Wicklow United Irishmen
 1798 Ireland 
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‘Desperate and Diabolical’ 1

Defenders and United Irishmen in Early NSW

by Ruán O'Donnell

The United Irishmen, the 'Men of '98', have loomed large in the Irish-Australian imagination.  The 1798 Memorial in Sydney's Waverley cemetery has borne witness to their memory since April 1900 and while they no longer command the fervent adulation accorded to them in the years surrounding the centennial of the 1798 Rebellion, the rebels continue to evoke a level of interest to which few criminals and free settlers of the early colonial period can lay claim.2  This has been demonstrated by the ongoing historical and genealogical research into the United Irishmen transported to New South Wales between 1800 and 1806 arising from complicity in the Rebellions of 1798 and 1803.3  Very little attention, however, has been paid to the hundreds of Irish political prisoners known as 'Defenders' who arrived in the colony between 1793 and 1797.

Anne-Maree Whitaker has recently estimated that only around 400 of the several thousand United Irishmen sentenced to transportation actually reached New South Wales; a total 58 short of A.G.L.  Shaw's figure but 75 more than George Rudé's.4  These estimates, while very conservative, compare with a probable total of 200-300 Defenders landed in Port Jackson in the pre-Rebellion period which means that they comprised at least half of all Irish political prisoners who arrived in New South Wales prior to 1806.5

With the exception of Richard Dry, a pioneer of Van Diemen's Land, no Defender has been credited with making a contribution worthy of mention to Australian history.  Even this relatively modest celebrity has resulted in part from his son, Tasmania's first native born Premier and member of the Anti-Transportation League.6  Dry’s status in the highest echelon of the Dublin city Defenders and role as a delegate of Leinster's Provincial Directory of United Irishmen is little known, an omission apparently symptomatic of hundreds of lesser Defenders with Australian associations.7

Research into the Defenders has long been confused by lack of definition.  They have been cast until recently in the role of crude precursors to the United Irishmen, and as a shadowy body which perpetrated midnight outrages unredeemed by subsequent heroic sacrifice on the battlefields of 1798.8  Their political complexity, arcane practices and lurid catechisms lacked satisfactory analysis until the 1990s.9  While never truly a peasant movement, the original weaver, spinner and artisan Defenders of Armagh acquired lower middle class membership as they spread through southern Ulster and north Leinster in 1791-2.10  For much of the previous decade they had functioned as an armed counterweight to Presbyterian agrarian terrorists who attacked Catholic migrants deemed to undermine their economic position.11  Geographic expansion in the early 1790s gave rise to a more ambitious agenda based on popular disaffection with the Irish political system and support for the French Revolution of 1789. This disgruntled constituency embraced the democratic Paineite theories disseminated by the United Irishmen and Catholic Committee in their campaign for reform of Parliament, and increasingly began to reflect national as opposed to local and regional concerns.12  Mass politicization quickly transformed bone fide Defenders into a Jacobin style revolutionary body with an aggressive spirit and veneer of idealism that set them apart from the Whiteboys and other purely agrarian bodies.13

The nomenclature and affiliated 'lodge' structure of freemasonry was adopted by the Defenders for organisational purposes and greatly enhanced the movement's capacity to proselytise.  Arms raids on loyalist households rapidly increased to unprecedented levels.14  Perhaps the most important facet of Defenderism, however, was their staunch opposition to the raising of the Irish Militia in 1793 which brought them into direct conflict with the state.15  Pitched battles between the magistracy, army, militia and other pro-Government agencies and Defender-led or inspired riots resulted in hundreds of deaths in 1793.  Judge Robert Day articulated the unease felt by Government at the worst violence on Irish soil in living memory when he declared that 'sedition ...  had [never] stalk[ed] so publicly and confidently thro[ugh] the country.'16

In 1795 the Defenders spread southwards from county Meath to the capital where their subversive activities attracted the attention of the United Irishmen.17  Prior to 1795 the United Irishmen had retained hope of reforming Parliament through the influence of printed propaganda and front groups but the successive disappointments of the French War, the Fitzwilliam Viceroyalty and the suppression of their Society had a radicalising effect.18  Their new objective of revolution necessitated control over a large and secret paramilitary force to assist French invaders against the Government.  The south Ulster Defenders were found to be receptive to the merger proposals put to them in the summer of 1795 by United Irishmen who enjoyed influence in both organizations.19 

