John Mallon


1839-[?]; b. Meigh, S. Co. Armagh, of a Catholic family; ed. Newry Model School; began work as an apprentice draper and joined Dublin Metropolitan Police, 1858; appt. superintendent [var. director] of G Division (detectives) in charge of surveillance of Fenian movement and the Irish Republican Brotherhood; also generally active against Land League; he arrested Charles Stewart Parnell at breakfast at Morrison’s Hotel, 12 Oct. 1881, showing notable deference to the leader of constitutional nationalism;
appt. to investigate the Phoenix Park Murders of 6 May 1882; arrested 27 suspects and turned Michael Carey and Michael Kavanagh into Crown witnesses, resulting in five executions and long imprisonments for others; also investigated the Joyce Maamtrasna murders of 1882, which resulting in three capital executions including that of Myles Joyce - the Irish-speaker of James Joyce’s Trieste article “Ireland Before the Bar” - who was generally held to be innocent and was exculpated by another principal at the foot of the gallows;

Mallon held post of Exchange Court Clerk, in Dublin Castle, 1892-94; appt. Commissioner of the DMP, 1901, being the first Catholic in the post; Lord Spencer said of him, ‘without Mallon we have no one worth a row of pins’; survived num. death threats and retired to Armagh. DIH

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F. M. Bussy, ed., Irish Conspiracies: Recollections of John Mallon (1910).

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Donal P. McCracken, Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-pound Note [The Real Inspector Mallon] (Dublin: IAP 2009), 256pp., ill.; see also James Stuart Olson & Robert Shadle, eds., Historical Dictionary of the British Empire (Conn: Greenwood Press 1996) [see extract]; ‘Joyce and the Maamtrasna Murders’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 28, 4 [Papers from the Joyce and History Conference at Yale, Oct. 1990 (Summer 1991), pp.879-88 - available at JSTOR online.

Visit David Dalton’s blogspot on Maamtrasna Murders [online; accessed 10.12.2011];

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James Stuart Olson & Robert Shadle, eds., Historical Dictionary of the British Empire (1996): ‘The Invincibles, a radical, revolutionary, republican movement, also called the Irish National Invincibles, was founded in 1881 at the time of the so-called “land war” [...] Most of its leaders, John McCafferty, P. J. Tynan, and James Carey, were involved in both the Land League and the agitations of the Fenians. As an organisation dedicated to revolutionary violence, the Invincibles plotted the deaths of John Mallon, the superintendent of the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and of William Forster, the chief secretary of Ireland. Four days after Forster's resignation, arising from a disagreement with Gladstone over the Kilmainham Treaty, his successor, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and the undersecretary, Thomas Burke, were assassinated (May 6 1882) in the Phoenix Park murders, which most nationalists condemned. In January 1883, seventeen [sic] “Invincibles” were arrested; by June, five of them had been executed. Carey, who informed against them, was murdered by an Invincible gunman on board a ship to Cape Town, South Africa. His killer, Patrick Donnell, was hanged (November 1883). No further incidents were attributed to the “Invincibles”, who soon disappeared.’ (p.571; online at 13.07-2009.)

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Linda Maher, review of Senan Molony, The Phoenix Park Murders: Conspiracy, Betrayal And Retribution, in Sunday Business Post (20 Aug. 2006): ‘[...] Tales of the murders made the front pages of newspapers across Europe, many of them sympathising with, rather than condemning, the killers. The French socialist evening paper, the Marseillaise, declared: “We pity the victims, but the immense pity we feel for the horrible situation of the Irish people forbids us to show too much sympathy.” Superintendent John Mallon was put in charge of solving the murders. One of his biggest leads was a card that had been delivered to newspaper offices around the country the following morning. They read: “This deed was done by the Irish Invincibles.” The Invincibles were a small, new republican organisation, and apparently they were only out to kill Burke. Cavendish was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ [Cont.]

Linda Maher (Sunday Business Post, 20 Aug. 2006): - cont.: ‘Among the wealth of witness statements that the police had to trawl through, several accounts placed the car (horse and cart) that the perpetrators had travelled in at Cork Street. This rang a bell with Mallon, and he remembered a prominent nationalist named James Carey who lived in the area. A huge amount of surveillance and investigation followed, and a total of 27 men were put on trial for the murders. However, convictions could not have been secured without some of the accused turning informers, and the police and prison wardens in Kilmainham played the men off each other for weeks, hoping to convince them that telling all they knew was the only way to save themselves. Carey turned out to be the chief informer, which Mallon was incredibly upset about as he knew that the ringleader was now certain to walk free.’ [Cont.]

Linda Maher (Sunday Business Post, 20 Aug. 2006): - cont.: ‘The moment Carey walked into court as a witness rather than a defendant was recorded in most of the newspapers of the day. [Quotes:] “[... Joe] Brady made an effort to seize him by the neck as he passed, and malediction swent up from the pen where the betrayed men were imprisoned. They seemed paralysed with amazement and alarm, and their pent-up passion found expression in a general hiss.” “It was”, wrote P. J. Tynan, the British government in Ireland’s greatest thunderbolt - James Carey as a public informer. Dublin city is astounded, all Ireland horrified.” Carey’s evidence, along with that of several witnesses and other informers, sent five of his former associates to the gallows. Others received life sentences and penal servitude. Aoll informers were relocated with their families. However, it was always unlikely that Carey would survive long [...]’ (online; accessed 13.07.2009; ur paragraphs.)

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Denis Fahey, ‘An Irishman’s Diary on the Dublin Metropolitan Police - Police force of the city for almost 90 years’ - remarks on Mallon: The “Napoleon of Policemen”, as he was described by one admirer, joined the DMP at 18 and rose through the ranks to become an assistant commissioner because of his success in tracking the Fenians. The highlight of his career was to secure the convictions and executions of five members of the Irish National Invincibles, a Fenian offshoot, and the imprisonment of others for the murders of the chief secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish and the under-secretary Thomas Bourke in 1882. He claimed, perhaps correctly, that he knew more about the Fenians than their own leaders but he kept few records because he believed that the safest place for information was within his own head./ He was the subject of numerous threats but survived to retire and, as he put it, “go home to Armagh to grow potatoes”. He died after attending Mass in Newry in 1915. (See The Irish Times, 25 April 2017 - online.)