Tandy and 1798 in north

Oh! I met with Napper Tandy And he took me by the hand And he said, 'How's old Ireland, And how does she stand?'

JAMES Napper Tandy (1740-1803) , the Dublin merchant and famous United Irishman, had many ties with the north

of Ireland which are not generally known. The Tandys were an old Protestant family settled at Drewstown, Co Meath. The Nappers were also settled in the same county and from 1695 until 1750 members of that family represented Trim and Athboy in the old Irish Parliament. The Dublin Society of United Irishmen was formed in November 1771 at the Eagle Tavern in Eustace Street under the chairmanship of the Hon. Simon Butler. Napper Tandy, a merchant in Dublin's Fleet Street, became secretary. The Belfast-born doctor, William Drennan was also a member of the society. Tandy was present in Belfast at the celebration of the French Revolution on 14th July 1792 and attended a great dinner given at the Donegall Arms Hotel in High Street on that occasion. During his sojourn in the north, Tandy stayed with John Maginnis of Ballela, near Dromore. Writing to Rollo Reid of Ballygowan, Co Down, on July 27 1792 Maginnis states: "We have with us here James Napper Tandy of Dublin, a burly, kind-hearted man. With him is [Wolfe] Tone who, with Lowry, are on the mission of making the peace between the unruly Catholics and Protestants in the Rathfriland district. Tandy put up with me for two days."

John Reilly of Scarva House, in his diary, recalls that Tandy called with him at Scarva on his return to Dublin. He states: "To me this James Napper Tandy is a queer fellow who talks a lot about his own importance and Ireland as a nation. Under much wine he becomes speechless, like a dummy.

God forgive the fool." In 1793, Tandy was indicted in Dundalk for publishing and circulating in Co Louth a seditious handbill entitled: 'Common Sense'. He was further charged with taking the oath of the Defenders at Castlebellingham. He did not stand trial but escaped to America.

Tandy made his way to France and later landed in 1798 at Rutland Island, Co Donegal, but on learning of the defeat of General Humbert's French force in Connacht, he sailed for Norway. He was later captured in Hamburg and handed over to the British. He was tried at Lifford, Co Donegal and sentenced to death but deported to France in 1802. Tandy went to reside at Bordeaux where he enjoyed a pension from the French government.

He died in 1803 and was buried with full military honours.

Tandy began his political career in Dublin Corporation in the 1770s. By 1784 he was prominent in the Irish Volunteers where he took part in its campaign for Catholic emancipation. He became secretary of the Dublin branch of the United Irishmen in the 1790s. Like Henry Joy McCracken, Tandy travelled north to try to forge an alliance between the United Irishmen and the Catholic Defenders. Charged with sedition, he fled to America in 1793 and later France where his rivalry with Tone dived the Irish exiles. His brief landing in Donegal in September 1798 coincided with Tone's arrest and the collapse of the '98 Rising. The traditional ballad perpetuates his memory.)

Edited by Eamon Phoenix e.phoenix@irishnews.com


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