Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Isle of Exiles, Part II

From Skibbereen to Staten Island
Far less grand than the Garibaldi Memorial pictured in yesterday's post, this waist-heigh monument in St. Peter's cemetery marks the spot where Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, the Fenian leader exiled from Ireland in 1871, was buried on July 2, 1915. He didn't stay long. His corpse was disinterred and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on August 1. Padraig Pearse's speech over O'Donovan Rossa's grave turned out to be a flashpoint in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916. Here is the closing section:
"The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and, while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace."

O'Donovan Rossa spent most of his last 40 or so years living on Staten Island and raising money for the armed struggle back home (he wasn't known as "Dynamite O'Donovan" for nothing). Sadly, there are few traces of his life there. The first house he lived in with his wife (one of three) and and at least some of his 18 children was on Shore Road (now Mariner's Terrace) and Van Pelt Avenue. At the time, the New York Times decried his lifestyle in story with the headline: "Alas! Poor O'Donovan (Rossa.) He has Nothing But a Staten Island Mansion to Live In," Mansion or not, it's gone now, though there are some quite nice but hardly luxurious houses from the same period nearby.
Basking in the moment

His last house was at 194 Richmond Terrace, in New Brighton, is gone too. That's friend of the blog Robyn (r) and BTB Senior Research Assistant Lucy (l) in front of where the it stood. Unless that graffiti reads "Here lived Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa," no marker commemorates either home of this important figure in the history of Ireland's struggle for freedom. (Full disclosure: According to family lore, your correspondent is related, in some fog-, or better smoke-, shrouded way to O'Donovan Rossa.)

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