On September 6, 1798, a division of Leicestershire militia comprising nearly six hundred men under the command of the 5th Duke of Rutland, passed through Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Officers traveled in horse-drawn carriages, followed by soldiers in thirty-eight wagons, ammunition wagons and supply wagons. The population made a collection and gave each man bread, cheese and a pint of beer. The troupe had dined the same menu at Burton upon Trent the day before.
In Liverpool, the Duke and part of the regiment board the Thorn Sloop of War. The rest followed in five transport ships. Rutland offered his services to help put down the rebellion in Connaught. On September 11, the entourage arrived in Dublin, two weeks after the Battle of Castlebar and more importantly, three days after the defeat of the Franco-Irish force at Ballinamuck. They had missed the rebellion. This was not, however, the first campaign planned by a Duke of Rutland to the west of Ireland. The Duke’s father visited Castlebar just over a decade earlier.
Charles Manners (see image) was born in England in 1754. He was an MP between 1774 and 1779 when he became the 4th Duke of Rutland. A close ally and friend of William Pitt, Manners used his patronage to secure a seat in parliament for his friend. When Pitt became Prime Minister, he rewarded Manners by raising him to the rank of Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland in 1784.
Rutland proved both competent and popular. His popularity was tied to his cheerful and welcoming personality, a charming and beautiful wife, and a reputation for extravagance, drinking and gambling. His lavish dinners and receptions at Dublin Castle and the Vice Regal Lodge in Phoenix Park were the talk of the Georgian Dublin.
In 1785 Manners’ efforts to have legislation enacted to facilitate free trade between Ireland and Britain failed, leaving Manners feeling discouraged. Looking to the future, Manners warned Pitt that the link between Britain and Ireland would be severed in twenty years if there was no legal union. In the summer of 1787 Manners embarked on a long and arduous tour. Traveling in Ireland was fraught with difficulty, and that and Manners’ fondness for the Claret Jug took its toll.
On September 17, 1787, Manners and his touring party arrived at Castlebar. As Lord Lieutenant, he is said to have gained significant insight into the city and its many curious personalities from the trials of George Robert Fitzgerald and others a year earlier. Fitzgerald was not there to greet him, having been hanged in June 1786.
During the visit, the Portrieve, Burgess and Corporation of Castlebar presented an address to the Duke. The Corporation thanked Manners for “his condescension in visiting a place so remote from the seat of government” and did not hesitate to praise, adore and flatter the Duke and his government – (it was not every day that the Lord lieutenant visited Castlebar), declaring: “It is with infinite satisfaction that we see the son of this illustrious and distinguished nobleman, who fought our battles and established the military renown and reputation of these kingdoms by his heroic achievements; and we let us eagerly seize this happy event to show our approval of having a Governor-in-Chief who not only inherits the virtues of his ancestors, but who has given them added luster by his conduct as a statesman.
The lengthy address continued in the same vein and ended with congratulations to the Duke for restoring peace and order throughout the kingdom. The Corporation asked the Duke for permission to “inscribe the name of Manners among our Citizens” and to do them the honor of accepting the “Liberty of this loyal Corporation.” Manners accepted Freedom’s offer from Castlebar. Unsurprisingly, newspaper reports did not record what disloyal citizens thought of the famous duke. They will have their say in August 1798.
Manners completed his tour and returned to Dublin. He died of liver disease a few weeks later, at age 33. His son John Henry Manners missed the rebellion in 1798 but saw his father’s wish for a union between Ireland and Great Britain realized in 1800.