NB: If youre reading this on Facebook, this is a post from my blog

Some people eulogise about 1798 as some kind of eutopian cross-community moment. They wish for a time machine so that they, being from community A, could have stood valiantly alongside those of community B, through bonds of brotherhood and common cause that still resonate deep within them. Yawn. Its a nicely airbrushed tale.

Ive just finished re-reading David Humes booklet on the 1798 Rebellion, or Turn Oot, entitled To Right Some Things We Thought Wrong Ulster Society, 1998. David rightly points out that, after years of agitation and planning, the eventual Rising in Antrim and Down of June 1798 was suddenly undermined by what had occurred in southern Ireland just days earlier, actions carried out by those who claimed to be fighting for the same cause. Rather than a rising against the state, the headline news from Wexford was of brutal massacres of fellow citizens.

There are two lists online of those who were killed – here and here, giving their names, where they lived and in some cases how they died. Be warned – some make for very grisly reading.

So, when the order was given for Antrim to rise on 7th June, many just stayed at home, hiding in byres, developing instant illnesses, or just staying at work in the fields. Just a week later, at Ballynahinch, hundreds of men deserted the night before the famous Battle at which Betsy Gray and so many others were killed. The Rising was roundly defeated by the government forces; the aftermath was many months of executions and deportations. Shortly afterwards, the Parliament of Ireland was abolished and in 1801 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was born.

As Antrim poet James Campbell 1756-1818 later wrote:

In Ninety Eight we armed again, to right some things that we thought wrong
We got sae little for our pains, its no worth mindin in a song.

true


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