Thomas Clarke Luby

On January 16, 1822 an Irish revolutionary, author and journalist was born in Dublin, to a Church of Ireland clergyman and a Catholic mother. His uncle was a Professor of Greek and a Fellow and Dean of Trinity College Dublin who couldn’t understand his nephew’s nationalist tendencies. His nephew studied Law and even taught at the college for a time. He was to become one of Ireland’s greatest patriots although today, the name of Thomas Clarke Luby does not attract the admiration it deserves.

Luby supported Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Association and contributed to The Nation – a nationalist newspaper. As O’Connell grew more conciliatory to the Crown, the paper grew more militaristic. In 1847 Luby and many others, including the editorial staff broke with O’Connell and joined the Young Irelanders in the Irish Confederation. Following a failed rising in 1848, Luby attempted to revive the fighting in 1849 with members of the short-lived secret Irish Democratic Association, but this too ended in failure

In 1851 Luby traveled to France to join the French Foreign Legion and learn infantry tactics but recruiting had been suspended. He went to Australia for a year and returned to Ireland where he edited the Tribune with the same spirit as he had on The Nation. During this time he remained in touch with the men of 1849, attempting to start a new revolutionary movement. He shared his views with James Stephens, another veteran of 1848 whom he met in 1856. The pair made several journeys through the country trying to keep the revolutionary spirit alive. In the autumn of 1857, a courier arrived with a message signed by four Irish exiles in the United States, two of whom were John O’Mahony and Michael Doheny. The message asked if Stephens would establish a force in Ireland to win national independence if support came from America. O’Mahony and Doheny were also two veterans of the 1848 rising after which O’Mahony had fled to France with Stephens before going to America leaving Stephens to return to Ireland. O’Mahony and Doheny had been organizing support in America among exiles of An Gorta Mor and were members of an AOH committee called the Emmet Monument Association. It would later break out as the Fenian Brotherhood.   In December Stephens replied that he would, but needed seed money to begin organizing.

On 17 March 1858, a courier arrived in Dublin with the acceptance of Stephens’s terms by the newly-formed Fenian Brotherhood and with the first of three monthly instalments of £80. That very evening the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was established, in Peter Langan’s timber-yard in Lombard Street as Thomas Clarke Luby swore in James Stephens and Stephens, in turn, swore in Luby with an oath that Luby had composed. The oath ended with the words: that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Sounds remarkably like the AOH oath ending, doesn’t it.

In mid-1863 the Luby started the Irish People newspaper with financial aid from American Fenians. The staff of the paper included such noted revolutionaries as Charles Kickham, John O’Leary, Denis Mulcahy, O’Donovan Rossa, James O’Connor and John Haltigan. In 1864, Stephens left on a tour of America and Luby was appointed to lead the IRB. On 15 July 1865 American plans for a rising in Ireland were discovered when the emissary lost them at Kingstown railway station. They found their way to Dublin Castle and the police raided the offices of the Irish People on 15 September, arresting Luby, O’Leary and O’Donovan Rossa. Kickham was caught a month later as was Stephens. Fenian prison warders, John J. Breslin and Dan Byrne aided Stephens in escaping to France while Luby was sentenced to 20 years.

After six years, Luby was pardoned in January 1871, but was banished from Ireland till the expiration of his 20-year sentence. After a brief spell in Europe he sailed to America and settled in New York. He lectured all over the country for years and wrote for a number of Irish newspapers on political topics, never surrendering his belief that his homeland deserved independence – even though he would never see her again! At the memorial meeting on the death of patriot John Mitchel, he was chosen to deliver the principal address in Madison Square Garden. On 29 November 1902, two months before his 80th birthday, Thomas Clarke Luby – dedicated Irish patriot – died in Jersey City, NJ after years of rallying Irishmen to support the cause of a free Ireland. He was buried in Bay View Cemetery in that city beside his wife – the daughter of John Frazer, who wrote poems for The Nation and the Irish Felon. His epitaph reads: Thomas Clarke Luby 1822 – 1901 He devoted his life to love of Ireland and quest of truth.