Richard Dry was undoubtedly one of the more significant figures engaged in this process in the Dublin area, where he gravitated with ease from a leadership position in the south city Defenders to senior United Irish membership.  A radical Protestant, Dry and his brother Thomas first came to prominence in the early 1790s during a series of riots and demonstrations protesting the Government's trade practices and other contentious issues.20  Business interests may well have encouraged the involvement of the Drys whose cloth factory was located in the Defender stronghold of the south Dublin Liberties.21  The manufacturing sector had been hard hit by an inequitable tariff system imposed by Westminster and was courted by the propaganda of Mathew Dowling, William Drennan and other leading Dublin United Irishmen.22

Dry's arrest on 7 August 1793 when reading extracts from Tom Paine's Rights of Man on the steps of the Royal Exchange signalled his emergence as a populist leader.  This was confirmed on 19 October 1793 when bonfires were lit throughout the Liberties to protest his conviction for using 'seditious expressions'.23  Although pilloried, fined £500 and possibly sent to prison for two years, Dry's radicalism did not abate and in mid-1796 he was one of two Defender leaders who conferred with top United Irish emissary James Hope of Templepatrick.  Defender/United Irish coalescence was then well advanced and the central aim of the meeting with Hope was to improve links between the militant Ulster Provincial Directory and its nascent equivalent in Leinster.24

Dry evidently continued to play a high profile role as a co-ordinator in the Republican movement as he was arrested in county Roscommon in February 1797 when attempting to bail prominent Defender John O'Leary, a veteran of the city 'show trials' of 1795.  By the time of his rearrest in Cork city in May 1797 after an escape attempt, Dry had established contact with the ill-fated Sheares brothers, Henry and John, who were briefly members of the United Irish Supreme Directory in May 1798.25

In September 1797 Dry was brought to trial at the politically sensitive Cork city assizes which took place at a time when the mass acquittal of suspected Defenders / United Irishmen, due to lack of evidence and jury irregularities, had embarrassed the Government and undermined public confidence in the judicial process.26 Judge Day decided not to prosecute Dry for High Treason on the grounds that it would be difficult to prove, and acquittal could not be countenanced.  Day was also concerned that a treason trial would provide ‘citizen lawyers' with a forum for 'long winded inflammatory speeches'.  He compromised by proceeding with the lesser charge of 'tendering an unlawful oath.' 27  This was, nevertheless, a very serious offence; United Irish hero-martyr William Orr of Farranshane, County Antrim was executed for it in October 1797.28

Dry was very much an exemplary defendant as the shrewd Day had elected to prosecute 'Dry alone … & put off the trials of five or six shabby disciples of his, affecting a moderation when in fact I could not convict'.29  His guilt was established in the course of an eleven hour trial on 11 September 1797 and would have resulted in a death sentence had not a technical difference between 'tendering' and 'administering' obliged Day to pass sentence of transportation for life.30  Dry had spent nine months in Cork city jail when the outbreak of Rebellion in May 1798 further delayed his transportation and he did not reach New South Wales until 11 January 1800.  He was one of 162 male convicts disembarked from the Minerva.31  Many of the rank and file Defenders sent to the colony prior to 1800 had been integrated into the United Irish superstructure through the mechanism of the 'constitution' of 10 May 1795 which provided the model for a popular movement commanded by a hierarchy of elected officer committees.  Mass recruitment in Munster and Leinster from the spring of 1797 then broadened the base of the unified movement.  By the eve of the Rebellion the Defenders were deeply and inextricably subsumed in a paramilitary force boasting a nominal strength of  280,000 members.32

The implications of this alliance were considerable for New South Wales given the large numbers of men called 'Defenders' sent to the colony between 1791 and 1797.  There were, however, subtle differences in the composition, command structure and political outlook of these Defender convicts.  As the 233 men landed in Port Jackson from the Boddingtons and Sugar Cane had all been sentenced in or before 1793 they could have had little or no contact with the United Irishmen.  The many Defenders among the 286 male convicts transported on the Marquis Cornwallis and Britannia in 1796-7, however, were a more coherent body than the earlier batch and were technically United Irishmen.33  Indeed, there is every indication that they would have been so described had not republican terminology and changing patterns of association so confused the Irish authorities.

