Condon, Edward O'Meagher (1840–1915), nationalist, was born on 27 January 1840 near Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, the only child of Thomas Condon, farmer, and Ellen Condon (née O'Meagher). In 1842 the family emigrated, via New York, to Nova Scotia, Canada, settling on Prince William's Island. Edward studied with a private tutor and during his mid teens worked briefly as a carpenter and sailing instructor. In 1857 he befriended John O'Mahony (qv) during a visit to New York; not long after his return to Canada he moved to Toronto, where he helped establish the Fenian Brotherhood. In 1862 he enlisted in the 69th Regiment, New York State Militia, of the union army, a largely Irish-American unit led by Gen. Michael Corcoran (qv). Condon served for two years, and was promoted to lieutenant. In December 1866, along with Thomas J. Kelly (qv), he was sent to Ireland by the Fenian Brotherhood (which designated him as ‘captain’) to organise a rebellion, despite the protestations of the IRB that this was totally inopportune. He was stationed at Macroom, Co. Cork, during brief disturbances in Cork (5–6 March 1867) but saw no action. When Kelly relocated his headquarters to Manchester, Condon worked as his liaison officer.
After Kelly's arrest (11 September 1867), Condon was the principal organiser of his successful rescue from a prison van in Manchester (18 September), during which a policeman was killed by a pistol shot fired by a Dubliner, Peter Rice, who was allegedly attempting to break the lock of the van. This was necessary because Condon, in his haste, had forgotten to bring tools to break the lock. While fleeing from the scene, Condon was seized by an angry English mob and arrested by the police. In the subsequent trials, he was one of twenty-two men charged with the policeman's murder, and one of the five who ultimately stood trial. Together with fellow defendant Michael O'Brien (qv), who had also been a lieutenant in Corcoran's regiment, he unsuccessfully appealed to the American ambassador to Britain to take up their cases. Despite the inconclusiveness of the evidence, on 1 November 1867 all five men were sentenced to death for complicity in a murder. In their subsequent speeches from the dock, Condon (known to the court as ‘Edward Shore’) was the last to speak and concluded with the shout ‘God save Ireland’; a cry that was immediately repeated by the other prisoners and would become the principal rallying cry of all Irish nationalist agitators over the next fifty years.
Public outcry against the severe sentences led to the pardon of one prisoner (Thomas Maguire) because of insufficient evidence against him, while the last-minute intervention of the American ambassador ensured that Condon's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of his American citizenship. O'Brien's case, however, was not raised and he, W. P. Allen (qv), and Michael Larkin (qv) were hanged in public on 23 November and buried in quicklime at Salford jail. Subsequently these three men became known to Irish nationalists as the ‘Manchester martyrs’.
During the 1870s Condon's case was raised regularly in Ireland by the Amnesty Association and occasionally in parliament by MPs such as John O'Connor Power (qv). On 13 June 1878, in response to years of intermittent Irish-American petitioning, both houses of the US congress passed a joint resolution asking President Hayes to attempt to secure a fair trial for Condon. Condon's case was not reopened but he was granted a ticket of leave on 2 September 1878 on condition that he did not return to the UK for at least thirty years. He arrived in New York on 29 September, and large public demonstrations were held for him in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. He was sworn into Clan na Gael and soon became its leader in Washington, DC, where he secured employment in April 1879 as a member of the clerical staff of the US treasury department.
Condon supported the IRB and the Land League in Ireland, but after the British government's suppression of the league (October 1881), he supported Irish-American extremists’ calls for the government to be punished by dynamiting public property in London. After his close friend William Mackey Lomasney (qv) was killed during such a scheme in November 1884, however, he turned against the dynamiting campaign and the existing Clan leadership, which indeed was being partly manipulated by British spies. In June 1889, to counter the negative publicity received by the Clan after the murder of P. H. Cronin (qv), he signed a manifesto to the American public denying that the organisation was guilty of ‘un-American behaviour’, although he himself decided to withdraw from the Irish-American revolutionary movement soon afterwards.
After several years working as an electrical engineer for the postal and fire departments of the municipal government of New York, Condon became a journalist. During the early 1900s he contributed regularly to the Irish World and other Irish-American papers and, with the encouragement of John Finerty (qv) and Patrick Egan (qv), became an honorary official of the United Irish League of America in New York. In September 1909 he was brought to Ireland by John Redmond (qv) and the United Irish League to give a highly publicised lecture tour, and was asked to celebrate the achievements of the Irish party at the expense of Sinn Féin. Towards the end of his tour he was granted the freedom of Dublin, Cork, Sligo, Waterford, and Wexford (4–5 October) and was given permission by the home secretary to visit the site in Salford jail where his comrades had been buried. He remained a member of the United Irish League of America until his death in New York on 15 December 1915. He never married.