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William Foley

William Foley, one of 280 convicts transported on the Hougoumont, 10 October 1867

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: William Foley
Aliases: Will
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1837
Occupation: Soldier
Date of Death: 1st November, 1876
Age: 39 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 53 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 5 years

Crime: Mutiny
Convicted at: Dublin General Court Martial
Sentence term: 5 years
Ship: Hougoumont
Departure date: 10th October, 1867
Arrival date: 9th January, 1868
Place of arrival Western Australia
Passenger manifest Travelled with 280 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 93, Class and Piece Number HO11/19, Page Number 265 (135)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


From Peter FitzSimons’s “The Catalpa rescue” (2019, p11):

“… Private William Foley… hails from Tipperary and is a superb physical specimen, standing nearly six feet tall. A veteran of the Bombay Horse Artillery that had seen action in India’s Sepoy Mutiny, he returned to Ireland in 1859, where he remained for a few months before joining one of the crack cavalry regiments of the British Army, the 5th Dragoon Guards – quietly taking the Fenian oath in 1864… Right now he is an orderly with the Englishman in charge of quelling this growing insurrection [the Fenian movement for Irish independence], General Sir Hugh Rose… William Foley in that key position [is] right at the heart of the English command…”


1861: William Foley, service number 413, a Private/Trooper in the 5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales) Dragoon Guards (https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/).

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1866, February: Private William Foley of the 5th Dragoon Guards was arrested for “mutinous conduct” (being a Fenian) and harbouring deserters (Doc refs CRF 1866 H19 & TR 14, p168 at http://findingaids.nationalarchives.ie/). This date is from his obituary and Peter FitzSimons’ (2019) account. He would be court martialled at the Royal Barracks in Dublin about five months later.

In the meantime, according to FitzSimons’ dramatisation (pp39-40), the military Fenians awaiting trial and held in Arbour Hill military prison in the centre of Dublin were put on starvation rations – “just enough to keep them alive” – so their morale was low when they were approached, individually, and offered their freedom if they gave evidence against each other. All refused to betray their comrades.

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1866, 21 August: Privates William Foley and James Wilson of the 5th Dragoon Guards were tried on the same day, according to a report in the Irish Times, Dublin, p3:

“Courts Martial at the Royal Barracks

Trial of Private Wilson, 5th Dragoon Guards

The Courts Martial under the presidency of Colonel Henry resumed sittings yesterday morning at 11 o’clock in the Victoria Library, Royal Barracks, and proceeded with the trial of James Wilson, 5th Dragoon Guards.

Major Swinfen was examined and deposed that he had been in command of the regiment for a lengthened period, and that the prisoner had never communicated to him any information with reference to an intended mutiny among her Majesty’s forces in Ireland.

The prosecutor then closed his case.

The prisoner declined making any defence.

The Deputy Judge-Advocate summed up the evidence, and the court was cleared to consider their verdict.

On being re-opened, evidence as to the prisoner’s character was called for. It appeared that he had been tried by court martial in Manchester in 1851 for desertion, and sentenced to 56 days’ imprisonment, and to be marked with the letter “D”. His general character was bad. He was seven years and 83 days in the service, and was 32 years of age. He had no medals or decorations…

The court was adjourned until half past two o’clock.

Trial of Private WILLIAM FOLEY, 5th Dragoon Guards

On resuming,

The prisoner was arraigned on charges of having come to the knowledge of an intended mutiny on the 17th January last, and not communicating same to his commanding officer, and of having harboured Private [Martin] Hogan and [James] Wilson, deserters from the 5th Dragoon Guards.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty. He was defended by Mr. O’Loghlen, instructed by Mr. Lawless.

Head Constable Talbot gave evidence as to the nature and objects [sic] of the Fenian conspiracy.

