1798 Claimants and Surrenders

These records are a distillation of three main sources available here through the hard work and dedication of researcher Ian Cantwell. The information about the surrenders comes from two lists of those who handed themselves in after the Dublin leg of the fighting which began on 23 May 1798 and was suppressed in around a week. There is also a list of those who surrendered to magistrates in the Barony of Coolock, now part of modern Dublin. This list dates from later in the rebellion, with the earliest recorded dates not until 29 June 1798 through to 9 September. There are a little over a thousand names across both lists. It is worth noting that while leaders tended to be punished, followers received amnesty.

The main bulk of these records are the names of those who made claims to the government about losses they had sustained as a result of the fighting. These claimants, unsurprisingly, all identified themselves as loyalists to the parliament when making their claims. The claims were made by people from all walks of life and vary from substantial to far more modest. Not all claims were granted and many were not granted for the full amount claimed.

The amounts are given in the pre-decimal form of English Sterling, in pounds, shillings and pence. Before decimalisation in 1971, a pound was made up of 20 shillings or 240 pence. A shilling was equal to 12 pence. In 1798, an agricultural labourer would earn around £10 a year. A horse would also cost around £10.

The 1798 Rebellion was a key event in Irish history. In the late 18th century liberal elements of the ruling classes tried to find common cause with both the majority Irish Roman Catholic population and non-Anglican Protestants. At the time, as was also the case elsewhere, only major landowners of the establishment Church of England religion were allowed a vote but Britain’s rule of Ireland allowed less freedom than had been allowed, for example, in the American colonies. Although Ireland had its own parliament in principal, England retained the right to veto Irish laws and even pass its own laws for the country.

Encouraged by the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783) and the French Revolution (1787 – 1799) plans for a similar popular uprising were made by the group called the United Irishmen, led by Theobald Wolfe Tone.

The Rebellion began in May 1798 and continued until September. Fighting took place sporadically, in local uprisings that were mainly quickly suppressed. Probably the most famous encounter was the Battle of Vinegar Hill, in Enniscorthy, County Wexford where, on 21 June 1798, 15,000 government troops launched an attack on the United Irish rebels, around 20,000 of whom were camped at their largest camp at Vinegar Hill.

In August 1798, around 1,000 French troops landed in Mayo to help the United Irishmen but by this time, most of the uprising had been suppressed. On 12 October, Wolfe Tone arrived with 3000 French troops but they were quickly defeated and Wolfe Tone was tried and sentenced to be executed but subsequently died in prison.