January 1868

In the autumn of 1867, O’Connor Power travelled to North America to discuss reorganisation with the American Brotherhood. When he returned to Ireland, he moved, in early January 1868, as the Supreme Council’s representative for Connacht, to County Mayo to set up Fenian units.*

On 13 February, his  twenty-second birthday, O’Connor Power was in Dublin to meet with the Supreme Council, the governing body of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. A few days later, he was arrested on suspicion and held under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, a law which allowed detention without trial or evidence. He spent five and a half months in Kilmainham jail.

*SPO Fenian Files, 4 January 1868, MS 242R.

In the footsteps of That Irishman, John O’Connor Power

I took That Irishman to revisit his old haunts –  London’s Fleet Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and the Middle Temple. A call to the Johnson House revealed that the library’s holdings will shortly be on-line.

That Irishman meets Hodge, the bronze of Dr Johnson's cat, 'a very fine cat indeed'.
That Irishman meets Hodge, the bronze of Dr Johnson’s cat, ‘a very fine cat indeed’.

Coincidentally, my travelling companion, William Boyd’s  Any Human Heart, makes mention of Hodge twice.

My next port of call was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a tavern unspoilt by ‘the fury of innovation’ and a favourite haunt of O’ Connor Power.  The atmosphere remains warm and welcoming and I presented the manager with a copy of That Irishman.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese dining room

And so to Somerset House, former home to the Admiralty, for a delightful lunch  with Sile, overlooking the Thames. She joined me on my afternoon tour of the Middle Temple. We took photographs of O’Connor Power’s chambers – 5 King’s Bench Walk (1882-7), 2 Brick Court (1888-96), 1 Essex Court (1897-1916).  2 Brick Court was a former home of Oliver Goldsmith.

Oliver Goldsmith







Oliver Goldsmith Chambers celebrate Rumpole of the Bailey:








I made efforts to locate a bust of O’Connor Power, MP, 1881, by John Lawlor, the famous Irish sculptor.  It was entered for a Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition in 1881 and then withdrawn because of political unrest.  The Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Academy in London were helpful but the location of the bust remains a mystery.


That Irishman’s father, Patrick Power, was from Ballygill, just outside Ballinasloe.  ‘Power’s Garden’, as it was known, was close to Ballygill Bridge.

The view of the river Suck from Ballygill Bridge.







The eighteenth century Ballygill Lodge was ’10 chains East of the river Suck’ and in ruins  when O’Connor Power was a boy. Anthony Trollope’s  The Landleaguers (1883) describes a meet for the local hunt in Ballytowngal.


A visit in late September to Kilmainham Gaol.   O’Connor Power was arrested in Dublin in February 1868, a few days after his twenty-second birthday.  He was released in July.

Kilmainham cell


Photographs of a prison cell in the Victorian East Wing.  That Irishman spent several months in this cell or in one just like it.


Cell interior.







‘Home Rule sun rising up in the northwest’  James Joyce, Ulysses.

As the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Supreme Council representative for Connacht, O’Connor Power moved to Mayo. The Fenians campaigned for Catholic landlord George Henry Moore in the Westminster elections.  It was at meetings in Moorehall that Moore and Fenian leaders agreed on a new departure – constitutional and physical force Nationalists to work together and separately to forward the goal of an independent Ireland.

For an account of the Moores of Moorehall visit www.historicalballinrobe.com. There are photos of Moorehall in all its nineteenth century glory.

Moorehall as it is today.

Writer George Moore’s ‘dreaming house’. In 1923, Moorehall, with its impressive library, was gutted by fire.