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05-03-2021, 11:18   #1
Rmulvany
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Dublin 1803 - Provost Marshal

While researching my family tree I've managed to link my 5x Great Grandfather William Masterson (b. ~1770) to the 1803 Dublin Rebellion.

The document (attached) is the Prison Register for Kilmainhan Gaol from 1798 onwards. Entry #66 is Robert Emmet and entry #122 is William!

I notice that William's faith is "sent to the Provost Martial(Marshal) by order of Major ?"
Wiki - "the provost marshal is the head of the military police of each service... In many cases the provost marshal is in charge of discipline."

To me, this would indicate to that William was a member of the British Army running up to the Rebellion and was punished as such.
He wasn't executed and lives for at least another 50 years, so I suppose I would be looking for any more records of his service, discipline and release papers?

I know that records would be scarce for this period but where could I check?
I have checked Fold3 and Ancestry but have found nothing further to this document.
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File Type: pdf Irish Rebellion, 1803, William Masterson.pdf (3.76 MB, 22 views)
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06-03-2021, 18:35   #2
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You probably need to access earlier record sets at Kew that haven't been digitised.

I can give you the name of a military researcher I've used before there. He could probably advise if there is anything worth investigating when TNA reopens.
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08-03-2021, 02:15   #3
Peregrinus
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Originally Posted by Rmulvany View Post
I notice that William's faith is "sent to the Provost Martial(Marshal) by order of Major ?"
It looks like ". . . Major Sirr". Sirr was the Town Major (chief of police) in Dublin at the time of the 1803 Rebellion, and played a large part in suppressing it. He became an almost melodramatic figure of hate for Nationalists, and is accused of all kinds of disgraceful and oppressive practice - faking evidence, bribing witnesses, illegal searches and arrests.

I'm not sure what the significance of Sirr having sent your ancestor to the Provost Marshal is - it may be that he was a soldier, or it may simply be that the army was supporting the mopping-up operations and, e.g, was holding some prisoners because there wasn't enough space in the civil gaols.
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08-03-2021, 12:07   #4
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Originally Posted by pinkypinky View Post
You probably need to access earlier record sets at Kew that haven't been digitised.

I can give you the name of a military researcher I've used before there. He could probably advise if there is anything worth investigating when TNA reopens.
Thanks you, I haven't dealt with KEW before, I will reach out to you for more info on this researcher, thank you.

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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
It looks like ". . . Major Sirr". Sirr was the Town Major (chief of police) in Dublin at the time of the 1803 Rebellion, and played a large part in suppressing it. He became an almost melodramatic figure of hate for Nationalists, and is accused of all kinds of disgraceful and oppressive practice - faking evidence, bribing witnesses, illegal searches and arrests.

I'm not sure what the significance of Sirr having sent your ancestor to the Provost Marshal is - it may be that he was a soldier, or it may simply be that the army was supporting the mopping-up operations and, e.g, was holding some prisoners because there wasn't enough space in the civil gaols.
Thanks for the extra information, I was struggling to decipher the Major's name.
As you say, at the moment we have no way of telling whether he was enlisted pre-rebellion or enlisted afterwards
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08-03-2021, 21:13   #5
kildarejohn
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
It looks like ". . . Major Sirr". Sirr was the Town Major (chief of police) in Dublin at the time of the 1803 Rebellion,.
I attach another version of the Prison Register ( from findmypast). On the fmp version there is no doubt that the name is Sirr.
Apart from being more clearly written, the fmp version does not provide any other information about the OP's ancestor W. Masterson.

I would appear that the the fmp version is a later, rewritten & corrected version; there is one very notable difference - the version uploaded by the OP has Robert Emmet executed at Palmerstown, the fmp version has Thomas St. As "every schoolboy knows" (in Ireland), Thomas St. is the actual location.
Could the OP let us know the source of his/her image of the register?
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File Type: jpg Kilmainham prison 1803.jpg (2.76 MB, 10 views)
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08-03-2021, 23:16   #6
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That’s a great find and a captivating piece of history contained in a couple of pages. Thanks rmulvany for posting the images.