Private Patrick Foley, 5th Dragoon Guards [an informant and no relation to William Foley], repeated the evidence which he had given in the two former cases.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner – Was not Barclay’s house [Barclay’s public house, in James’ Street, Dublin] much frequented by soldiers who were not Fenians? I do not think a soldier could remain long there except he knew something of the conspiracy; to the best of my opinion a soldier could not be there without being a Fenian, as the Fenians have detectives as well as the authorities; I will not swear that I saw you at any other Fenian meeting except the two I have mentioned; no soldier dropped in casually for a drink into the room in which the meeting on the 17th January was held.

The court then adjourned…”


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

VERDICT – Newspaper coverage:

1. 1866, 3 November: From the Pilot, Boston, Vol 29, No 44, p3:

“The Recent Courts-Martial—The Sentences.
At half-past two o’clock on Tuesday [23 October] the 92nd Highlanders, the 83rd Regiment, and the 5th Dragoon Guards were paraded in full dress in the Royal-square, Royal Barracks, for the purpose of hearing read the sentence of ten men convicted by the recent courts-martial. They formed three sides of a square. Brigadier-General McMurdo, C. B., commanding. Brigade-Major Knipe read the sentences.

Six of the prisoners belonged to the 5th Dragoon Guards, two to the 24th Regiment, one to the 61st, and one to the 60th Rifles. The sentence upon Privates Patrick Keatinge, James Wilson, and Martin Hogan, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, and Private Hassett, of the 24th Regiment, is imprisonment for life; Drummer [James] McCoy, of the 61st Regiment, to 15 years’ penal servitude; Private Thomas Delany, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, to 10 years’ penal servitude; Private Giles [John Shine], of the 60th Rifles, to 10 years; and Private [John] Lynch and [William] Foley, 5th Dragoon Guards, and Maloney [John Donaghoe], 24th Regiment, to five years’ imprisonment. The sentences having been read, the prisoners were removed to the military prison, Arbour hill, where they were dressed in the convict clothes. They were afterwards conveyed to Mountjoy Convict Prison in the van. (https://newspapers.bc.edu/)


2. 1867, 9 January: From The Brisbane Courier, p3:

“The suppression of Fenianism in the army.—The sentences upon the ten men convicted at the late courts-martial in Dublin [in August 1866] have been promulgated.

The sentence upon privates Patrick Keatinge, James Wilson, and Martin Hogan, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, and private [Thomas] Hassett, of the 24th Regiment, is imprisonment for life; drummer [James] McCoy, of the 61st Regiment, to fifteen years’ penal servitude; private Thomas Delany, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, to ten years’ penal servitude; private Giles [John Shine], of the 60th Rifles, to ten years; and privates [John] Lynch and [William] Foley, 5th Dragoon Guards, and Maloney [John Donaghoe], 24th Regiment, to five years’ imprisonment.

The sentences having been read, the prisoners were removed to the military prison, Arbour-hill, where they were dressed in the convict clothes. They were afterwards conveyed to Mountjoy Convict-prison [on 23 October, 1866] in the van, which was escorted by a troop of the 5th Dragoon Guards… – Dublin Cor. of the Times.” (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1278902)

Note: Arbour Hill prison, on a small site north of the River Liffy, was established in 1848 as a military detention centre.


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


William Foley and his nine companions’ “drumming out” would have been similar to that of Fenian Centre John Boyle O’Reilly about a week later, as told in Thomas Keneally’s “The great shame and the triumph of the Irish in the English-speaking world” (1999, p522):

“On the afternoon of Monday 3 September, in the parade square of the Royal Barracks, Dublin, in the presence of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 92nd Highlanders, and three other military units – a complement of at least 3,500 men – O’Reilly and other Fenian soldiers were paraded bareheaded. The ‘Rogue’s March’ was played as the Fenians made their transit of infamy across the square. In the middle of the drill ground, each was halted to listen to the reading of his sentence, to be stripped of his military uniform, reduced to his underwear, and ordered to pick up convict clothing which lay on the ground. The drums played a bare, dull, condemnatory tattoo as the prisoners were escorted off the square under guard to be driven to Mountjoy prison on the north side of town by the Royal Canal…

The stay at Mountjoy was brief. The administration did not want these men in Ireland… [They were] shipped across the Irish Sea by steamer. Put on a train with barred and painted windows… [they were] taken to Euston station in London, and marched along Euston Road, where the locals were somewhat used to seeing chained convicts proceeding eastwards to Pentonville prison.”


