Pat O’Donnell (pictured, left) was a member of the ‘The Invincibles’ (‘Irish National Invincibles’), a 19th-century organisation which opposed, in arms, British interference in Ireland. He is best known for having assassinated the informer James Carey (aka ‘James Power’).

When Carey told on ‘Skin the Goat’,
O’Donnell caught him on the boat —
He wished he’d never been afloat,
The dirty skite!

It wasn’t very sensible
To tell on the Invincibles —
They stood up for their principles
Day and night.
And you’ll find them all in Monto, Monto, Monto
Standing up in Monto,
To you!

In November 1881, a group was formed in Dublin with the objective of “removing all the principal tyrants from the country” ; they called themselves ‘The Irish National Invincibles’ and, within a few months, they were to make world headlines. The group, consisting mainly of former Fenians, decided to announce their presence in a dramatic fashion – on May 6th, 1882, they assassinated two of Britains top officials in Ireland : Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish and Under Secretary Thomas F. Burke in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, just yards from the Viceroy Lodge. The British offered a reward of £1000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible and put their top man in Dublin, Superintendent John Mallon of the ‘G Division’ of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, on the case. He arrested dozens of ‘suspects’ and repeatedly questioned those who were known to be in the Phoenix Park area that night, but to no avail.

Then, in November 1882, six months after the British lost their men, Superintendent John Mallon arrested a member of the Invincibles, Robert Farrell, and Mallon told him that they knew the identity of those that had carried-out the assassinations and advised Farrell to save himself – this was the same line that those previously arrested had been told but, unfortunately, Robert Farrell fell for it ; within weeks, twenty-six men were arrested. The ‘G’ man, John Mallon, needed additional witnesses and evidence to build a substantial case against the men and reverted to form – three of the twenty-six men (Michael Kavanagh, James Carey and his brother, Peter) turned informers. In April 1883, in Green Street Courthouse in Dublin, Judge O’Brien began to hear ‘evidence’ against thirteen of the men. Five of them – Joe Brady, Dan Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Tim Kelly – received the death sentence and the other eight men were sentenced to long periods of imprisonment (nineteen year-old Tim Kelly faced three ‘trials’ before eventually being convicted, the jury at the previous ‘trials’ having failed to agree on a verdict). Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and young Tim Kelly were hanged in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between May 14th and June 4th, 1883.

One of the informers, James Carey, was shot dead on board ‘The ‘Melrose’ off Cape Town, South Africa, on his way to Natal to ‘begin a new life’ with his wife and children, on July 29th, 1883, by Donegal-man Patrick O Donnell, who was caught and escorted back to Ireland ; his ‘trial’ (all two hours of it) was held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London on the 30th November 1883 – 133 years ago on this date – in front of Judge George Denman, a Liberal politician known to be in favour of public executions. Pat O’Donnell was found guilty of ‘wilful murder’, despite having the best defence team that money could buy – his supporters had raised and spent about fifty-five thousand dollars on legal representation for him, but then, as now, the British wanted their ‘pound of flesh’. And they got it on the 17th December 1883 when they executed Patrick O’Donnell.

My name is Pat O’Donnell I was born in Donegal
I am you know a deadly foe to traitors one and all
For the shooting of James Carey I was tried and guilty found
And now upon the scaffold high my life I must lay down.

I sailed on board the ship Melrose in August 1883
James Carey was on board the ship but still unknown to me
When I found out he was Carey we had angry words and blows
The villain swore my life to take on board the ship Melrose.

I stood a while in self defence to fight before I’d die
My loaded pistol I pulled out at Carey I let fly
I gave to him a second one which pierced him through the heart
I let him have a third volley before he did depart.

Then Mrs Carey came running up to the cabin where he lay
O’Donnell you shot my husband Mrs Carey she did say
O’Donnell you shot my husband Mrs Carey loud did cry
“I only stood in self defence kind madame”, answered I.

The captain had me handcuffed and in strong irons bound
He gave me up as prisoner when we landed in Capetown
They turned me back to London my trial for to stand
And the prosecutors for the crown were Carey’s wife and son.

To all the evidence they swore I said it was a lie
The jury found me guilty and the judge he did reply
“You’ll never more see Erin’s shore, O’Donnell, you must die”
On the 17th of December upon the scaffold high.

If I had been a free man could live another year
All traitors and informers I would make them shake with fear
Saint Patrick drove the serpents from the our holy sainted land
I’d make them run before me like the hare before the hound.

Farewell to dark old Donegal the place where I was born
And likewise to the United States which ne’er was known for scorn
And twice farewell to old
Gráinne Mhaol with her fields and valleys green
For never more around Erin’s shore Pat O’Donnell will be seen.

