National Recording Project

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

MANCHESTER MARTYRS' MEMORIAL

Summary

Type Cross

     Celtic cross. Corners decorated with figures symbolical of Unity, Justice, Literature, and Art. (Literature and Art have been removed from their plinths and are now on the grass at the rear of the monument). On three sides of the pedestal are medallion portraits of Allen, Larkin and O'Brien (the Manchester Martyrs). These were originally surmounted by figures of the Irish wolfhound, but these have also been removed. The fourth space is filled in with an Irish harp, and on the front of the cross is a figure of Erin, armed with sword and shield. On the reverse is an Irish round tower. Rusticated base with Irish coats of arms at each corner.
     A public memorial raised to William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O' Brien who were executed for the murder of Sergeant Brett who was killed during an attempt to free two Fenian leaders - Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasy - who were travelling in a prison van along Hyde Road, Manchester in September 1867. The public execution took place at New Bailey Prison, Salford on 23 November 1867. The evidence of the three men's guilt was slight and later another Fenian who had escaped after the attack on the police van admitted being responsible for shooting Brett. The executions became one of the defining events in the long sour history of Anglo-Irish relations. Allen, Larkin and O' Brien were added to the list of those who had died in the struggle to establish an independent Ireland, the day of their execution added to those to be remembered in the calendar of Irish struggle. The erection of memorials, especially in the form of Celtic crosses, to mark the Manchester Martyrs became well established in Ireland in the years following the executions. The Sunday closest to the day of execution became a day of demonstration and remembrance for the three hanged men.But no immediate monument raised in Manchester. It was not until the end of the century that a monument was to be raised in Manchester. The centenary of the failed rebellion of 1798 was marked by various schemes to erect memorials, some of which were to the Manchester Martyrs. It was in this context that the decision was taken to erect a monument in Manchester itself. Funds for the memorial came from Ireland as well as from within Manchester's large Irish community. The site of the memorial was to be the Catholic cemetery in Moston. The Manchester City News reported that the 'the memorial has been designed and will be carried out by Mr. J. Geraghty of Bootle.' The ceremony of laying the foundation stone drew enormous crowds both along the route taken by the procession and in the cemetery. The stone itself, brought from the Hill of Tara, was laid by James Stephens, one of the leaders of the Fenian Movement. Short speeches were made by Stevens and Miss Maude Gonne. The ornate memorial with its rich symbolism was completed and unveiled in the following year. The monument immediately became an important symbol and focus for the Manchester Irish sympathetic to the cause of an independent Ireland. Each year a political demonstration was held ending at the memorial to mark the anniversary of the executions. Captain Edward O' Meagher Condon who was also sentenced to death for his part in the attack on the prison van in 1867 but being an American citizen had his sentence commuted to imprisonment visited the memorial in 1909. The memorial was also subject to attacks by individuals and groups unsympathetic to the Fenian cause. In 1967, the centenary of the executions, the Manchester Martyrs and Easter Week Commemoration Committee launched an appeal to renovate and clean the memorial. At the same time the Connolly Association decided to install a memorial on the site of the New Bailey Prison where Allen, Larkin and O' Brien were executed. The memorial was to take the form of a six-foot square slab of Irish granite, on which was to be a plaque containing representations and inscriptions relating to the events of 1867. It was the work of the Liverpool sculptor, Arthur Dooley. The proposal was opposed. Initially permission was refused by Salford Planning Committee but amid accusations that the decision was driven by 'prejudice and bias' the issue was reconsidered, only to be again refused. Only when Dooley revealed an altered memorial to the martyrs which bore the inscription 'Pray the four men may rest in peace' (an acknowledgment of Brett's death) was permission finally given though it required the casting vote of the deputy mayor after the council voted tied 25 for and 25 against. The anniversary march to the memorial in Moston has continued to be a controversial event, particularly during periods of IRA activity. Calls have been made for it to be banned. The memorial has also been subjected to frequent attacks, presumably by those unsympathetic to the ideas represented by Allen, Larkin and O' Brien. The present condition of the century-old monument - the broken statuary, paint- daubed stoneas, grafitti - is a testimony to the intensity of those beliefs that define the 'Irish Question.'
     Manchester Martyrs, Allen, Larkin and O'Brien, executed on 23 November 1867 for their part in the attack on a prison van in Hyde Road which was transporting Fenian leaders Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasy. During the ambush a police officer, Sergeant Brett, was killed. It was never conclusively proved that either of the three was responsible for Brett's death, but they were convicted and executed.(1)

Inscriptions

Front (below medallion of Allen): OF YOUR CHARITY PRAY FOR THE SOULS OF/WILLIAM PHILIP ALLEN. MICHAEL LARKIN./AND MICHAEL O'BRIEN./WHO DIED ON THE 23RD OF NOVEMBER 1867./THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED TO THEIR MEMORY/BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTIONS OF THE IRISH PEOPLE./GOD SAVE IRELAND Lower base front: STONE/LAID BY/JAMES STEPHENS, ESQ., NOVEMBER 27,/1898 Front lhs corner under coat of arms: CONNAUGHT Front rhs corner under coast of arms: LEINSTER Rear lhs corner under coat of arms: MUNSTER Rear rhs corner under coat of arms: ULSTER On base at front, on rustication: DUBLIN ARMAGH DONEGAL WEXFORD/CORK LIMERICK GALWAY ROSCOMMON Lhs rustication: WESTMEATH MAYO SLIGO LEITRIM/LONGFORD WATEFORD CLARE CARLOW rhs rustication: TIPPERARY MEATH LOUTH WICKLOW/KILKENNY [two more illeg] Under medallion panels: front: ALLEN lhs: O'BRIEN rhs: LARKIN Under female figures (seated at front of memorial, either side of cross), lh corner: UNITY rh corner: JUSTICE Below figure of Erin: ERIN

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Geraghty, J. Designer

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Cross Stone 615cm high approx x 400cm square
Shaft Stone None
Seated figures Stone 80cm high (without heads) x 44cm wide x 63cm deep

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
MR/MCR80 MR
General condition Poor
Surface condition
  • Corrosion, Deterioration
  • Abrasions, cracks, splits
  • Biological growth
Structural condition
  • Broken, missing parts
Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Structural damage
  • Surface damage
Road Lightbowne Road
Precise location St. Joseph's Cemetery, Moston (Moston Lane side)
A-Z ref p. 65 B1
OS ref SD878023
Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1898
Unveiling details November 1898
Commissioned by Manchester Martyrs Central Memorial Committee
Duty of care Manchester City Council/Moston Cemetery
Listing status Don't know
At risk? At Risk

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