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Cost: FREE

Venue: Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew, Co. Galway

Date: Saturday 11th November 2017


  • 9.15 am – 9.45am Registration & Tea/Coffee
  • 9.45 am – 10.00am Welcome by Cllr Aidan Donohue, Cathaoirleach, Ballinasloe Municipal District, Galway County Council
  • 10.00 am -10.45am “The Family History and Legacy of Colonel Thomas J Kelly” by Erica Veil
  • 10.45 am -11.15am "Dr Mark Ryan - Kilconly Fenian" by Bride Brady
  • 11.15am – 12.00pm "American soldier or IRB rebel: understanding the career of Colonel Thomas J. Kelly (1833-1908)" by Owen McGee
  • 12.00pm – 12.30pm “The Boland connection” by Donnacha De Long
  • 12.30 pm - 1. 30pm Lunch
  • 1.30 pm – 2.15pm “The Fenians: Transnational Revolutionaries” by Frank Rynne
  • 2.15 pm - 3.00pm “Remembering and Forgetting the Fenians: The Fenian Ideal and the Revolutionary Generation of 1916” by Conor McNamara
  • 3.00pm – 3.45pm “Sources on Fenianism in the National Archives” by Brian Donnelly
  • 3.45pm – 4.00pm “The Fenians, Colonel Kelly and the Mountbellew Connection” by Holy Rosary College Students
  • 4.00pm- 4.15pm “The Fenian Galop” – Music and Songs performed by Holy Rosary College Students
  • 4.15pm – 4.30pm Concluding Remarks


Exhibition on the Fenians, Colonel Kelly & The Manchester Martyrs by Holy Rosary College Students and Mountbellew Heritage & Tourism Network.

Art Exhibition

Students from Coláiste An Chreagáin will showcase an art exhibition with regards to The Fenians, Colonel Kelly and the Manchester Martyrs.


Paintings Relating to Colonel Kelly: Two Original Paintings will be on display on the day relating to Colonel Kelly and the Smashing of the Van. Courtesy of Marie Cogavin

Biographies & Lecture Abstract

Erica Veil

Erica Veil is a great-great-granddaughter of Colonel Thomas J. Kelly. In 2015, after a career in corporate America, Erica took a break from a career as a book and metal artist to devote her time fully to researching Colonel Kelly, to write his biography (in progress) and preserve his memory. Along with other commemorative items, Veil is the author of Sesquicentennial 1867-2107: A Commemoration to Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and the Manchester Martyrs. Veil is currently a post-graduate student in the MA Creative Writing programme at University of Limerick.

TITLE OF LECTURE: The Family History and Legacy of Colonel Thomas J Kelly

ABSTRACT: Colonel Kelly had an unusually rocky trajectory in life, losing all he had built up for himself many times over, only to have to start again and again to build anything of value for himself and his family. The differences between his direct descendants, and the descendants of his elder brother Patrick, who stayed in Ireland to the Kelly family interests, are great indeed.

Bride Brady

Bride Brady is Chairperson of Kilconly Centenary Committee formed in 2015. The Committee is actively involved in a number of heritage projects within the parish. At their Easter 1916 Commemoration, Kilconly made national headlines when The Tricolour was raised by the late 100-year-old Mr. Jim Burke Daly, a native of Kilconly. In February 2017 the Committee unveiled a restored monument to the memory of 19-year-old soldier, Captain Thomas Joseph Prendergast, who died in an ambush in Blindwell in the parish in 1922. Currently, the Committee are aiming to restore two tombstones in Kilconly Cemetery - the Ryan Tombstone (parents of Dr. Mark Ryan, Fenian) and also the Ffrench Mullen tombstone, ancestors of 1916 Labour Activist Madeleine Ffrench Mullen.

TITLE OF LECTURE: Dr Mark Ryan - Kilconly Fenian

ABSTRACT: Dr. Mark Ryan led an interesting and happy life despite the hardships of his formative years in County Galway - the eviction of his family from homes in Kilconly on three occasions and their emigration to Lancashire; the difficulties he endured in England; his engagement with the Fenian Movement in England and in Ireland; the hazards he experienced as a Fenian agent engaged in gun-running; his return to Ireland to take part in the proposed Rising of 1867; his affiliation with Fenian leaders Stephens, O’Leary, Kickham and O’Donovan Rossa and with other outstanding individuals whom he came into contact with through his politics, his professional life and his involvement with Irish Cultural Movements.

Donnacha De Long

Donnacha De Long is a journalist and online communications consultant. He grew up in Dublin and now lives in London. For the last few years, Donnacha has been building on the genealogical work of his grand-uncles, Kevin Boland and Pearse Farrelly, and his mother, Bróna, tracing all branches of his family tree. Donnacha is the great-grandson of former government minister and senator Gerald Boland, who unveiled the memorial plaque on Kelly’s 50 years ago.

TITLE OF LECTURE: The Boland connection

ABSTRACT: 50 years ago, Senator Gerald Boland unveiled the memorial plaque to Thomas J. Kelly in Mountbellew. The former Minister of Defence had previously been TD for Roscommon since his brother Harry was killed in 1922. However, the Boland family connections to Mountbellew go deeper. While Gerald's grandfather, Patrick Boland, was from a Cams near Fuerty in Roscommon, his grandmother, Eliza Boland, was from either Mountbellew or Newbridge. According to what Gerald, his brother Harry and sister Kathleen wrote, Eliza was a first cousin of Thomas J. Kelly and their father Jim was involved in the rescue in Manchester. Donnacha De Long, Gerald's great-grandson has been researching the family and will present what he's found.

