Category Archives: Manchester Martyrs

The Fenian Procession in Cork – 18671201

Qualify it as we may, the funeral procession in Cork on Sunday must have been a sad spectacle for any Irishman to contemplate. Let us put the most charitable construction on it, and if we could distinguish between treason and “political offences,” such as the one for which the three Manchester Fenians were hanged, linking the demonstration with the latter class, what does it amount to? In its mildest, most modified form, it was a procession of some twelve or thirteen thousand persons, [*Half the number] sympathising with men who were justly punished for a foul murder, committed in open day, in a populous English town, the victim being a sworn servant of the Crown, who had no choice but to do his duty or perjure himself. In its milder aspect, therefore, the demonstration was in sympathy with cold-blooded murder. We cannot, however, believe that such is the interpretation to be given to the procession in Cork; and, grouping the whole of the circumstances – the green ribbons, the rosettes and crape, the mourning costume, and the ladies’ tears – it would be an insult to the meanest intellect to give the assembly any other character than that of a demonstration to sympathise with treason, and, in so doing, to violate Divine and human law. Perhaps the worst feature in the whole is the money support alleged to have been given by deputy-lieutenants and justices of the peace. – Belfast News Letter.

The Fenian procession in Cork - Cork Constitution 18671205

Cork Constitution, December 5, 1867

Antecedents of the Convicts – 18671127

As none of the convicts lived long in Manchester, or had many acquaintances here, circumstances relating to their antecedents are not easily obtained. Allen was a native of Bandon, in the county of Cork. He had a few relations living in Manchester or the neighbourhood, and he came here in search of work as a joiner about the end of the year 1864. He obtained employment in the yard of one of the principle builders in the city, and for a time his habits were those of an ordinarily industrious working man. He made several acquaintances among his fellow countrymen, and secured the affections of a young woman of a respectable family; and there was every prospect that, but for his unfortunate connection with the Fenian movement, he would have ultimately married the girl. When or where he enrolled a Fenian is not known, but for a considerable time he had done very little work, and during that time he has been considered one of the most active agents of the movement in Manchester. When the meeting took place at which it was decided that an attempt should be made to rescue Kelly and Deasy, Allen was not present. He had gone a short time before on a mission to Dublin, and he returned from that city in time to take part in the attack upon the van. O’Brien, alias Gould, was the most active and intelligent man engaged in the outrage. He was well built, fairly educated, and by birth and sympathy an Irish American. It is believed that he had no relations in this country and few friends. The only person who attempted to visit him whilst in prison was the witness Miss Flannagan, who was called to prove alibi for him. It will be remembered that in her cross-examination Miss Flannagan denied having any acquaintance with Gould; her subsequent conduct, however, leads to the supposition that she knew him very well, for when she was refused admission to the prison, as not being related to the convict, she expressed her disappointment very keenly. O’Brien had had some military experience as a sergeant in the same regiment as Colonel Kelly in the United States army, and he was best known among the Fenians as Captain O’Brien. He is known to have been last autumn in Dublin and Liverpool, where he associated with Fenians; and at the last winter assizes in Liverpool he was tried, with two or three others, on a charge of his having in his possession a number of rifles belonging to the government. The rifles had been found in a cellar, with three boxes of phosphorous, one of the principal constituents of Greek or Fenian fires. Gould and his companions were on that occasion acquitted. Since that time he has frequently travelled between England and Ireland on Fenian business, and, from the information that can now be gathered of him, he is supposed to have been a very active organiser of Fenian circles. As to Larkin, there can be little doubt that he was the victim of such men as O’Brien. Of the five who were convicted he was the only married man, and till within the last year or two there is reason to believe that he behaved like a respectable working man. He had a wife and four children, and for three or four years he lived in one street in Manchester, carrying on business of an operative tailor. Recently he became an active Fenian, and in one of the Manchester circles he acted as a collector of subscriptions. He has not done much work for several months, and a few weeks ago, just before his apprehension, he was on the out-door relief list of the Chorlton Guardians. The man Condon, alias Shore, who was reprieved, excelled all the other convicts in his endeavours to promote the Fenian cause; and we can only suppose that it was the circumstance that he had not been proved to have had a revolver in his hands that led the government to listen to the intercessions which we hear Mr. Adams presented to the British Government on his behalf. Like O’Brien, he was an Irish American, and had no friends in this country. Like O’Brien, too, he served in the United States army during the recent war, when he held a commission as a captain. It has for a long time been supposed that he was a Fenian organiser; he has frequently been seen in Manchester, Liverpool, and Dublin; and when the rade [sic] was made upon Chester he took a number of men from Manchester to assist in the enterprise. It is also believed that he and another of those who were acquitted were the actual organisers of the attack upon the van. Condon has occupied himself since his conviction in writing an analysis of the evidence given on the trial against himself. It is a shrewd, skilful presentation of his own case. The principal paragraph in it is the following: – “It was not fair to bring me up for trial in the first batch, Allen having over 30 witnesses, Larkin 20, Gould 15, and Maguire 10 against him; while there were but five against me, and while others (Nugent and William Martin) had 10 or 12 each against them, and others had as many against them as I had. There can be no doubt that, in the absence of sufficient proof against me, the prosecution brought me up for trial with those I have named in order that the overwhelming testimony against them would prejudice the minds of the jury against me, who was brought up in their company; and I believe that, had I not been an American citizen, this would not have been done.” After remarking upon the evidence, he concludes: – “Therefore, by every principle of fair play and justice, I too, should be discharged from custody.” A copy of this statement was, we believe, forwarded to London. – Manchester Guardian.

