THE STORY OF CORK'S FIRST PATRIOT
When I was a young girl, my father took me to the
National Monument in
This 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 Great-Great-Grandfather; John.
I was17 when I visited the Monument that day in 1963 and in the intervening years I have come to find out more about James Mountain – the man who became known as Cork’s first Fenian.
James was born around 1819 and during his childhood and youth was an ardent supporter of the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell who fought for Catholic emancipation.
lived with his wife and family at 72,
Mountain was active in the Cork National Reading Rooms, and involved in the Brotherhood of St. Patrick where annual 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
Lights and windows were smashed, the constabulary and military from Victoria Barracks joined the fray and scores of people were injured.
Arrests 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
In 1864 and 1865 the strength of the I.R.B reached its peak and Mountain was in the thick of it, unaware that undercover police were watching him.
comings and goings of
Americans were being watched too, at
As far as Fenianism was concerned, the biggest and most disastrous event of 1865 was the captivity of most of the leaders of the movement and Mountain did not escape the purge.
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
On Wednesday, 27th December, Mountain – then approaching 50 - was charged and his trial was set for the following day.
His illustrious lawyer Isaac Butt put up a magnificent defence, heaping scorn on the idea that the white-haired, 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 Queen’s evidence by naming people. They were ridiculed for their inability to be convincing enough in their identification of the defendant.
A point of unusual interest came to light during the trial. It was stated, by a friendly witness, that for the first 20 years of his life, the accused had spelt his name ‘Mountain’ but had changed it to ‘Mountaine’ in later life.
The jury eventually returned a verdict of not guilty and a great cheer rang through the courtroom. Mountain was carried in triumph down Great George’s Street and along to his home.
A free man, he returned to his activities for two more years, until in 1867 he was arrested under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act and thrown into Cork Jail. After several months passed, and without his case being brought to trial, Mountain was released in poor health.
At on Sunday,
November 8th, the funeral procession started from Mountain’s
Every street, every window and in some cases even roofs were full of spectators, who probably had never seen or met Mountain, but for them, he was a ‘Young Irelander’, a Nationalist and a Fenian.
entire route, the
footpaths on both sides were filled with a mass of people who followed
on to the
Botanical Gardens (now
Following my article in the 2007 Holly Bough, I was contacted by the National Graves Association (NGA) who 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.
I was present, along with my brother, sisters and cousins, as the NGA members arrived, along with a piper. The sound of bagpipes filled the air as the small procession moved to the graveside for a short ceremony.
I shared the honour of unveiling the new headstone with my cousin, Mary Casey, nee O’Sullivan.
ceremony, we made our
A stirring speech about the Patriot’s life was given by an NGA representative.
I would be interested to hear from anyone related
Walter McGrath –