Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Teeling, Bartholomew

TEELING, BARTHOLOMEW (1774–1798), United Irishman, was the eldest son of Luke Teeling and of Mary, daughter of John Taaffe of Smarmore Castle, Louth. He was born in 1774 at Lisburn, where his father, a descendant of an old Anglo-Norman family long settled in co. Meath, had established himself as a linen merchant. The elder Teeling was a delegate for co. Antrim to the catholic convention of 1793, better known as the ‘Back Lane parliament.’ Though not a United Irishman, he was actively connected with the leaders of the Unites Irish Society, and was arrested on suspicion of treason and confined in Carrickfergus prison till 1802.

Bartholomew, who was educated in Dublin at the academy of the Rev. W. Dubordieu, a French protestant clergyman, joined the United Irish movement before he was twenty, and was an active member of the club committee. In 1796 he went to France to aid the efforts of Wolfe Tone and others to induce the French government to undertake an invasion of Ireland. His mission having become known to the Irish government, he deemed it unsafe to return to England, and accepted a commission in the French army in the name of Biron. He served a campaign under Hoche with the army of the Rhine. In the autumn of 1798 he was attached to the expedition organised against Ireland as aide-de-camp and interpreter to General Humbert, and, embarking at La Rochelle, landed with the French army at Killala. During the brief campaign of less than three weeks’ duration, which terminated with the surrender of Ballinamuck, Teeling distinguished himself by his personal courage, particularly at the battle of Colooney. Being excluded of the exchange of prisoners which followed the surrender, though claimed by Humbert as his aide-de-camp, he was removed to Dublin, where he was tried before a court-martial. At the trial the evidence for the prosecution, though conclusive as to Teeling’s treason, was highly creditable to his humanity and tolerance, one of the witnesses deposing that when some of the rebels had endeavoured to excuse the outrages they had committed, on the ground that the victims were protestants, ‘ Mr. Teeling warmly exclaimed that he knew of no difference between a protestant or a catholic, nor should any be allowed’ (Irish Monthly Register, October 1798). But, despite an energetic appeal by Humbert, who wrote that ‘Teeling, by his bravery and generous conduct in all the towns through which we have passed, has prevented the insurgents from indulging in the most criminal excesses,’ he was sentenced to death by the court-martial. The viceroy finding himself unable to comply with the recommendation to mercy by which the sentence was accompanied, Teeling suffered the extreme penalty of the law at Arbour Hill on 24 Sept. 1798.

Charles Hamilton Teeling (1778–1850), Irish journalist, was a younger brother of Bartholomew, and, like him, connected with the United Irish movement. On 16 Sept. 1796, when still a lad, he was arrested with his father by Lord Castlereagh on suspicion of treason. He has previously been offered a commission in the British army, but had declined it as incompatible with his political sentiments. In 1802, he settled at Dundalk as a linen-bleacher. Subsequently he became proprietor of the ‘Belfast Northern Herald,’ and later on removed to Newry, where he established the ‘Newry Examiner.’ He was also (1832–5) the proprietor and editor of a monthly periodical, the ‘Ulster Magazine.’ In 1828 Teeling published his ‘Personal Narrative of the Rebellion of 1798,’ and in 1832 a ‘Sequel’ to this work appeared. The ‘Narrative,’ especially the earlier portion, is of considerable historical value. Though feeble as a literary performance, it throws much light on the state of feeling among the Roman catholics of Ulster prior to the Rebellion, and upon the later stages of the United Irish movement, as well as upon the actual progress of the insurrection in Ulster. In 1835 published ‘The History and Consequences of the Battle of the Diamond,’ a pamphlet which gives the Roman catholic version of the events in which the Orange Society originated, and in which the author himself had some share. Teeling died in Dublin in 1850. In 1802 he married Miss Carolan of Carrickmacross, co. Monaghan. His eldest daughter married, in 1836, Thomas (afterwards Lord) O’Hagan [q. v.], lord chancellor of Ireland.

[Personal Narrative of the Irish Rebellion, pp. 14–22, Sequel thereto, pp. 209–32; Madden’s United Irishmen, i. 326, iv. 15–27; J. Bowes Daly’s Ireland in ’98, pp. 375–400; Tone’s Autobiography, ed. Barry O’Brien, 1893, ii. 347; Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 389, 402; Lecky’s Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, v. 63; private information.]

C. L. F.