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

PRISON contd:

1866, 24 October: William Foley was “sent from Mountjoy to London” on this day, according to the Irish National Archives (http://findingaids.nationalarchives.ie/). He was received at Pentonville jail in north London on the same day – prisoner #4064 – and listed as a “Fenian” sentenced to 5 years’ penal servitude.

Completed in 1842, Pentonville was built for convicts who had been sentenced to imprisonment or were awaiting transportation. After one week, he was discharged and sent to Millbank prison.


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

1866, 1 November: Prisoner #2558 William Foley was 29, single and able to read when admitted to Millbank jail at Westminster [the Tate Gallery now stands on this site], which served as a holding facility for convicted prisoners before they were transported to Australia. He was listed as a labourer, previously a Private in the 5th Dragoon Guards, No.413, and a Roman Catholic with next of kin being “6 brothers in America”.

A notation says a parchment copy of his discharge was received on 20 December 1866. His behaviour was described as “good” (UK, Prison Commission Records, 1770-1951; Millbank Prison; Register of Prisoners 1866-1867).
Up to this time, he had served 7 days in solitary confinement and this would have continued at Millbank, under conditions described by Ormonde Waters in “Escape of the Fenians, Western Australia” (1996/97, p97):

“The cells measured about nine or ten feet long by about eight feet wide, with stone floors and bare walls. The only furniture was a bedstead of three planks a few inches from the floor; a water bucket…had to serve as a chair when the prisoner was at work picking coir or oakum.”

William Foley would have been forbidden to hold the slightest communication with his fellow prisoners, as Waters explains: “… separate confinement means that the convict so sentenced is to be shut up in his cell with light work sewing or picking coir, and to have one hour’s exercise each day, which consists of walking in single file, with long distances between prisoners, around the exercise yard, and then turning an immense crank, which pumps water into the corridors. The men stood at this crank facing each other… The officers stood beside [the prisoners]. There were three of them to a gang of twenty men, and their duty was to watch so that no communication took place between prisoners.”

Note: By the 1850s, Pentonville and Millbank were places for all male convicts to serve “their probationary term (now reduced to 9 months), after which they would be transported or sent to a public works prison. This function continued more or less (notable exceptions including the reception of military prisoners in the 1860s…) until the decision to remove it from the convict prison system in 1885” (https://www.prisonhistory.org).


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

1867, 21 May: After a little over 6 months, William Foley and nine others were transferred to Chatham jail, according to prison records for April-June 1867 (https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1084655195/view). William Foley, John Lynch, John Donoughue, John Shine, Thomas Hassett, Thomas Delaney, Patrick Keating, James McCoy, Martin Hogan and James Wilson are all listed as “Lately received” (see page 122). However, the Millbank jail record says this transfer to Chatham took place on 24 May.

Chatham, located east of London at St Mary’s Island in Kent, was a public works prison for male convicts. In the 1860s, it was notorious for riots (https://www.prisonhistory.org).


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1867, late September: Taken from Chatham jail to board the convict ship Hougoumont, William Foley was, according to newspaper reports, one of 15 Fenians sent from there for transportation:

“The hired convict ship Hougoumont, which has been taken up, by the Government for the conveyance of a numerous party of convicts to Freemantle, Western Australia, left the Nore on October 1, and proceeded down Channel, after receiving on board 150 convicts from the establishments at Chatham and Millbank.

