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My ancestors - Kickham - Contents


Charles Joseph Kickham, the Fenian



Charles Joseph Kickham.
Picture published in Sally Cavanagh (1869 edn).



Charles Joseph Kickham, bapt 5 May 1828,
the Fenian poet, novelist, journalist and activist,
see biography and biography,
see biography and images.
As a youth his sight was damaged for life after an accident, age 13, 1841, when gunpowder from his father's gun was ignited and exploded near his face. Bad medical treatment damaged his hearing as well.
He became a supporter of the Young Irelanders in the 1840s. Inclined towards physical force nationalism, cynical of parliamentary efforts.
He was involved in the abortive Young Irelanders' rising in Co.Tipperary, July 1848 (age 20).
After the failure of the rising at Ballingarry, Co.Tipperary (N of Mullinahone, see map) he was forced to hide for a time.
His poem The harvest moon (1850) is about the tenants harvesting by night, when by law the landlord could not seize their crops in lieu of rent.
He fell in love with Bessy Blunden, young dau of local Protestant gentry, but she married another 1854. He wrote to her a poem The last dream.
He wrote poems and ballads for Irish national periodicals, such as The Nation, The Irishman, and The Celt.
The Irish peasant girl (alias She lived beside the Anner) is regarded by many as his best poem.
His in-law George Cashel (married to Mary Kickham) was head of the police in Mullinahone 1855-58.

Prominent Fenian:
He joined the Fenians (the IRB) end 1860 - start 1861 [Comerford, 1979]. Though he would not take the secret oath, believing it should be a public movement.
Fenian paper the Irish People launched Nov 1863. Kickham moved to Dublin to become co-editor.
The Fenians were denounced by much of mainstream Ireland, including the Catholic hierarchy.
Kickham himself, though a strong Catholic, defended the Fenians against clerical attacks, asserting that the Irish people need not accept clerical dictation on purely political issues.
His first novel Sally Cavanagh, or, The untenanted graves: a tale of Tipperary was pub in serial form 1864, as book 1869. It is a tale of love among the small farmer class, describing the results of landlordism and emigration.

Jailed 1865-69:
After Fenian plans for a rising in Ireland were discovered, the Irish People offices, 12 Parliament St, Dublin, were raided late evening Fri 15th Sept 1865. Kickham went into hiding.
He was captured with the leader James Stephens at Fairfield House, Sandymount, Co.Dublin, early morning 11th Nov 1865.
Stephens escaped spectacularly from Richmond Jail, night 24th-25th Nov 1865, from the cell next to Kickham.
Kickham was put on trial for treason. He dismissed his counsel (Isaac Butt) and argued his own defence at the trial Jan 1866.
The prisoners' defiance in the dock earned them the nickname of "the bold Fenian men".
See his speech from the dock, Jan 1866: "I have endeavoured to serve Ireland, and now I am prepared to suffer for Ireland."
Kickham exposed the crown's informer as being unable to identify his handwriting on incriminating documents. But the prosecution got a neighbour of his from Mullinahone, Catherine Mulcahy (called on his behalf) to innocently identify his handwriting as they presented the same documents to her, and by her naivety send her friend to prison.
He was convicted of treason-felony, sentenced to 14 years.
Imprisoned at Pentonville prison, near London, Feb 1866. Imprisoned at Portland, May 1866. Imprisoned at Woking, Surrey, July 1866.
See his poem St. John's Eve.
The Fenian Rising took place Mar 1867 while he was in prison.
After a campaign for amnesty, Kickham was released Mar 1869 along with some other Fenian prisoners. He was greeted by huge crowds at Dublin. Arrived at Mullinahone late at night but the townspeople still all came out to meet him.

He lived in family home at Fethard St, Mullinahone.
Runs for MP, 1870: The imprisoned O'Donovan Rossa was elected MP for Co.Tipperary in a by-election 27 Nov 1869. But he was disqualified as he was a convicted felon. Another by-election called for 28 Feb 1870. Kickham was nominated. He was a reluctant candidate, refused to campaign, but still he was nearly elected. He got within 4 votes of being MP for Co.Tipperary. Got more votes than O'Donovan Rossa had, but so did the opponent.
Not a single voter from Mullinahone joined Kickham's opposition's escort to the polling station in Cashel. (Catholics could vote, but only wealthier ones.)

