The 1798 Rebellion

The United Irishmen was a society formed in 1791.  The Irish leaders, driven to rise up by colonial imposition, were inspired by the American Revolution (1775–83) and the French Revolution (1789).  The aim of the movement was to gain freedom for Ireland.

The Society had many principled Church of Ireland Protestants in its leadership.  Members were mostly Catholic and Dissenters (mainly Ulster Presbyterians).  These last were also victims of severe English Penal Laws, said to be ‘a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance… for the oppression impoverishment and degradation of a people… as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man’.

The English General Lake said: “I am convinced that the contest must lay between the army and the people”.  His policy was indiscriminate and extreme torture.  On the 1st of May, 1798, Triangles first appeared.   A victim was secured to a wooden triangular structure and then flogged to death unless information could be given.  Right-handed and left-handed floggers flogged in unison.  Tiring floggers had replacements to ensure torture continued, removing skin, muscle and blood.

Portable ‘Traveling Gallows’ were used for Half-hangings.  Victims were hanged over a soldier’s back or from a wooden structure.  They were revived each time they lost consciousness from the strangulation.  In another procedure – called ‘Picketing’ – the victim was left hanging but could choose to stand awhile if he were able on sharp pointed stakes.  When close to death this victim would also be let down revived and hanged again. This would be repeated until it was as well to leave the victim hanging.