Monday Morning, Nov. 25, 1867
William O’Meara Allen, Michael O’Brien, and Thomas Larkin were executed in front of the New Bailey prison at Manchester on Saturday morning. The men met their fate with firmness and resignation. Larkin, who leaves a wife and children, is said by some to have fainted as the drop was about falling, but Allen and Gould remained collected to the last moment, and took an affectionate fairwell of each other on the scaffold. Allen’s death was almost instantaneous. O’Brien and Larkin struggled for about ten minutes. A large force of military, police, and special constables were stationed around and within the gaol, but there was no disturbance of the peace. The demeanour of the mob was remarkable for callousness rather than the coarse brutality which generally accompanies an execution in England. Though public opinion in England was divided as to the justice and expediency of executing the prisoners, the great majority of the people seemed to be in favour of the execution. In Ireland the event has produced a most painful impression.
We publish in another column a letter from the convict Allen to his sister, written a few days before the executions, in which he again protests his innocence of Brett’s death.
A general procession in honour of the convicts, and in which three thousand working men walked, took place yesterday in London. The procession halted in the Hyde Park, where a general oration was delivered by Mr. Finlan. Subsequently a meeting was held at which the execution was denounced and republican principles avowed and defended. Several speakers declared that the execution would only accelerate the union between the working classes in England and Ireland.
Liverpool and Manchester remained perfectly tranquil last night. …
In consequence of the menacing aspect of the Protestant mob in Birmingham on Friday night, the Irish in the town assembled in large numbers for the protection of the Catholic churches and convent. No disturbances took place.
Mr. Digby Seymour have published a statement still maintaining, against the authority of Mr. Justice Blackburn, that the killing of Sergeant Brett was not murder but manslaughter.
On Saturday a well-dressed man, who gave his name as Thomas Perry, but who is stated to be a known Fenian leader named Burke, was arrested in London. He attempted to escape, but did not succeed. Subsequently he was brought before the magistrate at Bow-street, and was remanded after the examination of witnesses, on the charge of treason-felony.
The great tragedy has been accomplished. Three men’s lives have been sacrificed to the dignity of British law and the hatred of Irish Orangeism. Throughout the greater part of Ireland there is mourning – in portions of Ireland there is exultation at the thought that the good old times of hanging are come again. Those in Ireland whose opinions are represented by the Mail and the Constitution will find consolation for many previous disappointments in the details of the strangling of these rebels. The Tory Government will, doubtless, feel that it is returning to its venerable traditions after the momentary weakness of the Reform Bill. The English mob has had a feast of death large and luscious enough to stay that appetite to which the Times and other leading journals were so diligently pandering. it may be that even the Times itself is satisfied, and that it will consent to suffer such Irishmen as are at present in England to subsist upon the soil. The Daily News, which has been milder that its great rival, and hinted a gentler disapproval of the sweeping nature of the butchery that has taken place, in the course of an apology to “our foreign contemporaries,” expresses a hope that after the execution of the prisoners “there will be a subsidence of the agitation which their conviction has provoked.”
Such a wish expressed on the part of a journal of liberal tendencies, but thoroughly English in feeling, is natural enough. Indeed, it is only the common thought of the moderately intelligent Englishman applied to a particular event which they apply to the whole relations of England and Ireland. They frankly admit that their connection with this country has been marked by almost uninterrupted misgovernment. They confess that the effects of that misgovernment are still painfully felt in the odious ascendancy which deprives the mass of the people of either political, social, or religious freedom, and the nation itself of prosperity. They are compelled to own that ameliorative concessions which have been asked for during two or three generations have been besought in vain. And yet, they wonder how the Irish people will be foolish enough to be led into plots and treason and rebellious tendencies. If you strike the high-mettled steed, hold him never so steadily, he will fret and chafe upon his curb, though he perfectly comprehends that resistance is in vain. The spirited Irish race may be quite conscious that England is strong enough to enforce bad laws and to maintain an evil state of things in Ireland, and yet they cannot avoid the instinct of resistance, however vain. Never successful, their struggles, which have lasted through centuries, have never ceased to protest against the wrongs they endured. Can you with such people bury a new act of irritation and injustice out of sight as you would bury your dead? Can you make the Irish people believe that three of their fellow-countrymen were offered up on the scaffold as aught else but a sacrifice to the spirit of hatred and brutal revenge? We at least shall not attempt to persuade them to accept injustice as one of the inevitable decrees of Providence. We do not believe it would be consistent with truth, or duty, to do so. From the very commencement it is palpable that the doom of these men was resolved upon. Indecent haste was stamped upon every proceeding of the government. The Special Commission, which anticipated the ordinary assizes by little more than a month: the selection of the judges, one of whom appears to have enjoyed a particular reputation, put in strong language by the rough-tongued Finlen, and by the Star, as one “whose name seldom comes up except in some unpleasant connection”; the hurry with which the ordinary time of execution was forestalled, as if in apprehension lest the gallows might not be feasted; and lastly the miserable legal quibble upon which the Home Secretary refused the men an appeal on grounds which were affirmed to be good by one of the foremost members of the English bar. Mr. Hardy’s refusal to entertain the plea for an appeal was based on the adverse decision of Justice Blackburn. That decision itself was almost vitiated by the words in which it was pronounced. “To cast any doubt on this subject,” says the judge, “would, we think, be productive of the most serious mischief, by discouraging the police in the performance of their duties, and by encouraging the lawless in a disregard of the authority of the law.” How long has it been the custom of English judges to regulate their interpretation of the law by consideration of the consequences? Does not the acute Judge Blackburn use a sentence that would be uttered with more seemliness by the mouth of the Crown Counsel? It is true that Justice Blackburn was endorsed by Justice Mellor, but so was the verdict on which he would have hanged Maguire. After that verdict it seems difficult to say what Judge Mellor would not endorse.
