John Sarsfield Casey (1846-96) was born in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, and became involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood while still at school. He was deported to Australia in 1867. After release on ticket-of-leave, he returned to Ireland in 1869, became active in nationalist politics and the Land League and was elected coroner for East Limerick in 1878. His name crops up in several accounts of Fenian deportees, in emigrant letters and there is even a 'speaking' model of him in the audiovisual display at Cork Gaol heritage centre. Mairead Maume is a local historian and expert on Fenianism. Patrick Maume is a research fellow with the Dictionary of Irish Biography. Mary Casey is Daniel Sarsfield Casey's granddaughter.
This very vivid memoir describes the prison experiences of a Cork Fenian activist, John Sarsfield Casey. 'The Galtee Boy' was a name used by Casey when he sent letters for publication to newspapers, one of which was used against him at his trial in 1865. His memoir was written after he had returned from deportation and describes the period from his arrest in 1865, his trial in Cork and conditions in Mountjoy, Millbank, Pentonville and Portland prisons. His memoir is the most extensive surviving account from the Fenian side of the experiences of those prisoners detained in Cork. Biographies of people mentioned in the memoir are given in an appendix.
A Fenian Prison Narrative
Appendix I Summary of coverage of Casey's trial in local newspapers
Appendix II Biographical notes of key figures
"He has a marvellous colloquial turn of phrase and a sense of humour, desperately needed as he faces prison in Cork, Mountjoy and Pentonville ... With biographical notes on key figures of the era. Very valuable."
"This is not a diary, Casey is writing from recollection. The descriptions nevertheless of prison life are immediate and vivid ... Credit is due to the editors for a lucid text."
"The Galtee Boy will certainly find a place in any study of Irish political history, autobiography studies, and the growing field of prison writing."
Canadian Journal of Irish Studies
31 (1) 2005
"a previously unpublished prison memoir that provides a valuable addition to the excellent UCD series Classics of Irish History as well as to the collective literature written over time by incarcerated Irish Republicans ... a thoroughly readable text, well introduced, and with ample and useful appendices and notes."
Irish Literary Supplement
"University College Dublin Press has now published over thirty ‘Classics of Irish History'. These contemporary accounts by well known personalities of historical events and attitudes have an immediacy that conventional histories do not have. Introductions by modern historians provide additional historical background and, with hindsight, objectivity."
"Scholars of nineteenth-century Irish and Irish-American politics should reacquaint themselves with these classics, part of a long running and immensely useful series from University College Dublin Press.
Patrick Maume has edited and written the introductions for no less than nine of the books in this series, lending them his breadth of knowledge and keen analysis that have made him one of the most learned and intellectually generous young scholars in the field."
Irish Literary Supplement
'Two selections of his writings have been included in the Classics of Irish History series, both edited by Mairead and Patrick Maume and Mary Casey, granddaughter of John Sarsfield Casey. The first The Galtee Boy is a detailed and fascinating account of his trial before the Cork Special Commission. It also gives an insight into the organisation of the Fenians in the cuitry. It concludes with a description of life in English prisons and his struggle there to preserve dignity. In 1867 he was transported to Australia and the second book, A Mingling of Swans, tells us of life on a road gang in a penal settlement. It also includes a selection of his letters home and to other Fenians. Both books are expertly edited and the notes add greatly to the information in them. UCD Press are to be congratulated on this series in general. The standard of editing and presentation are uniformly high. The inclusion of the hitherto unpublished works on the Fenian movement makes available valuable insights which will greatly assist students of the period. One looks forward to more such publications.'