In April 1797 Offaly teacher, United Irishman and Minerva transportee, Farrell Cuffe, was convicted of 'defenderism' but there could have been no doubt to which organisation he owed his allegiance.34  The Anglican clergyman and United Irishman, Rev Henry Fulton was similarly found guilty of taking the 'Defender's oath' although it is highly unlikely that he had ever been a member of that society given their avowed anti-clericalism.35  The sentencing of prominent Tyrone United Irishman, John Kincaid, at Omagh assizes on 5 April also illustrates the imprecision of the term.  Kincaid, a Presbyterian or Methodist from Carvanreagh, Tyrone, had been an extremely active recruiter in 1796 resulting in his conviction for 'administering the oath of Defenderism'.36  The evidence given at his trial in Omagh, however, actually concerned the military oath of the United Irishmen and Kincaid was elsewhere credited with being 'one of the ringleaders' of that body in the north who had 'held a correspondence with the committees of Belfast, Newry and Dublin'.37

While Cuffe, Kincaid and Fulton are generally recognized as being United Irishmen despite the Defender descriptions, the so called 'Defenders' disembarked in New South Wales three to four years before them have not been correctly identified.  Newspaper accounts of assizes in the mid-1790s show that most of the clearly political prisoners were transported for crimes identical to those of United Irishmen.38  Although the transported Defenders did not participate in the Rebellion of 1798 there is little else to distinguish them from the later United Irishmen.  The traditional timeframe of the Insurrection, 23 May to 7 September 1798, is inherently arbitrary and tends to disguise a low intensity civil/guerilla war spanning the years 1792 to 1803. Rebel activity did not cease on that day and neither the United Irishmen nor the French abandoned plans to campaign in Ireland after the defeat.39  Equally, there were significant armed actions before 1798. The anti-Militia riots of 1793 incurred the heaviest loss of life in eighteenth century Ireland prior to the Rebellion and would probably have attracted more attention from historians had they not been eclipsed by the carnage of 1798.40  Pre-alliance Defenders from Cavan, Cork and Armagh, where rural unrest had been endemic from the 1780s and who in some cases had recourse to an even older Whiteboy tradition, were more experienced and hardened agitators than many of the Leinster United Irishmen recruited in the big drives of 1797.41

In short, discussions of Irish political prisoners in New South Wales which do not factor 'United Irish Defenders' into their calculations of Irish numerical strength can only provide a distorted image of seditious affairs in the colony.  There is no reason to assume that the political prisoners of the Marquis Cornwallis and Britannia would have been regarded as anything but comrades by rebels arriving on the Minerva and Friendship in 1800.  Close ideological ties are also likely to have existed between them and the unaligned Defenders of the Boddingtons and Sugar Cane even though their initial stimulus to subversive activity was more likely to have derived from anti-militia and local issues.42

The Irish transportation policy which deposited at least 400 United Irishmen in New South Wales after 1800 was to a large extent developed to combat the Defenders.  It became apparent in the early 1790s that the Irish legal system was unequal to the challenge posed by the violence of Defenderism and their stoicism in the face of normal coercion.43

The precise number of Defenders and United Irishmen transported to New South Wales prior to 1800 is a problematic issue which extant sources are incapable of rectifying.  While it seems that there were very few political prisoners on the Queen of 1791, an unknown number were put on board the Boddingtons and Sugar Cane in 1793.44  As 60-70 men on the Boddingtons were convicted in counties where violent Defender inspired disturbances had occurred it can be assumed, following A.G.L.  Shaw's rule of thumb, that many of them were members of that organisation.45  The Sugar Cane, conversely, carried fewer prisoners from these districts and a higher proportion of Dubliners, an area not greatly agitated by Defenderism at that time.46

Information concerning the Britannia and Marquis Cornwallis is slightly more solid and Rudé concurred with Shaw's enumeration of 'about' 100 Defenders on these Ships.47  However, a close comparison of disturbed districts with prisoner trial places could yield a figure not much less than the total male complement of 163 men on the Marquis Cornwallis.48  Sufficient numbers of Defenders were sentenced in 1793 to fill several transports but the political will and logistics were evidently lacking as relatively few of these men arrived in New South Wales.  Of the 25 Louth Defenders sentenced to transportation at Dundalk assizes in March 1793 only four were embarked.49  Similarly, only two of the twelve sentenced at the Cork city and county assizes in March 1794 actually arrived.50

In 1795 the Marquis Cornwallis attained a reputation as a 'political' ship; contemporary accounts state it left Cork on 9 August of that year with 'seventy..Defenders' on board.51  They included a cadre of notorious figures such as the 'noted Joseph Corbally ...ringleader among the defenders' and Corkman John Brien/Bryan.52  Corbally was transported for perjury and had been expected to testify at Kilmainham Quarter Sessions that the high ranking United Irishmen Napper Tandy and Archibald Hamilton Rowan comprised the Defender leadership.  He had been previously sentenced to two years imprisonment in Newgate for Defenderism in July 1793 and was a well known figure among his contemporaries.53  Brien was another leading personality who, with four other Corkmen, had the distinction of being sentenced to transportation in 1794 from a prison population of over 200 suspected Defenders.54

