A Tale of Two Fenians

Stephen O’Donohoe was a poor law clerk in Dublin. He was a family man with four children who struggled to get ahead but only barely managed to scrape by. Like many, he blamed the English rule in Ireland for his woes. He was one of thousands of men who joined the Fenian Brotherhood, a group dedicated to overthrowing the government and getting the English out of his country.

Thomas Farrell was from Williamstown and was a confectioner by trade. He joined the Fenian Brotherhood as well, and while it’s not clear if these two men knew each other, what is certain is that they are now tied together for all of eternity.

In March of 1867, both men took part in a Fenian Rising across Ireland. Farrell and O’Donohoe began trudging toward Tallaght hill with thousands of other men. The large mobilization was meant to be a decoy force that drew authorities out of Dublin so that the Fenians within the city could take over strategic outposts without any real fight. Unfortunately for the Brotherhood, a man in Liverpool told the authorities all about their plan and the Irish Constabulary wasn’t fooled by the massive exodus leaving the city. Reinforcements were sent into Dublin and the police planted themselves along the road to Tallaght Hill in order to disrupt the Fenian march.

Thomas Farrell was with a group of about forty other men when they encountered the Constabulary. The rebels had a cart full of ammunition with them and when it was discovered, a skirmish ensued. Farrell was gutted by a bayonet and left behind on the side of the road where he died. He was only twenty-six.

Later on, Stephen O’Donohoe was leading more than a hundred men toward Tallaght when they came face to face with the authorities. Some of the younger Fenians panicked and fired wildly at the police. Their return fire was deadly. Six men were hit including Stephen O’Donohoe. He was not killed outright, but he didn’t last long. The men he had been leading scattered and disappeared, as did many other groups who were confronted by the police along the road to Tallaght Hill. The Fenian Uprising came to a chaotic, discombobulated end before it had ever really begun and it cost these two men (and more) their lives.

Thousands had risen in Dublin, Limerick, and Cork, but they also stood down and dispersed when it became clear that the rebellion would fail. Any small victories they had were short-lived and largely symbolic. Stephen O’Donohoe and Thomas Farrell are two of the twelve men who died during the uprising. They died on this day in 1867 and were joined forever by the intricate memorial stone they share in Glasnevin Cemetery.

The stone honors the men’s devotion to a free Ireland and includes a wolfhound, a harp, and other symbols of their loyalty to the cause. A third man, Terence Byrne, is also remembered at this site. The Fenian grave is not the only one in the area, nor is it far from the massive Republican plot that honors many men and women who came after them and who fought the same fight until most of Ireland was free.

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