Fenianism in Bandon

check Catholic University of America, the O’Mahony Papers – http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/fenian.cfm

Also The Fenian Brotherhood Collection at the Washington Research Library Consortium – http://doc.wrlc.org/handle/2041/108343

From O’Donovan Jeremiah Rossa (1813-1915), Rossa’s Recollections

I will here leap some years ahead, to record my recollection of one St. John’s eve that I was in Ross. It was in the year 1858.
James O’Mahony of Bandon wrote to me that he wished to meet me to have a talk over Irish national affairs. He suggested that St. John’s eve in Ross would be a good place, as crowds of people would be there, and we would escape any prying notice. We met there that day. We had our talk, and then we walked toward the Abbey field. The blind and the halt and the lame were there, in every path and passage way, appealing for alms — appealing mostly in the Irish language. We stood behind one man who was sitting down, his bare ulcerated legs stretched out from him. His voice was strong, and his language was beautiful. O’Mahony said he never heard or read anything in the Irish language so beautiful. Taking his notebook and pencil to note down the words of the appeal, some traveling companion of the cripple’s told him that a man was taking notes, and the cripple turned round and told us to go away. He wouldn’t speak any more until we went away.

This James O’Mahony was a draper in Bandon ; he was the brother of Thaddeus O’Mahony who was a professor of the Irish language in Trinity College, Dublin. He went to Australia in the year 1863. I hope he is alive and happy there. With him went another comrade of mine, William O’Carroll, who kept a bakery in North Main Street, Cork. They were among the first men in the South of Ireland that joined the Stephens’ movement. It was James O’Mahony that first gave James Stephens the name of Seabhac ; shonk; hawk. The Shouk shoolach — the walking hawk — was a name given in olden days to a banned wanderer. Stephens, at the start of this organization, traveled much of Ireland on foot. A night he stopped at my house in Skibbereen, I saw the soles of his feet red with blisters.
This is a long leap I have taken in the chapter of “from the cradle to the weaning ” — a leap from 1831 — the year I was born — to 1858, the year I first met James Stephens. So I will have to leap back now, and talk on from my childhood. [pp. 9 – 10]

The Irish people learn through oral tradition what many people learn from book history. Before I ever read a book, before I ever went to school, I got into my mind facts of history which appeared incredible to me. I got into my mind from the fireside stories of my youth that’ the English soldiers in Clonakilty, conven-ient to where I was born, used to kill the women, and take the young children, born and unborn, on the points of their bayonets, and dash them against the walls, and that the soldiers at Bandon Bridge used to tie men in couples with their hands behind their backs, and fling them into the river.

Those very two atrocious acts are, I find, in Daniel O’Connell’s “Memoirs of Ireland,” recorded this way:
“1641. At Bandon Bridge they tied eighty-eight Irishmen of the said town back to back, and threw them off the bridge into the river, where they were all drowned.— Coll. p. 5.”

“County Cork, 1642. At Cloghnakilty about 238 men, Women and children were murdered, of which number seventeen children were taken by the legs by soldiers, who knocked out their brains against the walls. This was done by Phorbis’s men and the garrison of Bandon Bridge.” [p. 16]

James Stephens came to Skibbereen one day in the summer of 1858. He had a letter of introduction from Jas. O’Mahony, of Bandon, to Donal Oge — one of our members. He initiated Donal Oge (Dan McCartie) into the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood. Donal Oge initiated me the next day; I initiated Patrick J. Down- ing and Morty Moynahan the following day ; and so, the good cause spread.
In three or four months, we had three or four baro- nies of the southwest of Cork County organized ; Donal Oge, Morty Moynahan and I became three centres of three circles. We had drillings at night in the woods and on the hillsides ; the rumblings, and ru- mors of war were heard all around ; the government were becoming alarmed ; they made a raid upon our homes on the night of December 8, and the second day after, some twenty of us were prisoners in the county jail in the city of Cork. [p. 150]

When James Stephens came to Skibbereen in May, 1858, and started the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, we commenced to work in that line of labor, and we were not long working, when a great change was noticeable in the temper of the people. In the cellars, in the woods, and on the hillsides, we had our men drilling in the nighttime, and wars and rumors of wars were on the wings of the wind. The lords and the landlords were visibly becoming alarmed. No wonder, for their tenants who used to flock to Tenant-Right meetings cared very little about attending such meetings now. It has been said — it is said to-day by some men of the cities, that the farmers were opposed to the movement. I could not say that; I could say to the contrary, because I enrolled into the movement many of the most influential farmers in the parishes of Kilcoe, Aughadown, Caheragh, Drimoleague, Diinagh, Kil- macabea, Myross and Castlehaven. Dan McCartie and Morty Moynahan, two other “Centres” did the same. [pp. 199 – 200]

About the beginning of the year 1861, a letter from Jas. O’Mahony, of Bandon, announced to us that he and John O’Mahony would be in Rosscarbery on a certain day. Dan McCartie, Morty Moynahan and I went to Ross in Moynahan’s coach. We met then; they had come to town in Banconi’s long car. James O’Mahony returned to Bandon, and John O’Mahony came on to Skibbereen in our coach. He remained in town a few days. We called in from the country some of the most active workers we had in the organization, and introduced them to him. He was very much taken with the McCarthy-Sowney Centre, who told him he would not be satisfied with getting back his lauds from the English, without getting back also the back rents that the robber-landlords had been drawing from his people for the past two hundred years.

That was the first time I met John O’Mahony. He made the impression on me that he was a man proud of his name and of his race. And I liked him for that. I like to see an Irishman proud of his people. It is seldom you will find such a man doing anything that would disgrace any one belonging to him. In my work of organizing in Ireland, I felt myself perfectly safe in dealing with men who were proud – no matter how poor they were — of belonging to the “Old Stock.” I trusted them, and would trust them again.

Three years ago, in the summer of 1804, I was traveling with Michael Cusack, John Sarsfield Casey (since dead), and some others, by the Galtee Mountains, from Mitchelstown to Knocklong. We stopped at a village called Kilbehenny. We strolled into the graveyard,and there I saw a large tomb, on the top slab of which were cut the words:


That was the tomb of John 0’Mahony’s family. Some days after, I stood within the walls of the ruins of Muckross Abbey in Killarney, and there I saw an- other tomb (just like the one in Kilbehenny) on which were graven the words:


That was the tomb of the family of the O’Donoghue of the Glens. That showed me that in old Irish times John O’Mahony’s family had the same standing among the people as the other family. In those graveyards, I thought of that Shane O’Neill of Tyrone who, when offered an English title, said he was prouder of the title of “The O’Neill” than of any title England could give him. [pp. 235 – 236]