Antecedents of the convicts - Cork Constitution18671127

Cork Constitution, November 27, 1867

A Fenian Funeral Procession in Nenagh – 18671213

Ever since the announcement by Lord Derby defining the Party Processions and Party Emblems Acts, the more advanced sympathizers of Allen and his unfortunate companions have in this neighbourhood been engrossed in preparations for a funeral procession, and we understand the services of a Limerick band have been engaged for the coming procession, which, it is rumoured, will come off in Nenagh on New Year’s Day with all imaginable pomp and circumstance. We hear the country people are being canvassed by a company of volunteers, and collections raised, ostensibly to pay for masses for the executed felons, but in reality to pay for the hire of three hearses and bandsmen, whose “patriotic” favour it has been found necessary to stimulate by liberal travelling expenses. We understnad no special masses will be said in Nenagh Chapel, as the Rev. M. Cleary, P. P., and his colleagues, are avowedly opposed to any movement to show that they have a scintilla of sympathy in the bad cause which brought the necks of three wretched desperadoes within the halter. – Nenagh Guardian.

A “funeral procession” is being organized, to take place in this city on Sunday next. It would thus seem that the miserable mania for exhibitions of sympathy with the executed Fenians is spreading. – Kilkenny Moderator.

A Fenian funeral procession in Nenagh - Cork Constitution18671213

Cork Constitution, December 13, 1867

William Allen, Manchester Martyr – Personal Correspondence with Alison Stewart – August 2014

