Thomas Keneally
Thomas Keneally
The Great Shame & the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World
ISBN: 0385476973
The Great Shame, Part 2
Based on unique research among little-used sources, this masterly book surveys 80 years of Irish history as seen through the eyes of political prisoners—some of whom were the author's ancestors, who served time in Australia.
—from the publisher's website
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TRANSCRIPT
The Great Shame, Part 2
Program Air Date: January 9, 2000

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Thomas Keneally, author of "The Great Shame," who those for wa--did not watch the first segment, give us a quick synopsis of what this book's about.
Mr. THOMAS KENEALLY, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT SHAME AND THE TRIUMPH OF THE IRISH IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD": It's an attempt to tell the story of the great Irish calamity in the 19th century and early 20th century from the point of view of prisoners sent to Australia for crimes of protest or for political crimes.
LAMB: And you live where?
Mr. KENEALLY: I live in Australia, and I'm fortunate to have forbears who were sent to Australia for political reasons. And so does my wife have people who were ideal within the book; although ideal with a far greater panorama than merely the ancestral.
LAMB: You said in the first interview that the time period is about 1830 up till about 19...
Mr. KENEALLY: 16.
LAMB: ...16.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, that's right.
LAMB: What happened in 1916?
Mr. KENEALLY: The Easter uprising. The--the Irish rebelled from--d--during World War I from within the ranks of the--of--of--well, of the old IRA and--and other rebel groups, took over the post office in Dublin, fought a pitch battle against the British army. And the British then responded with such severity after the Easter uprising was put down that the entire populous--nationalist populous anyhow--went the way of the rebels. And there was the troubles and then the--the treaty, the division of Ireland into the free state, later the Republic and the North, and everything that's happened in the 20th century in--in Ireland since grew out of that.
LAMB: Going back to the beginning and the--the prisoners in here, when--if you lived in Ireland back in--around the famine in 1845 or so, or even before then, and you were arrested and thrown in jail, usually how old were you?
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, the--the prisoners I deal with were generally pretty young, in their early 20s. There were a lot of teen-age prisoners from--sent to Australia, too. There were kids who committed crimes deliberately--we have that on good testimony--to be sent to Australia on convict ships as a means of escaping the--the famine. There were even a--an obliging barrister, lawyer whom I deal with in the book, who prosecuted boy children and sent them to Australia as a means of en--ensuring their survival. You could be anything, however, from your teen-age years, 14, 16, up to the--the 60s. On my wife's great-grandmother's ship, there were women's--women in their 60s who were transported for small theft.
LAMB: And what were the total number of people that were transported from Ireland to Australia?
Mr. KENEALLY: Probably all up about a third of the convicts. There were 150,000 convicts--50--50,000 from Ireland--and only a proportion of those were political or protest criminals. But it--of course, that--those numbers were swamped by--ultimately by the numbers of free immigrants. There was free immigration occurring to Australia at the same time from Ireland. So even during the convict era, probably most of the Irish in Australia were free settlers, but there was this very interesting proportion of prisoners and then within those an interesting proportion of political prisoners.
LAMB: Trace two men, if you would, for me from your book. And the reason I want to do this is 'cause they both end up opposing one another, North and South in the Civil War, and the families even oppose each other in--in an actual--I think, down in Fredericksburg. You can tell us more about that. Thomas Meagher and John Mitchel.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes. Thomas Meagher was Jesuit educated, son of the Lord Mayor of Waterford. He was transported for high treason to Van Diemen's Land, Tasmania.
LAMB: In--in Australia?
Mr. KENEALLY: In--in Australia. He was at the height of the famine. These people were--Mitchel and Meagher were both against the shipping out of the yearly harvest from Ireland to--generally to England, and--and the harvest was shipped out as a means of maintaining the market--for market reasons. And they were opposed to the shipping out of the harvest and tried to prevent it in 1848.

