Educational Tours

Since its foundation the Parnell Society has undertaken a number of educational tours, visiting locations associated with the extended Parnell family such as Boston, Bordentown, Washington DC and Valley (Alabama) in the USA, London, Eltham, Brighton, Hove, Littlehampton and Ilfracombe in the UK and Paris.

Please check back at the beginning of the year for any news of forthcoming tours or follow our social media sources for the latest updates.

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At the Grave side:    Fanny Parnell

The following address reprinted from Donal McCartney and Pauric Travers, The Ivy leaf (Dublin 2006) was delivered by Professor McCartney on 11 April 2001 to mark the placing of a commemorative stone of   Wicklow granite from Avondale on the grave of Fanny Parnell (1848-1882) at Mount Auburn cemetery, Boston.

 

Fanny Parnell died in July1882, six weeks short of her thirty-fourth birthday. Her brother, Charles, refused permission to have her body shipped back to Ireland for burial. That anyone should be embalmed and moved from one place to another after death, was to him, as Mrs O’Shea said, ‘unspeakably awful’. And when this was proposed for his favourite, among his six sisters, ‘his horror and indignation were extreme’. So, she was buried with her mother’s people, the Tudors of Boston, in this vault in Mount Auburn.

 

Early in the new century, another request to have her remains returned to Ireland, was again turned down, and for the same reasons. This time by her sister, Anna.    In the 1930s, the question of reburial in Ireland was raised once more: but this also came to nothing.     More recently, a participant in one of our Parnell Summer Schools  -Denis Foley of Boston, whom we are delighted to have with us again today,  – reminded some members of our Committee that Fanny Parnell was buried in an unmarked American grave, and that something ought to be done about it. At the time, Jane Côté’s book, Fanny and Anna Parnell, had aroused considerable interest in Ireland’s patriot sisters, as she called them.

 

And now, we in the Parnell Society have decided that if Fanny Parnell was not to be brought home to her Wicklow Mountains, then a memorial slab of granite, from those same Mountains, and similar to that marking her brother’s grave in Glasnevin, should be brought to her. The cost of transporting the stone from Avondale to Mount Auburn was generously, and anonymously borne by a member of the sub-committee that planned this trip.

 

Fanny was never, simply, the sister of her celebrated brother:  She deserves to be remembered in her own right.   She was still four months short of her sixteenth birthday when the first of her patriotic poems appeared in the Fenian newspaper, the Irish People.  John O’Leary, editor of the Irish People, described her verses as rhetoric rather than poetry. But, he added, that it was very vigorous and sonorous rhetoric, giving great promise for a girl her age.  Whatever about the literary merits, what her teenage contributions to the Irish People signified was a bright-eyed idealism, a seriousness of purpose, a budding sense of patriotism, an alienation from her own class, and a passion to make Ireland a better place in which to live.  When the Fenian leaders were arrested on charges of treason-felony, Fanny attended the trials.  And, in the words of her brother, John, ‘pictured herself as the next occupant of the dock’.

 

In her mid-twenties, she settled in America, where Mrs Parnell had inherited the estate of her father, Admiral Stewart.  Shortly after this her brother began his meteoric rise in politics.      Her personality, cradled in Fenian Ireland, finally came to blossom among the exiles and expatriates in America during the stirring times of the Land agitation presided over her brother.   Whenever he was attacked in American newspapers she rushed to his defence. When he established the Famine Relief Fund, she threw herself into its organisation, devoting at least ten hours a day to the work. She arranged for Famine Relief boxes to be placed in post-offices all over the USA. She coordinated Parnell’s hectic mission to some 60 North American cities. She scolded him for not replying to his correspondents,,and entreated him to acknowledge subscriptions.  She criticised HQ in Dublin for its lack of efficiency. She chaffed about John Dillon because he had left his slippers in one hotel and his nightshirt in another.

 

Her work rate was frenetic. And those Clan na Gael bosses who felt that the land agitation was diverting people away from pure physical force Republicanism, correctly pin-pointed “Miss Fanny” as the leader of those who had defeated their attempts to control Parnell’s mission for their own ends.

