Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

John Morris

A Forgotten Carlow Fenian


John Morris 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. 3. 1990

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