22. Massacre on Dunlavin Green

Massacre memorial Dunlavin
Chris Lawlor

On 24 May 1798, thirty-six men were shot on the green [one survived], but there were also hangings at the market house that morning. The number executed that day is unclear (somewhere between forty-five and fifty). What is clear is that we have some sources and are fortunate to know the names of many of the victims. There were also other violent incidents in and around Dunlavin at this time (both fatal and non-fatal), some of which were probably never documented. However, a few of them were recorded, and I append them at the bottom of the list of the victims of the massacre.

Dunlavin 1798: naming the dead and injured.

The names of thirty-four men who were shot on the fairgreen were published in 1944.[1] They are as follows:


  1. James Mara (Maher)
  2. John Williams
  3. Andrew Ryan
  4. Patrick Duffy
  5. James Duffy
  6. John Webb
  7. Patrick Curran
  8. David Lee
  9. Mat Kavanagh
  10. Richard Kelly
  11. Morgan Doyle
  12. Thomas Doyle
  13. Mat Farrell
  14. James Moran
  15. Charles Evers
  16. William Dwyer
  17. Thomas Brien
  18. David Prendergast (survived)

Of these, the two Doyles were farmers from the Rathbarn (Stratford-on-Slaney) area. Mat Farrel was also a farmer. One of the Doyles was also a sub-constable. The Duffy brothers were masons. Five of the men were servants of Morley Saunders and there was also a smith and a slater among them.


  1. James Keating
  2. Thomas Keating
  3. Martin Walsh
  4. Edward Shaughnessy
  5. Andrew Carty
  6. Darby Byrne
  7. John Dunne
  8. Martin Griffin
  9. Daniel Kirwan
  10. Thomas Kirwan
  11. Laurence Doyle
  12. Thomas Neile

Of these, the two Keatings were masons and were definitely related. Martin Walsh was a nailor. Edward Shaughnessy, Andrew Carty and Darby Byrne were all labourers.


  1. John Dwyer, Seskin
  2. Peter Hayden, Imaal (Keadeen)
  3. Peter Kearney, Donard
  4. Laurence Doyle, Dunlavin

Laurence Doyle was a carpenter. John Dwyer, who had been in the market house for about four weeks, was a relation of rebel leader Michael Dwyer and probably a United Irish baronial delegate for county Wicklow. Peter Hayden’s family were republican sympathisers (if not before the massacre, certainly afterwards) and they helped Michael Dwyer later.

The Shearman Papers in NUI Maynooth also names thirty victims of that day.[2] They are:

  1. John Keeravan, {Brothers of Uppertown, Dunlavin.
  2. Daniel Keeravan {Printed as ‘Reeravan’ in The Sham Squire.
  3. Laurence Doyle, Dunlavin.
  4. Martin Gryffin (at 21 he came from Dublin the night before to see his father and was not connected with United men).
  5. Duffy {Brothers of
  6. Duffy {Baltinglass.
  7. Mathew Farrell, Stratford on Slaney.
  8. Michael Neil [Dunlavin].
  9. Andrew Ryan, Shrucka.
  10. Richard Williams, Ballinacrow.
  11. Keatinge {Brothers of
  12. Keatinge {Narraghmore.
  13. Edward Slattery, Narraghmore.
  14. Andrew Prendergast of Ballina?
  15. Peter Kearney, Donard.
  16. John Dwyer do, uncle to Capt. Michael Dwyer.
  17. John Kearney, Donard.
  18. Peter Headon, Killabeg.
  19. Thomas Brien, Ballinacrow Hill.
  20. John Doyle, Scrughawn.
  21. Morgan Doyle, Tuckmill, Baltinglass.

22 John Doyle do.

  1. -Webb, Baltinglass.
  2. John Wickham, Eadestown.
  3. -Wickham do.
  4. -Costelloe.
  5. -Bermingham {Brothers of Narraghmore,
  6. -Bermingham {belonging to Col. Keatinge’s corps.
  7. Patrick Moran, Tuckmill.
  8. Peter Prendergast of Bumbo Hall, wounded in the belly and escaped.

Shearman provides extra names for victims, and given that thirty-six men were shot, the other victims were most probably those hanged at the market house after the shootings.


  1. John Brien.[3]

Brien was captured on the day of the massacre. He fought under Darby Neill and Captain James O’Doherty in the Ballyshannon area. He was captured in the gravel pit at Narraghmore. He was taken to Dunlavin and was executed. He was survived by his mother. The fact that he was arrested individually and was not part of any of the groups of prisoners housed in the market house before the massacre may account for his name being omitted from both local folklore and Charles Dickson’s book.

