John Devoy (Irish: Seán Ó Dubhuí, IPA: [ˈʃaːnˠ oː
ˈdˠʊwiː]; 3 September 1842 – 29 September 1928) was an Irish
rebel leader and exile. He was the owner and editor of the Gaelic
American, a New York weekly newspaper, 1903-1928. Devoy dedicated over
60 years of his life to the cause of Irish freedom. He is one of the
few people to have played a role in the rebellion of 1867, the 1916
Rising and the
Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence (1919 - 1921).
1 Early life
2 Nationalist Leader
3 American years
4 Secret War
5 Later life
9 External links
Devoy was born near Kill, County Kildare, on 3 September, 1842 the son
of farmer and labourer. After the famine, the family moved to Dublin
where Devoy's father obtained at job at Watkins' brewery. Devoy
attended night school at the Catholic University before joining the
Fenians. In 1861 he travelled to France with an introduction from
Timothy Daniel Sullivan
Timothy Daniel Sullivan to John Mitchel. Devoy joined the French
Foreign Legion and served in
Algeria for a year before returning to
Ireland to become a
Fenian organiser in Naas, Co Kildare.
In 1865, when many Fenians were arrested, James Stephens, founder of
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), appointed Devoy Chief
Organiser of Fenians in the
British Army in Ireland. His duty was to
enlist Irish soldiers in the
British Army into the IRB.
In November 1865 Devoy orchestrated Stephens' escape from Richmond
Prison in Dublin.
In February 1866 an IRB Council of War called for an immediate
uprising, but Stephens refused, to Devoy's annoyance, as he calculated
Fenian force in the
British Army to number 80,000. The British got
wind of the plan through informers and moved the regiments abroad,
replacing them with regiments from Britain. Devoy was arrested in
February 1866 and interned in Mountjoy Gaol, then tried for treason
and sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude. In Portland Prison
Devoy organised prison strikes and was moved to
Millbank Prison in
Fenian 1842 – 1928, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin
In January 1871, he was released and exiled to the United States as
one of the "Cuba Five". He received an address of welcome from the
House of Representatives. Devoy became a journalist for the New York
Herald and was active in Clan na Gael. Under Devoy's leadership,
Clan na Gael became the central Irish republican organisation in the
United States. In 1877 he aligned the organisation with the Irish
Republican Brotherhood in Ireland.
In 1875, Devoy and
John Boyle O'Reilly
John Boyle O'Reilly organised the escape of six
Fremantle Prison in Western Australia aboard the ship
Catalpa. In 1879, Devoy returned to Ireland to inspect
and met Charles Kickham, John O'Leary and
Michael Davitt en route in
Paris; he convinced Davitt and
Charles Stewart Parnell
Charles Stewart Parnell to co-operate
in the "New Departure" during the growing Land War.
John Devoy 1842 – 1928 Rebel
Devoy's fundraising efforts and work to sway Irish-Americans to
support physical force nationalism during
World War I
World War I included
attempts to assist the
Easter Rising in 1916. In 1914, Padraig Pearse
visited the elderly Devoy in America, and later the same year Roger
Casement worked with Devoy in raising money for guns to arm the Irish
Volunteers. Pearse, who was very impressed by Devoy's long and
selfless dedication to the cause of Irish freedom, referred to Devoy
as "the greatest
Fenian of them all".
At the declaration of war between Britain and Germany on 14 August
Roger Casement and Devoy arranged a meeting in New York
between the Western Hemisphere's top-ranking German diplomat, Count
von Bernstorff, and a delegation of
Clan-na-Gael men. The Clan
delegates proposed a mutually beneficial plan: if Germany would sell
guns to the Irish rebels and provide military leaders, the rebels
would revolt against Britain, diverting troops and attention from the
war with Germany. Von Bernstorff listened with evident sympathy and
promised to relay the proposal to Berlin. Devoy decided to communicate
directly with Berlin. At the time, Britain held control of the seas;
within days of the start of the war it had cut the transatlantic
cable. It would be necessary to send an envoy to deliver the message
John Kenny, president of the New York Clan na Gael, was sent. After
meeting the German ambassador in Rome and presenting Devoy's plan,
Kenny met in Germany with Count von Bulow. He then travelled to Dublin
where he told Tom Clarke and other members of the Irish Republican
Brotherhood of the arrangement, and carried back to Devoy the IRB's
wishlist for guns, money, and military leaders. The details of Kenny's
mission were later published in the Gaelic American.
Though he was sceptical of the endeavour, Devoy financed and supported
Casement's expedition to Germany to enlist German aid in the struggle
to free Ireland from British rule, including Casement's Irish Brigade.
