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Please use these notes for historical context for my book The Asylum Doctor's Daughter.
Spoiler alert: these notes will give away a ton of information and plot points from all three books of the Bedlam Series, particularly Escape.
Writing the final book to the Bedlam Series was unlike writing the first two. While Disorder loosely followed Cinderella plot lines, and Infirmity was its natural next step, Escape went in entirely different directions. This is partly due to the point-of-view of Sean, a character whose perspective I hadn’t addressed prior, and it is also due to history. Nearly all of Sean’s adventures were based on a historical timeline. I was amazed at how many events took place in 1867 regarding the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
The plans Sean overhears at a separate safe house regarding the first time we hear of using Brothers as a decoy in order to take back Dublin were discussed as shown in the story. As seen in Escape, and in history books, the Battle of Tallaght did not go as planned.
Stephen O’Donogue, the man who ended up in the Battle of Tallaght with his men, was truly dragged away and put in barracks after the battle. He did indeed have four children and was poor, but he dedicated his life to the freedom of his country anyway.
Thomas Ferrell, the man in Dani’s circle who was bayoneted during the battle, truly died this way. He was, as the book depicted, a confectioner and loyal Brother.
There was a spy caught in his actions against the Brothers, and this was Ray O’Mara. His true story differs from the one in Escape in that his work was in Belfast, not Dublin. He had infiltrated and gained the trust of Brothers who were bombing safes for money to send to circles around the country. His timeline is different, as well, in that his death happened after the Uprising. He’d been caught sending a telegram to Britain.
He was not caught by Dani Allen. Dani is a character I created, but her brother is real. William Philip Allen was one of the Manchester Martyrs, killed for their actions against the police in trying to free Deasy and Kelly from a police van. Deasy and Kelly had both fought in the Civil War in the United States, and both returned to America after their escape.
While helping them escape, William Allen shouted to Kelly, “Didn’t I say I’d die for you before I’d give you up?” Officer Brett, the man who’d been shot during the escape, died in the hospital the next day after a bullet had hit his head, removing an eye from its socket.
While William was in prison, he wrote letters to his aunt and uncle while waiting his hanging. The words in this story are the actual words he penned. I found his hand-written letters online.
Masons and joiners built the scaffold at New Bailey prison in Salford on Saturday, November 2, to hang sixty feet above the prison wall. Author Joseph O’Neill stated, “Allen, himself a joiner, caught a whiff of white pine on the air and moved to the window, filling his lungs, half expecting to find blond curls of timber shavings on the sill.”
Victor Hugo wrote a letter on the behalf of the Manchester Martyrs to Queen Victoria for reprieve of the men’s execution sentences. Buchanan, a poet, wrote verses in a London evening paper, pleading for mercy. The government, instead, satisfied the thirst for blood. There was panic among the public and a feeling in England that the government had been too easy on recent Irish insurrectionists.
During the trial chapter of William Allen and the other martyrs, I combined preliminary investigations, motions, and trials into one. The Manchester Martyrs’ final statements are direct quotes from their speeches. They were much longer, and if you care to read them, they can be found here: http://www.libraryireland.com/articles/ManchesterMartyrsIrishOratory/
“God save Ireland,” spoken by Michael Larkin at the hanging, inspired T.D. Sullivan to write a rebel song of the same name which became for more than fifty years Ireland’s unofficial national anthem.
The Manchester Martyr hangings brought out between 8,000 and 10,000 people. Many Irish did not attend due to priests encouraging them to go to Mass and pray for the souls of the accused. Calcraft, the executioner, did indeed hang upon Michael Larkin’s legs to finish off his death. Father Gadd forbade him to touch Michael O’Brien. Instead, the priest stood in front of O’Brien, holding a crucifix to his twitching fingers for forty-five minutes until he died. He presided over the burial of all three men on the prison grounds.
These were the last public hangings in Manchester.
In 1871, the prison was taken down to make way for the extension to Salford station, and the bodies of the martyrs were reburied at Strangeways Prison, where their graves are now marked solely by mysterious marks on the wall.
In 1877, an impressive memorial to the “Manchester Martyrs” was erected at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Moston, and the foundation stone was dedicated by James Stephens. Maud Gonne helped unveil it as well. In 1987, Manchester City Council put up a plaque at the arch where Deasy and Kelly were rescued. In 1990 riots, Strangeways was rebuilt. The remains of those who had been buried there were exhumed, cremated, and placed in canisters which were then numbered and re-buried in Blackley Cemetery in Manchester.
The day after the executions, ten-thousand people attended a commemoration. A week later, fifteen-thousand marched to the prison. Others marched in Limerick, Cork, Dublin, Birmingham, and London. 50,000 marched in Dublin on December 8, 1867. They wore black and green ribbons and rosettes in lieu of nationalists flags and emblems. They lined up behind horses carrying coffins in mock funeral processions. Large protest parades were held in New York and Philadelphia through the end of the year and into early 1868.
As the processions gathered momentum across England, Lord Lieutenant issued a proclamation banning all future ceremonies under the Party Processions and Party Emblems Act.
Now on to Clerkenwell: Anne Justice lived across the street from Clerkenwell Prison and would visit there with food to deliver to O’Sullivan Burke and Casey. During these meetings, they’d discuss escape plans. These were the start of the plans that would eventually lead to the explosion.
After the explosion, Anne, Timothy Desmond, and Nicholas English were arrested for being near the facility at the time of the explosion. These three would eventually be released, along with several others, leaving Michael Barrett the only one tried for the murder.
