William Farrell

Life
1772-?; cited in Irish Writers and Politics essay by Vivian Mercier as significant memorialist of ’98; Carlow in ’98, autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow (1949), edited by Roger McHugh, being an account written between 1832 and 1845, when the author was employed as an old man of 64 and more as gateman at the mental asylum in Carlow; preserved by Prof. Donovan, and later the property of Mrs. Alice Kane Smith of Carlow, at the time when McHugh edited it.

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Works
Roger McHugh, ed., [Farrell,] Carlow in ‘98: Autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow (Browne & Nolan 1949), 235pp. [ded. to the memory of Theo Dillon]; and Do., rep. as Voice of Rebellion - Carlow in 1798: The Autobiography of William Farrell, ed Roger McHugh (Dublin: Wolfhound press 1998), 252pp., pb. [infra].

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Quotations
Autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow (1949). The author is the son of a successful journeyman tailor, and of good descent (finding his pedigree accounted in Eugene O’Curry [here Curry], p.1); he is very conscious of the Penal Laws that ‘robbed us of our estate’; joins the United Irishmen, whose revolutionary intentions he reprobates; cautious in not wearing his hair ‘croppy’ style; encourages the surrender of arms when the terror becomes too strong; arrested after events of Carlow; tried several times and abused; witnesses floggings and hangings in great numbers; compares all with the admitted horror of Scullabogue; gives detailed accounts of the general ‘murder and butchery’ executed in the prisons after, also of the fate of Capt. Swayne, the terror of Prosperous in Co. Kildare, wreaked on him by a Capt. Farrell of the United Irishmen (who subsequently escapes to America, but dies shortly after); the deaths of some innocent men, and the conduct of several of the militia officers and army men, as well as the behaviour of some informers (a few of whom for shame of their families) he leaves unnamed; liberated through the efforts of his well-married sister Mrs Fitzgerald; several passages on the futility of armed insurrection, except for the heroic French; in praise of Daniel O’Connell, here unnamed [‘I have now been forty-five years suffering with my suffering country but, glory tbe to God Almighty, I have lived to see the time when one single Irishman has given the great robber of the word the (the shameless, dishonoured, treacherous England) an emetic that will make her disgorge part at least of her enormous plunder of my country and compel her to give back that inestimable treasure, our parliament, again, – I say part only, because of the unnumbered thousands she sent to their graves by the pitchcap, the triangle, the gibbet, those burned to death in houses and worse than all, if possible, the countless thousands she has sent to death by the slow silent process of yearly starvation and the various distempers that arise from it; these only cannot be given back and must stand only against her, till the dreadful day, be it far or near, when the Lord Himself shall visit the hideous, bloated culprit for them’ Further, ‘A new era (thank God) has opened for my long-suffering country. Her great champion, the renowned benefacter of the human race, has been released from prison, where he was incarcerated for his fearless and powerful advocacy of the rights of sifffering mankind. He has stripped the shameless, villanous miinistry of England naked and exposed them to the scorn and derision of the world, and to the descendants of the kings and princes of Ireland he has given the hope that, from being the poor persecuted hewers of wood and drawers of water, they may be restored to the rights of freemen.’ [220-22]. Farrell He goes on to reflect on the ‘breed of fighting-men’, like a ‘breed of game-cocks’ that the ancient Irish were, and the consequence that an ‘insignificant handful of English that came to invade the country [could] have any chance of subduing so warlike a people’ if this ‘very crime’ was not the reason]. Though throughout the book he reprobrates the secret oath of the United Irishmen as an unnecessary mark for the government, and the enthusiasm of their gullible followers generally, he does make the exception that such a war as Brian Boroimhe [Boru] fought against the ‘barbarians and robbers’ [222] is justified. Calls the parliament ‘the great bulwark of our rights and liberties, made prison and brought in chains to England’ [219].

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References
Belfast Central Public Library holds Roger McHugh, ed., Carlow in ’98, autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow (1949).

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