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Ballickmoyler in the United Irish Rebellion of 1798

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The history of the United Irish Rebellion of 1798 is told on many web sites so I won't retell the full story here, only local events.  See 1798 Ireland for example. 

For a bit of background though, the United Irish movement began in 1791 when the leaders of several Irish Catholic organizations such as the Defenders and the equivalent Protestant and Presbyterian organizations had realized that if they kept fighting each other they could not hope to prevail against the government.  They hoped that a united stand by both Catholic and Protestant Irish who shared a desire for an independent Ireland might succeed against the English occupation.  However this plan did not stand up well with the average man of either religion who had found himself on one side of the privilege issue or the other for over 200 years.  Old distrusts often developed whenever the groups came together.  On September 18, 1795 they came close when the Protestant Peep-of-Day Boys and the Defenders signed a peace agreement.  However, incidents between the factions only heightened and on Sept. 21 a planned meeting at Diamond, co. Tyrone to unite their forces broke down into the Battle of the Diamond which left 84 Defenders and an unknown number of Protestants dead.  ref.  

As a result of that failure, that same evening the Orange Order was founded to unite the Protestants of the country against the growing Catholic rebellion against the Protestant minority in the country.  The Leadership of the United Irish further broke down with the arrest of the founder, Wolf Tone, in October 1797.  However, the gathered forces, some which were well armed by the efforts of the organization but most with makeshift weapons and hand made pikes, continued to make their individual moves against the government.  The failure of the rebellion, in my mind due to the lack of organized leadership and communication, gave the English the opportunity to prevent such an organized united effort against them again by driving further wedges between the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland by increasing the enforcement of old anti-Catholic laws, enacting new ones and by portraying the United Irish rebellion as a Catholic rebellion alone. 

Ballickmoyler's Role in the Rebellion

note: the word rebel in this text should not be seen as a negative term.  The term may mean different things to people on different sides of the issue but I only mean the word rebel to mean a person who took part in the 1798 Rebellion.

On May 24, 1798 Ballickmoyler was the rallying point for Irish rebels from the area who, armed mostly with hand made pikes and a few firearms, then marched on to join their other counterparts at Carlow.  Their plan was to seize Carlow from the professional British Army troops and Irish Militia stationed there.  The government may have been expecting them though as when they approached the bridge at Graigue which crosses the Barrow River into Carlow, they found it defended by two cannons, British troops and the militia. They then returned to Ballickmoyler and finding that the majority of its Protestant inhabitants, possibly all, had fled the town they took out their frustrations by burning their houses.  The Protestant population of the town, about 10 families, had fled to the Rev'd. Edward Whitty's house, Providence Lodge, just NW of town on the road to Arles where they prepared to make a stand. The rebels attacked it but, as an account from the time says, he and eleven Protestants succeeded in its defence.  I believe that Samuel Allen, John Tomlinson, Abraham May, Daniel Murray, Thomas Smith, Lancy Stephenson, Adam Taylor and my own ancestors Joseph and William Bowles may have been in that group as each of their houses was burned in Ballickmoyler that night.  A number of rebels were killed in the attack, one report from the time says 21 men died there, and some others were reportedly killed in action in Ballickmoyler.  A plaque commemorating the dead was erected in the square there a few years ago.

As the story of what happened at Ballickmoyler was recorded only in the official papers of the time largely as a backlash against the actions of the rebels, it's impossible to know whether events were exactly as described above.  Some people believe that the rebels were not the ones who burned the town and maintain that was done by the pursuing British Troops in revenge for the town having been used as a rallying point.  There are other documented occurrences of just such actions so it remains a possibility.  For example, the July 10, 1798 edition of The Belfast Newsletter (p. 2 column 1) reported that the Dunluce Cavalry, hearing that the town of Ballymoney had been occupied by the rebels, marched on the town.  When they arrived they found that the rebels had merely marched through the town towards Ballymena.  However, finding the town mostly deserted and taking that as a sign that the residents had joined the rebels, they burned the majority of it.  The report states that "a few houses of Loyalists unavoidably suffered from their bad neighbourhood."  The fact that the only houses which are documented as having been burned in Ballickmoyler were owned by Protestants would be explained by the fact that only those with "a proven loyalty" were allowed to make a damage claim afterwards.  One indication that it may have been the rebels who burned the Protestant houses is that the owners claims were only settled at 50% of the claimed value.  The Bill which allowed these claims provided only a 50% settlement for damages done by the rebels.  If it had been soldiers who burned the houses they would probably have received 100% of their claim.  If many Catholic houses had been burned as well that fact has not been recorded or at least to my knowledge yet. 

Read a contemporary account of the Battle of Carlow and the role which Ballickmoyler played in the battle.  Note, this account was written by a Government supporter and shows a decided bias against the rebels but is historically interesting nevertheless.

Following the rebellion the government appointed a commission to accept claims for damages suffered by citizen's loyal to His Majesty's Government and to award them with compensation for their losses.  The list of claims which were filed for damages in Queen's county illustrate just how central a role Ballickmoyler, Providence Lodge and nearby Castletown and Coolanowle played in the rebellion.

See the full List of Persons who have suffered Losses in their Property in the Queen's county


This site was last updated 10/19/18