The Diary of Colour-Serjeant George Calladine, 19th Foot, 1793–1837, and his stay in Tullamore in the 1820s. By Michael Byrne

There are a few surviving published diaries of soldiers who served in the British army in Ireland from the 1700s to the 1900s.[1]  One such is that of colour sergeant Calladine whose account of his time stationed in the Midlands in 1822 (at pp 108-109)  is of interest as to how soldiers were occupied at the time.[2]

George Calladine was born in Wimeswould, Leicester in 1793, the son of a gardener. After his father died, he was apprenticed to a framework knitter, but found the work boring. He joined the Derbyshire militia in 1810, and then the 19th Foot in the regular army. In 1814, his regiment was posted to Ceylon, and helped to put down a rebellion. The 19th Regiment of Foot was sent to Ireland in 1821, where Calladine, by now married, lived with his wife and children in barracks. In 1826, he chose to remain in Ireland as a hospital sergeant, rather than accompany his regiment to the West Indies. He was discharged from the army after twenty-seven years’ service in 1837, with a pension 2s. 1½d. per day. He returned to Derby and became the master of a workhouse. He and his wife had thirteen children, eleven of whom died in infancy. Calladine himself died in 1876, aged 83. In the excerpt below, Calladine discusses some of his courting experiences as his regiment moved from Hull to Westminster to Weedon. While he was unsuccessful, he was not the stereotypical irresponsible soldier seducing any young woman whom he came across. (From Women, Soldiers and the British army, 1700–1880 (London, 2020).

Calladine was in Clare Castle, County Clare in 1828 ­ – a poor miserable place about a mile from Ennis and where two of his children died (see A tale of Old Clare per Google).

Calladine spoke well of Tullamore  town but described the barracks as old.  The barracks had been built in 1716 (located where the garda station is now located and the streets around) and survived until destroyed by the Republican IRA departing from Tullamore on 20 July 1922 during the course of the Civil War. Now read the diary extract:

We marched on the 3rd January, 1822, halted at Frankford [Kilcormac] the first day and into Tullamore the second, where I remained with my company, the rest of the detachment going to Mullingar to join headquarters. 

Patrick Street, Tullamore with the 1937-2002 garda station on the site of the old barracks.

I found on joining my company that Serjt. Darwin, pay-serjeant, had been doing his best to get me into a scrape, as it was his intention of getting me reduced if he could.  But those who “set the trap are often caught therein,” which was the case with him.  He had a number of false charges entered against me in the ledger, which made me appear above £5 in debt, where in fact I was only £1, and that he had lent me.  The commanding officer wrote to know the reason why I was so much in debt, and Serjt. Darwin told Major Lockyer that I had made away with the company’s money and appropriated it to my own use on the march in England.  All this passed at Tullamore, and I never knew a word about it or had any statement of my accounts sent me to Birr, and on my arrival at Tullamore was called to an account by my captain.  When the ledger was produced I was able to clear myself from the base charge, and from that day Major Lockyer found out his pay-serjeant’s villainy.  Before that day twelve months he was reduced, and I was the major’s pay-serjeant.

I was far better satisfied with our station of Tullamore, as the town was far better and markets much cheaper, besides the company, being together, were more comfortable.  Tullamore is a good-sized market town, but the barracks are old and in a bad state.  We had here a small detachment of Light Dragoons, whose duty it was to escort the post boy to Kilbeggan and back, a distance of six miles, as it would not have been safe for him to have gone by himself.  We had very little duty to do at this place.  I was once out on still hunting [for illicit cottage distilleries involved in poitin making] when we took a still in full work under a small haystack by the public roadside in a small farmyard.  This was a good morning’s work for us, as it was not above three miles from the town, and without any seizure being made, the serjeant got 2s. 6d., corporal 2s., and private 1s. 8d. each, but for this trip we got more than double that.

A short distance from Tullamore, on the Birr road, is the demesne of Lord Tullamore, called Charleville, and through which I had the pleasure of rambling one day, where there is a delightful grotto, but the mansion is not very grand.[3]  The Grand Canal passes by this on its way between Dublin and the river Shannon.

