McManus YDNA Project

The Macken Fight


Michael McManus, Durham, England


"A legend has grown up and legendary mists are notoriously hard to disperse"

(Michael Joseph MacManus, 1944:7)


After Catholic emancipation had been granted in 1829 a well known 'party fight' took place that year at Macken, Fermanagh. The Catholic Emancipation Act became law in 1829 and allowed Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament and to hold all offices under the Crown, except those of Lord Chancellor and Viceroy of Ireland.  The Bill of Rights, 1869, still prohibits the British Sovereign from being a Roman Catholic and from marrying a Roman Catholic. It is helpful in understanding some of the background to the emotions behind the Macken Fight to take a brief look at events going off in Ireland around this time between opposing religious groups.


'The New Reformation' of 1827 was a Protestant movement against Catholic emancipation in Ireland and it had sprung up at the end of 1826 in County Cavan. Apart from denying them emancipation many Protestants wanted to convert Catholics and - according to the Reverend N.J. Halpin, a curate in Oldcastle - 450 Catholics were converted in Cavan and they publicly renounced their faith in various Protestant churches.  The movement obviously caused much friction in the communities and one side acted as badly as the other - Protestants tried to force Catholics to conform and Catholics tried to persuade ex-Catholics to return to Catholicism. The New Reformation movement spread to Fermanagh and Lord Enniskillen was one of its great supporters. According to one account, he ordered his Catholic tenants to attend Protestant church services or be evicted from their land. Three families, the Duffys, the Maguires and the MacManus', must have refused because they were evicted and settled in the hilly terrain at Ruscaw. (Livingstone, 1969:160). So, at the time of the Macken Riot there was a polarisation of the usual religious and political conflict which had been going on in Ireland for many centuries.


There are several accounts of the Macken engagement but most, unfortunately, contradict one another depending upon the particular religious persuasion of the writer.  One of the most balanced accounts appears to be Livingstone (ibid.) from which a few facts seem clear. In the evening of July 13th, 1829 there was a battle between Catholics and Protestants at Macken in which four Protestants were murdered.  Nineteen Catholics were later charged for their part in the affair. One of them, Ignatius McManus, was hanged and most of the remainder, including Patrick McManus, were transported to Botany Bay, Australia. Ignatius McManus was from a townland called Corcnacrea in the Montiagh District of Fermanagh. (Glassie, 1982:60).


The Orange celebration of the Battle of the Boyne, is normally held on the 12th.of July, but in 1829 the 'Twelfth'' fell on a Sunday and celebrations were postponed until Monday, 13th. Earlier that day a group of Orangemen had assembled near Mullineny. They may have intended to parade, in spite of parades being banned (Trimble, 1921:1004) but they may also have assembled to quietly celebrate the `feast'. One Catholic version of the tradition says that they assembled to attack a local chapel.  One Orange version says that they assembled to defend the local Protestants because of rumour that the Catholics would slaughter them. The same version says that the Catholics assembled too because of a rumour that the Protestants were going to slaughter them.  Another version says that they assembled, under Father Ned McHugh, to defend the chapel. From the records there is evidence to suggest that what probably happened was that the local Orangemen assembled to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne and local Catholics, flushed by the victory in winning Catholic emancipation, decided to prevent them. There is some evidence to show that the Orangemen may have said derogatory things about the Pope and the Catholic Church. Lord Enniskillen, who lived nearby, and who was a magistrate and the Grand Master in Ireland of the Orangemen, wanted to keep the peace. He came to the place and seems to have persuaded both sides to part peacefully. All was quiet for a time but the actual battle did take place at Macken the same evening. 


One version of events says that local Orangemen spent the day in Edward Scarlett's house celebrating. When night came, two men, called Thompson, were afraid to go home through Macken and their friends decided to accompany them. As the party passed through Macken, the Catholics attacked them. Another version says that the Catholics simply attacked the three Macken Orange Lodges as they made their way to Mullineny.  At any rate, one of the Orangemen, Robert Mealey, a clerk in the local church, was killed outright and three others, George Price, John Robinson and Edward Scarlett, received wounds from which they later died. Francis McBrien and Ignatius MacManus were charged with the murder of Robert Mealy. It was proved in evidence given by witnesses that McManus had twice stabbed Mealy with a pitchfork, causing death. One tradition says that a man called 'Owney the Dummy' came on the wounded bodies of the Protestants and killed them. (Glassie, 1982:58). None of the Catholics were reported killed and, unhelpfully, the affair has come down in tradition as a great Catholic victory.


