James J. O’Kelly in
Peter Hulme (University of Essex)
J. O’Kelly (1845-1916) was a life-long Fenian who had a
colourful career as a soldier, journalist, and politician.
He saw service with the French Foreign Legion in
, volunteered on the French side in the Franco-Prussian War,
was involved in the operation after the
of the Little Big Horn to push Sitting Bull and his forces
, and covered the Mahdi’s uprising in the
for a British newspaper.
In 1885, now a close ally of Parnell’s, he was
elected Member of Parliament for Roscommon, a seat he held
to his death.
paper focuses on the months O’Kelly spent in
in 1873. Sent by
the New York Herald
to find Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, President of the
insurgent Cuban republic, which had proclaimed its
in 1868, O’Kelly had a series of hazardous adventures
while travelling beyond Spanish lines, although he was
finally successful in locating Céspedes and in sending
reports back to the Herald.
However, captured on his return to Spanish-controlled
, O’Kelly narrowly avoided execution, his case beyond a
global cause célèbre.
he wrote his only book, The
Mambi-Land, or Adventures of a Herald Correspondent in
(1874), one of the finest travel books written about
the island and a book whose sympathetic portrayal of Cuban
insurgency has led to O’Kelly’s enduring popularity in