The Britannia also embarked substantial numbers of Defender / United Irish convicts who could have amounted to the entire male complement given the turmoil in which that year's assizes had taken place.55  A county breakdown of the most likely Defender prisoners on board the Britannia gives a figure of 145 men which almost certainly includes some criminals and omits political prisoners from less disturbed counties.56  That 60 of the 107 non-Dubliners received life sentences, a marked increase on the 40% rate on the non-political Queen, may indicate a high incidence of seditious crimes.  Britannia was also the first ship to leave Ireland after the passage of the draconian Insurrection Act which may explain a Dublin press report of August 1796 which stated 'fifty convicts.  ..[were] shipped from the North Wall for Botany Bay' of whom 'three quarters', roughly 38, were Defenders.57  As the Britannia landed only 39 male convicts from Dublin city and county in Port Jackson in May 1797 it would appear it had been designated a 'political' ship.58

The intriguing and ill-discipline of the exiled Defenders which so dismayed Governor John Hunter and frightened Governor Philip King was very apparent during the voyages of the four ships with Defender convicts.59  One man was summarily executed for mutiny on the Sugar Cane and some details of a plot on the Boddingtons reached the colony.60  While mutiny and escape were undoubtedly common topics of conversation among all convicts, the Defender /United Irishmen of the Britannia and Marquis Cornwallis planned uprisings which resulted in the deaths of about 26 men and two official enquiries in Port Jackson.61

The rebellious conduct of the convicts on the Britannia and Marquis Cornwallis before and after arrival in New South Wales seems to have prejudiced the colonial administration against later shipments of prisoners who had taken part in 1798.  That two mutinies of a similar nature had been suppressed on successive voyages must have struck Hunter as either a grim coincidence or the probable consequence of transporting Defenders and United Irishmen en masse.  That serious trouble also occurred on the Anne, Hercules, Atlas I and Minerva in 1800-2 but not the criminal Queen and Rolla may also have highlighted the political factor.62  Opposition to such transports by Hunter and his successor Governor King is a matter of record but neither man had any real control over the numbers or type of prisoners embarked for New South Wales.63  The Governors were also remarkably ill-informed as to the character of Irish prisoners in general as documents setting down their names, crimes and sentences generally only arrived years after the ships if at all.64  This omission on the part of Dublin Castle engendered a sense of paranoia in the colony that was accentuated by the United Irish plots of 1800 and the Castle Hill uprising in March 1804.65

Discussion of rank and file Defenders in the Australian context has hitherto centred on a series of oft quoted comments made by Governor Hunter in 1796 regarding 'those turbulent and worthless characters called Irish Defenders' who had boldly 'threatened resistance to all orders'.66 As no such opinions were expressed by Hunter's predecessor in relation to the Defenders sent out in 1793 it would appear that his blanket hostility resulted from the ability of the Britannia and Marquis Cornwallis convicts to destabilise the colony and his knowledge of their plotting on the voyages from Ireland.67  To the Governor's intense annoyance, the Defenders who arrived in 1796-7 not only disaffected otherwise peaceable English convicts and promoted the use of perjury but escaped both frequently and in large numbers.  Hunter complained they had 'completely ruined ...[those] formerly received from England' and threatened 'that order so highly essential to our well being'.68  One of the more serious and disruptive breakouts involved a twenty strong 'gang of ...Defenders' who were so obstinate when apprehended that Hunter deemed it necessary to have two executed.69

Far from ad hoc responses to local conditions, as previous commentators have asserted or implied, this naked anti-authoritarianism was typical of Republican subversives and part of a pattern of behaviour established in Ireland.70  To simply ascribe their sustained defiance of the colonial government as a reaction to the prospects of overdue emancipation and their wild Irishness is greatly to undervalue the dynamics of shared ideology and paramilitary experience.71  Even if the cabal mentality and activism fostered by the Defenders did not in itself dispose them towards such illicit endeavours as hindering the colonial legal system and organizing mass escapes it must have provided a firm grounding in clandestine methods.  Many urban criminals would also have possessed skills of this type but it was primarily the Irish convicts with political associations who were credited with unsettling the colony.  Hunter's exasperation with the 'Defenders' ultimately moved him to suggest that they should not be sent to New South Wales but rather to 'Africa, or some other place as fit for them'.72

