John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-American poet, journalist, author and activist. As a youth in Ireland, he was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, or Fenians, for which he was transported to Western Australia. After escaping to the United States, he became a prominent spokesperson for the Irish community and culture, through his editorship of the Boston newspaper The Pilot, his prolific writing, and his lecture tours.
Born in Dowth, O'Reilly moved to his aunt's residence in England as a teenager and became involved in journalism and shortly after became involved in the military. He however left the military in 1863 after becoming angry with the military's treatment of the Irish, and returned to Ireland the same year. In 1864 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood under an assumed name and was part of the group for 2 years until he and many others were arrested by authorities in early 1866. After a mock trial the same year he was sentenced to death which was later commuted to 20 years penal servitude. In 1867 O'Reilly was transported to Western Australia and moved to the town of Bunbury where he escaped 2 years later.
After the escape O'Reilly moved to Boston and embarked on a successful writing and journalism career that produced works such as Moondyne and Songs from the Southern Seas , and poems such as The Cry of the Dreamer and The White Rose and In Bohemia. He married Mary Murphy in 1872 and had 4 daughters. In the last 4 years of his life he suffered various health issues before dying of an overdose in his summer home in Hull in 1890. His memorial service held at Tremont Temple was a major public eventO'Reilly's literature and work with civil rights have been celebrated throughout the years.