The life of my early manhood is full of my acquaintance with John O’Donovan, the great Irish scholar; and when now—forty years after that acquaintance—I am writing my “recollections,” it would not be right to pass the old times by, and pass the old friends by, without saying a word about them. I will, therefore, devote this chapter to the letters of John O’Donovan that are here before me. When writing to me he used to touch upon all subjects: Genealogy, politics, public men, history, seanachus, sinsearacht, his family, his friends and his children. His son Edmond, whom I knew when he was a child, and who, when grown into manhood, became active and prominent in the Fenian movement, and active and prominent as a war correspondent in Asia and Africa, for the London journals—killed in the Soudan, or some other expedition—will be recognized in these letters of his father that I am going to show you. I will also show you, at the end of the chapter, three letters of Edmond’s own.
The old Dublin Penny Journal of my boyhood days was a very interesting journal to read. In it were papers on Irish genealogy, written by John O’Donovan. I was interested in the genealogy of my own name, and in the nickname of “Rossa” attached to it; because it it was only in whispers, my father and the families of his five uncles who lived in the town, would speak that nickname—though all the neighbors around called them “Muintir-a-Rossa.” The secret of the privacy was this: The nickname came to the family from their having owned the lands around Rossmore some generations before that, and from their having been deprived of those lands because they would not change their religion and go to church. The Hungerfords and the Townsends and the Bernards and the other “people of Quality” around, were in possession of those lands now; my people were defeated in the battle for their rights; they were allowed, here and there, by the Cromwellians, to live as tenants on their own lands, but if they stuck to the name “Rossa,” which the people gave them, it would imply that they held fast to the desire “to have their own again,”—and that was a desire they did not want to make manifest.
Reading John O’Donovan’s papers in the Penny Journal, I took it in my head to write to him. I have not a copy of the letter I wrote, but the nature of it may be judged by this letter of reply that I received from him:
Dublin, No. 36 Upper Buckingham St.
December 24th, 1854.
Dear Sir—It amused me very much to learn that you have taken me for a Protestant! I have not the honor of having had one Protestant ancestor, from 1817 to 493, when St. Patrick cursed our ancestor Lonan, in the plain of Hy-Figenti. We have all remained unworthy members of the Church of Rome ever since! (The Protestant wives all turned to mass.) But I am sorry to think, and to be obliged to confess that we have not been a pious, wise or prudent race, and I am convinced that we are doomed to extinction.
Many curses hang over us! (if curses have aught of force in modern times). Saint Patrick cursed Lonan in 493; the holy Columb MacKerrigan, Bishop of Cork, cursed our progenitor Donovan (from whom we all descend), and our names Donovanides, in the year 976, in the most solemn manner that any human being ever was cursed or denounced; and, so late as 1654, a good and pious Protestant woman’s family (the children of Dorothy Ford), cursed Daniel O’Donovan of Castle Donovan, and caused a “braon-sinshir,” or corroding drop, to trickle from a stone arch in Castle Donovan, which will never cease to flow till the last of the race of the said Daniel O’Donovan is extinct. It appears, from the depositions in Trinity College, Dublin, that the said Daniel O’Donovan and Teige-a-Duna McCarthy hanged the said Dorothy Ford at Castle Donovan, to deprive her and her family of debts lawfully due unto them.
You and I escape this last curse, but we reel under that pronounced by the Holy Columb (if indeed, its rage is not spent). God’s curse extends to the fifth generation, but I believe man’s goes further. But in addition to these ancient maledictions, I, and my unfortunate sept of Ida in Ossory labor under two other denunciations which hang over us like two incubi!
I return you my warmest and best thanks for your kind invitation to Skibbereen, and hope to make a tour thither next autumn, but I will not be very troublesome to you, as my stay will not be long.
Wishing you many happy returns of this holy season, I remain yours truly,
To Mr. Jeremiah O’Donovan-Rossa.
I have about thirty or forty of those letters of John O’Donovan, written from the year 1854 to the year of his death, 1862. They are very interesting to me and to men like me. They may never see the light of day if I pass them by now. But, I cannot publish the whole of them; I will run through them and show you the ones that I consider interesting, as throwing some light on the character, the thoughts, the opinions, and the genial family surroundings of the greatest Irish scholar of this century. His next letter is this:
Dublin, Dec. 31st, 1854.
Dear Sir—The old name of Castle Salem was Kilbritton. This castle was the chief residence of McCarthy-Reagh, by whom it was erected. The O’Donovans had nothing to do with this castle, notwithstanding the authority of the ignorant historian Dr. Smith!
The Professor Donovan, who wrote the article on coffee in 1834, is my friend Michael Donovan, of No. 11 Clare street, Dublin, who is a very distinguished chemist and member of our Royal Irish Academy, where he frequently reads papers on the most scientific subjects. He wrote several works which were published in Lardner’s Cyclopedia, on galvanism, chemistry, domestic economy, etc. He has made a discovery in chemical science which he has as yet failed to establish; that is, the process of turning water into gas. He was given up the Gas-house at Dover to test this discovery; the house got burned, for which he had to stand his trial; but he succeeded in proving that the house was burned by the workmen, who were prejudiced against him. His father was born at Kilmacow, near the River Suir, in the county of Kilkenny, within sight of where I was born. I was born in 1809 in the parish of Atateemore, in the barony of Ida, and county of Kilkenny. But we are not in any way related. His grandfather turned Protestant about the year 1750, since which period his family have been the wealthiest Donovans in Ireland, except perhaps, those of Ballymore, County Wexford.
You may rely on it that “Felicitas Columba” knows nothing of the O’Donovans-Rossa except what I have published in the appendix to “The Annals of the Four Masters.” I have no sympathy with falsehood in any shape or form, and a lie (white, black or red,) coming from a minister of any religion, (which I am told “Felicitas” is), is doubly hideous. We have truths in vast abundance, and the discovery of them in history and science is a praiseworthy result of patient investigation; but no false assertion should be ventured upon. Truth will ultimately triumph over falsehood, and those who have attempted to sustain false assertions, are contemptible in the estimation of the honorable, and the lovers of true truth. Believe me to be yours sincerely,
I here pass by some letters on genealogy, which may be considered interesting only to myself and to my family name and connections, and come on to this one:
Dublin, 29th May, 1856.
Dear Sir—Please read the enclosed American letter and return to me. It is rather to show the spirit of the Irish mind in America. I would do anything in my power to encourage nationality, because we are becoming extinct very rapidly.
I have it in contemplation to try and notice the three branches of our sept in the “Danish wars” to be published by Dr. Todd. I have furnished him with very many notes on other subjects and families, and I feel satisfied that he will insert what I intend to furnish him on the three septs of our family, namely, Clan-Cahill, MacEnesles and Clan-Loughlin. Of the first, Morgan O’Donovan, of Montpelier, Douglas, Cork, is decidedly the head and chief representative; of the second, either you or some one of your relatives; and of the third, my old friend Alexander O’Donovan, of Kilrush (if he be alive), or his next of kin.
