The Militia was a form of organised military force
made up of- soldiers who were not professional in the ordinary sense
and not normally in permanent service. It was a constitutional force
comprising a citizen army—an army composed of propertied men with a
personal stake in the preservation of public order. As such it was
quite distinct from the regular army and also from the yeomanry.
Irish Militia when first raised in 1715 was restricted to
Protestants between the ages of 16 and 60, who were bound to appear
or provide substitutes. Down the years there were various amendments
in the laws governing the Militia until in 1793 a new Act was passed
providing for .raising a force, both Protestant and Catholic, by
ballot. Modern interest in the history of the Militia in Ireland
usually begins with the Act of 1793—"An Act for amending and
reducing into one Act of Parliament the Laws relating to the Militia
of Ireland." The Bill of 1793 was introduced largely to meet an
emergency, but it envisaged the Militia routine of peacetime
conditions, such as annual training and drilling for a strictly
limited period, with, at the same time, permanent staff arrangements
and appointments for each county.
In fact, however, from 1793
onwards the emergency continued almost indefinitely and the Militia
once established remained more or less continuously on active
service until it was eventually disembodied in 1816. The Bill also
laid down the compliments of Officers, who did not require previous
Military service, pr qualifications (except for adjutants) but did
require clearly defined Property qualifications. Both Officers and
men might be either Protestants or Roman Catholics and the free
exercise of both religions was allowed, but, in fact, in most
Counties the vast majority of Officers were Protestant and the vast
majority of men were Roman Catholic. Unlike the Yeomanry, the rank
and file of the Militia were predominantly of the peasant and
A POLICE FORCE
The duties of the Militia were mainly those of a
Police Force rather than those of an army. At this period in our
history, riots and feuds had to be quelled, coaches had to be
escorted, bailiffs had to be protected, criminals had to be
arrested, and, certainly outside the town, these duties and many
other functions of the Police had to be exercised by the Militia. In
times of civil strife it was called on to establish Public Order and
it was hoped that when faced with rebellion and invasion the men
would remain loyal to their Officers and to the Government.
The Bill of 1793 had hardly become law before most
of the Thirty-Two Counties in Ireland started forming their Militia.
In Carlow a Regiment was raised as early as April 20, 1793, and
Henry Bruen, Esq., was appointed Colonel. Colonel Henry Bruen had
been a member of Parliament for the borough of Jamestown, but having
recently purchased large estates in the County of Carlow, he settled
at Oak Park, just outside the town, and in the Election of 1790
became Representative for the County; he was also Gustos Rotulorum
and one of the Governors of the County Carlow. Col. Bruen promptly
signed Commissions in the Carlow Regiment of Militia as follows:-
- To be Major -Walter Kavanagh.
- To be Captains - Thomas Whelan, Philip Newton, John
- To be Lieutenants - John Wolseley, John Bennett, John
Lecky, William Astle, Abraham Jones, and Constantine Brough.
- To be Ensigns - William Carter, Ashley Crofton, Jnr.,
Joseph Malone, —? Haggerty, Jnr.
- To be Adjutants - John Wolseley.
During the months that followed the requirements of
the Militia Bill were duly complied with and we find the following
account in "The Irish Militia" by Sir Henry McAnally: "After some
initial trouble the ballot proceeded harmoniously enough. There were
some riots in mid-May in which colliery— and quarry workers appear
to have been concerned. 'Fathers to be taken from their families '
was the outcry (why not try to get volunteers and do without
balloting?). A week later the 'designs of malcontents had been
defeated by the publication of abstracts' (of the Act presumably)
and recruits were offering themselves to the Colonel in such numbers
that he could raise the unit without balloting.
prescribed procedure was followed and we have this account of what
took place: ' On Saturday last (the date is June 8) the ballot for
the Militia commenced here, when instead of any kind of opposition
being given or the least appearance of discontent the different
parishes then appointed to be drawn came forward, cheerfully
submitting to their lot; one parish in particular — Myshall, whose
quota amounted to no more than thirteen men, assembled to the number
of 200 and entered the Court House, when, after supplying the number
allotted, they to a man voluntarily offered their services as
substitutes in case any other part of the County should seem
desirous of being excused." There appears to have been five
Companies, totalling in all about 240 men in the Carlow Militia when
first formed but the Battalion was increased by one Company some
Training began immediately and with enthusiasm.
