Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution

By C. Desmond Greaves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
ANOTHER ROBERT EMMET

“From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland
and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt that whilst
it lasted, this country could never be free nor happy.”—Theobald Wolfe
Tone

BEHIND the counter was a small, grey-haired, prematurely aged man, Thomas J. Clarke, the Fenian veteran. Like Mellows he had been “born in the service”, at an English station. He also came from mixed Catholic and Protestant stock. He was taken to South Africa as a small child, and first saw Ireland when he was ten years old. His father, an excellent soldier reaching the class barrier and retiring with the rank of sergeant, secured a good civilian appointment at Dungannon, County Tyrone. Here the boy attended St. Patrick’s School while the smoke from burning homesteads drifted across the town and evicted tenants wandered in search of shelter. Police and soldiers stood guard over the battering rams. In due time St. Patrick’s school closed for lack of pupils. By now Tom Clarke had absorbed the tradition from which his father had escaped. The lesson was unavoidable. It was resistance.

Great Land League meetings were held. One of these was addressed by the Fenian leader John Daly of Limerick. Soon afterwards Clarke was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. It was he who returned the police fire in the famous “buckshot riot” and rallied the citizens to disarm the R.I.C. with their bare hands. As a result he emigrated to America. Here he fell in with the dissident section of Clann na Gael who rejected Devoy’s policy of co-operating with the Parliamentarians. On their behalf he returned to England to take part in the “dynamite war” and after capture in 1883 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Released in 1898 he married John Daly’s daughter, Kathleen. Awarded the Freedom of Limerick for his struggle against imperialism, still he was compelled to emigrate again to find work. In the United States he became an engineer, held a trade union card, and helped Devoy found the Gaelic American, an outspoken opponent of the newly reunited Parliamentary Party, otherwise undistinguished.

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