I am of a senior branch of the Clan-Cahill, and, as we always believed, descended from the eldest son, Donell O’Donovan, who died in 1638; but we lost our birthright by the crime of our ancestors, by the just decree of the laws of God and man, and we ought to be thankful for not having become extinct; for we are widely spread throughout Leinster and America, and we are likely to last to the end of time. Behold us all in the following table:
1. Donal O’Donovan, married to Joanna McCarthy, of Castle Donovan, who died A. D., 1638.
2. Edmond, married to Catharine de Burgo, killed 1643.
3. Conor, married to Rose Kavanagh.
4. William, married to Mary Oberlin, a Puritan, died 1749.
5. Edmond, married to Mary Archdeacon, died 1798.
6. Edmond, married to Ellen Oberlin, died 1817.
7. John O’D. L.L. D., married to Mary Anne Broughton of Cromwellian descent.
8. Edmond, born 1840, died 1842; John, living, born 1842; Edmond, living, born 1844; William, living, born 1846; Richard, living, born 1848; Henry, dead, 1850; Henry, born 1852, living; Daniel, living, 1856.
Eight sons, without any daughter intervening, is a sort of effort of nature to preserve the name.
I can hardly believe that Mr. John D’Alton will live long enough to bring out another edition of his book, because he is very old and feeble. I shall, however, write him a note on the subject of your branch of our sept Hy-Donovane, which I hope he will be tempted to print (if he prints at all), because one of them—Captain Donell Boy MacEnesles O’Donovan was very distinguished, and was restored to property under the Act of Settlement and Explanation. If he does not print it, I shall be on the lookout for some other national work in which to insert it. In the meantime, I hope you will now and again, write to me, and believe me to be your affectionate clansman,
Next comes this letter:
Dublin, June 12, 1856.
Dear Sir—I have just received your letter dated 9th inst., enclosing note from my neighbor John D’Alton, which I can hardly read, the handwriting is so unearthly. I did not pass through Skibbereen at the time you mention. So that you might have looked for me, but I fear you would have learned that I was in the North, among the Presbyterians. I am very glad that you have satisfied yourself that you are of the MacEnesles O’Donovans, (MacAneeis is the local name), because I had written in my published pedigree of the O’Donovans, before I ever had the honor of receiving any communication from you on the subject, the following sentence:
“The editor has not been able to identify any living member of this sept,” (of MacEnesles).
Aneslis, who was the second son of Crom O’Donovan, 1254, had four sons, Donogh More, Rickard, Walter and Randal, who became the founders of four distinct septs, who all bore the generic tribe-name of Clann Enesles, or MacAneeis, and whose territories are mentioned in various inquisitions, etc. The townland of Gortnascreena, containing three plough-lands (in the parish of Drimoleague), belonged in the year 1607 to the Sliocht Randal O’Donovan. In the same year the sept of MacEnesles possessed the townlands of Barnahulla, (now Butler’s gift), and also the lands of Meeny and Derryclough Lower, in the parish of Drinagh.
On the 20th of August, 1632, Dermot MacTeige MacEnesles O’Donovan was possessed of the lands of Lisnabreeny, west of the parish of Glenawilling, or Kilmeen, and I take this Dermot to be your ancestor.
If you descend from Dermot MacTeige MacEnesles, who lived at Lisnabreeny in 1632, and may have lived down to 1688, you do not want many generations in your line, with your present knowledge.
I will do all I can to fill up this chasm. You come of an older sept than Rickard O’Donovan, the clerk of the Crown. Yours ever sincerely,
In reply to that letter, I wrote the following one to John O’Donovan, a copy of which I find among my old Irish papers:
Skibbereen, June 14, 1856.
Dear Sir—I have received your welcome letter and am convinced beyond a doubt that I am descended from Dermot MacEnesles, who, as you say lived at Lisnabreeny in the year 1632. I made mention to you in one of my former letters, of a great-grandaunt’s daughter of mine, Nance Long, (that time living), who was a bit of a genealogist, and I am sorry that she forfeited my good opinion of her veracity, by telling me that her grandfather Teige a Rossa was a grandson of Teige MacAneeis, who lived in Glean-a-Mhuilin; and, as I thought there was no MacAneeis, but the first named, I believed her as much as I would believe a man of the present day who would tell me he was a grandson of Brian Boru. She also said it was her grandfather who first came from Kilmeen to the neighborhood of Ross Carbery, where her uncle Denis (my great-grandfather) married Sheela Ni Islean, or Julia O’Donovan-Island. She used to speak much on the downfall supposed to be brought upon the Rossa family on account of such an alliance. To use her own words, her “grandfather was deprived of all his land by the Cromwells; and the Donovan Islands, having come by riches some way, were glad to catch any of the family.”
If you had any truthful correspondent about Ross, when editing your “Annals of the Four Masters,” he would or should have told you of my Clan-Donovan, my grandfather and five brothers of his (all with families), were then living at Milleenroe and Carrigagrianane. The names of these six brothers, Anglianized were: Jer, Denis, Conn, Dan, Flor and John. I was surprised they did not perpetuate the name of Teige, and on making inquiries to that effect, I learned that they had an uncle of the name who was a poet, was considered eccentric, and was known by the cognomen of Teige-na Veirsee; and they feared the eccentricity may follow the name. But the present generation (mostly now in America), have adopted it again.
As you have helped me, down as far as Dermot, son of the above Teige MacEnesles, I will give you the descent from him, and if it agrees with the intervening time, there can be no reason to doubt its correctness.
My father, Denis, was born about the year 1790, married in 1818, and died in 1847. He was son of Jer, son of Denis, son of Teige. The old woman’s grandfather and his grandfather, being Teige MacEnesles, or Teige MacAneeis, he must have been the son of the Dermot MacTeige MacEnesles mentioned in your letter. Yours, ever obliged,
That letter brought this reply:
Dublin, June 23, 1856.
Dear Sir—I have received yours of the 14th inst., and was glad to learn that there is a representative of the second branch of the O’Donovans, namely of MacEnesles, locally shortened to MacEneeis. I will prepare any note you like on this sept, and your descent therefrom for Mr. Alton’s second edition of his thick book on King James II.’s Army list, but I suppose he will want you to pay for giving it insertion.
Mr. Windele, of Cork, tells a story about the O’Connells of Bally Carbery, in Kerry, which affords a fair specimen of the kind of family history given by “Felicitas Columba” and other writers like him.
On one occasion, McCarthy More sent to the Castle of Bally Carbery for tribute, but the lord of the castle took the messenger and hanged him. Now who was O’Connell of Bally Carbery? He was McCarthy More’s constable, holding three acres of land, and the wardship of the castle.
This description of history is truly disgraceful, in any country whose history is known. The Red Indians, who have no documents, may enjoy any stories of this kind that are consistent with their traditions; but the Irish have records which leave no room for fictions like that given by Windele.
I met a young friend of yours in the college the other day, whose name is O’Mahony. He is a Protestant, but a very intelligent, nice young fellow.
That O’Mahony was Thaddeus, the brother of James O’Mahony of Bandon, of whom I spoke in a previous chapter. In a subsequent letter my correspondent says:
“Your friend O’Mahony has been recently married, and I am told that he gives out that he was once a priest.”
I don’t think he was ever a priest, but I think he had an uncle a priest. His mother’s name was Kearney; she lived and died a Catholic, and I think she had a brother, a Father Kearney, who was stationed one time, somewhere near Bandon. Yes, Thaddeus O’Mahony of Trinity College, married a Protestant, became a Protestant minister, and died—I don’t know what.
Writing July 3, 1856, John O’Donovan says: “What puzzles me most is, why the epithet, or appellative of Rossa clings to your sept. The O’Donovans of Rossmore are mentioned in an inquisition taken at Cork on the 3d of April, 1639, when Thaddeus MacDonogh O’Donovan was ten years dead, leaving a son, Teige O’Donovan, his son and heir, who was of age when his father died.
“Where is Rossmore situated, and what reason have you for believing that your appellative of Rossa is not derived from that place.”
I told John O’Donovan that that was the place from which the appellative of Rossa was derived. That the family lived there; that the family tradition was, that they were driven out of it by fines, inquisitions and confiscations—fines for not attending service in the Protestant churches—inquisitions into titles to property, when they had no titles but what belonged to them as being Irish, and owners of the soil upon which they and their fathers were born; and consequent confiscation of their lands, for not paying the fines, and for not being able to show an English title to their property. That is how nearly all the lands of all the old Irish families were confiscated into the possession of the descendants of the Englishmen who hold them to-day. The more modern and more distinguishing appellative of Rossa—from Rossmore—followed my family when they were driven from Rossmore, and the Clan-name of MacAneeis (MacAeneas) was dropped from the tongues of the people.
Rossmore is the same place as Kilmeen, and Lisnabreeny, and Glean-a-Mhuilin are neighboring townlands in the parish of Rossmore or Kilmeen.
This is the next letter:
August 26th, 1857.
Dear Sir—When I arrived here yesterday, the servant girl told me that a young Mr. O’Donovan had called early in the morning. I thought it might be Mr. John O’Donovan of Enniscorthy, but I have since seen him and he told me it was not he. I thought it might be Henry Donovan the mathematician, but I find it was not. After making several inquiries among my Donovan friends, I have come to the conclusion that it must be you. The girl describes the gentleman who called, as about twenty-three years old; brown-haired, tall, and thin in the face. He had with him, she says, a countryman from Clare or Kerry.
I waited within in the evening till 8 o’clock yesterday.
I am going to the Arran Islands in the Bay of Galway on the 3d of September, with the British Association, and on my return I am thinking of going to the South to see my O’Donovan friends.
I make my first appearance at 11 o’clock to-morrow, before the Savans of Europe, on “The characteristics of the Old Irish Race”. I feel rather nervous, but I hope I won’t fail altogether.
Should you come to Dublin soon again, please to let me know where a note could find you, and how long you will remain, for then I will be able to go for you, or send a messenger.
I stay within this evening till 8 o’clock, expecting you might call; but I must go out then, as a member of the British Association.
The English war of the Indian Mutiny was going on in the year 1857. England was blowing the Sepoys from the cannon’s mouth; and whenever England won a battle there were days of fasting and prayer declared in England—and Ireland, too—to give thanks to God. Of course, it was taken for granted that God was at the side of England—for England had the heavy cannon, and the giant powder, and the mitrelleuse artillery.
I suppose I, in writing to John O’Donovan, told him that I fasted fiercely, and prayed hard one of those days, as I find he makes allusion to the matter in this letter:
Dublin, October 9th, 1857.
Dear Sir—I was much amused by your description of the braon-sinshir which is likely to extinguish us all. Deborah Ford was hanged about Shrovetide, 1641, by O’Donovan (Daniel, son of Donell, son of Donell-na-g Croicean,) and Teige-a-duna McCarthy of Dunmanway. If the drops had ceased on the death of the late General O’Donovan of Bawnlahan, in 1829, the tradition would have been oracular; but the drops are likely to continue to fall as long as the grouted arch retains its solidity. Drops of this kind are shown in various parts of Ireland. A drop like these fell on the tomb of O’Fogarty at Holy Cross Abbey, but ceased when the last of the race was hanged at Clonmel for Whiteboyism! Another braon aillse continued to fall on the tomb of the White knights at Kilmallock, till the last of the direct descendants of these knights died without issue.
What the drops of Castle Donovan may do it is hard to divine. I do not believe that the Clan-Donovan are a long-lived or a prudent race. They are all fond of their drop, and I believe that they are likely to become extinct in Ireland, or to be removed westward to the new world by the steady encroachment of the Saxon race.
The drops will surely outlive the present Montpelier family, but they have nothing to say to the murder of Deborah Ford. They should have ceased at the extinction of the head of the Bawnlahan family in 1829. But this family is not yet extinct, and the deadly drops hang over them like fatal swords.
There were O’Donovans at Crookhaven, whose pedigree is preserved. Is Timothy O’Donovan of Arhahill still living? Is Richard Donovan of Lisheens House at Ballincolla still living?
I was glad to hear that you fasted and prayed on Wednesday last. In the last century, the Milesian Irish showed a great disinclination to pray for the success of the arms of England. Timothy O’Sullivan wrote about 1800, on the proclamation of George III.
Go sintear mo phiob-sa le ramharcorda, choi’che ma ghiodhfiod air maithe leosan—
“May my windpipe be stretched by a very stout cord,
If e’er for their welfare, I pray to the Lord.”
But we are getting more and more English and loyal every century. Timothy O’Donovan of the Cove, is one of the highest Tories you have in Cork County—though a great Papist; and so is his relative Rickard Donovan, clerk of the Crown.
The O’Donovan writes to me—October 8th, 1857. “We have just now an abatement of an awful storm and deluge of rain, such as rarely occurs. I trust it may not have damaged those two noble ships, Austrian and Great Britain, that left this port on Monday and Tuesday for India, with 2,000 soldiers.”
Yours as ever,
Irish tories are those Irishmen who side with the government of Ireland by England. The O’Donovan of Montpelier was a tory and a Protestant; Timothy O’Donovan of O’Donovan’s Cove, was a tory and a Papist. Those two held landlord possession of lands that belonged equally to their clansmen; England protected them in that landlord possession of the robbery from their own people, and that is why and how those Irish landlords all over Ireland back England in maintaining a foreign government in their native land.
And here, I may as well pause to let my readers see some old historical records that will corroborate what I, in a previous chapter, said about my people being deprived of their lands because they would not turn Protestant; not alone my people, but all the people of the old blood of Ireland from Cork and Kerry to Donegal and Antrim.
The Skibbereen Eagle of February 19, 1898, reprinting a historical paper about my native diocese, from the Lamp, says:
Though the diocese of Ross was small, it was not too small to tempt the rapacity and greed of the Reformation leaders. A certain William Lyons, who was an apostate from the beginning, was appointed Protestant Bishop of Ross in 1582. He met with a characteristic reception from the brave and zealous priests and people of Ross. All the plate, ornaments, vestments and bells connected with the cathedral and monastery, as well as a chime of bells in solid silver, valued at £7,000, were secreted in the strand at Ross Bay. And so well was the secret kept, that though the priest and friars were tortured and hanged—in the hope that love of life would tempt them to disclose the hiding place, the treasure remained undiscovered to this date.
The people were not behind hand in their opposition. Determined that the residence that had been consecrated by so many saints and patriots should not be contaminated by the presence of an apostate, they set fire to the old Episcopal mansion, so that the intruder to the See of Ross had to report to the Commissioners, in 1615, that on his arrival he found no residence, “but only a place to build one on.” Lyons, however, was not to be denied a place whereon to lay his head. He built himself a house at the cost of £300, a large sum for those days, “but in three years it was burned by the rebel, O’Donovan.” The Protestant Bishop, for want of something better to do, turned planter; for we have a record that he was commissioned “to find out ways and means to people Munster with English inhabitants.”
Elizabeth at this time was Queen of England, and in the first year of her reign were passed these laws:
First year of Elizabeth, Chapter 2, Section 8. And all and every person or persons inhabitating within this realm shall diligently and faithfully resort to their Parish church or chapel, or to some usual place where Common Prayer and other Service of God is used or ministered, upon pain that every person so offending shall forfeit for every such offence twelve pence, to be levied by the church wardens of the parish, by way of distress on the goods, lands and tenements of such offender.
Statute 23 of Elizabeth, Chapter 2, says:
“And be it likewise enacted, that every person who shall say or sing mass, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall forfeit the sum of two hundred marks, and be committed to prison in the next jail, there to remain by the space of one year, and from thenceforth till he have paid the said sum of two hundred marks. And that every person who shall willingly hear mass, shall forfeit the sum of one thousand marks, and suffer imprisonment for a year.
“Be it also further enacted that every person above the age of fourteen years who shall not repair to some church, chapel or usual place of Common prayer, but forbear the same, contrary to the tenor of a statute made in the first year of Her Majesty’s reign, for uniformity of Common prayer, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall forfeit to the Queen’s majesty for every month which he or she shall so forbear, twenty pounds of lawful English money.”
The 29th statute of Elizabeth, Chapter 6, Section 4, says:
“And be it also enacted that every such offender in not repairing to Divine Service, who shall fortune to be thereof once convicted, shall pay into the said receipt of the exchequer, after the rate of twenty pounds for every month. And if default shall be made in any part of any payment aforesaid, that then, and so often, the Queen’s Majesty shall and may by process out of the said exchequer, take, seize and enjoy all the goods, and two parts as well of all the lands, tenements and hereditaments, leases and farms of such offender, as of all other lands, tenements and hereditaments liable to such seizure, leaving the third part only of the same lands, tenements and hereditaments, leases and farms to and for the maintenance and relief of the same offender, his wife, children and family.”
Elizabeth dies in the year 1603 and James I. comes to the throne. He makes all haste to confirm all that Elizabeth had done to plunder and persecute Irish Catholics, and gets his Parliament to pass these acts:
Statute 1, James, Chapter 4:
“And be it further enacted by authority of this present parliament, that where any seizure shall be had of the two parts of any lands, tenements, hereditaments, leases or farms, for the non-payment of the twenty pounds due, and payable for each month, according to the statute in that case made and provided; that in every such case, every such two parts shall, according to the extent thereof, go toward the satisfaction and payment of the twenty pounds due and payable for each month, and unpaid by any such recusant.”
Statute 3 of James, Chapter 4, says:
“Inasmuch as it is found by daily experience, that many of His Majesty’s subjects that adhere in their hearts to the Popish religion, by the infection drawn from thence, and by the wicked and devilish counsel of Jesuits, Seminaries, and other like persons dangerous to the Church and State, and so far perverted in the point of their loyalties, and due allegiance unto the King’s Majesty, and the Crown of England, and do the better to cover and hide their false hearts, repair sometimes to church, to escape the penalty of the laws in behalf provided.
“Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commoners in this present parliament assembled: That every Popish recusant, convicted, or hereafter to be convicted, which heretofore hath conformed him or herself, and who shall not repair to church and receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, he or she shall, for such not receiving, lose and forfeit for the first year, twenty pounds a month; for the second year for such not receiving, forty pounds a month, until he or she shall have received the said sacrament as is aforesaid.
“And if after he or she shall have received the said sacrament as is aforesaid, and after that, shall eftsoons at any time offend in not receiving the said sacrament as is aforesaid by the space of one whole year; that in every such case the person so offending shall for every such offence lose and forfeit three-score pounds of lawful English money.”
Then, to meet the cases of estated and wealthy Catholics who would rather pay the fines and forfeits of twenty, forty and sixty pounds, than attend the Protestant churches, an act was passed to deprive them of two-thirds of their lands, tenements, leases and farms. Here are the words of that act:
“Now, forasmuch as the said penalty of twenty pounds monthly is a greater burden unto men of small living, than unto such as are of better ability, and do refuse to come unto Divine Service as aforesaid, who, rather than they will have two parts of their lands to be seized, will be ready always to pay the said twenty pounds, and yet retain in their own hands the residue of their livings and inheritance—being of great yearly value, which they do for the most part employ to the maintenance and superstition of the Popish religion. Therefore, to the intent that hereafter the penalty for not repairing to Divine service might be inflicted in better proportion upon men of great ability: Be it enacted that the King’s Majesty, his heirs and successors, shall have full power and liberty to refuse the penalty of twenty pounds a month, and thereupon to seize and take to his own use two parts in three of all the lands, tenements, hereditaments, leases and farms, and the same to remain to his own and other uses, interest and purposes hereafter in this act provided, in lieu and in full recompense of the twenty pounds monthly.”
I heard at my father’s fireside, before I was able to read a book, about those laws which I am now copying from an old law book of the seventeenth century. All my readers are victims of these laws. Father Campbell and Father Brown, the priests of my parish to-day, are victims of them. They, and the many other good priests who are tenants on the estate of the United Irishmen newspaper, ought not to blame me much, if I was ever during my life, ready and willing to join any society of Irishmen that were aiming at destroying English rule, and English government in Ireland.
I am not done with John O’Donovan’s letters. I regard them as historical—historical, after we are all dead; so I let you see some more of them.
Dublin, October 24, 1858.
My dear Friend—My second son, Edmond, desires me to send to you his first attempt at painting the armorial bearings of the O’Donovans. He drew them very well in pencil, but he spoiled his drawing in laying on the colors, at which he is not yet sufficiently expert. He has been about a year at drawing under the tuition of Mr. Bradford of the Jesuits’ Seminary, No. 6 Great Denmark street, but I have determined upon withdrawing him from this amusement, as he was spending all his time at drawing cats and dogs, and neglecting his more important duties. He has been put into Homer and Euclid this quarter, which will occupy all his time.
A young friend of mine, William John O’Donovan of the Middle Temple, London, has been making researches in London about O’Donovans, and has found some particulars about the sept of Kilmeen, or Mac Enesles, which escaped me. I will write to him on the subject when I hear of his arriving in London. He is a very young man of some fortune, and a most enthusiastic herald and genealogist.
Since I wrote to you last, I lost my only brother, and am now the last of my generation. He left one grandson of the ominous name of Kerrigan (which was the name of the old bishop of Cork who left a curse on our race for their having murdered Mahon King of Munster, the brother of Brian Boru). My brother’s daughter, Adelia ni Donovan was married to Thomas Frederick Kerrigan, the only son of an old merchant of New York. She had no money, of course, and the old man turned his son out of doors for this imprudent marriage. Then the son went to California, where he went through a variety of adventures. At length the father died, and the hero of California has returned to his wife and child, and taken his father’s place in New York.
I enclose you his note to me, from which I infer that he believed I had known all about my brother’s death; but I had not known a word about it except in a dream, from which I would venture to calculate the minute at which he died.
The enclosed extract from a note from the Reverend Mr. Hayman, Protestant minister of Youghal, reminded me of you, and I send it, hoping that you will be able to tell me something about the Nagles mentioned by him. I remain, dear sir, yours ever sincerely,
Dublin, 36 Upper Buckingham Street,
October 25, 1858.
Diarmuid O’Donnobhain (Mac Enesles, Rosa-Mhoir.)
My dear Friend—The O’Donovan and I are good friends? He seems to me to be a kind and good man, and really an Irishman of some spirit. I gave the young gentleman of the Inner Temple, London, a letter of introduction to him last August, and he spent about ten days with him at Montpelier, while he was examining the registry of Cork, for O’Donovan Wills. He told me that The O’Donovan treated him with great urbanity, hospitality and kindness. This young gentleman is of the Wexford Sept of the Hy-Figenti; is about twenty-six years old, six feet two inches tall; a Protestant, (but he is likely to be fished up by the Pope some day or another, like the Ramm of Gorey!) Next year, during the vacation, he promises to examine the Herbert documents for me. Herbert had given me permission to examine his papers several years since, but I have not been able to take time to go to Killarney. This young gentleman has been in receipt of £350 per annum in right of his mother, who died when he was eighteen months old. His father, who is about sixty-seven years old, married a young wife a year or two since, but he will leave this young Mr. John O’Donovan £400 a year in addition to what he has already. He is the cousin-german of the Captain E. O’Donovan, who took the Russian battery at Alma, and of Henry O’Donovan who was shot through the head at the taking of the Little Redan at Sebastopol.
As I feel convinced that you take a great interest in all true branches of our name, I enclose you a letter from a Daniel Donovan of Queenstown (Cove of Cork) who appears to me to be a very respectable and worthy man, though little known in his neighborhood, except as a baker. Who is he? I firmly believe that the name will become important again, though now sunk low enough as regards landed property.
I forgot to ask you in my last letter what happened to our American friend, your cousin Florence, who expected to be appointed Consul at Cork. Has he written to you since? Has he any desire to return home?
I do not believe that my ancestor Edward comes under the curse of the Braon-Sinshir of Dorothy Ford, for he was killed by a cannon ball, which I think I have, about six years before she was hanged by Daniel O’Donovan and Teige-a-doona McCarthy; but I labor under the curse of the holy Bishop Kerrigan, and so do you, and the whole race; but I believe—hope—it lost its withering force, or that its fulminatory influence was nearly spent after the fifth generation. Curses among the Jews exhausted themselves in the fifth generation. The Irish belief is that the curse returns on the pronouncer if it was not deserved. Our ancestor really deserved the curse pronounced on him.
Let me congratulate you on the subject of your many sons. I am particularly fortunate in that respect, for I have no daughter to run away with any Kerrigan; but, as the Emperor of China said: “Where there are many sons, there are many dangers.” Excuse hurry, late toward midnight, and after a hard day’s work. My sight is failing.
Dublin, Nov. 10, 1858.
My dear Friend—You will oblige me by returning to me the descent of the Rev. Mr. Hayman of Youghal (with any remarks you have to make on the Nagles), at your earliest convenience. I want to try what my grenadier namesake in London can make of it. He is pedigree-mad, if any man ever was so, and would read a whole library for one fact relating to any branch of the O’Donovans.
Write me such a note as I can send him (without making any allusion to Protestants) and I will get him to make any searches you like about the Kilmeen or Glean-a-Mhuilin Sept.
My eldest boy John entered Trinity College, Dublin, on the 5th instant, and was admitted to contend for mathematical honors. He feels himself like a fish out of water among the Tory Protestants, after leaving the Jesuit fathers of Great Denmark street.
It is reported here that a young Ireland war is beginning to be organized in Cork and Kerry, but I do not believe it. You need not make any allusion to this in your notes, because my young friend is an aristocrat, though he hates the Saxons more than I do.
Yours in great haste,
The “Young Ireland War” as he calls it, got me into prison a few weeks after he wrote that letter. He wrote it on the 10th of November, 1858. I was arrested on the 5th of December, and kept in Cork Jail until August, 1859; but that did not make John O’Donovan afraid of writing to me. I wrote to him on some subjects from Cork Jail. He was in England at the time, and I got this letter from his son Edmond, who was then fifteen years old.
Dublin, June 20, 1859.
Mr. O’Donovan Rossa, County Jail, Cork.
Sir—My father and my brother John are at present in Oxford, else you would have long since received an answer to your letter. As you would probably wish to write to him again, I send you his address, which is in care of Dr. Bandenel, Bodleian Library, Oxford. We expect them home about the 24th of July.
I remain your, etc.,
That is the Edmond O’Donovan who became so celebrated as a war correspondent in Asia and Africa, for the London papers, and who was killed in the Soudan in the year 1882. About June the 14th, 1859, his father wrote me this letter:
Dear Sir—I have received your letter of the 5th instant, and was glad to hear that your enthusiasm had not cooled down. I was, since I wrote to you last, away in the beautiful land of the Saxon, where they seem to know as much about us as they do about the Pawnee Loups of North America. I worked in the British Museum, the Tower of London, the State paper office, the Lambeth Library, all in London, and in the Lambeth Library at Oxford. The State papers are full of most curious information relating to Ireland, which will be published some time between this and the day of judgment, for the enlightenment of posterity, but not in our times.
John Collins of Myross, the last Irish poet and antiquary of Carbery was an Irish Senachy without any critical knowledge whatsoever.
The tribe of the O’Donovans which he calls MacAeneas or MacAongus, had never any existence under that appellation, but the O’Donovans of Glenawilling, are frequently mentioned in old Irish pedigrees, under the name of MacEnesles, and in the public records under that of MacEnesles-Mac-I-Crime. This MacEnesles family was the third (second by descent) most important sept of the O’Donovans of Carbery, and the descent of their ancestor Aneslis, or Stanislaus, is given thus by MacFirbis:
1. Donovan, ancestor of the O’Donovans, slain, 977, by Brian Boru.
2. Cathal, fought at Clontarf, 1014.
3. Amhlaff or Auliffe, flourished 1041.
6. Raghnall or Reginald.
8. Crom, slain, 1254, by O’Mahony in Glanachryme near Dunmanway.
9. Cathal, a quo Clancahill, anciently of Castle Donovan in Drimoleague.
Aneslis, a quo MacEnesles of Glenawilling.
Loughlin, a quo the Clan Loughlin of Cloghatradbally.
10. Donogh More, son of Aneslis.
The pedigrees of the Clancahill of Castle-Donovan, and of the Clan Loughlin of Kilmaccabee and Reenogriana are preserved, but that of the sept of Mac Enesles (now locally Mac MacIninish) has been entirely neglected. The last distinguished man of the sept was Captain Daniel Boy O’Donovan of Kilcoleman, who had served his Majesty faithfully beyond the seas, 1641. In 1632, Dermod MacTeige MacEnesles O’Donovan possessed the lands of Lisnabreeny West, in the parish of Kilmeen; but here I lose sight of them altogether! They had no local historian. Aneslis their ancestor had four sons, Donogh More, Rickard, Walter and Randal, who became the founder of four distinct septs generally called in the public records, Slught Eneslis MacIcroyme. Denis na Meeny, so much talked of by John Collins, was one of this sept. Yours ever sincerely,
After I came out of jail, our correspondence continued; I will continue it here by showing you this letter:
Dublin, March 1, 1860.
My dear Friend—I have just received your note, and was glad to see your handwriting. I should be glad to contribute in any way to illustrate the literature of old Ireland, but my hands are more than full just now. I have too many irons in the fire, so that some of them must get burned. My boys are of no help to me, because they have too many studies to attend to, and I do not like to interrupt them. I have the eldest in Trinity College, and three others at the Jesuits’ Grammar School, where they are making considerable progress in classic and science. I have buried the youngest, Morgan Kavanaugh O’C. O’D., who died on the 11th of February, 1860, at the age of one year and forty-nine days, so that I calculate he went off the stage of this world without any stain from ancient or modern sin. I have no reason to be sorry for his departure from this wicked world. But his mother is so sorry after him that she refused to take food for two days, which has brought her to the brink of insanity.
I was glad to learn that Henry O’Donovan, Esq., of Lissard, had an heiress. He may have a house full of children now, of both sexes, as he has broken the ice, notwithstanding the curse of the Coarb of St. Barry. Our ancestor Donobhan, son of Cathal, was certainly a singularly wicked and treacherous man, but it is to be hoped that his characteristics have not been transmitted, and therefore that the curse of the good Coarb of St. Barry has spent its rage long since. But still if you view the question fairly, you will incline with me to believe that the curse still hangs over us:
1. Castle-Donovan was forfeited in 1641, and given away, forever.
2. My ancestor Edmond killed the son of O’Sullivan Beare, and was killed himself in 1643, leaving his descendants landless. Right!
3. The race of Colonel Daniel O’Donovan became extinct in 1829, in the person of General O’Donovan, who left the small remnant of his patrimonial inheritance to Powell, a Welshman. Curse!
4. The present O’Donovan is childless. His brother Henry has one daughter, who, if she be the only heir, will leave the name landless.
These four reasons, adding to them your imprisonment in 1859, convinces me that the curse of the good Coarb still hangs over us all. But I hope we may escape it in the next world!
John O’Mahony (the descendant of the real murderer of Mahon, King of Munster), who was proclaimed here in 1848, is now in America, a greater rebel than ever. His translation of Keating’s history of Ireland is rather well done.
Wishing you every happiness, I remain dear sir, yours ever,
Dublin, March 21, 1860.
My dear Friend—I have promised to write for Sir Bernard Burk’s “Family Vicissitudes” a few articles on fallen Irish families, and I was thinking of giving a note of James O’Donovan of Cooldurragha, whom you told me was in the poorhouse, Skibbereen. You mentioned to me that he had no son. Perhaps you might not think it troublesome to ask himself if he would like this notice of him to appear. If he should like it, you will oblige me by letting me know exactly what he has to say on the “vicissitudes” of his family. I know you have a quick apprehension and a lively imagination, and I will therefore expect from your pen a curious story from the dictation of James O’D. himself, on the vicissitudes of his family. I believe that his descent is pure, and that he is now the senior representative of Donogh, the fourth son of O’Donovan by the daughter of Sir Owen McCarthy-Reagh. This is a high descent for one who is a porter in the poorhouse, and I think his story might be worked up into a narrative that might do justice to the genius of Plutarch.
Your friend Edmond, the painter, has got free access to the records of the Ulster King’s Tower. I am almost afraid to let him indulge his tastes for heraldry; but I am willing to let him go there every second day, on condition that he will not neglect his classical studies. Should you be writing to your cousin Florence, of New York, you will oblige me by asking him to call on my nephew-in-law, Thomas Francis Kerrigan, telling him that I wish them to become acquainted.
This has been a very severe March, but as you have youth, health and enthusiasm on your side, you must have come off more scathless from the effects of it than one who is a regular Mananan Mac Lir—a regular thermometer—from the effects of rheumatism.
Yours, ever sincerely,
As he asked me to see James O’Donovan, I saw him. He was a porter at the entrance gate of the Skibbereen Poorhouse, at a salary of twelve pounds a year.
When he would have a vacation day, he’d come into my house in town. One day I told him what John O’Donovan wanted me to get from him. He did not like to give it; he was afraid it would injure him. Henry O’Donovan brother to “The O’Donovan” was an ex-officio poor law guardian; Powell, the Welshman, who inherited the lands of General O’Donovan was an ex-officio P. L. G., and if he, James, got anything published about who and what he was, they may think he had some design upon ownership of the lands of the O’Donovan clan, which they held because their fathers and their kin turned Protestant, while James’ fathers remained Catholics, and so lost their patrimony; so James did not like to give me the information John O’Donovan wanted, for fear it would—to the loss of his situation—prejudice the landlord guardians against him, most of whom were the possessors of the plundered property of the people.
I told that to John O’Donovan, telling him I did not like to press James to give me his story.
The next of his letters is this:
Dublin, March 24, 1860.
My dear Friend—I have received your letter, and was exceedingly sorry to hear you had lost your wife—a great loss in case of ardent affection on both sides; but you are young and vigorous; and time, the dulce molimen—the soft soother—will finally reduce your grief to “a softer sadness.” Your imprisonment must have weighed heavily upon her spirits.
My nephew-in-law seems to be a sensible man of the world. He seems to be a great Catholic. Of his politics I know nothing, but calculate that they are ultramontane; and I think Finghin Ceannmor and he would agree very well. I have no faith in politics of any kind, nor have I any trust in Whig or Tory. I was glad to learn that poor James was in good health, and not utterly destitute. I hope you will be able to get out of him all the Shanachus that he has in his head about the Clann-Donnabhain. I am sure it would offend him to hear that Donell-na-g Croicean, who died in 1584, was unquestionably a bastard—Teige, his father, was never married. Donell-na-g Croicean “kept” Eileen ni Laoghaire—Ellen O’Leary, but afterward married her. Domhnall, their son, married Juana, daughter of Sir Owen McCarthy.
Daniel, their first son, is the ancestor of General O’Donovan, of Bawnlahan, who died in 1829. Teige, their second son, is the ancestor of Morgan, now O’Donovan. Donogh, the fourth son is the ancestor of James of Cooldurragha.
It is useless to tell him this, because he would not believe it, though it was sworn to by “Sir Finghin O’Driscoll, and divers other good and trustworthy witnesses”; but he heard from the Clan-Loughlin and other septs of the O’Donovans, that such was the tradition.
This illegitimacy of the senior branch is, in my opinion, another result of the curse of the good Coarb of St. Barry.
I have given in the Appendix to the Annals, all that I could find about James’ pedigree; but what I want from him now is his story of how the property gradually passed from him and his ancestors, giving dates as often as possible, and also the cause of the loss of the lands. It is very curious how the descendants of the youngest son, Kedagh, succeeded better than any of the rest, except the Protestants.
How many acres did James farm when he was married?
My western correspondents always speak of him as a poor, struggling farmer, but a man of strict probity and high principles. Does any other male descendant of his ancestor Donogh or Denis survive? If there is none, does it not strike you that the curse is at work in removing the name out of Clancahill? I am actually superstitious on this point. I believe that most members of the family are high-minded, and remarkably honest, but I believe, also, that they are reckless, addicted to drink, and irritable to a degree that counterbalances all their amiable characteristics. I am anxious to preserve a memorial of James, as by all accounts, he has been a virtuous, honest and honorable man; and only unfortunate, as being overwhelmed by adverse circumstances, or perhaps, as not having sufficient craft or cunning to grapple with the world. I enclose you the Jesuits’ letter about my boys. These Jesuits are very clever. I also enclose a note from W. J. O’Donovan of the Protestant sept of Wexford, who beats us all hollow in enthusiasm for the name and its pedigree.
Hoping that you keep up your spirits, I remain, dear sir, yours ever sincerely,
Dublin, March 27, 1860.
My dear Friend—You told me when last in Dublin, that the family of Deasy were Irish, and were called in Irish, O’Daosaigh. Are you quite certain that the O’ is prefixed to the name by the Irish-speaking people of the County of Cork?
We have in the County Kilkenny a family of the name of O’Daedi, anglicized Deady, and I have been long of the opinion that your Deasys of County Cork are the same. You have a Dundeady in the parish of Rathbarry, in your county, a well-known promontory.
You will oblige me exceedingly by asking James of Cooldurragha, whether the Deasys are a Cork family, and what the name is called by the Irish-speaking people. Please to ask James the following questions:
First.—Are there O’Deadys and O’Deasys in the County Cork?
Second.—If not; how long have the O’Deasys been in the County Cork; and where did they come from? What is the tradition?
We have O’Deadys in Ossory, but believe that they came from Munster; and John MacWalter Walsh, in his dirge, lamenting the downfall of the Irish, sets down O’Deady as one of the Irish chieftains next after O’Coileain, now Collins. This looks odd; for I cannot find any Irish chieftain of the name of O’Deady in the Irish annals, or Irish genealogies. I have several relatives of this name.
Third.—How long have the Deasys of your county (of whom is the Attorney-General Rickard Deasy) been in the County Cork? Are they aborigines or late comers? If aborigines, where were they seated? If late comers, how is it known that they are of Irish descent? How long are they among the rank of the gentry? Are there many of the name in the county? Are they a clan anywhere? I suppose they are O’Deadys.
Fourth.—Did James ever hear of a sept of the O’Donovans in the County of Cork, who were not descended from Crom, or the Donovan who captured Mahon, King of Munster at Bruree? It appears there was a sept of the O’Donovans of the same race as O’Driscoll of Colthuighe, before the race of the treacherous Donovan of Bruree had settled in the O’Driscoll territory; but I fear they cannot now be distinguished. They were seated in Tuath-Feehily, near Inchydoney, on the Bay of Clonakilty.
Dublin, March 29, 1860.
My dear Friend—I return you the letters of Donal Oge and Edward O’Sullivan (Edward, the Cork butter merchant, now dead—1898), and thank you most heartily for the read of them. Donald Oge (Dan McCartie, now in New York—1898), seems very clever, but the other seems wild. Your cousin, Finghin Ceannmor and my nephew-in-law in New York may be of mutual advantage to each other, as they seem bent on business and industry. I fear your political friends are too sublime in their notions to herd with either of them.
You will oblige me by getting hold of Shemus of Cooldurragha soon as you can, or his brother. Have they any share of education? I suppose John Collins was their chief tutor.
I was often invited by the O’Donovan and his brother Henry to visit them, but I have never been able to spare time. I thought to send Edmond last year, but his mother would not let him go. Next summer or autumn I may take a stroll to the Southwest with one or two of the boys, to show them gentes cunnabula nostrae.
Meantime, believe me, yours ever,
Dublin, April 20, 1860.
My dear Friend—Many thanks for your letter about the Deasys. I fear that their pedigree is not on the rolls of time, and that we can never discover any more about them.
Your observations about the Pope have amused me very much. My faction of boys are divided into two deadly political enemies to each other on the subject, and I can hardly keep them from fighting on the subject. One party is for our Holy Father the Pope and his temporal power, and another for ceding him his spiritual power only. They are all for Napoleon; which, in my opinion, is not fair, and they hope that the Bourbons will never be restored.
My eldest son John, got the prize for chemistry in the Museum of Industry here, which was a great effort for him, being just turned off seventeen and having to contend with the practical young chemists of Dublin.
My second son, Edmond, is actually mad at his heraldic studies, though I have been constantly telling him that it is an obsolete science, and that mankind will soon do very well without it. But my admonition is slighted, and he continues to cultivate the old knightly science. You will soon see some of his doings in my article on Wilhelm Count Gall Von Bourkh of the Austrian service, from whose brother Walter we descend collaterally.
My third son, William, is the cleverest of all, and is likely to become a Jesuit or a Passionist. He is entirely for the Pope and his temporal power; and inclines to sneer at the Nation and Irishman equally. We get both these eccentric Irish newspapers. My fourth son Richard is all for statistics and geography. He knows more of European statistics than any boy of his age in the world (except, perhaps, some of the mnemonistic students) but he is wicked and selfish and will be very lucky if he is not yet killed fighting against the niggers.
Hoping to hear of your second marriage (which is a right, natural and proper thing), I remain, dear sir, your well wisher,
While I was in prison, from 1865 to 1871, Edmond O’Donovan was taking an active part in Fenian politics. In that enterprise he had traveled through Ireland, England, Scotland, and had made a few visits to America. After I left prison and came to America, I got this letter from him;
County Durham, England,
May 9, 1872.
My dear Rossa—Twenty times within the past four months, I have sat down with the intention of writing you a long letter; but as often those circumstances over which one has no control interposed their ill-favored presence. Even as it is, I cannot catch time for an interchange of thoughts, and only scribble a few lines to ask you to get our friend whom it concerns to look after two gentlemen of my acquaintance, now on your side of the Atlantic, and who complain they can’t get credit among you. Their names and addresses are as follows: Thomas Smith and Owen Murray, late of the North of England. Address, under cover, to John Kelly, Spuyten Duyvil, Westchester County, N. Y. If you would kindly see after this I would be obliged.
I duly received your card, per favor of Mr. Scanlan, to whose letter, by the way, I have never since replied, and about which you must apologize for me, should you see him, as he is an old and valued friend.
I address this to the private address on your card—under cover, to Mrs. Kelly.
I have been reading your letters to the Dublin Irishman with great interest, and having the misfortune to know something about the United States, through two visits made during your imprisonment, I can thoroughly appreciate and feel for your unenviable position of nineteenth century knight-errant and Paladin in the cause of distressed virtue.
Be assured that if ever I take up such a role—and you must pardon my saying so—I will display greater discrimination in the choice of a sphere of action. I know well the retort that will spring to your lips—that those “who live in glass houses should not throw stones”—and, that those who constitute themselves champions of a lot of “coundfounded, hairy, greasy foreigners” should not talk of wisdom. But, after all, you know what the United States Germans say—“the longer a man lives, the more he finds out,” and I can only say in the words of the immemorial schoolboy, “I’ll never do it again, sir.”
I was a prisoner of war in Bavaria when I read of your release, and, would you believe it, it was a Roman Catholic clergyman who brought me the news, and was actually—he said—glad to hear of it.
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction—and as the Turcos used to exclaim, “Be chesm, on my head and my eyes be it,” if what I tell you isn’t correct.
Time, paper and nonsensical ideas being all run out—with best respects to Mrs. O’D. and all old friends, I remain ever yours,
P. S. Excuse rubbish; the fact being that I am writing a book on metaphysics, and under the circumstances, you cannot expect common sense.
P. A. Collins, of Boston, was active in Fenian politics those days. So was Colonel Tom Kelly, one of the men rescued in Manchester. This is a letter written by Edmond O’Donovan to P. A. Collins:
My dear Mr. Collins—Should any question arise as to the part which Colonel Kelly intends playing in the present arrangement for unifying the I. R. B., of Great Britain—and should any doubt arise as to his abiding by the decision of the committee—a member of which you are, I beg to state that I am authorized by Colonel Kelly to speak for him in the matter, and hold myself in readiness to appear before the convention, or any committee appointed by them to investigate the true state of the case.
Furthermore, I am authorized by Colonel Kelly, should such be necessary for the harmonious working of the parties, to lay before you his complete and entire resignation of all claims to authority over any branch of the organization, either here or in Great Britain and Ireland. Your obedient servant.
P. A. Collins, Esq.
When Edmond was in Asia and Africa, some of the native tribes made him their king. I take from Appleton’s Encyclopedia this account of how he came by his death:
“The battle ground had been selected by the Mahdi with his usual sagacity. It was a narrow rocky passage between wooded hills, in which he had placed the guns and rifles captured in former engagements, in positions where they could be used with effect, but where it was impossible for General Hicks to deploy his artillery. Into this ambuscade the Egyptian advance was led by a treacherous guide. The army of Hicks Pasha was totally annihilated. The troops are reported to have fought three days without water, until all their cartridges were expended. General Hicks then ordered a bayonet charge, but the army was immediately overwhelmed, and not a man escaped. The commander-in-chief, with Alla-ed-Din, Governor General of the Soudan, Abbas Bey, Colonel Farquahar, Major Von Seckendorf, Massy, Warner and Evans, Captain Horlth and Anatyaga, Surgeon-general Georges Bey, Surgeon Rosenberg, O’Donovan the well-known war correspondent, a number of Egyptian pashas and beys, and all the officers, who numbered 1,200, and soldiers of the army, were slain.”
In a book bearing the title of “Mr. Parnell, M.P., and the I. R. B.” I read this passage:
“The most distinguished literary man ever known to be in the ranks of Fenianism was undoubtedly Edmond O’Donovan, who was a ‘V,’ or organizer for the North of England, and afterward the well-known Asiatic traveler and writer.”
Looking at the death of the three eldest sons of John O’Donovan—John, Edmond and William—I cannot help thinking on what their father says about his being almost superstitious on the head of that holy curse pronounced against the name. John was drowned while bathing in the river at St. Louis; Edmond was slain in Africa; and William died here in New York a dozen years ago; I saw him buried in Calvary Cemetery. The three were actively connected with the Fenian movement in Ireland. I don’t know I may blame myself for having anything to do with that connection.
The father, John O’Donovan, died in the year 1862, at the age of fifty-three, and his co-laborer in Celtic literature, Eugene Curry, died a few months after. God be merciful to them, and to all the souls we are bound to pray for!
Another word; a few words; these few verses from a poem written by Thomas D’Arcy McGee on the death of John O’Donovan will end this chapter:
And thus it is, that even I,
Though weakly and unworthily,
Am moved by grief
To join the melancholy throng
And chant the sad entombing song
Above the chief:
Too few, too few, among our great,
In camp or cloister, church or state,
Wrought as he wrought;
Too few, of all the brave we trace
Among the champions of our race
Gave us his thought.
Truth was his solitary test,
His star, his chart, his east, his west;
Nor is there aught
In text, in ocean, or in mine,
Of greater worth, or more divine
Than this he sought.
With gentle hand he rectified
The errors of old bardic pride,
And set aright
The story of our devious past,
And left it, as it now must last
Full in the light.