Fenians

An anti-British association of disaffected Irishmen, called the Fenian Brotherhood, after the ancient Fenians of Ireland: formed in New York, in 1857, to overthrow the domination of England in Ireland, and make Ireland a republic. The word means a hunter—Gaelic, fianna, from feadhach (pronounced fee-agh), a hunt. Before the Germanic invasion, a Celtic race so called occupied not only parts of Ireland and Scotland, but also the north of Germany and the Scandinavian shores. Oisin (Ossian) refers to them, and one passage is thus rendered in The Antiquary “Do you compare your psalms to the tales of the bare-armed Fenians?” Oisin was the grandson of Fionn, the “fair-haired righ (chief) of the Fenians,” and all the high officers of this volunteer association were men of rank. It appears that the Fenians of Ireland (Eirin), Scotland (Alba), England (Socring), and Scandinavia, had a great civil battle at Gabhra, in Ireland, and extirpated each other. Oisin alone escaped, and he had slain “twice fifty men with his own hand.” In the great Fenian outbreak of Ireland in 1865, etc., the leaders were termed “head centres,” and their subordinates “centres.” (See Clan-Na-Gael.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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