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King William III in the Pleasure Gardens Boyle c.1900 © National Library of Ireland (Robert French)
King William III in the Pleasure Gardens Boyle c.1900 © National Library of Ireland (Robert French)

The King William III Monument at Boyle once bore a pedestrian statue of William of Orange (as pictured above). Its story captures a fascinating and insightful history for Boyle...

18th CENTURY

The William of Orange memorial statue was erected by the 1st Earl of Kingston in 1754 in commemoration of the Orange victory at Boyle in 1689.  It was leaden-cast and stood on the old Boyle Bridge (beside the Royal Hotel) for almost a century. It was not welcome by all, however, and King Billy was known to have taken dips in the river on several occasions.  

19th CENTURY

This statue gets mentioned as a notable Boyle landmark in a number of early 19th-century travel handbooks. In his 1786 Post-Chaise Companion, and again in 1805, Wilson remarked:  "... the river Boyle, over which there are two stone bridges, on one there is a pedestrian statue of William III., well-executed". 

A source of great pride to the Protestants of the Boyle District, the following poem was published in the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette [21 July 1827]:

TO THE EDITOR Sir—Permit me to request a place in your Paper for the following Article; I shall not, in my next Communication, intrude so much on your Columns, I remain, Sir, Yours, etc A WLLIAMITE. 

’Twas on a glowing July day, When Sol shot forth its warmest ray; And on the Bridge of Boyle's good town, A place of fame and high renown, In all its powerful radiance shown; Where many an idle lounger stray, To watch his neighbour and his ways; To pass an hour in vapid chat, And scandalise both this and that; Of other’s business not their own, Adhering not to truth alone; There where King William takes his stand With lofty main and posture grand High object of the Papist’s hate Who long, ere this, had sealed his fate; And laid him in the river low Amidst the waves that underflow, But still they feared the threatening law Might give them for the feat, a CLAW, So left the Hero still alone, Tho’ all his, former splendour gone, 'Twas now the hot meridian hour And Sol exerting all its power, Full, on the Image shot its beam Reflected by the rippling stream. The heat, unloos’d his leaden tongue And thus, soliloquising, flung, Into the air the unwonted sound, Tho’ still unheard by all around; Save one, a favored mortal, who Full well his foreign accent knew; Soft came the low and murm’ring lay, And whispering thus was heard to say— 

"My glorious Twelfth is now gone by, And here untrophied still am I, They were not won't to serve me so, That unadorned I thus must go;  Once ’t was with Orange and true Blue,  My figure stood, an emblem true,  Of that same Glorious Reformation, That happy for this favoured nation, Saved them from Superstition's Reign, And from the Pope’s enslaving chain, From Copper Money and 'Sabot'*, Which still who love the Orange know,  Would sink the kingdom flat and low, From P?IVSY-CRAFT, worse than all the rest,  That Revolution, ever blest, Saved every brave enlightened mind  By truth, and the true way refined, Degenerate times, when Chapel roar And Orators, never heard before Vent poisonous spleen on Character, Striving on all to ease a slur,  That would expose them to the light And set their folly plain to sight "But, vain they vent their Viper breath, Impregnated with pain and death; In vain those zealots madly roar,  They soon shall sink to rise no more For George IV's Constitution loves And like his Father well approves Those laws that high sustain the State And shields it from their deadliest hate; And high shall heave my leaden breast  When truth and reformation's dressed  Shall through the nation find its way And shine as does this glowing day. But soft – a pair approaches near  Who this, my murmurings must not hear – I now my leaden month must close, For one is of my deadliest foes"                                                       