The convicts from the Chatham establishment, at St. Mary’s, embarked from the dockyard on board the paddle-wheel steamer Adder, Mr. W. J. Blakely, and were in charge of a numerous party of convict guards and wardens, all heavily armed. Among the convicts shipped were a party of fifteen Fenians, who were engaged in the late conspiracy in Ireland, together with the officers and crew convicted of scuttling the ship Severn [only two were on the Hougoumont – Thomas Berwick and Lionel Holdsworth, each sentenced to 20 years for fraud], and some others who have achieved notoriety from their crimes. The Fenian convicts, like the remainder of the prisoners, were chained together in gangs, but it was observed that they were kept apart from the other convicts in a portion of the vessel by themselves.

The steamer Petrel also took down a number of convicts from the establishment at Millbank, for shipment on board the Hougoumont, in charge of a strong escort and convict guard. On Tuesday, October 8th, the Hougoumont arrived in Portland roads. Shortly before midday ninety convicts were marched down to the Government pier at Portland under a strong escort of the 12th Light Infantry. The party included twenty-three Fenian convicts, among whom it was said, was Moriarty [correct, but not the Fenian centre; this was a teenage Fenian, Bartholomew Moriarty]. The Government steamer employed in the breakwater service was used for conveying the convicts on board the Hougoumont transport ship. The convicts were chained together on embarking, and on board the steamer a strong guard of marines from her Majesty’s ship St. George was formed, and saw the convicts safely placed on board the Hougoumont. The Governor of the penal settlement at Freemantle, Captain Young, is on board the Hougoumont, and returns in that ship to his sphere of duty after paying a visit to his native land.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec 1867, p4, at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/28608271).


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1867, late September-early October: The so-called military offenders/military Fenians shouldn’t have been transported at all, had Colonial Office policy been adhered to, according to Keith Amos’s (1987) thesis “The Fenians in Australia, 1865-1880”. He says the process for selecting the Fenian transportees was conducted behind closed doors “during unrecorded private conferences at a high level” (p102), so little is known about it except that “only less troublesome Fenian rank and file were to be transported [or so the Home Office told the Governor of Western Australia]… but in fact this policy was only loosely adhered to” (p103) by the British authorities.

Amos (pp106-7) says: “Although none were Fenian leaders, most had been severely punished; half having been sentenced to life imprisonment. All but two were convicted between March and August 1866, following exposure by informants who alerted the authorities to the fact that Fenianism had established a considerable base among British regiments in Ireland and England. Six of the seventeen had been 5th Dragoon Guards: Thomas Delaney, William Foley, Martin Hogan, Patrick Keating, John Lynch and James Wilson (real name McNally). Three were from the 61st Foot: Robert Cranston, Michael Harrington and James McCoy. From the 24th Foot, were John Donoghue and Thomas Hassett; and from the Royal Horse Artillery, John Foley and Patrick Killeen. The others were Thomas Darragh, 2nd Queens; John Shine, 60th Rifles; James Kielley, 53rd Foot; and John O’Reilly, 10th Hussars.

All seventeen military offenders had been convicted either of mutinous conduct or of failure to report knowledge of a mutiny to a commanding officer. Seven had committed the further sin of deserting to avoid apprehension… All the deserters bar one who received fifteen years [James McCoy], received death sentences – later commuted to life imprisonment. The other military offenders received sentences ranging from five years [as was the case for William Foley] to life.”

When the Hougoumont was boarded, the 17 military Fenians were confined with ordinary convicts, but the civilian Fenians were allotted separate quarters of their own.

“It would seem that this arrangement was at least a partial recognition that the civilian Fenians, all of whom were convicted either of treason-felony or high treason, were political prisoners rather than criminals – a concession that sympathetic Irish nationalists had earlier failed to gain official recognition of. Mutinous soldiers, on the other hand, were clearly regarded by the authorities as common criminals, and perhaps more dangerous ones in view of their training” (Amos, p107).

Sleeping arrangements for the military Fenians consisted of “small airless compartments with eight rudimentary berths, 18 inches wide and six feet long, ‘constructed of commonest deal boards in tiers of two, one above the other’” (FitzSimons, p74).


