The Cork Militia, the Welsh regiment of fencible cavalry called the ' Ancient Britons, and two Hessian regiments, which were sent over just before the rebellion, in 1797, became infamous for their torture of suspects and they certainly generated the most fear throughout Ireland. Despite the fact that they were the subject of several investigations for their crimes and that details of their atrocities were even brought before the Irish House of Lords, nothing ever came of it. They were simply weeding out traitors and rebels...
Guess what – Prosperous was cursed by having two of the three, resident, and at the same time. The Cork Militia had taken up residence in the barracks near Anne’s Square in Temple Street, while the Welsh Fencibles, “Ancient Britons” quartered in the abandoned cotton factory. The officers were authorised to quarter their troops wherever they deemed fit and to punish locals by confiscating all sorts of provisions. Some soldiers quartered in private dwellings among the village.
On their arrival in Prosperous, fifteen houses including the chapel were burned. Twelve locals were taken prisoner and were sentenced to be executed the following day. Some of the prisoners were tortured by pitch-capping, while one prisoner was picketed.
Picketing involved hanging the man from a post with his bare foot resting on a pointed stake in an effort to extract information on the rebels and the whereabouts of their weapons.
The burning of houses and the torture of individuals was not approved by magistrate. Officers of the militia and in some cases, common soldiers, ordered and perpetrated these crimes. The Ancient Britons acted as judge, jury and executioner.
The Ancient Britons acted as judge, jury and executioner.
The following is a letter composed by Lady Louisa Conolly on the 21st May 1798;
“This last week was a most painful one to us. Maynooth, Kilcock, Leixlip, and Celbridge have a bad part of a Scotch regiment quartered at each place, living upon free quarters and every day threatening to burn the towns.” I have spent days in entreaties and threats to give up the horrid pikes.”
“Some houses burnt at Kilcock yesterday produced the effect. Maynooth held out yesterday, though some houses were burnt and some people punished. This morning the people of Leixlip are bringing in their arms. Celbridge as yet holds out, though five houses are now burning.”
Many who resisted were shot dead on their thresholds, while countless families were deprived of all they possessed and were driven homeless into the world. Farm horses were seized and carried away. Stores of provisions were broken into and shamefully wasted or destroyed, and acts of simple robbery and purely wanton violence were of daily occurrence. Many of the victims were perfectly innocent.
All the houses were searched, and any house in which any weapon was found was immediately burned. This method of disarming appears to have been adopted in all the towns of the county of Kildare.
Torture was at the same time systematically employed to discover arms. Great multitudes were flogged until they almost fainted, picketed and half strangled to extort confessions.
While other towns and villages resisted in striking back – In Prosperous a plan was brewing.