On Thursday evening, October 26th 2017, William Casey delivered a talk to Skibbereen & District Historical Society, at the West Cork Hotel.
The talk, ‘Skibbereen Fenians’, was very informative and was received with great attention by the large attendance.
William is a very accomplished and confident speaker and his talks are always most informative and enjoyable. As well as being an outstanding speaker, William writes with great authority and depth of knowledge and has contributed very generously to the Skibbereen & District Historical Society journals over the years.
On the subject of ‘Skibbereen Fenians’, William has done a huge amount of research and there’s no one more qualified to speak on the subject than him. In 2016 William completed a masters in local history, the subject of his thesis being the early Fenian movement in the Skibbereen region. The period covered by his research was from the mid-1850s to the Fenian Rising of 1867, a period when Skibbereen became known as the ‘Cradle of Fenianism’.
William began his lecture by reminding us that this is the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Rising of 1867, a milestone that seems to have been largely forgotten in all the hype surrounding the centenary of 1916 and the years that followed. However, it should be remembered that the Fenians were very important to the background story of the 1916 Rising and the subsequent War of Independence
Following the founding of the Fenians (Irish Republican Brotherhood) in America, its leader James Stephens toured Ireland and one of his first stops was in Skibbereen where an existing organisation, The Phoenix National and Literary Society, quickly took on the principles of Fenianism. Out of the Phoenix Society the Fenian movement spread quickly in the greater Skibbereen area and from here into other parts of West Cork and south Kerry.
The raison d’etre of the Fenians (IRB) was to gain an independent Ireland through force of arms.
William concentrated on the personnel involved in those early days of the Fenian movement in Skibbereen, and developed his story through these characters.
O’Donovan Rossa’s story is well documented. Not so much is known about some of the other leading characters in the movement in Skibbereen and through his extensive research William has pulled together a wealth of information on many of them, including Dan McCartie (Skibbereen’s first Fenian), brothers Patrick, Denis and Simon Downing, Mortimer Moynahan (who for a brief period was the leader of the Fenian movement in America), Michael Harrington, Cornelius Dwyer Keane, John O’Driscoll and others.
In the 2017 Skibbereen & District Historical Society Journal William has an article, ‘Mortimer Moynahan: the forgotten Fenian leader’ which gives a quite magnificent account of the life of Moynahan and the huge role he played in the Fenian movement. For anyone with an interest in the history of Skibbereen or the history of the Fenian movement, it should be required reading.