As we prepare for the 153rd anniversary/commemoration of the execution of the Manchester Martyrs I thought I would share some of the research I have done on the noted subject.
I am also attaching a photo of the display case holding the pistol used in firing into the van door’s lock and the hand-cuffs Captain Deasy was wearing inside the police van 23 November 1867. Those historical pieces. and other items belonging to Captain Deasy, were found by me, at age 12, in a forgotten trunk in the attic of my home in Lawrence, MA,., in 1957. It was at that time I began my research into Captain Deasy, the Fenians, the Manchester Martyrs and Irish History in general. It also ultimately spurred me into getting my Irish Citizenship.
The names Allen, Larkin and O’Brien are, of course, known to many Irish throughout the world. And that is just ‘IT”…their names are known but not much is known about THEM! Thus the attached piece…”WHO WERE THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS?” The information/research I have found about them has allowed me to, when I give talks/lectures on them, (hopefully) make them come alive and not simply Irish Patriot names on a page in a history book.
The other attached photo is that of the hand made wooden “coffin” containing fragments and ashes from the unmarked grave of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien in Blackley Cemetery in Manchester, England.
I hope you find the information interesting !?!
“GOD SAVE IRELAND!”
Allen, Larkin and O’Brien
WHO WERE “THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS”
William Philip Allen:
Allen was born in Tipperary, County Kerry, (C. 1848). His father, Henry Thomas Allen, a staunch Protestant, served in the Irish Constabulary, later to be called the Royal Irish Constabulary as reward for its role in helping put down the 1867 Fenian Rising. The Allen family ultimately moved to Bandon, County Cork, where Henry became keeper (Warden) of the Bandon Bridewell Jail. While his mother was Catholic, William and his three brothers, James, Joseph and Peter and a younger sister were raised in the Protestant Religion up until 1866, when on 20 June 1866, William Philip was baptized into the Catholic Faith by Canon O’Brien, PP, of Bandon. James was likewise baptized on 2nd July, with Joseph being baptized on 9th August and Peter on the 27th.
As a young man, he was only 19 years of age when executed, he had been apprenticed to a master carpenter in Bandon. It is not known exactly when Allen took the Fenian Oath, but he may have met James Stephens (“The Wandering Hawk”), the Head Centre of the Irish Revolutionary/Republican Brotherhood, when Stephens visited Bandon in 1858, while on his way to Rosscarbery to visit Jerimiah O’Donovan Rossa. Allen had spent several weeks in Dublin during the summer of 1867, and is believed he had come to know Colonel Kelly fairly well at that time and had become an ardent Fenian.
In June 1867 he left for Manchester, where he had cousins living in the Rochdale Road Irish district. The evening before his execution, Allen was visited by his mother and two aunts. Not being a relative, his fiancée, Mary Ann Hickey, was not permitted to see him and was turned away in tears.
Larkin was in his late thirties, his family was originally from Lumagh in what was then King’s County, and had moved to Parsontown when Michael was a youngster. For generations the family had been tenants-at-will on the Cloghan Castle estate. His grandfather, James Quirke, a “Young Irelander”, had been flogged and transported in 1798, for having taken part in the Rebellion. His father had died only four months before the rescue in Manchester took place, and he returned to Ireland for his father’s funeral. Michael, with a good education, had worked for many years in Ireland as a tradesman. He left Parsontown for Manchester in 1858 where he worked for four years as a tailor, met his wife, Sarah Dunn, and had four children, two sons and two daughters. It has been recorded Larkin was “a mild inoffensive man with sober habits”, a good husband and father and who had not been involved with the IRB/Fenians until approximately 1865. Of the three Manchester Martyrs, Larkin’s death possibly represents the greatest self-sacrifice and dedication. On Friday, 22nd November 1867, the day before their hanging, Larkin was in his prison cell with Fr. Charles Gadd, who was attempting to console him. Larkin, being the sole support of his family, was deeply despondent, fearful of what would become of his recently widowed elderly mother, wife and children once he was gone.
During that afternoon the prison guard informed Fr. Gadd that Larkin had an approved visitor. The visitor, Mr. McDonnell, had a letter for Larkin. Fr. Gadd opened the letter and was dumbstruck by what was written. Mr. McDonnell was the Personal Envoy of the Marchioness of Queensberry, the 46 year-old wife of Archibald William Douglas, the 8th Marquess of Queensberry, who had read of Larkin’s plight in the English press. Fr. Gadd told him the Marchioness, a devout Catholic woman, was offering to see to the needs of his family after his death. In part, the letter read… ‘so long as I live they shall be cared for to the utmost of my power.’ Inside the envelope, along with the letter, was a 100 pound note. Larkin fell to his knees in thanksgiving, saying to Fr. Gadd… ”Now I can go to my death like a man.” The Marchioness would keep her promise of support of the Larkin family for the next 37 years. That evening, his mother, wife and children visited with him and learned the news.
