New Haven CT, Wednesday, June 17, 2015 ------ Organized by the National Éire Nua Campaign in the U.S., under the auspices of Cumann Na Saoirse Náisiúnta, and the Freedom for All Ireland Committee of the New Haven AOH, Division 1, two brave Fenian patriots from the 19th century were honored on Saturday, June 13, 2015 at St. Lawrence Cemetery, West Haven, CT.

PATRICK TIERNEY was born in Ennis, County Clare in 1842.  He survived the horrors of the Great Hunger.  At 16 (in 1858) a group of Irish nationalists, convinced that England would never grant Ireland its freedom short of physical force, organized the Irish Republican Brotherhood whose members came to be known as Fenians (name taken from an ancient warrior class in Ireland).

In 1860, Tierney, employed as a leather worker, joined the British Army (87th Royal Irish Fusiliers ) to gain training to fight for an independent Ireland. The English government in response to a growing number of cells of discontented Irish soldiers planted spies and informers in the ranks.

One of the informers was a John Warner who revealed to police the names of IRB officers and plans for an uprising. Tierney tracked him down at a police barracks in Dublin and stabbed him with a knife. Tierney was convicted in 1866 and sentenced to penal servitude for life. After incarceration for eight months at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, he was transferred to Spike Island, a prison located in Cork City harbor. Assigned to cut stone he attempted an escape, was caught on shore, flogged and kept in solitary confinement. Later he was sent back to work with his right arm chained to his right leg. He spent 12 years in prison at Spike Island under the disguised name of Edward ÓConnor so even his family had no idea of his whereabouts.

His sister, Bridget Cullen, finally discovered his location and was allowed to visit him. Outraged that her brother was confined in a dark cell chained to the wall like a prisoner in the Middle Ages she publicized his situation and after a long series of hearings he was pardoned in 1878. He was granted exile and amid great secrecy arrived in New York Dec 12, 1879 as an aged and ill man of only 37.

He came to Connecticut and worked briefly at the stone quarries in Stony Creek, but his health continued to deteriorate. It was then that the Clan-na-Gael in New Haven and James Reynolds, the Fenian who played a major role in the Catalpa expedition arranged for hospitalization at the state hospital in New Haven.

He died at the state hospital in New Haven on Nov. 29, 1882 and was buried at Saint Bernard cemetery. In 1891, James Reynolds erected the current monument at St. Lawrence cemetery in memory of Patrick Tierney.


Early Life ….. James Reynolds was born in County Cavan, Ireland in 1832 and came to this country in 1847. After learning the trade of brass molding in Patterson, NJ he later moved to Brooklyn, NY and then to New Britain, CT where he was employed by Sargent & Co. Sometime after Sargent’s moved to New Haven, he started his own business, the Reynolds Foundry on Mill St in New Haven. He was married to Ann Fagan of New Britain and had five children although only one daughter was alive at the time of his death.

Politics ….. He was active in politics and was elected as a first selectman and then as New Haven’s Town Agent in 1873, a title similar to Town Manager and one on par with the more ceremonial title of mayor. While serving as the Town Agent he literally gave away his salary to help the poor and to help Irish causes. In 1893 he was appointed as County Commissioner for New Haven County.

Catalpa Expedition …. During the Civil War and up to 1866 a rising in Ireland had been planned and the Brotherhood threw all its energies into it. But their plans were betrayed and seven men were arrested and sentenced to penal servitude in Australia for life. Their rescue aboard the New Bedford ship, the Catalpa, became the talk of Irishmen throughout the world. Jim Reynolds as treasurer for the rescue committee mortgaged his house and raised money to repair the ship and hire her crew. He has been known since that date as “Catalpa Jim” Reynolds, a name of honor and affection.

Holland Ram …. Or the Fenian Ram was a submarine built by John Holland for use by the Fenian Brotherhood against the British. It was of a unique design and equipped with a nine inch pneumatic gun some eleven feet long. However, after some funding disputes with the IRB including payments to Holland, the IRB stole the Ram in November of 1883 but after learning that no one knew how to operate it and with no help from Holland, they took it to New Haven where they stored it at a shed in Mill River near Reynold’s foundry where it lay for many years. In 1916 it was exhibited in MSQ and now can be seen at the Paterson Museum in Paterson, NJ.

Return of the 3rd MS Flag … On Feb 26, 1883 a committee of James Reynolds, Lawrence O’Brien, Michael Coen and John G Healy returned the 3rd MS Flag captured by the 9th CT in 1862. Perhaps the first taken during the Civil War, it was returned among great pomp and ceremony at the World’s Cotton Exposition (akin to a World’s Fair) on Connecticut Day, New Orleans, LA.

His Death …. Catalpa Jim Reynolds died on Aug 22, 1897 after a brief illness. He is buried at Saint Lawrence Cemetery, New Haven. “He served his country and he loved his kind”.

“All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.  We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchial Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labor.”

Excerpt from the Fenian Proclamation of 1867


Peadar Mac Maghnuis

National Co-Chair Éire Nua Committee

New Haven, CT  06413


Acknowledgement to the CT Irish-American Historical Society and Robert Larkin, Civil War historian, for their contributions to this story.

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