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In November 1867 tension and fear gripped the city of Manchester. A regiment of the British Army was drafted in to support a police force already bolstered by an extra 2,000 recruits.

With the most contentious execution in a century due to take place at the New Bailey Prison, it was feared racial tensions in Manchester would erupt into violence.

The three condemned men Michael O’Brien, Michael Larkin and William Allen were all Irish. It was widely believed that the British courts had treated them harshly. As the execution day approached rumours spread that an escape orchestrated by the Fenians was on the cards. The city was on a knife edge…

This podcast tells the fascinating story of these three men remembered as the Manchester Martyrs.

The Manchester Martyrs

Sources and links

There are two fascinating articles on the Manchester Martyrs available here and here. The letter of Samuel Page who witnessed the execution is available here.

The Manchester Martyrs

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The Executioner William Calcraft

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The Song “God Save Ireland” written by TD O’Sullivan about the case (performed by The Dubliners.)

The folk song – the Smashing of the Van – written about the freeing of Thomas Kelly and Timothy Deasy performed by Chumbawamba.

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