Before the first review by a general Officer, the men were to be
proficient in marching past the General, forming into line, manual
exercise, platoon exercise, firing by companies, advancing in line,
firing by wings, retreating in line, firing by battalion, advance,
open ranks and general salute. A book of rules and regulations
relative to field exercises was issued to the newly-formed unit.
Indeed, we read in a report published by the Dublin Evening Post
describing one of the first reviews of the Car-low Militia: "The
Regiments of Militia here, compared with regulars from Great
Britain, have the most decided superiority; and as to the efficient
appointment of the men there is no degree of comparison." One of the
early ceremonials was the presentation of colours to the Regiment.
This was an expensive item but was probably met by Col. Bruen, and
no doubt in honour of the occasion- "the men were all dressed in new
clothing and made a truly martial appearance.” No doubt, too, "the
privates were most hospitably regaled by their Colonel." Like most
of the other County Militia the Carlow battalion had its band and
here, too, it was almost certainly indebted to the liberality of its
Colonel. Under the law two drummers were allowed to a company but if
the Commanding Officer wanted to keep up a greater number of
drummers to be employed as fifers and musicians he could have them
provided he was willing to defray the expense. Indeed, He -may also
have had to pay for the instruments used by the band and these were
costly. Even the clothing of the bandsmen which was splendid in the
extreme was almost certainly paid for by Col. Bruen.
A NOMAD FORCE
From the very beginning it was customary to quarter
units at a distance from the county of their origin and this became
the accepted policy. Fraternizing and close associations with the
surrounding people would make policing difficult and could lead to
corruption. The rank and file could not be expected to exercise
repressive measures as impartially against friends and relations as
against strangers and for this and other reasons the Irish Militia
from the start became virtually a nomad force. When embodied in
1793, the Carlow battalion was ordered to Nenagh and started on
routes and marches which quartered it in numerous centres during the
From Nenagh they proceeded to Charlesfort, then to
Kinsale and thence to Cobh where in August 1794 they were quartered
at Cobh Fort and Spike Island, Ram Head and Hawbowline. In 1795 they
moved to Waterford and it was while they were here in December of
that year that Col. Henry Bruen died at his house in North Great
George's Street, Dublin. His remains were conveyed to Oak Park and
from thence to his "new town of Niamey" (Co. Carlow) where they were
interred. In a rare contemporary broadside we find an account of the
ceremonial observed by his Regiment on this melancholy occasion: —
"The Carlow regiment of militia, quartered at
Waterford, paraded for the purpose of doing military honours to
the memory of their deceased commandant- The whole regiment were
in mourning, the officers with uniform cockades, swordknots,
mourning on the arm, all of black crape, scarfs, hatbands and
gloves, and every other individual of the regiment with black
crape round the left arm; the colours festooned with crape, the
pikes, band instruments, drums, fifes, etc., all in mourning;
and the late Colonel's sword, sash, gorget, etc., were bound
with crape, and borne by an officer. Arms were then ordered to
be reversed, and the whole were put in march by Captain Wolseley,
the commanding officer, the band playing a dead march. In this
order the regiment proceeded to the review field, where it
formed a line, rested on reversed arms, and gave room for the
officer carrying the late Colonel's sword, etc., to pass through
the band playing and drums beating a dead march. The line was
then formed, when the commanding officer claimed the attention
of the regiment and with much pathos addressed them. An awful
silence followed, the regiment leaning on their reversed arms,
when the band commenced solemn music; a signal was then given
and the regiment fired three volleys with great precision, the
band filling up the _ interval of time required for loading. On
the whole, we never were witness to a procession and ceremony
more solemn and affecting."
