Leinster Leader, Saturday, October 9, 1948

The Signal

The Insurrection was fixed for the 23rd May 1798. The signal was to be the simultaneous stopping of the mail coaches that left Dublin General Post Office daily for Belfast, Cork, Athlone and Limerick. That stoppage was duly carried out. On the 23rd of May the mail coaches were seized and burnt at Santry, Naas, Lucan and the Curragh, and the rising began. At the commemoration meetings held during the past couple of months at different parts of the county you have heard the story of the fighting at Prosperous, Clane, Kilcock, Maynooth, Rathangan, Timahoe, Monasterevan, and so on. The attack on Naas was made on the 24th of May by a body of insurgents led by Michael Reynolds, whose memory you honour to-day. He was a young farmer from the neighbourhood of Johnstown. He was previously active in organising the county and held the rank of Colonel.

The town was garrisoned by the Armagh Militia, part of a regiment of Dragoons, the Ancient Britons (a Welsh regiment) and Yeomanry, and was warned beforehand of the impending insurgent attack.

Fell at Hacketstown

Michael Reynolds led three attacks which were pressed with great courage and determination. But finally, discipline and superior armament prevailed and the insurgents were forced to retire with a loss of 140 men. On the withdrawal of the insurgents the British took revenge on the town by what is described by Father O'Hanlon, the historian as disgraceful military executions and excesses. In other words by the butchery of those in the town who sympathised with the United Irishmen. Michael Reynolds and his men later fell back on Wicklow. He himself fell during the attack on Hacketstown. Fighting in Kildare ceased with the surrender made at Sallins on the 21st July.

Parallels With Present

The insurrection of 1798, and other such movements that followed in its track are not to be judged in retrospect as isolated and unconnected events, and pronounced on according to the immediate military victories or defeats. The end of the first and second world wars attoned and compensated for colossal initial defeats by an ultimate victory on the part of one of the belligerents, known as the Allies. So, too, in the case of Ireland. The movements of 1798, 1848 and 1916-21 are to be viewed as parts of a whole, not yet completed, where the inspiration and knowledge of what is needed for success is drawn from the valour, self-sacrifice and methods of those who first faced the foe. In other words, in the great campaign for freedom there are lessons to be learned and applied.

Things that are found worthy of imitation and also things carefully to be avoided. So we find justification in our day for the scorn and contempt, deservedly oured on the Knaves and Slaves, unworthy of the name of Irishmen who hang their head in shame at the mention of those brave men who kindled that blaze that does not die, but lives on in the hearts of the people, and will eventually destroy alien rule in our land. Without the Tones and Fitzgeralds, McCrackens and Russels and men like Michael Reynolds in 1798 who faced the foe despite the odds, there would have been no 1916-21, and without ’21 no onward march which the people of Ireland will take good care will not cease till every trace of slavery and subjection to alien rule and influence has been blotted out. The merit of men like Michael Reynolds lies in the fact that they had vision and faith in their countrymen and foresaw the effect of their actions.