Rebellion Towns & Villages

The home of landlord James Spencer, who was killed during the Rebellion. The house no longer exists.


On May 26th, John Doorly commanded a huge force of up to 4,000 rebels in the Battle of Rathangan. Atrocities occurred and 19 Loyalists were killed including the popular and influential landlord James Spencer. Doorly was blamed for the latter. However, a writer who knew Doorly, named O’Kelly asserted that John had not been present at Spencer’s murder, and had deeply regretted it as he looked on him as a fair and just landlord. In hindsight, the evidence suggests that it may have been John’s more militant brother, Michael who carried out the murder.

Captain Doorly had gained control over his army by the 27th of May. It appears that he had demanded an end to the violence and had started to fortify the town.

The entrances to the town of Rathangan were defended by the local United Irishmen during their occupation. Strategic locations were selected, including the canal stores overlooking the canal bridge entering the town.

The rebels took up strategic firing positions overlooking the town entrances, and let the canal waters out to impede British artillery transport. They also used carts, barrels and chains drawn across the road for defence against cavalry.

On Monday 28th May, these measures proved highly successful in the defeat of two Black Horse Cavalry attacks. The dead horses were used to strengthen the rebel defences, and a hostage named Malone was taken but not harmed.

The result was inevitable as Colonel Longfield retook the town at the third attempt, after a couple of cannon discharges. The rebel army fled in all directions, but up to 60 men were butchered by the pursuing cavalry. The British troops then started looting and executed men like Edward Molloy without trial.

James Spencer’s grave in Rathangan Church of Ireland Cemetery.
The Doorly Family’s grave just a few plots down from the Spencer grave in Rathangan Church of Ireland Cemetery.