May 26th 1798, Rebellion Spreads To Wexford
The 1798 rebellion started on May 23rd with the first clashes of the uprising happening in the early hours of May 24th in Wicklow, Kildare and Meath.
The British forces responded with rounding up suspected rebels in Wexford and Wicklow. This resulted in suspected United Irishman prisoners executed in Dunlavin and Carnew in Co Wicklow.
In Meath the rebels were defeated at the battle of Tara Hill on May 26th, this now meant that most of the rebel activity was focused in Kildare and Wicklow.
But in Wexford, the crown forces were ruthless in how they dealt with the local people. Local yeomanry loyal to the Crown were burning homes and beating people who they suspected of being United Irishmen
In response to this, many people in the county armed themselves and formed groups to protect themselves and their property from yeomanry attack.
On May 26th one such group in a townland called the Harrow approached their parish priest Father John Murphy for advice and safety.
Father Murphy was an outspoken critic of the United Irishmen and had actively encouraged his parishioners to give up their arms and sign an oath of allegiance to the British Crown.
But now his parishioners needed his help against the yeomanry, at about eight o'clock that evening, a patrol of some twenty Camolin cavalry spotted the group and approached them, demanding to know their business.
They left after a brief confrontation, having burned the cabin of a missing, suspected rebel whom they had been tasked to arrest. As the patrol returned, they passed by Fr Murphy's group, who were by now angry at the sight of the burning cabin.
As the cavalry passed by the men an argument developed, followed by stones being thrown and then an all-out fight between the men and the troops.
Most of the cavalry quickly fled, but two of the yeomen, one of these the lieutenant in command, Thomas Bookey, were killed.
Fr Murphy acted quickly; he sent word around the county that the rebellion had started and organised raids for arms on loyalist strongholds.
The rebellion in Wexford had begun.