Mitchel was a son of a Presbyterian minister from the border. He was very famous. He was considered the president of the as-yet unachieved Irish Republic. Meagher was very important, too, because he brought back the present Irish flag from France, a tricolor, which is now the flag which flies over the Republic of Ireland. They're both transported, and they're both ultimately rescued by American-Irish organizations, which sent money to Van Diemen's Land, as it was called, to Tasmania to get these two eminent prisoners out.
LAMB: Let me go back, though, for a second. You say that Thomas Meagher was from Waterford in the south of Ireland.
Mr. KENEALLY: Mm-hmm. Yes. And was a Catholic, and...
LAMB: How old was he?
Mr. KENEALLY: He was in his mid-20s, very glamorous speaker. He'd achieved an--an international reputation as an orator in his early 20s, and a very dangerous orator he was, too. He made eloquent speeches against the shipping out of the--of the Irish harvest while people were starving. He made very eloquent speeches in favor of an armed uprising. And for that reason, he was known as Meagher of the sword.
LAMB: And if his father was Lord Mayor of Waterford, would that mean that he had an allegiance to Britain?
Mr. KENEALLY: No. His father was the first Catholic Lord Mayor of Waterford for 400 or 500 years, since the reformation. And he--his father was a beneficiary of Catholic emancipation, which enabled prominent Catholics to take up roles in government. His father was also at one stage a member of the House of Commons. And Meagher, like many of these more eminent prisoners sent to Australia, had stood for the House of Commons himself, and been--but had been defeated. But his father was at one stage a member of the House of Commons.
LAMB: Back in those days, was there such a thing as Waterford crystal?
Mr. KENEALLY: I--there was Waterford linen. I'm not certain that the factory had--the crystal factory had begun in the 1840s. I'm not sure. I may be wrong. That's an area of the story I'm afraid I didn't go into.
LAMB: Thomas Meagher was sentenced to what? And for what exact reason? And how--how long did he serve in prison in Ireland?
Mr. KENEALLY: A group of eminent Catholic and Protestant bourgeoisie and gentry got involved in an uprising in 1848. They tried to raise the peasantry to oppose the shipping out of the harvest, which had occurred every year during the famine. They had a very poor understanding of the peasantry. They didn't know how whipped, demoralized or starving the peasants were. But these men were involved in an abortive uprising, and they were charged with high treason and condemned to death. Meagher was. And a famous Protestant nobleman called William Smith O'Brien, condemned to death. Mitchel had already been shipped off to Bermuda, and--from Bermuda to Australia.
LAMB: Where--now where--you said the border was where John Mitchel was from. What border?
Mr. KENEALLY: The present border between north and south, between...
LAMB: Which county, do you remember?
Mr. KENEALLY: Between Ulster and--and the Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. And in--Newry was in County Down, and it's--it's where people who--who went to Northern Ireland during the troubles would be familiar with the--in Newry, the great control point that you had to go through if you were going to enter the North or leave the North, great steel walls and a control tower, armed--armed British soldiers, a control tower in which the number of your car would be punched. Sometimes your car would be searched.

And it was right on that border that--symbolically very, very effective in the symbolic sense that John Mitchel, the son of a Presbyterian minister, came from. And...
LAMB: What was he doing?
Mr. KENEALLY: He was involved in young Ireland also--this movement, which came to--reached its plans to stage a rebellion in 1848. And he was transported to Australia for being involved in that as well.
LAMB: What--what--you know, why would they--if they'd been sentenced to death and all, why were they then shipped off to Australia?
Mr. KENEALLY: Their death sentences were commuted. It was considered unconstructive to--to hang, draw and quarter them. Because another Irish hero early in the 19th century, Robert Emmet, had been hung, drawn and quartered. His body had been--his body had been--he'd been hung, cut down, his viscera pulled out, his--his stomach cut open and his bowels pulled out. And then he was torn to pieces by horses. And this had not been very good PR for the British empire. And it produced a result that nearly every Irish family in America called a child Robert Emmet Fitzgerald, Robert Emmet this or that--Robert Emmet Kelly, Robert Emmet Ryan. So it produced an opposite effect. It produced the--the martyrdom of Robert Emmet.

And there existed in America, actually a Robert Emmet Memorial Association, which sounds harmless, but in fact, the Robert Emmet Memorial Association was a radical group whose objective was the end of British rule in Ireland. For Robert Emmet had said, `Let no man write my epitaph. And when Ireland takes a place amongst the nations, then let my epitaph, my monument be--be written.' And so there existed this Robert Emmet Epitaph Society. I said--or association--I said monument earlier, I met epitaph.
LAMB: Right.
Mr. KENEALLY: And so they didn't to make a martyr of Meagher and Mitchell and--and William Smith O'Brien.
LAMB: OK. Go back again--just try keep putting it in context, 1848, the famine is over?
Mr. KENEALLY: The height of the famine--the potato crop fell in the--failed in the fall of 1845. It failed again in 1846. The blight didn't attack the potatoes in 1848, but not enough had been planted. People had already eaten their seed crops and so on. And then it struck again like a curse in 1848. And so, the--the catastrophe was more or less still in midcourse in 1848.
LAMB: The Civil War started in 1861, and that's what I want to get between, '48 and '61, Meagher and Mitchel on their way to Australia. Did they both arrive at the same time?
Mr. KENEALLY: No. They arrived on different ships. Meagher was transported with a number of other eminent rebels, and he--he escaped to the US before--before Mitchel. The first Irishman to escape--the first eminent Irishman to escape from Van Diemen's Land to America was a man called Terence MacManus, who was greeted like a rock star when he arrived in San Francisco on a Yankee ship, which helped him escape.