From Waterford the regiment was ordered to Trim,
then to Downpatrick, Blairismore Camp, Drogheda, and thence to Navan,
where they were quartered in the summer of that ill-fated year of
1798 It is well known that the leaders of the United
Irishmen assumed that, to use the words of Tone—”The Militia, the
great bulk of whom are Catholics, would, to a moral certainty,
abandon their leaders.” The events of 1798, however, proved this
theory to be ill-founded. Again in the words of Tone—”The Militia
have thus far, as well as the yeomanry, to their eternal
degradation, supported the enemy. ”Or in the words of Sir Henry
McAnally "when the rebellion came in 1798, they (the Militia) seem,
with little exception, simply to have done, or attempted to do,
their soldierly duty.
There was no question of their being
pronouncedly for, if not of their being specifically against, the
insurrectionary movement: they were simply for their employers—which
most persons regard as the correct attitude for soldiers." And so
while based in Navan in June 1798 - the Carlow Militia proceeded to Nittstown, on the Banks of the Boyne, where an action took place
with the rebels. No details of this skirmish are available but Ryan,
in his history of the County Carlow, records (father
characteristically) — "The latter fled almost immediately although
they were in great numbers."
ON PERMANENT DUTY
The rebellion over, the regiment started again on
its wanderings. From Navan they marched to Robertstown, to Cork, to
Charles-fort, to Midleton, to Mullingar, to Roscrea and were in
Carlow for brief disembodiment in 1802. When war broke out again,
after the Peace of Amiens in 1802, the regiment was again embodied
and remained on duty almost permanently until the Napoleonic War was
over, In Wakefield's “Account of Ireland," 1812, we read that “the
Carlow regiment of Militia consists of a Colonel, a Lieutenant
Colonel, two Majors, six Captains, thirteen Lieutenants, five
ensigns, a pay-master, adjutant, quarter-master, surgeon, assistant
surgeon, 34 sergeants, 14 drummers, and 600 rank and file. Of the
Officers all are Protestants, except the adjutant, quarter-master,
assistant surgeon and one ensign. The non-commissioned officers,
drummers, etc., are almost all Protestant and the rank and file in
proportion of 5 to 2, the Catholics being in the larger number." .
The Regiment was disembodied on March 26, 1816, and on that date the
officers were: as follows: —
- Colonel - D. la Touche, Jnr.
- Lieutenant Colonel - Robert la Touché.
- Majors - Richard Baillie, John Falkener Cornwall.
- Captains - Benjamin D. Galbraith, Harmon Herring, James
Butler, Gilbert Rudkin, Pills-worth Whelan, Thomas Henry
- Lieutenants - Richard Clifford, T. F. Barnes, Richard
King, B. McMahon, Richard Ryan, John Sherlock, Henry Morton,
Michael Thorogood, Richard Butler, N. Bishop, John Horton,
Thomas Proctor, R. Byrne.
- Ensigns - Francis Courtenay, B. Hobart, C. Brough,
William Hill, William Cook. Paymaster - Constantine Brough.
The long marches were over and “this was the end,
for about 40 years, of the Irish Militia as an embodied force. They
went into Sleepy Hollow. ' The permanent staff,' says a regimental
record, ' from disembodiment grew gradually less and less, vacancies
not being filled up, until at length at the beginning of 1855, it
consisted of but a few old cripples whose one duty was to receive
their monthly pay.' "On the outbreak of the Crimean War 1854, the
Militia was revived and enrolment of volunteers was commenced in
December of that year. A large number presented themselves but it
was found that the attestation papers were in short supply and it
was only possible to enrol thirteen at the first meeting. The Editor
of the Carlow Post, however, anticipated that the required
complement would soon be filled up and went on to express the
sentiment that should the war continue for any length of time, he
might have to record some well-known names among the list of brave
Irishmen who had already distinguished themselves in the present
struggle. The officers at this stage were as follows: — Colonel -
Sir Thomas Butler, Bart. Lieutenant Colonel - John Henry Keogh.
Major - Sir Clement Wolseley, Bart. There were six Captains, five
Lieutenants, four Ensigns, an Adjutant, Surgeon, Assistant Surgeon
and an Acting Paymaster.
The Officers and Colours of the
Carlow Rifles, circa 1885.