 

When Tim Healy arrived in America to attend to Parnell’s secretarial problems, he was pleasantly surprised, however by the young woman who met him.  She was thoughtful in providing what he called “womanly comforts” after his long voyage.  He described her as gracious, cheerful, feminine, without a trace of the poetess or bluestocking.   And when Davitt and Willie Redmond, arrived to continue the work of the Land League, she gave them, also, royal hospitality at the Bordentown estate which she managed efficiently for her mother.

 

 

Her pamphlet, The Hovels of Ireland, was a hard-hitting attack on landlordism. Two months later, a widely-researched, well-written and cogently argued article, entitled “The Irish Land Question”, was published in the prestigious North American Review under Charles’s name. Apparently, however, it was written by his sister. Her assistance was also evident in the important address which Charles gave to the US House of Representatives.

 

The Ladies’ Land League, first established in New York, was her brain-child.  She was never comfortable, however, with public speaking. On one occasion in Boston she had hardly begun to speak when she faltered and said that she had forgotten everything she wanted to say. Patrick Collins, President of the American Land League, and later Mayor of Boston, came to her rescue saying that Miss Parnell: “has talked, does talk and will continue to talk to the people of two continents in immortal songs which have done more than any speeches to arouse the spirit of Ireland”.   He was referring, of course, to her Land League ballads, then being published in John Boyle O”Reilly”sBoston Pilot, and reprinted in newspapers in Ireland, America, Australia and England. The most famous, “Hold the Harvest”, was described by Michael Davitt as the Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.

 

Oh! by the God who made us all

– The seigneur and the serf-

Rise up! and swear, this day to hold

Your own green Irish turf;

Rise up! and plant your feet as men

where now you crawl as slaves,

And make your harvest-fields your camps,

Or make of them your graves.

 

 

Her patriotism has never been in question. Her poetry, though not devoid of literary merit, was never intended to be a contender for the Nobel Prize. It was meant to be, and was, effective propaganda. Her pioneering feminism can be more easily discerned from the present standpoint in history. And what her sister, Anna, foretold has indeed come to pass: ‘Perhaps’, said Anna, … ‘when we are dead and gone and another generation grown up …they will point to us as having set a noble example to all the women of Ireland.’  But the patriotism, the poetry, the fervid activity, the propaganda, the feminism were merely the outward expression of her most characteristic virtue – her innate hunger for justice. In the biblical language she loved to cite, she grew up ‘as a tender plant, and as a root out of a thirsty land’[1] – a land, as she saw it, thirsting for justice.

 

She quoted with approval Montalembert on the moral energy which inspires individuals to oppose injustice, and to protest against the abuse of power, even when not directly involved themselves. What inspired her writings, as well as her actions, was this strong social conscience, and an acute awareness of the responsibilities placed upon her by her own privileged position.     She reminded her own landlord class that with the accidentals of birth, education, wealth and intelligence go stern duties.  That burning sense of noblesse oblige which possessed her, may also be detected in her siblings, Charles and Anna.

 

She was one with her friend, John Boyle O’Reilly, when he wrote: ‘What is the good of having a republic unless the mass of the people are better off than in a monarchy?  And she agreed with her ally, Michael Davitt, when he said: ‘We can afford to put away the harp until we have abolished poverty from Ireland’.

 

Perhaps the sublimest epitaph written for her came from Francis Sheehy Skeffington – a kindred spirit. He wrote that she was “the noblest and purest-minded patriot of the Parnell family; and had not her fiery soul ‘fretted the pigmy body to decay’, and brought her to an untimely death, her genius might have won for her a place beside the Maid of Orleans among the liberating heroines of history”.

 

And so, in Mt. Auburn, today, I have an eerie feeling that we, mortals, are not here alone.  There is also present, in the words of one of her poems, a ‘jubliant procession’.  Among that jubilant host is a contingent of Fenian spirits led by those who first accepted for publicaton her teenage ballads – John O’Leary, Charles Kickham, O’Donovan Rossa.  Representatives of the Ladies’ Land Leagues of America and Ireland are also here led by her mother, Delia, and sister, Anna.  Irish-Americans present include her friends, John Boyle O’Reilly, John Devoy, Patrick Collins.  A group from the Irish Parliamentary Party includes Davitt, Dillon, Redmond, with perhaps, a now sulking Tim Healy in the background.

