William Philip Allen

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Allen, William Philip, was born near the town of Tipperary, April 1848. When three years old his father, a Protestant, moved to Bandon. Young Allen was educated at a Protestant training school, but his mother being a Catholic, he eventually joined that church. He was apprenticed to a carpenter; but before his apprenticeship expired he left his native town, and worked in Cork, Dublin, and Chester. An enthusiastic Fenian, he incited his countrymen in Manchester to attempt the rescue of his friend, Colonel Kelly. On the 18th September 1867, with a small body of confederates he effected Kelly's release from a prison van strongly guarded by police. In the melee, a police-sergeant named Brett was killed. This attack and rescue provoked a considerable panic in England in the Autumn and Winter of 1867. Allen and twenty-five others were taken and tried; and Allen, O'Brien, Larkin, Condon, and Maguire, were sentenced to death. The trial was pressed on during the height of the Fenian scare; and its conduct may be judged from the fact that Maguire was subsequently pardoned as being innocent (though sworn to by ten witnesses as an active member of the releasing party), and Condon, an American citizen, was respited. Allen and his friends made spirited and manly speeches before sentence. It was on this occasion that the words "God save Ireland," were first uttered by one of the prisoners, after conviction. Their last hours were spent in religious exercises, and in writing letters to their friends, breathing resignation and devotion to their principles. Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin were executed at the old prison, Manchester, on the 23rd November 1867, in the presence of an enormous military force. Their bodies were ultimately interred in the new prison, Manchester. Mr. Allen was of a slight figure, and almost feminine in appearance.

Sources

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

308. Speeches from the Dock: Alexander M. Sullivan. Dublin, 1868.

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