The following day, 14th. July, nineteen Catholics, possibly twenty-one, were arrested for their part in the affair. Their trials were awaited by the Catholics population with great anxiety. It is clear that panic seized the Protestant population after the affair. Rumours were abroad of a huge camp of Ribbonmen on Benaghlin and all magistrates, police and yeomanry were summoned to duty. In fear, some Protestants fled their homes and sought refuge with their neighbours. For two of the three days no supplies reached Enniskillen and Protestant volunteers were organised to defend the town. In the circumstances, the prisoners feared that they would not get a fair trial and attempts were made to have the trial held in a different place or at least have it postponed. Randal Kernan defended some of the prisoners and he drew up a memorial for Francis McBrien, Ignatius McManus, Bernard Rooney, Thomas Montgomery, Daniel Murphy, Patrick Carron, Patrick McManus, Patrick Rooney and Arthur McCawley. This memorial was sent from Enniskillen Jail on March 1st, 1830, to the Lord Lieutenant - the Duke of Northumberland (Lord Londonderry). They asked that the trials be postponed because they could not safely proceed due to the effect produced in the public mind by comments made by Magistrates in the Enniskillen newspapers of the time - the Erne Packet and the Impartial Reporter. These reports, they claimed, prejudiced their case.  Furthermore,  the prisoners protested that the Orange party had pursue them for a considerable distance to their homes and it was they who attacked first; that without receiving any provocation the Orange party, the deceased amongst them, had fired at and wounded several Catholics; that Ignatius McManus was severely wounded and his application to William Gabbett, a magistrate, to take his information was refused; that they could not receive justice unless the Lord Lieutenant intervened; that the present nominal sub-sheriff, Paul Dane, was only 17 or 18 years of age and that his uncle, Daniel Aughinleck, an attorney, had never returned a Catholic to serve on a jury in the past four years and that he acted like a violent Orangeman; that the Magistrates had not taken action against those who provoked the incident and that some of them had been called as jurymen. Despite their protests the trial went ahead on March, 17th. 1830 before Judge Jebb. Daniel O'Connell was supposed to have said  'Judge Jebb will hang every one of them'. (Livingstone, 1969:163).


The trial of Ignatius McManus lasted from 9am.on March, 19th. until 3am. the following morning. He was finally found guilty of stabbing Robert Mealy to death. The Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette of March, 20th. 1830, reported:


At Enniskillen Assizes Francis McBrien and Ignatius McManus, alias Storey, were indicted for the murder of Robert Mealey at Macken on 12th. July last. The verdict against McBrien was 'not guilty' and against McManus 'guilty' - sentence of death by hanging was pronounced - to be carried out on 22nd. inst.


On March, 22nd. 1830, the Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette reported:


Ignatius McManus, who was to have been executed this day was respited (sic) until after the judges leave the county tomorrow. Two Mongomery's and P. McManus are now on trial for the murder of Scarlett at Maken.


The remainder of the prisoners were also sentenced to death but the Lord Lieutenant intervened and their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment at Botany Bay. These included the two Montgomery's mentioned above and Patrick McManus. The reprieve was said to have been brought back from Dublin by Father Ned McHugh, and had the priest arrived in time Ignatius McManus would have been saved, but he was executed in front of Enniskillen Goal on March 23rd. 1830. One tradition (Glassie, 1982:61) has it that Ignatius McManus had a young son who, after watching his father's execution, failed to grow any more in stature for the rest of his life.



Glassie, H.    (1982)   Irish Folk History.

Livingstone, P. (1969)  The Fermanagh Story.

MacManus, M.J.  (1944)    Eamon de Valera: A Biography.  Longmans: London.

Trimble, W.C. (1921) History of Enniskillen, Vol. 3.



