AN INCIDENT OF ’98

by jdurney on August 31, 2013

The Leinster Leader 15 March 1890

AN INCIDENT OF ’98
     St Mary’s, Moorfields, London,
      5rd March, 1890
.

DEAR SIR, ― A most interesting incident of the terrible ’98 was related to me a few days since by a poor old Irish woman whom I visited in illness. The incident I considered worth your notice, owing to the fact that the scene of the tragic event was the village of Bert, near Athy, in the county Kildare. The announcement by the servant, "Please, Father, sick call, Mrs Riley very bad with bronchitis," fetched me in a quarter of an hour to a squalid room in a noisy court of the parish, which is inhabited by too many of our Irish fellow-countrymen and women. In No. 6 I found Mrs Riley very ill in all conscience. At first the old crone appeared to receive me with a certain amount of coldness and reserve, very rarely shown to a priest by Irish people. But the ice was soon broken by some questions I put about her native place in the ould counthry. "Won’t you sit down, Father?" and I listened with unfeigned attention to many family anecdotes. But the following, which I give you partly in her own words, shall long remain in my memory. It was spoken with genuine Irish feeling, here and there interrupted by a deep sigh. "I was bred and born in Athy .  .  .  and had good men and true in my family. My Grandfather ― God rest his soul to-day ― Sam Bailey, kept a forge in Bert, near Athy, and troth ’tis me is not ashamed of him. He was killed by the Yeos (sic) in ’98. If you listen, Father, I’ll tell you the whole story. The boys came to Sam one night, and said, ‘Sam, we want eighty or a hundred pikes. But we know the times is troublesome. Trouble or no trouble, my boys, you’ll have the pikes,’ said Sam Bailey.’ Pikes to the number of 100 were turned out accordingly at Sam’s forge, and were hidden in a garden as they were being made. But then as now there was a Pigott. The Yeos got word, they surrounded Sam’s house, seized on him, and said if he would not deliver up the pikes he should hang like a dog. But Sam Bailey was no ‘stag.’ ‘You shall get the sacrit out of the anvil as soon as out of me.’ He was then dragged from his house, suspended on a triangular stand, and received one hundred lashes on the naked back. But no word of information escaped from Sam’s lips. He was then thrown into an old house, which the Yeos set on fire, from which he was rescued by the boys more dead than alive. The poor man was so bruised and burned that he died in six weeks’ time." I believe this awful anecdote substantially, and I hope you, sir, will publish it to show how a poor artisan in ’98 displayed intrepid bravery and patriotism fit to rank with the noblest deeds of that dark and terrible time. ― Yours sincerely,
      P. McKENNA.


Father P. McKenna was at the deathbed of Mrs. Reilly, in London, in 1890, when she recalled an incident of the 1798 Rebellion in Bert, near Athy

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