Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : History Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature



1860 -The Irish Brigade in Italy against Garibali

Garibaldi or the Pope.

`Mallacht Dé ar an mbanrion' (God curse the Queen), It'll be the Pope for me', cried our man Dinny Cleary.

Born around 1836, in Anglesboro, County Limerick, under the Galtees, Dinny Cleary joined the Papal Brigade against Garibaldi on 17 May 1860. To the best of my knowledge he arrived in Australia in January 1864 with his brother John, on the Great Australia.

Dinny Cleary - son of Michael Cleary and Mary Martin of Anglesboro County Limerick.

Dinny, as seen in the chapter, Garibaldi or the Pope, in Cleary Independent:

'Four shillings a day and free passage to anywhere in the world after it's over', he'd told his cousins, John and David Danagher, when word arrived that Italian nationalist and rebel, Garibaldi, had reached the port of Marsala in Sicily under British protection and was preparing his troops for an all out assault on the Papal forces.

The smell of British complicity and Masonic anti-Papal hostility in Garibaldi's march was all that was needed to propel the firebrand into what would be a perilous journey. At the Galtee Bar, John and Jeremiah Hedderman, the Danaghers and Micky Daly looked on excitedly as Cleary drew his pistol and cried, `Garibaldi or the Pope'.

Aware that the Irish Brigade was growing rapidly the British proclaimed an Act prohibiting enlistment. Sergeant Lawson, loyalist member of the local Royal Irish Constabulary, nervously advised the authorities, `From 50 to 60 men at a time accompanied by clergy are marching off to fight for the Pope'. 

When the War of Independence began, the men who followed in Lawson's footsteps would become a target for Volunteer bullets.


`Mallacht Dé ar an mbanrion' (God curse the Queen),  Dinny Cleary had said as he staggered off into the cold, dark Galtee night a lifetime before Breen pointed his revolver at the British Empire. In the morning, the Cleary lad and the Danaghers would meet under Knockmagh, the hill of the sheep, and begin their journey to Cork and passage to the Continent. On May 17, 1860 they were away. Two weeks later the Heddermans would join them.

In September 2000, 77-year-old Nelius Fitzpatrick of Kilfinane recounted a story about being at the funeral of the wife of a man called Corbett, many years earlier. According to Nelius the Priest had said there 'would be no fee on account of the family’s service in the Papal Brigade against Garibaldi'. It's one of the few stories I've been able to unearth.

At the archives office in Dublin I found a solicitor general's report of 1860 which listed the following names of men who'd enlisted at Kilfinane. The list had been compiled by a local informer, Sergeant Lawson:

Dinny Cleary - 17/5/60

John Connor 18/5/60

Michael Daly 31/5/60

David and John Danagher - 17/5/60

John and Jeremiah Hedderman - 1/6/60

James Keane - 1/6/60

John Linane - 1/6/60

James Madden 17/5/60

Michael and Patrick McAuliffe 1/6/60 and 2/6/60

What's intriguing is that two other Clearys, Patrick and William, left for the Continent on 17 June 1860. Were these Clearys related?

The Cleary, Danagher, Hedderman and Daly names are common along the Boro Road in the Sth East corner of Limerick. Keane is found there too and is common in Ballylanders.

Connor/Connors is found locally but I suspect Madden was probably from the west of Limerick as were the McAuliffes and Linane.


Ellen Cleary nee Doyle. Ellen had been widowed when her husband John Heagney drowned in Hepburn's lagoon on Christmas Eve 1863. She was left with two small children, Tom and Ellen.


Pius IX chose the childish dreamer Monsignor Saverio de Merode as his Minister of War. De Merode, a fanatical and wealthy Belgian papist, had been a soldier before entering the priesthood. Here was his opportunity to excel.

He set about raising the Papal army ‘with more haste than intelligence’ fully expecting to reverse the gains of the patriots. He worked with the Jesuits on a press campaign aimed at mobilising Roman Catholic sentiment throughout Europe.

His propaganda reached as far as the French in Quebec, where 507 Canadians became the first body of troops from that land to fight abroad. The centenary of this event was marked with a filmed re-creation of the episode entitled, With Drums and Trumpets, which although ‘sympathetic’ could not be other than ‘humorous’.

Their grey uniforms and red peaked grey hats which were the dress of the Papal Zouave (light infantry) can be seen along with their rifles, bayonets and medals in the Canadian War Museum. Pius IX is reported to have been worried by the enthusiastic response from Ireland, because he feared that the temptation of readily available cheap Italian wine might impair their fighting capacity. His fears proved well founded. However the Irish priests procured many volunteers with ‘golden promises’.


The volunteers consisted of ‘Austrians liberated from prison; turbulent and undisciplined Swiss; Spanish beggars; and starving Irish’. When the Irish volunteers found that they had been deceived in their expectations by the priests they became riotous and set fire to their barracks declaring that ‘they would murder any foreign officers who attempted to command them.’

The disillusioned Irish volunteers became, ‘incredibly dirty and immoral’ the most loutish of their number ‘claiming their pay with menaces’. The authorities of Macerata declared that they ‘preferred even a Spanish garrison to an Irish one’. The only volunteers recruited within the Papal States formed a regiment of ruffians nicknamed the barbacani because they ‘preferred robbery and pillage to military glory’.

