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The Narrow Gauge

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0225

The Battle of Ballinamuck

The story on this page has been taken from the Dúchas web site, page and pages following. An image of the original manuscript can be viewed on the Dúchas page as well as more detailed information about the informant and recorder of the story.
The numbers on the left are original page numbers and are for researchers wishing to find the original page.

Copyright and licence information appears at the bottom of this page.

Page 146
The Valley of the Black Pig was the name given to a natural hollow between Annally and Breifne. This black pig was supposed to have rooted this valley ages ago. Some prophecies foretell a terrible slaughter along this valley in a future war between North and South.
According to Pee Dolan (now 72), Moher, Ballinamore, the Black Pig was a schoolmaster in Co. Armagh. He had the ''black art'' and practised it on his pupils. He changed his pupils into dogs and hares one day, and had the dogs chasing the hares. The next day he turned them into bulls and put them fighting. In fact he changed them into all sorts of animals. The parents of the children, hearing this, got furious, and determined to ''lynch'' him. He changed himself into the Black Pig, and thus escaped.
On his journey southward he cut a valley in Armagh. He cut other valleys on his course, including the one between Annally and Breifne. He crossed the Shannon and rooted another valley in Co. Roscommon. Once when he was walking along the Shannon. he met a big strong masculine-looking woman who was washing clothes in the river. She was using a beetle to beat the clothes,she used this beetle on the Black Pig. to kill him. Then she threw him into the Shannon. Ballinamuck is supposed to have got its name from that Black Pig.

P 147
In answer to repeated requests from the United Irishmen about 1000 French landed at Killala under General Humbert in 1798. They occupied that town for some days while waiting for reinforcements. History tells of the French-Irish victory at Castlebar. This victory is commemorated in the well known song by William Rooney.
'We gathered to speed the good work, boys,
The true men anear and afar,
And history can tell how we routed
The 'red-coats' from old Castlebar.''
From Castlebar, for some reason, Humbert next went to Collonoy and Carrignaget where the English forces flew before his small army. From Carrignaget he started for Granard where a large force of 20,000 Irish was awaiting his arrival.
This army marched from Carrignaget to Cloone, 42 miles, in one day . On the march, for part of their journey, they were followed by a body of English soldiers dressed in French uniform, and led by Captain Beresford. These induced some native Irish to join them. Those who joined were immediately put to death, As soon as the French-Irish heard this they warned the peasantry that these who were following them were English in disguise.
At Castlefore, 6 miles from Ballinamore an exhausted French soldier got under cover near the public road. Here he shot several Yeomen who

P 148
passed in ones and twos. This soldier got back to France some time later. The exhausted French-Irish reached Cloone at nightfall and lay down to rest. It is said that Humbert received a message that night advising him to abandon the march on Granard. Some locals were left to guard the camp that night. Humbert slept in the house of Fr. Dunne, I may not be right in the name, then P.P of Cloone, who was a class-mate of his in France. A Protestant named West invited the leaders to share his hospitality, and gave them permission to store their guns on his premises, and in the Protestant churchyard.
Mr. West bribed his workmen, one a local named Keegan, the other a weaver from the north of Ireland, to steal the chains of the guns while the fatigued soldiers slept. An old song connects a Quinn family from Cloone with helping to steal the chains. This they did and threw them into a deep well in the vicinity. Though these traitors were rewarded by the English, yet none of their descendants remains.
• Next morning when the chains were missed, West was suspected but he had disappeared. His house was levelled by cannon. The chains were found by Tom McCartin, Gubb, and his uncle John Conifry from near Greagh cross-road, in 1913 in the P.P's yard - I cannot supply the missing figure - neither can McCartin. Yes Mr C Flynn N.J supplied it :- the 3

P 149
Improvised substitutes in the form of flax ropes were then used to remove the cannon. These ropes broke several times. One cannon had to be abandoned as they could not get it across the big steep hill at Keeldra Lake. Lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy it is said they ran it into keeldra lake. The delay caused by losing the chains gave the English time to intercept the French-Irish at Ballinamuck. It is said that something resembling cannon can be seen in the lake in one particular place and in that account it is considered dangerous to dive or bath at this place. Some pike-men from Cavan and Leitrim, who reached Cloone just immediately after the French - Irish had left it, were persuaded by Fr. Dunne to return to their homes , instead of continuing their march, and joining Humbert's men. Though Fr. Dunne was blamed for this act, yet the presence of these men would hardly be sufficient to ensure victory, and the advice may have saved many more from slaughter. Some say that Fr. Dunne was advised from Granard to turn them back .
The battle began early on 8th September morning in 1798, and was waged fiercely for 3 or 4 hours. Though the Irish had no cannon only a few small ones, and though the English had time to choose their positions, yet the Irish pike-men advanced across the intervening bog, several times and drove back the enemy, only, however, to be repulsed themselves as often as they advanced. Finally their last retreat was turned into a rout. This rout was partly due to the arrival of reinforcements to the British. When most of the Irish fled from the field, acting under Humbert's orders