While the full story of the Defenders and early United Irishmen of .New South Wales is yet to be written, whether in terms of their significance as settlers or unreformed malcontents, it is doubtful that many were as successful in the role of colonial pioneer as Richard Dry.  After a four rear stint in Parramatta, where he apparently remained aloof from the intense United Irish intrigue, Dry accompanied Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson to the site of Port Dalrymple [Launceston], Van Diemen's Land, in November 1804.73 Having worked as a storekeeper Dry was pardoned in 1809 and appointed commissariat clerk of the town four years later.74  Freedom and business acumen enabled Dry to begin amassing livestock to the number of 7,000 sheep and 300 cattle within a few years, enabling his emergence as one of the island's most respectable immigrants.75  Some years after his death in May 1843 Charles Gavan Duffy described him as 'a fine old Irish patriot' and while this accolade does not adequately convey Dry's importance as a radical it is a far greater testament than that accorded to the Defenders and United Irishmen he led as a young man.76


  1. The title derives from Governor Philip King's description of the Irish political prisoners who arrived on the Anne in 1801 and those that had preceded them.  King to Portland, 10 March 1801 HRA I iii p 9
  2. For the centennial commemoration in Australia see Freeman's Journal (Sydney) 28 May 1898, Sydney Morning Herald 21 and 24 May 1898, Advocate 28 May 1898 and Ruán O'Donnell, 'The Waverley monument and Sydney's 1798 Centenary Celebrations', unpublished paper read at the Shamrock in the Bush Conference, Galong NSW June 1995
  3. Recent publications include Anne-Maree Whitaker Unfinished Revolution: United Irishmen in New South Wales, 1800-1810 Sydney 1994; James Macken Martin Burke, the father of Pittwater Sydney 1994; Kieran Sheedy Upon the mercy of Government, the story of the surrender, imprisonment and transportation to New South Wales of Michael Dwyer and his Wicklow comrades Dublin 1988
  4. Whitaker p29, George Rudé 'Early Irish Rebels in Australia' in Historical Studies vol 16, 1974-5, p23 and A.G.L.Shaw, Convicts & the Colonies: a study of penal transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia & other parts of the British Empire Melbourne 1978 p170
  5. 519 male prisoners were disembarked from the four ships carrying Defenders to NSW between 1793 and 1797.  T.J.  Kiernan The Irish Exiles in Australia Dublin 1954, p9
  6. Lloyd Robson A history of Tasmania vol 1 Van Diemen's Land from the earliest times to 1855 Melbourne 1983 pp54-5, 72, 114-5, Patrick O'Farrell The Irish in Australia Sydney 1986, p36, Whitaker pp178-80, 197-8, A.D.Baker The life and times of Sir Richard Dry: Eminent Tasmanian statesman Hobart 1951; George Rudé Protest and Punishment: the story of the social and political protesters transported to Australia, 1788-1868 Oxford 1978 ppl88-9; Weekly Courier 14 November 1928
  7. Robert Day to [Wolfe?] 23 September 1797 NAI 620/32/136, Hibernian Journal, 14 August 1793 and Jim Smyth The Men of no property : Irish Radicals and popular politics in the Late Eighteenth Century Dublin 1992 pp142-7, 150-2.  Dry's conviction at Cork city assizes in September 1797 was deliberately exemplary as Judge Day 'proceeded against [Richard] Dry alone' on a charge of administering an illegal oath.  Day to ? 29 September 1797 NAI 620/32/136.  Dry's brother Thomas, a leading Defender and United Irishmen, was indicted for High Treason in May 1796 Faulkner's Dublin Journal (FDJ) 31 May 1796, 25 April 1797 and R.B.  McDowell Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution, 1760-1801 Oxford 1979 p570
  8. Rudé described them as 'peasant' protesters and the product of an 'agrarian revolt': Rudé Protest and Punishment pp36-7