And MacManus held a remarkable place in the history of revolution in Ireland because not only was he involved in revolution in 1848, but ultimately on the eve of the Civil War, he would die in San Francisco. And the Irish Republicans in San Francisco used his body as a recruiting tool. They displayed his remains in the cathedral in San Francisco. They shipped it across the isthmus of Panama, took it up to New York where, again, it served in St. Patrick's Cathedral and in various armories around the city as a great recruiting tool for a new Irish Republican body called the Fenian Brotherhood. And then it was taken to Ireland where his remains served the same purpose. They lay in state and were used as a recruiting tool for Irish Republicans in Ireland. The--the Fenian movement sought the violent overthrow of the British rule in Ireland. It was a forerunner of the IRA. And so MacManus had that destiny.

The other young men, Mitchel and Meagher, escaped--in Meagher's case about 1852--and came to New York and found that peculiar system of Irish poverty combined with Irish political power in New York, found it fully operational. Mitchel escaped later. When he arrived in Manhattan in 1853, he was greeted with a 31-gun salute, a salute reserved for heads of state. He was greeted as if he were really the president of Ireland. And yet, it's interesting how American politics began to claim both these men. Democrat politics began to claim them because they found that a lot of their former friends in young Ireland, men who had escaped from Ireland instead of being transported to Van Diemen's Land, had assumed positions of power in the Democrat Party machine in New York, the machine that was called Tammany Hall.

And so they were immediately subsumed as legal figures into the Democrat Party. But Meagher was a Union Democrat. He was always going to stick with the--with the Union. Mitchel said the biggest issue in America is the condition of the Irish industrial slaves of the North. `What did the abolitionists ever say about the Irish industrial slaves whose lives were utterly expandable on the railroads, on the canal diggings, in--in the--on the wharfs of lower Manhattan? They say nothing about that. They're fixated on abolition. But I'm going to concentrate on the--on the appalling destiny of the Irish industrial slave.'

And he--Mitchel tended to point to instances where--where plantation owners used this Irish labor to clear really dangerous swamps in the South, around Louisiana and so on. They used Irish labor rather than use their slaves because they had an investment in their slaves. So Mitchel said don't touch slavery, it--it is a British--abolition, rather--it is a British plot devised to divide the only viable republic on Earth. So Mitchel ended up going South and ran a Southern newspaper, and during the Civil War, became an eminent Confederate newspaper man, a friend of Jeff Davis, whereas Meagher was claimed by America in a different way. He became a Union general and raised a brigade of 5,000 Irishmen, nearly all of whom were members of the Fenian Brotherhood. And led them into battle--a number of battles during the Civil War.

So the--the plan to use the United States purely as a launching pad for Irish activism was transmuted into two different attitudes towards the Civil War and profound involvement because all--what you could call Meagher's sons. Meagher was still a very young man. He was a brigadier general in the Union army. He'd--he was a political general. He happened to have a considerable capacity. But all his boys--all his Fenian boys were destroyed in the Civil War. And similarly, Mitchel's own sons from Tasmania, who followed him from Tasmania, from Van Diemen's Land, they were destroyed in the Civil War, too. Only one of the three of them survived, and he was badly wounded. They were sacrificed in this war. So there were two Irish attitudes towards abolition and towards the preservation of the Union. And the Irish were fatally split in America over the Civil War.
LAMB: Let me go back just a couple of little things. When you would travel in those days from Ireland to Australia, how long would it take by sea?
Mr. KENEALLY: A hundred--my--my wife's great-grandmother's boat--my wife great--grandmother was a convict woman, 22-year-old--it took her 129 days at sea, and that was round about the passage at the--of that time. Later, combination of sail and steam or the clipper ships reduced that time to about 70 days. But for the convict ships, it was about 130.
LAMB: How many convicts would go on each ship?
Mr. KENEALLY: On my wife's great-grandfather's ship, there were about 218 men; and on her great-grandmother's ship, there 135 convict women and 30 children.
LAMB: We're talking about Hugh Larkin and Mary Shields?
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, that's right.
LAMB: And they married where?
Mr. KENEALLY: They ultimately married each other in Australia. They didn't know each other in Ireland. And I deal with them in the book merely because unlike Meagher and Mitchel, they were working class. They were peasant. They were the peasant convicts who contributed a great deal to Australian society, who have numerous offspring, all of them law-abiding. And they--they're therefore very interesting people to me.
LAMB: Now in 1848 to 1860 or so, how many people lived in Australia?
Mr. KENEALLY: During the 1850s, it--under the impact of gold discoveries, it began to reach a million by the end of the 1850s.
LAMB: In the entire country?
Mr. KENEALLY: In the entire enormous 300--or three million square miles of Australia.
LAMB: How many are there now?
Mr. KENEALLY: And there are only 19 million there now. We don't have a Mississippi, you see, we have--and there are great arguments about how high the Australian population could be--should be. Environmentalists and conservatives tend to say, `Keep it where it is.' But that doesn't seem to me to be realistic.

