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Forgetful RemembranceSocial Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster$

Guy Beiner

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198749356

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198749356.001.0001

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Before 1798

(p.46) 1 Pre-Forgetting
Forgetful Remembrance

Guy Beiner

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Paradoxical as it may seem, memory can pre-date history, and even more surprisingly, forgetting can precede remembering. Historical events are perceived through the ‘prememory’ of reference to memories of previous events. Moreover, concerns of being forgotten, though often unnoticed, can be raised in advance of the unravelling of historical events and their remembrance. The subtle dynamics of this ‘pre-forgetting’, which are embedded into the very earliest stage of memory formation, are demonstrated through an examination of the case of the republican protomartyr William Orr. Remembrance of his trial and execution, in advance of the 1798 rebellion, offered a template for subsequent remembrance of the United Irishmen. Periodic calls to ‘Remember Orr’ were perforated with anxieties of forgetting that sustained forgetful remembrance.

Keywords:   forgetting, social memory, cultural memory, schema theory, censorship, silencing, counter-memory, martyrdom, Irish republicanism, loyalism

We move into the future backwards.

Paul Valéry, Variété IV1

one’s memory works both ways…It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There2

When does social forgetting begin? The sequence appears self-evident: first events are experienced, then they are remembered, and ultimately they are forgotten. Hence, history is followed by memory, which wanes with time, so that, after due delay, forgetting sets in. On further thought, the notion of a neat linear succession may prove misleading. It could be argued that remembrance commences much earlier than is intuitively expected and that concerns of forgetting, though often unnoticed, may even be raised in advance of the unravelling of historical events.

To begin with, the a priori assumption that remembrance is launched at a delay cannot be taken for granted. There is actually no inherent necessity for an interval between historical occurrences and the construction of memory. On the contrary, the anthropologist Edwin Ardener incisively pointed out that ‘there are, indeed, plenty of grounds for saying that “memory” of history begins when it is registered.’3 Similarly, in an overview of history and memory in modern Ireland, Ian McBride observed that ‘the arrangement of experience through narrative frames is such a basic part of cognition that events are encoded with meaning as they actually occur.’4 Certain events are immediately deemed by their contemporaries to be worthy of being remembered. The simultaneous construction of memory ensures that such events will indeed become historically significant. David Fitzpatrick has shown, for example, how the key events of (p.47) the Irish Revolution were theatrically staged as ‘instant history’ in real-time performances that made them memorable.5 Instead of the axiom that memory is constructed out of history, we are faced with a perplexing mise en abîme in which the two seem to construct each other.

Instantaneous formation of the memory of historical events is even sometimes apparent in the work of public institutions charged with curating official memorialization. The Imperial War Museum was established to commemorate the Great War not after the war, but during the war. On 5 March 1917, the War Cabinet in London approved the proposal of Sir Alfred Mond for the creation of a national museum which would record and exhibit the civilian and military sacrifice that was taking place at the time. Already before that date, local museums had begun to collect exhibits. More generally, public demand for the war to be chronicled and remembered was evident in a crop of memorial publications that appeared from its early stages. This seemingly spontaneous outburst of remembrance was encouraged by wartime propaganda. The press baron Sir Max Aitken (subsequently Lord Beaverbrook), who was appointed Minister of Information towards the end of the war, played a seminal role in shaping memorable popular perceptions. In addition to his dominance of newspaper coverage, in 1916 he established in Canada the War Records Office, responsible for documenting and publicizing the war effort, and he also established a War Memorials Fund, which sponsored an artistic record of the visual memory of the war. Effectively, commemoration of what would come to be known as the First World War commenced before the war was over and the enormity of the casualties could be fathomed.6

A similar dynamic can be found behind the scenes of another paradigm of twentieth-century memorialization, remembrance of the Holocaust. Mordechai Shenhavi, who would become the inaugural director of the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, envisioned the construction of a memorial site in Mandatory Palestine for the Jewish victims of the Nazis already in 1942, just as the first reports arrived of the mass extermination that was happening at the time in Europe. The plan he submitted to the Jewish National Fund for a ‘national project’ was to be tied in with a designated memorial day. The Jewish Agency organized three days of remembrance from 30 November to 2 December 1943 and shortly afterwards an additional thirty days of mourning were proclaimed. Towards the end of the Second World War, several other Jewish institutions in Mandatory Palestine, including the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, considered plans for memorialization to mark the catastrophe. It turns out that the Shoah was already being commemorated before the extent of the genocide was revealed and prior to the establishment of the state of Israel.7 Evidently, history and memory are entwined and develop in tandem.

(p.48) An understanding of how memory is constructed at a cognitive level suggests that the origins of remembrance can be pushed back even further, beyond the contemporaneity of history and memory. In a famous series of experiments conducted in Cambridge in the early twentieth century, the pioneer of cognitive psychology Charles Frederic Bartlett followed repeated retellings of an unusual folk narrative and demonstrated that memory, at the time of its formation, is structured so as to correspond with knowledge derived from previous experiences. Bartlett went on to develop a theory of remembering as an ‘effort after meaning’, through which memories are fit to pre-existing schemata.8 Schema theory has since been fruitfully developed in the cognitive sciences, with numerous studies showing that new experiences are normally perceived and remembered in accordance with familiar scripts.9 By applying this insight to the study of the past, it becomes clear that historical events were invariably understood and remembered in their time through reference to memories of previous events. In other words, there is a prememory to history, which influences the development of subsequent memory. Paradoxical as it may seem, memory can pre-date history!

Prememory was manifest, for example, in 1914. Memories of the Franco-Prussian War pre-conditioned the respective perceptions of Germans and Frenchmen of the Great War and the ways in which it would be remembered. Based on their previous success, the German military entered the war with expectations of a swift and total victory, which were soon frustrated.10 The circulation of mythologized recollections of encounters with francs-tireurs in 1870–1 resulted in the perpetration of outrages against unarmed civilians during the occupation of Belgium and northern France and in the subsequent denial of the memory of these atrocities.11 On the other side, the mentalité of the French soldiers who fought in the trenches of the Western Front was moulded by revanchist memories of ‘l’année terrible’, which had been instilled by the republican education system over the previous four decades. Moreover, the cult of the dead that was officially endorsed and cultivated after 1871 laid the foundations for the commemorative culture of les monuments aux morts after 1918.12 There were many other available schemata from previous conflicts, including recent colonial struggles. In addition, as memory is not confined only to factual events, the fin de (p.49) siècle vogue for popular fiction that imagined a future war fed into the prememory of the Great War.13

Elements of prememory can be inserted in retrospect to reshape historical narratives and make them more familiar in popular reception. An examination for the popular memory of the Great Irish Famine, as reflected in folklore collections collected in the mid-twentieth century, reveals that ‘informants draw on a repertoire of images, motifs and short narratives, many of which predate the Famine.’14 Recognizing the formative role of such mnemonic traditions, McBride argued, in the vein of F. C. Bartlett, that ‘memories take root most successfully when they are patterned in accordance with the culture’s accepted customs of telling stories about itself.’15 Close examination of the recycling of previous memories in the construction of historical memory can also expose less-noticed appearances of early forgetting. But can an event be forgotten before it is properly remembered? To answer this puzzle, we must delve into the formation of prememory.

Recycling Memory

In June 1798, it was reported that ‘the Chiefs of the Rebels were dressed in green jackets, turned up with white or yellow, white vest, buckskin breeches, half boots, hats with white cockneck feathers, and green cockades.’16 When Henry Joy McCracken set out to lead the insurgent army in the attack on Antrim town, he had a choice of clothing—he could have donned an all-green dress uniform coat, but instead it was recalled that he wore an undress uniform jacket of coarse green cloth with yellow facings and fringe epaulets (Fig. 1.1). He had acquired both these items some years beforehand, upon following his elder brother’s example and joining Belfast’s First Volunteer Company.17 Membership of the Volunteers had been a formative moment in McCracken’s ideological and political development and was an equally influential experience for many other Ulstermen. In organizing for rebellion, United Irishmen could draw on recollections of previous paramilitary activity.

Pre-ForgettingBefore 1798

Fig. 1.1. McCracken’s uniform

Regimental undress uniform jacket of an officer in Belfast’s First Volunteer Company, worn by Henry Joy McCracken at the Battle of Antrim in 1798.

© National Museum NI, Collection Ulster Museum, BELUM.O474.1914.

Twenty years earlier, on St Patrick’s Day 1778, the Belfast First Volunteer company had been formed, ostensibly in order to defend Ireland from a possible French invasion at a time when regular troops were being redeployed to combat the American Revolution. Soon after, in a mass display of popular patriotism that engulfed Ulster and spread throughout the rest of Ireland, able Protestants rushed to enrol in local voluntary (p.50) defence units. In the words of their commander, Lord Charlemont, the Volunteers constituted:

A great army, wholly independent of the crown, self-raised in times of grievance and of universal complaint, in a country deemed and affectedly styled subordinate, when England was weak beyond all former example, beset on every side by enemies whom her own arbitrary follies had brought into action.18

(p.51) Volunteer membership was reported in 1782 to have reached a peak of 88,827 men, of whom over a third (34,152) were from Ulster.19 The organization subsequently fell into decline and two years later its numbers were put at 18,469.20 Even then, their enrolment was greater than the strength of the regular army in Ireland.21

In the early 1790s, self-styled Irish Jacobins endeavoured to revive the Volunteers in Ulster and invited into their ranks Catholics. On 14 July 1792, a crowd of thousands gathered in Belfast to watch several hundred Volunteers from Antrim and Down parade through the town in an anniversary celebration of the fall of the Bastille. It is not coincidental that the contingents from county Down in this procession came from areas that would be heavily implicated in rebellion six years later. In addition, among the civilians who joined the procession, a considerable number came from Antrim parishes that would be agitated in 1798.22 Volunteers subsequently held celebrations in Antrim and Down to mark the ‘glorious triumph of liberty in France’, upholding the French Revolution as a model for Ireland.23

The secret society of the United Irishmen emerged out of this radicalized sub-culture.24 Later in 1792, the attendants of a meeting of United Irishmen in the village of Doagh, county Antrim, toasted ‘May every United Irishman become a volunteer, and every volunteer a United Irishman.’25 The following year, when a ‘military mob’ of regular troops went on a rampage in the streets of Belfast, smashing windows and damaging the property of residents identified as radicals, they were confronted by a formidable body of the town’s Volunteers, who restored order.26 The administration in Dublin Castle became increasingly alert to the subversive potential of this independent and highly politicized armed body. In 1793, the Volunteers were suppressed and in (p.52) their stead a new Irish militia was introduced.27 Lord Lieutenant Westmoreland issued on 11 March 1793 a proclamation authorizing ‘the magistrates, sheriffs, bailiffs, and other peace officers, having jurisdiction within the said town of Belfast, and other several districts adjacent thereto, to be careful in preserving the peace within the same, and to disperse all seditious and unlawful assemblies’. Although not mentioned by name, the target of the prohibition was obvious and it was soon reported that ‘in compliance with the proclamation, the Volunteers ceased to parade or any longer to appear in military array.’28

More than anywhere else, in north-east Ulster, where the members of the corps had been primarily Presbyterians, the Volunteers left a legacy of militarized politicization, which anticipated revolutionary mobilization.29 This background featured in the social memory of the 1798 rebellion. The sister-in-law of Henry Munro—the commander of the United Irish army at the Battle of Ballynahinch—recalled in 1842 that the rebel general had acquired his military training as a member of the Volunteers in Lisburn, and this family tradition was repeated and shared with acquaintances.30 James Hope, who was elevated in the memory of Ninety-Eight into an iconic ‘man of no property’, reminisced in the mid-nineteenth century that his ‘connection with politics began in the ranks of the Volunteers’. En route to the Battle of Antrim, Hope encountered his erstwhile comrades—‘a small body of the Roughforth Volunteers’—leading the rebel vanguard, and at Ballymena he recognized the rebel commander as ‘an officer of the Volunteers of 1784’.31

Francis McCracken, Henry Joy’s elder brother, was known in his old age for recalling the Volunteers with ‘ardour and enthusiasm’. On his death in 1842, at the age of 80, he was hailed ‘the last of the old volunteers’.32 After the veterans had all passed away, recollections of United Irishmen who had previously been Volunteers were retold by their descendants. The granddaughter of Robert Lennon of Ballygowan—the leader of a rebel contingent in the Antrim parish of Ballynure—noted that he had formerly been an ensign in the Volunteers.33 Oral tradition recounted that the United Irish Captain Jack Fullarton [Fullerton] of McTrusterystown, who in 1798 commanded a group of (p.53) rebels in an attack on Ballymena, had previously been a Volunteer captain.34 It was considered particularly memorable that the cannon manned by the rebels at Antrim was one of two brass six-pounders which had originally belonged to the Blue Battalion of the Belfast Volunteers and had been concealed in the Presbyterian Meeting-house at Templepatrick.35 In these narratives, the Volunteers were recalled as the forerunners of the insurgents of 1798 and the memory of their activities functioned as a prememory of the rebellion.

The Volunteers can be credited with introducing modern politics into Irish popular culture through a variety of commemorative media. They skilfully staged memorable displays of ceremonial ritual by holding reviews and field days; made extensive use of print to publicize the cause of legislative reform; rejoiced in the orality of patriotic toasts and songs; and created a market for a rich array of symbolic paraphernalia, which ranged from uniform accoutrements and insignia to specially decorated ceramics, such as inscribed jugs, teapots, and bowls.36 Above all else, the durability of the commemorative material culture that they produced ensured that memory of the Volunteers remained present in Ulster long after their political agenda had lost its immediate relevance.37

In 1852, the Belfast Museum put on an exhibition of antiquities collected from individuals throughout Ulster which included Volunteer uniforms and memorabilia, as well as relics from the United Irish rebellion.38 Forty years later, the museum added to its collections a new wall case, which exhibited ‘various relics of the Volunteers and the stirring times of ’98’. The artefacts, which had hitherto been carefully preserved in private possession, included various ‘interesting badges, pikeheads, and small objects of the time’. Pride of place was given to ‘the volunteer uniform of the celebrated Henry Joy M’Cracken; also the coat of green cloth, with yellow facings and gilt buttons, which he wore when in supreme command at the sanguinary battle of Antrim’. These items, which were displayed alongside McCracken’s sword—identified by antiquarians as a Volunteer sword, were expected to ‘attract much attention’.39 McCracken’s jackets were exhibited once more in Belfast in 1938, a time when nationalists celebrated the one hundred and fortieth anniversary of the 1798 rebellion but were prevented from (p.54) holding commemorations in Northern Ireland.40 The coats were shown again in 1967 for the bicentenary of McCracken’s birth and in 1998 for the bicentenary of the 1798 Rebellion, and they have since been put by the Ulster Museum on permanent display.41 However, the deliberate twinning of the Volunteers with the United Irishmen does not do full justice to the complexity of their place in Irish memory.

