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1798 - KINTYRE INVASION ALERT

© 1997 P. D. M. Kelly Muasdale - Argyll 199 years to the day - October 8 - and most likely to within the hour that a horse messenger had sped across the bridge crossing Clachaig Water, at Muasdale in Kintyre, the writer, living in Muasdale, coincidentally first heard about this story in a chance telephone conversation with Mike Davis, Argyll and Bute Council's Local Studies Librarian in Dunoon. The original story appeared in Peter Maclntyre of Inveraray's "Odd Incidents of Olden Times - or - Ancient Records of Inveraray" published in 1904 (Aird & Coghill, Glasgow) and it is again coincidental, bearing in mind the time taken to reconcile the story with other historical information, that this text is written on October 12, 1997, the 199th anniversary of the naval battle off Kintyre. In 1691, after The Irish War between James II and William III, the Irish catholics under Patrick Sarsfield laid down their arms at Limerick. The signing of The Treaty of Limerick was followed by the imposition of harsh penal laws and the oppression, coupled with grinding poverty and ever recurring food shortages, not only set the pattern for the new century but led to a series of revolts towards its end. With civil war in America (1775 - 1781), there came something of a relaxation of the oppression in Ireland. Of England's two main enemies, the one, France, shared the Catholic faith with Ireland, the other, America, was fighting for principles of self-government which were very much the same as those which Irishmen, both Protestant and Catholic, wanted to claim against the British Parliament. The opportunity was favourable for Britain appeared to be losing the war in America. In the circumstances the Irish were conscious of the possibility that France might well prove to be a likely source of aid for their cause and, in 1796, following he 1792 French Revolution, did indeed attempt to stir up revolt in Ireland by sending a small expedition, under Hoche, to Bantry Bay. Though the chances of success remained small the Catholics rose in rebellion in 1798 under the leadership of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, son of The Duke of Leinster and, as so often been the case with leaders of Catholic Ireland, Fitzgerald too was a Protestant ! The one hope of success lay in that, again, the French would send assistance. In 1793 The Marquis of Lome obtained permission to raise the 2,000 strong Argyllshire Fencibles, or Volunteers Regiment. The following year a second volunteer regiment was raised in Argyll also about 2,000 strong though less of its number were Highlanders. Lorne's regiment, under Colonel Henry, was ordered for active service in Ireland to help suppress the rebellion in the spring of 1798 and following a number of actions around Limerick returned to Inveraray in August camping close to the Maltland Barracks. Every day brought tidings of threatened invasions - the French were building a flotilla of transports at Brest - and on Monday, October 8, 1798 a number of French ships were seen cruising off the Cantyre coast causing a messenger to be despatched that morning from Campbeltown to Inveraray to summon the military south. That day both regiments at Inveraray had been on drill practice and had stood down for the night when, shortly after 6 o'clock in the evening, with the last of the day's light, the messenger arrived in Inveraray asking for the Provost's house. 1

His news was ominous. Several of the French ships' crews had reportedly landed and begun plundering one or two farm houses and as the news had spread people had started fleeing towards Tarbert.