The verdict thus obtained the Government clung to it with a vehemence and passion that certainly have not added to its moral weight. They denied that the offence of the Fenians was a political one, but it was plain that it was because of the political character that they pursued it with such bitter and relentless fury. Lord Derby descended even to the falsehood of stigmatizing the unfortunate victims of their own chivalrous love of Ireland, as “cowards.” Mr. Hardy refuses to receive any deputations that may plead for mercy, and he resorts to dodges of the law to prevent their case from getting into the Court of Criminal Appeal. Even supposing that their crime was deserving of death, such a course of proceeding was calculated to enlist sympathy on the part of the convicts. But when we see that this reckless haste was exhibited for the purpose of slaying men who had been engaged in a political undertaking – desperate it may be – wrong it may be – but right in their own eyes and glorious in the eyes of millions of their countrymen – an act which was hailed with a thrill of exultation through Ireland, and a shout of triumph through America – it is perfectly plain that by whatever name it may be called, the Government have resorted to the old usage of suppressing rebellion with the gibbet. There might possibly have been some doubt on the animus with which they have acted had they restricted the capital punishment to the one man who was supposed to have fired the fatal shot It might then, by some at all events, be believed that they only saw in Allen the man who slew Brett. But their sweeping infliction of the death sentence proves beyond all doubt that the name of murder was only used to cover the indulgence of that cruelty towards political opponents, for which England – especially the England of Toryism – holds a bad eminence amongst civilized nations. This Government does not need moral crime to stimulate its desire to kill. It would, had it dared, have hanged Burke and McAfferty as ruthlessly as it has hanged Larkin and Gould. It strove to the last moment – until absolute fer of English opinion compelled it to abandon the rope it was affectionately dangling – to hang the men who were first convicted in Dublin. It would treat rebellion in Ireland as it approved of Governor Eyre’s treatment of rebellion in Jamaica. It yields to force and violence by Englishmen, but it hangs Irishmen for it. It proves by its sentiments and acts that Tory principles have been only modified not changed, and that they who so long ruled Ireland by the bayonet, the bullet, and the cord, want only the occasion to employ the same pacificators again.
The unhappy men executed on Saturday at Manchester found a generous and eloquent advocate in Mr. Swinbourne whose appeal to England on their behalf we publish to-day. The poem appeared in the Evening Star of Thursday and made a great sensation in London. It bears here and there the traces of hasty composition; but many parts display the vigor and rhythm which are characteristic of Mr. Swinburne’s poetry. The appeal is remarkable for its lofty conceptions of the character of a great nation – strong, clement and free; unfortunately as the event proved Mr. Swinburne was mistaken in thinking that his ideal was realized in England.
The Fenian Executions
The arrival of the telegram at this city on Saturday morning announcing the execution of the convicted prisoners, Allen, O’Brien, and Larkin, caused an excitement unequalled even by the startling news which agitated the community on the 6th of March last [WHAT???] Although for a short time before public opinion regarded the event as almost certain, the news that it had really occurred was received at first with almost general incredulity, and it was only when successive telegrams had confirmed the first announcement of the tragedy that many people could bring themselves to believe the deed had been done. The popular suspense in the country districts was not less deep and universal than in the city. The people had been anxiously watching at the railway stations for every rumour from Cork, and the passengers by the early trains were besieged with eager inquiries. Everywhere the one topic engrossed all conversations, and till the last hope was dispelled a merciful commutation of sentence was confidently discussed. The decisive intelligence was received with every manifestation of feeling – a feeling cont confined to particular classes, but strongly shared in by persons vehemently opposed to the principles for which the doomed men suffered. Judging from the tone of public comment the execution of the prisoners appeared to have excited the most wide-spread and bitterest sentiments of sorrow and indignation. It was feared that the step taken by the Government might be followed by some undesirable demonstrations, and the soldiers in garrison have therefore been confined to barracks after half-past four o’clock during the past few days, in readiness for any contingency that might arise. Armed patrols of police paraded the city on Saturday night and last night, but the streets were on each occasion more than usually quiet and deserted. Immediately upon the announcement of the execution, a large number of shops, particularly in the North and South Main streets, were closed and shuttered as a mark of mourning for the unfortunate men, and business in these establishments was suspended throughout the day. On Saturday the rush on the newspaper offices assumed the form of an actual panic, the resources of the publisher being taxed to the utmost to supply the clamouring crowds. Yesterday, in most of the Catholic churches of the city, after the usual prayers for the departed, a special appeal to the faithful was made in behalf of the deceased, and received, it is almost needless to add, a fervent response from the congregation, who were deeply affected. On the entrance gates of several of the churches of the city appeared a placard printed on superfine glazed paper and with a deep mourning border having the words – “Of your charity pray for the repose of the murdered patriots, Allen, O’Brien, and LarkIN. God save Ireland!” This placard had no doubt been put up during the night. Prayers were also offered for their eternal repose after each Mass at Queenstown and in different others churches through the country. On yesterday numbers of the young men of the city wore crepe bands round their hats, with the addition in most cases of green rosettes. Funeral processions were also formed. A gentleman from the city driving out by Glountane, near Carrigtwohill, met a procession of upwards of a hundred men, most of them of respectable appearance, all wearing mourning badges and attended by an immense crowd. Yesterday the excitement aroused by the event had of course cooled down considerably. Nevertheless, even gentlemen of adverse faith and hostile politics were heard to characterise the execution as a cruel and barbarous proceeding, adjectives which it may be supposed would receive a much stronger form of expression from the large class whose sympathies are wholly with the sufferers.
