Clerkenwell Explosion

Justin McCarthy
Chapter XII | Start of Chapter

On December 13, 1867, an attempt was made by Fenians to blow up Clerkenwell Prison, with the hope of rescuing one of their comrades. The attempt failed, and the explosion caused the death of some entirely innocent and unconcerned persons, and created a feeling of horror throughout the whole country. Sober-minded observers feared that excited English crowds might attempt reprisals on some of the Irish in the Metropolis, but no such acts of vengeance were committed. The principal offender in the Clerkenwell explosion was tried, found guilty, and executed, and the attempt upon the prison was utterly condemned by Irishmen as well as by Englishmen. Among the Fenians in America there was a certain dynamite party who believed that the English people could be frightened into measures of justice for Ireland by plots for the destruction of human life in English cities. An attempt made to blow up London Bridge on December 13, 1884, and one to blow up the Houses of Parliament on January 24, 1885, both ended in utter failure. It ought to be said that the recognised Fenian leaders never lent any countenance to acts of this atrocious character. Some of them were men of high honour and pure motives.