© 2016 Morley Broadcasting


I am pleased and proud to have been part of a small group, the “Fenian Memorial Committee of Chicago” that researched and raised funds to place a fitting marker over an Irish patriot and former swordsman of Her Majesty’s 5th Dragoons, buried and forgotten in an unmarked grave on Chicago’s south side: Fenian Martin Hogan.

Hogan and other Irishmen, many of whom ‘took the king’s shilling’ and joined the British Army, also heeded John Devoy’s call to arms to free Ireland of Britain’s despised and despotic rule. But like many Irish risings before and since, their cause was betrayed and its soldiers tried for treason.

Many originally sentenced to death were instead transported to Fremantle prison and penal colony in Australia as convict labor, suffering for years until rescued and freed in a dramatic 1876 escape, engineered in America by Fenian John Devoy and Clan naGael.

Hogan’s memorial was held Saturday morning October 10 at his grave, section 24, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Chicago.

Father Dave Dillon of Chicago began with a benediction.

Professor Ruan O’Donnell of Limerick University spoke then, pointing out that Hogan was born just 4 years after Catholic Emancipation in 1829 which made him “part of 80% of the population no longer legally classed as third-class subjects; yet they continued to be disfavored in their own country. There was no national government. There was no parliament in Dublin.

“If we had simply been downtrodden and our horizons limited by a hostile, sectarian power- that would have been bad enough. But by 1845 to 1850 we were struck by the calamity of ‘an Gorta Mor’, the Great Famine, a genocide that wiped out a minimum of 1.2 million people when Hogan was a boy… There was no democratic road to justice in Ireland. And when you are faced with a matter of life and death, something has got to be done.

 “Hogan was part of the fifth column organized by John Devoy (working) to organize about 15,000 members of the British imperial forces who were also sworn Fenians. …Hogan was an elite of elite. He was in the 5th Dragoon Guards. …Every single regiment of the British army was infiltrated by the Fenian Brotherhood. …somewhere between 40 and 60% of the British imperial forces was Irish anyway. …There’d never been a more sophistically organized revolutionary movement in the world than the Irish Republican Brotherhood / the Fenian Brotherhood, later known over here as Clan na Gael. They’re the same organization. …they’re working towards the one objective: a democratic Irish Republic.

       “But a series of setbacks led to a crackdown on the Fenian Brotherhood in September 1865 and Hogan and others had to go on the run. Captured and tried, the British, in order to make examples of the men, sentenced them to “transportation” to Australia, a punishment which had been phased out a dozen years earlier. “Normally, you went out; you weren’t coming back. That hurts your friends and family. That damages communities and demoralizes those who would raise the sword against British tyranny in Ireland.”

“Hogan is noted as the first to act in a defiant manner against his captors, just like his contemporary Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa… these were people who could not be broken. They would have to be killed before they would bend to British will or authority. …His own comrades in this country realized that something had to be done. Essentially Clan na Gael came to the rescue.” They put up some $25,000 to finance what was to become perhaps the most dramatic prison break in the history of the world. The plan involved “both coasts of America, a trip across the Indian Ocean”… It’s an incredible story.”  

“Looking down on Hogan’s marker O’Donnell said: “…this is the resting place of one of them who was not in the limelight in the manner which other Fenians were. But this is the man for whom men like John Boyle O’Reilly and John Devoy would risk their life and their liberty to spring. They did this because they believed in brotherhood, they believed in the Republican cause, and they believed that Ireland one day will be an independent Irish Republic.”

Another educator, George McLaughlin from Rhode Island spoke: “…Joseph Martin Hogan, the Limerickman, the master swordsman, the British Dragoon, the Fenian, the worn-out prisoner, nearing the death of his soul, stood not alone, but with his comrades who spent years in the purgatory of Western Australia, Fremantle prison. He stood with those comrades on the deck of the Catalpa, which was the guardian angel of their freedom.  He stood with his comrades on the shores of a new strange world of freedom, America.  

Today, we stand with Martin Hogan and we give him his just due, his honor; his memory restored by a small symbol—a slab of black granite, engraved with the Catalpa’s image, which, in 1876, was his salvation. And today, we forgive brave and loyal Martin Hogan his trespasses, whatever they were.  This is the least we and all lovers of freedom can do.  And we ask Our Lord to fully embrace him.  

“We dedicate this stone to Martin Hogan on behalf of all the good proud Irish-Americans here in Chicago and the Irish-American community of tiny Rhode Island where, James McNally Wilson lived out his life.  …We offer this stone from all of us but especially on behalf of Martin’s old and loyal comrade, James McNally Wilson.”

“A family heirloom, the Catalpa’s ship’s flag emblazoned with the initials of its owner, John T. Richardson, father-in-law of Captain James Anthony who steered the ship from New Bedford to Australia for the amazing rescue, was unfurled by James Ryan, Captain Anthony’s great-great grandson.

“Committee member Dierdre Fennesy praised her brother Niall for his research which revealed living relatives of Martin Hogan. Richard Willix, Hogan’s great grandson, along with his sister Darlene, thanked the committee for its work: “It’s the rebels. That’s the ones we sing about in the bars. It’s the John Connollys, the Sean O’Farrels and them. Those are the ones we learned to remember. And you folks have given me – a rebel! …that was ready to give his life for his country, Ireland. …So when I go to the bars, the Doc Ryans’ and the Brian Borus’, I can say ‘I’m legit. My great grandfather was a rebel!’ And he stood up and put his life on the line for his country, so we could be standing here like this, with him underneath us. So thank you Martin Hogan, Thank you Niall for giving me an ancestry. And I think my sister feels the same way.”

   Singer Joe Monahan ended the ceremony with a version of what was said to be Martin Hogan’s favorite song: ‘My Old Kentucky Home’.

Watch a great 55 minute dramatization of the freeing of Hogan and his five companions on You Tube: “The Catalpa Rescue”. A feature on the Chicago dedication is also being prepared and will be available on IrishTV.us soon.

©Mike Morley Nov. 2015

E-mail: IrishTV@att.net

Website: http://IRISHTV.US  

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Fenian Martin Hogan 1833  to 1901 Dr. Ruan O’Donnell, Limerick Univ.