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Cruelties committed and Settling old scores

There were some pretty awful atrocities acted out during the course of the rebellion- in some ways the rebellion provided an opportunity to settle old scores – perpetrated under the banner “Liberty or Death” or as the insignia of one flag exhibited (MWS) “Murder without Sin”, and it was indeed matched with equal ferociousness by the crown forces. Here are a few abstracts from different sources.

Dr John Esmonde

Esmonde, while he was supposed to lead the rebels in the attack on the barracks in Prosperous, it appears that he was hedging his bets, by remaining away from the battle. That way if things went poorly for the rebels, he could not be implicated in the rebellion. Upon receiving a false account of the battle (that the rebels had actually failed). He decided to re-join the yeomanry under Captain Richard Griffith. However, Phil Mite, his aide-de-camp informed on him even though Mite played very much the same part. Esmonde was sent to Dublin and was hanged from a scaffolding on Carlisle Bridge, his military coat turned inside out, a symbol his act of treason.

Phil Mite the Informer (kept an Inn at the Cock Bridge)

The detestation of the Irish to an informer is well-known and no matter how black the crime, those who assist in bringing the offender to justice are curse for life.

Mite had to have the protection of soldiers for some time afterwards, for fear that the locals would kill him. The following story will show just how the people in the area felt on the matter;

"Nine years after the battle of Prosperous (1807), I marched into Naas and while sitting at the window of a Hotel, I heard this conversation—several men and women were on the spot, when one came hastily up and announced that ' Phil Mite's mother had just been drowned in the Liffey', there was an immediate response of ' The devil's cure to him! What better could he expect after hanging the fine gentleman that be Dr. Esmonde. Then one of the party caught a glimpse of my uniform and they made off"— MS. Journal of a Field Officer.

Richard Brewer

Brewer, a respectable manufacturer in Prosperous who on the same night had given refuge to the families of some of the Cork City Militia, had received word that he had been condemned by a rebel committee, despite the very fact that he employed many of them. The rebels appeared at his house and not fearing any retribution he ordered the door to be opened.

James Tobin, a tailor in the village, entered and thrust his pike so vehemently at Brewer that it perforated his body and struck a wall behind him, bending the tip of the pike, so much so that he had difficulty in extracting it. Tobin then drew his scimitar (sword) and split Brewer’s skull from his ear to his forehead. The rebels then carried Brewer’s body outside to show the people, Captain Andrew Farrell cried out “behold the body of a heretic tyrant”, which was repeated by all those present.

Henry Stamer

After dispatching Brewer, the rebels proceeded to search for other prominent Protestants in the village. One man in particular a Mr. Henry Stamer, a magistrate and a substantial property owner in Prosperous, was high on their list. A group of rebels proceeded to Downings house, the home of Alice Bonynge, and demanded that Stamers be handed over. Tradition has it that Stamer was eventually found hiding in an underground vault disguised as dairy maid, where he was piked to death. The underground vault has been known ever since as “Stamer’s Vault”. Another account claims that Stamer was led from Downings house back to the village, where he was paraded down the main street, seated on a horse, before being shot.

Ancient Britons

It was reported that the five Ancient Britons who were taken prisoners during the attack on the barracks in Prosperous, were stripped of their uniforms and helmets and were made to hold pikes in the front line of the rebel column as they charged down on the military muskets in Clane. (Now that’s just not cricket)

An innocent victim

A respectable young gentleman named Patrick Walsh from Narramore was arrested by some Suffolk Fencibles (British regiment) and marched to Naas where they got a woman, whom Captain Swayne kept with him at Prosperous, to swear that she could identify him as one of those who murdered and burned her master and his soldiers. In swearing away the life of the prisoner, her motive was a revengeful thirst for blood, and to have someone put to death for the murder and burning of her master, Swayne.

The execution of Walsh was accompanied with a degree of unparalleled ferocity. After half hanging him, his body was dragged naked through the town. He was then cut open his heart taken out and a part of it eaten by three of the Suffolk Fencibles. His remains were then burned into ashes and the part of the heart which the Suffolks had not devoured was displayed upon a pole which the Waterford militia, who succeeded the Suffolks at Naas, took down.

Captain Richard Swayne

Swayne burned several cabins and farm houses and also the Catholic Church in Prosperous, out of which the poor woman in charge of it was scarcely allowed time to rescue the vestments from the flames. For many years after, some of the old men and women in the area declared that “Swayne met the judgment of Heaven, that as he burned the chapel, so the burning of himself and his party were the consequence of what he had inflicted upon the people.“ Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile.” The example of vice leads others also astray. Swayne’s legacy lives on!

A lucky escape

As the insurgents passed along the street, spreading death and destruction in every direction, Mr William Norris, a Methodist, was in an upper room of his house, commending himself to the protection of God in prayer. When suddenly there was a great noise and contention below, On breaking open the door, one of the rebel leaders, instead of rushing up-stairs to take the life of the good man, as he had purpose, placed his pike across the threshold and swore that before any man touched Norris, he should pass over his body first. The murderous gang were bent on slaughter, but the man was firm, so they moved on with wild threats, while their leader remained as a protector to the servant of God, whom he urged at the peril of life to quit the town, directing him to a way of safety. He then proceeded onward in his work of destruction. Mr Norris made it safely out of Prosperous and returned to England shortly after.

It was not the rebel army in the battle field that was performing appalling acts, this cruelty was manifested in the wives and daughters of the insurgents, who seem to have lost all feelings of humanity, as they were equally active in the work of extermination.

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