Fáilte Romhat

  Clonakilty 1798

Clonakilty 1798


My thanks to Jean Prendergast for this information.


'On the 19th of June [1798], the Westmeath regiment of militia, consisting of upwards of seven hundred men, under the command of Colonel Sir Hugh O Reilly, marched from Clonakilty, where they had been some time quartered, for Bandon.  When they had reached within a short distance of Balliniscarthy, several hundreds of the insurgents, armed chiefly with pikes, hastened to meet them.  Sir Hugh called a halt, formed his men, and gave the word to load.  The order they obeyed, and rammed down cartridges in due form, but without the balls: these they bit off, and dropped upon the road.  The rebels still pressing on, the section on the right of the column was ordered to fire; but the harmless discharge only produced merriment.  Anticipating little injury after this friendly reception, the insurgents now boldly came up.  Some of them shook the soldiery by hand, and familiarly addressed them by name.  More of them slapped them on the back, and swore the day was their own.  Others bestrode the cannon; and one huge fellow, named TEIG-AN-ASTNA [TADHG O DONOVAN], more audacious-than his fellows, actually walked up, and seized the colonel's charger by the bridle.  But a sergeant, who was in the ranks, and one of the few who had loaded with ball, stepped a pace or two to the front, and, levelling his piece at TEIGE, shot him dead; but he did not live long to congratulate himself upon his loyalty, for his rear-rank man, taking aim, discharged his musket through his back, but he fell in agony upon the ground.  There were a few rank and file scattered throughout the ranks of the same way of thinking as poor Cummings; and now they began to grow uneasy for their lives, and well they might.  Some of their comrades, with whom they had never once interchanged an angry work, now pushed intentionally against them; others spat in their faces, and in a short time, in all probability, they would have shared the sergeant’s fate, had not a strong company of the Caithness Legion, under Major Jones, opportunely made its appearance.
This little force had been sent out to reconnoitre, and to keep the Westmeath in check, information as to the premeditated disloyalty of that corps having been received in Bandon the night before.  Their unexpected arrival produced a magical effect upon the disaffected.  The most turbulent amongst them became instantly silent.  They fell into the ranks without even waiting for the word of command; and, when the ordered to march, they set forward with alacrity.  Meanwhile the Caithness continued to advance, and having got between the rear of the Westmeath and the enemy’s front, they faced to the latter; then, suddenly opening out their ranks, they discharged their two field-pieces at them with much effect.  Accompanying this with a volley of musketry, they soon sent them scampering off to the hills.
The bodies of the two men were taken in a cart to Clonakilty.  That of TEIG-AN-ASTNA was ignominiously flung into a pool of water in the Strand, called Crab Hole; but the remains of Sergeant Cummings were buried with full military honours in the graveyard attached to the parish church of the town.’ (
'History of Bandon,' George Bennett, 1869)


'In Munster but one attempt was made to shake off the English yoke. - On the 10th of June an attack was made by some 300 of the Cork peasantry on a body of  King's troops, consisting of 200 Weatmeathean yeomanry and 100 of the Caithness legion, while on their march from Clonakilty to Bandon. The peasantry sprang from their ambuscade and charged the Weatmeatheans with their pikes, giving them no time to form. It might have fared ill with the latter had not the Caithness legion hurried up to their assistance, and pouring a sharp fire on the insurgents, put them to flight. The peasantry lost in this action about fifty men, but the loss of the military could not be ascertained, for, as was customary, their dead and wounded were borne away, and a report issued by the commander more creditable to his powers of invention than to his truthfulness.' ('The Insurrection of '98' - Rev. P.F. Kavanagh, Cork, 1874)


Hibernian Chronicle June 21st  1798 - CORK - Tuesday an alarm was produced in this city, by a report of the rebels having raised the standard of rebellions near Bandon. It however turned out to be premature, and was occasioned by a mob having attempted to rescue a prisoner which was conveying from Bantry to Bandon. It is said the prisoner was shot, and 150 of the mob were killed on the spot - a punishment which we trust will deter others from similar acts of temerity. [See also June 25th, below]


25th - Copy of a Letter from Sir Hugh O Reilly, Lieut. Col. Of the Westmeath regiment of Militia, to Lieut. Gen. Sir James Stewart, at Cork, dated Bandon, 20th June 1798 - SIR, I have the honour to inform you, that a party of the Westmeath regiment, consisting of 220 men, rank and file, with two .. pounders, under my command, were yesterday attacked on our march from Cloghnakilty to Bandon, near a village called Ballynascarty, by the Rebels, who took up the best position on the whole march. - The attack was made from a height on the left of our column of march, with very great rapidity, and without the least previous notice, by between three and four hundred men, as nearly as I can judge, armed mostly with pikes and very few fire arms. We had hardly time to form, but very soon repulsed them with considerable loss, when they retreated precipitously but not in great confusion, and when they regained the height, I could perceive that they were joined by a very considerable force. I, with the greatest difficulty and risk to the officers, restrained the men, halted and rowed the greater part of them, when I saw that the enemy were filing off  a high bank, with an intention to take possession of our guns. - A detachment of 100 men of the Caithness Legion, under the command of Major Jones, was on his march to replace us at Cloghnakilty, and hearing our fire pressed forwards and very critically fired upon them, whilst we were forming, and made them fly in every direction with great precipitation. At the same moment, a very considerable force shewed itself on the heights in our rear. A vast number of pikes appeared, and some with hats upon them, and other signals. I suppose in order to collect their forces. I ordered the guns to prepare for action, and very fortunately bro't them to bear upon the enemy with good effect, as they dispersed in a short time and … have left a considerable number dead. Some were killed in attempting to carry away the dead bodies. It is impossible to ascertain the loss of the enemy, but a dragoon, who came this morning from Cloghnakilty to Bandon, reports that their loss is 130. - I feel most highly gratified by the conduct and spirit of the officers and men of the Westmeath regiment, and had only to complain of the great ardour of the latter, which it was almost impossible to restrain. I cannot give too much praise to Major Jones, Captain …, and all the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates of the Caithness Legion, for their cool, steady conduct, and the every effectual support I received from them. Our loss was one serjeant and one private.'