This week’s episode of Ripper Street was set within the context of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and their campaign for Irish home rule. In his memoirs, Detective Caminada revealed that he had been working undercover for the British government tracking suspected Fenian dynamiters, not only in England but also in many other countries.
Jerome Caminada had the ideal profile for covert anti-terrorist missions: a Roman Catholic with Irish roots and an exemplary police record. At the time of the Ripper Street series, in the late 1880s, he had risen to the rank of Chief Inspector and had been shadowing Fenians for two decades, notably during the dynamite campaign of 1881-1885. During this period, the factions under the Fenian banner, including the Irish Republican Brotherhood, targeted public buildings throughout Britain, such as the House of Commons, London Bridge and even the headquarters of the CID. Caminada was involved from the beginning and was carrying out surveillance when the first bomb exploded at Salford Barracks in January 1881. (Unfortunately he was down the road at the Cavalry Barracks).
After that he followed ‘suspicious persons’ to France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland and the US. On one occasion, after finding the imprint of an address on a blotting pad in a cottage in Widnes, he tailed a prominent Fenian suspect to Paris. Before he could make an arrest, the Home Office intervened and asked him to return (see the telegram above). On his way back home, he and his colleagues were mistaken for Irish nationalists and arrested by the gendarmes. As the detectives tried to sort out the confusion, Caminada slipped away from the group and watched his London counterparts remonstrating in a foreign language as his train pulled away from the Gard du Nord.
The head of the Irish Branch, Chief Superintendent ‘Dolly’ Williamson (the senior officer during the Ripper case), said that Detective Caminada was one of the only ‘real’ detectives that he knew.
You can read more about the Fenian dynamite campaign and the bombing of the London Underground at my recent post for the British Newspaper Archive