Friday, March 3, 2017

Glory O Glory O to the Bold Fenian Men!

The Illustrated London News

Supplement, March 2, 1867

There is no longer the slightest apprehension of any renewal of the late silly attempt of the Fenian conspirators to raise an insurrection in the county of Kerry. The presence of a whole division of British Troops, under Sir Alfred Horsford, seems not only to have checked the advance of the Irish American marauders, who are now reckoned at no more than 50 or 100 men, but to even to have scared them out of existence; for none can be found by the most assiduous beating of Toomies Wood and all the neighbouring coverts on the shores of the lakes of Killarney. We are reminded of the legend of The O' Donoghue, not the hon, M.P. for Tralee, but his reputed ancestor the romantic chieftain of those lakes, who exchanged his ancient castle of Ross Island for kind of fresh water merman's palace at the bottom of Lough Leane, where nobody can approach him to dispute his sovereignty of the primeval rocks and boulders. It is conjectured that the Fenian heroes who marched from Cahirciveen to Killarney on Tuesday, the 12th, stealing five rifles, and sword bayonets, with some ammunition from the coastguard in Kells and shooting a single mounted policeman who was passing with a message, have disappeared into the lakes or the stony bowels of the mountains, where the soldiers cannot follow them.

On friday week, after daily fruitless explorations of the place where they were last visible and of the whole mountain district between the lower lake and the Gap of Dunloe, a party of troops and constabulary went in search of arms and rebels to Glenflesk, on the opposite shores of the lake. In this glen is a spot known as Filedown or Robber's Cliff, and a cave known as Leabey Owen, or Owen's bed, which will hold 60 men with ease. The place is extremely of access, and the situation most romantic. But neither Fenian men nor Fenian arms were found, and no trace of any. It is stated that, as the troops were returning, signal fires were seen lighted on the mountains, perhaps intended by the fugitives to assure their friends below of their safety; but the official reports declare that these fires have been satisfactorily accounted for. Another rumour speaks of the finding of the dead body of a Fenian who had perished of fatigue, hunger, and exposure on the Glencar mountain; but this also wants confirmation.

The resident (stipendiary) magistrates at Killarney, Mr Cruice and Major Perry, assisted by another, Mr. Green, have been engaged, with the local justices of the peace in trying to find out the guilty persons. Ten were arrested at Cahirciveen; but at the petty sessions last Saturday, the evidence was so defective against them that the Bench, consisting of Dr. Barry, the Knight of Kerry, Captain Segrave, Mr Cruice, and others, had to release them all upon their own recognisances to keep the peace. Searches for arms are now made almost daily, but hitherto the search has been invariable unsuccessful, both in town and country. The arms given up at Killarney since the county was proclaimed include some sixty or seventy rifles or fowling pieces. But these are generally surrendered by people whose loyalty is known, while the disaffected persons bury their firearms in the bog, where, with a little grease rag in the muzzle and around the nipple, a gun will keep from suffering any injury. Last Monday the detachment of the 48th Regiment was sent back to the Curragh from Killarney. Its place will be taken by the 14th Regiment. General Horsford returned on Saturday from his visit to Kenmare, Sneem, Cahirsiveen, Killorglin, and other outlying places at which detachments are stationed. It will probably be necessary to continue a small detachment for some time to come at these places, and especially at Cahirsiveen, where the conspiracy broke out on the 12th.

It may be remembered that, on the 13th, as soon as the attack on the Kells station was known, troops were sent from Cork and Fermoy; and on the same day a force of marines and sailors was landed at Cahirciveen from the H.M.S. Gladiator, which had been stationed at Dingle Bay, signals for aid having been made by the coastguard at Cahirsiveen to the ship. This force was at once dispatched on the track of the insurgents, the Rifles moving out to meet them from Killarney. This probably caused them to make themselves so remarkably scarce.

We are indebted to Dr.W.J. Eames surgeon to H.M.S. Gladiator, for the view of Cahirsiveen which we have engraved. It is a town of about 2000 inhabitants, half the size of Killarney, situated at the head of the harbour of Valencia, and a market for some of the most delicious butter in the world. The aspect of the place, backed by the majestic range of the Iveragh mountains, is rather imposing till one gets into it, while the squalid meanness of the streets, with bogs and bleak hills beyond the town, produce a contrary impression. We also present a view of Killorglin, from a sketch by a lady correspondent. Killorglin is at the mouth of the river Larne, which runs through the lakes of Killarney into Dingle Bay. The deep inlets of the Atlantic in this part of the coast of Ireland afford great facilities for a hostile landing. The mouth of the Larne was a favourite base of operations with the Danes, the nearest representative perhaps of the Fenians. They built a fort (the rampart of which is shown in our view, on the left of the bridge), and constructed vaults under it to hold stores, so that their countrymen, on landing, might not be destitute of provisions till able to furnish themselves at the expense of the natives. The Conway family held Killorglin in the sixteenth century.

This article comes direct from the smug belly of the beast, that being London. You get a great sense of how difficult it was for the Fenians to try to take on the structures of power that were around them (not to mind what it might have taken to dismantle them completely). When many would have said and known "might was right" and kept their head pointed to the floor (rather than risk it being taken from their shoulders), to tear down the propaganda they were faced with with arms, to try and silence the overarching edicts and voices from across the water with guns was then a bold and brave decision. 

The debasement of the insurrectionists, their aims and means, so much so to make them seem irrelevant, is what shines through most in this article. The "squalid meanness of the streets" from which the "conspirators" came from were indeed tough. The Illustrated London News views the Fenians as almost pointless, a type of joke, foreign ("Irish-American Marauders" or like "the Danes"), or from the past (like "the romantic chieftain O' Donohue"). Yet still the troops are rolled out from H.M.S. Gladiator. But something was stirring and the blanket of fog would finally be emerged from in the coming century, an independent Republic for the south of Ireland would eventually be declared, in no small thanks to the likes of those "marauders" who took on British imperialism this week 150 years ago! Incidentally, the Kerry rising of which I relate here was a premature one in February of that year, "a Kerryman joke" could be employed but I'll leave that to someone who isn't a Kerryman! 

 from "Rio Grande" directed by John Ford

No comments: