Friday, 03 July 2015 09:49

John Devoy - One Of Ireland's Greatest Fenians

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19th Century Kildare Fenian From Kildare Masterminded Daring Escapes Of Fenian Colleagues

John Devoy 1842 - 1929 Banished Into Exile And Ordered To Never Return To Ireland

Driven out of his own country because he sought to make his native land a free and peaceful nation, John Devoy undertook never to visit his dear homeland ever again following a court order.

The Kildare Fenian knew he could do more for Ireland in exile rather than continue incarceration in a British prison cell.

It was in 1871 that John Devoy set sail for America to begin a new life and his republican ideals were now stronger than ever.

At just nineteen years old he joined the French Foreign Legion in Algeria for one year to acquire military expertise.

On return to Ireland he chose to enrol in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was appointed an organiser. He was instructed to infiltrate the British Army and seek out Irish Fenian recruits in various regiments who were sympathetic to the Irish cause. John’s missions were so successful, thousands of soldiers gave unconditional support.

When the famous Kilkenny Fenian, James Stephens was arrested in 1865, it was John Devoy who plotted his daring escape from Kilmainham Jail, Dublin. Devoy paid the inevitable price for this escapade and was handed down a fifteen year penal servitude sentence. He was now in substantial oppression.

A man of high intellectual ability he was subsequently requested to denounce his Fenian status to gain his freedom but John Devoy was not for rejecting his republican blood. When the British army were unable to stifle the Kildareman’s pride, he was lodged into a grim prison cell.

On release from custody after five years of solitary confinement, John was ordered to flee Ireland or finish his term of penal servitude. He went to America with the intention of joining Clan na Gael and plotting the escape of Fenian prisoners deported to Western Australia.

From his American base John Devoy laid out an elaborate rescue plan of six top ranking Fenians. The prisoners were boldly unshackled in the dark of night and cruised away from Australia on the American cargo ship ‘Catalpa’.

The heroic escape plot received worldwide publicity and the British authorities realised that this feat had all the hallmarks of John Devoy’s mental strength and ability.

Devoy again took on the might of the British establishment in 1879 when he secretly visited Ireland to support the Land League. He sought out Charles Parnell and Michael Davitt and originated schemes of disobedience which ensured the success of the movement.

The famous Kildare Fenian later became the American chief commander of Clann na Gael and greatly assisted Irish Volunteers preparing for battle in the 1916 Easter Rising. He liased with Roger Casement to procure German arms and through a configuration of events, the ship set sail for Ireland too early and Casemet and the ship was captured in Banna Strand, Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry.

After the 1921 Irish Peace Treaty, John Devoy also helped raised a million dollar loan for Dail Eireann in America.

Kildare man John Devoy died in Atlantic City in 1928.

Last modified on Thursday, 31 August 2017 23:19
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