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Behind the Scenes: Yeomanry Returns, Carlow 1798

When Covid-19 forced the staff of the National Archives to work from home last March there was considerable effort put in to continue our work, albeit under much different circumstances.

No longer were we able to physically work with our collections, repair documents, list collections and ensure our researchers access. Each of our divisions responded to this with time and consideration.

I work in a division called Archives Storage and Preservation and for us it was a chance to look at access to collections. We have many inherited archive lists and finding aids and we have spent many months updating and transcribing these aids to ensure greater access when our researchers can return to our buildings.

Any collection work that can continue remotely has done so and I have recently been transcribing a collection of Yeomanry Returns for county Carlow from 1798. This collection comprises of 66 returns of Cavalry in the county and we were able to scan the collection so transcribing could be carried out remotely.

Carlow was one of several Irish counties that saw rebel action in May of 1798. The battle of Carlow took place on the 25th of May 1798 and resulted in 600 rebels and civilian being killed by soldiers. These Cavalry returns give an interesting insight into the men who were in the army at the time. Each soldier has given their signature and it lists the commanding Officer. What is very interesting to note is the movement of soldiers to different regiments over the course of the year. The collection includes returns from Carlow town, Borris, Bagenalstown and Mount Leinster, Rathvilly, Hacketstown, Cloydagh and Killishin, and Leighlinbridge Cavalry. Each cavalry has surviving returns over a number of months.

This collection survived the explosion in the Four Courts in June 1922. It was recovered along with hundreds of other items and has been in storage for many decades since then fire.  The collection has recently been opened and conserved under the Beyond 2022 Project. This really exciting project aims to launch an open-access, virtual reconstruction of the Record Treasury destroyed at Four Courts in 1922. Collections like this will once again take their place on the shelves of the Record Room, albeit in a virtual sense.

The recent history of these records, combined with the turbulent year of their origin make these Cavalry returns an interesting source for researchers of the time.

Patrica Fallon, Archivist

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