There are various descriptions and accounts on the Clerkenwell explosion. What is known is that the original attempt on December 12 did not work. The fuse did not light after a couple attempts. There weren’t many police on guard because they had thought the Brothers would try an escape through under ground, a type of mining escape. The white ball was thrown over the wall, and O’Sullivan saw it and went to a corner of the yard to wait for the explosion, but the guard kept the ball, and the blast never came.
The following day, the prison guards and Metropolitan Police knew an attempt would be made again and gave the prisoners their exercise time in the morning instead of the afternoon, keeping O’Sullivan Burke and Casey in their cells at the time of the explosion. This is why the yard is empty when Kat and Mr. Snead take their walk.
When the Brothers light the wick on the barrel on the second day, they use a firework. It is said they received it from a seven-year-old, who died in the blast. It is said twelve people died in the explosion and over one-hundred were injured and also that many women miscarried that day. The explosion blew off the front of many homes on Corporation Lane and knocked down a larger section of the wall than had been planned. The blast could be felt for miles.
It is true the explosion blew off an officer’s entire wardrobe, leaving him naked. I didn’t make that up (and feared my readers would find it quite unbelievable but kept it in anyway). The blast leveled sixty feet of the prison wall. It was called, “Britain’s first terrorist bombing.” They’d used 548 pounds of gunpowder, which would have killed anyone standing in the exercise yard.
The Clerkenwell explosion wiped out any sympathy the Irish cause may have received from the English. The English government quickly swore in fifty-thousand Special Constables to find runaway Brothers as depicted in this book. They also called upon sewer workers to help find those running from the law. The government set up the first Secret Service Department after Clerkenwell in hopes of being able to get information of future attacks by the Brotherhood. This department meant the disbandment of Abberline’s team.
Abberline, as noted in the story, hunted down members of the Brotherhood. He was assigned this plain-clothes duty after becoming Sergeant at N Division, Islington. He was placed here because he had made more arrests and solved more crimes than other PC at his station. His undercover assignment was to do whatever was necessary to find information and report anti-British activities. He was able to pick up a Cockney accent in London and became friends with some Irish pub goers in the city.
He never lived or worked in Dublin, which is where my story strays from Abberline’s history. Scotland Yard provided a horse-drawn cab for him in order to better help his disguise as a cab driver.. It is said he was unshaven for this role and also wore a cap, polka-dot scarf, and old jacket.
After O’Mara’s disappearance, Abberline and his team followed up on a lead and raided a house, but the men were not caught in the raid. They were able to detail others, though, and get information from them, which led to other raids. It frustrated Abberline that his team was disbanded after Clerkenwell, but he would soon have another chase to join. He would be the Sergeant in charge of the case against Jack the Ripper, for which he is better known.
Patrick Mullany was known for bearing false witness and taking bribes. He received a trip to Australia for his work in the Clerkenwell case and in identifying Michael Barrett. Mullany claimed that Michael told him he’d planned and executed the explosion with a man named Captain James Murphy. Murphy eventually fled to the United States, which is why Sean goes by Murphy in London and also leaves for America at the end of the book.
Barrett did indeed go by William Jackson and claimed to be in Scotland during the Clerkenwell explosion. Depending on which history rendition you read, you can find evidence for both his presence in Scotland at the time and also evidence for his absence. Some historians claim he had been contacted in Scotland for his expertise and help in a big assignment. Others state that he was a pawn in the continual struggle between England and Ireland. All claim that Patrick Mullany was the one who turned him in.
After Mullany’s identification, Barrett was arrested and tried under the Treason Felony Act of 1848. This meant that anyone involved in the planning or execution of the offense was as guilty as those actually carrying it out.
All accused arrested for the Clerkenwell explosion were released except for Barrett. Anne Justice’s departure from Old Bailey, having held Michael’s hand and kissed him on the forehead, are from an actual account of her defense counsel Montagu Williams.
His words to the court in this book are his actual words. He spoke for thirty minutes at his trial, throwing words of anger at the police, but it was all for naught. He died to the jeers of two thousand people, many singing, “Rule Britannia.”
He was the last public hanging in England.
He was buried beneath the corridor between Old Bailey and the prison until 1902 when his body was was dug up in the middle of the night and put in a mass grave among other bodies in the City of London Cemetery in Essex.
It is said Queen Victoria was upset that only one man was hanged for the attack on Clerkenwell. She stressed that in the future, instead of being brought to trial, Irish Republican suspects should be lynched on the spot. It was a reaction to what her people saw as a terrorist act. The lynches she desired never happened.
I never set out to go into so many historical events in Escape. But sometimes stories and characters themselves shape the direction of a plot. In the case of Escape, I desired to show a possible life a boy from Seven Dials might live had he made it out of the slums alive. I wanted to give him a positive future.
I never wanted Kat to die. That was never in my plan. I had a dream one night, however. In it, I saw the backs of two men, their silhouettes against a darkening sky, as they stood above a grave. Immediately, I recognized the men as Sean and James — and the headstone as Kat’s.
The following morning, I had forgotten about the dream, but I had a prevailing sense of sadness with me throughout the day. I finally pinpointed the root of the feeling when the dream returned to me during the day. It was in that moment that I knew I needed to end the Bedlam Series with the scene from my dream, with Sean and James, two men loving the same woman, two men grieving her.
And as much as it broke my heart, I knew it was right.