There was a grave in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin where an American Confederate flag would appear from time to time. One of the gravediggers said one of those buried in the plot had been a veteran of the 1860s conflict. It was hard to imagine someone who had lived in the genteel suburbs of 19th Century Co Dublin had taken part in the first modern war. In his old age, had he remembered the terrible slaughter and suffering of the American Civil War? Had he ever pondered how technology for killing people could develop so quickly, when people in rural communities continued to live in conditions not much changed in centuries?
The name of Parliament Street in Kilkenny did not prompt a second thought until reading a plaque set into the wall of the Bank of Ireland, the Confederate Parliament had sat in Kilkenny from 1642-1649. ‘Confederate Parliament’? What was the Confederate Parliament?
Some two hundred and twenty years before the war that was to leave a lasting scar on the United States, a confederacy had been established in this city to resist alien rule.
The Confederation of Kilkenny had been governed by,
. . . eleven bishops, fourteen lords, and 226 commoners. The assembly took upon themselves for the time the government of the country—or of that part of it outside the influence of Ormond—and appointed generals over the army: O’Neill for Ulster and Preston for Leinster. To manage affairs with greater facility they elected from their number a “Supreme council.” And they issued a decree for raising money and for levying men, who were to be drilled by the officers that had come with Preston and O’Neill.
Outside of Dublin and parts of Ulster, the Confederacy had ruled Ireland, for seven years, Kilkenny had been the de facto capital of much of the island.
Nowhere in the history taught in schooldays in England had there ever been mention of an Irish Parliament in the Seventeenth Century.
It was not that the history of the times had never been taught. The Battle of Langport on 10th July 1645 had seen the destruction of the last Royalist army in the English Civil War. The battle had been fought across fields a few miles from our village, right in the middle of the time the Confederacy was ruling in Kilkenny. Forty years later, the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth had been bloodily suppressed at the Battle of Sedgemoor, on the other side of the hill from location of the Battle of Langport, but while Monmouth got a mention, the years of Cromwell in the 1640s and 1650s, and his brutal treatment of people on both sides of the Irish Sea never got a mention.
How many other bits of history were left out of our lessons? How many more plaques and memorials are there testifying to the things we were never told about?