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About the Book:
The Rebellion led by the United Irishmen has been subdued and the last vestiges of the once mighty Wexford army are marching north into Meath in a final effort to rekindle the
rebellion in Ulster.
Based on true historical events, and set in the counties of Louth and Meath in the summer of 1798 the story concerns a young Louth man who finds himself caught up in a cauldron of military action against government forces who brutally suppress any form of sedition. A once peaceful existence soon turns into a fight for survival and a battle of wits against the might of an empire.
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About the Author:
I am a retired civil servant, originally from Termonfeckin in Co. Louth. I have always had an interest in local history and co-founded the Termonfeckin Historical Society, as well as being a current council member of the Co. Louth Archaeological and Historical Society.
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(Wednesday 23rd May 1798)
Under the half-light of the moon, they came down from the hills and fields onto the boreens and byways of mid-Louth and walked steadily towards the pre-arranged meeting place. Speaking little, they treaded carefully along the paths and tracks, holding whatever weapons they had tightly by their sides. As they passed by darkened cabins, silent shadows of men alighted to join them, some acknowledging their fellow comrades with a gentle grunt or tug of the shoulder. For all those who stepped onto the stony roads that balmy early summer night it was a moment they had long waited for.
And like ghostly shadows they shuffled noiselessly away from their abodes and began their trek from all across the southern part of the county. From the townlands of Smarmore and Kilpatrick they departed, while others left from Hurlstone, Kildemock and Bohernamoe. More still came from Hunterstown and Millockstown and from other areas adjacent and further afield. They journeyed from the villages of Collon, Ardee and Dunleer, and from the farming areas of Grangebellew and Togher. All of them were heading to a place called Blakestown, a mile south of the town of Ardee and to a farm there, the home of Michael Boylan, their leader…....
He pulled his jacket close and tugged his cap low on his head. The hilly roadside was covered with thick green shrubbery, weeds and a few stunted wind-blown trees. It could be a dangerous stretch to travel with local cavalry units using it regularly in their patrols from Collon to Ardee. His pony was trotting furiously, but within moments a section of the squadron in bright red jackets overtook him and as they did some of them pulled up in front and waved at him to do likewise. He hauled back on the reins, forcing the pony to ease up and stop. His heart raced now. The officer in charge pulled his horse alongside the cart. With his leather plumed helmet and colourful attire he struck an impressive figure on his black horse. He looked at Mathews with ingrained suspicion.
‘And who might you be?’ he asked, a dangerous edge to his voice. ‘Just a poor labouring man, sir,’ Mathews bowed his head obsequiously.
‘Your name, labouring man?’
‘Murphy, Tom Murphy,’ he replied, keeping his eyes lowered and uttering that particular name whenever he was officially asked to identify himself.
‘And you are from where, Tom Murphy?’
‘Ardee, sir. I’m on my way there now. I’m after being in Drogheda, at the fair.’
‘And at the hanging too, no doubt,’ the officer eyed him coldly.
‘Most of the town were at the hanging, sir,’ Mathews replied evenly. Without appearing to be deferential he still didn’t want to antagonise the man any more than was necessary.
The officer regarded him for a moment then signalled to the men nearest him. They nodded assent and dismounted, tying their horses to a nearby tree and approached the cart. Mathews grew fearful now. What were theirs intentions towards him?
‘Take this man from the cart,’ he ordered, waving his sword in Mathew’s direction.
Across the expanse of trees, at a gentle curve in the river, hundreds of men on horseback were milling on the far side of the Boyne, searching for a way to ford the wide waters of the river. Only now did their discordant sound cut through the noise of the river. From their vantage point James or Laurence couldn’t see the water but they watched in awed silence as this mass of men and animals began to descend the river bank, the riders forcing their mounts into the flowing waters. The sounds of splashing, shouting and struggling men and animals carried across the distance as they endeavoured to gain the near bank. The wild animals and birds continued to flee from the undergrowth, their sounds of panic eclipsed by those in the river as they attempted to make good the crossing.
On the heights to the north of the Boyne James and Laurence struggled to keep their horses in place as they pranced and nickered with excitement. The cousins looked at each other.
‘It has to be the Wexfordmen, Laurence. Have we found the Wexford army at last?’
The Croppy Boy
Declan G. Quaile