot.
When they reached Barnane they heard that the Rebels were headed towards Dovea. Jones and his men immediately went in pursuit and at Dovea they encountered their quarry and set about dispersing them. Observing an attempt by 60-70 men to outflank the military, Gore Jones ordered the Constabulary to open fire. According to his report the rebels scattered following the first volley.
Unfortunately for the organisers of the planned rising, their efforts to enlist serving soldiers and members of the constabulary in the Fenian organisation had been counterproductive. While they had been successful in persuading a large number of soldiers along with some serving and former members of the constabulary to join their ranks, they had also attracted some men who pretended to have transferred their allegiance to the rebels but in truth remained loyal to the Crown. These men fed back plans for the rising to local magistrates, police inspectors and army officers. Consequently, the authorities were prepared and on a war footing as soon as the rising commenced.
A letter from Martin Ffrench to Larcom, the Chief Secretary, clearly illustrates the degree of preparedness which the authorities enjoyed. Ffrench states that he was advised on March 3rd by Mr De Gernon RM that the rising would take place on the 5th and that Thomastown Castle would be seized before the rebels advanced on Tipperary Town and seized the contents of the banks. On foot of this warning, he had placed a total of thirty-two policemen in Thomastown Castle.
Further communications from the police in Carrick-on-Suir give details of a constable named Talbot who infiltrated the movement and who was feeding back the details of planned operations in the South Tipperary/Waterford area. One message from Talbot gives details of the planned arrival of the Fenian leader James Stephens in Carrick-on-Suir, following his escape from prison. In the event, Stephens failed to show; whether it was due to knowledge of Talbot's treachery or not is not clear. Talbot was subsequently killed by the Fenians.
Despite the fact that the plans had been divulged to the authorities, the planned rising went ahead on March 5th. Several thousand men ‘came out’ that night in various places around the country, including Dublin, Louth, Cork, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. In Tipperary there were attacks on police barracks at Ballingarry, Emily, Gortavoher and Roskeen, where the rebels succeeded in burning the barracks.
A large group of rebels, armed with pikes, assembled at Ballyhurst, near Tipperary Town. They were led by Colonel Thomas F Bourke of Fethard. A brief battle with soldiers of the 31st Regiment under command of Magistrate De Gernon resulted in one man being killed and several wounded. Some managed to escape, but many were captured and sent to Clonmel gaol to await trial. Within the week, all rebel activity had been crushed and the remnants of the rebel band were pursued through snow covered Tipperary countryside by Flying Columns, one of the more successful columns being led by Inspector Mullarkey of Borrisoleigh.
By March 16th, large numbers of prisoners – some estimates say 200 - were lodged in the County Gaol in Nenagh. Several hundred were also detained in the County Gaol for the South Riding at Clonmel. On March 21st it was reported that one Michael Sheehy of Upperchurch had been captured at Queenstown attempting to board an American bound ship. At the time, Sheehy was dressed as a woman. The local Resident Magistrates and Justices of the Peace commenced lobbying the Government for a Special Commission to try those arrested.
On July 8th, when the North Tipperary Assizes opened in Nenagh, the caseload consisted mainly of Fenian outrages connected with the rebellion. Sixty-two people were finally charged with taking part in the rebellion in North Tipperary. On Wednesday July 31st, guilty verdicts were returned in the cases of the following prisoners: Guilty of Treason Felony: Ptk Leahy, 5 years penal servitude; Capt Wm Sheehy, 20 years penal servitude; Wm Bourke, 12 months penal servitude; John Dermody, indicted for being in arms; Daniel O’Connell, Garraun, Toomevara, two years hard labour. Forty-seven other prisoners were remanded on continuing bail.
Jeremiah Bourke, at whose grave in Glankeen, we are commemorating the Fenian, rising was born a short distance from the ancient monastery of St Cualain where he now rests. Born during the Famine years of the 1840s, he was just a young man when he joined the Fenian Brotherhood. Going in search of arms, he and a group of his Fenian comrades were surprised by a police patrol near Templederry village. The police, aware of their plan, allowed them pass and then opened fire, wounding Bourke and capturing his colleagues. All were tried and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
Jeremiah Bourke was still alive when his children’s generation started their revolt in 1920 in Tipperary. Bourke’s home in Templederry was a safe house where the famous Tipperary fugitives Sean Treacy, Dan Breen, Seamus Robinson and Sean Hogan were sheltered. In the 1918 General Election he was one of the many Tipperary proposers of Joseph McDonagh’s candidature. He became a respected judge in the Sinn Féin courts set up to replace the ascendancy controlled courts, which had sentenced him and his Fenian colleagues 50 years earlier. He was noted for being impartial and intervened in a number of cases where he saw sectarian motives behind operations planned by the IRA.