 

And if we feel the whisper of a gentle breeze passing through the assembled ranks, we may be sure that it is a tall, handsome, bearded ghost, proudest of all here present, and smiling approvingly that she whom he described as the ‘cleverest and most beautiful woman in his family’ is here honoured, and her name set in stone.

 

Undreaming there she will rest and wait,

in the tomb her people make,

Till she hears men’s hearts, like the seeds in

Spring, all stirring to be awake,

Till she feels the moving of souls that strain

till the bands around them break;

And then, I think, her dead lips will smile

and her eyes be oped to see,

When the cry goes out to the nations that

the Singer’s land is free!

 

From ‘The Dead Singer’  by John Boyle O’Reilly

(in memory of Fanny Parnell  )

 

 

 

 

AFTER DEATH

 

 

Shall mine eyes behold thy glory, O my country?

Shall mine eyes behold thy glory?

Or shall the darkness close around them ere the sunblaze

Break at last upon thy story?

 

When the nations ope for thee their queenly circle

As a sweet new sister hail thee,

Shall these lips be sealed in callous death and silence,

That have known but to bewail thee?

 

Shall the ear be deaf that only loved thy praises,

When all men their tribute bring thee?

Shall the mouth be clay that sang thee in thy squalor,

When all poets’ mouths shall sing thee?

 

Oh the harpings and the salvos and the shoutings

Of thy exiled sons returning!

I should hear, tho’ dead and mouldered, and the grave-damps

Should not chill my bosom’s burning.

 

Ah! The tramp of feet victorious! I should hear them

‘Mid the shamrock and the mosses.

And my heart should toss within the shroud and quiver,

As a captive dreamer tosses.

 

I should turn and rend the cere-clothes round me,

Giant sinews I should borrow –

Crying, O, my brother, I have also loved her

In her loneliness and sorrow!

 

Let me join with you the jubilant procession;

Let me chant with you her story;

Then contented I shall go back to the shamrocks,

Now mine eyes have seen her glory!

At the Grave side:    Fanny Parnell

The following address reprinted from Donal McCartney and Pauric Travers, The Ivy leaf (Dublin 2006) was delivered by Professor McCartney on 11 April 2001 to mark the placing of a commemorative stone of   Wicklow granite from Avondale on the grave of Fanny Parnell (1848-1882) at Mount Auburn cemetery, Boston.

 

Fanny Parnell died in July1882, six weeks short of her thirty-fourth birthday. Her brother, Charles, refused permission to have her body shipped back to Ireland for burial. That anyone should be embalmed and moved from one place to another after death, was to him, as Mrs O’Shea said, ‘unspeakably awful’. And when this was proposed for his favourite, among his six sisters, ‘his horror and indignation were extreme’. So, she was buried with her mother’s people, the Tudors of Boston, in this vault in Mount Auburn.

 

Early in the new century, another request to have her remains returned to Ireland, was again turned down, and for the same reasons. This time by her sister, Anna.    In the 1930s, the question of reburial in Ireland was raised once more: but this also came to nothing.     More recently, a participant in one of our Parnell Summer Schools  -Denis Foley of Boston, whom we are delighted to have with us again today,  – reminded some members of our Committee that Fanny Parnell was buried in an unmarked American grave, and that something ought to be done about it. At the time, Jane Côté’s book, Fanny and Anna Parnell, had aroused considerable interest in Ireland’s patriot sisters, as she called them.

 

And now, we in the Parnell Society have decided that if Fanny Parnell was not to be brought home to her Wicklow Mountains, then a memorial slab of granite, from those same Mountains, and similar to that marking her brother’s grave in Glasnevin, should be brought to her. The cost of transporting the stone from Avondale to Mount Auburn was generously, and anonymously borne by a member of the sub-committee that planned this trip.

