ON Friday, November 23 at 8.30pm, the annual commemoration for the Manchester Martyrs in the South Kilkenny village of Hugginstown will be held. Republicans from across the south east and further beyond will gather to remember three of Ireland’s finest patriots, William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien, The Manchester Martyrs.
The torch lit commemoration, the last of its kind in Ireland, remembers the supreme sacrifice made by the three Fenians who were hung on an English scaffold in 1867, for their part in a botched attempt to rescue two members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. A policeman was accidently killed during the daring operation. Guest speaker will be Sinn Féin vice president, Mary Lou McDonald TD. The famed Irish Brigade will provide the musical entertainment in Irish’s Bar immediately afterwards. The Manchester Martyrs – William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien – were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation dedicated to ending British rule in Ireland. The trio were members of a group of 30–40 Fenians who attacked a horse-drawn police van transporting two arrested leaders of the Brotherhood, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy, to Belle Vue Gaol. Police Sergeant Charles Brett, travelling inside with the keys, was shot and killed as the attackers attempted to force the van open by blowing the lock. Kelly and Deasy were released after another prisoner in the van took the keys from Brett’s body and passed them to the group outside through a ventilation grill; the pair were never recaptured, despite an extensive search. Two others were also charged and found guilty of Brett’s murder, Thomas Maguire and Edward O’Meagher Condon, but their death sentences were overturned: O’Meagher Condon through the intercession of the United States government – he was an American citizen – and Maguire because the evidence given against him was considered unsatisfactory. Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien were publicly hanged on a temporary structure built on the wall of Salford Gaol, on 23 November 1867, in front of a crowd of 10,000 people.