‘Murdered’ Protestants of Clone, Co. Wexford 1798

Small Sources 81:   When researching in Irish or other archives  a hidden treasure  can sometimes be uncovered. This was the case on a recent visit to the Representative Church Body Library  in Dublin.  The RCB Library is the main repository for material generated by the Church of Ireland (Episcopalian)  at a national or parish level.  Of particular relevance for genealogists and family historian are their collection of parochial registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials.  The full collection of registers is catalogued here.  However, there is also a wealth of other material.

My purpose on the visit was to consult the ‘Combined Register of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1775-1824‘  for the parishes of Clone, Kilbride and Ferns, Co. Wexford  (Ref. 0715.01).   In consulting this document,  I found an interesting entry tucked away in the middle of the register.  This was apparently compiled by the Church clergy of the time and is a list of Protestants (presumably of that parish) who were ‘Murdered by the Rebels during the time of the Rebellion’.

The 1798 Rebellion was a major rebellion against British rule in Ireland in response to a repression of Catholics, Presbyterians and other non-Anglican denominations  by a series of laws collectively know as the Penal Laws which sought to advance the Church of Ireland establishment at the expense of all those who were not members.  The Rebellion was organised by the Society of United Irishmen who were influenced by the American and French Revolutions. The Society membership included both  Catholics and Presbyterians as both were repressed under this legislation.

The Penal Laws were introduced into Ireland following the ascent of William of Orange to the throne of England in about 1690. As his challenger for the crown was the Catholic James I, William wanted to ensure that there would be no more Catholic dissension.    The  aim of the Penal Laws was therefore to ‘make Catholics poor and keep them poor‘,  by making  life very difficult for Catholics and other non-members of the Anglican Church, including Presbyterians.  Despite the Catholic Church being by far the dominant religion (over 80% of the population), it was significantly repressed during the 18th  century and both the Catholic Church and civil society suffered its impact. As well as  severe restrictions on the  practice of their faith, Catholics could not be involved in  political activity including voting, local or parliamentary representation, nor could they enter any of the professions or own property above a £5 limit. All inheritance laws also favoured those who converted to Protestantism. Further details on the impact of these laws on the different religious denominations is in our publication ‘Irish Church Records‘.    Both Catholics and Presbyterians were  forced to pay ‘tithes’ or taxes to maintain the Anglican church and its clergy.  All of these measures were deeply resented and this resentment eventually lead to the 1798 rebellion.

The Rebellion broke out in May 1798 and lasted for about 5 months. The initial Rebel plan to take Dublin was scuppered but battles were fought in many other parts of the country.  County Wexford was a major location of rebel activity and the rebellion there resulted in huge loss of life on both sides. Ultimately the Rebellion proved a failure in its objectives, but it helped to inspire many in their later bids to gain Irish Independence.

The list  of ‘murdered’ from the register is below,  but note that ‘murdered’ is a politically loaded phrase and some of these were killed while on duty as militia or soldiers. Most famously,  Thomas Bookey below was killed while leader of a militia regiment which was defeated by rebels in a part of Wexford called ‘The Harrow’.  He is commemorated in the rebel song ‘Boolavogue‘.   Similarly,  Richard Tackaberry and Thomas Crafts (or Crofts)  and possibly others were  soldiers who were killed in the battle of Enniscorthy in 1798. You can read more about the militia of the time in our blog ‘The Myshall Yeomen of Carlow 1796/7“.

The list of those ‘murdered’  were as follows: Reverend Samuel Heydon, Rector of Ferns Reverend Francis Turner, Rector of Edermine Thomas Bookey Esqr of Rockspring Robert Gainford of Srayhert [sic] Richard Gainford, his Son Richard Gainford, his Nephew William Christian of Clobeman Thomas Dowse of Knockrea [sic] William Richardson, Parish Clerk William Thomas, Sexton Samuel Ralp, of Ferns Thomas Crowley, of Ferns James Smith, of Ferns Philip Bacon, of Coolbawn [Coolbaun] Roger Sparks, of Tincurry Richard Tackaberry, of Coolatore William Rudd, of Clone John Hawkins, of Clone Thomas Crafts, of Clone John Crafts, his Brother Thomas Piper, of Clone George Piper, of Clone James Piper, of Tincurry [Tincurragh} George Graham, of Crorey [Crory] Thomas Kendrick, of Clone Samuel Kendrick, his Son William Kane, of Clone Thomas Nowles, of Craine John Lindon, of Tincurry John Frickaby, of Ballydoonagan John McKee, of Ferns John Berry, of ??? bridge Edward Sly, of Monageer John Sly, of Monageer John Pounder, of Craine [Crane] Thomas Hawkins Thomas Wallis Michael Jones William Willis Mathew Pounden William Dowse The note at the end directs the reader that ‘For the Remainder of Funerals, see Page 68’. This page provides a listing of ‘Burials Continued after the Rebellion’. It includes the entry for the burial of William Willis on 27th October 1798 with a note ‘Murdered by the Rebels on Vinegar Hill’.

Further articles in our series on Irish Family History sources include:

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