Very little is recorded about Patrick Boland. He was originally from Cams, Fuerty Parish, in Co. Roscommon, Ireland. He was born around 1823.
According to his daughter Teasie (as related by Kevin Boland in the unpublished “James Boland 1857-1895 A Nationalist of the Advanced School”), Patrick was known as “The Best Whistler in the Province of Connaught”. Cams was around 50km from Newbridge and Mountbellew, across the border in Galway. A young musician in the 1830s would probably have travelled that far for a céilí.
Roscommon was the worst affected Irish county during An Gorta Mór. During the 1940s, Roscommon lost 35% of its population (the national average was 20%).
It’s very likely that Patrick and the rest of his family left the country amongst the hundreds of thousands of famine refugees who left their homes to survive. There are no Bolands listed living as in Cams or Fuerty in the 1901 Irish census. What is definite is that Patrick was in Manchester in 1845 to marry Eliza Kelly.
Patrick and Eliza had seven children – Henry (born about 1851), Mary Ellen (born about 1853), Kathleen “Catherine” (born about 1856), James “Jim” (born October 1856), John Patrick “Jack” (born Oct 1862), Eliza “Lily” (born 1864) and Teresa Anne “Teasie” (born June 1868).
Civil registration of Catholic births was only introduced in Ireland in 1864, compared to 1837 in England and Wales. That makes it difficult to find out exactly which children were born in Ireland. As far as can be established, only Jim (Manchester, 1856), Lily (Dublin, 1864) and Teasie (Dublin, 1868) were registered at birth, though there is a baptism record for Jack in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, records.
However, the Levins entry in the 1881 census, Mary Ellen, aged 29, gives Ireland as her birthplace. In the Boland entry, Patrick (Jack aged 18) and Lilly (14) are both listed as being born in Ireland. However, Eliza’s place of birth is given as Manchester, which doesn’t match with what’s known about her.
Henry, who died aged 17 in 1866, also appears to have been unregistered as well. Kathleen, by 1891, was 35 and married in London. She entered London as her place of origin. That’s really unlikely.
This would mean that Eliza, at least, was definitely in Ireland in 1856, 1864 and 1868 and might have been back as early as 1853.
According to what Kevin wrote, Patrick worked laying the Manchester Tramway. One of his co-workers was 17-year-old James Stritch from Ballinaheglish in Roscommon (neighbouring Fuerty). The Boland and Stritch families may well have known each other.
There is reason to believe that Patrick was involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), which might explain why he or the whole family returned to Ireland a number of times after 1858 (when the IRB was formed). IRB activists in England were often required to bring guns and bullets to the movement. Pregnant women were less likely to be searched.
One confirmed return by Patrick to Ireland was in July 1866 – Henry’s death. Henry died in Curraghboy, close to Mountbellew, after suffering from “ascites” for 11 months. Patrick was the witness.
While Henry’s illness may have been a reason to travel to rural Ireland, the date is of particular note. The Fenian Rising, which happened in 1867, had been postponed a year. 1866 was when many IRB members travelled to Ireland, many of them were arrested leading to the delay.
There is a story locally in the region that a “Rising man” who stayed in Moylough laid cobbles in the yard for local farmers, including the Mullin family farm. Pat’s job in London was a paver, so he’s very likely to have been the one who did the work. Henry was buried in the Mullin family plot in Esker Stevens Cemetery in Moylough. Gerald and Kathleen both referred to their Mullin cousins.
Two years later, in June 1868, Pat and Eliza were in Dublin for Teasie’s birth. There’s a particularly good reason why they may have travelled to Dublin at that point.
According to family stories, Eliza Kelly was the first cousin of Thomas J. Kelly – American Civil War colonel and leader of the IRB from 1866-67. Col. Kelly was arrested in Ireland following the failed 1867 rising, escaped, travelled to Manchester, where he was arrested again, along with fellow IRB organiser Timothy Deasy.
The story of the liberation of Kelly and Deasy from the prison van in Manchester and the subsequent trial and execution of three of the people involved, the Manchester Martyrs, is one of the most important events in the history of Irish republicanism. According to what members of the family have written, the Bolands in Manchester were involved. Patrick and his brothers had some unknown role in the liberation, while young Jim was engaged as a scout with James Stritch.
However, no Bolands were amongst the people caught up in the dragnet launched after the liberation of Kelly and Deasy (in which a police officer was killed). Nor was Stritch arrested. The Boland family may have escaped to Dublin immediately after the event and hid out there until Teasie was born and baptised in 1868.
The next information that’s available about the family is the 1881 census, which shows them living in 86 Tiverton Street, Adwick, Manchester.
The year of Patrick’s death is unclear, but Eliza died in Dublin 1890 and is listed as a widow on the cert, which means he must have died before then.