A Forgotten Carlow Fenian
by EDWARD BYRNE
was born in Myshall, Co. Carlow. He married in Myshall on
3rd Oct. 1864. His bride was Catherine Sheridan (sister of
Ann Sheridan Tracey) of Ballinree, Borris. Two years later
in 1866 we find the following report by Saunders in an Irish
paper. It tells of his arrest in Fenagh on Sunday 25th Feb.
1866 his importance to the military (£50 was offered by the
government for information that would lead to the arrest of
Morris, a second £50 was added to this sum by Arthur
Kavanagh of Borris House) and the imprisonment of Morris in
Carlow Gaol for Fenianism.
Arrest of the Head Centre for Carlow
John Morris, the notorious head centre for the County
Carlow, was arrested this morning and is now a prisoner in
Carlow Goal. The importance of this arrest can scarcely be
overestimated, when it is recollected that Morris for many
months past, evaded the incessant searches of the police,
owing to the widespread sympathy which he enlisted on his
side in the district of Fenagh and Myshall. He was one of
the most active of the provincial Head Centres, and was
several times mentioned during the recent State trials as
the consignee of a large number of the "rods" manufactured
by the convict Moore.
As far as I can learn the police had no information whatever
as to his precise whereabouts, so that his arrest reflects
the more credit upon his captors. It appears that a party of
five men, under the command of Constable Cox (in charge of
the Myshall station), had been the entire of Saturday night
in search of Morris, and as a last effort the entire party
lay concealed within view of the house of the uncle of the
famous Head Centre, a farmer named Edward Nolan, in the
townland of Kilmaglash, near Fenagh. After remaining for
about two hours — from five until seven o'clock — in ambush,
they observed that the inmates were astir. The entire party
proceeded to the house, which they surrounded, Constable Cox
and two or three of the men entering it. They immediately
rushed to the apartment where they thought it likely they
would find Morris, and fortunately succeeded in effecting
his arrest after a short but ineffectual struggle on his
part to escape.
He was instantly handcuffed and placed on his uncle's car
(which happened to be in readiness at the time to convey the
family to a distant chapel), and was brought to Fenagh,
where the constable took a second car, and a party of police
as an additional guard, and conveyed him direct to Carlow
gaol, where he was safely lodged before even the rumour of
his arrest got circulation. In the course of the day a
number of the local magistrates attended at the gaol and
made arrangements for his safe keeping, and I understand,
also conferred with the officer in command of the troops,
probably with the view of having military placed in charge
of the goal.
John Morris was exiled to the United States in 1866 where,
we are told, he was prominent in railway circles in Illinois
till his retirement in 1895. His death notice in The New
World, newspaper (9th March 1912) states: "In no man's
breast did love of Ireland glow more ardently and with this
was coupled consuming desire to see his country free."
He was survived by his wife and seven children. Fifty five
priests attended his funeral Mass, one of whom was his son
Rev. John Morris.
Source: Carlow Past & Present. Vol. 1. No.
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