In English Dungeons | The Death of Sergeant Charles M’Carthy

Charles M’Carthy was a colour sergeant in Her Majesty’s 53rd Regiment of Foot and served across Europe and the West Indies. While stationed in County Cork he became involved with the Fenian movement. He was then stationed in Carrick-on-Suir where shortly afterwards he was arrested for treason in 1865.

M’Carthy stood trial at the Royal Barracks in Dublin for “having come to the knowledge of an intended mutiny of Her Majesty’s troops in Ireland, and not given information of the said intended mutiny to his commanding officer.” The key witness against M’Carthy (or as we say in Ireland – the informer) was Corporal Brennan. He informed the court how M’Carthy was drilling Fenians and how he was recruiting Irish men in the British army into the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

A sentence of death was handed down to M’Carthy but, on account of his service in the British army overseas the sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life.

He would endure 12 years of suffering in British jails before he and other Fenians were released in an amnesty during 1877. Throughout those 12 years M’Carthy was subjected to special treatment due to his service in the British army. He was flogged and starved. He was occasionally thrown into solitary confinement and often beaten to within an inch of his life. By the time he was released he was a dying man.

M’Carthy was released with Michael Davitt, JP O’Brien and Corporal Chambers. They arrived together at Kingstown Harbour (Dun Laoighre) where they were met by Charles Stewart Parnell and a large crowd of well wishers singing God Save Ireland. From there they went by train with Parnell to Dublin city and arrived at Westlandrow station to even bigger crowds of supporters.

Charles M'Carthy |
Lines on the death of Charles M’Carthy

Parnell hosted the released Fenians for breakfast at Morrisons Hotel on Dawson Street, a hotel often frequented by the uncrowned king of Ireland. Just as they arrived in the door, M’Carthy grew weak and had to helped to a nearby chair in the lobby where, in a matter of minutes he took his last breath.

The scene that then played out was most tragic. Corporal Chambers, himself a feeble man after years of torture, broke down and became so inconsolable a doctor had to tend to him. Chambers was then taken away and would never recover fully.

Sergeant M’Carthy was laid out at White Friars Street Carmelite Church before he was buried among the other patriots of Ireland in Glasnevin Cemetery. The inquest following his death concluded that years of ill treatment in jail accelerated Sergeant Charles M’Carthy’s demise.

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