On 5th March 1867, the Fenian Rising in Kilbaha took place.
On 5th March in the year 1867, five local men raided Kilbaha Coastguard Station to procure arms for the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s planned rebellion against the forces of the Crown in Ireland. The group was led by John Deloughery, who was a national teacher and parish clerk at Cross. His comrades in the raid were Thomas Fennell, Stephen Fennell, Thomas Brennan and Patrick Fitzpatrick (also known as Corbett).
During the raid on the station, Thomas McCarthy Fennell was shot in the hip and a member of the coastguard station was stabbed. After making good their escape from the fracas at the coastguard station, the wounded Thomas Fennell was brought to the home of a Patrick Keane where he received medical treatment before he was captured by the agents of the Crown three days later. Fitzpatrick was arrested on 13th April.
Patrick Fitzpatrick was tried for Whiteboy Offences and he was sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour. He was released in May 1868 on condition that he would emigrate to America on his release.
On 16 July 1867 Thomas Fennell was tried at a court held in Ennis, Co. Clare under the Treason Felony Act. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison with hard labour. After the trial, Fennell was moved to Mountjoy Jail in Dublin before being transferred to Portland Prison in England and from there to Fremantle Penal Colony, Western Australia.
The British government acquiesced in 1869 to pressure from the US to free American Fenians because they were veterans of the American Civil War. Thomas Fennell was released from Convict Establishment in Fremantle in March 1871 with a group of Fenians. The only Fenians not released at that time were the so-called Military Fenians. These were Irishmen who had taken the Fenian oath while serving in the British army. The Military Fenians were considered common criminals, never to be released by the Crown’s agents.
After Fennell’s release in March of 1871, he made his way to New Zealand and from there to California, before moving to the east coast of the US and settling in Connecticut the following year.
While Fennell was living in Connecticut, he met John Devoy and together with John Boyle O’Reilly, they set about putting in place a plan to rescue the six Military Fenians left behind in Fremantle.
Towards that end, they bought a whaling ship, The Catalpa, for $5,200 and a crew was recruited. The plan involved using a ship laden with a legitimate cargo so that it would be unlikely to arouse suspicion in Australian waters.
Meanwhile, two Fenian agents, John Breslin and Tom Desmond, had arrived in Western Australia in September to appraise the prisoners of their escape plan. Breslin posed as an American businessman and Desmond took a job as a wheelwright. Breslin used a letter of introduction to befriend Sir William Cleaver Robinson, Governor of Western Australia and in this way succeeded in getting a tour of the convict establishment. Desmond recruited five local Irishmen who were to cut the telegraph lines connecting Australia on the day of the planned escape.
On 17th April at 8.30 am, the six Military Fenians, Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston and James Wilson, who were working outside the prison walls in Freemantle, absconded. They were met by Breslin and Desmond and picked up as scheduled. They headed fifty kilometres south to Rockingham where the Captain of the Catalpa (George Anthony) was waiting for them on the beach with a rowboat.
Unfortunately, a local he had spoken to earlier saw the men and quickly alerted the authorities, so when the prisoners were making their escape in the rowboat, they were spotted and pursued by a police boat with about 40 armed men. The two boats raced to reach the Catalpa first, with the rowboat winning and the men climbing aboard as the police boat passed by. The police boat lingered briefly beside the Catalpa before it returned to shore.The Catalpa returned to New York harbour four months later, 19 August 1876, mission accomplished.
Courtesy of Clare County Library website and A Place I Called Home
Pictures and Clare Champion newspaper are reporting on reenactment of Fenian Rising during Heritage week in August 2017.