[Col.] William Blacker


Life
1777-1853 [pseud. ‘Fitzstewart’, ‘Bannville’]; b. 1 Sept., Carrickblacker [Castle Blacker], Co. Armagh; son of Dean Blacker of Ashgoe; ed. TCD, BA 1799, MA 1803; styled lieutenant-colonel of Seagoe Battalion of Yeomenry 1796; led an Orange contingent at the Battle of the Diamond on 21 Sept. 1795 nr. Loughgall, Co. Armagh - in which the Orange Order had its formal origin - and later assisted at the suppression of the United Irishmen, his battalion formed the guard at the execution of Henry Monro;
 
became High Sheriff of Armagh; contrib. Dublin University Magazine and other journals, earning the reputation as military songsmith and author of the Orange ballad “Cromwell’s Advice” (‘So put your trust in God, boys, and keep your powder dry’); also, “The Protestant Boys”, a ballad in which this attitude towards Catholics is expressed: “We hate them as masters, we love them as men”;
 
published Ardmagh (1848), a narrative poem dealing with the history of Armagh and describing the Round towers as Phoenician ‘fire-towers’ - after Vallancey - while characterising the Famine as an act of wrath from the hand of God; also religious works, Early Piety (1853), A Tale of Woe (1854) and Emmaus (1855); his poetry remained uncollected; d. 25 Nov., at Carrickblacker. ODNB MKA ODQ RAF FDA OCIL

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Works
“Oliver’s Advice” [commonly known as “Cromwell’s Advice”], in Dublin University Magazine, IV, 24 (Dec. 1834), p. 700-01; Ardmagh (1848).

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Criticism
‘Lieut.-Col. Blacker’ [“Our Portrait Gallery”, No. 18], Dublin University Magazine, Vol. 17 (1841), pp.628-33 [prob. Valentine Blacker, the historian of the Mahratta War]; see also the biographical notice in Irish Book Lover, Vol. IV, No. 10 (May 1913).

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Commentary
Jonathan Bardon
, A History of Ulster (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992), p.226: Battle of the Diamond, 21 Sept. 1795, near Loughgall, at a cross-roads of that name, recounted by one William Blacker (quoting from David W Miller, ed., Peep o’ Day and Defenders, Selected documents on the Co. Armagh disturbances (Belfast 1990), p.121: William Blacker narrates how the Peep o’ Day Boys on a brow overlooking the Diamond fired on the assembled Defenders [extract], ‘with cool and steady aim at the swarm of Defenders ... cooped up in the valley and present[ing] an excellent mark for their shots ... by the bodies found after by the reapers in the cornfields ... I am inclined to think that not less than thirty lost their lives.’ (p.121). William Blacker was one of the very few of the landed gentry who joined at the outset. He further describes the inaugural, ‘It was a scene worthy of the pen of a Scott or the pencil of a Salvator Rosa to view the assemblage of men, young and old, some seated on sods or rude blocks of wood, some standing in various attitudes, most of them armed with guns of every age and calibre ... in as much as rust and antiquity had blighted the spring of their days into utter incapacity to strike fire. There was a stern solemnity in the reading of the lesson from Scripture and administering the oath to the newly admitted brethren ... Unhappily ... a determination was expressed of driving from this quarter of the county the entire of its Roman Catholic population ... A written notice was thrown in or posted on the door of a house warning the inmates, in the words of Oliver Cromwell, to betake themselves “To Hell or Connaught”. (Miller, ibid. p.125.)

Bryan Coleborne, ‘“They Sate in Counterview”, Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century’, in Paul Hyland and Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing, Exile and Subversion (London: Macmillan 1991), pp.45-63, Blacker, the Orange poet of Co. Armagh, ed. TCD, rose to rank of Colonel in the army; confronting survivors of the rising of 1789, took as his refrain the celebrated words of Cromwell (p.52).

Kevin Whelan, ‘Origins of the Orange Order’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 2, 2 (Spring/Summer 1996), p.21, citing families who quickly put themselves at the head of the Orange Order, incl. The Verners of Churchill, Clarkes of Summer Island, Warings of Waringstown, Brownlows of Lurgan, together with clergymen such as Philip Johnson of Derriaghy and Thomas Higginson in Lisburn; it is Whelan’s thesis at the emergence of the Order was part of a ‘sectarianism deliberately injected by government as a counter-revolutionary strategy of tension’ (p.19) … appealing particularly to Anglicans squeezed between United Irish (Presbyterian) and Defender (Catholic) challenge, and without any political grouping of their own’ (p.20).

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Quotations
Ardmagh
(1848), “The Fire Towers”: ‘That recreant band who basely yield name/The fruit of many a hard-fought field/Madly resign to hostile Rome/The gain of sword and martyrdom.’] ALSO, “Carmel”: ‘Oh, Erin, would that some Elijah’s voice/Were raised to win thee from thy deadly choice/To seek the long-forgotten Lord and flee/The Baal worship of iniquity/To bid thee view the Lord’s correcting hand/In all the judgements that afflict the land.’ (Copy held in Belfast Central Library.)