Historical memory, as famously demonstrated in a Jewish context by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, can follow a cyclical pattern. Through memorial rituals, namely penitential prayers [selichot], memorial books [Memorbüch], dedicated feasts [second Purims], and special fast days, Ashkenazi Jewish communities repeatedly interpreted persecutions, such as the Cossack pogroms led by Bogdan Chmielnicki in 1648, with reference to earlier persecutions.42 Through such recycling of memory, recollections of events in the past function as a prememory for the recurrence of relatively similar events. This mnemonic process inevitably blurs historical specificity and tends to mask differentiation. Remembrance of historical events with reference to such recycled ‘narrative templates’, as shown by James Wertsch through examples from the Soviet Union, reaffirms the identity of the communities that mobilize around these memories. Significantly, in situations of conflict, distinct memories are formed by rival groups, who can remember the same event through different prememory schemata.43

The founding of the Volunteers in Belfast in 1778 had its own prememory, which harped back to the raising of similar defence corps and independent militia companies to confront Jacobite threats (in 1715, 1719, and 1745) and the fear of a French invasion during the Seven Years War. Particularly vivid memories persisted of the local response to the landing at Carrickfergus of the French privateer François Thurot in 1760.44 Recollections of previous episodes of civilian mobilization resurfaced at each historical moment of volunteering. For example, an anniversary dinner for the Battle of Culloden held by Volunteers in Belfast in April 1778 honoured veteran volunteers of 1745.45 These prememories from the past fed into new memories of taking up arms in defence of Ireland, which in turn served as prememories for future memories. In this cycle of recurring episodes, volunteering was essentially an act of loyalism. This conservative connotation did not sit well with the radical transformation of the United Irishmen in the mid-1790s from a reform movement to a revolutionary organization.46

(p.55) Unlike the republicanism of the United Irishmen who rebelled against the Crown in 1798, the Volunteer patriotism of the late-1770s and early-1780s was consistent with loyalty to the monarch. Even though families throughout Ulster had relatives in the American colonies and were inclined to sympathize with their struggle for independence, most Ulster Presbyterians re-affirmed their loyalty to King George III.47 From 1796, when it became apparent that the United Irishmen were planning a rebellion in conjunction with a French invasion of Ireland, many former Volunteers stood by their original conviction to protect home security and joined the yeomanry corps, which were formed to oppose the revolutionary threat. The ‘Men of Mourne’ Volunteers in county Down, for example, re-embodied as a yeomen company named the ‘Loyal Men of Mourne’.48 The yeoman unit raised in Lisburn in 1798 was styled the ‘Troop of Lisburn Volunteer Cavalry’.49 Like its predecessors, the yeomanry was a locally raised defence force commanded by its own officers. However, in contrast to the Volunteers, who in Ulster declined payment from the Crown and refused to take a military oath, the yeomanry was financed by the government and was subordinate to the regular army chain of command.50

Radicals saw themselves as the sole heirs of the Volunteer tradition and, in the words of the United Irishman Charles Hamilton Teeling, considered those Volunteers who became yeomen ‘double traitors’—first for their perceived betrayal of the patriotic spirit of the Volunteers and second for their rejection of the seemingly related cause of the United Irishmen. Nonetheless, there was a large degree of continuity between the Volunteers and the recruitment of yeomanry corps in Ulster.51 Moreover, in 1798, loyalist civilians spontaneously renewed the practice of volunteering in times of emergency and formed local ad hoc defence units. In Coleraine, county Londonderry, one such volunteer—John Galt—noted in his diary that ‘the loyal inhabitants of the town’ were armed by Lord Henry Murray (the Colonel in command of the Royal Manx Fencibles) and wilfully joined the regular troops in suppressing the rebellion in their area.52

Loyalists endorsed an alternative prememory for 1798, which challenged the monopolization of the memory of the Volunteers by the United Irishmen. In a ‘Retrospective Memorandum’ written circa 1844, the county Down liberal politician William Sharman Crawford, whose father William Sharman had been a colonel in the Volunteers and had taken ‘a leading part in all the proceedings’, described the crisis of the early 1790s as a time when ‘a new class of Volunteers got up called the United Irishmen, whereupon the old Volunteers broke up.’ In response, according to Sharman (p.56) Crawford, the ‘volunteer yeomanry’ of 1798 emulated the ‘old volunteers’ of 1778.53 This lineage was proudly recalled in loyalist traditions.

The former Volunteer Thomas Wright of Portadown, who died in 1828 at the reported age of 96, was ‘better known by the name of Old Loyalty’. In 1798, ‘his well-known loyalty’ had ‘brought upon him the ill-will of those disaffected persons who were then distracting their unhappy country’ and his house was attacked by rebels. Consequently, he joined the yeomanry as a drummer and opposed the rebels.54 Similarly, when William Ellison of Tievenaderiff [Tievenadarragh] (about 10 km south-west of Ballynahinch) in county Down passed away in 1844, his obituary recalled that he had first been a Volunteer at the time of the American war and had later joined the yeomanry to fight against the United Irishmen at the Battle of Ballynahinch.55

An exhibition organized by the Banbridge Literary Society in 1882 featured ‘the black and tattered banner of the Loughbrickland Volunteers, who fought on the loyalist side, and with it is associated the active part taken by them in the engagements of the day’. This ‘interesting relic of the memorable but troublous times’ was displayed together with mementoes dedicated to the Lower Iveagh Yeomen Cavalry, which were ‘very interesting[ly] handed down as they are as relics of days when this fine corps distinguished themselves in making loyalty triumphant over the rebellious spirit of the time’.56 The Belfast Public Art Gallery hosted in 1909 an exhibition of Volunteers and Yeomanry medals from the private collection of a local antiquarian, William Mayes.57 Two decades later, in 1938, the City of Belfast Museum and Art Gallery (which had moved to a new location in Stranmillis) curated an impressive exhibition of Volunteer, yeomanry, and militia collectibles from around Ulster. In accordance with the unionist culture that prevailed in Northern Ireland at the time, the catalogue eschewed specific mention of the United Irishmen. The exhibition also included several artefacts that had belonged to prominent leaders of the rebellion (including McCracken’s uniform), but this connection was purposely not flagged.58 Whilst republicans claimed exclusive ownership of the memory of the Volunteers, loyalists were intent on obliterating memories that linked Volunteers with revolutionaries.

Although the Volunteer movement was part of a common heritage, shared by radicals, liberals, and some conservatives, it offered an inherently ambivalent prememory for 1798, which provoked different responses. A decade earlier, the radical writer William Drennan shared his anxieties about the decline of the Volunteers with his friend, the Presbyterian minister Rev. William Bruce. Disappointed by Charlemont’s desertion of reform politics, Drennan’s correspondence in 1785 repeatedly (p.57) alluded to the ‘the ghost of volunteering’, which was beset by ‘cruel forgetfulness’.59 Apprehensions that the Volunteers were being forgotten assumed historical agency in Drennan’s pamphlet Letters of Orellana, an Irish Helot, which appealed to the Volunteers to unite Protestants and Catholics in the common cause of freeing Ireland from English domination. This stirring text, with its implicit concerns of forgetting, was influential in the development of the United Irish ideology.60

Rev. Bruce, on the other hand, was a self-described ‘alarmed Whig’ who did not share Drennan’s radical aspirations. He had formerly been a member of the Lisburn True Blues Volunteer company and in 1798 he enrolled as a corporal in the Belfast merchants’ yeomanry infantry unit, known as the ‘Black Cockades’ in order to defend Belfast from rebels.61 Afterwards, he took a leading part in the Presbyterian Synod’s drive to initiate forgetting of Presbyterian involvement in the insurrection. Not all members of his congregation were receptive to this revision of the past. When Bruce denounced the United Irishmen from the pulpit in November 1798, his sermon reputedly met with a mixed response, ‘approved of by some, and stabbing others who hardly prevailed on themselves to sit’.62 Concerns over the memory of the Volunteers had evolved into divisive struggles over forgetting and remembering of 1798.

Beyond recollections of the Volunteers, a more pungent prememory for 1798 stemmed from the processing of experiences that occurred just before the rebellion. The ‘dragooning of Ulster’ under General Gerard Lake left particularly disturbing memories. In March 1797, Lake was given ‘full authority’ to take ‘immediate and decisive measures’ against the United Irishmen and soon after he advocated that ‘nothing but terror will keep them in order’.63 Seeking to break ‘the spirit of rebellion’, Brigadier-General John Knox, the military commander in central Ulster, likened the situation to the ruthless suppression of opposition to the revolutionary regime in France: ‘I look upon Ulster to be a La Vendée, and that it will not be brought into subjection but by the same means adopted by the republicans in power—namely spreading devastation through the most disaffected parts.’64

(p.58) The unrestrained measures unleashed by regular troops, militia, and yeomanry on the civilian population in an effort to root out popular support for the United Irishmen indeed amounted to a rampage of state terror. Certain units, such as the Welsh fencible cavalry regiment—known by the nickname the ‘Ancient Britons’, which was despatched to south county Down, acquired notoriety for their excessive brutality. The French (or, to be more precise, Breton) émigré traveller Chevalier de Latocnaye [Jacques Louis de Bourgenet] correctly predicted that ‘Newry will long remember the Ancient Britons’ [‘les habitans de Newry ne se rappellent longtemps des anciens Bretons’].65

Among the many horrific displays of brutality that preceded the rebellion, some memorable events stood out more than others. A particularly infamous case was the execution of four soldiers from the Monaghan Militia at the Blaris Moor camp. At their court martial, the four steadfastly denied the charges of having taken the United Irish oath and, when sentenced to death, went to their executions with ‘uncommon fortitude’.66 James Watson, a captain in the Brookhill Yeomanry who was stationed nearby, recalled that ‘to render the fatal punishment more exemplary’ they were marched in front of their regiment to the tune of the ‘Dead March in Saul’, forced to kneel in front of their coffins and shot by a firing squad.67 This poignant scene left a lasting impression.

The executions at Blaris were soon politicized. United Irish poets, including William Drennan, William Sampson, and the lesser-known James Garland of Lurgan, composed songs and elegies in memory of the executed militiamen and it was later asserted that ‘the prevalence of those songs did more to increase the numbers of the conspirators than all the efforts of the French emissaries, or the writings and harangues of all the political philosophers, and age-of-reason men of the times.’68 These compositions were sung and recited in Ulster throughout the nineteenth century and re-appeared in local song collections and nationalist publications.69 An account of the executions included an anecdote that told how the father of one of the condemned men prohibited his son from informing on his comrades in return for a pardon. The father reputedly declared that ‘the life of a son was of great value to a father, but if his son was spared to become (p.59) a traitor, he would shoot him with his own hand.’70 Such narratives, which reappeared in folk stories of 1798, were recycled in nationalist mythmaking as didactic exemplars of patriotism.

The excesses of the military were denounced by oppositional papers in England, but in Ireland could only be talked about in public with the utmost caution.71 The hushed memories of 1797 anticipated the suppression of the rebellion in 1798 and prepared the ground for social forgetting. For some, the surge in violence resembled similar outbursts during previous rebellions and could be slotted into a cyclical pattern of memory that recalled recurring atrocities. Conversely, revulsion from the horrors could also trigger ‘rejection of the rebellion, or selective amnesia about aspects of it’.72 The complex dynamics of how recollections of events that immediately preceded the rebellion influenced the ways it would be subsequently remembered and forgotten can be demonstrated through a detailed inspection of the case of the most celebrated victim of pre-rebellion repression in Ulster, William Orr.

Initiating Counter-Memory

A century after 1798, when the United Irishmen were widely celebrated by Irish nationalists, one of their number would stand out for having been memorably executed before the rebellion broke out. This was William Orr, the Irish republican protomartyr, whose portrait featured on lithographs among the most notable of ‘The Men of ’98’ and the ‘Leaders of the United Irishmen’.73

Orr’s hallowed place in the national pantheon is exemplified in his appearance on silk handkerchiefs dedicated to ‘The Heroes of ’98’, which were kept in households as cherished mementoes (Fig. 1.2). In these commemorative souvenirs, Orr appears alongside four of the most venerated United Irishmen: Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the designated commander-in-chief of the United Irish army; Theobald Wolfe Tone, who over the course of the nineteenth century became the most revered United Irishman; Henry Joy McCracken, the leader of the rebels in Antrim; and Robert Emmet, the idolized leader of the aborted rising in 1803. Displaying the typical extravagance of romantic-nationalist symbolism, the portraits of the five are bound together by angel-winged harps and bouquets of shamrocks that adorn the symbolic date of ’98’.74 (p.60) (p.61) Orr’s prominence in this hagiographic iconography is somewhat curious. He was neither an ideologue of the revolutionary movement, nor one of its chief organizers. In the reductive terms of a purely factual history, he could be dismissed as a negligible figure, yet his aggrandisement in social memory is in itself a significant historical fact.

Pre-ForgettingBefore 1798

Fig. 1.2. ‘The Heroes of ’98’

(a) Silk handkerchief commemorating ‘The Heroes of ’98’, including William Orr (bottom left) and Henry Joy McCracken (top right).

Reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Ireland (EPH F224).

(b) Photograph of Mrs. Sarah Conlan of Portaferry with such a memento (taken by P. Lawson of Portaferry) which originally appeared in Newtownards Spectator, 11 November 1960, p. 5.

Reproduced by the National Library of Ireland with permission from the Spectator Group.

The memory of William Orr’s arrest, trial, and public execution on the gallows known as ‘The Three Sisters’ outside Carrickfergus on 14 October 1797 was an essential prememory for 1798. His example demonstrated the value of martyrdom for the revolutionary cause, making it clear that:

The peasant who is to be shot, or the ploughman who is to be hanged, may feel and sustain his fate with fortitude, and leave behind him an example not to deter, but rather, inspirit others; his memory will be revered, and his name handed down to posterity, in the village or hamlet where he resided, and he suffered, as a political martyr.75

Others would consciously follow in Orr’s footsteps. The following year, at the trial of the radical Catholic priest Rev. James Coigly, who was arrested when trying to muster support for the United Irishmen in England, the defence counsel explicitly referred to ‘the fate of the unfortunate Mr. Orr’.76 After Coigly was sentenced to death, he issued an ‘Address to the People of Ireland’ in which he consciously fashioned his execution at Maidstone on 7 June 1798 in imitation of the ‘Immortal Orr’.77

In light of Orr’s example, those who turned out in arms in 1798, knowing that they may have to pay the ultimate sacrifice, could rightfully expect that in their death they too would be remembered. Admittedly, Christian tradition provided an array of worthy exemplars for self-sacrifice, starting with Christ and the martyrs of the early Church. Moreover, there were specifically Irish traditions of martyrdom that stemmed from the early modern struggles of colonization, reformation, and counter-reformation.78 Orr, however, was to become Ireland’s first republican martyr, preceding, among others, the so-called ‘father of Irish republicanism’, Wolfe Tone. He was, in a sense, the ‘warm-up act’ for the heroes of Ninety-Eight. Peter Burke has argued that the main criteria for achieving recognition as a hero in social memory was the extent to which there was a ‘fit’ with a pre-existing perception of heroism. As a central figure in the prememory of 1798, Orr signified the archetypal standard for United Irish martyrdom, by which all others would be measured.79

Appeals to the memory of Orr were utilized for the purpose of mobilization towards rebellion. United Irishmen toasted ‘The memory of ORR, who died a martyr to Irish Freedom’ and sang ‘Thy blood to our union, more energy gave’.80 This propaganda was (p.62) apparently effective. In February 1798, the informer John Edward Newell reported to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Camden:

My Lord, the people execrate you—your very guards are The Friends of Freedom, and detest you—the[y] look upon you as the executioner of Orr, their friend and brother, and his death is as a call to battle and stirs them up to courage and revenge—they say that blood must have blood.81

The United Irishmen John and Henry Sheares, who were arrested in advance of the rebellion in May 1798, were convicted for high treason and sentenced to be executed on the evidence of a handwritten proclamation that had been found in their possession, which read:

Vengeance, Irishmen, Vengeance on your Oppressors—Remember what thousands of your dearest friends have perished by their [Murders, Cruel plots (scratched out)] Merciless Orders—Remember their burnings, their rackings, their torturings, their Military Massacres, and their legal Murders. Remember ORR.82

The son of the notable reformist politician Henry Grattan later recalled the prevalence of this seditious catchphrase: ‘“Remember Orr!—Remember Orr!” were words written every where—pronounced every where. I recollect, when a child, to have read them on the walls—to have heard them spoken by the people.’83

The historian of the United Irishmen, Richard Robert Madden, summarized these propaganda efforts:

Poems were written, sermons were preached; after-dinner speeches, and after supper still stronger speeches, were made, of no ordinary vehemence, about the fate of Orr and the conduct of Lord Camden, which certainly, in the peculiar circumstances of this case, was bad, or rather stupidly base and iniquitously unjust.

The scribes of the United Irishmen wrote up the memory of the man whom Camden had allowed to be executed with a full knowledge of the foul means taken to obtain a conviction, officially conveyed to him by persons every way worthy of credit and of undoubted loyalty.

The evident object of the efforts to make this cry, ‘Remember Orr’, stir up the people to rebellion, cannot be mistaken—that object was to single out an individual case of suffering for the cause of the Union, for the sympathy of the nation, and to turn that sympathy to the account of the cause.84

(p.63) The persecution of Orr, as noted by James McHenry—an author who lived through the events as a child and later retold the story in a work of historical fiction—inspired many others to fight for the United Irish cause and effectively triggered the insurrection:

The blood of martyrs has been truly said to be like seed to the cause for which they suffered; and perhaps, in no portion of the history of nations, has this truth been more clearly illustrated than in that we have just recited. The unnecessary, unjust, impolitic, and cruel execution of William Orr, almost instantaneously resulted in thousands of William Orrs, or rather of characters such as he was accused of being, starting into existence, and vowing revenge upon his persecutors.85

Above all, his memory was conspicuously present in Ulster in June 1798, when ‘Remember Orr’ was used as a battle cry by the insurgents of Antrim and Down.

