The name of an Irish Fenian
in the 1860's who became a signature of English brutality toward the Irish. His case was highlighted in a letter by Karl Marx
and Marx's daughter Jenny to the French newspaper La Marseillaise
[ March 1, 1870 ].
Born John Murphy, Pagan O'Leary was convicted under the Treason/Felony Act for having contributed articles to the The Irish People newspaper. An old man in his sixties at the time, O'Leary was one of many Irish who were convicted of treason for merely criticizing the British - especially their handling (or mishandling) of famine relief.
In 1865 O'Leary was incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison. When told to state his religion, he answered he was of no religion and never attended services. When told to choose between Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic or a bread and water diet, O'Leary answered Unitarian. The old man was placed on a bread and water diet and shortly thereafter had to be moved to the prison hospital.
The doctor who visited O'Leary in his cell said he found him with no bed, no clothes, nothing between himself and the cold floor -- on one of the coldest days of winter. After five days in the hospital, O'Leary was returned to his cell and his bread and water diet. Finally, after three more days of nothing but prison gruel, O'Leary relented and declared himself a Catholic.