Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fenians. The original Fenians were mercenary troops in the service of the kings of Eire. They are said to have been composed of the tribes who were subjugated by the Scots in the first century of our era, and to have formed a regular standing army, consisting of three bodies, each modelled on the Roman legion, with which the Scots may have become acquainted during their inroads into Britain, They took their name from the hero Finn MacCumhail, who belonged to the Clan-na-Boiscne or Leinster body of Fenians. They were finally disbanded by the king of Eire, and entered the service of a rival king, but were nearly annihilated in the battle of Gabhra or Gavra (284 A.D.).

The modern society with this title, which aims at the subversion of British rule in Ireland, was founded in America, whither large numbers of Irish flocked after the famine of 1846-47. The association was composed of a "Senate," which held meetings at New York, and a number of "circles," each managed by its own "centre," which extended over the whole of the United States, and was especially active in Chicago and its neighbourhood. The "centres" were chiefly engaged in levying recruits, furnishing them with arms and training them in their use, and collecting funds for carrying out the revolutionary schemes determined on. The organisation gradually extended to Ireland, and parts of England with a large Irish population, and at last assumed such proportions that the British Government became alarmed. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in Ireland, adelitional troops were sent over, many of the leaders - including the "head-centre," James Stephens - were seized, and the chief organ of Fenianism, O'Donovan Rossa's Irish People, Was suppressed. Some of those found guilty of treason were sentenced to penal servitude. The prompt action of the Government crushed sedition in Ireland for a time, but the escape of Stephens from prison revived the courage of his associates. His return to America, in company with other Fenians, was the signal for an abortive inroad into Canada (1866). In the spring of 1867 the struggle was renewed on British soil; an attempt was made to seize Chester Castle as the prelude to a general insurrection; it was unsuccessful, and several ill-organised risings in Ireland during the same year met with no better fortune. In the autumn of 1867 great excitement was caused in England by an attack on a police-van at

Manchester, resulting in the death of a constable, and by em attempt to blow up the wall of Clerkenwell gaol. In both cases the object was the release of prisoners suspected of Fenianism. In 1871 the United States Government received information of a projected raid into Canada in time to prevent its taking place. Among more recent movements of the Fenians we may notice the formation of a "Skirmishing Fund" (1883-85), the establishment of the Clan-na-Gael, and the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish by a body of "Invincibles" in Phoenix Park, Dublin (1882).