Although we lack a Mississippi and that huge amount of alluvium that the great river systems of America spread over the plains, nonetheless we have very populous neighbors, such as Indonesia. And it seems unrealistic to believe that we should peg it at 19 million. But I would--if--if I can get beyond environmental concerns for a moment, I would like a population of 40 million to 60 million for this reason: That a population of 40 million to 60 million can make movies, write books, make music without regard to the outside world. You see, if you make an Australian movie, you have to have some American distribution deal; and therefore, there's not that total cultural independence which is desirable. So if our environment could stand it, I'd like a population of 40 million to 60 million.
LAMB: OK. Go back, though. Australia had a million people. They moved to 19 million today. Ireland, if I remember correctly, ended up having about five million then and still has five million today.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, indeed. We--that's the story that I tell in the book through these very--I hope--very human faces. I tell the story of a decline from 8.2 million in 1841 through the famine, through misgovernment and through continual immigration in the 19th and 20th century, down to about five million. So by the turn of the 20th century, by 1901, say, there was barely half the people in Ireland who'd been there at the time of the census of 1841. And this is a great scandal. This is a scandal of misgovernment. It's a scandal for which, as I think I said the last time we talked, Tony Blair has very graciously apologized. It was--it happened in no other part of Europe, this huge depopulation.
LAMB: OK. Let's go then to the United States. Do you have any idea how many people were here in 1860?
Mr. KENEALLY: I know that there were about--I think there were in the early 1850s, about 40 million. I think it might have grown to about 60 million at the time of the Civil War. But I do know this: that in New York, there were 800,000 when--when Meagher arrived from his great escape from Tasmania. And of those 800,000, 200,000 were Irish. So there were the most--they were the first and most populous immigrant group other than the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
LAMB: Not to overdo it, one million to 19 million in Australia, five million still today all these years later in Ireland, and from about 60 million here up to 270 million people.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, it's only under the influence of the great economic boom that's in progress in Ireland at the moment that you've got a reversal of the hemorrhaging of population.
LAMB: Go back to the Australian imprisonment. Do they actually put these folks in prison over there, these young men?
Mr. KENEALLY: No. They restricted them to a district, gave them a ticket of leave, which on condition that they stayed within a given district, and that they promise not to try to escape. They had to report ma--regularly to magistrates and they were subject to police surveillance. And they did chafe under this imprisonment, but they're able to go out riding, they're able to--one of them started a newspaper even in--in Hobart, in the chief Tasmanian port of--of Hobart. But they--they did dream of--of escape throughout this time.

The working class convicts like my wife's great-grandparents, anything could happen to them. They could be in a prison. They could be in a chain gang. They could be in an unchained work gang. But my wife's protest criminal great-grandfather was sent to a remote sheep station, a remote sheep ranch where he worked as slave labor. And he seems to have had a reasonable enough master and he did his time a long distance from officials. And in a sense, he was lucky. He was not sent to any of the convict hells that the Irish dreaded.

One of those was Norfolk Island, which happens to be a--was 600 miles out in the Pacific. It's part of Australia. It was the worst place to be sent to. And if Hugh Larkin, my wife's great-grandfather, had offended in New South Wales, he stood a good chance to be sent to Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island, there were cases of--the--the Irish had a strong sense of theology. They knew you went to hell if you suicided. So in Norfolk Island, you had this extraordinary arrangement by which men--gangs of three men would--Irishmen would pick straws, and the one who won--the one that picked the long straws was killed with a shovel or a pick by the one who'd picked the second longest straw. The second winner was the--the man who was placed number two in this bizarre lottery stood trial and the third one, the loser, gave evidence against him. This is a documented case. And it's an eloquent demonstration of how horrifying the convict system could be.

