John Devoy was born on the 3rd of September 1842 in the towns land of Greenhills, which is situated between the villages of Johnstown and Kill, three miles north east of Naas town on the Naas to Dublin road. Born into a nationalist family three years before the Famine, Devoy took an early interest in politics. As a young man he joined the National Petition Movement and during 1861 he served with the French Foreign Legion in Algeria before returning to Ireland where he became a Fenian organiser in the Naas area. Devoy distributed the The People newspaper from the Town Hall and he was later appointed Chief Organiser of the Fenians in the British Army in Ireland. During the month of February 1866, he was arrested at Pilsworth Pub, James Street, Dublin, while attending a Fenian meeting. He was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude which he served in Ireland and in England
During the year of 1871, having served part of his sentence, Devoy was granted amnesty on condition that he would remain outside Ireland. He chose New York as his destination of exile and having arrived there, secured employment as a journalist. With like minded political exiles, he immediately set about the liberation of the country he left behind.
As a member of Clan Na Gael, he rose through its ranks becoming its leader and its inspiration. During the following fifty years he became involved in the plotting and planning of many escapades which helped to shape the history of Ireland. In old age he lived to see the formation of the Free State.
In the words of Padraig Pearse,
“When his biography is written, it will say that he was the greatest of the Fenians”