The Avengers – London Evening News, Saturday, May 19, 1888

Given the Fenian associates of Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety and the fact that the Whitechapel murders ran parallel with the explosive Parnell Commission, it‘s hard to overlook that news of American and Irish Fenian Avengers in London coincided with Tumblety’s arrival in Britain around June 1888. This sensational article, likely to have been greatly exaggerated, was published in the London Evening News, Saturday, May 19, 1888. Worth reminding ourselves that 5 Mitre Square in Aldgate, where the body of Ripper victim, Catherine Eddowes was also where Inspector Abberline found Fenian Dynamiter, Henry Burton (American Irish) living at the time of the London Dynamite Plots of the 1885-1886 period.

It mentions that the signal for the revenge attacks that the Avengers would launch would be the ‘death of the Old Lady’. But who was the ‘old lady’?

The Avengers

A few days ago a telegram appeared in the English papers from “high official sources,” conveying the news that the Clan-na-Gael Society had resolved to again resort to dynamite and the dagger. I know well —and I have got my information from a more reliable source than the “ high official ”—that though the Clan-na-Gael may bluster to get in funds, the party of action place no confidence whatever in them. They are in the cold. Danger need not be feared by England from that quarter. It is now known that the arrests of the dynamiters in England some short time ago were brought about by private information supplied by Scotland Yard by the American Government, who got it for a price from one of the secret council of the Clan-na-Gael. But there is a such society, of which neither J. S. Walsh nor Tommy Brennan is a member, with branches in Dublin, London, and Paris, that the English Government has more reason to dread than all the secret societies from ’98 to ’88 [[the Clan Societies had numbers]].

Walsh is at the present moment hiding from those who consider him a traitor and are on his trail. Fitzgerald, of the League, is about resigning his position of president, and it is thought will have no further connection with the Parnellites. (Mortimer) Moynahan (who led the Canadian invasion) has also gone over to the party of action. There has been a great change, or series of chancres, all round in that Irish political party’ in America within the past few months, and the first note of the war call will astonish Europe. The Old Man (James Stephens) was the first who drew the lines of the new organisation, but ho is too old to take an active part in its working. John O’Leary has given it his benediction.

The name of the society is “The Avengers,” or “The Army of the Avengers.” The leaders can never be discovered, so close is the secrecy enforced. Every member of its Inner Circle, with the exception of one, a foreigner, whose faith has been tried in the fire of persecution in his own country, is an old Sixty-five Fenian, and every one of them has suffered imprisonment or enforced exile for Ireland’s sake. That members of the Inner Circle are bound to secrecy by the most solemn oaths, compared with the old Fenian oath was a child’s prayer. I had in my possession a written copy of this oath, which I destroyed, but which I remember word for word. It is burned into my brain. As the oath, if published by me, will give away no secret, and lead to no one’s injury, I give it here :

“ I, do solemnly swear, by the blood of Christ who died on the cross for the redemption of man, by the blood of Bishop Plunket, Wolfe Tone, and Robert Emmet, by the blood of all the martyrs who died for Ireland on the scaffold, on the battle field —by my dead father’s (or mother s) soul, and by my own hope of heaven, to do all in my power by fire and sword, by secret act or open warfare, to overthrow the blood-stained English Government. And I further wear by these and all these to keep secret forever the names of anyone I think belongs to the Inner CircIe of ‘The Avengers ’ and to obey at once, by night or day, the orders sent to me from A.”

“A”—is the chief of the Inner Circle. No one member can positively swear that another is a member ; he may guess he is one—no more. A member when being sworn does not see the man who swears him in. He takes the oath and kisses the Bible through a port-hole, like that of a ticket office, and leaves his name and true address in case his serviced are required. The Nihilist system, with the most approved rules of the Italian Carbonari, are grafted on the old Fenian trunk. Death, instant and bloody, is the traitor’s penalty. This oath only admits to the Inner Circle, which now consists of about 20 members, two of whom are now in London, and one acting as foreign correspondent on a Parisian journal ; the others are in the States. The members of the Inner Circle are the executive of ‘The Army of Avengers’. A milder oath admits to the army, the members of which are, at present, but few. It opens its arms to men of every nationality—to all who are able and willing to fight for freedom. The oath will be widely administered to English socialists and Anarchists ; who are expected to form the bulk of the fighting force of the army in these islands. This is the second oath, as near as I can recollect. “ I, (X) solemnly swear (or affirm) to take up arms, when a favourable opportunity offers, for the overthrow of the Government and the establishment of a Republic in this country. ’

The army has its officers, captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, any one of whom, and no other, can administer the general oath. Each member must pay a small weekly subscription for the purchase of arms, ammunition.. As I have before stated the army has yet, only few members in England, but it is expected that in a short time it will number hundreds of thousands. The soldiers of the Army Reserve, who have been cast aside to starve by the Government, are expected to join “The Army of Avengers ” in their thousands. There are 100 members at present in Ireland, and will do invaluable service in sending recruits. There are at the present moment, mixed up among the people of Ireland, themselves Irish of the Irish, more than 7,000 starving time-expired men, many of whom are Fenians and bitter ones, too, who are longing for the dawning- of the day of action.

Thus far I have faithfully given, in my own words, the substance of the information provided me by my informant, who was with myself, a member of the staff of the suppressed Irish conducted by Rossa, O’Leary, and T. C. Lubey in Dublin. He has since (more than twenty years now) lived mostly abroad, in America, California and Paris. Every word he told me I believe as though it were gospel truth. I will now give from memory a condensation of our conversation, omitting those passages which might offer a clue to the police.

“The Pope and the priests will denounce you,” I said. “They did that before. Paul Cardinal Cullen cursed Fenianism with bell took, and candle ; and what good did it all do?” “Besides, we have now a patriotic bishop in Dublin, and priests who are not afraid to suffer tor Ireland. Everything is in our favour.” But Parnell will condemn you.”

“We gave blank ticket, and what has he got a bloody Coercion Act. The Party must make way for the Party of Action.”

But if this society is run on the lines of the Fenian Brotherhood there will be a blow up. The response of my informant was that, “None but tried and true men will be admitted to the Inner Circle ; the second oath, admitting to the ranks, will for a time be a mild one—little more than a solemn promise. T army is only held for the grand outburst. The preliminary skirmishing will only be done by the Inner Circle or by its orders. ’’

What shape will this skirmishing take?

“The death of prominent statesmen—a death to every tyrant and traitor, whose death would strike terror into the aristocracy. We can get volunteers for the work—in hundreds.”

These acts will inflame English public against you.

“Only the public opinion of the moneyed and propertied. The dangerous ones, the fighters, the starving hundreds of thousands have nothing to lose, and the work will be ostensibly done in their interests. Depend upon it, ” he solemnly added, “the death of the old lady will be the signal for revolution. I can almost smell the powder and hear the crash of falling thrones.”

Where will you get the arms?

“ Where ! ”—he laughed—“Anywhere, my boy—in Ireland, for the matter of that.”

My friend is an honest enthusiast, has done his five years penal servitude for his opinion, a good patriot, and I, for one, believe every word he said. Will England believe it? I neither know nor care.