When Hugh applied to the government of New South Wales to have his wife sent out to join him--his wife, Esther Larkin, sent out to join him in New South Wales--and if she'd been able to come, she would've escaped the famine. So it would have been a great benefit to her. She never came, in fact. But when he applied...
LAMB: Hugh Larkin left his wife.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes. Hugh Larkin was transported to Australia...
LAMB: ...and then remarried...
Mr. KENEALLY: ...and left a young wife and two children back in Ireland.
LAMB: But married M--Mary Shields.
Mr. KENEALLY: And ultimately, he married Mary Shields, that's right.
LAMB: Had he ever divorced, by the way?
Mr. KENEALLY: Never divorced. Convicts had ways of working this out. They weren't quite as Vaticanized as some modern Catholics were and they--they tended to look upon Australia as a new world, a new state of being. And therefore, if they couldn't be reunited, they were known to remarry. They would remarry.
LAMB: Well, back to your--the three straws. Why would you have to--why would somebody have to be killed among those three?
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, he wanted to be killed. He wanted to be killed without doing it himself. He wanted to die, so horrifying was Norfolk Island. He wanted to die, but he didn't want to do it himself, because according to Catholic theology, suicides went to hell, and so he was killed by a friend.
LAMB: How many times did that happen?
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, it's--it's documented on a couple of cases and the story's told in Robert Hughes' great book, "The Fatal Shore." And it is documented though the journals of the first Catholic bishop who used to go to Norfolk Island to hear the confessions of men who'd been condemned to death, to say Mass, to hear confessions generally, and he encountered this practice.
LAMB: Now I want to come I want to just take a--just a short break here and ask you a couple of questions, because we in this country are going through a time where Frank McCourt has the number one best-seller, or has had for a number of weeks, both paperback and hardback, with stories about Ireland. Your book comes along. You mention Robert Hughes. He's been fairly popular here. Do you know Frank McCourt?
Mr. KENEALLY: know him very well. I knew him before he was Frank McCourt. I knew him when he was Malachy McCourt's shyer elder brother, or quieter elder brother. I taught for a time, if--calling it teaching is probably to dignify it, but I taught for a time at NYU. And there was a club there called the Nine First Fridays, which was made up of Irish-Americans and I was invited--being a notorious Irish-Australian, I was invited into it. And the Nine First Fridays had a number of literary people associated with it, generally women like Mary Higgins Clark and Peggy Noonan. And Frank, at that stage, was teaching at Stuyvesant High still and looking forward to retirement on a teacher's salary.

And there was a time I went to New York and attended the Nine First Fridays and someone said to me, `Did you know Frank's written a little memoir of his childhood and it's being published by'--at that stage, it was being published by Little, Brown. I don't know if, though, they were the ultimate publish--publishers, or not. And I said, `Yes.' You know, it didn't sound too promising, but here it is.

He writes very well, if I might say so, patronizingly. Of course, he does--writes very well, and I'd love to have a quarter of his royalties, but he -writes splendidly about the sense of degradation that a lot of the Irish had. The sort of degradation, which even as an immigrant in the 20th century, he brought to his job at the Biltmore Hotel when he was a waiter or a busboy at the Biltmore Hotel, this--the stories of which he tells in the new book "'Tis." And there is a kind of continuity between this book and--and--a--and Frank McCourt's book.

I'm not trying to sell my book on the back of my friend Frank, but it was great to think that--at the time I first knew him, I was the published writer and, fortunately, I didn't behave with the hubris of a published writer and we're still friends, now that he's famous. But I had the honor to read with him at the s--92nd Street Y, when I was last in New York.
LAMB: What do you think the reason is for the success of all these Irish books?
Mr. KENEALLY: I think it's time for them. I think it's time for both a--an unashamed but a non-sentimental look at the--at the Irish. They--they tended, particularly in America, to be portrayed sentimentally through St. Patrick's Day and through various Irish successes, through the sort of Irish-American Hall of Fame.

There's a splendid magazine in New York called Irish America, which nominates the hundred most famous Irish-Americans every year. And they're always very prominent people and they are an index of the success of the Irish in America. But what must never be forgotten is the degradation--the point--the point of--of degradation--the note of degradation on which they entered this country, the note of degradation in which they lived, perhaps, for two or three generations after arrival, and of course, the most degraded of all, the Irish convicts to Australia--the Irish peasant convicts to Australia.

And that's something I want to look at frontally and, in a way, celebrate the redemption that the New World brought some of these people, but -even convicts. I don't want to do it in a sentimental manner. I try to go into the book in--in the book to go into the question of Irish anti-Semitism and Irish anti--a--anti-black racism as well into the look at the racism with which they themselves were treated.

