Local history: Robert Sargent

[First posted on MyT] The early nineteenth century was a troubled time in Ireland, with numerous acts of violence against landlords and their agents, many of whom were regarded as over-zealous in evicting or otherwise penalizing the tenants.

I’ve been doing some research on the heritage and history of my local area for a booklet. One of the well-known nineteenth-century figures was a man named Robert Sargent, a Church of Ireland clergyman. Sargent became land agent for the Marquess of Headfort after the assassination of the previous agent, Captain Brian O’Reilly, in 1814 (ironically, O’Reilly’s killing may have been arranged by a local gentleman who bore him a grudge).

Sargent gained a reputation as a nasty character, and the local branch of a secret agrarian organization called the Ribbonmen decided to kill him. The first effort was unsuccessful; in revenge Sargent shot a young man dead in Mullagh, tied the body to the back of his gig and dragged it to Ballyjamesduff – a distance of perhaps 12 miles – where it was impaled on the Market House as a warning to others.

Undeterred, the Ribbonmen drew lots to see who would try to kill Sargent next. According to tradition, the young man who was chosen had qualms about killing a man, and deliberately shot Sargent’s horse rather than the rider; it managed to carry him some distance before dying. Sargent, badly shaken, sought refuge in a farmer’s house near where I live; the next morning he added two fields to the man’s farm in gratitude.

Sargent is supposed to have mellowed greatly in later life … he was Chairman of the Virginia Relief Committee during the Famine. My son took some photos of his house at the weekend but I don’t have them to hand, so I’ve used a landscape of the area to illustrate the post instead.



Filed under History, Ireland

40 responses to “Local history: Robert Sargent

  1. Due to disease, starvation and emigration, the population of my local area fell from 3,167 to 2,206 between 1841 and 1851 (and then continued to fall, to a low of around 600 … it has increased only in the past decade, and now stands at around 1,100). The population of Co. Cavan as a whole is around a third of what it was before the Famine.

    In this area in 1850, 61 people were employed in roadmaking by the Board of Guardians … most were breaking stones. A road was built to link two properties of James Blakely, a member of the board. Of 29 stone-breakers listed for the week ending 27 April 1850, 20 were women.
    The photo was taken from the ‘Famine road’, looking down towards Lough Ramor, about a mile from my house.

  2. claire2

    It’s incredible, when you think of the suffering that must have taken place in building it..
    My ancestors – maternal grand mother’s family – are from a place called Drogheda. Do you know it?

  3. Hi Claire … I think you may have mentioned a Drogheda link before, or else someone else did. It’s not terribly far from me … I used to pass through it on the way from Dublin to the north, but then it was bypassed and I moved, so I haven’t been there for a good while.

    A big town by Irish standards.

  4. Again something related death.

    Drogheda. Hmm. Have we talked about it Brendan? A Turk connection?

  5. Indeed we have, Levent. Drogheda was also the site of one of Cromwell’s massacres in Ireland.

    Yes, another death-related, Ireland-related post … don’t know if it’s a reflection on Ireland or just on me. 🙂

  6. claire2

    I thought it was – the site of one of Cromwell’s massacres in Ireland. I know very little about Cromwell in Ireland, apart from the bloodshed, basically.
    On a personal note, my mum went to visit the village near there where her ancestors come from, and mentioned the family name to one of the local people; they said, ‘Oh them? They’re all gone – all burried over there in the churchyard!’

  7. It’s a shame you have no Irish cousins, then, Claire.

    ‘Cromwell’ is an emotive word in Ireland (and, I have found, certain of the right-wing English get highly emotional on the subject). The wars of the time were complex of course, but in any case Ireland was damaged very badly and the population fell drastically. I must do a post on it sometime.

  8. claire2

    I do have distant family, and obviously, as you know, my sister lives there.
    My dad says that’s where my mum and I get our firebrand streak from, the Irish genes. Another stereotype to which I do not subscribe in any way, needless to say….
    I’d love to read about your views on Cromwell in Ireland. I know quite a lot about the civil war now – had to research it for my story – but very little about what happened in Ireland.

  9. Thanks for that, Claire. I used to have a ‘Chronology of Ireland’ website … over 100,000 words that I wrote myself, giving details of events, births and deaths in Ireland from earliest times to the present. I would say it was the largest resource of its kind in the world; it was also strictly objective.

    But I lost it due to a combination of computer mishaps and my own stupidity, and don’t think it can be retrieved … must ask the ISP sometime. It was offline by then anyway, as I didn’t have the time to develop it as I would have wanted.

    Yes, I’ll write something about the Cromwellian era.

  10. Jaimeatdnmyt

    Levent, Death is the great mystery of life.

  11. Hello Jamie,
    I don’t feel it is a mystery.

  12. Levent, you’re welcome to give your views on death.

    As it happens, an old friend of mine has just rung me to tell me that another old friend was found dead yesterday. He was 48 years old. It’s hard to believe.

  13. Sorry to hear that, Brendan.

    I have lost 4-5 dear friends so far.
    About friends’ deaths I feel like I have send them abroad. Just waiting for the day to unite.

