Wednesday, 5 February 2014

"Croppies acre" is situated just in front of Collins Barracks (National Museum of Ireland) in Dublin. Hundreds of "croppies" (United Irishmen) were buried here in a mass grave following their execution during the 1798 rising. Up to 300 United Irishmen and sympathizers (suspected or otherwise) are buried here, however we only know the names of a few. The most prominent of these were Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone,  (brother of Theobald Wolfe Tone) who were both hanged at Provost Prison on Arbour Hill before their bodies were dumped into the "Croppy Pit".

Their resting place lay unmarked for hundreds of years and this disgrace finally came to a head in the late nineties when plans were drawn up to turn the site into a carpark for the nearby museum. Following a lengthy and vocal campaign the government capitulated and designated the site as a 1798 Memorial Park. Significant monies were spent developing the site into one worthy of that designation, and the result was very fine indeed.



Some 35,000 Euro was spent rejuvenating the site in 2011 and the displaced Anna Livia statue, formally of O'Connell street, was relocated to Croppies Acre. However since then the site has been disgracefully neglected and has as a result become a haven for anti social activity and drug taking. It is now closed to the public, with the gates permanently padlocked. The Memorial Park has seemingly been given up on and left to rot. 


The Seán Heuston 1916 Society recently took steps to raise awareness about this criminal neglect and their members carried out a clean up of the site. The pictures were shocking.


The OPW and the Dublin government need to take responsibility, clean up the site and reopen it to the public, subject to monitoring - perhaps CCTV would be ideal - with regular checks and maintenance. Memorials and graves of this nature deserve to be cared for, but this neglect typifies the attitude of the Dublin government to National Monuments the length and breadth of the country. Many, such as Moore Street and the surrounding 1916 battlefield site lie in neglect. They are even currently in the process of selling off commercial licenses and interests at historical sites all across the country - see here. This typifies the attitude of the Fine Gael/Labour government, profit is the bottom line and who cares if tourists are ripped off and historical sites are profit generating vehicles for private businesses? Obviously this needs to be opposed. Local and European elections are imminent and I would urge readers to press candidates on the issues raised in this piece. I would also urge people to raise these issues by contacting their local TD's (contact details here) and the OPW who can be contacted through the following: 

The Office of Public Works.
Head Office, Jonathan Swift Street,
Trim, Co. Meath.
Lo-Call: 1890 213 414
PH: (046) 942 6000
FAX: (046) 948 1793
E-mail: info@opw.ie
General Jean Humbert

Reproduced below are the final letters written by Matthew Tone and the final statement of Bartholomew Teeling. They give an insight into the character of these men, and I publish them here in the hope that they will energize readers, motivate them into taking steps to ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten and their final resting place is given the care and respect it deserves. 

Both of these patriots lie buried in Croppies Acre along with hundreds more like them. Teeling and Tone were both part of the French landing in Kilcummin led by General Humbert. Tone's first letter gives some account of events.

Donegal Bay,
5 Fructidor (August 22nd),
6 o'clock, morning.
Dear Friends Gagin and Matty,

The day I embarked at Rochelle, I wrote to you, in the letter, I gave you account of our Force, but, as it might have miscarried, I shall repeat its contents. We are nine hundred Infantry, and about one hundred Chasseurs and Cannoniers, with twenty or thirty officers a la suite. We have, besides, three field pieces, six thousand stand of arms, and a very adequate quantity of ammunition. I should also mention a large quantity of helmets and odd clothing of various colours which the General found in the magazines at Rochelle. Pat will look droll in a helmet without any corresponding article of dress.

To come to our actual situation. Yesterday morning we arrived at the mouth of the Bay after a passage of thirteen days without seeing anything. We stood up toward .Killybegs harbour with a light breeze, and got within two hours' sail of our landing place when the wind died away. This is dammed unlucky, and has entirely deprived (us) of the advantage of surprise. The wind springing up contrary in the evening, we stood right across the bay to the County Mayo, where Killala, I believe, affords a place proper to debark. Night, and the want of a pilot obliges us to anchor in the middle of the bay. This morning, we are underway again, endeavouring to get into Killala, the wind not very good. I refer you to the map where you will see that we are both in sight of Killybegs and Killala Bays without the power of entering either - Pause here, my friends, and pay a compliment to my Patience, which suffers me to write in such a situation you cannot expect any coherency.