  1. Joe Hawkins.[4]

Ironically, he was the spy who gave informa­tion leading to the arrests of the Saundersgrove yeomen in the first place. The fact that he was an informer would certainly have led to his name being deliberately omitted from the local folk-memory. It seems that the order was to execute in groups of five, and finding that one group had only four men, the spy Hawkins, who had already given information leading to the arrests, was forcibly compelled to take his place in the group of four to make up five, and was executed with them.

These lists contain some degree of overlap, but it is certain that more than thirty-six prisoners were executed. The total number of named victims now rises to fifty-two allowing for different Christian names, but some (e.g. Shearman’s Peter Prendergast and Dickson’s David Prendergast) are evidently the same men. However it seems safe to assume that the death toll in the village that day must be revised to a figure somewhere in the mid-forties at least. The probable total is somewhere between forty-five and fifty.

Other violent incidents.[5]

  1. [On the morning of the massacre?] the military marched to Dunlavin and passing through Lemonstown halted at the house of one McDonald, a farmer, (one Fox, a miller of Hollywood, having given secret information concerning his (McDonald’s) sons). McDonald, his wife and sons Kit, John, Harry and Tom were at dinner. When the troops rushed into the house the sons were taken into the barn before the door and one of them was compelled to put a burning turf into the thatch of the house, and while doing so his hand was shot off by one of the Ancient Britons. In vain the aged father protested his and his sons’ innocence, and produced a written protection given to him by Captain William Ryves of Rathsallagh. Notwithstanding, two of his sons, Kit and Tom, were put on their knees. The father knelt down then to deprecate mercy or shoot him also. They were shot down in the presence of their parents. Harry and John escaped in the confusion concealed by the smoke of the burning homestead but being perceived they were chased to the recess of [Sluwgad?] Church Mountain, escaping unhurt amid volleys of bullets from the pursuers. Their aged parents concealed the bodies of the others until the following Sunday before daybreak when they buried them in sacks in a churchyard at Hollywood.
  1. [On the morning of the massacre] One old man remembers going to the market with his father and saw men writhing in the agonies of death hanging between pillars of the market house. He tells of one event which he witnessed and which relieves the savagery of the scene. A man, John Martin, snatched a sword from one of the soldiers. He was dragged to the M(arket) H(ouse), the sword taken and hanged up on a peg. The delinquent was let away at the intercession of a magistrate present. While this was pending a soldier’s wife took the sword from the peg to cut the rope by which one Tomas Eagan, a blacksmith, was hanging and blowing in death’s agony. He came to and found means to escape to Dublin.
  1. Nicholas Ryder of Crehelp, while working on Friarhill, was attacked by an Ancient Briton who came with Councillor Fisher of Merginstown, whose house then was burned a few days before. Ryder came on quickly with them but in a narrow lane made a prod of the dung fork at the mounted soldier and unhorsed him, thrusting its prong into his bowels. Fisher begged his life and got away, as also the soldier, who died in Dunlavin from his wounds. Ryder then, desperately wounded, escaped to the valley of Crehelp where some women concealed him in clamps of turf for three weeks until his wounds were healed and [he] escaped. After the rebellion he was taken and imprisoned for two years in Dublin’s Marshalsea prison.
  1. [In late 1798] violent incidents unsettled the military and heightened the tension in Dunlavin parish, where the threat posed by [Michael] Dwyer and his band was uppermost in many loyalist minds. This mindset was demonstrated by the shooting and wounding of Joseph Molyneaux, a member of Ryves’ Dunlavin cavalry unit. Molyneaux was incoherent when giving the password to a vigilant sentry, who took no chances regarding the defence of Dunlavin.

By December, Michael Dwyer’s campaign if guerrilla warfare was well under way in the mountains… but that’s another story.



[1] Charles Dickson, The life of Michael Dwyer with some account of his companions (Dublin, 1944), pp 370-1.

[2] Fusillade at Dunlavin green, NUI Maynooth, Shearman Papers, xvii, f. 130

[3] Peadar Mac Suibhne, Kildare in ’98 (Naas 1978), p. 133.

[4] Leinster Leader, 25 Sep 1948.

[5] Fusillade at Dunlavin green, NUI Maynooth, Shearman Papers, xvii, f. 131.

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