Emily M. Weddall 150

Happy Birthday Emily

On Wednesday 18th September 1867 at Windsor Terrace, Edenderry, Co. Offaly Emily Arabella Maynard Burke was born. Emily was the second daughter and third child of Rev, William John and Emily Burke. Her proud parents put the below announcement in the newspaper. On the day of her birth an incident took place across the Irish Sea in Manchester.

Three men William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien were being transported to prison by van for their part in the Fenian Uprising the previous March. Fellow Fenians tried in vein to free them, but were fended off by the police. The trio, nonetheless were brought off to prison and put on trial. This incident is  documented in folklore as the ‘Smashing of the Van’ and the men, became the Manchester Martyrs.

Emily’s doting parents could not have predicted that the event that took place on their daughter’s first day of life would be related to another event that would take place nearly fifty years later involving their child. The Rising of 1916, would see Emily too being arrested and thrown into prison, but unlike the Manchester Martyrs she would be released to continue the fight for Irish freedom. Emily would receive another prison sentence and survive a attack by the Black and Tans, before Ireland gained independence from Britain. Besides being involved in the same cause there was a series of uncanny coincidences that matched the martyrs to significant events in Emily’s life.

Curious Coincidences

1867 was the year of the Fenian Uprising

The actual rising of that year took place in March , but failed for a number of reasons. It was the last big push to gain Ireland’s freedom before the Rising of 1916, in which Emily took part. In early 1867 the Fenians had planned to raid Chester Castle. The surprise attack was to go ahead in February but they were informed on and the operation was aborted. Undeterred the Finian Rising  went ahead in early March, but  it did not have the intended impact.

The Fenian rising of 1867 was the last of the rebellions against British rule in Ireland referenced in the Proclamation of 1916. In every generation the Irish people asserted their right to national freedom, the Proclamation declared, “six times during the past 300 years they have asserted it in arms”. Read more:

September 1867 was the month

After the raid the Fenians regrouped and a convention was held in Manchester in July, where Thomas J Kelly was elected as head of the organisation. They almost got away but after a nocturnal meeting held on the 10th September but were betrayed again and subsequently arrested. The three, William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien were identified on evidence given by the informer, John Joseph Corydon.

!8th September 1867 was the day

On 18 September 1867 about 50 Irish Fenians, led by William Allen, attacked a prison van guarded by a large number of unarmed police at Hyde Road in Manchester, England. Their aim was to release two important Fenian prisoners, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy.

23 November 1867

Another curious coincidence took place on November 23rd there was a mock funeral for the Manchester Martyrs, as they were now known, to Glasnevin Cemetery, but there was no corpses to bury, it was a symbolic act. For the day before William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien, were hanged in Manchester, they would not have been given a Christian burial, but at best interred in an unmarked grave inside the prison walls as was customary for those that met their end at the gallows. Eighty-five years later to the day in 1952 Emily M Weddall died. She was buried close to the Republican plot at Glasnevin, adding another layer to the strange series of coincidences that links her to the Manchester Martyrs.


Coincidence or not Emily’s favorite song of all time was Bold Fenian Men.

Some died on the glenside, some died near a stranger
And wise men have told us their cause was a failure
But they fought for old Ireland and never feared danger
Glory O, Glory O, to the bold Fenian men

— From ‘The Bold Fenian Men’ by Peadar Kearney

Happy Birthday Emily!