We are surrounded on all sides by very high mountains. If there is any aristocrat within ten leagues of us with his glass on the top of some hill watching our motions and sending expresses in every direction these are pleasant speculations. I hope the rogues won't have the wit to destroy all the fishing boats round the bay for we are in great need of some to help us to debark. We have not as yet seen a single boat round the bay; on dit that we shall be in Killala in a couple of hours. Our Grenadiers will debark in their own boats, and if there be any fishermen, the rascals shall be made useful. I have no more to add; you shall have a line from me written on the back of my hat, I have seen a print of Bonaparte in that attitude.

1 o'clock in the afternoon.
My Dear Friends,

I ask pardon of the Gods for having repined; we are clear in with Killala and have taken a little brig, a thing absolutely necesssary as our Frigates are too large to run close in. We have also some fishing boats. The pilot, who is up* [A United Irishman] gives us the best intelligence in the world. Scarcely any troops to oppose us and Jemmy Plunket is at the head of the insurgents who are up in the County of Roscommon ; we have also taken a Lieutenant in the Prince of Wales' Regiment of Fencibles, going from Sligo to Killala, to take the command, or rather to join a company of Infants there, ditto a gentleman of Sligo, with him, a yeoman. They, I believe, are aristocrats. I offered to lay a guinea that if we please, we will be masters of Sligo tomorrow, without firing a shot at six. God bless you. Postscript shall be dated from Killala ; en attendant I apprize you that we hear nothing of any other squadron having arrived. Burke considers this letter as from himself.

Killala. 6 Fructidor.

Yesterday evening we landed, and drove sixty yeomen and regulars like sheep before us, a few of our Grenadiers only were landed and engaged. We killed twenty and made a dozen prisoners. The people will join us in myriads, they throw themselves on their 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.

M. TONE.


Alas this optimism was misplaced and their enterprise was met with disaster when they were defeated at the Battle of Ballinamuck. Matthew Tone and Bartholomew Teeling (a prominent United Irishman and Captain in the French Army, noted for, among other things, his heroism and bravery in the Battle of Collooney where he single-handedly disabled and captured a Britsh gunner post when he broke ranks, galloped towards it on his horse and shot the soldiers manning it.) along with hundreds of French soldiers were captured. The French were treated as prisoners of war but the Irish were tried for treason, in courts-martial, and executed. 


Here follows Matthew Tone's final letter, written after he found out that he was to be executed the following day, addressed to his legal counsel. Also a statement Teeling intended to read from the scaffold but was ultimately prevented from doing so:



28th September, 1798.
Dear Sir,

As I know from experience that suspense is the worst of all states, I hasten to relieve my friends from it ; the business is determined on - tomorrow is the day fixt.

I request that no friend may come near me - sorrow is contagious, and I would not willingly betray any weakness on the occasion.

Accept a thousand thanks for the interest you have taken in my affairs.  Farewell.

MATTHEW TONE.


Bartholomew Teeling

Teeling's statement;

"Fellow-citizens, I have been condemned by a military tribunal to suffer what they call an ignominious death, but what appears, from the number of its illustrious victims, to be glorious in the highest degree. It is not in the power of men to abase virtue nor the man who dies for it. His death must be glorious in the field of battle or on the scaffold.

The same Tribunal which has condemned me —Citizens, I do not speak to you here of the constitutional right of such a Tribunal, —has stamped me a 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 the head of the devoted Irish peasant was treason, I am guilty.

Finally, if to have striven to make my fellow-men love each other was guilt, then I am guilty. You, my countrymen, may perhaps one day be able to tell whether these were the acts of a traitor or deserved death. My own heart tells me they were not and, conscious of my innocence, I would not change my present situation for that of the highest of my enemies.

Fellow-citizens, I leave you with the heartfelt satisfaction of having kept my oath as a 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 triumph."
Posted by Saoirse Go Deo On Wednesday, February 05, 2014 2 comments

2 comments:

  1. Some might be wondering what M.Tone meant when he wrote "Fructidor" rather than August.

    Fructidor was the name of one of the months in the French Republican Calendar. It was the third month of the summer quarter and took its name from the Latin work for fruit.

    For more see these entries on Wikipedia:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_Calendar

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructidor

    ReplyDelete
  2. Its disturbing that what should be a national cemetery and place of mourning is a potential parking lot and drug haven- couldn't imagineit happening anywhere else. Reading the statements by Tone and Teeling though ws quite a lift.

    Caisc shona cara, looking forward to your next posts.

    ReplyDelete

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    This is my personal blog and all herein is merely personal opinion expressed solely on my own behalf from my viewpoint as an Irish Socialist Republican.



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