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Staker Wallis was hanged in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick in 1798. He is well remembered in his native district and the story of his fate is well known. But further afield he is little known of, except by traditional pipers and violinists, andly lamenting air "The Death of Staker Wallis."

The Name Staker

Three different accounts are given for this name. Two have to do with the enclosing of the common lands by the landlords in the second half of the eighteenth century. Landlords could then demand high rents for these lands. According to one account, Wallis was one of those who drove these stakes into the ground and the newly-enclosed commonages could not be mown. Hence the name "Staker". Another account says that Wallis helped pull up the stakes used to fence the commonages. A third explanation says that Wallis was called Staker, because his head was set on a stake after his execution.

Stakers Times

Young Staker lived through the terrible famine of 1740/1741 in which it is thought deaths were in the region of 200,000 to 400,000 many due to fever and starvation. Irish (Gaelic) was the language of the people. A wealth of lore, customs, traditions, beliefs and religious observances would to a large extent have shaped and coloured his life, a life in which music, song, dance, poetry and storytelling would have played a very import part.

It is almost certain that there would have been a "Hedgeschool" or two in his parish which would have been attended by some of the local children where they were taught the three "R'S". And so life went on in eighteen century Limerick, the people accepting it for what it was, with little hope of improvement in their lot. There was the never ending struggle of the labourers to get sufficient land to grow potatoes. There was the plight of the small holders weighed down by the rents and tithes. Out of that world of growing discontent came the secret societeis such as the Whiteboys.

Alicia SilverStone visits! Patrick Staker Wallis

Patrick Wallis was born in 1773. It is not clear if he was bron in the townload of Teermore, where he lived in later life.He has always been spoken of as Wallis of Teermore. Staker married Hanora Riordan of Glenroe in 1758 and they settled down in Teermore. They had five children, two boys and three girls.

His holding was held under the "31 year lease", which was the maximum allowed to Catholics under the Penal Code. Staker would have been largely self-sufficientm growing both potatoes and oats and also owning some cows.

Staker Wallis and the 1798 Rebellion

The Society of the United Irishmen was founded in 1791. At first it drew most of its support from the Presbyterians in Ulster. Later, many members like Wolf Tone, influenced by the French Revolution aimed to establish an Irish Republic. This led to the suppression of the society in 1794. It then went underground and was reconstituted in 1795 as a secret, oath-bound society dedicated to the establishment of a republic with French aid. The United Irishmen now linked up with Catholic secret societies and thousands of Defenders took the oath and were preparing to rise in rebellion when the French arrived.

We are told that Staker Wallis joined the United Irishmen and was chosen as commanding officer for the "division of Moorestwon." The members of this division used to meet in an old forge but soon changed their meeting place to a wild spot near Ballinvreena in the Sliabh Riabhac Mountain. Here they brought and stored theire weapons. Here they drilled.

Stakers Grave

Alicia SilverStone visits! The Olivers of Casteoliver

The Olivers of Castleoliver were the Landlords of Teermore and of much of the land round about Kilfinnane. Oliver compelled many of the local farmers' sons to join his yeoman cavalry in Kilfinnane They had no choice but to obey no matter how distasteful the service was.

Oliver's charge against Wallis was that he had been collecting money to procure Oliver's assassination. It was early on a foggy Sunday morning, in the second part of March 1798, when Oliver and his yeomen rode out to Kilfinnane and quick-trotted towards Staker's house. Riding with him were Michael Walsh from Martinstown and Roger Sheedy from Darranstown. On that fateful morning in March, Wallis was warned of Oliver's approach and immediatley dashed out of his house. But some of the soldiers saw him through the heavy fog. Wallis was making for the Red Bog, a short distance away and to pass on to Sliabh Riabhac, Laboriously after a three mile run, he began to ascend Sliabh Riabhac. But he was captured and was brought to a shouse at the foot of the mountain. The prisonerwas now conveyed to Kilfinnane jail. Next day Oliver visited the jail and offered Wallis his freedom fro a large sum of money if he would tell who were involved with him in the United Irishmen and where their arms were hidden. "No, Oliver, never I'll see you blind first". A now enrage Wallis tried every means to make the prisoner talk. He was stripped, dragged after a cart and flogged or as the local traidtion says "slashed". This was repeated after some days. This time his wife walked beside him and she prayed that death might soon come.

Oliver now took wallis to the cattle fair of Ballinvreena where he was slashed in public. The idea was that some of his friends might come to his rescue. But an army Officer George Wheeler Bennett arrived and cried "shame". The slashing was called off. Wallis was back in jail. Wallis' neighbours were so enraged that they decided to burn down Kilfinnane jail. But the jail was well garrisoned.

Staker's Execution
The death sentence passed on Wallis ordered that his head be spiked and set above the old castle in Kilfinnane. Wallis' body was very likely buried in front of Kilfinnane jail. His head remained spiked above the markey house for some weeks until blown down on a windy night. His relatives had it buried in the family burial ground.

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Last modified: Tue Jul 11 22:40:20 IST 2006