Faction Fight of Banagher Town
For fun folk with sticks each other set to fight
It was the fashion of the peasantry of the time
The Anglo Irish ruling class at the affrays were appalled
Called the riots and disorder horrific crime
It was decreed by O’ Connell and all others that the fighting saw
That the sorry history of the island had known
That the Gael had too many enemies with to fight
Without making a foe of their own.
Challenges made, a date to fight was set
The parties assembled: the fight was won and lost
Some say it kept the natives battle ready should a rebellion come again
Others say it was just for pride that each other each party crossed.
Most areas had the fights fierce and fair and dirty
After which no grudge would either side hold
But a black enmity grew between Lusmagh and Banagher
Of which this tragic story is told.
The day was Thursday, the epiphany, planned since the year before
The tensions were building, notices were signed by a “Captain Stout”
The town was barricaded in defense, families stayed in their homes
Four by four the narrow roads men of Lusmagh marches about.
Armstrong wanted the fighting for all time finished, establish the rule of law
Was willing to stoop to any means for this to be achieved
Told the Yeomen to stand with Banagher, but not in uniform be
Then called in a troop of the 12th Foot if history is to be believed.
The men of Lusmagh by Garrycastle in through Feeghs came into town
But there was no one on the Hill of Banagher to be seen
They were amassed behind the barricades across the street further down
They were prepared since notices of it posted in the town had been.
More Lusmagh men came in side roads but there were none to meet them there
The factions faced off on the main street of the town, a massive crowd
But the fight did not begin in earnest till the order to fight was said
For the faction fights had agreed rules under which engagement was allowed!
Brian Carroll and Joseph Larkin with another Lusmagh man stood forward on the street
To shouts from their own at Banagher of “Lus Magh Abú!”
Three men of Banagher stepped forward to meet them in the fray
As insults and stones at each other and at the soldiers they threw.
The soldiers stood in rank in vain to separate the sides
The air was thick with striking sticks, insults and wails and blows
The fight was fierce and went forth and back in flow for an hour
The blood from the wounded neath their feet splatters and flows.
By the hour of ten o’clock Lusmagh went to withraw
Though its recorded not were they considered winners or defeated
An officer of the army promised them safe passage should they leave
But Armstrong made his move as they retreated.
Some of their men, including their leaders were still egging on the fight
Some Lusmagh men were tardy to fight when they the soldiers saw
They came to fight men of Banagher for honour and the fame
This was not a rebellion: they did not come to break the law.
12th REGIMENT OF FOOT
By 1814 the St Patricks Cross would have been added to the Union Flag
Armstrong gave the order to present aim and fire, soldiers fired into the crowd
Three men fell dead, many more wounded hit the ground
More volleys rang at the men of Lusmagh from the ranks of Blue and Red
The air with cordite smelled as the street echoed the flintlocks sound.
Bitter enemies a few minutes before, both to aid the wounded set
As is best tradition in all wars as well as a faction fight
Brave Carroll as all leaders at the head of his men was dead
It was a tragic end to the battle and pitiful sight.
Their ghosts haunt the street demanding justice, but it was not to be
For the men of power for mere Irish will not be taken down
What had to be done would be done to stop the faction fights
Such was decided by those who ruled on behalf of the Crown.
There were calls and condemnations though the papers of it made little
No one stood guilty of the deaths of the Lusmagh men
Horrific British justice! As another example this is often held
It achieved its aim at such a price – the towns never fought again…
Background: On the 6th of January 1814 a faction fight commenced after a two day notice between around 500 men of Lusmagh and the townsfolk of Banagher. The Anglo Irish military commander of the area Sir St George Armstrong had a controversial role in the fight which ended with 4 members of the public being shot dead by the 12th Foot Regiment. As always in these situations there was an investigation, it was agreed a terrible thing was done, someone done it, but nobody was guilty. It lives on in the folklore of the area today, and since then there was no faction fighting in the county, which was the aim of the orders to shoot that it is alleged Armstrong gave to the soldiers of the 14th foot who were armed with 20 rounds a man in advance of the orders to shoot.
* Westmeath Independent – Moate Historical Society Talk
* The Battle of Banagher (Irish Martial Arts Source Catalogue)
* Col. Thomas St. John Armstrong (ThePeerage.com)
* Irish Times – on the saying “that bates Banagher”
* Article on Faction Fighting (DoonBleisce.com)
* Nenagh Eire Óg – Fairs and Faction Fights
Names on image at top of page:
Listed Personalities (left to right)
Herbert of Lea, Sidney Herbert, Baron, 1810-1861, Graham, James, Sir 1792-1861, Aberdeen, George Hamilton Gordon Earl of 1784-1860, Wellington, Arthur Wellesley Duke of 1769-1852, Peel, Robert Sir 1788-1850, Sheil, Richard Lalor 1791-1851, O’Connell, Daniel 1775-1847, Russell, John Russell, Earl, 1792-1878, Palmerston, Henry John Temple 3rd Viscount 1784-1865, Grey, Charles Grey, Earl, 1764-1845, Bentinck, George, Lord 1802-1848 , Disraeli, Benjamin Earl of Beaconsfield 1804-1881