Six Years in Galmoy

Six Years In Galmoy

Peter McQuillan

Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin, of the School of Celtic Studies, in his book of this name, published in 2004, relates the story of the rural unrest in the Galmoy area of Co. Kilkenny in the years 1819-24.
In common with other parts of the county, and of much of the country, an unsetted rural population found cause for grievance in two circumstances in particular – the collection of tithes from Catholic families in support of the Established Church, often done through “tithe farmers”, who bought the franchise from the Church authority and could raise the level of payment, and the taking of possession by farmers of the tenant holdings of persons evicted, whether for non-payment or other causes.
He points out that the violence that was generated was not sectarian, as almost all the murders and assaults were by Catholic against Catholic. It was essentially between small farmers, cottiers and labourers on the one hand and the landed class of farmers and gentlemen on the other. Land-grabbing, evictions, intimidation, beatings, and murders led eventually to executions.
In a book full of incident two in particular stand out. The first is the tragedy of the Fair at Bawn, when a minor incident developed into a fracas, which was poorly handled by Lieut. Wray and the Special police force, resulting in a hasty shot by the Lieut. which killed a young woman who was the eldest of a large family, whose mother was dead, and who was rearing the younger children. The inquest found the shot was “rashly and unwarrantly fired” by a party of Major Nicholson’s police. However, at a subsequent trial of Lt. Wray, Chief Justice Bushe found Wray was the subject of a “foul conspiracy” and acquitted him. Wray was subsequently promoted to County Inspector in Queen’s County and later, having left the police, was Resident Magistrate in Carrick-on-Suir.
This did little to quell unrest, and subsequent behaviour by the Special Police added fuel to fire if that was needed. The second event given major coverage in the book concerns John Marum of Mount Stopford in the townland of Moneynamuck, a substantial landlord on the estate of the Earl of Courtown. He was known as a land-jobber, taking lands over other peoples’ heads, moving opportunistically to take over leases at the expense of defaulting tenants, and then evict the tenants. Although his brother was Bishop of Ossory and another brother was Parish Priest of Freshford, Marum was disliked even among his own class for his activities.
At 6 o’clock on the evening of Tuesday 16th March John Marum was shot dead in an ambush by a group of men near his home. At the inquest no one admitted knowledge of the perpetrators and the verdict was “wilful murder by persons unknown”. However, with clever police work and use of informers, arrests of 6 men were made and 10 prosecution witnesses gave evidence at the trial in Grace’s Old Castle, Kilkenny, once again before Chief Justice Charles Kendal Bushe from Kilmurray in Thomastown, a former MP in the Irish Parliament, who had resigned his seat rather than accept bribery to support the Union. The jury, mostly of propertied men, found all 6 guilty and they were sentenced to death by hanging at the location of the committal of the crime. A large crowd attended the execution, including MPs and many prominent land-owners, and approx. 500 police and military. The bodies were given to the Surgeon of the County Infirmary for dissection.
In writing the book the author made use of the two local newspapers of the day, the Moderator and the Leinster Journal. And it is very interesting to read the conflicting views of events taken by the respective editors.