By Aengus O Snodaigh
Little marked the mass burial sites of the 1798 Rising and they
were mentioned in hushed tones.
It was true for the mass grave by the Liffeyside of up to 300
defeated rebels until in 1985 a 12-feet-high memorial in the form
of a simple slab of granite, with a cross and ``1798'' inscribed
was paid for and unveiled by the men of the 26-County army's
Embarrassed by a campaign by interested groups in Dublin,
nationally and internationally in 1997 the Office of Public Works
at the behest of the government's National Commemoration
Committee designated the area know as Croppies Acre as a 1798
Memorial Park. Work commenced this month on the Park and will be
completed by November.
Croppies' Acre lies in the Esplanade below the new National
Museum (formerly Collins Barracks and the Royal Barracks) and
between Benburb Street and Wolfe Tone Quay.
The laying out of the Military Esplanade in 1850, and the
diversion and walling in of the river Liffey drastically altered
the appearance of the Croppies' Acre and this lack of definition
may have contributed to its neglect over the years. Prior to this
the acre seems to have been marshy wasteground to the back and
sides of a number of houses. It was into this marshy ground that
the `Croppy Pit' or Croppy Hole' was dug and into which the
lifeless bodies of captured, tortured and hanged bodies of United
Irish soldiers or suspected sympathisers were flung.
Many of the ``unknown soldiers'' buried here had drifted leaderless
into the city after the collapse of the 1798 risings around the
country. Seeking the anonymity of the crowd, their cropped hair
was a dead giveaway. They were hunted down and killed by
marauding yeomen or captured, tortured and hanged by other crown
forces. In order to help the rebels to evade capture, the city's
Guild of Lamplighters refused to light the lamps on the bridges,
quays and principal streets. For this act of compassion, several
of the lamplighters were hanged and a curfew was imposed on the
Of all the bodies cut down from the gallows or shot or put to the
sword and dumped into Croppies Acre, we unfortunately have
information on only 13. As a result of the miserable rising at
Rathfarnham, a man called Ledwich, who was the brother of the
parish priest of Rathfarnham, and a man named Wade, were hanged
on Queen's Bridge on 26 May 1798. They were yeomen and were court
martialled for desertion on the word of Thomas Keogh, son of a
well-to-do Rathfarnham farmer.
elderly Volunteer officer, Major Bacon, was hanged from the
scaffolding on Carlisle (O'Connell) Bridge as a suspected United
Irishman. He had been found hiding in a hansom cab dressed as a
From the same scaffold later on that day, Dr John Esmonde was
hanged before a huge crowd, his yeoman's coat turned inside out
to brand him as a deserter. Esmonde was the United leader of the
Kildare County Executive, a Catholic from Sallins and brother of
Sir Thomas Esmonde, a Wexford baronet.
Dr Esmonde, a trusted lieutenant in the Sallins loyal Yeomanry,
is believed to have led the Unitedmen's attack on the garrison at
Prosperous. There 50 of Captain Swayne's men were butchered by
about 500 rebels, mostly farmers and a number of unemployed
cotton factory workers. One of the attackers was the son the
English proprietor of the disused cotton factory and may be the
man called Carroll who is on record as having been buried in
Dr John Esmonde, ``his hair dressed, his boots and breeches quite
clean and himself fully accoutred'', returned to his troop of
Yeomanry as though nothing had happened, but one Philip had
already told all and he was clapped into jail, court-martialled,
hanged on the makeshift gallows on Carlisle Bridge and his corpse
carried back in a cart and flung into a heap of offal in
Croppies' Acre on 14 June 1798.
other pair of unfortunates, Adam and Fox, were hanged at the
Provost Prison while Fennell and Raymond met theirs ends on
Church Street Bridge. Not hanged but killed in the Rathfarnham
uprising were Byrne and Kelly, whose lifeless bodies were hung
the morning after their deaths then consigned like the others to
The most famous names to be recorded in the sad saga of Croppies'
Acre are those of Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone, both
hanged at the Provost Prison on Arbour Hill after the Battle of
Ballinamuck on 8 September 1798. Bartholomew Teeling was a
brother of Defender and United Irish leader Charles Teeling.
