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."
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.
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
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.