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John Edward Redmond (1856–1918)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with William Hoey Kearney Redmond

John Redmond, caricature by Sir Leslie Ward, 1904

John Redmond, caricature by Sir Leslie Ward, 1904

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23819337

John Edward Redmond (1856-1918) and William Hoey Kearney Redmond (1861-1917), Irish nationalists, were born on 1 September 1856 and in 1861, at Ballytrent, County Wexford, Ireland, the eldest and second sons of William Archer Redmond, M.P., and his wife Mary, née Hoey. John was educated at Clongowes Wood College by the Jesuits, and in 1874-76 at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1876 he joined his father in London and became a clerk in the House of Commons to which he was elected in 1880 for New Ross. William was also educated at Clongowes. In 1881 under the Irish Coercion Act he was imprisoned in the Kilmainham gaol, Dublin, with Charles Parnell.

On 25 February 1882 John wrote to Hugh Mahon about a visit to Australia as the delegate of the Irish National League to advocate Home Rule and raise funds. He arrived in Adelaide in February 1883 in the Siam with William. They held a successful meeting, founded a local branch of the league and went to Sydney. Their reception was hostile because of allegations of the Irish Land League's connexion with the Phoenix Park murders and of the embezzlement of its funds. John denied the charges in the Sydney Morning Herald and accused the press of being misinformed about Irish affairs. He had difficulty hiring halls for his meetings, sedition and criminality were freely imputed by the press and in parliament, and many prominent Catholics withheld their support. Early in March the Redmonds toured western New South Wales and at Orange were entertained by James Dalton.

In Sydney on 6 March, at a meeting to express loyalty to the Queen, Sir Henry Parkes in 'forcible' language protested against the Redmonds' visit and was assailed by 'a number of roughs' when the meeting ended. At the St Patrick's Day celebrations John addressed a 'remarkably orderly gathering' at Botany and was presented with a gold watch and chain but the banquet was marred by Henry Copeland's 'state of intoxication'. In April the Redmonds went to Brisbane then toured Queensland with less tension.

John's eloquence and moderation won over the rank and file Irish. In May he spoke with great success in southern New South Wales and went to Melbourne, where the press had already stirred up controversy. Both the Age and the Argus attacked them as extremists in the guise of moderates. John's three main lectures were published as a pamphlet, Ireland's Case Stated. Embarking on a strenuous country tour he spoke at forty-two centres. In July William was elected in absentia to the House of Commons for Wexford.

In Sydney, on 4 September at St Mary's, North Sydney, John married Jo(h)anna Mary, half-sister of James and Thomas Dalton. She bore him a son and two daughters and died on 12 December 1889. The wedding eve was enlivened by a fracas at Pfhalert's Hotel when William overheard Thomas Curran, the licensee, tell J. G. O'Connor, in language worse than that of the 'lowest navvy' that John was 'only an adventurer who had come to look for a wife and a fortune'; he challenged Curran, who struck him and ordered the 'scrubbers' out.

The Redmonds toured New Zealand; they returned to Melbourne for the convention of delegates from the National League branches before sailing from Sydney for San Francisco in the Zealandia on 7 December 1883. Governor Loftus repeatedly told the Colonial Office that the 'mission of Messrs Redmond to this Colony has been a complete failure' but £15,000 was remitted to the National League in Ireland and they raised only the same sum in America.

The Redmonds remained loyal to Parnell in the split in the Irish Party that followed the O'Shea divorce, and on his death in 1891 John became leader of the Parnellites in the House of Commons; in 1900 he became chairman of the re-united Irish Party. His dignity, moderation, magnanimity and total rejection of violence, strengthened by his Australian connexions, helped him lose touch with Ireland's mood and the 1916 Easter Rebellion took him by surprise. He died suddenly on 6 March 1918; in 1899 he had married Ada Beazley.

On 24 February 1886 in London William had married Eleanor Mary, eldest daughter of James Dalton; they made several visits to Australia. He published A Shooting Trip in the Australian Bush (Dublin, 1898) and Through the New Commonwealth (Dublin, 1906). Always more fervent than his brother he represented East Clare in the House of Commons in 1891-1917. On the outbreak of World War I he volunteered and became a captain in the Royal Irish Regiment. Promoted major, he was killed in action on 7 June 1917 on Wytschaete Ridge, Belgium, and was buried in the garden of the hospice at Locre. His wife returned to Orange and died in Sydney on 31 January 1947, predeceased by their only son.

Select Bibliography

  • D. R. Gwynn, The Life of John Redmond (Lond, 1932)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1883, 8, 573, 848-49, 1548
  • Australasian, 22 Dec 1882, 17, 24 Feb, 24 Mar, 9 June, 8 Dec 1883
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21, 22, 24, 27 Feb, 9, 19 Mar, 18 Apr, 19 May 1883, 26 Oct 1891
  • Sydney Mail, 24 Mar, 7 Apr, 19 May, 2 June 1883, 19 July 1884
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1, 2, 6-8, 11, 14 June 1883
  • G. M. Tobin, The Sea-Divided Gael: A Study of the Irish Home Rule Movement in Victoria and New South Wales, 1880-1916 (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1969)
  • Mahon papers (National Library of Australia)
  • J. E. Redmond papers (microfilm, University of New South Wales Archives)
  • CO 201/598.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Redmond, John Edward (1856–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Redmond, caricature by Sir Leslie Ward, 1904

John Redmond, caricature by Sir Leslie Ward, 1904

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23819337

Life Summary [details]


1 September, 1856
Ballytrent, Wexford, Ireland


6 March, 1918 (aged 61)

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