 

Fanny was never, simply, the sister of her celebrated brother:  She deserves to be remembered in her own right.   She was still four months short of her sixteenth birthday when the first of her patriotic poems appeared in the Fenian newspaper, the Irish People.  John O’Leary, editor of the Irish People, described her verses as rhetoric rather than poetry. But, he added, that it was very vigorous and sonorous rhetoric, giving great promise for a girl her age.  Whatever about the literary merits, what her teenage contributions to the Irish People signified was a bright-eyed idealism, a seriousness of purpose, a budding sense of patriotism, an alienation from her own class, and a passion to make Ireland a better place in which to live.  When the Fenian leaders were arrested on charges of treason-felony, Fanny attended the trials.  And, in the words of her brother, John, ‘pictured herself as the next occupant of the dock’.

 

In her mid-twenties, she settled in America, where Mrs Parnell had inherited the estate of her father, Admiral Stewart.  Shortly after this her brother began his meteoric rise in politics.      Her personality, cradled in Fenian Ireland, finally came to blossom among the exiles and expatriates in America during the stirring times of the Land agitation presided over her brother.   Whenever he was attacked in American newspapers she rushed to his defence. When he established the Famine Relief Fund, she threw herself into its organisation, devoting at least ten hours a day to the work. She arranged for Famine Relief boxes to be placed in post-offices all over the USA. She coordinated Parnell’s hectic mission to some 60 North American cities. She scolded him for not replying to his correspondents,,and entreated him to acknowledge subscriptions.  She criticised HQ in Dublin for its lack of efficiency. She chaffed about John Dillon because he had left his slippers in one hotel and his nightshirt in another.

 

Her work rate was frenetic. And those Clan na Gael bosses who felt that the land agitation was diverting people away from pure physical force Republicanism, correctly pin-pointed “Miss Fanny” as the leader of those who had defeated their attempts to control Parnell’s mission for their own ends.

 

When Tim Healy arrived in America to attend to Parnell’s secretarial problems, he was pleasantly surprised, however by the young woman who met him.  She was thoughtful in providing what he called “womanly comforts” after his long voyage.  He described her as gracious, cheerful, feminine, without a trace of the poetess or bluestocking.   And when Davitt and Willie Redmond, arrived to continue the work of the Land League, she gave them, also, royal hospitality at the Bordentown estate which she managed efficiently for her mother.

 

 

Her pamphlet, The Hovels of Ireland, was a hard-hitting attack on landlordism. Two months later, a widely-researched, well-written and cogently argued article, entitled “The Irish Land Question”, was published in the prestigious North American Review under Charles’s name. Apparently, however, it was written by his sister. Her assistance was also evident in the important address which Charles gave to the US House of Representatives.

 

The Ladies’ Land League, first established in New York, was her brain-child.  She was never comfortable, however, with public speaking. On one occasion in Boston she had hardly begun to speak when she faltered and said that she had forgotten everything she wanted to say. Patrick Collins, President of the American Land League, and later Mayor of Boston, came to her rescue saying that Miss Parnell: “has talked, does talk and will continue to talk to the people of two continents in immortal songs which have done more than any speeches to arouse the spirit of Ireland”.   He was referring, of course, to her Land League ballads, then being published in John Boyle O”Reilly”sBoston Pilot, and reprinted in newspapers in Ireland, America, Australia and England. The most famous, “Hold the Harvest”, was described by Michael Davitt as the Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.

 

Oh! by the God who made us all

– The seigneur and the serf-

Rise up! and swear, this day to hold

Your own green Irish turf;

Rise up! and plant your feet as men

where now you crawl as slaves,

And make your harvest-fields your camps,

Or make of them your graves.

 

 

Her patriotism has never been in question. Her poetry, though not devoid of literary merit, was never intended to be a contender for the Nobel Prize. It was meant to be, and was, effective propaganda. Her pioneering feminism can be more easily discerned from the present standpoint in history. And what her sister, Anna, foretold has indeed come to pass: ‘Perhaps’, said Anna, … ‘when we are dead and gone and another generation grown up …they will point to us as having set a noble example to all the women of Ireland.’  But the patriotism, the poetry, the fervid activity, the propaganda, the feminism were merely the outward expression of her most characteristic virtue – her innate hunger for justice. In the biblical language she loved to cite, she grew up ‘as a tender plant, and as a root out of a thirsty land’[1] – a land, as she saw it, thirsting for justice.

