seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Death of Terence Bellew MacManus in San Francisco

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terrence-bellew-macmanusTerence Bellew MacManus, an Irish rebel and Young Irelander, dies in San Francisco on January 15, 1861.

MacManus is born in 1811 in Tempo, County Fermanagh, Ireland, and was educated in parochial schools. As a young man he moves to the major port of Liverpool, where he becomes a successful shipping agent. In 1848 he returns to Ireland, where he becomes active in the Repeal Association, which seeks to overturn the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. After joining the Irish Confederation, he is among those who take part with William Smith O’Brien and John Blake Dillon in the July 1848 Young Irelander Rebellion in Ballingarry, County Tipperary, where the only substantial armed action occurs. MacManus and the other leaders are charged and convicted of treason, and sentenced to death for their actions.

Due to public outcry for clemency, the men’s sentences are commuted to deportation for life. MacManus, along with O’Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, and Patrick O’Donoghue, is transported to Van Diemen’s Land in Tasmania, Australia in 1849. They are assigned to different settlements to reduce their collaboration in the new land, however, the Irish men continue to meet secretly.

In 1852 MacManus and Meagher escape from Australia and make their way to San Francisco, California, where MacManus settles. Meagher goes on to New York. Like other immigrants, the Irish revolutionaries carry their issues to the United States. A Captain Ellis, of a ship that is supposed to carry O’Brien to freedom, also emigrates to San Francisco. MacManus holds a lynch court of Ellis among Irish emigrants for his betrayal of O’Brien in his escape attempt from Van Diemen’s Land. The court martial acquits Ellis for lack of evidence.

Failing to re-establish his career as a shipping agent, MacManus lives in San Francisco, California and dies in poverty in 1861. It is after his death, however, that he performs his most valuable service to the cause of Irish freedom. On learning of his death, American Fenian leaders decide to return his body to Ireland for burial. This foreshadows the treatment given to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa at his famous funeral in 1915. Crowds of Irish gather in New York as Archbishop John Hughes, like MacManus born in Ulster, blesses MacManus’ body. Thousands greet his body when it arrives in Cork and crowds gather at rail stations all the way to Dublin.

The church, in the person of Archbishop Cullen, refuses permission for his body to lie-in-state at any church in Dublin. Thus, for a week MacManus’ body lies in the Mechanics’ Institute, while thousands pass by paying their respects. But Father Patrick Lavelle, a Fenian supporter, defies Cullen and performs the funeral ceremony on November 10, 1861. A crowd estimated at 50,000 follow the casket to Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, and hundreds of thousands line the streets. The MacManus funeral is a seminal moment for the Fenian movement. It invigorates the nationalist movement in Ireland, just as Rossa’s funeral does 54 years later.

MacManus is notable for his statement in court in 1848 where he explains his actions by saying, “It was not because I loved England less, but because I loved Ireland more.”

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