I’m excited by this.
OK, perhaps I’m easily pleased, but it was a real delight to find the clip of Graham Norton’s Who Do You Think You Are? in which he learns about his yeoman ancestor in Carnew, just days after I posted about it. And when I was looking for something else, too. That’s Google for you. Here it is, with Graham talking to the excellent historian Ruan O’Donnell.
Ruan’s also written about our old friend ‘Croppy’ Biddy Dolan. Here’s possibly the most well-known account of Bid’s character and actions, written by Br Luke Cullen:
‘…in the year 1798 she mostly rode with the rebel cavalry — a buxom vivandiere on horseback. Her lack of morals and indecencies are too disgusting to follow, but it win be sufficient to say, that this pampered informer of the County Wicklow, at thirteen years of age, was an avowed and proclaimed harlot, steeped in every crime that her age would admit of ; and her precocity to vice, as it was to maturity, was singular.’
It gets worse.
‘…this abandoned person, who was brought up without the slightest particle of education, or more regard to morals than the brute that browsed in the field ; and in regard to her knowledge of Christian truths, she was an infidel.’
And as a witness for the prosecution:
‘She was young, and under judicious teachers had time enough to learn. Her unblushing audacity was firm and boundless. Drunk or sober, her pert and ready replies to all questions helped to restore her to that portion of favour which only seemed to be lost to her.’
As for her evidence against Billy Byrne:
‘Croppy Biddy was the one on whom the prosecutors rested their hopes. The [?]giggling and loud laugh, the levity and whole demeanour of that libidinous wretch, was the most disgusting display that, perhaps, any witness was ever before allowed to indulge in, where the use of a high and honourable gentleman was concerned. Her first plunge on the green cloth this day was perjury, and all her assertions, that were of any moment, to the end of the trial, were of the same dreadful description.’
It is possible to portray Bid in a more sympathetic light, and we weigh up both sides in the book, but the point of this post is to signpost a great link I also found today, “The sham squire” and the informers of 1798 : with jottings about Ireland a century ago (1869), a book by William John Fitzpatrick available online as part of the Internet Archive project. It’s well worth a look.
One word of warning – it’s scanned, not transcribed, so some words look odd and need deciphering. It’s worth a look, though, even if it’s just for Br Luke’s inventive invective.