Remembering The Manchester Martyrs – Irish Revolutionaries
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Remembering The Manchester Martyrs

Remembering The Manchester Martyrs

On September 18th 1867 about 50 Irish Fenians, led by William Allen, attacked a prison van guarded by a large number of police at Hyde Road in Manchester, England.

Their aim was to release two important Fenian prisoners, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy. In the course of freeing the men, an unarmed police sergeant, Charles Brett, was shot dead, what followed was mass arrests within the Irish community in Manchester.

Some twenty-six men were eventually tried for their part in the attack with five of those charged with murder despite not one of them firing a shot during the rescue.

William Allen, Michael Larkin, Michael O'Brien, Thomas Maguire, and Edward O'Meagher Condon, were sentenced to death by hanging crying "God save Ireland" from the dock after the sentence was pronounced. Maguire was subsequently pardoned and discharged, and O'Meagher Condon's sentence was commuted on the eve of his execution.

Three, William Allen, Michael O’Brien and Michael Larkin, who became known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’, were hanged outside Salford Gaol in front of a hostile crowd of 10,000 people on November 23rd 1867.

The bodies of the three men were buried in the New Bailey Prison graveyard, from which they were transferred to Strangeways Prison Cemetery when New Bailey Prison closed in 1868. In 1991 their remains were cremated and reinterred at Blackley Cemetery in Manchester.

The executions proved to be a huge mistake for the British as in the following weeks many funeral processions were held in Ireland and Britain in support of those executed. They were remembered by Republicans in commemorations right up to recent times.

The cry of the condemned men was the inspiration for the song "God Save Ireland", which became Ireland's unofficial national anthem until officially replaced by "Amhrán na bhFiann" ("The Soldier's Song").

High upon the gallows tree
Swung the noble hearted three
By the vengeful tyrant stricken in their bloom
But they met him face to face
With the courage of their race
And they went with souls undaunted to their doom

God save Ireland, said the heroes
God save Ireland, said they all
Whether on the scaffold high
Or the battlefield we die
Oh what matter when for Erin dear we fall?

When they're up the rugged stair
Rang their voices out in prayer
Then with England's fatal cord around them cast
Close beside the gallows tree
Kissed like brothers lovingly
True to home and faith and freedom to the last

God save Ireland, said the heroes
God save Ireland, said they all
Whether on the scaffold high
Or the battlefield we die
Oh what matter when for Erin dear we fall?

Never till the latest day
Shall the memory pass away?
Oh, the gallant lives thus given for our land
But on the cause must go
Amid joy and weal and woe
Till we make our Isle a nation free and grand

God save Ireland, said the heroes
God save Ireland, said they all
Whether on the scaffold high
Or the battlefield we die
Oh what matter when for Erin dear we fall?


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