A huge attendance gathered at Carroll’s Hotel, Knocktopher on Friday last for the launch of ‘Butler or Blood,’ a book which deals with the famed Battle of Carrickshock.

This followed the very successful re-enactment of the event in the summer of 2006 to mark the 175th anniversary of the tithe war and eviction that took place in Hugginstown in 1831.

At that event Brother Jim Gaule of Hugginstown, a retired De La Salle brother, met with publisher Jim McAuley (from Callan) and together they discussed marking the event in a special commemorative book.

This discussion bore fruit and culminated in the launch of ‘Butler or Blood’ on Friday last, written by Br Gaule and edited by Mr McAuley.

The launch was well attended and several presentations were made to past members of the local committee who ensure that the event continues to be commemorated.

Sandwiches, sausages and mulled wine, given the season that’s in it were served. A large number of books were sold on the night, with Br Gaule happy to sign copies.

This was a great community event. Prior to the launch, a special mass was said in Hugginstown, which was followed by a torch lit procession. Wooden sticks, with some diesel-soaked rags tied to their tops were ignited, adding to the atmosphere of this special occasion.

Battle origins

Br Gaule has been praised for the painstaking research he undertook when compiling this historical project.

The roots of the Battle of Carrickshock can be traced to the implementation of the iniquitous tithe tax that came into being in the difficult harvest which followed in the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.

Hardship in the countryside, coupled with the greed of landlords and clergymen led to this spark of revolt in South Kilkenny. As a result of this tithe war, reform of this tax was inevitable.

The tithe was a tax that Catholics had to pay to the Church of Ireland even though they were of a different faith. This was also a separate payment from the rent owed to landlords. This tax system is dealt with and explained in Brother Gaule’s excellently assembled work.

This event was very much borne out of the collision between the policy of the Crown and local emotion. Frustration among the locals was rife, who felt they were the victims of an unjust taxation regime.

The tithe system spoke volumes of the stance adopted by British officialdom in Ireland during the period.

“Critics are certain to react positively to this book given the depth of research required to bring it to publication, coupled with the style of Br Gaule’s writing”.

“This book took on a life of its own once work began on it,” said Mr McAuley, who lectures at NUI Maynooth.

Several years ago, a smaller book on the same topic was published by The Munster Express. ‘Butler or Blood’ carries additional material, including transcripts from Kilkenny courts at the time.

Great gift

“We hope that this book will become a collector’s item in the future,” added Jim McAuley. “I believe it will be a great gift for emigrants from the area. It reflects both a sense of Irish and the interest that many in the Hugginstown area have for local history.”

It was noted that the late Edward Walsh, former proprietor of The Munster Express had assisted in the fundraising and establishment of a monument to commemorate the battle in the early 1920s. His son, the late JJ Walsh was subsequently involved in later committees.

Their efforts, as well as those of many other committee members were praised by Mr McAuley. Current committee chairperson Helena Irish (nee Moylan), a Dublin-based nurse, along with the committee won special praise for organising the re-enactment of the battle and keeping the tradition alive after so many years.

Helena introduced Br Gaule, who recalled an old saying. “You cannot match the muscle of a man from Hugginstown,” he said, referring to the parish’s long established prowess on the hurling field.

Community involvement

Over the decades, there has been tremendous community involvement when it comes to honouring the event. And that same community spirit proved of immeasurable assistance to Br Gaule when compiling information and photos for the book.

Diocesan archivist and former Kilmoganny curate Doctor Fergus Farrell, who lectured in Mater Dei, Dublin, has a special interest in the topic. He visited Carrickshock for a hurling match and learned of the history of the South Kilkenny title battle.

Tracing the history of tithes through the ages, Dr Farrell described what occurred at Carrickshock as “an event that was only waiting to happen”.

Tithes can be traced to the time of Abraham, when 10 per cent of the harvest was offered up to the church or poor, hence the name.

For the Church of Ireland at the time, the tithe was a valued means of raising income. Today, Germany and Austria continue to operate the tithe system. We understand that it’s levied as a percentage of income tax paid (around six per cent), so it remains a substantial form of taxation.

Tithe origins

During the 1930s, the tithe was re-introduced in Germany by Adolf Hitler to keep the churches financed and partly explains their submissive roles during the reign of the Third Reich.

Back to Carrickshock. “The battle here signalled the death knell of the system”, according to Br Gaule.

Over the years, the event has carried positive and negative connotations due to its religious element and the violence that ensued during the battle.

Commemoration of the event began in earnest in 1913 and intensified in the years following the War of Independence and Civil War. It was at this time that a committee, involving Edward Walsh of The Munster Express began to fundraise for the memorial.

‘Butler or Blood’ is a rich trove of local history and will prove an invaluable resource book for future generations. For example, details are also provided for the funerals of the policemen who lost their lives during the battle.

The new book, published by Red Lion Press, is available for purchase in the Book Centres in both Waterford and Kilkenny.