The ritualized practices through which the martyrdom of Orr was constructed offered a template for the remembrance of the celebrated United Irish leaders who died in consequence of partaking in rebellion, such as Bartholomew Teeling and Wolfe Tone (both of whom had taken part in failed French invasion attempts). Seeking to rekindle the embers of 1798, Robert Emmet organized another insurrection and among his papers were found United Irish proclamations, including those previously issued by the Sheares brothers, which ended with the exhortation ‘Remember Orr’.86 After the collapse of Emmet’s aborted rising and his execution, the inspiration of Orr’s protomartyrdom was particularly noticeable in the ornate commemoration of Emmet, who became to be regarded as the most beloved of Irish republican martyrs.87 The patterns of memorialization, which were originally established in the lead up to the rebellion, were later revived and magnified by nationalist mythographers. Hence, memory of the 1798 rebellion began before the rebellion.

In truth, the martyrdom of Orr was accidental. His background was fairly unexceptional and it would seem that the sole reason for his elevation to heroic grandeur was his sociability. He was a well-to-do Presbyterian farmer from Farranshane, county Antrim, aptly described by the contemporary historian Rev. James Bentley Gordon as ‘a man of good family and connexions’.88 If zealous revolutionaries seem to be intent on martyrdom from birth, while devotees strive to achieve martyrdom by emulating noble deeds, Orr had martyrdom thrust upon him, and, with the help of his friends and supporters, he rose to the task admirably. The government, in its dogged determination to prevent his glorification, unintentionally contributed to his apotheosis.

(p.64) Orr was first brought to the attention of the authorities by an informer, Samuel Turner (alias Richardson) of Newry.89 Aware that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Orr went into hiding in July 1796 but was apprehended after two months of searches, when he paid a visit to his dying father ‘Old Sam Orr’ of Kilbegs.90 Many decades later, an old woman from the neighbourhood, who died around 1876 and retained a ‘very vivid impression of the closing years of the last century’, recalled the exasperation in the locality upon receiving the news of his arrest.91 Incriminating evidence had been gathered by the magistrate Rev. George Macartney, the Church of Ireland vicar of Antrim. It was alleged that, in April 1796, Orr had suborned into the United Irishmen two soldiers—lance corporal Hugh Wheatley and private John Lindsay—of the Fifeshire Fencibles, a Scottish regiment stationed in Ulster as part of the government’s counter-insurgency measures.92 He was charged under a recently enacted Insurrection Act (36 Geo. II c. 20), which rendered the administering of seditious oaths a felony punishable by death.93

The struggle over what would be forgotten and what would be remembered permeates all historical knowledge of Orr. Even accounts of his physical appearance were subject to partisan representations. At the time of his incarceration, he attracted universal sympathy. The Belfast News-Letter, though firmly opposed to the United Irishmen, generously noted that he was ‘remarkably good looking, and [had] much the appearance of a gentleman’.94 His supporters elaborated on the virtues of his comeliness.

Sensing that ‘the Irish nation feels highly interested in whatever relates to the unfortunate William Orr’, one of his visitors in jail subsequently published a detailed ‘description of that ever to be venerated martyr’ in which he was presented as an ideal image of manliness (‘it is a question if a finer fellow could have been found’). Orr was portrayed as perfectly handsome (‘nothing can be conceived more completely formed than every part of his body’) and impeccably dressed (‘his apparel appeared to be all new and fashionable’). In writing this flattering pen portrait, the pseudonymous author ‘Humanitas’ noted: ‘I am the more scrupulous and minute, as I understand some of the Irish artists are meditating an engraving of their countryman.’95 This deliberate bid to formulate (p.65) an iconic visual memory was successful insofar as it was later considered authentic.96 Its lasting impact is apparent in the artistic portraits of Orr a century later, which would be modelled on this romanticized textual depiction.97

However, such valorizing was unacceptable to those loyal to the Crown and was disputed by Arthur Chichester Macartney, the son of Rev. George Macartney, the magistrate who had issued Orr’s arrest warrant. Interviewed by Madden some three decades later, Macartney, Jr (who in the meanwhile had succeeded his father as vicar of Belfast) recalled how he had personally arrested Orr and insisted that ‘the fact is he was a very ordinary man, [a] wild dissipated young man of very loose morals and very moderate abilities.’ Macartney conceded that Orr was ‘popular among his class’, but attributed this popularity to his being ‘a frequenter of cockfights, drinking bouts in public houses and a fair-going boisterous sporting young man’ and claimed that, rather than being ‘a patriot of great and noble qualities’, he was ‘irregular in his habits and of very moderate abilities’.98

Madden, who regularly consulted personal testimonies and was therefore in a position to assess their credibility, acknowledged the trustworthiness of this account. His impression of Macartney was that ‘this gentleman would have served the party to which he unfortunately belonged at the expense of his life, but, to the best of my opinion, not at the expense of truth.’99 Madden even declared that ‘a clearer statement of facts and opinions in reference to this subject I never heard given by any person on either side.’100 Nonetheless, in preparing his notes for publication, he chose to sanitize this unflattering description and omitted the deprecatory comments.101 Madden’s monumental The United Irishmen: Their Lives and Times, which was published over a time frame of twenty-five years, between 1842 to 1867, in multiple series and editions that amounted to a total of eleven volumes, practically defined the pantheon of early republican heroes—including Orr—and elevated them into national idols.102 Canonization entailed subtle erasure, employing selective editing as an instrument for the intended forgetting of inconvenient information. This form of behind-the-scenes editorial expurgation is less noticeable than the centre-stage struggles between official attempts to impose amnesia and popular determination to remember, which typified social forgetting in its early stages.

Orr was committed to Carrickfergus jail by Lord Castlereagh on 17 September 1796.103 The authorities availed of the suspension of Habeas Corpus the following month (37 George III c.1) and were in no rush to prosecute, so that he was held in prison without trial for a year. The United Irish organ The Northern Star reported on rumours of ‘severe treatment’ of the many detainees rounded up in Antrim. The public (p.66) was called upon to come to their aid, as ‘when any persons are sent to prison it is necessary for their friends to send to them immediately, a bed with plenty of warm bedclothes, otherwise the prisoners will suffer severely of their health.’104 In an impressive display of solidarity, the week after Orr’s incarceration, a crowd of between five to six hundred of his neighbours gathered on a Friday morning to cut his harvest, professing that they ‘would accept of no compensation’.105

The French travel writer de Latocnaye, who was travelling in Ulster around that time, was told that it was ‘an old custom with the peasantry here to assemble at the end of the autumn and to dig up the potatoes of persons for whom they have any sort of affection’. He observed that the government was disturbed that this traditional practice had been co-opted in support of ‘persons who had been arrested for high treason, or of persons who were known to be disaffected’.106 Indeed, the United Irishmen resourcefully utilized these gatherings to great effect as part of their investment in propaganda by deed.107 A political prisoner could expect to have ‘his harvest reaped —his land tilled, and the wants of his family attended to by a kind and generous hearted peasantry in his absence’.108 Local custom was politicized as part of what Kevin Whelan, paraphrasing the French historian Maurice Agulhon, labelled ‘The Republic in the Village’.109 At first, the pro-government press ‘abstained from mentioning the curious circumstance that has repeatedly happened of late, of multitudes of people assembling to cut down the harvest of different Persons’. But the newspapers soon realized that their obligation ‘as faithful historians of public proceedings’ required mention of these mass public demonstrations, which were too substantial to be ignored.110

The week after the harvest, a vast crowd reassembled on Orr’s land to gather the crop. The ‘Hasty Shearing’ was described in The Northern Star with the newspaper’s characteristic irony, designed to both mock government reports of rebellious activities and to protect the publisher from charges of sedition:

On Monday last, about 600 men assembled on the lands of William Orr, near Antrim, and armed themselves each with a sheaf of his oats under their shoulder, and proceeded to the attack of his hagyard, where they deposited their arms, after having got possession of the post without opposition.111

(p.67) At the end of October, another mass gathering assembled for a ‘hasty digging’ of Orr’s potatoes, which were raised ‘in a short space of time’.112 The supporters of this well-liked man had turned him into a cause célèbre deemed worthy of remembrance. Notably, publicity had been achieved through use of few words.

Words were a cause for concern for the government and its supporters, who were troubled by the radical publications of the Northern Star. Under the capable editorship of the United Irishman Samuel Neilson, the paper had developed an extensive distribution network, which was particularly strong in north-east Ulster.113 Its average print run of over 4,000 copies reached an estimated readership of up to 40,000, surpassing the other Irish newspapers of its day. Repeated prosecution of the management, culminating in a military raid on its offices and the arrest of Neilson in September 1796, failed to put an end to the paper’s publication.114 On the contrary, the proprietor of the rival pro-government Belfast News-Letter (which, at its height, reached a print run of only 2,750) found that he was unable to compete with a surge in the popularity of the Northern Star and applied for subsidies from the government.115 The growing popularity of the United Irish newspaper, which in some locations in Ulster was distributed gratis, seemed unstoppable.116

The Northern Star was finally muzzled on 19 May 1797, when the Monaghan Militia ransacked its offices and ‘demolished the whole of the printing apparatus’.117 General Lake, who was conveniently absent during the riot, expressed his ‘extreme satisfaction’ at the news of the destruction.118 The printers claimed that a Sergeant-Major in the militia had told them that ‘we are only executing orders of our officers.’119 This charge was denied by the authorities, who claimed that the militiamen were disciplined for their unruly conduct, yet radicals insisted that they had not seen any proof that punishments had indeed been meted out.120 Thomas Pelham, the Chief Secretary in Dublin Castle, denounced the destruction of the Northern Star as an ‘outrage’, but his condemnation was mitigated by an explicit understanding that ‘the regiment should feel an indignation at the printers of that paper which had been (p.68) industriously circulated amongst them and had corrupted so many of their comrades as well as the whole province of Ulster.’121

For United Irishmen, the Northern Star had ‘represented the moral force of Ulster’ so that its destruction, as claimed by James Hope, ‘silenced moral force for a time, and physical force was then resorted to, by the people, for the preservation of life and liberty’.122 The liberal Earl of Moira, Francis Edward Rawdon-Hastings, insisted on government responsibility. Moira’s vocal criticism of the brutal anti-insurgency policy in Ulster earned him the epithet ‘Lord Longbow, the alarmist’ in a satirical caricature by James Gillray.123 The mockery was misguided. Moira’s allegation that ‘the destruction of the property by the military was done in order to check animadversions in other papers upon the conduct of Government’ was not entirely off the mark.124 From mid-1797 to the spring of 1798, the oppositional press in Ireland was systematically dismantled through repressive legislation and imposition of heavy taxes.125

For a short period, the void left by the Northern Star was filled by the Press, an equally radical newspaper launched in Dublin on 28 September 1797 by a group of United Irishmen headed by Arthur O’Connor. It attained instant success, reaching an unparalleled print-run of 6,000 copies.126 As seen through the government’s eyes:

This paper, conducted on principles still more licentious than the Northern Star (which had contributed so largely to the extension of treason in the North) was distributed throughout all parts of the kingdom, and from the activity of its partisans, had immediately a more extensive circulation than any paper long established.127

The authorities were informed that ‘it is read with as much avidity’ as the Northern Star and that its articles were becoming ‘more violent and desperate every day’.128 With official concerns running high, the Press unsurprisingly met a similar fate to that of its predecessor. In February 1798, its printer, John Stockdale, was imprisoned. The following month, troops raided the newspaper’s offices and destroyed the printing presses.129 William Drennan who witnessed the remaining equipment being carried away to Dublin Castle likened it to the taking of ‘the soul of the Dublin public’ (p.69) and, in absence of media to chronicle this deed, regretted that ‘it is not yet the time for history.’130

By the spring of 1798, all critical newspaper journalism had been quashed. Beyond the primary purpose of thwarting the United Irish conspiracy, the silencing of the radical press was an attempt to prevent the formation and circulation of interpretative narratives that disputed the official take on the development of the crisis in Ireland. Loyalist propaganda, such as a contrived Letter from a Father to His Son, a United Irishman, in the Barony of Ards, in the County of Down, aimed to discredit revolutionary agitation.131 When looking back at the build-up towards the 1798 rebellion, the forced cessation of radical reportage on government repression can be seen as a contentious attempt to prevent prememory and initiate pre-forgetting. By recalling the example of William Orr, the United Irishmen defiantly claimed the right to uphold a radical counter-memory.


Apart from the reuse of the memory of William Orr at the time of the rebellion, there is also a more immediate sense in which the case of Orr exhibits workings of prememory. During his lifetime, as the events leading to his tragic death unfolded, several interested parties—including William Orr himself—were engaged in competing attempts to influence the way he would be remembered. Silencing was a main concern for the United Irishmen, who were apprehensive that the counter-memory of Orr would be suppressed before it could develop and that he would be forgotten. The origins of this discourse of pre-forgetting pre-dated his execution, so that Orr was being discussed in terms of forgetting even before he had died. It appears that preoccupation with oblivion can commence before an event has happened. In other words, at some level, forgetting can precede history!

When Orr was finally brought before the Antrim assizes and charged with ‘administering unlawful oaths’ on 18 September 1797, the United Irishmen recognized an opportunity of turning his court case into a memorable show trial that would expose government repression. He was represented by their most talented attorneys, John Philpot Curran and William Sampson, who mounted a defence that hinged on lack of clarity regarding the validity and expiry date of the Insurrection Act.132 Despite their energetic legal efforts, the court proceedings were over in a single day and ended in conviction.133 The tense atmosphere in the gallery was apparent in the muteness of the spectators. An ‘exact statement of the trial’ taken down by ‘an eminent Stenographer’ (probably Sampson) noted that ‘during the whole of the trial the silence and anxiety of (p.70) a crowded audience were singularly solemn and striking.’134 An eyewitness confirmed that, throughout the deliberations, ‘the public seemed sunk in silent and torpid suspense.’135 This inability to talk is significant. Silence would feature as a leimotiv in the remembrance of Orr.

Even the presiding judge Lord Avonmore, Barry Yelverton, was ‘scarcely articulate’ and, upon pronouncing the sentence, ‘burst into tears’.136 This impassioned display was more than just a nod to the contemporary convention of expressing sorrow when condemning a criminal to death. Yelverton had previously been known as a liberal politician, who championed legislative reforms. He was an old acquaintance of the defence counsellor John Philpot Curran, their friendship going back to when they were both members of a convivial-political club nicknamed ‘The Monks of the Screw’, established by Yelverton in 1779.137 He even shared a common significant experience with the defendant, as both of them had been members of the Volunteers. Since then, Yelverton had allied himself with the conservative establishment and was appointed chief baron of the exchequer. Although he was fully committed to the prosecution of United Irishmen, the description of his breakdown at the conclusion of the trial shows that he was genuinely rattled:

he was so deeply affected as scarcely to be able, articulately, to conclude a very impressive address. The tears gushed down his eyes, and covered his face with both his hands, his Lordship, greatly agitated, remained in the situation for several minutes.138

The striking displays of speechlessness in the courtroom demonstrated the unsettling effect of Orr’s case.

In determining Orr’s guilt, the jury recommended that he should be shown mercy and this request (which, in private, was not supported by Yelverton) was duly submitted to Dublin Castle.139 Consequently, the execution, originally set for 7 October, was postponed in order to allow for reconsideration. Heightened public interest in this affair was palpable. The publication of the Belfast News-Letter was stopped in the press in order to include a last-minute notice of a temporary ‘Respite for Mr. Orr’.140 Additional respites followed and during these intervals Dublin Castle was inundated by petitions on his behalf. It was widely expected that Orr would be pardoned, or that his sentence would be commuted.141

(p.71) Expressions of sympathy came from far and wide and were not confined to radical cliques. The moderate liberal Dr Alexander Henry Haliday maintained that Orr had ‘a character without reproach’ and that the pleas for his reprieve were made ‘by most respectable people, and on strong grounds’.142 Lady Londonderry, the stepmother of Lord Castlereagh, tried to intercede and prevent the execution. Reportage in the conservative press avoided the associations of malevolence that were regularly applied to those accused of being United Irishmen and showed unusual sensitivity by referring to Orr as an ‘unfortunate’ individual. The authorities in Dublin Castle became increasingly troubled by reports of public rejoicings at the prospect that Orr might be set free and were wary of the reactions to the execution.143 The efforts to spare Orr’s life had begun to fashion him as a martyr ahead of his death.

