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Captain Michael O’Brien (1837 - 1867)

Michael O’Brien, one of eight children, was born at Ballymacoda, County Cork where his father had rented a large farm but in 1856 the family was evicted. He was described physically as being “a tall squared-shouldered man whose bearing bespoke the American soldier.” In his youth he was apprenticed to a draper in Youghal and later worked as an assistant in one of the large stores in Cork City. O’Brien would eventually emigrate to the United States. O’Donovan Rossa wrote in his book 'Irish Rebels in English Prisons' he had met O’Brien in 1859 and had also known him during his time in America and had found him to be “one of the truest and one of the noblest; as devoted as a lover and as courageous as a lion.” --- continue

Gustavus Conyngham (1744 - 1819)

Gustavus Conyngham was born circa 1744 in the Rosaguill Peninsula in Co Donegal, Ireland. The Conyngham's were products of the Protestant Ascendency whose linage can be traced back to Alexander Cunningham, the fourth Earl of Glencairn in the Peerage of Scotland in 1488. The first known member of the Conyngham family to appear in Ireland was the Rev. Alexander Conyngham in 1611. He was first Protestant minister of Iver and Kellymard in Co. Donegal.

As a child of a privileged family, Gustavus was either home schooled by a private tutor or at an established Church of England school. There is no information available to indicate that he attended university. His passion was for the sea and the open world that lay beyond the mouth of Lough Swilly, much more so than for the confines of a university setting.

Gustavus immigrated to Philadelphia in the American colonies in 1763. At that time Philadelphia was one of the preferred destinations for many of the early colonists because of its adherence to Quaker principles and its liberal attitude towards business. Philadelphia had another asset, particularly conducive to the shipping and trading business, its east coast location and sheltered harbor.  For these reasons many of the wealthy and well connected colonists choose Philadelphia as an ideal location to setup branches of family owned business so as to take advantage of the rapidly expanding trade between the Colonies the Caribbean and Europe.


Tadhg Brosnan (1981 - 1971)

Tadhg Brosnan was born in 1891 into a family of blacksmiths in the West Kerry village of Castlegregory. At that time, Ireland seemed comfortable with the Empire, its defiance apparently quenched with the defeat the Fenian Rising. But to Tadhg Brosnan Ireland unfree could not be at peace. The Irish Volunteers were founded in Castlegregory under his leadership 1913 and would prepare for another fight for freedom which would come less than three years later. But Easter Week 1916 ended in another bloody failure. The Empire had put Ireland back on its knees or so it would seem. But no so in Castlegregory. On the Sunday after the surrender in Dublin, despite warnings from the Crown Forces, Tadhg Brosnan marched his company of armed Volunteers up through the village after Mass in open defiance of Britain’s might. The next day he was arrested as were his loyal followers. Brought to Richmond Barracks in Dublin, he was tried before a military court. He refused to recognise that court, becoming the first officer of all the captured Volunteers of 1916 to deny the right of any English man to pass judgement on an Irishman fighting to free his country. His sentence was twenty years hard labour. -- continue



They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

Padraic Pearse oration given at 

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa's funeral on Aug. 1, 1915


August 1st. 1915

"It has seemed right, before we turn away from this place in which we have laid the mortal remains of O'Donovan Rossa, that one amongst us should, in the name of all, speak the praise of that valiant man, and endeavour to formulate the thought and the hope that are in us as we stand around his grave. And if there is anything that makes it fitting that I rather than some other--I, rather than one of the grey-haired men who were young with him, and shared in his labour and in his suffering, should speak here, it is, perhaps, that I may be taken as speaking on behalf of a new generation that has been re-baptised in the Fenian faith, and that has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the Fenian programme. I propose to you, then, that here by the grave of this unrepentant Fenian, we renew our baptismal vows; that here by the grave of this unconquered and unconquerable man, we ask of God, each one for himself, such unshakeable purpose, such high and gallant courage, such unbreakable strength of soul as belonged to O'Donovan Rossa.

"Deliberately here we avow ourselves, as he avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only. We, of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in to-day's task and duty, are bound together, and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: It is Tone's definition; it is Mitchel's definition; it is Rossa's definition. Let no one blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and definition.  continue

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa's Monument

St. Stephens Green Dublin

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was born in Rosscarbery, County Cork on September 10, 1831 to Irish tenant farmers.  At that time in Ireland, tenant farmers paid rent to absentee landlords who controlled 90% of the arable land. Most of the crops and livestock produced  was being collected and sent to England in lieu of rent. As a consequence, the only means of subsistence left for the people was the lowly potato. When the potato crop failed in the mid1840's the people were left without their primary food source and their only means of paying the rent resulting tens of thousands of tenant farmers being evicted and left to wander the roads and crowd workhouses.

Like many others of his time O'Donovan Rossa witnessed the devastation and squalor caused by what was in essence a contrived famine. That experience left him with an indelible resentment for the British and their unscrupulous landlords who let the people starve to death while ships loaded with wheat, oats, barley, mutton, lamb, pork, ham, beet, eggs, live cattle, sheep and pigs, and flour left Irish ports on a daily basis for England.

As a young man he moved to Skibbereen where he ran a grocery store.  In 1856, at age 25, he founded the Phoenix National and Literary Society, a Irish nationalist group which aimed to remove the British from Ireland through any means necessary, including armed struggle. 

In March of 1958, James Stephens, Thomas Clarke Luby, James Denieefe, Garret O Shaughnessy and Peter Langan founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Dublin. shortly afterwards when Stephens visited Cork on a recruiting mission he met with Rossa who became one of his first recruits. Subsequent to that meeting the Phoenix Society morphed into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. 

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The Neptune

The Neptune was one of the notorious convict ship of  the Second Fleet that sailed to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour).  Built in the River Thames in 1779, at 809 tons she was the largest ship of the fleet. The other ships were the Surprize and Scarborough.

 The fleets first voyage to Port Jackson was on January 19, 1790. The treatment of convicts aboard the Neptune was unquestionably the most horrific in the history of transportation to Australia. Convicts suspected of petty theft were flogged to death; most were kept chained below decks for the duration of the voyage; scurvy and other diseases were endemic; and the food rations were pitiful. During the voyage 31% of the "convicts" died as the result of ill treatment.

John Mitchel who was convicted and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years under the Treason Felony Act of 1848 by the British usurper in Ireland was sent from Dublin on board HMS  Scourge to Spike Island in Cork harbor where he was incarcerated for three days. From there he was transported to Van Dieman's Land, (now Tasmania).

After spells in the hulks (skeleton ships) in Bermuda he was placed aboard the Neptune bound for Cape of Good Hope in the southern tip of Africa. The colonists refused to allow the Neptune to berth there and after five months at anchor in Simon's Bay she sailed to Van Diemen's Land docking at Hobart Town in April 1850.

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