'The Downfall of Hagan': Sligo Ribbonism in 1842

Jennifer Kelly

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-115-8
August 2008. 64pp.

This study looks at the Ribbon secret society in Sligo town and county in the early nineteenth century. Comprising well over 3,000 members throughout the county by the early 1840s, the Ribbon society maintained an intricate web of social and economic networks among the lower trading and labouring strata of Co. Sligo and the surrounding counties of Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon. With a lodge present in almost every parish in the county by 1842, the Ribbon society also provided important social benefits for some of its members, helping to maintain a social pecking order among men of the lower ranks of society.

The arrest of James Hagan, one of the most powerful Ribbonmen in Sligo, and his subsequent decision to turn informer against his Ribbon comrades, not only led to the exposure of the society in Sligo, but also resulted in the arrests and transportation of men throughout Connaught and Ulster and as far afield as Glasgow and Liverpool. ‘The Downfall of Hagan’ in Sligo in 1842 provides a rare insight into the nature and extent of Ribbonism in early nineteenth century Ireland at a local, regional and national level.

Jennifer Kelly received her PhD in 2005 from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. She is currently working on associational culture in Ireland, 1750–1940, as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of History at NUI Maynooth.