His great novel Knocknagow, or the homes of Tipperary was pub (partially) in serial form 1870, as book 1873. It is a drama about the land question. Love story set against backdrop of evictions, absentee landlords and their vicious land-agents. Set in the fictional place of Knocknagow, Co.Tipperary. The hero is his most famous character, Mat "the Thrasher" O'Donovan. It was perhaps the most popular Irish novel of the late 19th - early 20th century. See the movie Knocknagow (1918).

He became member of the new supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) by 1873.
He was President of IRB 1873 until his death 1882.
But their base of support was lost to Parnell's home rulers and the Land League. He led the IRB largely into irrelevance in these years.
His final novel For the old land: a tale of twenty years ago written mid-1870s, finished 1878, not pub until 1886. It is a story of small farmers under the old land system.
He did not marry.

Moves to Dublin, 1877:
After his nieces left Mullinahone Sept 1876, he could not bear to stay alone in Mullinahone.
He went to live with his brother Alexander in Dublin early 1877.
In Nov 1879 he went to live as a lodger at 2 St.John's Terrace, Blackrock, Co.Dublin (now Montpelier Place, Dun Laoghaire).
Also in lodgings there was the young writer Rose Kavanagh (1859-1891), age 20 and full of intellectual admiration for the Fenian veteran, now age 51.
She nursed him in his illness. He became attracted to her, but she did not feel the same. Still, she wrote a poem to him after his death, which is now on his grave: "nought could thrust aside; His lifelong love - the land whose sacred name; Throbbed to the last through his life's ebbing tide".
He dedicated his last poem to her: "Then blessed for aye be that autumn noon; In the lonely heather glen; When my heart awoke from its death-like swoon; And I felt that I lived again".
He died 11.25pm, Tue 22nd Aug 1882, St.John's Terrace, age 54 yrs.
Huge funeral, attended by many of his opponents (the mainstream nationalists).
He was bur in Catholic church yard, Mullinahone, Mon 28th Aug 1882. See grave.
See Memorials to Charles Joseph Kickham, the Fenian.






Photo of Charles Joseph Kickham with his nieces Annie and Josie Cleary, c.1869.
Image courtesy of Cork Multitext Project, UCC (see here). Used with permission.
Originally from Tipperary Annual 1912.



Charles Joseph Kickham, age 48 (1876).
From here.



Sketch of Kickham's funeral cortège at Kingsbridge station, Dublin.
Image courtesy of Cork Multitext Project, UCC (see here). Used with permission.
Originally from United Ireland, August 1882.



There are two "Matt the Thresher" pubs, part of the same chain.
Named after the Knocknagow character.




"Slievenamon"

Slievenamon is the mountain S of Mullinahone, SE of Fethard and NE of Clonmel (see map).
Kickham wrote the song "Slievenamon", which is still popular today as a Co.Tipperary anthem.
See many videos.



"Slievenamon" sung by Maureen Hegarty.



The Co.Tipperary anthem "Slievenamon" being sung at the homecoming after Tipperary won the All Ireland Hurling Final in 2010.



Alone, all alone, by the wave-washed strand
All alone in the crowded hall
The hall it is gay, and the waves they are grand
But my heart is not here at all.
It flies far away, by night and by day
To the times and the joys that are gone.
But I never will forget the sweet maiden I met
In the valley of Slievenamon.

It was not the grace of her queenly air
Nor her cheek of the rose's glow
Nor her soft black eyes, not her flowing hair
Nor was it her lily-white brow,
'Twas the soul of truth, and of melting ruth
And the smile like a summer dawn
That sold my heart away on a soft summer day
In the valley of Slievenamon.

In the festival hall, by the star-washed shore,
Ever my restless spirit cries.
"My love, oh, my love, shall I ne'er see you more.
And my land, will you never uprise?"
By night and by day, I ever, ever pray
While lonely my life flows on
To see our flag unfurled and my true love to enfold
In the valley of Slievenamon.




Memorials to Charles Joseph Kickham, the Fenian






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