The Fenians -- Characters -- History -- Fremantle Prison


J.B. O'Reilly

The Fenian movement, or Irish Republican Brotherhood, was a secret society that flourished during the 1860s. Its activities included an armed rebellion against British rule in Ireland, which failed for a number of reasons. In 1865 hundreds of men were arrested in Ireland on suspicion of complicity. There were two elements amongst the men charged and convicted: those who were civilians, and those who were currently serving in the British military services. The civilian element were treated as political prisoners, whilst the military element were treated as ordinary criminals. In 1869 the civilian element were granted clemency and freed, whilst such consideration was denied the military element (Erickson pp.115-156).

John Boyle O'Reilly was an NCO in the 10th Hussars (the prestigious regiment of the Prince of Wales) when arrested in 1866 for assisting fellow soldiers to join the rebellious Fenian movement. Found guilty at his court martial, his death sentence was commuted to one of 20 year's penal servitude which automatically meant transportation (anyone sentenced to seven years or more was transported).


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