[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.