Honourable and Venerable Charles Le Poer Trench, Archdeacon of Ardagh

By Samuel J. Maguire

The Flogging Parson

Dr. Trench had been a Captain and Adjutant of the Galway Militia from the year 1797 to 1799. The regiment was stationed in Cork. While he was adjutant a woman was flogged in the barrack, he being the only officer present. Stripped down to the waist, the woman was flogged in the usual way between the shoulders. She was the wife of a Galway man, a private in the regiment, and had been accused by a soldier of having stolen and pawned two candlesticks, the property of the soldier.

On receiving the complaint, the adjutant had the woman put in the guardroom, where she remained the whole night, and on the next morning when the regiment was on parade, she was by order of the adjutant brought out, guarded by a file of soldiers, and in the presence of the regiment, which was formed into a hollow square, to witness her punishment, was tied up hands and feet to the triangles. She struggled violently against being stripped naked,

"but the adjutant went up to the drum-major, cursed and damned him for not tearing off her clothes, and in a great passion, giving him a blow with a stick, ordered the drum-major to tear and cut them off."

He thereupon cut open the woman's gown with a knife and then tore her other covering from her shoulders down to the waist, after which she received fifty lashes on the bare back from two drummers in the usual way of flogging soldiers. During this barbarous exhibition, a Mr. Davis, an officer of the regiment, went up to the adjutant and told him before the men that the woman's husband was absolutely fainting in the ranks at seeing his wife exposed as she was. He begged of Captain Trench to allow the man to leave the ranks and Trench answered that the man might go where he pleased, and did not care if the devil had him. After the flogging, the woman with her back still bleeding, was publicly drummed out of the barrack-yard to the tune of the "rouge's march".

The woman had not been tried by any court-martial but was punished by the sole order and authority of Captain, afterwards the Rev. Charles Le Poer Trench, who on account of his many servities and particularly of the flogging of the woman, was known in the regiment as "skin him alive".

Another Flogging Incident

An incident in Trench's ecclesiastical life has been described by Mr.Daniel McNevin of Middle Gardiner Street, Dublin, Sub Sheriff of County Galway. He was the father of Thomas McNevin who was eminient as a writer and speaker among the gifted young men who in 1848 opposed O'Connell. His History of the Volunteers was well received and went into many editions.

In 1810 McNevin was acting Sub-Sheriff to Peter Blake of Corbally Castle in County Galway, who was High Sheriff for that year. At the Quarter Sessions of Loughrea in the summer of the same year two tenants of the late Lord Clonbrock were convicted of stealing a small quantity of wool, and sentenced to be whipped on a market day in the town of Ballinasloe, from one extremity of the town to the other. On the day previous to the one appointed for carrying out the sentence, McNevin sent a man with a military party to Ballinasloe for the purpose.

In the course of the night the man disappeared out of the guard-house where he was with the prisoners and when McNevin arrived at Ballinasloe the following morning, he was alarmed to find that he had no one to carry out the flogging. He then informed Archdeacon Trench, the prosecutor, of the man having absconded and pointed out that there was no one available to flog the prisoners. Trench threatened McNevin with the consequences, and alleged that he would bring his conduct before the Court of King's Bench, and have him fined 500. The Sub-Sheriff retorted that he was ready and willing to pay any sum in reason to any person willing to carry out the sentence, and suggested that the Archdeacon had such influence in the town of Ballinasloe he should have no difficulty in obtaining a suitable executioner.

Trench ordered McNevin to accompany him to the colonel of a regiment of cavalry then quartered in the town. On application being made to the colonel for the services of a drummer it was indignantly refused. Trench then suggested that the two of them do it themselves - Trench to flog the prisoners from Cuffe's down to the Custom House Gap, and McNevin from that to Dr. Kelly's house. McNevin refused. Later in the day a willing flogger was found and the Archdeacon walked after the car to which the prisoners were tied between two files of soldiers. Before the procession had gone many yards Trench found fault with the man for not inflicting the punishment with sufficient severity, and his conduct so disgusted McNevin that he called on the officer in charge of the unit to put him out of the ranks.

Archdeacon Trench was a brother of Lord Clancarty and agent for the family estates in addition to acting in a similar capacity to most of the neighbouring landlords.