Though the leaden tongue of the Statue became silent, and his mouth closed for the present, yet, his ears remained open, and they received distinctly, the following conversation which took place between Mr Owen McDermott and Mr Edmond Corr, immediately below his pedestal : – Mr Coir—How do you, Owen? Mr. McDermott— Very well,— I would be glad to speak a few words with you:—I have got copy of a letter which appeared in "The Register"some time since, signed "Edmond Corn"; I would, therefore, wish to be informed if you are the author of it; and if so, who are the Messrs, McDermott therein, alluded to? Mr. C.—[After a long pause.] —Your father and Dr Kelly. Mr. McDermott –The expression made use of is "The Messrs. McDermott,” – am I included in that expression?'—- Mr. C.—No. Mr. McD—Right, so far as I am concerned; but allow me to ask, will you retract what yon have said, respecting my father?—You cannot but know that your assertions were false ? Mr. C.—l conceive I was justifiable in doing what I have done ; as you and your father contradicted and gave the lie to the several assertions made at the Chapel Meeting. Mr McD Your condurt at that time and place, was as unjustifiable as is your present line of proceeding—in each instance, you have asserted that which is not, and these assertions at the time of making them, you knew to be false.—l shall now merely add, that that which you have stated in your infamous and designing letter, as also the assertions in your speech, is altogether a tissue of falsehood.                     [*French word for wooden shoe ]

In the early 19th century when, Orange Order parades (on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne) were an annual event in Boyle, the King William III statue was a target point for Ribbonmen:

TWELFTH OF JULY  [Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent - 15 July 1828]

LEITRIM – ... The surrounding hills were occupied at an early hour by not less than 40,000 of the peasantry, armed with pikes, guns, scythes and all manner of deathlike weapons. The most serious apprehensions were felt for the lives of the Protestants of the town and neighbourhood...

BOYLE —The Statue of King William, in this town, was dressed early in the morning; but the Magistrates had the dress removed. No other manifestation of party feeling was exhibited throughout the day. 

CAVAN — Our letters from this county give the most flattering account of the Processions. The Protestants congregated in great numbers, and the most perfect order prevailed.

CORK — Not the slightest indication of party feeling was exhibited in this city. 

 

In 1828, Skeffington Gibbon published a rather tongue-in-cheek description of Boyle's "effigy of his Majesty William the Third":

There were very few towns in Ireland, Bandon, Mountmellick, or sweet Ballyconnell excepted, displayed more loyalty than Boyle. The gallant heirs of the Baronets of the house of King were so attached (not to the effigy of Daniel O'Connell of Darrinane Abbey, as the esteemed patriot was not perhaps born at the time,) to the revered model of the Prince of Orange, whom they, their adherents and vassals, that is, such as were paid for their faith and loyalty, loved with such vehemence, that his sacred Majesty was placed (at no small expence) on the battlement of the great bridge, built at the expense of the poor Popish inhabitants of the Barony of Boyle; I am bound to say, however, that the melter and moulder of his Majesty have done the lovely model every justice; he stands erect on this mighty pillar, though I can not say it is the ground of truth, as the sand frequently move, according to the flow and ebb of this noble river; and very judiciously the architect placed the Dutch General's naked back to the western wind, as the reader must know that the Prince is dressed in his Glencoe uniform; and as some ladies of no small celebrity in this town justly observed his Highness's Highland petticoat and the other appendages and trappings worn by the natives of that rural country, are rather short, and that, instead of coming to the thick of the thigh, if the kilt hung lower it would hide that obvious defect or kam in the knee. Not being a competent judge myself of those habiliments, I did not argue the case with the ladies, as coming in contact with the other sex often brings intimate friends as well as strangers to the point of the bayonet therefore, for the sake of adjusting matters more amicably, I give it as an injunction to those fiery and hot-headed young gentlemen, not to attempt trifling with females about matters of little importance to either of the parties — a random shot or a sly insult is more commendable to be borne with, than acrimony or contumely, that would cause a blush or a frown in the fascinating faces of our lovely females. I came to King William's knees, and have communicated my admonition to the young men. Undoubtedly, his Highness's buskins is rather short, and the soles seem better adapted for a County Meath drover than a Dutch Prince ; his upper garments scarcely cover his shoulder and lady-like abdomen; his nose seems to recline towards the Netherlands, encumbered with a prodigious hump, which his Majesty cocks with a distorted and austere grimace, as if disgusted at the sanguinary rapine of some picaroons, while plundering the neighbouring peasantry, and committing the most barbarous massacre on the inmates of the beautiful abbey just in view. This scene, if described by Cruikshank, would go off well, and undoubtedly be no small acquisition to the Diorama in Brunswick-street

In the autumn of 1828, the Boyle Brunswick Constitutional Club was formed (albeit short-lived). 

