The Saltees, County Wexford

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-16 | Start of chapter

The Saltees are a cluster of uninhabited islands, lying about three miles from the shore; they are of trifling extent and difficult access, scarcely worthy of special notice, had they not acquired a melancholy notoriety by having been the place of concealment for the unfortunate Bagenal Harvey and John Colclough, two gentlemen of birth and fortune, in the county of Wexford, who were unhappily seduced or intimidated to take part in the rebellion of 1798. After the town of Wexford had been retaken by the king's forces, Harvey and Colclough escaped, and took refuge in one of these islands. Mrs. Harvey and a maid-servant accompanied these two fugitives to their retreat, which was a cavern, so ingeniously contrived by nature, that it was next to an impossibility to discover the entrance to it. They had provisions for six months, with all their plate and money, and so complete was their concealment, that, although government had information that they were hidden in the island, and had offered a reward of £3000 for their apprehension, they continued to elude the vigilance of the crews of the king's cutters, who, day after day, traversed every nook and corner in the island without obtaining the slightest trace of them. At length, the discovery of their retreat was made by accident, and through the incautiousness of the servant, who had spilled suds at the mouth of the cave, the traces of which were detected by three officers, who had been sporting on the island. Their suspicions were naturally excited, and by drawing aside some tall heath, which appeared growing out of the face of the rock, they discovered the entrance to the cavern. They immediately entered, and called on those within to surrender, telling them that resistance was useless, as the cave was surrounded by armed men, and that they would be fired on if they gave any indications of resistance. On this they submitted; but on quitting the cave, they appeared extremely mortified at not seeing the force they were led to expect, as they were well supplied with arms and ammunition for their defence.

They were led to a small boat, which was waiting for the officers, and lodged securely in Wexford. The remainder of this tragical tale is history.

In a statistic return, made by the incumbent of the parish to which these islands are attached, they are said to form a part of the inland county of Tipperary; but the authority upon which this strange allocation is founded is not stated.