L. to R. front row:- Capt. the Hon. H.
F. Maxwell (Adjutant), Colonel Butler, Lieut. C.
Duckett-Steurt, Major H. Eustace, Doctor Rawson.
Behind:- A. N. Other, Capt. G. W. Lestrange, Capt. J. K.
Milner and Lieut. Lord Walter Fitzgerald.
(Photo - courtesy
St. Mary's Church, Carlow)
THE CARLOW RIFLES
It was at about this time that the Regiment began to
be called the Carlow Rifles and its function seems to have been for
the most part that of an Army Reserve. It was based mainly in Carlow
though it may have spent periods in other parts of the country,
possibly at Kinsale. During the Summer of 1855, however, it was in
Carlow and the Carlow Post gives us a graphic picture of a Ball
given by the Officers of the Carlow Rifles at the Barracks in May of
that year. “The decorations of the ballroom, the viands supplied,
the manner in which they were arranged before the guests—the
courtesy and gallantry (of course) of the hosts —the excellence of
the music, together with the unflagging animation and good humour
apparent throughout — rendered this the First Ball, given by the
Officers of our Rifles, everything that could possibly be desired
and if they acquire as much renown during their future campaigns
abroad as they are likely to gain by their fetes and feats at home,
they will be as famous for their bravery and their conquests as any
of those who have shed a glorious lustre on the history of their
country." At the end of the war, it would appear that the Carlow
Militia was disembodied but if so it was reorganised for peacetime
conditions and for many years afterwards had its permanent
establishment and regular annual periods of drilling and training.
It continued to be a reserve providing regular recruits for the Army
and this seems to have been one of its primary functions.
In August, 1856, the gentry of the County Carlow
gave a great Dinner in the Assembly Rooms to the Officers of the
County Carlow who had fought in the Crimean War. The Chair was taken
by Captain McClintock Bunbury, M.P., and towards the close of the
proceedings he proposed a toast to "The Carlow Rifles and Sir Thomas
Butler their Colonel.” In doing so he said—"They have not had the
good fortune to be engaged in the Crimea but I am sure from what I
have witnessed, if their services had been required, they would have
done credit to the County Carlow. I must say I am sorry they have
been disbanded." In responding to the toast, Sir Thomas Butler
said—"I beg leave to return you my most sincere thanks for the way
in which you have spoken to me as Colonel of the Carlow Rifles but I
must say that the praise is mostly due to Lt. Col. Keogh and Captain
Knipe, the two principal Officers of the Regiment. At my time of
life I could not accomplish the task of organising them nor have I
been enabled to spend as much of my time with them as I have wished.
They have given satisfaction wherever they have gone and they have
sent as brave a body of men into the regular army as any country
could boast of. I am proud to be their Colonel (cheers). For my part
I only desire the ranks to be filled with such men and they will
reflect credit on every officer connected with it."(Loud cheering).
20/- A DAY
Lt. Col. Keogh was then unanimously called on to
speak. He was a young man of thirty-two years, tall and strikingly
handsome. He said—"Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I rise as you have
been kind enough to call upon me but I thought after the eloquent
speech of our Colonel I should have escaped being called on. It is
rather dull work speaking of the Militia now. As long as the Queen
was pleased to give me 20/- per day it was all very well—as long as
I got that I worked hard for the Carlow Rifles but that is now all
gone by and I think the Carlow Rifles very stale talk indeed. I did
not value myself very highly — only at 20/- a day! The only thing
for which I am proud of the Carlow Rifles is that they sent as fine
a body of recruits to the line as any Officer might be proud to
receive." The Carlow Militia at this period was, of course, a
red-coat Regiment and was known, affectionately or otherwise, as the
"Old Fogies." The rank and file served 27 days' intensive training
every year and new recruits did drill training in addition. The
permanent staff remained on duty all the year round and the
intention was that the regiment could be mobilised in full force at
any time at short notice.