The Provost and the messenger immediately reported the news to to Colonel Clavering at the Maltland Barracks. The Colonel and his officers took immediate action and the only piper the regiments possessed along with the regimental drummers were sent to round up the men. Such was the commotion that the good burghers of Inveraray were reportedly thrown into a state of near madness as too the town's piper strutted up and down the main street to alert people to the news. Even before 7 o'clock, when darkness fell, the Volunteers, each man issued with a supply of oatmeal, salt and 60 rounds of balls and gunpowder, were already marching out of the town under Colonel Clavering, Captain Macdougall (of Gallanach) and their adjutant, Captain Stevenson, at their head. At the front, preceeding the men, was Drum Major Thomas Greenfield and Captain Forbes' drum and fife band. Now assured that the French might meet with a warm reception the good Inveraray burghers' cheering all hut drowned out the drum and fife band. An all night march ensued one that would first halt the men at West Loch Tarbert 38 miles to the south and a march, most likely to have taken the shorter hill route above Lochgair via the old Cossack Inn road through Lochgilphead, made no easier by the fact that a new moon fell to the following night and the men had not the benefit of any light except the light from the stars. With the news at West Loch Tarbert that the French were still hovering about the coast the halt was but a brief one and the men were quickly on the march again. One company was ordered to Carradale and probably took the old drove road from Clachan, leaving Loch Garan on its east, to Ballochroy Glen and then by the south of Loch Garasdale along Narachan Burn, down Carradale Glen and to Brackley and the Carradale shore. One of the French ships came so close into the Carradale shore that the men, under cover, were allowed - each man carried but 60 rounds - to begin a musket fusilade. The Frenchman, in complete safety and with no intention of landing - for the ship was probably and simply tacking very close inshore to take advantage of the evening land breeze, a natural phenomenon well known to sailors, which would lift the ship out quickly into deeper waters. As she turned, the Frenchman sent a few desultory cannon shots in the direction of the musketmen on the shore and made off into the Kilhrannon Sound. While another detaohment of men was left at Kilchenzie under the charge of Captain Macdougall of Gallanach, the remaining body of men proceeded to Dun Ban which lies some 3½ miles to the north of the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse's position. Before dawn, on the morning of Friday, October 12, heavy gunfire was heard coming from seaward. As daylight came the men on the shore saw the French ships had been engaged by a squadron of British ships, under the command of Sir John Warren and before noon that day the French ships were defeated and it later learned that there were nine French ships - seven sunk by the British squadron - with troops, stores and ammunition for an attempted landing in Ireland. The French did indeed make an initially successful landing at Killala, Co. Mayo - some miles west of Sligo - out it too was met eventually with great slaughter. The French were little more use to the Irish in 1798 than they had been in 1796. Rebellion was almost confined to the counties of Wicklow and Wexford and was easily and most bloodily suppressed at the battles of New Ross and Vinegar Hill. Particularly lucky at the time of the 1798 rebellion, 30,000 men were killed in the fighting - were those who might have joined
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from Rathlin Island. One Thomas Russell, later said to have been executed for his part in the 1798 Rebellion, pretending to be a student of geology, visited the island as a guest of Robert Gage whose father, incidently, had bought Rathlin Island from the 'heavilydebted' 5th Earl of Antrim for just £1,750 in 1746, 50 years earlier. Russell spent most of his time on the island where there were then some 1200 of a population, it now barely 120 in 1997, trying to raise support for the rebellion. "Slack Ned" McMullan, the island's parish priest, organised a meeting of islanders for Russell to address in Bracken's Cave and though a few of the islanders were prepared to take part in the Rebellion, rather reluctantly, they were only willing to do so if they were given a guarantee that their actions would in no way have repercussions for the Gage family who now owned Rathlin Island. The signal for the Rebellion would be the setting on fire of an old wooden schooner, the "Amy", in Ballycastle' s inner dock. The inner dock was built in 1743 and at one time it was reported had 60 ships simultaneously loading coal for Dublin. In the event the signal was never given. "Black Ned", the priest, was duly arrested but too was lucky and ended up being banished from Ireland. Lome's Argyll Volunteer Regiment again did a tour of duty in Ireland and then, in 1802, was reduced at Inveraray. With the many hundreds and, on occasion, even thousands of Volunteers about Inveraray close 'bonds were developed with the townspeople and Inveraray's Masonic Lodge No 50 as its records bear witness. It is interesting to note, in 1802, the year in which the Volunteers' strength was reduced, that the Masonic Lodge's minutes for the meeting on Saturday, October 9th, found the following distinguished persons admitted as Apprentices of the Lodge : His Serene Highness the Count de Beaujolais; the Hon. Charles Kinnaird MP; Count Irene, Chrèptowie Commissioner of The Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Chamberlain to His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias; Charles Jenkinson Esq., who was a Captain in the 3rd Regiment of The Guards; John Perrier Esq., Writer to The Signet; a Mr William Campbell and Count Francis Mountenairel of Verona in The Venetian States. That night's meeting increased funds by £7, a vast amount of money in these days and the Lodge, as a consequence, agreed to square up their long standing arrears with The Grand Lodge. It perhaps too should be said that, at the previous year's St. Andrew's night meeting, The Most Noble, The Marquis of Lorne had been elected as R.W. Master of the Inveraray Lodge. On Friday, November 27, 1801, just three nights before Lorne's election as Master of the Inveraray Lodge, the Lodge minute book records the entry of one Walter McGibbon of the 46th Regiment of Foot - McGibbon later distinguished himself 'signally' in The Peninsular War under The Iron Duke. That is probably another story. Donald Kelly - Sunday, October 12, 1997

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