In my blog entitled “Is Corporal William Flack of the Wexford Militia my William Flack’s Father?“, I asked the question, the answer to which remains, “He could be, but we can’t be sure”. So what other alternatives are there?
In May 2014, the Irish Military historian, Mal Murray, located and brought to my attention the military records (see below) of a William Flack, of 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons dated 1797 which records that Number 17, Trooper William Flack aged 20 was a member of Captain Francis Dunnis Troop of the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons. The record states that William Flack, a weaver, was born in County Cavan, Parish of Killincare and was enlisted on 11 March 1793 at Kells by Sgt Dillon(?).
An examination of the history of the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons shows that the 7th remained in Ireland throughout 1793 and it was not until April 1794 that a “composite service brigade” made up of the seven cavalry regiments in Ireland were embarked in Dublin for England in anticipation for active service against the French in the Netherlands. It is not clear whether Capt Dunnis’s Troop were part of the “composite brigade”, but in any event, the deployment to the Netherlands did not proceed and the composite parts were returned to their units in Ireland in April 1795.
At the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion in 1796, the records show that the Regimental Headquarters and five Troops of the 7th were located at Tullamore (Offaly) and another four Troops at nearby Phillipstown. The Regimental History records that the 7th were involved in the battles of Rathangan, Kilbeggan and Vinegar Hill. By October 1798, the 7th was back at its Tullamore Depot.
From August 1799 to 1805 the Regiment served in England and Scotland, where the 7th was stationed in Northampton, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. After a further 4 years back in Ireland, the Regiment was again posted to the Midlands where they played a part in the suppression of the industrial unrest that broke out in the cotton manufacturing and coal mining districts of the North.
The 7th Dragoons did not serve either in the Peninsular War or in the final campaign to defeat Napoleon and remained on garrison duties and “in defence of the civil authority” throughout the Napoleonic Wars.
Is it possible that this William Flack is my William “Billy” Flack’s father? The following points need to be considered:
- This William Flack would have been about 33 years old in 1810 when Billy Flack was born – so that’s possible;
- This William Flack was born in Killencare which is about 4 miles SW of Bailieborough, where Billy Flack was born – suggesting there may have been a family connection in the area;
- This William Flack served in the Army which would “fit” with the occupation of Billy Flack’s father, recorded in Billy Flack’s mother’s death certificate.
- It seems likely that the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons would have used either the main Dublin – Cavan Road in its deployments around Ireland, or it may have taken the more direct route from Kells to Tullamore where it was frequently based. It is therefore feasible that this William Flack could have been recruited during an overnight stop-over along the Dublin Road and then signed up officially in Kells;
- There is some indications that there were elements of extremism amongst the officers and men of the 7th Dragoons. At least one Trooper, James Weldon was executed for supporting the “Defenders” and others transported, whilst some officers and men belonged to the Orange Society. This background could “fit” with the Presbyterian family loyalties of Billy Flack.
Commentary on the historical context.
It was noted by the Regimental historian J.M. Brereton, writing in 1982, “The dreadful atrocities committed by Catholic and Protestant and – more shamefully – by the forces of the Crown, left a festering sore which has not healed to this day.” “As for our two regiments, whether or not they were involved in the barbaric reprisals and outrages, they performed their duty loyally in the most trying of circumstances a soldier can be called upon to face: a civil war against his own countrymen.” “Out of the 76,000 government troops involved in the Rebellion, only about one fifth [ or 15,000] were English.” The great majority were Irishmen.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate Tpr William Flack’s enlistment papers, service record or any pension papers.
The search continues.
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