Leinster Leader, Saturday, September 18, 1948

Tribute to
1798 Patriots

The Battle of Ovidstown, where Wm. Aylmer and his brave United Irishmen fought a fierce battle with superior British Forces in 1798, was commemorated on Sunday when a large gathering assembled at Corcanstown, Kilcock, to pay tribute to the 200 Insurgents who fell there on the 19th June of that momentous year. In the grounds of the Church of the Nativity, Newtown. Miss Rosamund Jacob, noted authority on the ’98 Rising unveiled a beautiful Celtic Cross and subsequently Captain Robert Monteith associate of Roger Casement, laid a wreath on the recently erected memorial stone on the hillside at Ovidstown marking the graves of those who fell in battle. The ceremonies were brief but impressive, and as F.C.A. Bugler, Noel Murphy, sounded the Last Post the lonely hillside re-echoed as it were the memories of that desperate struggle one hundred and fifty years ago. A decade of the Rosary was recited by Rev. J. Carter, C.C., Chairman of the Committee. Assembled round the Church at Newtown were contingents from Staplestown, Rathcoffey, Clane, Donadea, Celbridge, Kilcock, Leixlip and other areas including representatives of the Old I.R.A. from North and South Kildare led by Senator Michael Smyth; Mr. P. Carroll, and Mr. J.C. Delaney of the Executive Committee. The North Kildare Battalion of the F.C.A. who attended were under the command of Lieut. J. Walsh, Naas whilst the Firing Party who fired three volleys over the graves at Ovidstown were under Sergeant J. Mallon, Kilcock.

The F.C.A. were drawn from the Naas, Kilcock, Manor Kilbride, Lacken, Blessington, Ballymore- Eustace, Sallins, Straffan, Caragh and Robertstown. The parade from the church was headed by the Maynooth Brass and Reed Band, and amongst those in attendance were Capt. J.C. Mahon, Assistant Area Officer; Lieut. W. Byrne, O/C, North Kildare Battalion; Lieut. G. Robinson and Lieut. E. Kinsella and Captain Gannon, Western Command, F.C.A., and formerly of Newtown. Rev. Father Carter, who presided, introducing the speakers from the platform said that Miss Jacob was a noted authority on Irish history and had written a book on the United Irishmen. Her ancestors had rendered great assistance to the Irish people during the famine years.

Rebellion Justified

Miss Jacob, who spoke first in Irish continuing in English, said that she was proud to have the honour of addressing the assemblage that day. No county in Ireland had a more distinguished record in the ’98 Rising than Kildare. No period was more full of grief and pride and there was never a rebellion in history more justified than that of 1798.
On the other hand there was seldom a rebellion suppressed with more criminal methods or more vicious cruelty. The Irish people had no legal rights whatever at that period, and were treated like slaves by the ruling class of a different race and language. These rapacious people who had stolen the land from the native Irish maintained the British Ascendancy by graft, trickery and pure physical force. Eventually to counter heir unscrupulous enemies The Defenders were formed a great secret defensive alliance of poor men against landlord tyranny. These Defenders stated Miss Jacob, eventually joined up with the United Irishmen as they had the same ideals, a free democratic Ireland, thus forming the first union of Irishmen of all religious persuasions.

Miss Jacob went on to refer to the three great heroes of Kildare at this period, Laurence O’Connor, the school master of Naas, who was tried and sentenced to death in 1795 a great upholder of the cause of the poor against landlord tyranny. Then there was Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who organised the people by joining in handball tournaments, taking part in dances and other amusements, thus winning the hearts of the people. After the death of Lord Edward, William Aylmer, Rathcoffey took his place in Kildare, and led the United Irishmen.

An intrepid soldier he captured Prosperous, Clane and other towns, and eventually after the end of the Rising went to Germany and entered the Austrian service. This is how Charles Teeling described him, added Miss Jacob:- Without artillery, Alymer couldn’t keep hold of town but he moved fast and kept harassing the enemy. At night on the plains of Kildare, in the morning 20 miles in advance, cutting off the supplies of the enemy storming their posts, or driving back the advance of their enemy in full march to lay waste some village or town; always on the alert indefatigable in his pursuits and exhaustless in enterprise.... even after the end of the Wexford campaign the defeat of the United Irish forces in Ulster and general cessation of hostilities we find Aylmer at the head of his invincible band; winning by his courage and his conduct the admiration of hostile ranks, and never laying down the arms which he had borne with manly pride, until the last of his companions were guaranteed in life and safety, by solemn treaty with the British general, Dundas.” Other prominent Kildare patriots, the speaker referred to were Edmond (“Laider”) O’Hanlon, Hugh Ware of Maynooth, George Luby and Captain Farrell Blackhall who led the attack in Prosperous.

Tribute To Women

Miss Jacob paid a high tribute to the important part played in the Rising by the women and girls of County Kildare and stated that the capture of Prosperous Barracks was due to the women setting it on fire with straw, one of them being shot.
She expressed the opinion that the Battle of Ovidstown might have been won if the pikemen had obeyed Aylmer’s orders to attack the positions from which the enemy artillery was firing. We must be proud of these people who suffered and made such a gallant fight, concluded Miss Jacob. We must remember them and keep alive the history of that noble movement for human and national freedom in the minds of the young a fight for liberty is the noblest memory a native can have, a possession to cherish for ever.

