William Philip Allen


William Philip Allen Famous memorial

Death 23 Nov 1867 (aged 19)
Manchester, Metropolitan Borough of Manchester, Greater Manchester, England
Cenotaph Glasnevin, County Dublin, Ireland
Plot Rd 41 South
Memorial ID 5747055 View Source

Irish Nationalist. Along with Michael Larkin and Michael O'Brien, he was executed for the killing of a policeman in Manchester, England, in the wake of the failed 1867 Fenian Rising. The three men became popularly known as the "Manchester Martyrs". Born to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, he was educated at a Protestant school in Bardon but converted to Catholicism in his mid-teens. He was apprenticed as a carpenter and worked in that trade in Cork and Dublin before moving to Manchester around 1866. By then he was already involved with the Fenian movement and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which took an increasingly militant stance on the question of Irish home rule. Two leaders of the Fenians, Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy, had planned to launch an armed uprising against the English in February 1867 with a raid on the arsenal in Chester, but their plans were exposed and they found themselves hunted men. When they were arrested in Manchester seven months later, a local Fenian organizer, Edward O'Meagher Condon, determined to free them. On September 18, 1867, Kelly and Deasy were being transported from the city courthouse to the county jail in a police van under mounted escort; with them were three female prisoners, a juvenile offender, and one guard, Police Sergeant Brett. As it passed under a railway arch, a group of about three dozen men suddenly surrounded the van, shot one horse and seized the rest. The unarmed escort soon fled and the group ordered the immediate release of the two Fenians. The lone policeman refused, and after failing to open the van door with hammers and hatchets, one of the rescuers tried to blow open the lock with his revolver. At that moment Sgt. Brett peered through the keyhole to see what was happening, and the gunshot killed him instantly. A woman prisoner finally took the keys from his pocket and passed them to the Fenians through a ventilator in the van roof. Kelly and Deasy escaped and eventually found refuge in the United States. A brief manhunt resulted in 29 arrests, and five men were brought to trial for Brett's murder: Condon, Allen, Larkin, O'Brien, Edward Maguire. All were convicted, even though the prosecution could not prove which men in the mob were armed or who fired the fatal shot. In his pre-sentencing speech Allen proclaimed his innocence and said he regretted the death of Sgt. Brett, but was prepared to "die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people". The defendants were sentenced to death. Maguire would be pardoned as a case of mistaken identity, and Condon had his sentence commuted to 10 years because he was an American citizen. Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were hanged at the New Bailey Prison in Salford, and buried in quicklime in its graveyard. The executions aroused much protest in the UK, and in Ireland the dead were hailed as patriots and martyrs. Two weeks later a symbolic funeral was held for them in Dublin, in which 60,000 people followed three empty hearses to Glasnevin Cemetery. A memorial to the Fenians was later dedicated there, while their rallying cry at the trial, "God Save Ireland!", was celebrated in poetry and song. New Bailey Prison closed in 1868 and the bodies of Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were transferred to Strangeways Prison Cemetery, where they remained for over a century in unmarked graves. In 1991 their remains were cremated and reinterred at Blackley Cemetery in Manchester. Since then there has been a movement to have them brought back to Ireland for burial in their native soil.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


William Philip Allen.
Michael Larkin.
Michael O'Brien.

Hanged at Manchester and buried there in the jail
23rd Nov 1867

Requiescant In Pace

God Save Ireland


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: David Conway
  • Added: 7 Sep 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 5747055
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Philip Allen (Apr 1848–23 Nov 1867), Find a Grave Memorial ID 5747055, citing Glasnevin Cemetery, Glasnevin, County Dublin, Ireland ; Maintained by Find a Grave .