J. F. X. O'Brien

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James Francis Xavier (J. F. X.) O'Brien (13[1] or 16 October 1828[2] – 28 May 1905)[2] was an Irish nationalist Fenian revolutionary. He was later elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish Parliamentary Party.


O'Brien was born in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford to the merchant family of Timothy and Catherine O'Brien.[3] In September 1849, he participated an attack, organised by James Fintan Lalor, on Cappoquin police barracks and evaded arrest.[2]

In 1854 he won a scholarship to study medicine at Queen's College, Galway. However, a year later he left for Paris, with his friend John O'Leary, where he continued his studies, attending the École de Médecine. Health problems did not allow him to graduate, however.[2]

Returning to Ireland in 1856, he embarked for New Orleans in the same year. He took part in William Walker's filibuster in Nicaragua.[4] After returning to New Orleans, he met James Stephens in 1858, and joined the Fenian Brotherhood.[2] He was an assistant surgeon in the Confederate Army in New Orleans in the early stages of the American Civil War.[4]

In late 1862, he returned to Ireland, where he enrolled in the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Cork. He participated in the 1867 Fenian Rising. On 6 March, he took part in an IRB attack on Ballyknockane police barracks, near Mourneabbey, which surrendered. His group was later dispersed by a unit of British Army infantry and he was arrested near Kilmallock. In May 1867, he was tried for high treason, convicted, and sentenced to death.[2] His sentence was commuted, and he was placed in solitary confinement for much of his sentence. He was released in 1869 as part of an amnesty for Fenians.[2][4]

He became president of the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in and around the summer of 1869. By 1873, he no longer held this position, and had departed from the IRB.[5]

Turning to constitutional politics, he was elected MP to represent South Mayo from 1885 to 1895[6] and as Anti-Parnellite for Cork City from 1895 to 1905.[2][7] He held leading positions in the Irish Parliamentary Party (treasurer from 1886) and the United Irish League of Great Britain (general secretary, 1900–1905).[2][4]

He died at his London residence (39 Gauden Road, Clapham) on 28 May 1905, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.[2]


  1. ^ Mark F. Ryan, Fenian Memories, M. H. Gill and Son, Ltd, Dublin, 1945. Pg. 34
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j R. B. O'Brien, "O'Brien, James Francis Xavier (1828–1905)", rev. R. V. Comerford, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 17 Feb 2008. The 1912 version of this entry is available online here
  3. ^ R. B. O'Brien, "O'Brien, James Francis Xavier (1828–1905)", rev. R. V. Comerford, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 17 Feb 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Don Gifford, Robert J. Seidman, Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses, University of California, 1988, ISBN 0-520-06745-2, p. 80.
  5. ^ Owen McGee, The IRB: The Irish Republican Brotherhood From the Land League to Sinn Féin, Four Courts Press, 2005, p.143
  6. ^ Rayment's Commons Page
  7. ^ Rayment's Commons Page[permanent dead link]


  • Fenian Memories, Dr. Mark F. Ryan, M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd, Dublin, 1945
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency MP for South Mayo
Succeeded by
Michael Davitt
Preceded by
Maurice Healy
William O'Brien
MP for Cork City
With: William O'Brien 1900–1904, 1904–1905
Succeeded by
Augustine Roche
William O'Brien
Other offices
Preceded by
Thomas J. Kelly
President of the
Irish Republican Brotherhood

c.1869 – c.'1872
Succeeded by
Charles Kickham
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