Lest They be Forgotten
By Seamus Murphy
One area of County Carlow which has received very little
attention from historians of the 1798 period, is a segment of
the County close to Carlow town.
This segment could be enclosed by the Tullow road on the south,
by the old road leading to Dublin on the north, and by the
Carlow-Kildare border on the east.
In the late 18th. century, with the exception of personal farms
of the Burton and Brown Families, this was a region of small
holdings. This can be confirmed, because up to recent times,
apart from existing houses the sites of almost 40 other houses
was known in Pollerton Big and Pollerton Little.
The United Irishmen's Organisation, according to local
tradition, must have been highly organised in this area, as it
was said "that at least one man, went from each house in
Pollerton Big and Pollerton Little to the attack, and very few
ever came home".
The main rendezvous for the group, which was attacking Carlow
from the east, was at Viewmount, in Kernanstown, and Capt. Nolan
one of the leaders in the eastern attacking force was from
Rutland, both places being in this segment.
The story of at least four happenings of the 1798 period, have
survived in local folklore.
The first concerns the fate of members of the Kehoe family of
The family home was on Pollerton Road, near the present junction
with McGamhna road and the family farm was the land now occupied
by the housing estates on the north side of the road.
Tradition says that three Kehoe brothers perished in the Rising,
and that two others were executed later.
Odran Seely, Tullow Road is a descendant of this family. The
second event also has connections with Pollerton Road.
It tells of the fate of two men. one, according to the late John
Boake, Rutland, was named Maher from Rainstown.
These men had survived the attack, but still did not reach home.
These men were in the house owned by the Dwyers. This house was
where the house of St. Patrick's avenue joins the Askea school
On the evening of the 25th May the military were searching for
escaping "rebels". When this group of soldiers approached the
Dwyer home, the men attempted to escape but as tradition says
"they were killed on the flag of the door" This house unlike all
other houses on the road did not have a door leading on to the
road. It was said that the original door was built up. as the
blood stains could not be removed from the flagstone.
The Murphy family of Paupish, and Paddy Darcy, the noted Tullow
historian are descendants of the Dwyers.
Next is a story with a happy ending. In 1798 a family named
Neill lived in the house on the corner of the Hacketstown where
it joins with the road leading to the Tullow road.
One of the Neills joined the attacking forces. He survived the
massacre and was given refuge by friends in Barrack Street. That
evening it was decided that he should return home.
To enable him to escape he was dressed as a woman, and given a
bucket. If he was stopped he was to say "I am going to Closh for
On his way as he passed a group of soldiers, who were resting,
under the tree which was in what is now Shamrock Square, he
heard one of them remark "That's the tallest woman I ever saw".
He reached home and lived to an old age. The bucket was
preserved in the Neill house and the late Mary Teresa Kelly, The
Stream, Pollerton Little, who was a great granddaughter of this
man, remembered seeing the bucket in the Neill home in the early
The Neill name is preserved locally as the road already
mentioned is known as Neillís Lane.
The fourth account is of Michael Kelly of Pollerton Little, who
lived in the house owned now by the Walsh family.
He went to the attack on Carlow. When news of what had happened
to the attackers reached Pollerton, and as he had not returned
home, two of his sisters went to town seeking information.
They were standing near the Red Cow Inn, now owned by Bernard
Jennings, when they saw a pair of legs with stockings similar to
what they were wearing , when they left home, hanging from a
cart as it went to Graigue.
As Michael Kelly never returned home, it was always assumed that
was his remains going to what is now the Croppy Grave.
Michael Kelly was a great-great granduncle of the writer.
Another resident of the segment who died at that time was Sir
Edward Crosbie of Viewmount. who was executed for his alleged
United Irishman's involvement. His execution took place at the
new jail, now Super Quinn, but his head was displayed for a time
at the gate of the old jail, which was on the site of the
apartments bordering the Burrin on Kennedy avenue.
Before his death, the late John Boake, Rutland showed the
writer, the place at the base of Urglin Church steeple where
Edward Crosbie's head was subsequently interred.
There were Government supporters in this area also.
The two main landlords were Sir Richard Burton and William
These men were Captain and 1st Lieutenant respectively, in
Carlow Town Yeoman Corp.
It has been said that Burton had seventeen members of his corp
However, there is no folk memory on this event in the Pollerton
area. We are indebted to many people, who have recorded events
of 1798 in their own area.
These efforts are most welcome but we must not cease in our
endeav≠our to have proper publication dealing with the County's
role in 1798.
Previously published in the Carloviana - December. 1998 Page 69