Tried as part of The Fenian Conspiracy Kilkenny has never forgotten its hero who went on to be a publish a newspaper in the US, The Sunday Citizen, and remained a newspaperman with the Irish Examiner
John Haltigan was born 200 years ago on April 23, 1819, in Kilkenny city. He was reared alongside his five brothers and four sisters on Upper Patrick Street.
Haltigan became an apprentice printer and at the age of 26, he married Catherine Keating. He also became involved in the nation's struggle for freedom.
Haltigan became foreman printer at the Kilkenny Journal and settled on a small farm on the outskirts of the city.
In the summer of 1855, a tailor called Joseph Denieffe traveled from New York back to his native Kilkenny as a representative of the Emmet Monument Association, a precursor to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Denieffe was in Kilkenny to establish contacts with the Fenian movement there. Haltigan introduced Denieffe to all the major players in the Fenian movement in Kilkenny and across Ireland.
Read more: Was a Galway Fenian wrongly hanged in Canada 150 years ago?
Haltigan was head center for the Kilkenny Fenian movement, recruiting members to the organization while also still working on the Kilkenny Journal. In November 1861 Haltigan served as an honorary pallbearer for the funeral of Young Irelander Terence Bellew MacManus in Dublin. It was a large event drawing thousands of people and it highlighted Haltigans standing within the movement.
In 1863 James Stephens launched The Irish People newspaper and Haltigan became foreman printer. He had to move to Dublin and lodged in a boarding house with his 16-year-old son who worked as an apprentice printer. While in Dublin Haltigan trained IRB recruits and drew the attention of the authorities.
On September 14th, 1865 police raided the office of The Irish People and arrested Haltigan. He was charged with treason and on November 27th he was tried alongside John O'Leary, Thomas Clarke Luby, O'Donovan Rossa, and Michael Moore as part of what became known as The Fenian Conspiracy.
On December 8th Haltigan was found guilty of treason against the crown. The father of seven was sentenced to seven years penal servitude.
Read more: The Irish Fenian invasion of Canada
Haltigan was sent to Portland and Pentonville prisons. After years of harsh treatment in these places, Haltigan was granted an early release in March 1869 and arrived back in Kilkenny where thousands lined the streets to welcome him back.
Prison had broken Haltigans health, he arrived back to the marble city weak and frail and by 1873 he left for America where he would spend the next five years with his son who had set up life in the states as a printer of his own newspaper The Sunday Citizen.
Haltigan returned to Ireland in 1877 and worked as a printer for The Cork Examiner. It was in the city by the Lee that John Haltigan died on July 10th, 1884 at the age of 66. The Kilkenny native was escorted by Fenians back to the marble city on the train and was buried in St Patrick's cemetery.
The funeral of John Haltigan was one of the biggest seen in Kilkenny. The St Patrick's brass band escorted the funeral cortege through the streets of the city as crowds thronged to pay their last respects. As Haltigan's coffin was lowered into the ground the band struck up God Save Ireland.
A large impressive Celtic cross was later erected over Haltigans resting place. Haltigans wife Catherine died in 1899 and was buried with her husband.
Kilkenny did not forget its Fenian hero. A street and terrace were named in his honor and numerous commemorations have been held over the years.
Read more: Michael Collins’ Jewish Fenian - the indispensable Michael Noyk
This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.