Annals of Ballitore

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXVI

Some painfully interesting details of this fearful period may be found in the Annals of Ballitore, a work already referred to in this volume. The writer being a member of the Society of Friends, must be beyond all suspicion of partiality for rebels or Papists; yet, happily, like many members of that Society, was distinguished for humanity and toleration for the opinions of others. Her account of '98, being the annals of a family and a village, is, perhaps, almost better calculated to give an exact idea of the state of the times than a work comprising a more extended range of observation; and yet what was suffered in Ballitore was comparatively trifling when compared with the sufferings of other villages and towns. The first trial was the quartering of the yeomen, "from whose bosom," writes this gentle lady, "pity seemed banished."

The Suffolk Fencibles and the Ancient Britons were next quartered on the unfortunate inhabitants. Then commenced the cruel torturing, for which the yeomen and militia obtained an eternal reprobation; the public floggings, of which she writes thus—"the torture was excessive, and the victims were long in recovering, and in almost every case it was applied fruitlessly;" yet these demons in human form never relaxed their cruelty. "The village, once so peaceful, exhibited a scene of tumult and dismay; and the air rang with the shrieks of the sufferers, and the lamentations of those who beheld them suffer."[7]

Then follow fearful details, which cannot be given here, but which prove how completely the people were driven into rebellion, and how cruelly they were punished. Reprisals, of course, were made by the unfortunate victims; and on one occasion, Mrs. Leadbeater relates how Priest Cullen begged the life of a young man on his knees, and, as a reward of his humanity, was apprehended soon after, and condemned to death. The most cruel scene of all was the murder of the village doctor, a man who had devoted himself unweariedly to healing the wounds of both parties; but because he attended the "rebels," and showed them any acts of common humanity, he was taken before a court-martial, and "hacked to death" by the yeomen with their swords. "He was alone and unarmed when seized," writes Mrs. Leadbeater, "and I believe had never raised his hand to injure any one."

The French allies of Irish insurgents appear to have a fatality for arriving precisely when their services are worse than useless. On the 22nd of August, 1798, Humbert landed at Killala with a small French force, who, after a number of engagements, were eventually obliged to surrender at discretion.


[7] Suffer.—Annals of Ballitore, vol. i. p. 227.