The Carrickshock Incident 1831
For an event which was apparently once viewed as being one of the three main turning points in Irish history (alongside 1798 rebellion and the 1916 Rising) The Carrickshock incident seems to have fallen between the cracks of Irish history. I don't recall being taught about it in school. Obviously that era was covered fairly in depth but that particular turning point was not mentioned (that I can recall). I am wondering is this even taught nowadays in history class in schools ? Would anyone agree that it's importance has been downplayed ? Disagree ?
This article here I found completely fascinating. I won't post the entire document as it is available online in .pdf format but here are some excerpts :
This article examines the ways that a violent incident in Irish history has been remembered and interpreted over the past 170 years. The event occurred on an isolated road in south Kilkenny in December 1831 when an armed police column clashed with a large crowd, resulting in the deaths of 17 people. Unlike most incidents of this kind, the majority of the victims (13) wereconstables. The uniqueness of the occurrence made it a cause ce´le`bre at the time and has helped to perpetuate its memory in the locality ever since. As with larger, more familiar sites of memory, successive generations of local people have remembered the incident in various ways since the early nineteenth century. Their objects of remembrance and their understanding of the event have also shifted dramatically over time, suggesting that the process of collective memory at the micro level can be as varied and complex as on the national stage.
mid-day on Wednesday, 14 December 1831, at the height of the tithe war. Thirty-eight armed constables were guarding a hired agent, or process server, as he delivered legal summonses to tithe defaulters: that is, people – mostly Catholics – who had not paid the taxes levied upon them to support the local Church of Ireland parson. Called out by the ringing of chapel bells, a crowd of more than a thousand men, women and children surrounded the police as they moved along a road between the villages of Hugginstown and Ballyhale. They wanted the process server, a local man named Edmund Butler, whom they intended to punish by forcing him to his knees, beating him and making him eat his summonses. ‘Give us Butler!’ they yelled repeatedly to the constables, ‘We’ll have Butler or blood!’ The man in charge of the column, Captain James Gibbons, a middle-aged veteran of the Napoleonic Wars who had fought at Waterloo and was a constabulary officer
of six years’ standing, doggedly refused. People and police soon found themselves squeezed tightly together in a narrow lane, or boreen, that was enclosed on both sides by high stone walls. The swelling crowd pressed in on the constables, making movement in any direction impossible. Suddenly, a young man lunged in among the police, grabbed the process server by his coat and tried to pull him toward the outside. A constable yanked Butler back. Then, without warning, someone hurled a fist-sized rock that slammed into Butler’s skull. He pitched forward and dropped among the legs of the
constables, his papers ying about him. Captain Gibbons, astride his horse at the rear of the column, shouted the order to fire. A handful of constables got off rounds, but because they were packed together so densely in the constricted boreen, none could take proper aim, let alone reload. With that, people began to wrench heavy rocks from the walls and heave them down upon the constables. ‘The stones hit each other [in the air] they were so thick’, recalled one who was there, ‘they were like a shower’. Others attacked the police with pitchforks, clubs, hurling sticks and their bare hands. Minutes later, 13 constables – including Captain Gibbons – and the process server Edmund Butler lay dead or dying, most from shattered skulls and appalling stab wounds. Another 14 officers suffered severe injuries; only 11 of the 38 came away unharmed or with minor scrapes. Of the crowd, three were killed and an unknown number injured.
Although clashes between armed authorities and groups of civilians were depressingly familiar events in pre-famine Ireland, this brief encounter seems to stand apart from most of the others. Besides the extent of its carnage – 17 dead and scores badly injured in the space of a few minutes – it is remarkable chiefly because of who its victims were. Unlike other encounters of this kind in which crowds usually bore the brunt of the violence, most of the casualties at Carrickshock were policemen. What was more, their attackers did not use Ž rearms. Nevertheless, the Carrickshock incident is not a prominent event in Irish history. For one thing, it lacked some of the familiar prerequisites: contemporaries recorded no acts of uncommon bravery; no stirring words spoken before, during, or after the Ž ghting; no participants boasting that they had won a memorable victory. Nor did the incident have momentous consequences: it did not bring about the abolition of tithes or even change the way that they were collected. It is not surprising, therefore, that in most general histories of nineteenthcentury
Ireland the affair is literally a footnote, if it is mentioned at all.
From the start, organizers of the commemorations expressed a determination to honour the heroes of Carrickshock with a permanent stone monument on the battle site.88 Owing largely to the disruptions of 1914–23, it took more than a decade to generate sufŽ cient money for the project. Finally, in July 1925, what was probably the largest crowd ever to assemble in the area since the mammoth anti-tithe gathering of 1832 turned out at the battle site to watch the Revd Canon Patrick Treacy dedicate and bless the Carrickshock memorial
The dedication of the memorial in 1925 marked a turning point in the history of the public commemorations. Over the decade that followed – a decade of economic gloom and political disillusionment – attendance at the anniversary ceremonies dwindled steadily until, by 1935, the gatherings ceased altogether. As they did, the monument fell into disrepair, and death claimed the last of the local men who led the long campaign to honour the memory of Carrickshock.93 There were sporadic efforts to revive the annual commemorations following the Second World War, but it was obvious that times and local attitudes had changed. Attendance at the gatherings was comparatively meagre during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and there were few younger faces among those who did turn out.
In August 2001 the National Roads Authority announced that their preferred route for the dual carriageway linking south Kildare with Waterford (scheduled for completion before the end of the present decade) ran within 200 metres of the Carrickshock battle site. As of this writing, there were no plans to remove the monument, though it is clear that its immediate surroundings will be substantially altered
If you read the entire pdf article you will also see an interesting anecdote about a 1798 survivor and witness to pitchcappings who went among the fallen constables and finished them off.