The Condemned Fenians
A Correspondent informs us that a petition bearing over 1,000 signatures was forwarded last week from Mitchelstown on behalf of the condemned men.
The Execution of the Fenian Prisoners
[From our Special Correspondent]
Manchester, Saturday – The closing scene in the lamentable drama by which the public mind has been kept in a state of painful suspense and excitement for more than two months, was enacted here to-day, when William Philip Allen and his unfortunate companions, Michael O’Brien, and Michael Larkin, were executed in front of New Bailey prison, in presence of a concourse of spectators numbering many thousands. Few events in late years have produced anything approaching the sensation which the infliction of the last penalty of the law on these men has caused. Throughout England the sentence and the discussions as to the propriety of carrying it out, raised a passionate excitement, against which it was vain to urge prudential considerations; while in Ireland, as well as amongst the Irish race abroad, a state of feeling has, we fear, been generated by the executions which will not soon subside, and which may be attended by deplorable consequences. The extraordinary interest manifested in the fate of the convicts sprang altogether from the political character of the offence for which they have suffered death. Many years have elapsed since the extreme penalty of the law has been inflicted for a crime of that nature, and we had begun to cherish the hope that modern humanity might never again be shocked by the spectacle of men put to death for acts which cannot be ranked in the ordinary category of crimes, and which generally have their source in a noble and generous enthusiasm. In the present circumstances of the country it seems perfectly inexpedient to return to the severity in regard to political offences which was the characteristic of a former period. The law has demanded many victims in Ireland, and it is not too much to say that the graves of political martyrs have been a yawning chasm between Ireland and the sister kingdom which years of generous and forfearing administration could alone bridge over. Unhappily, the passion of the moment rendered the mass of the English people insensible to the danger of widening the gulf which divides them from the heart of Ireland, and at the same time rendered them incapable of appreciating the dark stigma which a political execution must attach to their name. An attempt has been made in Parliament, as well as elsewhere, to ignore the political element in the lamentable occurrence by which the life of Sergeant Brett was lost, and for which three other lives have now paid foreit; but the pretence has been flimsy and unsuccessful in the extreme. The men whose last words in the dock were, “God save Ireland;” who risked their lives for a leader whom many of them had never seen, and whose only claim upon their attachment was the bond of common political sympathies were not ordinary criminals; nor was it expedient, though it were lawful, to treat them as such. Neither did the scene at Manchester to-day betoken that it was upon common murderers the sentence of the law was being executed. The mustering of troops and volunteers, the conversion of the prison into a sort of fortress, and the hundred careful precautions against disturbance – these were not the surroundings of an ordinary execution for murder. It would have been far better for both countries had the truth been recognised, had the political nature of the crime been acknowledged, and the distinction been made in favour of the prisoners which that acknowledgement would have suggested. It is much to be feared that the tragic scene enacted upon the scaffold to-day in the murk and gloom of the November fog will be treasured up by thousands of Irishmen at home and abroad, with many similar records of past times, to swell the mass of bitterness and hatred by which the alienation of the two countries is maintained.
