The Capture of Kilcock by Rebels

Published in Balyna Magazine, 1998

The eighteenth century military barracks in Kilcock has been identified from a 1798 map of Kilcock which is on display in the local library. This map shows the military barracks situated on the Fair Green at this spot.

There are no buildings marked there on either the 1837 or 1911 editions of the ordnance survey map.

This wall (pointing to the wall), according to the 1798 map is on the site of the barracks and is more than likely the gable-end wall of the barracks. The stone face of the wall would be the outside wall of a building and this wall has brick facing on the inside. There was a courtyard at the rear of this building with surrounding out-offices. This courtyard is marked on the map as the barrack yard.

In the late 1700s there was a strong military presence in the barracks. At one time the Kilcock garrison consisted of seventy soldiers under the command of a major. In 1795, there was considerable rebel activity in the Kilcock area; this resulted in many prisoners being taken and held in the barracks to avoid transportation and even execution. So the barracks would have been seen by local people as a symbol of repression.

In April 1798, following the proclamation of martial law, an ultimatum was given to the people of Kilcock. The army threatened to burn houses in order to recover illegal weapons and the towns people were given ten days to comply. However, it appears no arms were given up.

On the 20th May, a Scottish regiment burned some houses in the town and this had the desired effect with some weapons handed up to the military. The North Kildare rebellion broke out on 24th May, 1798 in Prosperous and Clane.

On the following day, rebels attacked Kilcock, but Colonel Gordon, with a patrol of highlanders, put down the revolt and killed five rebels. Shortly after this event, the Kilcock garrison was pulled out of the town in order to strengthen the garrisons in bigger towns like Trim and Naas. A rebel camp was formed at Timahoe and Kilcock rebels also joined. William Aylmer of Painstown, the highest ranking United Irishman in the area, became leader of the rebels in the camp. On 1st June, William Aylmer led his rebels into the undefended Kilcock, took provisions for his camp and a number of prisoners. The rebel intention was to use their camp in the bog to launch hit and run attacks against the military and obtain provisions mainly from government supporters. On that night, a break-away party of rebels burned Courtown House.

The local yeomen which had been inactive up to this time was mustered. They were commanded by Sir Fenton Aylmer from Donadea Castle and Michael Aylmer from Courtown House. The three different Aylmer families were distantly related. So, the scene was set for a show-down between rebels led by William Aylmer and Yeoman led by Fenton Aylmer. On 4th June (200 years ago this very day), William Aylmer and a large number of rebels approached Kilcock. According to Musgrave, a loyalist writer from that period:

They (the rebels) treacherously made an attack on Fenton Aylmer at Kilcock, with their whole force stationed at Timahoe, which is seven miles distant on Monday 4th June. One of Fenton Aylmer’s yeoman informed him of the rebel approach, he advanced with his corps with an intention of charging them, but perceiving their great superiority of numbers, sounded a retreat after narrowly escaping, being surrounded by them.

Fenton Aylmer and his yeomen retreated to Bridstream House, near Balfeighin where he discovered that most of his troops had deserted him with a large number joining the rebels.

The rebels then entered the town and this was the only time Kilcock, in its seven hundred years history, was captured from a defending force. The rebels proceeded first to the King’s Arms Inn and searched the building for hiding yeomen; they even searched the chimneys and caused considerable damage to the furniture on the premises. This Inn, owned by Edward Campbell, was situated close to or at Corscadon’s Hotel (probably the area between the hotel and Monaghan Fields). The rebels next proceeded to the house of Joseph Robinson, an active constable. Fortunately for him, he had fled the town; his house was torched and it was burned to the ground. The site of this house has not been positively identified, but in the 1850s a Robinson family owned the house where the Christian Brothers monastery is now situated, so that is a probable site of this house.

Map of the Fair Green 1795

The rebels next moved to the Fair Green and burned the deserted military barracks. This was an intelligent military move as the building could not then be re-used by the yeomen or indeed used as a base by the military in order to launch an attack on the rebel camp.

The courthouse was also burned, unfortunately the site of this building has not been identified. However, it could have been within the barracks complex. The residence of Anne Quinn a prominent loyalist was also burned. She owned a malt house at the rear of her house. Her premises was situated in the area of the present post office, between Davy’s auctioneers and Helen Noonan’s restaurant. James McNally and Patrick Dease had two houses each burned by the rebels. Those houses were let to tenants who were more than likely yeomen. There was a tavern in the town which the rebels paid particular attention to. It was owned by Richard Hart and contained one of the largest supplies of beer barrels along the coach road between Dublin and Galway. Richard Hart was no friend of the rebels. The premises was looted with a large number of beer barrels together with shop goods taken. This tavern was situated on the site of O’Keeffe’s public house.

It would appear that the rebels had taken revenge on the loyalist population of Kilcock for the burning of rebels’ houses in the town two weeks earlier. One man emerged as a leader of the Kilcock rebels at this time, his name was John Reilly. John was the local shoemaker and his family lived in the area of Davy’s car park opposite the canal turn pub between Jimmy McCormack’s and Angela Fitzpatrick’s. The rebels, after the attack on Kilcock, in keeping with their fugitive warfare tactics, then retreated to their camp at Timahoe.

This was a brief account of the events of this day 200 years ago.

  1. Map of Kilcock circa 1798 in Teresa Brayton Library Kilcock.
  2. Walkers Hibernian Magazine, July, December 1795.
  3. Richard Musgrave, Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.
  4. Rebellion Papers, National Archives.
  5. List of Claims for Compensation in 1798, National Library