By Paul Craven
THE FEW UNDISPUTED facts about Patrick James Whelan can be outlined as follows…it is generally agreed that he was born in Galway around 1840. At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to a tailor, but, shortly afterwards, emigrated to Canada and settled in Quebec City.
He was skilled at his trade, and, in his spare time he was known to be fond of horses, shooting, dancing and drink. However, he also found time to enlist in the local Cavalry Volunteers, and, in February, 1867, he married.
Then, late in the evening of the 7th of April, 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a member of the Canadian House of Commons, was shot and killed in Ottawa. Within twenty hours, Patrick James Whelan was arrested.
As for the murder victim, more is known for certain!
Thomas D’Arcy McGee was born in Carlingford, County Louth, 1825. He emigrated to the United States, and earned his living as a journalist, before returning to Ireland in 1845.But he had to clear out of Ireland three years later because of his involvement with the Young Ireland Rising of 1848.
He returned to the United States, and, later, moved to Canada. Here, he changed his political opinions, and advocated self-government for Canada – and Ireland! – within the British Empire.
This was the direct opposite of the Fenian position which called for an independent Irish Republic. Then, starting in 1866, Fenians based in the United States invaded Canada.