This morning, in all the oppressive gloom of November fog, the last scene of the tragedy was enacted. The long, bitter cold night had been comparatively clear. Shortly after daybreak, however, a fog set in, which in its impervious density seemed to be a renewal of the gloom and cheerlessness of the night, and which at the time of the executions wrapped the entire locality in a pall. The prison is in the suburb of Manchester called the Borough of Salford, which, although forming part of what may be called the outskirts of Manchester, is a distinct borough with distinct civil and municipal regulations. It is separated by the river from Manchester, the connecting bridge being Albert Bridge. The street leading up to the gaol is New Bailey-street, while, transversely, between the gaol and the river, runs Stanley-street. The erection of barricades in New Bailey-street and the streets adjoining commenced on Wednesday. An application had been made to the government for cheveaux de frise to be placed at each end of New Bailey-street, but the government declined to comply with it, probably on the ground that it was undesirable for the civil force to make use of such decidedly military expedients. During the whole of Wednesday New Bailey-street was thronged with curious spectators; and when the first barricade was reared, the crowd gathered round it in a dense mass, and watched the further erection of barriers with an eagerness which showed how intense was the interest taken by the populace in everything relating to the fate of the unhappy convicts. The construction of barricades was continued through the night, the street being for some hours almost impassable. Carriage traffic in that direction had been stopped from noon on Wednesday. On Thursday morning workmen began to take down a portion of the prison wall in New Bailey-street at the spot where the scaffold was to be erected; and crowds of people again thronged the spaces between the barriers to witness the progress of the construction of the scaffold. Large numbers of the spectators had evidently come into the city from the neighbouring districts to look at the preparations. The morbid curiosity which an execution invariably evokes was manifested in the offer of large sums for accommodation in the shops and houses fronting the scaffold; but in many instances the occupiers of those premises refused to entertain such proposals. The Catholic clergy on Sunday last recommended from the pulpit that the members of their church among the poorer classes of Irish should keep away from the execution; and the Mayors of Manchester and Salford issued notices making a similar request to the well disposed and peaceful inhabitants of both boroughs, so as to diminish as much as possible the danger arising from the pressure of large crowds. The Mayor of Salford sent a circular to the chief magistrate of several of the neighbouring boroughs asking them to use their influence in like manner with the communities over which they preside. While every possible means was thus used to prevent the assembling of an unmanageably large crowd on the occasion, care was taken by the erection of strong barricades to reduce the pressure to a minimum. The barriers were of immense strength, sufficient to resist any pressure that could by any chance be brought to bear on them. Chapel-street, the main thoroughfare of the small borough, was crossed by three barriers; in New Bailey-street ten barriers were placed. One of these was ten yards from the centre of the drop on the north side, and another ten yards from the centre of the drop on the south side. These two barriers formed a perfect enclosure, and within them was a small enclosure about then feet high enclosing that portion of the path immediately under the drop. In the wall of the New Bailey a door had been formed to permit the entrance of the magistrates and others to the prison this morning; and in the centre of the former a nine-feet opening had been left, to permit the egress of artillery, should it be found necessary to have resort to such an extreme measure for the clearance of the streets. Upon the bridge the bridgemaster had caused a very strong longitudinal barrier to be erected close to the curbstones to break the pressure upon the parapets. Barriers had also been erected at the entrance to the bridge from the Manchester side, at the junction of Albert-street and King-street, and at the ends of Water-street and Bridge-street. [The night had been, in the neighbourhood of all these preparations, a series of sights and sounds, calculated to make the scene more depressing and ominous than even the actual preparations for the execution. Towards nightfall the previous day, the crowds had begun to gather about the gaol. From six o’clock down, the barricades erected in the streets leading to the kind of square in which the executions were to take place and before the gaol itself were pressed round by large crowds of the worst kind of English mob. The space near the barricades was soon occupied, and, then, the still increasing crowds sought other coigns of vantage in the neighbourhood. One of the most comodious of these was the Bailey-street station and the line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway; while, on the Northern side, the London and North Western company’s line of railway offered a site for viewing the executions, even nearer and more free from obstruction. But to neither of these could the public obtain access. The Bailey-street station was garrisoned with a small army of soldiers, who prevented anybody from entering it. No train stopped at it from early on Friday afternoon till some time after the executions. The North Western line – which has no station in the locality – was also entirely unavailable to the public; the company having issued printed instructions to their servants to prevent any access whatever to it, and strengthened their orders by enrolling a large bodyguard of porters to protect every approach to it. In consequence of these arrangements the mob was forced to find such accomodation at it could on the streets down below and on Albert bridge. At ten o’clock on last night the bridge and adjoining streets were crowded to excess. But the bitter cold of the night soon began to tell on the mob, for, as midnight drew near, the crowd thinned off, and those who remained shifted about to keep their blood in circulation; till at one or two o’clock, it was possible to get almost anyplace in the neighbourhood one desired. The locality never presented however an approach to loneliness at any hour, and when the actual dead watch of the night was past, began to resume its thronged appearance of the previous evening. About three o’clock in the morning, there were three or four thousand people moving about the streets – cold, wretched and miserable looking in, the raw gaslit air, but resolute on remaining there till the shocking event of the day was past. They were a most repellent crowd. Every form of wretchedness had its representatives amongst them. There were, to be sure, many burly pitmen and labourers of various classes who, so far as mere animal strength went, looked fitted enough to watch out the dreary night there; but these were the exceptions. Lean, miserable looking millworkers, male and female, formed the body of the crowd. Wretches who coughed consumptively as the keen night air bit into their lungs, but who, nevertheless, seemed determined to enjoy that strange savage feast that consists in seeing some fellow-men strangled to death – were there in plenty. Ragged boys and girls, whose language occasionally was enough to make the cheek blanch, jostled you at every turn, as you wound your way amongst them. Pickpockets and garotters were there in plenty, anxious to exercise their avocations did the opportunity arise. Wretched prostitutes, whom one shudders to look on, in such a scene, were there in hundreds, – women, whose fate wanted but association with this last element of horror to render its gloom overwhelming. The vast force of special constables and ordinary policemen thronging the neighbourhood kept the more dangerous of these classes in check, and prevented any positive violence occurring – though, I have no doubt, petty larcenies enough have been chronicled in hundreds of houses whose occupants have been seeing “the hanging.” In such a crowd, formed of such repulsive elements, it is not to be wondered at that decency had no place, except in so far as it was enforced by the strong arm of the law. Occasional bursts of nigger melody, vilely and drunkenly chanted, would come to you from various portions of the crowd, and would be continued till the police bore down on the spot in sufficient numbers to put a stop to it. Horseplay of all sorts was abundant. The crowd, just in front of the gaol, broke out into a fit of obstreperous blackguardism, about four o’clock in the morning, which caused the street to be cleared. the ruffians forming it sang ribald songs, and shouted out sorry jests – “Champagne Charley” alternating with the low chaff of the concert halls – till the noise they made could have been heard inside the prison, and might have reached the ears of those about to die. Such a scandal, necessitated some decisive steps; and the three or four hundred persons in the street were driven across the bridge, to the Manchester side, by the police. Here they were allowed to continue their ruffianism comparatively uninterruptedly. Amongst the lesser interruptions which, during the early morning, took place in the streets, one was caused by some one having inscribed in large red letters on the footpath a prophecy to the effect that Manchester would be visited by the Plague in 1868 if the execution took place. This, however, was speedily removed.