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1867: On board the Hougoumont, “only one Fenian ended up in the punishment cell, and that was the quiet but stubborn William Foley, formerly of the 5th Dragoon Guards, who had concealed a rope” (Keneally, p571).

Keith Amos (p137) agrees that the Fenians had little contact with “the instruments of authority” during the voyage: “One of them, reported for having an awl in his possession which he refused to give up, had his wine stopped for seven days. On another occasion the eight members of No.7 mess were brought before Surgeon Smith for having concealed a rope that belonged to the boatswain. All had their wine stopped, and one of them, [William] Foley, was confined for a time in the punishment cell [around 4 December, 1867]. None of the Fenians had irons put on – and were fortunate to avoid them… [Irons were] welded around the ankles, joined with a chain that restricted movement, and left on for the rest of the voyage.”

1867: During the voyage, both Patrick Keating and William Foley struggled with “the appalling conditions”, according to Peter FitzSimons’ account (p82). “James Wilson goes out of his way to nurse both men. Wilson goes back over a decade with the worthy Foley – who he describes as ‘my poor but true and great comrade’…”


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1868, 9 January: From transportee accounts, Ormond Waters (1997, p100) describes their arrival off the WA coast and transfer next day to the mainland:

“The Fenian prisoners were the last to be taken ashore from the Hougoumont in small boats and brought to ‘The Establishment’ as Fremantle Prison was called.

One convict described the scene in a letter home: ‘Very early on the morning of the 10th, we were put on shore in Fremantle, and marched through the little town of that name to our destination, The Prison. Here we lay for some two days, going through the ordinary routine of prisoners on the first reception. Dressed in a suit of Drogheda linen, ornamented with a red stripe and black bands, typical of the rank we hold in the colony. To wit, convicts.’

The prison rules were harsh. There was a long list of offences, the penalty for which was death. Cells measured seven feet by four feet wide by nine feet high. Prisoners slept in hammocks.”


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

On arrival in WA, William Foley was listed as #9738, 29 years old, and a single labourer. He was 5’10¾” tall with dark brown hair, dark hazel eyes, and of middling stout build with a swarthy complexion (Western Australia, Australia, Convict Records, 1846-1930; Convict Department, Registers (128/40 - 43).

On the General Register, his next of kin details were changed from the “6 brothers in America” listed on his English jail record to his “Friend, James Graham, Private 5th Dragoon Guards, Colchester Barracks”. This document records that in the normal course of events he would have received / been eligible for a Ticket of Leave in July 1869. His character was described as good. A Roman Catholic, he could read and write imperfectly.


1869, January: Punishment – he was placed on three days’ bread and water for “trying to incite the men in his party and making false statements as to the time they go to and return from work”.


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

1869, 5 February: Thirty-five Fenians who had been transported to Western Australia (as well as others imprisoned in Great Britain) were given Free Pardons / “unconditionally discharged” by the House of Commons. As a so-called “military Fenian”, William Foley was not among them. For a full list, see the Melbourne Advocate, 22 May 1869, p4, at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/169267360?


1869, 11 May: He was granted a Ticket of Leave and for the next two years worked as a labourer, general servant, groom, reaper and road maker at Newcastle, Northam, Toodyay and Victoria Plains.
1871, 22 August: William Foley received a Certificate of Freedom.


