How ‘The Irish Times’ reported the Fenian rising 150 years ago

‘A miserable failure, disgraceful to the organisers and their wretched dupes’

A contemporary illustration of the Battle of Tallaght from the London Illustrated News

A contemporary illustration of the Battle of Tallaght from the London Illustrated News


On March 5th, 1867, the long-awaited Fenian rising across Ireland. It was militarily a disaster. Most of the fighting occurred in Dublin where rebels seized a number of barracks. There was also a stand-off between rebels and police at Tallaght which resulted in the death of two rebels. This report appeared in The Irish Times on March 7th, 1867.


The Fenian rising in the county Dublin, though attended with most mischievous results and some loss of life, has been a total failure.

Throughout the country also it has been a disastrous and an ignominious failure. The overwhelming demonstration of military force paralysed all the efforts and frustrated the designs of the leaders.

Several hundred Fenians fled before a small party of police at Tallaght and in every district of the county where they showed themselves. The outbreak, in a great measure, was general and the results of a most ingenious organisation.

The accounts we have received show how futile has been the attempt and how disastrous to those engaging in it. Without even an effort at resistance, they have been scattered and dispersed.

Bodies of mistaken men assembled with arms in their possession and fled before the military and police wherever they appeared. The strongest military precautions had been taken. The guards at Dublin Castle have been doubled and also at the banks and several military stations.

Troops under arms have been confined to quarters - ready for immediate action. According to latest telegrams, reinforcements are expected from England. The greatest admiration has been everywhere expressed for the gallant conduct of the Constabulary not only in Tallaght but in many other places throughout the country where they were opposed by overwhelming numbers. The wounds received by the men who formed the attacking party at Tallaght are more serious than at first supposed.

One of them, a clerk named O’Donoghue, is dead. Another, who received a fearful bayonet wound in the abdomen, is dying. Some others are in a precarious state. The Metropolitan Police, and especially the men of the E Division, have established for themselves a high reputation for loyalty and courage. The detective police acquired information which enabled them to make important seizures and arrests.

It is gratifying to state that the whole movement, so far as Dublin is concerned, has been a miserable failure, disgraceful to the organisers and their wretched dupes. There is a great deal of excitement but there is no serious alarm for there is the utmost confidence in the vigour and the vigilance of the authorities. The city is restored to its normal condition of tranquillity. The plans of the conspiracy are well laid. It was intended to be a simultaneous rising in all parts of the island, but the Fenian leaders miscalculated their material.

No man of courage or capacity sympathised with their wicked designs. It is expected many additional arrests will be made. The authorities have determined to proceed against all parties taken in arms on a charge of high treason. General Godfrey Massey, reported to be a chief in the Fenian organisation in Ireland and who is said, we know not with what truth, to have once held a commission in her Majesty’s service, will be indicted for the capital offence. Subjoined is complete information respecting the outbreak, a portion of which appeared in our later editions of today.

The disturbance at Tallaght, Times Office, Wednesday, 12 o’clock Assembling of Fenians at Dundrum.

At one o’clock this morning 200 men, most of them armed with pikes and revolvers, assembled in the neighbourhood of Dundrum. They were part of the armed body who marched to Tallaght. They marched about the roads and menaced the police barrack.

The police expected they were about to attack it and were drawn up to receive them with their rifles loaded. They then retired and many of them flung away their arms.

Three dozen of pikes were found on the road, and a quantity of ammunition consisting of cartridges and rifle bullets. There were also a number of pike heads found smashed off from the handles. Panic seized the insurgents and dreading arrest they threw aside their arms.

Constable Pinkerton at Dundrum with a body of men proceeded in front of them. They marched to the Stepaside Constabulary Station and fired several shots into the station. They threw straw into it and attempted to burn it. Having thus wandered about like lunatics, without any definite object, they scattered over the mountains.

It is suspected they intend to make their way to Wicklow and concentrate themselves there. The police state there were fairly 1,500 of them scattered in the neighbourhood of Kilmainham, Dundrum, Rathfarnham and Tallaght. The E Division of police did good service.

They scattered them wherever they attempted to concentrate their force and have succeeded in taking many prisoners who were found with arms. Bodies of the B division were stationed during the morning on several of the canal bridges and arrested many suspicious looking men returning to town. Two were arrested in Richmond Street having in their possession a quantity of ammunition.