Mountbellew to host conference on The Fenians and Manchester Martyrs

In September 1867, 50 Fenians attacked a prison van at Hyde Road, Manchester, intent on releasing their comrades Thomas Joseph Kelly, a Galwegian, and Timothy Deasy. An unarmed police sergeant, Charles Brett was shot dead and 26 men were tried for partaking in the attack.

Three men - William Allen, Michael O’Brien, and Michael Larkin - known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’ were hanged on November 23 1867 in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. A conference, entitled The Fenians, Colonel Kelly & The Manchester Martyrs will take place in Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew, this Saturday.

This conference has been organised by the Galway County Council in partnership with Holy Rosary College, Coláiste An Chreagáin, Mountbellew Heritage and Tourism Network, NUI Galway, Skehana Heritage, and The National Archives.

Colonel Thomas Joseph Kelly was born in Mountbellew in 1833 and attended St Jarlath’s College, Tuam. He became a printer in Loughrea and at 18 emigrated to New York and worked at Printer’s Union. He fought in the American Civil War, enlisting in the 10th Ohio Infantry, attaining the rank of captain. After the war he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He played a significant role in the failed Fenian Rising of 1867.

In August 1867 he was declared the chief organiser at a secret meeting in Manchester. On September 11 Kelly and Timothy Deasy were arrested. A week later they were being transferred from the courthouse to gaol when their followers tried to free them. Kelly and Deasy escaped to America and Kelly took up employment in the New York Custom House. He died in 1908 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Erica Veil is a great-great-granddaughter of Colonel Kelly and will speak about ‘The Family History and Legacy of Colonel Thomas J Kelly’. Bride Brady will give a presentation on ‘Dr Mark Ryan - Kilconly Fenian’, while Dr Owen McGee will discuss ‘American soldier or IRB rebel: understanding the career of Colonel Thomas J Kelly (1833-1908 )’.

Donnacha De Long will examine “The Boland connection” and Dr Frank Rynne will debate ‘The Fenians: Transnational Revolutionaries’. Dr Conor McNamara, NUI Galway will discuss ‘Remembering and Forgetting the Fenians: The Fenian Ideal and the Revolutionary Generation of 1916’. Brian Donnelly from the National Archives will provide an insight into ‘Sources on Fenianism in the National Archives’.

Students from Holy Rosary College will speak about ‘The Fenians, Colonel Kelly and the Mountbellew Connection’ and will finish the proceeding of the conference with ‘The Fenian Galop - music and songs relating to the Fenians’.

Admission to the conference is free. To reserve a place at the conference register at, or contact Marie Mannion, heritage officer, Galway County Council (091 - 509198, [email protected] ) or Gráinne Smyth, Forward Planning, Galway County Council (091 - 509121, [email protected] ).


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