  9. Marianne Elliott 'The Defenders in Ulster' in David Dickson, Daire Keogh and Kevin Whelan eds The United Irishmen: Republicanism, Radicalism and Rebellion Dublin 1993 pp222-33, Nancy J .Curtin 'The United Irish organization in Ulster:1795-8' in Dickson United Irishmen pp209-11, L.M.Cullen 'The internal politics of the United Irishmen' in Dickson United Irishmen pp176-96 and Smyth Men of no property
  10. Smyth Men of no property pp114-6.  Several Drogheda merchants related to Belfast Republicans were arrested in 1794 for forming 'some committee of connexion with the Defenders': Drennan to McTier 29 [January 1794] D.A.  Chart ed.  The Drennan Letters Belfast 1931 pl83.
  11. Rev B.  McEvoy 'The Peep of Day Boys and Defenders in the county Armagh' Seanchas Ard Macha 1986 pp123-63 and 1987 pp60-127
  12. 'Defenders' pp226-7 and Smyth Men of no property p67
  13. 'Taxation and disaffection in late Eighteenth century Ireland' in Samuel Clark and James S.  Donnelly jr.  eds Irish Peasants, violence & political unrest 1780-1914 Manchester 1983 pp52-3
  14. FDJ 1 January 1793
  15. McDowell Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution 1760-1801 Oxford 1979 pp463-5
  16. Robert Day A charge delivered to the Grand Jury of the county of Dublin 15 January 1794 Dublin 1794
  17. M.  Elliott Partners in Revolution: the United Irishmen and France Yale 1982 pp96-8, R.R.  Madden The United Irishmen; Their Lives and Times London 1860 vol 4 p521 and Cullen 'Internal Politics' pp187-8
  18. McDowell Ireland Chapters 12-15
  19. R.R.Madden Down and Antrim in '98 Dublin n.d.  pp98-9, Elliot 'Defenders' p231, Curtin 'United Irish organization in Ulster' pp212-3 and Cullen 'Internal Politics' pp69-70
  20. See Smyth Men of no property chapter 6 and Petition of Richard Dry 10 January 1799 NAI State Prisoners' Petitions 549 (SPP)
  21. Thomas Dry, also a high ranking United Irishman and Defender, was indicted for High Treason in May 1796: FDJ 31 May 1796.  In April 1797 it was reported that the 'notorious traitor [Thomas] Dry' had been sent to Kilmainham prison after his arrest in Belfast: FDJ 25 April 1797 See also McDowel1 Ireland p570
  22. FDJ 2 April 1793
  23. FDJ 22 October 1796 See also FDJ 24 October 1796 and Hibernian Journal 14 August 1793 (HJ)
  24. Information of J.W.[Leonard McNally] 7 June 1796 NAI 620/36/227Camden to ? 6 August 1796 NAI 620/18/11/1, FDJ 22 October 1793 and Smyth Men of no property p114
  25. Smyth Men of no property p 158 and Thomas Davis ed The speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran Dublin n.d.  pp221-33. A family connection with Roscommon is likely as Dry named one of his Tasmanian properties 'Elphin' after a village in the county: B.W.Wray to T.L.  Lockhart 17 June 1960 'Dry Correspondence' AOT and ADB vol 1 p328 and Thomas Pakenham The Year of Liberty; the great Irish Rebellion of 1798 London 1969 pp91-3
  26. Day to Arthur Wolfe 16 August 1797 NAI 620/34/14 and Day to [?] 29 September 1797 NAI 620/32/145
  27. Day to Pelham 22 September 1797 NAI 620/32/136.  Day had encountered Dry in 1792 when Richard, Thomas and other family members had prosecuted would-be extortionists at Kilmainham Quarter Sessions, Petition of Richard Dry 10 January 1799 NAI SPP 549
  28. Charles Dickson Revolt in the North Antrim and Down in 1798 Dublin 1960 pp179-80; McDowell Ireland pp542-3
  29. Day to (?) 29 September 1797 NAI 620/32/145.  See also Henry Sheares to Day 12 September 1797 NAI 620/32/136
  30. Day to Pelham 22 September 1797 NAI 620/32/136 Day considered this outcome 'unlucky' and had evidently wished to make a more stern example of Dry. Dry when seeking mitigation of sentence in 1798 and 1799 dishonestly claimed to have been simply convicted of 'being an United Irishman': Dry to Castlereagh n.d.  (1798) NAI SPP123 and Dry petition 10 January 1799 NAI SPP 549
  31. Petition of Richard Dry 10 January 1799 NAI SPP 549 and Hunter to Portland 15 January 1800 HRA I iii p436
  32. Elliott Partners in Revolution pp72-4 96-7
