Birthplace of Mary Jane Irwin

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Mary Jane Irwin peotess and wife of the great Fenian patriot Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, was born in this splendid weather-slated three storied house, now a modern guest house. The Irwins were successful merchants, employing much labour in the harbour and in their stores. The marriage of Rossa to Mary Jane Irwin took place at the Parochial House, Clonakilty on October 22nd 1864. Mary Jane was in her eighteenth year and Rossa, who was twice widowed and the father of five small sons, was thirty four. Within a year of their marriage, Rossa was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime of treason and sent to Portland prison in England. Soon after his imprisonment a son was born to Mary Jane and named James Maxwell. A few months after the child's birth, Mary Jane sailed for America leaving the child at home in Clonakilty with her parents at the Quay. She took up the plight of the Irish political prisoners in England gaols and toured the length and breadth of America giving lectures and readings, calling for their release. She studied elocution and public speaking earning the money for her tuition by selling poems and stories to the "Irish People" newspaper and other periodicals. After four years, Rossa's life sentence was commuted and he and other prisoners were banished to America for twenty years. There he started up a passage ticket agency, then onto the editorship of a newspaper called the "Era" and after this into the hotel business. Finally he started a one-man newspaper called the "United Irishman". His outspokeness and Irish revolutionary ideas caused him to be target for the assassin's bullets, a number of which he carried to the grave. James Maxwell died as a result of an accident while service in the U.S. Navy. On November 11th 1905 Mary Jane and O'Donovan Rossa returned to Ireland, Rossa having been elected to the post of secretary to the Cork County Council. In six months they returned to the U.S.A. as Mary Jane began to pine for her children and James Maxwell's grave. Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa died on June 29th 1915 following five years in hospital. His body was returned to Ireland for burial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Mary Jane conducted the funeral arrangements from the Gresham Hotel with the future leaders of the 1916 rising. His funeral was a huge nationalist one and was the beginning of a new fight for freedom. It was at this funeral that Padraig Pearse made his famous graveside oration. On August 18th, 1916 Mary Jane died suddenly and after her death a little poem to her children was found in her desk. 'Wrapped in a silver cloud I'll float around them, And feasting wistful eyes on features dear, With every heavenly blessing I'll surround them, That they may walk through life with naught to fear For when I leave thee darlings do not sorrow 'Tis but the body dies - my spirit still Will guard thee through each night and through each morrow And bless the homes that all my loved ones fill.'