In 1835, the King William III statue is noted on the bridge in Leigh's Pocket Road-Book of Ireland. Shortly after this, the old bridge was replaced and the statue relocated to the Kingston Pleasure Grounds nearby. (King House, which was by then a military barracks, can be seen in the background of the above photo). 

In 1837, Lewis remarks that the old bridge, on which the statue once stood, had been replaced by a three-arch bridge, part-funded by Lord Lorton. In 1845, D'alton makes no mention of this monument in his History of Ireland: The Barony of Boyle. It is believed to have stood in Boyle Pleasure Grounds since 1846. 

Sometime between 1865-1905, the statue was twice photographed by Robert French (1841-1917) of the Lawrence Studio.

In 1882, when the Land League candidate for the King-Harman estate was defeated at the election, the following Kilrush Gazette lament suggests the history of attacks on this statue was well-known:

"Are the MacDermotts dead? ... Oh! for the men who knocked Lorton’s leaden statue of King Billy off the old bridge of Boyle, and swept away that relic of Protestant ascendancy from the public pathway.”  [Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette - 25 March 1882 ]

20th CENTURY

In 1905, when the Landed Estates Commission was bringing much change here, the statue was decapitated and defaced by persons unknown.  

OUTRAGE AT BOYLE: A STATUE DISFIGURED  [Dublin Daily Express - 13 June 1905 ]

An extraordinary outrage was committed at Boyle early on Sunday morning. A statue of William III, which stands in the grounds, and is now owned by the Boyle Lawn Tennis Club, was shockingly mutilated during the night. The head of the statue was removed, the remaining portion of the body was covered with a heavy coat of tar, and a big green bough was placed in the neck. It is stated that a result of the outrage, the Boyle Lawn Tennis Club are going in for a malicious injury claim for £300. The police are engaged in making inquiries, but so far have not been successful in tracing the perpetrators. The outrage has created indignation amongst all classes in the town and has met with general condemnation. The statue of King William was erected by the first Earl of Kingston. 

 

WILLIAM III. MEMORIAL STATUE DEFACED. PROTEST BY THE UNITED IRISH LEAGUE.       [Irish Times - 13 June 1905]

... At a meeting of the Boyle Branch of the United Irish League on Sunday Mr John Drury, D.C., presided, and following resolution was unanimously adopted That we, the Boyle branch of the United IrishLeague, most emphatically condemn the action of those who injured the statue in the pleasure grounds, Boyle, last night, and we hereby express our strongest disapproval of such action, as it has, in our opinion, been perpetrated for the purpose of defaming the reputation of this parish, and is calculated to stir up sectarian strife; and we hereby determine to leave nothing undone to discover the perpetrators. And we hereby offer a reward of £5 to any person who will give such information as will lead to a conviction. 

 

 

NATIONALIST OUTRAGE AT BOYLE. STATUE OF KING WILLIAM DESTROYED          [Belfast Weekly News - 15 June 1905 ]

The Press Association’s Boyle correspondent telegraphs – an extraordinary outrage was perpetrated here early on the morning of the 11th inst. As the outcome of the campaign carried on against the Protestant inhabitants since the sale of the King-Harman estate to the Estates Commission, a statue of King William III, which was erected by the first Earl of Kingston in private grounds, now belonging to the Boyle Lawn Tennis Club, was attacked by men with chisels, who removed the head, covered the remaining portions with a heavy coat of tar, and stuck a green bough in the neck. The Boyle LawnTennis Club have made a claim for £200 for malicious injury, and the police are making an active search for the perpetrators of the outrage, but far there has been no result. The outrage, which is one of a series, has aroused considerable indignation among Protestants.

 

THE BOYLE OUTRAGE. TO THE EDITOR OF THE SENTINEL  [Londonderry Sentinel - 15 June 1905]