1834-1835, Macken Revisitied: The King V Daniel McManus

Marcia Turner, New South Wales, Australia


The circumstances surrounding the Macken Riot were reported in Heart and Hand, Number 2, pages 39-41. The facts are that during the evening of July 13th, 1829 there was a battle between Catholics and Protestants at Macken, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, in which four Protestants were murdered.  Nineteen Catholics were later charged for their part in the affair. One of them, Ignatius McManus, from a townland called Corcnacrea in the Montiagh District of Fermanagh, was hanged and most of the remainder, including Patrick McManus, were transported to Botany Bay.


I am the great grandaughter of James McManus who was the brother of Macken transportee, Patrick McManus. James, together with his two other brothers, Edward and Bernard, emigrated to Australia with their families and joined their brother Patrick.


My recent research of the 1835 Outrage Reports, which are held in the State Paper Office in Dublin Castle, shows that six years after the initial trial took place the magistrates were still pursuing those who were suspected of being involved in the riot but who had not been brought to justice. A very old man, Daniel McManus, was identified as a suspect. Exactly what evidence there was against him is unknown, however, a warrant of arrest, issued by the Earl of Enniskillen, was executed. Details of the papers I have discovered, an affidavit and a letter from the Attorney General, are as follows:


The King against Daniel McManus.


The joint and sevearally Affidavit of William Dunsom, John Armstrong and Robert Elliott, all of Swanlingbar in the County of Cavan, Police Constables:


These deponents having first been duly sworn on the Holy Evangelists say that on Sunday the sixth day of July instant these deponents made a prisoner of Daniel McManus, Under and by virtue of a Warrant Under the Hand and Seal of the Earl of Enniskillen, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Fermanagh which said Daniel McManus stands charged with the Murder of Robert Mealy and several at Macken in this County on the thirteenth day of July in the year one thousand eight hundred and and twenty nine, and also for stabbing with a pitchfork on said day year and place one John Glass and these deponents each for themselves say that upon the arrest of said Daniel McManus a large collection of County people assembled in number about one hundred and fifty, all of whom were armed with pitchforks, sticks, stones or other weapons with which they attacked these Deponents and their Party and in every way in their power endeavoured to rescue said Daniel McManus and the Deponents further say that after these Deponents had secured the arrest of said Prisoner he said Daniel McManus told these Deponents that is the said Daniel had but one hours warning or intimation of their coming to arrest him as aforesaid, one hundred policemen would not have succeeded in so doing, and the said Daniel McManus repeatedly in the firmest and most determined manner declared he would have revenge and Dead or Alive he would procure the death of the Earl of Enniskillen of Fermanagh and his son Lord Cole and several other gentlemen in the County of Fermanagh and the said Daniel McManus also told these Deponents and that without being induced in any way by these Deponents to do so he was guilty of the crimes so laid to his charge, and that he would be hanged on account thereof. These Deponents are therefore convinced if said Daniel McManus be admitted to bail he will not again abide to attend his Trial.


William Dunsom, John Armstrong Robert Elliott. Sworn before me at Enniskillen this 12th day of July, 1834. William Gabbit. (Note made on page: 'One of McManus's Bailsmen is not worth ten shillings').


There followed a letter from the Attorney General dated 6th. February, 1835 to Lord Cole:


I have repeatedly and most anxiously considered this subject. It will be seen that the murders at Macken took place nearly six years ago. That 21 persons were prosecuted and convicted of that crime; of these one was executed and 20 transported for life, the Lord Lieutenant being then of opinion that the ends of justice did not require any further sacrifice of human life. The very old man, whom it is expected the Crown will prosecute was arrested not by the order of the Crown or on a Bench Warrant, but on a Magistry Warrant, so that the Crown has had no part in reviving a prosecution, (which), such, whatever may be the guilt of the Delinquent, it would be impossible should terminate in his Execution, after the lives of so many convicted who pleaded guilty, had been spared by the Duke of Northumberland. Under such circumstances, can it answer any useful end to prosecute this man with a view to his transportation, and with the certainty of reviving the bad party feelings with which this affair is associated? I confess I think not: but too for this reason I cannot advise the Crown to prosecute. I don't think the relatives of the deceased should be prevented from doing so, if they think fit.


It appears, thereafter, that Daniel McManus was not prosecuted and lived out his life in Fermanagh.



From Macken to Australia

Frank  McManus, New South Wales, Australia.


