b.1831 d.1915
Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was one of the founders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood [ 1858 ], the first Irish organization to clearly state as their goal the creation of an Irish democratic republic. One of many Fenians arrested in 1865 and eventually exiled, Rossa would eventually write two books detailing his treatment by the English while in prison. These books would sway much of Europe and America to the side of the Irish rebels.

Rossa was an unbending, unyielding, uncompromising man. He wanted Ireland not only to be free, but to be Gaelic as well. In 1863 John Stephens made Rossa business manager of The Irish People, the Fenian newspaper. Rossa also wrote articles and contributed poetry1 to the paper.

Arrested in 1865 under the notorious Treason/Felony Act, Rossa was sentenced to twenty years penal servitude. Cruelly treated in prison, at times he was completely unrecognizable to close friends that he would occasionally see. He was freed in 1871 on condition that he leave Ireland.

Rossa spent his exile in America where the Irish community had swelled to nearly 1.5 million following the Irish Potato Famine. He edited the United Irishman for a time and was deeply involved in financing the rebellion back home. More important, he wrote the books that would bring disgrace and dishonor to the English penal system and greatly influence world opinion -- Prison Life: Six Years in Six English Prisons (1874), republished in 1882 as Irish Rebels in English Prisons, and Recollections: 1838 to 1898, published in 1898.

Rossa died in America in 1915. His remains were taken back to Ireland to be buried in the Fenian plot at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands and Pádraic Pearse, soon to be a martyr in the 1916 Easter Rebellion, delivered the famous eulogy, concluding with the lines:

"...the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead - And while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace."

1 An example of Rossa's poetry:

A Visit From My Wife
by O'Donovan Rossa

A single glance, and that glance the first,
And her image was fixed in my mind and nursed;
And now it is woven with all my schemes,
And it rules the realm of all my dreams.

One of Heaven's best gifts in an earthly mould,
With a figure Appelles might paint of old -
All a maiden's charms with a matron's grace,
And the blossom and bloom off the peach in her face.

And the genius that flashes her bright black eye
Is the face of the sun in a clouded sky;
She has noble thoughts - she has noble aims
And these thoughts on her tongue are sparkling gems.

With a gifted mind and spirit meek
She would right the wronged and assist the weak;
She would scorn dangers to cheer the brave,
She would smite oppression and free the slave.

Yet a blighted life is my loved one's part,
And a death cold shroud is around her heart,
For winds from the "clouds of fate" have blown
That force her to face the hard world alone.

And a daughter she of trampled land,
With its children exiled, prisoned, banned;
And she vowed her love to a lover whom
The tyrant had marked for a felon's doom.

And snatched from her side ere the honeymoon waned:
In the dungeons of England he lies enchained;
And the bonds that bind him "for life" a slave
Are binding his love to his living grave.

He would sever the link of such hopeless love,
Were that sentence "for ever" decreed above.
For the pleasures don't pay for the pains of life -
To be living in death with a widowed wife.

A single glance, and that glance the first,
And her image was fixed in my mind and nursed,
And now she's the woof of my worldly schemes,
And she sits enthroned as the queen of my dreams.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.