Daniel Doyle: Young Irelander

Published in Artefacts, Issue 4 (July/August 2015), Volume 23

The large framed picture of the Immaculate Conception sent to Daniel Doyle by William Smith O’Brien from Brussels.

The large framed picture of the Immaculate Conception sent to Daniel Doyle by William Smith O’Brien from Brussels.

Daniel Doyle was a quintessential Young Irelander: a young professional of nationalist outlook and literary leanings. Born in Killaloe, Co. Clare, in 1826, he qualified as a solicitor in Limerick in the summer of 1846. It was around this time that he became actively engaged in politics, joining the Young Irelanders, led by the Limerick MP William Smith O’Brien, soon after their acrimonious split from Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association. Together with his close friend John O’Donnell, another young Limerick solicitor, Doyle spent much of 1847 working on the establishment of Young Ireland-supporting ‘confederate clubs’ around Limerick. Their legal work taking a back seat to their politics, Doyle and O’Donnell were also instrumental in Smith O’Brien’s re-election as MP for County Limerick in the 1847 general election.

The year 1848 saw Doyle and O’Donnell caught up in the revolutionary fervour sweeping through Europe. They organised more confederate clubs around Limerick and addressed numerous large rallies, but then had to go into hiding with Richard O’Gorman, another well-known Young Irelander, after the failed rebellion in Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary, that summer. The three fugitives spent more than a month moving around west Limerick and Clare, hiding in the homes of friendly farmers but also sleeping out in the fields. Local newspapers carried exaggerated reports of their adventures. With the help of a priest in Kilrush, they boarded a ship that took them to Constantinople. In the heart of the Ottoman Empire, the three Irishmen were taken care of by a Dr Glascott, an Irish-born physician to the Sultan. It was not long, however, before O’Gorman travelled to America, where he embarked on a successful legal career. Doyle and O’Donnell returned to Limerick in late 1849.

Back in Limerick, Doyle and O’Donnell turned their attentions to their stalled legal careers. They were respected figures in the city and involved in local politics. They were present when Smith O’Brien returned to Limerick from his exile in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1856. Smith O’Brien had earlier sent a gift of a large framed picture of the Immaculate Conception to Doyle from Brussels. A note on the back reads: ‘Daniel Doyle Esq. From his friend William S. O’Brien. Bruxelles Sept. 29 1855’.

Daniel Doyle died in 1873. He was survived by his wife Lily (née Simpson) and six children. A locket showing Doyle and his wife remains in the possession of the Doyle family, as do the picture of the Immaculate Conception and other items. They are important because there are not many such mementos of the lower-level Young Ireland leaders, the men under the Smith O’Brien/Mitchel/ Meagher leadership who organised the meetings, put posters up on streets and in many ways really ran the movement. My thanks to Chris Ward (Daniel Doyle’s great-granddaughter) and other members of the family for making them available.

Laurence Fenton is a writer and editor living in Cork.

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