As a serving soldier in the 'regular' army your ancestor Masterson would have been subject to military law and fallen under the jurisdiction of a military court for any crimes committed that were contrary to military law. That is why he was sent to the Provost Marshal, the senior military legal figure.

Henry Sirr was not army – his title (not rank) came with the job, he was the Town Major of Dublin, which roughly means he was the chief of police. As such he was responsible for rounding up those who were or were believed to be involved in the Rebellion and holding them for trial.

Fascinating to see all those names in just a few lines - Emmett, Sirr, Judge Day (a Kerryman, friend of Grattan and Daniel O’Connell), Lord Norbury (known as the ‘Hanging Judge’, probably the most corrupt and unknowledgeable judge in Irish history, about whom it was said ‘Make him a bishop or even an archbishop but not a judge’), Thomas Peppard - an 'approver' (i.e. one who admitted guilt and turned king’s evidence to save his neck. )

I’d followPinky’s recommendation on a military researcher, I did some research online at Kew and it is complicated, time-consuming and very easy to miss something as a beginner. Different records e.g. pay, pensions, postings, are filed under quite different references. As he was a 'rank and file' soldier I would not expect to find a lot.
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09-03-2021, 02:07   #7
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That’s a great find and a captivating piece of history contained in a couple of pages. Thanks rmulvany for posting the images.

As a serving soldier in the 'regular' army your ancestor Masterson would have been subject to military law and fallen under the jurisdiction of a military court for any crimes committed that were contrary to military law. That is why he was sent to the Provost Marshal, the senior military legal figure.
You're suggesting that Masterson was sent to the Provost Marshal because he was "a serving soldier in the regular army".

But, as I read the OP, the only reason we have for thinking that Masterson had any connection with the army at all is because he was sent to the Provost Marshal.

Which raises the question; is there any other reason why a prisoner might have been sent to the Provost Marshal? Might he have been required as a witness in the court martial of another prisoner, for instance? Might the Provost Martial have been providing extra custody places in support of the civil power? While this suggests that Masterson may have been in the army, it doesn't prove it and, if there is no other reason to think that he was, all we have here is a promising line of enquiry, not an established fact.
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09-03-2021, 08:52   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
You're suggesting that Masterson was sent to the Provost Marshal because he was "a serving soldier in the regular army".

But, as I read the OP, the only reason we have for thinking that Masterson had any connection with the army at all is because he was sent to the Provost Marshal.

Which raises the question; is there any other reason why a prisoner might have been sent to the Provost Marshal? Might he have been required as a witness in the court martial of another prisoner, for instance? Might the Provost Martial have been providing extra custody places in support of the civil power? While this suggests that Masterson may have been in the army, it doesn't prove it and, if there is no other reason to think that he was, all we have here is a promising line of enquiry, not an established fact.
Sorry for the confusion, the only reason I have to believe that my ancestor was connnected to the army is due to this line sending him to the Provost Martial, as pointed out there is a posibility that he wasn't serving as was sent to the PM for some other reason.
I hope to find out some more details on him in time and clear this up.

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Originally Posted by kildarejohn View Post
I attach another version of the Prison Register ( from findmypast). On the fmp version there is no doubt that the name is Sirr.
Apart from being more clearly written, the fmp version does not provide any other information about the OP's ancestor W. Masterson.

I would appear that the the fmp version is a later, rewritten & corrected version; there is one very notable difference - the version uploaded by the OP has Robert Emmet executed at Palmerstown, the fmp version has Thomas St. As "every schoolboy knows" (in Ireland), Thomas St. is the actual location.
Could the OP let us know the source of his/her image of the register?
Thank you for that file, the file I posted was found on Ancestry, it is the Kilmainham Gaol Registry. There must have been some copying done at some point which would explain your duplicate with the Palmestown - Thomas St correction (this confused me, great to see it corrected)
In the document I viewed, entries date back to the 1798 Rebellion and Thomas Emmet's name can be seen!
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09-03-2021, 09:10   #9
Peregrinus
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I notice that Masterson is entry no. 122 in one register, and entry no. 119 in the other.