Dear Sir —I see by Tuesday’s issue of your valuable paper an account of malicious and bigoted outrage on the statue of King William III. Nothing has happened in this country for a long series of years that has so aroused the indignation and displeasure of Protestants so much, and justly so, for was it not this gallant and fearless hero who emancipated us from the thraldom and tyranny of an unscrupulous gang of rebels? In the meantime, we are afforded another powerful and convincing proof of what Protestants might expect from a Home Rule or Fenian Government. Now, these intolerant Leaguers would try to make Mr Long and the English Government believe that no such thing as outrages occurs at all in Ireland and that all the villainous crimes which are exposed in the House of Commons are bogus and manufactured for the purpose of enforcing coercion and the Crimes Act. Now, as any fair-minded man who looks at the present political situation in Ireland from an unbiased standpoint can see, the Protestants and Orangemen are a tolerant and well-conducted people, and, therefore, do not fear coercion, the Crimes Act, or any other law which may be enforced for the maintenance of law and order. The Nationalists have been allowed to erect statues at Vinegar Hill, celebrating the memory of those who tried to overthrow British Government in Ireland, and who relentlessly massacred the Protestants; and yet a statue celebrating the memory of a God-fearing man, who fought for civil and religious liberty and an open Bible, could not be left unmolested, but must be annihilated. I sincerely trust that after the reassembling of Parliament the Ulster Unionist party will agitate for a thorough investigation of this outrage, and see that the loyal supporters of the Government in this hot-bed of sedition and conspiracy will be protected.— Yours respectfully, Indignation. 

On the 11th of July, with the statue vandals still at large, a bogus outrage was published regarding Mr Edward Magennis of Dromdoe, a large grazier on the King-Harman Estate (erroneously stated to have been of agrarian character, with shots being fired through the windows of his home at intervals for three hours). Much news coverage ensued with Mr Jasper Tully MP and others of the United League taking a libel case against the Press, alleging that they had been accused of perpetrating these crimes as part of a conspiracy to prejudice the upcoming Boyle County Elections.  Judgement was reserved. 

In 1908, the headless statue was given another tarring...

OUTRAGE NEAR BOYLE: King William Statue Tarred.  [Belfast News-Letter - Tuesday 21 July 1908 ]

The statue of William of Orange near Boyle, County Roscommon, which several years ago was decapitated and tarred, has been again coated with tar about the head and neck. The incident is generally condemned.

 

THE OUTRAGE ON KING WILLIAM THE THIRD'S STATUE AT BOYLE.  [Belfast Weekly News - Thursday 30 July 1908

“Look on this Picture, and on this.” (Before and After sketches) 

We reproduce this week two photographs of the statue of King William 111. Boyle, County Roscommon, which are sure will be of genuine interest to our readers —especially those who are members of the Loyal Orange Institution. One of these represents the statue as it appeared in its unmutilated state, while the other faithfully portrays its condition after it had received the undesirable attention of Nationalist rowdies, who covered it with tar and other filthy substances, and, not content with this, broke off the head. In connection with this dastardly misconduct, and a prior occurrence of a somewhat similar character, the following comments by a Boyle correspondent, who is able to speak with authority and with local knowledge, are decidedly instructive:- "The outrage on the King William statue in Boyle is an indication of what isolated groups of Protestants may expect from rampant clericalism in the West. In the County Roscommon, out of a population of one hundred thousand, there are about two thousand Protestants, and the majority of these live in the Boyle district. Immediately after the sale of the King-Harman estate, which embraces Boyle and the country for miles around,

In 1929, "King Billie in Boyle" was knocked off his pedestal and disappeared entirely...

OUTRAGE IN BOYLE: Statue King William III Thrown from Pedestal.  [Belfast News-Letter - 8 January 1929 ]

The statue of King William III., which has stood on a monument in the Pleasure Ground, Boyle (Co. Roscommon), for nearly 50 years, was thrown from its high pedestal on Sunday night and large Republican flag was hoisted in its place. Some 20 years ago the head was cut off the statue and it has remained headless since. In recent years, during the occupation of the military barracks by British troops, raiders tarred the headless statue one night, removed a sword which was in one hand and replaced it with a laurel branch. Before its erection in the pleasure ground, the statue was on Boyle Bridge, from which it was thrown several times into the river. Early on Armistice Day, an attempt was made to blow the statue of King William III., in College Green, Dublin. There was, however, little damage done. Subsequently, when the statue was removed to the Dublin Corporation Depot, armed men held the caretaker there and cut off the head of the statue.

 

21st CENTURY 

The King William Monument (without its statue) still stands in Boyle Pleasure Gardens behind King House (next to the Children's Adventure Playground).

 

[Research by Rua Mac Diarmada]

 

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