Posted by His Storian on March 12, 2009 at 21:03:38:
In Reply to: 1798 monument at the mall posted by Lilly on March 08, 2009 at 11:01:32:
John Moore - President of the Government of the Province of Connaught
A small stone plaque at the George's St. end of Red Square in Waterford informs the reader that John Moore, first president of Ireland, died here in 1799. Moore was buried in the lonely hilltop graveyard of the Ballygunner Temple, where the inscription on a large flat slab records simply: "Here lies the body of John Moore esquire of Ashbrook, Co. Mayo, who died in Waterford on 6th December 1799 aged 36".
The Moores of Ashbrook were a family of English Protestant planters who bought a small estate near Straide in Co. Mayo in the 17th century. They became Catholic through marriage and John's father made a small fortune as a merchant at Alicante in Spain, the proceeds of which enabled him to build a fine mansion which he appropriately named Moore Hall. The architect is alleged to have been John Roberts of Waterford. The young John Moore had legal training in London and Dublin, as was customary for the heir to a landed estate in those days. Several letters of his student days have been preserved, and they don't give a very favourable impression of his character. For one thing, his spendthrift habits got him into trouble with his father. For another, he certainly was no budding republican. When in 1793 the government set up a new militia force (that same militia that was perform such prodigies of depredation upon the unfortunate inhabitants of Co. Wexford in 1798), Moore strongly approved: he wrote 'I think, besides a defence to the country, it will greatly tend to civilise the lower orders of the peoples.'
When the French invaded Mayo in 1798, Moore was one of the very few members of the gentry to join them . Presumably on account of his legal training, Catholic religion and gentry status, General Humbert appointed him "President of the Government of the Province of Connaught". His role was to preside over the council that administered the internal affairs of the province, or at least that small section of it that the French controlled. In other words, he and his colleagues looked after a section of Co. Mayo until the French surrendered about a month later. Beyond the issuing of a few tokens in his name, we know nothing of his part in the rising. Apparently the responsibilities of office were too much for him.
When the French evacuated Castlebar he was captured by the British. Under interrogation he at first remained silent, but when threatened with instant decapitation by a German dragoon he panicked, begged for mercy, and produced his certificate of appointment from Humbert. This crazy action sealed his fate. If he had kept calm and the certificate had not been found, there would have been no legal case against him. The fate of the Irish prisoners was pretty grim, and Moore would probably have been executed had not his family used their pull to have his sentence commuted to transportation. His health had already began to break down, but his attorney managed to secure him the best of medical care during his imprisonment. On his way to Duncannon Fort he became seriously ill. He died not in jail, but in the Royal Oak tavern in Broad Street Waterford. In August 1798 he had his brief spell at the forefront of Irish History. In August 1959 his grave, neglected and forgotten for a century and a half, was accidentally rediscovered.
Two years after the discovery the slab was lifted, the remains exhumed and taken to Castlebar under military escort. There, after High Mass, they were conveyed on a gun carriage to be reburied on the Mall. National and local dignitaries, including President de Valera, were in attendance. The monument over the new grave bears an inscription in Irish and English, hailing
"Ireland's first president and a descendant of St Thomas More, who gave his life for his country in the rising of 1798..... By the will of the people exhumed and reinterred here with all honours of church and state"
A generation later, it is surely possible for us to view John Moore in a less emotional light. There's no evidence that he was descended from St Thomas Moore. It's hardly correct to describe him as Ireland's first president. The French General Humbert appointed him "President of the Government of the Province of Connaught". There is nothing in the historical record to suggest that he was a leader of the caliber of Bartholomew Teeling and his comrades.
[Photo Galleries ]
[Upload your Photos ]
[Nostalgia Board ]
[Go to Castlebar ]
[West of Ireland Photographs]
[Why not become a contributor to this website? Logging in and submitting an article to Castlebar.ie is easy. For help see our contributors' section.
In submitting this post for publication I agree to the Terms and Conditions of the Disclaimer