In July 1871, the Carlow Militia was put through its
paces after some weeks of highly intensive training. The inspection
took place in the Carlow barrack-yard and the Inspecting Officer was
the Inspector General of Militia, Col. F. F. Maude, C.B. & V.C.S. On
his arrival he was saluted by the regiment which was drawn up in
line and immediately after broken into Companies when a most minute
inspection took place — probably the closest to which it had ever
been subjected. The men were put through a variety of evolutions by
the Colonel after which they marched past in fine style and with the
greatest precision, in column and quarter column, took ground to the
left in fours, wheeled to the left, halted, fronted, opened in
column, wheeled to the -left in line, and were put through the
manual, firing, and field exercises. The senior Major ( J. C.
Vigors) was then requested to put the regiment through some
movements which were executed most creditably. The regiments'
quarters and the hospital, etc., were then thoroughly inspected and
in due course Col. Maude and a numerous party were entertained by
Col. Keogh and the officers of the Regiment in the Officers'
mess-rooms. After further inspections and exercises in the afternoon
Col. Maude addressed the men. He complimented Col. Keogh on the
state of the Regiment and said that it would be his duty to report
favourably on it to the Lord Lieutenant.
In 1881 the Militia virtually ceased to exist as a
distinct body. It became part of the regular forces with a
limitation as to the time and area, the conditions of service, and
Militia Battalions were united with the line battalions to form
territorial regiments. The Carlow Rifles were listed to become a
Militia battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers but their place was
taken by the Kildare battalion; instead it became a Militia
battalion of an English Regiment as the 8th (Militia Battalion) The
King's Royal Rifles Corps. They now changed their red-coats for
rifle green jackets with black buttons and scarlet facings and their
colours were laid up in 1890 in St. Mary's Church, Carlow, where
they still hang silent and serene. In 1887 the Regiment sent a
detachment under the command of Major Lord. Walter Fitzgerald to
take part in the Royal Review for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. They
were stationed at Battersea Park and it "was probably on this
occasion that they distinguished themselves by winning the
tug-of-war tournament. Other commanders of the Carlow Militia at
about this period were G. W. Lestrange and Lord Frederick
THE BOER WAR
During the Boer War, (1899 – 1902), the Regiment was stationed in Templemore and sent a draft of Officers and men to the front line
where they were quartered in block houses. In the later years of its
existence it was based in Carlow Barracks and did its training
either locally or at the Curragh Camp. It now consisted of four
Companies and its last Colonel was Col. J. K. Milner who had fifteen
years command. He was a famous shot who with revolver or rifle could
hit the target, time and time again. It is on record that at one
International Contest, as a member of the English team, he placed
every shot "in the Bull's Eye."
The last Officers of the Regiment were as follows:-
- Colonel - Colonel J. K. Milner (Commanding).
- M.O. - Surgn. Lieut.-Colonel E. A. Rawson.
- Captains - Sir Richard Butler, D.S.O.; Captain H.
Wheeler, both subsequently promoted Major, and Captain
- Adjutant - Captain A. Rennie, D.S.O., later
- Instructor of Musketry - Lieut, (now Major) A. J. W.
- 2nd Lieutenants - E. M. Thomas (later Captain), Gordon
Mocket (later Major), A. G. Ferrier (later Captain).
All except the C.O. and M.O., who were over-age,
served in the First Great War, 1914-1918.
The Regiment was finally disbanded in 1908 under the
Haldane Scheme, which affected all three English Regiments in
Ireland, including The Carlows—the 8th King's Royal Rifles. The only
survivors in Carlow in 1960 are Major A. J. W. Fitzmaurice and
Sergeant H. Hopkins.
Source: Harry Furr c2008
- Area - Carlow (COI),
- Baptism of Thomas Aldborough of Military
Barracks Carlow on 22 January 1896
- Name: Thomas Aldborough
- Date of Birth: 20 December 1895
- Address: Military Barracks Carlow
- Father: George James Aldborough
- Mother: Annie Aldborough
- Further details in the record
- Father Occupation: Sergt 8th K R R
- Book Number: N/R
- Page: N/R
- Entry Number: 23
- Record_Identifier: CW-CI-BA-5915
- Image Filename: c-317-2-3-023