Remembering Samuel Neilson
Samuel from Ballyroney, County Down was a founding member of the United Irishmen in 1791 and he also founded the newspaper of the United Irishmen called the Northern Star in 1792.
As editor of the Northern Star, he was twice sued for libel and was also imprisoned twice between 1796-98. Upon his release in February 1798, he immediately began helping in the planning for a rebellion.
In March of 1798, most of the United Irishmen leadership had either been arrested or forced to flee abroad so that left just a handful of leaders including Neilson & Lord Edward Fitzgerald who decided on May 23rd for the date of the rebellion.
But his friend Lord Edward Fitzgerald was arrested and held in Dublin's Newgate Gaol, Neilson went on a reconnaissance of the prison but was spotted by chance by one of his former jailers and after a fierce struggle, he was overpowered and dragged into the prison, thus missing the rebellion.
With 19 other leading United Irishmen, Neilson was conveyed to the remote military base of Fort George near Inverness in 1799. Released in 1802, Neilson and the state prisoners were deported to the free city of Hamburg before going their separate ways.
Neilson made a brief secret return to Ireland before heading to the United States, where it was his intention to start a newspaper.
But Neilson fell ill and left New York to avoid rampant yellow fever that was claiming the lives of thousands in the city. He died in Poughkeepsie in August 1803 and lies buried in the town’s Rural Cemetery, a forgotten hero.