Chris Kilpatrick
Belfast Telegraph
28 August 2012

John Mitchel

It has become a symbol of hardline unionism over the years after becoming caught up in Northern Ireland’s most contentious parade.

But now the church at Drumcree is to host an exhibition telling the true story of two Irish republicans who were married there.

The Church of Ireland in Portadown is the venue for the ‘Musical Love Story of John Mitchel and Jenny Verner’.

The pair were Young Irelanders involved in the 1848 rebellion and in the American Confederate states.

Organisers Altnaveigh House and the Young Ireland Fund say they have combined to cast a cold eye on the rebellion, to turn on its head the idea that controversial periods of history must divide people.

Jenny tried to elope with Mitchel at 16, married him in Drumcree, and travelled to Van Diemen’s Land with her young family to be with her convict husband.

She struggled through the jungles of Central America, crossed the Altlantic and Pacific oceans, was shipwrecked and ran the Union blockade to be with Mitchel, who would become a leading figure in the Young Ireland rebellion.

“This project has been supported by a variety of churches and groups on both sides of the community, both sides of the border,” said Anthony Russell, chairman of the Young Ireland Fund. “Jenny Verner and John Mitchel, both Irish republicans, both American Confederates, one a supporter of slavery, were married in Drumcree on the February 3, 1837.

“The story is more romantic, more adventurous than Titanic, Gone With The Wind and Ryan’s Daughter, but it is a true story. It is fascinating, complex and tragic,” he added.

The exhibition will take place from September 5-8.