The seemingly clear-cut verdict delivered by the court was undermined by an unofficial trial, which took place in the public sphere and reflected popular rejection of the legitimacy of military repression. Radicals spread allegations of miscarriage of justice and refused to recognize Orr’s guilt. William Drennan was informed by his sister, Martha McTier, of the emergence of evidence that seemed to discredit the soldier on whose testimony the conviction had been reached, rendering the case ‘the most flagrant breach of it [i.e. justice] ever known in this part of the world’.144 Rumours circulated that the conspicuously packed jury had been drunk during the deliberations and that intimidation was applied to secure a unanimous conviction. Henry Joy McCracken, who at the time was imprisoned in Kilmainham jail, was told by his sister, Mary Ann McCracken, that a jury member ‘was beaten, and threatened with being wrecked, and not left a six-pence in the world, on his refusing to bring in a verdict of guilty’.145

Supporters of the government were disturbed by ‘gross misrepresentation’ of Orr’s case in the ‘disaffected prints’. The ‘scribbling advocates of the unfortunate man’ were cautioned that:

they should recollect the punishment due to those who unjustly expose to suspicion the proceedings of any court of criminal judicature or shall charge such with error or partiality; they should remember also, that unfounded attack against the impartial administration of public justice is a crime of the foulest injury to the judges of the land, that it lessens the public confidence in the laws themselves, and ultimately shakes the foundation of public protection and tranquillity.

The more shrill supporters of Orr may have done him a disservice, as loyalists became convinced that ‘an example is necessary’ and resolved to thwart the efforts for a reprieve.146

(p.72) At the summer assizes of 1797, twenty-seven defendants were found guilty of administering oaths, of whom only four were condemned to death.147 It was therefore conceivable that Orr’s sentence would be remitted. However, accusations of misconduct had pushed the authorities into a corner, from which bestowing a pardon would be seen as an admission of wrongdoing. Moreover, the government was determined to demonstrate its ability to crack down on the United Irish organization in Ulster and prevent rebellion. The Chief Secretary, Pelham, insisted that an example would have to be made and, after giving the matter consideration, the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Camden, decided to uphold the verdict and ruled that ‘the law must take its course.’148

The execution was rescheduled for 14 October 1796 and, given the extent of public interest, substantial resistance was anticipated. Orr was escorted along the road leading out of Carrickfergus to the Gallows Green by an exceptionally formidable guard:

A considerable number of military consisting of part of the Fifeshire fencibles, the Monaghan militia, the Reay fencibles, the Carrickfergus invalids, a part of the 22d dragoons, and the Carickfergus yeomen cavalry, as also a party of the artillery, with two pieces of cannon were attending. The High Sheriff, on horseback preceded the carriage, and the Sub-Sheriff, on horseback followed it.149

This impressive show of arms was unnecessary, as the local public appeared to be stunned. Once again, popular response to the ordeal was marked by silence.

An eyewitness from Carrickfergus described the sombre scene on the day of the hanging:

The inhabitants of this town, man, woman, and child, quit the place this day, rather than be present at the execution of their hapless countryman, William Orr. Some removed to a distance of many miles—scarce a sentence was interchanged during the day, and every face presented a picture of the deepest melancholy, horror and indignation.150

This pattern of restrained behaviour would be later repeated at the executions that followed the 1798 rebellion. Memories of such horror-struck reactions were noted a half-century later in the area of Ballymena, county Antrim:

We have heard a friend say that, though he was then a mere child, the impression made on his memory by the cavalcade in escort of the prisoners to execution was indescribable. He knew, he said, from the solemn silence which pervaded the dwelling of his family—the closed doors—the darkened windows—and the whispered communications between the senior member[s], that something extraordinary was about to happen.151

Whereas social memory is traditionally transmitted through oral communication, these recollections were part of a memory of silence, which was shared in intimate, less vocal, circumstances.

(p.73) The withdrawal of the public from the scene of the execution had denied Orr an audience for his most significant act of prememory. After engaging in ‘devotional exercises’ with Rev. William Stavely and Rev. Adam Hill, the two ministers who had accompanied him to the gallows, he drew from his pockets a ‘dying declaration’, which, in absence of a crowd, could only be read out to the military guard. This statement had been written in the presence of a minister, Rev. John Savage, nine days earlier (5 October). In coming to terms with the inevitability of his death, Orr was primarily concerned with his reputation—‘which is dearer to me than Life’—and troubled that he may be remembered unfavourably, or even forgotten. He therefore made a final appeal: ‘I trust that all my virtuous countrymen will bear me in kind Remembrance.’152

Orr’s declaration was intended for distribution. Printed copies had been prepared in advance by Mathew Smith, a nephew of Samuel Neilson who assumed responsibility for publishing the last issues of the Northern Star following the arrest of his uncle. The High Sherriff of County Antrim returned from the execution with a copy and believed that urgent measures should be taken to prevent its dessemination.153 Smith’s house was raided by the military and the hand bills with the declaration were confiscated before they could be circulated.154 However, this attempt at stifling embryonic remembrance—and to forcefully impose pre-forgetting—proved to be futile, as the authorities were unable to prevent further prints.

Three days after the execution, Orr’s dying declaration was published in the Press. Soon after, it reappeared in partisan accounts of the trial and other associated publications issued by United Irishmen in Dublin, Belfast, and Philadelphia. It was even reproduced in the non-political Walker’s Hibernian Magazine. In addition, handwritten copies abounded. From beyond the grave, Orr triumphantly continued to declare: ‘I glory in my Innocence.’155 His moving words politicized the popular eighteenth-century genre of gallows speeches and effectively inaugurated a new literary form.156 Rhetorical addresses by condemned republicans would flourish in the nineteenth century and attain canonical status in the collection Speeches from the Dock, first published in 1867 and reissued continuously in numerous editions. The inclusion of Orr’s declaration at the beginning of this seminal anthology, which has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most influential books in nineteenth-century Irish nationalist literature’, affirmed his status as the republican protomartyr.157

(p.74) At the time of its original issue, the declaration was part of a struggle for predetermining Orr’s public memory. Shortly after the trial, the Belfast News-Letter reported that it had heard ‘from the best and most respectable authority’ that Orr had written a confession of his guilt and this sensational news item soon circulated in the loyalist press.158 The disclosure was expected to deal a heavy blow to ‘the manufacturers of the seditious prints’.159 It transpired that the source of the information was Dublin Castle, which had acquired a handwritten confession dated 24 September, yet its authenticity was soon called into question. Orr wrote to the Lord Lieutenant on 10 October, seeking ‘to contradict a most cruel and injurious publication which has been put into the newspapers’ and stated that, even though he had been made to understand that admission of guilt would save his life, he had ‘decidedly refused’ to sign a confession.160 At his execution, Orr used his dying declaration as a ‘solemn method of contradicting that calumny’ and made a point of publicly denouncing the ‘false and ungenerous publication’ that had tarnished his reputation.

The radical Press complained about the ‘flagitious persistency’ with which newspapers aligned with the government, such as Faulkiner’s Dublin Journal, were trying ‘to murder the fair fame of the martyred Mr. Orr’.161 Some members of the Ascendancy were willing to accept that they may have been duped by the rumours of ‘a spurious confession’ after William Tankerville Chamberlain, the second judge at Orr’s trial, declared that it was ‘totally false’.162 However, the High Sherriff of Antrim, Chichester Skeffington, and the Sovereign of Belfast, William Bristow, issued public notices, backed by affidavits, which were designed to refute Orr’s declaration and confirm the validity of his confession.163 In response, William’s brother—James Orr—revealed that he was in fact the author of the confession, ‘the whole transaction being entirely my act, and not that of my brother, as he utterly refused’.164 This startling revelation was reissued in the Press, which also published the letter William Orr had written to Lord Camden in which he resolutely professed his innocence.165

The struggle over how Orr would be remembered, which had commenced during his imprisonment, continued in full swing after his death. A fortnight after the execution, on 27 October 1797, the Press published on its front page an open letter to the Lord Lieutenant, railing that in ‘the death of Mr. Orr, the nation has promoted (p.75) one of the most sanguinary and savage acts that had disgraced the laws’. Camden was brazenly condemned for not stepping in to save Orr from ‘the death that perjury, drunkenness, and reward had prepared for him’. Moreover, Camden’s perceived culpability was seen as part of a more general responsibility for ‘massacre and rape, military murders, desolation and terror’.166 The letter was signed ‘Marcus’. Its author was later shown to be Deane Theophilus Swift—the ‘Dust of Drumcondra’, a purported descendant of Jonathan Swift, who had acquired a reputation as an acerbic pamphleteer. On account of this article, he was hounded by the authorities and consequently refrained from writing further pieces on behalf of the United Irishmen. Swift vanished into obscurity until he was traced by Madden sixty years later and was found to be living in Gravesend, London, ‘aloof from all factions and ambitions’.167 The authorities were not satisfied with the silencing of the writer and were intent on also punishing the newspaper. In early November 1797, the printer and nominal proprietor of the Press, Peter Finnerty, was taken to court for publishing libel.168

The Finnerty trial was an attempt to suppress radical interpretations of the trial of William Orr before they could become public memory. The United Irishmen protested that ‘public money is lavished to buy panegyricks on one side, and silence is enjoined upon the other.’ In the name of ‘liberty of the press’, they refused to be silenced.169 In another open letter to the Lord Lieutenant, an author going by the name of William Caxon reiterated the allegations previously made by Marcus, while he gingerly pretended that he ‘can not possibly be supposed to allude to the case of Mr. Orr’. Camden was warned that ‘he may take up a Printer every day; he may punish him as he pleases, but he never will stop the voice of truth, or impede the career of Liberty’ and ‘he never can gag our mouths’.170

The Press defiantly announced that ‘the death of Mr. Orr is a topic that should never be relinquished.’ Convinced that ‘the public must feel a lively interest in every thing that concerns the suffering of the martyr’d Orr’, the United Irish newspaper published affidavits by jurors who testified that they had been plied with ‘very strong whiskey spirits’ and were pressed upon to reach a verdict of guilty.171 Publication followed of additional affidavits, which confirmed the rumours that the sole witness against Orr had been found to be unreliable.172 The Finnerty court case took place on the background of this appeal to public opinion for a radical revision of the official memory of Orr’s conviction.

In what appeared like a replaying of Orr’s trial, Curran and Sampson once again took up the defence. Curran’s long concluding speech, which would later be admired by nationalists as a classic example of Irish rhetoric, meticulously reviewed the details of Orr’s trial in order to formulate an indictment of British government in Ireland.173 (p.76) The court could not afford to accept the damning accusation that Camden had acted ‘inhumanly, wickedly and unjustly’. Finnerty was convicted of libel and was sentenced to stand in the pillory for an hour, serve in prison for two years, pay a fine of twenty pounds, and provide on his release hefty securities (in total of one thousand pounds) that would guarantee his ‘good behaviour for seven years’. The unusually severe punishment was intended to send out a strong message that the dissemination of oppositional interpretations of Orr’s trial was unacceptable. In a break of discipline, the Armagh militia violently harassed the ‘immense course of people’, including ‘some most respectable citizens’, who gathered to support Finnerty at the pillory.174 As in previous cases when soldiers were let loose on the population, this unruly display of military force was seen to enforce government repression. Undeterred, the United Irishmen organized subscriptions to cover Finnerty’s relief for the period of his imprisonment, making sure to maintain the anonymity of the donors in order to shield them from ‘violence or persecution’.175

The case of Orr was picked up by radicals in England. The London Courier described his execution as ‘Murder most Foul’.176 Toasts at a birthday party for the Whig parliamentarian Charles James Fox included: ‘The memory of William Orr, basely murdered’ and ‘May the Lord Lieutenant, and the Irish Cabinet, be seen in the situation of William Orr.’177 Responding to criticism voiced by Lord Moira at a debate in the Irish House of Lords on 19 February 1798, the Lord High Chancellor, Lord Clare, was obliged to refute persistent accusations of misconduct at Orr’s trial.178 After the Press was closed down and the United Irishmen no longer had their own newspaper, an anthology titled The Beauties of The Press republished its most effective items on William Orr.179 Despite the extensive repressive legislation at their disposal, the authorities were shown to be incapable of effacing the counter-memory that disobediently continued to champion Orr.

On a ground level, United Irishmen refused to forgive those they held responsible for Orr’s death. On the night of 27 February 1798, the executioner was dragged naked from his bed and violently assaulted by a party of men who ‘feloniously cut the ears out (p.77) of his head and left him for dead’.180 The jurors were also subject to intimidation.181 One of them, George Casement of Larne, recalled how, several days after the ‘memorable trial’, he was assaulted on the road. With the outbreak of the rebellion in his locality on 7 June 1798, Casement was notified that he had been designated ‘the first person to be put to death’.182 Oral traditions collected in the mid-nineteenth century by the local Presbyterian minister Rev. Classon Porter recounted how a relative, who had received inside information on the intended attack, arranged for Casement to go into hiding ‘until the vengeance of the United Irishmen died out’.183 In turn, Orr’s family was targeted by loyalists. On 9 June 1798, their household was attacked by a party of yeomen from Antrim town, who pillaged the place and burnt it down. The widow and her six young children were forced to take shelter in a tenant’s barn and, according to a claim filed twenty years later, the damage was evaluated between 2,500 to 3,000 pounds.184

The struggle over remembrance of Orr mirrored the conflict between official enforcement of counter-revolutionary emergency legislation and its popular rejection. Public memory, as conceived by the American historian John Bodnar, is situated at ‘the intersection of official and vernacular cultural expressions’.185 A related concept of popular memory, developed in the early 1980s by the Popular Memory Group at the University of Birmingham, pivots on two sets of dialectical relations—‘between dominant memory and oppositional forms’, as well as between ‘public discourses in their contemporary state of play and the more privatized sense of the past which is generated within a lived culture’.186 A fuller appreciation of these tensions requires awareness of a corresponding dynamic of ‘popular forgetting’, which is the outcome of struggles over silencing. In seeking legitimization for partisan interpretations of Orr’s trial and execution, each side sought to invalidate, essentially to consign to oblivion, the opponent’s claim on truth and justice. Silencing signalled an attempt to remove memory from the public sphere. However, the absence of speech, as argued by Eviatar Zerubavel, can demarcate the presence of a particularly salient issue, leaving an unavoidable ‘elephant in the room’.187 In effect, silence can function as a subtle mnemonic device.

Although the government’s attempt to impose complete silence was unsuccessful, legal and military recrimination had impressed upon radicals the necessity for caution. As a result, early literary efforts to remember Orr reflected reticence. Under the (p.78) pseudonym ‘The Minstrel’, William Drennan published in the Press his poem ‘William, an Elegy’, in which he commented on the silence that had followed Orr’s death:

  • Are your springs, Oh! ye Muses run dry?
  • Has horror suspended their source!
  • That yet nor a tear nor a sigh,
  • Oh William! has hallow’d thy cor[p]se.188

The poet William Hamilton Drummond was subsequently inspired to compose an ‘Elegiac Ode to the Honored Memory of William Orr’.189 But it was Drennan who would return to write the definitive tribute to Orr in another poem, which he penned around the time of the execution and published three months later.

Drennan’s poetic masterpiece first appeared under the lightly disguised title ‘Wake of W——M. O——R.’ and was later republished in a collection of Drennan’s poems with the unspecific title ‘The Wake’. It called for restrained and muted remembrance:

  • Here our brother worthy lies,
  • Wake not him with women’s cries;
  • Mourn the way that mankind ought;
  • Sit, in silent trance of thought.

This appeal for silence was not a submission to censorship, but a form of clandestine vigilance:

  • Here we watch our brother’s sleep,
  • Watch with us; but do not weep;
  • Watch with us thro’ dead of night,
  • But expect the morning light.190

William Orr was to be commemorated guardedly, through feigned silence.

With this formulation, Drennan had created a poetic genre of veiled mourning that was distinct from the flagrantly sentimental expressions of grief in contemporary English literature.191 Drennan’s evocation of silence inspired Thomas Moore, an avid reader of the Press who would become the most celebrated Irish poet of the early nineteenth century. Moore famously perfected this style in his poem ‘Oh! Breathe Not His Name’, which depicted a hidden ritual of mourning through which Robert Emmet’s execution in 1803 was commemorated:

  • And the tear that we shed, though in secret it rolls,
  • Shall long keep his memory green in our souls.192

The subversive political content of these poems was outwardly hidden. Yet, the implicit references to the identity of the commemorated United Irish heroes were recognizable to the intended readership and did not need to be spelt out.

(p.79) Madden considered Drennan’s poem ‘a piece written with great power, and which, probably, had more effect on the public mind than any production of the day in prose or verse’.193 In the mid-nineteenth century, it was enthusiastically endorsed by the romantic nationalists of Young Ireland and appeared in the multiple editions of Charles Gavan Duffy’s popular anthology The Ballad Poetry of Ireland.194 It was later described by a northern nationalist as ‘that heart-quickening work which we, as youngsters of the early-nineteen-hundreds, were ever ambitious to recite’.195 The poetic call for silence—not actual silence—embedded a discourse of omissions into the cultural memory of the United Irishmen.

