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January 21, 2017


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1798 was about a lot more than Wexford - it was two Rebellions in effect, one in Ulster and one in South Leinster, with subsidiary rebellions elsewhere. It is important to many because it was non-denominational - both Protestants and Catholics rebelled, and as such it was the last real rebellion that was largely non-sectarian, where major leaders of the United Irishmen were both Protestant, Dissenter and Catholic. It is one reason why mainstream Irish nationalists are much more comfortable with its music. (There were fewer Jews, though post 1798 many 'Fenians' were Jewish (and Zionist), notably the Herzogs, Briscoes and Noyks.)

Perhaps the most notable piece of music to come out of it was the Minstrel Boy, written by Thomas Moore in memory of (presumably Protestant) classmates from Trinity College in Dublin who apparently died in that rebellion.


One additional correction, the Men of the West is about the Battle of Castlebar which was in Mayo, the opposite side of Ireland from Wexford. The French and Irish forces (outnumbered 3 to 1) won that one, and the British retreat was so abrupt and panicked it came to be known as the Castlebar races.

Steve L.

Thanks, Mack.

Speaking of the Briscoes (two of whom became mayors of Dublin), here is, perhaps, the most famous song about the Jews of Ireland:



What's interesting is that, despite the song, the law was routinely not enforced - there was also a version also that required tradesmen to put their names on the carts too. Which brings one to Pádraig Pearse - and his only case (unless you count his own trial in 1916.) It's a little known fact that Pearse had qualified as a barrister as well as being a teacher.

In 1905, Niall MacGiolla Bhride, from Faymore, Creeslough, Co Donegal was summoned for displaying a sign on his cart which had his name in “illegible” letters (Gaelic script, i.e., an Cló Gealach). There had been relatively few prosecutions over this, because while the law was on the books, Dublin Castle was not that stupid (the suggestion that an RIC man might get promoted for bringing one was unlikely - his masters would be very annoyed in fact.)

MacGiolla Bhride represented himself at Dunfanaghy Petty Sessions. He was fined by the Magistrate who imposed a fine of one shilling or an alternative of seven days imprisonment in Derry Jail (one reform of the British legal system in Ireland had led to the appointment of almost only Englishmen as Irish Resident Magistrates (this was actually an improvement over what had gone before, where magistrates were typically from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy.) MacGiolla Bhride ignored the fine and was summoned again and fined another shilling. The fine of 2 shillings invoked the anger of the Gaelic League. They subsequently employed a solicitor Patrick M Gallagher, to defend MacGiolla Bhride, who briefed the case assisted by Patrick McBrearty from Bridgend. The case was brought before the Court of the King’s Bench in Dublin. This case, R. v. MacBride, was intended to bring matters to a head on the defense of the legibility of the Irish language.

The barrister was Patrick Pearse. This was to be Pearse’s only legal case. When the case was heard, the Attorney-General decided that the prosecution could not be supported, but the Lord Chief Justice wasn’t for turning and proceeded to a conviction and the case was lost.

Although the case was lost, every cart case would have meant more publicity for the Irish language movement and eventually the Royal Irish Constabulary received more explicit instructions not to issue any more summonses unless directed by a higher authority. What happened to the original constable - they found somewhere grimmer for him one supposes than Donegal in the winter.....


To be fair, Pearce apparently had another minor unreported matter, someone who was hit by a bread-van. He did a decent job by all accounts in the Irish language case, but it was phyrric in that Dublin Castle really wanted the entire language issue to go away, but was frustrated by a Chief Justice and Pearse, oddly and unintentionally cooperating, in defiance of a prosecution that wanted the whole thing to just go away, and was frustrated in his desire to simply dismiss the whole matter (which he had not initiated) by the judge and the defense counsel.

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