Thursday, 19 July 2012 >William Philip Allen This post is a continuation of the previous one, in which I explore the Protestant Allen families of Galbally, North Limerick and of southern Tipperary. Allen, the father of our great-great grandmother, Anne Allen (who married the carpenter Henry Culbert/Cuthbert in Galbally in 1869) died in Park townland just east of Galbally, where the Protestant Allens seems to have settled.  There are so few Protestant Allens in this area, that I suspect a family between them, although researching the Allen family has thrown up few clues, so much of this is pure speculation for the moment. Galbally town sits right on the border of Limerick and Tipperary, and the evidence points to our Allen family as having originated a few miles north of Galbally in Co. Tipperary. The Protestant farmer, Edmond Allen of Park, Galbally, was murdered in 1886 at Shronell, Tipperary, and was the second cousin of the Manchester Martyr, William Philip Allen, ie: the fathers of both men were first cousins. William Philip Allen was born – most likely near Tipperary town –  in April 1848 to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. His father, Thomas (Henry) Allen, moved the family from Tipperary to Bandon in about 1850, where Thomas was the Keeper of the Bridewell until about 1868. William was reared and educated as a Protestant in Bandon, but converted to Catholicism in about 1866 along with his only sister.  His four brothers, amongst whom were Joseph, James and Peter, remained Protestant, as did his father. William Philip Allen was educated to become a teacher in one of the Protestant school of the area, but eventually settled on an apprenticeship with a timber merchant and carpenter in Bandon, eventually working in Dublin, Limerick, Chester and Manchester. By 1867, the year of his execution, he had become involved with the Fenian movement which sought to liberate Ireland from British rule. A failed Fenian uprising in Chester led to the arrest of two men, Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy, in Manchester in 1867.  It was while the two men were being transported in a police van on September 18th 1867 that a crowd of about 25 sympathisers surrounded the van in an attempt to free the pair.  During the ensuing chaos, a policeman by the name of Sergeant Brett, who was guarding the prisoners inside the van, was accidentally shot by one of the crowd who had taken aim at the lock on the van door. Kelly and Deasy escaped and were never recaptured. The authorities rounded up 29 men and eventually brought five of them to trial.  Two were released, but three of the suspects- William Philip Allen, who had almost been stoned to death by an angry mob during his arrest, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien – were sentenced to death by hanging. Allen said he regretted the death of Sergeant Brett, but that he was ‘prepared to die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people.’  He was only 19. The execution of the three men took place at the New Bailey Prison in Salford, Manchester. Two weeks later a symbolic funeral took place in Dublin in which 60,000 people followed three empty hearses to Glasnevin Cemetery. William Philip Allen, second cousin of the murdered Edmond Allen, had been born in Co. Tipperary in 1848 – some sources say his place of birth was Thurles, others that he had been born in a ‘well-known village’ outside of Tipperary town. Given that his second cousin, Edmond Allen, was known to have relatives in the area around Tipperary town, I went through the Allen landholders listed on Griffiths Valuation in 1851, although I’ve had no luck researching these people further. Griffiths Valuation, Tipperary Town, 1851 James Allen, house only in Mackanagh Upper, Clonbeg, south of the town. Paul Allen, Goat’s Lane, Tipperary town. House, small garden, and ruins. Thomas Allen, Bohercrow Street, Tipperary town, house. Samuel Allen, 132 acres in Greenrath, north of Tipperary town. Samuel Allen, Main Street, Golden, a house and yard – Golden is middway between Tipperary town and Cashel. Mrs. Judith Allen, landlady at Ballyryan West, north of Tipperary town, about 60 acres. Nicholas Allen, Fihertagh, south of Tipperary town, house and 10 acres. Further information about William Philip Allen can be gleaned from a newspaper reports of the era, published online on the Limerick City website, which reported upon the memorial march to commemorate the Martyrs in Limerick. Amongst the marchers were his sister, a Mrs. Hogan, and a cousin, Jonathan Allen.  Jonathan Allen, a schoolmaster of Boherbuoy, Limerick, and a prominent Fenian in the area, had been born in Newport, Co. Tipperary in about 1843 or perhaps later in 1851.  He was arrested for his political activities, and these arrests have been documented on the LDS site, but I could find no deeper information about him elsewhere. To be continued…..

William Philip Allen (1848 – 1867) – Manchester Martyr – Sources

Primary Sources

Newspaper Accounts

November 27, 1867

November 30, 1867

December 1, 1867

December 3, 1867

December 13, 1867

Secondary Sources

William Allen - Memorial Stone, Kilbrogan Hill, Bandon

William Allen – Memorial Stone, Bridewell, Kilbrogan Hill, Bandon – 51° 45′ 22.9176″ N, 8° 44′ 11.0688″ W-



William Allen’s father was in charge of the Bridewell in Bandon, Co. Cork in 1867. The Henry and Coughlan Directory for Bandon in 1867 locates the Bridewell on North Main Street; there is no name of the officer in charge; a William Allen, grocer, is listed on Market Street.

