|THE FENIAN PRISONERS.|
(From the London Correspondent of the Weekly Freeman.)
|I have been furnished with some very interesting but sad details in
reference to visits paid last week to two of the political prisoners, one confined at Dartmoor the other at
Chatham. The visits were paid at the instance of the recently founded Political Prisoners Visiting Committee
; and as a striking instance of the necessity for that organisation and its usefulness, it is only necessary to
state that one of the prisoners visited, Thomas Ahearn, had never been seen by a friend since his
incarceration in 1866. The visit to him was paid by his father, a fine old man of 65, who was brought
from Fethard (Tipperary) by the Committee, and was accompanied to Dartmoor by Mr. Maurice Collins,
one of its members. Thomas Ahearn was convicted in 1866 for firing at a policeman in Whitecross- street.
The policeman was not hurt, but Ahearn was sentenced to penal servitude for life. The visitors were
introduced to the prisoner, who was, of course, enclosed in the usual iron cage, with a warder in
attendance. The meeting was very affecting, the father bursting into tears, which he could scarcely
restrain during the half-hour the interview lasted. He could hardly believe he saw his son, and the fact
that they were not allowed to approach one another, even to shake hands, added intensely to the
bitterness of the old man's grief. The conversation was almost purely of a domestic character. The
prisoner attempted to give some information with a view to further inquiry, as to his trial but in consequence
of his father's emotion he could not do so. All that could be gleaned was that he was deeply grateful to the
Visiting Committee for what he called an "angel's visit," that he was well treated considering the rules and
the fact that there is not a mark against him in the prison books, and that he is employed as a cutter in the
Corporal Chamberswhose poor father is unfortunately an inmate of Thomastown workhouseis ill and unable to perform the work at which he is engaged, that of managing a sewing machine ; and Michael Davittwhose release is expectedis suffering from pleurisy, although he has a lighter task daily and is not in hospital. Those are briefly all the facts connected with the visit to Ahearn worth relating, except that the father desires to express his thanks to the Visiting Committee and to any friends in Tipperary for their kindness.
Two visits were paid later on to Colour-Sergeant M'Carthy at Chathamone ordinary visit, and the other a special visit of an hour's duration, granted to the sergeant's wife and son by the Home Secretary at the solicitation of Mr. O'Connor Power M.P. The ordinary visit was paid by a lady friend, Mr. Jeremiah O'Donovan of Cork, and Mr. Maurice Collins, of London. The sergeant describes his treatment as latterly being very harsh, and states that since May last he is confined in a comfortless cell different from the ordinary prison cells. And yet he has not been charged with any offence. Another of his complaints is that both he and John O'Brien are without reason assigned, searchedthat is to say, stripped, and their clothes examined three or four times daily and at irregular periods. At church, while the other prisoners are paraded in gangs under a warder, Sergeant M'Carthy and John O'Brien have each a separate warder assigned to them, and are kept aloof from each other and the other prisoners. The searching is so minute that even the salt is thrown out of the salt-cellars to see if anything is there concealed. This treatment the sergeant cannot understand, for, as he observed to his visitors, "as a soldier he did his duty to England until his own country called him," and, in at least one of her battles in which he fought, had to eat grass for food. The sergeant desires to express his "grateful thanks" to Messrs. Ryan and Collins for the visits paid for two years before the committee was formed. He also desires to thank Mr. O'C. Power, M.P., and to be remembered to Dr. John O'Leary, Mr. James O'Connor, and Mr. Richard Pigott. Of course the warder interfered when the sergeant attempted to speak of his own prison treatment, or when his friends attempted to give him any outdoor news. On the conclusion of the first visit Mrs. M'Carthy and her son were admitted. The son is a fine intelligent lad of fourteen, who is being educated by the Jesuit Fathers at the expense of Mr. Dion Boucicault. It was two years since Mrs. M'Carthy had seen her husbandher child had not seen him since his sentenceand within the past few months the death of his eldest son some years ago had only been communicated to the sergeant. You may imagine, then, that the visit was a heartrending one, and a veil must be drawn over it, for it was a purely domestic meeting to speak over family affairs, the education of their children, &c. But the father examined his young son on his educational acquirements, with which he expressed his satisfaction. M'Carthy could kiss neither wife nor child through his iron bars, and when the latter left the prison it was hours before they recovered from the painful trial.
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