“The Battle of Kinsale refought”: a riot and a song, 12 July 1859

Kinsale Barracks, Trooper’s Close (barracks was burnt in 1922). Source

On the afternoon of 12 July, fighting, window breaking and shouting disturbed the residents of Kinsale, a small Cork town with a large barracks on the outskirts. A group of Antrim militiamen who had been drinking in a local pub began to break windows and overturn milk churns, ignoring the remonstrances of the town’s Anglican clergyman. 1 A Catholic priest of ‘delicate’ health was beaten. 2  According to local witnesses, the men used ‘party’ expressions, which indicated their support for the Orange Order’s celebration of 12 July. Other militiamen, who were not part of the violent group, were attacked by townspeople who turned on anyone wearing the Antrim militia uniform. Pickets were sent out to restore order, but discipline broke down when these men encountered their beaten comrades and skirmishes between military and civilians continued. The police tried to intervene but were forced to withdraw in the face of well-armed military opposition. 3 Order was finally restored when a party of Royal Artillery from Charles Fort, 3 km away from the town, arrived to forcibly escort the militia back to barracks. The next day, soldiers from the Scots Greys and the Royal Horse Artillery arrived from Cork city to keep order.

This riot was instantly a ‘party’ matter, in which religious denomination and political sympathies determined responses. Two inquiries – one civil, one military – were held to determine the cause of the violence and it’s extent. These open public inquiries were extensively documented in Cork newspapers and received particular attention in Belfast, an area in the militia’s recruiting district. At the investigation’s conclusion, the nationalist Cork Examiner was certain that ‘the whole affair was an Orange display’. 4 The Southern Reporter, ‘a whig-radical journal’ 5 ignored the causative factors of Orangeism while concluding that both sides were at fault. It did remind readers that the militiamen were more seriously injured than the townspeople, indicating some sympathy for the military side. 6 In Belfast, the Daily Mercury, which was read by ‘conservatively minded Protestant Liberals’, 7 believed that the riot was ‘entirely caused by the brutal and savage conduct of the townspeople’. The editorial writer explained that ‘low population of the South – bloated with ignorance and superstition – regard Protestant Ulster with a deadly hatred – a hatred all the more intense because it is based on fear’. 8 Although initially critical of the Antrim militia, the evidence convinced the Unionist Belfast Newsletter that these were not ‘Orange Riots’. 9 The violence was ‘of Romish origin’ and was ‘premeditated by the townspeople who took part in them’. 10 Another Belfast paper, the Morning Post chose to reproduce the Southern Reporter editorial, which ignored Orangeism altogether. 11 The Irishman, a resolutely Catholic and fervently nationalist publication, did not wait for the public inquiry and immediately decried ‘Military Ruffianism at Kinsale’. 12 Unsurprisingly, violence on 12 July between Antrim Protestants and Southern Catholics divided newspaper editors.

The incident gave rise to a ballad, which was helpfully preserved in the press when the inquiry refused to accept it as evidence. 13 Ballads were often composed to mark local scandals, but only a fraction of these have survived. I have reproduced it in full below, even though the tune remains a mystery. This song was heard on the streets of Kinsale in the days following the riot, in spite of an order to suppress it. 14

July the 12th in Kinsale town we had a famous battle,
When Orangemen we made lie down when at us they did rattle,
Papist blood they said they would spill, and each man drew his bayonet,
But a brave small band of Kinsale men those Orange dogs defeated.

From their barracks they did march, Papist for to slaughter,
In memory of that glorious day that Billy crossed the water;
We boldly met them in the streets, and gave them no quarter,
And they will remember Kinsale town now and ever after.

Those Orangemen were very brave at breaking door by dozens;
Smashing windows in the streets, kicking milk pails and churns;
With Orange lilies in their breasts, the sergeants were the leaders;
Oh, they’re poor props to King and Crown, the Belfast filthy weavers.

Those Orangemen were four to one, and thought they would be victorious;
But we very soon made them give way and made them fly before us.
Thirty-five we did put down, the rest from the streets we hunted,
And eight of them will soon see h-ll for they are mortally wounded.

They thought our chapel to break down, but we had them well guarded,
And these Antrim Orange dogs had not the pluck to dare it;
For we were reinforced by peasantry, and we soon became well armed
With guns and pikes, and swords and scythes, and a line of battle formed.

Then we marched through Kinsale town to see if they would oppose us;
But the Orange had very well known that we would mow them down before us,
And when they go to the Black North, themselves can tell the story,
How the Os and the Macs, the sturdy whacks, pulled down their Orange glory.

You Orangemen of this green isle, come now lay down your arms,
And no more insult the Os and Macs, for they will give you no quarters;
Priest hunting days are all gone by, when you pulled down our altars,
And King Billy down to h-ll is gone where you all will go hereafter.
(Cork Examiner, 27 July 1859.)