P 150
the Englishman advanced in mass formation, but an Irishman named McGee remained at his post in charge of a small cannon.
He fired at the approaching army with unerring aim, and, it is said that with one shot, he killed more English than were killed during the preceeding four hours. His shot went straight and true for a magazine which was being brought along in the English ranks. The explosion of this magazine scattered death far and wide in the English lines. Some seanchaidhí say that McGee fell, gun and bayonet in hand fighting, but others say he surrendered when overpowered, and that when asked by an officer later why he continued firing after the order ''Surrender'', was given McGee answered, ''I did not surrender till this moment.'' The Longford militia, who, under General Blake, went over to the Irish - French, got no mercy. Among those hanged after the battle was a brother of Wolfe Tone. The French were, generally speaking, treated leniently.
All who could flee did so after the battle and many Longford men fled to the Leitrim and Cavan mountains (the range that runs from Drumshambo to Glan Gap, where some of them settled on small patches of heather and bog, and

P 151
their descendants are there to-day. Others concealed themselves in houses of Protestants who were known to be loyal to England. Two families of Protestants, the Nichols and the Fergusons, saved many people. Abraham Mitchell's great-grandfather (Killanian B'more.) saved a catholic from Aughcashel mountain from the Booths and the Moores of Edentenny who were Yeomen. Those captured were hanged on the nearest tree, or from the shaft of a cart. A man named McDermott, a catholic, informed on General Blake (McDermott had the audacity to run stage coaches through Ireland with the money he received for the betrayal of Blake. Blake believed McDermott was genuine and he gave McDermott his gold watch and a purse containing a considerable sum of money). Below is portion of an old ballad:

''If you rear the tree of liberty
Plant it on the hill of Kilglass,
For fear that McDermott, the traitor,
Himself, or his stagers, should pass.''

☨f0 Compare with D. Justice Rice's version at side and top.

General Blake was hanged from a tree in front of his mother's house, and his body cut to pieces by English soldiers. Some say the cutting operation was partly carried out while he was still alive. His remains were interred at Tubberpatrick, possibly the Tubberpatrick

☨f0 The daring Frenchmen from Castlebar had come, Rapid they marched with Gallic verve and cheer,
The Pas de charge leaped lightly from the drum, 'Twas ever thus when Humbert's sword was near,
Intrepid Blake rode foremost, in the van, proud of his country and her cold allies,
At dusk Blake grounded ????? ????? ?? glittering goal the ???? ?????
When on his path there came a ?????of ???? which lives upon the plunder of the slain
He knew he'd seen that peasant's crafty face, only a few short hours before at Cloone,
The stricken warrior, with no qualm of fear, gave him his watch, his money, and his name;
Then, too, a message for his mother's ear. Telling of where his weary limbs were lain.

With soothing words the peasant went his way, straight to his country's unrelenting foe,
And then, like Judas, bargaining for his prey, he told the foremen what they wished to know,
Hanged from a tree outside his mother's door,
The dauntless hero met a traitor's fate:
While safe, sequestered on a foreign shore, the traitor drew rich bounty from the State

P 152
in Dromord Parish, Longford.
The story is told of a man named Harry O Hara, from near Ballinamore, who was captured by the yeomen at Nicholl's, Rossan. Mrs Nichols interceded for him and added tears unto her entreaties, but the commander, Clements seized O Hara and ordered the yeos to shoot him. The yeos quickly presented arms, and when they were ''taking aim'', O Hara pulled Clements into the line of fire. Clements was killed instantly and O'Hara escaped.
A man named Curneen, from Cortoon, Corlough, Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, returning from the battle was attacked by a yeoman named Price from Lahard, and killed near Francis Murphy's Clenag? B' more (Descendants of both Curneen and Price are, in the respective townlands to-day. The next night Price was out near his own house when he was attacked by something in the form of a turkey cock. Price lived a short time after this attack. After the attack it is stated that Price said: ''I killed Curneen and Curneen came back and killed me, for I am done.'' Cureen's grave is still pointed out at Burns' Fort.
Thomas Ó Cathain, a Leitrim man known as the Old Captain, took an active part in the rising, and survived. A friend of his, Terence McGlawin, was shot dead at Ballinamuck during

P 153
the action and the Captain removed his body to the rear. Ó Catháin was not able to bring the body of his friend with him. Later he went to Captain Crofton of Lurragoe, brother of Duke Crofton, Mohill, and succeeded in getting a pass which enabled him to remove the body of his friend. Previous to this Captain Crofton, who happened to know the McGlawin family and see the dead body, had the ball which caused his death removed and sent, with the coat McGlawin was wearing, to the dead man's mother. The majority of those killed in battle were buried in dykes and holes without any mark to show where they fell.
The poem about Gilheany P. explains itself.
Matter came from various sources. Most of it came through my mother and my great-grand father who fled to Garaflaugh, Co.Cavan, after the battle. 26-1-'38

I see by Mr. T. O Flynn's ''History of Leitrim that Fr Dunne was not the name of the then P.P of Cloone. Likely Mr Flynn was correct in that, but I don't agree with his theory about the chains.

D. Justice Rice say.
''But dark despair struck hard at freedom's son, As roused they from their bivouse at Cloone.
To find the iron harness of the guns Had vanished from beneath the harvest moon.
Without their guns at Ballinamuck they stood, yet fierce the conflict ere the flag went down;
No glory to the cowardly traitor brood, But to the vanquished honour and renown.''

Collector: Seán Ó h- Eslin
Address: Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim



Thanks to Bernadette McGovern who transcribed this and a great many other pages of the The Schools' Collection, from the National Folklore Collection Archives.

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