27 November 2008 Edition
Remembering the Past: Thomas Clarke Luby
BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA
THIS year marks the 150th anniversary of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). One of the founders of the IRB and one of its longest serving and most dedicated members was Thomas Clarke Luby.
Born to a Church of Ireland family in 1822 in Dublin, Luby went to Trinity College in 1842, where he was influenced by Thomas Davis and The Nation newspaper. He met John Mitchel, another Protestant nationalist, in Trinity and was on the radical wing of the Young Ireland movement in 1848. He took part in the abortive attempted insurrection that year and in 1849 was also among the small core of Young Irelanders who evaded capture and regrouped under James Fintan Lalor in hopes of making another armed protest at British rule.
In the early 1850s, Luby travelled to Australia and to Paris, where he met James Stephens and John O’Mahony. On his return to Ireland he worked as a journalist in Dublin and he was a key figure in the discussions and correspondence among nationalists in Ireland and the United States which led to the establishment of the IRB.
On St Patrick’s Day 1858, a small group gathered at the premises of Peter Langan, lathemaker, of East Lombard Street, Dublin. They included James Stephens, Peter Langan, Garret O’Shaughnessy, Joseph Denieffe and Thomas Clarke Luby. IRB members took an oath which had been drafted by Luby, under the supervision of Stephens. It read:
“I, AB, in the presence of the Almighty God, do solemnly swear allegiance to the Irish Republic, now virtually established, and that I will do my very utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to defend its independence and integrity; and finally, that I will yield implicit obedience in all things, not contrary to the laws of God, to the commands of my superior officers. So help me God.”
Luby joined Stephens in organising the IRB throughout the country, enlisting thousands of recruits. He went to the United States in 1862 to raise funds in conjunction with the American wing of the IRB, the Fenian Brotherhood, led by John O’Mahony.
In 1863, the IRB established The Irish People newspaper and the main writers were editor John O’Leary and journalists Thomas Clarke Luby and Charles Kickham. Luby was a prolific contributor to the newspaper and wrote much on social and economic issues.
In September 1865, the British authorities in Dublin Castle cracked down on the IRB and raided The Irish People offices in nearby Parliament Street. Thomas Clarke Luby was among those arrested. At his trial in Green Street he said:
“When the proceedings of this trial go forth into the world, people will say the cause of Ireland is not to be despaired of, that Ireland is not yet a lost country – that as long as there are men in any country prepared to expose themselves to every difficulty and danger in its service, prepared to brave captivity, even death itself, if need be, that country cannot be lost.”
Luby was sentenced to 20 years’ penal servitude but was released in 1871 on condition that we would live outside Ireland for the rest of his sentence. He went to the United States and never saw Ireland again but continued to work for Irish freedom until his death
Thomas Clarke Luby died on 29 November 1901, 107 years ago this week.
Thomas Clarke Luby (centre) with Denis Dowling Mulcahy and John O’Leary