Captain Michael O’Brien:
Also in his thirties, Michael O’Brien, one of eight children, was born at Ballymacoda, County Cork, where his father had rented a large farm, but in 1856 the family was evicted. He was described physically as being “a tall squared-shouldered man whose bearing bespoke the American soldier.” In his youth he was apprenticed to a draper in Youghal, and later worked as an assistant in one of the large stores in Cork City. O’Brien would eventually emigrate to the United States. O’Donovan Rossa wrote in his book Irish Rebels in English Prisons, he had met O’Brien in 1859, and had also known him during his time in America and had found him to be “one of the truest and one of the noblest; as devoted as a lover and as courageous as a lion.” During the American Civil War O’Brien served as an officer with the 13th New Jersey. When the War ended he returned to Ireland and stayed with his sister Mary in Glenagare, Ladysbridge. He worked for a time in a store in Cork City where he remained until the 1867 Rising, where he led the successful attack on the police barracks at Ballyknockan, County Wicklow.
In his speech to the court he pronounced he was a citizen of the United States of America and that the American Ambassador, Charles Francis Adams, had not done his duty in protecting him from the English Court. In fact, O’Brien’s lawyers had attempted to have Ambassador Adams intervene, but O’Brien had been involved with Colonel Ricard O’Sullivan Burke in securing weapons in Liverpool for the 1867 Rising. O’Brien and several other Fenians were arrested and charged with being in possessing a number of rifles belonging to the British government. At that trial O’Brien claimed American protection, and although all of the men were acquitted, the Secretary to the American Legation wrote to his attorneys in Manchester…”from information received from a reliable source, he (the Ambassador) finds you are the same Michael O’Brien who was tried and claimed American protection in Liverpool in 1867. You received sufficient warning from the American consul at that place not to put yourself again in any danger and Mr. Adams regrets to learn that you have failed to follow that prudent advice.”
Following the rescue over twenty innocent local Irishmen were arrested for questioning. Ultimately five accused “Fenians” were tried and convicted of the alleged murder of Sgt. Charles Brett and sentenced to death by hanging: William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, Michael O’Brien, Thomas Maguire and Edward O’Meagher Condon. Maguire, actually a Royal Marine home on leave, had nothing to do with the rescue, except the fact he was “Irish” was enough to cause his arrest. [English “justice” where the Irish are concerned has changed very little since 1867. Just ask the surviving members of the Guilford Four, or the Birmingham Five, or so many other recent examples of Irishmen and Irishwomen being put into English jails and prisons, many having never even seen a judge as was the case with “Internment Without Trial” and the “Dip-Lock Courts”.] A number of reporters covering the trial in Manchester believed Maguire to be innocent and petitioned the Home Secretary and a few days before the sentence was to be carried out; Maguire received a Queen’s Pardon and was released. Through the intervention of the American Ambassador and an appeal for clemency by the Hon. William H. Seward, the American Secretary of State, two days before the hanging, Condon received a reprieve. He was to serve penal servitude for life at hard labor. After 11 years, in response to a unanimous vote of the United States Congress, signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, Condon was “banished” for an additional 20 years and released to go to America. He later authored The Irish Race in America; Condon now lies buried in New York’s Calvary Cemetery.
At day break, 23 November 1867, a cold, damp, foggy morning, on a platform attached to the outer walls of New Bailey Prison, on Bridge Street, Salford, Allen, Larkin & O’Brien were publically hanged before a crowd estimated to be between 8,000 to 10,000, and their bodies buried in unmarked graves of quicklime in unconsecrated ground within the prison.
While the sentence had called for “death by hanging”, only the young William Philip Allen died via the hangman’s (Calcraft) rope. Michael Larkin was strangled (murdered) by Calcraft in the scaffold’s pit while Michael O’Brien suffered an agonizing 45 minutes choking to death on his tongue.
New Bailey Prison closed in 1868 and the remains of Allen, Larkin & O’Brien were exhumed, burnt, and re-buried in Strangeways Prison, which opened in 1868. In 1991 the remains were exhumed once again and subsequently re-interred in grave # 2711 in Blackley Cemetery, Manchester, along with 57 other hanged prisoners also exhumed from Strangeways. Making repatriation of their remains to Ireland virtually impossible.
The following is taken from the last letter of William Philip Allen, written on the day before his execution and preserved at the National Museum in Dublin:
Salford New Bailey Prison
November 22, 1867
TO YOU, MY LOVING AND SINCERE DEAR UNCLE AND AUNT,
I suppose this is my last letter to you at this side of the grave. Oh, dear Uncle and Aunt, if you reflect on it, it is nothing. I am dying an honorable death; I am dying for Ireland-dying for the land that gave me birth-dying for the Island of Saints-and dying for liberty. Every generation of our countrymen has suffered; and where is the Irish heart could stand by unmoved? I should like to know what trouble, what passion, what mischief could separate the true Irish heart from its own native isle. Dear Uncle and Aunt, it is sad parting with you all, at my early age; but we must all die some day or another. A few hours more, I will breathe my last, and on English soil. Oh, that I could be buried in Ireland! What happiness it would be to all my friends, and to myself-Where my countrymen could kneel on my grave.” I am dying, thank God! an Irishman and a Christian. Give my love to all friends; same from your ever affectionate nephew.
