John Boyle O'Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly

Poet and activist (1844-1890)

John Boyle O'Reilly worn in Dowth Castle, County Meath, Ireland,  on June 28, 1844. He was the son of scholar father William David O'Reilly and a gentle mother Eliza Boyle O'Reilly.

Ireland was at that time a part of the United Kingdom; many Irish people bitterly resented British rule and there was a strong nationalist movement. O'Reilly's family was fiercely patriotic, and his mother was closely related to John Allen, who had played an important role in Robert Emmet's abortive rising in 1803.

The career of John Boyle O'Reilly was more romantic than fiction and had in it all the essentials of drama. He entered journalism at Drogheda Co. Louth, a town near his birthplace, and threw the influence of his fiery pen into the cause of Irish revolt. The Fenian Society sent him to England as an agent, but he was speedily arrested and condemned to death, a sentence which was at the last moment commuted to penal servitude in Australia.

After enduring this for a year he escaped in a boat and was picked up by an American whaling vessel and finally landed at Philadelphia, USA. This was in 1869 when O'Reilly was but twenty-five years old. From this time to his death, which occurred in the prime of his powers, he was a great force in the movement for justice to Ireland and through the Boston Pilot, which he edited for many years, he championed not only all liberal movements for his native, but also for his adopted country. He was greatly beloved for his winning personality and his fervid Irish temperament, and at his death a statue by Daniel Chester French was erected to him in Boston.