Towards morning the crowd began to gather in sufficient numbers to check anything like the movement about the street that had continued up to that. At six o’clock one continuous stream of men principally, but also including women, boys, and girls, poured from all parts of the city towards the neighbourhood of the prison. The vicinity of Albert Bridge, from which the best view of the horrid spectacle could be otained, was the principal centre towards which all were wending. The flaring gin palaces in Deansgate and the neighbourhood of the bridge supplied an early stimulant to the eager throng; and the army of street coffee sellers, who seemed to have come from their old squatting grounds in all parts of the city, offered another beverage. The crowd was nearly altogether English; in fact, there were very few countrymen of the convicts present. There was a marked absence of sympathy for the convicts; a few regrets were expressed that the gallows had to be resorted to; but there was nothing whatever to show any sympathy with the fate of the men. There was a lack, too, of that moral literature and street preaching which so often form incongruous elements of execution crowds. As the day dawned, soon after seven o’clock, a slight mist, which had begun to set in about two hours before, began to thicken into a yellow murky fog. The crowd rapidly increased in numbers, but as eight o’clock approached it became evident that very few indeed would be able to see the spectacle. Standing upon Albert bridge the massive dimensions of the prison loomed through the fog, which magnified it into the dimensions and appearance of a huge fortress. The barbicans, or turrets, at the angles were occupied by soldiers, and increased the force of the fancy. Half-way up New Bailey-street could be seen the dim outline of the scaffold, and the street below was occupied by a dense mass of special constables and police officers. To the spectators at the Manchester side of Albert bridge nothing was visible. Even the prison walls could not be seen, and when the cry of “hats off” was raised by those in the front, the excitement among the many who were unable to witness the proceedings became intense. There was universal straining of necks and eyes, but it was of no avail, and of the 10,000 or 12,000 who were on the bridge and on the Manchester side of the river, not half the number could see what took place. This was the aspect of affairs outside the prison for the long miserable night and morning preceding the execution. Inside, a scene even more striking was presented.
You will, doubtless, have kept your readers informed of the excellent demeanour of the prisoners since their sentence. Lest it may not have appeared already, however, I may state that since that time they have been at Holy Communion every second morning. Nothing could exceed their attention to the religious precepts of the clergymen attending them; and for the past week they have exhibited the extremist resignation. They have been visited every day by several Catholic clergymen, to whose ministrations they have listened with respectful attention. The Rev. Mr. Quirk, the Rev. Canon Cantwell, and the Rev. Mr. Gadd have been in constant attendance upon them; the latter gentleman, especially, labouring very earnestly and assiduously from day to day. Allen and Larkin were repeatedly visited by their relatives, but Gould had not seen anyone since sentence was passed upon him. On Thursday, Allen was visited by three of his aunts, whose entrance into the prison attracted the notice of the crowd who had gathered to look on at the preparations for the execution. Yesterday morning, his mother and cousin and a young woman to whom he was engaged to be married, went to the New Bailey to see him, but were refused admission – for some reason best known to the gaol authorities, but which, the feeling is, should be made the subject of a searching and jealous inquiry. His friends were recognised by the crowd, who immediately surrounded them. From this unpleasant position they were extricated by Mr. Superintendent Gee, who took them under his protection, and gave them temporary shelter in the Albert-street Station. While they were waiting there, a message was sent up from the prison to the effect that Mrs. Allen would be admitted to see her son, and she at once returned to the New Bailey accompanied by a friend. The remainder of the party followed, at intervals, so as to escape the observation of the crowd; but on reaching the prison they were informed that none but Mrs. Allen could be admitted. The convict’s cousin, had to go back, along with the other young woman, without being able to pay him a farewell visit. Allen’s father has not seen him since his arrest. … At a quarter to ten o’clock last night, the Rev. Father Gadd, accompanied by the Rev. Thomas Quirk, went to the prison to see the prisoners, and remained with them throughout the night. The conduct of the prisoners during the whole of yesterday was such as became men placed in their position. They seemed fully to realise the awful situation in which they stood, and to be prepared to meet their fate. From the demeanour of the prisoners and the attention they have exhibited to the religious ministrations of the clergymen throughout, additional weight is given to a statement I have heard made on the best authority within the last few days – that Allen still firmly denies he was the man who fired the shot that killed Brett. He has stated this, several times, on days when he has approached the Holy Sacrament. Every Catholic valuing at their due importance, the holy rites of our church – knowing the awful impressiveness they have at all times on the minds of those who participate in them, and especially at moments of such gravity as these men’s last hours have been made up of, – will know the momentous significance to to be attached to this statement. It is useless to discuss the question now; but, I venture to say, in the recollection of the people of Ireland – who best know how to value the conditions under which this statement was made – it will form one of the most important elements in keeping alive in their breasts, the fate of Allen.
