Mary Eva Kelly, Young Irelander

“Eva”: Miss Mary Eva Kelly (and later Mrs. Kevin Izod, O’Doherty)

MARY EVA KELLY was born in Headford, County Galway about the year 1825, and was little more than a child when she began to write verse. She was educated at home by her mother and a governess. Coming under the influence of ‘The Nation,’ she became an enthusiastic supporter of the Young Ireland movement. She first wrote for The Nation under the pseudonym ‘Fionnuala,’ but shortly afterwards took the pen-name of ‘Eva,’ by which she became widely known among the readers of the paper. She also wrote for ‘The United Irishman,’ ‘The Felon,’ and ‘The Irish Tribune’.

Her poems were published in 1909: – the year before her death-by Messrs. Gill and Son. They were edited by Seamus MacManus with a preface by; the Rev. Willlam Hickey, of St. Mary’s, Settle, Yorkshire and a biographical sketch by Justin McCarthy. There was an earlier but less complete edition published in San Francisco in 1877.
“”It is to be hoped,”” Father Hickey wrote, “”that, the book will find its way into the hands of many a Celt at home and in exile, embracing as it does the deep thoughts and feelings of a. patriotic poetess, and now the sole survivor of that brilliant band of writers who in other days brought a new soul into Ireland.””

“” ‘Eva’ threw her whole soul into the national movement,”” Justin McCarthy declared. “”She contributed,”” he added, “”to ‘The Nation’ prose-essays as well as ballads and other poems. … No native of Ireland in past or present history ever devoted a life more constantly and consistently to the service of the country than did ‘Eva’ of ‘The Nation.’ She might, indeed be described as a living symbol, an illustration in human form of Ireland’s noblest characteristics in poetical imagination and in patriotic zeal.
For the present the only tribute which her country can pay her is to make it sure that her declining years shall be surrounded with such comfort and ease and security from trouble as national gratitude can offer to her.””

Miss Kelly’s first poem, ‘The Leprechaun,’ appeared in ‘The Nation’ on the 26th December, 1845, and from that time she continued to contribute regularly to the paper for some years. She entered actively into the schemes of the Young lrelanders, and so became acquainted with one of the most prominent of them – Kevin Izod O’Doherty – a young medical student residing in Dublin.

“”Among the cluster of talented and able young men ‘who led the Young Ireland phalanx,’ it is stated in Speeches from the Dock, was O’Doherty; who was distinguished for his spirit and mental accomplishments””

When Mitchel was arrested on the 21st March, 1818, and his paper (‘The United Irishman’) suppressed, O’Doherty, Richard Dalton Williams and other students started ‘The Irish Tribune’ on the l0th of June, 1848; to continue the teachings of Mitchel. This paper was suppressed after the publication of the fifth number and O’Doherty indicted on a charge of treason felony.

‘Eva’ and O’Doherty had fallen in love with each other, and their association in their young days and during their long married life is one of the most inspiring romances in Irish history. O’Doherty was tried three times. The Crown failed to secure a verdict on two occasions. The prisoner was told by the castle authorities that if he pleaded guilty only a light sentence would be imposed. He decided to consult ‘Eva’. “”I do not like the idea of pleading guilty,”” he said, and asked for her opinion as to what he should do. ‘Eva,’ told him to face the worst, and added: “”I’ll wait for you, however long the sentence may be.””

Next day a carefully packed jury found the young (25 yrs. Old) patriot guilty, and he was sentenced to ten years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, where he was allowed to continue his medical studies under a ‘Dr. Hall.’ He was, however, set free in 1854 after he had spent five years with Mitchel and other men of the 1848 uprising, who had also been transported. Kevin Izod O’Doherty had received the nickname ‘St. Kevin’ by his compatriot’s in Van Dieman’s land. John Mitchel, another Young Irelander ‘felon’ in Van Dieman’s land, wrote in his journal during that time: “”St. Kevin is sometimes gloomy and desponding and the mood is on him for a few minutes. There dwells in Ireland (I should have known it well, though he had never told me), a dark-eyed lady, a fair and gentle lady, with hair like the blackest midnight; and in the tangle of those silken tresses she has bound my poor friend’s soul; round the solid hemisphere is has held him and he drags like a lingering chain.”” Shortly after his release, ‘Eva’ who had kept her promise of waiting for him, and himself were happily married and went to live in Queensland, as O’Doherty would not be allowed to return to his native land.

During his absence in Van Diemen’s Land, ‘Eva’ had continued to write patriotic poetry, After their marriage, O’Doherty practised as a medical man in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and became a member of the Legislative Assembly.

In 1886 ‘Eva’ and her husband returned to Ireland, and O’Doherty was induced to become a member of the Nationalist Party under Parnell. After a time, however, he returned to Queensland, where he died in 1905, at the age of 81. ‘Eva’ survived him, until the 19th May, 1910, when she died at the age of 85. During the last few years of her life she was in very distressed circumstances, and a public appeal was made on her behalf.

The sad truth as we all know, for whatever age we live in, is that no matter where in the world we live, those who stand up and are counted, or who fight on the behalf of others are acknowledged and that time, but are quickly forgotten.