Thomas Bellew McManus  (1811 - 1861)

Terence Bellew McManus was born in Tempo, Co, Fermanagh, Ireland circa 1811 into a middle class family. He received his early education in Tempo where he met and became a lifelong friend to Charles Gavin Duffy. In his memoirs "Early life in Monaghan" Duffy wrote:,

"Terence who at that time was serving his apprenticeship to a woolen draper was a good-looking, strapping young fellow, full of life and gaiety; and as his people were under-stood to be a junior branch of the Bellews of Barmeath, he stood apart from his class-even his master at times designated him "the sprig of aristocracy." Our Sunday afternoons (his only free time) were spent in long rambles, occupied chiefly with speculations and visions of what might be accomplished to reinstate our dethroned people in their rightful position. We did not know much of history, but we got what in recent times would be called "object lessons," to keep it alive in our memory".

In 1836 McManus  moved to Dublin where he found employment in one of the large department type shops being established in Dublin at that time. Some time later he emigrated to Liverpool where he found work as a shipping agent.  During his early years in Liverpool he devoted much of his time and energy to his business. Although he became wealthy and a successful businessman he did not forget the sorry state of his homeland nor the desires of his youth to help set it free from the usurpers shackles. He was active in the large Irish community in Liverpool and attended numerous nationalist events in Ireland in 1843 as a representative of the Liverpool Irish.  He also became a member of the Repeal Movement in 1843. When the Irish Confederation (a  breakaway from the Repeal Movement) was established in 1847 by the Young Ireland movement, McManus established  the 82 Club, one of many Confederation clubs set up in Liverpool..

As the manmade famine of the 1840's, blamed on the potato blight by the British, worsened and Repeal of the Union was a fading dream, members of the Irish Confederation set about preparing for an armed revolt. As with many other attempts to achieve Irish freedom the leaders of the planned uprising were betrayal by John Donnellan Balfe at onetime colleague and editor of the weekly newspaper 'Saturday Mercury'. His betrayal resulted  in the arrest of many of the leaders including John Mitchel and Charles Gavin Duffy. Notwithstanding, the fatal setback William Smith O’Brien and other who escaped the dragnet proceeded with plans to stage the uprising.

In the meantime, McManus had returned from Liverpool with a contingent of men to participate in the planned uprising.  He joined  William Smith O'Brien and John Blake Dillon  in Co. Tipperary  who were enroute with a contingent of men to join  the main fighting force gathering at Slievenamon.  On Saturday, July 30,  they encountered a force of constabulary at Ballingarry. The unintended encounter doomed any chance they had of reaching Slievenamon and consequently and chance of launching a successful uprising. With British reinforcements on the way they retreated to the hills to plan their escape. McManus made his way to Cork and was aboard a U.S. vessel where was arrested.

 By all accounts McManus fought  with 'conspicuous bravery and determination" at Ballingarry.

On  October 10, 1848,  McManus  was brought to trial for high treason in Clonmel.  He was found guilty as was Thomas Francis Meagher and Patrick O'Donoghue. Two weeks later they stood side by side in the dock to receive their death sentences  recorded as follows;  "to be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution on the 13th, Nov, and there hanged until he be dead, his head then to be cut off and his body to be cut into four quarters then disposed of as her Majesty shall think fit. Respited until further order on 28th October, 1848".

 The following is an extract from McManus speech from the dock;

 "I say, whatever part I may have taken in the straggle for my country's independence, whatever part I may have acted in my short career, I stand before you, my lords, with a free heart and a light conscience, to abide the issue of your sentence. And now, my lords, this is, perhaps, the fittest time to put a sentence upon record, which is this—that standing in this dock, and called to ascend the scaffold—it may be to-morrow—it may be now—it may be never—whatever the result may be, I wish to put this on record, that in the part I have taken I was not actuated by enmity towards Englishmen—for among them I have passed some of the happiest days of my life, and the most prosperous; and in no part which I have taken was I actuated by enmity towards Englishmen individually, whatever I may have felt of the injustice of English rule in this island; I therefore say, that it is not because I loved England less, but because I loved Ireland more, that I now stand before you."

Succumbing to worldwide condemnation, the British commuted the death sentences passed on McManus and his comrades to penal servitude for life.  On July 5, 1849, together with William Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher and Patrick O'Donoghue, McManus was placed aboard HMS 'Swift" for transportation to  the penal colonies in  Van Deimen's Land (now Tasmania) off south Australia to serve out their life sentences.

After arriving in Van Diemen's Land the four comrades were separated and sent to different districts and disallowed from making any contact with each other without  official approval.. McManus was sent to Launceston and later transferred to  New Norfolk. After McManus's "ticket of leave" was revoked for a clandestine  meeting  with O'Donoghue he considered himself free to escape and did so on February 21, 1851. He arrived in California on June 5, 1851 to an enthusiastic welcome from the Irish community. In a letter to William Gavin Duffy he described his journey to freedom as ‘little short of what you can imagine of hell’s flames’,  

After settling in California he resumed his work in the shipping business that worked so well for him in Liverpool. He had problems adopting to the American way of doing business and his attempts to recreate the success he enjoyed in Liverpool eluded him. He died penniless on January 15, 1861, at age 50. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in San Francisco. His body was later disinterred by the Fenians for reburial  in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

After a nine month odyssey, during which time his casket was first brought to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York for a Requiem Mass before continuing the journey to Ireland, where hundreds of thousands met the casket in Cork.  On the way from Cork to his final resting place in Glasnevin his body was carried  past numerous hanging sites of previous Irish martyrs . The conservative Catholic hierarchy denied him a Dublin cathedral service because he dared oppose the British occupation of Ireland and their treatment of the Irish people. The candle lit procession from Mechanics Hall were his body  lay in state to Glasnevin Cemetery was one of the largest funerals ever held in Ireland.

Contributed by;  Tomás Ó Coısdealha


Name:        Glasnevin Cemetery                                      PHONE NO.      011 353 1 830-1133

ADDRESS:   Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 11, Ireland


click on headstone to view inscription

Back to Biographies                                                                                                                                                                   Posted 10/09/09