When he died in September 1933 Jeremiah Bourke was the last survivor of the Tipperary Fenians of 1867.
Foundation of the Fenians
Following the abortive Young Ireland rising of 1848, William Smith O’Brien and several of the leadership were arrested. Two of the leaders who succeeded in evading capture were John O’Mahony of Kilbeheny, Co Limerick and James Stephens of Kilkenny. Slipping out of Ireland, they made their way to Paris where they remained for some years. In 1853 O’Mahony made his way to New York where he founded the Emmett Monument Association, linking up with Michael Doheny and others from the Young Ireland Movement. In New York he went on to found the Fenian Brotherhood
Stephens remained in Paris for a further three years, returning to Ireland in 1856. The following year he was encouraged by O’Mahony to establish a similar organisation in Ireland and funds were promised from Irish supporters in America. Encouraged by O’Mahonys’ support, Stephens established the Irish Republican Brotherhood at a meeting in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day 1858. The meeting was held in Langans of Lombard St and present were Thomas Clarke Luby, Peter Langan, Charles J Kickham, Joseph Denieffe and Garrett O'Shaughnessy. The organisation was established on the basis of ‘Circles’, with each Circle under the control of a ‘Centre’. In 1863 they commenced publication of ‘The Irish People’ newspaper. The editors of the paper included, Charles J Kickham, Thomas Clarke Luby and John O’Leary. The paper remained in circulation up until its suppression by the government in 1865.
Author: John Flannery
Enforced Exile for Fenians...
As well as those arrested and imprisoned, other Tipperary Fenian,s fled to America to escape the wrath of the harsh, landlord-dominated Justice system in the aftermath of the failed Fenian Rising on March 5th 1867.
It was in a letter dated April 21st 1867 (Easter Sunday), that Killadangan farmer Dan Darcy wrote to his brother-in-law James Maloney in Illinois, USA, explaining that his eighteen year old son, James Michael Darcy, was on his way to America. He was seeking Maloney’s support when young Darcy would turn up on his door-step. Although the letter does not make an explicit connection with the Fenian Rising six weeks earlier, the Darcy family lore is that James was indeed fleeing Tipperary as a result of his rebel activity.
Young James Darcy had a long revolutionary pedigree. His grandfather Mortimer Darcy was flogged publicly in Nenagh in the aftermath of the United Irishmen’s revolt in 1798. A hundred years earlier, in 1691, a previous generation of the D’arcys had fought on the Jacobite side at the Battle of Aughrim.
Dan Darcy was a strong farmer on fine limestone land overlooking the Nenagh river where it flows into Dromineer Bay on Lough Derg. He was married to Bridget (Biddy) Maloney, daughter of another strong farming family in the parish, William and Bridget Maloney of Crannagh in nearby Monsea. One of the latter couple’s younger sons, James, born in 1825 had emigrated to America in October 1851. According to Darcy’s letter, sixteen years later, he was “a man of influence” who might help his son to get a position. Darcy explained that his son had “gone through a full course of Arithmetick, Algebra and Euclid (Geometry) and Mensuration” and was “reckoned to be a boy of good capacity”!
The information relating to this case of a Tipperary Fenian fugitive fleeing to America was confirmed in 1991 by Theresa Moloney who wrote from her home in Illinois to a priest in Tipperary after she found the correspondence to her ancestors in an attic. The letters were shared with the current generations of Darcys and Maloneys and provide an invaluable source of information on wider family connections. While correspondence confirms James Michael Darcy’s arrival in Illinois, it does not trace his subsequent life in America or if he re-established links with the extensive and active Fenian movement among the Irish community in the US.