On the 17th  [January or February 1822] we marched from Tullamore to Mullingar to join headquarters, being relieved by the Grenadier company.  At this period we had a particular order for the men during the line of march to accompany the baggage, which made it considerably worse for the men, as it kept them much longer on the road.  This was occasioned in consequence of a number of baggage cars conveying soldiers’ wives belonging to the Rifle Brigade being stopped by the Whiteboys, and the whole of the women were shamefully and disgracefully ill-treated.  I believe it was the death of one or two of them.  This occurred on the borders of Tipperary and Cork.

Mullingar is the county town of Westmeath, but only a poor place and greatly infested with beggars, as, indeed, most towns in Ireland are.  The barrack is a fine building,and stands on a rise of ground about half-a-mile from the town.  We had the county jail duty to do, and at times sent out parties in search of arms through the surrounding country, as the peasants about this place were much inclined to disaffection against the existing laws of the country, but still there was not that midnight burning and murders that were carrying on in Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary.

We had two companies stationed at Longford under command of Major Broomfield[4], that being second headquarters.

On the 3rd of March I had a little daughter born, and the next morning our company marched to Philipstown [Daingean, then the county town] to an execution of several men for Whiteboyism, and in this country it will not do without having a strong force of military, as the country people would far sooner rescue a murderer or a man that had burnt down another man’s house than give any assistance in bringing him to justice.

For more on the Revenue Police, 1832-57 see below.

In the period 1832 to 1857, some 4,000 men served in the Irish Revenue Police, working to suppress illicit distillation. In this book, Jim Herlihy shows how to find information on them, providing an excellent resource for those interested in the history of the force, and of the period.

A chapter on the history and origin of the Irish Revenue Police and its predecessor forces engaged in ‘still-hunting’ is followed by one describing what a career in the Revenue Police might have been like, another on tracing your ancestors in the IRP, and a short memoir by Lieutenant Matthew Power (1820–84).

All this is followed by an extensive series of appendices filled with detailed information on the Irish Revenue Police and those who served in it, from the force’s rank structure, to the distribution across Ireland of its divisions, stations and parties. The centrepiece of this is a complete list of every man who served in the IRP from 1830 to 1857.

There is also information on what happened to the Irish Revenue Police after the force was disbanded in 1857, including the gratuities many were given, and lists of those who went on to join the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Londonderry Borough Police.

The old barracks in Tullamore, destroyed in 1922.

During this month we had an execution of three men at Johnstown, a distance from Mullingar of ten or twelve miles, which we had to attend, likewise our two companies from Longford, who came to Mullingar over night, a distance of twenty miles.  The Staff of the Westmeath Militia were on duty, while we went to the execution, so that we mustered pretty strong.

[1] The life of a soldier in the King’s German Legion in Ireland in 1806-07 is portrayed in the surviving diary  of Johann  Friedrich Hering who was an army surgeon in KGL from 1804 to 1816.  He made his way from his heimat, Hanover, to England  in 1804 to join the KGL and was posted to Ireland from April 1806 till June 1807.  Later he went to Denmark, Portugal and Spain etc.  C.J Woods in an edited extract from the diary regarded his narrative as of good quality being not a memoir but a contemporary series of events and as regards Ireland, a useful description, of the ways and customs of the people. See C.J. Woods, ‘Johann Friedrich Hering’s description of Connacht, 1806-7’ in Irish Historical Studies, vol. xxv, no 99 (May 1987), pp 311–21.

[2] Major M.L. Ferrar (ed.), The Diary of Colour-Serjeant George Calladine 19TH Foot, 1793 – 1837 (London, 1922).

[3] For other views see Edward Wakefield (1812) and Thomas Lacy (1860s).

[4] Calladine notes that this was William Broomfield, 19th Foot, 1821-1824.  Died at Boulogne in February 1825.

The harbour in Tullamore. The military on the way to Killala travelled via the canal boats to Tullamore in 1798.