Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kickham, Charles Joseph

KICKHAM, CHARLES JOSEPH (1826–1882), journalist, was born in 1826 at Mullinahone, co. Tipperary, where his father was a prosperous shopkeeper. He was intended for the medical profession, but a gunpowder accident, when he was returning from shooting, so injured his sight and hearing that this career became impossible. He took part in the ‘Young Ireland movement,’ and in 1848 busied himself with the preparation of pikes at Mullinahone for the use of the forces of Smith O'Brien.

He became a Fenian about 1860, and in 1865 James Stephens, the Fenian head-centre, appointed him, T. C. Luby, and John O'Leary the supreme executive of his Irish republic, and editors of the ‘Irish People’ newspaper. Kickham and his associates were not, however, fitted by nature for the business of revolution. Their newspaper was suppressed; the supreme executive was taken into custody, and the rising miserably failed (cf. W. O'Brien, When we were Boys). Kickham was arrested at Fairfield House, Sandymount, Dublin, on 11 Nov. 1865, was tried for treason felony, and was sentenced to fourteen years' penal servitude. His friends asserted that he was grossly maltreated in prison, and J. F. Maguire, M.P. for Cork city, called the attention of parliament to the subject in 1867 (Times, 8, 9, 11, and 27 May 1867). After serving four years in Woking and in Portland convict prisons, he was set at liberty. When the election of O'Donovan Rossa for co. Tipperary in 1869 was declared void, Kickham was brought forward as the nationalist candidate. He was returned, but upon a scrutiny he was defeated by Mr. Heron, Q.C., by four votes, 26 Feb. 1870. He thenceforth confined himself to literary work. About 1878 a ‘Kickham Tribute’ was collected for his benefit. He died at Blackrock, near Dublin, on 21 Aug. 1882.

Kickham was the author of several poems and stories dealing with Irish subjects and scenes from a nationalist point of view. These were collected in ‘Poems, Sketches, and Narratives illustrative of Irish Life, 1870. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy puts him ‘next after Carleton, Griffin, and Banim,’ and far before Lever and Lady Morgan as a painter of national manners. He also published ‘Sally Cavanagh, or the Untenanted Graves,’ a novel, 1869 (written in prison); ‘Knockagow, or the Homes of Tipperary,’ a novel, 1879; and ‘For the Old Land, a Tale of Twenty Years Ago,’ 1886. His portrait is prefixed to ‘Sally Cavanagh.’

[Times, 24 Aug. 1882; Charles Gavan Duffy's Young Ireland; Introduction to James Duffy's edition of Knockagow, Dublin, 1879; Justin H. McCarthy's Ireland since the Union.]

J. A. H.