So what started the riot? Was it sectarian? The civil inquiry concluded it was all about a girl, Mary Connor, who was the first person called to give evidence. 15 She stated that on 10 July her brother was about to beat her for being out late when a number of militiamen intervened to stop him. 16 A fight started, and two soldiers were badly injured. The bad feeling that arose from this incident was the root cause of the riot, according to the civil investigation. This wasn’t the only example of conflict between the Antrims and townspeople. In June, a local woman had been assaulted and warned against keeping company with Orangemen. 17 On 9 July, a ‘simple man’ – a man with intellectual disabilities – complained to the police that militiamen asked if he was a Roman Catholic and assaulted him when he replied in the affirmative. 18

Conflict between civilians and military men was relatively common in garrison towns, but the political dimension of these assaults bothered authorities. On hearing rumours of a planned Orange demonstration, the magistrates and police called the militia’s officers to a meeting. The officers argued that no compelling reason existed to confine the men to barracks on 12 July. 19 Sub-Inspector Richard Hadnett was not convinced: on 11 July, he brought 10 additional policemen into Kinsale. 20 With their preparations made, the police could only wait and watch. When a party of drunken Antrims issued from a pub on the afternoon of 12 July, Hadnett must have feared the worst. A toxic mix of personal animosity, alcohol and ‘party’ spirit caused a serious riot that led to the Antrim militia being removed to England to complete its service.

Kinsale Harbour in A history of the city and county of Cork by Mary F.C. Cusack (1875)
  1. Kinsale riot reports (House of Commons, 1860), p 8. Full text here: http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/14185.
  2. A Rev. Carton, whose evidence appears in Kinsale riot reports, p 10.
  3. Kinsale riot reports, p 14.
  4. Cork Examiner, 29 July 1859
  5. John Windele, Historical and Descriptive Notices of the City of Cork, (1840) p 140.
  6. Southern Reporter 27 July 1859.
  7. http://www.victorianperiodicals.com/series3/single_sample.asp?id=109692
  8. Belfast Daily Mercury, 29 July 1859
  9. Belfast Newsletter, 25 July 1859.
  10. Belfast Newsletter, 30 July 1859.
  11. Belfast Morning Post, 29 July 1859.
  12. Irishman, 16 July 1859.
  13. C.P. Wallis, solicitor for the Antrim militia, argued that the song was evidence of local provocation Cork Examiner, 27 July 1859.
  14. Cork Examiner, 27 July 1859.
  15. Kinsale riot reports, p 5.
  16. Kinsale riot reports, p 5; On p 12, RIC Head Constable Gale claimed that her brother admitted to hitting her.
  17. Kinsale riot reports, p 13.
  18. Kinsale riot reports, p 11.
  19. Kinsale riot reports, p 13.
  20. Kinsale riot reports, p 14.
Posted in Anglican, Barracks, Belfast, Britain, Catholic, Clergy, Co Antrim, Co Cork, History, Ireland, Kinsale, Military, Militia, Music, Orange Order, Police, Protestant, Riot, Urban, Women | Comments Off on “The Battle of Kinsale refought”: a riot and a song, 12 July 1859

St Michael, the Warrior Saint

Archangel St Michael window, Altar Church, Toormore Co Cork

This window, to the memory of Michael Allen who fought in the Indian Rebellion, was placed in Altar Church by his daughter 77 years after that bloody conflict. 1

Dedication plaque to St Michael window

The Archangel Michael, the warrior saint, crushes Satan beneath his feet before raising his spear to skewer the ghoulish fallen angel. Viewed alongside the explicit dedication plaque, the triumph of the blond, white Michael over the dark-skinned monster becomes a literal representation of the victory of British forces over restive colonial subjects in India. The ‘Indian Mutiny’, 1857-58, entered into British military myth, commemorated in reviews and pageants for decades afterwards. The brutality of rebellious Indians haunted the popular imagination, who lauded the military heroes of Lucknow and Dehli as saviours of European virtue. This window’s explicit colonial message disturbs me, especially because St Michael did not have to be portrayed this way.

Other windows in County Cork show St Michael battling a dragon. In Corkbeg church, named St Michael and All Saints, there are two windows featuring Michael, which commemorate military men. 2 One window shows Michael slaying a dragon, in an image that recalls depictions of St George. (Michael is distinguished from George by his wings.) 3

St Michael, Corkbeg Church, Co Cork

The dedication reads:
To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Myers Woolsey Priest Sometime Rector of this Parish and his Son Frank of the 23rd Bombay Rifle Regiment. RIP.

Frank died of sunstroke at Raykote in 1892. His father died in Corkbeg in 1881. 4

The other window shows St Michael with a scales, referring to his role in the Last Judgement, when he will weigh the souls. Although he is holding his sword and wearing armour, Michael here is more stern judge than triumphant warrior.

St Michael, Corkbeg Church, Co Cork

The dedication on this window reads:
To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Frances Edwards who died at Parkstone Dorset Jany 2nd 1895. Also of Frank Hodges Captn in the Clare Artillery and Royal West Regt who died at Fort Carlisle May 22nd 1896. He served in the Soudan with the 50th Regiment and was present at the Battle of Ginnis.

Although this window commemorates colonial service, it is a more equivocal image that invites multiple readings than the St Michael window in Altar.