 

She quoted with approval Montalembert on the moral energy which inspires individuals to oppose injustice, and to protest against the abuse of power, even when not directly involved themselves. What inspired her writings, as well as her actions, was this strong social conscience, and an acute awareness of the responsibilities placed upon her by her own privileged position.     She reminded her own landlord class that with the accidentals of birth, education, wealth and intelligence go stern duties.  That burning sense of noblesse oblige which possessed her, may also be detected in her siblings, Charles and Anna.

 

She was one with her friend, John Boyle O’Reilly, when he wrote: ‘What is the good of having a republic unless the mass of the people are better off than in a monarchy?  And she agreed with her ally, Michael Davitt, when he said: ‘We can afford to put away the harp until we have abolished poverty from Ireland’.

 

Perhaps the sublimest epitaph written for her came from Francis Sheehy Skeffington – a kindred spirit. He wrote that she was “the noblest and purest-minded patriot of the Parnell family; and had not her fiery soul ‘fretted the pigmy body to decay’, and brought her to an untimely death, her genius might have won for her a place beside the Maid of Orleans among the liberating heroines of history”.

 

And so, in Mt. Auburn, today, I have an eerie feeling that we, mortals, are not here alone.  There is also present, in the words of one of her poems, a ‘jubliant procession’.  Among that jubilant host is a contingent of Fenian spirits led by those who first accepted for publicaton her teenage ballads – John O’Leary, Charles Kickham, O’Donovan Rossa.  Representatives of the Ladies’ Land Leagues of America and Ireland are also here led by her mother, Delia, and sister, Anna.  Irish-Americans present include her friends, John Boyle O’Reilly, John Devoy, Patrick Collins.  A group from the Irish Parliamentary Party includes Davitt, Dillon, Redmond, with perhaps, a now sulking Tim Healy in the background.

 

And if we feel the whisper of a gentle breeze passing through the assembled ranks, we may be sure that it is a tall, handsome, bearded ghost, proudest of all here present, and smiling approvingly that she whom he described as the ‘cleverest and most beautiful woman in his family’ is here honoured, and her name set in stone.

 

Undreaming there she will rest and wait,

in the tomb her people make,

Till she hears men’s hearts, like the seeds in

Spring, all stirring to be awake,

Till she feels the moving of souls that strain

till the bands around them break;

And then, I think, her dead lips will smile

and her eyes be oped to see,

When the cry goes out to the nations that

the Singer’s land is free!

 

From ‘The Dead Singer’  by John Boyle O’Reilly

(in memory of Fanny Parnell  )

 

 

 

 

AFTER DEATH

 

 

Shall mine eyes behold thy glory, O my country?

Shall mine eyes behold thy glory?

Or shall the darkness close around them ere the sunblaze

Break at last upon thy story?

 

When the nations ope for thee their queenly circle

As a sweet new sister hail thee,

Shall these lips be sealed in callous death and silence,

That have known but to bewail thee?

 

Shall the ear be deaf that only loved thy praises,

When all men their tribute bring thee?

Shall the mouth be clay that sang thee in thy squalor,

When all poets’ mouths shall sing thee?

 

Oh the harpings and the salvos and the shoutings

Of thy exiled sons returning!

I should hear, tho’ dead and mouldered, and the grave-damps

Should not chill my bosom’s burning.

 

Ah! The tramp of feet victorious! I should hear them

‘Mid the shamrock and the mosses.

And my heart should toss within the shroud and quiver,

As a captive dreamer tosses.

 

I should turn and rend the cere-clothes round me,

Giant sinews I should borrow –

Crying, O, my brother, I have also loved her

In her loneliness and sorrow!

 

Let me join with you the jubilant procession;

Let me chant with you her story;

Then contented I shall go back to the shamrocks,

Now mine eyes have seen her glory!

 

 

 

Fanny Parnell (Written in 1882 – the year of her death)

[1] J.H. Newman, Sermons on Various Occasions (London, 1891), p.219.

 

 

Fanny Parnell (Written in 1882 – the year of her death)

[1] J.H. Newman, Sermons on Various Occasions (London, 1891), p.219.