In September, 1992, I attended the Clan Gathering in North Roscommon. While I was there I took the opportunity to pay a visit up to the old homestead of my forebears in Fermanagh. I had met some good McManus friends at the Gathering and on that Saturday afternoon we all went off to see Belle Isle. (Journal 1:8). This was a profoundly emotional visit for me. When you know the history of my family I think you will understand why.


I am the great grandson of James McManus, who was the brother of Macken transportee Patrick McManus. Great grandfather subsequently emigrated to Australia with his family and joined his brother Patrick. Here are some of the details I have on the family and their move from Fermanagh to New South Wales.


Patrick McManus, born 1806 in Kinawley, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, was the son of Denis and Margaret McManus (Nee McGraugh). Patrick married Mary McManus, daughter of Cornelius McManus and Ellen (Nee Martin) in 1830. Patrick was involved in the Macken Riot in Fermanagh in 1829 and was arrested and convicted of the murder of Edward Scarlett. He was sentenced to death but the sentence was reduced to transportation for life. My understanding is that the riot was caused by ill-feeling between Protestants and Catholics. Also, the granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, once again, stirred up the people. One man, Robert Mealey was killed at the time and three others died after the affray. Patrick arrived in New South Wales on the convict ship 'Hercules' in 1st. November, 1830. A record (Standing No. Convicts - 31st. October, 1830, 39/353 Reel 1002 - 30-1968) relating to the arrival of the ship in Sydney, shows the following:



Patrick McManus, Roman Catholic, read, 25 years age, married, County Fermanagh, Ploughman, shears, reaps, milks, sows. Sentenced to life Murder, 23rd. March, 1830. No previous convictions. 5ft.10 and threequarters, dark ruddy freckled complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, small horizontal scar under and over left eye.


Upon his arrival in Australia Patrick was assigned to James Howe of Patrick Plains, later renamed Singleton, New South Wales. Patrick's wife, Mary, followed him out to Australia but it is not known when she arrived in Sydney. A second class conditional pardon was granted to Patrick in 1846 and this meant that he was free to move around Australia, although not allowed to return to Ireland. Patrick's three brothers, Edward, Bernard and my great grandfather James, emigrated with their families to Australia. They arrived in Sydney from Belfast on board the ship 'Mandarin' with their families on 19th. October, 1838. They settled in Glennis Creek in the Singleton District of New South Wales, about 15 miles from the town of Singleton, and they named their property 'Belle Isle' after the name of their ancestral home in Fermanagh.


Patrick and Mary had seven children, Ellen;1835, James; 1837, Patrick;1838, John;1840, Mary Anne;1842, Margaret;1844 and Charles;1845. Later, Patrick McManus Senior was the Licensee of the Golden Fleece Inn, George Street, Singleton and he is listed as Licensee during the years from 20th April 1851, 1852, 1853 and 1854. Although he is not listed as Licensee at the premises in 1855 and 1856, his wife Mary is recorded as the Licensee in 1857 and 1858. Patrick died in 1856. The Golden Fleece Inn was renamed the White Horse Inn in 1859 and was taken over by Patrick Bourke. But by 1860 Patrick's son James became Licensee. On18th. April, 1861 and up until 1862, James was the Licensee of the Queen Victoria Inn, Camberwell. Mary, Patrick's wife, died in 1862. Patrick and Mary are buried together in the Catholic Cemetery in Singleton.


My great grandparents James and Mary Ann had eleven children; Margaret, Patrick, Francis, Sarah, James, Denis, Mary Anne, Catherine Costelloe, Helen, Michael and Edward. I have copies of the emigration documents relating to my great grandparent's arrival in New South Wales. They show that James was a labourer, 24 years old at the time of his embarkation and that he was identified as 'strong and healthy' by the medical authorities. Great grandmother, Mary Ann McManus (nee Costelloe) was recorded as 17 years old, a dressmaker and 'strong and healthy'. The following information is from the 'Journal of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, Second Session 1885, Part 1, Appendix 2, Singleton' and refers to the estate of my great grandfather:

Name of        Post Town        Occupier              Acreage  Horses  Cattle  Sheep  Pigs


Belle Isle    Glenniss Creek   James McManus         400        10            17    200       3