Fenian Fear and Fenian 63
By Peter Murphy
Fictional history inspired by true events
Published by Peter Murphy, with the assistance of Fred Rea, editor of The Irish Scene magazine and proprietor of Gaelforce Promotions Publications, Perth, Western Australia.
Fenian Fear an introduction:
In 2014, due to my Australian/Irish background, I began researching for a book (Irish Lives in Australia) those contributions Irish people, had down the decades, made to the fabric of Australia’s heritage and culture. And although I uncovered hundreds of stories and anecdotes relating to amazing gold-finds, engineering, aviation, maritime, agriculture, building, rebellion, religion, politics, art, music, literature, drama, sport, war and peace, nothing intrigued me more than those of a group of unwilling Irish immigrants known as Fenians and the role they would play in helping shape the fabric of Australian society. However, there was one particular story that stood out from the rest, and which still resonates to this day: the attempt on the life of Queen Victoria's second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, at Clontarf, Sydney, Australia, March 1868 by alleged Fenian assassin Henry James O'Farrell.
During O’Farrell’s trial, it was claimed by his prosecutor that his murderous act was the work of a desperate Fenian killer, while his defence counsel claimed his crime was carried out by a man bereft of any legal or moral responsibility. Once O’Farrell had paid the ultimate price for his crime, much evidence of his true state of mind when he committed his crime would surface later; albeit far it too late to save his neck.
And while much has been said and written on an incident that would shake the very foundation of the British Empire, very little is still known about exactly who was Henry James O’Farrell including his true motivation for wanting to murder a member of the Royal family.
In endeavour to help understand more about O’Farrell and his motive for wanting to murder a member of the Royal family, I decided to put on hold my research on ‘Irish Lives in Australia’ and concentrate more on the O’Farrell story itself by self-publishing Fenian Fear. However, where I’ve deviated from your regular ‘history book’ is I decided to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and get inside O’Farrell’s deranged mind and tell his story ‘from the inside out’. I’ve also taken liberty in exploring O’Farrell’s prison confidant, Father Thomas Dwyer including the role he played in the whole murky affair. And although a work of fiction based on true historical events, Fenian Fear is a timeless story that echoes even louder today; especially during a time when our civil liberties are constantly under threat from conservative political forces.
Fenian Fear I hope will encourage the reader to, read more widely, see more clearly, think more deeply and challenge themselves.
Fenian Fear will knock you back $25 (includes postage within Australia) and can be ordered by emailing: email@example.com
Fenian 63 an introduction:
During the Irish Uprising of 1865-67, hundreds of Irish rebels (Fenians) were arrested by the British government, and tried and sentenced for treason. Many were enlisted in the British army. Of those Fenians charged and sentenced, 62 were documented (prison/shipping records) as having being transported to Western Australia (Oct 1867) on the last convict ship (Hougoumont) to Australia.
James Jeffery Roche, biographer and friend for more than 20 years of the most celebrated Fenian transported on the Hougoumont, John Boyle O’Reilly, who had free access to O’Reilly’s printed and private papers, mentions in O’Reilly’s biography (John Boyle O’Reilly – His Life, Poems and Speeches) there were 63 Fenians onboard the Hougoumont, not 62.
Fenian Eugene Lombard (also transported on the Hougoumont), in a letter written home to his mother (January 1868), mentions there were 64 Fenians transported.
Interested in such things, and having my first novel Fenian Fear published in 2018, I decided to research on whether there was more Fenians transported on the Hougoumont than first documented.
I crossed and double checked the names of those Fenians arrested during the Uprising including their date and places of birth, places arrested, places tried, sentencing reports, and prison records, while also matching their names against the names of those Fenians transported on the Hougoumont, at the same time being mindful that some of them – rather than use their real names – used aliases.
My research however was inconclusive.
But what if there was a 63rd Fenians onboard the Hougoumont?
This vexing question would inspire me to pen Fenian 63, and as the title suggests, adds a fictional 63rd Fenian transported on the Hougoumont.
I’ve given him the name of James Doyle, a 22-year-old Irishman from County Wicklow, who at the age of 19, joined the British Army, and was later caught up in the Uprising.
Also on board the Hougoumont and disguised as a warder, is a fictional detective from Scotland Yard by the name of Thomas Holmes. Holmes is a ‘Fenian Hunter’, and whose mission is to spy on the transported Fenians before the convict ship departs England for the Swan River Penal Colony of Western Australia, and report back to his superior’s intelligence relating to possible planned Fenian attacks on the English mainland.
Once the Hougoumont departs England, Holmes’ orders are to stay the course, and on his arrival in Western Australia, he’s also to investigate reports of inhumane treatment of convicts in the Swan River Penal Colony under the watch of Governor John Hampton.
Meanwhile, a request from Scotland Yard to colonial authorities in Western Australian demanding that Doyle be returned to Dartmoor Prison to serve out the rest of his sentenced, only adds mounting pressure on the young Fenian to make a break for it.
But Doyle has no experience of the harsh Western Australian bush. So he befriends an aboriginal man by the name of Marluck – who under aboriginal law – also faces an uncertain future.
Together they must decide: allow the ‘laws of the land’ to decide their fate, or take fate into their own hands.
Fenian 63 will knock you back $35 (includes postage within Australia) and can be ordered by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Murphy was born in Dublin, Ireland in the 1950s and emigrated to Australia in 1970. Peter lectured for several years in Ecologically Sustainable and Cultural Tourism at South West College of TAFE, Bunbury, Western Australia (WA), and worked several years as a Conservation and Heritage Officer with the National Trust (WA). He wrote articles and essays for the National Trust (Australia) periodical, as well as poetry, short stories and articles for The Irish Scene magazine (Perth, WA).
Other literary contributions by the same author:
Peter retired from working life in 2016 and now lives on a nature reserve in the jarrah forest in the South West of WA with his partner Sallie and where he spends most of his time writing and educating visitors to be kind to Mother Nature.