Reserve was also apparent in local vernacular poetry. Writing mainly for an Antrim audience, the poet James Orr of Ballycarry in county Antrim composed ‘The Execution’, which appeared in print in 1804. It tells of a condemned man, who was lead to his hanging ‘Thro’ Carrickfergus’ far-fam’d wall’, and it dwells on his final stirring words, in what appears to be a reference to William Orr’s dying declaration:

  • His last address had power to reach
  • Ev’n scornful hearts, tho’ void of art:
  • Affecting still must be the speech
  • That simply leaves a feeling heart.

According to a biographical memoir written in the early nineteenth century, the poet was a nephew and intimate acquaintance of William Orr.196 Regardless of this uncorroborated claim, James Orr was undoubtedly aware of William Orr’s execution. The poem’s ambivalence about the circumstances of the hanging—‘I blame his deeds, but mourn his death’—appear to reflect the personal experience of the poet as a former United Irishmen. James Orr was among the rebels at the Battle of Antrim in 1798 and was obliged to flee for his life to America. He later returned to live in his home area, harbouring bitter memories of the rebellion. At the time when the poem was published, United Irishmen could not be lamented openly in public and the guarded verses, which refrain from naming the executed man, are yet another example of masked remembrance.197

Silent remembrance was not merely a figment of poetic imagination. Commemorative practices did not necessarily require words. For this purpose, fashion could be pressed in the use of counter-memory. The portrayal of Orr during his imprisonment complemented his stylish clothing and noted that he wore a green ribbon, as was the custom among United Irish prisoners.198 It was later noted that ‘the colour of his coat at the time he suffered became a kind of uniform dress.’199 Imitative dressing-up was adopted as a non-verbal memorial practice.

(p.80) Orr’s fashionable dress was mocked by loyalists, who formulated an alternative understanding of the execution, which presented Orr as a gullible pawn who had fallen prey to revolutionary scheming, rather than an ideologically committed victim of state oppression. The lengthy poetic composition Orange: A Political Rhapsody, which was probably written by John Giffard—a militant opponent of the United Irishmen—and was dedicated to the ultra-conservative politician John Claudius Beresford, put this interpretation in verse:

  • Might farmer Orr have run his humble race,
  • And never changed, or wish to change his place—
  • But strong persuasion flowed from Grattan’s tongue,
  • And Orr believed—grew indiscreet—and hung.

The poem was first published in 1798 and its reissue in nine editions is indicative of the enthusiasm with which it was received in loyalist circles.200 The notion that Orr had been misled was another aspect of prememory that fed into an ambiguous memory of 1798, in which the defeated United Irishmen of Ulster would be remembered by their loyalist descendants as reluctant rebels.

Another form of coded remembrance, which did not have to be spoken about and was practised in everyday circumstances, is apparent in the naming of children after Orr. This custom may have been inspired by the christening of his own daughter Wilhelmina, who was born shortly after the execution. It was soon adopted as a popular form of memorialization. For example, in 1798, Joseph McGaw and Laetitia Thoburn of Sunnyside in the parish of Carnmoney, county Antrim, expressed their indignation at the execution by calling their new-born son William Orr.201 The tradition of naming children after Orr, which would continue into the twentieth century, was shared across the political divide, as noticed by the historian of the Orange Order Robert Mackie Sibbett, who hailed from Portglenone, county Antrim (near Ballymena): ‘To this day the name is popular among those who are in sympathy with sedition, notwithstanding the fact that it also belongs to men conspicuous for loyalty.’ Sibbett repeated the loyalist interpretation, explaining that Orr ‘had unfortunately been duped, and he paid the penalty which worse than he escaped’. The fact that loyalists continued, however inadvertently, to remember Orr spoke for itself.202

A more esoteric practice of nonverbal memory may have been associated with the daily use of a set of corn-mill scales from Straid, near Gracehill, county Antrim, which was inscribed with William Orr’s name. This artefact was dated 1803—the year of Robert Emmet’s unsuccessful attempt to mobilize remaining United Irishmen—and a time when awareness of the prememory left over from 1798 was very much in the air. Philip Robinson, the former Head of Collections at the Ulster Folk and Transport (p.81) Museum (which acquired the item in the mid-1980s) ventured an explanation of its secret commemorative function:

In 1803 the metaphorical symbolism of this inscription would have been evident to most men using the Straid Mill: the scales of ‘justice’, with the inscription of a heart motif and the name of William Orr on a beam which would jerk with scaffold-like violence each time a sack of grain was thrown on.

Reference to a cipher that was in use in the area at the time suggests that the mention of the date may have also implied an encrypted religious allusion to I.N.R.I., thus evoking archetypal Christian martyrdom in association with Orr’s execution.203 For a long while, the rebellion could not be talked about openly in public, and yet silence was evidently making a strong sound.

Anticipating Forgetting

‘Death is the most powerful agent of forgetting. But it is not all-powerful.’ In reminding us of this simple truth, Harald Weinrich commented on the memorial limitations of funerary rites. Weinrich observed that ‘gravestones always also serve as “monuments” warning the living not to forget their dead—and yet people often forget all too easily.’204 Following his execution for treason, William Orr could not be memorialized freely. After the hanging, the corpse was removed by his friends and an unsuccessful attempt at resuscitation was made in a nearby house. The body was then taken on a hearse to the Presbyterian meeting house in Ballynure, where it was waked. The minister Rev. Adam Hill was subsequently arrested for hosting this forbidden event but was soon released, as nobody could be found to testify against him.205 The government was made to realize that silence could also be used in defiance.

Orr’s body was taken for burial to the graveyard in Templepatrick. An eyewitness later recalled seeing ‘immense crowds, of both sexes, hurrying to witness the melancholy scene’.206 A party of dragoons assigned to police the funerary procession encountered difficulties in dispersing the ‘amazing concourse of people’ that gathered along the road and surrounding hills.207 In the sardonic account of the contemporary loyalist historian Sir Richard Musgrave, it was ‘a most splendid funeral, which was attended by a numerous body of united Irishmen, who lamented in doleful accents the fate of this martyr to republican liberty, and bedewed his hearse with tears of sympathetick civism [sic]’.208 (p.82) Not only United Irishmen attended the funeral. Orr was generally well liked in the area and his loyalist friends also came to pay their respects.209 Much to the chagrin of the authorities, the execution had aroused widespread popular sympathy which could not be contained.

Orr was buried in a family plot, but his name was not inscribed on the grave. The tombstone only mentions Ally Orr, who is believed to have been his sister but may have actually been his mother or an aunt.210 By early 1798, the Press noted that ‘there is now in preparation, a monument to the memory of William Orr.’211 The attempt by the United Irishmen to erect a memorial in advance of the rebellion epitomizes prememory. But conditions of repression and silencing made open commemoration impossible. The site of Orr’s grave was tenaciously preserved in local memory and yet, being unmarked, it was always susceptible to forgetting. A century later, in 1896, visiting nationalists from Belfast found the grave covered in yew branches and wild roses. They realized that ever since the burial, ‘in the long years that followed when men feared to speak of ’ninety-eight, his name was not cut on the stone.’212 Although nationalists were committed to rectifying this situation, and returned the following year to decorate the grave, a proper memorial was not erected during the centennial commemorations of 1798.213 It would take another century before the grave of William Orr was marked in 1998 with a modest plaque during the bicentenary of the rebellion.214 Social forgetting of the United Irishmen, initiated in advance of the rebellion, would have a long life.

In absence of a monument, a furtive vernacular memorial culture developed immediately after Orr’s death. The cap which had been placed over his head at the execution was cut up into pieces that were distributed among his friends, who ‘cherished it as a most precious relick’, and these revered mementoes were carefully preserved over the nineteenth century.215 A range of purposely designed commemorative artefacts served as potent aides-mémoire. ‘Remember Orr’ was inscribed on ‘mourning rings’, some of which had Orr’s hair set in them while others were wrought with silk. United Irishmen presented these memorial tokens to each other. The Belfast antiquarian Francis Joseph (p.83) Bigger described one such ring, which had been originally presented by a relative of the deceased, Robert Orr:

a little thin finger or scarf ring, hand-made, of gold. On one side is a round plate enclosing a green enamelled shamrock, with white enamel surrounding it. On the opposite side in an oval are the words, ‘Remember Orr’, and on each side of the plate in gaelic letters ‘Erin go bragh’.216

Henry Joy McCracken had a similar ring (presented to him by his friend Thomas Richardson) and, before his execution in July 1798, he bequeathed it to his mother. This act, which took place in Carrickfergus jail, the same prison in which Orr had been previously held, was essentially a gesture of prememory, which signified McCracken’s readiness to imitate Orr’s martyrdom.217

An assortment of memorial cards, silk rosettes, and custom-made watch-paper featured commemorative texts that were dedicated ‘Sacred to the Memory of William Orr’ and entreated ‘Let us bear him in steadfast memory’ (Fig. 1.3).218 Medals were struck in his honour. One of these souvenirs was described by a respected nineteenth-century local historian, Hugh McCall of Lisburn:

Pre-ForgettingBefore 1798Pre-ForgettingBefore 1798

Fig. 1.3. William Orr memorabilia

(a) memorial silk rosette (pink); (b) memorial silk rosette (white); (c) memorial ring; (d) memorial card.

From the collections of Francis Joseph Bigger; reproduced in Bigger, Remember Orr (1906).

It is made of copper, and about the size of a penny piece of the old coinage. On one side is a figure of the Irish harp with spear and cap of freedom and the motto ‘Liberty—remember William Orr’. On the obverse are the words ‘May Orr’s fate nerve the impartial arm to avenge the wrongs of Erin.’219

This overtly seditious memorabilia had to be carefully concealed. A search of the residence of Father Duffy in Drogheda—a radical Catholic priest, later described as a ‘zealous patriot’—uncovered ‘a laboured complimentary epitaph to the late William Orr’ that had been hidden in a secret compartment in his desk.220

Oral traditions recalled the dangers of being caught in possession of these commemorative items. Hugh McCall would recount ‘with great animation’ the story of how a man was hanged in Hillsborough, county Down, after the medal described above was found concealed in his shoe.221 He also noted that Tom Armstrong, a United Irishman who was executed in Lisburn after the rebellion, had been identified by a (p.84) cockade inscribed ‘Remember Orr’, which was found in the lining of his hat.222 Travelling with ‘a manuscript copy of verses written on the death of William Orr’ in his pocket and a cockade concealed in his hat, James Standfield of Lisburn was stopped at a military station outside Ballymena and came within a hair’s breadth of being searched. Realizing that ‘the discovery of such emblems of disaffection might have been fatal’, he made sure to dispose of them the moment he was out of sight.223 Bigger noticed that the commemorative ring in his possession had been repaired in several places, ‘the explanation being that it was smashed in pieces by Orr’s daughter, and then thrown away to hide it from the eyes of the soldiers, who were on the look out for such “treasonable” articles, as its possession was made an offence punishable by (p.85) death.224 By necessity, initial remembrance of Orr developed through an extremely cautious culture of clandestine commemoration.

Even when boldly announcing the imperative to ‘Remember Orr’, the wording on these souvenirs reflected concerns that his memory would be forsaken. A memorial card with an evocative text, which was believed to have originated as an epitaph composed by Wolfe Tone for Orr’s tomb, included a pre-emptive denunciation of forgetting: (p.86) ‘when YE forget HIM…May you be debar’d THAT LIBERTY he sought, and forgotten in the Hist’ry of Nations; or, if remember’d, remember’d with disgust and execration, or nam’d with scorn and horror!’—the emphases on forgetting appeared in the original text.225 A popular memorial poem, which first appeared in the Press as a ‘fragment’ (fashioned after the style of Macpherson’s Ossian), was then circulated on commemorative rosettes, and even migrated with United Irishmen to America, portrayed Erin—a female representation of Ireland—in a tragic state of deep slumber (‘sad is the sleep of Erin’), beset by enemies and drenched in the blood of her children. The inability of the ghostly ‘spirit of Orr’ to awaken Ireland in this poem appears to echo apprehensions that even determined remembrance might not triumph over forgetful indifference.226 Remembrance of Orr was perforated with anxieties about forgetting.

Orr’s attorney, William Sampson, was repeatedly penalized for his attempts to expose the excesses of the military and defend his fellow United Irishmen. In 1806, after a series of arrests and forced exiles, he finally gave in and relocated to America, where he enjoyed a successful legal career. Twenty-five years later, at a dinner held in his honour in Philadelphia’s Congress Hall, he was toasted ‘the defender of William Orr’. Sampson exhorted his audience to ‘Remember Orr’, adding ‘may you remember me when you remember Orr.’227 What seemed like a display of confident remembrance was actually an expression of angst. The memory of Orr was evoked as a means for veteran United Irishmen to address their own anxieties of being forgotten. Although phrased in the imperative, ‘Remember Orr’ was more of a plea than a command, and concerns of forgetting were always close at hand.

With the rise of Irish nationalism, from the middle of the nineteenth century, public silence on the legacy of the United Irishmen was broken. The memory of the republican protomartyr could now be publicly celebrated as part of an increasingly assertive counter-memory that openly challenged the hegemony of British-Imperial memory. Young Ireland extolled the martyrdom of Orr in their organ The Nation and it featured prominently in a popular history of political trials by Thomas MacNevin.228 Above all, Madden’s history of The United Irishmen, which included a detailed account of the ‘case of William Orr’ (published in 1858), influenced other popular nationalist histories, such as John Mitchel’s The History of Ireland and Mary Francis Cusack’s The Illustrated History of Ireland (both published in 1868 and re-issued in multiple editions), so that the memory of Orr’s martyrdom became common knowledge.229 In popular (p.87) culture, the injustice of Orr’s trial was encapsulated in the folk song ‘By Memory Inspired’, which was hawked on broadsides from the early 1860s:

  • In October Ninety-Seven,
  • May his soul find rest in Heaven!
  • William Orr to execution was led on;
  • The jury, drunk, agreed
  • That Irish was his creed,
  • For perjury and threats drove them on, boys, on.230

‘Remember Orr’ was put to effective use as a prememory template in the construction of the memory of the ‘Manchester Martyrs’—three Fenians, whose conviction for the killing of a policeman in a rescue operation of republican prisoners following the failed insurrection attempt of 1867 was presented by nationalists as a similar miscarriage of justice.231

A typically stirring appeal to the memory of Orr was expressed at the end of nineteenth century by the Irish-American Fenian Rev. George W. Pepper of Cleveland, Ohio. Born in 1833 in Ballinagarrick, county Down, to a loyalist Episcopalian father, who was master of the local Orange lodge, and a republican Presbyterian mother, whose family had been United Irishmen, Pepper considered the martyrdom of William Orr to be ‘one of the noblest incidents in history’. At a nationalist demonstration in Philadelphia in 1895, Pepper addressed ‘an immense audience’ and declared in liturgical fashion:

We will remember Orr! When we think of the hallowed name of the United Irishmen, we will remember Orr! When we think of the persecutions which have deluged earth in the holy name of religion, and which was the work of England, we will remember Orr! When we think of the outrages perpetrated by a brutal soldiery, we will remember Orr! When we think of the howl of intolerance raised by the landlords to continue the foul demonstration of tyranny, we will remember Orr! When we think of the disgraceful bigotry and virulence which would chill the warm hearts of the Irish Presbyterians towards their Catholic countrymen, we will remember Orr! When we think that all popular modes of coercion have been bred, the scaffold, the gaol, in famine and exile; when we think of the horrible inhumanity in the trial and execution of the gallant Manchester martyrs, we will remember Orr!232

For zealous nationalists, such as Pepper, the memory of Orr was a generic marker for resistance to oppression and, as such, it functioned as a prememory for all nationalist remembrance.

(p.88) As a familiar prememory of 1798, remembrance of Orr periodically kick-started commemorations of the United Irishmen. The centenary of 1798 was launched with a commemoration of William Orr at St Mary’s Hall in Belfast on 14 October 1897 and the first publication of the ’98 Centenary Committee was a penny pamphlet on The Story of William Orr, issued in January 1898.233 Similarly, in 1938, William Orr was the subject of the first in the series of leaflets Who Fears to Speak of ’98?, which was published in London by the bookseller Joseph Hilary Fowler ‘at a price and in a form that would reach the humblest of people’ to mark the hundred-and-fortieth anniversary of 1798.234 Once more, on 14 October 1997, a memorial event at the Templepatrick Old Presbyterian Church signalled the opening of the bicentenary of 1798.235 There is something misleading in the brimming assertiveness of all these commemorations, which belie an almost imperceptible insecurity. Time and time again, nationalists would confidently proclaim ‘Remember Orr’ and yet fail to raise a major public monument that would recognize the primacy of his standing in memory. To decipher this commemorative paralysis requires a deeper understanding of the social forgetting of the 1798 rebellion in Ulster and how it developed over the course of two centuries.