Having come under suspicion himself he fled Ireland in 1796.
Bartholomew was commissioned into the French Army at the
instigation of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who also arranged a
commission for his own brother Matthew, and took part in the
failed expedition of General Hoche in December of that year.
Teeling went under the name of Veron.
It was Teeling as Humbert's aide-de-camp who'd been sent under a
flag of truce to seek the English General Lake's surrender during
the Races of Castlebar. The English ignored the normal
conventions of negotiations, shot his escort and sent Teeling
back to his own lines. At the Battle of Colloney, south of Sligo,
where Humbert's force clashed with over 1,000 English soldiers
Teeling's actions in capturing the enemies artillery helped turn
the tide against the crown. He also took a central part in the
battle at Ballinamuck. His role in the French army and the fact
that he was Irish resulted in his being singled out from among
the other captured French officers by an English spy after the
battle. Despite Humbert's protestations that he was a French
officer, Teeling was arrested and sent to Dublin to be
At his court-martial Teeling that the military tribunal ``has
stamped me traitor. If to have been active in endeavouring to put
a stop to the blood-thirsty policy of an oppressive government
has been treason I am guilty. If to have endeavoured to give my
native country a place among the nations of the earth was treason
then I am guilty indeed. If to have been active in endeavouring
to remove the fangs of oppression from off the heads of the
devoted Irish peasant was treason I am guilty.
``I leave you with the heartfelt satisfaction of having kept my
oath as an United Irishman, and also with the glorious prospect
of the success of the cause in which we have been engaged.
Persevere my beloved countrymen. Your cause is the cause of
truth. It must and will ultimately prevail.''
Similar to Bartholomew Teeling, and unlike the other captured
French army officers, Matthew Tone was to be captured,
court-martialled and hanged. The French were treated royally,
being brought from Granard to Dublin to be shipped to Liverpool
and eventually back to France.
Matthew Tone had failed in the cotton industry in Prosperous,
County Kildare, and left for America and the West Indies. He
later joined his brother in Paris and sailed with Teeling on
Humbert's expedition. When they landed successfully at Killala
Matthew wrote to his sister-in-law in France: ``The people will
join us in Myriads as they throw themselves on the knees as we
pass along, and extend their Arms for our success. We will be
Masters of Connaught in a few Days. Erin Go Bragh''.
During the short campaign Matthew acquitted himself well and
after the battle at Ballinamuck he escaped the immediate area
disguised as a beggar. On reaching Belturbet in County Cavan the
following day he was recognised and arrested by members of the
Killeshandra Yeomanry. He was brought to Dublin, and following
evidence from Captain Faris and Thomas Armstrong of the
Killeshandra Yeomanry he was hanged.
Several others who'd fought at Ballinamuck are also believed to
have been buried at Croppies' Acre, in all up to 300 are thought
to have been dumped into the Croppy Hole. The site's connections
with Ireland's tragic past did not end there.
The park is also historically linked to the Famine of 1845-50, as
the first of Soyer's soup kitchens was built on the site in 1847.
It opened on 5 April and was described as ``a wooden building,
about 40 feet long and 30 feet wide, with a door at each end; in
the centre was a 300-gallon soup boiler, a hundred bowls, to
which spoons were attached by chains, were let into long tables.
``The people assembled outside the building, and were first
admitted to a narrow passage, a hundred at a time; a bell rang,
they were let, drank their soup, received a portion of bread, and
left by the other door. The bowls were rinsed, the bell rang
again, and another hundred were admitted.''
Despite Sir John Burgoyn's misgivings about feeding the destitute
like wild animals, when the soup kitchen was fully operational it
supplied soup daily to 8,700.
Bartholomew Teeling was hanged on 24 September and Matthew Tone
was hanged on 30 September.