John Thomas Campion, a young medical man, who was born in Kilkenny, contributed to the first number of ‘The Nation’, and continued to publish poetry in it for many years. He also wrote for the United Irishman, the Irish Felon, the Kilkenny Journal, the Irish. People, James Duffy’s Hibernian Magazine and Fireside Magazine, The Celt and the Shamrock using the pseudonyms “Carolan,” “The Kilkenny man,” “Spes,” and “Urbs Marmoris.”
In the first number (August, 1859) of the new series of ‘The Celt,’ after the death of Robert Cane, the proprietor (Dominick O’Kelly) wrote “In future the National articles in The Celt will be written by a gentleman of established literary reputation, and proved and trusted patriotism, and one who enjoyed the full confidence of Robert Cane (the previous editor, who,died in 1858). This is sufficient guarantee of his capabilities, mental and moral, for the office. The Celt will be under the editorial supervision of John Campion, Esq, (‘Carolan’ or ‘The Kilkenny Man’), It fell to him under the arrangements of the Celtic Union (the proprietors of the journal) to edit ‘The Celt,’ and much of its success was owing to his exertions.
Campion, in the same number writing from John’s Bridge, Kilkenny, addressing the readers, stated :
“Fellow-countrymen loving Ireland! – In undertaking the management of the literary department of ‘The Celt’, I am neither urged by forward vanity or possessed of a weak presumption of being able either to act or advise, for the weal of our common country, beyond what the great, genius and ripe intellect of my predecessors have done. I am merely a lover of the land – a willing worker – an ardent Irishman! I hold it as an indubitable truth that the creature who ignores his own native country, either through shame of her imperfections or fear of her enemies, is no more a man than he who would despise his own offspring for being weakly and dependent, or who would refuse to defend them from the world’s brute force or the slanderer’s malevolence. Creatures of such a stamp, however specious their veiled character, however mysterious their studied strategy, may be met with “One solid and comforting query -it is one which a patriot amongst the classic ancients put to an expediency-diplomatist of his day: “Sir, whether is your country a disgrace to you – or you a disgrace to your country?”
Pointing out the paths to be pursued, and the projects to be aimed at in order to make the pages of ‘The Celt’ “National, Catholic, Interesting and Progressive,” Campion wrote: “In the first place, the ribald literature of England is to be swept away – with all its unnatural and defiling pabullum of extravagant romance and sensual abandonment. In the next place, the attempt to denationalist the Irish people by drowning the memories of the sacred past, and tempting to a mean and ignoble future, is to be anticipated, met and resisted.”
Campion threw himself heartily into the work of making ‘The Celt’ a thoroughly Irish magazine, and when it ceased publication, his literary activities continued for many years afterwards.
He wrote a life of Michael O’Dwyer, the Wicklow insurgent, and several historical tales for the Irishman and Shamrock. As a young man he took an active part in the public life of his native city, and was for some years a member of the Corporation. This notice of his marriage appears in the “Kilkenny Journal” of the 29th January, 1862 : “Married on the 27th inst. At St. John’s Catholic Church in this city, J. T. Campion, Esq, T.C. (‘The Kilkennyman’); to Miss Colclough, niece of Kenny Scott of this city, and daughter of the late Bagenal Colclough of County Wexford.”
Though he became a Licentiate of Apothecaries Hall in 1838, Campion did not get registered as a medical man until the 11th October, 1860.
He acted as Hon Secretary to the John Banim Memorial Committee in Kilkenny in 1853.
Campion practised as a doctor in Dublin for many years. He lived at No. 34, Grosvenor Road, Rathgar, and was admitted to Simpson’s Hospital, a charitable Dublin institution on the 1st of November 1892. He died there on 30th December 1898, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. No monument marks his final resting place. The cemetery register records that he died of old age.
On his death certificate his age is given as 86 years, and he is described as a widower. There was no obituary notice in any Dublin newspapers and he appears to have been forgotten long before he died.
Of Campion, John O’Leary, acknowledging his services to the Irish People, wrote: “Whatever he may or may not have been, he was at least always Irish of the Irish”
Dr. John Thomas Campion wrote one famous poem and that is ‘Ninety-Eight’