Cromwell’s Advice” ‘[...] forth start the spawn of treason, the ’scaped of ’98 / To bask in courtly favour and sway the helm of state / Here comes the open rebel fierce, here comes the Jesuit sly / But put you trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry’], cited in Charles Gavan Duffy, Life in Two Hemispheres, 2 vols., 1886, p.25.) Duffy notes that the persons mentioned in the poem, which he considers to be inspired by events of 1798 Rebellion, are the parish priest and Charles Hamilton Teeling of his own account.

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References
Dictionary of National Biography has an entry for Valentine Blacker (1770-1823) only, historian of Mahratta War of 1817-1819, later Lieutenant-Colonel Blacker. Note, Early Piety (1853); A Tale of Woe (1854); Emmaus (1855), all in Belfast Central Library, are probably by his son and namesake along with the economic works Management of Landed Property in Ireland (1835); Claims of the Landed Interest to Legislative Protection (Dublin: Wm. Curry 1836); Evils of Mixed Currency (1844); Essay on the Improvement to [ ...] small farms by introduction of green crops: an address (Curry 1845), all listed in the British Library.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); b. Carrickblacker, Armagh 1777, d. 1853; his poems not collected but MSS held by family; contrib. Dublin University Magazine as “Fitzstewart” and “Bannville”; auth. of Orange Ballads [vide supra]; other works include Early Piety (Portadown 1853); A Tale of Woe (Portadown 1854), for children; Emmaus (Portadown 1855), on Easter. [Note, Portadown publications prob. by another author.] O’Donoghue attribs. Ardmagh to Lieut.-Col. Valentine Blacker the poetical works Ardmagh, A Chronicle; The Fire Towers; Carmel, etc. [1 vol. in Belfast Central Library], and notes that these are attrib. to William Blacker in Sparling’s Irish Minstrelsy. PI assured that Blacker died 1825.

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2; cites “Oliver’s Advice” [sic] which appeared in Dublin University Magazine, IV, 24, Dec. 1834, p. 700-01.

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: a Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), lists Ardmagh (1848); Early Piety (1853); A Tale of Woe (1854), and Emmaus (1855), and refers to notice Our Portrait Gallery: No. 18, ‘Lieut.-Col. Blacker’, in Dublin University Magazine, 17 (1841), pp.628-33.

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Oxford Book of Quotations gives Blacker’s “Cromwell’s Advice”; also in John Cooke, Dublin Book of Irish Verse (1909) and noticed with bibl. in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. Seamus Deane (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, pp.29-32.

Belfast Linen Hall Library cuttings collection of F. J. Bigger’s literary journalism compiled by John [J. J.] Marshall, renders the following information: Lieutenant-Col. William Blacker, Seagoe Battalion of Yeomenry 1796; three sargeants inc. Sargeant-Major Lutton; his batt. was guard at the execution of Henry Monro; William was Captain, son of Dean Blacker of Ashgoe; became High Sheriff of Armagh; holds Ardmagh, Col. William Blacker.

British Library holds William Blacker: Ardmagh (1848), Claims of the Landed Interest to Legislative Protection (Curry 1836); Evils of Mixed Currency (1844), and an essay on the Corn-Laws, all published by Curry. BL Catalogue also holds Valentine Blacker, History of the Mahratta War, 1815-19, and no other works by that author.

Belfast Public Library holds Ardmagh; also Essay on the Improvement to ... small farms by introduction of green crops ... an address (Curry 1845); also Management of Landed Property in Ireland (1835).

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Notes
Shan Bullock: There are allusions to Blacker’s “Cromwell’s Advice” in Shan Bullock’s The Awkward Squads (p.31) and to ‘The Protestant Boys’, in his Red-Leaguers.

Battle of the Diamond: Blacker was a witness to the Battle of the Diamond, and served as Treasurer of Ireland through influence (see Irish Book Lover, Vol. IV, No 10, 1913).

Dry powder?: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes the verses ‘Put your trust in God [... &c.]’ to Valentine Blacker, 1778-1823, whereas Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations cites William Blacker, ascribing the original remark to Cromwell in an Appendix.

Belfast/Ulster Street Directory (1841) lists William Blacker, Esq., Gosford, Market Hill, Armagh, as a magistrate, inter al. incl. Earl of Charlemont (Rossborough Castle, Moy), Viscount Mandeville (Tanderagee Castle), Earl of Gosford (Gosford Castle, Market Hill), Roger Hall, William Whitelaw, Marcus Synnot, Hugh O'Callaghan (Divernagh, Newry), et. num. al. [Available online; accessed 09.07.2010. In 1851 a Stewart Blacker was Captain Commandant of the Londonderry Artillery (Militia).

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