  33. Boddingtons arrived 7 August 1793, Sugar Cane 17 September 1793, Marquis Cornwallis in February 1796 and Britannia on 27 May 1797.  HRA I i pp446, 454 and ii p31.  For numbers see Rudé 'Early Irish rebels' p17, Kiernan Irish Exiles pp16-25 HRA II ii p563 and Shaw Convicts p363
  34. The jails of assize Home Circuit of Apri11797 were reputedly 'filled with men charged with Defenderism ...Farrell Cuffe has been found guilty.' Saunder’s  Newsletter (SNL) 26April 1797
  35. Con Costello Botany Bay: the story of convicts transported from Ireland to Australia; 1791-1853 Dublin 1987 p28
  36. FDJ 6 Apri11797
  37. FDJ 8 and 20 April 1797
  38. See FDJ 19 and 21 March 1793, 13 and 20 August 1793 and 10 April 1794 and 'Return of prisoners confined in New Geneva Barracks specifying their crimes’:1 May 1801 PROE HO l00/106/40
  39. Pakenham Year of Liberty pp326-9
  40. Thomas Bartlett 'An end to moral economy: the Irish militia disturbances of 1793' Past and Present no 116 1987 pp206-17 and Smyth Men of no property pp66-78
  41. James S.Donnelly jr 'The Whiteboy movement 1761-5' in Irish Historical Studies XXI no 81 1978 pp20-54
  42. In 1800 prominent Wicklow rebel Joseph Holt recognized Thomas Kennedy of the Britannia and noted that he was engaged in illegal activities: Peter O’Shaughnessy ed A Rum Story: the adventures of Joseph Holt thirteen years in New South Wales 1800-12 Perth 1988 p51.  Kennedy had been one of nine Dublin Defenders tried at a major treason trial in the city in December 1795.  He was convicted of High Treason, a crime for which two of his co-defendants were executed: Davis Curran's Speeches pp221-5, Walker's Hibernian Magazine August 1796 p192 and FDJ 5 May 1798
  43. McDowell Ireland pp536-7
  44. Flynn and Johnson only identified Francis McClernan of Armagh, a Peep of  Day Boy or more probably a Defender, and Eyre Jackson of Galway; a possible Ribbonman.  'Convicts of the Queen' p12, see also HC 7 March 1791, Rudé 'Early Irish rebels' p18, Kiernan Irish Exiles p11, Drennan to Mc1ier 9 March [1793] Chart Drennan Letters p143 and FDJ 1 January 1793
  45. Boddingtons indent AONSW 4/4002 and Shaw Convicts p171. For disturbed state of Louth, Monaghan, Meath and other counties see FDJ 3 and 13 July 1790 and 29 January 1793
  46. AONSW 4/4002.  There were 53 county and city Dubliners on the Sugar Cane as opposed to 36 on the Boddingtons and 12 Corconians up from 3.  Only one convict on Sugar Cane came from Louth and Monaghan and none from Donegal
  47. Shaw Convicts p171 and Rudé 'Early Irish rebels' p19
  48. Over 200 men were sentenced to transportation in 1795 alone.  See PROE HO 100/64/103 and NAI State of the Country Papers (SOC) 1015/ 4 cited in Elliott Partners in Revolution p97
  49. FDJ 21 and 28 March 1793.  They were George McDaniel, Lawrence Harvey, Peter Carroll and John Smith.  FDJ 19 March 17 93 and AONSW 4/4003A
  50. HC 28 April 1794
  51. New Cork Evening Post 10 August 1795.  The ship was also reported as having sailed on 7 August 1795: Portland to Hunter 31 January 1797 HRA I ii p2.  Louth, Meath, Limerick, Dublin, Cork, Kildare and Tipperary, counties in the midst of Defender crises, accounted for 99 of the prisoners who arrived in Port Jackson, 40 of whom were under sentence of transportation for life.  Defenders convicted in Roscommon, Monaghan, Tyrone, Armagh, Donegal and Carlow were also sent: AONSW 4/4003
  52. FDJ 27 February 1794
  53. See Trial of Francis Graham.  ..for attempting to suborn Joseph Corbally ...  Dublin 1794 and McDowell Ireland pp439-40
  54. Diary of Judge Robert Day, Royal Irish Academy MS 12.W.14 pp52-3, Cork Gazette 3 May 1794 and HC 28 April 1794
  55. McDowell Ireland pp466-8, FDJ 13 and 16 February 1796
  56. Antrim 1, Armagh 6, Carlow 4, Cavan 2, Cork 5, Meath 15, Monaghan 4, Queen's county 1, Roscommon 3, Sligo 6, Donegal 6, Down 4, Fermanagh 4, Galway 1, Kildare 11, Longford 12, Louth 4, Meath 4 and Westmeath 12: AONSW 4/4003 and HC 20 August 1795.  Specific corroboration is extant for many of the above including Edward Fitzpatrick, Edward Carney (aka McCarty) and Hugh Maguire who were all sentenced to transportation for life by Judge Chamberlain at Monaghan assizes on 30 July for administering an illegal oath to Richard Troman and Patrick Brady of the Clare militia: FDJ 4 August 1796