Meagher's men run into battle at Fredericksburg. They go further than any other--under Marye's Heights, they go further than any other unit up against that deadly stone wall at Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. They're nearly obliterated. Now you can look at this as a story of Irish gallantry, which it certainly was. You can also look at it as a--an index of how anxious they were to prove themselves to the Yankees, to go into battle at The Run, at the Day Rigger Run.

The Irish were also always supposed to fix bayonets, because they were considered very terrifying when they fixed bayonets. General Hancock had heard from a Confederate prisoner that Ma--the charge of Meagher's Irish at the Sunken Road at Antietam had been decisive, but this business of going to extra lengths of ferocity was also an attempt to prove themselves to nativist America.
LAMB: Go back to the Fredericksburg thing. I know we're jumping around a little bit, but John Mitchel's sons were there. I mean, there's a moment in the book where you have the dividing of the river, and songs started to be sung on both sides.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes.
LAMB: Were they Irish songs? Explain that.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, indeed.
LAMB: What's that about?
Mr. KENEALLY: Yeah, the--well, first of all, John Mitchel, former Tasmanian convict, Irish convict escaped from Tasmania, visited his Confederate sons in Pickett's division in the 1st Virginia, famous...
LAMB: George Pickett.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yeah--George Pickett's division on Marye's Heights the morning of the battle. And at that stage, he would have seen--he would've been able to s--to see quite clearly Meagher's brigade on the plain below. Whether he knew it was Meagher's brigade, we--we don't know.
LAMB: Did they know each other, by the way, in Australia?
Mr. KENEALLY: But they knew each other. They--they were the best of friends, both in rebel ranks in Ireland and in--in Tasmania. And here--they talk about brothers being divided by the Civil War, but this is perhaps the most graphic case. Two Irish rebels out of the same sort of womb of rebellion, divided by the--the lines at Fredericksburg. And Mitchel's sons in the 1st Virginia having a part in repulsing the Union Army that morning, and a very successful part, because the Union Army--the Confederate army, suffered minimal casualties that day and the Union army suffered 13,000 casualties that--re--in a very short time on the De--December the 13th. So this is an extraordinarily graphic illustration of the division between--not only between Americans, but between Irish.

Then the night after the battle, one of Meagher's officers in--by a campfire, socializing, begins to sing a great song. It's a terrific song, by the way, if ever you can get some band in an Irish bar to s--to play it. It's called "Ireland Boys Hurrah." And he began singing it and the Irish Fenians--it's a Fenian song--Irish Republican. They call themselves the Fenians. It was taken up by men all around this campfire. It stretched--according to this officer, Captain Downing--six miles along the Union front, along the Rappahannock, and then it was picked up by Confederate Picketts on the other side of the Rappahannock and sung all the way back along the river by Fenian--Irish, Irish-Republicans, on both sides of the lines.

So it's interesting how the Irish, even in modern times, have been very splendidly involved, opposite of--often on opposite sides of the lines in other people's armies. The story of the wild geese, the Irish soldiers who'd been leaving Ireland since the 17th century and fighting in other people's armies. And even in the Falklands--in the Falklands War in the 1980s, it--it is said on good authority that the first and last British soldier killed were Irishmen, citizens of the Republic of Ireland. So the--it--it's only when they're actually trying to liberate Ireland that things seem to--seem to go astray in the 19th century. Many of the officers of Meagher's brigade who survived the war went back to England and Ireland to try to liberate liberate Ireland and were unsuccessful.
LAMB: By the way, what ultimately happened to Thomas Meagher and John Mitchel?
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, Mitchel was arrested at the end of the war. He was one of only three Confederates to be arrested an--and he was imprisoned with Jeff Davis in Fortress Monroe--very interesting relationship with Jeff Davis, and I can only--I can go into it only partly in the book. But he then--after being released, he became a New York newspaperman. And he decided in his 60s that he would defy the British government. Although he was an undischarged, escaped felon, he would return to Ireland and he would stand for the seat of Tipperary and he would defy the British government to prevent him against the will of--with the--he had enormous support amongst the Irish people, despite his Confederate career, which rather bewildered many of them--and he would be elected.

And sure enough, he went back to Ireland. He was elected member for Tipperary. Disraeli suspended the warrant for the election and called a new election. He stood again and was elected. But within days of being elected, he died in the old vicarage home in which he'd grown up in Newry. And he--he left--he left a son and a grandson. The grandson became the youngest lord mayor of New York ever.

