Thomas Dunne

Thomas Dunne Society of Rostrevor has a most eminent patron, President Mary McAleese and a hugely talented director, Suibh


As mentioned in other articles here, the Yeomen Volunteers fulfilled the role of a home guard towards the close of the eighteenth century when England‘s numerous wars and military commitments required her troops to be abroad. These Volunteers were mainly Protestants, their officer corps being almost exclusively so. The commander of the Warrenpoint district of the corps of yeomen based at Narrow Water Castle was Major Hall (be it recorded that today’s Major Hall is a true and charitable gentlemen who permitted his estate to be often used by Newry’s Concern group to raise funds for the world’s poor!). 


That the local United Irishmen were mainly Protestant (though Presbyterian, and thus despised as dissenters by militant proponents of the established Church) did not in any way cause the Yeomanry to mitigate the severity of their repression in the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion. Though the Major Hall of the time tried to exercise restraint, he was often absent and those under him who then took command gave free rein to their savagery. 


A spy divulged the name of Thomas Dunne, as a member of the Society of United Irishmen, to one such second officer. He marched his yeomen through a stormy night in order to wrench the hapless peasant from his cottage home (close to today’s Kilbroney Cemetery). The cries and appeals of his young wife and family were ignored. 


At a military court the next day held in the military barracks at Cherry Hill, Dunne was court-marshalled and convicted of sedition. He was offered a free pardon and financial recompense if he would name all the members of the United Men of Kilbroney Parish and give witness against them in court. His alternative fate was made known to him. Thomas resolutely refused to sell the lives of innocent men.


Thomas was sentenced to 250 lashes of the cat-‘o-nine-tails at the triangle on Cherry Hill. He was to be made a public example of. All local people were rounded up and forced to witness the punishment. Many fainted at the sight of what followed.


Though an account, passed on in oral tradition, exists, it is much too harrowing to relate the details of this punishment, laid on with enthusiasm by two burly soldiers. The 250 lashes had been almost completed when Major Hall returned on the scene and ordered a halt. The victim was close to death and, indeed, died soon after despite medical efforts to revive him.


The historical evidence of the reputed worldly retribution later exacted on the perpetrators is sketchy. It is said that the second officer was later piked to death in an encounter with the United Irishmen. The principal scourger, we are told, later lost the power of his (offending) right arm, and his nights were haunted by the vision of Thomas Dunne’s mutilated body.


[P.S. Similar savagery was witnessed throughout the country. The High Sheriff of Tipperary, one Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald, as a Yeoman Commander was particularly barbarous. His exploits are recounted in such histories as Canon Burke’s History of Clonmel and William J Hayes’ Tipperary in the year of Rebellion 1798. 


Fitzgerald too, it appears, failed to prosper thereafter, and was despised and downtrodden even by his imperious and overbearing wife up to his early death in 1810. This fact at least is documented, though hardly proof of the vengeance of providence.]

… Charter of Newry: The Context …

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