1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/O'Reilly, John Boyle

O’REILLY, JOHN BOYLE (1844–1890), Irish-American politician and journalist, was born near Drogheda on the 28th of June 1844, the son of a schoolmaster. After some years of newspaper experience, first as compositor, then as reporter, during which he became an ardent revolutionist and joined the Fenian organization known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he enlisted in a British cavalry regiment with the purpose of winning over the troops to the revolutionary cause (1863). At this period wholesale corruption of the army, in which there was a very large percentage of Irishmen, was a strong feature in the Fenian programme, and O’Reilly, who soon became a great favourite, was successful in disseminating disaffection in his regiment. In 1866 the extent of the sedition in the regiments in Ireland was discovered by the authorities. O’Reilly was arrested at Dublin, where his regiment was then quartered, tried by court-martial for concealing his knowledge of an impending mutiny, and sentenced to be shot, but the sentence was subsequently commuted to twenty years’ penal servitude. After confinement in various English prisons, he was transported in 1867 to Bunbury, Western Australia. In 1869 he escaped to the United States, and settled in Boston, where he became editor of The Pilot, a Roman Catholic newspaper. He subsequently organized the expedition which rescued all the Irish military political prisoners from the Western Australia convict establishments (1876), and he aided and abetted the American propaganda in favour of Irish nationalism. O’Reilly died in Hull, Mass., on the 10th of August 1890. His reputation in America naturally differed very much from what it was in England, towards whom he was uniformly mischievous. He was the author of several volumes of poetry of considerable merit, and of a novel of convict life, Moondyne, which achieved a great success. He was also selected to write occasional odes in commemoration of many American celebrations.

See J. J. Roche, Life of John Boyle O’Reilly, (Boston, 1891).