William Aylmer and his men, Edmond Laidir, Dr. Emond who was hanged on Carlisle Bridge in Dublin, Ruth Hackett, of Prosperous, the women of Clane, Laurence O’Connor the martyr of the Defenders, Lord Edward. Above all we must cherish what they fought for all of them of different religions the principle of civil and religious liberty in a free democratic Ireland. We have in our hands independence for our country, the first blessing of nations and liberty for ourselves, without which life is not worth preserving.

With Roger Casement

The Rev. Chairman, in introducing Captain Robert Monteith, a Wicklow man, said that Captain Monteith was Chief Instructor to the Irish Volunteers and was sent by the I.R.B. to assist Roger Casement in Germany in 1915 to organise the Irish Brigade. He successfully ran the British blockade and after 1916 escaped to America from which he had only recently returned. Captain Monteith said—I wish at the outset to thank the organisers and committee in charge of this demonstration in asking me to speak here to-day I am afraid they could not have picked a poorer man for the job. However let it be. Here, to-day we have gathered to do honour to the men and women of Kildare who gave their lives in the Insurrection of 1798. That Insurrection was planned by the United Irishmen and in this demonstration there is room for no man who does not subscribe to the principles of the United Irishmen.

We do little honour to the men of ’98 if we but gather to hear speeches, to sing our songs, drink too much and tell each other what fine fellows we are and then go home and forget all about it. No matter what we do or say here today we can neither take from nor add to the glory of Ireland’s immortal dead. But there is something we can do to further the cause for which these men died. Let us begin at the beginning and look squarely at the situation that confronts this country today. The objects and ideals for which the men of ’98 fought have not yet been attained. We are not a free nation.

Let us also realise that if freedom was worth fighting for in ’98 it is still worth fighting for. Therefore if we are men we must carry on this fight until Ireland is free from the centre to the sea. The blazing torch of liberty has been tossed to us and if we do not hold it high we deserve all the slavery and degradation which will surely follow. For 750 years we have fought our one and only enemy. As long as England holds those six counties in the north she is still our enemy.

Rule Britannia Boys

Nor can any magic of words make it otherwise. This is imperialistic aggression no matter what diplomats may say. We hear of Russian aggression we hear of German and Italian aggression but not of English aggression. Oh, no - England’s heart bleeds for oppressed peoples. Her government controlled press tells this to all the world. In her diplomatic and press departments she has the most accomplished set of liars in the universe.

But the Rule Britannia boys are not so sure of themselves now. In rapid succession they have been driven out of China, out of India, out of Burma, out of Egypt, out of Palestine and her grip has been shaken in the old Boer Republics of South Africa. Her Black and Tans are engaged in a life and death struggle in Malaya and all the time England cries aloud to the world for money fees and material to save her crashing empire. That is the position of England today. In her desperation she turns to Ireland. She has great plans for us. She will most graciously withdraw from the North of Ireland if we feed her, if we work for her, if we send our Irish boys to fight her battles for her.

Remember she fights only Holy Wars now: if you don’t believe me ask the people of Malaya. For the return of the six counties she will gladly take over whole island, She would turn the people of this land into a nation of cow punchers, hen wives and potato diggers. But we must sell to no other but her. For this she will return to us that which she has already stolen - the six counties of the north. No matter how sweetly this plan may be put by diplomats, its import is the same. We are expected to become once more the pack asses of English privilege. What would the men of ’98 say to such a plan. What would Tone, Emmett McCracken or Jimmy Hope say? What would be the reply of Pearse, Clarke, Connolly or MacDermott? No! A thousand times no. Let us reply as Sean MacDermott replied in 1913: “England damn your concessions, we want our country. And then like the men of ’98 let us be ready to back our words with strong right arms.

Father Carter thanked the distinguished speakers for their addresses and said that it was the fires rekindled in ’98 and 1916 which eventually won them civil and religious freedom. An apology regretting inability to attend was received from Mr. Tom Barry. Also on the platform were Rev. P. Byrne, C.C. Broadford, and Mr. C. O’Buachalla, Kilcock. The general attendance included Mr. G. Sweetman, T.D.; Mr. T. Harris, T.D.; Mr. J. Daly, Messrs. J. Harris, M.J. Daly, M.J. O’Donoghue, Co.C.; T. Donoghue, Kilcock; T. Boylan, Co.C.; T. Donnellan, and D. O’Neill, Co.C.; Michael Bird, Miss Buckley, Kilcock: R. O’Donnell, T. Ahern, P.C.: M. Cowley, Padraigh Crowley, Naas; J. King, J. Byrne, W. O’Brien, W. O’Byrne, Kilcock; D. Halligan, P.C.; Mrs. M. Curley, Donadea; J. Mullally, T. Mulligan, Hortland; W. Allen, Straffan; Mr. Cornelia, Straffan; J. Kelly, Grange. Both monuments were erected by Messrs. Harristown, Pearse St. Dublin. Great credit is due to the Newtown Committee for their arduous work in the preparation of the sites.