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The extraordinary story of John Boyle O’Reilly’s book of poems

Harvey Deegan

John Boyle O’Reilly was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the Fenians). While in WA, John wrote a number of poems in a vellum bound journal, which he appeared to have given to Father Patrick McCabe as a thank you gift.

When the book was donated to the Library in 1989, its authenticity was questioned, and Library staff engaged in extensive research in attempts to verify it, including comparing handwriting samples from other O’Reilly manuscript documents and even asking the WA Police if they recognised the shorthand!

It was not deemed authentic until Gillian O’Mara translated parts of the shorthand that covered vellum exterior of the volume, using some notes found in the John Flood papers. This revealed that it was by John Boyle O’Reilly. The book has been digitised and is available online through the State Library catalogue.

Dr Kate Gregory, Battye Historian joined us on “Remember When” to tell us about this fascinating story.

Download this podcast here

Harvey Deegan
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