Social remembering is dependent on mediation. In a study of the memory of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Astrid Erll re-adapted terms developed for media studies by Richard Grusin: ‘premediation’ and ‘remediation’. When applied to history, premediation refers to how ‘existent media which circulate in a given society provide schemata for new experience and its representation’; and remediation follows how historical memory is ‘represented again and again, over decades and centuries, in different media’.236 Prememory—the recycling of memories of early events in the construction of memory—clearly relies on premediation. But what is often left unnoticed is the subtle role of pre-forgetting, which embeds into the very earliest stage of memory formation anxieties of forgetting. Similarly, the study of the remediation of social memory can too easily miss out on the remediation of social forgetting.

Social forgetting of the Turn-Out in Ulster was premediated by earlier memories. Rival interpretations of the memory of the Volunteers offered alternative models for rebels and for supporters of the Crown and framed remembrance of 1798 as a conflict between loyalist memory and republican counter-memory, which tried to annul each other. The repressive counter-revolutionary measures that preceded the rebellion further complicated the contestations over memory. Silencing precipitated muted remembrance, which was suppressed in public and recalled in private. The continued remediation of the protomartyrdom of William Orr over two centuries exemplifies the sustained role of prememory in the development of social forgetting. From the very beginning, remembrance of the United Irishmen in Ulster would be troubled by anxieties of forgetting, which could not be shaken off.


(1) ‘Nous entrons dans l’avenir à reculons’; Paul Valéry, Variété IV (Paris: Gallimard, 1938), p. 139.

(2) Lewis Carroll,Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (London: Macmillan & Co., 1871), p. 95.

(3) Edwin Ardener, ‘The Construction of History: “Vestiges of Creation”’, in History and Ethnicity, edited by Elizabeth Tonkin, Maryon McDonald, and Malcolm Chapman (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), p. 25.

(4) Ian McBride, ‘Memory and National Identity in Modern Ireland’, in History and Memory in Modern Ireland, edited by Ian McBride (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 8.

(5) David Fitzpatrick, ‘Instant History: 1912, 1916, 1918’, in Remembering 1916: The Easter Rising, the Somme and the Politics of Memory in Ireland, edited by Richard S. Grayson and Fearghal McGarry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 65–85. For the formation of ‘instant memory’ see Iwona Irwin-Zarecka, Frames of Remembrance: The Dynamics of Collective Memory (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994), pp. 161–74.

(6) Gaynor Kavanagh, ‘Museum as Memorial: The Origins of the Imperial War Museum’, in Journal of Contemporary History, 23, no. 1 (1988), pp. 77–97; Gaynor Kavanagh, Museums and the First World War: A Social History (London: Leicester University Press, 1994), pp. 103–43.

(7) Mooli Brog, ‘In Blessed Memory of a Dream: Mordechai Shenhavi and Initial Holocaust Commemoration Ideas in Palestine, 1942–1945’, Yad Vashem Studies, 30 (2002): pp. 297–336.

(8) F. C. Bartlett, ‘Some Experiments on the Reproduction of Folk-Stories’, in Folklore, 31, no. 1 (1920), pp. 30–47; F. C. Bartlett, Remembering: A Study in Experimental Social Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932).

(9) See William F. Brewer, ‘Bartlett’s Concept of The Schema and Its Impact on Theories of Knowledge Representation in Contemporary Cognitive Psychology’, in Bartlett, Culture and Cognition, edited by Akiko Saito (London and New York: Psychology Press, 2000), pp. 69–89.

(10) Stig Förster, ‘Dreams and Nightmares: German Military Leadership and the Images of Future Warfare, 1871–1914’, in Anticipating Total War: The German and American Experiences, 1871–1914, edited by Manfred F. Boemeke, Roger Chickering, and Stig Förster (Washington, D.C., Cambridge, and New York: German Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 343–76.

(11) John Horne and Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), esp. 140–74.

(12) Karine Varley, Under the Shadow of Defeat: The War of 1870–71 in French Memory (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), esp. 11, 75, and 230–1. Cf. Annette Becker, ‘Monuments aux morts après la Guerre de Sécession et la Guerre de 1870–1871: Un legs de la Guerre Nationale?’, in Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, no. 167 (1992), pp. 23–40; Antoine Prost, ‘Mémoires locales et mémoires nationales: Les monuments de 1914–1918 en France’, in ibid., pp. 41–50.

(13) See I. F. Clarke, The Tale of the Next Great War, 1871–1914: Fictions of Future Warfare and of Battles Still-to-Come (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995); I. F. Clarke, The Great War with Germany, 1890–1914: Fictions and Fantasies of the War-to-Come (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997).

(14) Niall Ó Ciosáin, ‘Famine Memory and the Popular Representation of Scarcity’, in History and Memory in Modern Ireland, edited by Ian McBride (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 102.

(15) McBride, ‘Memory and National Identity’, p. 36.

(16) BNL, 12 June 1798, p. 2.

(17) The two coats are described in detail in BNL, 3 February 1892, p. 7. For colour photographs see W. A. Maguire, Up in Arms (Belfast: Ulster Museum, 1998), pp. 57 (green and yellow coat) and 241 (all green coat).

(18) John Thomas Gilbert, ed., The Manuscripts and Correspondence of James, First Earl of Charlemont (London: H.M.S.O., 1891), vol. 1, p. 51.

(19) ‘Abstract of the effective Men in the different Volunteer Corps, whose Delegates met at Dungannon, and those who acceded to their Resolutions, and to the requisitions of the House of Commons of Ireland, the 16th of April, 1782’; reproduced in Thomas MacNevin, The History of the Volunteers of 1782 (New York: R. Martin & Co., 1845), pp. 106–7.

(20) ‘Return of the Volunteers of Ireland 1784’; reproduced in James Kelly, ‘Select Documents xliii: A Secret Return of the Volunteers of Ireland in 1784’, Irish Historical Studies, 26, no. 103 (1989): pp. 277–92.

(21) See Peter Smyth, ‘“Our Cloud-Cap’t Grenadiers”: The Volunteers as a Military Force’, Irish Sword, 13, no. 52 (1978–9): p. 196.

(22) The loyalist historian Samuel McSkimin maintained that the Volunteers who marched in the parade amounted to 790 (of which 194 came from Belfast and were joined by county Down companies from Moira, Dromore, Villa, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, and Dromore) and that another 180 joined the procession from the Antrim parishes of Templepatrick and Carnmoney; McSkimin, Annals of Ulster, pp. 14–15. Wolfe Tone, who was one of the main speakers at the event, estimated the total number of attendance at 6,000; William Theobald Wolfe Tone, ed., Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone (London: Henry Colburn, 1827), vol. 1, pp. 90–1.

(23) See reports in the Northern Star, 27 October, 10 and 14 November 1792; reproduced in Brendan Clifford, Belfast in the French Revolution (Belfast: Belfast Historical and Educational Association, 1989), pp. 72–4.

(24) See Nancy J. Curtin, The United Irishmen: Popular Politics in Ulster and Dublin, 1791–1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 51–5 and 166.

(25) McSkimin, Annals of Ulster, p. 21.

(26) Letter to Wolfe Tone signed R. S. [probably Robert Simms], reproduced in William Theobald Wolfe Tone, ed., Life of Theobald Wolfe Tone (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1826), vol. 1, pp. 271–2. The BNL report on the ‘military riot’ of 9 March 1793 is reproduced, alongside accounts of similar affrays on 15 April and 25 May, in Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd edn, 1st ser., vol. 1 (Dublin: James Duffy, 1857), pp. 190–2.

(27) K. P. Ferguson, ‘The Volunteer Movement and the Government, 1778–1793’, Irish Sword, 13, no. 52 (1978–9): pp. 208–16.

(28) William Bruce and Henry Joy, Belfast Politics (Belfast: H. Joy, 1794), pp. 138–40.

(29) See Ian McBride, Scripture Politics: Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism in the Late Eighteenth Century (Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 123–34.

(30) ‘Memoir of Henry Munro’, in Madden, The United Irishmen, 3rd ser. (1846), 1, p. 400. The informant, described as Munro’s ‘nearest surviving relative’, can be identified as Katherine Templeton of Cranmore; Madden Papers, TCD 873/317 (letter dated 13 December 1842). This account was repeated in the late nineteenth century by the local historian Hugh McCall, who was a friend of the family, see Young, Ulster in ’98, pp. 81–2.

(31) ‘Autobiographical Memoir of James Hope’, in Madden, The United Irishmen, 3rd ser., vol. 1 (1846), pp. 229–30, 262, and 266.

(32) R. R. Madden to William Tennent, 28 December 1842, Tennent Papers, PRONI D1748/G/426/3. A detailed account of Francis McCracken’s death was written by his sister; Mary Ann McCracken to R. R. Madden, 6 January 1843, Madden Papers, TCD 873/96. See also Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd ser. (London: J. Madden & Co., 1843), 2, pp. 505–6.

(33) Family tradition recounted by Mrs Graham Shannon; W. S. Smith, Memories of ’98 (Belfast: Marcus Ward & Co., 1895), p. 28.

(34) Collected by Francis Joseph Bigger from Robert Johnston, whose ancestor, Jack Taylor, had been recruited to the rebel ranks by Fullarton; ibid., p. 54.

(35) McSkimin, Annals of Ulster, p. 118; see also Young, Ulster in ’98, pp. 43–4 (recollections of 91-year-old James Burns, interviewed by Rev. Classon Porter on 24 June 1863).

(36) Padhraig Higgins, A Nation of Politicians: Gender, Patriotism, and Political Culture in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010); see also Stephen O’Connor, ‘The Volunteers 1778–1793: Iconography and Identity’ (PhD: Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, 2008).

(37) See Robert Day, ‘The Ulster Volunteers of ’82: Their Medals, Badges, &C’, Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 2nd ser., 4, no. 2 (1898): pp. 73–85.

(38) Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Antiquities and Other Objects, Illustrative of Irish History, Exhibited in the Museum, Belfast on the Occasion of the Twenty-Second Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, September, 1852 (Belfast: Archer & Sons, 1852), pp. 27, 33, and 46 (Volunteers paraphernalia); 17, 19, 27, 42, and 52 (United Irish relics). For further discussion of the exhibition see Chapter 4, pp. 274–6.

(39) BNL, 15 April 1892, p. 7. For identification of the sword see Young, Ulster in ’98, p. 32 (a drawing of a typical Volunteer sword appears on p. 13). The sword is now kept in the collections of the Ulster Museum; NMNI BELUM.O475.1914.

(40) Irish News, 9 May 1938 and 4 December 1939 (reproduced in Irish News, 9 May 2007, p. 28 and 4 December 2008, p. 22).

(41) Fergus Pyle, ‘McCracken Exhibition in Belfast’, in Irish Times, 25 August 1967, p. 11; Maguire, Up in Arms, pp. 57 and 241. McCracken’s coats are listed in the Ulster Museum catalogue as NMNI BELUM.O473.1914 (green) and BELUM.O474.1914 (yellow and green).

(42) Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor, Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), esp. pp. 45–52.

(43) James V. Wertsch, ‘Collective Memory and Narrative Templates’, Social Research, 75, no. 1 (2008): pp. 133–56; see also Wertsch, Voices of Collective Remembering, pp. 60–2, 93–7, and 176–7.

(44) See Thomas Crofton Croker, ed., Popular Songs: Illustrative of the French Invasions of Ireland (London: reprinted for the Percy Society by T. Richards, 1845–6), parts 1 and 2.

(45) Allan Blackstock, ‘Loyal Clubs and Societies in Ulster, 1770–1800’, in Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland, edited by James Kelly and Martyn J. Powell (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), p. 451.

(46) For the reconfiguration of the United Irishmen see Nancy J. Curtin, ‘The Transformation of the Society of United Irishmen into a Mass-Based Revolutionary Organisation, 1794–6’, Irish Historical Studies, 24, no. 96 (1985): pp. 463–92.

(47) Vincent Morley, Irish Opinion and the American Revolution, 1760–1783 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 23–39, 81–5, and 189–92.

(48) Blackstock, ‘Loyal Clubs and Societies’, p. 464.

(49) Lisburn Standard, 13 April 1917 (‘Interesting Supplementary Items’).

(50) For a register of the yeomanry units at the time of the rebellion see A List of the Counties of Ireland, and the Respective Yeomanry Corps in Each County (Dublin: Dublin Castle, 1798), nos. 2 (Antrim) and 17 (Down).

(51) Allan Blackstock, An Ascendancy Army: The Irish Yeomanry, 1796–1834 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), pp. 75–92; see also Allan Blackstock, Double Traitors? The Belfast Volunteers and Yeomen 1778–1828 (Belfast: Belfast Society & Ulster Historical Foundation, 2000).

(52) Diary of John Galt, PRONI D561/1, f. 47 (entries for 11 and 14 June 1798).

(53) Sharman Crawford Papers, PRONI D 856/D/1.

(54) BNL, 22 July 1828, p. 4.

(55) Downpatrick Recorder, 24 February 1844, p. 3.

(56) BNL, 6 April 1882, p. 8.

(57) Belfast Evening Telegraph, 26 October 1909, p. 3.

(58) A Guide to the Irish Volunteer, Yeomanry and Militia Relics (18th and 19th Centuries) (Belfast: City of Belfast Museum and Art Gallery, 1938); for exhibits relating to 1798 (mostly taken from the collections of Francis Joseph Bigger), see pp. 35, 38, and 43; see also Irish News, 9 May 1938 (reproduced in Irish News, 9 May 2007, p. 28).

(59) Bruce-Drennan letters, William Drennan to William Bruce, 15 May 1785, PRONI D553/43 and August 1785, D553/45; see also A. T. Q. Stewart, A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Origins of the United Irish Movement (London: Faber and Faber, 1993), pp. 68–9.

(60) Anon. [William Drennan], Letters of Orellana, an Irish Helot, to the Seven Northern Counties Not Represented in the National Assembly of Delegates, held at Dublin, October, 1784, for Obtaining a More Equal Representation of the People in the Parliament of Ireland (Dublin: J. Chambers & T. Heary, 1785); see also Stewart, A Deeper Silence, pp. 129–42.

(61) Classon Emmett Porter, The Seven Bruces: Presbyterian Ministers in Ireland in Six Successive Generations (Belfast: reprinted from the Northern Whig, 1885), pp. 43–6; Rev. Alexander Gordon, ‘William Bruce, D. D.’, in Belfast Literary Society, 1801–1901: Historical Sketch, with Memoirs of Some Distinguished Members (Belfast: McCaw, Stephenson, and Orr, 1902), pp. 29–34; see also W. I. Craig, Presbyterianism in Lisburn from the Seventeenth Century: First Lisburn Presbyterian Church (Lisburn: printed by H. MacBride & Son, 1960), ch. 12.

(62) Martha McTier to William Drennan, 30 November 1798 in Jean Agnew, ed., The Drennan-McTier Letters, vol. 2 (Dublin: The Women’s History Project in association with the Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1999), p. 428.

(63) Thomas Pelham, Dublin Castle, to General Lake, 3 March 1797, Downshire Papers, PRONI D607/E/148; Lake to Pelham, 16 April 1797, Pelham Papers, BL Add. MS 3310/3 [reproduced in Pelham Transcripts, PRONI D755/4/2/268]; also correspondence of Lord Camden with General Lake, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O165/1-6.

(64) General John Knox, Dungannon, to Marquess of Abercorn, 21 March 1797, Abercorn Papers, PRONI D623/A/156/10.

(65) de Latocnaye, Rambles through Ireland; by a French Emigrant (Cork: printed by M. Harris, 1798), vol. 2, p. 225; for the original see de Latocnaye, Promenade d’un français dans l’Irlande Orné de gravures en taille douce, troisième volume (Dublin: M. et D. Graisberry, 1797), p. 299. For recollections of the Ancient Britons see Chapter 3, p. 195 and Chapter 6, pp. 478–9.

(66) Dublin Evening Post, 20 May 1797, p. 3; see also Brian MacDonald, ‘The Monaghan Militia & the Tragedy of Blaris Moor’, Clogher Record, 16, no. 2 (1998): pp. 123–43.

(67) James Watson, Memorial of James Watson, Esq. Brookhill, with Notices of His Contemporaries (Belfast: James Alex. Henderson, 1851), p. 28.

(68) Solomon Secondsight [James McHenry], O’Halloran; or The Insurgent Chief: An Irish Historical Tale of 1798 (Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1824), 1, pp. 62–5.

