O'REILLY, John Boyle (1844-1890)


O'REILLY, John Boyle (1844-1890)
poet and novelist
son of William David O'Reilly, was born near Drogheda, Ireland, on 28 June 1844. After experience as a journalist he enlisted in the 10th Hussars in 1863, and attempted to obtain recruits for the Fenian order of which he was a member. He was tried by court-martial and was sentenced to death in July 1866, a sentence subsequently commuted to 20 years penal servitude. He was sent to Western Australia in 1867 and arrived in January 1868. In February 1869 he escaped from custody, was rowed out to sea, and was taken on board an American whaler, The Gazelle, of New Bedford. He arrived in the United States on 23 November 1869 and immediately applied to be naturalized. He became very well known in America, where for 15 years he was part proprietor and editor of the Pilot, and did much writing and lecturing. His Songs from the Southern Seas, publislied in 1873, has reminiscences of his life in Australia. Other volumes of verse included Songs, Legends and Ballads, 1878, 5th edition 1882; The Statues in the Block, 1881; In Bohemia, 1886. His novel, Moondyne, is based on his experiences as a convict in Western Australia, and is an able and interesting piece of work. He was also the author of Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport. He died at Hull, Massachusetts, on to August 1890. He married Mary, daughter of John Murphy, who survived him with four daughters. His Complete Poems and Speeches, was published in 1891.
O'Reilly was a devout, lovable man, who exercised much influence among his compatriots who had gone to America. Much of his early verse was of a popular nature, but at his best he is entitled to be called a poet. It was unfortunate that so able and admirable a man should have been sent to Australia as a convict, but the British government was bound to resist attempts to foment treason in the army. In his later years O'Reilly was "an earnest advocate of constitutional agitation as the only way to Irish home rule".
The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XI; Dictionary of American Biography, vol. XIV; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; P. S. Cleary, Australia's Debt to Irish Nation-builders. It was not possible to consult the life by James Jeffrey Roche prefixed to O'Reilly's collected poems and speeches.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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