    About mine, most of the time, I see this world as a waiting room, or a guest room, to let me in to my real home.

  14. Beautiful picture.
    Cromwell is one of those individuals who was both hero and villain. It’s always dangerous to see history in b&w isn’t it.

  15. Thanks, Isobel. There’s lots of nice scenery in my area … very green from all the rain. 🙂

    Re your history comment … yes, absolutely.

  16. Levent, I’m sorry … I forgot to reply to your comment 13.

    Your philosophy must be a reassuring one. I often feel that way too, but not always. I think the main thing is to try to make the best of this life while we have it.

  17. Do you remember the Dave Allen stories about the cows an the rain?
    How are you enjoying having your own page?

  18. Isobel, I kind of missed out on Dave Allen as we didn’t get UK TV when I was growing up. Must ask my wife … she’s a big fan. 🙂

    I like having my own page … the feeling of being able to do one’s own thing is quite enjoyable. 🙂

  19. It’s a lot nicer than the hurly burly of where we used to be isn’t it. Ironic that without that, we probably wouldn’t have met at all. Funny old world…

  20. Indeed, Isobel. I’ve been using MyT for the past couple of weeks, though, and foolishly got into a squabble today. Perhaps I’ll never learn.

    I’ve an early start in the morning, so goodnight and have a good weekend.

  21. Cymbeline, I do think Sinéad O’Connor is wonderful, but I think she sometimes chooses her songs badly … she has sung ‘Irish Ways and Irish Laws’, a song I criticized on another blog, for example. Her business, of course … she can sing what she likes.

    I don’t like excessive pathos, wallowing in victimhood. I think the Irish, as a nation, should have too much pride to do that.

  22. My mother, before the dementia took hold, used to say the trouble was the Irish had memories like elephants. Ironic in some ways really.

  23. Yes, Isobel. My father had Parkinson’s, and seemed to remember only his childhood towards the end.

    I’m not sure about the Irish having long memories … I know from my MyT experience that some things are held against the Irish that happened long before I was born.

  24. Hello Cymbeline. There is an anti-Irish seam in the collective English psyche, bùt not in all individuals’ psyches, I would say … it depends on temperament. The converse also applies.

    I remember writing something on MyT about how the Irish fill the role of the Jungian ‘shadow’ in the English psyche.

  25. Yes, some of the English tend to be (a) amused or (b) bemused by the Irish, and that’s reflected a lot in whimsical TV portrayals … when Inspector Morse oe East Enders takes a detour to Ireland, or rather into some surreal part of the scriptwriter’s mind.

    Must go to a barbecue at a neighbour’s soon … the beautiful weather has to be used while we have it.

  26. Interesting thoughts, Cymbeline. I have never been aware of any particular affinity between the Welsh and the Irish … I think the Welsh barely impinge on the Irish consciousness except in terms of rugby. There is no bad feeling, of course.

    I think the Irish and the English tend to rub along together well on a personal level. There are a lot of English people living in my area.

    In the town where I grew up several families were descended from Welsh people who came over to work in the mines.

    Thanks for your other comments, by the way.

  27. I may have mentioned before that the Irish term for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag, meaning ‘Little Britain’.

    Apparently Google Maps thinks that it’s Welsh for Wales!


  28. True. A big employer in Dublin, though.

  29. Yes, it probably does. The low corporation tax is an attraction.

    A lot of international internet gaming companies are setting up here at the moment.

  30. Yes. To the Irishman there are two final realities, according to Evelyn Waugh … hell and the United States. I once wrote a MyT post about the relationship.

    Some of the English occasionally seem jealous of it. A decade or so ago there was a virulent editorial in The Guardian, of all places, decrying the mutual cosying up of US and Irish politicians around St Patrick’s Day. I was moved to write a letter (a strangely non-instantaneous means of communication, it seems now).

  31. Yes, your white America remark is largely true. I know you had a personal encounter with the radical wing of black America recently.

    It’s a pity that one still has occasion to talk of black and white in this way.

  32. Yes, Ireland does punch above its weight in some respects. It has had a lot of respect among former colonies for its early anticolonialism. And, as a small country, it can’t be blamed for exploiting its relationship with the superpower. The ‘diaspora’ can be useful in various ways.

  33. The thought of your reaction to the ‘Lady Di’ remarks is certainly amusing, Cymbeline.

  34. Christina has a particular animus against the Irish for some reason, but I sometimes detect a sneaking admiration too.

  35. I’m off to bed … getting up early these mornings to do some writing before working.

    Goodnight, Cymbeline.

  36. Hello Cymbeline. Indeed there are many excellent people on Bearsy’s blog, but it seems turgid to me. Perhaps I was spoilt by MyT at its best.

  37. Me too. Apparently there is now a Welsh-Irish dictionary online.


  38. Nothing. I’m going out tonight, actually, with a choir (not a Welsh one, sadly). Beer is not out of the question.

  39. The Twelve Apostles … I’m not sure that a calendar of naked male customers of my local would sell too well, even for charity. But you never know.

    I don’t suppose you know what part of Ireland?

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