The United Irishmen and
the United Scotsmen.

The United Irishmen
movement began at a meeting off Crown Entry in 1791 in Belfast with quite
philanthropic objectives  – to secure
equality under the law and representation for all people without regard to
religious beliefs and stemmed, amongst other things, from the desire of
The Catholic Committee to obtain the help of the Protestant community.

The original declaration of
the United Irishmen which was adopted by the various district societies,
stated among other things

” In the present great era of reform, when unjust
governments are falling in every quarter of Europe … when all government
is acknowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far only
obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare, we
think it our duty as Irishmen, to come forward and state  what we
feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual

Their grievance was
essentially :-

…we are ruled by
Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest
of another country… the weight of English influence in the government of
this country is so great as to require a cordial union among  all the
people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the
preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce … the
sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a
complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in

The Society was the
successor to the Volunteers , who ceased to
exist in 1793. In the preceding 20 years they had carried the flag of
greater freedom for Ireland and all its populace. However, by the end of
1795 the aims and objectives of the United Irishmen were focused more on
republicanism and the overthrow of government by force which rent its
leaders with disagreement and indecision. Regrettably small violent
factions  – the Peep O` Day Boys ( Protestant) and and the Defenders
(Catholic) were at odds. Following a battle at Loughall in 1795 the Orange
Institution was formed.

 By 1798 there was a force
of some five hundred thousand, of whom about one half were armed, and of
these about seventy thousand were Presbvyterians and thirty thousand
Ulster Catholics. In 1797 the army commander, General Lake carried out
searches for arms and rebels, indulging in much cruelty that gave rise to
a smouldering resentment.

Within the the Belfast
branch were a number of Orr`s the most prominent being William Orr of
Farranshane, Co Antrim, who was convicted by a drunken jury for allegedly
administering a treasonable
oath to two soldiers. He was convicted despite
pleas for clemency and clear evidence of a mistrial, and hanged at
Carrickfergus on 14. October 1797. “Remember Orr ” was a rallying cry in
the subsequent 1798 rebellion in which his brothers James and Samuel took

[Have a look at the oath
and see if there is anything that you might think is treasonable.]

The United Irishmen
movement suffered greatly from government spies who infiltrated at all
levels such that the government were always well advised of developments.
This resulted in the seizure of all the ring leaders, including Lord
Edward Fitzgerald, and in many cases their execution. The scene was set
for armed rebellion which began in the south on 24 May 1798 but it was a
month later before the north rebelled.


The United Irishmen,
Educational Facsimiles 61 – 80, produced by PRONI  are
particularly good and provide facsimiles of actual correspondence between
interested parties from the PRONI archives.

There is a long history of
rebellion and resistance in Ireland, and despite the modern media hype and
focus on violence, much was in fact peaceable. The sad thing is that many
of the brave rebels gave their lives, or had it taken by a vengeful
government for giving voice to their beliefs. The book ” Speeches from the
Dock: Or, Protests of Irish Patriotism; by T.D, A.M., and D. B. Sullivan (
M H Gill & Son Ltd Dublin & Waterford) contains not only the speech of
William Orr, but of other United Irishmen including Wolf Tone; The Sheares
Brothers; Robert Emmett and Thomas Russell. A list of persons mentioned in
the book, which includes later patriots, is here.

The United Scotsmen.

With their
origins in Scotland and continuing family ties it was inevitable that
similar strong feelings about the injustice of government should spill
over into Scotland where a parallel United Scotsmen emerged. Like the
Irish group there were many literate people among their sympathisers who
had read Tom Paine`s “Rights of Man” and were enthused by the success of
the French Revolution. This of itself frightened the English Government
who had already had the rebellion in Ulster to deal with and a hard line
existed towards any perceived trouble makers.

prominent Scotsmen, including some members of
the London parliament and several Scottish peers, were named as members of
the ‘Provisional Government of the Scottish Republic’. Their president was  a 
Scottish lawyer named Thomas Muir who had already been sentenced to 14
years transportation to  Botany Bay but had  escaped in an
American warship and made his way to France where he was made a citizen of
the republic. He was a friend of Napper Tandy ( United Irishman) and the
Marquis de la Fayette who had fought in the American War of Independence
and was a prominent voice in the demand to continue with a separate Breton