(69) Richard Robert Madden, ed., Literary Remains of the United Irishmen of 1798 and Selections from Other Popular Lyrics of Their Times (Dublin: James Duffy, 1887), pp. 177–9; P. W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909), pp. 107–10; Hugh Shields, ‘Some “Songs and Ballads in Use in the Province of Ulster…1845”’, Ulster Folklife, 17 (1971), p. 10; Georges Denis Zimmerman, Songs of Irish Rebellion: Irish Political Street Ballads and Rebel Songs, 1780–1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002; orig. edn 1966), pp. 129–32; Terry Moylan, The Age of Revolution: 1776–1815 in the Irish Song Tradition (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2000), pp. 35–6. Additional early verses, possibly composed by the poet Mary Balfour, were left unpublished and did not enter into the folk song repertoire; see Robert Magill Young, Historical Notices of Old Belfast and Its Vicinity (Belfast: M. Ward & Co., 1896), p. 279.

(70) Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd ser., vol. 2 (1843), pp. 399–400. The newspaper report of the execution had the father saying that ‘if he [his son] was base enough to involve the lives of innocent men, he would deserve the death which he was about to receive’; Dublin Evening Post, 20 May 1797, p. 3.

(71) See Michael De Nie, The Eternal Paddy: Irish Identity and the British Press, 1798–1882 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), p. 46.

(72) Elizabeth Malcolm, ‘A New Age or Just the Same Old Cycle of Extirpation? Massacre and the 1798 Irish Rebellion’, Journal of Genocide Research, 15, no. 2 (2013): pp. 151–66.

(73) Two examples can be found in the printed drawing collections of the National Library of Ireland: ‘The Men of ’98’, published in Dublin by John Arigho c.1901–12; ‘Leaders of the United Irishmen, 1798 and 1803’, by Thomas O’Bolger, published in New York in 1908.

(74) Two samples of the commemorative handkerchief can be found in the collections of the National Museum and the National Library of Ireland; NMI HH:2013.422 and NLI EPH F224.

(75) Press, 4 November 1797, p. 3.

(76) The Life of the Rev. James Coigly, an Address to the People of Ireland, as Written by Himself During His Confinement in Maidstone Gaol (London: s.n., 1798), p. 60.

(77) The Trial of James O’Coigly…Taken in Short-Hand by Joseph Gurney (London: M. Gurney, 1798), pp. 381–2; see also Dáire Keogh, A Patriot Priest: A Life of Reverend James Coigly (Cork: Cork University Press, 1998), p. 1.

(78) See Alan Ford, ‘Martyrdom, History and Memory in Early Modern Ireland’, in History and Memory in Modern Ireland, edited by Ian McBride (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 43–66; Clodagh Tait, ‘Catholic Martyrdom in Early Modern Ireland’, History Compass, 2, no. 1 (2004), unpaginated.

(79) Burke, ‘History as Social Memory’, pp. 51–2.

(80) The verse appeared in the song ‘Oh Union For Ever’; The Irish Harp, p. 88. The toast is included in a list of ‘Toasts and Sentiments’ appended to this songbook. It appeared also on another list, which was produced as incriminating evidence at a trial on 5 July 1798; see William Ridgeway, A Report of the Trial of Michael-William Byrne, Upon an Indictment for High Treason (Dublin: printed by John Exshaw, 1798), p. 128. Several other United Irish songs referred to Orr, including ‘Union’s Your Helm’ (‘O Orr! Who died for all, While we have breath, And in our death we will avenge your fall’); ‘Paddy’s Demands’ (‘While they have their Harts and their Orrs for a toast’); ‘Fly to Arms—Brave the Field’ (‘And when on martyred Orr you think’); see Madden, Literary Remains of the United Irishmen, pp. 23, 159, 160, 317.

(81) John Edward Newell to Lord Camden, 21 February 1798, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O197/3.

(82) The Report from the Secret Committee of the House of Commons (Dublin: printed by J. King and A. B. King, 1798), Appendix XX, p. 208.

(83) Henry Grattan, Jr, Memoirs of the Life and Times of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan (London: Henry Colburn, 1849), 4, p. 319.

(84) Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd ser., 2nd edn, vol. 2 (1858), pp. 253–4.

(85) Solomon Secondsight [James McHenry], The Insurgent Chief; or, O’Halloran: An Irish Historical Tale of 1798 (Philadelphia: H. C. Carey and London: A. K. Newman & Co., 1824; reprint), 3, pp. 273–4. For McHenry’s writings on the rebellion see Chapter 3, pp. 185–6, 191–5 and 200–1.

(86) NLI MS 8079.

(87) For Emmet’s memory see Marianne Elliott, Robert Emmet: The Making of a Legend (London: Profile Books, 2003); Ruan O’Donnell, Remember Emmet: Images of the Life and Legacy of Robert Emmet (Bray: Wordwell, 2003); Kevin Whelan, ‘Robert Emmet: Between History and Memory’, History Ireland, 11, no. 3 (2003): pp. 50–4.

(88) James Gordon, History of the Rebellion in Ireland, in the Year 1798 &C., Containing an Impartial Account of the Proceedings of the Irish Revolutionists, from the Year 1782 Till the Suppression of the Rebellion (Dublin: printed by William Porter, 1801), p. 70n.

(89) The informer, who is mentioned anonymously by the Victorian historian James Anthony Froude, was identified by W. J. Fitzpatrick. See J. A. Froude, The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Co., 1873), 3, pp. 179–80; W. J. Fitzpatrick, Secret Service under Pitt (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1892), p. 55.

(90) Robert Macartney to Rev. George Macartney, [15] September 1797, Rebellion Papers, NAI 620/25/132.

(91) W. S. Smith, Historical Gleanings in Antrim and Neighbourhood (Belfast: Alex. Mayne & Boyd, 1888), pp. 17–19.

(92) Examination of Hugh Wheatley, Lance Corporal and John Lindsay, a private soldier in his Majesties’ Fife Shire Fencible Regiment, 17 July 1796, Rebellion Papers, NAI 620/24/41.

(93) See An Act More Effectually to Suppress Insurrections, and Prevent the Disturbance of the Publick Peace (Dublin: printed by George Grierson, 1796), pp. 5–8 (the bill was introduced on 22 February 1796 and given royal assent on 24 March).

(94) BNL, 22 September 1797, p. 3.

(95) Press, 21 December 1797. A similar adulatory description appeared in a contemporary account of the trial; see A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, of Farranshane, in the County of Antrim (Dublin: printed by J. Chambers, 1797), p. 35. For the idealization of Orr as ‘a widely accessible model of manly behaviour’ see Nancy J. Curtin, ‘Reclaiming Gender: Transgressive Identities in Modern Ireland’, in ‘A Nation of Abortive Men’: Gendered Citizenship and Early Irish Republicanism, edited by Marilyn Cohen and Nancy J. Curtin (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 40–2.

(96) See ‘Notes and Queries’, in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 2nd ser., 1, no. 1 (1894), p. 78.

(97) A painting and sketch by Edwin Arthur Morrow (1877–1952) and a drawing by Joseph William Carey (1859–1937) were reproduced in Francis Joseph Bigger, Remember Orr (Dublin: Maunsel & Co., 1906), pp. 10 and 78 (Morrow), 41 (Carey).

(98) Madden Papers, TCD 873/267. For the involvement of Arthur Macartney and his father in suppressing the rebellion see Maurice H. Fitzgerald Collis, ‘Antrim Parish Church for Three Hundred Years’, UJA, 2nd ser., 3, no. 2 (January 1897): pp. 90–1.

(99) Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd ser., 2nd edn, vol. 2 (1858), p. 254n.

(100) Madden Papers, TCD 873/267.

(101) The published account reads: ‘he was a man of very moderate abilities; athletic in his frame, active, and somewhat of a sporting character among his class’; see Madden, The United Irishmen, 2nd ser. (1843), 2, p. 461.

(102) See Chapter 3 below, pp. 220–8.

(103) The warrant of imprisonment is reproduced in A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, p. 1.

(104) Northern Star, 30 September to 3 October 1796, p. 3.

(105) Northern Star, 23 to 26 September 1796, p. 4.

(106) de Latocnaye, Rambles through Ireland, vol. 2, pp. 112–13. In the original: ‘On m’a dit, que c’était une ancienne coutume établie parmi les paysans, de s’assembler sur le retour de la saison à la fin de l’automne et de déterrer les pommes de terre des personnes à qui ils veulent du bien’; de Latocnaye, Promenade d’un français dans l’Irlande, vol. 3, pp. 236–7.

(107) Curtin, The United Irishmen, pp. 241–5; see also Brendan Clifford, Prison Adverts and Potatoe Diggings: Materials from the Public Life of Antrim and Down during the Years of Government Terror which led to the Rebellion of 1798 (Belfast: Athol, 1992).

(108) Charles Hamilton Teeling, Sequel to Personal Narrative of the ‘Irish Rebellion’ of 1798 (Belfast: John Hodgson, 1832), p. 53.

(109) Whelan, The Tree of Liberty, pp. 62–74; cf. Maurice Agulhon, The Republic in the Village: The People of the Var from the French Revolution to the Second Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

(110) BNL, 14 October 1796, p. 3. For a compilation of the reportage see Henry Joy, Historical Collections Relative to the Town of Belfast from the Earliest Period to the Union with Britain (Belfast: George Berwick, 1817), pp. 443–4.

(111) Northern Star, 3 to 7 October 1796, p. 3.

(112) Northern Star, 28 to 30 October 1796, p. 3.

(113) Brian MacDonald, ‘Distribution of the Northern Star’, Ulster Local Studies, 18, no. 2 (1982): pp. 54–68.

(114) Richard Robert Madden, The History of Irish Periodical Literature, from the End of the 17th to the Middle of the 19th Century, Its Origins, Progress and Results (London: T. C. Newby, 1867), vol. 2, pp. 225–35; O’Brien, ‘Spirit, Impartiality and Independence’.

(115) George Gordon, Belfast, to Lord Downshire, 26 October 1796, Downshire Papers, PRONI D607/D/257. For the rivalry between the two papers see John Gray, ‘A Tale of Two Newspapers: The Contest between the Belfast News-Letter and the Northern Star in the 1790s’, in An Uncommon Bookman: Essays in Memory of J. R. R. Adams, edited by John Gray and Wesley McCann (Belfast: Linen Hall Library, 1996), pp. 175–98.

(116) See information from ‘Statements to Secret Committee of House of Commons, Dublin’, reproduced in John Thomas Gilbert, Documents Relating to Ireland, 1795–1804 (Dublin: printed by J. Dollard, 1893), p. 108.

(117) Thomas Lane to Lord Downshire, 21 May 1797, Downshire Papers, PRONI D607/E/262; Pelham to Earl of Sheffield, 22 May 1797, Sheffield Papers, PRONI T2965/145.

(118) See Brian Inglis, The Freedom of the Press in Ireland, 1784–1841 (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), p. 97.

(119) The accusation appeared in an account of the assault on the Northern Star office, which was printed on hand-bills soon after the event but was confiscated by the military before it could be distributed; reproduced in A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, pp. 42–5.

(120) Press, 9 December 1797, p. 4.

(121) Thomas Pelham, Dublin, 2 November 1797, TNA HO 100/70/182.

(122) Madden, The United Irishmen, 3rd ser., vol. 1 (1846), pp. 232–3.

(123) James Gillray, ‘Lord Longbow, the alarmist, discovering the miseries of Ireland’ (hand-coloured etching, published by Hannah Humphrey, 12 March 1798), National Portrait Gallery, D13092.

(124) The Parliamentary Register; or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the Houses of Lords and Commons…During the Second Session of the Eighteenth Parliament of Great Britain, vol. 4 (London: J. Debrett, 1798), p. 241.

(125) See Johanna Archbold, ‘Periodical Reactions: The Effect of the 1798 Rebellion and the 1800 Act of Union on the Irish Monthly Periodical’, in Book Trade Connections from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Centuries, edited by John Hinks and Catherine Armstrong (New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press; London: British Library, 2008), pp. 147–9.

(126) See Whelan, The Tree of Liberty, pp. 70–1.

(127) Report from the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, p. 13.

(128) Thomas Lane, Hillsborough, to Lord Downshire, 22 February 1798, Downshire Papers, PRONI D607/F/65; Pelham to Earl of Sheffield, 29 November 1797, Sheffield Papers, PRONI T2965/151.

(129) Madden, The United Irishmen, 3rd ser., 2nd edn (London: The Catholic Publishing & Bookselling Company and Dublin: J. Mullany 1860), p. 334 (mistakenly dated to 1797); Inglis, The Freedom of the Press, pp. 103–4.

(130) William Drennan to Martha McTier, Fast Day, March 1798; see Agnew, Drennan-McTier Letters, 2, p. 374.

(131) Anon. [‘Publicola’], A Letter from a Father to His Son, a United Irishman, in the Barony of Ards, in the County of Down (Dublin: n.s., 1797).

(132) W. N. Osborough, ‘Legal Aspects of the 1798 Rising, Its Suppression and the Aftermath’, in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, edited by Thomas Bartlett et al. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), p. 438n2. The hopes of United Irishmen that Orr could be acquitted on these grounds are evident in a letter written by William Drennan; see Agnew, Drennan-McTier Letters, 2, p. 337.

(133) BNL, 22 September 1797, pp. 2–3; Freeman’s Journal, 28 September 1797, p. 4.

(134) Press, 19 October 1797, p. 1. For Sampson’s authorship see Mary Helen Thuente, ‘William Sampson: United Irish Satirist and Songwriter’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 22, no. 3 (1998), p. 29.

(135) ‘Extract of a Letter from Carrickfergus’, in Press, 19 October 1797, p. 2.

(136) Press, 19 October 1797, p. 1.

(137) In this society, officially called the Monks of the Order of St Patrick, Yelverton was designated ‘Founder’ and Curran was the ‘Prior’; see James Kelly, ‘Elite Political Clubs, 1770–1800’, in Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland, edited by James Kelly and Martyn J. Powell (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), pp. 268–74.

(138) BNL, 22 September 1797, p. 3.

(139) Lord Yelverton to Lord Camden, 19 September 1797, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/1.

(140) BNL, 6 October 1797, p. 3.

(141) See correspondence and statements concerning William Orr, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31; in particular items numbered 7 (Address to Lord Camden and Lord Yelverton, n.d.), 9 (William John Skeffington to Camden, Chichester Skeffington to W. J. Skeffington, and William Bristow to W. J. Skeffington, 10 October 1797), 10 (Petition to Lord Camden, 12 October 1797), and 11 (George Macartney to W. J. Skeffington, 12 October 1797).

(142) Alexander Haliday to Lord Charlemont, 6 October 1797; reproduced in Gilbert, Manuscripts and Correspondence of Charlemont, 2, pp. 306–7.

(143) Thomas Pelham to Lord Yelverton, 20 September 1797, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/2. See also reference to letter from Colonel Barber in Bigger, Remember Orr, p. 38.

(144) Martha McTier, Belfast, to William Drennan, Dublin, postmarked 9 October 1797; Agnew, Drennan-McTier Letters, 2, pp. 340–1. Rev. George Macartney indeed collected a statement from Rev. James Elder, the Presbyterian minister of Finroy parish in county Antrim, which seemed to put in disrepute the character of Wheatley, who was the main witness for the prosecution; KHLC, Pratt Manuscripts, U840/O31/6.

(145) Mary Ann McCracken to Henry Joy McCracken, 27 September 1797; reproduced in Madden, The United Irishmen, 3rd ser., vol. 1 (1846), p. 164; also 2nd ser., 2nd edn, vol. 2 (1858), pp. 254–5.

(146) Freeman’s Journal, 10 October 1797, p. 3.

(147) Michael Durey, ‘Loyalty in an Age of Conspiracy: The Oath-Filled Civil War in Ireland 1795–1799’, in Unrespectable Radicals?: Popular Politics in the Age of Reform, edited by Michael T. Davis and Paul A. Pickering (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2008), p. 82.

(148) Thomas Pelham to Lord Yelverton, 20 September 1797, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/2; BNL, 13 October 1797, p. 2.

(149) Originally published in BNL, 16 October 1797; republished in Dublin Evening Post, 19 October 1797, p. 3; BNL, 20 October 1797, pp. 2–3 (with additional affidavit); Freeman’s Journal, 21 October 1797, p. 3.

(150) ‘Extract of a Letter from Carrickfergus’ (14 October 1797); Press, 17 October 1797, p. 3.

(151) Old Ballymena: A History of Ballymena during the 1798 Rebellion (Ballymena: Ballymena Observer, 1857), p. 49.

(152) ‘The Dying Declaration of William Orr, Ferranshane, Co. Antrim’, PRONI T1901/1; also Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/12A.

(153) Chichester Skeffington to Camden, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/12.