As well as being named for a warrior saint, Corkbeg church was effectively the garrison church for the nearby Fort Carlisle. The Rector was chaplain to the troops, for which he received 50 pounds a year. He was also the chaplain and visitor to the school in the Fort where soldier’s children were educated. Every Sunday, the Anglican officers and men paraded to their local church, St Michael’s, led by a military band.

Fort Carlisle, from the 6″ OSI map.

St Michael was not a very popular choice for stained glass in the Church of Ireland, featuring in just 39 windows in the Gloine survey. 5 Important biblical stories such as the Angel and Women at the Tomb were depicted in 100 windows, while 171 portrayals of the Ascension are recorded. But the stained glass windows of the warrior saint shows how the glory of war was part of the devotional fabric of some church buildings.

**Corkbeg images are from the Gloine website. There is no equivalent survey of the Roman Catholic churches of Ireland.**


Posted in Anglican, Barracks, Church, Church of Ireland, Clergy, Co Cork, History, Indian Mutiny, Ireland, Memorials, Military, St Michael, Stained glass | Comments Off on St Michael, the Warrior Saint

War Graves: homemade and official

War Grave of Maura O’Callaghan, ATS

Over 3,000 war graves maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) can be found in burial grounds across Ireland. But most of the dead remained where they fell, commemorated by seas of crosses in European cemeteries or by monuments to the men whose mortal remains were never found. For the majority of families, their relative’s grave was marked in a country far beyond their means to visit. Some wealthy families did commemorate their dead in local churches with windows or wall tablets, bringing memorialisation into communal public spaces. 1 Most families could not afford such expensive memorials, but the family burial plot was an appropriate space for private commemoration with a public purpose. A gravestone could articulate personal loss while also acknowledging the significance of a death on the battlefield.

In St Mary’s, Curraghkippane, a rural cemetery that is a traditional burial ground for Cork city residents, I visited 14 CWGC markers, including one to Maura O’Callaghan, an Auxiliary Territorial Services casualty who died in 1947. The war grave headstone is incorporated into the O’Callaghan family plot, which is still tended and maintained.

The O’Callaghan family plot

But the homemade, personal war grave of the Burke family is the most memorable military monument in the crowded burial ground where centuries-old stones are being superseded by contemporary and shiny black marble headstones.

A concrete monument, topped with a stone cross inscribed with the words ‘Watch and Pray’ has been embellished with regimental badges and three widow’s — or dead man’s — pennies. These were plaques that were issued to the next of kin of World War I casualties between 1919 and 1920.  It is unlikely that those plaques are the original bronze pennies received by the family; most were safely stored in drawers, but some were mounted on church walls or in memorials. 2 I do not know whether it was common practice to integrate the plaques into family graves. Here, plaques to Stephen, Cornelius and Edward Burke were placed alongside their regimental badges. Luckily for me, the family erected another headstone next to this homemade war grave.

Inscribed headstone, Burke family plot

This is a lineage or genealogy headstone, since it was erected by a relative to commemorate his family history and may not necessarily reflect individuals buried in the plot. 3 Such headstones are found in old cemeteries, where burial plots have been in continuous use for generations.

The Burke family list on the main gravestone starts with an ancestor from the nineteenth century. It begins with Edward Burke, a soldier in the British army who fought in the defining military campaigns of the 1850s: the Crimean War (1853-6); and the Indian Rebellion of 1857, or the Indian Mutiny, as the British called it. According to the stone, two of his sons, Stephen, of the Leinster Regiment, and Cornelius, of the Royal Irish Regiment, died in World War I and are commemorated on the neighbouring cross. The final military casualty named was E. Burke, who was killed in Italy in 1944 while serving with the Irish Guards. 4 His son, Patrick, erected this monument, but the inscription omits a military casualty who appears on the adjoining monument. Who was Edward Burke of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, whose widow’s penny is above those of Stephen and Cornelius? The mysterious Edward has been omitted from the principal monument by the descendant who paid for the headstone.

This headstone tells a family history through a military lens, as the other occupations pursued by non-military men and women are not recorded for posterity. Similarly ignored are the women who married these soldiers and bore their children. A family of invisible women and martial men is a excellent encapsulation of the army’s attitude to the reproductive role of women in military life. Women were necessary to produce soldiers but were barely acknowledged as part of enlisted men’s life. For Patrick Burke, who commissioned this headstone, the family tradition of military service started with his great-great-grandfather Edward in the Crimean War and ended with his own father’s death in Italy. These two memorials celebrate unreservedly the military achievements of selected family members. Military service defines the memorialisation of this family in a more profound manner than the official, austere War Grave Commission markers ever could.

Another lineage headstone in Curraghkippane
  1. To explore Church of Ireland stained-glass windows, see http://gloine.ie/.
  2. http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war-next-of-kin-plaque
  3. For an incredible example from Scotland, see http://readingthesigns.weebly.com/blog/javelin-throwers
  4. GDSM before his name means Guardsman.
Posted in Cemetery, Co Cork, Crimean War, Curraghkippane, History, Ireland, Memorials, Military, Urban, Women, World War 2, World War I | 30 Comments