After their final severance from earthly ties, the doomed men devoted themselves with increased fervour to their religious duties. They were locked up at the usual hour last night – about half-past six o’clock. Strange as it may appear, these three men, standing on the brink of the grave, about to suffer an ignominious death, slept as soundly as had been their wont. At a quarter to five o’clock this morning, Mr. Holt, the warder in charge, went to their cells and awoke them. The priests in attendance, the Rev. Canon Cantwell and the Rev. Fathers Quick and Gadd, celebrated mass at half-past five, and administered the Holy Communion. After partaking of the Sacrament, the convicts spent their time in prayer until nearly seven o’clock, when they breakfasted. The last preparations were then begun. At 12 minutes to eight o’clock, the executioner and his assistant, Armstrong, were introduced to the cell in which the convicts were placed, and the process of pinioning their arms was gone through. The priests stood by the side of the men, administering the consolations of religion, and exhorting them to firmness in meeting the last dread ordeal. The convicts at this time manifested a remarkable fortitude. Not one of them flinched in the least. They had severally expressed an intention to address the crowd from the scaffold. It is, however, a proof of their earnest attention to the ministrations of the clergymen that, at their request, they abandoned this idea. It is a subject for congratulation, I think, that did so. Apart from the indication it might seem to give of a non-realization of their awful position, if they made any address to an execution mob, I am heartily glad that words, even so impressive as their’s would have been, were not wasted on the hardened, seething mass of debased humanity that had gathered together to gloat over their last sufferings.
The preparations for the execution were all completed at a quarter to eight, and the three men were in readiness to meet their fate. At that time the interior court of the gaol presented a strange and striking spectacle. Behind the wall in New Bailey-street was erected a long staircase leading to the scaffold; and by its side were platforms for the use of the military. The fog was so dense that objects could be but faintly distinguished at a distance of thirty yards. Suddenly, the words of military command were heard, and a company of the 72nd Highlanders marched round the Roundhouse, and took up a position in line at the foot of the staircase. Simultaneously small detachments of the same regiment ascended to the platform, and crouched there, with their loaded rifles slightly projecting over the prison wall. At almost the same moment, the heads of a line of soldiers arose above the parapet of the railway viaduct. A line of warders was formed in the gaol court. The sentries on duty ceased their walk; magistrates and reporters stood aside, and a dead silence prevailed for a few moments, as a signal was given from the corner of the Roundhouse. At three minutes past eight o’clock the solemn voice of a minister repeating the Litany for the Dying was heard; and the head of the procession became visible through the thick fog, about thirty yards from the foot of the staircase. The Rev. Canon Cantwell walked first, by the side of Allen. The convict was deadly pale; his eyes wandered alternately from the clergyman to the individuals standing round, and then he uplifted his gaze, in a vain endeavour to pierce the dense canopy which hung above him. He walked with a steady step, and uttered a response to the Litany, “Lord have mercy upon us,” in a firm voice. His pale, strongly marked, young features, and firmly cut jaw, betrayed no emotion whatever, except those befitting the time and place. There was the abiding patience and the strong resolution of the true Christian in all his appearance – of the man who having fittingly prepared to meet his God, was superior to feat and pain. He was not defiant – only courageous. In his hands he carried a crucifix, which he frequently kissed, with devoted fervour. …
Almost five minutes past eight o’clock the door leading from the gaol yard to the scaffold was opened, and the same instant almost every head in the crowd was uncovered. Allen was the first to appear. He still carried the crucifix. Calcraft at once place the white cap over his face and adjusted the rope. Meanwhile the unhappy youth continued in fervent prayer. Then followed Gould, who walked with a firm step. On coming to the drop he shook hands with Allen and kissed his right cheek. … They all joined loudly and earnestly in the response, “Jesus, have mercy upon me,” “Jesus, receive my soul.” … All of this occupied but a minute or two, at the end of which time the bolt was drawn, and the three bodies dropped. Allen was dead in about a minute …
The crowd lingered near the spot for nearly half an hour, when it began to disperse, with such precipitancy that some accidents were reported to have taken place in some of the violent rushes that took place down the adjoining streets. An hour later, after the bodies were cut down, the scene of the executions had subsided into what only would be classed as a very crowded thoroughfare; and the Manchester public had returned to their homes or their work, to discuss these, for several reasons, the most remarkable executions that have taken place in England during, perhaps, the present century.
Last night a letter was delivered to Calcraft at the gaol, which was couched in the following terms:
“Sir, – If you hang any of the gentlemen condemned to death at the New Bailey prison, it will be worse for you. You will not survive afterwards.”
