The 1848 Rebellion was a failed Irish nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement, part of the wider revolutions that affected most of Europe at that time. It took place on 29 July, 1848, in the village of Ballingarry, south Tipperary, when an Irish Constabulary unit raided a house and took those inside as hostages. A several-hour gunfight followed, but the rebels fled after a large group of police reinforcements arrived. It is remembered as the ‘Battle of Ballingarry’ or the ‘Battle of the Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Plot’, writes David Mullen.
September 30, 2017, sees the National Famine Commemoration being held at the 1848 Famine Warhouse near Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary. It’s the first time the event has been held in Tipperary and on that Saturday, a huge crowd of people will gather to remember, not only the millions lost in the Great Famine, but also a remarkable and often forgotten event in Irish history.
1848 was the year of revolutions. The winds and fires of change swept across Europe as people tried to throw off the shackles of the old orders. Hungary; Poland; Italy; France – socialism, death to kings and workers’ republics were the chants of the people.
In Ireland though, things were more desperate. The people faced complete starvation as the potato had failed and any excess food was sent abroad. Families evicted from their homes died at the roadside. It was clear that something had to give.
The Young Ireland movement had emerged from Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal campaign. Whereas O’Connell was opposed to the use of violence to achieve political aims, the Young Irelanders disagreed. Their goal was Irish independence by any means.
They saw how European revolutions had been fairly bloodless and thought that the same thing could be achieved in Ireland.
The movement consisted of a number of now famous names – Thomas Frances Meagher, John Blake Dillon and William Smith O’Brien to name but a few. A party of these men had gone to France in early ‘48 to congratulate the French on their new revolution and had returned with a new tricolour flag- not red, white and blue but green, white and gold.
The introduction of martial law to Ireland in 1848 meant that members of the movement could be arrested and imprisoned without trial. Led by William Smith O’Brien, they decided that rather than fleeing the country, they would stand their ground.
In July, they travelled around the south-east of Ireland, through Wexford, Kilkenny and Tipperary, trying to drum-up support for a rebellion – though with little success. However, things took a turn when they got to the village of The Commons in the Slieveardagh Hills of Tipperary.