Meagher, on the other hand--instead of returning to Ireland, Meagher was never comfortable with this new, radical movement called the Fenian Brotherhood, which, in any case, split in two after the war, one-half deciding that they would invade Canada and the other half deciding that they'd invade England, or--and Ireland. And so he went out to Montana to become governor of Man--Montana, to--he became acting governor of Montana. And he extended--interestingly, he extended none of the compassion he'd shown towards the Irish peasantry. He extended none of that to the Blackfoot. He didn't see that the American Indians--that the Native Americans were in the same condition as the Irish peasants--insecure in their land tenure, having land stripped away from them. And he signed one of the most important treaties with the Blackfoot, which, of course, the radical Blackfoot--Blackfoot Indians who were rather like him, did not keep. The--the--the young bloods off the reservation that we hear about in cowboy movies were the young Blackfoot in Montana who disobeyed the treaty and who were some of the opponents of Governor Meagher.

But he was killed, in my opinion, almost certainly by Republican vigilantes in the Missouri. He would've become senator for Montana had he lived. And his career as governor of Montana is very distinguished. I try to rehabilitate it in the book. There's been a lot of subtle attack upon him in Montana. It's even said that when he drowned in the Missouri, he was drunk, but there's absolutely no evidence for that.
LAMB: Is there a big statue of him somewhere out there?
Mr. KENEALLY: There's a huge statue in front of the Montana Legislature. And he made Montana Democrat. He was very interested in making Montana Irish and it wasn't all for Catholic devotional reasons. He wanted--he wanted voters and he knew the Irish would all vote for him when he--when he stood for the Senate.
LAMB: By the way, those who have watched the first part of this, and the second part, might be interested in knowing that there was a six-week gap between the two hours that we taped. And one was taped in October, the next taped in November. But you went back to Australia in the middle of all this to fight a little political battle.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes, I suppose, the family has political genes, because I had a political prisoner--great-uncle sent to Australia in the 1860s. He ended up in LA. But we had a movement in Australia aimed at our becoming a republic. I was the founding chairman of that movement. I did not get involved in that because I was of Irish descent. I wasn't trying to make some adjustment to get even with the Brits for the 19th century. I think that would be very inappropriate. Australia is, after all, 12,000 miles from Britain and Ireland.

But I wanted Australia to become a republic so it would have greater international respectability when it spoke so that it--I mean, we're down there--last train stop on the--in Asia. We are at the terminus of Asia, if you look at us in the map. It doesn't matter whether we're an Asian country or not, that's where we're located. And I wanted to--the--we should become a republic so that we could convey to our Asian neighbors, some of whom are not nice people, some of whom are good people--convey to them that we didn't have a white supremacist delusion about where we were on Earth. We knew we were a separate community with a separate identity, and a destiny of dealing with our location on this Earth. And becoming a republic would be a good way to do that.

We lost the referendum, sadly. The queen was not invoked at all by the other side, but suspicion and fear were invoked and we won 46 percent of the poll. But I believe that the monarch is not too happy--the monarch of Great Britain and Australia is not too happy that she was not invoked, and defense of the monarchy was not invoked, during the referendum. And I believe that we will become a republic one day and I hope to live to be buried in the soil of the Republic of Australia.

But, again, only insofar as the Irish have this--amongst other tendencies, they do have--amongst other less-desirable tendencies, perhaps, they do have a tendency towards equity and democracy, and it's purely from that inheritance that I hope I'm operating. I'm not trying to get even for the famine.
LAMB: Now in between the two interviews that we've done, I interviewed a man named Michael Patrick MacDonald for this show, who has a book out called "All Souls," and it's about Boston Southie. It's about being white--he's 33, a member of an 11--I think his mother had 11 children by three different men over a period of--a number of years. But in the middle of this book, he referred to the fact that he'd gone to John Boyle O'Reilly High School.
Mr. KENEALLY: Yes.
LAMB: And because I had read your first book, at--it just leaped out at me. And who was John Boyle O'Reilly? And why would you name a high school after him in Boston?
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, John Boyle O'Reilly was one of the prisoners sent to Australia with my great-uncle. In 1868 they arrived. They were Irish Republicans involved in an abortive uprising. But O'Reilly was a British soldier and he rebelled from within the ranks of the British army, and so he got a life sentence. My uncle, John Keneally, ultimately of LA, got a 10-year sentence. And he was a very noble creature. You can see--these men were amongst the first men to be mug shot in history, and their mug shots are in the book. And you can tell from the mug shot of Boyle O'Reilly what a noble and handsome and charismatic creature he is. As a young man then--he's in western Australia, which is--was--is a--something of an oubliette of a prison into which men are cast and forgotten, and he escapes on a Yankee whaler called the Gazelle. His escape is very graphic.