Calcraft seems to have felt some uneasiness upon reading this epistle, and he wrote the following to the visiting justices:-
“I have received enclosed letter. It seems a serious job. I hope you will look after it, and that I shall get safe home again.”
Early in the week, when it became certain that an execution would take place, there were rumours to the effect that Calcraft would be shot at upon the scaffold. As a measure of additional precaution, a man named Armstrong was engaged as an assistant to the executioner. Armstrong is a man of remarkable physical strength.
The following are extracts from various journals, which supplement our correspondent’s letter:-
(From the Manchester Guardian of Saturday evening.)
[ASSUME TRANSCRIBING ORIGINAL]
[ENDING WITH CAROLINE QUEENSBERRY LETTER]
The Antecedents of the Convicts
As none of the convicts had lived long in Manchester, or had any acquaintances here, circumstances relating to their antecedents are not easily obtained. Allen was a native of Bandon, in the county of Cork, and, as has been already reported, his father was for a time a turnkey in an Irish prison. He had a few relations living in Manchester or the neighbourhood, and he came here in search of work as a joiner about the end of the year 1864. He obtained employment in the yard of one of the principal builders in the city, and for a time his habits were those of an ordinary industrious working men. He made several acquaintances among his fellow-countrymen, and secured the affections of a young woman of a respectable family; and there was every prospect that he would have ultimately married the girl. When or where he enrolled a Fenian is not known, but for a considerable time he has done very little work, and during that time he has been considered one of the most active agents of the movement in Manchester. When the meeting took place at which it was decided that an attempt should be made to rescue Kelly and Deasy, Allen was not present. He had gone a short time before on a mission to Dublin, and he returned from that city in time to take part in the attack upon the van. …
(From the Freeman Correspondent.)
When I got to the prison at ten o’clock I found these poor women (Allen’s cousin, and Larkin’s two sister-in-laws) seeking admission for the last time to those ill-fated and unhappy men. Inside the iron grate sat Larkin’s wife and children – and a more heart-tearing scene I have never witnessed.
Words have no power to convey the black despair – the wild but speechless misery of these wretched women. They were possessed by that dumb, hopeless, grief, whose expression was the big unbidden tear that rolls down the wan and emaciated face. But the eloquent and ominous silence was broken by the presence of Allen’s almost distracted sweetheart, whose low, piteous cry and frequent bursting sob compelled the sympathy of all, and even made strangers turn away. For reasons, I dare say, never known, and certainly never to be explained, this miserable band were refused even the hope of admission, and after clinging to those iron bars for hours they were sent away by authority. Subsequently a message was sent to Allen’s mother that she would be admitted, and the rest of the family walked at a distance through the gaping crowd. At the prison they were told that Mrs. Allen could alone be allowed in, and his sisters, cousins, and his youthful betrothed, were denied that last interview for which they had come so far. …
William Philip Allen
Subjoined is a brief sketch of the life of this unfortunate young man previously to his departure for England. The circumstances of his untimely fate will, we presume, render the few facts here submitted interesting to the reader. W. P. Allen was born in April 1848, in a well-known village near the town of Tipperary, and was about three years old when his parents removed to Bandon, in this county, where he was brought up in the Protestant faith, which his father professed, while his mother was a good Catholic. At Bandon he was a constant attendant at the training school conducted under the auspices of the Hon. Mr. Bernard, for the education of young men designed to fill the office of district parochial teachers, at the same time, however, attending the morning and evening schools conducted in the same town by Catholic masters, under whom he learned the branches of algebra and drawing, being remarkably proficient in the latter acquirement. While at school young Allen made himself conspicuous by his intelligence and application, these qualities attracting the notice of many persons of station. Allen was from his childhood of thoughtful and studious habits, very imaginative, exceedingly gentle in his dispositions and a great favourite with his companions to whom his pleasing manners endeared him. On the occasion of the visit of some Catholic missionaries to Bandon, Allen frequented the sermons and religious exercises which marked the mission, and his natural acuteness, aided by the teaching of his pious mother, convincing him of the error of the creed in which he had been hitherto reared, he became a convert to the true religion, and was received by the Rev P. P. of Bandon into the bossom of the church. This was about four years ago, and since his reception Allen has been a strict and exemplary Catholic. His only sister, now married and living in this city, his four brothers – among them his brother Joe, for whom the poor fellow entertained a particular affection, being still Protestants. Allen was, while yet a youth, bound apprentice to Mr. Preston, a respectable master carpenter and timber merchant in Bandon, but from circumstances of a painful nature, which it is charity now to refrain from publishing, but in which the young convert’s faith was at stake, he felt himself compelled to leave his master before the expiration of his time, and coming well recommended to this city, was employed by Mr. Barry McMullen, with whom he remained about six months, when he once more returned to Bandon, whence he proceeded to Manchester, on the invitation of some near relatives of his, residing in that city. His career subsequently to his appearance in Bandon will be found elsewhere. The following affecting letter, which has been entrusted to us for publication, was entrusted by Allen to his aunt in Manchester, with directions to forward it to his sister in this city: –
Manchester, Nov. 18th, ’67.