From his Fremantle jail record:

“FOLEY, William, convict #9738, arrived 10 Jan 1868 per Hougoumont
Date of Birth: 1837
Place of Birth: Waterford
Marital Status: Unmarried
Occupation: Labourer
Literacy: Semiliterate
Sentence Place: Dublin
Crime: Mutinous conduct
Sentence Period: 5 years
Ticket of Leave Date: 11 May 1869
Certificate of Freedom Date: 22 Aug 1871

Comments: One of 62 Fenians transported on the Hougoumont, the last convict ship sent to Australia. Its arrival at Fremantle on 9 Jan 1868 signalled the end of transportation to this country. Labourer, general servant, groom, reaper, road maker. Ex 5th Dragoon Guards. Held at Mountjoy Prison, Dublin & London. To England & America, 16 Jan 1876.” (https://fremantleprison.com.au/)


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


William Foley played a key role on the ground in WA in preparations for the escape of the “Catalpa six” – “lifer” military Fenians who were overlooked for pardons in 1869 and were rescued from Fremantle by Fenian sympathisers seven years later. The six escapees taken to America aboard the whaler “Catalpa” in 1876 were: Sergeant Thomas Darragh and Privates Robert Cranston, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Martin Hogan and James McNally Wilson.
Thomas Keneally (p653) takes up the story:

“…the best contact with the prisoners [who were to be rescued] was Will Foley, a former soldier who had received his ticket-of-leave. A tall man – nearly six feet – Foley had a ‘weak heart’, apparently a congestive condition. But he was a joker, favourite of the guards and warders, and so even after his release had the run of the prison.” This allowed him to deliver letters and messages to and from the Fenian prisoners and their liberators.

As a reward for his involvement, escape organiser John Breslin promised “the fatally ill go-between Will Foley” the passage money for a transit home to Ireland in exchange for not leaving WA until he was no longer needed. By mid-January 1876, and with John Breslin’s blessing, Foley set off for Ireland and the United States (Keneally, p655).


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


1876, 16 January: Several records say he sailed from WA for America via England and Ireland on this date (Amos, p367). However, newspaper shipping records show William Foley left Fremantle on the 18th, one of 20 steerage passengers aboard the Charlotte Padbury for London (WA Times, 21 January, p2 at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2975444?). The ship arrived at Gravesend on 21 April (Fremantle Herald, 24 June, p2 at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109901768?).


1876, 12 June: William Foley arrived in New York on this day (ZW Pease, 1897, “The Catalpa Expedition”), although Keneally (1999) says it was mid-July.


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:

1876, 1 November: William Foley died at St Vincent’s Hospital, New York, from the heart disease he had contracted in prison (Keneally, p655). His funeral held four days later, and burial at Calvary Cemetery, received coverage in both America and Australia.


1. 1877, 17 March: From the Herald (Fremantle), p4:

“Funeral of one of the escaped political prisoners from Australia.

Chatham Square, New York and its vicinity were densely packed at noon, November 5, with persons waiting to do honor to the memory of William Foley, one of the political prisoners recently rescued from servitude in Australia. He died in St. Vincent’s Hospital of heart disease, said to have been induced by insufficient food and overwork while in Australia, and his remains were removed to O’Donovan Rossa’s Hotel, from which the funeral took place. The remains were enclosed in a handsome walnut casket, richly mounted in silver with handsome handles. On the lid was a silver cross, elegantly chased with shamrocks, and bearing the inscription “William Foley, died November 1, 1876, aged 39 years.” The body was dressed in the habit of the Immaculate Conception, and on the breast was a scapular of that order, white silk, embroidered with the letters M. A. Several thousands of friends and sympathisers viewed the remains. The pall-bearers were Thos. Darragh, James Wilson, Michael Harrington, Martin Hogan, Robert Cranston and Thomas Hasset [Hassett], all fellow prisoners with Foley. [They were the “Catalpa six”.]

A large number of leaders in the Irish movement were present. Among them were Thomas Clarke Luby, Col. Richard Burke, P.R.B. O’Brien, Edward Pillsworth St. Clair, James J. O’Kelly, New York Herald, and his brother, Stephen J. O’Kelly, the well-known Sculptor, Gen. Thomas F. Burke, Colonel Kerrigan, Denis Donegan (who was carpenter of the rescue ship Catalpa), Gen. F. F. Millen, and John McCarthy Scully.