And I found that researching whaling in--for this book was fascinating, because there was more than one Captain Ahab. It--it--and, of course, there--there's a story later in the book that--which has a Captain Ahab figure. And, of course, you--it was fascinating to me that you could get these temperance Yankee Protestants to rescue Irish political prisoners from places like western Australia. That fascinated me.

John Boyle O'Reilly escaped on Gazelle. He became a pluralist American, settled in Boston, a--a Democrat, of course. He was heavily involved in Irish causes, including the purchase of a whaler to send to Australia to rescue his fellow prisoners. He became a famous literary man, amongst other things. He became a--a writer of such eminence that he read from the same platform, in a troika of literary stars, with Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. He looked after the young Oscar Wilde, when Oscar Wilde came to Boston. Oscar Wilde did rather puzzle him, as he puzzled most Americans, but Oscar Wilde's mother is a figure in the book. She was a great Irish rebel figure. She was a bourgeois Protestant, flamboyant girl.
LAMB: Speranza.
Mr. KENEALLY: And--and Speranza, yes. She was a wonderful figure. In any case, Boyle O'Reilly is interesting. He ended up owning the Boston Pilot. Grover Cleveland, I think it was, said of him that the--Massachusetts couldn't be won for the Democrat Party without Boyle O'Reilly, without his support. He was a friend of some of the early political--Irish political demagogues of--of Boston, including Patrick A. Collins, the first Irishman to become mayor of Boston, a friend of Honey Fitzgerald and--and the--the Kennedy forebearers. But he also had friends amongst the old high Protestant, Brahman abolitionists. You know, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and--and Wendell Phillips, and Lloyd Garrison, and Mariah Lydia Childe. He was turn--the--the Pilot was a paper, which contrary to the kind of south Boston ethos, espoused the cause of the African-American, the newly liberated slaves, the Native Americans, cried for--after Custer's--the Custer massacre out in Wyoming? Wyoming?
LAMB: Montana?
Mr. KENEALLY: Montana, yes--called for tolerance, because these people had lost their land and that's what had caused the conflict, and it was the same cause of conflict as Ireland's conflicts. And he published the names of companies which would not employ Irish. But he published, also, the names of companies which would not employ Jews. So he's an extraordinary figure for his period.

He had a blind spot about the Chinese. He said, `Chinese will never be American citizens. They come here for different reasons,' he said. No--no one's perfect, of course, but he was an extraordinary person for his period. And he was involved in Irish causes. He went off the idea of radical Irish activism, but he supported the Irish party in the House of Commons. He supported home rule, the movement for self-government for Ireland, and he supported the Land League, which was a method of civil disobedience which the Irish devised to get their land back. And the boycott, the famous boycott, which was put into operation against a land agent called Captain Boycott in County Mayo, was the beginning of that--wa--wa--was the beginning of the deliverance of the land back to the Irish away from the landlords.

So he supported a number of extraordinary initiatives and was considered hugely--a--a hugely significant American-Irishman, hence there are many statues in his honor in Boston, and a high school.
LAMB: Once again, we're almost out of time, what are you going to do next?
Mr. KENEALLY: I'm doing a novel. I'm doing the final revisions of a long novel, which I hope to send to my publisher very soon. There will no doubt be an arm wrestle about its length, a loving arm wrestle. And at the end of that arm wrestle, I--I--I expect it to be out in America sometime in the year 2000.
LAMB: What's this cover? Do you know what this picture is?
Mr. KENEALLY: This is a real photograph of a prisoner being taken away. It happens to be an English prisoner. But my English publishers found that picture in a photo library and thought that it was so eloquent of the sort of scenes which one s--reads about in the book and in 19th-century Ireland, a picture of separation. That man's hands are tethered.
LAMB: Now did--how has this worked out for you, this book? What do you think of--your book tour's over and...
Mr. KENEALLY: Well, the Irish have been very good to it. I--of course, everyone's buying "'Tis," but I hope that they might then consider this book, after they've finished reading "'Tis," and it seems that many of them are. I do hope that it has a long life. My publishers say they expect it to have a long life. And they're bringing me back to America all the way from Australia for St. Paddy's Day, so I hope to be doing more promotion at that stage.
LAMB: Our guest has been Australian Thomas Keneally. This is what the cover looks like. It's called "The Great Shame" and we thank you very much.
Mr. KENEALLY: Thank you, again.


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