That British show trial began on this date – 30th November – 133 years ago.



By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

THE CRIER. (By Kevin Lynch.)

Morning is beautiful
as the rays of sunlight shine in the window.
It’s great to be alive I say
I don’t even notice the bars.
I open the cell door
I’m just half way down the landing to slop-out.
I see the crier, his face is hard with thought
Oh no, I think, but then I make the effort.
A very good morning to you…?
What’s good about it and who’s on the phone next?
The porridge is too lumpy and the fucking water’s too cold.

All his days were wet ones
and all his thoughts were sad.
And any time you meet him
you would regret you had.
He’d depress you drip by drip
and leave you feeling low.
He is a wet day man
and always will be so.

(Next – ‘Yankey’s Town’, by Kevin Lynch. [NOTE : if you’re offended by ‘bad language’, then don’t read this poem…!] )



‘…he had drunk an estimated 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne through his life ; he thought nothing of starting the morning with cold game and a glass of hock and ending it at 3am with the best part of a bottle of cognac..’ (from here) : ‘Sir’ Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, DL, FRS, RA, was born in Oxfordshire, England, on this date, 30th November, 142 years ago, and evolved from a little pup into a pugnace britannicii, becoming top dog in British politics twice (1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955). During the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’ discussions it was the then British ‘Colonial Secretary to Ireland’, Winston Churchill, who maneuvered a friend of his, South African Judge Richard Feetham into the position of ‘Chairman’ of said meetings, even though Churchill himself described that particular ‘talking shop’ as a “toothless body”. Still – no harm to have its ‘Chairman’ in your pocket, an old British custom, practiced to this day.
But, drunk or sober, when he was on ’empire business’, he himself was anything but ‘toothless’ ‘..a man who swilled on champagne while 4 million men, women and children in Bengal starved due to his racist colonial policies…a white supremacist whose hatred for Indians led to four million starving to death – “all who resist will be killed without quarter” because the Pashtuns need “recognise the superiority of race” – the man who loathed Irish people so much he conceived different ways to terrorise them, the racist thug who waged war on black people across Africa and in Britain…he found his love for war during the time he spent in Afghanistan (“we proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation…”(from here). Yes, indeed – men like Churchill made Britain ‘Great’, as in that that country has done (and continues to do) some ‘great’ harm on the world stage.



The role of the trade union movement in Ireland in relation to the continued imperialist occupation of the North and to the foreign multi-national domination of the Irish economy – both north and south – remains an area of confusion for many people. John Doyle examines the economic policy of the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) and the general failure of the official Labour movement to advance the cause of the Irish working class, except in terms of extremely limited gains. From ‘Iris’ magazine, November 1982.

Speaking about the basic principles for workers vis-a-vis capitalism, James Connolly wrote – “The real battle is the battle being fought out to control industry…in the number of those workers who enrol themselves in an industrial organisation with the definite purpose of making themselves masters of the industrial equipment of society in general.”

But there is very little of Connolly in the practice of today’s trade unions, as locked within a capitalist vision of development they fight only, and even at that meekly, not for control but for a share. A share which, although it has increased proportionately since 1894-1913, has been given by a subtle Western capitalism, not taken by an assertive working class.

As Michael Peillon says, the workers’ movement has advanced no rationality as an alternative to the irrationalities of capitalism. Given that absence of political perception it is not even bureaucratic trade union leadership that prevents movement forward to Connolly’s revolutionary socialism, but the lack of ideology and its necessary practice. (MORE LATER).



On the 16th October, 1854, a boy was born to a middle-class family who lived at Westland Row, Dublin : the child’s father ‘Sir’ William Wilde, was a doctor and his wife, who was known to be ‘unconventional’ for the times that were in it – Jane Francesca Agnes (née Elgee aka ‘Lady’ Wilde) – was a poet who mixed in artistic and intellectual circles, and was left-leaning in her political beliefs. The child was christened ‘Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde’ : Oscar Wilde.

Oscar was educated in Trinity College in Dublin and then in Magdalen College in Oxford, England, and won a ‘double-first’ in ‘Mods’ (one of the hardest examinations ever devised!) and the Newdigate Prize for Poetrty but, nonetheless, had to revert to lecturing and freelancing for periodicals to make a living. However, he persevered and, in his mid-30’s, made a name for himself with ‘The Happy Prince’, followed three years later with ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ and, in that same year, ‘A House of Pomegranates’.

He then took the world by storm and ensured for himself a place at the top table of literary giants with his works Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of being Earnest. But ‘life’ intervened – being, as Oscar Wilde was, a gay man in the Victorian era brought with it even more dangers than for a heterosexual who ‘played the field’ : his affair (and letters) to his boyfriend lead to him serving two years in prison, after which he wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’
“Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.”

(‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, by Oscar Wilde, written after his release from Reading prison on 19 May 1897.)
When he was released (at 43 years of age, in 1897) he went into exile and died, three years later, in Paris, on the 30th November 1900 – 116 years ago on this date.




By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


The screw lifted the telephone and dialled a number : “Listen, Sir,” he said, “I’ve got these two Germans here just brought in for shoplifting in Belfast city centre and they can’t speak the English, like what me and you can. Do ye know what I mean, like?” The seemingly one-sided telephone conversation continued – “Yes, ok, right, do you think so? I’ll try, fair enough, no trouble at all, Sir, sorry for taking up your time. How’s your wife? Oh, did she? Sorry to hear that, Sir, nobody told me. And she took the car as well…?” He replaced the receiver. “Slap it up ya, where the fuck am I going to find an interpreter?” , he shouted aloud. I saw a momentary smirk on the face of one of the Germans. This could be interesting, I thought.

The screw’s attempt to glean information from the Germans was going no where and then he was joined by one of his colleagues who, on hearing his mate’s dilemma, sprang into action. This screw’s efforts to question the Germans was even worse than his mates. At one stage he broke into a ‘Allo Allo!’ -type French accent as the Germans looked on, impassively.

In an effort to break the deadlock, the first screw started giving the Nazi salute and screaming “Ve hav vays of making you talk. If you do not answer our questions you vill be sent to the Russian Front…” and both screws laughed uncontrollably. This ‘investigation’ was going from the ridiculous to the Pythonesque. “I am from Lisburn,” shouted the second screw, slowly and, as he spoke, he was gesticulating wildly with his hands, making shapes of houses and other types of buildings, like skyscrapers. I think. This struck me as strange, as there are no skyscrapers in Lisburn. “Ver are you from?” , he asked the Germans. No answer… (MORE LATER).



‘On November 30th, 1835 (181 years ago on this date) the small town of Florida in Missouri witnessed the birth of its most famous son. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was welcomed into the world as the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens…approximately four years after his birth, in 1839, the Clemens family moved 35 miles east to the town of Hannibal. A growing port city that lay along the banks of the Mississippi, Hannibal was a frequent stop for steam boats arriving by both day and night from St. Louis and New Orleans. Samuel’s father was a judge, and he built a two-story frame house at 206 Hill Street in 1844. As a youngster, Samuel was kept indoors because of poor health. However, by age nine, he seemed to recover from his ailments and joined the rest of the town’s children outside. He then attended a private school in Hannibal. When Samuel was 12, his father died of pneumonia and, at 13, Samuel left school to become a printer’s apprentice. After two short years, he joined his brother Orion’s newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant. It was here that young Samuel found he enjoyed writing…’

And, since then, millions of people have enjoyed his writings – “Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” And an Irish connection – ‘Croker (NOT this one!) earned the undying wrath of (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) who in a mock eulogy to the Irish emmigrant got his facts wrong, but maybe not the tone, when he said “Yes, farewell to Croker forever, the Baron of Wantage, the last, and I dare say the least desirable, addition to English nobility…an all-round blatherskite and chief pillager of the municipal till…” ‘ This is the wordsmith in question…!



“Burn everything English but their coal” – the ‘Hibernian Patriot’ [from the ‘Drapier’s Letters’ collection], Jonathan Swift (pictured, left), an Irish author and satirist (perhaps best known for ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and for his position as dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin) was born in Dublin on the 30th November 1667 – 349 years ago on this date. His father (from whom the ‘Patriot’ got his first name) was an attorney, but he died before the birth of his son. As if that wasn’t misfortune enough, young Jonathan suffered from Meniere’s Disease and, between the bill’s mounting up and her sickly son, his mother, Abigail, found that she was unable to cope and the young boy was put in the charge of her late husband’s brother, Godwin, a wealthy member of the ‘Gray’s Inn’ legal society.

His position in St. Patrick’s Cathedral ensured that he had a ‘pulpit’ and a ready-made audience to listen to him, an opportunity he readily availed of to question English misrule in Ireland – he spoke against ‘Wood’s Halfpence’ and in favour of ‘burning everything English except their coal’ and, satirically, wrote a ‘modest proposal’ in which he suggested that poor children should be fed to the rich (‘a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled..’)!

In 1742, at 75 years of age, Jonathan Swift suffered a stroke, severely affecting his ability to speak, and he died three years later, on the 19th October, 1745. He was buried next to the love of his life, Esther Johnson, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. “It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by providence as an evil to mankind” – Jonathan Swift.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.



About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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