Owing to the law which prohibits regiments of the National Guard from appearing under arms within five days previous to election, the Sixty-ninth regiment was compelled to appear in uniform only; but the Irish Brigade under Col. P. W. Phelan, and the Irish Volunteers, who were largely represented were in full marching order, and they presented an extremely fine appearance. The Holy Innocence Rifle Corps, who attended in white shirts, having on the breast a blue shield crossed by Irish and American Flags, were included among the military portion of the cortege. Among the civic societies were the Napper Tandy Club, Sarsfield Club, Young Men of Ireland Club, Thomas Davis Club, Shamrock Club, and several other Irish associations, after whom followed an immense number of Irish citizens wearing green silk badges.

No special religious service was held. Soon after three o’clock the procession started up the Bowery, and went thence through Third avenue to the Thirty-fourth street ferry, and to Calvary Cemetery, where the interment was made with military honours three rounds being fired by a company of Irish volunteers. This ceremony was made appropriate by Foley’s long service in the Bombay Horse Artillery, and subsequently in the fifth Dragoon Guards, as a reminiscence of which a cavalry sabre and belt were placed on his coffin. There was no band of music employed, the day being Sunday. – New York Sun.”


2. 1877, 20 January: From the Advocate (Melbourne), p5:
“America. Funeral of William Foley, the ex-Fenian convict. (New York Herald, 6th November.)
The funeral of William Foley, the ex-Fenian convict, took place yesterday, and the cortege was the largest ever gathered at the obsequies of an Irishman in America. It was a significant demonstration, for the deceased was an humble Tipperary peasant, a simple trooper in a British cavalry regiment, who had no claim on the sympathies of the throng except that of being a political prisoner…

The Irish American says of the deceased:—Born in Tipperary, of humble parents of the small farmer class, he entered the service of the East India Company, in 1853, at the age of seventeen years, and served in the Bombay Horse Artillery till the close of the Sepoy mutiny, in 1859. Though he never rose beyond the rank of a private soldier, he was distinguished for gallant conduct during that terrible struggle, and left the service with the best recommendations as to character which a soldier could receive.

Returning to Ireland, he remained at home for a few months, when he again enlisted, this time joining the Fifth Dragoon Guards, one of the crack cavalry regiments of the British army. In 1864, in company with most of his regiment, which was almost exclusively Irish, he joined the Fenian movement in Dublin, and from that time till his arrest, in 1866, was an active propagandist of the revolutionary movement in the ranks of the British army. Sir Hugh Rose, afterwards Lord Strathnairn, having been sent to Ireland to quell the expected insurrection, Foley was selected as his orderly, and while in this position rendered most effective service to the Irish cause. From his position he was often able to communicate most important information to the popular leaders, and never hesitated to run the most desperate risks to avert some impending danger to the cause to which he was devoted.

In February, 1866, he was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the conspiracy, and a few months later was tried by court-martial and sentenced to seven years’ [sic] penal servitude. The greater part of the military prisoners were sent to Western Australia, where Foley completed the term of his sentence, and came out of prison a broken and shattered man. Ill-treatment, insufficient food and hard toil had done their work; and he suffered from heart disease, till finally he succumbed.

When [John] Breslin arrived in Fremantle to effect the rescue of the [“Catalpa six”] military prisoners, Foley was made the medium of communication with the men inside, through ‘underground’ channels well known to him, and the result is well-known. A short time before the rescue he was sent to England by his friends, and thence came to New York, where he lingered, in pain and suffering, till his death. He was a quiet, unassuming man, but of splendid courage and intense devotion to the Irish cause.”


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 wrote:


To date, no record has been found of the location of William Foley’s (presumably unmarked) grave in Calvary Cemetery.

Convict Changes History

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 made the following changes:

gender: m, occupation

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 made the following changes:


Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 made the following changes:

alias1: Will, date of birth: 1837 (prev. 0000)

Dianne Jones on 17th October, 2021 made the following changes:

date of death: 1st November, 1876 (prev. 0000)

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au