The commentary re the Memorial Stone for William Allen indicates the Bridewell was at Kilbrogan Hill, Bandon. Also:

This is not a burying place rather a commemorative cross. Efforts have been made to return the bodies from England. For more information contact John Desmond.

William Philip Allen was one of the Manchester Martyrs affectionately known as Allen Larkin and O’Brien. Allen’s father, a protestant, was the keeper at the RIC barracks called the Bridewell at Kilbrogan Hill.

James Stephens, a draper in South Main Street introduced Allen into the Fenian organisation, known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1864. William Philip was received into the Catholic Church by Canon O Brien on the 20th  June 1866. He was arrested in Manchester on the 18th September 1867 and wrongfully hung with his two friends at the front of the New Bailey in Salford England on the 23rd November 1867. It was the second last public hanging to be held in England.

Their remains now rest in grave number 2711, plot C in Blackley Cemetery Manchester.

The Dublin man that fired the fatal shot escaped from the scene and made a clean getaway to New York, where he lived for many years, eventually returning to Ireland and dying in his native city. (Peter Rice)

The Celtic Cross monument was erected to William Philip’s memory by his fellow Townsmen.


Also, :

Records the marriage by license of Jane Allen, full age, spinster of Bridewell, Kilbrogan parish, daughter of Henry, policeman to John Warner, full age, bachelor, carpenter on August 24, 1861. Witnessed by Thomas Allen and Thomas Warner.

Bandon Historical Journals:

1984(1) – By the Banks of the Bandon – Michael O’Carroll

– Storied Kilbrogan – Liam O Donnchadha

1993 (9) – The Laneways of Bandon – Sean Connolly

2004 (20) – The Manchester Martyrs (Part 1) – John & Margaret Desmond

2005(21) – The Manchester Martyrs: A note – John & Margaret Desmond

Denvir, J – The Story of an Old Rebel – 1910 Bandon in 1870 – Slater\’s Directory of Cork City and County

William Allen Papers – University of Pittsburgh

Title:  Allen Family Papers
Collection Number:  AIS.1977.14
Creator:  Allen family
Collection Dates: 1867
Extent:  0.31 linear feet (1 box)

Abstract: The collection contains materials regarding William P. Allen, member of an Irish nationalist society know as Fenians. Allen was hanged November 23, 1867 at New Barley Prison, Salford, England, for his participation in the Fenian attack at Manchester on a prison van containing Fenian prisoners. The collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia. Digital reproductions are available online.

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260

Date Published:January 1978.

Biography:  William Philip Allen was executed November 23, 1867, in England for his participation in the Fenian Rebellion of 1867. The goal of this revolutionary rebellion was to establish an Irish republic. He was arrested and executed for his participation in the prison van rescue of fellow Fenians on September 18, 1867. The rescue was thwarted but not before the constable in charge of the van was killed. The would-be Fenian rescuers became known as the “Manchester Martyrs” Bitter public feeling was aroused in Ireland by their conviction on what many regarded as weak evidence.

Collection Scope and Content Notes: This collection consists of original letters from William Philip Allen to his family in Ireland, as well as letters to his family from supporters. The collection also includes a few newsclips and handbill containing the poem, “God Save Ireland”, composed by T.D. Sullivan, written to commemorate the “Manchester Martyrs”. Photocopy and microfilm versions of the collection are also available.

Access Restrictions:  No restrictions.
Acquisition Information: The collection was received from the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh on May 14, 1977.

[Also see this note re how the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh came into possession of this material.]

This collection has been microfilmed and is available on one reel, AIS.1977.14 (Microfilm-cabinet 2, Drawer 2). It’s also been digitized with access to the images in the finding aid.

Preferred Citation: Allen Family Papers, 1867, AIS.1977.14, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

Copyright: Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Collection Inventory

  1. Series I. Correspondence from William Philip Allen, 1867 – Box 1
  2. Series II. Correspondence to Mrs. Allen, mother of William P. Allen, 1867
  3. Series III. Ephemera, 1867