Perhaps inspired by the family lore of their Fenian uncle, the children of three of James Michael Darcy’s siblings were certainly all involved when the next generation of Ireland’s republican movement took up the flag in the 1917 -21 period. His sister Margaret’s son, Ned O’Leary of Beechwood, was on the staff of North Tipperary County Council and was involved in setting up Sinn Féin/ IRA units all over North Tipperary. He was appointed commander of the Flying Column of the No 1 (North) Tipperary Brigade IRA in October 1920. He led the small IRA group which shot British military officer Lt Hambleton at Casey’s Cross, outside Nenagh on November 4th 1920. He also commanded an IRA ambush at Kilcommon on December 16th 1920 in which four policemen were killed. He later joined the National Army and after that was in the Land Commission. The son of another sister, Mary Ann Costello of Garryard, was captain of Borrisokane company of 4th Batt IRA. His brother Dan’s son (of Grange), also named Dan, was involved with the IRA in UCG where he was in college during the Troubles.
The path of flight to America that was used by James Darcy was one that was much used by Irish rebels through the generations. In 1916, when Michael O’Callaghan shot dead two policemen at Monour in West Tipperary during the Easter Week Rising, he succeeded in escaping to America. After the attack in Solohedbeg on January 21st 1919, in which two policemen were also killed, the IRA group involved changed the course of Irish history by refusing the traditional route of ship’s passage to America, staying on the run in Tipperary (and Dublin). Their adventures and engagements with Crown Forces subsequently became the opening stages of the War of Independence.
If you have family stories linked to the Fenians or other generations of Irish rebels, or their opponents, please let us know at the events in Borrisoleigh this Sunday or by contacting your local historical society.
Author - Seán Hogan, with assistance from Mike Darcy, Kildangan and Liam Maloney, Crannagh.
Schedule of this Sunday's events:
1.45 – 2.15pm: Park and assemble at Ballyroan Bridge (Nenagh side of Borrisoleigh). A small number of cars can be facilitated to bring those in need of transport to Glankeen.
2.15 – 2.45pm: One mile Fenian Walk from Borrisoleigh to Glankeen Graveyard. Children invited to bring small bunches of daffodils to place on the Fenian graves.
2.55pm: Piper (Joe Barry of Templemore Pipe Band) and Colour Party will lead the assembly into Glankeen Graveyard from the public road.
3pm: Event convenor Seán Hogan will call the assembly to order and outline the programme of events; 3.05pm: The Fenian Proclamation, forerunner of the 1916 Proclamation of an Irish Republic, will be read by Clare Hanley, great-grandniece of Jeremiah Bourke.
3.10 – 3.15pm: Wreaths laid on behalf of Borrisoleigh and Ormond Historical Societies and by the Bourke family on the grave of Jeremiah Burke; children called forward to lay flowers on the graves of others (for example, Seamus Burke); 3.15pm: Blessing and Prayer by Fr Liam Everard, PP, Borrisoleigh.
3-25pm: Oration at the graveside of Jeremiah Bourke by Tipperary historian John Flannery, President, Ormond Historical Society; 3.30pm: Songs by Paudie Bourke, great grandson of Jeremiah Bourke ('Templederry my Home' and 'The Bold Fenian men').
3.30 – 3.35pm: 'Last Post' and 'Reveille' by Peter Rowley-Brooke and the National Anthem will be played by piper Joe Barry.
3.35 -4.15pm: Return walk to Borrisoleigh and move to Borrisoleigh Community Centre for event hosted by Borrisoleigh Historical Society. A series of archive photographs of Tipperary Fenian prisoners will be on display, and the public will be invited to bring and display historical family mementos and memorabilia relating to their ancestors and the Decade of Centenaries.
4 – 4.30pm: Tea and refreshments in Borrisoleigh Community Centre, courtesy of Borrisoleigh Historical Society; 4.30pm: Convenor calls order for second part of events of the day
4.35pm: Presentation of commemorative plaque by Michael Delaney, Chair, Borrisoleigh Historical Society, to Derry Bourke, grandson of Jeremiah Bourke.
4.40pm: Lecture by John Flannery – 'The Fenian Rising in Tipperary'; 5.15pm: 'Voices of the Fenians' – St Joseph's Secondary School Transition Year students; 5.30 – 5.45pm: Fenian songs.
5.45 – 6pm: Facilitated reflection and discussion on event; 6pm: formal event closes.