FEBRUARY 16th, 1867: Kerry's Fenian rising proves a disjointed affair


FROM THE ARCHIVES:The Fenian Rising in 1867 turned out to be a disjointed affair which collapsed after various skirmishes, one of which was in Kerry and was described by the contemporary newspaper on this date. - JOE JOYCE

WE ARE most gratified in being able to state not merely that the Fenian outbreak in Kerry is virtually at an end, but that the peasantry, to a man, refused to have any participation in the movement. The Fenian army has dissolved of itself. It attacked an isolated coastguard station, robbed a gentleman’s house and stole his horses, and shot down one solitary policeman, and then moved in what order it could towards Killarney. When near the town, the leaders heard that there were constabulary and troops within it and in the neighbourhood. So, believing discretion to be the better part of valour, they gave the order to retreat. They took the picturesque road between the Toomey Mountains and McGillicuddy’s Reeks, through the gap of Dunloe – all places well known to every tourist who visited the Lakes.

As yet, no reliable account has been received of the actual numbers of those who thus engaged in overt rebellion. They have been estimated at 1,500, 900, 800, and even so low as 100. There is a bank in the Gap of Dunloe from whence a magnificent view of the surrounding country can be seen. The Fenians must have beheld the red-coated soldiers pursuing, and seen the glitter of the arms of those who dashed forward to cut off their retreat. Then it became a stampede for life – some hid among the woods or arbutus groves – some hid in the ravines or behind giant masses of displaced rock – others stole away through the mountain gorges – but the “army” has literally melted away. Even their leader – said to be named O’Connor – abandoned the horse of the police orderly, whom he had shot, and took on foot “to the hills”, where the troops are searching for him. We can all imagine what efforts were made by desperate men to induce or compel the peasantry to join them. Promises of plunder and partition of the Herbert estates, the spoiling of the peasant’s own little home, outrage on his family, and death to himself, formed the inducements and menaces of the filibusters. Yet, the peasantry, to a man, scorned alike their offers and their threats. The whole country is peaceable, and the achievements of the Fenian braves consist in the robbery of a coastguard station, cutting a few telegraph wires, and shooting one isolated policeman.

The country about Killarney and Tralee is said to be well known to James Stephens. Some years since, he organised a Phœnixite conspiracy in this quarter. It is known that he has been in Paris very recently, and the attempted movements on Chester, Dublin, and Killarney seemed to have been planned by him. His object is solely to procure money, and a startling overt act, which could be magnified and exaggerated in the New York sensational press, would answer his purpose completely. We suspect that the leaders of this most insane and wicked raid in Kerry are Americans, who have managed to land in some of the creeks about Dingle Bay or Bantry. A few only of their followers are said to have been dressed in green. The rest bore a strong resemblance to the dilapidated specimens of humanity which were landed on our quays from the purlieus of the manufacturing towns in England. O’Connor, the reputed leader of the banditti, is a naturalised American, and served in the Federal army. Wherever agitation has prevailed, it has been traced to American emissaries, many of whom are known to have returned to this country, violating the solemn pledge through which they obtained liberty from a merciful government.