Henry James O'Farrell - Clontarf assassin | State Library of New South Wales

Henry James O'Farrell - Clontarf assassin

On 21 January 1868, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's second son, arrived in Sydney during a round-the-world cruise to spread royal goodwill among the colonies. The visit was marred when a Irishman named Henry James O'Farrell, attempted to assassinate the Duke during a picnic at Clontarf on 12 March. After a bullet was extracted from his back, the Duke graciously assured the people of New South Wales that his belief in their loyalty had not been shaken by the action of one individual.

Henry James O'Farrell

Henry James O'Farrell, c. 1868, photograph by Montagu Scott
Carte de visite P1/O'Farrell, Henry James

O'Farrell, who was quickly arrested, claimed that he had acted under orders from the Fenian Brotherhood - a radical Irish nationalist organisation. On examination it was found that O'Farrell had actually acted alone and had a history of mental instability. Despite the intercession of the Duke, O'Farrell was quickly tried, sentenced and hanged.


Supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News, April 1868
Printed F8/25-F8/29

Emily Nuttal Thorne, daughter of Sydney businessman George Thorne, attended the picnic at Clontarf with her family and recorded the experience in her journal.