The indescribable brutality of the Papal Army, particularly of the volunteers, is well chronicled, especially during the action in Perugia. Some American citizens, the Perkins, happened to be staying in a Perugian hotel. Though in possession of appropriate Pontifical papers they were attacked and robbed by the papal troops. .......................

Many innocent families were less fortunate. In this action, which saw the Marches added to the evolving Italy, the incident was exploited by the patriots. Petitions were secretly disseminated prior to the invasion, to encourage the occupants to rise at the appropriate time. These made great play of the immorality and ruthlessness of the Papal troops. The Papacy may well wish to distance itself from such tings but unfortunately for Rome the private views of Pius IX have been providentially preserved for us.

Odo Russell was the official representative of the British government at the Vatican from 1858-1870. His correspondence with his uncle, Lord John Russell, is of particular value because, ‘Pius was very free in talking to him, perhaps because he was detached from this particular struggle, and not even a (Roman) Catholic’.

In a letter from Odo Russell to Lord John Russell dated January 16th 1861 we read, ‘The Pope then explained to me, as he had done before, that the petulance of the Italian people rendered self government impossible, and that the present movement in Italy could never succeed; we Englishmen would not understand that Italy must be ruled by strong armies and a firm hand.’ It would take the Pope several hours to expound his views on this vital principle.

The Vatican remains a very powerful State even without its territories. No doubt such a strong European Army would be very useful in putting down troublesome Protestants in Ulster or wherever they might be found.

So, what can we make of all this?

Although most Irish republicans express disappointment that Irishmen would fight for the Pope, there's more to it than that. I'd have been on Garibaldi's side, but it's hard to escape the religious subtext of Gillis' paranoia. Unfortunately, there is little in the the way of oral history I've been able to gather over the years.

The 1988 Tipperary Journal carries a reference in an article on David Conyngham (page 195) to the welcome home at Mullinahone Tipperary of the Papal Brigade


email -


The Irish National Library carries:

  • An article by Myles O’Reilly 'The Irish Brigade' - Catholic/Intellectual, major of an Irish Brigade - see The Catholic encyclopaedia. ) and 

  • The Irish Battalion in the Papal Brigade, 1860, by J. S Berkley (1929) is another source.

Of interest also is:

  • Conry - The Irish Bigade in Italy (Dublin, 1907)

  • O’Clery - The Making Of Italy (London 1908)

I've not been able to acquire copies of these articles but if you have or know of other material or have any information about the Limerick Papal Brigade please email me on:

For more on the Anglesboro clan go to History section:

Cleary Independent -Phil Cleary -(HarperCollins 1998)


Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 14:34:12
To: p.cleary@latrobe
From: Helen Carrick
Subject: Irish Brigade query

Hi Phil,

>Greetings from Brisbane. I am currently researching my husband's great grandfather - Thomas Joseph CARRICK- who was born in Limerick in 1840, and actually spent 3 years studying for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome. He was there from Oct 7, 1858 until Dec31, 1860.

I then have a gap of 5 years, until he received his first government appointment from the NSW Public Service. He becamea member of the Customs Service, and spent some time on the Tweed. Last weekend we visited the Museum down there, where they have an excellent Local History Section, and in the file on Thomas, it had a report the he had spent some time in "the Italian Army'; and also that he had spent some time in Paris.

I have now been back in touch with a researcher in Limerick, who told me about the Papal Army, (must admit I had never heard of it before), and suggested that that was perhaps where Thomas Carrick had ended up!! I then did a Google search and found your page - so, I'm hoping you may be able to advise me as to where I could possibly obtain a list of the Irishmen in this Army.

Any clues at all would be greatly appreciated.


Helen Carrick


Hello pHIL

....having stumbled up your page on Dinny Cleary I had a little tingle of interest. There is so little mention of the Papal Zouave's Irish recruitment in 1860.

I spent many years trying to flesh out a family tale that my g-g-grandfather was what was termed 'a Swiss guard', a story which when I was younger I considered largely apocryphal. Nevertheless I set off on a paper trail to try get to the root of the story. As you're probably aware, trying to knuckle down an Irish Catholic peasant ancestor is not the easiest of tasks.

After many years I've not much to show for it other than 'my man', one Thomas Dooley (AKA O'Dálaigh /Dawley ) a drapers assistant, aged 17, took a passage to Italy in May 1860, paid for in part by the clergy and also The Nation newspaper and there took part in the siege of Ancona where the Vatican forces were at war with the Piedmontese, was subsequently decorated for his part in the fight and the medal in question passed down through several generations was last known to be in the possession of a distant cousin in the Seychelles.

I'm aware that around one thousand Irish volunteers were recruited (or lured) to take part in this effort and I combed through the ecclesiastical records until I found my man, eventually his passport number and a police report on his movements as well as letter intercepted by the authorities written to his employer on the eve of his leaving Killarney for Cork and thence to board ship.

I just thought I'd share my enthusiasm with you and ask you if you have much in the way of research sources on the subject of the Irish Papal Volunteers? It's a fascinating subject. And it was good for me to see your photo of Dinny -he looks like quite a character- and to think that my ancestor fought alongside that man 166 years ago.


Columb Farrelly

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