Rebellions: Memoir, Memory and 1798
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REVISED AND EXTENDED SECOND EDITION ‘Rebellions is an autobiography, an astonishingly clear-sighted and lucid account of a tragic and disputed episode in Irish history and a polemic. The book's importance, originality and real value arise from the way the personal, the political and the scholarly are each offered as passionate witness and not separated. The rebellion of 1798 in Wexford and its two hundredth anniversary have found a brilliant and fearless chronicler. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the arguments about how the past cut deeply into the way we live in Ireland now.'- Colm Tóibín. This is a new, extended edition of an unusual book, which generated considerable interest and controversy when it was first published in 2004, and won the Ewart Biggs Memorial Prize the following year. In its original form it had three elements, a memoir giving the author's intellectual and political formation and his family connection to 1798 in Wexford, a critique of the bicentenary of the rebellion and of writing about it, and a detailed account of the pivotal battle of New Ross and the massacre nearby at Scullabogue. The new edition adds a fourth layer of exploration, analysing the reception of the book, by historians, by those involved in the bicentenary, and by the many individuals who wrote to the author. The most unusual response came from the Ryan Commission on child abuse, which explored with the author his experiences as a junior member of the Irish Christian Brothers, and quoted him extensively in its report. The new chapter focuses on the theme common to all of these responses, the conflict between emotional identification with a community's history and the evidence for contrary realities.
purpose of drawing the charge’.] The piece now being discharged, an old rebel took off his wig, and clapping it upon his pike, rammed it into the cannon, exclaiming, ‘Huzza! the town is our own’. And so it was – just then; its worm being gone, the gun becomes useless, in as much as the men were obliged to spike it and break the carriage. Nonetheless, the rebels thought to make use of it … This cannon, for a long time after the battle lay on the bridge and was called ‘the wig cannon’.46 While
case was covered by the amnesty.70 Back in the stifling noonday heat of the town, exhausted by seven or eight hours of fighting, lungs filled with smoke from the burning houses and many of them weak from loss of blood, the rebels were desperate for rest and refreshment and unable to carry the fight any further after having taken most of the town. Their conduct during this lull in the battle was later blamed for their defeat, Hay first articulating the view of them ‘sullying their bravery with
way’, that is, become a priest? One reason, it strikes me now, may have been that, always impatient, I realized that the seminary would not have taken me for another three or four years. Anyway, with two first cousins already fulfilling Dunne expectations in that regard, perhaps I wanted to be different. While my mother was pleased by my choice, she naturally opposed the idea of taking such a major step at such an early age – I was fourteen, and the year was 1957. In the end she gave in to my
the photographic record of all 1798 memorials, published by the Carrigbyrne Pike Group, only about 20 per cent describe the rebels as United Irish, while 4 per cent mention the ‘republic’. The great majority record only a person or event, without ascribing motivation (about 8 per cent incorporate ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ in the inscription), many using the same inclusive formula. The memorial at The Leap, site of a notorious sectarian atrocity in my father’s home parish, is typical: ‘In
narrative accounts of the battle, one by a participant and leading rebel, the other by a somewhat eccentric loyalist eyewitness. Thomas Cloney’s A personal narrative of those transactions in the county of Wexford, in which the author was engaged during the awful period of 1798 was published thirty-four years after the fact, in 1832. As Cloney was the only surviving leader of the rebel forces who attacked New Ross, his account of the battle is invaluable, and often vivid, but it is also strangely