|Clare County Library||
in County Clare 1534 - 1911
George Calladine, Diary of a Colour-Sergeant, 1828
The diary of George Calladine provides a unique insight into the life of the common soldier in Ireland in the early nineteenth century. Calladine, of Wimeswould, Leicester, was the son of a gardener. His father died when he was young and in his teens he became apprenticed to a framework knitter. Tiring of that he joined the Derbyshire Militia in 1810, where his two brothers had formerly enlisted, and quickly progressed to the 19th Foot, a regiment of the line. His regiment was posted to Ceylon in 1814 and after a six month sea voyage disembarked at Colombo, where they assisted in the suppression of a revolt. Returning to England the regiment was ordered to Ireland in 1821. Calladine, accompanied by his wife and children, was stationed in army barracks mainly in the south of Ireland. The regiment marched regularly from one depôt to another and in this way Calladine got to know the country well. He had the opportunity of travelling to the West Indies in 1826 but preferred to remain in Ireland as a hospital sergeant. While stationed at Nenagh in 1836, Mrs Calladine bore him two fine children, a boy and a girl. However, the rigours of army life ensured that neither infant survived longer than eight months. At Kilmainham Hospital in 1837, Calladine was discharged from the army on a pension of 2s. 1½d. per day after twenty seven years service. He returned to Derby where he found employment as master of a workhouse. Of the thirteen children born to his wife, eleven died in infancy, only two surviving into adulthood. Calladine died in 1876 aged eighty three, his wife having predeceased him by thirty years.
We now began to expect the route, but we did not move until the 29th October , when we marched for Clare Castle, near Ennis, the county town of Clare.
In passing through Cork, which was our first day’s stage, we saw a young man belonging to the 70th Regiment, cousin to my wife, named Reading, who had lately enlisted and joined the regiment from England. He appeared a steady young man, and had a wife and child. We passed Buttevant, Mallow, Chareville, Bruff, and Limerick, being our old road over again, which I do not approve of. I would much rather that every march we had should be in a different direction, so that we would have an opportunity of seeing more of the country.
We had now got into a part which had lately been the scenes of the great Dan’s electioneering concern, when he was ousted by the Right Honourable V. Fitzgearld and was returned a member of Parliament for the County Clare, though it was against the law at the time for a Catholic to sit in the House.
We arrived at Clare Castle on the 4th November, 1828 and relieved the 15th Depôt, sending detachments out to Kilrush, Scattery Island, and other small detachments down about a point of land called Loop Head, at the extreme west of the country.
The village of Clare is a poor, miserable dirty place situated on the river Fergus, about one mile from Ennis. The barracks are on the opposite side of the river from Clare, and about the worst barracks and the worst situated of any that I have been stationed at in Ireland.
The barracks, such as they are, are surrounded by an old wall which at one time enclosed a castle of the noted Brien Borhoe, the last King of Munster. At this time there were no remains of the castle left except a round tower at the entrance gate, and which was occupied by the barrack-serjeant, Joseph Modgeley, a curious character, who once belonged to the Blind Half Hundred (50th Regiment).
The castle and property round belongs to the O’Brien family, who, I suppose, are descendants of the great Brien Borhoe.
The hospital was about as good a building as there was in the barracks, and we were very comfortably situated therein, and very happy with my family at Christmas and New Year’s holydays, having my two little children, Billy and Ann; but the measles soon made their appearance among the children of the depôt, and it pleased God to deprive us of both our children, Billy dying on the 13th January and Ann on the 15th. We buried them in one grave and on one day, the 16th January, and erected a small tomb over them with the following verse on it, which was the only tribute of love we could pay to them. But it is a great consolation to think they are now two little angels in heaven. Billy was two years and four months old and Ann only eight months.
Grave of Innocence, surely here
On the 24th December we were inspected by Major-General Sir E. Blakeney, who was pleased to speak in terms of approbation of the state of the depôt.
During our stay at Clare Castle the duty was very severe on the depôt, as the men seldom got above two nights in bed, and perhaps on picquet one of them, and having to find the jail guard for Ennis. As the guard mounted after dinner, it was generally dark before the old guard arrived at the barracks. We were all confined to quarters after retreat beating, so taking all things into consideration it was the worst place the depôt ever lay at.
We lost fourteen or fifteen children during our stay at Clare, having found when too late that the disease had been left in the bedding by the 15th Depôt, and they also had lost a number of children. After the loss of ours my wife took much to fretting, and I was obliged to get her out walking through the country when the days got longer and the weather fine. During our excursions we visited several gentlemen’s seats, at least they should have been such, but they were mostly unoccupied, Buncraig and Barntic being among the number.
The town of Ennis was better than two miles off, and was nothing much of a town. It had been the scene of the election between O’Connell and V. Fitzgearld during the preceding summer, and the summer following was again the place of contest at the general election after the Catholic Emancipation Bill had passed. So I think we were very fortunate in getting away as we did, for the troops assembled at Clare were much crowded and uncomfortable during their stay. We did intend to make up a party and have a trip to Quinn Abbey, about five miles off, but were disappointed, as the route came unexpectedly on the 17th March, and one company marched the next morning for Youghal, in the county Cork, so that our route lay nearly back in the direction we had come.
Taken from The Diary of Colour-Sergeant
George Calladine, 19th Foot, 1793-1837, (ed.), Major M.L. Ferrar
(London 1922), pp 156-8.