Bellew McManus (1811 - 1861)
Terence Bellew McManus
was born in Tempo, Co, Fermanagh, Ireland circa 1811 into a middle
class family. He received his early education in Tempo where he met
and became a lifelong friend to Charles Gavin Duffy. In his memoirs
"Early life in Monaghan" Duffy wrote:,
at that time was serving his apprenticeship to a woolen draper was
a good-looking, strapping young fellow, full of life and gaiety; and
as his people were under-stood to be a junior branch of the Bellews
of Barmeath, he stood apart from his class-even his master at times
designated him "the sprig of aristocracy." Our Sunday afternoons
(his only free time) were spent in long rambles, occupied chiefly
with speculations and visions of what might be accomplished to
reinstate our dethroned people in their rightful position. We did
not know much of history, but we got what in recent times would be
called "object lessons," to keep it alive in our memory".
In 1836 McManus
moved to Dublin where he found employment in one of
the large department type shops being established in Dublin at that time. Some
emigrated to Liverpool where he found work as a shipping
agent. During his early years in Liverpool he devoted much of his time
and energy to his business.
Although he became wealthy and a successful businessman he did not
forget the sorry state of his homeland nor the desires of his youth to
help set it free from the usurpers shackles. He was active in the
large Irish community in Liverpool and attended numerous nationalist
events in Ireland in 1843 as a
representative of the Liverpool Irish. He also became a member
of the Repeal Movement in 1843. When the Irish
Confederation (a breakaway from the Repeal Movement) was established in 1847 by the Young Ireland movement,
McManus established the 82 Club, one of many Confederation clubs set up
As the manmade famine of
the 1840's, blamed on the potato blight by the British, worsened and
Repeal of the Union was a fading dream, members of the Irish
Confederation set about preparing for an armed revolt. As with many
other attempts to achieve Irish freedom the leaders of the planned
uprising were betrayal by
John Donnellan Balfe at onetime colleague
of the weekly newspaper 'Saturday Mercury'. His betrayal
resulted in the
arrest of many of the leaders including John Mitchel and Charles Gavin
Duffy. Notwithstanding, the fatal setback William Smith O’Brien and
other who escaped the dragnet proceeded with plans to stage the
In the meantime, McManus had returned from Liverpool with a
contingent of men to participate in the planned uprising. He
joined William Smith O'Brien and John
Blake Dillon in Co. Tipperary who were enroute with a contingent of men to join the main fighting force gathering at Slievenamon.
Saturday, July 30, they encountered a force of constabulary at Ballingarry.
The unintended encounter doomed any chance they had of reaching Slievenamon and consequently and chance of launching a successful
British reinforcements on the way they retreated to the hills to plan their escape.
McManus made his way to Cork and was aboard a U.S. vessel where
By all accounts
'conspicuous bravery and determination"
On October 10, 1848, McManus was brought to trial for high treason in Clonmel.
He was found guilty as was
Thomas Francis Meagher and Patrick O'Donoghue.
Two weeks later they stood side by side in the dock to receive their
recorded as follows; "to be drawn on a hurdle
to the place of execution on the 13th, Nov, and there hanged until
he be dead, his head then to be cut off and his body to be cut into
four quarters then disposed of as her Majesty shall think fit. Respited until further order on 28th October, 1848".
The following is an
extract from McManus speech from the dock;
"I say, whatever part I may have taken in the straggle for my
country's independence, whatever part I may have acted in my short
career, I stand before you, my lords, with a free heart and a light
conscience, to abide the issue of your sentence. And now, my lords,
this is, perhaps, the fittest time to put a sentence upon record,
which is this—that standing in this dock, and called to ascend the
scaffold—it may be to-morrow—it may be now—it may be never—whatever
the result may be, I wish to put this on record, that in the part I
have taken I was not actuated by enmity towards Englishmen—for among
them I have passed some of the happiest days of my life, and the
most prosperous; and in no part which I have taken was I actuated by
enmity towards Englishmen individually, whatever I may have felt of
the injustice of English rule in this island; I therefore say, that
it is not because I loved England less, but because I loved Ireland
more, that I now stand before you."
Succumbing to worldwide condemnation,
the British commuted the death sentences passed on McManus and his
comrades to penal servitude for life.
On July 5, 1849, together with William
Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher and Patrick
O'Donoghue, McManus was placed aboard HMS
'Swift" for transportation to the penal colonies
in Van Deimen's
Tasmania) off south Australia to serve out their life sentences.
After arriving in Van Diemen's Land the
four comrades were separated and sent to different districts and
disallowed from making any contact with each other without
McManus was sent to Launceston and later transferred to New
Norfolk. After McManus's "ticket of leave" was revoked for a
clandestine meeting with O'Donoghue he considered himself
free to escape and did so on February 21, 1851. He arrived in
California on June 5, 1851 to an enthusiastic welcome from the Irish community.
In a letter to William Gavin Duffy he
described his journey to freedom as ‘little short of what you
can imagine of hell’s flames’,
After settling in California he resumed his
work in the shipping business that worked so well for him in Liverpool.
He had problems adopting to the American way of doing business and his
attempts to recreate the success he enjoyed in Liverpool eluded him. He
died penniless on January 15, 1861, at age 50. He was buried in
Calvary Cemetery in San Francisco. His body was
by the Fenians for reburial
Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
After a nine month odyssey, during which
time his casket was first brought to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York
for a Requiem Mass before continuing the journey to Ireland, where
hundreds of thousands met the casket in Cork. On the way from Cork to his final
resting place in Glasnevin his body was carried past numerous
hanging sites of previous Irish martyrs . The conservative Catholic
hierarchy denied him a Dublin cathedral service because he dared
oppose the British occupation of Ireland and their treatment of the
Irish people. The candle lit procession from Mechanics Hall were his
body lay in state to Glasnevin Cemetery was one of the largest
funerals ever held in Ireland.
Tomás Ó Coısdealha
353 1 830-1133
Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 11, Ireland
headstone to view inscription
Back to Biographies Posted 10/09/09