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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Letters To / From USA

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Continued from previous page

Pat Purcell Papers.

Part 5-

Not We From Kings But Kings From Us

[ Letter dated 1931 in the PPP, continued ] .

Having now finished the task of genealogist which my daughters imposed upon me, I shall proceed to another subject which they have asked me to touch upon, viz, some personal recollections of my childhood and of the stormy period of the Irish Rebellion.

Almost the first intimation of it which reached us was the fact of my discovery during my childish rambles a large bundle of iron pike handles concealed under a hedge.

My father taking alarm made further investigations and took very energetic measures, communicated with Government, and raised a Yeomanry corps, which he commanded.

After some time this corps, with other troops, marched to Castle Colner, and fought there, as also at Kilcomney.

The day they left Leighlin Bridge we females and my brother (then an infant) were sent to Carlow for protection till the return of our defenders. After some days passed in dreadful suspense, an express messenger arrived with the welcome intelligence that the loyalist troops had conquered and were returning in triumph.

My mother immediately ordered the carriage to convey us back to Steurat’s lodge, in order to meet my father, who had escaped injury we found almost miraculously, the feather of his cap having been shot away, and his pantaloon having been torn by a pike.

Our clergyman, Mr. Dowling, met us at the entrance of Leighlin Bridge, and proposed particularly as it was Sunday, that we should adjourn to a large room in what was called the Garrison and offer up thanksgiving for the happy news.

As we were proceeding there a gentleman rode furiously up and exclaimed, “Twenty thousand rebels are within a mile of the town,” then galloped past.

This intelligence caused terrible dismay among the assembled group. Fortunately the lieutenant and twenty of my father’s corps had been sent on in advance of the others, and knowing that these could not be far behind, they determined to defend the place to the last extremity; the bridge being very narrow they hoped to be able to hold out till succour should arrive, and accordingly set about barricades. It was resolved that all the women and children should be placed in the upper story of an old castle partly in ruins, situated near the bridge.

This old castle was noted in our local history as having sustained a siege in the time of Cromwell, when it was garrisoned by some retainers of the Ormonde family under the command of Theobald Butler, but at the very time of the appearance of the Parliamentary troops he happened to be absent, and his wife took his post, and defended the castle so well that it held out for a considerable time.

A mound was, however, raised by command of Cromwell, at the opposite side of the river, on which guns were placed which commanded the castle so effectually that it could no longer hold out.

The garrison then made their escape by a subterranean passage said to have communicated with Clogrenan. The castle was demolished with the exception of one tower in which we were placed in 1798 on the occasion I mention.

Although but a child of six years, I remember the night passed in it distinctly. Hour after hour went by in terrible suspense until the morning broke, when, instead of the expected and dreaded foe, the red coats of the soldiers were seen advancing. I cannot describe the transports of joy that ensued. It was discovered that a false alarm had been raised, suggested by a foolish wager.

The yeomanry corps was accompanied by a squadron of German Legion, then serving in Ireland, the officers of which my father entertained at Steuart’s Lodge. I remember being kept awake at night by the singing of the guard of German soldiers stationed round the house, who passed the hours of their watch in this delightful amusement.

It is a curious circumstance that as a set-off to the false alarm I have just mentioned, on one occasion my father unwittingly caused a similar one to the rebels which was the means of saving out town from an attack.

He proposed one evening to the other officers, whilst at supper, that they should order the drum to beat the alarm in order to ascertain if the men were on alert. This was accordingly done, and it afterwards transpired that a large force of rebels had marched within half a mile of the town hoping to surprise it, but hearing the drums concluded that they had been discovered, and that the military were prepared to oppose them; they therefore retreated.

These were the only episodes of that time which personally affected our family. The terrible scenes that were enacted in other parts of Ireland and that are now matters of history were happily excluded, from our neighbourhood and county.

I may however, say that two of my nearest relatives fell victims, though bloodless ones, to the terrors of that fearful period. These were my uncle and aunt Whelan.

[to be continued, page 30 of 57 pages].

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 Source: Michael Purcell c.2012


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