Fenians: Brian Dillon’s Letter to his Mother Margaret – 1869

A letter from the Fenian  Brian Dillon to his Mother Margaret from Woking Gaol in 1869.

brian dilon

A very sad and moving letter by a man longing to be at home with his friends and family in his native Cork. In 1871 he finally did return home, to a hero’s welcome!

On Monday 13th February he travelled home by train. What must his amazement have been to find at Kildare,  Maryboro,  Templemore,  Limerick Junction,  Kilmallock,  Charleville, Mallow,  Blarney huge crowds were waiting on the platforms to cheer him and to read  specially prepared addresses of welcome?  At Limerick junction the crush was so tight that he was unable to get to the restaurant for refreshments.  At Kilmallock the scene was particularly touching as because here the address was read by none other than his old collegue  J.S Casey (“The Galtee Boy”) to whom he had been Handcuffed five years before on the ghastly voyage to Hollyhead”  taken from   https://rebelcorksfightingstory.wordpress.com/publications/a-cork-felon-the-life-and-death-of-brian-dillon/


Transcribed by Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story ,  you will see some brief areas have been censored by the prison,   unfortunately some areas are blank (if you can help fill in the gaps get in touch) and have been marked with (???)  and others because of a tear in the page or a blotch covering the words. Its very possible we are mistaken in some areas as the some of the writing is hard to decipher,  if you spot any mistakes  get in touch.

22nd  June   1869

Dear Mother, Your last letter relieved me from various and harassing speculations regarding you all, i know it was thro no fault of yours the letters did not reach me within the time limited by me. You were probably misled by the glowing accounts that Messrs Kickham stack & others gave you of prison life, and innocently thought because they were let out your news would be let in. Possibly you thought political news was of importance to me then and might affect my liberation. As ye do not seem to have even elementary notions of prison discipline in Ireland, Know for future guidance that prisoners are not allowed to have  (at this point in the letter it is censored and over this particular line it says political intelligence the lines that are censored are scribbled out, censored words will be indicated by *** ) ************************************  one would think ye supposed they were allowed to have *******************************

you say one letter was sent back and the other suppressed, this must be a mistake as i have not been told of the suppression of any of your letters. I made enquiries in my last about several of my city friends whom young O’Shaughnessy knew but you did not let me know anything of them, Is O’Shaughnessy in the old department under his pious friend O’Brien? I suppose the poor fellow feels lonesome after the Dublin winter gardens of the park? Is he married ? I have no doubt but that he will improve both physically & morally under the fatherly superintendance of Mr Varian. Remember me …(???)…. to Pat, Mr Varian, W Scanlan, J Hogan and all the old hands whom i knew and the great (???) if he is still alive. Is J Saunders in Cork? Is James Barrett in London still? If so i should like to have ….(???)   ……here as i am not likely to have a visit from anybody from Cork, you must think it a (???)……i am still a prisoner , possibly on account of supposed influence in Cork, while not one of my dear friends ??? has thought it fit to testify his devotion so far as to come to see me now & i hear thro visitors that to my  (???)  that there is a vast expenditure of words, wind, & whiskey over every humbug that turns up ??? feel distressed in case of my return to tell them all go be hanged or something new like it. Has (???)    coming to this country during the “excursion season”?


Should he come i would be glad to see him, i wrote to Tom last week, poor fellow, he has had a running fight with fortune on floodfield ever since the time when scance a boy he first left home, he should take great care of his health now as that horrid disease predisposes its survivors to other diseases, it was indeed fortunate for him that John came so timely to his assistance and john was equally fortunate in escaping the contagion.  Both owe thanks to almighty god for his salutary protection.  Let me know if you heard from them lately  I recieved a letter from Ed, he says ” Dick is still here recovering his health and  spirits  which was absolutley needed & all we can do to make life agreeable to him i assure you (tear in page)  heartily & cheerfully done , he has had a long yearning for home  which unsettled him greatly in the “Bush” he has had ….  (Tear in page)  but the (???) of the family  (???) down of sundry other things that prayed keenly + Heavily upon his mind, necessitating rest society +counsel i was oblig (Blotch on page)

Borroondarra temporarily i hope/ apprehensive  of further attacks of Rheumatism, i was in dread of the winter +am forced to be (Blotch) in exposing myself to sudden changes in the weather +to wettings, my present residence is within a mile of the office . my two eldest boys attend St Patricks college, both receIved prizes in French English +Latin + Tone is the champion runner at the public + college races beating opponents  16 years of age whilst he has not turned 11. he received a beautiful prize from (???). jesuits for reciting the Celtic Cross by Magee (the clever wretched Darcy Magee i suppose)  Emmet is nearly as tall as i am and a dead likeness of yourself (Tone too) the eyes hair +fleetness of foot of poor father”.   Did you hear from Ed lately, he was glad to find you in good health + most upon you getting into equally good spirits. I note miss mayflies sly remarks about a new song to an old air . I am glad she is not (???).

How is mike  Jemmie ought to study English composition and then French. how glad i should be to see him now. tell him to dig a line to E Collins conveying my kindest regards to him this. It is pleasure to hear uncle dan + aunt Nancy are looking well dont know anyone  except yourself to whom i am so indebted to for so much kindness and attention i have never forgotten aunt nancys attention to me when i was sick long ago before she left the old house. I often think (???) things and ask myself will i ever see you all again and if i do  (???) ye be much (???) id never be happy again if i missed one of the old kind faces upon my return  i pray that you wont (???) all till then. You forgot to tell me about Uncle Mick , Mary + the children, I suppose maggie is quite a young lady now and Brian i hope is a good boy and  a good scholar love to all at address on?  How is Dan Twomeys brother + their families, i hope all are well. Remember me kindly to Father Ross  I  (???) suffered from Cold+Bronchial affections since my last but i feel much better now tho  the treatment is intensive here. how is it with yo  and how do the crops look, so ardent a worshipper of (???)  J Dill deserves success. I think Tom told me that he refused to enter into a mere formal security for you (???)

becaue was (???) . Rats display as much prudence +less mess  (???)…..once they never return , I was glad to hear from CH Russell, HP Barry still in Cork. Where is X O’Brien-who corresponds with J Kelly. How is he- any changes at the cross, Is Dan Dill married. Is P O’Mullane better. you did not tell me about DeCantillon the informer + JG keane the Fauavans. Is that scoundrel D. Riordan in Cork that Nichols- JoJ Sheehy. JMurphy up at the cross- rememberance to J Roche and all there write soon to your affectionate son   Brian Dillon

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