Nervous of Casement's companion Adler Christensen, whom he discovered
was a fraudster, and of Casement's decision to put the Irish Brigade
at the Germans' disposal in Turkey, Devoy advised Casement to return
to the USA, advice which was ignored.
Joseph Plunkett visited Devoy in the US and Casement and
diplomats in Germany, setting up a deal with the Germans that Ireland
would remain independent if Germany helped the coming
Easter Rising by
supplying guns and expertise and an attack on Britain simultaneous
with the Rising. These guns were supplied, in the SS Aud; Devoy was
blamed by the leaders of the Rising for failing to follow instructions
that the guns should arrive on Easter Sunday, set for the start of the
Rising. The IRB men sent to meet the Aud drove off a pier in the dark
and were drowned, and the boat was scuttled by its captain and the
guns sent to the bottom of the sea. Casement was captured as a result
of the same mistiming.
In 1916 Devoy played an important role in the formation of the
Friends of Irish Freedom at the third Irish Race
Convention, a propaganda organisation whose membership totalled at one
point 275,000. The Friends supported Woodrow Wilson for the presidency
in 1916 because of his policy of American neutrality in the world war.
Fearful of accusations of disloyalty for their co-operation with
Germans and opposition to the United States' entering the war on the
side of Great Britain, the Friends lowered their profile after April
1917, when America entered the war.
With the end of the war, Devoy played a key role in the Friends'
advocacy for self-determination for Ireland, in line with Wilson's
"Fourteen Points", as distinct from recognition by the United States
of the sovereignty of the newly declared Irish Republic. Wilson did
not guarantee recognition of the Republic, as declared in 1916 and
reaffirmed in the popular election in 1918. American-Irish republicans
challenged the Friends' refusal to campaign for American recognition
of the Irish Republic.
Devoy and the Friends'
Daniel F. Cohalan
Daniel F. Cohalan became the key players in a
transatlantic dispute with de facto Irish president Éamon de Valera,
who toured the United States in 1919 and 1920 in hopes of gaining US
recognition of the Republic and American funds. Devoy was scathingly
critical of De Valera's visit, saying of him, "This half-breed Jew has
done me more harm in the last two years than the English have been
able to do during my whole life." Believing that the Americans
should follow Irish policy, de Valera formed the American Association
for the Recognition of the
Irish Republic in 1920 with help from the
Philadelphia Clan na Gael. Devoy, who was suspicious of de Valera, had
enormous admiration for Michael Collins, whom Devoy referred to as
"Ireland's Fighting Chief". Diplomatic recognition was not yet
forthcoming, and Irish-American groups refused to support Wilson in
the United States presidential election, 1920. $5.5m was raised to aid
the new Irish nation.
Devoy supported the 1921
Anglo-Irish Treaty and the formation of the
Irish Free State
Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War. In 1924 Devoy
triumphantly returned to Ireland as an honoured guest of the Cumann na
nGaedheal Government of W.T. Cosgrave.
Devoy was editor of the
Gaelic American from 1903 until his death in
Atlantic City on 29 September 1928.
Devoy died on September 29, 1928 from natural causes while visiting
Atlantic City, New Jersey, he was 86. His death caused widespread
mourning, his body was returned to Ireland where a state funeral was
held, he was buried in
Glasnevin Cemetery in June 1929. A large
memorial to him stands on the road between his native Kill and
Johnstown. On 25 October 2016 a statue of him was unveiled in Poplar
Square, Naas, County Kildare.
John Devoy and America's Fight for Ireland's Freedom by
Terry Golway (1999)
The Greatest of the Fenians:
John Devoy in Ireland by Terrence Dooley
John Devoy's Catalpa Expedition by John Devoy
'Recollections of an Irish Rebel by
John Devoy (1929)
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain
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improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (February
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^ a b c d e Boylan, Henry (1998). A dictionary of Irish biography (3.
ed.). Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 0717125076.
^ Golway. t 1999 p39
^ Golway, T 1999 p52
^ "Book Review: Irish Rebel:
John Devoy and America's Fight for
Ireland's Freedom". The Wild Geese. 21 July 2015.
^ Dail comment, July 1924 Archived 9 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
^ John Devoy's Catalpa Expedition. p. 178.
Devoy, John. John Devoy's Catalpa Expedition (ISBN 0-8147-2748-4)
Devoy, John. 1929. Recollections of an Irish rebel. New York: Chase D.
John Devoy and America's Fight for Ireland's Freedom, by
Terry Golway, St. Martin's Griffin, 1999 (ISBN 0-312-19903-1).
Kenny, Kevin. The Irish in America: A History, (New York: Person
Education Ltd., 2000), p. 173
Miller, Kerby. Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to
North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985),
John Devoy at irelandsown.net
Devoy at Searc's web guide
John Devoy Memorial Committee
ISNI: 0000 0000 6318 7360