Dear Sister, Brother-in-law, and Brothers,
– I am sure you will regret to be hearing out of the prison dungeon from me, but it cannot be helped. There are a great many changes in the world, and we must all put up with our share. Next Saturday is the day of my execution, also, three others. I will be gone only a few days before the longest liver of you all; it is nothing dear sister, to look into it. I hope you do not forget praying for me, and for those that are in with me. It is hard, dear sister, brother-in-law, and brothers, to be suffering for a charge a person is not guilty of. I am quite reconciled to the will of God, whatever my fate may be. I received Holy Communion this morning, thank God, and am in very good spirits. There is nothing in this world that a person should be so sorry for leaving it. Tell my brothers to mind their duty to God, and always pray for me, and all that are in with me. I am very sorry, dear sister, I had not the pleasure of seeing James before leaving this world, and also your daughter. I think I have a slight knowledge of James, if I do not make a mistake. I hope if I do not see him here, I will see him and you all, please God, in Heaven. Remember my words, dear friends – there is no use in grieving at all, it does not make the thing any better, and injures you own health, although I am quite sure there will be many thousands that never saw me, or any of the other prisoners, in their lives, that will regret our deaths; and many a tear will flow from parties with whom I never was in my life. I am about to leave the world, and I do not think I have many enemies in it, except those that swore my life away for blood-money. I forgive them from the bottom of my heart, and may God forgive them. Farewell sister, brothers, and brother-in-law, niece also. It has crossed my mind not to forget Miss Clancy, and my grandmother; tell them to pray for us also. No more at present, from your affectionate and ever-loving Brother, W. P. Allen
P.S. – Remember me to father and mother, and aunt. Sent this to my sister in Cork as soon as you receive it. Keep up your hearts, and never forget praying for me. Remember me to all friends. I send you 1,000 kisses each, and 2,000 to my brother Joe. …
The Executed Fenians – Funeral Procession in London
London, Sunday – The funeral procession in honour fo the Fenians executed at Manchester took place to-day. Previous to starting Mr. Finlan addressed the meeting at Clerkenwell. He said they met for a solemn purpose and their proceedings should befit the occasion. Mr. O’Callaghan moved an amendment, that, as the friends of the executed men had requested the demonstration should not take place; and that as the Catholic clergy disapproved of it the procession should be abandoned. The amendment, however, was not received by the chairman, and those present being of the opinion that the procession and meeting should be held the cortege was formed preceded by a banner bearing the inscription, “Man’s inhumanity to man makes thousands mourn.” A small band of drums and fifes followed, playing sacred music. No opposition was offered by the authorities, and the procession passed along Fleet-street, the Strand, Pall-mall, St. James’s-street, Piccadilly, and entered the Park. It numbered about 2,000, mostly working men, some with female friends, the great majority being, of course, Irish. Another contingent of about 1,000, which had already met in the Park, went to receive the Clerkenwell division and then fell in. Altogether about 3,000 persons took part in the demonstrations, and there was the usual large sprinkling of lookers-on attracted by curiosity, including many members of Parliament. Finlan delivered a funeral oration. He said they were assembled to recognise the worth of the executed men, and the integrity of the cause for which they suffered. He trusted their memories would be for ever cherished and their wives and children protected well. He hoped also by the death of these heroes the relations of English, Irish, and Scotch would be cemented for the regeneration of these islands and the elevation of the people. A hymn was chanted and the people quietly dispersed. Subsequently another large gathering took place, and there was some very strong language, one speaker advocating republicanism. Another meeting is announced for this evening, at 8, at Clerkenwell Green. No police were present, but a large number were in reserve.
London, Sunday Evening – A meeting of those who took part in the funeral procession this afternoon took place to-night in Clerkenwell Green. Mr. Swiney presided, and the speakers were Mr. Finlan, who delivered the funeral oration at Hyde Park to-day, Mr. Bligh, who presided at the second meeting; Mr. Campbell and Mr. Owen. The general tenor of the speeches was the same as that adopted in the afternoon. It was declared that the Tories were stupid and cruel, and that the union of English and Irish workingmen would be accelerated by the deaths of the Fenian martyrs. There were about twelve or fifteen thousand person present, and the proceeding lacked the enthusiasm which was displayed at the meeting held in the earlier part of the day.
Liverpool, Sunday Evening – Liverpool quite tranquil, even in the Irish quarters of the town.
Manchester, Sunday, 8:40 Evening – No symptoms of any disturbance here or in surrounding towns.
Limerick, Saturday Night – Considerable anxiety was evinced here this morning to ascertain the fate of the Manchester Fenians. The Telegraph offices were not long opened, ere they were besieged with applicants for information on the point. The impression seems to have been pretty generally entertained that even at the last moment the unfortunate men’s lives would be spared, and pit and disappointment were expressed on all hands when the fact became known that the last sentence of the law had been carried out and that Fenianism had been consecrated by the first martyrs in the cause. I regret to add that in some quarters and among a certain “set” of people whose ruling and ruinous passion lies in gambling, the levity of laying and taking bets upon the result was somewhat freely indulged in as though the issue were some sporting event and not the life or death of three human beings. Correspondent
Tralee, Saturday – The telegram received here this morning concerning the execution of the Fenian prisoners at Manchester caused a profound sensation through the town. The feeling was generally that of regret for the sad fate of those young men, who loved not wisely but too well, and whose conviction and execution are by no means considered as consistent with the spirit of true justice. Correspondent