  57. WHM August 1796 p192
  58. FDJ 15 March 1796, HJ 24 and 30 March 1796 and McDowell Ireland p540.  Three of the eight Defenders convicted at Naas assizes on 11 March were put on board the Britannia: James Deagle, Edward Byrne and Michael Gavigan/Garragan: SNL 16 March 1796 and AONSW 4/4003.  At least two of the three Roscommon convicts were Defenders, having been sentenced for administering illegal oaths, as was one but very probably more of the thirteen Longford men: McDowell Ireland pp541-2
  59. Shaw Convicts p168
  60. Charles Bateson The Convict Ships 1787-1868 Glasgow 1959 pp129-30 and Costello Botany Bay pp19-20
  61. Hunter to Portland 5 September 1796 HRA I i p653
  62. Bateson Convict Ships pp131-4, 142-6, 150-2, 158-65 and Rudé Protest and punishment p161.  News of the role of Irish New South Wales Corps recruits in the successful mutiny on the Lady Shore in August 1797 could not have been reassuring: HRA I ii p704
  63. King to Portland 21 May 1802 HRA I iii p489.  Hunter described the Defenders as a 'very turbulent description of transports': Hunter to Portland 25 June 1797 HRA I ii p31
  64. Portland to Hunter 2 March 1797 HRA I ii p9.  King to Castlereagh 24 July 1798 and Hunter to Portland 1 November 1798 HRA I ii pp234-6.  See also Rudé 'Early Irish Rebels' ppl8-20 and Shaw Convicts p171
  65. King came to regard virtually all Irish male prisoners sent to New South Wales after 1793 as dangerous as the 'diabolical characters' of the Anne: King to Portland 28 September 1800 HRA I ii p614.  See also King to Portland 10 March 1801 HRA I iii p9 and Hardwicke to Pelham 21 May 1802: PROE HO 100/ 110/163
  66. Hunter to Portland 12 November 1796 in HRA I i p674; see also p675.  Kiernan Irish Exiles p13 and Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore London 1987 pp183-4
  67. The contractors of the Boddingtons and Sugar Cane were commended for their 'great liberality': Grose to Dundas 12 October 1793 HRA I i p454.  See also Grose to Nepean 12 October 1793 in HRA I i pp454-5
  68. Hunter to Portland 10 January 1798 HRA I ii pl18
  69. Hunter to Portland 15 February 1798 HRA I ii p129
  70. See C.M.H.  Clark A history of Australia Sydney 1962 vol 1 pp153-6
  71. See Costello Botany Bay pp18-9
  72. Hunter to Portland 12 November 1796 HRA I i p675
  73. When awaiting transportation on the Minerva in 1799 Holt had implicated Dry, William Desmond, Michael Cox and Michael Fitzgerald in ongoing United Irish plots.  As all but Dry did take part in seditious schemes in New South Wales, it would appear the Dubliner had thought better of active participation during the voyage.  Information of J.  Holt 27 February 1799 in Londonderry ed Memoirs and Correspondence of Viscount Castlereagh 4 vols London 1848 vol 2 pp186-7.  Ruán O'Donnell 'The Wicklow United Irishmen in New South Wales (part one)' Wicklow Historical Society Journal vol 1 no 7 July 1994 p51 and AONSW 5/1156 pp161-73 [74] Robson Tasmania vol 1 pp54-5, Weekly Courier 14 November 1928 and Hobart Gazette 27 December 1817
  74. Macquarie to Dry 3 February 1819 HRA III iii p699
  75. Weekly Courier 14 November 1928


About the author

Professor Ruán O'Donnell B.A. (N.U.I.), M.A. (N.U.I), Ph.D. (A.N.U.) is the head of the Department of History, University of Limerick, Ireland.

His research interests include the United Irishmen and the organization, strategy and impact of Republican subversion during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars; Coercion and counterinsurgency in Britain and Ireland, 1791-1815, Modern European Military History, the history of penal transportation and Early Colonial Australia. The history of the modern Republican Movement.

A list of his publications can be found here