Scotland a Rev Thomas Palmer was sentenced to transportation for seven
years for distributing seditious pamphlets. In 1798 a United Scotsman,
George Mealmaker was sentenced to 14 years transportation for rabble
rousing. The unrest bubbled away with feelings especially strong among the
self employed hand loom weavers who had enjoyed a golden age but which was
fast disappearing as  mechanisation replaced them. As skilled men
they were well paid and demanded better treatment and representation. In
1812 they had a nine week strike, In 1813 some 40,000 weavers and
associated tradesmen went on general strike. This led to a network of spies and
informers being set up to keep an eye on troublemakers.  Following
the Napoleonic wars the returning soldiers added to the unemployed and by
1816 bankruptcies were soaring. In 1819 the enmity
broke into the open with the “Peterloo Massacre”. This was a meeting
in Manchester in August 1819 which was broken up by a troop of Yeomanry
and Hussars. 11 people were killed and over 500 wounded. Widespread
indignation at this did much for the Reform Movement, but in the short
term at least, a very tough line was taken against alleged treason rather
than public disorder.

In Scotland the resentment and dissent of the
workers, especially the weavers, concentrated  around Glasgow and
Paisley, with protests in the surrounding districts. A bill
was posted in Glasgow on 1 April 1820 calling for resistance and a free
Scotland. This  culminated in an encounter with the military at
Bonnymuir. It was far from a pitched battle and the few weapons the group
had were hurriedly dropped and the men ran. 18 prisoners subsequently
appeared before a full session of `Oyer and Terminer` at Stirling on 23
June 1820. Along with them was Andrew Hardie who had published a pamphlet
while a prisoner that set out their demands. The outcome of the trials
were almost inevitable with sentences of death passed to be hung, beheaded
and quartered, but a Royal Warrant ordered their beheading and their
corpses to be decently buried. Sentences on the others were then commuted
to Transportation.

Executed were :
James Wilson – hung and beheaded, Glasgow Green, 30 Aug 1820. His story is
told at

John Baird – hung
and beheaded, Stirling, 8 Sep 1820
Andrew Hardie – hung and beheaded, Stirling, 8 Sep 182

19  Radicals sentenced to transportation
to New South Wales were:

John Anderson , Weaver ,
Camelon , Life
John Barr , Weaver , Condorrat , 14 years
William Clackson or Clarkson , Shoemaker ,
, 14 years
James Clelland , Blacksmith , Glasgow , Life
Andrew Dawson , Nailer , Camelon , Life
Robert Gray , Weaver , Glasgow , Life
Alexander Hart , Cabinet-maker , Glasgow , 14 years
Alexander Johnston , Weaver , Glasgow , 14 years
Alexander Latimer , Weaver , Glasgow , 14 years
Thomas McCulloch , Stocking-Weaver , Glasgow , 14 years
Thomas McFarlane , Weaver , Condorrat , Life
John McMillan , Nailer , Camelon , Life
Benjamin Moir , Labourer , Glasgow , 14 years
Allan Murchie , Blacksmith , Glasgow , Life
Thomas Pike or Pink , Muslin Slinger , Glasgow , 14 years
William Smith , Weaver , Glasgow , 14 years
David Thompson , Weaver , Glasgow , 14 years
Andrew White , Bookbinder , Glasgow , 14 years
James Wright , Tailor , Glasgow , 14 Years

James Clelland was due to
be executed with Baird and Hardie on Friday 8th September, but  his
sentence was commuted. William Crawford of Balfron, was sentenced but was
‘subsequently released’ And John Anderson Jnr, a printer in Glasgow who
had printed  a poster, was ‘transported’ on 4 August 1820 to a
Government job in the East Indies.

The prisoners were held in
the prison hulk HMS Bellerophon lying at Sheerness in Kent (The
had served at Trafalgar and was the vessel on which
Napoleon surrendered in 1815). On 22 December 1820 some 156 prisoners,
including the Scots, were embarked on the ship Speke and arrived in
Port Jackson, NSW, 18 May 1821.

A detailed history of the
United Scotsmen and the reform movement in Scotland can be found at

and elsewhere via Google search.

Australian descendants of
Thomas Macfarlane produced a definitive record of the 19 transported
prisoners in 1975 ” The Scottish Radicals. Tried and transported to
Australia for treason in 1820. Margaret & Alastair Macfarlane” 

Reprinted Spa Books Ltd 1981. ISBN 0-907-590-004.