Prisons where Fenians languished


Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee. C0. Kerry

Ballymullen Barracks were built between 1810 and 1815 for local militia units. In 1881 the barracks were occupied by the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

After the signing of the British-drafted Anglo-Irish Treaty in December of 1921 the barracks were occupied by the Irish Republican Army.  In August of 1922, during the Treaty War,  British-backed Free State forces captured the barracks.  

In the ensuing months the barracks were used to house anti-Treaty Republican prisoners including Tadhg Brosnan.

For the duration of the war behind the barrack walls torture, summary executions, sanctioned by leaders of the Free State including Cosgrave, Mulcahy and Higgins and carried out by their henchmen, was the order of the day.  

At midnight on March 6th 1923, it was from these barracks that nine prisoners were brought to Ballyseedy Wood near Ballyseedy cross by soldiers of the Free State army. They were Pat Buckley, John Daly, Pat Hartnett, Michael O'Connell, John O'Connor, George O'Shea, Tim Tuomey, James Walsh and Steven Fuller.  When they got there, they were tied around a log and a land  mine was detonated. Most of them survived the initial blast however, the soldiers used machine guns and grenades to finish them off.  All of them died except Steven Fuller who was blown away by the force of the blast.  He landed in the  nearby river Lee from where he crawled for about 500 yards to Currans House. They took him in and hid him in a dugout at the back of their farm for some weeks. He was the only one who survived the massacre


Fremanthe Prison, Western Australia

The construction of Fremantle Prison, which began in 1851, was completed in 1859. Convict labor from the first convict ship, the Scindian, to arrive at the Swan River Colony (renamed Western Australia in 1832), was used to build the prison from limestone-quarried onsite. 

 The last ship to transport convicts to the prison was the Hougoumont.  In addition to the 218 convicts on board 62 Fenian prisoners convicted for their involvement in the Fenian Movement of the 1860’s were also on board.

Seven of those Fenians, who took the Fenian oath while serving in the British army were classified as "military prisoners" by the British and treated as common criminals. The others 55, who were classified as political prisoners were all released by 1871 providing that they did not return to Ireland. Of the seven "military prisoners" John Boyle O'Reilly escaped in 1869 and the other six aboard the Catalpa in 1876.

From 1850 to 1868 forty three voyages were made from England to Fremantle carrying more than nine thousand prisoners.


Fort Westmoreland (renamed Fort Mitchel in 1938) on Spike Island in cork Harbor.

Spike Island is a small island in Cork Harbor first settled in early Christian times. 

Due to its defensive location in the harbor it was acquired by the British army in 1779  and Fort Westmoreland was built there to prevent French attack on the trading port of Cork.

Later a prison and convict depot, it was used to house "convicts" prior to penal transportation. It gained a reputation as "Ireland's Alcatraz". In 1848, John Mitchel, Thomas Francis Meagher and other Young Irelanders spent time on the island en route to exile in Van Diemen's Land .

It remained in use as a garrison and prison through the Irish War of Independence, when IRA prisoners were held there. One of the prisoners Richard "Dick" Barrett was a prominent Irish Republican Army volunteer who fought in the War of Independence. 

During the subsequent Civil War, Barrett along with three other Republican leaders, Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvey were executed by the Irish Free State in revenge for the killing of TD Sean Hales. The extrajudicial executions were ordered by the justice minister, Kevin O' Higgins.

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the island remained as one of the Treaty Ports, and was only handed back to the Free State in 1938. The island remained the site of a prison and military base  for some time. 

In the early 1980s it was used as a correctional facility for youth, notoriously in 1985 it became inmates mutinied and briefly controlled the area; one of the accommodation blocks was burnt.  This facility closed in 2004


Kilmainham Jail, Dublin. 

The jail that was built in 1796 was the last stop for many of Ireland's freedom fighters before their gruesome executions by servants of the British crown.

Each rising in Irish history typically would contribute its leaders to the ranks at Kilmainham. From the United Irishmen of 1798, to the Young Irelanders of 1848, to the Fenians of 1867, the jail was a horrific and, oftentimes, the  final destination for many of Ireland's heroes. One of the  most important event in the prison's history was after the Easter Rising of 1916, when fifteen of the leaders were executed by firing squad in the stone-breaker's yard.

The jail  was decommissioned as a prison by the Irish Free State in 1924 as its potential function as a location of national memory would be complicated by the fact that the first four of the 81 republican prisoners executed by the British supported Free State forces during the Civil War took place in the prison yard and that over 300 women were imprisoned there during the same period.

The preservation of the jail as a museum and memorial to the 1916 Easter Risings was originally proposed by the National Graves Association

Click here for some of Kilmainham's Jail most notable prisoners


 Woking Prison

The Woking Invalid Convict Prison - the first of its kind in the country - was begun in 1858 on almost 65 acres of land between Knaphill and St Johns. In 1867 work started on a second prison on the site - for female prisoners. It was while this was being built that the male prison housed two Irish Fenians - Brian Dillon and John Lynch - Lynch actually dying here in 1869.

John Lynch was a widower and publican who lodged in Cork City and became involved with the Cork City Fenians. He was convicted on the word of an informer, John Warner, who stated that Lynch was a colonel in the Fenian organisation in Cork. Lynch was convicted of treason and felony by Judge Keogh in December 1865. Overall the evidence used to convict Lynch was rather weak for the sentence of 10 years penal servitude.

Lynch was sent first to Pentonville Prison. Later in December 1865, due to a chest infection, he was moved to the hospital in Woking Prison. Other inmates at Woking included Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, Captain Richard O'Sullivan Burke (retired from the US army), Captain Timothy Deasy (of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry Volunteers), Brian Dillon (a law clerk from Cork), and Charles Kickham (author of the popular novel Knocknagow).  


Lewes Prison, East Sussex, England

Lewes Prison was built in 1853. Amongst the first prisoners housed there were three hundred Finnish Grenadiers captured while defending Bomarsund Fortress on the Åland Islands during the Crimean War.

Another early prisoner was George Witton, a Lieutenant in the Bushveldt Carbineers in the Boer War in South Africa. He was imprisoned for murder after the shooting of Boer prisoners.

Witton and two other soldiers Morant, and Handcock were scapegoats, made to take the blame for widespread British war crimes against the Boers. The trial and executions of Morant and Handcock were carried out for political reasons, to cover up a controversial and secret "no prisoners" policy promulgated by Lord Kitchener, and to appease the Boer government over the killing of Boer prisoners.   Witton, an Australian escaped execution.

In the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin as many as 120 IRA prisoners were held there. Some of the better known amongst these prisoners were Thomas Ashe, Diarmuid Lynch, Frank Lawless, Harry Boland, Eamon de Valera and Pıaras Béaslaí .

                                                                                                                                                    

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   Latest posting   08/22/2015