James Mountaine resided with his wife and family at 72 North Main Street, Cork, where he conducted his shoemaking business. His house stood at the corner of Broad Lane and survived up to the early 1950’s, when it was demolished to make way for a wide entrance into Saint Francis Church. He was born in 1819 and as he grew up, he became a prominent supporter of Daniel O Connell and the repeal movement. He was later to become an active member of a Cork Confederate Club during the Famine period. He was imprisoned with Lamkin, the Varians, Denny Lane and others in the City Gaol, Sundays Well, in the summer and autumn of 1848.
He was active in the Cork National Reading Rooms, and in the Brotherhood of Saint Patrick, and was the contact man in Cork for James Stephens and his Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was one of a group which organised the memorable 1861 reception in Cork, of the hallowed remains of Thomas Bellew MacManus, who had died in America, and also his funeral through the city streets of Cork to Kilbarry (Blackpool) Railway Station, en route to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
On the 10th March, 163, riots occurred in Cork City and Mountaine was picked up and thrown into the City Gaol, with John Lynch. After several weeks in prison, both were tried, but were acquitted due to lack of evidence and identification. In 1864 and 1865 detectives were constantly watching him, even though he did not know it, and in October 1865, he was taken into custody again. He was handcuffed as he was brought through Kyle Street to the Bridewell, while a crowd following jeered and hissed at the police. Many women in that crowd were in tears.
Highly incriminating documents were found on his premises and on December 28th Mountaine was tried. He was defended by the illustrious Issac Butt who put up a magnificent and successful defence. The jury brought in a verdict of not guilty and Mountaine was borne in triumph down Great George’s Street and along to his home. Some points of interest came to light during his trial. It was stated by a friend of his, that for the first twenty years of his life he had spelt his name as “Mountain”, but had constantly used the final “e” in later life. It is spelt “Mountain” on the monument on the Grand Parade in Cork City.
Very few details have survived as to the reorganisation of the I.R.B. in Cork between the arrests of 1865 and the rising in March 1867. Mountaine was active all the time and when the “Habeas Corpus” Act was suspended he was again pounced on.
Once more he saw the inside of Cork City Gaol, and again for a weary few months he suffered the rigours of imprisonment. However, he was not brought to trial, and after a while he was released, badly broken in health. Late in September 1868, James Mountaine, enfeebled from imprisonment, was taken seriously ill, and six weeks later, on November 6th, his death was announced. The following Sunday afternoon, the funeral took place from his residence to the Fr. Matthew Cemetery(as St Joseph’s was then called). At 2.00 p.m. Canon Maguire of St. Peter and Paul’s headed a huge procession which proceeded via North Gate Bridge, Pope’s Quay, St. Patrick’s Bridge, the main streets and Anglesea Bridge, to Turners Cross. It was estimated that 6,000 men marched, many wearing mourning crepes, while thousands thronged the many vantage points along the route. At the cemetery the burial prayers were read by Canon Maguire, before the sacred remains were consigned to the earth.
The news of his death was cabled to John O Mahony, the Fenian Leader in America. He inserted the announcement in his paper “The Irish People” with the following note:
Mr Mountaine, a venerable patriot, was the first Fenian enrolled in the city of Cork, where he carried out an extensive shoe and leather business.
“God Rest His Soul” and “God Save Ireland”.