'United Irishmen in training', 1798
The pike has long been used as a weapon by medieval and early armies. By the 18th century, it had become synonymous with revolutionary violence. Economical and easy to make, quickly mastered by those used to a pitchfork, and deadly in the right hands, the pike became the symbol of the 1798 Irish Rising.
It’s a strange contradiction. Many thousands of Irish soldiers fought for King George against Napoleon. However, at one stage, 50,000 Irishmen, inspired and supported by revolutionary France, had risen up against British rule. This rebellion encapsulates the complex and often brutal relationship between Ireland and Britain at this turbulent time. As Fintan O’Toole wrote in 'The Irish Times' (7 July 2012): 'No Irish event of such consequence is more powerfully symbolised by a single object than the 1798 insurrection and the pike.'
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