1798 in Clonroche

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The Outline

In the early 1790's a Yeomanry Guard and a Militia were formed to defend the country. The Yeomen were in the main officered by Protestant landlords and the Militia was manned mostly by Catholics. In Belfast in 1791 a group of Presbyterians including Wolfe Tone and some Catholics formed the United Irishmen to make Irelands exclusive Protestant Parliament more representative.

With the French revolution taking hold in Europe and with the threat of infiltration of Ireland and England the United Irishmen were banned. This had the effect of turning the organization into a secret revolutionary society dedicated to outright republicanism and independence in alliance with the French.

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The execution of King Louis of France sent shock waves through the English and Irish establishment and in April 1798 martial law was declared on County Wexford. The Yeomen and Magistrates instigated a campaign of torture and terror to disarm not alone the United Irish men, who were not well organized in County Wexford, but also the Militia with it's high number of armed Catholics.

Pitchcapping, flogging and half hangings became the order of the day and it is said that Archibald Hamilton Jacob, an Enniscorthy Orangeman, never left the town without the cat-o-nine-tails and a hangmans noose. Others to pursue a campaign of burning and terror included Hawtry White and Hunter Gowen from north county Wexford.



Because of his liberal leanings Robert Carew of Castleboro, the local landlord, was not permitted to raise either a Militia or a Yeomanry Corps and so there was no need for the terror and burning in the Clonroche area that was all too prevalent in other parts of the county.

On the 28 May 1798 rebellion broke out in County Wexford. In little over a month 30,000 people were dead.

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Clonroche Area in 1798

James Bently Gorden was appointed Rector of Kilegney in 1799 and wrote a history of the rebellion. His account of his own area, (Clonroche) is interesting and the following is a synopsis of his account of the happenings of 1798.

A lot of murdering took place on Vinegar Hill and much greater still would it have been had individual people not intervened. Father Philip Roche of Poulpasty was one of these and saved many lives even from his distant post at Lacken. He rescued some by sending for them under false pretence of accusation and trial and then dismissed them with protections.

The exception is the parish of Kilegney, a parish five miles south-west of Enniscorthy of which I am present incumbent, is considerable and remarkable in there was not a Protestant killed nor a house burned. Surrounded on all sides before they heard of danger the Protestants of the parish found escape impossible.

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They were admitted as converts to the Roman Catholic church by Rev Thomas Rodgers, the parish priest, a man of comparatively superior education who gave them privately to understand that he expected no more than an apparent conformity to please the multitude and seemed to have succeeded in his influence for their protection. Fr Philip Roche interposed in their favour whenever opportunity occurred. Much may be attributable also to the respect of the lower catholics to Mr Fitzhenry, a gentleman of their own religion, resident amongst them.

Nor ought I omit that the peasantry here had not previously been irrigated by flogging and other violence, nor that Robert Shapland Carew, their landlord, had immediately before the insurrection made an impressive speech to the assembled people describing the evil consequences of the rebellion and the acts of atrocity they would draw on themselves from both sides.

The Rev Samual Francis, my predecessor, was with family once forced to attend service in the Catholic chapel and removed afterwards unmolested but would be in danger of starving if he had not been supplied with provisions by Mr Fitzhenry and Father Rodgers.


The Commemoration 1798-1998

Last year was the two hundred anniversary of the 1798 rebellion. Many areas of County Wexford will commemorate the event with lectures, pageants, and battle reenactments. This is a very fitting gesture provided it commemorates all the dead. In Clonroche no event is planned. We in this area, as stated by Gordon and other notable historians, escaped most of the violence of the rebellion and continued to live in relative peace, it is only fitting we should act in a similar manner two hundred years later and let this non participation be our contribution to this remarkable event.


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Foot Note

  • Father Thomas Clinch, a leader in the rebellion was Curate in Poulpasty

  • Father Philip Roche was hanged at Wexford Bridge
  • The Father of General Thomas Cloney, a leader of the rebellion, was born in Tominearly
  • Moll Doyle, who was insulted by Harveys' leadership after the Battle of New Ross was a native of Castleboro
  • On June 20 1798 Johnson and Eustace marched their troops through Clonroche on their way to Enniscorthy
  • The Catholic Church at Cloughbawn was burned to the ground in August 1800 by the Yeomen