Irish Republican ‘deportees’ at Fairford, Gloucestershire 1917

Barney FairfordIrish Republican ‘deportees’ at Fairford, Gloucestershire

Left to Right: Frank McCabe, Peter Healy, Joe Mac Bride, Michael Foley, Sean T. Ó Ceallaigh, Liam Pedlar, Sceilg (aka John O’Kelly), Barney Mellows, Darrell Figgis, Dr. Pat McCartan.

In February 1917, less than two months after his release from Frongoch, Fianna Eireann Adjutant General Barney Mellows was detained by the British authorities. Along with other prominent republicans he was taken to Arbour Hill military barracks where he spent the night.

The group of ‘extremists’ were given no reason for their detention nor were any charges brought against them; all that was stated was that they were revolutionary suspects and they had been engaging in such practices as ‘using expressions likely to cause disaffection’. After being detained for the night in Dublin, they were marched off to the docks the next morning and were deported to England. At first they were sent to Oxford where they had the liberty to move around freely. About a week or two after they arrived, they decided to travel down to London for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and after having an enjoyable day sampling the wares of the capital they returned to Oxford, much to the annoyance of the authorities.

The local police decided to impose harsher terms of detention and the men were ordered to the smaller town of Fairford in Gloucestershire. They were instructed to remain in Fairford and not to travel further than 5 miles outside the town otherwise they would end up in a prison.

After some time Pat McCartan, Sean T. O’Kelly and Darrell Figgis decided to go it alone as felt that three men wouldn’t be as easily noticed as a larger group. They travelled back to Ireland via train and boat and it was several days before their absence was discovered.

Barney and the rest of the men stayed on in Fairford as the local police now kept a closer eye on their movements and whereabouts. They had to report daily at the local police station and it now proved more difficult for them to attempt another escape attempt. After about another eight weeks Barney and the remaining deportees were allowed to go home.

Research and text by Eamon Murphy
Photograph credit: Irish Capuchin Archives

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