On this day … 4 January 1868

The Preston Guardian reported on Fenianism in Preston.

In 1867 the Irish Republican Brotherhood had organised what came to be known as the Fenian uprising against British rule in Ireland, and more specifically against the landowner class, both British and Irish. A raid was planned on Chester Castle to supply arms for the uprising, which proved unsuccessful and the uprising swiftly failed. But there were repercussions in England when sympathisers attempted to free Fenians from English jails.

Earlier, in 1866, the Royal Irish Constabulary had stationed a detective at Fulwood Barracks, where attempts had been made by Fenians to recruit Irish soldiers stationed there.

In October of 1867 Preston police were armed with revolvers because of the Fenian threat. And in January 1868 police arrested an Irish soldier stationed at Fulwood Barracks in the New Park Inn in Great Hanover Street.

They were called after the publican and some of the regulars reported that the soldier, who claimed to be a Fenian, had said ‘to hell with the Queen and the government’ and that ‘he would as soon shoot her as anyone else’.

The prisoner blamed drunkenness for his outburst, and said he now deeply regretted his words. The magistrates wisely accepted that this was a case of the drink talking, and fined him just five shillings. This did not prevent the Preston Chronicle using the inflammatory headline ‘Sedition and Fenianism in Preston’ in its report of the case.

This reflected the general feeling in the country after a police officer was shot dead by Fenians in Manchester, and the Punch cartoon pictured played to those feelings.

In March 1868 police arrested five more Fenian sympathisers in Preston.

For a detailed account of Fenianism in Lancashire at this time, and more on Preston and Fenianism, see the article in the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire journal: https://www.hslc.org.uk/journal/vol-126-1976/attachment/126-7-lowe/

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