(154) Humphrey Galbraith, D[onagha]dee, to Lord [Downshire], 21 October 1797, Downshire Papers, PRONI D607/E/344; ‘Extract of a Letter from Belfast’, Press, 21 October 1797, p. 3. See also A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, pp. 41–2.

(155) Press, 17 October 1797, pp. 2–3; A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, pp. 38–40; Billy Bluff and ’Squire Firebrand; or, a Sample of the Times, as It Periodically Appeared in the Northern Star (Belfast, 1797), pp. 27–8; The Trial of William Orr, at Carrickfergus Assizes, for Being an United Irishman; with His Dying Declaration (Philadelphia, 1798), pp. 15–16; Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, or Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge, October, pp. 356–7. For a handwritten copy see PRONI D1494/2/11 [MIC 506/1].

(156) Kevin Whelan, ‘Introduction to Section V’, in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, edited by Thomas Bartlett et al. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), p. 388. Cf. James Kelly, Gallows Speeches from Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001), pp. 40–1.

(157) Out of deference, Orr’s declaration appears immediately after the courtroom speech of Wolfe Tone; T. D. Sullivan, A. M. Sullivan, and D. B. Sullivan, Speeches from the Dock; or, Protests of Irish Patriotism (Providence: H. McElroy, Murphy, and McCarthy, 1878; this 1st US edn corresponds to 23rd Dublin edn), pp. 28–31. For the book’s impact see David George Boyce, ‘“A Gallous Story and a Dirty Deed”: Political Martyrdom in Ireland since 1867’, in Ireland’s Terrorist Dilemma, edited by Yonah Alexander and Alan O’Day (Dordrecht, Boston, and Lancaster: Martinus Nijhoff, 1986), p. 14.

(158) BNL, 29 September 1797, p. 2. For an example of republication see Finn’s Leinster Journal, 7 October 1797, p. 3.

(159) Freeman’s Journal, 7 October 1798, p. 3.

(160) William Orr to Lord Camden, 10 October 1797, Pratt Manuscripts, KHLC U840/O31/8. For the confession document see U840/O31/3.

(161) Press, 19 October 1797, p. 2.

(162) Lord Ely, Dublin, to Archbishop Charles Agar, 19 October 1797, Normanton Papers, PRONI T3719/C/31/93.

(163) BNL, 20 October 1797, pp. 2–3; Freeman’s Journal, 21 October 1797, p. 3.

(164) BNL, 20 October 1797, p. 2. James Staples, a member of parliament for county Antrim, was named as one of the people who had promised to secure a pardon for Orr in exchange for the false confession but subsequently denied his involvement; BNL, 27 October 1797, p. 2.

(165) Press, 28 October 1797, p. 2 and 21 November 1797, p. 3.

(166) Press, 26 October 1797, p. 1. A previous article by Marcus ‘On the Liberty of the Press’ was published on the day of Orr’s execution; Press, 14 October 1797, p. 1.

(167) Madden, United Irishmen, 2nd ser., 2nd edn (1858), pp. 259–62.

(168) BNL, 6 November 1797, p. 4.

(169) Press, 23 December 1797, p. 3.

(170) Press, 5 December 1797, p. 1.

(171) Press, 5 December 1797, p. 3.

(172) Press, 21 December 1797, p. 3.

(173) Press, 30 December 1797, pp. 2–4. See also William Henry Curran, The Life of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran: Late Master of the Rolls in Ireland, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable & Co. and London: Hurst, Robinson & Co., 1822; orig. edn 1817), 1, pp. 308–24; Thomas Davis, ed., The Speeches of The Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, 4th edn (Dublin: James Duffy, 1862; orig. edn 1843), pp. 276–99.

(174) Trial of Peter Finerty, Late Printer of the Press, for a Libel against His Excellency Earl Camden, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in a Letter Signed Marcus, in that Paper (Dublin: printed by J. Stockdale, 1798). See also Inglis, Freedom of the Press, pp. 101–2.

(175) Press, 30 December 1797, p. 1.

(176) Courier, 25 December 1797; quoted in W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Life, Times and Cotemporaries of Lord Cloncurry (Dublin, 1855), p. 126n.

(177) John Gifford, A History of the Political Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt; Including Some Account of the Times in Which He Lived (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1809), 6, pp. 434–5. The toasts were recalled in several versions; see for example: W. E. H. Lecky, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913; orig. edn 1892), vol. 4, pp. 103–4 (‘to the memory of the martyred Orr’); Samuel McSkimin, The History and Antiquities of the County of the Town of Carrickfergus, from the Earliest Records Till 1839 (Belfast: Mullan & Son, James Cleeland, Davidson, and McCormack, 1909), p. 97n. (‘May the Irish Cabinet soon take the place of William Orr’); Grattan, Jr, Memoirs of the Life and Times, 4, p. 319 (‘May the execution of Orr provide places for the Cabinet of St, James’s at the Castle’).

(178) The Debate in the Irish House of Peers on a Motion Made by the Earl of Moira, Monday, February 19, 1798 (Dublin: John Milliken, 1798), pp. 61–9; see also The Speech of the Right Honourable John, Earl of Clare, Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, in the house of Lords of Ireland, Monday, February 19, 1798 (Dublin: s.n., 1798; re-issued in multiple editions in Dublin, Cork, London, and Oxford).

(179) See The Beauties of The Press (London: s.n., 1800), pp. 106–10, 250–5, 275, 312–40, 379–85.

(180) Dickson, Revolt in the North, p. 182.

(181) See Durey, ‘Loyalty in an Age of Conspiracy’, p. 82.

(182) George Casement to George Anson McClevirty, 20 July 1798, Massereene-Foster Papers, PRONI D562/3038. See also see Rob Davison, ‘George Casement and the United Irishmen’, North Irish Roots, 9, no. 2 (1998), p. 12.

(183) Young, Ulster in ’98, p. 50.

(184) J. Orr to Lord Castlereagh, 18 January 1819, NAI CSO/RP/1819/656.

(185) John E. Bodnar, Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 13–15.

(186) See Popular Memory Group, ‘Popular Memory: Theory, Politics, Method’, in Making Histories: Studies in History-Writing and Politics, edited by R. Johnson, G. McLennan, B. Schwartz, and D. Sutton (London: Hutchinson in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, 1982), pp. 205–52 [quotation from p. 211].

(187) See introduction chapter, p. 28.

(188) Press, 31 October 1797, p. 3. The poem was mainly recalled in a touched-up version published by Madden; see Madden, Literary Remains of the United Irishmen, pp. 43–4.

(189) Press, 23 November 1797, p. 2.

(190) Press, 13 January 1798, p. 3; Drennan, Fugitive Pieces, pp. 79–81.

(191) Cf. Esther H. Schor, Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), esp. pp. 48–52.

(192) Thomas Moore, A Selection of Irish Melodies (Dublin: W. Powers, 1808), 1, no. 1, pp. 16–18. Drennan’s influence is acknowledged in the poem ‘The Farewell to the Harp’, in which Moore notes that he borrowed from him a reference to ‘the cold chain of silence’; see Thomas Moore, Irish Melodies (Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1815), p. 147n. For Moore’s involvement with the Press see Mary Helen Thuente, The Harp Restrung: The United Irishmen and the Rise of Irish Literary Nationalism (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994), pp. 117–18.

(193) See Madden, United Irishmen, 1st ser. (1842), 2, p. 45; also 2nd ser., 2nd edn (1858), 2, p. 262 [dated mistakenly to 1791].

(194) Nation, 25 March 1843, p. 378; Charles Gavan Duffy, The Ballad Poetry of Ireland, 40th edn (Dublin: James Duffy, 1869; orig. edn 1845), pp. 70–2.

(195) F. P. Carey, ‘The Shrines of the Patriot Dead’, in Ninety-Eight, edited by Seamus McKearney (Belfast: The 1798 Commemoration Committee, 1948), pp. 59–61.

(196) George Pepper, ‘Literary and Biographical Notices of Irish Authors and Artists: James Orr’, in Irish Shield and Monthly Milesian, 1, no. 12 (1829), p. 450–2.

(197) James Orr, Poems on Various Subjects (Belfast: Smyth & Lyons, 1804), pp. 96–8. For the poetry of James Orr and the wider post-rebellion context in which it appeared see Chapter 3 below, pp. 180–2.

(198) Press, 21 December 1797, p. 3.

(199) McSkimin, Annals of Ulster, p. 91.

(200) Orange: A Political Rhapsody (Dublin: s.n., 1798), Canto II, p. 16 (verses 267–70). The commentary, which refers to Orr’s clothing, may have been added by the printer, George Faulkner, Jr. For the historical context of this publication see Allan Blackstock, ‘Politics and Print: A Case Study’, in The Oxford History of the Irish Book, edited by Raymond Gillespie and Andrew Hadfield (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), vol. 3: The Irish Book in English, 1550–1800, pp. 234–49.

(201) William Orr McGaw, ‘Notes on the Parish of Carnmoney, Co. Antrim’, Ulster Folklife, 1 (1955), p. 56.

(202) R. M. Sibbett, Orangeism in Ireland and Throughout the Empire (Belfast: Henderson, 1914), 2, pp. 27–8.

(203) UFTM L2403/1; Philip Robinson, ‘Hanging Ropes and Buried Secrets’, Ulster Folklife, 32 (1986): pp. 7–8. For the debacle of 1803 in Ulster and its resonance in social memory see Chapter 2 below, pp. 140–3.

(204) Weinrich, Lethe, p. 24.

(205) Account collected c.1906 by Alexander W. Forysthe of Ballynure from William Scott, whose father had attended the wake; Bigger Papers, Z401/6 [William Scott of Bryantang, Ballynure, is described in the 1901 census as an 80-year-old Unitarian farmer]. See also David Hume, ‘To Right Some Things That We Thought Wrong’: The Spirit of 1798 and Presbyterian Radicalism in Ulster (Lurgan: Ulster Society, 1998), pp. 40–1.

(206) William Grimshaw, Incidents Recalled; or, Sketches from Memory (Philadelphia: G. B. Zieber, 1848), p. 24.

(207) A Brief Account of the Trial of William Orr, p. 41.

(208) Richard Musgrave, Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland, from the Arrival of the English, 3rd edn (Dublin: Robert Parchbank, 1802), 1, p. 217.

(209) In the late nineteenth century, the antiquarian Rev. W. S. Smith heard from James Kirk of Whinpark, county Antrim, how his father Samuel Kirk—‘a warm, Loyalist friend of the condemned man’—attended the execution and burial; Smith, Memories of ’98, pp. 42–3.

(210) Bigger maintained that the inscription on the grave referred to his ‘favourite sister’; Bigger, Remember Orr, p. 51. A party of nationalists from Belfast who visited the grave in 1896 were lead to believe that ‘it is his mother’s grave’; SVV, 1, no. 7 (July 1896), p. 140. In the early twentieth century, it was noted that ‘some of the old people say that this Ally Orr was the aunt of William, and some say that she was his sister’; Robert Johnston, Lisnaveane, Antrim Road, Belfast, to [Henry] Dixon, 26 June 1913, Robert Johnston Papers, NLI MS 35,262/1. See also R. H. Foy, Remembering All the Orrs: The Story of the Orr Families of Antrim and Their Involvement in the 1798 Rebellion (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 1999), p. 33n14.

(211) Press, 8 February 1798, p. 2.

(212) SVV, 1, no. 7 (3 July 1896), p. 140.

(213) SVV, 2, no. 7 (5 July 1897), p. 129. For a sketch of the grave at the time see the publication of the ’98 Centenary Committee, The Story of William Orr (Dublin: James Duffy, 1898), p. 13; for an early photograph see Fig. 3.1a, p. 154.

(214) See Chapter 7 below, p. 577.

(215) Musgrave, Memoirs of the Different Rebellions, 1, p. 217; see also McSkimin, History and Antiquities, p. 97n. Madden retained one of these cloths, which was given to him by Robb McGee of Belfast; Madden Papers, TCD 873/336. Another piece was kept by a member of the Orr family; Young, Ulster in ’98, p. 89.

(216) Bigger acquired the ring from a descendant of William Stevenson, of Springfield, Belfast, who had received it from Orr’s widow and daughter; Bigger, Remember Orr, pp. 56–7.

(217) Madden, United Irishmen, 2nd ser. (1843), 2, p. 485.

(218) Young, Ulster in ’98, pp. 89–90; Bigger, Remember Orr, pp. 55–8; Guide to the Irish Volunteer, Yeomanry and Militia Relics, p. 43; Maguire, Up in Arms, pp. 167–8.

(219) Anon. [Hugh McCall], Ireland and Her Staple Manufactures: Being Sketches of the History and Progress of the Linen and Cotton Trades More Especially in the Northern Province, 2nd edn (Belfast: Henry Greer, George Phillips & Son, 1865; orig. edn 1855), pp. 142–3; reproduced as ‘Episodes of Ninety-Eight’, in Northern Whig, 8 October 1867, p. 4. For an almost identical description see W. G. Lyttle, Betsy Gray; or, Hearts of Down: A Tale of ’98 (Newcastle, Co. Down: Mourne Observer, 1968; orig. edn 1888), p. 134. In the early twentieth century, such a medal was in the possession of the London coin dealers Messrs. Spink & Son; see R. D., ‘A Memorial of 1798’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, ser. 2, 12 (1906), pp. 102–3. A silver ‘Remember Orr’ medal was put on display at the Belfast Museum in 1852; Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Antiquities, p. 27.

(220) BNL, 12 July 1798, p. 2; see also Richard Hayes, ‘Priests in the Independence Movement of ’98’, in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 66 (1945), p. 264.

(221) McCall, Ireland and Her Staple Manufactures, pp. 142–3; see also Some Recollections of Hugh McCall, Lisburn (Lisburn: J. E. Reilly, 1899), p. 16. The medal was later kept in the possession of a conservative unionist; Nation, 18 February 1843, p. 296.

(222) Young, Ulster in ’98, pp. 80–1.

(223) Northern Whig, 7 January 1867, p. 3.

(224) Bigger, Remember Orr, p. 57.

(225) For facsimile reproductions see Young, Ulster in ’98, p. 90; Bigger, Remember Orr, p. 58. The supposed authorship of Wolfe Tone was first noted by Mary Ann McCracken; Madden Papers, TCD 873/33. This claim was subsequently endorsed in social memory; see ’98 Centenary Committee, The Story of William Orr (Dublin: James Duffy, 1898), pp. 13–14.

(226) Press, 20 February 1798, p. 3. For the poem’s appearance on memorial cards see Bigger, Remember Orr, pp. 55–6; Maguire, Up in Arms, p. 167. For its circulation in America see David A. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), p. 162.

(227) Hazard’s Register of Pennsylvania, 8, no. 19 (1831), pp. 299–303.

(228) Nation, 16 September 1843, p. 778; Thomas MacNevin, The Lives and Trials of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, the Rev. William Jackson, the Defenders, William Orr, Peter Finnerty, and Other Eminent Irishmen (Dublin: J. Duffy, 1846), pp. 481–96.

(229) Madden, United Irishmen, 2nd ser., 2nd edn (1858), 2, pp. 253–63; John Mitchel, The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time (New York: D. J. Sadlier & Co., 1868), p. 277; Mary Francis Cusack, The Illustrated History of Ireland from the Earliest Period (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1868), pp. 548–9.

(230) Confusingly, a reference to ‘the memory of John Mitchel that is gone!’ refers to Mitchel’s exile (as the ballad antedates his death in 1875) and was already hawked on broadsides in 1864; see Duncathail [Ralph Varian], ed., Street Ballads, Popular Poetry and Household Songs of Ireland, 2nd edn (Dublin: McGlashan & Gill Co., 1865), p. 88n.

(231) Irishman, 23 November 1867; Nation, 30 November 1867, p. 281. See also references to ‘Remember Orr’ in the speech for the defence at the trial of Alexander Martin Sullivan, the editor of the Weekly News who was charged for sedition in his coverage of the Manchester Martyrs; Nation, 22 February 1868, p. 422.

(232) George Whitfield Pepper, Under Three Flags; or, The Story of My Life as Preacher, Captain in the Army, Chaplain, Consul, with Speeches and Interviews (Cincinnati: Curts & Jennings, 1899), pp. 524–5.

(233) See Chapter 5 below, pp. 360–1 and 365–6.

(234) J. H. Fowler, William Orr (London: Joseph H. Fowler, 1938).

(235) See Chapter 7 below, pp. 541–2.

(236) Astrid Erll, ‘Remembering across Time, Space, and Cultures: Premediation, Remediation and the “Indian Mutiny”’, in Mediation, Remediation, and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory, edited by Astrid Erll and Ann Rigney (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 109–38. For the original context of the terms see Richard A. Grusin, Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); J. David Bolter and Richard A. Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999).