Matthew Keugh

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Keugh, Matthew, Governor of Wexford during its occupation by the insurgents in 1798, was born in Ireland about 1744, entered the army, served during the American war, and rose to be Captain-Lieutenant. At the breaking out of the insurrection he was living upon his property in the town of Wexford. For revolutionary proclivities he had been deprived of the commission of the peace in 1796. His appearance is thus described by Musgrave: "He was about five feet nine inches high, and rather robust. His countenance was comely, his features were large and indicative of an active, intelligent mind. Joined to a very happy and persuasive manner of expressing himself, he had an engaging address and great affability of manner." Upon the occupation of Wexford by the insurgents on 30th May 1798, he was appointed Military Governor of the town. Though his power was much limited by the passions and prejudices of the people, he spared no endeavours to secure the safety of such of the royalists as remained. But he was not able to prevent the piking on the bridge on 20th June, of 97 out of the 260 royalist prisoners, against whom charges were brought of previous insults or wrongs against the peasantry.

When Wexford was reoccupied by the military two days afterwards. Captain Keugh and others of the leaders remained, under the impression that their lives would be spared. He was, however, with many others, immediately brought to a drumhead trial. He made an able and manly defence, "during the whole of which," says Musgrave, "he was cool and deliberate, and so eloquent and pathetick as to excite the most tender emotions in the breasts of his auditors. Lord Kingsborough, Mr. Lehunte, and other respectable witnesses proved that he acted on all occasions with singular humanity, and endeavoured to prevent the effusion of blood; and that they owed their lives to his active interference."[249] He was executed on the bridge on 25th June — suffering with dignity and composure. His body was thrown into the river, and his head placed on the Court-house.

Sources

249. Musgrave, Sir Richard: Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland. Dublin, 1801.

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-'60.

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