Pray for us. Good-bye and remember me. Good-bye and may heaven protect you all, is the last wish of your dying nephew.
Colonel (Ret.) Robert J. Bateman, NYARG
Past National Historian, AOH
(Great-grandnephew of Captain Timothy Deasy)
“GOD SAVE IRELAND!
“THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS”
COL (Ret.) Robert J. Bateman, NYARG
Past National Historian, AOH (1976 – 1980)
Past Division #8 Historian AOH, Lawrence, MA
Division #18 Historian AOH, Peekskill, N.Y.
(Great-grandnephew of Captain Timothy Deasy)
23 November 2020
On this, the 153rd anniversary of their deaths, let us pause to commemorate, the brave Fenian heroes forever known in Irish history as “THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS” .
On the 18th of September 1867, in Manchester, England, Colonel Rickard O’Sullivan Burke, Captain Michael O’Brien, Captain Edward O’Meagher Condon and a rescue party of fifteen other Bold Fenian Men rescued Colonel Thomas Kelly, Chief Executive of the IRB/Fenians and Captain Timothy Deasy, the Deputy Central Organizer of the Irish Republic and IRB/Fenian commander for Manchester and Liverpool, who were being transported from Bellvue “Goal” (jail) by British Authorities. The Fenian Officers Burke, Condon, O’Brien, Kelly and Deasy, all American citizens and combat veterans of the American Civil War, were also members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America; while Burke, Allen, O’Brien, Condon and Deasy were all from County Cork. The names of the 15 other Fenians who made up the Manchester rescue party were Thomas O’Bolger, James Laverty, John Neary, Peter Ryan, William Melvin, Michael Larkin, Timothy Featherstone, Charles Moorhouse, Peter Rice, William Philip Allen, Patrick Bloomfield, John Stoneham, Joseph Ryan and James Cahill.
During the rescue, (“THE SMASHING OF THE VAN”), Sergeant Charles Brett, a Manchester Police veteran of some twenty-five years, was accidently shot a killed.
Following the successful rescue of Kelly and Deasy, a number of the rescuers and dozens of innocent local Irishmen were arrested and brought to trial for Brett’s “murder”. On 28 October 1867, William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, Captain Michael O’Brien, Thomas Maguire and Captain Edward O’Meagher Condon were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
After Allen, O’Brien and Larkin had made their comments to the court, a manacled Condon in his speech spoke these immortal words, “You will soon send us before God, and I am perfectly prepared to go. I have nothing to regret, or retract, or take back. I can only say ‘GOD SAVE IRELAND’ – and with one step forward his companions rose, and, extending their hand-cuffed hands upward cried out —“GOD SAVE IRELAND!” T.D. (Timothy Daniel) Sullivan, who witnessed the trial, was inspired to write “God Save Ireland,” which became the virtual Irish national anthem. (In November, Thomas Maguire, a Royal Marine home on leave and had nothing to do with the rescue, was pardoned and Captain Condon, because of his American citizenship, and the intervention of the American Ambassador, was given a reprieve – life at hard labour.) After11 years, in response to a unanimous vote of the United States Congress, signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, Condon was banished for an additional 20 years and released to go to America. Condon now lies in a grave in New York’s Calvary Cemetery.
On 23 November 1867, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien were publicly hanged (“judicial murder”) before a celebratory, frenzied, cheering crowd estimated to be between 8,000 and 10,000. The bodies of these three martyrs for Ireland were quickly, callously, irreverently and purposely buried in unmarked graves of quicklime in unconsecrated ground within New Bailey Prison. The prison closed in 1868 and the remains of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien were exhumed, burnt, and re-buried in Strangeways Prison, which opened in 1868. In 1991 the remains were exhumed once again and subsequently re-interred in grave 2711 in Blackley Cemetery, Manchester, along with 57 other hanged prisoners also exhumed from Strangeways. Making repatriation of their remains to Ireland virtually impossible.
“We may have brave men, but we’ll never have better
Glory O, Glory O, to the Bold Fenian Men”
According to John Devoy (described by Padraig Pearse as the “greatest of the Fenians” and author of Recollections of An Irish Rebel), and Edward O’Meagher Condon, the man who actually fired the shot that killed Sergeant Brett was Peter Rice, a Dubliner who later escaped to the United States. Rice would later return to Dublin where he died destitute.
(It was Peter Rice who gave the pistol to Captain Deasy as he exited the Van. Which he kept and which was presented, along with the hand-cuffs he was wearing inside the Police Van, to the Cork City Museum in 1971 by Robert J. Bateman, Great-grandnephew of Captain Timothy Deasy.)
Before sunset on 12 July 2008 a small group of individuals from West Cork (Bandon) and Manchester, England, (names withheld) secretively entered Blackley Cemetery, dug open grave 2711 and successfully removed fragments and ashes from the grave of Allen, Larkin, O’Brien and the other executed prisoners. The fragments and ashes remain in a beautifully constructed wooden coffin.
“GOD SAVE IRELAND!”