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Fariola the Fenian

Intelligence Service

The newspapers gave a dramatic account of Octave Fariola's arrest, describing his appearance as “sinister”. They stressed his strong links to Italian revolutionaries such as Mazzini and Garibaldi. After his arrest Fariola pretended to have little English and to confuse his captors he gave the Germanic version of one of his aliases, Liebehrt, when he was arraigned. According to the prisoner, the "O’Fariola" title given to him in prison came about when a learned Queen's Council assumed his name to be an Italian version of the Irish name "O’Farrell". 

Dublin Castle where much of the police intelligence on the Fenian rebels was collected

Handle with Extreme Caution

The handling of Fariola at the time was recorded in the papers of Richard Bourke, 6th Lord Mayo, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland during the period. They revealed that he was arrested on the word of an informer for a bounty of £100. There was an intriguing statement in a letter sent by the spy which said: “ No doubt you know of his antecedents”. Whether the writer was referring to Fariola’s ancestry or to past political or military connections isn’t clear.

 

A letter from the Head of Secret Police, William Fielding, stressed the need to treat Fariola with extreme caution, saying that he must be “led very gently”. He judged the prisoner to be someone who could be likely to turn informer because the Fenians had made a fool of him. On the other hand Fielding also considered that Fariola was a Carbonaro, a member of a radical secret club originating in 1820's Italy in reaction to Austrian rule. As such his life would be in mortal danger if he cooperated with authorities.

 

This statement, if true, would place Octave Fariola within the wider European revolutionary movement with links to Italian unification or Risorgimento. But do the facts bear this out? The British authorities were plainly worried that Guiseppi Garibaldi(1807-1882) for whom they had more than a sneaking regard, would give his support to a Fenian uprising. No doubt their approach to Fariola reflected this nervousness.

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