I doubt that one of these registers is a copy of the other. Rather, two registers were kept — perhaps one kept by, say, the police or the magistrates, recording people they dispatched to gaol, and what happened to them afterwards, and another kept independently by the prison, recording people received, and what happened afterwards. The information in the two registers would largely overlap, but this would be intentional — a control that could be used to help determine what went wrong if, e.g, a prisoner went missing.
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09-03-2021, 11:31   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
You're suggesting that Masterson was sent to the Provost Marshal because he was "a serving soldier in the regular army".

But, as I read the OP, the only reason we have for thinking that Masterson had any connection with the army at all is because he was sent to the Provost Marshal.

Which raises the question; is there any other reason why a prisoner might have been sent to the Provost Marshal? Might he have been required as a witness in the court martial of another prisoner, for instance? Might the Provost Martial have been providing extra custody places in support of the civil power? While this suggests that Masterson may have been in the army, it doesn't prove it and, if there is no other reason to think that he was, all we have here is a promising line of enquiry, not an established fact.
Any interpretation is possible. But look at the evidence. There are almost 100 names on the list. Masterson is the only person ‘sent’ to the Provost Marshal. Although most were ‘discharged’, several (those with surnames associated with the northern counties – Maguire, McCartan, McCullagh, McCabe, etc.) were ‘sent’ to Co. Down or Downpatrick. We can infer that it was for trial as we know that Russell and other well-known rebels were ‘sent’, tried and (as was Russell) executed there.

If there was overcrowding and the prisoners were moved for space reasons they would have been ‘transferred’.

The language used – ‘sent’ – is precise, it is finite, Masterson is gone. Were he required as a witness (as you suggest) he would have been ‘released [into the custody of]’ to the Provost. Meaning that the Provost was responsible for him until his return. Masterson was ‘sent’, like the northerners, to be dealt with elsewhere, and the only reason for that is jurisdiction – the very strong implication and inference is that he was a serving soldier.

Last edited by Mick Tator; 09-03-2021 at 11:36.
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10-03-2021, 01:23   #11
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I like this reasoning. But, even with that, Masterson doesn't have to have been a "serving soldier in the regular army". He may have been a pensioner, on half-pay, but still subject to military discipline. (He may have been stood down after the Peace of Amiens in 1802.) He may have been in the militia rather than the regular army — I don't know whether we have good records of who served in the militia. Perhaps he was accused of an offence in a district in which martial law had been declared, and was subject to military jurisdiction for that reason. Etc, etc.

I agree, the most likely explanation is that he was a soldier and, since that would be significant biographical information, it's the first one to explore.

If he doesn't turn up in any of the army records, it may be because the records are incomplete. Or it may be because the hypothesis that he is a soldier, although reasonable, is wrong. It would be worth exploring what role the army, and the Provost-Marshal in particular, played in the suppression of the rebellion, because that might point to other explanations for the prisoner transfer.
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10-03-2021, 12:38   #12
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........... It would be worth exploring what role the army, and the Provost-Marshal in particular, played in the suppression of the rebellion, because that might point to other explanations for the prisoner transfer.
I did consider the martial law aspect - I looked but could not find any clear answer and would not unless I spent hours researching it! In 1798 M. Law was declared by the Lord Lieutenant and later approved by Parliament. Hansard has a Martial Law Bill (second reading) being debated and approved to go to Committee in December 1803

An interesting snippet from it
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Mr. Emmett, the fabricator of the plot, had spent his property, about £3000, in purchasing this depot; he had, therefore, no need to go about for voluntary subscriptions, as had been the case in some such schemes, and thereby make it known. As to the quantity of arms in this place, there has been considerable mistakes. The man who was the keeper of the depot has said, that the whole consisted of 4 muskets, 12 blunderbusses, 3000 pikes, and 12 case-pistols, with a rich general's uniform, and some others which were worn when the riot broke out.
Despite the secrecy the Authorities were well aware of the plot and prior to the 23rd July all troops had been issued with 60 rounds of ammunition (instead of carrying their usual three).
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