Owen McGee

Dr Owen McGee is a history graduate of UCD and author of books on Arthur Griffith (2015) and The IRB (2005). He is currently studying the history of Irish international relations.

TITLE OF LECTURE: American soldier or IRB rebel: understanding the career of Colonel Thomas J. Kelly (1833-1908)

ABSTRACT: Thomas Kelly was one of the most senior American military officers to ever join the American Fenian Brotherhood, having risen to the rank of captain before being invalided out of the Union Army in June 1864. His combination of Irish patriotism and American military experience made him an ideal candidate to lead the attempted rebellion of 1867; an event in which he was a central figure. Nevertheless, Kelly’s loyalties as an American soldier came first. He was a dedicated member of the Grand Army of The Republic association in New York throughout his later life. Unlike many Irish Catholic emigrants in the United States, he was also a lifelong supporter of the US Republican Party. His connections with Irish revolutionary circles did not outlive the era of Anglo-American tensions that lasted until 1872, yet his attitudes reflected the sensibilities of the small pro-Irish independence groupings that existed in the United States right up until his death. This paper will explore this context of the American Fenian tradition in the light of Kelly’s career and, in the process, consider whether or not he could better be described as an American soldier or an IRB rebel.

Conor McNamara

Dr Conor McNamara has written extensively about the revolution in the west of Ireland and the social history of the nineteenth century. His latest book, War and Revolution in Rural Ireland: Galway 1913-22 will be published by Irish Academic Press in March 2018. He currently teaches in NUI Galway.

TITLE OF LECTURE: Remembering and Forgetting the Fenians: The Fenian Ideal and the Revolutionary Generation of 1916

ABSTRACT: For a generation of revolutionaries in the decade that preceded the establishment of the Irish state, the Fenian movement of the nineteenth century provided both a beacon of unbroken resistance to British rule, as well as a salutatory lesson in how not to instigate mass revolution. This ambiguity was at the heart of the analysis offered by James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, Bulmer Hobson and others, who were keen to idealise the Fenians while critically appraising their perceived failings. This paper examines the reflections on the Fenians in the rhetoric and analysis of the Rising generation of 1916.

Frank Rynne

Frank Rynne is a Senior Lecturer in British Studies at Université Cergy Pontoise which is part
of the university group Paris Seine. He holds a doctorate in modern history from Trinity College Dublin where his doctoral thesis “Permanent revolutionaries: the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Land War in Skull,
Co. Cork 1879-82” was supervised by W. E. Vaughan. He has contributed to many books and journals on subjects relating to 19th and 20th c. history, Irish republicanism, secret societies, habeas corpus suspension and land law. He co-edited with Adam Pole, La Grande Famine en Irlande, Paris, Atlande, 2015. He is a member of the research laboratory PRISMES (EA 4398) Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and an associate member of AGORA (EA 7392), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.

TITLE OF LECTURE: The Fenians : Transnational Revolutionaries

ABSTRACT:This paper explores the origins of Fenianism in the aftermath of Young Ireland and the transnational nature of the movement. It examines the organisation of Fenianism on both sides of the Atlantic, The Irish People newspaper and trails, the 1867 Rising, Manchester Escape and Martyrs, the reorganisation of Fenianism down to the start of the Land War eg Clan Na Gael, Revolutionary directory and the reintroduction of the IRB from the USA in the 1870s.

Brian Donnelly

In 1981 Brian became Surveyor of Business Records with the Irish Manuscripts Commission, locating and reporting of collections of business and other records of historical interest throughout the country and assisting in the preservation of material of historical interest. He was involved in major surveys of local authority records in 1995 and of hospital records in 2015. He became head of Reader Services in the National Archives in 2016.

TITLE OF LECTURE: Sources on Fenianism in the National Archives

ABSTRACT: This lecture will outline the wide and often confusing variety of archival sources relating to Fenianism which survive in the National Archives. The Fenian movement came under police surveillance almost from the moment of its inception and Dublin Castle received a steady stream of information relating to its operations both in Ireland and America. There is consequently a remarkable survival of records dating back to the 1850s. Apart from material in the main body of the chief secretary’s office registered papers, sources include police reports, distinct Fenian file series, registers of Fenian suspects and of those detained following the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and over 500 photographs of individuals associated with the movement. The records also include material captured in the police raid on the Irish People newspaper offices in Dublin in September 1865 which were later used to secure convictions for treason felony. The lecture will also outline how existing finding aids can best be used to access the records.

To Reserve a Place

This is a free event and you can register by clicking on this Event Brite Link

To reserve a place on this free conference please contact one of the following: Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council. Phone 091 509198/087 9088387 or email Or Gráinne Smyth, Forward Planning, Galway County Council. Phone 091 509121 or email

This conference has been organised by Galway County Council in partnership with Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew,Coláiste An Chreagáin Mountbellew Heritage and Tourism Network, National University of Ireland, Galway, Skehana Heritage, Creative Ireland and The National Archives. It is an action of Galway County Council’s Decade of Commemoration Strategy 2013-2023