THE STORY OF CORK'S FIRST PATRIOT
When I was a young girl, my father took me to the
National Monument in
didn’t mean a lot to me
at the time but I know it’s true as my Grandmother, Mary
Mountain, used to talk
about him and the fact that he was the brother of my
when I visited the
Monument that day in 1963 and in the intervening years I have come to
more about James Mountain – the man who became known as
Cork’s first Fenian.
born around 1819 and
during his childhood and youth was an ardent supporter of the
O’Connell who fought for Catholic emancipation.
lived with his wife and family at 72,
was active in the Cork
National Reading Rooms, and involved in the Brotherhood of St. Patrick
soirees were organised for St. Patrick’s night. These events
consisted of a
meal with lectures, songs and dances.
1863, records show
that an event occurred, which brought James forcibly into the public
same month, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) son of Queen
illuminations became the
order of the day on houses, shops and public buildings. The Cork Gas
was busy designing, manufacturing and erecting all sorts of lighting
displays of loyalty
disgusted the nationalists of
smashed, the constabulary and military from Victoria Barracks joined
and scores of people were injured.
followed and Mountain was
among those detained due to lack of evidence and identification.
These riots lived on in the memory of
latter part of 1863,
Mountain took a trip to
and 1865 the strength
of the I.R.B reached its peak and Mountain was in the thick of it,
undercover police were watching him.
comings and goings of
Americans were being watched too, at
As far as
concerned, the biggest and most disastrous event of 1865 was the
most of the leaders of the movement and Mountain did not escape the
premises, the police found a copy of the proceedings of the First
regarded as highly
incriminating documents. The Government set up a Special Commission to
the Fenians that had been arrested and throughout October; November and
December, Mountain – then approaching 50 - was charged and
his trial was set
for the following day.
illustrious lawyer Isaac Butt
put up a magnificent defence, heaping scorn on the idea that the
elderly Mountain was a menace to her Majesty the Queen.
He tore to
shreds the evidence
given by informers - who had been persuaded by police to turn
by naming people. They were ridiculed for their inability to be
in their identification of the defendant.
A point of
came to light during the trial. It was stated, by a friendly witness,
the first 20 years of his life, the accused had spelt his name
had changed it to ‘Mountaine’ in later life.
eventually returned a
verdict of not guilty and a great cheer rang through the courtroom.
was carried in triumph down Great George’s Street and along
to his home.
man, he returned to his
activities for two more years, until in 1867 he was arrested under the
Corpus Suspension Act and thrown into Cork Jail. After several months
without his case being brought to trial, Mountain was released in poor
street, every window and
in some cases even roofs were full of spectators, who probably had
or met Mountain, but for them, he was a ‘Young
Irelander’, a Nationalist and a
entire route, the
footpaths on both sides were filled with a mass of people who followed
on to the
Botanical Gardens (now
my article in the
2007 Holly Bough, I was contacted by the National Graves Association
offered to provide a new headstone for James Mountain’s
grave and a plaque to show where
his shop premises had been located in North Main Street.
present, along with my
brother, sisters and cousins, as the NGA members arrived, along with a
The sound of bagpipes filled the air as the small procession moved to
graveside for a short ceremony.
the honour of
unveiling the new headstone with my cousin, Mary Casey, nee
ceremony, we made our
speech about the
Patriot’s life was given by an NGA representative.
I would be interested to hear from anyone related
Walter McGrath –